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Part 1- Planning, Melbourne and the GOR (Great Ocean Road)
Part 2- Sydney
Part 3- The Gold Coast
Part 4- Bangkok, flights home

Author Topic: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR  (Read 18148 times)

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #40 on: December 02, 2014, 10:54:06 AM »
Awesome! Really fun to read, good job! Looks like it was a nice trip. Too bad it kept raining :(
Summer Christmas sounds really funny. The state line thing is cool and the ironing board trick is gold! I didn't catch where the pic was from but thanks MC! That's pretty cool!
I'm glad you're enjoying reading. Even though it did rain, since there was so much time that it didn't I don't remember the trip as a rainy one (unlike Rio which was nonstop rain the entire time).

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #41 on: December 02, 2014, 10:58:04 AM »
I'm glad you're enjoying reading. Even though it did rain, since there was so much time that it didn't I don't remember the trip as a rainy one (unlike Rio which was nonstop rain the entire time).
Good!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #42 on: December 03, 2014, 12:04:43 AM »
Flying to Bangkok-Wednesday, December 14, 2011
After returning our car and taking the car rental company’s free shuttle we arrived at the airport and checked in. In truth we arrived kind of early, especially for not having lounge access. We only did this to avoid having to pay for the car for another day, but even so it was only 3 hours before the flight. We had some lunch in the food court area before heading down to security and to our gate.

When we arrived at our gate our ride had not yet arrived. This was the first time for us on Thai, and it was a really nice experience. Once the plane did arrive though we were on board in no time and settle into our seats for a 9 hour day time flight to Bangkok. Even though we were in economy, I got an aisle seat with no seat in front of it so that made it a lot more bearable.

One thing I found interesting was the transition the flight attendants went through from boarding to deplaning. When we were getting on the plane all the flight attendants were dressed in traditional Thai clothes. By the time we landed they’d all changed into western uniforms.

After we landed (at around 9pm) we started our very long walk to customs. About half way along my wife realized she’d left her laptop bag on the plane. We turned around and walked right back to the gate. Since we were the first ones in economy off the plane, the last passengers were just getting off when we arrived, panting and out of breath.


So thaaaat's what they're called. At least it helped us more quickly in one direction (away from the plane)

We mentioned that we’d left a bag and sure enough they’d found it and had it waiting for us right there. We thanked them and headed back to customs.  One the way we changed some money for THB (I know, the airport had a lousy exchange rate usually, but this rate was not that bad and it was only enough to get to our hotel).

While Australian customs is super strict, Thai customs are non-existent. We were bringing in milk, cheese, fruit and nuts and no one even questioned us on our way out of the airport (you don’t have to stop to declare any food).

We got a taxi and were on our way to The David Hotel in the Sukhumvit neighborhood. The whole trip (metered plus tolls) was around THB 350, or about $10 USD for the 30 minute ride.

We’d booked the David Hotel on Orbitz for $56/night for a standard room, which came with a free upgrade to the next room up (that’s why we booked on Orbitz).  We requested 2 beds.  When we checked in, they wanted to give us a room with one bed, but we pointed out that the reservation said specifically 2 beds.  They were very apologetic and explained that the standard rooms with 2 beds were sold out. Because it was their fault, they offered to put us in a 2 bedroom suite (their nicest, largest room) in stead.  Fine by me, especially for $56/night for 4 nights!


The Davis Hotel exterior


Davis Hotel lobby


Davis Hotel hallway (sorry it's a bit fuzzy; it's the only picture I have)


Kitchen & Dining table, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Desk and one of the bedrooms, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Living Room area, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Bedroom #1, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Bathtub in bathroom #1, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Shower & Sinks in bathroom #1, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Bedroom #2, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Bathtub & Sinks in Bathroom #2, Davis Hotel 2BR suite


Shower (there was kind of a hall in the shower which expanded to the left) in Bathroom #2, Davis Hotel 2BR suite

This hotel is really very nice. We were going to stay at the St. Regis instead, but decided to stay here for 2 reasons:

It was only a 10 minute walk to Chabad (Beis Elisheva) for shabbos
It was only $56/nigh for a 4-star hotel!!

We were very pleased with our choice. The hotel was really nice, the staff were knowledgeable and spoke English well, and our room was the nicest of our trip.

By this time it was quite late and we wanted to get to bed in order to maximize our time the following day.

