Author Topic: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand  (Read 9913 times)

Offline TAVI

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Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« on: February 19, 2013, 10:14:47 PM »
Just wanted to provide a trip report of our recent Asia trip. The trip lasted 16 days and included visiting Tokyo, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket. During the trip, me and my wife flew 11 segments on star alliance airlines, and stayed at 5 different hotel chains. I want to note in advance that we are not as observant as the vast majority of the readers in the forum, so cannot provide recommendation for Glatt kosher dining, but hope my experience helps a fellow traveler, as Iíve learned a lot by reading this forum.

So the flights were booked using 2 separate itineraries. We used the US Air 90K mile redemption per person to North Asia to book (JFK - NRT, NRT - HKG, HKG - EWR) in biz class, and 35K United miles each to fly (HKG - BKK - CNX, CNX Ė BKK, BKK Ė HKT, HKT Ė HKG) also in biz.


Part 1 - Tokyo

So, first leg of the flight (JFK Ė NRT) was with ANA on their newly configured business class with lie-flat beds. Great product and great service for traveling to Japan. We arrived to Narita at night and decided to stay at the local airport Hilton for the night. Woke up, had breakfast and took the Narita Express (Fast, efficient, and nice, would recommend) to Tokyo station. From there we took a taxi to Grand Hyatt in Roppongi, which took about 15 mins (did the same route on the way back to the airport). The main reason I chose the train was that my return flight was around 5PM, and I didnít want to get stuck in traffic using the limo bus, which Iíve heard are very convenient but take a bit longer. Total cost of transportation was about $80 pp.

Now, the Grand Hyatt hotel was truly a treat. We stayed for 2 nights using Hyatt CC nights. At check-in we were escorted to the club lounge and were offered drinks. We had diamond status (trial) and got upgraded to a great room on the 21st floor with a private outdoor garden. The issue was that we were traveling for our anniversary and the room had 2 queen beds, which was not ideal. The Club lounge manager was super accommodating and within couple of hours upgraded us to the Diplomat suite, which was just amazing and totally unexpected. Overall, the hotel is luxurious, modern and greatly located in Roppongi Hills complex, with 5 minute walk to the metro. We were debating greatly on whether to stay there or at the Park Hyatt, but decided on the Grand due to its location. Maybe weíll try the Park Hyatt if we ever go back to Tokyo, but I really have nothing but praises for the Grand Hyatt.

In terms of activities. We were in Tokyo during the Sumo tournament, which was a great experience, especially since I used to follow sumo closely when I was a teenager in Israel. It was the last day of the tournament and tickets were sold out. Lucky for us the concierge at GH pulled some strings and secured us 2 tickets. We also did some of the other attractions like the Meiji Shrine (worth a visit), emperorís palace (would skip), Shiboya Crossing (just to mark it of the list), Akihabara Electronics Town (if you are looking for gadgets, tho I find everything to be cheaper in the states), and Tsukiji Fish Market (if you are a fish / seafood / sushi lover. Iím not, but the wife loved the sushi at one of the hole in the wall joints for which we waited 45 minutes to be seated. Very traditional Japanese, no coke and no pictures allowed).

Overall, it took a bit to take in the environment and culture, but I found Tokyo a great place to visit. Subways are easy to get used to and there are signs in English everywhere and even the station are announced in English which is awesome (at least in Tokyo). The most amazing part is the colorful advertisements. Its like a rainbow vomited. Thereís so much colors, my eyes started to hurt, but got used to that pretty quickly as well.

Back at Narita airport we went to the United lounge before our flight to HKG on UA. Let me say this, the United lounge at NRT is a ZOO. Iíve never seen anything like this. It was over packed and felt like you are in a market. I guess it was a sign for the flight to comeÖ

To be continuedÖ  Hong Kong and Thailand - as soon as I find the time 



Offline MisterHock

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2013, 10:23:56 PM »
Looks great so far, please continue when you can!

Offline sky121

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2013, 10:29:57 PM »
Looks great so far, please continue when you can!

+1 Can't wait to read more.
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Offline MEIR613

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2013, 10:31:33 PM »

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2013, 11:18:55 PM »
Thanks for writing, waiting for the next installment.

Offline moish

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2013, 02:19:18 AM »
especially since I used to follow sumo closely when I was a teenager in Israel.
is this serious?

