Saturday, March 5, 2016

🇯🇵 Spending A White Lunar New Year Winter Festival Trip In Hokkaido, Japan, In February 2016 ~ Section 1 🇯🇵

Dear bloggers, in view of the preparations cum revision for my GCE 'A' Level final year block tests in College, please do accept my most sincere apologies for the lack of trip reports for the past couple of months. Nevertheless, please do allow me to welcome you into this new vacation report detailing my white Chinese New Year winter festival trip to Hokkaido, Japan, in February 2016. This new vacation report shall be split into a total of four sections, for which, this shall be the first section of the entire report itself.

There will mainly be three focus topics, not counting the opening sequences, that will be covered in this first section of the entire report itself. They will be the long night in-bound flights to Sapporo (Chitose) via a change of flights at Seoul (Incheon), along with the journey to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru. While the vacation videos featured in this trip report may also be accessed via my YouTube channel, please be aware that no commenting is permitted for any of these medium for safety reasons.

Part 1 ~ The Opening Sequences

After spending a month of pondering on where to travel to celebrate the 2016 Lunar New Year season, my parents decided to bring us on a family reunion winter festival trip to Hokkaido, Japan, to view the Hokkaido winter festivals. It had been one of the activities on my parents' bucket list to view a winter festival for many years. I found this exciting, but also overwhelming as it would be quite unusual for me to travel to Japan to visit some distant family members for Chinese New Year.

Given that we would normally travel to Japan in June and / or December, I had made it clear that I would only go to Hokkaido again once the Hokkaido Shinkansen line was opened between Aomori and Hakodate from 26 March 2016. Also, following a recent spate of terrorist attacks at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand, in August 2015, and at the Sarinah Mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, in January, we knew that Bangkok would be another target for another possible terrorist attack, making it unsafe for us to travel on any trip to Bangkok this year.

After finishing my final school lesson for the day at 3.30 p.m. on the bright afternoon of Tuesday (2 February), I quickly drove back home to have some afternoon tea, also reaching home by 4.30 p.m.. It was a good thing that I had written a letter of official leave to my form teachers explaining the details of the events. Having some light tea at home, I went up to my room to pack my baggage. My parents had arranged for a MaxiCab to come and take us to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at ten o' clock later that night.

For the long overnight trip to Sapporo (Chitose), we would be flying with Korean Air on flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon), which would be scheduled to depart from Singapore Changi Airport at 1.30 a.m., and arrive at Incheon International Airport at 8.40 a.m. early the next morning. Upon arrival at Seoul (Incheon), we would have a relatively brief layover of 1 hour 25 minutes before connecting to Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose), which would depart Incheon International Airport at 10.05 a.m., and arrive at Incheon International Airport at 12.45 p.m..

As regularly scheduled direct services between Singapore and Hokkaido only operate between December and early January, Korean Air would be our best bet, having last flown with the airline back in June 2014. Furthermore, my parents preferred the idea of having Business Class seats reclining into a lie-flat bed rather than having the seat folded into a bed, as with our previous experience on the long-haul Business Class seats on Singapore Airlines when we travelled to mainland Japan in December 2015, though I found their seats quite comfortable and big for my liking.

Once we had finished packing and checking our baggage to see that everything was well-packed, we laid our baggage in the garage and had some dinner while waiting for our pre-arranged MaxiCab to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 to show up at the front entrance to our house later that evening. Soon enough, our pre-arranged MaxiCab to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 ultimately showed up at the front gate of our house at 9.35 p.m., approximately 25 minutes ahead of schedule.

The driver, who was a Chinese gentleman, got out and offered to help my parents in loading our baggage into the boot of his MaxiCab while we boarded it for the short late night road journey to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 located in the eastern part of Singapore. Soon enough, we finally departed the familiar surroundings of our house at 9.40 p.m. for a short late night road trip of 25 minutes across the Tampines Expressway to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2.

Soon enough, we ultimately arrived at the departures and drop-off area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at 10.05 p.m.. While the driver helped my parents unload our baggage from the boot of his MaxiCab, my younger brother and I went to obtain two baggage trolleys for our baggage to be loaded. Thanking the driver for his kind services, we headed into the departures and check-in hall and proceeded to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge located at the other end of the terminal building.

Overlooking Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 shortly after we had arrived at the departures & drop-off point just outside Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 late that night

The departures & drop-off point outside Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after we had arrived late that night

The departures & check-in hall at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after we had entered the main passenger terminal building

After walking through the departures and check-in hall in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, we ultimately arrived at the main entrance to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge at 10.10 p.m.. A few check-in lounge attendants were already in the lounge while we went to check ourselves and our bulky check-in baggage in for both Korean Air flights KE 642 and KE 765 bound for Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose). It took approximately not more than five minutes for us to check in for both flights.

Korean Air (Hangul: 대한항공; Hanja: 大韓航空) is the flag carrier and the largest airline of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Headquartered in Gonghang-dong located in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, the airline maintains its main hub for international operations at Incheon International Airport, with a satellite campus at Incheon, and its largest hub for domestic operations at Gimpo International Airport. The airline offers at least 100 destination across Asia, Africa, Oceania, the Americas and the European Union, with a mixed fleet of wide-body and narrow-body aircraft from Airbus and Boeing.

