I’ve had a great time this week filling in as a featured blogger on BoardingArea! To those that aren’t familiar with my blog, Hungry for Points, the best way to introduce myself is probably through one of my trip reports. Earlier this week I wrapped up my “Fat and Furious” trip report, detailing a recent trip to Japan which included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Matsuyama. This is one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and I instantly fell in love with Japan. That excitement must have carried over into my writing, as it quickly became my all-time most popular report over on Flyertalk.
All good things must come to and end, and as much fun as we’d had over the past week eating our way through Japan, it was to time to pack up and head home. After checking out of the hotel, we jumped on the Metro for just 1 stop to Tokyo Station, and connected to the Narita Express (NEX) for a smooth 1-hour ride to the airport. By now we had been accustomed to the amazing Japanese efficiency, and took for granted how we were literally through security and at the entrance of the lounge in minutes.
Even though I’m a total creature of habit, there was no way that I’d forgo the opportunity to stay at a different hotel when we returned to Tokyo. Similar to my restaurant dilemma, Tokyo has so many amazing luxury hotels to choose from that it was hard to pick one. Ultimately, I settled on The Peninsula Tokyo, mainly because I’d been wanting to stay at a Peninsula property for quite some time. Our shinkansen arrived at Tokyo Station in the late afternoon, and even though we had our luggage with us, we ended up walking to the hotel. It wasn’t bad at all, and arrived about 15 minutes later.
As a food-lover (I’m not a fan of the term “foodie”, but let’s save that discussion for another time), vacations are as much about seeing new places as they are about trying new foods. And as much as I love stuffing my face with street food, for me no trip is complete without also splurging on a fine dining experience. In past trips, a front-runner for that fine dining meal has naturally emerged as we conducted our research, including restaurants such as El Celler De Can Roca near Barcelona, Steirereck in Vienna, and Astrid y Gaston in Lima. But here’s the problem with Japan – there are simply too many world-class restaurants to choose from, evidenced by the fact that they have the most Michelin-starred restaurants of any country in the world.
As first-timers to Kyoto we realized that there was a LOT to see and do, and we were going to attempt to cram as much as humanly possible into the next 4 days. By the time we had settled into the hotel it was early evening, and we headed out to Gion with a couple goals in mind. Firstly, we wanted to find some good food, but we soon realized this was one of the few places where our “tourist trap” radar went off and ultimately decided to eat elsewhere. Secondly, we wanted to go Geisha-spotting, and had heard that around 5-6pm in Gion was one of the best times to do this.
This hotel review could easily be summed up in a single sentence – The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto is one of the best hotels that I’ve ever stayed at, and I would be absolutely shocked if it didn’t soon ascend into the rankings of “Best Hotels In the World”. But as tempting as it is to drop the mic and walk away, what’s a trip report without a few pictures? We arrived at Kyoto Station in the late afternoon, and while the hotel is semi-walkable from the station (25-30 minutes), we had our luggage with us and instead jumped in a taxi. The traffic around the river was backed up, and it took 30 frustrating minutes and more than $20 to get to the hotel.
The most common question we received about our trip to Japan was “which cities are you visiting?” And while most people expected to hear Tokyo and Kyoto, we usually got a puzzled look when we mentioned the 3rd city on our itinerary, Matsuyama. Matsuyama is the largest city and capital of Ehime Prefecture located on the island of Shikoku and is know for onsen, or hot springs, and udon noodles.
Since we’d be staying in Western hotel chains elsewhere else, in Matsuyama we figured that it would be a great chance to try a ryokan, or Japanese guest house. My 4 years of high school Japanese language studies paid off since I could read the hotel sign which was only written in Japanese. If it weren’t for these skills, we may have never found the hotel. OK that may be a stretch, since Google Maps also announced that “you have arrived at Funaya” as we walked up to the building.
Within Hilton’s array of brands, my favorite of the bunch is the Conrad. We’ve enjoyed recent stays at the amazing Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, as well as the Conrad properties in Hong Kong, Macau and Dubai. Our first 2 nights in Tokyo were booked at the Conrad Tokyo and as an added bonus our stay was gratis, courtesy of the free nights from the Citi Hilton Reserve card which I applied for specifically for this trip. We jumped onto the Narita Airport Express (NEX) train which took about an hour to reach Tokyo station from Narita airport. From there, we could have walked to the hotel but it was late and we had our luggage with us so instead we jumped in a taxi, and the short 10-minute ride cost about $15.
***This is part 1 of my “Fat and Furious” trip report detailing a recent trip to Japan which included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Matsuyama*** 1. Introduction 2. Star Alliance First…