Thursday, May 31, 2012

[Travel] Day 14: HKG to NRT, Complete With Park Hyatt Tokyo Review (sort of)

I slept in today! Yup, got up at 5:05. Luxurious. Headed upstairs for some breakfast, and my favorite Regency Club attendant was working. Enjoyed the Coke Zeros and the view for the last time and said goodbye. I then spent the rest of the morning writing trip reports and packing. By 10 AM I was ready to head out of the hotel. That would give me plenty of time in the airport, which is great because I saw exactly none of HKG on my arrival and it's supposed to be a great airport.

Originally I was going to take the bus to Stanley again today but I'm glad I got that out of the way yesterday because today was the nastiest weather I'd yet encountered in Hong Kong. It rained the entire day, quite heavily at times. In this photo you cannot even see the harbor from my room:
Not a promising day out. Glad I didn't have to be outside in it much.

I checked out of the hotel and then went to the ground floor taxi stand and asked for a taxi to Kowloon station, from which I would transfer to the Airport Express train. There was a German gentleman planning on doing the same thing so we shared the cab. On the way over he told me about his experiences working in China over the past five months and how different Hong Kong was from the rest of China. When we got the train station he tried to split the fare with me and I told him I would cover it. He seemed both shocked and grateful. I really had no idea how to tell him that the cab fare came to $4 and I wasn't going to mess around with his coins for his share of that. Cheapest. Cab ride. Ever.

I used my Octopus for what I thought would be the last time. I was left with about $1.50 on it so I thought I'd done rather well (completely unplanned, by the way). I had a bit of a debate as to whether to return it to get my $6 deposit back or to keep it as a souvenir. Later on in the airport I bought some gum and a bottle of contact lens solution and I thought, "hey, I can drain the last $1.50 off my Octopus and pay the rest in cash". They let me put the whole thing on it and I was very confused. Only later, when I'd left Hong Kong, did I remember that you are allowed to "go negative" once. I felt rather bad about that. Sorry Hong Kong, I didn't mean to short you a few bucks!

The Airport Express train could not have been easier. A quick trip later and I was checking in at the All-Nippon Airways (ANA) desk. Not surprisingly, since the next flight out of HKG on ANA was mine and that wasn't for 4.5 hours, the check-in area was deserted. Front of the line for me. My suitcase is getting awfully close to the cut-off for being overweight on my two revenue-based Lufthansa flights, which is a little worrisome. That will cost me an arm and a leg if they go over.

The real Hong Kong?

Very modern transportation system

The departures hall in HKG is utterly massive

After checking in I felt a bit hungry and right before the security gates there's a branch of Maxim's Cantonese. I should have looked up their specialties first. As it was I ordered the Crispy Chicken and Crunchy Garlic which they listed as one of their signature dishes. It was good for chicken, but seeing as how I don't really like chicken I'm not sure what the hell I was thinking.

Who doesn't love Popeyes?

Slightly overrated chicken

But with a very delicious dipping sauce

I cleared security in about two seconds, making it the most pleasurable airport security experience I've ever had. I still had about three hours so I wandered the airport for a bit. My business class seat on ANA gave me access to the United Airlines Red Carpet Club. Not to sound too jaded but "whoopty doo"? I remember what the RCC was like in O'Hare and frankly HKG is way too nice an airport to even bother.

Thankfully, I bothered. Shows what I know. This had to be the nicest RCC in the entire system. Huge food selection, lots of drink choices, plenty of seating, free wife, and a gorgeous view of the tarmac. I am (in)famous for my soda mixing and I'm rather proud of this Coke Zero/Grape Fanta combination. It needs a third soda in there for added complexity but it shows promise! I'm the Rainman of soda. I think it's a good thing. Definitely a good thing.

That's just a good rule for life

Disneyland: It's everywhere.

I bet they serve some delicious Scotch.

Mmmm, stale hot dogs that have been sitting out all day.

Yes, the booze is all well and good but what do you have in the soda category?

Hahaha fruits and vegetables. Cute!

Oh Thai Airways, some day I'll get to fly you.

Like New Jersey and You, these two are perfect together.

The airline that will be bringing me back for more Timmy Ho's?

Or is that you?

In what turned out to be completely unnecessary punctuality, I was at the gate 45 minutes before boarding. Turns out the plane was late getting in due to the weather and that, combined with our own outbound delay due to the same weather, pushed us back quite a bit. Lovely. Normally I don't sweat delays, but the ride from Narita Airport into Tokyo is a long one and there aren't a lot of available options after 8 PM on a Friday night. If I missed a given bus, for example, the next one would arrive 45 minutes later.

I ran to the bathroom for a pre-flight use - it's the details that make the trip report, right? - and as I got back it appeared they had started boarding. I boarded with the rest of business class and took my seat. After about five minutes boarding had slowed considerably. The business class load was at slightly under 40%. I didn't even have the presence of mind to try and change seats, even though I was in the only row that actually had two people in it. It took the flight attendant inviting me to do such to get the idea into my head.

