#2 of 101 Things To Complete: Explore Thailand + Vietnam | The Big Leap in 2021

In 2014, I posted this Vimeo Staff Pick called “Somewhere in Vietnam” and that started it for me.  Follow that up with Casey’s video called “The Vietnam Notebook”  which he took with his son in 2012 to Vietnam to rent a motorcycle and travel the countryside.  That video made me want to rent motorcycles and travel the countryside and not get killed with my kids and have them expierence a way different culture, beautiful sweet friendly people and eat food that is outside their comfortzone of pasta with butter.

With what is happening in the world with the Pandemic virus, it would be wise to push this trip and keep saving for it.

The yummy street food of Hanoi

I thought it would be fun to fly into the old formerly named city of Siagon, which is now called Ho Chi Minh City (map) (Kara & Nate Vlog) and sleep off some jetlag and venture out and see the busy city sights and taste some yummy food. This city is in the south of Vietnam and I thought it would be fun to travel up the coast to Hanoi in the North. We would have to do a sleeper bus for fun and also by train (YouTube Video) & more videos to watch. There are some beach cities along the way to stop and explore. By the time we get to Hanoi in the North, the kids will be a little more settled with the food. Before going on this trip, we need to dine at a Vietnam and Thai restaurant in Toronto and sample some food and I don’t mean taking a bite. I mean eating 25% of four different dishes and we will do this about 5 times. I’m not going to force them to eat bugs and things on a stick that looks like they are still thinking inside. If you want to watch Kara & Nate’s Vlogs in Vietnam… you can find them here.

So travelling north along to the coast to Hanoi would be fun. Hoi Ann & Hue are two nice spots to explore. In the North, I would like to Hike in the mountains near Sapa before making our way to beautiful Halong Bay for a little cruise and explore the incredible bay and islands.

Vietnam Sleeper Train
Halong Bay above

In Halong Bay, you have to do a little 3-day cruise and visit some of the floating villages in the bay and do some kayaking. Boats will shuttle you to beaches and also take you to some places you can hike and climb up the cliffs on paths to the top to see the views of the bay. I decided to post two Kara & Nate’s Vlogs showing the cruise they took in the Bay to give you an idea of Halong Bay.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Then move to Thailand to rent some motorcycles and do a loop in the northern part of Thailand.

We would then fly over to Thailand which is right beside Vietnam to the West. In the North is Chiang Mai. We will rent two motorcycles. Chantal will have one and Noah will be on the back of mine. We will buy and strap a pillow to make it comfortable for Noah. If he is sleepy like he was on our Europe trip then I will tie him to me so he doesn’t fall asleep and fall off.

The hardest part of renting motorcycles is finding our way out of the city and dealing with the crazy traffic which is like the start of a marathon when you get a red light.
If it’s safe for 62 fishy’s and a family of 6 on one… then the 3 of use should be fine on two bikes.
Northern Thailand is not that crazy to ride a bike and this loop should be fine once we are out of the city.

The Mae Hong Son Loop can be done in about 4 days. This trip in total we would need about 3 weeks to do all the things we want to do. Flying there is the most expensive part. Vietnam and Thailand are super affordable for logging, eating and visiting things. After northern Thailand, we will fly down to Bangkok in the south and explore the city before going south to the incredible Thai beaches down near Phuket. Maybe I and the kids should have not watched this movie together. Hopefully, the kids don’t remember the opening scene of the movie (The Impossible from 2012)

After southern Thailand, it would be to fly home through Vietnam or maybe when booking we could come home via Bangkok back to Toronto. All I know is that it would be a wild trip and after taking the kids to Europe for 19 days last August… a trip like this to the other side of the world would be crazy fun and such a great experience for them and myself. I already have a Trip Planning Book all set for this trip to fill with ideas and information.

If you want to watch Kara & Nates Travel Vlogs filmed in Thailand… you can view them here.

Plane Spotting | Yes it’s a thing | How do you tell them apart?

