Sunday, February 17, 2013

Winter Holiday in Hokkaido in December 2011 (Enhanced Version) ~ Section 1

Good day to all bloggers. Welcome to my very first second blog report edition. This report will mainly focus on my winter holiday in Hokkaido, Japan in December 2011. This will be a revised version of the existing report, which was previously written in January 2012, and will be split up into a total of five sections. The main focus topics that will be covered in this section are mainly the in-bound journey from Singapore towards Sapporo (Chitose) via Seoul (Incheon), and the road journey towards the Grand Park Hotel Otaru.

All the holiday videos inside this blog report can also be found on YouTube, which are under their respective links. However, for security reasons, please be aware that posting comments for all of my YouTube videos is strictly prohibited, as is the display of advertisements, at all times.

Part 1 ~ The Opening Sequences

After finishing my Singapore-Cambridge GCE 'O' Level English Language and Mathematics examinations during my fourth year in secondary school, we finally decided upon a winter vacation towards Hokkaido, Japan at the end of the year. I was very excited, since this would be my second time experiencing winter in Hokkaido, Japan, with the first experience back in December 2010. Though I had the desire to visit Japan again for my birthday just six months earlier, we knew that it would be dangerous to do so following the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami in March 2011.

On the morning of Wednesday (7 December), all of us woke up at around 10 o' clock to pack our last-minute baggage in preparation for the long winter vacation to Hokkaido, Japan. My parents had arranged for a MaxiCab to come and fetch us towards Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at 10 o' clock later that night, on the night before the journey.

Our itinerary for the in-bound journey towards Sapporo would be to fly with Korean Air on flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon), which would be scheduled to depart Singapore Changi Airport at 1.30 a.m., and arrive at Seoul's Incheon International Airport at 8.35 a.m.. Upon arrival into Seoul, we would have a brief layover of 1 hour 30 minutes before making our connection towards Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose), which would be scheduled to depart Incheon International Airport at 10.10 a.m., and arrive at New Chitose Airport at 12.40 p.m.. This trip would also mark our second flight with Korean Air.

After spending the entire afternoon packing our baggage for the trip, the MaxiCab finally showed up at our doorstep at ten o' clock that night, just as scheduled. The driver got out of the cab, and offered to assist my parents in loading our baggage into the boot of his cab, while my brother and I boarded it. Soon enough, we finally departed the compound of our home at 10.15 p.m., with the total journey time between our house and Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 taking approximately 30 minutes.

Soon enough, we finally arrived at the departure curbside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 by 10.45 p.m.. While my parents unloaded our baggage from the boot of the MaxiCab, my younger brother and I went to claim a few baggage trolleys. As soon as all our baggage was loaded onto the baggage trolleys, we thanked the MaxiCab driver for his services, and went into the terminal building towards the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge.

Terminal 2 is the second terminal building operating at Singapore Changi Airport today. It was opened for service on 22 November 1990 in order to expand foreign tourist arrivals into Singapore. Singapore Airlines and SilkAir, along with several Southeast Asian carriers shifted their operations to the terminal following the terminal's opening, with several other airlines, including Lufthansa, moving to the terminal as well.

Etihad Airways commenced service to Singapore and Brisbane on 27 September 2007 using Terminal 2. All Nippon Airways also re-located its operations at Singapore Changi Airport to Terminal 2 from Terminal 1 on 1 October 2008. Air India, Air India Express, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air also shifted to Terminal 2 on 29 March 2009. Following the closure of the Budget Terminal on 25 September 2012, all low-cost carriers serving Singapore also shifted their operations here.

However, following the opening of Terminal 3 on 9 January 2008, Singapore Airlines shifted all of its flight operations bound for the Far East, North America, Oceania and the European Union to the newly-opened Terminal 3 from Terminal 2. All Singapore Airlines flights bound for the Indian Sub-continent, Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa continue to operate in and out of Terminal 2.

Asiana Airlines will re-locate its operations at Singapore Changi Airport from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 on 30 September 2013, in order to ease long-haul connecting flights operated by fellow Star Alliance partner, Singapore Airlines. Philippine Airlines will also re-locate its operations at Singapore Changi Airport from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 on 28 October 2013.

The departure curbside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 late at night shortly after we arrived

The list of some of the airlines using Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 outside the entrance to the departures and check-in hall

Several Angry Birds Christmas decorations above the entrance to the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

The massive departure flight information board in the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Finally approaching the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

After a short five-minute walk from the departure curbside located just outside the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, we finally arrived at the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge at 10.50 p.m.. Two lounge porters then came to assist us with our baggage, while we went to check in for Korean Air flights KE 642 and KE 765 bound for Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose).

The entire check-in process for both flights at the SATS Premier Lounge took no more than just 10 minutes. Though the seats for the first segment between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon) were quite easy to obtain, the ones for the second segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose) were relatively difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, we were thankful towards the check-in agents for their efforts and assistance.

Korean Air (Hangul: 대한항공; Hanja: 大韓航空) is the flag carrier and largest airline of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The airline maintains its headquarters in Gonghang-dong, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, as well as a satellite campus in Incheon. The airline has its central international hub at Incheon International Airport, and at Gimpo International Airport for its domestic flights, as well as limited international flights.

Korean Air is also one of the co-founding members of SkyTeam, the world's third and final airline alliance formed on 22 June 2000. The airline, along with Aeroméxico, Air France and Delta Air Lines, banded together to form the alliance. Its frequent flyer program is known as SKYPASS. Outside of SkyTeam, the airline also maintains codeshare agreements with other airlines, such as Japan Airlines and Malaysia Airlines.

