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HIKING ASIA: Mt Fuji and the Great Wall with some SQ First and assorted fun

HIKING ASIA: Mt Fuji and the Great Wall with some SQ First and assorted fun

Old Jul 10, 15, 5:58 pm
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HIKING ASIA: Mt Fuji and the Great Wall with some SQ First and assorted fun

As summer approached, I brainstormed with our son, Corbin, who is now 15 years old. He’s a great traveler and loves to join me for outdoor adventures. He’s an avid hiker and rock climber like me and is always up for anything.

I hiked up Kilimanjaro the year he was born and he’s always wanted us to go back so he could give it a try. Unfortunately California summer holidays is not the time to tackle the slopes of Kili. Instead I suggested that we throw together a group of our friends and hike up Mt. Fuji. He thought it was a great idea. I invited my nephew who is 17 and four other friends said they would join us for a Japanese adventure.

Now that China offers a 72 hour visa, we decided to add on a quick trip to Beijing to hike the Great Wall of China and visit the Forbidden City. I’ve been to China several times before but this would be Corbin’s first time.

When we spent our son’s fifth grade year traveling around the world, the original thought was to spend one of the months in China. But in the end, that idea was replaced with a month in Ho Chi Minh City because we had friends that had moved there. The full trip report on our year long adventure can be found here:
My son’s fifth grade year: 97,737 miles, 40 flights, 6 continents and 16 countries

My husband is much less of an adventurer and opted to enjoy the tranquility of being home alone instead of running around Asia. After 24 years together, we are very comfortable each pursuing our own interests.

Here are links to different parts of this report:
PART 1: LAX Star Alliance First Class Lounge
PART 2: Singapore Airlines A380 First Class LAX-NRT
PART 3: Tokyo Disney Seas
PART 4: Tokyo, Japan
PART 5: Hike Up Mt. Fuji
PART 5: Continuation of Our Hike Up Mt. Fuji
PART 6: Second half of Tokyo, Japan
PART 7: ANA 787 Economy NRT-PEK (an economy flight once in a while keeps me humble)
PART 8: Beijing, China
PART 9: Japan Airlines 767 Business Class GMP-HND
PART 10: Japan Airlines 777-300 First Class HND-SFO


July 2008

Seven years ago, when we moved to Europe, we were walking to the gate at LAX for our Air India flight to Frankfurt. We ran into a group of SQ Girls and I snapped a shot of Corbin with one of them. It's time for an updated picture!

Last edited by olafman; Oct 6, 15 at 8:25 pm
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Old Jul 10, 15, 6:55 pm
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Sweeeet. Can you post your rtw epilogue. I'd love to know how things ended. I loved that tr.
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Old Jul 10, 15, 11:14 pm
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Can't wait olafman
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Old Jul 11, 15, 7:05 am
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Subscribed. Olafman's TRs never fail to inform and entertain with great observations.
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Old Jul 12, 15, 2:56 pm
  #5  
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PART 1: LAX Star Alliance First Class Lounge

The fun part of traveling to Asia is deciding how to fly there! There are so many wonderful airlines to choose from. I’m a big fan of Cathay Pacific but we decided to fly over on Singapore Airlines since we had not been on their First Class on the A380 before. Corbin has enjoyed many different international first class trips but this would be his first in first with Singapore.

CHECK IN: 10/10
I had checked in online but Singapore requires a document check and a boarding pass to be printed on SQ stock.

As we approached the check-in counters, the Suites counter was available and we received our boarding passes very quickly. I’ve trained my son that checking in a bag is frowned upon so soon we were on our way.

LOUNGE: 9/10

Security was simple and the priority queue was short. We didn’t have to remove any items from our bags or take off our shoes. It felt almost civilized.

Singapore uses the shared Star Alliance lounge. This day the first class section also had passengers from the LH Frankfurt flight. The first class section has two VIP rooms that airlines can arrange to use. Both were occupied.

The lounge was very quiet and a perfect place to have lunch and relax before our trip to Narita. As we entered a Singapore Airlines representative happened to be at the front podium. We chatted a bit. At one point, she asked if Corbin and I were brothers! I accused her of shamelessly flirting with me and informed her I was a married man!


A welcome glass of champers

The lounge attendant offered us a brunch/lunch menu and said we could eat in the dining area or at our seat in the lounge area.











We ordered a prawn and Greek salad, a bagel with lox plate and a BLT. Everything was very tasty especially when paired with a couple of glasses of champers.

