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Yokoso! Japan 2012: 3K/D7/NH/SQ & Shinkansens  
User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 11189 times:

DISCLAIMER: This a very long Trip Report, read at your own risk!

After years of lurking around these parts of Airliners.net, it is time that I contribute by throwing in my share into the A.net trip report cooking pot. I do apologize first and foremost if some of the photographs look like screen captures – they are! I was trying to juggle both photography and video on the same DSLR. Nevertheless, I do hope you guys would enjoy this Trip Report as much as I had traveling in it.

THE BACKSTORY

Some time in the 2nd half of 2011, my pal Aaron asked me what did I think about a trip to Japan. Naturally, I said why not? This was soon followed by his suggestion of going on a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. How can I not resist? For months have I been complaining to my colleagues back at camp that I NEED to get out of the country for a while because serving the compulsory two years of National Service (conscription, in other words) really bears you down after a while. Finally a reprieve, it seems!

The initial round of talks saw us coming up with a plan to tour Osaka. Aaron suggested Osaka because of AirAsia X’s relatively cheap round trip fares to KIX. The only catch is that we have to catch that D7 flight from KUL although this would be the least of our problems as there were plenty of carriers plying the SIN-KUL route. To this end, we ended up choosing to fly SIN-KUL (subsequently KUL-SIN at the end) on Jetstar.

Months went by and we saw our humble Osaka plan burgeon into an elaborate cross country trip that spans from Kagoshima in the South all the way up North to Wakkanai. Being citizens of a South East Asian city-state found just 85 miles North of the Equator where it’s usually hot and humid, I had wondered what are we getting ourselves into by venturing into the Japanese winter – much less one that is found in close proximity to the Russian island of Sakhalin.

PROLOGUE

16th February 2012, Thursday

Enter the day of departure! Me, Aaron and two other friends managed to snag tickets to the Trade Days of the Singapore Airshow 2012. Yes I know.. two students from National University of Singapore, a Trumpeter and a conscript hardly classifies as traders but hey, me and Aaron would already be in Japan by the time the Public Days of the show takes place.

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Aerial display by one of Republic of Singapore Air Force’s F-16

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RSAF’s F-16 and F-15 meets in mid-air

After the aerial display segment, we proceeded to the center stage of the Airshow. Business jets after business jets after business jets.. make no mistake, this is where the big boys do their shopping (in my opinion, at least).

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This is the reason for my attendance at the Airshow!

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Rolls Royce engines are all up in my face

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Boeing’s take on Business Class in the B787-800

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Economy Class in 3-3-3

As we made our way out of the Dreamliner, Boeing staff dished out Dreamliner paraphernalia. This sure set the mood for travel right, as I’ll be flying in a certain B787-800 during the course of the trip.

CHAPTER 0: Plotted Our Escape Part 1

SIN-KUL
Carrier: Jetstar Asia Airways (3K)
Flight: 3K 687
Aircraft: Airbus Industrie A320-232 (9V-JSL)
Seat: 2A/2B
Terminal: 1
Gate: D38 (previously C11)
Estimated Departure: 1925hrs
Estimated Arrival: 2025hrs

It was Aaron’s idea to do an online check-in that morning, so all we were required to do is check our luggage in at 3K’s counter. We arrived at Terminal 1 by taxi at about 1745hrs-ish. Plenty of people were milling about the bright Departure Hall of Terminal 1. By now, revamping works were largely completed and things were looking sprightly. I’ll make this clear though.. I do miss the iconic huge Departure Boards of Terminal 1, the ones with flipping panels with changing information.

After having our last dinner at Burger King down at the Arrival Hall below, we bade family and friends farewell as we went past security at about 1825hrs.

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For Aaron, this is the traditional departure shot. I shall adopt it as well!

Thankfully, renovation works airside was completed because the last time I was there in January 2009, the whole place was boarded up. It was at this time we discovered that our departure gate has been changed to D38. When we first arrived, the FIDS stated that we would be boarding from C11. Alas, what we thought would be a short leisurely stroll to C11 became a somewhat brisk walk over to the other side of Terminal 1 where D38 was located.

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What’s an International Airport without duty free?

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I’m thankful for these contraptions

When we reached where we were supposed to be, the waiting area of Gate D38 was quite empty. Security agents beckoned us to shuffle along to X-ray our carry-ons after ditching our luggage trolley, presumably that we were one of the last ones to board. I forgot that I had a whole chunk of Singaporean coins jingling in my pocket as I scrambled to place my belongings in the basket. This prompted me to start a conversation with the Malay agent.

Me: Kak, coin pun nak letak sekali? (Miss, do I have to take out the coins as well?)
Agent: Takpe, tak payah! (It’s okay, no need!)


Remind me to pre-pack my metallic currency in Ziploc bag next time I fly.

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My ticket to ride – 9V-JSL

Aaron tells me that 9V-JSL is a relatively new airframe. Running a search on A.net, there’s only one photograph of it in the database!

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All aboard!

Upon entry, the plane looks quite filled with a few seats such as 1A and 1B unfilled. The pilot soon came on the PA stating the usual information about the flying time and such, ending with a claim that they’re waiting for a few stragglers to catch up.

For tonight, we had three Flight Attendants with us – two female, one male. One of the female FA took to the PA to make the usual pre-departure announcements from the front. As I was seated in 2A, I had a view of what she was doing - reading off a script! She was speaking in a bizarre accent though. I would guess that she’s a Singaporean but still, what came out of her mouth puzzled me.

Some moments later, doors closed and we commenced pushback.

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The view from 2A

The plane slowly taxied its way to the end of 02C with a queue of planes in front and before 3K 687. We soon turned into 02C, the soft hum of the engines revved up into a loud whine and the plane rapidly lurched forward. Takeoff at about 1950hrs!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbf00WZoYds

Unfortunately, this takeoff roll continued my consistent track of taking off into the night sky every time I fly out of Singapore! We were treated into the lighted streets of the Eastern end of Singapore as we climbed. Knowing how small Singapore is, we were already in Malaysian airspace after making a left turn.

When the seatbelt lights pinged off, the FAs promptly swung into action. As Aaron had selected the Jetstar Plus Bundle for the both of us when making the booking, we were served a cold sandwich and a can of Pepsi.

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The items in question

It’s nice to see ‘standard-sized’ 330ml cans to be given out as I remembered being served a shorter and squat version of a Coca-Cola can during my flight on QF82 to ADL back in December 2007.

Now, I know that it’s common knowledge that the SIN-KUL/KUL-SIN flight would be short. Experiencing it first hand, the flight seems even shorter than we were told! I haven’t even finished my second sandwich when 9V-JSL began its descent. It must’ve been raining earlier in the day because as we were descending, we treated to a nice display of lightning flashing in the distant dark sky. The FAs made their final pass of collecting whatever disposables the passengers had. After that, the two female FAs obediently strapped themselves in their seats at the front all the while bantering about Kate Spade products.

I have absolutely no bearings of where we were as it was quite dark outside, even with the faint streetlights. At least until we drifted close enough to the perimeter of WMKK.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y559C8xnFaI

Landing wasn’t as gentle as I had hoped it to be. I would wager a guess that we turned into the next possible taxiway and lumbered towards the satellite terminal.

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MH territory feat. 9M-MXD

The same female FA once again took to the PA and welcomed passengers into Malaysia in that bizarre accent of hers. Maybe she was just having public speaking issues?

We finally reached our assigned gate. As expected, passengers surged upwards for their stuff in the overhead compartments and hogged the aisle even though the doors weren’t even unarmed yet. Really now, people!

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My virgin entry into KLIA!

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We were finding ourselves a luggage trolley here

No sooner had we reached the end of this wing, we were greeted by – what else? DUTY FREE. We continued on in the dark and drab terminal. By then, I was starting to miss the bright interiors of Changi Airport!

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We found KLIA’s version of the Skytrain - the AEROTRAIN

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Aerotrain route map

I have to say that I enjoyed KLIA’s Aerotrain ride more than Changi’s. Too bad that it was dark outside and I couldn’t really spot anything interesting outside! The Aerotrain soon halted to a stop at the Main Terminal. The minute we walked out of the doors.. more duty free.

Immigration was a nasty affair because it seemed like the entire world is there queuing up for processing left and right. What’s more, all of them had the familiar immigration cards dished out to foreign visitors. Aaron and me didn’t have one so I asked one of the staff there about where can we get some for us. She said there isn’t a need to which kind of surprised me because in all of my experience entering Malaysia by car or coach, we always had to fill in that white card. After getting a second opinion from another staff, we found out there reason why there wasn’t a need was because they “ran out of stock” of the white cards. Comments?

We were waved through the other side and started for the baggage claim area.

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I’ve always wanted to get one these carousels and just go around in circles!

We were finally reunited with our checked luggage and went out into the arrival hall. After some trekking through the dark corridors and hallways, we located the bus bays where we were supposed to take an airport shuttle to Tune Hotel, which was located just outside KLIA Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). It was quite an apprehensive ride to the hotel as the bus sped along the dim light road/expressway the entire time and I just have a not-so-hot thing about speeding through dim roads at night. So sue me.

Eventually we reached Tune Hotel and checked ourselves in. The room itself is quite claustrophobic as we barely had any room to place our luggage and carry-ons and still have room to move about. But it’s just for the night, and it’ll have to do!

----

CHAPTER I: Plotted Our Escape Part 2

17th February 2012, Friday

KUL-KIX
Carrier: AirAsia X (D7)
Flight: D7 534
Aircraft: Airbus Industrie A330-301 (9M-XAA)
Seat: 2D/2K
Terminal: Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT)
Gate: T16
Estimated Departure:
Estimated Arrival:

We woke up at about 0500hrs to get ready for checking out. Didn’t really have a good night’s sleep because it was just a little too claustrophobic for me!

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Tune Hotel’s lobby

We then headed over to the hotel’s carpark to catch the early morning shuttle bus to the LCCT so kilometers away. When we arrived, it seems that LCCT was bursting at the seams with both passengers and airport staff alike.