Bangkok, a taxi tour-Thursday, December 15, 2011
Thursday morning we were originally planning on visiting the floating markets outside the city. We were planning on spending most of the day outside the city, but that didn’t end up happening. A couple months before we arrived Bangkok saw horrible flooding and much of the outer parts of the city were still flooded when we were there. Going anywhere outside central Bangkok was not going to happen without a boat, and even that was not being advised.

Instead, we spoke to the concierge at the hotel to figure out the best way to see the sites within the city. First we went over a map and, with the concierge’s help, figured out where we wanted to go. Based on that, the best way for us was actually to hire a taxi for the afternoon.

Before the got the taxi we wanted to find Beis Elisheva, where we’d be spending shabbos meals.  I had the address, but the street were confusing and the hotel gave bad directions. At one point I walked into a 7-Eleven to ask directions but they didn’t speak English.  We went back to the hotel to print a map (this was before I had one on my phone), and ended up finding it on our second attempt.


Chabad Beis Elisheva


Beis Elisheva is on this street

We got back to the hotel and arranged to hire a car for THB 1,000 (or about $30 USD)for 6 hours. The concierge wrote down our list in order in both Thai and English. He called the cab and explained the situation to the driver who spoke not one word of English.  All we had to do was point to the next item on the list and he’d take us there.

The plan worked beautifully. Our driver was super friendly. We got to our first Wat (temple) and looked around the outside. While we were exploring (turns out there’s nothing to see outside some of them) our driver bought  us some bottles of water bottles at the gift shop.  He was so thrilled to be getting THB 1,000 in only 6 hours the couldn’t stop smiling the whole time.  We found out later that most taxi drivers earn THB 200/day, so 5 days pay in half a day’s work was the reason he was so gleeful.


Bangkok, the old and the new


They're into pink there. The hot pink car in front is a taxi.


Grand Palace gardens


Grand Palace dress code

As we drove around, through some of the heaviest traffic I’ve ever seen I might add, we suddenly noticed that all the signs were in Hebrew.  Sure enough we were right be Khao San Road, the Mecca for Israeli backpackers and home to Chabad (R’ Wilhelm).  As this was not a scheduled stop on our list, we motioned for the driver to stop so we could get out and have a look around.  Somehow we communicated that we’d wait in the same spot he dropped us off when we were done, but we couldn’t be sure he got how long we’d be.


The left-most sign proves this picture was taken in Thailand not Israel

We got out and started walking down the famous Road. Khao San Road is like a shuk, with people selling all sorts of things (not food, stuff) and all shouting at you to come a have a look...in Hebrew. As soon as they noticed we were Jewish, they started calling to us in the few sentences they knew in Hebrew to buy a suits.  At $200 USD for a custom made, 100% silk suit the price was right, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to wait for anything to be made as we were leaving on Sunday.


Khao San Road. How taxis fit is beyond me.

Our goal next was to find Chabad. Turns out there’s signs all over the area pointing you in the direction and we soon found it, on top of The Kosher Place restaurant.

We went inside and met Rabbi Wilhelm, who is kind of related to my wife through marriage.  We spoke for a while, but we couldn’t stay long as it was time to meet our cab driver to continue our tour.


Chabad new Khao San Road

At first we thought he wouldn’t come back for us, but on realizing we hadn’t paid him yet we disregarded that idea.  He’d been circling the block waiting for us, and within a few minutes he picked us up and continued our tour.

We drove around, looking at various Wats (the main attractions in the city apparently). Since we didn’t want to go inside, we just hopped out of the cab at one or two with nice grounds, took some pictures and continued on.

We visited some large palace on the grounds of some military base, but decided not to go in due to time.  One thing we didn’t realize was how trafficy it got. At one point we had to wait 10 minutes to cross the intersection. The light didn’t even turn green for us because there was no where to go on the other side.


Thai bathroom. Stalls didn't have TP just the hose; TP was available in a roll by the sinks for westerners

It was a really long day driving around, but our driver was friendly (he even gave us his card when we left) and we made the best of our time and situation.

The Emporium mall-Friday, December 16, 2011
Since we’d done most of things we wanted to do in Bangkok, we decided to go to the Emporium mall not too far from the hotel.

The Hotel actually has a tuk-tuk shuttle to the mall pretty frequently, so we took that. I don’t know how people do it though. It didn’t feel dangerous, it was more the lack of fresh air. There was so much pollution that the sky was never truly blue. When you’re on a tuk-tuk you’re exposed to the air and breathing was very smelly and all around unpleasant.