The cabin had no A/C vents above the seats, which was a touch frustrating. On the positive side, the crew was fantastically warm and friendly. They spoke remarkably good English - better than some of the Swiss crew I'd had earlier - and they left me feeling quite happy about being aboard ANA. They even addressed me by name on a consistent basis, which did not happen at all in Swiss first class.

After take-off they distributed menus and took orders. I had the Western course, figuring I'd get my share of Japanese food in the 10 days to come. When it came time for a drink order I had a Coke Zero (obviously) and, failing to find icewine anywhere, I went with some plum wine. Quite tasty despite the world's tiniest pour:

The plane!

These seats looked awesome - there were a row of them overlooking the tarmac. They were all taken so I did not get to try one.

Obligatory alcohol

The food was good enough. I'm not going to complain because if I did several of you would find my house and bludgeon me with my own shoe. And it'd be hard to say anything to that because I was flying in business class on American Express's dime. Plus I'm pretty sure Jerry Seinfeld has a copyright on any "what's the deal with airplane food" jokes.

Even more obligatory Coke Zero

Rice crackers for the cracker

Baked potato? Roll? Hell if I know.

All airline meals should end this way

I should have been planning my time in Tokyo while en route but instead I thought it thematically appropriate to watch the first anime I'd ever seen (Record of Lodoss War for those who care) and play some retro-clone 16-bit RPG. I also watched some Big Bang Theory, including an episode that had me laughing so hard  that I had to try and keep it down so as not to disturb others.

After a quick four hours we landed. We then taxi'd for 25 minutes...that's right, I timed it. 25. And we weren't sitting around for 15 of those waiting for a gate to open, the pilot (with an American accent by the by) had us in motion the entire time. I almost wanted to ask if, while he was at it, he might drop me off in Shinjuku so I didn't have to take the bus.

We finally parked at the gate and I went through customs and all that jazz. No lines, no fuss, just nice Japanese efficiency. My plan was to take the Friendly Airport Limousine Bus, which really should just be called the Airport Coach, directly to the Park Hyatt. But that one didn't leave for 45 minutes. Dang. But there was one leaving in four minutes to a different Hyatt in the Shinjuku area, and I figured I could catch a cab for $10 the rest of the way.

I settled into my coach seat and started reading some Sherlock Holmes. I got totally absorbed by it. I kid you not when I say this, but for some reason I felt a strong urge to look outside during the journey. Not 30 seconds later we passed by Tokyo Disneyland. It was pretty great to be able to see it as we drove past. Shortly after that there was a pretty great ferris wheel all lit up that I thoroughly enjoyed.

As we were riding along in our giant orange bus (I mentioned that part, right? No? Well it was. Pretty badass, I know), I realized that the first stop would actually be Shinjuku train station. Given how bad traffic was in Shinjuku on a Friday night I had no desire to spend the extra 20-25 minutes riding around just to end up at the wrong Hyatt. So I hopped out at Shinjuku and paid the $10 for a cab.

By this point I was getting pretty sleepy and everything from this point forward basically happened as if it was in a dream. The bellhop at the hotel took my bags and escorted me from the second floor up to the 41st, where the lobby is located. At that point they passed me over to one of the check-in attendants, who took control of my bags and brought me up to my room on the 48th floor for check-in. I thought in-room check-in was a nice touch. She told me about all of the Diamond amenities and then left me to go to bed.

This closet is bigger than some hotels I've been in

Very comfortable bed

Those three switches each did something to a different light

Why yes, I would like some reading material in my room

Bath and shower, always appreciated

Gorgeous view of Tokyo at night

These were quite delicious even if I've lost the description of them

Oh god so many buttons - I just want to flush, everything else is totally superfluous to my toilet needs

Let me say up front that this is the absolute nicest hotel I've ever stayed in and that I am likely to stay in any time soon. The service was absolutely fantastic and was consistently delivered at a level that everyone should aim for. I actually found it a pretty humbling reminder of how I should be treating people who come in my office every day.

The amenities were fantastic, from the spacious room to the gorgeous library and open lounge area on the 41st floor. Basically everything about the hotel screamed that they went above and beyond, plus they filmed Lost in Translation there, so how could you go wrong with that?

All that being said, I don't think I'd spend 22,000 Hyatt points a night to stay there. I know there are many who disagree. Ben at One Mile at a Time just posted about how Park Hyatts were the only ones in the chain that he found "interesting", and I guess I can see that. But I'd much rather be spending 12,000-16,000 points at a hotel like the Hyatt Regency in Hong Kong that I stayed at (which was still one of the nicest hotels I've stayed in) and get a few extra nights out of it.

Don't let me fool you though, I'm glad I got to stay at the PHT at least once. And there were a few nice surprises that I didn't know about that made it even more special. Here are some photos of the hotel. There are more to come throughout my stay:


  1. Do you have to lug her back to Florida with you, or does the Red Carpet Club offer free international delivery?

  2. Wow, formatting is all sorts of messed up on this entry. Huh.

    The RCC damn well better deliver wife for free. She's going to put me right over the weight requirements on Lufthansa, and I know exactly how expensive it is to ship stuff home from Japan so that option's out.

    Of all the Red Carpet Clubs in all the airports in all the world...she had to walk into mine.