Hope you have enjoyed my trip to McMurdo. It is wonderful to get paid to do something adventurous like that. Here are some final pictures and thoughts on this special trip. If you missed any, here is a link to the beginning.

Located in the central hallways between dorms and the mess hall is a special monitor. It gives the weather forecast and news, but everyone really watches to see if their flight will leave. Really based upon whether the C-17 lands.

And here is one of the best things I saw right next to the monitor.

The flight home was on a C-17. At least on this flight, I had no issues going up to the cockpit and talking to the flight crew who were all Air Force Reserve members from Washington State. As everyone can see, not the most comfortable seats.

Here are some of my better photos, at least the ones I like.

Thanks for reading and glad to share a few of the hundreds of photos I took. I certainly would love to go back someday. Maybe for my retirement job, I can work at McMurdo for a few months. Although I spoke with one of the bus drivers who said he did it just for the kicks and actually made more money as a window washer in Seattle!



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“Cool stuff”, see what I did there? Still writing on this trip of a lifetime.

You can catch up by reading the first, second, third and fourth posts.

Saved all the best stuff for the end. Today I’ll be giving you a tour of CAPT Scott’s original expedition hut, some penguins, and a pier made of ice.

We’ll start at Discovery Hut where the Terra Nova Expedition camped for two years. The structure was an Australian hut and designed to have a double roof to let heat rise in the Outback. Not a good design for Antarctica. To go inside, we needed one of the McMurdo staff who is deputized as a National Park Ranger. For the full story of Discovery Hut, read more here.

Everything inside is untouched for over 100 years. This was originally built in 1902 and abandoned for the last time in 1917. It was buried by snow until the American Navy came to set up McMurdo in 1956. It was excavated of all the snow and they were amazed to find how well preserved everything was.

Just like they were here yesterday. Warning the next photo might be disturbing for some. It shows the remains of seals killed for food and their oil was used for fuel. Still preserved since it only gets above 32 degrees about three days a year. There was a butchered seal on the floor of another room and the oil was still glistening like it was done yesterday.

I have had to live very primitively sometimes in the Army, but I cannot imagine suffering through this for two years!

The next sightseeing activity is George Vince’s Cross. An early explorer who supposedly was wearing new boots which didn’t fit him well. He slipped and fell into the water here and died. It is a very steep drop off.

Here is the hill from Discovery Hut.

The view is spectacular!

From this hill I was able to see a small group of penguins. Note that this shot is from about 100 yards away. You should never get closer to the animals than this in order to safeguard them. I have seen some photos of tourists thinking this is a petting zoo and that is completely wrong.


The next cool thing is something engineers like me geek out about. Remember an earlier post where I said the sea ice blows in and out daily? That makes building a concrete and steel pier extremely difficult plus it would require pretty significant disruption to the ocean bottom here. Years ago, an engineer came up with the idea of building a pier out of pure ice! This block of ice is about a football field long, half that in width and about 20 feet thick. It is allowed to bob up and down with the tide and connected to land by cables and a Bailey Bridge. The once a year supply ship comes in about January and offloads everything the base will need for the following year. from fuel to heavy equipment and preservable supplies. Greens and other fresh items come via the C-17s each week. You can see Discovery Hut and the Vince George Cross beyond that.

So why is it covered in dirt? They spread a few inches of dirt over the surface to reduce melting. Since we were here in February, they are using a grader to scoop up all the dirt. Then during the winter, they will spray seawater on top and let it freeze to build back the few feet of ice lost to the summer sun.

That’s it for today, hope you enjoyed. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer.



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For those of you catching up, my first post on Antarctica is here and second post here.

This is a hard post to write since how do I capture a full week in one post? Here’s my attempt at that, but feel free to ask if there is something that you would like to see more of.

Here is a general overview. The entire site is built on the rocky slope of Mt. Erebus. There is very little soil and no vegetation so you really get the feeling that you are on another planet like Mars. The whole layout is very utilitarian and not designed for beauty. Yet the beauty of Antarctica surrounds you in every direction. Hopefully, you see that in the background of these photos.

That last photo is on one of our bad weather days with a half inch of snow at about 3 degrees F – and this is summer in Antarctica!

