Thursday, April 13, 2017

Japan - Narita Airport - Kyoto -The Atelier Sakura Terrace

Hello readers! I am here to blog on our first visit to Japan! Even though our wedding was in february, but both of us couldn't get away due to our work so our holiday aka the honeymoon was postponed to April since it was also the cherry blossom season!

Before you are due to travel to Japan, i would strongly recommend you to rent a portable wifi router in Changi. It cost $5/day but it's definitely good to have it especially when you need internet to use the google maps or surfing for info etc. Click on the link below to make a reservation online and collect it just before you take off at the Changi Airport. It's easy to collect and return and we didn't have any technical issues while using this in Japan.

I bought the tickets earlier when we was still planning for our wedding, during cherry blossom season, tickets tend to be more expensive than usual, but since i bought the tickets earlier flying with Japan Airlines, the fare was about $1.3k++ for two which i think it was reasonable enough. However, i make one of the most stupid mistake that cause us paying more than the actual amount of the fare when i read wrongly the flight itinerary departing time that caused us to miss the flight!

The flight itinerary departing date was 12 Apr, 0150, thus i read it as i need to be at the airport on 12 Apr instead of 11 Apr because we are supposed to reach the airport on 11 so that it will take off at 0150 on 12 Apr, but i have totally mis-read and imagine my horror when this was the first time i realised i have missed my flight and the staff told us all their flights are overbooked and there is no more seats available even if we were to repurchase a new ticket.

I was feeling so dumb at that point of time, initially Jeremy was giving that exasperated tone that makes me even more frustrated even though it's my fault that i didn't check the itinerary date properly and assumed it's correct but i thought he need to bear some responsibility too especially i was very sick days before we were due to travel and i didn't have the time to look through the itinerary again,  before we was due to travel, i was doing the planning, and i have been asking him to check the flight details whenever he asked me as we was using google drive and i had given him the viewing rights etc but he was lazy to do so even at the last minute, as most of the time, i am the one doing all the planning and he will be just the follower.

At that time, the staff was helping us to check, and initially they manage to find some available seats but we will have to sit separately and the price was around 6k++ which was ridiculously high. This was a huge price to pay, so we started to check all the available flights and ANA price was cheaper, but still, it cost us additional 4k to buy a new pair of tickets. So for this trip to Japan should cost us around 10k+ because of this stupid mistake that i make.

Ever since this incident, i am extra cautious now haha and even when i was due to travel to Bangkok, i would get some of my friends to help me check my flight itinerary timing to ensure i don't miss my flight again!

So it may not be necessary a bad thing so i know i have to be extra alert the next time when i travelled to another country.

Our new flight was changed to the morning flight departing at 6am and by then it was already 12.30am so it's impossible to head back home since we have to reach airport again by 5am. 
Jeremy had the premier miles card that was able to gain us access to the lounge, so we went there to rest first, but my mood was just horrible. Imagine just paying a few additional k just to buy a new pair of tickets, even though it was not paid by me, and Jeremy assuring me afterthat it's ok. He was not really angry at me when we realised we missed our flight and asked me to stop thinking about the $$ since we are supposed to be on holiday and we should be happy. 
The lounge that was relatively empty because not everyone missed the flight like us i suppose? Hahaha.

We helped ourselves to the early breakfast food before we went to our boarding gate. Beside having to pay the additional fee for the new tickets, initially the plan was for us to take a domestic flight from Haneda Airport to Kansai Airport. That flight was purchased in advance too so we lost that additional $200+ too. sighs. But in the end, i get olm to help me call JAL to see if we can get a refund and they was able to give us partial refund which help to offset our overall expenses a little bit.

So instead of arriving at Haneda Airport, we arrived at Narita airport as we are travelling with ANA instead. Our whole itinerary was kinda screwed up except for the accommodation part, as i had always thought we are flying off on 12th apr, reaching Japan on 13th Apr so all the accommodation starts from 13th Apr onwards so it doesn't affect us. Something to happy for? I didn't screwed up the whole thing! Hahaha

Finally we board the morning flight and meal served to us during our flight!
The whole journey took us 6hour++, direct flight before we arrived at Narita airport.
We didn't bought the railway pass as i did some research before that it might not be worthwhile, and sometimes taking a domestic flight is much cheaper than buying the railway pass! 