As one of the few airlines to serve all six inhabited continents (excluding Antarctica) worldwide, Korean Air is one of the co-founding members of SkyTeam, the world's third and final airline alliance, along with Aéromexico, Air France and Delta Air Lines. It also has a fully-owned low-cost subsidiary, Jin Air (Hangul: 진에어), which only offers regional destinations in Asia, Guam and Hawaii. Its official frequent-flyer program is known as SKYPASS, which can be used with most fellow SkyTeam carriers.

Finally arriving at the entrance to 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 during the late night rush hour

Overlooking the departures & check-in hall from the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

After completing the entire check-in process for Korean Air flights KE 642 and KE 765 bound for Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose), we finally received all our boarding passes for both segments at 10.15 p.m.. The check-in agent informed us that tonight, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be scheduled to depart at 1.30 a.m. from Gate No. E5. Boarding would also commence at one o' clock, which was approximately half an hour before the scheduled departure timing.

Thanking the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge agent for her services, we proceeded to the premium passage linking to the passport control area to clear the immigrations. Clearing the passport control area, we were finally in the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at 10.15 p.m.. Given that there was still sufficient of time before our long overnight flight to Seoul (Incheon), we decided to head to the SATS Premier Lounge, and took the escalators up to the airline lounge level.

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

The interior of the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night rush hour shortly after we had entered

The departure flights information screens in the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The escalators linking up to the airline lounge level in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Overlooking The Cocoa Trees duty-free confectionery shop from the airline lounge level in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Finally arriving at the entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

After walking through the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 to the airline lounge level, we ultimately arrived at the main entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge at 10.20 p.m.. A lounge attendant at the reception counter then checked our invitation passes before she allowed us to enter the main lounge. As she positively identified us, we entered the main lounge area and secured a good seating area near the self-service beverage corner to rest before our flight to Seoul (Incheon).

Setting up our electronic devices for our own entertainment before the flight, I went to the self-service beverage corner to get some light bites for myself. During one point in our relaxations in the lounge, I noticed that I still had yet to change some Singapore dollars for Japanese yen. With that, at around 10.25 p.m., I briefly left my belongings under the care of my family while I was out exchanging my Singapore dollars into an additional amount of Japanese yen for the upcoming trip to Hokkaido.

Soon enough, I finally arrived at a nearby currency exchange counter at 10.30 p.m.. At the currency exchange counter itself, I changed approximately S$1,709.70, receiving ¥142,000 in total. This increased the total amount of my Japanese yen from ¥198,000 left from my previous end-of-year winter trip to Yuzawa and Yokohama in December 2015 to ¥340,000. Once I had completed the currency exchange process, I decided to do some plane-spotting at the observation deck, returning to the SATS Premier Lounge for some more light bites and beverages at 10.45 p.m..

The interior of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after we had entered the main lounge area

The self-service refreshment corner in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A glass of white wine for myself in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The interior of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly before I left the lounge to exchange some Singapore dollars into Japanese yen

Bypassing the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge in the airline lounge level in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Overlooking the miniature rainforest pond structure from the airline lounge level in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Bypassing some duty-free shops in the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 on the way to the currency exchange counters

A nearby currency exchange counter in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at night

Bypassing some shops on the way to the observation area in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The overall view of the main airport tarmac at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 late at night

A Swiss International Air Lines Airbus A340-313X, registered HB-JMA, being serviced at Gate No. E3 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 in preparation for her long overnight trans-Indian Ocean return trip back home to the Swiss Confederation as Swiss International Air Lines flight LX 179 bound for Zurich

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A330-343X, registered 9V-SSH, resting at Gate No. F31 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 after arriving from her relatively long afternoon trip from the Commonwealth of Australia as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 236 from Brisbane

A SilkAir Boeing 737-8SA(WL), registered 9V-MGG, resting at Gate No. E2 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 after arriving from her regional evening journey from the Republic of Indonesia as SilkAir flight MI 237 from Medan

A Tigerair Airbus A320-232, registered 9V-TAU, resting at Gate No. E1 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 after arriving from her regional evening journey from the Republic of Indonesia as Tigerair flight TR 2273 from Jakarta

About to take the escalators back up to the airline lounge level in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The interior of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after I had arrived back at the main lounge area

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

Planning out the first section of the trip on my blog in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2. This is the first original trip report on my blog using Frutiger CE as the main font

Reading through the most hilarious sentence in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' on iBooks, where Harry's Uncle Vernon throws a temper tantrum at the breakfast table after his nephew tells Dudley to say 'please' to obtain more bacon during breakfast ー "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?!"

Reviewing the preview of the first section of the report on my blog in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A can of Coca-cola Light for myself in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

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/ER
Registration No.: HL8250
Class: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat No.: 11A
Date: Wednesday, 3 February 2016

After spending approximately two hours of relaxations and having some light drink refreshments in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, the clock was finally showing 12.20 a.m.. Given that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would commence in 40 minutes' time, we packed up our belongings and left the SATS Premier Lounge for Gate No. E5. The entire walk linking from the SATS Premier Lounge to Gate No. E5 took approximately 10 minutes.

Soon enough, we ultimately arrived at the main entrance to Gate No. E5 at 12.30 a.m., which was in time for boarding for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) to commence in half an hour's time. With a rapid and simple security check, we were finally allowed to enter the main passenger waiting area at Gate No. E5 at 12.35 a.m.. Observing the number of waiting passengers at Gate No. E5, I could see that tonight, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would have a somewhat light load.

