Diaries Magazine

Asia Travel Post #1 – Transport

Posted on the 20 October 2014 by Larlarcharms

All modes of transport covered on my trip

We flew with Cathay Pacific. This was my first long-haul flight in my ‘adult life’ haha (around 12 hours).

The outbound flight was ‘fabulous’. Lots of food and drink, enough leg room, a window seat, the toilets were clean and the entertainment was great.




Touchscreen entertainment with a large selection of films: Asian films/ tv shows, lifestyle shows, comedy tv like Big Bang, radio and music, etc. I blame it on the high altitude but ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ and ‘Dragons’ Den’ made it into my playlist, although I dislike the program at home!









On every Cathay Pacific flight (yes all four of them) small pillows and a blanket were placed on every seat. Headsets were also dished out (free of charge on Cathay Pacific). I bought an aeroplane phono adaptor on Amazon. Obviously I can only comment on Cathay Pacific, but they use different plane models for short-haul and long-haul. I prefered the entertainment system on the long-haul because it was more modern; touch-screen set-up and no adaptor required. The short-haul model had a dated seat with a built-in clicker (that’s a remote to you) and featured two parallel 3.5 mm phono jacks in the arm rest – which meant it fitted my adaptor but my in-ear headphones would have worked without the adaptor. So long story short, don’t buy the phono adaptor if flying with Cathay Pacific!

I opted for the ‘raw veggie/vegan’ meal option before flying. An attendant found me pretty quickly on most of my flights to confirm my meal order. If you have multiple dietary requirements inclusive of celiac, no dairy, vegan, etc., I think this is the safest option.

Cathay Pacific list 21 meal options that you can pre-order while confirming your seats: http://www.cathaypacific.com/cx/en_GB/travel-information/inflight/food-and-beverages/special-meals.html

Although, they are only useful if you have one requirement, such as celiac but can eat meat, etc. I think they could halve their menu by just encompassing multiple requirements into one meal.

It is worth noting, if you choose one of these meals, you will be served at least half an hour before the rest of economy class! This happened on every flight. But I liked to eat with the others because the smell of the cooked food magically made my rabbit food more palatable.

Anyway, here are a few photos of the raw vegetarian option, or what I liked to call rabbit food – but it was fine!

Every meal featured salad, sometimes multiple pots of salad and fruit. I think I had at least four punnets of fruit on my outbound journey, I even took a couple away with me. The fruit was always the best part of the meal for me. But I didn’t want to eat loads of carbs or junk food on the plane so the rabbit food was the perfect option.







Inbound journey did not fare so well. We had two flights back to back and they served the same salad with not much fruit. Luckily, my friends tucked into their blackcurrant cheesecake and Hargendars ice cream so I happily took their fruit off of them. I also tried Oolong tea which was served after the meal, along with coffee. The tea was so nice! Again, maybe the high altitude made it taste better? All I know is I’m craving that Oolong tea and another soy latte but more on that later.



So the dinner option on the return flight was more iceberg lettuce with pepper. I happily substituted this for the meat option; ‘fragrant jasmine rice with stir fried vegetables and satay chicken’. Needless to say I didn’t eat the chicken but rest tasted so good! I was really impressed with the service and the stewardess did not mind me changing my meal option.

I’m assuming it’s similar on most flights, but specifically with Cathay Pacific, you just had to flag down a stewardess but they were always more than happy to give you another drink. Hello 50th cup of apple juice! Or red wine like Amy ;] I think they were full cups too! If getting plastered on a plane is your thing then you know who to fly with next.. just excuse the plastic cup though, unless you fly first class. In which case, why are you on my blog? haha.



Oh yeah, the paperwork to get into Japan was no joke. Where are we staying? For how long? How much money do I have with me? Am I bringing in perfume or other items I need to declare? and a bunch of other questions I can’t recall.

So while we were away (there were six of us hence my choppy switches from singular to plural). Anyway, I think we ended up taking every kind of transport.



Tell a lie, we didn’t catch one of these red taxis in Hong Kong, not even the green ones, and the blues ones (services rural Hong Kong).



We caught the MTR subway a lot. We bought Octopus cards which cost us the equivalent of £12 plus they had money on them! I doubt Oyster cards are initially that cheap… OK lets work this out. I ended up topping-up the Oyster card with £45 when I stayed in London for five days earlier in the Summer. I still have at least a £10 balance to be fair. How does Hong Kong fare? On top of the initial £12 the Octopus card cost, I topped up by $100 HKD (probably $20 HKD would have surviced!) and that lasted me six days, plus I used the card on different modes of transport and I managed to spend the remainder of balance in two  convenience stores on the last night. All of that for £20?!  I’m still not finished. The Octopus card allows you to ‘borrow’ money for one use when the card’s balance isn’t enough. You just pay it back on the next top-up. I didn’t see anyone get rejected at the barriers because of this and just as well because the stations were congested. London take note! Anyway, their transport was very efficient and as far as I recall, always on time. The subways were much roomier than what I am used to in London.

An added bonus, no Chinese person wanted to sit next to me! Sometimes I’d go the whole trip with an empty seat next to me (even at peak times). Other times, someone would sit down, catch a glimpse of me and suddenly walk off! So this didn’t happen all of the time, just 95% of the time..



The tiny tram gets full quickly so other people had to sit next to me, but I took this as we were leaving. The tram that takes you up Victoria Peak also makes this list. Although this is the only photo I have and it could have been taken anywhere with benches..

My dad went to Victoria Peak on his business trip years ago, so I was excited to visit Victoria Peak myself and it turned out to be one of the highlights from the trip! I’ll feature it in a later post about Hong Kong.



Yay, an accomplished task ticked off my ‘Cardcaptors’ list: take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong island. A very short trip, but we timed it right and admired the sunset! We were able to use our Octopus cards for this.