Toronto Pearson Airport Layout + Runways

Working for an airline, you get worked up about planes. The types and the specs of them. Some planes are easy to spot and understand the types of them. But some of them are super hard when just looking at them. There are little tips on figuring out what they are.

In Toronto, there is a couple of spots you can go watch the planes come in or take off. The most popular is Runway 23 where planes come in from the east and fly over the Petro Canada Gas station and land. Over by the Fed Ex complex you can watch planes on Runway 15. And you have planes landing on Runway 6L or 6R. It’s tricky since planes will be diverted to different runways depending on the winds and also the time of day. Runway 23 is Toronto’s longest, so that is where you see the big heavy’s come in and you can park your car behind the gas station and there is a Wendy’s if you need a snack. Quite not like LAX’s In-Out Burger where you can eat yummy food and plane spot. Download Flightradar24 to check out where the planes are coming in from. If they are coming in the other direction on runway 05 the vantage on Dixie Road is not the best like Airport Road.

Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-400 on final approach at Toronto Pearson on Runway 23

Boeing 747 vs Airbus A380

This is the easiest of planes to tell the difference between these two “heavy’s”. These two planes have upper decks. The Boeing 747 has it for the first 1/3 of the plane. In the old days, Pan Am made this a popular plane since the first class passengers could go up the stairs and enjoy a drink in the bar and lounge in the upper deck for intercontinental flights. The Airbus A380 has an upper deck that goes the full length of the plane. YouTube has a great documentary on the Airbus A380 from National Geographic which is worth the watch. If you want to watch another documentary on the A380, you can view this 3hr doc here.

The A380 was launched in December in 2000 and basically 10 years later Airbus has decided to stop production in 2021. It’s the largest commercial airline in the world. Check out Sam’s channel and his video about the rise and fall of this incredible plane.

So with these two… you just have to see if it has an upper deck and you can easily figure out if it’s a 747 or A380.

I flew on the Boeing 747 with Lufthansa (Class / Seat: Economy / 37A | Aircraft Type: Boeing 474-430 | Aircraft: D-ABTL / 17 Years Old)

I really want to fly on the Airbus A380 and I will have to get my ass to a city to fly Lufthansa at a discount to experience this flight. (LAX, SFO, NYC)

Boeings Queen Of The Sky + my personal fave the Boeing 747

Basics: Airbus vs Boeing Plane Spotting Tips

Let’s cover some basic tips before we start getting into some plane comparisons. Below you will see the nose differences and the cockpit windows. The Boeing windows have more of a “v” shape on the bottom and the Airbus is more straight and you will see the last window has a slanted edge in the top right corner.

Airbus on the left and the Boeing on the Right has a dorsal fin with more of an angle.
Airbus engines on the left compared to Boeing on the right
Airbus on the left is round and Boeing on the right is flatter at the bottom

Short Haul Aircrafts: Airbus A320 vs. Boeing 737

I’ve flown on the Airbus 319, 320 and 321.

Long Haul Aircrafts: Airbus A330 vs 787 Dreamliner

Boeing’s sexy jagged engine will help you determine it’s the Dreamliner with its big GE engine.
GE Boeing 787 engine with the sexy jagged design.

A year ago on a business trip, I was upgraded to business class on Air Canada’s Dreamliner which was my first experience to fly business class on an intercontinental flight.

Date: March 19, 2019 | Route: FRA YYZ | Flight No: AC877 / Operated by Air Canada | Class / Seat: Business / 8A | Aircraft Type: Boeing 787 Dreamliner / 3 Years old | Aircraft: C-FGEI

Airbus A340 vs Boeing 777

Airbus has four engines for this long wide-body plane. Boeing 777 has two big engines and no wingtip where the Airbus A330/A340 has a large wingtip.

Flew on the Airbus A340 from Lufthansa from Toronto to Munich on my way to Lisbon. I’ve flown the triple 7 once on a flight from Frankfurt to Toronto on my way home from Lisbon on Air Canada. I was told at the last minute to get on the plane and I had no idea what I was boarding till later.