The mall itself was gorgeous.  We started at the supermarket on the top floor.  This was a gourmet supermarket. It looked American, and like most stores in the mall, the locals probably could never afford to shop there.  One thing I found funny was their prices. Fruit like apples and pears cost around $3.25/lb while the tropical fruits like guava, mango and coconut were just a few cents a pound.


Fruit prices for exotic (by Thai standards) fruit


Fruit prices normal (by Thai standards) fruit

The supermarket also had tons of kosher products imported from the US. Unlike Australia which makes many of the US products themselves (and are therefore not kosher), Thailand just imports things so it’s super easy to find kosher food all over the store.

We explored the rest of the mall (which was huge) and then took the hotel’s tuk-tuk back to get ready for shabbos.


Our ride back to the hotel

The Davis Hotel was really accommodating for shabbos.  They’d had plenty of frum guests in the past and knew exactly what I was talking about when I explained that we’d need to walk to/from our room and other general shabbos-in-a-hotel necessities.

Since we were back in the northern hemisphere, shabbos started around 6:30. We had a great meal at Chabad. We were actually supposed to go to Rabbi Canter’s house for Friday night, but he had to cancel last minuted and go to Israel.

We met a few people at the meals. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s story. From the frum Argentinian couple to the not-yet-frum guy from Tampa, from the Persian grandfather who spends half his time a few miles away from me in LA to the nomadic secular French guy and his sister it was really a fun group of people to speak to.

Shabbos, December 17, 2011
Shabbos day we davened at Beis Elisheva at 10:0am, followed by a sit down lunch. We spend the afternoon out of the heat in our hotel room and had a relaxing shabbos.

After shabbos we had our hotel call “our” cabbie from Thursday (he’d given me his card after all) to arrange our 5:30am ride back to the airport.  He originally wanted to charge THB 500 flat rate to the airport. Since our ride to the hotel was only THB 350 during traffic, I wanted to go on the meter and take my chances.

We got all packed and went to bed early for our long trip home the next day.

Getting to Tokyo; 8 hours in Tokyo-Sunday, December 18, 2011
Our cab arrived right on time at 5:30am. When we arrived at the airport at 6:00am for our 8:00am flight I realized I only had a THB 500 note (sure enough the meter and come to almost exactly THB 350).  I didn’t have any use for THB 150 in change, so I just gave the cabbie the note and motioned for him to keep the change. The smile that lit up on his face was totally worth the price. He’d just made 2.5 days wages by 6 am on a Sunday. He really liked us.

Check-in was long and confusing.  There were lines everywhere, and they were all really long. After about an hour were were checked in and through security. We looked around for a bit at the shops but decided just to head to the gate so I could daven shachris.

I davened in the corner, which was semi-private but at least facing away from the crowd.

We boarded flight uneventfully and had a comfortable 5:45 minute ride to Narita.  The food on the flight was just barely edible, catered by The Kosher Place, and it was also fleishig for breakfast (sorry, I didn’t get a picture).

We arrived in Narita just before 4:00pm as the sun was setting. It was a clear day and we got to see the sunset, beautiful and round, just like their flag.  We made it through customs without any major issues.


At NRT on the way to customs

They did question us as to why we wrote on our customs form that we were not spending any time in Tokyo, and couldn’t seem to figure out why anyone would want to transfer between NRT and HND instead of just flying out of NRT. I didn’t have the patience to explain award availability to him, but he let us go all the same.

After collecting our bag it was time to catch the bus to Haneda.

Before we left LA I purchased tickets for the bus that goes between NRT and HND. At the time there was a special price non-Japanese citizens could get if they purchased the tickets at an office outside of Japan. It happened to be that such an office was located just 15 minutes from my house (it’s since either closed or moved, but it’s not there anymore).

The whole process was really easy. I went in to the store, told them I’d like 2-one way tickets and paid with credit card.  The store in LA stamped the tickets with their stamp to validate them (they were paper, no electronic version available).  Once at NRT, all we had to do was go to the ticket window, present our “tickets” (they were really more like vouchers) and get tickets to the bus we needed.

