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Trip Report Crispy's Honeymoon Spectacular

Discussion in 'Passport' started by Crispy013, Mar 22, 2019.

  1. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Finally, now that we're back into the normal swing of things and the post holiday blues have well and truly set in, I promised that I would recap the events of our pretty epic honeymoon trip just this past December/January.

    For the workings of how the trip all came together and possible itineraries I considered here is some background reading https://www.ski.com.au/xf/threads/crispys-18-19-honeymoon-planning.80520/

    1 month, 5 countries, 2 snowboard bags - anyways, here goes:

    Chapter 1 - Hong Kong
    After spending Christmas with my wife's family in Port Macquarie, we shipped out on Boxing Day with the first destination a quick stop-over in Hong Kong for 2 nights. The flights were pretty straight forward (Port Macquarie-Sydney-Hong Kong), having done the change over from domestic to international at Sydney a couple times now.

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    We secured a pretty decent price for our tickets on Cathay, and I was pleasantly surprised with their service. Aircraft was brand new, good on-demand entertainment, solid food and seats didn't make you feel like you were crammed into the person beside you. This made the 8 or so hour flight to Honkers go pretty smoothly.

    We arrived quite late in the evening, but the efficiency of this airport was on par with Singapore/Dubai. Out of customs and baggage in less than 30 minutes. We then shuffled onto the MTR which rocketed towards Hong Kong island at a rapid rate. This was transport as it should be - simple, consistent and quick.

    Our accommodation for the next 2 nights was situated on Hong Kong island near the central MTR station. The place I eventually picked was called Mojo Nomad Central which was a boutique-y hotel from the Ovolo group. I found Hong Kong accomodation to be fairly steep for what you got - I think we paid roughly $270/night.

    What we quickly learnt about Hong Kong was that nothing there is flat, so we had a bit of trouble trying to navigate the escalators and elevated walkways to locate the place late at night. But we eventually made it (snowboard bags and all) and check in to the 27th level of highrise city.

    The next morning we wake fairly dazed from the previous travel day and decide to head towards the peak before crowds become too hectic.

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    First things first, however, it was coffee time. We received a hot tip off our local barista to try this place out. It did hit the spot, but at HK35 (~$6-7), not that cheap. I found coffee in general to be pretty exxy in HK.

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    With the caffeine hit in us, it was a fairly managable walk to the peak tram station. We arrived at roughly 9am or so and an easy walk-on the tram. I had heard about this place having line-ups that extended down the street, so going early was a winner.

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    The ride up to the top station is pretty enjoyable - just hold on, because the initial ascent is at about 45 degrees. As it makes it way up the hill, you get some beautiful views back over Hong Kong island, the bay and onto Kowloon.

    When we arrived at the top station, it was still too early for the main lookout to open so we decide to take in the fresh air and views by walking along a beautiful walking trail to the Lugard Rd lookout. It was pretty entertaining to pass all the fitness fanatics, climbing parties and locals walking their animals. Despite the hazy conditions, the view was gorgeous.

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    From the peak, we then headed back down into town and towards the ferry piers to catch a service over to explore Kowloon.



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    We spent the afternoon just exploring the streets around Tsim Sha Tsui and up towards Mong Kok. Pretty standard array of shops and heaps of people. Reminded me a little of Tokyo, just a little rougher around the edges. Also had an epic lunch at a fairly local restaurant, which oddly seated my wife and I in the same booth as another person. This felt quite odd, but I guess it's possibly just normal practice in HK.

    After our shopping and eating fix, it was back to the island to chill out for the rest of the afternoon. I took the opportunity to head for a run and check out a bit more of the neighbourhood. With the undulating terrain, I eventually tracked down a fairly level running path up on the Bowen Rd fitness track. A very enjoyable and serene run that felt like you were running on the top of the surrounding sky scrapers.

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    Later that evening, we headed out for dinner and caught a ferry across to Kowloon to experience the nightly light show.

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    All in all, it was a pretty cool little stop over. The main sights can easily be accomplished in a day, but not sure if I'm drawn to returning solely to visit Hong Kong. Next up, it's onto Japan...
     