Airbus A350 vs Boeing 777

Airbus A350 with it’s unique “Zorro” mask cockpit windows.
Airbus A350 sexy rounded wingtip.
Lufthansa’s A350 arriving in Toronto over Airport Road with it’s two big engines. 50% quieter and 25% more fuel-efficient making this aircraft the world’s airlines want to purchase due to its long-range and efficiency.

Wanna Try Plane Spotting?

If you want to try it. You can watch planes come in at London’s Heathrow Airport by watching this video on YouTube. I’m working on my personal notes and I’m going to update this post with more information and add some other aircraft that I didn’t mention. I’m looking forward to going plane spotting with my kids and see if I can get them to understand some of the differences. On our trip to Europe… Noah was making fun of me everytime I could hear a plane landing and I had to stop and watch it.

My mind is becoming a little AVGEEK hangout

the circle with the flying crane inside who started flying in 1919 allowed me to start looking into the world of avaitation and i’m thankful

from travel, airports, planes and the business of flying has lit a little light inside to travel and explore… it’s such a interesting industry that is ever changing and also challenging.

can’t wait for the next adventure

Best Travel Credit Card: Stack Mastercard + Koho Visa Card

When planning my trip to Europe, I wanted to save on financial transaction costs and get a fair conversion rate on exchanging into Euro’s and Swiss Franc.  When I did my research for which credit cards are the best for travel, the Stack Mastercard came up in the results.  I poked around some more and found another card called the KOHO Visa Card.  Both had an app, so I signed up for the two free cards.  My Daughter also signed up for them to use for all our purchases on our trip.

 

Here is the information on both cards below. (open to view)

Continue reading “Best Travel Credit Card: Stack Mastercard + Koho Visa Card”

Euro2019 Trip | Leg One | Leaving for Toronto to Prague, Czech Republic

I arrived in Ajax the night before to meet up with the kids and talk about the trip and stress that we are packing light and using backpacks for this trip.  I brought my tent and camped “stealth” in Ajax and the “Mom” brought them to the Go Train with their passports.  Noah broke his arm a couple of weeks before the trip.  Days before the trip he got a new swimmable cast.  So with that and some travel insurance we were off to the Airport with our 3 backpacks.

Day 1: July 28th Plan

  • Get ourselves to the airport in time so we are not rushed for our flights
  • Fit the 3 of us on one of two different flight options
  • Try and get some “real” sleep on the flight
  • Arrive in Prague the next morning and book somewhere to stay the night

We took off on the GO Train from Ajax to Union Station in Toronto.  We got out of Union and walked across the road to Movenpick Marche at Brookfield Place for some lunch.  $50 later we were on our way on the UP Express that runs from Union Station to Toronto Pearson Airport that is always a reliable 25min trip.  Kids are excited and so am I to finally be able to take them to Europe.  On our way to the airport, I started to shoot some video on my iPhone to make a little travel vlog of the trip, since I’m sure it will give me something to do on the flight and late at night not sleeping due to the JetLag that was coming.

With my flight benefits at work, I decided to book us on Air Canada since the direct flight with Air Canada Rouge leaves Toronto close to 5PM.  As a back-up, we booked on a credit card the 8:20PM Toronto to Munich flight with Lufthansa.  I’ve been checking the flight load all week leading up to departure and LH471 to Frankfurt was at capacity and it looked like LH495 to Munich would fill up also.  The space on AC1922 with Air Canada looked good all week.  A night before the Air Canada app will show you how many people are on the plane for those who are flying “Standby” and it had about 80 open spots… so I knew we would be leaving on the direct flight at 5PM.  Once we land, I would refund the Lufthansa ticket.

The configuration of the flight is a 2-3-2 for economy and we were put in the middle 3 seats with Noah riding in the middle.  With the early departure of 5pm and us landing in Prague at 7AM local time… I knew it would be tough on the kids since it was only 1AM Toronto time and we had our whole day ahead of us so trying to get some sleep on the flight was important so after dinner I would force them to use the eye-mask and ear plugs I packed to try and get some sleep.  At the airport we went through security with no issues.  A bit of juggling since we took some stuff out of our main packs and had little bags for our personal items to distribute the weight.  They didn’t weigh or measure any of our bags.  We also asked the gate if we could get on first with Noah’s arm and that helped secure space in the overhead bin for our backpacks all together.