Aaron managed to get us upgraded to Premium Class via Optiontown. As such, we were able to check-in at the AirAsia Premium Counter. Being early in the morning, he just mumbled through things and wasn't really coming off as friendly. He said nothing more and then whisked our luggage away on the conveyor belt. Our boarding passes looked somewhat indistinguishable than a normal receipt from a supermarket. Breakfast is in order! We walked around for a bit around the terminal until deciding to eat at Marry Brown.

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MB Porridge! It tastes nicer than it looks

There was nothing else to do than to go through immigration and screening. While walking, I just felt that LCCT could use a little more lighting as it just looks dreary and dim!

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Seats are nearly a rare commodity here

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Our flight status

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View of the apron from our waiting area

We had to wait for quite a bit before airport staff assigned to our gate began walking around our waiting area.

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People taking the chance to catch forty winks on the bench

Staff: Premium passengers! Premium passengers first!

The few of us marched out of the door and into the apron towards our plane. I must say it was nice to once again walk to our aircraft because the last time I did that was a Silkair flight at LGK.

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9M-XAA, our plane

We were greeted with smiles and were ushered to our seats. I took 2K and Aaron took 2D.

Sister A330

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The Premium cabin of D7 534

Check out the legroom on this one

The doors soon closed after the usual customaries of FAs making sure everyone has settled into their seats. The pilot came on the PA to brief us passengers on the flight details. As we taxied out into the active runway, the FAs performed the usual safety demonstration in the aisle. For some reason, I always enjoy watching the safety demonstrations!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9sZY35l39E

We gracefully rose into the morning Malaysian sky with oil palm plantations flanking WMKK left and right. Sparsely distributed buildings dotting the landscape became miniature versions of themselves as climbing progressed. Pardon me; I always have no awareness for time when I’m inside a plane so I’m not sure how long it took us to get to our cruising altitude.

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Breaking through a layer of cloud, still underneath another

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We’re in cloudland

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The pillow and duvet issued to Premium passengers. They’re very comfortable, I have to admit

Some time after leveling off, the FAs began making their rounds of handing out embarkation cards to passengers.

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Arrival cards of Japan

We got these filled up pretty fast and stowed it away. I noticed that the man seating in 2G started to speak to Aaron in Japanese. Suddenly, both of them got up and they switched seats. Aaron told me that he got to know that the two of us were traveling together and kindly offered to switch seats with Aaron. What a nice man!

Not long after, meal service started for the Premiumites.

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More cabin views

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My meal.. reheated Fish Teriyaki with Rice!

Meal was a nice affair because I was feeling a little hungry despite the breakfast of Marry Brown porridge earlier that morning. I downed it all in no time, stowed away my table and set my seat into full flat mode. Even though there was some degree of incline, I still found it quite comfortable as I was able to stretch out and curl up into the fetal position at any time with ease. The Premium seat had a width of 20”, so there was plenty of space to move about.

The next few hours were spent taking occasional photographs or listening to Nigella Lawson talk about food recipes on my iPod Classic.

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The best FA I have ever encountered since first flying

This particular FA was quite friendly and frequently made her rounds to ensure that we were all okay. As Aaron had some degree of ability in conversational Japanese, he attempted to speak to her in said language. Unfortunately, I admitted to her that I could not understand much less speak Japanese. She herself said that sometimes she has troubling understanding some Kanji characters, so it’s all good.

I was feeling for some munchables by then so I consulted the BOB card.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC05864.jpg
.. and got away with these. Comfort snack!

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Three windows all to myself with Ribena!

Somewhere at the second half of the flight, I finally couldn’t resist the siren call of duty free anymore and hence rang up our favorite FA to place my request for an AirAsia travel organizer. She happily obliged and emerged from the galley with the box of the stuff that I wanted.

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More clouds

At some point, I fell asleep for a while only to be roused by the smell of alcohol. The woman beside me in 2H was having a good time drinking, it seems. She was happily chatting away with Aaron, alternating between English and Japanese. Goodness knows what they were talking about.

And then magically, she too offered to switch seats with Aaron (now this, I understand). What are the odds? Not long after the switch, the pilot came on the PA and announced that we were on our way to descending.

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Japanese islands popping into sight

Descent was a pretty standard affair with occasional turns and checks by the FA. Before we knew it, KIX came into view and the crew was told to take their seats and strap in.

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Kansai International Airport in the distance

We made two more turns and drifted lower and lower. For a moment, it seemed that we’re going to do a water landing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfqJfqSwT5E

The post-landing announcements were made as we taxied out of the runway and made a long trip to our gate. Meanwhile, we were treated to a view of planes parked at KIX gates.

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Part of the bridge that connects KIX to mainland Japan

The plane soon parked, doors unarmed and passengers began to disembark. When most of the passengers had left, I sheepishly requested for a photo with our fabulous FA. Amazingly, she agreed to it!

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Thank you for the wonderful experience

Both Aaron and I wrote our praises for her hospitality during the flight. I do hope that AirAsia X rewards her in some way or another!

As we were quite far away from the main terminal, we took the Wing Shuttle and caught sight of the plane we were on just an hour ago.

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9M-XAA!

Wanting to avoid the fiasco of immigration crowds like that back in KUL, we zipped our way through the terminal and thankfully beat the crowd. What I find interesting about the Japanese immigration is that the machine that takes your mugshot talks to you! The friendly counter girl waved me through after stapling on the relevant documents into my passport.

After claiming our luggage on the carousel, we decided to get a Softbank 3G SIM card for Aaron’s iPhone 4S. That went on smoothly so we proceeded to find the Japan Railway (JR) ticket office in KIX so that we can submit our Exchange Orders and receive our Japan Rail Passes. I swear, the Japan Rail Pass is a God-send!

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We made it to the front door of KIX!

While at the Ticket Office, Aaron had also reserved for us seats (Green Seats) on the next possible Express train service, Haruka 30, to Shin-Osaka. There, we would continue our journey onwards on our very first Shinkansen of the trip to Hakata,

Route: Kansai Airport → Shin-Osaka
Service: HARUKA 30
Train: 281 Series
Seat: 6A/B (Green Car)
Departure Time: 1716hrs
Arrival Time: 1807hrs


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Speeding on the bridge connecting KIX and Osaka

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En route to Osaka

After a journey of about half an hour, we reached Shin-Osaka Station and proceeded to the Shinkansen platforms to catch our connecting train.

Route: Shin-Osaka → Hakata
Service: HIKARI 577
Train: N700-7000 Series
Seat: 14C/D (Green Car)
Departure Time: 1822hrs
Arrival Time: 2106hrs


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These costs ¥120 from the vending machines onboard

Yes, they do have vending machines onboard the Shinkansens. Pity they don’t have snack vending machines though! The female cabin attendant entered, made a bow to us passengers and pushed her trolley along the aisle asking if anyone wanted to get snacks or the like.

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My first few purchases in Japan!

After two hours or so, Hikari left the island of Honshu and dived into the undersea tunnel. Eventually we emerged into the open and that told us we’re already on the island of Kyushu. How’s that for a Superexpress service?

We reached Hakata station in the city of Fukuoka and yet again navigated our way through the escalators and lobbies of the station to locate our connecting Sakura service, which would take us even southwards to the end of line in Kagoshima.

Route: Hakata → Kagoshima-chuo
Service: SAKURA 431
Train: N700-7000 Series
Seat: 11A/B (Green Car)
Departure Time: 2109hrs
Arrival Time: 2248hrs


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Check out the Green Car of JR Kyushu Shinkansens!

The wood-walled hallways between the cabins. Posh or what?

It was really something else to experience the level of service provided by JR Kyushu staff onboard. Every time they enter or leave a cabin, they would graciously bow to the passengers with a smile. Needless to say, I was quite impressed and can’t help smile every time they entered, left or bowed. Keep up the good work!

Time passed and we soon began slowing down in preparation for our arrival at Kagoshima-chuo Station, the southernmost station of the JR Kyushu line. As we alighted, the attendants thanked us profusely for choosing JR Kyushu. Call me crazy, I just can’t stop smiling then!

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Our N700-7000 Shinkansen that took us from Hakata to Kagoshima-chuo

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End of the line, folks

Boy, was it COLD! So sue me, I live near the Equator. We made our way out of the station and after consulting Aaron’s iPhone, we got to know that Toyoko Inn (our hotel for the night) was located just down the street from the station. Checking in was a funny affair because I got watch Aaron try to keep up a conversation in Japanese with the counter girl. We entered our room for the night and settled in for some much needed rest after long day of traveling.

[Edited 2012-04-09 04:57:46]

[Edited 2012-04-09 05:14:54]

27 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 11185 times:

CHAPTER II: Kagoshima & Nishi Oyama

18th February 2012, Saturday

Even though it’s the Southernmost major city in Japan, it was still very cold out there. Toyoko Inn had graciously invited us for a breakfast spread the night before so we made sure to stop by the dining area before going about the day’s agenda.

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Bread, margarine and jam.. my comfort food since childhood!

Aaron had the dishes with the meats and such. Since Halal food is still a very rare commodity in Japanese hotels and Japan as a whole, I’m more than happy to settle with just bread for breakfast. To my delight, I noticed that it was very lightly snowing outside. Aaron told me that snow is a very rare occurrence in for a Southern city such as Kagoshima. So, plus points to nature for that rare treat!

We proceeded to Kagoshima-chuo Station to liaise with the car rental company, as Aaron has made reservations for one as means of getting to Sakurajima, a still active volcano in the South of Japan. The paperwork was done and we find ourselves driving out for the first time in Japanese roads. Bless the car for having a Navi console which directed us to the port where a ferry makes periodical shuttles between the Mainland and Sakurajima.

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Sakurajima looms ahead, underneath the sunny blue skies

Once on the island, we headed to the Tourist Center and obtained a map of the island in English. We decided to drive over to the vantage point.

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View of Kagoshima from the slopes of the volcano

The sight of the Sakurajima from the vantage point was quite a breathtaking one. Granted, I hoped that it wouldn’t suddenly spew out icky and dangerous volcanic stuff while we were busy photographing.

