Sunday, 28 May 2017

SUNDAY 28TH MAY - HOMEWARD BOUND


This is the last blog. We hope that you have had as much reading about our adventures as we have had having them. Our final adventure is our first flight hiccup of the trip. Qantas have changed our flight tonight so that we are now flying home via Sydney. That's no big deal but we are struggling to retain the favourable seat allocation we had organised for ourselves. Qantas are still working on that.

 
Last night we did a tour to the Night Safari, an offshoot of the Singapore Zoo. The main feature is a tram ride through the complex passed all the areas occupied by the so called nocturnal animals. Are elephants and giraffes nocturnal animals? Quite interesting but very crowded and an organisational bun fight for those organising the tour. The light conditions were such that photos weren't viable.


This morning, Trish had a morning off but I braved the subway system to head over to Sentosa Island. It is a cross between Hamilton Island and Movie World with a complex of cable cars and quite nice beaches. Looking at the number of ships anchored offshore, the water quality can't be that great. It wasn't crystal clear but didn't look too bad.

That's it. The trip is over. We have had a fascinating time having lots of new and different adventures. Let's hope that Qantas can get us comfortably home.

Friday, 26 May 2017

SATURDAY 27TH MAY - SECOND LAST DAY



 Our spectacular adventure is coming to an end and, as always, we are looking forward to getting home to family. We check out of our hotel late tomorrow and are on a plane tomorrow night. Back to the real world on Monday morning.

Trish had a morning wandering around the shops in the very large commercial complex located on the lower floors of our hotel and several adjoining hotels. They all seem to be interlinked with the commercial complex.

 

I went on our scheduled expedition being a visit to Gardens by the Bay, a very well done exhibition of gardens from all over the world. To reproduce various climatic conditions, they have very large domes being the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The latter contains a very impressive waterfall.

 
They have two elevated walkways, one being indoors in the Cloud Forest.



The other is an external Skyway. Very well done.


From there I went to the Observation Deck on the 56th floor of nearby Marina Bay Sands from where one has an excellent view of Singapore including the Gardens just below.


There is an horizon pool on the roof for the use of guests staying in the complex. Looked pretty popular.

 
The picture below is of the Singapore financial district, all built on reclaimed land. The current maximum height of buildings is 280 metres but that is to be raised in the near future.


I found my way back to our hotel using the very efficient subway system, spending all of $1:50 in the process.


FRIDAY 26TH MAY - SINGAPORE


I was unsure as to whether I would continue the blog in Singapore but it's raining quite steadily outside, which has put pay to my exploration plans, so the blog continues.


Yesterday was an uneventful travelling day with Japan Air Lines who delivered us to Singapore yesterday afternoon. We are now staying at the very nice and well located Fairmont Hotel in a comfortably large room – large by comparison with many of the Japanese rooms we stayed in. Unfortunately Trish seems to have developed a very debilitating case of the flu which is slowing her down.

This morning we went on our prearranged City Tour which was a good orientation exercise for our own exploration. Unfortunately the rain, which didn't start until just as we finished the tour, is curtailing that exploration.


This city is an architect's dream – some very exotic buildings. Hopefully we will get to explore the Marina Bay Sands when the rain stops. Our guide this morning told us that, if we go to the 56th floor of tower 3 and order a drink at the C'est La Vie restaurant, we get to experience the roof top garden and horizon pool without otherwise paying.



Other venues visited this morning were the National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanical Gardens and an area called Little India.


I'm not sure why we visited Little India. I suspect Chinatown would have been more interesting. Perhaps there is nowhere to park the bus in Chinatown. Needless to say, we were given the history of how each area developed. It all started with Chinatown.

 
We also visited a Chinese Temple (ABT) Presumably such things are of interest to people who haven't spent three weeks in Japan.

Tomorrow we have tours of Gardens By the Bay and a Night Safari Tour. Hopefully Trish will be well enough to enjoy them.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

WEDNESDAY 24TH MAY - ON THE MOVE



 
The highlight of today was lunch. Having flown from Chitose to Tokyo, we arrived at our hotel late this morning to find Makoto and Moitoi waiting for us.

 
They took us to a fabulous restaurant set in a very beautiful garden where we had what could only be described as a Japanese banquet – by far the best meal we have had since arriving in Japan.


Thank you Makoto and Moitoi.

We have received confirmation of our transport to the airport tomorrow morning for our flight to Singapore, the final segment of this great adventure.

Monday, 22 May 2017

TUESDAY 23RD MAY - HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEB

A relatively quiet day today, the last day of our self driving adventure. Our pedal car served us very well. It has now been returned to its depot.


We explored a little of Otaru this morning before heading for Chitose where the airport is and where we spend tonight ready for an early departure for Tokyo tomorrow.