The SATS Premier Check-in Lounge is a special check-in lounge operated by Singapore Airport Terminal Services Limited (SATS Ltd.), or most commonly known as SATS. This lounge is available in all of Singapore Changi Airport's three terminals, and are mainly used by certain foreign carriers for their First & Business Class passengers.

In Terminal 1, certain foreign airlines, such as Air China, British Airways, Japan Airlines and Thai Airways International use this special check-in lounge for their First & Business Class passengers. In Terminal 2, certain foreign airlines, like All Nippon Airways, Etihad Airways, Korean Air and Lufthansa use this exclusive check-in lounge for their First & Business Class passengers.

At Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, several foreign airlines operating out of the terminal use this special check-in lounge for their First & Business Class passengers. They are, as follows, as of 1 February 2013:

1) Air India

2) Air Macau

3) All Nippon Airways (Star Alliance carrier)

4) Asiana Airlines (Star Alliance carrier)*

5) Etihad Airways

6) Hainan Airlines

7) Korean Air (SkyTeam carrier)

8) Lao Airlines

9) Lufthansa (Star Alliance carrier)

10) Malaysia Airlines (Oneworld carrier)

11) Philippine Airlines**

12) Royal Brunei Airlines

13) SilkAir

14) Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance carrier & Flag carrier of the Republic of Singapore)

15) TransAsia Airways

*Asiana Airlines will re-locate its operations at Singapore Changi Airport from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 on 30 September 2013.

**Philippine Airlines will-relocate its operations at Singapore Changi Airport from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 on 28 October 2013.

The main entrance to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The beautifully-decorated Christmas tree in the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The interior of the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

After checking in for Korean Air flights KE 642 and KE 765 bound for Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose), we finally received our boarding passes for both segments, along with invitation passes to sample the SATS Premier Lounge. The check-in agents then reminded us that tonight, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would depart at 1.30 a.m., and that boarding would commence at one' o clock, approximately half an hour prior to the scheduled departure time.

With that, we thanked the check-in agents for their continuous assistance, and went towards the passport control area near the airside. To clear the passport control area, we made use of the thumb fingerprint checkpoint, which is reserved exclusively for Singaporean citizens, and for permanent residents of Singapore. Soon enough, we were finally in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 by 11.05 p.m..

The very first thing we did was to proceed to a nearby money exchange counter to change some Singapore dollars into Japanese yen. As of 1 February 2013, the exchange rate for every ¥100 is approximately S$1.22. After changing some Singapore dollars into Japanese yen, we proceeded to the SATS Premier Lounge at 11.10 p.m., which was located on the upper level of the airside, and the walk took no more than just five minutes.

The airside in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

My boarding pass for the segment between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

The departure flight information screen showing the various late night departure flights in the airside in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

After walking along the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 for approximately five minutes, we finally arrived at the main entrance towards the SATS Premier Lounge at 11.10 p.m.. Upon taking out all of our electronic devices to be charged, my parents and younger brother decided to stay in the lounge for some light refreshments.

Feeling rather bored, my parents allowed me to do some of my usual plane-spotting activity and promised to take care of my belongings in the lounge. With that, I went over towards the viewing mall to do my usual plane-spotting activity at night.

While doing this, I stopped over at a hobby shop by the name of Kid's World. This hobby shop in Singapore Changi Airport mainly specialises in children's toys, but also have model commercial passenger aircraft suitable for adult aircraft enthusiasts.

From the shop itself, I purchased a rare Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 aircraft model for S$99. The details of the model were as follows, followed by a few photographs taken from my plane-spotting activity:

1) Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (506380)

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (506380)

An Etihad Airways Airbus A330-243, registered A6-EYG, resting at Gate No. E3 after arriving from her long trans-Indian Ocean journey from the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East as Etihad Airways flight EY 470 from Abu Dhabi, prior to continuing her overnight journey towards Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Several cafeterias by the viewing mall in the airside in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

The airside in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours, as seen from the airline lounge level

After spending approximately 15 minutes of plane-spotting at night, the clock was finally showing 11.25 p.m.. Feeling slightly famished already, I decided to head back towards the SATS Premier Lounge for some light beverages and drinks. Though it was already late, most of the duty-free shops were still open to allow the passengers to do their duty-free shopping prior to their flights.

Upon arriving back at the lounge by 11.30 p.m., I had a few sticks of satay and a nice, warm cup of hot cocoa from the self-service food and beverage corner. For the rest of our time in the SATS Premier Lounge, there was nothing much for us to do other than to have some light refreshments and charging our electronic devices before the flight to Seoul (Incheon).

The list of airlines using the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The beautifully-decorated Christmas tree located near the entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The view of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after I arrived back

The view of the self-service food and beverage corner in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after I arrived back

Four sticks of satay for myself in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The satay wok at the self-service food and beverage corner in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The overall view of the interior of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A nice, warm mug of hot cocoa for myself in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The view of the other seating areas in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 from our seating area

My newly-purchased Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 aircraft model

The lavatory area in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The interior view of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

The view of the self-service food and beverage corner from our seating area in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

My Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 exclusive aircraft model resting on the centre armrest

One last view of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 just before we left for Gate No. E24

Part 2(a) ~ The Flight to Seoul (Incheon)

Airline: Korean Air
Flight No.: KE 642
From: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN / WSSS), Singapore
To: Seoul, Incheon International Airport (ICN / RKSI), Seoul, South Korea
Aircraft: Boeing 777-3B5
Registration No.: HL7534
Class: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat No.: 8J
Date: Thursday, 8 December 2011

After spending approximately 1 hour 15 minutes of relaxing and charging all our electronic devices in the SATS Premier Lounge, the clock was finally showing 12.30 a.m.. Knowing that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would commence in half an hour's time, we immediately packed up our carry-on baggage and left the lounge by 12.35 a.m. from Gate No. E24. The walk between the SATS Premier Lounge and Gate No. E24 took no more than approximately 10 minutes.

