Sunbeams came through our room windows this morning. It didn’t look like it would rain today. The Central Post Office next to Mercure Okinawa Naha was still quiet but the monorail was already in operation. The day looked promising as we were about to embark on a self-drive trip up north to eventually settle down at Churaumi later in the day.
Mercure Okinawa Naha
Sunrise at Mercure Okinawa Naha
Naha Central Post Office
Mercure Okinawa Naha window view
Our plan for the day was to drive up to the northern most part of the island to visit Cape Hedo and then retrace our route along the west coast exploring the region including Kouri Island. We would then continue along the coast and check in at Centurion Hotel & Resort Vintage Okinawa-Churaumi located at the Ocean Expo Park. A visit to the Tropical Dream Centre for the tulips fair was planned and then we might check out the Sakura blossom nearby should we still have daylight.
So first thing for the day was breakfast at the lobby restaurant. We were early so the restaurant wasn’t crowded yet. Although the buffet breakfast spread wasn’t very huge, they were still quite good. We had a satisfying first meal for the day to prepare us for the driving trip.
Breakfast at Mercure Okinawa Naha
Mercure Okinawa Naha Restuarant
Next was back to our room to freshen up. Our bags were already packed the night before so we returned to lobby to check out soon after. Front desk staff were professional and we didn’t have to wait long to clear check out process. Staff at the hotel could speak English so we didn’t encounter any problem.
Mercure Okinawa Naha
Mercure Okinawa Naha Lobby
Next was to head to OTS Car Rental counter near the main entrance of the hotel. OTS Car Rental wasn’t as busy as the previous day when we came. In addition, we had already preregistered the day before, we could just head out to get our car. In fact, we had booked our car online for a good rental rate so everything was done smoothly.
Mercure Okinawa Naha OTS Car Rental Counter
Naha OTS Car
After handing the document to a staff outside the hotel, a 5-door car was driven to the entrance for us to take over. The first staff who drove the car to us couldn’t speak English, so another staff came to assist us with setting the GPS and giving us instruction for the use of the car and returning the car at the next OTS office the next day. After helping us, this same staff assisted another customer and spoke good Mandarin. We were impressed with this staff at OTS Car Rental and for professionalism and good customer service from this car rental company in general. Continue reading 5 Days Okinawa Tour – Day 2 Naha to Churaumi
Jetstar is our favourite low cost carrier. Last year when Jetstar launched flights to Okinawa, we immediately booked our return flight for under $140. Our short break to Okinawa was planned for January this year where we could afford to get away for five days. Out going flight however was a red-eye flight as follows:
Singapore to Okinawa 2.20 am to 8.30 am
Okinawa to Singapore 9.30 am to 1.40 pm
We planned our itinerary such that we would rent a car for two days picking up the car on the second day of our arrival. It won’t be a good idea to drive after an overnight flight because we are not familiar with Japan’s road conditions and traffic regulations. Without a car, it would be rather difficult to explore Okinawa due to language barrier as well as unfamiliar public transport system and timings. There won’t be much cost savings taking public transports to explore the island anyway.
So our five days itinerary are as follows:
Day 1 Singapore to Naha City
Hotel: Mercure Okinawa Naha
We chose to stay here because we are Accor Plus Members and we enjoy dining discounts. Another reason is the hotel’s proximity to the airport as well as one of the OTS Car Rental Offices located in the hotel where we can pick up the car and set off the next day. This will save us a lot of trouble having to carry our bags and take the monorail to the car rental company if we stay at another hotel in the city. We could visit Kokusai-dori Street and nearby attractions on this first day.
Day 2 Naha to Churaumi
Hotel: Centurion Hotel & Resort Vintage Okinawa-Churaumi
We would be driving along the west coast to explore the island before checking in at the hotel which is located right at the Ocean Expo Park. We chose this hotel for convenience to visit the Churaumi Aquarium and other attractions in the vicinity on the second and third day. Continue reading 5 Days Okinawa Tour – Day 1 Singapore to Okinawa
This would be our homeward bound day after spending twelve days in Sichuan and Chongqing. We would be taking the high speed train from Chongqing North Station back to Chengdu East Station and then a connecting train to Chengdu Shuangliu Airport. We had already purchased our train tickets from a ticketing agent located at Bayi Hotel while we were in Chengdu. So we were all ready to set off.
After a quick breakfast, we checked out at front desk. It was rather quick. Front desk was rather busy and I decided to pay in cash. So we didn’t ask for a receipt just like when we checked out from Sofitel Chengdu Taihe Hotel three days ago. I thought a five star hotel would have proper procedure to keep records in their system and didn’t think much of it.
However, when we were back in Singapore, I was shocked when my credit card was charged even though my deposit was already cancelled by the hotel. A staff emailed apologetically to inform me she forgot to charge my card when I checked out. But I had already paid in cash.
