Cruising with a train

Not the orient express.

We refer, instead to the train service between Tokyo and Hokkaido. It has always been our intent to revisit Hokkaido without flying. The dream was to take a train to Sapporo and pick up the rental and drive all around, especially in summer. Thus we had been doing quite some research into how we will pull this off.

And we picked up news of this luxurious service that will run the length of Tokyo to the northern most island of the Japanese archipelago. Started since 1-May this year, this new sleeper service (read here) is the epitome of luxury ‘cruising’. Like its cousins in the airline industry, the railway folks are also upping their game. From the article, it would appear there is no shortage of folks who would lap it up. Oversubscribed 76 times when balloted for its first ever journey, it has continued to be popular we understand.

However, take a read about the cost of making this journey first before making a decision to book a pair of tickets. At ¥320,000pp a pop for the train ride (twin share), this could be the cost of an entire travel journey for most people. And meals are not included! Oh the experiences that only money seem to buy… Perhaps we can work part-time on the train, or be stowaways? Sounds like a lot of working on the railroad. All the life long day!

How would you like to pass your time away on this train?

This is not just a ‘Bearen’ place

Just leafing through one of the editions of NatGeo travel magazine some months back, we came across the ‘expeditions‘ planned to the polar region. One in particular caught our eye : the one that covers Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland’s East Coast.

Coming in at US$14,950pp for the lowest category (of cabin), these journeys are led by a NatGeo expert who Svalbard NatGeo Expeditionworks with the ship’s experienced captain to chart a course for the voyage. You will be in safe hands!

In particular, our interest was piqued by the stop at Svalbard, kingdom of the polar bears. There you can seek an audience with the monarch of the bears provided they are not in hibernation… Seriously, in the capital Longyearbyen, one never venture out of town without your guide who has a loaded rifle cocked at all times for use.

Because in a “Bearen” place like that, one could become bear fodder in an instant. It would be an ignominious way to add to the statistic of chewed up tourists. Ponder that.

We plucked the following from the website:

  • Explore Arctic Svalbard, the polar bear capital of the planet, to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, on the sea ice. Got that.
  • Navigate the arctic wilderness of the Greenland Sea to Iceland’s wild western coast, with expert naturalists and a fully equipped expedition ship—making multiple stops en route completely dependent on ice, wildlife and weather conditions. Ok sounds like fun.
  • Watch for huge walruses, whales, and reindeer, and spot rich birdlife. Woah… Wunderbar!
  • Glide between soaring ice floes, exploring via ship, Zodiac, and kayak. Now that’s super!

Sounds so exciting. Time to save up for it.

Nope, not the average expedition ship where you pay to work… heheh. But no dancers performing evening shows either. Now you know why we categorize this post under “Sweet Dreams are made of these”. Aside from the fact it’s the title of an Eurythmics song.

Obvious question, will you go on this journey if you have the means to do so?

The annual pilgrimage has begun

We are not overly religious just in case you wonder. But you see this word ‘pilgrimage’ aptly describes what we’re about to do. We are once again on a journey to the land of the rising sun. Our annual road trip will begin soon!

But first, Mel will need to pound the corporate floorboard. And while he’s busy doing that, Suan will be setting herself upon the city’s shopping. Look out Tokyo shopping, here comes HRH Suan!

This pilgrimage will take us to the northern coast of Japan.

Toyama (富山市), ~300km northwest from Tokyo will be our base.

Tateyama snowall19
Go there in April!

It will be approximately 2 hours+ of a Shinkansen ride to/from this city on the sea of Japan. We will be making our road trip all along the coast, staying in ryokan onsens. Yes, naked hot baths again! Heheh… If you are wondering, nooooo we are not nudists. Just to clarify.

The last time we came close to Toyama was when we visited the ice walls of Tateyama. We could have continued onto Toyama from the mountain, but that would mean leaving our car behind in Omachi! So, this is in a way, a continuation of that journey.

This will be another epic road trip for us. The day light will be short and the roads fester with snow. However the distances we have chosen this time are short and we’ll have plenty of time to spend at each of our road trip stops.

A journalog cometh soon. Look out for it!

City of Angels

In about 2 days, it will be the end of the zodiac year of the mischievous monkey and we shall be welcoming the fire Rooster. We say Rooster, because the year of the chicken does not give it as much umph… 2016 has indeed been a funky year with the Monkey zodiac wrecking a fair bit of pranks all over the world!

Here we are again at the airport firing this post away. We are escaping from the little red dot and on the way to Bangkok, the city of Angels as its original long form name in Sanskrit reads. Here we will spend a super super long weekend away from all that lunar new year madness back home…since reunion dinner’s been had. It seems these days there are more people like us. Don’t judge.

You know there is so much written about Bangkok that it would be probably pointless for us to add to the mix. Known for excesses that defies imagination, this reminds us of a song. And it goes like this: “One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble”….anyone knows or remembers Murray Head?

So what will we be doing? What else but to experience a culinary overload? LOL. We have a reputation to keep up you will know! Ok, so we will also some exploring too, some of it in Bangkok and others outside of this sprawling city of angels. Watch out for our journalog coming your way soon!

PS: we got upgraded to Premium Economy on Cathay for this flight…heheh what a good start!

Star studded Vevey & Montreux

Freddie Mercury memorial at Montreux1
His songs live on!

When I first heard about Vevey, Nestle came to mind. Being such a large company with products in so many areas of daily life, it was obvious. But then as I found out, even more famous icons can be found here.

Charlie Chaplin came to mind. Rejected by his adopted country, he settled in Vevey and produced some of his finest works. Sure everyone remembers his silent movies, but he was not just an actor but a director too.

Then there is Montreux, yet another town nestled along Lake Leman (that’s lake Geneva for those who don’t know). Again the home of stars – and this time, the name that many a teenager knows back in the 1980s – Steve McQueen Freddie Mercury (not sure why nobody pointed this error out earlier!). Rock on yeah!

Let Mel show you more about his discoveries of both delectable towns on the shores of the lake if you had not already read about it from our earlier post on Neuchatel. You will be amazed with what sights and sounds that awaits you should you make the journey to the home of star studded Vevey and Montreux.

Most Baroque Solothurn

Today’s the last day of the year! Perhaps you will be off to celebrations soon! For us, we are on the last day of our tour, ready to make the return flight home tomorrow morning. And shivering in the really really cold night trying to tell you we enjoyed new year’s eve…Hah! Yes this is a scheduled post.


We shall top off the year with this 2nd instalment of our Swiss stories. And we introduce to you a city that they call the “ambassadors’ city”, “city of elevens”, “most baroque city in Switzerland”. With quite a few for consideration, we chose the last one for the title of this post.

And indeed it is. Solothurn that is.

Like most towns in Switzerland, they all seem to have a specialization. You might have heard of Le-Locle, famed as a watchmaking center. So what is Solothurn notable for? Precision engineering and design we believe. Perhaps a Swiss reader can correct us.

Good thing though, the historic town centre retains the charms of medieval times. If one were to go back in time you might find important ambassadors from France on their carriages. So what was it that made Solothurn the city that ‘attracted’ the diplomats? Was it the beautiful setting of the town? Perhaps a round of digging into history may help!

Being here twice but on his own (Mel), Suan certainly missed out! Is there anything to do in this city? Find out more here in the latest Swiss stories from our blog.