For tonight, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be operated using a Boeing 777-300/ER aircraft, registered HL8250 and powered by two powerful General Electric GE90-115B engines. HL8250 was delivered new to Korean Air on 25 June 2012 as the 10th Boeing 777-300/ER and the 32nd Boeing 777 for the airline. The overall delivery would make the aircraft approximately 3.7 years old today, making it one of the youngest Boeing 777s in Korean Air's fleet.

The interior of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly before we departed for Gate No. E5

The main entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 as we begin to make our way to Gate No. E5

Overlooking the miniature rainforest pond structure from the airline lounge level in the main airside at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 as we make our way to Gate No. E5

Overlooking The Cocoa Trees duty-free confectionery shop as we begin to make our way to Gate No. E5 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Bypassing some shops on the way to Gate No. E5 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Walking across the automated passageway in Concourse E at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 on the way to Gate No. E5

Finally arriving at the entrance to Gate No. E5 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The passenger waiting area at Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after we had entered

Our aircraft for tonight, HL8250, being serviced at Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 in preparation for her long overnight return trip back home to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

A closeup of HL8250 being serviced at Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 in preparation for her long overnight return trip back home to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

The overall view of the main airport tarmac from Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 late at night

The passenger waiting area at Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly before the first boarding announcements for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) were made

After spending almost half an hour of anticipated waiting in the passenger waiting area at Gate No. E5, the first boarding calls for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) were finally made at 1.05 a.m.. The First & Prestige Class passengers, along with the SKYPASS club members and passengers requiring special assistance, were called to board the aircraft first. Given that we were among the first passengers being called out to board the aircraft, we rolled up at the front to board the aircraft smoothly.

Walking through the jet bridge to Door A, we were finally on board HL8250 by 1.10 a.m., which was just in good time for a 1.30 a.m. departure. At the front door, two flight attendants welcomed us on board, and showed us the direction to our seats in the Prestige Class cabin. Stowing our belongings into their respective storage spaces, we settled down into our assigned Seats No. 11A, 11B, 12A and 12B for the relatively long overnight flight of 6 hours 40 minutes to Seoul (Incheon).

The Prestige Class seats we would be using for the relatively long overnight trip to Seoul (Incheon) were the Prestige Sleeper seats arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. These seats are capable of reclining into a complete 180º lie-flat bed, thus allowing passengers to have a lie-flat rest during longer flights. These seats were introduced following the delivery of Korean Air's fleet of Boeing 777-300/ERs in May 2009, and were progressively rolled out on most of Korean Air's long-haul fleet.

The flight attendants then went about their pre-flight routines distributing the free newspapers and pre-departure beverages to the First & Prestige Class passengers, with the menus already provided for each seat. Having my normal pre-departure glasses of orange juice and champagne, a flight attendant came by to take down my main meal order for the in-flight breakfast later on. Ordering a mushroom and tomato frittata served with grilled bacon and vegetables, I settled into my seat to commence the long red-eye flight to Seoul (Incheon).

A view of my seat, 11A, during the boarding process at Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat during the boarding process at Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The cover page for the in-flight dining menu for the segment between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

Reviewing the in-flight dining menu for the segment between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

Awaiting pushback from Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Planning out the first section of the trip on my blog during the boarding process at Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Reading through the most hilarious sentence in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' on iBooks, where Harry's Uncle Vernon throws a temper tantrum at the breakfast table after his nephew tells Dudley to say 'please' to obtain more bacon during breakfast ー "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?!"

My normal pre-departure glasses of orange juice and champagne, together with a packet of honey-roasted peanuts

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly before we pushed back from Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

At around 1.40 a.m., all the aircraft doors were closed, and the aircraft finally pushed back from Gate No. E26, which was approximately 10 minutes behind schedule. With the safety briefing demonstration video being shown on all our personal front video screens, the aircraft began to commence its taxi to our assigned runway in preparation for the overnight departure to Seoul (Incheon), taxiing past several local and foreign aircraft parked at Terminal 2 and the future Terminal 4 on route. It was not that long until we arrived at our assigned runway for take-off.

Soon enough, the aircraft's two powerful General Electric GE90-115B engines spooled into action, and the aircraft finally lifted off from Singapore Changi Airport at two o' clock for its long overnight return flight timing of 5 hours 40 minutes over the South China Sea back to the metropolitan capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). We then climbed into the pitch black night sky for a long overnight flight of 5 hours 40 minutes over the South China Sea to the modern capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

Finally pushing back from Gate No. E5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

About to taxi away from Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 to our assigned runway

Taxiing across the airport tarmac to our assigned runway late at night

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat as we approach our assigned runway in preparation for the red-eye departure to Seoul (Incheon)

Approaching our assigned runway in preparation for the red-eye departure to Seoul (Incheon)

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ Late Night Departure From Singapore Changi Airport

Finally climbing into the pitch black night sky for the red-eye flight to Seoul (Incheon)

Not long after lifting off from Singapore Changi Airport that night, the seatbelt signs were switched off at 2.05 a.m., which was approximately five minutes after departure. As the flight attendants sprung into action to commence the in-flight service, I went to the lavatories and took out my laptop computer for my own entertainment purposes for the rest of the trip that night. Given that most of the passengers chose to sleep for the duration of the red-eye flight, there would be a late night light snack service and an in-flight breakfast service before arrival into Incheon International Airport.

