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A Honeymoon to Remember: Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan in Style

A Honeymoon to Remember: Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan in Style

Old Jan 16, 18, 8:56 pm
  #76  
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@chandu2013 No worries and no apologies necessary. But ....Anantara Siam is not the hotel I stayed at or reference in my report. We stayed at, and my report discusses, The Siam Hotel, located at Khao Rd, Khwaeng Wachira Phayaban, Khet Dusit, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10300. The Siam Hotel is by the river, Anantara Siam is not. I believe Anantara is close to the St. Regis, near the city center by a park and close to an MRT (skyrail) stop. You might be confused because I did stay at the Anantara in Chiang Mai, not in Bangkok, and I did stay in the Anantara Suite there.

@GiantCow Reservations are not difficult for Ukatei. I've never had a problem making one, and it's not one of the "must-be-a-regular policy" restaurants. In fact, the first time I went was due to a last minute recommendation from a couple we started talking to while eating at Sushi Kanesaka. We wanted to eat at the restaurant on our last night and just showed up and they sat us (although I did have to give a sob story). You are also correct on the Burberry Blue/Black Label explanation. It seemed too long winded to include in report so I just gave the gist, and figured no one would correct or care. I should have known better!
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Old Jan 18, 18, 8:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Anlun View Post
@chandu2013 No worries and no apologies necessary. But ....Anantara Siam is not the hotel I stayed at or reference in my report. We stayed at, and my report discusses, The Siam Hotel, located at Khao Rd, Khwaeng Wachira Phayaban, Khet Dusit, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10300. The Siam Hotel is by the river, Anantara Siam is not. I believe Anantara is close to the St. Regis, near the city center by a park and close to an MRT (skyrail) stop. You might be confused because I did stay at the Anantara in Chiang Mai, not in Bangkok, and I did stay in the Anantara Suite there.

@GiantCow Reservations are not difficult for Ukatei. I've never had a problem making one, and it's not one of the "must-be-a-regular policy" restaurants. In fact, the first time I went was due to a last minute recommendation from a couple we started talking to while eating at Sushi Kanesaka. We wanted to eat at the restaurant on our last night and just showed up and they sat us (although I did have to give a sob story). You are also correct on the Burberry Blue/Black Label explanation. It seemed too long winded to include in report so I just gave the gist, and figured no one would correct or care. I should have known better!

@Anlun - Thank you! That explains it!
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Old Jan 22, 18, 4:54 pm
  #78  
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“If you're reading this, you've gotten out. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further.” – Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption


The previous night was our last night at the Ritz Carlton, and I honestly can speak highly of it enough. Of all the hotels we stayed at, the RC had by far the best service (though Aman was close). Mariko and the RC concierge team constantly checked in to make sure we had everything or needed any assistance. They secured all our restaurant reservations, organized transfers, anticipated our needs, and even hooked is up with a complimentary transfer on their Rolls Royce Phantom. Thus, it was bittersweet leaving the next morning to head to the Asaba Ryokan in the Izu Peninsula. We enjoyed our usual breakfast in the lounge, wherein I struck up a conversation with the chef that was making my omelet. When she brought it over, she discovered that it was our honeymoon, and I guess an omelet was not enough of a celebration so she said “I make you waffle!” before running off. She came back 15 minutes later with a delicious waffle, with a well wish written on it. She seemed genuinely emotional when she gave it to us and wished us a very happy marriage. Thank you Omelet Chef, I will never forget you!



Our itinerary involved one night in Asaba, then a return to Tokyo, and stay our last night at the Aman Tokyo. Knowing that ryokans provide you with daily yukatas to wear, we wanted to travel light. Thus, the RC concierge worked with the Aman concierge so that we could leave our luggage at the RC and have it ready at our room in Aman the next day. With no luggage weighing us down, we left RC via subway to Tokyo station, wherein we took a local train to Shuzenji Station located in the Izu Peninsula. The trip was incredibly scenic, and was almost straight out of a Miyazaki film. We passed through woodlands, small towns, rolling hills, and valleys.



Shuzenji, the town Asaba is located in, is beautiful. There is a lovely temple, small food shops, a gorgeous river, and a bamboo forest. Upon arrival at Asaba we were greeted with some delicious tea and some wagashi (Japanese sweet).



We dropped off our stuff, changed into our yukatas, and then immediately strolled through the town.





