Mt. Fuji

Top 10 Things to do in The Land of the Rising Sun – Tokyo

“Each complex is a small town, and their numbers make up this enormous capital. Like cells in a body, each contains identical elements, and the resulting pattern is an organic one.” – Donald Ritchie

The nighttime lights in Tokyo are overwhelming. Billions of bright bulbs and boards begging for your attention, yearning for your Japanese yen. You think: ‘With all this brilliance, the rumors must be true: this must be one of the most expensive cities on Earth. How else could they afford their electricity bills?’ But I’ve got a little secret for you: Tokyo isn’t as expensive as everyone says it is.

This past winter, I decided to take a solo trip through Japan, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Koya, and Osaka along the way (videos to come soon). Unlike my previous, way over the top trips, like spending a Weekend in Stockholm, visiting the Avenue of the Dead, flying First Class from Hong Kong to San Francisco, or staying at the Ritz Carlton in Macau, I decided to a take a more down to earth approach to Japan, staying in hostels and meeting locals. Over the course of 4 days in Tokyo, we grew our squad to 3 Americans, 2 Australians, and 1 Malaysian, visited some of the best spots and bars in Tokyo, and found what it truly meant to visit the Land of the Rising Sun. Below I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 affordable places you should visit in Tokyo.


Golden Gui was, by far, one of my favorite places to visit in Tokyo. A subset of the Shinjuku neighborhood, Golden Gui is composed of a small network of 6 narrow alleys, barely wide enough for a single person to walk through with over 200 tiny, shanty-style bars, clubs, and eateries in one square block. Many of the bars are restricted to “foreigners” and are reserved for regulars only, while others are open to new visitors and feature various themes ranging from old-school speakeasies to straight up Hello Kitty.



Shinjuku is the larger neighborhood that contains Golden Gui and is one of the largest neighborhoods for nightlife and bars when compared to Hong Kong, London, or even New York. This neighborhood is just as busy as the popular shopping district, Shibuya, but with more millennials and some of the craziest sites in Tokyo, like the Robot Restaurant shown above.



Shibuya is the largest shopping district in Tokyo, with more neon signs per square block to compete with Times Square in New York. There are more two-story televisions in this neighborhood than anywhere else in the world. It’s a popular shopping and eating destination among many Tokyoites (Yes, that’s actually what they’re called). Beautiful lights at night, and hundreds of shopping options, make this a classic destination of choice in Tokyo.



I stayed in a hostel in Asakusa during my visit to Tokyo. One of the more affordable locations for solo travelers, and also home to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temple. During the day, you can walk by the hundreds of restaurants and tourist shops lining the path leading up to Sensoji Temple.


ueno park

ueno park    ueno park

Take a stroll through the beautiful Ueno Park, and watch families soaking in the sun, observe street performers, and find locals painting some of the beautiful scenes that can be found within the park, like the old man painting Toshogu Shrine above.


owl cafe

You’ve probably heard of the many cat cafes throughout Japan, allowing weary travelers to grab a coffee while enjoying the company of cats from around the world. Owl Cafes, on the other hand, are a whole nother animal (pun intended). Take a break by checking out the Owl Cafe in Asakusa, grab a coffee, and pet a Barn Owl.


maid cafe

While lesser known, Maid Cafes are a subset of the many cosplay restaurants in Tokyo. Waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants and treat the customers as masters. Definitely one of the more interesting experiences in Tokyo, and a must for groups!


tsuta ramen restaurant    tsuta ramen restauranttsuta ramen restaurant

Enjoy Ramen? Then definitely stop by Tsuta, a tiny ramen restaurant located in the Sugamo neighborhood, and the only ramen restaurant to receive 1 Michelen star. I got there early to get a ticket with my reservation time for 1pm, allowing us to explore the city and come back at our specified time. Once inside, you go to the vending machine, select the type of ramen you would like to order, and pay. Needless to say, it was some of the best ramen I’ve ever had in my life.


tokyo skytree

The Tokyo Skytree is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower just north-east of the Asakusa neighborhood. While traditionally more touristy, you can get sweeping 360 views of Tokyo from the upper decks, and American tourists can get priority access. I would suggest going to the Skytree right before sunset to catch a glimpse of why Japan is called the Land of the Rising Sun.

