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A tale of Japan and China in 11 segments

A tale of Japan and China in 11 segments

Old Jun 22, 09, 8:44 pm
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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A tale of Japan and China in 11 segments

Ok now I'm gonna finish this if purely for the sake of me being able to remember in great detail what happened.

Leg 1 - Wigan Wallgate to Manchester International Airport

I left the house at 5.30am to get the 06:03am train to the airport. I live about 20 - 25 minutes from Wigan in a sleepy little hamlet. We benefit from the fact that we have very good and direct connections to MAN.

Cost of 5.40 for a single to the airport. I ended up changing at Salford Cresecent for the direct Trans Penine Express service straight through. As per usual the train got quieter once we'd got past Picadilly as it was just basically airport passengers. I *much* prefer the TP Express trains to Northern Rail and I only wish that we'd do the necessary investment to upgrade our trains to their standard :/

Stop 1 - Manchester International Airport

It's nice to see progress with our nations rail infrastructure when the TP Express pulled in to MIA station. The 3rd platform is now fully operational and working very well. I made my way up top and over to Terminal 1.

The checkin desks were posted but the lights were on and nobody was home. We waited for about 20 minutes and finally the Servisair staff turned up. We were checked in quite swiftly but my agent couldn't print my boarding pass for some reason and had to ask another agent. Baggage was through checked to KIX. I'm not too bothered about going but on the way back there is only a 45 minute connection so I hope my luggage makes it :S.

Anyways I notice that there is no longer the predeparture stops. Where once the predeparture shops where there is a corridor to more checkin desks and I raise an eyebrow.

I *like* what they have done with security as they now have multiple boarding pass lanes and over 15 security lanes and well manned. Good job MAN. However they have changed the departure lounge for the worst. You now have to walk through the duty free shop to get to the gates a most definite downside. What was old predeparture shopping and security area are now part of departures. I saw the Embraeer 190 come in early and so I mosied off to find Gate 24 and settle down.

Leg 2 - Manchester to Helsinki
Flight - AY934
Departure - 10:25
Arrival - 15:15
Gate 24
Seat 3A

We boarded about 25 - 30 minutes early. Seat 3A was just behind the curtain and a rather big shouldered guy sat next to me. The Embraeer 190's are kinda small aren't they? The pitch is decent enough but it wouldn't be my first choice of Aircraft :/

We spent a relatively long amount of time taxing behind a Thomas Cook and a Virgin Atlantic Plane but soon enough we were firing off down the runway.

Business passengers got served relatively quickly and then they came down with snack boxes. It consisted of - a tuna sandwich, water, and a little Snickers bar. Quite pathetic really for a 2 hour + flight. That's what I'd expect from Lufthansa with their infamous cheese sandwiches. There was also 1 drinks service and a coffee service later. After that nothing.

After collection of rubbish the flight was relatively uneventful but interestingly on the approach to Vaanta there were quite a few twists and turns. I was quite impressed with the countryside. We touched down in blazing sunshine with a few sparse clouds in the sky.

Stop 2 - Helsinki Airport

We parked in the back of beyond and had to resort to busses. Busses were only 2 or 3 minutes behind the arrival of the aircraft. They split the load between 2 buses and I was on the first. I was able to get my DSLR out in time to get a few photos. We were deboarded at the Schengen arrivals bus gate and I had my first taste of Helsinki airport. Helsinki is typically Scandinavian but kinda weird being dumped in to the non Schengen enclave. I partook of a Burger and chips from the sole food provider and god 15 euros x.x Talk about rip off but I needed hot food so..... Congrats on the free wireless that is a definite plus point for me.

I'm sat by Gate 30 where the MD11 is parked. It's always impressive to see a widebody parked at the gate and doing aircraft prep. I'm looking forward to seeing what 26L is like. The loads do look quite like so I hope the seat remains blocked besides me.

Leg 3 - Helsinki to Osaka
Flight - AY077
Departure - 17:15
Arrival - 8:45
Actual - 09:04 - only 19 minutes later than block time despite 1 hour delay yay for tail winds.
Gate 30
Seat 21L

I had checked in for this flight at T-36 and nabbed Seat 21L. The flight was due to board at 16:35 but it got to past 5 by the time it was actually boarding. It turns out there had been some irops on AY041 so what was going to have been a lightly loaded flight turned in to a hanging from the celing flight and I lost my blocked seat .

For those that aren't familiar with AY's MD11's they have 2 economy cabins with the front being 3 4 2 and the back being 3 4 3. Needless to say I was glad to be in the front cabin in one of the best seats in all of economy. The flight was nearly an hour late in pushing back because of the rigmarole of sorting out the baggage but I've got to commend Finnair that they did remarkably well in getting everyone rebooked whilst minimizing the delays for the passengers that were being rerouted.

It was a good feeling to be roaring down the runway on a widebody aircraft again. It soared gracefully in to the sky and we were up up and away.

- There were 2 meal services, a dinner and a breakfast. Dinner had 3 main choices of western beefburger, korean beef or a chicken dish but I didn't see that. Condiments on the korean beef included noodles, bread and a choccy biscuit. To say the least it was very bland and lacked flavour. It was sustenance nothing else. I wouldn't have eaten by choice if I was on a plane :/. Breakfast was spinach omlette, strawberry yoguhart, bread roll and apple juice. Due to me not liking egg products the omlette got ignored :/
- Drinks were free but *not* spirits. They are charged at 5 euro's per minature. I had one for a night cap but it was unsuccessful in knocking me off to sleep. They were fairly recogular in coming round with water and such after the meal service had finished and tea and coffee were plentiful during the meal services. But badddd Finn Air charging for spirits.
- There is no personal AVOD on the MD11. Instead you have to put up with what you get given which in this case was 2 comedy programmes and 3 films. Quite unremarkable really. The headphones sucked.
- Ammenity kits consisted of toothpaste / toothbrush / eyemask / earplugs.

Overall I would not have stood for this flight if I had to have been down the big. The only thing that made it liveable was the decent seat.

Stop 3 - Kansai International Airport

I ALWAYs love the approach in to KIX where you have no land below you and then all of a sudden it appears. We spent about 10 minutes taxi'ing and just to my judicious use of online check in I was off the plane quickly as business class was lightly loaded. I was one of the first on to the transfer train and the first to get to foreigner passport immigration. There was NO queues. Yay for being at the front and walking quickly!!!. I got processed quickly and down to baggage reclaim. The fingerpint process at Japanese immigration seems to have bedded down pretty well now and at least people actually expect it. As far as baggage reclaim goes my bag took about 10 minutes to reappear and then the customs guy loved being able to chat to someone who could speak Japanese and had a brief look in my case for show D: . Off I was in to the arrivals hall.

So...I love KIX, I am a KIX fan. I much prefer it to NRT. First top was to a Lawson to get a topup for my phone and I got a charger followed by ATM. (I'd lost my charger). (I wonder how quickly my 70,000 yen will go..... I then went to get a ticket for my train back to KIX on the 8th and also a ticket from Nagasaki to Sasebo. The JR guy was kinda confused by what I was asking and he had to check his timetable before he picked the right ticket.

I was for taking a domestic flight up to HND so I checked in on the 2nd floor. Your baggage actually gets screened before checkin at domestic flights and a security seal attached. Way for giving somebody a job. They gave me my boarding pass and I was through to domestic departures without a hitch. I love how domestic departures just...works. The security isn't like a zoo none of the messing around :S . I was through in all of 30 seconds.

My flight was going off gate 20 so I got myself comfortable next to a plug point and whored the wireless to write more of this TR.

<Added Tuesday evening>

Leg 4 - Osaka to Haneda
Flight - JL174
Departure - 12:55
Arrival - 1:50 - 2:30'ish due to taxing at Kansai
Gate - 30
Seat - 20K

Once of the niceities of the Japanese domestic system is that the domestic flights are screened off from the scrum of international and have their own nice quiet area. There seems to be such a huge difference between how Japanese domestic flights and international ones work. The Japanese are just...on time. I think a lot of it is because the Japanese like to be on time and so present themselves for travel at the correc time unlike us westerners.

I had a nice view of the MD90 as it came on to stand and the crew began preparing it to depart. Flight boarding was called promptly at 12:40 and everyone rapidly boarded. I always find it cute how they do the announcing in English and struggle over the words. We were ready to push back on time but we spent a lot of time stuck behind other traffic but we were eventually under way.

This particular MD90 was in a 2 - 3 configuration. I did flag a little bit as I at this point was very much without sleep and so napped a little but did manage to get a drink. The standard par for the course is blankets, newspapers and one drinks service. I'm amazed at how the Japanese FA's can manage to get such large planes serviced with such little time.

We came in to land at Haneda and parked in the usual spot for JAL planes unlike Skymark who go to remote stands :S. A quick hop step and jump to arrivals and baggage was through after about a 5 minute delay. A curious thing is last year they had personnel personally checking the tags but now people just place them in a bin. Could it shock horror be cutbacks? .

All in all a pleasant flight.

Stop 4 - Tokyo
Hotel - Higashi Sunroute Shinjuku
Total Stay - 1 night
Nearest public transport - Higashi Shinjuku subway (Oedo Iidabashi subway branch)

i've got to say this is the hotels biggest fault is that it's a pain to get to apart from the N'EX especially if you're flying in on a domestic to HND. Getting to Shinjuku then transferring to Oedo is a pain :S

After exiting arrivals I jumped on to the Keikyuu line in to Shinagawa. I'd been kinda stupid and forgot to check how to get there so I ended up on the Yamanote around to Shinjuku and then asked around and got told the Oedo line.

A curious thing is that I took this route twice - once on the way there the first time and once coming back from some playtime with friends. First time I ended up at Shinjuku at Nishi Shinjuku and only one stop and second time it was Shinjuku and had to change and both coming from the Yamanote. What gives? How can I have got such different results in journey time?

Checkin was quick and painless. This was the first of my nights on the Expedia Refer-a-friend promo Absolutely nothing was said apart from confusion over my name. Seems Craig is difficult to most Japanese till i spell it out for them ku re i gu .

Doors to life protected by keycard and a touch activates the call button. The room is a nice size with large bottles of ammenities and *good* aircon. Free lan included with lan cable in the drawer. No minibar but fridge and tea and coffee making facilities included. Free play suit also included?

Tonights activities included a trip to Akiba for some shopping at a certain shop which sucks all my money and meeting 2 friends for dinner at an Italian cafe but I ended up having a late konbini supper cos it wasn't enough.

<Friday morning>

Breakfast was in the chain restaurant on the ground floor (Royal Host) and was catered for Japanese customers but it was good enough. Toast facilities, all you can drink juice and a hot and cold buffet. I ended up a bit of salad, fish and little hash browns so I left feeling refreshed. Cost was 500 yen though which I thought for Tokyo was a veritable bargain.

Overall nice hotel but I wouldn't have paid full price for it. But thats just me I'm a skinflint.

I then had to pack up and get ready to head on out so it was a bit tiring to say the least but I headed for Akihabara to drop more hard earned cash and then went to meet my friend again at Asakusa-mitsukue. We hung out in a fast food place before she took me to see her place of work which is a high class restaurant that serves ex prime-ministers of Japan and so on. Got some nice photos of her workplace but I had to leave pretty soon to get back for my flight and she had to start working.

Leg 5 - Haneda to Nagasaki
Flight - JL1849
Departure - 16:10
Arrival - 18:00
Gate - 10
Seat - 35H
Aircraft - Airbus A300-600

My choice of return to Haneda was subway back to Shimbashi on the Ginza line then transfer to Asakusa line. Surprisingly it's a direct train with no need to change but the line ownership changes once you get to one stop before Shinagawa. It was a express train but it was only 5 minutes slower than the ltd express. Got to Haneda and had to use the fare adjustment machine for the sum of 250 yen. Worked out well, not too much money left over well zero left on the card.

Over to JAL checkin which was swift and painless but the baggage checkin staff tried to use English even though I was talking to them in Japanese o_O. Went through South C Security. It always amazes me how so much more efficient Japanese domestic security is. None of the shoe carnival or anything like that and you can take liquids too!. Having packed up I went to the gate which was a 3 minute walk away.

Japanese domestic flights are boarded so quickly. You can turn up 15 minutes before a flight and still get on. A testemant to Japanese efficiency. Boarding was called in the usual priority, elites and then general boarding. The aircraft was in a 2 - 4 - 2 formation. I was the only gaijin so told the attendants to quit it with the english announcements at which point they seemed embaressed but took heed of my request.

I took a nap just after take off and woke to find the drinks service in progress and got an apple juice. Later the duty free trolley came down and I got chatting to the attendants and I surprised them actually because they had not seen someone with such good Japanese so I think I was the subject of galley gossip XD.

The flight was pretty uneventful excepting a bit of turbulence and we touched down albeit the wrong way round from normal and had a long taxi to get back on stand as we had to taxi the length of the runway which was annoying. Maybe it was the winds. Parked at Gate 1 and 3 minutes down to baggage reclaim. Mine was one of the first off and it was through quickly because it's only a small airport and doesn't deal with too many movements in the space of a day. So off I went in to the arrivals hall and back to my old study abroad haunts with a smile on my face - so nice to be back at this airport!

Stop 5 - Nagasaki
Hotel - Hotel Monterey (near Glover Gardens
Total Stay - 2 nights
Rate - 5,000 yen per night including breakfast.
Nearest public transport - Line 5 of the Tram system

Being back in Nagasaki was like returning to an old friend. Luckily there was a bus for downtown so I got my one way ticket for 800 yen and got my baggage stowed down below. There are 2 ways of getting to town, the boat or the bus. Boat goes to Togitsu and is 2,000 odd return or the bus at 800 one way or 1200 return.

The bus left after about 15 minutes and we were on our way. The airport is 40 mins out from downtown so we got on the expressway at Omura and headed off towards downtown. It was so cool seeing familiar scenery from when I was on study abroad. There are a few bus routes but this time we took the Dejima road which is a tunnel to straight to downtown and cuts through the mountain. I decamped at Shinchi terminal and walked about 10 - 15 minutes to my new lodgings. The hotel is near Glover gardens down the road by the konbini for those that know it. It was quite something to walk in.

I checked in and and had the ubiquitious passport copy and dropped another 1 man down for paying the bill and I got room 804 on the top floor. Breakfast was included and I got given my breakfast tickets and welcome drinks. Internet was free and via lan cable again. After checking in I jumped in the shower and then headed out for my rendevous.

For those that don't know Nagasaki they have a rather cool public transport system. The trams are 100 yen to anywhere in town. So off up to Sumiyoshi after getting on at Dejima. My point of call was a place called Monkey Wrench which is the new student bar of choice as I know the owner. It was packed out because there was a party going on for the French guys that were leaving. However I met my friend and we got a seat and I got my chicken teishoku. It was so nice to be back in my stomping grounds. My friend and I hung out for a bit then went off to take puri kura and then off back down town.

Another friend was supposed to meet me at the bar but he called me and I went to meet him in downtown Shianbashi. He took me to an expat bar and introduced me to a few people and I was there till 1:30 talking the talk and meeting new people. Ahh good times being able to enjoy a cold drink with nice people away from the stresses and strains that await me at hime . I returned rather tired and took me a while to get to sleep but it came.

Waking up I went off down to breakfast which was served in the dining hall. Quite palatial with a large buffet, drinks, make your own yoguhart, toasting facilities. If you're a westerner you won't go hungry. Having tanked up I went to chill in my room before heading out to Hamano-machi the shopping arcade and met my friend again and did some shopping including and I don't know how I did it being able to upgrade my keitai. Surprising as I don't have my gaijin cad now...... I also picked up some rental dvd's I wanted and a kimono obi and shoes for my friend. Back to the hotel I went before heading up to my old school to say hello to everyone.

My school is Nagasaki Gaidai so you take the no 1 or 3 tram to Akasako then transfer to a bus to get to Uchizaka and walk the rest of the way up an *evil* hill. As I was entering the grounds the International Office staff saw me and nearly fell over themselves when they saw me but they had a meeting so I was made to promise I'd go back the following day. However I was happy to be able to meet a few people that were still hanging around. I then went off to Nameshi where my dorms were and went to my local Izakaya to say hello and hung around for a while and ate some food. It was nice to catch up and see how his kids were growing up sooooo fast. Finally I went back to the hotel and crashed out as I'd not slept well the previous evening.

I woke up this morning to carry on writing this TR. Breakfast soon then back up to meet people at school. I have to be on the 5pm train to Sasebo so maybe still a bit of a chance to wander round a bit after I've been to school again but we'll see. Dump my baggage at checkin before I head out for the day.

Leg 6 - Nagasaki to Sasebo
Seaside liner via Omura Line
Departure - 17:13
Arrival - 19:02
Vehicle - One man blue Seaside liner
One way fare - 1,600 yen

<Insert commentary here>

Last edited by mrploddy; Jun 25, 09 at 3:10 pm
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Old Jun 22, 09, 8:45 pm
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Old Jun 22, 09, 8:49 pm
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Old Jun 23, 09, 5:56 am
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Originally Posted by mrploddy
Ok now I'm gonna finish this if purely for the sake of me
being able to remember in great detail what happened.
That's one of the main reasons I do TRs as well, my memory not being
what it used to be.

Nice report, by the way. Looking forward to more.
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Old Jun 23, 09, 7:29 am
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Nice trip report so far, please do finish
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Old Jun 25, 09, 2:56 pm
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Updating as I go. Please feel free to ask any questions and I'll do my best to answer....

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