Soon enough, we finally arrived outside the main entrance to Gate No. E24 at 12.45 a.m., which was just in good time for boarding to commence in 15 minutes' time. With just a very quick security check, we were finally in the passenger waiting area of Gate No. E24 just before 12.50 a.m.. Most of the passengers heading towards Seoul were either going there for official business purposes or transiting to another flight in Seoul itself.

Tonight, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be operated using a Boeing 777-300, registered HL7534 and powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines. HL7534 was delivered new to Korean Air on 28 December 1999 as the second Boeing 777-300 and the sixth Boeing 777 for the airline. The overall delivery made the whole aircraft approximately 12 years old at that time.

Though the Boeing 777-300 is a smart-looking aircraft, I personally think that the Boeing 777-300/ER is better due to better and modern design improvements made to it. Despite not having a direct competitor from Airbus, the Airbus A340-600 is offered to compete alongside the Boeing 777-300 and Boeing 777-300/ER. Personally, I do wish Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be operated using a Boeing 777-300/ER instead of the normal Boeing 777-300.

The airside in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours, as seen from the airline lounge level, as we begin to make our way towards Gate No. E24

The list of airline lounges located in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 by the escalators

Bypassing some duty-free shops in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 on the way towards Gate No. E24

The passageway leading to Gates No. E20 to E28 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The departure information screen outside Gate No. E24, showing the details for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

Our aircraft for tonight, HL7534, being serviced at Gate No. E24 in preparation for her long overnight journey back home to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

The passageway of Concourse E in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 from Gate No. E24

A close-up of HL7534 being serviced at Gate No. E24

The passenger waiting area at Gate No. E24 packed with waiting travellers for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

After spending approximately 10 minutes of anticipated waiting in the passenger waiting room, the first boarding announcements for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) were finally made at one o' clock. The First & Prestige Class passengers, along with the SKYPASS members and the passengers requiring special assistance were called to board the aircraft first.

With the first boarding announcements being made, we quickly grabbed all our carry-on baggage and rolled up for the boarding process. As we walked along the passageway towards Door A, we were finally on board HL7534 by 1.05 a.m., which was just in good time for a 1.30 a.m. departure. At Door A, two cheery flight attendants warmly welcomed us on board, and showed us the direction to our seats in the Prestige Class cabin.

Upon entering the Prestige Class cabin, we stowed away all of our carry-on baggage in their respective storage areas before settling down into our seats. I was to be seated in Seat No. 8J for the expected journey time of 6 hours 05 minutes towards the capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). My younger brother, who was seated in Seat No. 8H, would be seated beside me throughout the long overnight journey.

The Prestige Class seats we would be using for this relatively long overnight journey to Seoul were the newer generation of Prestige Sleeper seats. These seats can recline to a maximum of 180º to allow passengers to have a completely lie-flat rest. They were fitted on most of Korean Air's long-haul fleet following the delivery of the airline's fleet of Boeing 777-300/ERs in May 2009.

The flight attendants did their usual pre-flight routines of distributing the food and beverage menus, pre-departure beverages and free newspapers towards the First & Prestige Class passengers. I then had my usual pre-departure glasses of water and orange juice, along with packets of honey-roasted peanuts being distributed to us.

Finally on board HL7534 at 1.05 a.m.

A typical trio of Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper middle row seats during the boarding process in Singapore Changi Airport

A view of my seat, 8J, during the boarding process in Singapore Changi Airport

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin during the boarding process in Singapore Changi Airport

The contents from my front seat pocket

The cover page for the food and beverage menu for the segment between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

Reviewing the food and beverage menu for the segment between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

A Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330-223, registered B-LNG, resting at Gate No. E26 after arriving from her late night journey from the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong as Hong Kong Airlines flight HX 783 from Hong Kong

My usual pre-departure glass of water on my centre armrest

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly before the doors were closed for departure

The language selection menu for in-flight entertainment on my front seat video screen

My usual pre-departure glass of orange juice with two packets of honey roasted peanuts resting on my centre armrest

At exactly 1.30 a.m., all the aircraft doors were closed, and we finally pushed back from Gate No. E24, just as scheduled. The safety briefing information video was shown on all of our personal front seat video entertainment screens as the aircraft began to make its way towards our assigned runway for departure. We taxied past several aircraft parked at the Budget Terminal and Terminal 2 along the way.

After a relatively short 15-minute taxi towards our assigned runway, the aircraft's two powerful Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines spooled into action, and we finally lifted off from Singapore Changi Airport at 1.45 a.m.. We then climbed into the pitch black night sky for a long overnight flight time of 5 hours 45 minutes over the South China Sea towards the capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). This was then that we finally left the island of the Republic of Singapore far behind.

The safety briefing information video being shown on my personal front video screen

Part of the safety briefing information video detailing that smoking on board is forbidden at all times

The Korean Air logo at the end of the safety briefing information video

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER aircraft resting at Gate No. E12 in Concourse E at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin during taxi towards our assigned runway for departure

Taxiing along the tarmac towards our assigned runway for take-off

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ Take-off From Singapore Changi Airport

The seatbelt sign was switched off at two o' clock, which was just 15 minutes after taking off from Singapore Changi Airport. While the flight attendants sprung into action to commence the in-flight late night supper service, I paid a customary visit to the lavatory before doing anything else for the flight.