Our original plan was to arrive at Haneda airport, and take the domestic flight to KIX airport and then we can visit their Rinku premium outlet and sky shuttle bus/train service that is available from the KIX Airport. 

Prior to our arrival ,i had make online reservations to collect the Icoca card in Hello Kitty Design because it's the limited edition and can only be collected at KIX Airport.

The icoca card is useful if you are planning to travel within Kyoto, in fact this card can also be used in certain stations in Tokyo too. This card is something similar to our ezlink card in Singapore, whereby you top up a value inside to use for buses and trains. 

So when we use this card, i feel that you don't really need to buy the railway pass because you will only need the icoca card to take the bus and train especially in Kyoto, most of the times when we use google map to visit the tourist attractions, we will take the bus. So it might become abit redundant to purchase the pass when you might still need to take a bus or some buses might not even accept railway pass. If you don't have the icoca card, you can use coins to pay for the bus, but i thought it's quite troublesome compared to when you can tap your card.

*One interesting fact is, whenever you board the bus in Japan, instead of boarding at the front, you will board at the back, you do not need to tap anything but only alight from the front and tap out upon alighting.

This is my opinion because i do came across other bloggers reviewing that railway pass is a must but it's entirely up to individual. I didn't bought the railway pass because i understand that the railway pass might be worthwhile only if you are planning to travel to many cities within the 7days period or more. They are usually purchase in 7 days, 14 and 21 days. 

They don't allow you to choose the day you want to start the railway pass. 
For eg : if you are planning to travel on the 13 Apr, so when you reach and collect the railway pass it will be valid until 19 Apr (if you purchase a 7 day pass) 

However, you might be staying in Kyoto eg, 4 days, and Osaka 3 days. So it defeat the purpose of buying the railway pass because you don't need to take the railway to go Osaka from Kyoto. 
At least, this is how i reasonate, maybe i will be more familiar when i visit Japan more often next time! Heh.

So since our itinerary was screwed up, and we missed our domestic flight, so we took the Narita Express but we alight at Shinagawa station for us to buy the shinkasen ticket to reach Kyoto. Even for shinkansen, there are 3 different type ranging from fastest, average and slow. The price varies according to the speed of the shinkansen that you want to take.

Type of Shinkansen
Nozomi - Fast
Hikari -  Average
Kodama - Slow

By the time we finally reached Kyoto, it was already late afternoon. 
Thank god for our first night of accommodation is walking distance from the Kyoto station. About 6min walk from Kyoto station.

If you book a room in ibis styles hotel, it will be even nearer from Kyoto station. 2 min walk i guess?

I did my research and i find that hotels were rather expensive in Japan and the size of the room is rather small too, so eventually i went to book air bnbs. My definition of expensive will be based on the overall duration of the stay in Japan assuming if you book a hotel for $300 per night, x7 days that will be $2100++ unless you are not on a budget. However there are accommodation that can goes as low as $50 a night, so it depends on your budget, your likes and dislikes.

Our first night stay was at the hostel. This hostel is a rather upscale one because it cost $160+ per night compared to the other budget kind of hostel. I didn't exactly choose the cheapest one but i choose based on the photos, the design of the hotel, what i will be expecting and i thought this is something cool and we have never stay before in a hostel so i go for it!

Here we are at THE ATELIER Sakura Terrace! 

It was super cold when we was walking to our hostel but comforting when we finally enter the hostel. This is how it looked like at their lobby.

I passed our booking confirmation slip to the staff but i think this hostel uses machine to allow us to self check in and self check out too which was pretty cool! He directed us to the machine where we can scan our confirmation slip and the keycard will be issued from the machine. You can choose the english version so no worries of not knowing what to press etc.

Tadah. Our keycard issued!
I was exploring the lobby because it looks like a comfortable place to hang out. It gives off the modern and relaxing atmosphere.

They have this corner with some board games, or items that you can loan from the counter. 