A flight attendant then came to ask me what I wanted to commence the in-flight late night snack service with. I simply ordered myself a glass of water to commence with, as I was still feeling rather high from the alcohol I had in the SATS Premier Lounge before the flight. I was also handed a plate of chicken satay, and requested for another plate, since the satay was quite a good way to have a late night snack. Upon finishing my two plates of satay, the flight attendant came to collect my plates and asked me whether there was anything else I wanted.

To keep warm, I decided to have a bowl of Korean instant noodles to keep me warm for the flight later on. With my request taken down, the flight attendant disappeared into the galley again, eventually returning with my bowl of Korean instant noodles at 2.30 a.m.. Although the noodles were a bit spicy, it was enough to help me keep warm for the flight. Once I was done eating, the flight attendant collected my used meal tray and since there was nothing much left to do for the flight, I decided to get some sleep at 2.40 a.m..

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly after taking off from Singapore Changi Airport

A warning sign in the lavatory that reminds passengers that on-board smoking, including electronic cigarettes and tampering with smoke detectors in the lavatories, is prohibited at all times under South Korean law

The rear view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly after taking off from Singapore Changi Airport

A glass of water to commence the late night in-flight snack service

My first platter of chicken satay on my dining table

Watching 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' on iTunes, where the Weasley brothers drive off in their Flying Ford Anglia with Harry, causing Uncle Vernon to fall into his own garden at 4 Privet Drive

My second platter of chicken satay on my dining table

A bowl of slightly spicy Korean instant noodles to help me keep warm for the duration of the flight

Cruising somewhere over the South China Sea between Cambodia and West Malaysia late at night

Part 2(b) ~ The Arrival Cum Layover At Incheon International Airport

After getting some long shut-eye for approximately 3 hours 40 minutes, I woke up at around 6.20 a.m., with the first lights of dawn already shining over the Taiwan Straits. At the same time, most of the passengers were slowly beginning to wake up for the in-flight breakfast service to commence. The flight attendants also sprung into action again to commence the in-flight breakfast service, handing out the breakfast trays to the First & Prestige Class passengers. A flight attendant then appeared by my seat to see what beverage I wanted to commence the in-flight breakfast service.

I then requested for a simple glass of orange juice in order to commence the in-flight breakfast service, which was brought to my seat in less than a few minutes. Barely 10 minutes later, she re-appeared at my seat again with my breakfast tray containing my mushroom and tomato frittata served with grilled bacon and vegetables. Tucking into my main in-flight breakfast course, the frittata tasted hot and refreshing to get myself kickstarted for the day, with the grilled bacon and vegetables being satisfying enough for my tastes and preferences.

The first lights of dawn greeting me over the Taiwan Straits

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

A glass of orange juice for myself to commence the in-flight breakfast service

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

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

The rear view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin during cruising altitude over the East China Sea

A view of my seat, 11A, during cruising altitude over the South China Sea

Cruising across the East China Sea between Taiwan and South Korean airspace

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (524858)

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat during cruising altitude over the East China Sea

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude between Daegu and Daejeon

Cruising over South Korean airspace somewhere between Daegu and Daejeon

In accordance with the South Korean Local Time, the seatbelt signs were illuminated again at 8.30 a.m., which was approximately 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Knowing that we had a limited amount of time left before our arrival at Incheon International Airport, we promptly stowed our belongings back into their respective storage areas and buckled up our seatbelts in preparation for the descent into Seoul (Incheon). As the flight attendants went about collecting the in-flight entertainment headsets, the connecting flights annoucements were made.

The morning sky was moderate between sunny and cloudy over the Korea Straits as the aircraft began to commence its final approach into Incheon International Airport. After a long overnight flight timing of 6 hours 40 minutes over the South China Sea from the Republic of Singapore, we finally touched down at Incheon International Airport at 8.40 a.m., which was just as scheduled. We then taxied across the airport tarmac to our assigned arrival gate located at the Main Terminal building.

Incheon International Airport (Hangul: 인천국제공항; Hanja: 仁川國際空港) is a major international airport located in the metropolitan port city of Incheon, South Korea. Located in Jung-gu, Incheon, it is the central international airport serving the Seoul metropolitan area, the largest and busiest airport in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the eight-busiest airport in the world and Asia. Classified as one of the five-star airports by Skytrax, the airport serves as the largest international hub for South Korea's two largest carriers, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air.

The airport was opened for revenue passenger service on 29 March 2001 in order to relieve overcrowding at the older Gimpo International Airport (Hangul: 감포국제공항; Hanja: 金浦國際空港), which caters mostly to domestic flights and some international flights to China, Japan and Taiwan. The airport is directly connected to the mainland via the Yeongjong Bridge, with the Incheon International Airport (A'REX) linking to Seoul and some high-speed Korea Train Express (KTX) services providing direct train service to Busan, Gwangju and Yeosu via Seoul.