Since this was a red-eye flight, most of the passengers chose to get some sleep until the in-flight breakfast service commenced. Soon enough, after all of the passengers settled down for the flight, the in-flight late night snack service commenced at around 2.15 a.m.. A few moments later, the flight attendants came into the cabin to serve several small plates of chicken satay to the passengers who were still awake.

Once I was served my plate of chicken satay, I immediately tucked in. Since I am quite a big fan of satay, the satay tasted quite tender and made a perfect late night snack on such long red-eye flights like this. Unfortunately, my brother wasn't feeling too peckish, so he gave me his plate of satay to finish off, which I managed to do so in a flash.

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly after the seatbelt sign was switched off

A posted warning sign in the lavatory that warns passengers that smoking in the aircraft cabin and tampering with, disabling or destroying smoke detectors in the lavatories is prohibited under South Korean law and international civil aviation regulations

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly after I returned from the lavatory

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly before the in-flight late night supper service commenced

A mouthwatering plate of chicken satay for myself

My usual glass of orange juice during the in-flight late night supper service

After finishing off my small plates of chicken satay, the flight attendant came over to my seat to collect my plates. She then asked me whether there was anything else I wanted for the remainder of the night. I then requested for a nice, warm bowl of Korean instant noodles to finish off my in-flight late night supper.

The flight stewardess then took down my supper order, and disappeared into the galley to prepare it. Soon enough, 15 minutes later, she finally re-appeared at my seat with the bowl of Korean instant noodles in her hands. As the instant noodles were rather spicy, I took 15 minutes to polish off. Nevertheless, the noodles were quite good to my liking as it helped me to settle down further for the night.

Upon finishing my Korean instant noodles, the flight attendant came over to my seat again to collect my bowl. By this time, all of the cabin lights were dimmed to allow the passengers to get some sleep. For a few moments, I was left with my own personal devices to keep me company, before I finally turned in for the night at around 3.30 a.m..

My mouthwatering Korean instant noodles soup on my dining table

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly after being dimmed to allow the passengers to get some shut-eye for the night

Cruising over the South China Sea late at night just before I went to sleep

Part 2(b) ~ The Arrival Into Seoul (Incheon) & Layover at Incheon International Airport

After getting approximately 2 hours 15 minutes of shut-eye, I finally woke up at around 6.45 a.m., in accordance with the Japan & Korea Standard Timing, only to be greeted by the first sights of the early morning sunrise over the Taiwan Strait. The flight attendants then sprung into action to commence the in-flight breakfast service at the same time.

By seven o' clock, most of the passengers were slowly beginning to wake up, just as the cabin lights were illuminated. Just a few moments later, a flight attendant came up to my seat to take down my main meal orders for breakfast. I opted to have the mushroom and tomato fritatta served with grilled bacon and vegetables.

Upon taking down my main breakfast order, she disappeared into the galley to collect the breakfast trays for the other passengers. Within a few minutes, she re-appeared at my seat again with my breakfast tray containing my main course, with a strawberry-flavoured yogurt. I then tucked into my main breakfast course.

The fritatta tasted quite cheesy and refreshing, and the grilled bacon, vegetables and yogurt were fine accompaniments to such a fine, refreshing breakfast like this. Upon finishing my refreshing breakfast, the flight attendant came by to collect my meal tray. Soon enough, I was finally left towards my own personal devices before the seatbelt sign was illuminated in preparation for descent into Incheon International Airport.

The beautiful morning sunrise over the Taiwan Strait shortly after I woke up

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly before the in-flight breakfast service commenced

My front seat video showing the flight route information map, which is indicating our cruising altitude over the Taiwan Strait

The beautiful morning sunrise over the Taiwan Strait taken during breakfast

My main breakfast course: Mushroom and tomato fritatta served with grilled bacon and vegetables

My breakfast tray shortly after I had finished my main meal

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat during the in-flight breakfast service

The morning sun shining brightly over the Taiwan Strait

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly after the in-flight breakfast service

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (506380)

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-412 Herpa Scale 1:500 (500852) ~ In-flight Exclusive Version

The Korean Air Sky Shop in-flight duty-free magazine on my table

The flight route information map indicating our cruising altitude over the East China Sea

Cruising over a blanket of clouds over the East China Sea

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly before the seatbelt sign was illuminated for landing

In accordance with the Japan & Korea Standard Timing, the seatbelt sign was illuminated at 8.20 a.m., 10 minutes in preparation for descent into Incheon International Airport. Knowing that we were about to arrive in Seoul very soon, we quickly stowed away all our belongings and buckled up in preparation for the landing. After a relatively long overnight flight time of 5 hours 45 minutes over the South China Sea from the Republic of Singapore, we finally touched down in Incheon International Airport at 8.30 a.m., five minutes ahead of schedule.

Incheon International Airport (Hangul: 인천국제공항; Hanja: 仁川國際空港) is the central international airport serving the Seoul metropolitan area in South Korea. It is the largest and busiest airport in South Korea, and the eighth-busiest airport in Asia and the world, in terms of number of passengers passing through the airport.

The airport was opened for business on 29 March 2001 to relieve overcrowding at the older Gimpo International Airport, which mainly serves domestic flights and limited international flights to Mainland China, Japan and Taiwan. Since then, Incheon International Airport has taken over a majority of international flights to and from the country. The airport also serves as the central hub for South Korea's two largest carriers, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air.