We started at the Hiyoriyama Lighthouse at Cape Takashima where the Otaru Aquarium is located. The headland overlooks the aquarium so one can get a free look at some of the marine life.


From there we got on the expressway (with no posted speed limit today) and headed to Sapporo the fourth largest city in Japan with a population of almost 2 million people. Our objective was the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium.


We saw a few parts of Sapporo we weren't intending to see. Even with our ever reliable GPS, we struggled to find it but eventually we did. Very spectacular. What a crazy sport.


Our activity for tomorrow in Tokyo is lunch with Makoto and Moitoi Ijuin, long standing clients. Makoto just happened to make contact about a legal matter he wanted attended to while we were here in Japan. As it happens, we will all be in Tokyo tomorrow so lunch has been arranged.

Singapore on Thursday.

Deb, we will go and find a nice Japanese restaurant and have an extra glass of wine to celebrate your birthday tonight. Sorry you can't be with us.

MONDAY 22ND MAY - THE DAY BEFORE DEB'S BIRTHDAY


A great day today. We left our hotel after I had my final onsen experience this morning and headed up the Niseko Panoramic Line, coincidentally called Route 66, and indeed panoramic it was.


As we climbed up into the mountains, we stumbled across several hot springs villages, including one where the outdoor pools of the onsen were very public, particularly with a telescopic lens. There didn't appear to be anyone in them.


The higher we went, the more snow we encountered. There is an awful of water yet to come off the mountains as the snow melts.



Once back on the coastal plain, we travelled the Japanese equivalent of the Great Ocean Road. Very spectacular with many tunnels and a very rugged coastline.


We encountered some road works but we were able to work out that the stop and go man wanted us to stop even though we couldn't read any of his signs.


We also encountered a toiret, the first one we have encountered. We didn't go in to see what purposes a multi purpose toiret might be used for. Having said that, we shouldn't be critical of their English. Any English we get to see is greatly appreciated. Very little English is spoken in this part of Japan. We had a lovely experience with a young lady at the hotel last night. She was the resident English language staff member but wasn't very good. She was very apologetic for her poor English but, as we said to her, her English was a lot better than our Japanese. She was very sweet.

 
We are now in Otaru, a city of approximately 130,000 people. On the way in we drove up Mount Tengu to get a bird's eye view of the city. Our hotel is the one with the round structure of columns on the roof. Unfortunately the hazy conditions have returned so long distance photos are not very clear.


Mt. Tengu is also accessed by a ropeway which obviously also forms part of the skiing infrastructure in winter. It seems strange that the base of the ski field is almost at sea level, a very short distance from the ocean.


This afternoon, we went for a local walk. A feature of this area are the Otaru canals. Now a tourist attraction but they played an important role in the era of early sea trade.

Our car is safely stacked up nearby. I drove it into a lift, locked it and left it and the lift doors closed. The parking station is a 10 story high completely windowless building.
 
Tomorrow afternoon, we surrender our little pedal car (which by the way I discovered is 4WD - no ground clearance of course) which, but for the long useless drive down to Hakodate, has served us very well.

Tokyo on Wednesday, Singapore on Thursday for a few days then home. 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

SUNDAY 21ST MAY - BACK TO WHERE WE WANT TO BE


Hakodate redeemed itself to some extent today in that, after checking out, we found the road up to the top of Mount Hakodate which overlooks the city. Unfortunately we are back to very hazy weather so the views weren't as good as they would be on a clear day but quite a spectacular spot. Our hotel is one of the buildings facing the water. It also needs to be reported that, after some exploration last night, we found a very Japanese restaurant with an English menu and one staff member who spoke English. We ate our meal sitting at a bench. The mackerel fillet I had, using chopsticks, was really nice.


From there, we set the GPS for the Shikabe Kanketsusen Park, an intriguing little place right on the ocean front which is a thermal park where you can cook meals using the steam coming out of the ground. It also has a geyser which very obligingly blows its top every 15 minutes.

We then returned to the 70 kph expressway but only had to spend about 80 klms on it today. I have noticed that the law abiding citizens tend to drive at about 15 kph over the posted speed limit so, by adopting that policy, we were less of an obstruction on the road and the time passed reasonably quickly.

 
We are now back where we like to be, tucked away in the forest at the Hotel Kanronomori in the Niseko ski area. Obviously there isn't any skiing happening at the moment but we comprehensively toured the area this afternoon and saw plenty of infrastructure. It must be very busy in winter. We were planning on doing some walking but, as we came up the expressway this morning, we saw a number of illuminated signs warning of lightning and, sure enough, as we were touring the local area this afternoon, a storm came through, so no walking.


The major landmark in this area is Mt. Yotei, often compared with Mt. Fuji for obvious reasons.

 
As we passed through one of the towns this morning, we saw the most impressive display of cherry blossoms yet seen.


Tomorrow, we head to Otaru, a comfortably short drive away on the coast north of here.