Sunday, March 27, 2016

Shelby x Tokyo: The Prep

I wonder if you know,
How they live in Tokyo,
If you seen it then you mean it
Then you know you have to go.
Fast and furious! (Kitaa!) (Drift, Drift, Drift)
Fast and furious! (Kitaa!) (Drift, Drift, Drift)
... Teriyaki Boyz, Tokyo Drift ...

My last visit to Tokyo was 12 years ago. The internet was relatively new, no apps to help with navigation and English signs were scarce. Lonely Planet was pretty much my only friend. Suffice to say that we didn't get up to much. Fast forward more than a decade later and we're more than spoilt with an assortment of guides (including the hipster sort!), Google Map, pocket wifi rentals and blog posts!


1. GUIDE

I had been lusting over Hello Sandwich's Tokyo Guide zine since forever but was never swift enough to purchase one. Last I learnt they were sold out (yet again!) after the second reprint with no plans for a third. So the second I confirmed plans for Tokyo, I immediately popped over to the shop to snoop.. you know, in case I got lucky. I know, I know.. ahh wishful thinking. Wishful thinking NOT! Turns out there was a third reprint (how could I not have known??) and the elusive guide was in fact: IN STOCK.

I was told that shortly after I bought mine, it was back to being sold out. Also I read that Ebony has put her foot down, so no more reprints after this. Tough luck peeps.

Anyone wanna rent my zine?

P.S. I found this Monocle Tokyo Guide (PDF) quite personable, succinct and delightful!

P.P.S This month's Going Places has a beautifully illustrated guide on Tokyo


2. POCKET WIFI

This is crucial. It was for me at least. With the pocket wifi I could upload my Instagram (bae), have access to Google Map / XE / Google Translate and be contactable via Whatsapp. 

Travel Recommends is having a Sakura Promo at RM15/day for travellers heading to Japan, South Korea or Taiwan with complimentary delivery. It is definitely quite a steal in comparison to Celcom's RM38/day roaming rate. You'll find their Facebook page filled with mixed reviews of ranging from steaming anger to utter delight. I share all their sentiments right down to the putrid bits LOL.


Like:
- having wifi! Using the internet! YAHSSS!
- small nifty size, light in weight, easy to use
- affordable!
- mostly pretty swift with responding to customer service calls / Whatsapp / email
- pretty fuss-free collection at the airport terminal

Dislike:
- my father's device came with a broken cable resulting in the inability to charge and he had to buy an additional cable in Tokyo
- DO NOT ADHERE TO ADVISED DELIVERY TIME ARGHH. This was an absolute bother. They sent an email stating the pick-up time to be 11:00 and did not show up until 18:30 despite ringing them a couple of time in between to clarify the predetermined time (empty promises). Imagine having to put up with ridiculous amount of waiting time (for device delivery and pick-up) for 2 devices and different time??
- miscommunication in between personnel. One person would tell me pick-up is possible for 2 devices the next day and few hours later I would get another call asking me if my device was ready for collection. Like WTF? My mother wishes to add a comment pertaining to this issue: muntah darah (vomit blood)

I will update here with regards to the deposit return. The policy states I should expect it within 7 working days. 


Personally, for most of the experience, I absolutely enjoyed having Travel Recommends' pocket wifi with me. The only annoying bit was the delivery and pick-up. Next time I'll opt for collection/delivery at the airport instead.

3. APPS
Download these apps prior to travel. I use these the most:
- XE

4. FLIGHT & ACCOMMODATION

These days there's a plethora of local airlines to choose from, not forgetting MATTA Fair, but if you're shopping for a ticket at the eleventh hour do pop over to Skyscanner Malaysia. They make a general comparison between ticket prices of various airlines and booking companies.

I usually book my accommodation via agoda. You can opt for Airbnb too, get RM81 off when you make your first reservation with my referral link here.

At this point my feet were ready to divorce my body.

