Accommodation in Sapporo, Hokkaido (Hotel Mystays Premier Sapporo Park)

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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Mesmerising view from the room

Name: Hotel Mystays Premier Sapporo Park (ホテルマイステイズプレミア札幌パーク)

Address: 〒064-0809 Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, Minami 9 Jonishi, 2 Chome−2−10(Note: there are two Mystays hotel in this area. Premier and non-premier)

Map code: 9 463 578*03

Approx room rate per pax: 24,000 Yen (the most expensive hotel for this trip)

Parking rate: 1,000 Yen per night for the vehicles <1.55 metre high; 1,200 Yen for vehicles >1.55 metre. Valet parking is compulsory.

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes. Shared and can be a little slow.

My rating: 3.5/5

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; 30-second walk away from the hotel reception
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • Daily housekeeping service
  • Free, unlimited access to onsen and shower facilities.
  • Located in a more secluded part (quieter and all), the main streets are just about a 10-minute walk away.
  • Drinking water available from the tap in the room bathroom.

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Room for improvement:

  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • No in-hotel washing and drying machines. Thankfully, you will find a couple of purpose-build shops around town – up to 10-min drive away. We tried “Great Coin Laundry by Clean Star” – 1,000 Yen for 60-min wash and dry. Much more ex, but more convenient.

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Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

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Accommodation in Abashiri, Hokkaido (Toyoko Inn Abashiri Ekimae)

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Name: Toyoko Inn Abashiri Ekimae

Address: 1 Chome-3-3 Shinmachi, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaidō

Map code:  305 675 176*36

Approx room rate per pax: 8,600 Yen (about a third of the cost of the hotels. thumbs up)

Parking rate: No charge

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes. Unique passcodes in every room.

My rating: 4/5 (Mainly cause the rates are much more affordable.)

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; just behind the hotel
  • Extremely polite service staff
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • In-hotel washing and drying machines – two machines each, situated in the laundry room a couple of footsteps from the hotel reception. 100 Yen for 30-min wash and 200 Yen for 30-min drying cycle. No need to bring your own detergent. Heavily used from dinner onwards
  • Right next to the train station
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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Single bedded room. Super comfy bed.

Room for improvement:

  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • No housekeeping service. Pay a fee to get them to change the towels.
  • Simple breakfast, but that’s how they keep their costs low.
  • Drinking water not available in the rooms. Gotta use the dispenser in the lobby. Another way to keep costs low.

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Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

Accommodation in Shimukappu, Hokkaido (Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower)

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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Spot the twin towers from the resort’s cable car system

Name: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower (星野リゾート トマム ザ・タワー)

Address: Shimukappu-mura, Yūfutsu-gun, Hokkaidō 079-2204

Map code: 608 511 246*30

Approx room rate per pax: 23,000 Yen

Parking rate: No charge

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes

My rating: 5/5 (Perfect score – cool weather, buffet of food options and just so resort-y. My favourite accomm.)

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; 2-minute walk away from the hotel reception
  • Extremely polite service staff
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • Daily housekeeping service
  • In-hotel washing and drying machines – plenty of machines, situated in the laundry room mere metres from the hotel reception. 200 Yen for 30-min wash and 200 Yen for 30-min drying cycle. Gotta bring your own detergent.
  • Buffet of food choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Self-contained resort.
  • Beautiful mountain view
  • Even more awesome above-the-clouds view – take a cable car up to the summit to catch the Unkai Terrace or Sea of Clouds.
  • Free, unlimited access to a man-made beach with a wave pool, onsen and shower facilities.
  • Great weather – close to 0 degree celcius up there.
  • Free bus services for shuttling around the resort
  • Recently renovated
  • Drinking water available right from the taps in the room toilets

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Room for improvement:

  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • The nearest towns, for more food, petrol or supermarkets, are at least an hour away by car.

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Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

 

Accommodation in Toyako, Hokkaido (Toyako Manseikaku Hotel Lakeside Terrace)

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Name: Toyako Manseikaku Hotel Lakeside Terrace

Address: 21 Tōyakoonsen, Tōyako-chō, Abuta-gun, Hokkaidō 049-5721

Map code: 321 519 551*55

Approx room rate per pax: 23,000 Yen

Parking rate: No charge

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes, but only at the hotel reception area

My rating: 4.5/5 (Good rating cause of the free fireworks display every night!)