Just before the Frankfurt flight left, a family arrived with a very young child who ran around the lounge like it was her nursery. Corbin has been to many lounges as a child and I always made sure that he was never a bother to anyone. These parents were not concerned at all.

The lounge has a connecting door to the huge business class side so I strolled through. My favorite part of the biz side is the hotel-esque outdoor patio. It’s a great lounge feature especially in a city like LA. There is also an indoor patio that overlooks the main section of the new shopping arcade. The seating areas are varied and there is something for everyone.

I lived in LA for many years and often wondered why the airline alliances didn’t join together and create shared lounges instead of each airline having their own. I am so pleased that both Star Alliance and Oneworld offer very nice lounges now in the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The only reason this lounge doesn't get full marks, is that it is still on the small size. Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai sets a very high bar with size. Once the Frankfurt flight left, it felt much better.

Soon enough our flight was called and we were on our way to the gate!
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Old Jul 14, 15, 7:13 am
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Originally Posted by olafman View Post
We ran into a group of SQ Girls and I snapped a shot of Corbin with one of them. It's time for an updated picture!
Your sons polo shirt would probably still fit him now!

Subscribed and I'm now also catching up on your older report.
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Old Jul 14, 15, 10:13 am
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Originally Posted by olafman View Post

CHECK IN: 10/10
Iíve trained my son that checking in a bag is frowned upon so soon we were on our way.
A very valuable piece of advice, and great teaching! Once, my parents and I were flying LH F, and coupled with all of our *A G statuses and F baggage allowances, we had about 11 large bags to check-in!

Originally Posted by olafman View Post
At one point, she asked if Corbin and I were brothers! I accused her of shamelessly flirting with me and informed her I was a married man!
Considering I'm in my early-mid twenties and very very single, I would have been in SEVENTH HEAVEN! '

Looking forward to your TR!
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Old Jul 14, 15, 12:26 pm
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Subscribed for the rest!
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Old Jul 15, 15, 12:47 am
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PART 2: Singapore Airlines A380 First Class LAX-NRT

BOARDING: 10/10

Being a frequent flyer dork, I wanted a picture of the beautiful bird that would be flying us to Narita. This required that we walk past the gate into the Emirates boarding area. Corbin just rolled his eyes and was anxious to get on board.


Our lovely A380 waiting to take us to Japan

I recently started the book “Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot” by Mark Vanhoenacker. He was interviewed on one of the podcasts I listen to. He’s a BA pilot and avid airplane geek. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about airplanes and travel through his perspective. I would definitely recommend it to all Flyertalkers.

The Suites boarding pass podium was empty and waiting for us and a very friend agent wished us a pleasant flight. I don’t think that is going to be a problem. SQ knows how to treat their passengers.

My son got to the door first and one of the male flight attendants whisked him off to his suite. Another male flight attendant greeted me and showed me to my suite at 2K. I was getting worried that we would be served by an entirely male staff for this flight. Finally a beautiful Singapore Girl arrived an introduced herself. I asked if she would mind taking an updated picture with my son and she gladly accepted.


Corbin with the Singapore Girl who served us in First

As we walked back to our suites, the flight attendant asked me if Corbin and I were brothers! These Singapore employees are SHAMELESS! I’m 35 years older than Corbin!! I laughed again and also accused her of flirting.

Corbin loves having a window to look out so he insisted that we sit on the side instead of in the more traditional adjoining suites in the middle. I simply smiled and was privately pleased inside. That’s my boy.


A happy boy

The typical pre-departure activities commenced and soon I had a glass of champers in hand. I had asked for Krug but she apologized that because of the duty issues, they were only serving Dom on the ground. I guess that would do until we were in the air.


No Krug on the ground. Just Dom.

She presented me with the amenity kit and also some jammies when I packed away. I much prefer my own comfy inflight wear over any airline jammies. But they make a nice thing to offer guests when they stay with us. I changed into my comfy clothes and we were soon off.

INFLIGHT SERVICE: 10/10


This flight could possible be one of the best in my life. It easily matched my previous top winner with a CX FC flight from a couple of years ago when my friend Tom and I flew back from Hong Kong. An amazing flight attendant, Susanna, from the Philippines served us an amazing 3 hour feast.

About an hour into the flight, the flight attendants asked if I wanted dinner. Why not! The food was outstanding. Of course I overate but it was worth it.