Here is a great shot of the entire station taken from the other side of the port. Note the square structure in the foreground is the original hut from the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition led by CAPT Scott. A tour on that tomorrow.

The barracks are the four buildings on the left with the sewage treatment plant on the right with the Crary Science Center just beyond that.

If you followed the road between the pass in the middle you would pass New Zealand’s Scott Base and continue on to the airfield on the ice.

These pictures overlooking the sewage treatment plant show some of the spectacular view of mountains and ice. Notice that we have a little open water this day. The wind will either blow all the sea ice in to clog the port or blow it all the way out and we have clear seas. Changed every day.

Even in Antarctica you need to have coffee! The Coffee House is in an old Quonset hut left over from the Navy days of 1956. Very cool interior with a lot of history and artifacts.

The theater is a “T” off the long Quonset.

Hope you can see the big screen TV at the end.

At the Crary Science Center, they have all sorts of interesting experiments and prep for experiments that take place in the dry valleys or on the ice. I love this drawing that illustrates the dinosaurs found on Antarctica. Not the place that people think dinosaurs are usually found.

What do most of the buildings contain. Interestingly, they are mostly shops and storage for the scientific expeditions that come down in November for a week to a couple of months to conduct experiments in the unique environments of Antarctica. One of the ones that fascinated me was the dry valleys near McMurdo – one of the most extreme deserts on the planet! These places look like the ultimate garage full of wood-working equipment and tents. This sign below is one of the absolute best I have ever seen!

Of course there are places to take the mandatory cool selfie.

Tomorrow cool photos of history and nature.



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The flight from Christchurch to McMurdo is 4-5 hours. Unfortunately, it is common that the pilots take off with good weather over McMurdo only to have it close in and result in having to fly all the way back for the ultimate trip in vain. I have had to do this a number of times in Alaska and its no fun. However, today would be good weather. Not much to see below until we were about an hour out. The pictures below should speak for themselves for the spectacular views.

These views too me a while to figure out. These are snow drifts on clear. Pretty!

Remember I mentioned that they build the station on the slopes on an active volcano? See Mt. Erebus with a constant plume of smoke.

Then the station drifts into view.

Then a landing on the ice. No different than any concrete runway. Time to deplane.

And then get on a giant bus for the 60 minute ride to McMurdo. Like the name?

Check out the Mad Max ride going along side of the Terra Bus

More on my week at McMurdo tomorrow.

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I know this journey will likely make most of my fellow bloggers jealous – especially my buddy Stefan K. I am always envious of some of the spots he goes, like Iwo Jima, so turnabout is fair play.

You can catch up on the first post for this trip here.

Most people think of getting to Antarctica the way commercial cruises get there. Travel down the coast of South America and then jump over to the Antarctic Peninsula and possible visit the U.S. Palmer Station. However, that is a station of about 12 personnel. The main U.S. site is McMurdo Station on the Ross Ice shelf whose population can swell to 1000 during the Antarctic Summer. Here is a map to orient you.

If you fly due north from the Ross Ice Shelf you conveniently run into New Zealand. So I just had to get from Washington, D.C. to Christchurch, New Zealand. Sounds like a real frequent flyer adventure!

Fortunately, the best way to get there is a combination of United and New Zealand Air. This suited me as a United Million Miler just fine. Not that I got an upgrade, and I flew the whole thing in coach, so I don’t want to hear from you sissy bloggers that say they would never fly that far in anything but business. Suck it up, Buttercup!

The flight down on United was pretty much what you would expect. Got to go to the NZ lounge in Auckland which was nice. Then a short hop NZ flight to Christchurch. I was very impressed with Christchurch, but will leave that for another post.

Now you may ask -Can you get to McMurdo commercially? And the answer is of course not. Once we arrived in Christchurch, we RON and then were supposed to take a C-17 to the Ross Ice Shelf airstrip. How unfortunate that the C-17 was broken down – and how unusual, I always thought they only broke down only in Thailand, Honolulu and Alaska during the fishing season. That left us to take the Royal New Zealand AF 757!

