Monthly Archives: December 2015

2 tips for airbnb stay in Tokyo

Our family recently went on a fantastic 2-week trip to Tokyo. As a first time visitor, there is much we learned and I will write, over the next few posts, on what we found to be most helpful in our own experience for a smooth trip . Some of these things we did not realise, even after reading all the excellent stuff about Japan travel on the internet!

As an overview, we stayed in three different Airbnb apartments in Tokyo, and interspersed Tokyo sightseeing of the usual tourist places (e.g. Meiji shrine, Imperial Palace East Gardens, Shibuya crossing) with overnight trips to Nikko (overnight), Kawaguchiko (5 Lakes area near to Mt Fuji)and Hakone (one night at each place), and a day trip to Yokohama on our last day.

This post will focus on our airbnb stays, and very importantly, how we handled our bigger luggage pieces. Unlike hotels where you can leave your luggage behind, what do you do with them after checking out of an airbnb stay?? (and still go shopping/sightseeing/trips using overnight bag only/before check in to next apartment).

  1. Where and what kind of place to stay in Tokyo?

    We used Airbnb for accommodation while in Tokyo (first time ever during our travels, and I am hooked!!). Why? All four of us could stay in the same apartment and for the excellent value (e.g. location/facilities/price per night). Our airbnb hosts were all very helpful, and each place provided a mobile wifi device that we could use when we went sight seeing so that we could still access information (e.g. like subway routes and schedules on Hyperdia). All also gave very clear instructions on how to get to the apartment, which was very important for first time visitors like us.

    Our three apartments were in different areas (Asaskusa – touristy area, Tsukishima – local neighbourhood, and Shinagawa – upmarket area), but were all within a 3 to 10 minute walk to a subway line. Each apartment had its own “flavour” and you should choose one that fits your group (e.g. couple, family with small children, etc).

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    see different things when you stay at different neighbourhoods

    To cut down on travel costs and travelling time, we planned where we stayed according to ease of access to subway or railway stations, taking into account our itinerary
    (e.g. for the overnight trip to Nikko, staying near Asakusa station was perfect as that was where the train station was located, and we could also collect our 2 Day Nikko pass, bought over the internet, from the tourist service centre easily).
    (e.g. staying at Tsukishima to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market the next morning; its a very pleasant walk across the Sumida River, and its possible to go to the fish auction at 4 or 5 am this way!!)

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    the walk across Sumida river, from our apartment to Tsukiji fish mart

    (e.g. staying at Shinagawa was ideal for our last few days, as we wanted to take the shinkansen back from Hakone (Odawara – Shinagawa station, then taxi 900+JPY to apartment), and on our departure for Haneda airport, we walked from the apartment to the monorail station which heads direct to the airport).

    Note: if you are adverse to setting up your own bed (which we had to do, each place had a futon or sofa bed to cater to the 3rd/4th person), or clearing your own garbage (remember, the apartment is not serviced like a hotel, but are where locals actually stay and they practice separating garbage very carefully and clearing them on certain days of the week), airbnb stays may not be suitable.

  2. Luggage handling -What do you do with big pieces of luggage
    – after check out (around 10 am) from one apartment, before checking in to your next accommodation (around 4 pm), or before your late return flight (e.g. for us, we had a near midnight flight, and a whole day available for our final day)?
    – if you do not want to bring them along for your overnight trips?
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    (http://trip.mistersuite.com/3-ways-of-storing-luggage-in-tokyo/)

One disadvantage of an Airbnb stay is that you will (usually) not have a place to leave your bigger pieces of luggage upon checking out, usually around 10 a.m., but you may want to do further sight seeing/shopping etc. without lugging them around (in contrast with a hotel, where your luggage can be stored). Indeed, it is not a good idea to carry too much when you travel on the rail/subway, especially when it is crowded!!

Another situation is that you may be taking some overnight trip out of Tokyo and returning to a different apartment like what happened to us (e.g. Tsukishima airbnb – 5Lakes and Hakone 2 nights – Shinagawa airbnb.

There are basically three solutions to the above, which we were able to use when we faced the situations described:

a) LOCKERS – all big stations have lockers of varying sizes which can be used to store luggage (price ranging from 300, 500 to 700 JPY, for 24 hr use). Note however that big lockers are relatively fewer compared to the small ones, and it is good to check on subway/rail stations that have what you require, including the location and access to elevators. Ask your airbnb host for suggestions on this, since they have local knowledge about such things.

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you may need large lockers but they are not as plentiful … still there are solutions (search google)

source: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2274.html
b) LUGGAGE DELIVERY – this is an excellent method especially when your overnight stay is 2 or more nights. After check-out from our airbnb apartment to go for our 5 Lakes and Hakone trip, we took the larger pieces of luggage to a Family Mart (like 7-Eleven), filled in a form for each luggage stating the delivery address and date/time period and paid a small fee for each piece (1340 JPY), went for our trip (3D/2N), and viola, at the appointed time at our Shinagawa apartment, the luggage was delivered!! You may want to read more about this type of service at this link.

c) WORK OUT SOMETHING WITH YOUR HOST – we were most fortunate during our overnight Nikko trip that our host allowed us the use of her apartment to keep the luggage for a small room fee (this blocks anyone else from booking the room).
For our last day in Tokyo, where we had to check out at 10 am, but our flight was near to midnight, our host did not have any reservations for his apartment on that day and let us put our luggage there the whole time till 8 pm, for free.