I started with caviar and a glass of vodka. Then I had a delicious celeriac soup. For my main I used the Book-The-Cook service for Boston Lobster Thermador. Corbin pre-orded the Nigiri Sushi. Finally I had a nice cheese plate to finish it off.

The pace of the meal was perfect and I was never at want for anything. It seemed like I saw four different attendants serving which I was surprised at.


A great way to start a meal


A celeriac soup that was AMAZING


My Book-The-Cook’ed Boston Lobster Thermador


My favorite way to end a meal

After the meal, I have the tradition of walking the plane. On an A380 this means all the way through economy to the back then up the stairs and returning through business. This required a little acrobatics to get over the cords blocking access but I managed in spite of my now slightly tipsy state! Once upstairs a flight attendant stopped me saying that economy passengers weren’t allowed upstairs. As I was about to respond, her eyes glanced down at my first class slippers and told me I was more than welcome. The flight was only about half full which surprised me for summer vacation. Hopefully SQ is making money on this route!

Soon I requested that the flight attendant perform her magic and make my bed. I like that Singapore’s bed is not a bed made from a seat. Instead it folds out from the wall. The mattress is very comfortable. Top marks still is earned by Lufthansa with their upstairs First Class on their aging 747-400s. Having a true bed NEXT TO your seat is the best.


One of the best beds in the sky and a small glass of JW Blue to help me sleep

I slept about five hours which was more than I had wanted since we arrived at 7 p.m. Prior to landing we had another meal. It’s always good to top off the stomach before leaving the plane! I enjoyed my prawns and then some Wagyu beef and mushrooms. Normally I’m not a dessert person at all but the lime tart hit the spot.


Sesame coated prawns


Mushrooms wrapped in Wagyu beef


Lime tart

OVERALL: 10/10
Singapore Airlines has a great product on the A380. The suite is very comfortable. The food was great. And the service was probably the most friendly I’ve ever experienced on any of my SQ flights. It’s a good sign when you are slightly sad when a flight is over!

But our excitement to meet up with our friends to begin our Tokyo/Mt Fuji adventure won out and we said our goodbyes. We had pole-position number one as we left the plane. The passport control was entirely empty and we quickly passed through and were on our way.

It was an easy transfer to our hotel at Tokyo Disneyland where we met up with five of our friends for a great time at Tokyo Disney Sea, the best Disney park in the world!

Last edited by olafman; Sep 29, 15 at 9:07 pm
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Old Jul 15, 15, 4:12 am
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I'm loving this so far, keep it coming olafman!
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Old Jul 15, 15, 7:28 am
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those two photos of corbin next to SQ staff are priceless.
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Old Jul 15, 15, 9:50 pm
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PART 3: Tokyo Disney Sea

My family and I have visited all 11 parks worldwide. Our favorite is the beautiful Tokyo Disney Sea next to Tokyo Disneyland. It was the most expensive to construct and it is easy to see the beautiful work that was put into making it the best park in the world. We have two friends who work at Disney Imagineering who helped design the park. They loved the budgets they could work with!

We stayed at the slightly dated Tokyo Bay Hilton which is conveniently located on the monorail line giving access to both parks. Our Happy Magic rooms had several “magic” features that probably impressed the adults more than our teenagers.

We were in line at the front gates by 8:00 a.m. for a 8:30 opening. Already there were thousands of people ahead of us! The Tokyo parks have always been very successful.

We spent the day enjoying all of the rides and attractions. The highlight for me was a live show called Big Band Beat with a full jazz orchestra, singers and dancers. Many people have said that it is the best Disney show of all the Disney parks. We all really enjoyed the great jazz music and dancing. It was truly amazing. Even the kids thought it was great.

Another highlight was a drink in the beautiful Teddy Roosevelt Bar on the ocean liner in the harbor. The bar features hand carved wood depicting the life of Teddy Roosevelt. Our Imagineer friends said they never would have gotten approval to do such lavish interiors for their US parks.

With the time change and jet lag, we all were a little draggy after dinner so we headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime. It was a great day and we enjoying using this Disney day as our entry into Japan.