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Saxy Sakurajima

We made the drive down from the vantage point all the way back to the port to get on with our next plan – taking the train to the southernmost train station in Japan.

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You don’t get this kind of skies back in Singapore

Once back at Kagoshima, we headed over to the train station to catch a local train bound for Nishi Oyama. It was quite a lengthy ride on the noisy diesel-powered train but we did get to see quaint sights around us of the coast, the tiny towns and such. After an hour or so, we finally reached Nishi Oyama.

There wasn’t much there, save for radish farms, a little tourist shop, a bell (goodness knows what that is doing there) and two vending machines out of nowhere.

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Achievement unlocked! The southernmost train station in Japan

I cannot believe how cold it was out there, despite its southern Geographical location. Thank goodness the next train trundled into the station whose heated cabins brought relief from the cold. After we settled into our seats, a Japanese couple whose help we enlisted ten minutes ago in taking the above photo started to took a picture of us from the outside and then waved us goodbye. Gosh, just got to love the Japanese friendliness!

An hour and a half later, we reached Kagoshima-chuo Station and promptly retrieved our luggage from the coin lockers and head for the Shinkansen platforms for a Sakura service to Osaka. Once there, we were to connect to another Sakura bound for our final destination for the day – Fukui.

Route: Kagoshima-chuo → Hakata
Service: SAKURA 420
Train: N700-8000 Series
Seat: ??
Departure Time: 1557hrs
Arrival Time: 1736hrs

Route: Hakata → Shin-Osaka
Service: SAKURA 574
Train: 800 Series
Seat: 11A/B (Green Car)
Departure Time: 1804hrs
Arrival Time: 2045hrs


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Aaron ordered this Ekiben from the trolley service

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This vending machine encourages you to drink tobacco

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The temperature at Osaka

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Don’t you just love Japanese trains?

Route: Shin-Osaka → Fukui
Service: THUNDERBIRD 45
Train: 683 Series
Seat: 4A/B (Green Car)
Departure Time: 2101hrs
Arrival Time: 2247hrs


We reached Fukui station at 2247hrs, and decided to make the 1km-odd walk to our hotel, Ace Inn Hotel. What can I say; it was quite an experience walking through the snow and icy streets at such an hour.

----

CHAPTER III: Fukui & Osaka

19th February 2012, Sunday

We started the day off with a visit to the hotel’s public bath. That was the first time I immersed in the just-right hot water of the bath and it’s safe to say I’m now a huge fan of Japanese public baths! We got back to our room, got changed, went down and walked around the streets of Fukui.

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Our breakfast table at Ace Inn’s in-house restaurant

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From a bridge

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You can tell stories with views like this

A famous ‘time machine’ in the heart of Fukui

After stopping by McDonalds to get hot tea, we hailed a taxi bound for Harmony Hall. Aaron’s decided to go there because he was previously there with Raffles Institution Military Band in 2008 for a concert.

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Harmony Hall

Next on our list was to somehow get to Osaka. We caught the next local train from Harmony Hall back to Fukui city center to catch a Shinkansen service to Osaka. Speeding 300km/h through the gleaming snow is such a surreal experience. About two hours later, we reached Osaka station and proceeded to make a transfer to the local trains for a concert about four stops away.

The Japanese sure are huge fans of ferris wheels!

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One of the many local train services

Upon reaching the station, we had to walk for quite a bit to reach Rose Cultural Center where the concert was held. The ensemble in question was the Infinite Brass Wind Osaka, a local community Band. Until then, the only Japanese Band performance I’ve watch live was back in 2004, and that was in Singapore. Kudos to the IBWO for the amazing performance!

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06443.jpg
Infinite Brass Wind Osaka in action, their Clarinets sure can run!

When we exited the Hall, we were greeted by the Band members themselves who were thanking and bidding concert-goers goodbye. The Baritone Saxophonist began to speak to Aaron in Japanese and switched to English when he found out we spoke English. He then introduced us to a few more of the Band members who were very surprised to know that two of their audiences for the evening are fellow Band members from Singapore. They were more than happy to strike a pose for a photo, and then it was off to Osaka for dinner.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06519.jpg
Tandoori and Butter Chicken. My first halal meal in Japan!

After the sumptuous dinner at Hafez (how nice, a restaurant bearing my name.. almost!), we headed back to Osaka station to catch another Shinkansen service to Hiroshima.

Route: Shin-Osaka → Hiroshima
Service: HIKARI 577
Train: N700-7000 Series
Seat: 13C/D (Green Car)
Departure Time: 1822hrs
Arrival Time: 1954hrs


Upon reaching, we transferred to a local tram line just outside bound for our hotel. What a delight it was to discover the tram stop was just outside of our hotel – Chisun Hotel.


User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 10927 times:

CHAPTER IV: History Class in Hiroshima, Flying to Tokyo-Haneda & Sapporo

20th February 2012, Monday

Thankfully, by now I have gotten used to the cold temperatures of Japan. Aaron wanted to go for a joy-ride on a 500 Series Shinkansen. It was a Kodama service, meaning to say that it stops at every station as compared to the Hikari and Nozomi services.

Route: Hiroshima → Higashihiroshima
Service: KODAMA 724
Train: 500 Series
Seat: Ordinary Car
Departure Time: 0700hrs
Arrival Time: 0711hrs


So we caught this Kodama service to the next station, Higashi Hiroshima, an intermediate station for Hikari and Nozomi services.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06537.jpg
At the front end

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‘Economy’ Class in 2-3 seating

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More 2-3 seating views

We alighted at Higashi Hiroshima, a relatively quiet station at in a quiet town. Being an intermediate station, it was a good place to watch Hikari and Nozomi Shinkansens zoom past at 300km/h. You definitely have to see it in person to truly get a feel!

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06555.jpg
Our 500-Series “Kodama” Shinkansen that took us to Higashi Hiroshima

Route: Higashihiroshima → Hiroshima
Service: KODAMA 725
Train: 100 Series
Seat: Ordinary Car
Departure Time: 0726hrs
Arrival Time: 0738hrs


After witnessing two Shinkansens zoom past, we went over to the other side to catch a soon-to-be-extinct 100 Series Shinkansen back to Hiroshima. Another achievement unlocked!

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06592.jpg
The 100 Series

Once again, we transferred to the local tram line for Genbaku Dome Station. Being in Hiroshima, one just has to go to this historic site.

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Alighting at the Genbaku Dome Station

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Our tram car

We crossed the road and finally came face to face with the famed Dome that survived the Atomic Bombing in 1945. After hearing the accounts of what happened through internet articles and history books, it was really something else to be in that very spot where many lives were lost. May the souls of those who died that day rest in peace.

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The Dome was enshrined in scaffolding

Interestingly enough, there was a sign there that went something like “We are sorry. The Dome is being inspected for damage”. Hmmmmmm..

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View of the Dome from across the river

After walking around for 10 minutes, we took a taxi back to our hotel to fetch our belongings, check out and catch another taxi to Hiroshima Station. We were to take an Airport Express from Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Airport.

HIJ-HND
Carrier: All Nippon Airways (NH)
Flight: NH 676
Aircraft: Boeing 787-881 Dreamliner (JA801A)
Seat: 29A/C
Terminal: 1
Gate: D
Estimated Departure: 1055hrs
Estimated Arrival: 1215hrs

For a small Airport, HIJ sure had a very airy and spacious feel in it. We headed for the ANA counter and checked our luggage right in. As usual, I didn’t understand the whirlwind conversation between the counter girls and Aaron who were speaking in Japanese. We were told that our stuff would be checked in all the way to CTS without the need to retrieve them while in HND. One of them inspected my Saxophone casing and attached a blue CABIN CARRY ON tag on the handle. And then the girls hauled our luggage on the conveyor belt.

Our boarding passes for HIJ-CTS

The usual proceedings of screening ensued. What I like about HIJ is the minute you pass through screening, you get an immediate view of the apron. Too bad there wasn’t much time for us to spot airside because soon enough ANA staff came on the intercom, calling for NH 676 passengers to board.

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Our flight on the 1st passenger Dreamliner, JA801A

Before we boarded, we had to scan the QR code portion of our boarding passes on this ultra cool scanner which then issued us with a pink slip acknowledging our seat details and all. Onwards to the aerobridge!

The Japanese FAs at the door warmly greeted us passengers with bows and smiles, directing us to our seats. Now this is a flight that I would love!

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Cabin shot from 29A/C

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The IFE screen

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The ‘plastic’ wing!

The all-female cabin crew milled about tucking the passengers right in. There were quite a number of Japanese senior citizens on board, so the ANA girls made sure they were comfortable. Keep it up, girls!

Doors soon closed and the safety video rolled. So did the wheels of the 787 as we pushed back and then taxied. Throughout the entire taxiing process, all I could hear was the audio of the safety video and the soft and tiny high-pitched whine of the engines. Very quiet, indeed! We then rolled right up into the runway before tell-tale signs that the throttle was kicked into high gear. We rocketed down the runway. Here we go!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0trkK9RDn4

That wing sure CAN bend! We sailed upwards into the cloudless sky. This was a good thing because I can see what’s down below. We leveled off and began cruising. The ANA girls began their trolley service after the seatbelt pinged off. We asked for apple juice (you can’t go wrong with apple juice!).

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Apple juice on “We Fly 1st” ANA cups!

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The landscape turned snowy when we moved further inland

An announcement was made that the pilot is flying lower so that us passengers can look out of the windows on the port side and enjoy the view of Mount Fuji. At this point, the senior citizens onboard all went to every accessible window, excitedly taking pictures and talked to each other with glee like school children. That was quite a cute sight to see!

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More cabin views inflight

Armed!

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Mount Fuji, as seen from 29A in JA801A

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The rear galley

All too soon the flight is coming to an end the moment we passed Mount Fuji. Descent started and the FAs went round to claim any refuse from the passengers. We decided to stow away the We Fly 1st cups…

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HND ahoy!

We made a number of turns and more of the metropolitan views of Tokyo came into sight. It wasn’t long before the landing gears were lowered and flaps all in the required position. We drifted lower and lower, and then..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxvsFK7lxHQ

I just love the whine of the engines when it kicks into reverse. We slowly taxied our way to the gate, and got treated to plenty of aircrafts.