In the morning, we packed our bags and left it at the apartment, the cleaning lady then did her work to prepare the apartment for the next guest the following day, we went to Yokohama for a day trip, and returned at night to collect them and then went straight to the airport.

Stay tuned for more tips coming soon …
(including how we turned a 1 to 2 hour queue time to under 10 minutes at two of the more popular rides at DisneySea!!)

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Awesome diversity!

Visited the Lee Kong Chian Museum recently (9 Dec 2015) and also Bishan Park. Really a good showcase of the awesome biodiversity here in Singapore!

I was very glad to find so many species of birds “sharing” this tree!! Here are three of them which I could identify easily, thanks to my previous “training” during the bird count activity some time ago 🙂
(top to bottom: black naped oriole, glossy starling, and a toucan (looks quite young))

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Here is the tree where all these birds (and more) were found!! btw, its near the pond with the ornamental bridge which can be seen in the background as some red “thing”.

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Almost no need to go overseas…part2

(continues from earlier post)

5. Swan Lake (by Singapore Dance Theatre, Esplanade 3-6 Dec 2015)

watched the Friday 4 Dec 2015 show – review in ST on Monday 7 Dec was not that great; but I could not really see the difference between the good, the bad (and ugly, haha). Pre-show entertainment by scouts singing campfire songs (yes, that is a real fire) of which I do not know a single one (hahaha, again) and some accapella group inside … more free stuff coming up in December nearer to Christmas, and may be good to check out the Esplanade webpage.

6. Orchard Road Pedestrian Night 5 Dec 2015 (and every first Saturday of the month) (street entertainment, festive lighting, and a relaxing night out)

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7. Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2015 (6 Dec 2015)

Spouse and me went to support no one in particular, but were fortunate to be able to meet up with Uncle Chan Meng Hui, Singapore’s oldest marathon runner (age 85) and his son (see picture above) at the 17 km marker at East Coast Park and cheer him on!! He was doing his 101 Marathon and we chatted a little bit (last thing he said to me was “next year you take part, I take part!”:) . We were the only ones taking the free supporter shuttle doing the East Coast Park route from the bus stop opposite Capitol, and the volunteer in the bus was a girl from Indonesia who was here to do her Masters at James Cook University (thanks for helping out!).

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Uncle Chan! He finished in 8 1/2 hrs, no simple feat considering the weather (and how it was getting hotter), and that he was almost on his own at this point going towards the National Sailing Centre (in the sense that most runners were heading in the opposite direction as photo shows). However, there was no shortage of people who were Hi-Fiving him and encouraging him on 🙂

8. 8th ASEAN Para Games 2015 (until 9 Dec) (free entry to venues, different locations around Singapore, see website)

After East Coast Park and meeting with Uncle Chan (this happened by chance only), we wanted to take the free supporter shuttle bus back to Marina Barrage area (one of the drop off points) but it seemed that there was no more bus to bring us back. So we caught a cab and dropped by the Para Games at the OCBC Arena and caught some table tennis and boccia action 🙂

9. Treasures of the World from the British Museum (National Museum, until 29 May 2016) (free for Singapore citizens and PR in the following categories: students, seniors, NSF and teachers! Fee applies otherwise)

Visited 7 Dec and witnessed an awesome display and celebration of human ingenuity, artistry, and creativity! A wonderful collection of artefacts that traces human history from 800 000 years ago (stone flint) to the modern art of today (see below):

 

Truly a great year end treat for all Singaporeans to enjoy in their own “backyard” … almost no need to go overseas!

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Almost no need to go overseas …

with so many interesting things happening recently!!

Some are still on and definitely worth a look …

  1. Cirque du Soleil TOTEM (ends 13 Dec 2015, beside Marina Bay Sands)
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well worth the $$$; last watched it many many years ago, watched it again (27 Nov 2015, Fri) and impressed with the many cool and fresh acts!

2. SG Heartmap Festival@The Float (26-29 Nov)

Went on 28 Nov (Saturday) – enjoyable night out with family, a bit surprised that it was not more crowded (but maybe a lot of people are overseas?!)

3. SPH AGM (1 Dec 2015, Tue)

With so many seniors attending, SPH thoughtfully provided transport from Braddell MRT to SPH even though it was just a short walk away. It was interesting to see how the Board (especially Chairman Lee Boon Yang) handle all kinds of questions, including a lady who questioned (under Item 1 of agenda on financial statements) about SPH giving out food instead of cash voucher, LOL!

4. National Gallery (visited 2 Dec 2015)(note special exhibitions – Wu Guanzhong and Chua Ek Kay ends in May 2016)

Local and South East Asia art finally gets a permanent home! Enjoyed the special exhibitions in particular (see above paintings, the two horizontal ones, from the Wu Guanzhong collection); catch it before it ends in May 2016, free for Singaporeans, book online for hassle free entry.

Also spend some time to admire the architecture of the building! (spend some time in a “jail” there and see the furniture used by the Chief Justice)

(to be continued…)

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Line sketching …

Recently have been doing more sketching (instead of painting) but the two really complement each other …

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(my elder girl also started this at her uni recently, taking lessons from this group called Urban Sketchers, whose work was displayed at the floating platform recently for the SG Home Map event:

Her own sketch of the bandstand at the Botanic Garden where she sketched on the spot is pretty good too!! (see below)

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