Cruising somewhere over the Korea Strait between Taiwan and South Korea

Cruising over a blanket of clounds as the aircraft begins to make its descent into Incheon International Airport

Flying over the inland sea between mainland Seoul and Incheon International Airport, with the Incheon Bridge in the background

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ Landing in Incheon International Airport

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-28E/ER, registered HL7775, about to be towed along the tarmac towards the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

The view of Terminal A as we taxi towards the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

A Garuda Indonesia Airbus A330-243 and Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-322 parked adjacent to each other at Terminal A at Incheon International Airport

Parking alongside a Korean Air Boeing 737-8B5 aircraft at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

A view of my seat, 8J, shortly after docking on to Gate No. 14 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

After taxiing along the tarmac of Incheon International Airport for about 10 minutes towards the Main Terminal, we finally docked onto our arrival gate, Gate No. 14, at 8.40 a.m.. Once the seatbelt signs had been turned off, we quickly unbuckled and ensured that none of our belongings had been left behind on board. As we disembarked from the aircraft, the flight attendants thanked us for our patronage with Korean Air, and wished us a pleasant, onward journey towards Hokkaido, Japan.

On each airline I fly with, the airline will receive grades on each sector. The score aggregate is divided into a total of five sections; mainly the seat, food, service, aircraft cleanliness and legroom space. Each section is worth 20 points, totalling up to 100 points. A 'D' grade would be a mandatory pre-requisite for a minimum pass. Here is the grading system, as follows:

A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)
A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has an adequate rating and performance)
D: 40% ~ 49% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
E: 20 % ~ 39% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has not met the requirement for the minimum grade)

Korean Air Flight 642 Score Report

Seat: 19 / 20
Food: 16 / 20
Service: 17 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 17 / 20
Legroom space: 18 / 20
Total: 87 / 100

In total, Korean Air scored a total aggregate of 87% for the first segment between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon), which means that they earn themselves the highest grade, an 'A+'. It was really an enjoyable overnight flight with them, and it is quite hard to fault them on this segment. Korean Air should keep up the good work.

After disembarking from Korean Air flight KE 642 from Singapore, we walked through the passageway leading towards the immigrations area and transit security checkpoints. Upon having a quick restroom break, we immediately proceeded towards the nearest transiting security checkpoint, in preparation for our connecting flight bound for Sapporo (Chitose). Soon enough, we finally arrived at the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport by 8.55 a.m., which left us with 1 hour 15 minutes before our connecting flight bound for Sapporo (Chitose).

I then went to check which gate Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would depart from. According to the massive departure flight information screen, Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would depart at 10.10 a.m. from Gate No. 6. Since it was still early before boarding, we decided to buy some light food and duty-free items during our brief layover at Incheon International Airport.

One last look at HL7534 at Gate No. 14 as we begin to make our way towards the transit security checkpoint

The passageway towards the immigrations area and transit security checkpoints in Incheon International Airport

The central transiting area located in the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

The massive departure flight information board located in the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

The passagway leading to Gates No. 12 to 25 in the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

Bypassing several duty-free shops in the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

The transit international departure flight information screen indicating that Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would depart from Gate No. 6

The transit international departure flight information screen in the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

Part 3 ~ The Flight to Sapporo (Chitose)

Airline: Korean Air
Flight No.: KE 765
From: Seoul, Incheon International Airport (ICN / RKSI), Seoul, South Korea
To: Sapporo, New Chitose Airport (CTS / RJCC), Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan
Aircraft: Airbus A330-322
Registration No.: HL7524
Class: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat No.: 8H
Date: Thursday, 8 December 2011

After spending approximately 40 minutes of transit duty-free shopping and purchasing light snacks, the clock was finally showing 9.35 a.m.. Knowing that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would commence in five minutes' time, we immediately grabbed all our carry-on baggage and quickly proceeded towards Gate No. 6. The entire walk between the main concourse and Gate No. 6 took no more than just five minutes.

Soon enough, we finally arrived at the waiting area near Gate No. 6 at 9.40 a.m., only to find out that the first boarding announcements for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) were already being made. The First & Prestige Class passengers, along with the SKYPASS Club members and the passengers requiring special assistance, were called to board the aircraft first.

Today, Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would be operated using an Airbus A330-300 aircraft, registered HL7524 and powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4168 engines. HL7524 was originally delivered to Korean Air as HL7552 on 19 June 1998 as the third Airbus A330, as well as the third -300 series, for the airline, before receiving its current registration number on 24 January 1999. The overall delivery would make the aircraft 13.5 years old at that time.

Once we had our boarding passes examined, we walked along the jet bridge towards Door A, and were finally on board HL7524 at 9.50 a.m., which was just in good time for a 10.10 a.m. departure. At the front door, two flight stewardesses warmly welcomed us on board and showed us the direction to our seats in the Prestige Class cabin. Through the regional flight time of 2 hours 30 minutes towards Sapporo (Chitose), I would be seated in Seat No. 8H.

Since this would be a short flight, the First Class cabin would stay empty throughout the whole journey. The flight attendants then did their usual pre-flight routines of distributing the pre-departure beverages, food and beverage menus and free newspapers to the Prestige Class passengers. I ordered two pre-departure glasses of water, while my mum ordered a pre-departure glass of Bailey's Irish Cream for me.