Thumbs-up:

  • Off-street parking lots; 2-minute walk away from the hotel reception
  • 7-Eleven is just in front of the hotel reception
  • Free red bean pancakes given out during certain hours at the hotel’s snacks shop
  • Extremely polite service staff
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • Daily housekeeping service
  • In-hotel washing and drying machines – one each, situated in the onsen bath area. 300 Yen for 30-min wash and 100 Yen for 30-min drying cycle. No need to bring your own detergent.
  • Nice breakfast spread
  • Lake view – Lake Toya!
  • Many sculptures around Lake Toya
  • Easy access to boating activities as the lake’s mere metres away
  • Free fireworks display every night. Closest I’ve ever been to a fireworks display. View the display from the comfort of your room. Walk to the lakeside for a closer view. Max convenience.

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Room for improvement:

  • No in-room tap for drinking water. You have to call reception/ operator and they will deliver a jug of iced/hot water.
  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier
  • Hotel needs a renovation/ revamp – old vibes.

Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

Avoiding bill shock at restaurants

We kicked ourselves for not doing enough research, but we heaved a sigh of relief at the same time. We were slapped with a cover charge for five pax at a restaurant in Sapporo (see image below) on our second last night in Hokkaido. Thankfully, this was the one and only instance.

Costing 2,105 Yen, the cover charge came up to 21% of our total bill. And my, we didn’t know about the charge till we got the receipt. With loads of gesturing at the menu, Google Translating and speaking in simple English, we found out from the cashier than the cover charge would apply even if we were to order a glass of water, and water is chargeable too.

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So in essence, the cover charge would apply once you sit your butt on the chair – non negotiable; compulsory. The English menu contained mention of “cover charge”, but we assumed it was for consumption of alcoholic drinks. How wrong we were! Aside from “cover charge”, restaurants may use other terms like “seat charge”, “table charge” or “appetiser charge”, based on an online search.

Food was no doubt good, and we ate a lot, but it was surely a painful experience. We learnt from this; hope you won’t fall into the same pit.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom 
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants [You are here]
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

 

Accommodation in Hakodate, Hokkaido (Hakodate Kokusai Hotel)

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First stop, Hakodate. And this town would turn out to be our favourite town (second favourite, to me. Shimukappu rocks harder.) The thumbs up primarily went to the quality of the food options. It then went to our accommodation. This was our first real experience with Japan’s unbeatable service standards. Super clean too.

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Name: Hakodate Kokusai Hotel (函館国際ホテル)

Address: 〒040-0064 Hokkaido Prefecture, Hakodate, 大手町5−10

Map code: 86 072 033*58

Approx room rate per pax: 18,000 Yen

Parking rate: 800 Yen/night

Free Wi-Fi access: Yes

My rating: 3.5/5

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Thumbs-up:

  • 20-min drive from Hakodate Airport
  • Off-street parking right under the hotel (many carpark lots were sealed off for construction works)
  • 2-min walk away from convenience stall Family Mart
  • 10-min walk away from Hakodate morning market
  • Extremely polite service staff
  • Sparkling clean place
  • Effective heater
  • Humidifier provided
  • Big bottles of shampoo and body foam
  • Drinking water available in the toilet, through a small tap at the wash basin
  • Daily housekeeping service

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Room for improvement:

  • No in-hotel washing machines and dryers
  • Staff couldn’t quite understand our requests; language barrier

Some notes:

  • Hotels typically charge for parking. Parking rates may vary according to the size of your car.
  • Space is a premium in Japan, so don’t expect super spacious rooms.
  • All hotels we stayed at provided Febreeze or an equivalent. Thumbs up man. Good for them shoes or the carpet.

##

Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

 

Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787

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PHOTO | BIG_MOUSE | Touchdown

Never liked taking plane rides. Life can continue without needing to fly. The Dreamliner experience chipped a little piece off this stronghold. Nothing else compares.