Shuzenji river


bamboo forest


Shuzenji Temple


alleyway


alleyway


Asaba entrance at night


Before discussing Asaba, I would like to note that we are big ryokan fans. While it is not for everyone (those not comfortable with public nudity, or with tattoos), ryokans offer an authentic look into a traditional Japanese lifestyle. Ryokans are a type of traditional Japanese bed and breakfast and feature tatami-matted rooms and public hot spring baths. A kaiseki dinner and breakfast are included with your stay, the higher the quality of the ryokan the better the quality of the food. Asaba is on the very high end of ryokan stays, with prices ranging from 1,000-2000 USD a night. On our previous visit to Japan, we stayed at the Kaikeki Onsen in Yuzawa, a mid-range ryokan. We thus wanted to compare whether the difference in price equaled a difference in service. We also considered staying at Gora Kadan, but based on the terrible reviews we’ve read, we decided against it.

So, is Asaba worth the exorbitant price tag? It’s a tough call, but I think it does, mainly due to the location and the food.



Location

As I noted, Asaba is located in the town of Shuzenji, a hotspring village that seems to be frozen in time. Lovely small proprietorships neighbor the adjacent river and small bamboo forest that divides the town. Overlooking the village lies a beautiful temple, with a rich history of power struggles connected with the Kamakura Shoganate. The best word I can use to describe the town is ‘relaxing,’ a panacea to the stresses of daily life.

Facilities

In terms of facilities, Asaba, while theoretically over 500 years old, has a very modern Japanese Zen aesthetic. The entry area’s floor to ceiling windows provide panoramic views of the river and Noh stage, and provide the space with an airy and welcome atmosphere. The lounge chairs are a nice touch as well; we enjoyed just hanging out with some tea and just taking in the breathtaking view and sounds of nature.












The rooms are very large by ryokan standards, with a private bath in the room itself (not common among ryokans). Our room was incredible. We splurged a little more to get a better room with a view of the 500-year-old Noh stage that still has yearly performances.



view from our room

Unfortunately, we were off by one day, and no performance was scheduled during our stay. Regardless, the views are gorgeous. The room itself consists of roughly four areas: an onsen-style bath area, the wash closet with a robot-toilet (man do I love these), a bedroom area with a television, and a dining area with a table and chairs. Prior to bed time, the futons are stored in the closet, and the bedroom area consists of a seating area with pillows. The futons are exceptionally comfortable and warm. We were there in early December, and despite the chilly evening, the room was still cozy.

I posted a video walk through of our room below:


As previously noted, when you stay at a ryokan you are provided with yukatas, which are traditional Japanese robes you wear while staying in the ryokan and while walking through a hot spring village. In colder months (like December), you are also provided with a haori, which is an outer vest-like garment that you wear over the yukata to keep you warm. The yukatas and haori we were provided with were also high quality. You may not think the yukata and haori are enough to keep you warm, but trust me they are. In the evening, we walked around the whole village and we were more than okay. In terms of facilities, the indoor baths are very nice with high end grooming amenities. One nice touch is that all the baths (including the private in-room ones) are filled with fresh yuzu fruits. A great citrus scent therefore permeates throughout the room, and lingers on your skin.

My only disappointment when it came to Asaba and why I struggled giving it higher marks than Kaikeki onsen, is the onsen itself. Whereas Kaikeki onsen had a large outdoor hot spring with rock sculptures and a snake-like bath, Asaba’s outdoor bath is relatively small, although it does overlook the river and Noh stage. The water was exquisitely hot, and the views of the stars while bathing was unforgettable, but I would have liked the bath to be a little larger. I wish I had pictures to show you all, so that you could decide for yourself, but it seemed weird to me to go into a public bath with my camera, so I refrained.

Service

Asaba’s service was top notch. Our hostess and server throughout our stay was a lovely older woman who spoke a little English. With her English and my poor Japanese, we managed just fine. We never wanted for anything, and they always changed the room from dinner to bedding without our notice. The food was also incredible. Ryokans are often judged by the quality of the kaiseke dinner meal, and Asaba does not disappoint. The highlights were the snow crab and local sake we ordered along with our meal. We also opted for a traditional Japanese breakfast, which was delicious as well.










Overall, our stay at Asaba was incredible and memorable and I recommend a stay there if you are traveling west from Tokyo. It is a little out of the way compared to Gora Kadan, and it is expensive, but I think you get more for your value and the area is amazing. One night, maybe two, would be enough to enjoy it. I think what made the stay so memorable, was that it came at the close of our trip. This was the second to last night we would spend on our honeymoon, and it was an unforgettable fond fair well to traditional Japan.


Was given the okay to post this pic!