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A wild Pokemon jet appeared!

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Aww it appeared to caught

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An ANA B767

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And the Dreamliner gets two thumbs up!

It was the first time in my life I got through a Domestic Terminal. As we had a five-hour layover, we decided to ditch our luggage at the coin lockers before proceeding to do a bit of spotting at Terminal 2’s Observation Deck.

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All Nippon Airways JA807A Boeing 787-881 Dreamliner

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All Nippon Airways JA8357 Boeing 767-381

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All Nippon Airways JA753A Boeing 777-381

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Asiana Airlines HL7793 Airbus A330-323X

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The JA801A that just flew us from HIJ to HND

After getting our fill of spotting, it’s time to take the Tokyo Monorail out to Hamamatsucho Station and carry on our brief tour of Tokyo from there.

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The list of commuter cards currently in use in Tokyo. I got myself a Suica, represented by a Penguin!

Our first stop was lunch at this restaurant in Ginza by the name of Jai Hind which served Indian food, as the name suggests. Then, I had wanted to visit the Yamaha Building (I’m a Band geek, I can’t help it) in Ginza so we did just that. It was really a bling-bling affair with all the gleaming instruments shining behind their glass casings. If only I was a millionaire..

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My Naan set! I burnt my tongue from consuming the soup

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Line-up of Saxophones

Tick-tock-tick-tock time went by and it was time to take the Yamanote Line back to Hamamatsucho Station and on to HND Terminal 2 again by the Tokyo Monorail.

HND-CTS
Carrier: All Nippon Airways (NH)
Flight: NH 73
Aircraft: Originally Boeing 747-481D, later Boeing 777-381 (JA755A)
Seat: 22H/K
Terminal: 2
Gate: 57
Estimated Departure: 1700hrs
Estimated Arrival: 1830hrs

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View of the apron during the Monorail ride back to HND

We spotted the Pokemon jet was still there. We had hoped that that would be our plane because the reason why Aaron booked us for a flight at this timing was because NH 73 has been assigned the Boeing 747-481D at the point of booking. He even booked us for Upper Deck seats so we were really looking forward to it.

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The evening rush hour at HND Terminal 2

But alas, our good luck couldn’t continue.

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Why does our 747-481D suddenly lack an Upper Deck..

Murphy’s Law indeed had reared its head, so says Aaron. We weren’t mistaken; our 747-481D has been swapped with a measly 777-381! We were still stunned even as we scanned the QR codes of our boarding passes at the gate. Hmph, and to think I had wanted my first 777 flight to be on Singapore Airlines metal..

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The ‘747-481D’ with a much lower cockpit

A high-density 3-4-3 seating arrangement in a 777-381 is definitely NOT a pretty sight to see. It has claustrophobia written all over it. It didn’t work out for me because I find it really cramped for my legs, it didn’t work out for Aaron because the seats didn’t really fit him well.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06837.jpg
Pah.. I had wanted my first 777 flight to be an SQ 77W

One of the ANA girls for the flight noticed that Aaron was visibly upset when she was checking on us. When asked, he told her that he has specifically paid for seats on this flight because it was supposed to be a B744 Domestic. Yet now we’re flying on a B773. She was extremely apologetic about it and went away for a while. When she came back, she bowed and said that the equipment was swapped at the last minute because there weren’t enough loads. Well, the flight looks nearly full, save for a few empty seats. Oh well..

Push back commenced, followed by a short taxi to the active runway.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmjdDI5ZK5k

We climbed into the crimson sky and leveled off pretty fast. The metropolitan landscape below was soon replaced by one covered in snow.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06841.jpg
What else can I say?

We were pretty quiet for the rest of the 1½ hour flight. There wasn’t anything to see, nor were there anything interesting around in the cabin.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06846.jpg
Oh the horror of 3-4-3 in a 777

The ANA girls did their drinks run, we asked for apple juice as usual. The flight somehow zipped past quickly. Before long, it was time for descent and landing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrEhU15Q5mM

When the doors were disarmed and opened, we were more than happy to march right out of the door. A brief walk inside New Chitose Airport and it was somewhat quiet at that hour, save for passengers of NH 73 herding themselves to the baggage carousel. Ours took quite a while to appear, while the rest of the passengers claimed theirs. We then went down the escalator to the train station and reserved ourselves seats on a JR Hokkaido Rapid service train. Another escalator ride down a level brought us to the train platforms where the train was waiting for us with about 15 minutes left to departure.

Route: New Chitose Airport → Sapporo
Service: AIRPORT 193
Train: ???
Seat: 2C/D
Departure Time: 1919hrs
Arrival Time: 1955hrs


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The reserved cabin of Airport 193

We placed our luggage at the front of the cabin and went outside to snap a quick photo of the train.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06849.jpg
That’s telling you right now we’re in Sapporo

We went back inside and settled ourselves right in. The by-now familiar ding of the PA system was heard followed by the usual announcements. Point to note, you can’t even hear the doors of the train closing! We find ourselves suddenly lurching forward and out of the station. There wasn’t much to see outside as it was dark, save for the cabin lights illuminating the snow covered ground. It was a nearly 40 minute ride to Sapporo Station.

The cold instantly hit us the minute we stepped out of Airport 193’s doors. It was nice to know that our hotel, Hotel Keihan Sapporo, was relatively near the Station so we wouldn’t be left to the mercy of the cold for long.

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Streets of Sapporo by night

[Edited 2012-04-09 06:44:34]

User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 10834 times:

CHAPTER V: Snowy Sapporo

21st February 2012, Tuesday

Plans for the day were to head over to a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) branch somewhere in Sapporo for lunch because they offered halal food. After that was attempting to find myself a SIM card with data plan followed by a visit to the TV Tower in Odori Park.

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Walking on the streets is more like skating

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Check out the ice on the train tracks

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More train spotting!

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At the end of the platform

We hopped on a train along the Chitose Line and alighted at Shin-Sapporo Station for a transfer to the Tozai Line of Sapporo Municipal Subway. We got ourselves a one-day ticket because our Railpass doesn’t cover local subways that are not under JR.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06870.jpg
The train we were on

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06871.jpg
On the way

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The snowy train tracks at Shin-Sapporo Station

JICA was quite some distance away from Nango-Juhatchome Station. The cold temperatures were made even colder thanks to the strong winds howling away.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06897.jpg
At least we get to walk on snowy sidewalks!

Reprieve finally came when we reached JICA. It sure was warm and inviting inside. The restaurant already had a few people in it, they look like expats. The way that you order is picking up a numbered chip that corresponds to the dishes that are on display and simply present them to the cashier. Once paid, they’ll present you with a number or several numbers that signifies your order/s.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06904.jpg
Halal beef gyudon, miso soup and pancakes!

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06905.jpg
Halal curry chicken and more fried chickeny things!

That was my very first Japanese meal ever since my first time in Japan in 2009. The beef gyudon was absolutely fabulous; I really like their rice grains. After lunch, we went to a SoftBank shop just across the street from Nango-Juhatchome Station to try to get a prepaid 3G SIM card. Alas, we waited for an hour before we served only to be told that they didn’t have such a thing and have to go back to New-Chitose Airport for it. Oh well, time wasted.

We went back to the station and again boarded the Tozai Line train for Odori Station. Japan sure has some pretty amusing posters at their train stations, you’ll see why.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06908.jpg
My personal favorite is the one all the way to the left

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC06910.jpg
Mistranslations and misspellings are quite common too

Once at Odori Station, we opted for the underground route to the TV Tower. You’d have to pay Y600 per pax for admission into the observatory although you’ll get concessionary pricing if you’re an Elementary, Junior High or High School student. After more smiles and ushering by the staff at the lift lobby, we walked into the nearest available lift up where a sole attendant was inside. On the way up, it appeared that she was talking to herself. Only after we reached the observatory level and exited the lift did Aaron say she was explaining the sights around through the lift windows.

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One of the directional views up there

Up at the observation deck, there were one or two pay-per-use binoculars but otherwise the whole place is a touristy shop selling touristy things. We got for ourselves a total of five boxes of Shiroi Koibito, a Japanese sweet treat that’s apparently famous and found only in Hokkaido (and Airports). It was time to go down to head back to Sapporo Station to make for our Express train to the town of Wakkanai five hours north.

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It started to snow heavily when we got out at the ground level

The TV Tower in Odori Park

While walking through the snow, a Taiwanese couple nearby commented that they were surprised to find out that we were from Singapore, yet we were “underdressed” than they were for that kind of weather.

We reached Sapporo Station, retrieved our luggage from the coin lockers and proceeded to catch our Super Soya 2 express train for Wakkanai. But alas, when we got nearer to the ticketing gate, a notice flashed on the information displays saying that the Super Soya 2 service has been cancelled due to heavy snow. Great, so now we have no place to stay for the night! His iPhone has ran out of battery, his netbook is nearly out of battery and my phone can’t even be used. We took refuge at a McDonald’s outlet first, and moved on to an internet café nearby to find out our options. We decided to stay for one more night in Sapporo than catching a Hamanasu overnight express back to Honshu. We managed to book a hotel for the night, and promptly went there and checked ourselves in. Time to figure out what to do tomorrow..

----

CHAPTER VI: HELLO, RUSSIA

22nd February 2012, Wednesday

In the morning, we decided to take the chance in catching the Super Soya 1 service to Wakkanai. We risk missing all our later connections our plans derailed, should another snow storm occur as it meant we would be stranded in Wakkanai. Boys being boys, we just went ahead with the plan to go to Wakkanai.

Route: Sapporo → Wakkanai
Service: SUPER SOYA 1
Train: KiHa 261 Series
Seat: Ordinary, Seat 1C (Green Car)
Departure Time: 0748hrs
Arrival Time: 1417hrs (1½ hour delay)


We dragged everything had to the train station, went through the gates and up to the platform. True enough, Super Soya 1 was there. However, as we did not reserve any Green Car seats, we had to try to find a seat in the ordinary unreserved car.. too bad we had no luck. It was quite a full train and we had to stand until some of the passengers alight at any station along the journey. The only seat reservation we managed to salvage is Seat 1C in the Green Car, and that seat is available only from Otoineppu Station onwards.