Walking along the moving passageway towards Gate No. 6 in the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

The passenger waiting area by Gates No. 6 and 7 in the airside of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

The departure information screen above Gate No. 6 detailing information for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose)

Our aircraft for today, HL7524, receiving her last minute preparations at Gate No. 6 in preparation for her regional morning journey to Hokkaido, Japan as Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose)

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat during the boarding process at Incheon International Airport

A Korean Air Boeing 777-2B5/ER, registered HL7752 and painted in the special "New Horizons of Korea" livery, parked adjacent to us at Gate No. 7

The cover page for the food and beverage menu for the segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

The older generation of 'no smoking' and 'fasten seat belt' signs found on older generations of Airbus A320s, Airbus A330s and Airbus A340s

Reviewing the food and beverage menu for the segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

The package containing the front seat pockets on my table

My usual pre-departure glass of water on my centre armrest

A typical pair of Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper seats in the middle row

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly before the doors were closed for departure

The tarmac view of Incheon International Airport shortly before the doors were closed for departure

A refreshing glass of Bailey's Irish Cream specially ordered for me by my mum

At exactly 10.10 a.m., all the doors were closed, and we finally pushed back from Gate No. 6, which was just as scheduled. As the safety briefing information video was being shown on our personal video screens, we began to make our way towards our assigned runway for take-off, taxiing past several aircraft parked at both terminals along the way.

After taxiing along the tarmac towards our assigned runway for approximately 20 minutes, the two Pratt & Whitney PW4168 engines spooled into action, and we finally lifted off from Incheon International Airport at 10.30 a.m.. We then climbed into the bright winter morning sky for a regional flight time of just two hours over the Sea of Japan towards the capital and largest city in Hokkaido, Japan.

The safety briefing information video being shown on my front seat video screen as we commence our pushback from Gate No. 6

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat during taxi towards our assigned runway

A Korean Air Boeing 747-4B5(BCF) aircraft taxiing along the tarmac for take-off

The tarmac view of Incheon International Airport during taxi towards our assigned runway

A Korean Air Boeing 747-4B5 aircraft taxiing along the tarmac for take-off

The view of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport as we make our towards our assigned runway for take-off

A Korean Air Boeing 777-3B5/ER aircraft on the tarmac shortly after being pushed back from the Main Terminal

A Korean Air Airbus A380-861 aircraft on the tarmac shortly after being pushed back from the Main Terminal

The safety information brochure for Korean Air's fleet of Airbus A330-300s

Nearing our assigned runway for take-off

Korean Air Flight 765 ~ Take-off From Incheon International Airport

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly after taking off from Incheon International Airport

The 'no smoking' and 'fasten seat belt' signs illuminated shortly after taking off from Incheon International Airport

The seatbelt sign was turned off at 10.40 a.m., which was approximately 10 minutes after taking off from Incheon International Airport. As the flight attendants sprung into action to commence the in-flight brunch service, I paid a customary visit to the lavatory before doing anything else. A few moments later, a flight attendant came over to my seat to take down my main meal order for breakfast.

For the in-flight brunch, I opted to have the chive omelette with tomato coulis served with roasted potatoes and vegetables, of which, my brother also opted for one as well. At the same time, I also requested for a glass of orange juice to start off the meal. The flight attendant then took down our main meal orders and disappeared into the galley to fetch the brunch trays.

Soon enough, she finally re-appeared at our seats by 10.55 a.m. with our brunch trays and our main brunch courses. The omelette tasted hot and refreshing to help me get settled for the journey, and it was a rather filling meal for such a short regional flight like this. However, my younger brother was too full to have his meal, so he gave it to me to finish off.

After finish my main brunch course, the flight attendant promptly collected our meal trays and asked whether there was anything else I would like. I then requested for a simple cup of hot black milk tea to round off the brunch service, along with a platter of seasonal fresh fruits. The rest of the regional flight went by uneventfully, as I was left with my own personal devices to keep me company.

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly after the seatbelt sign was turned off

A view of my seat, 8H, shortly before the in-flight brunch service commenced

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly before the in-flight brunch service commenced

The registration number plate of HL7524 near the lavatories

A posted warning sign in the lavatory that warns passengers that smoking is prohibited at all times

A nice, refreshing glass of orange juice to start off with

My main brunch course: Chive omelette with tomato coulis served with roasted potatoes and vegetables

A nice, warm cup of black milk tea for myself

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin during the in-flight brunch service

A platter of seasonal fresh fruits resting on my centre armrest

The flight route information map indicating our cruising altitude over Aomori Prefecture near the Tsugaru Strait

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat dimmed to allow the passengers to get some rest

Cruising somewhere over Aomori Prefecture

The flight route information map indicating our cruising altitude over the Tsugaru Strait near Hokkaido

Cruising over the Tsugaru Strait close to Hokkaido

The seatbelt sign was illuminated at 12.20 p.m., 10 minutes in preparation for descent into New Chitose Airport. As we knew that we were about to arrive in Sapporo very soon, we immediately packed away all our carry-on baggage and buckled up in preparation for the landing. After a short regional flight time of just two hours over the Sea of Japan from the capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), we finally touched down in New Chitose Airport at 12.30 p.m., 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

New Chitose Airport (新千歳空港) is an airport located in the suburban city of Chitose near Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan. It serves the Sapporo metropolitan area, as well as the main gateway airport in Hokkaido, and the largest and busiest airport operating on the island. A majority of local and foreign tourists pass through the airport when coming in to Hokkaido via air. New Chitose Airport is ranked as a second class airport under national Japanese law.

The airport mainly serves domestic flights, as well as limited international flights to Guam, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. On 26 March 2010, a new international passenger flight terminal was opened for service in order to cater to the international traffic handled by the airport. Prior to this, there was a sterile area in the main domestic flight terminal that catered to limited international flights.