Firstly, All Nippon Airways’ service was on point. Smiles all around. Took effort to confirm our meal orders before we took to the skies. About meals, we pre-ordered the low sodium option. I must say that the meals weren’t the highlight. Tasted bland, but I could blame no one but myself. The only saving grace was that our special orders were served first before the rest of the passengers got theirs.

Secondly, thumbs up to the in-flight entertainment system. Not so much the movies, as the ‘new’ section wasn’t really new. Didn’t matter, as it was an overnight flight. USB port included. I spent more time fiddling with the Skyview feature. Reminded me of my Flight Simulator days. The most elaborate looking thingy I’ve seen so far. Through this, I realised that the Dreamliner travels fast, faster than my past flights. The take-off rolls on the Dreamliner were exhilarating too. haha

Thirdly, the Dreamliner is oh-so-quiet. Relatively speaking of course. Measuring (unscientifically) using an iPhone app, the Dreamliner hurts your ears less as it flies 4dB quieter than a 777. Didn’t need no headphones to tune out the drone of the engines. A noticeable difference for more discerning travellers. The 747 I sat on a few years back was way noisier.

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Lastly, here’s something to note when you do ANA flights with stopovers. You would need to collect a bus ticket from the airport check-in counter. This ticket allows you to take a bus to transfer between terminals at Haneda, for instance, from domestic terminal 1/2 to the international terminal. Importantly, please take ONE bus ticket PER PERSON. The counter gave us one ticket and wrote “five pax”. We were nearly refused access to the transfer bus because of this.IMG_8211.jpg

Only thing? ANA didn’t offer warm face wipes. Small issue, but just had to compare since Singapore Airlines’ standard is the one to beat. But nvm, it feels good to be back in Singapore.

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Click here for the Itinerary in Summary; details in the following articles:

Protip #1: Taking the wheel in Hokkaido
Protip #2: Enjoying some rest in the restroom
Protip #3: Avoiding bill shock at restaurants
Protip #4: Chilling and dropping off at convenience stores
Protip #5: Taking the Dreamliner Boeing 787  [You are here]

Secretlab Omega chairs – Not for non-airconditioned rooms

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Boxed with loads of foam sheets, bubble wrap

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Boxed with loads of foam sheets, bubble wrap

First post of 2017, and a non-sponsored one hor.

The name Secretlab popped up on my Facebook feed about a year ago. A friend got Secretlab’s flagship model but I didn’t think much about it at that time. $ was the main obstacle. Starting at $500+, it was priced at an uncomfortable level. Very uncomfortable, as the past two chairs of mine cost my wallet <$200 each.

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Photo | BIG_MOUSE | From left to right: Novena’s mid-range chair ($199), Secretlab’s Omega ($499) & IKEA’s basic chair ($ – Can’t remember)

My IKEA chair took a beating after just about a year. To be fair, it is the oldest chair in this line-up. My opinion: don’t buy chairs with PVC lining – won’t last.

On the left, a mid-range model from Novena that comes lined with PU, just like Secretlab’s Omega. This chair has been with me for close to three years. The lining’s fine to my surprise, but butt support has degraded somewhat. Bought this no-frills chair from the Novena outlet at the now defunct Funan Digitalife Mall.

In the middle is the Secretlab Omega. Launched in 2015, the Omega comes with pretty-firm foam innards (I like – my bed is super hard too). After a month of use, the PU leather hasn’t creased a bit nor has the foam sagged or even showed signs of compression fatigue. The adjustable hand rests and consistent hydraulic performance (at the lowest setting always) are a good to have, but don’t really concern me. What I like about the Omega are the nice car-seat feeling it offers (+ the ability to recline really far back just like a car seat) and the firm ‘ride’. The tall backrest allows me to keep my neck straight too.

One major letdown is heat. The chair can get quite hot. It doesn’t dissipate heat as well as mesh chairs – like duh right. If you use it in an airconditioned room, not a problem.

The usual price is $629 but Secretlab it seems likes to offer promotional rates. I got mine at $499 with free delivery ($19 usually), after saving up for a few months. Ordering was free of fuss. Would suggest you wait for special occasions like festivals, etc, to get better deals.

Now to see how long the Omega and specifically the PU leather skin will last. Hopefully at least 3 years.