A welcome shark cocktail in the bar of the Tokyo Bay Hilton


The gang in front of Tower of Tower – Japanese version


Raging Spirits roller coaster at Tokyo Disney Sea


Eating a mango Mickey


Me with Duffy, the special plush made for the Japanese parks


The gang in Arabia land


Melon floats at the beautiful Teddy Roosevelt bar


Corbin tackles a Mile-High club sandwich


The view of the setting sun from our hotel room at the Tokyo Bay Hilton

Last edited by olafman; Jul 15, 15 at 9:55 pm
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Old Jul 16, 15, 2:07 am
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WOW another olafman TR - I was just thinking the other day that it was long overdue.

Great to see Corbin growing into a awesome young man.

Looking forward to the rest
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Old Jul 16, 15, 7:21 am
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Originally Posted by adampenrith View Post
WOW another olafman TR - I was just thinking the other day that it was long overdue.

Great to see Corbin growing into a awesome young man.

Looking forward to the rest
it's the milk...boy did my daughter love the meiji brand of milk....
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Old Jul 16, 15, 4:56 pm
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PART 4: Tokyo, Japan

We had two full days of enjoying the excitement and sounds of Tokyo. Since we were seven people, I booked us into a great house that I rented through Airbnb that was located near the Tokyo Opera Plaza just west of Shinjuku. It had four bedrooms and we fit comfortably. It was much more interactive that if we had booked four hotel rooms.

We were in between two different subway stations on different lines which gave us more flexibility. The odd thing about Tokyo is that the subways are not part of the same ownership. This means that sometimes you have to but a ticket on Tokyo Metro and then another ticket on Tokyo Subway. Itís much easier to connect on lines from the same system. Once we figured this out, we started making better decisions of routes.

Google Maps was very useful and choosing public transport. We even ended up taking buses at times which I much prefer to the underground because you can see more of the city.

We had lunch at the chain restaurant Genko in the Shinjuku area. We were all happy to be having sushi in Japan. This would simply serve to wet our appetite for going to the Tsujiki Fish Market one morning for the freshest sushi in the world.


Jane and I at sushi lunch


It was like Dennyís but with sushi!

Our first tourist destination in central Tokyo was Meiji-jingu, Tokyoís largest and most famous Shinto shrine. We entered a peaceful park with gardens and large trees which was a welcome change from the craziness of Tokyo. I knew we were getting close to the shrine when we passed the offering of barrels of saki.

The shrine offered lots of opportunities to spend money to make wishes and prayers to the gods. We shook a wooden box of sticks which told a fortune. We were fortunate to have a Japanese friend with us who helped explain all the procedures. The highlight of the visit was the garden where the emperor and family would relax and fish in a small lake. It was beautiful and very peaceful.


At the gate. Corbin is almost as tall as me!


The barrels of sake for the gods


Wishes, many of which were about the upcoming school exams

After a more spiritual moment, we decided to go full consumerism and head to the LINE Friends store in Shibuya. Lots of cuddly brown bears welcomed us to buy merchandise. These characters started as part of a messaging app on smartphones. Now itís a full retail industry fully embraced by the Japanese shoppers.


A big brown bear at LINE Friends

For dinner that night we found an underground yakitori restaurant and enjoyed lots of meats and beers. The smoky flavor of the skewered beef, chicken, and pork were all delicious.


Overflowing sake at a yakitori meal


Us with the yakitori chef


I had never been to a gay bar in Japan so a few of us headed out to sample a variety of places that were all hopping on this Saturday night. Two of the three places were tiny and reminded me on someoneís living room.

The next day we metroíed over to Senso-ji Temple which was built over a thousand years before Tokyo got its start. As we approached, the tourist stalls slightly overwhelmed but we managed to finally reach the temple and pagoda. Once again the actual temple was chaotic but the surrounding gardens were lovely and enjoyable.


Approaching the Senso-Ji


The pagoda at Senso-Ji

We finished the afternoon with a river cruise down to Hinode. While it was nice to be on the water, the buildings and cityscape werenít that interesting. The teenagers used the time to play quietly on their phones.


A view from the river of Tokyo

One of the people of our group and I have known each other since my freshman year of high school. Later we were roommates for two years at university and our families have grown up together. Through Facebook we saw that one of our classmates from high school had lived in Tokyo for many years and we arranged to meet up. We hadnít seen him since we graduated over 30 years ago but immediately clicked back in and had a fun evening of laughing and reminiscing. He took us to a wonderful restaurant featuring the food of Kyoto. It was delicious and once again we all ate too much.


At the craziest intersection in the world

Tomorrow morning we leave on our hike up Mt. Fuji!! We are all so excited.

Last edited by olafman; Jul 16, 15 at 5:12 pm
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