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly after the seatbelt signs were switched on for descent into Incheon International Airport

Cruising somewhere between Daejeon and Cheonan as the aircraft begins to commence its final approach into Incheon International Airport

Cruising over the Korea Straits close to Incheon as the aircraft makes its final approach into Incheon International Airport

The early morning clouds settling over the Korea Straits as the aircraft makes the final approach into Incheon International Airport

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ Early Morning Arrival At Incheon International Airport

Taxiing across the main airport tarmac to the Main Terminal shortly after touching down in Incheon International Airport

The view of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport as we make our way to our assigned arrival gate

A Korean Air Airbus A380-861, registered HL7613, being serviced at Gate No. 17 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport in preparation for her long morning transpacific journey to the United States as Korean Air flight KE 035 bound for Atlanta

A Korean Air Boeing 777-2B5/ER, registered HL7574, about to be serviced at Gate No. 23 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport in preparation for her regional early morning trip to the metropolitan capital of Japan as Korean Air flight KE 701 bound for Tokyo (Narita)

A Korean Air Boeing 747-4B5, registered HL7461, being serviced at Gate No. 19 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport in preparation for her early morning trip to the Kingdom of Thailand as Korean Air flight KE 657 bound for Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi)

A Korean Air Boeing 747-4B5, registered HL7492, resting at Gate No. 21 after arriving from her long overnight trip from the Kingdom of Thailand as Korean Air flight KE 638 from Phuket. She will then have another regional morning flight to the metropolitan capital of Japan as Korean Air flight KE 703 bound for Tokyo (Narita)

Finally docking onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 22, at the Main Terminal

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300/ER Prestige Sleeper cabin from my seat shortly after docking onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 22, at the Main Terminal

After taxiing through the main airport tarmac to the Main Terminal for approximately 10 minutes, we finally docked onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 22, at the Main Terminal at 8.50 a.m.. Once the seatbelt signs were switched off, we quickly unbuckled our seatbelts and retrieved our carry-on belongings from their respective storage areas for the disembarkation process to commence, also conducting a mass checking around our seats to see that there was nothing left behind on board.

It was not that long before all the aircraft doors were opened in preparation for the passengers to disembark from the aircraft. As we disembarked from the aircraft, the flight crew sincerely thanked us for our patronage with Korean Air, and wished us a pleasant onward connecting trip to Hokkaido, Japan. We then walked across the jet bridge over to the passageway linking to the and immigrations checkpoints and the connecting flights security checkpoints.

After each flight, the airline shall receive a score report for each individual sector. By using this airline score reporting system, it is easy for me to determine whether this particular airline is suitable for me to take for this route. Each score report is divided into five components, which consist of the seat, food, service, aircraft cleanliness and legroom space. These individual components carry a weightage of 20 points, which is then calculated to 100 points.

To pass, an airline has to attain a minimum overall score of 45%, with at least a Grade 'D' or above. Grades 'A+' and 'A' denote quality passes, while Grades 'B' and 'C' denote acceptable passes, with Grade 'D' being a borderline pass. However, anything having Grade 'E' or below is considered as below pass, with 'U' being classified as ungraded. Given that I had made some slight modifications to the airline score system in January 2015, the airline grading system is shown below, with this new scoring system effective from 1 January 2015:

A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)
A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a very good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has a satisfactory rating and performance)
D: 45% ~ 49% (Airline has an adequate rating and performance)
E: 35% ~ 49% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
S: 20% ~ 34% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has failed to meet the pre-requisite for the minimum grade)

Korean Air Flight 642 Score Report

Seat: 17 / 20
Food: 12 / 20
Service: 14 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 15 / 20
Legroom space: 15 / 20
Total: 73 / 100
Grade: B (Acceptable)

In the final analysis, Korean Air has managed to obtained a total of 73%, which means that they have earned a 'B' grade, which is an acceptable pass. Though there has been drop in the component scores, it was still a good flight with Korean Air. Even though the passing score is acceptable, Korean Air still has the potential to aim for even better scoring and grade, and they should continue to work their hardest in order to attain a better customer rating in the near future.

Shortly after disembarking from Korean Air flight KE 642 from Singapore at Gate No. 22, we walked through the passageway to the connecting flights security checkpoint, arriving there by 8.55 a.m.. At the connecting flight security checkpoint, we prepared whatever that was necessary for screening, noticing that the area was crowded with transiting passengers. With the security check taking approximately 10 minutes, we took the escalators up to the airside for our continuing flight to Sapporo (Chitose).

One final look at HL8250 parked at Gate No. 22 in the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport shortly before we made our way to the connecting flights security checkpoint

Walking across the passageway linking to the immigration checkpoints and connecting flights security checkpoint in the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

Finally in the main 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: Boeing 747-4B5
Registration No.: HL7495
Class: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat No.: 17J
Date: Wednesday, 3 February 2016

After clearing the transiting flights security checkpoint, we were finally in the airside of the Main Terminal at 9.05 a.m.. Since boarding for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would be commencing in half an hour's time, we went to check which departure gate our flight to Sapporo (Chitose) would depart from. According to the departure flight information screens, Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would be scheduled to depart at 10.05 a.m. from Gate No. 7, with boarding scheduled to commence at 9.35 a.m..

With that instant, we walked across the Main Terminal airside, stopping to purchase some duty-free items on the way to Gate No. 7. Soon enough, we finally arrived at the passenger waiting area at Gate No. 7 at 9.15 a.m., which was just in good time for boarding for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) to commence in 10 minutes' time. Judging by the number of waiting passengers in the passenger waiting area at Gate No. 7, I could observe that Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would be expected to have a somewhat light load today.

However, later on, an announcement at Gate No. 7 was made that due to the aircraft being serviced shortly after being brought from the main airport tarmac, Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would be delayed by 20 minutes, with the new departure timing shifted to 10.25 a.m.. Boarding was also to commence at ten o' clock, approximately 25 minutes before the new scheduled departure timing. With the delay, my parents took the opportunity to get some hot beverages for us.