Hokkaido (北海道) is a Japanese island located in northern Japan near Russia. It is the second-largest island in Japan after Honshu, and the largest prefecture in Japan in terms of land area, with a total land area of 83,454.57 square kilometers. The island is bordered by the Tsugaru Strait from Honshu, though the Seikan Tunnel used by the JR Tsugaru-Kaikyo Line links between both islands. The prefectural capital is Sapporo, which is also the sole city designated by government ordinance in Hokkaido.

The best time to visit Hokkaido would usually be between late November and mid-April, as winter is the most popular time for people on the island for both local and foreign tourists, where skiing and snow activities take place. Sunshine during the winter season, especially in Japan, can be rather brief. For example, the sun rises at seven o' clock in the morning, and sets between four and five o' clock in the evening, where night falls.

The 'no smoking' and 'fasten seat belt' signs illuminated in preparation for descent into New Chitose Airport

Cruising over the Tsugaru Strait as we begin our descent into New Chitose Airport

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat as we begin our descent into New Chitose Airport

A beautiful view of the Tsugaru Strait as we begin to make our final descent into New Chitose Airport

Cruising past Muroran as we begin to make our final descent into New Chitose Airport

Korean Air Flight 765 ~ Landing In New Chitose Airport

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 747-481D aircraft resting on the tarmac at New Chitose Airport. These will eventually be a sight no more for All Nippon Airways as the airline is planning to retire these aircraft by mid-2014

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 767-381 aircraft resting on the tarmac at New Chitose Airport

After taxiing along the relatively snowy tarmac of New Chitose Airport for approximately 10 minutes, we finally docked on to our arrival gate, Gate No. 65, at the International Terminal at 12.40 p.m., which was right on schedule. Once the seatbelt signs had been turned off, we immediately unbuckled and took all of our carry-on baggage, ensuring that no belongings had been left behind.

Once we had checked our seating areas to see that nothing had been left behind on board, we disembarked from the aircraft to head towards the immigrations area in the passenger terminal. As we disembarked from the aircraft, the flight attendants warmly thanked us for our patronage with Korean Air, and wished us a very pleasant winter vacation in Hokkaido, Japan.

Korean Air Flight 765 Score Report

Seat: 19 / 20
Food: 15 / 20
Service: 17 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 17 / 20
Legroom space: 18 / 20
Total: 86 / 100

In the final analysis, Korean Air obtained a total aggregate score of 86% for the in-bound segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose), which means that they deserve another 'A+' grade for that. Again, Korean Air is really difficult to fault, and I wouldn't hesitate to fly with them again in future, even if it is to Japan.

Part 3 ~ The Road Journey Towards the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

After disembarking from Korean Air flight KE 765 from Seoul (Incheon), we walked along the passageway towards the immigrations area. Upon arriving at the immigrations area by 12.45 p.m., we saw that there were lots of foreign tourists who had mostly come to Hokkaido for the long winter holiday. The entire immigration process took no more than just 10 minutes.

Upon clearing the immigrations area and claiming some baggage trolleys, we immediately proceeded to one of the baggage belts to claim all of our bulky check-in baggage, ensuring that we had all the correct baggage with us. Once everything had been completed, we went into the arrival hall by one o' clock to buy some beverages from a nearby convenience store. We then proceeded to the nearest elevator lobby to take the elevator down towards the first floor of the terminal building.

Making our way towards the immigrations and arrivals area in the international passenger terminal at New Chitose Airport

One last look at HL7524 at Gate No. 65 as we make our way towards the immigrations and arrivals area

Finally stepping into the meeting area in the international arrivals area in New Chitose Airport

Leaving the meeting area in the international arrivals area in New Chitose Airport

The overall view of the arrivals and meeting area in the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport

After taking the elevator down from the arrivals and meeting area, we were finally on the first level of the International Terminal at 1.10 p.m.. We then proceeded to the Toyota Rent-a-Car counter located on the first level, where the lady at the counter requested for our international driving licence. Once we had our international driving licence examined, the lady informed us that the nearest Toyota Rent-a-Car station was located by the JR Sekisho Line just aft of Minami-chitose Station.

Having all of our belongings with us, the car rental reception lady showed us to a free shuttle bus bound for the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport. The driver was also kind enough to assist us in loading our baggage onto the bus. Once everything was loaded in, we finally departed the compound of New Chitose Airport at 1.20 p.m., with the overall journey time towards the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near the airport taking no more than just 10 minutes.

The view of the first level in the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport

The arrival and pick-up curbside in the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport

The interior of the free shuttle bus bound for the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport as we depart the compound of New Chitose Airport

Finally departing the compound of New Chitose Airport

The view of the International Passenger Flight Terminal as we depart the compound of New Chitose Airport

The interior of the free shuttle bus bound for the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport midway through the journey

Travelling along the roads located near New Chitose Airport

After a short 10-minute shuttle bus ride from New Chitose Airport, we finally arrived at the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station at 1.30 p.m.. As the driver helped to unload our baggage, we all went towards the main car rental counter inside the rent-a-car station. Upon having our international driving licence examined by the receptionist, she went to check the car sheds to get the most suitable and large car for us.

Soon enough, the receptionist escorted us towards the car sheds with our baggage, and she showed us to a smart-looking four-wheeled Toyota Car. Satisfied that the car was quite big enough to suit our tastes and preferences, we decided to choose the car. As my brother and I boarded the car, my parents, with the help of the receptionist, loaded our baggage into the boot of our car. Once everything was loaded into the boot of our car, we finally left the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport at 2.05 p.m.. to enjoy the car for the upcoming two weeks, and towards the Grand Park Hotel in the suburban port city of Otaru.

