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21 replies
Back from Hong Kong and Tokyo (and Macau)
HomeSkillet
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Great little trip. Basically five nights in Hong Kong (including a very long day trip to Macau), and just two nights in Tokyo. I could’ve easily spent the whole time in Hong Kong, which I simply loved. Amazing, amazing city. Those Hong Kong Chinese (and visitors from the mainland as well) sure love their shopping malls. I found a great internet rate and splurged on a 4-star hotel room at the Empire Kowloon. Nice place. Hong Kong—with lots of tall buildings, green spaces, and people everywhere—is just too cool for words, despite the fucking hawkers on Nathan Road trying to sell you cheap suits and fake rolexes. My favorite sites were Hong Kong Island (all of it) and Cheung Chau, which probably provides a closer look at the "real" China than anywhere else in HK. Macau was fun, but the historic &quotortuguese" center was very small. I went to black sand Hac-Sa beach and had a not-so-good night at one of Macau’s casinos.

Tokyo was interesting, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as HK (sorry, Sickboy). The Tokyo subway system is awesome and truly massive (at one "transfer" station I walked over a half-kilometer to get from one platform to the next)….but it’s also a bit confusing with the various lines and a bad Lonely Planet subway map (usually LP gets high marks for their maps, but not this time). I paid 1000 yen (about 10 USD) for an all-day pass…so it really sucked when I still couldn’t use it on half the lines (expensive). I did have some great sushi in Ginza (cool district) and went to an authentic neighborhood Onsen near Ueno Park. I stayed at the Juyoh Hotel (cheapish, Japanese-style lodging) near the Minami-Senju subway stop.

Oh, and one more thing: Asiana is my new favorite airline.

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Sounds like a great trip! Thanks for the info about Hong Kong. You probably needed to spend more time exploring Tokyo and taking day trips to really appreciate that area. Did you spend most of the time solo or did you have anyone traveling with you?

Why Asiana? I’ve never heard of it.

Have you flown Singapore before? That’s probably my favorite.

HomeSkillet
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I didn’t dislike Tokyo, Hope…it’s just not one of my favorite cities, and not nearly as high on my list as Hong Kong. On the upside, Japan has a very interesting culture and even in a big modern city like Tokyo, you don’t have to look very hard to see it. I met a friend from the midwest in HK, and we began our travels there….he shared my sentiments about Tokyo and Lonely Planet’s bad subway map, btw.

I flew Asiana by default—they are a Star Alliance airline, and I redeemed some miles but because of the Thanksgiving period, I couldn’t get any direct flights and had to fly Asiana, which has its hub in Seoul. Great airport, and the service was just fantastic. Flying business class didn’t hurt, either….

And Singapore Airlines is ranked #1 in the world. Can’t wait to try them….even though LAX to SIN is one long-ass flight.

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Two days is nothing for Tokyo. I’m sure two days would be spent a lot more efficiently in HK, which is MUCH smaller, warmer anc cheaper. That alone makes sense.

I first came to Tokyo for a month – it wasn’t long enough to see them and begin to understand how things worked. Now, after about a year of visiting and living here, I am still in the same boat. Many of my Japanese friends feel the same. Here are some things that would have helped :

1) Staying at my recommened hotels. I did that for a reason, my friends work there, they are immensely helpful and there are a lot of tourists to get advice from, such as :

2) Timeout Tokyo is THE best guidebook for the city (with great maps – LP is old and shite on Tokyo, although the Condensed version isn’t bad)

3) Nix the Subway pass and get the Rail pass – everywhere to look at in a couple of days can easily be got to using the wonderful ring they call the Yamanote Line – Shinjuku, Tokyo, Shibuya, Ebisu, Harajuku, etc……

4) If staying at MS, go to Senso Ji which is an easy walk – one of the most amazing temples in Tokyo. Pick up some souvenirs, have some AWESOME ramen, get blessed then take the waterboat http://www.suijobus…. down to Odaiba, one of the most amazing futuristic parts of the city. Half a day for that.

5) Would leave out Ginza, thats a good place if you have money, that is all.

6) Stay in a capsule hotel for one night.

