Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston
On our final day, Viking had contracted with another company for a tour out to Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park. While we had the option to return on the bus, almost everyone opted to pay the few extra dollars to return via Shinkansen, the high-speed bullet train.
We were blessed with a beautifully sunny day which made the drive out to Mt. Fuji more enjoyable. We stopped along the way near Lake Kawaguchi-ko for a traditional Japanese lunch at a local restaurant. There was a wide variety of foods so even if you didn’t like everything that was offered there was certainly something else you would like.
From the restaurant we could see Mt. Fuji in the distance. The rain that we’d endured the day before had brought the first snow of the season to the mountain, giving it a gorgeous topping.
If you were to hike Mt. Fuji, you’d find a series of stations along the way. These are places where you could camp for the night before the next day’s hike. The fifth station is the highest one reachable by car or bus. At first we weren’t sure we’d be able to reach it as the road had been covered in snow, but by going to lunch first and giving crews more time to clear it we were fortunately able to reach it.
At the fifth station was all the usual tourist stuff with t-shirts, pins, postcards, etc. There was also this small Shinto shrine. But the biggest attraction was the close-up of Fuji-san. We’d been told the best view was on an outdoor raised viewing platform but unfortunately that was closed due to the snowfall.
After milling around for awhile the bus took us down to Lake Ashinoko where we boarded a boat and cruised along the lake a bit until we reached the Konagatake Ropeway.
With a name like that I had visions of doing some sort of ropes course and wondered how some of the older folks in the group were going to manage. But the ropeway was really just an aerial tram. They do try to squeeze every last person in and I actually felt claustrophobic enough to exit the tram and wait for the next one (10 minutes later) where there were only about 15 of us on it instead of 75 people crammed on the previous one.
The ride to the top provided some scenic views of the immediate area, the lake and as we got higher, Mt. Fuji. Once up top we had the option of hiking up a little further to a Shinto shrine.
The bad part about taking the bullet train after dark is that you can’t really convey how fast you were going. The lights are left on inside the train and on board it doesn’t feel like you’re moving all that quickly but when I could see us moving past buildings, I knew we were indeed going quite fast. The drive that had taken us two hours (including lunch) on the outbound leg of the tour only took us about 35 minutes to return. As expensive as I’m sure Tokyo is, it seems to me it would be much more economical to live further out and take this train in to work each day.
We wrapped our trip with dinner at one of the restaurants inside the hotel’s shopping area with some of the folks we’d been with for over two weeks now. I really liked Tokyo and would like to come back when I have more than two days to see things.