 

Below is the first episode of our travel vlog:

 

I’ve never flown Air Canada Rouge before.  I’ve heard stories that the cabin in economy is tight.  I also heard that there are no screens on the back of the seat and you have to download the AC App and you can stream movies on your device.  I knew were would get food.  I was hoping to fly with Lufthansa so the kids could experience our airline on a long haul flight.  Maybe on the way back we will fly Lufty.

On the flight, I was really pleased with the food and the room.  My legs fit… so I was happy.  I just couldn’t enjoy a cold beer on the flight like LH471.  The boarding and gate staff were great.  Noah and Chantal tried to sleep and I think they drifted off for about two hours.

Euro2019 Trip | Leg Two | Landing in Prague, Czech Republic

Day 2: July 29th Plan

  • If we made the flight then we had to book somewhere to stay when we land
  • Make our way downtown Prague and drop off our bags
  • Go find something to eat and see how we feel with JetLag
  • Check-in to our accommodations
  • See if we feel like going out again to check out the city.
  • Get some much needed sleep.

Episode Two below capturing hitting the ground in Prague:

After landing in Prague we found a quiet place to sit down and login to the wifi to book somewhere to stay.  I used Hostelworld to find and book PLUS Prague for 2 nights.  Since I didn’t know if we would get on a the plane it was better to book something after we land.  After booking… it was time to go through customs and find the express bus that would take us downtown to the Hostel so we can drop off the packs and go out for breakfast.

 

Getting tickets is easy.  We just picked up 3 24hr metro ticket that is good for all the busses, subway and trams.  It didn’t take too long to get downtown via the express bus that takes us to the “Yellow” subway line that we can take to our hostel to drop off our packs.

Below you will see the start of the “Yellow” line to the far left.  That’s where the airport bus drops you off at and we just took the yellow line west to the “Red” line where we simply go north 3 stops and the Hostel is right there.  Downtown Prague is where Yellow and Red touches the Green line.

It was too early to check-in so we took off downtown to look around a little and get something to eat.  We got off at Muzeum and went up to the surface.

We walked around and snapped some pictures and took in the first sights of Old Town Square.  I wanted to take them to a place that the Honest Prague Guide talked about Lokal so we had to walk and check it out.  We wanted to get some traditional Czech dishes to try.  I wanted a mid-morning Czech beer.  We ordered Roastbeef with Tomato sauce with Czech Bread Dumplings, 6 week old ripened fried cheese, Pork Leg Schnitzel fried in butter, Pork braised with Kohlrabi and buttered potatoes.  After that we got some local Czech money and off we went to explore a little more.

 

At 3PM we made our way back to get our room at the PLUS Prague Hostel.  We selected a private room and headed up to unpack our bags a little.  This is a cool little place.  Very large and clean with many rooms to mingle and chill.  It has a pool and sauna downstairs with a little gym and a big kitchen to cook meals and eat.  Outside in the back it has a beach volleyball court and ping pong tables and attached is a bar that serves pizza, burgers and bar food.  In the mornings there is a buffet for about 7CAD that has eggs and bacon and other breakfast stuff to fill up for your day ahead.

After getting upstairs… we all claimed our beds and had a nap.  Our room had this layout bottom-right above and I had the bottom bunk over to the left and the kids had each a twin bed.  You pay for the fourth person to get a private room.  It was 3PM in Prague.  We have been up for 26 hours straight at this point and we were cooked.

We slept for about 5 hours and got up and went downstairs to get some food and we took it easy and caught up with friends in Canada while I edited video and we talked about the things we could do the next day and what I wanted to do since I did some researching on what Prague had to offer.  My evernote Prague folder was full and I made the kids put evernote on their phone so they had all the access to everything on the trip and they could see the agenda.  It was peppered with “Don’t tell Mom any of the details”.  Since I didn’t want to answer a thousand questions about what we were doing every day of the trip.