Next time on the exciting conclusion of A Honeymoon to Remember: Aman Tokyo, dinner at Ryugin, and JAL F bring this incredible honeymoon to a close! げんきで!
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Old Jan 22, 18, 6:39 pm
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Regarding the comment about the restaurant with the button on the table .... The button flagged the wait staff, making unnecessary for me to call any one over. Again, why is this not done everywhere?

I realize your comment was about a high end restaurant, but ironically the cheapest chain restaurants in Japan often offer that feature. I think it is one of the best restaurant inventions ever. I would love that concept to come to North America
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Old Jan 22, 18, 7:13 pm
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Originally Posted by mapleg View Post
Regarding the comment about the restaurant with the button on the table .... The button flagged the wait staff, making unnecessary for me to call any one over. Again, why is this not done everywhere?

I realize your comment was about a high end restaurant, but ironically the cheapest chain restaurants in Japan often offer that feature. I think it is one of the best restaurant inventions ever. I would love that concept to come to North America
Thanks for the comment. I believe my comment on the button was about Nara in Thailand, which wasn't really a high end restaurant, just high end Thai food, the restaurant was probably mid-range. Indeed I agree, the cheaper Japanese chains have the button or machines to order directly, and I agree I think it's a great idea for mid-range to chain restaurants. For high-end it should never be necessary as they should anticipate your needs, but for more average restaurants it's definitely a boon for people like me, who don't like waiting forever.
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Old Jan 23, 18, 2:03 am
  #81  
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Indeed a special resort and very suitable for a honeymoon!
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Old Jan 23, 18, 2:41 am
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Originally Posted by Anlun View Post
Thanks for the comment. I believe my comment on the button was about Nara in Thailand, which wasn't really a high end restaurant, just high end Thai food, the restaurant was probably mid-range. Indeed I agree, the cheaper Japanese chains have the button or machines to order directly, and I agree I think it's a great idea for mid-range to chain restaurants. For high-end it should never be necessary as they should anticipate your needs, but for more average restaurants it's definitely a boon for people like me, who don't like waiting forever.
Agree with your thoughts. I just was thinking more or less how nice it would be to have the buttons on the table at American restaurant chains..you know the casual type or the kind of place you go for a business lunch. Really irks me in USA/Canada to sit there with limited time and then have to wait...and wait...and wait for the server to show up or the bill to come.
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Old Jan 23, 18, 3:11 am
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How did you solve the problem of transportation from The Peninsula to Suhring? The logistics are very similar to Gaggan, yet you did not comment on this one. Just curious.
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Old Jan 23, 18, 6:56 am
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Originally Posted by Rafi1 View Post
How did you solve the problem of transportation from The Peninsula to Suhring? The logistics are very similar to Gaggan, yet you did not comment on this one. Just curious.
Suhring was a lot less problematic, but I think it was because our reservation was at 9pm on a Sunday. We took the Peninsula boat across the river, got in an Uber, and I think the Uber went South then east on the expressway, rather than taking Sathib Tai Rd because it was faster. Total trip was about 45 minutes I think.
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Old Feb 12, 18, 7:20 am
  #85  
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Looking forward too the Aman Tokyo review!

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Old Feb 26, 18, 8:54 pm
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Previously on, A Honeymoon to Remember: we traveled to, and sampled, the wonder that is Asaba Ryokan.

After breakfast at Asaba, we took the return train back to Tokyo station. As I looked out the window, everything started to look a little grayer because we knew that this was going to be our last full day of our honeymoon. How could we go back after this trip? How could anything compare? We both immediately decided that our marriage could never get better than what we have shared, and thus, logically, we decided divorce was the only option. It was a good run, about as good as the Mooch’s stint as White House Press Secretary. I jest… mostly. We did acknowledge the incredible nature of this trip, but we promised ourselves we would come back, and we committed to making the most of this.

We arrived at Tokyo Station, and made our way walking to Aman Tokyo. In nod to typical Japanese quirkiness, while walking towards the hotel, a roving gang of Super Mario Cart cosplay drivers roamed by. There’s not much to say about that, other than, that was a thing that happened.


Upon arrival, our jaws were floored by the incredible lobby. The floor to ceiling windows, cathedral and shoji screen-like illuminated ceiling left us with a strong impression. The winter ikaname at the center of the lobby, consisted of a large white tree, which immediately brought to mind the harsh yet beautiful aspects of winter. This, coupled, with the shamisen player, made you really feel like you were staying in a quintessential Japanese hotel.