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Going out of Sapporo on the Super Soya 1

Roasted chestnuts are quite a treat

Good luck came our way when we reached the next station, Iwamizawa, and number of the seated passengers got up to leave. We finally got ourselves seats for the next 4 hours 40 minutes!

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The non-reserved seats

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Aaron got a seasonal squid Ekiben from the friendly trolley cart lady

Here onwards, the journey was very scenic with hills after hills after hills covered in snow. While in Seat 1C, I was editing photographs on the netbook when I glanced out of the window and was very fortunate to see a mountain fox peering at me from the snowy forest as the train zoomed past. Very cute!

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Snowed station

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A common sight for the most part of the journey

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We’ve passed the 45-degree mark?

Our five-hour thereabout journey came to an end when we pulled into Wakkanai Station. Finally! We’ve finally set foot onto the northernmost city in Japan!

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Signage

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Our Super Soya 2 service, preparing for turnaround as Super Soya 4 that evening

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The northernmost train station in Japan

We consulted the JR Ticket Office about the status of Super Soya 4, obviously still concerned whether there would be delays or not. We were told not to worry, things were still as scheduled. Assured, we asked around if there are any car rental companies nearby. We opted for the car rental option because it’s not that much expensive than a bus ride to Cape Soya. A bus ride to Cape Soya costs Y5000+ per pax, and it’s one-way!

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The road signs have Russian text on them

We located a Toyota car rental office and got the paper work done. Having an international driving permit sure is a handy thing! The friendly staff briefed Aaron on the features of the car, as well as the all-important Navi onboard. We just needed to enter in the ‘telephone number’ of a certain location and it’ll guide us there. Off we go!

The roads were very very very much caked in ice, so driving on it was quite an experience. We had in mind the grave warnings on travel websites about driving in a Hokkaido winter.

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On the way to Cape Soya

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Very scenic!

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Watch out for Bambi galloping in the snow

Eventually we find ourselves driving on a coastal road, and had a pleasant surprise while looking in the distance.

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Through the misty strait, that’s the Russian island of Sakhalin!

We reached the famed Cape Soya after driving 40km out of Wakkanai. Cape Soya, the northernmost point in Japan! Prior to the trip, I’ve watched YouTube videos about winters in Cape Soya that depicts white snowy landscape and howling winds. Being there for myself, the videos are definitely not lying.

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We made it with the Singapore flag flying in the strong winds

There was a small touristy shop in the area, and a couple of monuments popping out from the snow. I forgot to wear gloves before stepping out from the warmth of the car. As a result, my hands were already a dark shade of purple after I’m done taking videos and photographs. You can’t blame me.. I saw Russia with my own eyes!

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Stated -11.0C, but with windchill I’m sure the temperature is lower than -11.0C!

We hurried back into the car, turned the heater on high and started the drive back to Wakkanai. We have a certain Super Soya 4 to catch!

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Being this north, the sun was already setting

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One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life

After another perilous drive, we reached the carpark of the Toyota office where we were greeted by the staff. After a round of inspection, we were free to go. But not before..

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.. a car shot!

Once again we dragged our luggage and ourselves through the snowy roads and sidewalks back to Wakkanai Station. We flashed our Railpasses to the staff at the door, and he ushered us to the other side where Super Soya 4 was already at the platform. Time to board and commence the 18-hour train journey to Tokyo!

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Our home for the next five hours

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Icicles on the roof of Minami-Wakkanai Station

Route: Wakkanai → Sapporo
Service: SUPER SOYA 4
Train: KiHa 261 Series
Seat: 7A/B
Departure Time: 1651hrs
Arrival Time: 2150hrs


From here on, the train chugged its way into the darkening surroundings. There was really nothing to see outside as it was forests left and right. I lost track of time throughout the journey. Our main concern was Super Soya 4 being delayed at some point during the journey, as delays mean we might miss our connecting overnight Hamanasu express service. Thankfully, Super Soya 4 arrived and left at its predetermined stations on time every time. Five hours passed and we made it back to Sapporo Station.

Route: Sapporo → Aomori
Service: HAMANASU
Train: 14/24 Series + ED79/DD51 Locomotives
Seat: 16/17 (Carpet)
Departure Time: 2200hrs
Arrival Time: 0540hrs (+1)


We had booked ourselves sleeper ‘suites’ which is really a cabin with carpeted and heated floor with. It may look primitive, but is actually very comfortable! What’s more, we got ‘seats’ 16 and 17, which is right at the end and has a power socket in the wall. This Hamanasu service will take us from Sapporo in Hokkaido down to Aomori in northern Honshu by going through the undersea Seikan Tunnel.

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Our carpeted space for the night

I have to admit, being an old train with locomotives; it was quite creaky and loud. Occasionally, the train would hit a bump and we would all be shaken. We changed into something more comfortable for sleeping and then went to the lounge. Yes, this service has a lounge cabin..

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07196.jpg
.. that looks like this

But it also has drinks vending machine on it. I got this fabulous nectar drink for Y120 and downed it in no time. With nothing else to do, we went back to the sleeper cabin and settled ourselves in. And then I was out like a light.


User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 10781 times:

CHAPTER VII: BACK TO TOKYO

23rd February 2012, Thursday

When I woke up, we were already in Honshu and nearing Aomori Station. That was about 5+ in the morning. Things were looking good and Hamanasu was not delayed at any point, so looks like we could make it for one of the highlights in our entire trip – a ride on the E5 Shinkansen “Hayabusa 4” service from Shin-Aomori Station. When we pulled into Aomori station, we just crossed to the platform at the other side where a train to Shin-Aomori was waiting. As it was just a stop away, there wasn’t a need to reserve any seats.

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The Hamanasu overnight express service

Route: Aomori → Shin-Aomori
Service: LIMITED EXPRESS TSUGARU 2
Train: E751 Series
Seat: Ordinary Car
Departure Time: 0546hrs
Arrival Time: 0551hrs


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The interior of the Tsugaru 2 we boarded after alighting Hamanasu

Route: Shin-Aomori → Tokyo
Service: HAYABUSA 4
Train: E5 Series
Seat: 11A/B (Green Car)
Departure Time: 0610hrs
Arrival Time: 0924hrs


Upon reaching Shin-Aomori Station, yet again we navigated to our designated platform where our Hayabusa 4 service is due to arrive. It has not arrived yet when we got there, which is good because we can get our cameras ready for when it pulls into the station. Soon enough, out of the snowy darkness, the sleek E5-series Shinkansen pulled into the station. Time to board!

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The E5-series

I was totally in love with the interior! Even though it looked a little similar to the N700-7000 Shinkansens back down in Kyushu, I can sense an air of prestige to it.

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This beats the Business Class seats of some Airlines, I'm sure!

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The comfortable seats in the Green Car of Hayabusa 4!

Seriously, even though it was so quiet, you can’t even hear the doors close. We accelerated our way out of Shin-Aomori Station and southwards to Tokyo.

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Northern Honshu is still encased in snow

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Ditto

The nearer we got to the capital the landscape gradually became snow-free.

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Passing through a Shinkansen depot featuring the E2 & E4-series

We began decelerating when the string of arrival announcements came on the PA. With all the tall metropolitan buildings outside, there was no mistake that we were at the capital of Japan. As usual, we were greeted off the E5 with smiles and bows – that never gets old! We ran to the front of the E5 for a photograph.

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That nose might not appeal to all, but it’s still a JR flagship!

We transferred to one of the local lines bound for yet again another JICA Branch. Being in the capital, I suppose halal food is slightly more available! We transferred to the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, alighted at Shinjuku Station and transferred to the Keio New Line for Hatagaya Station. I just love the taking trains in Tokyo; it’s like an adventure by itself!

When we got to the ground level of Hatagaya Station’s entrance, it was raining. What to do? We just walked in the rainy quaint streets to JICA. It was an about 8-minute walk, I reckon. Upon reaching, the counter girl at the front desk laughed at us for being soaked because of the rain. She kindly handed us a toilet roll to wipe ourselves down. The restaurant promptly opened at 11.30AM and foreign expats began to trickle in.

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Aaron’s dish

After lunch, we made the walk back to Hatagaya Station, boarded the train for Shinjuku Station, transferred to the Yamanote Line, alighted at Shimbashi Station, transferred to the Yurikamome Line and alighted at Daiba Station. Being a fan of Digimon Adventure (for those of you who watched it as well!), I just had to come to Odaiba.

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The Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba

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The iconic Fuji TV Station that appeared in Digimon Adventure

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In the anime, this Ferris Wheel was attacked by evil Digimons!

We then made for the Yurikamome Line back to Shimbashi Station, transferred to yet again the Yamanote Line for Tokyo Station. Aaron had wanted to catch a Kodama service operated by a soon-to-be-retired 300-series Shinkansen. It’ll just be a short joyride from Tokyo Station to the next station, which is Shinagawa.

Route: Tokyo → Shinagawa
Service: HIKARI 477
Train: 300 Series
Seat: Ordinary Car
Departure Time: 1503hrs
Arrival Time: 1510hrs


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The vanishing 300 Series

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The Green Car interior of the 300 Series

It was a short ride to Shinagawa Station. Once there, we transferred to the Yamanote Line (really useful, this Line!) bound for Ikebukuro Station. Up next, a Cat Café!

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This is an actual vending machine. Away with buttons, in with huge touchscreens!

It was about a 10-minute walk through the already bustling streets of Ikebukuro to the Cat Café. Prepare for cuteness overload! The Cat Café charges your presence about Y1000+ for the first hour, and lesser than that for the next half hour or so. Snacks and drinks are provided!

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We left the Café, walked back to Ikebukuro Station, and boarded the Yamanote Line train for Tokyo Station. Our final Shinkansen journey using the Railpass was next! We were originally booked for a 1930hrs Hikari service on the N700-7000 Series to Kyoto Station but decided to try for an earlier Hikari service at 1833hrs even though it’s operated by a 700 Series. Reason being was some 700 Series Green Car had power sockets.