7) You missed SHinjuku which should have been near the top of your list. And it is close to Harajuku, the best place for shopping on the planet – plus you can see punks, goths, anime characters, 16 year old girls dressed in petticoats, whcih may not seem lke much to the American (except the latter two) but once you realize the effort, time an dmoney they put into it, it is honestly amazing.

8) One of the tallest buildings in Tokyo is worth a visit, the views are spectacular – you can even see Fuji San this season.

9) Ueno station at night and the Ameyaokocho market during the day – sheer amazement and amusement.

10) Going to a Pachinko parlour – one of the most visceral of all experiences known to man.

All of this could easily have been done in a couple of days, and if so, I doubt HK would have compared, but that is only my opinion.

I realise Tokyo is very difficult for the first timer and it really does help to have a Japanese person with you, or at least a foreigner who knows his way around – you never got back to me about that beer.

After all I am one of the biggest attractions here!

As for Asiana, it is good, I just prefer ANA or JAL as they have the personal video screens. Asiana is much better than Korean Air, by a longshot.

Andrew Runov
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I know Japan is expensive but realistically, how cheap you can travel there?

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Thanks for the suggestions, Sickboy (and sorry I didn’t look you up for that beer). I do plan on returning to Japan in the future for a longer trip to explore Kyoto, Fuji-San, and some other places. It seldom takes me more than a couple of days to get the feel for a city, believe it or not…maybe you’re right that Tokyo’s just different that way.

I did a lot of walking around to different neighborhoods, including Ginza, which I liked perhaps because it reminded me of Michigan Avenue in my hometown of Chicago. I stopped off in the electronics district as the sun was setting, so that was pretty cool. I heard good things about Roppongi but I really wasn’t impressed. What else…Ueno station at night is cool indeed…I couldn’t believe the sheer numbers of people still hanging around. I walked around the Imperial Palace East Gardens, which I enjoyed. Good fall colors there.

What else…I went to some very cool temples and shrines, possibly including the ones you mentioned (I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t remember their names…will have to look them up when labeling my pictures). At one, which was in a large park, I passed under a large gate before reaching the site. I saw a cool religious ceremony there which included children praying and two processions. I did get blessed. I went to the Tokyo Tower to check out the views, unfortunately Fuji-San was not visible (although I did see it from the airplane, very cool).

I walked around the fish market in the morning. Cool spot. Also, I went to a small onsen near Ueno Park that night and I bought a samurai sword (which will arrive in two months).

My lodging was fine (except that my room smelled like seaweed), and I thank you for your recommendations as well. Personally, I think I just liked the online description of this place better than that of the places you recommended. I do wish I had one more night so that I could have spent it in a capsule hotel.

Overall, I just wasn’t as blown away with Tokyo as I thought I would be. The weather was great and I like big cities, but despite the culture and the street energy, Tokyo just didn’t wow me in the same way that Mexico City, Sydney, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, and Paris did (they are probably 1-6 on my favorite cities list). I just don’t have the time to devote one month to an entire city.

redkat
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Can I be so ignorant to ask what a capsule hotel is?

sickboy
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Your ignorance is always good in my books kat! I’ll be back in China next year and need heaps of advice Wink

Its a tiny "room" where the Japanese stay cheaply that is about 3 feet by 3 feet, you crawl in and stay the night. It is awesome.

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Yeah, I offered you to meet up for a beer, I was looking forward to you paying!

For me Tokyo is something where you have to keep peeling off the layers and finding new and different things, it is very unique but also difficult (especially for us gai koku jin) to get into. Going with the Japanese always helps.

Roppongi is mostly a shithole but I was there both nights that weekend as my friend was up from Cali and staying nearby. Only time I go there is with my Japanese friends as they like how international it is, while I prefer the more Japanese things.

Tsukiji fish market is awesome. Almost more South Asian in feel at first appearance but the more I go there the more Japanese I think it is. Maybe it is the whirlwind of efficiency.

redkat
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Thanks sick! Sounds a bit too cramped for me, I like beds that I can be star shaped in, or nearly star shaped.

Let me know when you are headed this way. I will be gone from June to September though, pesky weddings .

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Andrew – it is difficult, it is really expensive to travel anywhere in this country, a real shame that is.

Some deals are a night bus from Tokyo to Osaka/Kobe/Kyoto for around 50 USD. Trains are expensive but convenient. Hitching is supposed to be good.

