The great northern journey

Finally. We’ve made it. Yep we are finally on terra firma of the most northerly state of the US. It had been a week at sea and we were so excited to finally get to the frontier state. And we started off with a flight further northwards to the city of Fairbanks.

Was it fair?

Well yes! Because we had wonderful weather, though for folks such as we the temperatures were still a wee on the low side. So you will see us still in coats and sweater though the weather appears to be sunny or downright blazing hot. Yeah, photos can be deceiving aren’t they? Plus the frivolous change of weather within the space of minutes an hour can literally leave you frozen stiff.

Anyway.

This journey was fantastic as it was short – just 5 days. But it was definitely well spent. Particularly on the food. Because we had more than our quota of the delightful Alaskan King Crabs throughout the journey. Sick or not (yeah Suan was down a little on day 1 & 2), we weren’t going to deprive our gut of the delish delicacy. To the point that our tour mates were literally amazed, or perhaps aghast…

Heheh. It was not all food of course. And from more native American cultural appreciation, experiencing an earthquake, to wild life sightings, we did it all again. In our essay here, we asked if Alaska is the last frontier. We hope you had an opportunity to read it.

What do you think? Is it the last vestiges of a wild north?

Cruising with a train

Not the orient express.

We refer, instead to the train service between Tokyo and Hokkaido. It has always been our intent to revisit Hokkaido without flying. The dream was to take a train to Sapporo and pick up the rental and drive all around, especially in summer. Thus we had been doing quite some research into how we will pull this off.

And we picked up news of this luxurious service that will run the length of Tokyo to the northern most island of the Japanese archipelago. Started since 1-May this year, this new sleeper service (read here) is the epitome of luxury ‘cruising’. Like its cousins in the airline industry, the railway folks are also upping their game. From the article, it would appear there is no shortage of folks who would lap it up. Oversubscribed 76 times when balloted for its first ever journey, it has continued to be popular we understand.

However, take a read about the cost of making this journey first before making a decision to book a pair of tickets. At ¥320,000pp a pop for the train ride (twin share), this could be the cost of an entire travel journey for most people. And meals are not included! Oh the experiences that only money seem to buy… Perhaps we can work part-time on the train, or be stowaways? Sounds like a lot of working on the railroad. All the life long day!

How would you like to pass your time away on this train?

Juxtapose

Probably a philosophical rant today.

Just realized that the Independent (UK) has gone fully online at the end of March. It appears that much of ‘mainstream’ media is moving away from print. Somehow, it feels different. While for writing I prefer the use of electronic means such as I am doing now (as opposed to really pen and paper), there is a gravitation towards the print when it comes to reading (I collect and read history books!).

Such is the Juxtaposition!


However, the post today is more about the juxtapose in travel.

Just last week we have Airbnb launching the use of a room (one-off) at the Aquarium de Paris for a few days in April. A competition will get you a night’s stay. You get to sleep on a circular bed knowing that the denizens of the deep are swimming around you. By the way, that’s sharks we are talking about, all 35 of them!

You know I had posted about quitting your job to go traveling as part of the YOLO theme (click here to read). That theme is the epitome of budget travel. Now at the other end we have a proliferation of luxurious rooftop hotel rooms for let.

The independent listed six of them here, with the igloo pad in Val Thornes (southeast France in the vicinity of Mont Blanc) and the Train hostel in Brussels standing out for us. Glamping is really a more recent phenomenon, as some folks yearn for an experience in the outdoors with none of the luxuries missing. Kind of like the kids setting up a tent in the spare room at home, pretending they are camping outside. Except this is for adults.

On the opposite end of the scale we have Izy, the new low cost offshoot of the Thalys (operating that high speed train servicing Amsterdam-Paris). This service is said to run the Brussels-Paris’s 312km route. We used to drive the 500+km from Amsterdam to Paris in about 4.5 hours (at a speed of ~130-140km/hr) non-stop. This Brussels-Paris train ride is only 90 minutes! Really interesting read here if you are keen to find out more.

The interesting thing about this service is that it intends to offer 4 classes of travel. While first and standard classes are probably norm, third class comprise of foldup seats…how that looks like will surely be something to watch out for! Then there is the ‘standby’ or 4th class ticket with no guaranteed seat (wow, stand for 90 minutes?). You will probably use the buffet carriage as I guess sitting passengers would not like someone “hovering” around their seat throughout the journey.

The article mentioned that lucky passengers on 4th class may be granted a seat by the train manager where available. Do they serve any food there in the buffet carriage? What if there is a crowd hungry looking for some chow? Will there be enough standing room?

The service started on 4-Apr. Book your ticket here!

Izy.jpg
Lifted off the Izy site. Competing with bus travel that costs just 8 Euros!

Would the train ride be really more comfortable than the bus ride of ~4 hours? On the bus at least you’ll have a seat! And as in any ‘budget’ carrier, there are numerous add-ons. Caveat emptor!

This is the juxtapose in travel we observe. The seeming commoditization of mass travel at the budget corner, as opposed to mass customization at the other end of the spectrum.