This post invokes the spirit of the Navigatrix’ 8 year old cousin who always asks: “what was the best and worst thing about your day?”
We did not really have any bad experiences. No-one got hurt or sick, we did not lose or break anything, nor was there anything we would recommend against. Not even bad weather disrupted us, despite coming within days of a typhoon and a hurricane.
Now onto the good things, of which there are many:
Best flight: Cathay Pacific, Singapore to Bangkok. The A350 is a beautiful airplane with a spacious and comfortable seat. The crew of diverse cultures was exceptional and the food and drinks were amazing. The overall experience was wonderful - the only thing missing was an amenity kit as this was a short haul flight.
Best airport lounge: Still The Pier at Hong Kong International. Cathay Pacific has a massive lounge with great food and a quiet ambiance. The Cathay Lounge in Changi Terminal 4 is an equal, albeit smaller.
Best hotel: A close one but Hotel Telegraaf in Tallinn wins out. It is perfectly located and the rooms are spacious, comfortable and beautifully decorated in a Baroque style. The Elemis toiletries are wonderful. The staff are exceptional - even down to the "welcome back" greeting we received every time we walked in. The lack of a hotel club lounge was not a problem as we found a perfect little café just down the street.
Best destination: Kyoto, without a doubt. We had a whole week there and barely scratched the surface. There are reputably more than 200,000 festivals per annum in Japan, so there is always the chance of something happening in Kyoto no matter when you are there. Twice now we have found something spectacular to do just by looking at a list prepared by the hotel. Kyoto is also centrally located - Hiroshima is just 2 hours away (human impact incident aside), Nagoya is an hour in the opposite direction, Lake Biwa and Osaka are just a short train ride away. One can spend a lot of money to stay in flashy Kyoto hotels, or choose the great value Citadines which is right above the subway, has self contained facilities and a supermarket only two minutes walk away. The only challenge is to identify what food to buy when there are no labels in English.
Best upgrade: Hilton Helsinki Airport. From a normal hotel room to a massive 1 bedroom suite and all on Hilton points so it did not cost us a cent. The only way this could have been better was if we were given a corner suite with its own sauna.
Best moment: This like being asked to choose a favourite child - impossible and also unfair. We can narrow it down to three:
Flying over Mt Everest: Some readers though they were clouds but we can assure you they were not. Flying along the Himalayas was special - confirmed by the Finnair flight attendant who cried tears of joy when we showed her what mesmerised us.
Seeing The Pope: This is something we never thought we would do, even in our wildest dreams. The Navigatrix had that warm and fuzzy feeling associated with seeing a celebrity. One of our readers said: "you created that feeling, not Il Papa," but there is no doubting he has an aura. As our American acquaintances at the bar in Hotel Telegraaf said: "he embodies the best of what we want people and the world to be." Touché.
Japanese Horse Archery: This is not something one could see anywhere in the world except Japan. The skill and dedication of both archer and horse was astonishing. Not only that, the archer had to compete wearing many layers of traditional clothing. This sport is unchanged in rules and execution for over 800 years and is a throwback to ancient times. This was one of those festivals we discovered from the hotel list and we are so glad we spent the JPY500 to stand inside the enclosure right at the edge of the track.
We could go on and on...
That's it! After 46 days, 14 flight legs over more than 31,000 miles and about 7,000 photos it is all over. Thanks to all of our readers who engaged with each post, answered those questions we posed and liked our photos on Instagram and Facebook. Stay tuned for some follow up posts over the next few weeks as we have articles being published on a travel website.
Oh... and why is the seat layout reverse herringbone? Because the window seats face towards the window. So now you know!