10. MT. FUJI

Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji is a must see if you go during the summer. I made the mistake of going in the winter when amateur hikers are discouraged from making the trek due to limited amenities and guides available.  The mountain itself may look more attractive from afar than from close up, but the views on clear days and the experience of climbing through the early morning hours among hundreds of equally minded hikers from across the world are very rewarding.

See anything that should be on this list, shoot me a message at

Interested in taking a trip to Japan and would like more advice or places to see, things to do, and food to eat, shoot me a message at


I travel quite a bit, but usually it’s either for work or I’m trying to find the cheapest, budget flight I can, but for my recent trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco I wanted to do something impulsive, so I booked First Class with Cathay Pacific. The retail cost of this flight is over $23,000 one-way. Naturally, I couldn’t afford a $23,000 ticket (far more than my student loans) so I redeemed 110,000 miles on my Chase Sapphire Card.


The $23,000 First Class ticket on Cathay Pacific

I arrived at the MTR check-in counter in Hong Kong about 5 hours before my departure time. I’d heard about the new First Class lounge at HKG and didn’t want to miss a minute exploring it. After hoping on a quick train to the airport, checking-in, and passing through security, I headed towards Cathay Pacific’s new, The Pier First Lounge.

The lobby of the The Pier, First Lounge

The lobby of the The Pier, First Lounge

Open Bar at The Pier, First Lounge

Open Bar at The Pier, First Lounge

All the drinks and snacks you can think of

All the drinks and snacks you can think of

After arriving at the lounge, I headed to the restaurant for a 3-course dinner. I ordered the Pasta Salad, Walnut Pesto Linguini, and Creme Brulee.

Walnut Pesto Linguini

Walnut Pesto Linguini

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

After dinner and a quick nap, I boarded the flight and got settled into seat 1A. My first impression of the seat was just how insanely big it was. Cathay Pacific only has three seats per row, making them one of the widest airline seats in the air today. The first class suite also doesn’t have sliding doors, with Cathay preferring to have an open layout, unlike Emirates.

Seat 1A on Cathay Pacific

Seat 1A on Cathay Pacific

However, it is more than made up by the fact there are only six seats in the entire cabin, making it one of the smallest and most exclusive first cabins in the sky. Overall, there were only two flight attendants serving three paying passengers and a Cathay Pacific pilot. This was going to fun!

Seat 1A on Cathay Pacific

Seat 1A on Cathay Pacific

After I sat down, my two first class flight attendants and the pilot introduced themselves. Surprisingly, the entire crew was San Francisco-based, instead of Hong Kong-based and have been doing 2 flights a week for several years. I almost felt like I shouldn’t be there. I was surrounded by people more than double my age.


A young gentleman then asked me what I would like to drink. I asked for a glass of champagne and he quickly brought over a glass of Krug. Soon after, the doors were closed and I was off to San Francisco. After a quick champagne refill, I was ready to order supper.

Menu on Cathay Pacific Flight

Menu on Cathay Pacific Flight

The server came over and set the table with a table cloth, silverware, and glassware. I ordered the Mushroom cream soup as an appetizer,

Mushroom Cream Soup

Mushroom Cream Soup

and the Grilled Eggplant Stack along with a glass of Pinot Noir.

Grilled Eggplant Stack

Grilled Eggplant Stack

After dinner and a few movies, I was ready for bed. I put on my complimentary Cathay Pacific pajamas,

Cathay Pacific Pajamas

Cathay Pacific Pajamas

while the flight attendant came over and made my bed.