For today, Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would be operated by a Boeing 747-400 aircraft, registered HL7495 and powered using four Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines. HL7495 was delivered to Korean Air on 28 December 1995 as the 19th Boeing 747-400 for the airline, making the aircraft approximately 20.2 years old today. However, the remaining Boeing 747-400s are expected to be withdrawn from service with Korean Air by 2017, eventually being replaced with new Boeing 777-300/ERs and Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals.

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

Walking across the main airside of the Main Terminal building at Incheon International Airport to Gate No. 7

Finally approaching Gates No. 6 to 8 in the Main Terminal building at Incheon International Airport

Our aircraft for today, HL7495, being towed to Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport in preparation for her regional early afternoon flight to Hokkaido, Japan, as Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose)

HL7495 about to be serviced at Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport in preparation for her regional early afternoon flight to Hokkaido, Japan, as Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose)

The passenger waiting area located at Gate No. 7 in the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport crowded with waiting passengers in the early morning rush hour

A Korean Air Airbus A330-323X, registered HL8025, being pushed back from Gate No. 6 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport in preparation for her long early afternoon flight to the United States' Territory of Guam as Korean Air flight KE 113 bound for Guam

My boarding pass for the continuing segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

The passenger waiting area located at Gate No. 7 in the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport shortly before the first boarding announcements for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) were made

After spending approximately 40 minutes of anticipated waiting beside the passenger waiting area at Gate No. 7, the first boarding announcements for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) were finally made at 9.55 a.m., approximately five minutes ahead of schedule. The First & Prestige Class passengers, combined with the SKYPASS club members and passengers needing special assistance were called out to board the aircraft first. Given that we were among the first passengers being called to board, we rolled up at the front for the boarding process to commence smoothly.

Walking through the jet bridge to Door A, we were finally on board HL7495 at ten o' clock, which was just in good time for a 10.25 a.m. departure. At the front entrance, two flight attendants warmly welcomed us on board, and showed us the direction to our seats in the Prestige Class cabin in the upper deck. Heading to the upper deck, we stowed away our belongings into their respective storage spaces before settling into our assigned Seats No. 17H, 17J, 18H and 18J for the regional early afternoon flight timing of 2 hours 40 minutes to Sapporo (Chitose).

The Prestige Class seats we would be using for this regional early afternoon flight to Sapporo (Chitose) would be the older generation of Prestige Plus shell-shaped seats. These seats are capable of reclining up to 172º, allowing an almost fully-lie flat rest during long-haul flights, and can mostly be found on some Boeing 747-400s and some Boeing 777-200/ERs yet to be refitted with the airline's newer cabin products. However, unlike the newer lie-flat Prestige Sleeper seats, these seats feature only one AC power outlet located below the centre armrests.

Soon enough, the flight attendants went about their normal pre-departure routines, distributing the pre-departure beverages and free newspapers to the Prestige Class passengers. The in-flight dining menus were also provided at every seat at the same time. Having my normal pre-departure glass of orange juice and some honey-roasted peanuts, the flight attendant came to my seat to take my order for the in-flight light breakfast service later on. Ordering a chive omelette with tomato coulis served with roasted potatoes and vegetables, I settled down for the trip to Hokkaido to begin.

A view of my seat, 17J, during the boarding process at Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

Planning out the first section of the trip on my blog during the boarding process at Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

Reading through the most hilarious sentence in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' on iBooks, where Harry's Uncle Vernon throws a temper tantrum at the breakfast table after his nephew tells Dudley to say 'please' to obtain more bacon during breakfast ー "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?!"

The cover page for the in-flight dining menu for the segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

Reviewing the in-flight dining menu for the segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

A Korean Air Boeing 777-3B5/ER, registered HL8209 and painted in the special "Children's Drawing Contest", being serviced at Gate No. 8 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport in preparation for her long morning transpacific journey to Canada as Korean Air flight KE 073 bound for Toronto

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Prestige Sleeper cabin on the upper deck from my seat during the boarding process at Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

My normal pre-departure glass of orange juice with a packet of honey-roasted peanuts

Awaiting pushback from Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

After the clock struck exactly 10.25 a.m. sharp, all the aircraft doors were closed, and the aircraft finally pushed back from Gate No. 7, approximately 20 minutes behind schedule. With the safety briefing information video being showcased on our front video screens, we began to make our way to our assigned runway in preparation for the departure to Sapporo (Chitose). Taxiing past several aircraft parked at the Main Terminal and Terminal A, the entire taxi took approximately 15 minutes.

Soon enough, the aircraft's four Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines spooled into action, and the aircraft finally lifted off from Incheon International Airport at 10.40 a.m. for its regional early afternoon flight duration of two hours over the Sea of Japan to the busy and modern metropolis of Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan. We then climbed across the bright early afternoon sky for a regional flight duration of just two hours over the Sea of Japan to the prefectural capital of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Finally pushing back from Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport

The safety briefing information video detailing the hazards and consequences of on-board smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes

A Korean Air Airbus A380-861, registered HL7622, resting on the main airport tarmac near the Main Terminal building at Incheon International Airport. She will then have a long trans-Siberian journey to the French Republic (France) later that afternoon as Korean Air flight KE 901 bound for Paris (Charles de Gaulle)

Taxiing across the main airport tarmac of Incheon International Airport to our assigned runway in preparation for departure

Finally approaching our assigned runway in preparation for departure

Korean Air Flight 765 ~ Bright Morning Departure From Incheon International Airport

Finally climbing into the bright winter afternoon sky shortly after taking off from Incheon International Airport

The seatbelt signs were turned off at 10.50 a.m., which was approximately 10 minutes after taking off from Incheon International Airport. As the flight attendants sprung into action to commence the regional in-flight service, I paid a visit to the lavatories and got out my electronic devices for my own personal entertainment use during the entire duration of the flight. Soon enough, a flight attendant came over to my seat to ask me what I wanted to commence the in-flight breakfast service.