Route: Tokyo → Shin-Yokohama
Service: HIKARI 525
Train: 700 Series
Seat: 1A/B (Green Car)
Departure Time: 1833hrs
Arrival Time: 1852hrs


But after we boarded the 700 Series, we weren’t in luck and decided to jump ship at Shin-Yokohama Station and wait an hour for our original Hikari service. It was quite nice to sit there and watch all the Nozomi services come and go!

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The 700 Series we initially took to Kyoto – and ditched

Route: Shin-Yokohama → Kyoto
Service: HIKARI 527
Train: N700 Series
Seat: 1C/D (Green Car)
Departure Time: 1952hrs
Arrival Time: 2230hrs (overshot)


Our N700-7000 glided into the station, we boarded it for the hour plus journey to Kyoto Station. Alas, we both overslept and found ourselves at Shin-Osaka Station! There were no more Shinkansen services out of Shin-Osaka back to Tokyo. Luckily there was still a local Rapid Service train to Kyoto.

Route: Shin-Osaka → Kyoto
Service: HARUKA 48
Train: 281 Series
Seat: 8A/B
Departure Time: 2309hrs
Arrival Time: 2332hrs


After about half an hour, we reached Kyoto Station. Our hotel, Hokke Club Kyoto, was just outside the station. We checked in right away upon reaching, went up to our room for the night.

----

CHAPTER VIII: Old Town Kyoto

24th February 2012, Friday

What I like is that the entrance to the Kyoto Municipal Subway was just outside of our hotel. We took the Karasuma Line, alighting at Imadegawa Station and walked to the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds for a short stroll in its perimeter.

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Kyoto Station

Still on my apple juice streak

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Old architecture still exists in Kyoto

We hailed a cab just outside the palace grounds to go to Kiyomizu-dera, a temple up in the hills. The narrow streets were filled with chattering Junior High school students. It feels awfully touristy though, with all the souvenir shops left and right.

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Huge bell

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Well wishes, I think

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I think drinking this was supposed to bring you luck

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Another one

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Visitors from all over the world

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Duck swimming at pond in Kiyomizu-dera

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Soft ice cream outside the Temple

It really amazes me how the people of that time were able to build an entire temple on the side of a hill. While I appreciate the scenic views, it was made less enjoyable with the hordes of noisy tour groups hogging certain parts of the place.

Anyway, we went down the narrow street leading to the main road to catch a bus back to the bus terminus in Kyoto. We once again transferred to the Kyoto Municipal Subway and caught a Karasuma Line train to Marutamachi Station. Once there, we walked for some distance to a quaint little café by the name of Rose Café for lunch. It serves halal food, by the way.

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We both got the Kebab Set. Very delicious!

It was time go back to our hotel, retrieve our belongings and set out to Kyoto Station for KIX for our flight home at 1655hrs. Things began to go wrong at this point as we discovered we had just missed a Nozomi service by a whisker. That definitely was not good at all. We caught the next Nozomi train out and reached Shin-Osaka Station. Even worse, we found out that the Haruka Express service to KIX was late, and even when it arrived, it stayed at the platform for quite some time.

Route: Kyoto → Shin-Osaka
Service: NOZOMI 109
Train: N700 Series
Seat: Ordinary Car
Departure Time: 1513hrs
Arrival Time: 1526hrs


Route: Shin-Osaka → Kansai Airport
Service: HARUKA
Train: 281 Series
Seat: Ordinary Car
Departure Time: 15??hrs (delayed)
Arrival Time: 16??hrs (delayed)


We ran helter-skelter to the International Departures level the minute we got off the Haruka train. We were hoping that somehow the AirAsia X check-in counter was still open. Unfortunately, no one was in sight. 1655hrs came 30 minutes later and we’re officially stranded in Japan.

I was very very worried at this point as it was my first time missing a flight. Aaron ran searches on his netbook, via the very unreliable WiFi connection. It didn’t help things at all that the pay-per-use PC terminals had browsers there were incompatible with Singapore Airlines’ website. We were told to go down to the Domestic Departures level for a better WiFi connection. Things we were looking up as we found two SQ flights flying directly to Singapore – one leaving at 11.30PM that night and another flying 11.30AM the next day. We opted for next day’s flight, breathing a sigh of relief when the booking (using miles) was confirmed. We’re still going home!

We managed to get a room at Best Western Hotel back in Osaka. They even have a free shuttle service between KIX to the hotel! The best thing is, they have a public bath. So I guess missing that D7 flight back to KUL wasn’t entirely a bad thing! While walking towards the shuttle bus bay of KIX, Aaron made a phone call to SQ’s Reservation & Ticketing Office to see if they can put on a Muslim Meal for me. The person on the other end said it might not work but he’ll put a request on for me anyway.


User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 10747 times:

CHAPTER IX: MY FIRST FLIGHT ON MY HOME CARRIER

25th February 2012, Saturday

KIX-SIN
Date: 25th February 2012, Saturday
Carrier: Singapore Airlines (SQ)
Flight: SQ 619
Aircraft: Airbus A330-313E
Seat: 63A/C
Terminal: South Wing
Gate: 41
Estimated Departure: 1100hrs
Estimated Arrival: 1705hrs

Not wanting to take any chances, we decided on a 0830hrs shuttle service from the hotel to KIX. It was relatively rainy morning, which caused quite a bit of mist to hover over the city. With Japanese precision, the bus closed its doors and drove off at 0830hrs right on the dot. It was a 20-minute drive from the hotel to KIX.

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Due to the rain, the Bay was very misty too

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Widebodies!

Economy Class, this way please

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My first ever check-in with Singapore Airlines

As we had the Saxophone casing, it raised a few eyebrows from the SQ counter staff. The one serving us called another girl, whom in turn called what seemed like her Supervisor who gave us the green light that I can bring it along as carry-on. Checked in, and safe!

With nothing else to do, we decided to go airside straight away.

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Hamsters and squirrels aren’t allowed, please

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SQ 619, that’s us

We did some last minute shopping at duty free to clear off any unused Yen. I bought a lot of mochi and strawberry things that ranges from Y300 – Y600 each.

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Duty Free!

The famed Japanese soft ice cream

I do have to say, I prefer the airside of KIX than NRT. To me, the interiors are brighter and general atmosphere to be livelier. But that’s just me, what about you guys? At about 1020hrs, we took the Wing Shuttle to our part of the Southern pier.

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Our ride home on 9V-STK

This followed by a short walk down the stairs and to Gate 41. It seems that they had just commenced boarding for the rest of the passengers who are not in Business Class, have special needs or with children.

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My first Singapore Airlines flight

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Sayonara, Japan!

After our last few photographs, we proceeded to the Gate. We were the last few ones at that time to board. A walk through the aerobridge and we were greeted warmly by a purple-tied Singapore Boy. Walking past the Business Class, we were again greeted by a cheerful green-Kebaya Singapore Girl who led us right to our seats.

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The IFE of seats 63A/C

From 63A

Green Kebaya suddenly appeared behind us with a list in her hands

“Mr Muhammad Hafiz? You’re having the Muslim Meal, right? Yes, we do have it on board.”

And she said that with a sincere smile. Props to SQ for this one!

When the doors were closed and armed, I tried spotting for the ground staff in the hopes of seeing them bow as we pushed back. Too bad, I didn’t see any! The Singapore Airlines safety was displayed on the IFE as we taxied out to the active runway. Now I have never flown on Singapore Airlines before so I wouldn’t know what Aaron meant by saying that he prefers the ‘old safety video’. Perhaps you frequent fliers of SQ know better?

We turned into the very wet runway, and rocketed down. Oh, and might I say that this was my very first Rolls Royce-powered A330 flight?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG3TzwfLpi4

We were in the cloudy and white abyss for quite a while. It felt like we weren’t climbing at all, in fact! After some time, the seatbelt sign pinged off.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07767.jpg
From the very back of the plane

In charge of our aisle were a blue tie Singapore Boy and a blue Kebaya (Japanese) Singapore Boy. I initially had a good impressions about these two during boarding time, but that began to change from now on.

Finally broke through the clouds!

Both of our IFEs were very glitch. Mine hung, went blank and came back after five minutes. Aaron’s one had to be restarted manually by the Singapore Boy. The in-seat power was even glitchy than the IFE! For half an hour or so, no electricity seemed to come through. And when it did, it went on and off incessantly. Faulty wiring, perhaps?

The FAs came around with the drinks trolley to serve beverages and issued out SQ peanuts.

We had apple juice as usual

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07773.jpg
Apple juice and peanuts

From here on, the Japanese FA went into unfriendly mode. Several times when we tried to ask her something, she would just seem not to hear and walk off. And when she did stop to find out what we had to say, she looked very impatient about it as if she can’t wait to go away. One thing I noticed was that she was very kind to the Japanese lady seating in 62D and three Japanese seated in 63D/E/G, yet somewhat unfriendly to the rest us. Several times, she said “I come back to you later” in an indifferent tone and rushed off. Come on Singapore Girl, what gives? My impression of the so-called legendary standards is falling.

Obviously bewildered by the Japanese FA, we tried our luck in asking the Singapore Boy.

“Excuse me, can I get the iPod Connectivity cable please?”

“Pardon?”

“This, *shows the on-board amenities catalog*”

“Oh we don’t have it on-board”


And he vanished without a word. I am really not amused by now! We managed to coax the Japanese FA over and asked her for the same thing, she went away and brought back with a plastic bag with the iPod Connectivity cable. So, Singapore Boy.. what do you have to say for yourself?

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07776.jpg
Hooked up my iPod to the IFE and Nigella Lawson appeared!

Meal service soon started, I was handed the Muslim Meal. Aaron asked for this Beef Hamburg thing. I leave it up to you guys to decide whether it looks appetizing or not!