  2. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Chapter 2 - Japan
    With some slight travel acclimatization done, it onto Country #2 (Japan) for a relatively short stay before our eventual destinations in Europe. Japan was 'must do' component to the honeymoon and we managed to snare a room at our favourite Hakuba lodge, so YOLO.

    It was back out to HK airport for our 10am flight towards Tokyo. Again, the process was smooth and efficient. We then strapped in for the relatively short 5 hour flight bound for Narita.



    Touchdown in Narita at 2pm, and 2:30pm we were in the arrivals lobby, bags collected, yen withdrawn and angling towards the Skyliner Express. I ordered the discount return skyliner ticket online and it was a straightforward 1 minute exchange to make the next service heading towards Ueno. Domo arigatou gozaimas.

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    Arriving at Keisei-Ueno station, I had made the switch to the Ueno shinkansen station a couple years beforehand so kind of went on memory to get us there. The signs definitely helped, but it is no more than a 5 minute hop and skip across the road. We made sure to quickly stocked up at the first proper Family Mart we saw before our journey out to Nagano.

    With no time to waste I made it swiftly into the shinkansen station at Ueno, picked up our tickets and we were enroute to Nagano. 70 minutes or so later, as we get into Nagano, night time had arrived and so too a bit of light snow flurries!

    We had a car for the 5 nights we were going to be in Hakuba and made our way round to the nearby Nippon Rent-A-Car outlet. It was about 5 minutes from the station. For the 2 of us + gear, I only reserved a relatively small vehicle, for which we ended up being given a Suzuki Swift of sorts. Made sure to check snow tyres and 4wd equipped - hai. All for approx Y5,500 per day.

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    Once we roll out of the store, we make the 1 hour or so journey into the Hakuba Valley. A little snow about so I was quietly excited for the next couple of days. It was starting to get late, so we manage to stop via the Apple Mart on the main drag in Hakuba before arriving at our accommodation - Backcountry Lodge Hakuba.

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    Given we had arrived quite early in the season, the build up of snow wasn't too substantial, but it looked like we were in for a good couple of days based on the weather forecast. We reunite with some lovely lodge owners (Eric + Fumie), plus their beautiful golden retriever Hime. Wife was definitely happy to get her dog fix after the travel day.

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    Awake the next morning feeling refreshed, chow down a standard Fumie breakfast which hit the spot and it was then time to play.

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    More to come from Hakuba.
     
    teckel, Froff Life, Melskius and 3 others like this.
  3. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Chapter 2 - Japan (Continued)
    First day back on the slopes for this ski season, so we decide to head round to our old favourite (Norikura) to warm the legs up. Albeit only abut 5cm on the car in the morning, the weather looked set in, so I was hoping for a little bit more up on the mountain.

    We arrive pretty early to a fairly small contingent of eager beavers. The snowfall increased as we kit up next to the car and head to the ticket office. Get at me.

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    While Mrs Crispy reaccustomed her turns on the central beginner lift, I line up in the far left lift to get up high and see whats on offer. The views from the first chair up looked like I was in for a good morning.

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    Given this was December 29, conditions were pretty good to be honest. Snow was light and crowds pretty much non existent. I was able to cruise down the main ungroomed run a couple of times cutting fresh lines with ease. Once the obvious trail were trashed, I had a little play around snake gully to see how the coverage was. In summary, good but not great. I had to work a little keep my moment and not collect a sassa bush. Still heaps of fun.



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    After a nice lunch at the main base restaurant, I headed out with Mrs Crispy to see how here progress was fairing. Building from last season's intro to proper powder, she was really upping her game and confidence in the snow.



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    Overall, I think it was a perfect first day. Steady snowfall, relatively calm conditions and little crowds. We got maybe 15cm on the car by the time we left in the early arvo.

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    Tomorrow we follow the weather and journey a little further afield to a resort near Itoigawa.
     
    Froff Life, LMB, Melskius and 2 others like this.
  4. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Chapter 2 - Japan (Continued)
    Day 1 - tick! The next morning we awoke to what looked like the end of the storm. Not much in the way of fresh overnight and some blue skies starting to poke through. Bugger.