First we were issued all our arctic gear (weird that they don’t call it Antarctic gear) which is a lot of stuff! We had to carry it all onto the flight and suit up prior to landing just in case we crashed on the ice. The rest our personal gear went into two orange duffle bags. It was a ton of stuff to carry on – I hadn’t worn Mickey Mouse boots since I was stationed in Korea. I’m sure I would have valued every piece of gear if we had actually gotten into trouble.

Time to board the plane!

Yes, the seats were very 1990’2, but still a lot better than what we would get on a C-17.

The head covering with the royal symbol was a cool touch.

Tomorrow’s episode: Landing on the ice!

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I have always sought a life of adventure and, for the most part, that is what I have lived. A lot of it comes from just being lucky and in the right place at the right time.  That happened again to me in 2018 when a group was put together to meet the National Science Foundation’s desire to rebuild McMurdo Station – the main U.S. Base in Antarctica.  The base was originally built in 1956 by the U.S. Navy using pretty basic structures like Quonset huts. It was expanded over the years and finally the NSF took over the mission from the Navy in 1968. The site continued to add on buildings to serve different functions and the result was a “shanty-town” type of experience. This is particularly inefficient in an area where people may be confined to a building due to the weather for several days at a time.

Aerial view of McMurdo Station, which sits along the shoreline of Ross Island, a volcanic island in the Ross Sea. Three wind turbines can be seen on the hill in the upper right. These turbines sit between the US McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base, providing renewable energy for both stations. The Swedish icebreaker ODEN can be seen in the lower left, at the ice pier in Winter Quarters Bay. 7 February 2010

Photo and caption courtesy of NSF.

The facilities were not something for America to look proudly at, particularly in comparison to some of the space age research stations built by other countries such as India and South Korea. At least our South Pole Station looks cool even though it is moving!

Here is a view of the new main building which is part of the program. This program will consolidate over 100 builds into just six mega-buildings. A lot easier to get from where you live to where you work safely. This view of the main building is meant to evoke images of an iceberg. OZ Architects did a good job with this concept.

Photo from Discover Magazine of an OZ Architects rendering.

Just to leave you with something ultra-cool. Here is the aerial view of McMurdo. It is on the slope of the only active volcano (Mt. Erebus) in Antarctica and is an island surrounded by sea ice. This island also contains the New Zealand Scott Base. Planes land out on the sea ice beyond where the words “McMurdo Sound” are shown.

Next episode – how to get there!

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Greetings, Fellow Travelers!


NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to Cardiff, Wales occurred in June 2016. This was in conjunction with a broader tour of southern Britain to include Stonehenge, Bath, Salisbury, Bournemouth, and Portsmouth, which were all great stops full of history, great tea shops, and Nando’s! This was the only trip to this part of the United Kingdom during our six years stationed in Germany (2013-2019).



BLUF: During late-June 2016, we began our Fourth of July week-long trip to the UK in Cardiff, Wales. With its medieval castle, its ties to the Doctor Who universe, and those amazing Welsh accents, we really enjoyed our tour of the city. While Wales is not often thought of as a destination within the UK, I highly recommend a visit to the land of The Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd.


Today’s AAR takes us through my trip to Cardiff, Wales.


Wales—”Cymru” in Welsh—has always held a fascination with me. Whether it is the extra-long vowels keeping sentences going (or “go-o-en”) for hours or being the all-to-often-forgotten fourth constituent country in the United Kingdom (English, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are the other three), I have always wanted to visit Wales. Luckily, while stationed in Germany, getting to and from the UK was pretty easy. Rather than flying into the small international airport in Cardiff, we landed at LHR and drove to Cardiff to start our long Fourth of July 2016 tour of western and southern Britain.



Cardiff is a city with many brick buildings, pedestrian walkways, and a large waterfront and harbor area. At the center of the city is the Cardiff Castle, an 11th century Norman-built walled fortress. Through the centuries, the castle grounds have been expanded and reworked, and today, you can tour the grounds and make your way to the top of the central keep for good views of the city center. With most of its fortress walls still intact, we really enjoyed this tour of Welsh history.


Next, we made our way to Roald Dahl Plass, the public square dedicated to the Cardiff-born author Roald Dahl. Dahl is known for writing many classics of children’s literature: James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox (check out the excellent 2009 film), and others. Roald Dahl Plass also includes the Senedd (Welsh parliament building) and the Wales Millennium Centre for performing arts with its dual Welsh-English inscription from Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, “in these stones horizons sing.”