Flight attendant preparing my bed

Flight attendant preparing my bed

Emirates may have the enclosed suite, but the extra width and open design made my seat feel like a real bed that I could stretch out in. The bed lining was perfect and I had probably the biggest pillow I’ve slept on so far on a plane. I had the most comfortable sleep on a flight I’d ever had.

I woke up as we were somewhere over the pacific, 3 hours from San Francisco. The flight attendant came over and gave me the breakfast menu. I started with a plate of fruit, croissants, and orange juice.

Fruit Plate

Fruit Plate

and ordered the Breakfast Egg Scramble.

Breakfast Egg Scramble

Breakfast Egg Scramble

We then began our descent into San Francisco and landed shortly. I spent the next couple minutes talking with The flight crew, thanked them for their amazing service, and deboarded.

Overall, Cathay Pacific’s first class lives up to the hype. Although their seats are not the most groundbreaking, what stands out is the level of sophistication and elegance at every turn. The service was top notch and you can easily tell they paid attention to the minor details.

*If you’re interested in earning flight miles or credit card points, check out my other article 3 No-Brainer Credit Cards Everyone Must Have in Their Wallet.

The Future of Drones: 5 Bold Predictions for 2017

Note: This is a repost of the same article on LinkedIn.

The 2017 Consumer Electronics Showcase has just concluded in Las Vegas, Nevada and drones are front and center in the national discussion. Drones, UAVs and other unmanned systems have taken off as a unique tool for everyday life, regardless of whether flight is controlled by onboard computers or remotely from the ground. Unmanned systems have revolutionized the way we capture, monitor and assist our world. They provide aerial coverage for sports, travel and real estate; enhance search and rescue, law enforcement and disaster relief; and so much more.

DJI, Yuneec, and Qualcomm are just a few of the companies that showcased drone and UAV technologies at the Showcase. After hearing from over 42 companies during the CES, here are my 5 bold predictions for the future of drones.


1. Drones Will Be Automated

Today, drones are controlled by human operators. The new FAA regulations lay out a set of guidelines that every operator must abide by when flying their UAVs in US Airspace. The drones of tomorrow, however, may not require human operators at all. Startups and government agencies alike are researching technologies in areas of predictive and prescriptive analytics, allowing drones to analyze flight plans, detect and avoid obstacles, and communicate with one another, all in real time.

Silicon Valley Startup, DroneDeploy, and EU Startup, UAVIA, are just a few companies leading the developments in automated data collection and remote operation in the next generation of drones. DroneDeploy has developed a SAAS platform that allows users to automate data collection by allowing users to capture and analyze maps and 3D Models. UAVIA is developing connected drones and charging stations that remove the need for human operators.


2. Drones Will Take VR/AR to New Heights

With live-streaming videos and 10-second moments taking center stage,  we are entering an era where people can see the world in real-time, immerse themselves in another reality, and connect with one another like never before.

Drones connect us even further by providing a perspective that’s been unimaginable for centuries. Combining virtual and augmented reality systems with drone technologies present itself with a world of new possibilities. 360 cameras can be attached to drones and allow viewers to transport themselves to almost any location on the planet. More advanced systems can allow operators to control these drones in real time from across the world.

Startups like Drone Volt and Aerobo are pioneering this fusion of technology. Drone Volt specializes in the manufacturing, assembly, distribution and sales of advanced drones for professional usage, from audiovisual applications to security. They currently have a drone with ten, 4k cameras geared towards producing VR content. Aerobo is a drones-as-a-service company operating in entertainment, news, sports, real estate, industrial inspection, energy, and agriculture. The Aerobo Mini, their latest product, is a lightweight drone constructed with 3D printed plastic, reinforced with carbon fiber.


3. Drones Will Be The New Development Platform

The Smartphone fundamentally changed the way we communicate, navigate, shop, and more within the past decade. Drones are simply smartphones in the sky. They’re a set of processors and sensors with wings, set to disrupt numerous industries, including logistics, agriculture, and insurance. Google and Apple have developed ingeniously simple ways for developers to build on top of their platforms. Similarly, DJI is moving towards providing developers with the tools and resources needed to build on top of their platforms.