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    Looking at some of the weather stations near the coast during breakfast I noticed that Itoigawa and No were still picking up some early morning accumulation so decided that's the way to head today.

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    As we turn up the road towards Itoigawa Seaside Valley resort, what was intially intermittent sunshine and brief snow flurries, turns into absolute biblical dumpage. For a Sunday too, the place was still fairly quiet. Only a handful of cars in the parking lot.

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    We decide to wing it with a morning 4 hour pass which was something silly like Y2500. Straight up the main lift to get you to the upper area and I had a feeling we would be working pretty hard on the relatively mellow terrain.

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    To get Mrs Crispy her bearings, we do a couple runs back under the bottom lift. The rolling terrain was good practice to learn how to take speed off the hills to float the flats. Nice and wide too.





    I was then given a short leave pass to explore the upper and backside to the resort. From the main upper junction, I take the far left lift that takes you to the highest point on the mountain to access the back couple of runs.

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    The backside had some exceptional snow with barely a sole in sight. It was free run on the edges of the trails and I didn't even need to go scoping lines within the trees. Unfortunately the bottom lift wasn't operating, so only did a handful of runs here before the weather started to change for the worse.

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    By about lunch time the temperatures had started to rise and all of a sudden the graupel snow had arrived. This actually stung the face as it came down, so it was time to bail. We head back down to the base after a pretty enjoyable couple of hours. Back to the lodge for a shower and chill out time.

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    In the arvo, we manage to get out for a bit and walk/play with Hime. Quite a bit of fun playing around in the snow and trying to keep the game of fetch going.

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    Ticks all around for day 2. Tomorrow its onto resort #3. PS. Bluebird and powder :p. More to come.
     
    SuskiQ, Froff Life and LMB like this.
  5. cruisin along

    cruisin along A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great pictures and commentary and looks like you are having a blast !
     
  6. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Chapter 2 - Japan (Continued)
    Finally it looked like the end of the storm cycle and we were greeted with some blue bird conditions the next morning. Another hearty breakfast and I was given the morning to explore before meeting up with Mrs Crispy around lunch time. On today's agenda - Tsugaike.

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    The crowds were fairly noticeable as I got into the bottom gondola station. I guess being NYE, the holiday period was in full swing. I waited out the line for tickets and the gondola line moved very fast as they were packing them full.

    Straight up to the top station and then a shuffle down to the very top lift which looked like it had just started spinning. Already a fair few lines were put on the ungroomed sections, but given the space up in the top bowl, still easy to find some early morning fluff. Looked like about 15cm of fresh since close of play yesterday.

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    Noting the building crowds, the lift line for this top double was starting to become a bit too much, so after taking in the beautiful scenery up high it was time to explore down lower through the trees to see what was around. Surely is a special spot up the top though.

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    I manage to duck into some trees about halfway down the mountain through a bit of unofficial run I found last year between cat tracks. Was good to see no-one had really been through, so some enjoyable cruisy tracks to be had.



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    After a another tasty lunch, I joined Mrs Crispy for some sunshine cruising of the scenic greens on the lower slopes. Although the crowds were fairly big, they were manaegable and not too difficult to find your own space.

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    Though I guess once the lunch rush came out for their final turns of the afternoon, it was time to call it a day.

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    It was a pretty subdued New Years for us. I think we tried to stay up till midnight but crashed at about 9pm. Ha - the joys of getting old.

    Tomorrow, its the final day on the slopes in Japan before we jet over to Europe. Stay tuned.
     
    Born2skii, cruisin along and teckel like this.
  7. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Chapter 2 - Japan (Cont.)
    Happy New Year! Our pretty subdued NYE bedroom party, which consisted of a couple of Chu-Hai's before crashing at 9pm, meant we were up nice and fresh to start 2019.

    Mrs Crispy for quite happy to spend today on the couch reading and lazing around but I was keen to keep at it. Only a light dusting of snow overnight but I thought I might head up early to Iwatake to explore over in the resort's backside trees to hopefully find some left over goodness.

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    A quick 5 minute trip around to the carpark of Iwatake and it was not surprising to find the ticket and gondola line up very relaxed. I'm guessing most of the punters were off to a slower start this morning. Straight up to the top station and what looked like a beautiful day shaping up - light cloud on the alps and still cool.