Offline TAVI

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2013, 10:39:59 AM »
is this serious?

most definitely. They used to broadcast sumo championships on channel 5 (sports channel on cable) towards the end of 1990's. It was prerecorded, but fun to watch. I think it sort of replaced Boshido, which was very popular, but don't think sumo ever gained as much popularity.

Offline Yossi.

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2013, 02:42:18 PM »
Great report, keep it coming, and don't forget to post some pics!

Offline SavingsBigtime

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2013, 08:33:56 PM »
Great report , can't wait for part 2

Offline TAVI

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2013, 10:59:09 AM »
Part 2 Ė Hong Kong

As I mention previously, we had a great time in Tokyo and were excited about our next destination, Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the flight from NRT to HKG on United was just sub-par in every possible way. The United lounge in Nartia didnít feel like a lounge at all (we could barely find a seat). And the flight itself (5:20pm flight), well I would probably not even classify it as a business product (maybe economy plus and Iím probably being generous here). The seats looked like one of those bucket seats from maybe 30 years ago, had minimal recline, and not even a footrest. No personal entertainment system, just the TVs that come down from the top every 2- 3 rows. The business section was separated from the rest of the aircraft with a curtain. The food? isnít even worth mentioning. And the FA, well she just was, not rude, but evidently smiling wasnít part of her job description. What really amazes me, is that Tokyo to HK is probably the #1 business route in Asia, and is a 5+ hour flight. I couldnít believe this was the business product United was offering to its customers on this route. Had I actually paid cash for my tickets, I would probably be furious. But hey, we got safely to HKG, which I guess is all that matters.

We landed in HK around 10pm on Monday and were flying out to Chiang Mai at 7pm on Thursday, so roughly 3 days. We decided to spend the 1st night at the Marriot Courtyard, as we would only get to the hotel around midnight to sleep, so didnít make sense to book a luxury hotel. We used the Category 1-4 cert from the Chase Marriot card signup as the hotel is Cat 4. Its located on western part of HK island and is extremely easy to get to. We just took the H12 bus from the airport ($6 pp), which dropped us right in front of the hotel (5th stop). I canít tell you much about the immediate area, as we really just slept and left in the morning, but HK is really easy to get around in. As to the courtyard itself, I was very pleasantly surprised. You donít have a fancy lobby or anything but the room / toilets were greatly designed (very contemporary), new, clean, and just great ambiance. For people not looking to splurge in HK, this could be a great choice for an awesome hotel. When we woke up we just took a cab to the Grand Hyatt HK, which was about 10 Ė 15 min ride and cost about $6-$7 including luggage and tip.

Now the Grand Hyatt HK is anything but contemporary or modern, but looks like a hotel still stuck in the 90ís (maybe 80ís?). it has a very impressive lobby, but even that looked a bit dated to me. There is absolutely no comparison between this hotel and the GH in Tokyo for instance, which I think is leaps and bounds above the HK property. Hell, even the Courtyard rooms were much nicer than the rooms at the GH HK (and I stayed at one of their newer rooms). Even their treatment of Diamond guest was way lacking. Upon check-in we requested to be upgraded to their best available non-suite room, per Hyatt policy for Diamond members. The rep told us that we were upgraded to the King room on the club floor.

Now I did some research on the property and new that their best non-suite rooms were the Grand Deluxe Harbor View rooms (which are bigger, have the harbor views, and are newer rooms. People even advise on choosing these over their base suites, which are apparently quite dated), and knew that they had availability for the days we were staying at the property. I asked them why were we not given the higher category rooms and the response was that they usually upgrade diamonds to just the Club King. I requested to speak with a manager and explained that I donít believe this was inline with Hyattís policy for Diamonds, which is clearly stated on their website. The manager said that they considered the Grand Deluxe Harbor view rooms as sort of Junior Suites, to which I replied that if this is the case it would be clearly identified as such on their website, but no, their website distinguishes suites from regular rooms, and this room was definitely in a regular room category. Finally, the manager agreed, but said that they only have a smoking room available in about an hour or so. I said ok, since we were anyways planning to go out and tour the city a bit. When we got back to the hotel, we were told that they were able to locate a non-smoking room for us (interesting). Once in the room, the views of the harbor were great, but the room itself smelled a bit musty, and looked a bit tired and worn. Anyways, it was plenty big for a couple staying for 2 nights.