We were immediately welcomed by the Aman staff, warmly invited to sit in the lobby while they finalized our check in, and drank the offered the Tokyo Aman drink. We really wanted to partake in afternoon tea, which we had heard was excellent at Aman, but I didn’t realize that required a reservation. The Aman staff sadly told us it was fully booked in the lobby, and strong PTSD flashbacks of our time at The Peninsula Bangkok and the terrible afternoon tea experience we had there began to swim in my head. Before I could even articulate a negative thought, the Aman staff checked with her supervisor, apologized for the lack of availability (which wasn't their fault) and offered to serve us afternoon tea in the room. This isn’t ordinarily allowed, but they were willing to make an exception for us. This is the kind of accommodation one expects when they stay at a luxury hotel, and Aman delivered. We made our way to our room, and once again we were really impressed with the aesthetic and quality of the hallways and room.


The bathroom was designed in a traditional onsen style with heated stone floors. The room was decorated in a minimalist zen aesthetic with shoji screens dividing the room from the bathroom. I took a video tour of the room:


Shortly after settling in, our afternoon tea was delivered, and it was exquisite. We almost felt bad eating it…. Almost. This was by far the best afternoon tea we’ve had. Aman likes to make seasonal themes for their afternoon tea, and the one we sampled was Christmas based, chocolate gingerbread house and all.







After tea, we headed to the pool to burn off some of the calories we ate, help make room for our dinner at Ryugin, and to get our massages. The pool area is just as beautiful and impressive as all the pictures on this forum would lead you to believe. As I did my laps I felt like I was swimming in some secret hidden temple, rather than the the 30-something floor of a Tokyo city hotel.


After our swim, we both used the sauna and onsen facilities, showered, and headed to our scheduled massages. Again, the onsen area was impressive with a similar aesthetic and beautiful views while you enjoy the hot bath. I didn’t take photos of the onsen as there was a very shy foreigner there who I don’t think would have appreciated photography, but trust me when I say, for a city hotel, it was magnificent.

For my massage I elected to partake in the hot stone massage. I was escorted to the massage room, where I was plied with soothing tea and asked to select one of four different scented massage oils. Everything about the spa was perfectly tailored to leave you relaxed, from the stone floors, to the warm woods. If it wasn’t for the floor to ceiling windows showing you the beautiful Tokyo skyline, you would have completely forgetten you were in the city center. The massage was excellent and exactly what I needed. Where past massages focused intensely on the impossible goal of removing the knots in my shoulders, the Aman masseuse realized the impossibility and instead focused on relaxing me overall.

Following our massages, I spoke with the concierge to resolve some gifts for friends. We wanted to bring back some shochu wrapped in traditional Japanese cloth wrapping (furoshiki), and we also wanted to coordinate travel to Ryugin. With our shochu request, the Aman staff called in the bartender and he came over, speaking with us at length about various styles of shochu and offering us his advice. It was very informative and we really appreciated it. The Aman staff also showed us were we could go to get the furoshiki cloth, and even offered to teach us how to wrap it. We definitely would have taken them up on the offer, but for the fact that we were concerned it would get ruined on our return. We opted instead to do it once we got home, and for a first timer, it came out great!

Overall, we found Aman Tokyo to not only be the best Tokyo hotel, but the best city hotel we have ever stayed at. We found the service, hard product, and overall aesthetic right to our tastes, and we wanted for nothing. I can understand how some argue that the staff can be a little cold, but I think it’s more of a cultural thing, where they don’t want to disturb you. I will note that we did not get any sort of prescient hospitality, and they did not remember our names every single time, but I still found the service to be excellent.

Following our massages, we had Aman get us a taxi to Ryugin because it started to rain. Prior to our trip, I was hesistant to eat at Ryugin. Yes it has three Michelin stars, but many of the reviews I had read, focused on the plating and fantastic aesthetic, rather than the quality of the food. I was a little worried Ryugin would be the Anna Kournikova of restaurants; pretty to look at, but not very good.




Fortunately, our worries were for naught. Ryugin is the Monica Puig of restaurants! The food was both good looking and excellent. We elected to accompany our meal with a 7 course wine pairing, which consisted of: champagne, a gruner vetliner, a cold sake, a warm sake, a Grand d’Essai, a white syrupy wine, and a full bodied red. Our first course was a “tea” made of okra and seaweed, followed by a dish of sea urchin wrapped in nori & panko resting on a scallop broth. The urchin was powerful, but the subtle notes of scallop still came through. The third course, and my favorite, was Japanese snow crab with roe, lemon, and vinegar.