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    From the top station it looked like the backside lift wasn't running first up, so I played around on the various runs to either side which had some beautiful clean corduroy for early morning carving. Off piste was very much off limits - still not enough cover to close up the rocks and sassa.

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    After these became a bit mundane, I decided to skate around to the backside trail to just double check the lift status and realised it had been operating the whole time....and what was that, a brand new bakery with sick lookout!

    I had heard that there was a new place, but didn't realise where they had built it. It was called Hakuba Mountain Harbour and you crossed this cool little bridge to some pretty amaxing views back onto the Japanese Alps.

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    Price for the baked goods is relatively steep, but quality is top notch. Well worth the little bit extra when you can enjoy a coffee and muffin overlooking the vista below.

    After a quick pit stop, its then over the backside of the resorts to explore. Again, the lines through the trees were pretty tracked out and fairly dicey still with the limited base accumulation. I found myself trying to cut a line from last time I was here in peak season and it was a pretty big fail - really hard to get a rhythm.

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    Even my secret spot off the snow shoeing course was just not happening. Needed another metre to open up some space between trees.



    Anyways, it was pretty fun morning before I descended back down to retire to the lodge. This place really needs a good dump to shine and unfortunately the piste runs are pretty mundane after a while if you cant get in the trees.

    On the way back to the lodge I stop by a little shrine on a connecting road that I had passed in the morning. Quite a cool little place to spend some time reflecting on the close of another memorable chapter in Japan.

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    Next chapter we embark for Europe....
     
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  8. Crispy013

    Crispy013 One of Us

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    Chapter 3 - Italy
    It's always the way isn't it? We awoke on check-out day and with nothing in the forecast last night, it was a lazy 20cm in the car park and nuking. Ahhhh!!!!

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    Anyways, can't change plans now, so we farewell our beautiful lodge owners Fumie and Eric (+ Hime of course!) and head back down to Nagano to hand back the car.

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    It was pretty much a reverse of the way in, with a shinkansen to Ueno and then back onto the skyliner to Narita. Being still a national holiday period, I didn't have a chance at picking up reserved seats so we pretty much winged it in the unreserved section, managing to snare the last free spot in the exit hallway. We kind of setup a makeshift seating arrangement with our luggage and got through the 70 or so minute service back to the Tokyo metropolis.

    From Narita, we bound an afternoon service to Hong Kong and after a couple of hours layover in Honkers airport, it was the overnight service to Milan, Italy.

    We arrived early the next morning in Malpensa Airport, which when you've come from a functional outfit like HK airport, definitely is a couple rungs behind in the service department. Anyways, unlike the 3 hr schemozzle from last time I entered here, we slipped through in about an hour. It was then down onto the airport metro line headed for downtown Milan.

    We arrived at Milano Centrale and somehow managed to find a luggage storage place that took our large snowboard bags off our hands so we could have a little look around the city. From the central station it was a 5-10min journey to take in the beautiful sight of the Duomo cathedral.

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    I had seen similar in Florence and Paris on previous trips, but each one of these buildings still takes my breath away. Such intricate architecture. I had prebooked some VIP tickets to explore inside and up to the top lookout. It was a pretty simple exchange and the VIP skip the line was definitely worth it - no waiting around in a long line and straight in the side door.

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    Inside the place reminded me of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris with the abundance of stained glass windows. Very sombre and reflective inside. After a lap of this huge structure, we managed to find the entrance to the rooftop exhibit. I only bought the one where you walk up the 200+ stairs to the top, but you can also get a lift up for a small surcharge.

    Nevertheless, we managed the staircase which was SUPER narrow, so if you have claustraphobia or hate more than about 20 stairs, fork out that little extra for the lift. But the views at the top were stunning. A clear and cool day in greater Milano.

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    After experiencing the rooptop and views of the Duomo, it was back down into the square where we just wandered through the various shopping districts of the Galleria Vittorio. It was then back to Milano Centrale for a quick bite to eat (pizza, what else in Italy?) before our high speed service to Florence.

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    Next stop, Firenze!
     
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