I simply requested for my usual glass of orange juice, together with a small packet of honey-roasted peanuts, to commence the in-flight breakfast service. Upon receiving both my orange juice and peanuts, I sat back to enjoy my light appetisers first before the flight attendants brought out the meal trays. Soon enough, the flight attendant finally re-appeared with my meal tray containing my main breakfast course at 11.15 a.m.. With my chive omelette delivered to my table, I tucked into my main breakfast course.

The chive omelette tasted alright, with the mushrooms, bacon and potatoes also the reasonable accompaniments for my tastes. My dad, on the other hand, had some sort of chicken with mushroom sauce, which tasted a relatively sour and not that right on the off side. Once I had finished my main breakfast course, the flight attendant gave me a plate of seasonal fresh fruits to aid digestion, while I requested for two glasses of Baileys Irish Cream, which were delivered to me one by one. I then sat back to have my own electronic devices for entertainment before arriving into Hokkaido.

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Prestige Sleeper cabin on the upper deck from my seat shortly after the seatbelt signs were switched off

A view of my seat, 17J, during cruising altitude somewhere over Chuncheon

A warning sign in the lavatory that reminds passengers that on-board smoking, including electronic cigarettes and tampering with smoke detectors in the lavatories, is prohibited at all times under South Korean law

The rear view of the Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Prestige Plus cabin on the upper deck during cruising altitude over the Sea of Japan near Chuncheon

A glass of orange juice and a small packet of honey-roasted peanuts for myself

Planning out the first section of the trip on my blog shortly after taking off from Incheon International Airport

Reading through the most hilarious sentence in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' on iBooks, where Harry's Uncle Vernon throws a temper tantrum at the breakfast table after his nephew tells Dudley to say 'please' to obtain more bacon during breakfast ー "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?!"

My breakfast tray being placed on my dining table

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

A glass of Baileys Irish Cream for myself on the centre armrest

Watching "Mr. Bean's Holiday" in iTunes on my laptop, where both Bean and Stepan are forced off the high-speed TGV train in France for suspectedly travelling without a fare and seating ticket

A platter of assorted seasonal fresh fruits for myself on my centre armrest

Another glass of Baileys Irish Cream for myself on my centre armrest

Cruising somewhere over the Sea of Japan between Akita and Aomori

The rear view of the Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Prestige Plus cabin on the upper deck during cruising altitude over the Sea of Japan between Akita and Aomori

Cruising over the Tsugaru Strait between Aomori and Hokkaido

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over the Tsugaru Strait between Aomori and Hokkaido

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Prestige Sleeper cabin on the upper deck from my seat shortly before the seatbelt signs were illuminated for descent into Incheon International Airport

In accordance with the Japanese Standard Timing, the seatbelt signs were illuminated again at 12.30 p.m., which was approximately 10 minutes in preparation for the final descent into New Chitose Airport. Knowing that we had as little as half an hour left before our arrival into Sapporo, we promptly stowed away our belongings back into their  storage spaces and buckled up our seatbelts in preparation for the descent into New Chitose Airport. The flight attendants also went around the cabin to conduct the pre-arrival safety checks at the same time.

The winter sky was quite bright with the white snowy suburbs of Hokkaido flashing below us as the aircraft began to make its final approach into New Chitose Airport. After a short early afternoon regional flight of just two hours over the Sea of Japan from the modernised capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), we finally touched down in New Chitose Airport at 12.40 p.m., which was approximately five minutes ahead of schedule. We then taxied across the snowy tarmac to our assigned arrival gate located at the International Terminal.

New Chitose Airport (Japanese: 新千歳空港; Traditional Chinese: 新千歲機場; Simplified Chinese: 新千岁机场) is an airport located in the city of Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan. It is the central airport serving the Sapporo metropolitan area and the central gateway to Hokkaido for visitors coming to Hokkaido by air. Classified as a second-class airport by national law, it is currently the third-busiest airport in Japan and the largest airport in Hokkaido, with the domestic route between Tokyo (Haneda) and Sapporo (Chitose) serving as the world's busiest airline route.

Opened for passenger service on 20 July 1988, the airport mainly caters to domestic flights, and some limited regular international flights to China, Guam, Hong Kong, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan. International flights to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore only operate on a seasonal basis from December until early January. The airport is accessible from downtown Sapporo via Rapid Airport services by Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido), which provide connections to Sapporo, Otaru and Asahikawa.

A new international terminal was opened on 26 March 2010 to cater to the rising number of international tourist arrivals into Hokkaido. Prior to this, there was a sterile area located in the domestic passenger terminal building that catered to a limited number of international flights. This then allowed New Chitose Airport to become more open to international flights, allowing the airport to resume longer service to the United States (Guam), and operate more seasonal charter flights to Southeast Asia.