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07780.jpg
My Muslim Meal, Fish Curry

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07787.jpg
Aaron’s Beef Hamburg

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07795.jpg
My prawn salad

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07796.jpg
Dessert

I prefer the Vanilla Ice-cream from JR Kyushu’s Shinkansens though. Meal was quite a quick affair, and so it’s back to doing nothing for a few more hours.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07802.jpg
More wing views

As usual, I lost track of time until I noticed that we started to drift down from the sky. I can safely say we’re near Malaysia already!

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07804.jpg
Quaint little islands popped into view

At this point, the Indian man sitting in 62A started to blast loud chiming music from his SQ headphones. It caused quite a ruckus at the back of the plane. I was literally gritting my teeth at the sudden noise amidst the quiet cabin. I was considering standing up and asking him to SHHH when a man in 61D got up, gave an angry look to the Indian man (who was oblivious to that, naturally) and disappeared into the Galley behind us. Moments later, the Japanese FA strode over to 62C and said in a heavy accent

“Sir, could you volume down please?”

It took her several tries before the man finally responded to what she was saying and the cacophony vanished.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07805.jpg
Speedbrakes deployed

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07808.jpg
More Malaysian islands, although I wish I knew which ones

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07809.jpg
Route Map in the last segment of the flight

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07810.jpg
Is this Batam?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rydF3hNrC8I

How irritating that my camera malfunctioned at that point. But anyway, it was nice to hear the announcement “Welcome to Singapore. And to all Singaporeans, a welcome home”. But what caught my attention next was

“The local weather now is 31 degrees Celsius.”

31°C?? I can’t help but think about our time back in Wakkanai, where the temperature was stated at -11°C. That makes a difference of 40°C. Oh well.
We had a lengthy taxi, and got treated to the usual fare of planes at Terminal 3.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07811.jpg
9V-SWI in Star Alliance livery

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07815.jpg
Taxiing past Terminal 1

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07816.jpg
SQ Quads at Terminal 3 – 9V-SPO and 9V-SKsomething

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07817.jpg
9V-SQE

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07818.jpg
Expect no bows from the ground staff here, folks

We parked at Gate A21, the very gate that my Secondary School Band juniors departed from when they went BNE in 2008. Except that they flew on a B777. When the doors were opened and 3G in phones were switched on, the WhatsApp messages came rolling in. So we unloaded our stuff from the overhead compartment while most of the passengers had already left. As usual, we were the last ones off and Green Kebaya struck up small talk with us.

“I hope you guys had a nice flight!” she said
“Yeah we did”


And she noticed that I placed my camera on 62C as we retrieved our stuff

“If you’d like, you can leave your camera on the plane as well!” she said in jest

Now if only Green Kebaya was the one who served our aisle! We started to make for the exit, and she heartily thanked us for flying Singapore Airlines and hoped to see us again. We passed by Singapore Boy with the purple tie who also bade us goodbye with a smile.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07821.jpg
9V-STK, parked at Gate A21

Just two meters away from us, two Japanese ladies (presumably Osaka residents) could not communicate with the Cisco security officer woman they were talking to. The officer was telling them to go there, there, there and gesticulating in a rude manner. Gosh I hate those kinds of officers! Aaron had to be the hero and spoke to them in Japanese, it turns out that they had wanted directions to Immigration and subsequently the City. We offered to walk with them all the way to Immigration, where all the while they and Aaron had a whirlwind conversation in Japanese. As usual, I did not understand even though I was back in my home country.

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07823.jpg
We opted to walk instead of taking the Skytrain

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07824.jpg
My first venture into Terminal 3 – no kidding

http://i1164.photobucket.com/albums/q564/airbusmango/Japan%20Trip%202012/DSC07825.jpg
Immigration, we’re back home

This was where we parted ways with the nice Japanese ladies. We said our goodbyes but all of a sudden I kind of understood what they were saying when one of the women began to take out her wallet and fish out two Y1000 notes. We kindly refused the payment but she insisted that we take it for assisting them. I just love the Japanese!

As usual, I had problems passing through the biometric gates. An ICA Warrant Officer bade me to come over to his counter and set things right, manually keying in my passport. He then asked me to exit by the side gate. After passing through Customs and out of the glass doors.. WERE HOME!!

EPILOGUE

Where service is concerned, I would have to say that the staff on the JR Kyushu Shinkansens definitely takes the cake in this trip. They bow every time they leave or enter the cabin that you’re on, and are always smiling at the passengers as they passed through. I’m really really impressed with their service because it’s so genuine and warm. On the other hand, it was disappointing where the two FAs in SQ 619 serving our aisle was concerned. I had heard of the legendary SQ service, and also heard of falling standards. These two FAs do fit the not-so-positive stereotype of Singapore Airlines cabin crew – robotic and impersonal. But that’s just my opinion! I do have to give credit where it is due, such as giving props to SQ for able to put on a Muslim Meal for me at such a short notice and the much warmer attitude of Ms Green Kebaya whom always connects with passengers every time she walks up and down the aisle. I’m still jealous that she wasn’t the one who served our aisle!

I hope you guys enjoyed this awfully long Trip Report. I also hope to go on more travels in the future and eventually share it with you guys in the future! Until then, happy travels!

Sincerely,
Hafiz


User currently offlineSOBHI51 From Saudi Arabia, joined Jun 2003, 3477 posts, RR: 17
Reply 6, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 9959 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Hafiz
I enjoyed reading your report, but i can not see the pictures  



I am against any terrorist acts committed under the name of Islam
User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 9639 times:

Hey, thanks for enjoying this first trip report of mine! I just upgraded to a Photobucket Pro account, hopefully all the images appear now!  

Regards,
Hafiz


User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 8, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 9604 times:

What an exceptional report airbusmango!

What a nice adventure you and your friend had. I'm jealous of the fact that you made it all the way to Wakkanai. When we visited Hokkaido last month with my wife, she really wanted to visit Wakkanai too, just for the sake of catching a glimpse of Russia   Too bad we didn't have enough time to do so.

I loved your photos by the way. I see many places that are very familiar to me from previous visits.

I need to go back and read some parts of your report that I left out (I guess that's one downside of having a very long report).

Great job. I'm looking forward to see more reports from you in the near future!

WideBodyroga



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineyapple From Singapore, joined Apr 2011, 100 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 9594 times:

Hi Hafiz,

What a nice report this is! Great to see another Singaporean trip reporter here on Anet. Were you on board SQ 747/748 on Good Friday?

I went to Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe,Kyoto) in the past 2 years and I enjoyed my time there.

Just wondering, when are you ORD-ing?

Nice to see that you got on board some special liveried planes, and on board the B787!

Some nice pictures here. Did you spend alot on this trip?

Thanks for the report once again.

Yap

P.S That Boeing B747 is 9V-SPQ, not -SPO.

[Edited 2012-04-10 06:54:30]

[Edited 2012-04-10 07:02:13]

User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 9575 times:

Thanks, WideBodyroga! The trip to Wakkanai was really a gamble because of the bad snowstorm the evening before between Asahikawa and Wakkanai. Not only did it caused the cancellation of our Super Soya train, no flights can take off or land in Wakkanai Airport too! If it happens again the day after, for sure we'll be in trouble - stranded in Wakkanai with no way out.

But still, it's quite a nice experience to be there at the northernmost point of Japan and be able to look at Russia in the bitingly cold howling winds. I really do hope you and your wife will have the chance to set foot on Wakkanai and Cape Soya in the near future!

No worries, we had to give up a number of destinations and places in Japan (e.g. Nagasaki, Fukushima, Hamamatsu) because we ended up not having enough time on our hands because we had train connections to meet and all. Ah well, I guess that's one downside of having too many to-go places on your traveling list!

Regards,
Hafiz

[Edited 2012-04-10 07:00:40]

User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 9551 times:

Quoting yapple (Reply 9):
Hi Hafiz,

What a nice report this is! Great to see another Singaporean trip reporter here on Anet. Were you on board SQ 747/748 on Good Friday?

I went to Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe,Kyoto) in the past 2 years and I enjoyed my time there.

Just wondering, when are you ORD-ing?

Nice to see that you got on board some special liveried planes, and on board the B787!

Some nice pictures here. Did you spend alot on this trip?

Thanks for the report once again.

Yap

P.S That Boeing B747 should 9V-SPQ, not -SPO.

Why thank you, Yap! Unfortunately, I was not on SQ 747/748. Tried my luck at the SQ 747 contest, but obviously luck wasn't on my side (and many others too!). But my friend Aaron and another of my friend was though! If you happen to see a large sized guy accompanied by a thin guy with a blue tie, that's them!

I'll be ORDing come 1st November 2012, Thursday. I really can't wait until then, because we're planning my ORD trip after I get back my pink IC! Edinburgh, Hawaii and San Francisco are on the cards. High chance that we're flying Singapore Airlines, yeah!

I forgot exactly how much we spent, sorry! Aaron managed to get some sort of special introductory fares on the D7 flight, somewhere around the region of SGD250+ per pax if I'm not wrong. The JR Railpass (Green Car) costs SGD600 - SGD650 per pax. I virtually didn't do any shopping at all, save for the usual last-minute-souvenirs-at-airports. Couldn't spend much on food either because nearly everything was not halal! At the end of it, most of our expenses were either on ERP (or rather, tolls), car rentals in Kagoshima & Wakkanai, miscellaneous taxi fares and such.

And yeah, I think I was lucky to be able to fly on two special liveries on this trip - 9M-XAA and JA801A! The two of us are still disappointed about the NH 73 equipment swap from a 747-481D to a 777-381 though.

Regards,
Hafiz


User currently offlineglobalflyer From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 928 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 9496 times:

Excellent report Hafiz. The photos are spectacular. I have to be honest, the Cat Cafe did it for me. I would have stayed there for ages! I love animals. Thanks for sharing. I hope your 787 ride was fantastic and I cannot wait for my first. Cheers, William


Landing on every Continent almost on an annual basis!
User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 9475 times:

Quoting globalflyer (Reply 12):
Excellent report Hafiz. The photos are spectacular. I have to be honest, the Cat Cafe did it for me. I would have stayed there for ages! I love animals. Thanks for sharing. I hope your 787 ride was fantastic and I cannot wait for my first. Cheers, William

Thank you, William! Yes, you definitely have to drop by that Cat Cafe if you're in Tokyo/Ikebukuro! Speaking of animals, if the Super Soya train to Wakkanai was cancelled, we had planned to go to visit the Zoo in Asahikawa. Maybe next time!