Numerous startups have taken advantage of drones as the new development platform, including FreeSkies and Airware. FreeSkies has developed an autonomous path planning interface that allows users to select 3D waypoints and automate their flightplans without any piloting experience. Airware has developed a platform for developers and enterprises to build applications from the sky.

star wars drone

4. Drones Will Fly in Swarms

Swarming technology is a form of artificial intelligence that will enable drones to imitate the flight patterns of certain insects. It could enable thousands of drones, working together, to achieve impossible tasks with current technology. They can assist in search and rescue missions, construct bridges in a matter of days, or even deliver goods to your doorstep. Advancements in artificial intelligence and cloud robotics will help lead the evolution of drones, where drones not only communicate with operators, but with one another.

The US Navy has initiated a Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program to allow a single operator to control a swarm of up to 30 drones. The GRASP Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania is researching drones that can sense and avoid one another and carry out tasks as a single unit. The CSAIL Laboratory at MIT is developing algorithms that can assist in drone navigation, surveillance, and mapping.

ehang drone

5. Drones Will Connect Our World

From advancing cellular technology to providing internet to remote areas, drone technology is connecting our world more than ever. Cellular companies are researching ways to extend cellular networks to the last gray areas on our map, while Facebook is developing a drone that can provide internet access to the furthest reaches of our planet. Facebook’s is developing the Aquila drone using laser communications and millimeter wave systems to provide Internet coverage to areas of the world under-served by traditional connectivity infrastructure.

Google’s Project Skybender and Project Loon are exploring next-generation 5G wireless Internet access via drones and balloons respectively. The drones will use phased array technology to transmit data at high speeds.

I envision a future where drones are a major component of the IoT, a world where everything is connected, from your car to your home to the drones in the sky. Realizing this future will require deep collaboration between government institutions, corporations, and startups worldwide.

(C) The points guy

Official Review: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Last week I reviewed the Top 3 No-Brainer Credit Cards Everyone Must Have in Their Wallet. For those travelers who enjoy the hotel life, Uber everywhere, and want to join the mile high club, I have added a new card to that list: the all new Chase Sapphire Reserve.

reserveChase Sapphire Reserve

For the longest time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was the best travel credit card out there. When I heard about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I thought it was too good to be true. You get 100,000 (now 50,000) points after you spend $4000 in the first 3 months (worth $2100 with Chase Ultimate Rewards®), $300 annual travel credit automatically applied to your account after each travel expense, $100 reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application, access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide, and 3X points on Hotels, Flights, Taxis (Ubers, Lyfts), Restaurants, and any other travel related expenses.

The card does have a $450 annual fee, but the $300 travel credit alone brings that cost down to $150 a year, assuming you don’t take advantage of the $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® reimbursement. As always, there are no foreign transaction fees, no blackout dates, no travel restrictions. I’ve booked numerous hotels and flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards and have never had a problem.

I use the Reserve card to buy my flights, book hotels, pay for food, and is my default card on Uber and Lyft. Bonus points if you link your Uber account to your SPG account as well! I’d been a loyal fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred for many years, but the Chase has hit it out of the ballpark with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Whether you’re a traveler or not, the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s signup bonus alone more than pays for the card, and is a no-brainer card to have in your wallet!

You can check out a great review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card at

3 No-Brainer Credit Cards Everyone Must Have in Their Wallet

I’ve been asked by numerous people time and time again what credit card they should get next, so I’ve decided to compile a list of the 3 credit cards I have in my wallet and why it’s a no brainer to get these cards! As a disclaimer, I may receive compensation when you click on links to these products. Everything in this post is of my sole opinion.

