It’s been a long year. Our last expedition in South East Asia felt like a coon’s age ago. Work has been relentless and as a result I’ve been restless. Long nights have made the year feel that much longer and so a new adventure felt looong overdue. A change of pace, a new perspective, a shift in seasons, some forward momentum.
Japan was on the list. McBurger and Tha Queebs have both been to Japan multiple times and they both love the place to death. I started looking into things and I could see why. Now I had to check it out too. We nabbed some tix a month before for under $600 roundtrip from LAX. Seemed a decent deal for non-stop flights to Tokyo and back from Osaka.
Of course the closer you get to a trip the excitement starts mounting. You start mentally removing yourself from the grind and moving towards that energy. The gravity is inescapable now and vacation mindset has completely taken over. /firstbeer
Uber to the Train to the Bus to the Plane
We toss our packs into a white prius driven by a dude named Daljit. He’s taking us to the San Bernardino train station where we’ll grab a train to Union Station then take the FlyAway bus to LAX and a flight to Haneda airport in Tokyo. Our usual adventure intro scene.
Daljit seems eager to strike up conversation and asks where we’re headed. “Japan!”, “Oh very nice place. Have you been there before, sir?”, “No, first time. She’s been there before.” I get a tad worried when he asks how to get on the I-10 West though. Dammit, is this going to turn into a race already? Cuz we kind of started off our last adventure with a ridiculous train chase.
Thankfully not, and Daljit turns out to be the first interesting character of the trip. He tells us that when he was my age he had three passports filled with travel stamps (I’m curious what age he thinks ‘my age’ is). I ask him what his favorite places are and he says the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan. “You been?”, “Her sister lives in Hong Kong, we were there a couple years back”.
He has property in the Philippines apparently. And he used to live in Hong Kong. That’s where his mother, wife (or maybe ex-wife?) and kids are. He’s here in SoCal with 4 brothers and has more siblings in Britain. “Wow, all over the place”, “Yes. When I lived in Hong Kong I was traveling all the time” There’s a distance in his voice as he says it.
Daljit drops us at the train station and wishes us a good trip. We exit outside the newly renovated station. Hmmmm looks like they put new fences around the tracks and we have to take a tall overpass to get to Track 1 for Union Station. 4 stories up, across and back down. Solving the obesity problem and freeloaders at the same time. Metrolink has an app that makes ticket purchase easier too. It’s no Octopus card, but you can get a ticket to Union station coupled with a FlyAway pass now.
We get comfy on the train and grab a table. Almost immediately some smelly dreads homeless type starts up with a construction vest security type straight into bible talk. Out of nowhere. I think it started as gum on the sidewalk and the next sentence was Jews accusing Jesus of being born out of wedlock. He’s read some book called The true history of Jesus. Being born of fornication blah blah blah. “It was bagging. Just enemies trying to exploit a weakness…”, what in the hell is happening here? They’re super loud, distracting and very very annoying.
I look at Queenie, “Wanna move?”, point thumb back at Jesus Guy. “No Beeeee, noooooo. Put some music on”, “Yeah”. I’d asked the interwizzles what was good bullet train music for Japan and my friend Geoff had recommended Tycho. I get the earbuds out. He was right. Goodbye Jesus Guy, hello Tycho. I spend the remainder of the train ride in an ice toned echo chamber.
We hit the flyaway and the usual bit of traffic into LAX and around the loop to Thomas Bradley Terminal. Our ANA flight had mysteriously auto-checked us in 24 hours before the flight time so all we had to do was go through security, no kiosks or agents necessary (we hope). And we’re all super pimp travel masters with global entry cards so we’re TSA Pre-approved and should blast right passed any lines and shit.. oh just kidding, there’s no other lane. Just one fat disorganized mess of merging stressed people. Meh. It actually goes pretty fast.
Sweet, that leaves us time to hit the lounge for some free snacks and beverages cuz we’re all super pimp master travelers with our priority pass and shit… nope, that privilege ends at 8pm. It’s 11pm. Well… fine.
Instead we go to 800 degrees pizza and get a custom order margherita pizza. Or at least I try to, the skinny black dude behind the counter is high AF. His Indian girl counterpart at the cash is helping him through it. The conversation is an HR wonderland of immaculate customer service. She says, “You still doing that shit?”, he’s prepping some dough for my pizza base at the speed of frozen molasses, “Yeah bitch, that shit is craaaaazy as Fuuuuuck!” I would be floored to get to Japan and hear bullshit like this from anyone serving anyone anywhere. Thanks LAX. She understands how this could maybe be frustrating for a customer and rolls her eyes apologetically at me. I actually find it all pretty entertaining, we’re not in a rush.
I get the pizza buzzer thing and grab a seat. Queenie has already gone through a giant panda express line, gotten her food, and is half way through it. I nab a Heiny and Chardonnay, let’s get this trip underway!
I will say this. While it took some coaxing and about 20 minutes longer than ‘fast food’ should ever take, that mega high dude made some killer pizza. Bacon, mushroom, rosemary ham and artichoke hearts with oregano flakes. It was a lot of food. Our hopes were to stuff ourselves silly and fall into food comas for the overnight flight. Here’s our LAX pre-boarding spread:
Finish up and get to the gate. The gate is hilarious because the terminal intercom is last-in-wins rules and the gate attendants keep cutting each other off with their announcements.
Queenie and I were trying to be clever with our seat choices. We picked seats close to the back, an aisle seat and a window seat. Our hope was that no one would take the middle seat and we’d have extra space for the 14 hour flight. Of course it didn’t work out this way at all.