I’m heading back to BKK for my next holidays because, air fare included it will be cheaper to go away for three weeks than travel around here.

Plus the Thai weather kicks arse!

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kat,

If you’ve ever slept on a bunk bed camping you probably have had the experience. I find myself a little claustraphobic when things are right up at me, but I found the capsule to be very comfortable and relaxing. I like to flop out, usually due to falling over, and I certainly did drink enough the 4 days I stayed on one, but had no problems.

Oh and they have porn too.

I am thinking of China in March now, after my contract finishes and before I come back looking for another. I am sure I can have my leash extended, my girlfriend went to China this summer so I think it is my turn to go again.

Beijing to Chengdu overland seems like a wee adventure doesn’t it?

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Sickboy, my dad was saying he thought I’d really like Japan, and I said "yeah, but isn’t it expensive?" and he said "oh yes, I forgot, you should get your employer to pay for you". So maybe I should look for a job working for a Japanese firm or something if I ever want to get there The capsule thing sounds cool though, like a womb.

hope
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yeah I’ll put the womb on my list.

redkat
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sick,

Beijing to Chengdu by train is a bit of an adventure to be sure. 27 hours!!! Not as bad as Chengdu to Urumqi though (52 hours). March is good, but its still cold. Let me know what you decide to do and I will definitely give you my thoughts on places.

I think I’d have to see the womb… before I tried it.

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I’d like to make some stops along the way. Already got the guidebook out. A place called Xia He near Lanzhous sounds appealing.

Perhaps I should finalize my plans for Thailand first! Wink

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sick-
I don’t know much about "inner" China. I can give you thoughts on the NE, NW, Guangzhou, and just about anywhere in Sichuan. Otherwise, I am useless shrug

Let me know how Thailand goes, you’ll have to post any more vallium adventures [Wink]

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quote:
Beijing to Chengdu by train is a bit of an adventure to be sure. 27 hours!!! Not as bad as Chengdu to Urumqi though (52 hours).

What would it be like if one wanted to take a trip like that without stops along the way? Do Chinese people take trips like that? I did a lot of those long train journeys in Russia, where it’s usual and comfortable and fun. I would like to go to China in the near future, and have heard that Chinese trains are pretty good, so I guess I’d like to know if they’re similar to Russian trains (which I loved) or not.

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I’ve never been to Russia or taken a sleeper train in any other country, so I can’t compare. Sorry!
The degree of comfort depends on how much money you want to spend. There are the hard seats (not recommended for long journies, I took one for a 12 hour trip…. ouch!), hard sleeper (recommended! 6 bunks to a slot, you meet people, share food, have a blanket/pillow, and can just lie there and read), and the soft sleeper (very expensive and very exclusive). The only benefit to a hard seat is that you meet FAR more people. But most people don’t take lengthy trips on the hard seats.
A lot of Chinese make long distance trips via train, its soooo much cheaper than flying and takes less time than the bus. What they don’t do, and they all thought I was strange for doing, is walk up and down the cars. They only walk around when the train stops and they can get outside for a few minutes. I get too cramped and stir crazy if I don’t walk from end to end a few times a day on the long trips.
I really enjoy the trains, when the bathrooms aren’t locked for long periods of time, and reccomend it if you have loads of time to spend in China. If you are VERY time limited, spend the money and fly.
Hope that helps!

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seraphim, as far as I understand, hard sleeper is similar to Russian &quotlatskart" (compartments with no doors), sof sleeper – to "Kupe" (compartments with doors)

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I’m really psyched, I think I’m going to Tokyo for a few days in June, on the way to Kuala Lumpur and Kuching (in East Malaysia).

Very exciting and lots of good info here – thanks Homeskillet and sickboy; I’ll have more questions soon.

Sickboy I hope you’re not in China when I drop by; you’re supposed to be buying my beers.

Cheers

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hey guys, i am going to Singapore in June, have you been there? If so, how do you think it compares to Hong Kong? the more I read about HK the more i am considering trying to add that to my itinerary altho it would mean the cost of my round the world trip would increase by about £200! do u know of any budget airlines that fly between sin and hk? any help would be v much appreciated thx buffy x