On a positive note, the hotel is located about a 5 min walk from the Wan Chai station and 3 min walk from the Star Ferry terminal to Tsim Sha Tsui. The breakfast at the club Lounge or at the Cafť in the lobby was awesome with a huge selection of dishes and fruits. Also, we decided to leave 1 large suitcase at the hotel and have them deliver it to us at the HKG airport on the day of our scheduled return to the US. It was the items we purchased in the markets and we didnít feel like dragging with us for 9 days in Thailand. They provided the service for $20, which was fantastic. Although the concierge looked very confused initially of the request, we were finally able to locate a gentleman who knew that the hotel provided the service and helped us in the process. 

In terms of activities / sightseeing in HK, one should definitely take the tram to Victoria Peak. Its not very expensive and the views of the city are just stunning. There are also several restaurant there with great views (non-kosher). Otherwise, we spent the rest of the time walking around in Central district (kind of like midtown Manhattan, with office buildings and luxury stores) and in Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon island (which is more authentic Chinese area. Ave of the Stars is a nice area where you can take pics next the Jackie Chanís or Bruce Leeís stars). HK is pretty small and one could walk almost everywhere. The Metros are fast, efficient and easy to get around in, just get the Octopus Card). Even the taxiís are not very expensive as long as you donít hop between islands. For night life, you can go to the Soho area in central, which is the trendy part of HK island, with restaurants / bars.  For Shopping, we did most of it at the Ladies / Night markets. Just go to Mongkok station on MTR, and follow the signs. Needless to say, you need to negotiate any quoted price by at least 50%, and most likely by about 75% (depending on the seller of course). Thereís ton of fake merchandise, so if thatís what you are looking for, you are in the right place.

Heading for our flight, we took a cab to the airport express station in Central (not even $5 from our hotel) and took the express train from there ($10 pp). Loved the fact that you can just check in at the train station and drop your bags off as well. That way you donít have to haul it in the train and the airport. The train is modern, fast and comfortable (highly recommend). HKG airport is great, but I would not plan on shopping at their duty free stores. Everything is super expensive and totally not worth it. For example, perfumes are over 50% more expensive than regular department store prices here in the states.

To be continuedÖ  next installment - Thailand (well Chiang Mai piece of it)

Offline RT

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2013, 11:10:59 AM »
Sounds fascinating! Looking forward to reading the rest.


Offline Ergel

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2013, 11:29:57 AM »
Sounds fascinating! Looking forward to reading the rest.


+1, would you say you were too long in hkg?
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Offline TAVI

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2013, 11:47:44 AM »
+1, would you say you were too long in hkg?

No, dont think so. We were only there for roughly 2.5 days, which i think was the right amount of time, unless you want to do it in a rush. plus we were planning on spending another night in Macau towards the end of our trip before heading back to the US, but were sidetracked by weather disruptions in the states. so in hindsight, i could have gone over to see Macau during these 2.5 days (but if i could foresee the future...).

Offline AJK

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2013, 12:58:00 PM »
Great TR. Looking forward to the CNX portion as well.

You say you were planning on spending "another night in Macau," but I don't where you said you spent even one day yet...?

As of now, I am booked for a night at the GH HK in a Grand Harbor Executive Suite -- you think I should look elsewhere?
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Offline TAVI

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Re: Trip Report - Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2013, 01:20:32 PM »
Great TR. Looking forward to the CNX portion as well.

You say you were planning on spending "another night in Macau," but I don't where you said you spent even one day yet...?

As of now, I am booked for a night at the GH HK in a Grand Harbor Executive Suite -- you think I should look elsewhere?

My itin had us flying into HKG from Thailand at 7pm on the 9th of Feb and flying out of HKG the next day at 11:30am back to the US at the end of our trip. So that night i was planning on spending in Macau. but our HKG to EWR flight got cancelled and i ended up just flying out at night on the 9th. so basically skipped Macau.

As to your reservation at the GH HK, from what i read on flyertalk, the executive suites are supposed to much larger, but with a more dated decor than the grand deluxe harbor view, and as such, some people prefer the grand deluxe room over the suite (i know it sounds weird, but it really depends on the person and how much space you need). I personally didn't see the decor in the suite so can't comment, but in my opinion, the whole hotel is a bit dated. even in the room we stayed in, which was "renovated" the bathrooms were the black marble, which is something that would be considered luxury 20-30 years ago, so...

Now, i'm assuming that you are using hyatt suite nights, so you are restricted to the chain. If not, and you are actually paying for your hotel room or using points, you can probably get a better value in some other hotel. Also note, that they are doing renovations in the hotel right now (which you probably got a notice of). personally, noise doesn't bother me much, but i know some people are very sensitive to it.