The matter was investigated and a refund was made to my credit card a month later. Sofitel Chengdu Taihe Hotel didn’t give me such problem. So it was the result of one careless staff that caused the hiccup but on the whole, Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing’s staff provided great service and we enjoyed our stay here.
Taxi to Chongqing North Station
Once out at the entrance, a number of taxis were already in the queue on the road waiting for passengers. We boarded the first taxi and requested to be sent to Chongqing North Station. Our train would be departing at 10 am arriving Chengdu North Station by 11.27 am. Our connecting train to the airport would be a 16 minutes ride. The taxi driver told us he would take the highway instead of travelling through the city to avoid the morning rush hour traffic. Continue reading 13 Days Chengdu and Chongqing Tour – Day 13 Chongqing to Chengdu
Heading to Ciqikou Old Town (Porcelain Village)
Finally, we woke up to see sunlight from our room windows after two gloomy and wet days in Chongqing. We thought this would be a terrific day to visit attractions in the city and do some shopping before heading back to Chengdu for our flight home to Singapore the next day. So after a quick breakfast, we left Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing. With the help of a concierge staff, we got into a taxi easily at the entrance of the hotel and were on the way to Ciqikou Old Town also know as the Porcelain Village.
We drove through streets and observed the city waking up to this beautiful morning where road traffic was still light. We got to see people going about to begin the day. Soon, we arrived at the entrance of Ciqikou around 9.30 am. Visitors were milling around the gate mostly taking pictures.
Ciqikou Old Town (Porcelain Village)
Without hesitation, we entered this famous attraction in Chongqing. The streets are lined with charming old shop houses selling everything one would expect in an ancient town. The place is clean and pretty modern although this place dates back centuries as a trading post since the Ming Dynasty. Constant streams of visitors roamed the streets checking out stuff and hanging out here. We also took the opportunity to do some souvenir shopping as this would be our last day here in Chongqing.
Ciqikou Old Town
Shopping in Ciqikou Old Town
Souvenir Shop in Ciqikou Old Town
Shops in Ciqikou Old Town
Ciqikou Old Town Main Gate
Further into the streets, the ambiance was more lively. In front of one of the shops, staff were doing their morning warming up exercise and pep talk to get them started for the day. It was quite interesting to see these people singing and dancing in the open oblivious to the crowd watching them. They took pride in their work! This wasn’t new to us as we observed the same thing happening in the ancient town in Dujiangyan a week ago where staff did something similar to start their day.
Warming Up Exercise in Ciqikou Old Town
Ciqikou Old Town Scene
Ciqikou Old Town Pep Talk
There are more shops, eateries and teahouses all over the place. Traditional snacks are available as well. In fact, staff were out of the streets offering samples. The atmosphere here can be electrifying as we felt transported back to ancient time how the people lived here in this old town. This old town is really busy and lively and quite exciting too. Continue reading 13 Days Chengdu and Chongqing Tour – Day 12 Chongqing Ciqikou and Huaxin Street Paradise Walk
Wet Morning in Chongqing
Yesterday, we arrived Chongqing on a wet day and rained most of the day. The persistent rain didn’t stop during the night. It was still raining when we woke up this morning. So our plans to visit Dazu rock carvings could not proceed.
Since we were upgraded to this wonderful suite room, we chilled our time away enjoying comfort and luxury. The semi buffet lunch we had at the restaurant the day before was very good so we waited and looked forward to another great lunch. It didn’t take long to reach lunch time as we didn’t have to get up very early due to the rain ruining our travel plans.
Back to the ground floor restaurant, we were warmly welcomed and invited into the restaurant. The captain who used to worked in Singapore was still there. So we got our seats and ordered our western meals. Next, we went to help ourselves with the buffet spread. Our main course came later and the lunch was very good.
Restaurant in Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing
Buffet Spread for lunch
Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing semi buffet lunch
Buffet spread for lunch in Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing
Lunch time at Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing
Nice soup noodles
Tasty main course lunch at Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing
Hotel Sofitel Forebase Chongqing Restaurant
After this satisfying lunch, we returned to our suite room as it was still raining but not as heavy as before. It was pointless to head outdoor. We tried standing at the hotel entrance. It was freaking cold as winter had more or less set in. So our next best course of action was to chill and relax in our room. However, we could see from our windows the situation outdoor was changing.
Head to Chongqing City Centre
When it was about 3 pm, we saw people outdoor without carrying umbrellas. But it was still drizzling a little. So it was time for us to head out to explore the city. Having checked with concierge and gotten a map, we were advised to visit PLA Liberation Monument Clock Tower and its surrounding area. We could also visit the famous Chongqing Chaotianmen Square area as well. Continue reading 13 Days Chengdu and Chongqing Tour – Day 11 Chongqing City Attractions
Chengdu East to Chongqing North Station
After four wonderful nights in Chengdu, we would be heading over to Chongqing this morning. We had already packed the night before so after a quick breakfast, we were ready venture out to our next destination. Checking out at front desk was a breeze and professionally handled. We had a great three nights stay here and enjoyed comfort, luxury and great services from the staff in the hotel.