Along the way, we made a decision to stop at a nearby cafeteria near the airport to have some lunch, since we were feeling hungry after the long overnight journey from Singapore. As soon as we had stopped at the nearby roadside cafeteria, we entered the restaurant and requested for a table for the four of us. We were then ushered to a table by a waitress and were left with the food and beverage menus before making our selections for lunch.

After we had made our reviews through the food and beverage menus, a waitress came by to our table to take down our main meal orders for lunch. We ordered several of the food items off the menu that seemed to be suitable for our tastes and preferences, such as meal seats and potato wedges served with butter. That afternoon, we had a rather filling lunch at the roadside restaurant near New Chitose Airport, though I am not quite a big fan of soba myself.

Our rented white Toyota Car, which we will be using for the next couple of weeks

The interior of the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport

The logo of the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport

A large heap of snow near the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport

The car parking area near the roadside cafeteria in the suburban city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

The exterior view of the roadside cafeteria in the suburban city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

My mum and younger brother posing for a photograph in the roadside cafeteria in the suburban city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

The interior of the roadside cafeteria in the suburban city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

A nice, large platter of potato wedges with butter to be shared among us

A small platter of fried octopus (タコの唐揚げ ; tako karaage)

A butadon and soba set meal for myself

A soba noodle set for my mum

A bowl of tempura soba for my younger brother

A large bowl of soba noodles for my dad

The exterior view of the roadside cafeteria in the suburban city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport just before we left for the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

After having a rather sumptuous and filling lunch at the roadside cafeteria near New Chitose Airport, the clock was finally showing 2.55 p.m.. Feeling very stuffed to the brim already, we paid up our bill and left the restaurant to continue our journey towards the Grand Park Hotel Otaru.

Soon enough, we finally departed the roadside cafeteria near New Chitose Airport at 3.05 p.m.. The entire drive between the suburban city of Chitose and the Grand Park Hotel Otaru in the suburban port city of Otaru took approximately just an hour, which was a relatively fast drive along the Chitose-Otaru Expressway. Dusk was starting to fall as we neared the city of Otaru.

Otaru (小樽市) is a small suburban port city located in Shiribeshi Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan. Located along the coast of Ishikari Bay and the Sea of Japan, the city serves as a very important port for Sapporo, since Sapporo mostly depends on Otaru for seafood. Otaru is also a popular tourist destination for its historical infrastructure, and takes just 25 minutes by road or railway from Sapporo.

The car parking area near the roadside cafeteria in the suburban city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport shortly before we left for the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

Dusk falling over the Chitose-Otaru Expressway during our road drive towards the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

Stopping at a rest area along the Chitose-Otaru Expressway on the way towards the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

Travelling along the Chitose-Otaru Expressway near Otaru

The Grand Park Hotel Otaru as we approach the end of the Chitose-Otaru Expressway

Bypassing an industrial area near the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

The sunset over the suburban city of Otaru as we approach the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

After a short one-hour road trip from the suburban city of Chitose, we finally arrived at the main entrance towards the Grand Park Hotel Otaru at 4.05 p.m.. A few hotel staff came out to help us unload all our baggage from the car, as we went into the main hotel lobby located by the grand entrance hall to check ourselves in for the five-day stay in Otaru. My dad also went to park the car in the basement car parking lot at the same time.

Upon receiving our room keys, the hotel receptionist informed us that our rooms would be Rooms No. 1301 and 1302 located on the 13th level of the hotel. She also informed us that all our belongings would be brought up to us afterwards. Once my dad met us in the main entrance hall, we took the elevator all the way up towards the 13th floor, arriving there by 4.20 p.m..

Once we had reached our rooms, we saw that they were two connecting twin rooms facing the Sea of Japan. At the same time, our baggage was brought up to us. Whenever we stay at the Grand Park Hotel Otaru, we would always have a room facing the Sea of Japan, which is always a beautiful and breathtaking sight.

The Grand Park Hotel Otaru (グランドパーク小樽) is a luxury hotel operated by the Park Hotels Group in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan. The hotel is located by the coastline of the Sea of Japan, and is directly connected to Otaru-chikko Station via a short walk of just five minutes. A large shopping mall, known as Wing Bay Otaru (ウイングベイ小樽), is located directly beneath the hotel building. The hotel was opened opened on 1 July 1999 as the Hilton Hotel Otaru (ヒルトン小樽), until it received its current name on 1 January 2009.

The main entrance towards the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

A beautifully-decorated Christmas Tree in the grand entrance hall of the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

The marble staircase in the grand entrance hall of the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

The overall view of the grand entrance hall of the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

The first view of our Room No. 1302 with our small table facing the Sea of Japan in the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

The view of our Room No. 1302 in the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

The beautiful view of the Sea of Japan from our Room No. 1302 in the Grand Park Hotel Otaru during sunset

The beautiful night view of the Sea of Japan from our Room No. 1302 in the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

After having a well-earned rest in the hotel room, my parents decided to go down towards Wing Bay Otaru to purchase some groceries, since we were too tired to go out anywhere after the long journey from Singapore. My brother and I then had the time of our lives within the hotel room.

Once my parents returned, we had a nice, hot steamboat dinner within the hotel room. After having a nice family dinner, I had a nice, hot shower and changed into my pyjamas for the night before settling down. Since I was feeling very exhausted from our long overnight trip from Singapore, I simply went to bed early by ten o' clock that night for a good sleep.

This officially brings the second edition of the first section of my winter vacation in Hokkaido, Japan in December 2011 to a conclusion. All the remaining four sections will be published with the best quality pictures and videos. Questions and / or comments will always be more than welcome, and responses will be replied as soon as possible.

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