Yes, please do fly on the 787 as soon as you can! I'm an Airbus A330 fanboy, but I really have to salute both the 787 and ANA for the experience. There's just that pleasant zing in the engines' whine during takeoff!

Regards,
Hafiz


User currently offlineSOBHI51 From Saudi Arabia, joined Jun 2003, 3477 posts, RR: 17
Reply 14, posted (2 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 9363 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Quoting airbusmango (Reply 7):
Hey, thanks for enjoying this first trip report of mine! I just upgraded to a Photobucket Pro account, hopefully all the images appear now!

Hello Hafiz, again.

Those pictures are great, your grade came up from A to A+++. Excellent report enjoyed reading very much.Thanks.

Sobhi



I am against any terrorist acts committed under the name of Islam
User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 9159 times:

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 14):
Hello Hafiz, again.

Those pictures are great, your grade came up from A to A+++. Excellent report enjoyed reading very much.Thanks.

Sobhi

Thank you very much! Glad you liked reading and seeing the pictures!

Regards,
Hafiz


User currently offlinelukeyboy95 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 1092 posts, RR: 31
Reply 16, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 9113 times:

HI Hafiz,

Well done on creating a truly epic report. It was all thoroughly interesting and unexpected, and at times random. But we like a bit of randomness on this website... otherwise we wouldn't gawk at planes.

I salute you for not breaking it up into parts. But that is only because I have an excellent internet connection!

Japan looked highly interesting. What a fascinating destination. It seemed as though you had really done your research. What amazed me is it's geographic position.... across an ocean from the US, and within site of Russia, but an entirely unique and bizarre society. Fantastic.

Thanks

Luke



Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
User currently offlineORDnHKG From United States of America, joined Jul 2009, 191 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 9081 times:

Thanks for your details with both the train and plane report.

Quoting airbusmango (Thread starter):
One of the ANA girls for the flight noticed that Aaron was visibly upset when she was checking on us. When asked, he told her that he has specifically paid for seats on this flight because it was supposed to be a B744 Domestic. Yet now we’re flying on a B773. She was extremely apologetic about it and went away for a while. When she came back, she bowed and said that the equipment was swapped at the last minute because there weren’t enough loads. Well, the flight looks nearly full, save for a few empty seats. Oh well..

Maybe she meant it needs another 50+ pax that the maxiumum load for a 74P, lol.

Seriously, if I am desperate to fly on a 74P, I would be firm and insist at the gate that I want to fly the 74P, and tell them you really pay to fly the flight with 74P, and see what they are going to say about it. I seriously doubt it is the real reason about not enough loads, as I have flown the same route before, and even with only half full on the 74P, they won't just swap to a 773 or even 772, it is more like the 74P go mechanical. If you book your ticket direct from NH instead of third party website or travel agent, you may be compensated.

For the NH FA lie about the truth, it is a big thumb down.

It seems like your flight part of the trips doesn't go very well, as even on SQ you had bad service as well, I would have told the SQ girl in green about the truth when she asked you about the experience.


User currently offlineTradewinds From Japan, joined Jun 2008, 88 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 8959 times:

Wow, I have to admit, I never thought I would see good old Fukui in an a.net trip report! I lived there for quite some time (it's where my wife is from). Anyway, nice report -- you saw just about everything there is to see in Japan!


Tradewinds
User currently offlinetriple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 743 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 8950 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

I just perused your TR and will read it in detail when I have more time, but it is excellent. From one who used to live in Japan, it brings back many happy memories.
I especially enjoyed the cafe with the cats. One of the cats (Russian Blue) reminded me of my cat Simone, whom I had to leave behind in Japan when I moved to Thailand.



Have you kissed a 777 today?
User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 8922 times:

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 16):
HI Hafiz,

Well done on creating a truly epic report. It was all thoroughly interesting and unexpected, and at times random. But we like a bit of randomness on this website... otherwise we wouldn't gawk at planes.

I salute you for not breaking it up into parts. But that is only because I have an excellent internet connection!

Japan looked highly interesting. What a fascinating destination. It seemed as though you had really done your research. What amazed me is it's geographic position.... across an ocean from the US, and within site of Russia, but an entirely unique and bizarre society. Fantastic.

Thanks

Luke

Thanks! Who knows, in the future I might return to Wakkanai and catch a ferry to Sakhalin! But to settle the Visa..


Quoting ORDnHKG (Reply 17):
Maybe she meant it needs another 50+ pax that the maxiumum load for a 74P, lol.

Seriously, if I am desperate to fly on a 74P, I would be firm and insist at the gate that I want to fly the 74P, and tell them you really pay to fly the flight with 74P, and see what they are going to say about it. I seriously doubt it is the real reason about not enough loads, as I have flown the same route before, and even with only half full on the 74P, they won't just swap to a 773 or even 772, it is more like the 74P go mechanical. If you book your ticket direct from NH instead of third party website or travel agent, you may be compensated.

For the NH FA lie about the truth, it is a big thumb down.

It seems like your flight part of the trips doesn't go very well, as even on SQ you had bad service as well, I would have told the SQ girl in green about the truth when she asked you about the experience.

My friend did book NH 73 from NH's website. But all he got was just an e-mail stating that they are sorry for the equipment swap, but maintained the fact that there wasn't enough 'loads' to justify for a 744D and that they reserve the right for any equipment swap without informing us prior to the flight as per the fine print. If it is indeed true that the 744D went technical, shame on them for lying about it! But I still hope to fly their 744D some day.

As for the highly unfriendly Japanese SQ Girl and clueless SQ Boy, I hope I do not encounter them when I fly SQ again to Hong Kong in May 2012!


Quoting Tradewinds (Reply 18):
Wow, I have to admit, I never thought I would see good old Fukui in an a.net trip report! I lived there for quite some time (it's where my wife is from). Anyway, nice report -- you saw just about everything there is to see in Japan!

Thanks! Not quite everything yeah, we had planned to go far-off places like Rishiri Island that day but because of the snowstorm that stopped Super Soya's operations, we ended up not having enough time to do it. I SHALL RETURN THERE SOME DAY!!  
Quoting triple7man (Reply 19):
I just perused your TR and will read it in detail when I have more time, but it is excellent. From one who used to live in Japan, it brings back many happy memories.
I especially enjoyed the cafe with the cats. One of the cats (Russian Blue) reminded me of my cat Simone, whom I had to leave behind in Japan when I moved to Thailand.


I know! I was very glad to finally be back in Japan, having first been there in January 2009. Maybe the next time I return, it shall be during either of the other three seasons! The cats there at the cat cafe are super friendly towards us humans, and not to mention way way way bigger in size compared to those in Singapore!


User currently offlineusflyer msp From United States of America, joined May 2000, 2124 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 8778 times:

Excellent report, I really enjoyed it. I am actually doing a very similar trip next month (no Hakkaido this time for me) but I am flying the other Malaysian carrier. Sorry your SQ experience as so poor, I am surprised.

Thanks for sharing.


User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 8767 times:

Quoting usflyer msp (Reply 21):
Excellent report, I really enjoyed it. I am actually doing a very similar trip next month (no Hakkaido this time for me) but I am flying the other Malaysian carrier. Sorry your SQ experience as so poor, I am surprised.

Thanks for sharing.

And thank you for taking the time to read! Well, I wouldn't say that my first SQ experience was that poor, it's just that I'm disappointed at how the Japanese SQ Girl kept making customer-service mistakes that I can't ignore any longer. For a reputable Airline such as SQ, you shouldn't have your FAs walk off from customers that (yeah, she wasn't the only one on the flight that she snubbed). Maybe she was having a bad day, who knows!

I just hope that my upcoming flights on SQ to Hong Kong would be a better experience.

Regards,
Hafiz


User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6808 posts, RR: 77
Reply 23, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 8230 times:

Hi Hafiz,

great report with countless nice pictures! However, I'd suggest to post several parts next time in order to reduce loading times.

Quoting airbusmango (Thread starter):

After years of lurking around these parts of Airliners.net, it is time that I contribute by throwing in my share into the A.net trip report cooking pot.

Good decision!

Quoting airbusmango (Thread starter):
Aircraft: Airbus Industrie A330-301 (9M-XAA)

Ah, you got the veteran in the fleet.

Quoting airbusmango (Thread starter):
A high-density 3-4-3 seating arrangement in a 777-381 is definitely NOT a pretty sight to see. It has claustrophobia written all over it. It didn’t work out for me because I find it really cramped for my legs, it didn’t work out for Aaron because the seats didn’t really fit him well.

I flew on JA754A some years ago and it wasn't bad.


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineairbusmango From Singapore, joined Apr 2012, 147 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (2 years 5 months 1 week 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 8075 times:

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 23):
great report with countless nice pictures! However, I'd suggest to post several parts next time in order to reduce loading times.

Thank you for taking the time to read, PH! Point taken, I think I should cut down the number of pictures the next time. Or at least shoot it in a lower (but still decent!) resolution.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 23):
Ah, you got the veteran in the fleet.

Veteran eh? It being in the special livery all, at first sight I would have guessed that it's a spanking new plane!

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 23):

I flew on JA754A some years ago and it wasn't bad.

Hahaha I just personally find it a little claustrophobic! And I hear Air France have theirs in 3-4-3 as well.. time to avoid!!

Regards,
Hafiz


25 Post contains images PlaneHunter : You're welcome! Sure! The Sriwijaya 732 which I flew on last year looked immaculate - almost new. People without a clue about aviation would never gu
26 SIN7 : Very well detailed TR and wonderful pics Hafiz. Japan's an awesome place with incredible hospitable people. Yep it's sure long, but I enjoyed it very
27 airbusmango : Thank you very much for taking the time to read! Why yes, I really started missing the hospitality of the Japanese the minute I stepped on SQ 619. I
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