We stayed at Shibuya Granbell Hotel (as recommended by Hello Sandwich) and Shibuya Excel Tokyu Hotel (as recommended by IG @sherreenl).

At Granbell we stayed at their loft-like King Suite.

Like:
- for almost the same rate of the regular room in a more distinguished hotel, we could stay in a suite (which had multiple themes to choose from) 
- THEIR SMART TOILET (which if you caught on my Snapchat, freaked the f*ck outta me the first time 'cos it has a sensor that opens the lid the moment you open the door)
- gigantic onsen-like tub which took awhile to fill but could fit a party!
- choice of Japanese or continental breakfast. We had Japanese and I had natto for the first time!
- Nespresso machine with so so many capsules
- Shiseido amenities

Disike:
- still pretty central but not smack in the centre of action. We had to alight at Cerulean Hotel because the limousine bus does not have a direct stop at Granbell. It's a stone's throw away but with luggage can be quite a pain.
- their King Suites are all Smoking rooms and that was kinda thumbs down
- view was meh
- mildly irritating to climb the stairs to get to the loo

At Excel Tokyu we stayed at their Standard Twin room:

Like:
- located just above the Shibuya subway station! Shibuya pretty much doesn't sleep so you can always pop over to 7-11 to get a cup of instant clam soup or instant tonkotsu noodles in a bowl if you're hungry. Also Donki is just a short stroll away for when you're bored and itching to buy something at midnight LOL.
- the limousine bus stops directly at the hotel. Similarly if you're taking the subway, all you need to do is get off the Shibuya stop.
- has a dining table. This was fun 'cos we would tapau our food from the combini (convenient store i.e. 7-11-lah!) / Tokyu Food Hall, bring them back to the room and have a pseudo family dinner together.
- an awesomesauce view of the Shibuya crossing from the lobby
- lifts are pretty efficient

Dislike:
- room and furniture are quite aged
- insufficient plug points
- room view was meh


5. GETTING TO / FROM AIRPORT & GETTING AROUND

We opted for the Airport Limousine Bus (access their counter upon exiting Customs into the Terminal) 'cos I didn't want to subject my mother and accompanying luggage through the subway upon arrival. If you reside close to the many drop-off points, it's definitely one of the more convenient way to travel to / from the airport. We bought return tickets 'cos they're a better deal than single journey ones. 


Prior to the trip I was confused as to whether I should purchase the Tokyo Subway Ticket, Suica or Pasmo. I'm pretty much still as perplexed as before but here's what I did: for the 5D4N that I was there, I purchased a 3-day Tokyo Subway Ticket and the prepaid Pasmo for the remaining days.

Just beside the Airport Limousine Bus counter was the Keisei counter where we bought the Tokyo Subway 3-Day Ticket which allows for unlimited travel on the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway. Note that the Tokyo Subway Ticket is only valid for overseas visitors and you will need to produce your passport and tourist visa upon purchase.

Tokyo Subway 1-Day Ticket - Adult: ‎¥ 800 / Child: ‎¥ 400
Tokyo Subway 2-Day Ticket - Adult: ‎¥ 1,200 / Child: ‎¥ 600
Tokyo Subway 3-Day Ticket - Adult: ‎¥ 1,500 / Child: ‎¥ 750


The same Keisei counter also sold prepaid Pasmo cards. I was all ready to purchase it from the station ticket vending machine the next day (wrote down the steps and all) but this saves so much effort. You can use the Pasmo for travel and for shopping payment (as long as they have the facility that accepts the Pasmo card). Furthermore the deposit on the card along with the remaining fund will be returned to you should you not wish to have it anymore. This Pasmo card is a transportation IC card that is also exclusively for visitors. Cool!


The selection of passes and cards really depends on your travel habits. There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding this issue so you will just have to scrutinise your journey and decide for yourself the relevant tickets you need. I will continue to add any other useful information and feel free to contribute any prep tips that you would recommend for a smoother travel in Tokyo in the comments section.


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