For any Doctor Who fan, Cardiff is full of amazing tour spots. First, underneath Roald Dahl Plass is Torchwood, home to Captain Jack Harkness and his crew of alien and general weirdness hunters. Specifically, the Torchwood 3 headquarters harnesses the energy of the spatial-temporal rift, which runs directly through the Plass, and helps the team monitor alien activity. The rift also recharges the Doctor’s TARDIS. We had a great time wandering around the Plass remembering great scenes from both shows and building up our excited for the main event, a trip to the BBC’s Doctor Who Experience.


Housed in a 3000 sq/m building, the Doctor Who Experience featured costumes, sets, alien prosthetics, and classic models of Daleks, Cybermen, and the TARDIS. After a small interactive movie adventure hosted by the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), we made our way into the large exhibit halls to view all the amazing items. Joe and I really enjoyed seeing all the sets and props. We posed for lots of pictures with some classic Doctor Who villains and took away some great souvenirs.



Sadly, the Experience closed in September 2017. Hopefully, the BBC will re-open it at some point whether in Cardiff or another location. Still, visiting the Experience was the highlight of our trip.


In sum, the land of the Red Dragon proved to be a very satisfying stop for us. Not only did we see a great medieval castle, but we also enjoyed some great Doctor Who and Torchwood locations and memorabilia. When next in the UK and looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, I highly recommended Cardiff.


Happy Travels!





Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.

“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”


Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler


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Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to
remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to New York City occurred in
September 2018. This was in conjunction with a solo work trip to Washington, DC
during my six years stationed in Germany (2013-2019).

BLUF: During a late-September 2018 work trip to Washington, DC, I took a long
weekend in New York City to wander around the city and enjoy some of the tourist sites
I had missed over the years. It was a great trip—NYC always is—and it was also the
first time I stayed in New Jersey vice Manhattan.

Today’s AAR takes us through my trip to New York City.
My first ever visit to New York City was during the summer before my junior year at the
U.S. Air Force Academy in 1991. I stay at the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast
Guard, and Airmens’ Club: a dorm-style budget hotel with basic amenities and shared
bath and shower rooms. It was great for someone on a cadet’s budget, and I would
stay here two more times over the next few years.

Since then, I’ve graduated (ha!) to more upscale hotels exclusively in Manhattan.
Regardless of price, rooms in Manhattan hotels though can be small. Fine for one
person, but with two people or even a family, those room can put a damper on your trip.
A friend recommended either Brooklyn or New Jersey as a place to stay. While I really
enjoyed some side-trips to Brooklyn, I ended up in New Jersey due to the fact the PATH
train had just completed its new World Trade Center station. I wanted to check it out as
I entered and exited Manhattan.

I chose the Westin Jersey City Newport which is close to the Newport PATH station and
the Hoboken ferry terminal to Manhattan. It was also close to EWR which would be my
entry and exit airport. The Westin was a great hotel: great views, big rooms, a great
breakfast-to-go amenity for Marriott Bonvoy Titaniums (all you can carry!), and you can
never go wrong with the Westin Heavenly Bed and white tea fragrance products.

As for touring Manhattan, I narrowed down my tourist “must visit” spots to two places:
the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the High Line Park. The Intrepid is a former
active USN aircraft carrier which houses aviation, naval, and space exhibits. The
Intrepid is home to the Enterprise, the first U.S. space shuttle as well as a British
Airways Concorde. The USN strategic missile submarine Growler (diesel-powered!) is
also on display. As a former USAF Minuteman III Missile Launch Officer, touring the
Growler was a particular treat.

Your ticket (free from active duty military, veterans, and retirees) allows access to all the
exhibits on Intrepid’s decks, its interior, and the Enterprise shuttle enclosure (where the
amazing gift shop is). Intrepid’s placement on the banks of the Hudson River at
midtown Manhattan gives great views of New Jersey (!?!) and the Pier 84 at Hudson
River Park, a nice walking park with great views of the Intrepid. I reached the Intrepid
via the ferry from the Hoboken terminal to West 39th Street Terminal.