Next course was shark fin with shirako and winter spinach. It was served like a soup and while interesting, the textures were all too gummy for my taste. We then had a tile fish soup with a mochi and shrimp dumpling and shitake mushrooms. Course five was yellowtail with wasabi mayo, sesame ginger bonito, smoked Japanese mustard, & red snapper with yuzu. Course six consisted of Spanish mackeral, fried spring onion, ginko nut, and a yuzu dumpling with didi root. Course seven was a white three year old noodle consisting of green noodles made of olives, with snow crab. Course 8 was olive beef shiyaki style, with Japanese artichoke, pink oyster mushrooms, and edible chrysanthemum. The dish reminded me of an artichoke dip with an egg yolk consistency. The beef sat upon tofu, which was a great contrast in texture. Course 9 was a miso soup with tofu, chrysanthemum flower, and pheasant rice. Course 10 was a mandarin syrup a milk ice cream and Sancho pepper. Course 11 was a sake soufflé, sake ice cream, and a delicious sake to drink. The meal was incredible and gave L’Effervescence a run for it’s money. We really appreciated the unique touches the resertaurant employs. For example, each of the glasses and tableware were either made from local artisans, or were actual antiques. In addition, at the beginning of your meal you select from among different color options, the chopsticks you want to use, and you then take home with you as a souvenir at the end of the meal.





























My only critique of Ryugin, is that the restaurant is very small and the room ran warm (typical of Japanese restaurants). I think I counted 5 tables, seating 4-6 people max. I tend to prefer intimate restaurants, but this was bordering on cramped. I also found the dragon theme a little to ‘on the nose.’ Everywhere you looked there was some dragon based decoration or motif. I get that it’s part of the name, but sometimes less is more. Regardless, Ryugin was a perfect last dinner, and an incredible send off to Japan. It was a spectacular experience, and during each course, my wife and I reminisced about everything we had seen and done on our honeymoon. We left full, but with a bittersweet feeling because we knew we would be leaving the next day.

We returned to Aman and finished packing. The next day, we went down for breakfast, but kept it light because we were still full from the dinner and we wanted to stop by the JAL flagship lounge. Remembering the words of our flight attendant on the way to Japan, we looked for Fujisan. It was a clear day, so we were able to see it from the Aman lobby, an auspicious sign indeed. Sigh, after dinner, we bid Aman adieu and took the subway, and then Narita express back to the airport.

Our flight was on JAL F back to JFK. Upon arrival, we walked towards the empty first class check in, where a sweet older woman checked us in and carried all of our luggage through the special JAL first class customs and security check in. It took us approximately 5 minutes from airport entry to the JAL Sakura lounge. The entire way I was awkwardly trying to offer to carry my own luggage as it seemed odd to have a middle aged woman shoulder my heavy carry on, but she brushed off my offer. On our prior trip, we took advantage of the Sakura lounge’s free 15 minute massage offer, but I guess so too did every other passenger, as it is no longer offered. Unfortunately, despite the early flight time, the lounge was very crowded to the point were it was hard to find seats. The sushi, normally decent, was also subpar, and the buffet was mostly running on empty. In retrospect, we wish we had stayed longer at the sanctuary that was Aman.

JAL F, just as our previous experience, was once again, excellent. I prefer it over CX and it is my favorite first class product (tbd as we are hoping to try out Singapore Suites next Feb). Our attendant was incredibly warm and asked us about our honeymoon and trip. We were again offered a small toy plane for our future child. Chill out JAL attendents, exnay on kid ay! The food was excellent as well and the Salon champagne paired great with it. We also loved the JAL pajamas, although, due to the hot cabin, they are difficult to wear on the flight.










Overall, the flight was a wonderful conclusion to an incredible honeymoon. We returned to NYC, with an unsated feeling of wanderlust, and we immediately set to planning out our next adventure, and our first non honeymoon trip as husband and wife.
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Old Feb 27, 18, 3:53 am
  #87  
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I see, they did a lot to celebrate with you
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Old Feb 27, 18, 7:50 am
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Loved your pictures and report! We're heading to Japan in a month (for a 3rd time) and your pictures are making me wish I could go into a coma and then wake up in Tokyo.
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Old Feb 28, 18, 9:40 am
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A truly stunning journal- thank you and congratulations
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Old Mar 1, 18, 7:08 pm
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Wow, what a great trip report. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the hotels and the food, and your views on each place. It showed the personality of each place well.
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