Look at the stars engraved into each seat!



We rode transfer coaches like this, as well as double-decker buses which played cute advertisements throughout the journey.



and took in views like this..



Again, the Octopus card strikes again. Although you don’t ‘swipe out’ on buses. You get your moneys worth for long journeys but it’s not so good if you only need one stop.

Hong Kong >>>>>> Japan (G-Dragon style!)

We pre-bought Japan Rail Passes which are not cheap! Supposedly, you’re meant to make your money back on the Shinkansen alone which is just as well because the pass doesn’t cover all routes. Although it’s important to note, you have to activate your pass when you arrive in Japan and to do this you have to join a slow que (optional) and then fill in more paperwork. Japan loves their paperwork (ignorant tourist remark – don’t hurt me!). After about 20 minutes, we were armed with our newly activated passes. The first part of the trip required us to take the Haruka line to Kyoto! There was just enough room for us to store all of our suitcases before finding our reserved seats in an almost empty carriage.







We arrived at Kyoto station in the early evening, presumably rush hour but it their rush hour went on ’til after 7pm. Anyway one of the first things I witnessed while lugging my suitcase through the platform was a group of workers standing round in a circle cheering. Presumably thanking each other for their hard work. Very ‘Japanesey’ and I liked it!

Apparently, taxis are really expensive in Japan and are best avoided. So armed with this advice, well, plans change and we ended up taking three taxis. I don’t think it worked out too badly price wise. Plus I would have happily paid double for the last taxi we took because it stopped us from having to leave at 4am to get multiple trains to the airport.





So without really thinking about it, we ‘hailed’ down two taxis (well just joined the que) and split into groups. I had the address on a bit of paper in one hand and my Japanese phrasebook in the other. Gemma’s Japanese was really good and I think my pigeon Japanese was justifiable. Although the driver didn’t know exactly where the house was (because it’s not down a typical side road). So we were dropped off somewhere in Kyoto. I had heard accounts of taxi drivers pretending to be lost to run the meter up, etc., so I was a little apprehensive when the driver suddenly got out of his car and started walking into the distance. But in hindsight, I do generally believe he was helping us.  As well as this, none of us bought Japanese sim cards and therefore couldn’t contact each other. Funnily enough, while we were peering into the darkness waiting for our driver to return (!) the others were literally walking past our taxi. We always bumped into each other at just the right moments without any worries.



The best of the worst…

Looks a little confusing, huh? & I’m not talking about the blurriness. But actually, I liked their rail system.  You find your destination on a map and look at the number next to it which indicates the price you pay – depending if you want a return ticket. The tickets are tiny and get hole-punched on the outbound journey. The machine eats the ticket on its second use so I didn’t get any souvenirs here.



Just like Hong Kong, the trains stopped just at the right gates. Markers indicate to get on at one spot and to allow passengers to descend on another doorway. Very efficient!









We also rode on the infamous Yamanote line and used the worlds busiest train station, Shinjuku. ‘An average of 3.5 million people’ pass through this station daily.





& what we’ve all been waiting for.. the Shinkansen! One thing I can’t say about our trip is that it was boring! We encountered the student protests in Hong Kong and walked right next to multiple protest groups and had to change our plans because of the disruptions to transport. Japan was destined to be equally eventful for us because typhoon Vongfong was wasn’t going to wait for us to leave Japan before making its move. Typically and unavoidably, we had to take the Shinkansen to get us from Kyoto to Tokyo on the very day the typhoon Vongfong swept near Tokyo.

When we reached Kyoto station, we quickly learnt that all services to Tokyo were suspended.. great! We didn’t know at this point that barely two hours later, services would be resumed, albeit with delays. Le sigh. Aside from this, every mode of transport was reliable and on time. But I expect nothing less of Japan! I doubt the trains would have resumed so quickly back in England when a ‘signal failure’ results in at least 10 minute delays. The Shinkansen was unbelieveably busy (but in hindsight, the typhoon probably didn’t help this!). I’ve seen shows where business men and women are bursting from the doorways and platform attendants push squashed body parts back through the doors before the train leaves the platform. Well, I witnessed that actually happening and lucky for me, I would also be taking a busy Shinkansen. All of us had to stand until the first stop which was someway into the journey. Typically a man nearest me got up to have a wee. I think we played imaginery twister while he tried his best manouvering between my suitcase, hand luggage, myself, and then everyone else standing up. Even now I’m not sure how people got off at the first stop with their suitcases too. The aisle was so narrow and there were no pockets of room to get out of everyones way.. First impressions were not great. Unlike Hong Kong, when a seat became available, after Alan took his (what about ladies first?!) well, a Japanese woman happily helped me move my suitcase and she also moved over to let me take the aisle seat. I’m so glad the Japanese turned out to be as nice as I had hoped they would be! Am I allowed to say that? Of course there are exceptions. We did have an older lady shout at us at a platform. I think I am courteous enough, I’m always very aware of personal space and go out of my way to make sure I don’t get in people’s way or at the very least, I’ll apologize. But I’m really not sure what the woman’s problem was. So I just played the ignorant tourist and turned my back.

Sorry not sorry, Obaasan.

& I think that sums up the transport. Oh.. I can’t believe how long this post is and it is only on transport. Good luck reading my future posts on Hong Kong and then Japan. I think I’ll do another joint post too (HK & Japan) but I’m not sure at the moment which one will get posted first so stay tuned.

Bonus transport!

Cable car!





& a rollercoaster.





A nice, four engine plane awaiting our thriteen hour journey. (After the four hour trip from Tokyo to Hong Kong). Even Dragons’ Den didn’t do much to speed up the journey.

I’m going to do my best to try and get the next travel post to you soon. I promise it will be more interesting than this one!

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