Some online reviews depict the Intrepid Museum as a spot meant only for grade school
field trips and unimaginative tourists, but I had a great time. Perhaps my military
background gave it special meaning—I did have a nice chat with one of the docents at
the Growler about missile launch procedures—and the free ticket price was nice too. All
and all, I’m very happy I made the Intrepid visit.

Another day of touring took me on the PATH train to the new World Trade Center
station, completely redone post-9/11 and part of the larger Oculus Mall (the Venus
flytrap-looking building) with lots of shops and restaurant. The station is all white and
looks very futuristic. The new PATH station allows easy access to the NYC subway,
and I easily headed up to the West Village and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

[picture 16]
[picture 17]

I had already visited the Whitney on a past trip, but just outside the museum is the south
entrance to the High Line Park. This elevated park is a refurbished train track covering
over twenty block along western Manhattan. Gardens, benches, and observation decks

are peppered throughout the park. With great views of side-walk cafes and New
Yorkers on their daily hustle, the High Line Park makes for a great afternoon.

While I hadn’t planned on walking the entire length of the park (convenient exits are
available throughout the line), the crowds weren’t too bad, and the weather was sunny
but cool. I walked the entire line and exited at the Javitz Center and 7 Line of the
subway. I took my time, and it was approx. an hour to make my way end-to-end. I did
sit and enjoy the people-watching, but at a brisk pace, the walk can be done in probably
30 minutes or so.

Still, I would encourage you, if the weather is nice, to go against the New Yorker sense
of always-be-hustling and take your time. A nice, slow walk will help build up your
appetite for a good bagel!

In sum, New York City is a city of tourist destinations. From Times Square and
Broadway to the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, a visit to the city is a must.
While the Intrepid and the High Line Park aren’t necessarily high on “must-visit” lists, I
was very happy to have made time for them. Check them out!

Happy Travels!



Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

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Greetings, Fellow Travelers!


NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to San Sebastián and the Basque region of Spain occurred in February 2019. This would be our third of four trips to Spain during our six years stationed in Germany (2013-2019).



BLUF: Over the 2019 Presidents’ Day weekend, we headed to northern Spain to explore the Basque region and spend two nights in the ritzy, resort town of San Sebastián. Known for its sandy beaches and luxury hotels and as an exclusive European getaway during the warmer months, San Sebastián is also famous for its food, namely its pintxo—small bites (similar to tapas) occasionally served with skewers or toothpicks. Some of the best food we had in Europe was in San Sebastián. It was an amazing trip made even better by visiting during the affordable off-season.



Today’s AAR takes us through my trip to San Sebastián, Spain.


In spring 2018, after I was extended in Germany for one additional year, we began building our “must visit” list for Europe. Knowing we could take advantage of weekends, low-cost carriers (Stuttgart is a Eurowings hub), and our want to eat/drink more of Europe, northern Spain was placed on the list.



We had heard about San Sebastián as a summer resort destination, when the beaches are packed and the hotel rates skyrocket. Being a savvy traveler means sometimes forgoing the obvious choice and doing off-season trips. By visiting in February, the amazing Hotel Maria Cristina (from Marriott’s Luxury Collection) was bookable at the reasonable rate of $300/night.



While not an insignificant amount of money for a two-night stay, this was a bargain especially considering high-season rates can reach $700-$900/night. As a Marriott Titanium, I used two Suite Night Awards and was confirmed into a giant one-bedroom suite with complementary daily in-room tea service. The Hotel Maria Cristina remains one of our favorite hotel stays in Europe.



The hotel was well-placed near the pedestrian parts of the city. From here, you could walk to Spanish plazas, gelato stands, and some great cafés. However, its location just outside the old town was key to our pintxos food touring. Old town is comprised of cobblestone streets, trendy store fronts, and many, many bars.



We used Devour Tours for our walking food tour. They were awesome. (We used Devour in Madrid and in Seville; each tour was fantastic.) Our guide was native Basque, and after her final semester at the city university, she was heading to MIT to study food science as it applies to space travel. Pretty cool!