Having purchased our high speed train tickets three days ago, we took a taxi to Chengdu East Train Station. We could have taken a ride on the MRT changing train at Tianfu Square Station to Chengdu East Station. But we would have to lug our luggage to Jinjiang Station a few minutes walk away from the Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel. We thought it might be a little too much hassle to travel with luggage on the MRT trains during morning rush hour as well as my wife nursing a sprained ankle. So taking a taxi would be much better.
We reached Chengdu East Train Station in good time to prepare for our 9.05 am ride. After getting through security checks, we waited in the very huge and futuristic train station. Not long after, we were called to get to the platform to wait for our train ride to Chongqing. Soon, we were comfortably seated enjoying our ride to Chongqing.
Chengdu East Train Station
Shops in Chengdu East Train Station
Chengdu East Train Station Departure Hall
KFC in Chengdu East Train Station
Chengdu East Train Station Information Display
High Speed Train from Chengdu to Chongqing
We arrived Chongqing North Station on time at 11.12 am without incident. The ride was of course very nice and comfortable, much better than taking a flight on a budget airline. Getting out of the train and heading into the train station wasn’t a problem.
However, walking to take a taxi was quite a long walk. In addition, there was quite a long queue of passengers waiting to board taxis. Nevertheless, there were plenty of taxis waiting in queue for passengers. So heading out of the train station wasn’t very difficult. Continue reading 13 Days Chengdu and Chongqing Tour – Day 10 Chongqing Sofitel Forebase Hotel
Waking up to the Last Day in Chengdu
Today would be our last day to explore the city of Chengdu before moving on to Chongqing the next day. Having gone down to the restaurant for breakfast the previous morning, we opted to have a quieter breakfast up on the Club Floor this time. The breakfast spread was no less enticing. The breakfast was excellent, especially with the nice view from this height overlooking the river.
With breakfast done, we returned to our suite room to prepare ourselves for the the day’s adventure. After refreshing ourselves and packing essentials needed for the day, we left our suite room. Before leaving the hotel, we checked out some facilities here. The fitness centre, games room and the lounge were empty early in the morning. We then left Hotel Sofitel Chengdu Taihe to proceed with our tour of Chengdu.
Meeting Room at Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel
Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel Lounge
Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel
Games Room at Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel
Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel Games Room
Pool Table at Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel
Lounge at Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel
Sofitel Taihe Chengdu Hotel – Fitness Centre
Heading to Jinli Ancient Street
China has blocked Google Maps so we needed an alternative. As such, we had to download Baidu Maps on our phones and hence, getting around the city wasn’t a problem. With the help of Baidu Maps, we walked out to the bus stop on the main road. Our first destination was Jinli Ancient Street.
Getting there would be very easy taking bus number 82 just 4 stops away. Bus fare would be just CNY 2. So we waited for the bus and soon were on our way. The bus was a little packed though during the morning. Quite soon, we alighted and were outside Jinli Ancient Street. Continue reading 13 Days Chengdu and Chongqing Tour – Day 9 Chengdu City Attractions
Our sleep in the luxury suite in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe was indeed sweet. We hardly felt like getting up. In fact, we didn’t really feel like exploring the city after checking in the day before. It was great to be pampered here, especially upgrading to this suite with access to the club floor for afternoon tea and evening cocktail.
We had been in the land of the pandas for a week now. Today, we would get to see some real life pandas. It was about time to meet our lovely friends, the symbol of China. But before that, we had to get some breakfast. We had the option of heading up to the club floor with more privacy or the restaurant below. We decided to head down to the restaurant to join the crowd.
Over at the restaurant, we could still find a table that was unoccupied. The staff attending to us was friendly and helpful. The restaurant had a French theme deco, very pleasant and lovely. Buffet spread was great, a wide selection of western and local food dishes. It was definitely five-star standard food serving.
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
French Theme Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Breakfast in Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Buffet Spread in Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe – Fruits and juices
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe – Noodle Station
Nice French Theme Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
We went around collecting food we liked and they were good. Except the noodles I got from the noodle station was a little too spicy even though I had told the chef to serve with less chilli. This is Sichuan after all so I can understand. Unless I give local food a miss, I’ll have to get use to spicy food.
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Awesome Breakfast at Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe
Restaurant in Sofitel Chengdu Taihe – Spicy Noodles
Heading to Chengdu Panda Research Base
After breakfast, we returned to our room to get ready. Soon, we left Sofitel Chengdu Taihe. We crossed the main road and walked along the park beside the river towards the left. The morning was quite cooling and the park was quiet with occasional cyclists cycling past. After crossing the bridge at the traffic junction, we entered Xinnanmen MRT Station. Continue reading 13 Days Chengdu and Chongqing Tour – Day 8 Chengdu Panda Research Base