There are also books available for you to read and i simply love the way they designed this place.
Tastefully designed and i guess well worth for the $ paid for the experience even though i know some of you might think $160 is expensive for a hostel stay. We doesn't have a bathroom in our room, there is a shared toilet in each floor, but for shower facilities, it will be located at the ground floor.

For ladies, there will be a password that you have to enter before you can gain access to their shower facilities,indoor onsen etc. The left side if you can see from the photo below, is the icon for the toilet. I don't really mind it so much since we are only staying for 1 night, even if we might be spending more than 1 night, i think this place is still alright, but if you require daily housekeeping service, this place might not be suitable for you as their housekeeping service is provided only every 4 days. Unless you are planning to stay longer than that. 

They does not accommodate kids that are below 13 or younger also.

I have always been fascinated how the Japanese can stay or live in such small areas and to be honest, space is really not an issue. The room that we booked is only 8m square. This has got to be one of the smallest room i ever stayed in. Hahaha. For two pax, its comfy enough  I guess this is also probably why they have nice lobby for their guests to hang out, mingle and getting to know new people.

Our accommodation for our first night in Japan! This is exactly how it looks like when we open our door. Haha
A mini vanity counter for you to wash up

And that's pretty much the shortest intro i did for a room booking. Hahaha. Will post more on the shared bathroom facilities in the later part of this post.

For anyone interested to book this place for your accommodation in Kyoto. The website below will explain more the hostel. For me i read on their website before i book it through 

We left our luggage before heading out for our dinner!
The weather was good, cooling and look at the roads, it is so clean! It's true that you won't even see any dustbin around but the place is so clean.
There were so many restaurants in Kyoto station and we was not sure what to eat, eventually we ended up having curry rice as our first meal! 

After our meal, we was strolling in Kyoto station as there are many souvenirs shops and i saw matcha ice-cream! A must have to eat when you are in Kyoto. The taste is different from what we have in Singapore. Once you had this, you know what i mean. This matcha ice-cream is so good! Even Jeremy who doesn't like matcha was eating half of this after he first had a taste of it.

After all the shopping, we went back to the hostel to chill and this caught my attention.
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Interesting. 

We had a very good rest. Probably because the day before we didn't really had adequate sleep. Hahahaha. I went down to check out the shared bathroom facilities. I love exploring! Haha, they had shower cubicles so don't worry being naked and having to shower with other ladies that you don't even know.
They have the indoor onsen, which i didn't check it out, i only realise it after i showered and saw the other ladies walking into another door naked and that's when i realise its the onsen. Secretly took this photo of the changing room/ shower area room and ensuring no naked women walking beforehand. No hostel looks like this one right! Hahaha.

They have lockers for you to put your items when you shower, there are different type of shampoo,conditioner that you can use it from their shelves.

The black door frame is the indoor onsen that i was refering to.
This was me taking all my makeup stuff to the ground floor to do my makeup after shower.
A photo at the front of the hostel before we checked out! Our check out process was fast as we only need to insert back the keycard into the machine and its done!
 For our remaining days of accommodation, i chose airbnb after comparing with hotels and i suggest booking it if you are on budget or you are looking more than the typical facilities that a hotel can provide.

For me, i was looking more of an apartment that has the microwave, fridge, washing machine, dryer as we are on a long holiday and i doesn't want to return back to Singapore with a heavy load of dirty clothes, not to say hotel doesn't have laundry service however they count by pieces and the charges would be pretty high too.

As the check in time was 4pm. Since we check out at 10am, we decided to store our luggage first at the lockers. This is something that i really like in Japan so it doesn't restrict you by leaving it with the hotel/concierge because that would means having to walk back to the hotel and collect it later.

We placed our luggage at the lockers, do remember there are many lockers around so choose the one that you can easily remember where you last placed your luggage at or remembering the landmarks nearby. Haha prior to my research, it was advisable not to bring super huge luggage as it might not fit in the lockers due to certain measurement. We bought 4 luggage actually, with the medium size kept inside the big luggage but fortunately, all was able to fit in.
When we are finally done with our luggage storage! We are on our way to Yumeyakata! I have make an online reservation beforehand to rent the yukata couple package set.
Shall continue in my next post.

Till then!