Buses between NRT and HND take about 90 minutes and run every 10 minutes.  The process for boarding the bus is super efficient.  People queue up along the curb with their bags for bus #1. Before the bus arrives, workers take your bags and tag them with your name and destination.  In the mean time, people are also waiting for bus #2, which leaves 10 minutes after bus #1. These people queue up behind group 1, also parallel to the curb.

Once the bus arrives, group 1 walks on and sits down. The bag guys load all the bags in the order of which terminal people are going to in HND.  The whole process takes 2 minutes.


Our bus from NRT-HND; bag guys loading the bus

After much bowing by all the workers, the bus leaves. Group #2 now steps forward to where group 1 was and gets their bags tagged. I’ve never seen a more efficient system for loading up a bus in my life. If MegaBus or Boltbus saw how they do it in Japan they could learn a thing of two.

So in no time at all we were on our way to HND, enjoying the sites of Tokyo highways at night.  The highways we took between the airports had extremely high walls that curved up on top forming an open top tunnel.  Some of the walls were clear (but all scratched up) but most were not transparent.  While I’m sure it works as a great sound barrier, it also makes for a pretty boring drive, scenery wise.

Every once in a while there was a break in the walls, so I got to see a little bit here and there. Part of our drive took us past Disneyland Tokyo which was pretty cool, too.

Unfortunately for us, the bus we were on did not go to the international terminal at HND.  We got dropped off at the domestic terminal and took the airport shuttle over.  Since by this time it was around 7:00pm and our flight didn’t leave until 12:05am, we had to decide what to do.  We checked in for our flight, dropped off our bag and walked around the terminal landside. We ate dinner (food we still had from Australia) and were toying with the idea of going into town for a little bit.

Ultimately we decided against it for a number of reasons. First, it was really cold out and we didn’t have heavy enough jackets.  Second, the amount of time it would have taken to get to/from town via metro would have meant we’d have been rushing the whole time.  Finally, it was late. We weren’t jetlagged, but the thought of schlepping out in the dark and cold just to say we’ve seen whatever it was we would have gone to see was not worth it.

We passed through security and tried settled in at our gate for a few hours using the free wifi to catch up on things and pass the few hours we had till our flight.


For those who've never been to Japan before, the airport bathrooms had 2 types of stalls: the one you're familiar with and this squatting one


At least there's a place to put your kid while you're taking care of business

Time travelling back to LA-Monday, December 19, 2011
On of the items on my bucket list has been to time travel across the dateline.  While all flights from NRT-LAX leave in the late afternoon and arrive that same morning, that’s only time travelling a few hours on the same day. The flights from HND-LAX (and SFO for that matter) leave just after midnight, arriving the previous day in the evening.  This IMO is so much cooler, going back an entire day!

Okay, I realize it’s only the same number of hours as the evening departures, but honestly, arriving the day before you left sounds a lot cooler.

Our flight left on time and was quite full.  The interesting thing about this flight is that you didn’t want to sleep too much as the flight would land in LA at 5:00pm. On the other hand, you couldn’t just pretend to be on LA time and not sleep at all because it was midnight and people were tired.

Since the flight was so full, we didn’t have any empty seats next to us like we had on the way to Australia.  I rested for a couple of hours, but I can’t sleep sitting up no matter how tired I am and ended up spending the rest of the flight awake.

We were served breakfast and dinner on the flight, but I don’t remember where the meals came from. I do remember them both being very good and pareve.  Even though the first meal was served shortly after takeoff, we were served breakfast.

I thought this was odd since it was at least 6-7 hours until breakfast time, but since the meal they’d serve in 7 hours before we’d land would be at 3pm LA time the couldn’t call that meal breakfast. Whatever you called it, there were two good meals.

Like with many flights I’m on, I end up standing for a bit in the back. Sometimes flight attendants want to talk and sometimes they don’t.  This time there was once flight attendant who wanted to talk. She’d never been to the US before and was looking forward to spending some time in LA.  I was giving her some tips on what to do on her 2 days she would be in town.  She also asked me why we were in Japan. I told her we were on our honeymoon, and that we’d only stopped over for a few hours. She went on praising Japan and said we must come back to visit.

What surprised me, though, was the gift she brought me later, after I’d returned to my seat. She brought me a model of an ANA plane and wrote our flight (NH1006) and the date (19 Dec 2011) on it along with Congratulations.  It was a nice little touch which was very thoughtful of her.