As a background, I’ve spent the past 2 years analyzing, double checking, and cross-referencing the top credit cards out there. As a consultant, I’ve analyzed loyalty cards for airlines (American, United, Southwest, Delta), hotels (Marriott, SPG, Hilton), and bank credit cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Citi Double Cash Back), and more. After reviewing each credit card, I’ve narrowed it down to the following 3 credit cards that I carry in my wallet today:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
  2. Chase Freedom
  3. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Check back next week for a thorough review of the new Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Now let’s get started!


Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best overall credit card out there. It’s marketed as a travel credit card, but if you’re eating out and ubering around the city, this card more than pays for itself. If you’re a recent grad or a college student, the majority of your expenses will be on transportation or dining. Even bars that sell food are considered dining and many are eligible for the 2x points. I’ve had this card for almost 2 years and redeemed over $2000 worth of points through just this card. I’ve booked a round-trip flight to New York, redeemed $1000 for a 4-night stay at the JW Marriot in San Francisco, and even redeemed for special events in any city, including the Hunger Games Exhibition in San Francisco.

You get 50,000 points after you spend $4000 in the first 3 months (worth $625 with Chase Ultimate Rewards®) and 2X points on Hotels, Flights, Taxis (Ubers, Lyfts), Restaurants, and any other travel related expenses. You also get access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, allowing you to redeem 25% value in points. At just $95 a year, this card is a no-brainer. As always, there are no foreign transaction fees, no blackout dates, no travel restrictions. I’ve booked numerous hotels and flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards and have never had a problem.

Whether you’re a traveler or not, the Chase Sapphire Preferred signup bonus alone more than pays for the card and is a no-brainer card to have in your wallet! To all of you post-grads and college students out there, this is the card for you!

You can check out a great review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card at

*I have also started checking out the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Check out my post next week for a thorough review.

freedomChase Freedom

The Chase Freedom credit card has been my oldest card. With no annual fee and the easiest credit card to attain with good credit, it was a no-brainer. You earn $150 after spending $300 in the first 3 months and earn up to 5% on combined purchases (up to $1500) in specific bonus categories that you activate each quarter. These categories include restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and wholesale clubs. Who doesn’t love getting an extra 5% at the gas station or on your next meal?

What makes this card a no-brainer is that it costs no annual fee and you use it only on bonus category expenses. Want more… transfer these points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account to redeem points at a 50% bonus and transfer points 1:1 to Chase partners, included United and American, and even Southwest.

Pair this card with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Freedom Unlimited, and you’ll have a perfect House of Cards.

Find out more about the Chase Freedom card at


Chase Freedom Unlimited

When the Chase Freedom Unlimited card was announced a few months ago, I didn’t think much of it. At just 1.5 points per $1 spent on every purchase, it’s not the most valuable card out there with no annual fee. But after analyzing my expenses on my Chase Sapphire Reserve, I realized that I’d only been earning 1 point on over half of my monthly expenses. Grocery stores, gas stations, and drug stores are just a few places where the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card shines!

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is currently offering $150 after you spend $500 in the first 3 months and has no annual fee. For every dollar you spend on the card, you get 1.5 points, simple enough, but here is where the card becomes truly powerful. You can transfer points from your Freedom Unlimited to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account. This allows you to redeem points at a 50% bonus, and transfer points to partners including United and American 1 for 1.

I’ve had numerous times where I found flights on United for far fewer points than Chase. With just 2 clicks, I can transfer my points to my United MileagePlus account, and BAM!!! Flights booked!

Combine this card with your Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom, and you’re golden!

Find out more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited card at

There are numerous great credit cards out there. These are just a few that I’ve chosen to carry with me. Depending on your traveling lifestyle and spending habits, certain cards may be better than others, for example, getting the Marriott Rewards Credit Card if you’re a loyal Marriott Member, or getting the United MileagePlus card if you solely fly United. Have I missed any credit cards? Do you have a different opinion? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Gamla Stan – Stockholm, Sweden

Took an impulse trip out to Stockholm a couple weeks ago and took the DJI Phantom 3 Pro to film the cobblestone streets and ochre-colored buildings of Gamla Stan (the old town). You can see Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum. Check it out!

