Posts Tagged With: Japan

ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita

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
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
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

Since Narita Airport is so far from downtown Tokyo (over an hour’s drive on a good day) and traffic is always a question mark, Viking arranged for me to leave the hotel at 6:30 AM for my 11:15 AM flight. As it turned out, traffic was light and we made very good time. Another couple from our cruise was in the same van but they were flying KLM so there were two Viking assistants there to meet us at the airport. One took the KLM couple to the south check-in point while mine loaded my bags on a cart and guided me to the north check-in.

As I was in ANA First, we walked back to the Z check-in area which is a private area for ANA, United and other airlines. There were about 4 ANA reps inside and I was the only passenger at that point so it felt a little strange (but nice!) to be doted on so much. Check-in was very efficient and I was directed to the dedicated security lane, the one that can only be accessed directly from the First Class check-in area. Naturally that process was speedy as well.

Then it was down the escalator to Immigration, where, of course, I picked the line that didn’t move. But I had plenty of time and once the one person holding up the line finally got through, our line moved efficiently as well.

I turned left and walked past a number of shops and one gate before coming to the escalator leading to the airline lounges.

ANA Suites Lounge Narita Lounge Entrance

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Categories: Airline Clubs, ANA, Asia, Japan, Star Alliance | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen

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
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
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.

Our lunch had lots of dishes!

What lurks beneath all the covers!

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.

Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi-ko

Mt. Fuji

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.

A small shrine at the fifth station

A view of Fuji’s peak from the shrine. We were just a little too close to be able to see the top clearly.

Konagatake Ropeway

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.

Boat that took us to the base of the ropeway (tram)

The small building at the top of the hill is the top of the 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.

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Shinkansen

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.

Categories: Asia, Japan, Tours, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo: City Tour

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
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
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

The Tokyo City Tour was, frankly, a bit of a letdown. Perhaps it was that we’d been traveling for two weeks at this point but the tours from the Viking staff were just better than the ones on this extension. The guide didn’t have a microphone and we didn’t have headsets. Granted, the group was smaller but there’s just so much more you can learn if you can wander a little bit but still hear the guide’s spiel. I will definitely think hard before paying for another Viking extension.

Sensō-ji

Our first stop was not far from the hotel. We were let out near the Sensō-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple. It’s actually just one of several buildings on the grounds and there’s the Nakamise shopping street leading up to the grounds. Since we were just let out near the site, we didn’t really know what we were looking for or looking at which was disappointing after being spoon-fed during the previous two weeks.

The first temple on this site dates back to 645 AD after a sacred statue was found in a nearby river. This is the oldest temple in Tokyo.

Sensō-ji Temple

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Categories: Asia, Japan, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel

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
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
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

There were about 35 of us from the Viking Emerald who were taking the extension to Tokyo and you’d think that Viking could have found all of us seats on the same plane but nope, we were on a number of different flights leaving Shanghai at various times of the day. Originally two of us from our small group of 12 were on one flight and the 3rd person was on a different flight but we were able to get that changed so at least the three of us were all together. However that meant missing out on a noon-ish JAL flight and taking an earlier Delta flight instead so there was definitely a trade-off. We did manage to purchase bulkhead seats so at least we had legroom.

We arrived at Tokyo Narita airport and began to search for the Viking representative. Besides the three of us there were probably 6-8 other Viking Emerald passengers all looking for the rep with no success. She was a little late but every last one of us passengers had been looking for someone in a red coat or jacket and this rep was not wearing red. We had been so trained by Viking with all their tour guides and crew members wearing red that we never even considered that the guide might be wearing some other color! But eventually we were loaded on to our motorcoach and we were dropped off at the large complex that houses not only the New Otani Hotel but also an office tower and a shopping tower.

Check in was efficient, as we expected by now, and we set off for the elevator bank. We were amused that during busy times of day there typically was a hotel staff member waiting to push the elevator call button for us – always with a polite bow.

Our rooms were fairly high up and, conveniently, were connected. However, we had to ask management to unlock the connecting doors. The rooms were perfectly servicable though compared to our rooms during the first part of the tour, these were a bit of a let down. Like many hotel rooms upon entering the bathroom was to one side and beyond that was the area with the beds.

This room was not large enough for two double beds so we once again had twins with a single nightstand in between.

New Otani Hotel Twin Beds

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Categories: Asia, Hotel, Japan, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Exploring Asia

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
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
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

For the last several years a small group of us have taken trips together, mostly to Europe, like our cruise down the Danube last year or our Rhine cruise in 2014. This year we decided to look to the other side of the world and visit Asia. In Europe, even if I don’t speak the native language, I usually feel like I can muddle my way around because there are typically English-speakers, I have retained a little of my high school French and often I can figure out foreign words based on their spelling. But exploring Asia without a guide was not something I was comfortable doing. Although I know lots of people have disdain for guided tours, I’ve come to appreciate them and enjoy the extras that can come with traveling as a group.

As we’ve done in the past, we booked with Viking River Cruises and signed up for their Roof of the World tour that includes stops in Beijing, Xi’an (home of the terra cotta warriors) and Lhasa in the mountains of Tibet. From there we flew to Chongqing where we boarded the Viking Emerald – a much larger ship than we sail in Europe – and floated down the Yangtze River to Wuhan and from there flew to Shanghai to end our tour. Three of us decided that since we were flying to the other side of the world anyway, we might as well take the extension to Tokyo for an extra four nights.

Roof of the World tour itinerary
(image courtesy Viking River Cruises)

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Categories: Asia, Award Travel, China, Japan, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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