After we landed in LA, we got through customs rather quickly (even more impressive since this was before Global Entry) and were picked up shortly after that.  When I showed my mom the plane the flight attendant had given us, she asked why it had tomorrow’s date on it. That is why time travelling across days is so much cooler than on the same day.

Finally, because the flight arrived in the evening, it was really easy to fall asleep (considering I didn’t do that on the flight) and avoid jet lag all together.

Conclusion
We both enjoyed our trip immensely.  Three weeks was a nice time to be away, but it could have been longer and I wouldn’t have minded.  We could have spent more time in Australia, but we wanted to be near a shul for shabbos and that would have meant going back to SYD or MEL, so we’re not upset about our choice to go to BKK.

That said, we definitely know that we didn’t get a chance to see Thailand.  CNX and HKT will have to wait for another trip.  Japan was really just necessary for the award space, so we plan to go back there as well one day.  This was our first major trip, and the first one I planned using miles and points. I think I did a decent job considering what I had to work with and my limited knowledge of complex routing.

In the end of the day, it’s a trip that we’ll never forget.

Thank you for reading!

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #43 on: December 03, 2014, 02:01:44 AM »
Thanks you for posting, great entertainment!

Offline morgs

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #44 on: December 03, 2014, 03:03:05 AM »

 Thai customs are non-existent.
As is all other rules and laws there as well ;D!! Once again thanks for the great installment! Looking forward to the next one!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #45 on: December 03, 2014, 08:44:01 AM »
As is all other rules and laws there as well ;D!! Once again thanks for the great installment! Looking forward to the next one!
😊. I'm glad you enjoyed.

Offline Devorah

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #46 on: December 26, 2014, 01:11:50 AM »
Great TR!  Looking forward to your others.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #47 on: December 26, 2014, 01:32:30 AM »
Great TR!  Looking forward to your others.
Thanks!

Offline lybbtthl

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #48 on: February 05, 2015, 03:30:47 PM »
FTR, I found this out when I was in Bangkok, Taxis do not charge for traffic time or waiting time, the meter only calculates distance

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #49 on: February 05, 2015, 03:36:44 PM »
FTR, I found this out when I was in Bangkok, Taxis do not charge for traffic time or waiting time, the meter only calculates distance
Even so, 6 hours for ~$30 is very cheap.

Offline lybbtthl

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #50 on: February 05, 2015, 03:39:14 PM »
Even so, 6 hours for ~$30 is very cheap.
True, one time when i took a taxi there the guy quoted me 200 baht for the ride, I knew to bargain so i tried then i stopped myself, we were 4 guys in the taxi, going somewhere at least half hour away, let the guy have his $6!
on the way back, the driver used the meter, 85 baht!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #51 on: February 05, 2015, 03:40:03 PM »
True, one time when i took a taxi there the guy quoted me 200 baht for the ride, I knew to bargain so i tried then i stopped myself, we were 4 guys in the taxi, going somewhere at least half hour away, let the guy have his $6!
on the way back, the driver used the meter, 85 baht!
Crazy!

Offline foseph

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Crazy!
going in august... i think this is gonna be the best part. spending the same amount on cabs for the whole trip as one way in nyc usually

great TR btw. lots of good stuff. had be planning to hire a cab for the day so this def shows its a good idea

Offline shwarmabob

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going in august... i think this is gonna be the best part. spending the same amount on cabs for the whole trip as one way in nyc usually

great TR btw. lots of good stuff. had be planning to hire a cab for the day so this def shows its a good idea
Make sure the cab takes you where you want to go and not to various stores where the driver gets commission. If you do agree to go to a store, don't buy anything becasue you are being overcharged and the commission goes to the driver. Well at least be aware that this is how the game is being played.

Offline foseph

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Make sure the cab takes you where you want to go and not to various stores where the driver gets commission. If you do agree to go to a store, don't buy anything becasue you are being overcharged and the commission goes to the driver. Well at least be aware that this is how the game is being played.
yea saw that written in a couple place and will keep it in mind

Offline D93

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #55 on: October 28, 2015, 07:12:47 PM »
I just this TR! Amazing stuff!!
I really enjoy the clear day to day style trip reports!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Yehoshua's Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Cost Australia, Bangkok & Tokyo TR
« Reply #56 on: October 28, 2015, 07:14:37 PM »
I just this TR! Amazing stuff!!
I really enjoy the clear day to day style trip reports!
Glad you enjoyed! I hope it helps with your trip planning.