Haruka's Diary
Chasing After Rainbows: November 2014

16 November 2014

Hokkaido trip preperation 8: Planned places that didn't make it

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(I should rename this series since I'm not just heading to Hokkaido only.)

I have mentioned earlier in this series that I have dropped the Hakone section due to accommodation and cost issues, but there are other places that I have considered that did not make it to the planning stage that Hakdate did.

While I do want to visit other countries, nothing seems to come to mind.

As for within Japan, I did thought of (from west to east) Himeji, Nagoya, Nara, Niigata, Fukushima, Sendai, and Aomori. However, I found this to be too much to plan around, or I just couldn't see any place of interest in there.

In any case, it's kind of too late to change my current plans without incurring cancellation charges. Flights are the most costly ones to cancel or change as those are paid in full instead of as a deposit.

09 November 2014

Hokkaido trip preperation 7: Bringing a computer along

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A laptop. Deciding to bring it is tricky because it adds weight to my travelling bag and being one additional valuable item to worry about, but yet there are things that I can't do with alternative choices. Here are my choices:

  • Smartphone – Use it for all my internet needs, including using Wi-Fi. This is what I had done on my travels so far, and even used it to book a flight from Venice to London Gatwick. Screen is too small for things that are not optimised. Mobile data roaming overseas is expensive, and getting mobile data of that country is troublesome.
  • Tablet PC – I don't have one and, depending on the operating system it runs on (Windows RT vs iOS / Android) and the hardware features it has, it's could as well just be a smartphone with a larger screen. It does likely to have something called USB On-The-Go (OTG), but I don't want to carry an extra cable or adaptor. Also, I can't do any quick and productive writing with on-screen keyboards.
  • Hostel PCs – This would be the most ideal reason to not lug my laptop around, but from experience, none of the places I stayed in Europe even had a PC at all, even though there is Wi-Fi. Some are free, some requiring payment per use. Even if they are free to use, other guests might be using all the available ones. Then the is also the problem of privacy, possible malware, or if the PC is even usable at all!
  • Laptop – Probably the best option. Helps to offload images stored on my point-and-shoot camera AND create backups of them away from my laptop. (Photo backup is also available for smartphones and tablet PCs, but experience has told me that they are unreliable and possibly create duplicates!) I felt insecure while on my Europe trip as I run the risk of loosing all of the photos as the days go by. Thank goodness nothing bad happened.
  • Nothing – Probably the most risky as I could lose images I have taken, be bored in long-distance travels.
Probably the only thing left is to prepare.

Here's the update from my previous post:

– Hiroshima: I have booked all of my flights and accommodation mentioned there. After intense calculation and research of travel time of flight to Sapporo, and the check out time of the place in Hiroshima, it seems that I would be able to take the flight on the same day. In fact, it seems that there is really nothing to do at Hiroshima Airport, being a minor airport. (And is also one of the few airports in Japan to not be served by rail.)

– Hakodate: No, seriously. I really cancelled visiting this city. It was originally because I couldn't find a place that is within budget, but now that I have look at my itinerary into detail at this stage, I now have one less city to worry about in this multi-city trip. Well, and probably also to spend a few days less days in the Hokkaido winter.

– Sapporo: This one is a nightmare. Finding a place was hard on days surrounding the Snow Festival. Then I remembered that he hostel I stayed in Kyoto in 2012 has a Sapporo branch. My plan was to book whatever number of days I could book, and book the rest in nearby Otaru city, which still has space. A problem is the way the booking system of the Sapporo hostel has that other hostels I had book did not have. Though the hostel in Otaru is cheaper than the Sapporo one, the price difference is easily eaten up by just taking the train 8 times (or 4 days if I take twice a day). Just as I was about to give in to just book a place in Otaru to visit Sapporo, a new hostel (and the only one) appeared in the search result. (It's too new to have a review yet.) After checking the maps (and street views) to the nearest station, which was an underground subway station, it seems like a fair enough place to stay even if not for the issues with other hotels.

– Flight to Tokyo: Since flights between Narita and Chitose are among the world's most heavily used air route, that means greater competition among airlines, and cheaper flights. The airline I booked has various departure times, with the last flight of the day being the cheapest. Since I'm not the kind that would like to rush for time and maybe see a bit more of the festival, I booked that flight. Why did I not stay for the whole festival? I don't think that's necessary, and especially so considering that the trip is many times longer than my Kansai trip. Heck, probably a bit longer than my trip to Europe in mid-2013.

03 November 2014

Hokkaido trip preperation 6: Revisions to plans

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As part of any planning, there would be changes to plans. Additions to it, and of course, removal of some.

I mentioned on twitter and part 2 of this series that I would be adding places to visit between Tokyo and Hakodate. These are Osaka and Hiroshima, with side trips from these two cities.

I know that I have visited Osaka before, but since I was based in Kyoto, an hour to get between Kyoto and Osaka, and with many places in Kyoto planned, it's difficult to add places in Osaka to visit that, in retrospect, there were more places in Osaka (and a viewing area in Kobe) that I did not visit, so being based in Osaka this time, and staying there longer, would give me more room. (The real reason for duration being to fill up most of the gap.) There may be a chance that I would visit Kyoto again, but only for the Fushimi Inari shrine and Ginkakuji. Both of which I had visited before on previous visit, but I did not "exit" properly for one because I found myself lost from going too deep inside away from everyone until I stumbled a small residential area, and I hear the scenery would be different in winter.

Why did I choose Hiroshima? Well, proximity from Osaka for one, and knowing more about the atomic bomb of 70 years ago. It wasn't until I began planning into detail that I found out about the island with the "floating" tori (Miyajima) is nearby, and Iwakuni when I was about to book hotel rooms.

Speaking of about to book hotel rooms, I encountered a problem with booking accommodation for Hakodate: no available place to stay in except for a hotel whose per night rate is outside my budget. It is hard for me to come to this decision, but I have no choice but to cancel the Hakodate leg of the trip.

How has this affected my planning since it left a gap? Well, I did not plan to stay in Hakodate for a long time, so it's not that big. Since no flights or other accommodation had been booked, I could just simply adjust my stay at other places:
  •  Length of stay in Osaka has been extended. No change with starting date.
  • Since extended stay in Osaka overlaps with original planned date of Hiroshima, it has been moved to a latter date with no change in total number of nights, except perhaps an additional day.
  • Stay in Sapporo has changed to an earlier date to coincide with the end of Hiroshima, or the day after if flights are at night or early morning, but I don't have a fixed end date other than halfway when the snow festival is still ongoing. (Do I want to stay around longer when the total duration of the whole trip has been long enough?)
  • Since the destination after Hiroshima is now Sapporo instead of the previously planned Hakodate, I now save more money from not needing to take the long-distance train/bus travel between Hakodate and Sapporo, and the fact that Chitose airport (serving Sapporo if you didn't know) is a more popular destination than Hakodate means lesser air fares.

As of time of writing, I still have yet to book accommodation in Sapporo, and flights from Hiroshima to Sapporo, and Sapporo to Tokyo. I could take the train, but from a cost and time perspective, airplanes are the way to go. Which airport in Tokyo? There's Haneda and Narita, but I prefer Haneda instead as it is closer to the city center.

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中野区, 東京都, Japan
帰国子女 英語能力は堪能。趣味はアニメや漫画やプログラムコードを編集。通常、あたしの小説を英語で書いてです。Grew up abroad &travelled to different countries. I write my own fictional novel on my blog.