Our small group tour mapped out seven pintxo bars to sample various Basque eating options. As it turned out, as this was an off-season trip, Joe and I were the only people on the tour. We sampled seafood, cured ham, baked pastries, and lots of great wine from the La Rioja region. Each bar stacks their pintxo on the counters, and patrons pick them up one by one. Payment is done afterwards by the honor system.



Our guide told us rarely do Basque people take pintxos from the bar (that’s for tourist). Locals—and clever tourists who hire good guides—order from the menus located behind the bar. Here is where bars list their specialties. At one stop, we sampled some amazing sardine pintxos topped with cream sauce, and one topped with berry jam. It was surprisingly good. The saltiness of the sardine was nicely cut with the sweet, coolness of the jam.


As many locals do, we bar hopped, since staying at one pintxos bar denies you the opportunity to sample more and socialize with different people. Eating pintxos is as much a pub crawl as it is a dining experience: it’s finger food and a multi-location happy hour.



We concluded the evening sitting on the steps outside a 17th century church eating some amazing fried dough and drinking more great red wine. Even though pintxos are bite-size, our private tour meant all the treats were for us, so we were quite full.



The following day, we walked off the pintxos and wine by making our way along the beach boardwalk towards the Funicular Monte Igueldo to get aerial views of the San Sebastián bay. In February, the days are cool and the nights chilly. While neither the hotels, streets, bars, or beaches were crowded, the city was still bustling with other budget-conscious travelers. I’d estimate most places were at 50% capacity.



In sum, our visit to Basque country was a foodie’s dream. Visiting during the off-season was definitely the way to go as crowds were thin and the luxury accommodations were much more affordable. San Sebastián and the hospitality of the Basque people offer a unique destination within Spain. Put in on your “must visit” list.


Happy Travels!





Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.

“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”


Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler


Posted by glenn | No Comments

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!


NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to Kuala Lumpur, our first, occurred in July 2018 combined with a second trip to Singapore.



BLUF: Over the 4th of July weekend, Joe and I headed to Malaysia for the first time. We spent four days exploring Kuala Lumpur. Our days in KL, as the locals call it, expanded our knowledge and love of all these Malaysia. Since then, we’ve returned to explore other parts of the country and expect to return many more times.


Today’s AAR takes us through my first trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



In December 2017, while staying at the JW Marriott Hanoi, Cathay Pacific released news it would bring its Airbus A350-900 to the Brussels to Hong Kong route. CX is known for its excellent reverse herringbone, all-aisle access business class seats and its great catering. Plus, being the flag carrier of Hong Kong, transiting through HKG allows eligible passengers to visit some of the best lounges of any airline. CX lounges offer made-to-order noodle bars, dim sum, and great spots to rest during transit.



So, while Joe was off at a Vietnamese cooking class, I researched a summer 2018 Asia trip. After reading an online review of the amazing club lounge at Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur, I chose KL as the destination. I had also wanted to return to Singapore, so KL was a perfect companion stop.


My initial plans were to fly into KUL and out of SIN on CX. Sadly, the CX saver fare business class tickets were not available for this route, so I booked round-trip tickets for BRU-HKG-SIN. I opted for inexpensive AirAsia flights between SIN-KUL. As AirAsia also operates from Singapore’s new Changi Airport Terminal 4, the unprotected connection from Cathay to AirAsia would be easy. Southeast Asia is very well-connected by low-cost carriers, so plentiful and cheap flight options are easy.



As predicted, the connection at Changi Airport Terminal 4 was smooth. The approx. 45 mins AirAsia flight to KUL was uneventful and dropped us off at KLIA2 (the second terminal at KUL, used almost exclusively by low-cost carriers). After a short wait at immigration, we headed for the KLIA Ekspres train. This 30-min dedicated train line connects both KUL terminals to the KL Sentral station, a major hub for KL public transit.


Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur is connected to the KL Sentral station, so after a couple of days of travel, hotel arrival and check-in was fast and convenient. As reviewed, the Club Lounge was fantastic. They had all-day snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Their evening hors d’oeuvres were very extensive, with chefs preparing noodles, multiple locally-inspired hot dishes, fresh fruit, desserts, and wine/beer/spirits. After touring the hot, humid city during the day, for all but one night, we had filling dinners at the Club Lounge. Access was granted due to my Marriott Platinum status.