Music: Jetta – I’d Love to Change the World (Matstubs Remix)


Avenue of the Dead / 2:00 PM CST

Gazing below at the Avenue of the Dead, once the cultural center of the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan established over 2 millennia ago, you could only imagine how the 125,000 inhabitants of the city went about their daily lives. We had reached the summit of the Pyramid of the Sun, built over the tombs of early Teotihuacan rulers. We were standing at the center of the once, vibrant Aztec civilization.

In just over 72 hours, I had embarked on one of my most impulsive trips yet, a weekend trip to Teotihuacan and Mexico City. It was the Thursday morning before the trip, I was planning to head back to San Francisco and I felt a sudden urge to explore Central America. It would be a great experience to add to my Experience Bank and I’d never been to Mexico. The only other time I’d been to Central or Latin America was my winter trip to Quito, Ecuador. 5 hours later, I had canceled my tickets to San Francisco, booked a round trip flight, and had landed in Mexico City.

Mexico City

I’d arrived at the hostel without knowing anyone in the city and with no plan. This was my first, truly solo, world trip. The following morning I’d met a Canadian traveler, Taylor, who had just arrived after a 2-week trek through Cuba. We left the hostel with the intention of exploring Chapultepec, one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. It’s home to the Castillo de Chapultepec, built during the colonial period and has housed Mexican heads of state until 1940.

Museo de Anthropologia skull bellas artes basilica

Over the course of the weekend, we had visited the Museo Nacional de Antropología, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, among much more. The Museo Nacional de Antropología is the largest museum in Mexico and contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from the Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage, such as the Stone of the Sun and the Aztec Xochipilli statue. The Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of the most prominent cultural centers in Mexico City, housing murals by Diego RivieraSiqueiros, among others. On our last day, we visited the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic church and national shrine of Mexico. Thousands of people visit the historic religious site every day. I would highly recommend visiting these sites if you ever take a trip to Mexico City.


It wouldn’t be fair to talk about Mexico without mentioning the food. Besides a few bad experiences with a Chinese buffet and an American restaurant, Taylor and I had made a plan to solely eat street food, namely the hundreds of taquerias scattered around the city. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a few exceptions, we had eaten tacos, gorditas, and sopes, but mostly tacos. At about 9 pesos a taco, we had some of the best food in the city. Every taqueria had their own blend of spices and sauces that made their tacos unique. We would often go “taqueria hopping”, stopping by several taquerias trying out different tacos at each one. These street vendors aren’t for the faint of heart, or stomach, but we didn’t have any issues and it was some of the best food we had on the trip. Highly recommended!

teotihucan pyramid of the sun

pyramid of the sun pyramid of the moon plaza avenue of the dead

On our last day, we booked a tour to check out the pyramids just outside of Mexico City. Within an hour, we were at the site of the ancient city of Teotihuacan, a name I still can’t pronounce. We started at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon, the second largest pyramid in the city, and serves as a direct contrast to the Pyramid of the Sun. Once at the top, you can gaze down the Avenue of the Dead. On either side, you can see several complex, multi-family compounds. At the far end of the plaza, you can see the Pyramid of the Sun, towering over the rest of the city. I’d always been a big history fanatic, but it felt unreal being at the site of a once flowering, ancient civilization, and imagining what the avenue may have looked like during one of the city’s many festivals. I would highly recommend checking out Teotihuacan if you’re planning a trip out there.

I was only in Mexico City for about 3 days, and I feel as though I still have not experienced a majority of what the city has to offer, with its numerous museums, parks, and historic sites. It was a very impulsive trip, but one I am glad to have added to my Experience Bank. I’d met many great people, made some new friends, and spoke more Spanish than I ever have in my entire life. Mexico City is definitely an experience I won’t forget.

Check out the short video I made while I was there: