Japan Press Trip Part 1
Michael Taylor and several other Hong Kong based travel writers are flown by Jetstar and ibis Styles to Japan, where they spend 3 nights in Kyoto and 2 nights in Sapporo. Michael stays on, spending another week in Osaka.
Michael Taylor is invited on a press trip, which is jointly hosted by Jetstar Japan, which launched its first international route - a flight between Osaka and Hong Kong - just a couple of weeks before, and ibis Styles, which has hotels in Kyoto, Sapporo, and other Japanese cities.
My trip gets off to a stressful start as the mini bus I plan to catch to the main road, where I will try to flag down a taxi, doesn't show up. Making things worse, the next one is full and passes me by.
After waiting nearly 30 minutes, I start to worry that I might miss my flight. I finally decide to return to my flat to call a taxi. No sooner do I return to the street than a taxi appears, but not the one I called.
I'm torn between flagging it down and waiting for the one I called. Waiting for the one I called would be the right thing to do, but what if it doesn't show up? I decide it's not worth the risk, so I flag the taxi down.
Traffic is light - as usual - and I enjoy the scenic route from my home in the Northeastern New Territories to Hong Kong International Airport, which is located in the Northwestern New Territories.
I live about as far from the airport as you can get. The trip takes about 40 minutes and costs me about HK$330, or about US$43.
The driver gets me to the airport just in time. There is NO line at the check-in counter (not always a good sign). I couldn't check in on line because I am booked into seat 12F, which is at the Emergency Exit.
I have just enough time to make it to the gate in time for departure. Except ...
The lines at security are exceptionally long and slow moving. I've always thought that security at Chek Lap Kok was a bit lax. They must be tightening things up.
After I clear security, I make my way to the gate, which requires fully 2 trips by rail and then a lengthy jaunt down the concourse. Thankfully, there's a moving sidewalk.
By the time I reach the gate, almost all of the other passengers are already on board. I am one of the very last people to get on the plane!
I am flying on a JetStar Airbus 320. I've checked out the seat I've been assigned on SeatGuru.com, and it gets mixed reviews. On the one hand, the seat has extra legroom. I'm tall, so that's important.
On the other hand, the 'seat squab' - whatever that is - is shorter than usual, giving no support under the thighs, a flight reviewer on SeatGuru.com says. Because the seat is in front of another seat with an Emergency Exit, it also doesn't recline.
Not only that, you can't stuff your stuff under the seat in front because you're at the Emergency Exit. And it's a window seat. I always prefer aisle seats so that I can get up and move about the plane if I get restless.
The picture I saw on SeatGuru.com was also not encouraging. The cabin looked very cramped. When I board the plane, however, I am relieved to find that the cabin doesn't appear nearly as tiny as the picture suggested. The seats are actually quite comfortable!
When I get to my row, the woman seated next to me greets me warmly and helps me with my stuff. As it turns out, she is an off-duty flight attendant.
She certainly chose the right career! Making others feel welcome and comfortable seems to come second nature to her. We hit it off and chat the whole way to Osaka.
In Flight Service
Because this is a low cost carrier, I assume that meals aren't included so I pick up a very over-priced salad at the airport terminal in Hong Kong.
When the flight attendants are making their ways down the aisle, however, I discover that the organizers of the press trip have paid for my meal, and it's a good thing. The salad I bought in the terminal is absolutely DISGUSTING!!!
I order the chicken curry, and it is surprisingly good - one of the tastier in-flight meals I have had. I also purchase 2 small bottles of white wine, and they are excellent, going perfectly with the curry.
Before I know it, we are descending over Osaka. The time has really flown by. So nice to get seated next to a kind person you enjoy chatting with!
Arrival in Osaka
If my trip got off to a stressful start, it ends the same way. The shuttle that takes us from the plane to the terminal takes forever.
And then there is that massive line at customs, and I don't have my delightful seat companion to chat with.
It takes me well over an hour to reach the front of the line. And then, suddenly, I notice that people that were behind me several minutes ago are now in front of me.
So much for Japanese efficiency ...
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