Joe and I are big fans of observation desks, and KL is home to the famous Petronas Twin Towers. After a quick metro ride to the KLCC stop, we enjoyed the air conditioned Suria KLCC mall for some mid-morning coffee and then made our way to the twin towers. Standing over 1400 feet tall with 88 floors, the Petronas Twin Towers are the world’s tallest twin structure.



Our tour included the glass Sky Bridge which connects the two towers at floors 41 and 42. The observation deck is on floor 86. From here, you can see much of KL and the vast KLCC Park, with its dancing fountains, banyan trees, and many footpaths. Also in the vicinity of the Petronas Twin Towers is the Aquaria KLCC. We wandered through the facility seeing sharks, piranha, and sea life native to the waters around Malaysia.


The greater KLCC area is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city, and we enjoyed our time here with our fellow tourists. During our walking through the Suria KLCC mall, we spotted a Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart store. We last had those during a 2017 trip to Melbourne. We grabbed a half-dozen for afternoon tea at the Club Lounge. They were as good as we remembered.



On our final night, we ventured into the city for a Malaysian dinner at Bijan located in central KL. We took the KL Monorail from KL Sentral station. Bijan was a great stop for dinner, and it placed us close to the Jalan Alor Night Market. The night market is full of Malay, Chinese, Thai, and other fusion food booths as well as freshly squeeze tropical juices. While night markets can be overwhelming with crowds and noise (this one was very busy), we still enjoyed our time wandering around.



Cost-wise, Malaysia, and more specifically KL, is not as affordable as Thailand, but it is still a bargain when compared to most western European destinations. For our hotel, Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur cost $140/night which included an upgrade to a corner room, access to the Club Lounge, and the full restaurant buffet breakfast, which was excellent!



In sum, Kuala Lumpur was high on our must-visit list. Thanks to a good airline route, an awesome hotel, some cool tourist sites, and (relative) affordability, KL remains one of our favorite destinations.


Happy Travels!





Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.

“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”


Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

BLUF: While on a Tokyo stop-over on an Alaska Airlines award redemption, I realized
Tokyo has one of the most extensive but altogether confusing metro and train systems
in the world. While you can buy single journey, one-day, or multi-day passes, none
works on all systems. By having a rechargeable, contactless smart card (known as an
“IC card”), you can enter and exit any system and pay without worry. Plus, one card,
SUICA, is available on the iPhone and easily rechargeable with ApplePay. I used the
SUICA IC card on my recent trip to Tokyo with much success.

Today’s TTP is about my Alaska Airlines award ticket through Tokyo and using the
SUICA IC card on my iPhone on Tokyo public transit.

To expand on my most recent post, how did I end up in Tokyo? As I was planning the
return from my Asia Winter 2019 trip, I decided on Japan Airlines First Class with an
award redemption from Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Alaska requires 70,000 Mileage
Plan miles to fly from Japan to the U.S. in JAL First Class. That is a very good deal
considering its 11+ hours in a super-comfortable seat with great food.

However, before I get into the redemption, how do I earn Alaska miles? I have two
credit cards from Bank of America: the Alaska Airlines Personal and Business cards.
When I applied, they both had sign-up bonuses of 30,000 Alaska miles after initial
spend. When I fly Alaska, I use either of these cards to purchase the ticket as they earn
3x Alaska miles/$1 spent. The best return for Alaska miles in the business.
Next, while Alaska Airlines does not partner with any banks for transferable points (e.g.,
Chase, AMEX, Citi), they are a transfer partner with Marriott Bonvoy. For every 3
Bonvoy points, you earn 1 Alaska miles. However, if you transfer in blocks of 60,000,
you get a bonus. For 60,000 Bonvoy points, you’d earn 25,000 Alaska miles.
Yes, fellow travelers, the points and miles game has math!

Nonetheless, my strict adherence to the maximize-every-dollar rule has brought me
more than enough Alaska miles for the JAL redemption through a myriad of avenues:
credit cards, Bonvoy, and flying Alaska and its partners. Personally, I focus on Alaska’s
program because of their amazing sweet spot redemptions for international First Class.

Anyway, back to Tokyo and JAL. Since I started my redemption in Taiwan, the total
cost was 75,000 Mileage Plan miles. Plus, I wanted to take advantage of Alaska’s
generous stop-over policy allowed on one-way award tickets. For no additional miles, I
could schedule a stop-over in Tokyo on my way to the U.S to catch up with a Navy
buddy of mine.

JAL award tickets are searchable on the Alaska website, so with patience and quick
fingers, you can find what you need. I wanted at least two days in Tokyo, so I first
searched for JAL First Class availability from Tokyo (both NRT and HND) to JFK, BOS,
or ORD. It’s always best to start the search with the long-haul flight since you want that
one in a premium cabin. Plus, flying not to the West Coast put me closer to DC, my
ultimate destination. Luckily on 31 Dec, NRT-ORD was available in JAL First Class.
Taipei has two airports, TPE and TSA. On the website, I started with 29 Dec, and I
found JAL Business from TPE to NRT. Sadly, JAL doesn’t fly First Class to Taiwan.
One of the quirks of having a myriad of airline partners, Alaska has individual award
charts rather than a single one. For Southeast Asia (Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, and
China) to the U.S redemptions are 75,000 Alaska miles in First Class. As mentioned,
even though JAL doesn’t fly First Class to Taiwan, you pay the highest miles based on
the highest class of service. Still, Business Class was perfectly awesome for this three-
hour flight.

With the flights selected on the Alaska website, the perfect stop-over, and a few clicks, I
had my award ticket: TPE-NRT (in Business)/two-night stop-over/NRT-ORD (in First).

As this would be my third trip to Tokyo, I already knew about the Tokyo metro and train
system. Previously, I’ve just purchased day passes, one-way tickets, or used cash. Not
a bad method, but there had to be a better way. Prior to this trip, I watched some very
helpful YouTube videos on purchasing IC cards for the Tokyo transit system.
However, once I got to my hotel, near Tokyo Station, I looked at my iPhone, and the
SUICA IC card had popped up automatically in my iPhone Wallet app. Since I had
notifications turned on—and had free roaming data at 2G speeds with T-Mobile’s
international travel plan—I didn’t really have to do anything to see the SUICA.

I read up on how it works on the iPhone, and by using ApplePay, you can easily charge
and recharge the SUICA all within the iPhone Wallet app. You need to load an
ApplePay eligible card in your Wallet and use it to load Yen in increments of 1000,
2000, or 5000. I loaded up my new AMEX Green card—it gets 3x Membership Reward
points for transportation and transit—and loaded 1000 Yen on the SUICA.
Further online explanation explained the Wallet app’s “Express Transit” setting. This
means the card can be used and read with the iPhone locked and even if it’s out of
power (although I wouldn’t personally test that feature). Instructions said to hold the

iPhone close to the IC reader at the gate of a transit system entrance (metro, train, etc.),
and you will here a BEEP to indicate the card is in use. You do not have to unlock your

When I was ready to go to the Mori Art Museum—a very cool place near Roppongi
Station—I headed to the metro and followed the instructions. When I brought my locked
iPhone up to the IC reader, I heard the BEEP. When I looked at the card it said “transit
in process.” I was on my way. At the end of my journey, I “tapped out,” and the
appropriate amount of Yen was deducted from my SUICA IC card. The card updated
with the remaining balance. No muss; no fuss!

SUICA IC cards can also be used at some stores and shops. You essentially use it the
same way as long as the clerk knows you’ll be using a SUICA for the purchase. It’s
analogous to using ApplePay, ChasePay, and its equivalents in the U.S. I was
surprised at how easy the whole process was with the SUICA card. Not having to worry
about cash or coins for the many transit systems in Tokyo was awesome.
I am not sure, though, if Android has an equivalent app or if the other main Tokyo IC
card, PASMO, is available via an app. While SUICA and PASMO work exactly the
same way—they’re different companies—only SUICA appeared on my iPhone.

In sum, international travel comes with so many levels of adventure: First Class on the
world’s top airlines to riding metros like a pro. Alaska Airlines helped me explore one of
my favorite cities, Tokyo, and the SUICA IC card, easily usable on the iPhone, made
exploring the city so much easier.

Happy Travels!



Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

Posted by glenn | 3 Comments

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