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Prestige Sleeper cabin on the upper deck from my seat shortly after the seatbelt signs were illuminated for descent into New Chitose Airport

Cruising over the Pacific Ocean between Hakodate and Muroran as the aircraft begins to commence its final approach into New Chitose Airport

Cruising over the Pacific Ocean close to Muroran as the aircraft commences its final approach into New Chitose Airport

Korean Air Flight 765 ~ Sunny Afternoon Arrival At New Chitose Airport

Taxiing across the white snow-covered airport tarmac shortly after landing in New Chitose Airport

Taxiing across the white snow-covered airport tarmac to the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport

An Air China Boeing 777-2J6, registered B-2059 and painted in the special "Blue Phoenix Liner" livery, resting at Gate No. 68 at the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport after arriving from her regional early morning trip from the People's Republic of China as Air China flight CA 169 from Beijing

Finally docking onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 66 at the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport

The view of the Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Prestige Sleeper cabin on the upper deck from my seat shortly after docking onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 66, at the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport

After taxiing across the relatively snowy airport tarmac for approximately 10 minutes to the International Terminal, we finally docked onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 66 at 12.50 p.m.. Once the seatbelt signs were turned off, we quickly unbuckled our seatbelts and retrieved our belongings from their respective storage spaces in preparation for the disembarkation process to commence. We then checked around our seats to see that nothing had been left behind on board.

Upon having our belongings ready, we took the stairs back down to the main aircraft deck, rolling up with some other passengers near the nearest aircraft door to exit the aircraft. As we disembarked from the aircraft, the flight attendants thanked us for our flight patronage with Korean Air, and wished us a pleasant winter festival vacation in Hokkaido, Japan. We then walked through the passageway leading to the arrivals and immigration checkpoints in the International Terminal.

Korean Air Flight 765 Score Report

Seat: 16 / 20
Food: 11 / 20
Service: 15 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 15 / 20
Legroom Space: 16 / 20
Total: 73 / 100
Grade: B (Acceptable)

In the final analysis, Korean Air has managed to attain a total aggregate score of 73%, meaning that they have attained an 'B' grade. This particular flight was quite alright as per normal. However, one area for improvement for this particular flight would be the meal caterings, where there could be more dishes or a slight change in the dishes on offer, especially on short and regional flights. The airline should try to have some more dishes on offer, especially on regional flights to suit the tastes of customers in future.

Part 4 ~ The Journey To The Hotel Neuschloss Otaru

After disembarking from Korean Air flight KE 765 from Seoul (Incheon) at Gate No. 66, we walked across the passageway leading to the immigration area in the International Terminal. Arriving at the immigration checkpoints by 12.55 p.m., we noticed that there there were many foreign tourists waiting to enter Hokkaido to observe the upcoming winter festival, which would be scheduled to commence in a couple of days' time. As a result, it took approximately 20 minutes for us to clear the immigration checkpoints.

Upon clearing the relatively crowded immigration checkpoints, I went to check which baggage belt our check-in baggage would be scheduled to arrive at. According to the baggage information screen, all bulkier check-in baggage from Korean Air flight KE 765 from Seoul (Incheon) would arrive at Belt A. Without wasting anymore time, we went to claim three baggage trolleys for our baggage to be loaded before heading to Belt A to claim our bulkier check-in baggage.

One final look at HL7495 parked at Gate No. 66 at the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport as we begin to make our way to the arrivals and immigration checkpoints

After claiming our bulkier check-in baggage from Belt A and loading them onto the baggage trolleys, we were finally in the arrivals and meeting hall of the International Terminal at 1.25 p.m.. Since we were requiring Internet connection during our stay in Hokkaido, we headed to the information counter to see where the post office to get our our Internet Wi-Fi routers. According to the lady at the information counter, the post office was located in the Domestic Flight Passenger Terminal, and we simply had to walk across via the internal passageway.

Walking through the internal passageway from the International Terminal, we were finally in the main Domestic Terminal by 1.30 p.m.. Bypassing a Uniqlo clothing store, we promptly headed to the post office to get the envelope containing our Internet Wi-Fi routers. Upon receiving our Internet Wi-Fi routers, my mum then spent a few minutes teaching us on how to operate them throughout our vacation in Hokkaido, and on how to use the pass codes correctly to ensure that we could obtain a secure Internet Wi-Fi connection whenever we were out of the hotel.

Finally in the arrivals and meeting area in the International Terminal at New Chitose Airport

Walking across the passageway between the International Terminal and domestic passenger flight terminal at New Chitose Airport

Finally approaching the post office near the Uniqlo clothing store in the domestic passenger flight terminal at New Chitose Airport

After getting our Internet Wi-Fi routers from the post office near the Uniqlo clothes store in the domestic passenger flight terminal at New Chitose Airport, the clock was finally showing 1.40 p.m.. Since my family would be driving to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru and that I would be using the railway lines, my dad opted to pick me up from Otaru Station if they arrived at Otaru before I did. Without wasting anymore time, I took the escalators down to the first floor and changed to another set of escalators down to the first basement, where New Chitose Airport Station was located.

Given that I was heading to Otaru by train, the first thing I had to do was to exchange my Hokkaido Rail Pass Exchange Voucher for a Consecutive 5-Day Hokkaido Rail Pass. As such, I went to the JR Visitors' Information Desk, where lots of foreign tourists were rolling up to obtain various passes. Due to the relatively long queue at the JR Visitors' Information Desck, it was quite a long wait, with my turn to exchange my Hokkaido Rail Pass Exchange Voucher finally coming at around 2.45 p.m.. Since I had finished my necessary exchange documents for the exchange process during the queue, the whole exchange process taking approximately 10 minutes.

New Chitose Airport Station (Japanese: 新千歳空港駅; Traditional Chinese: 新千歲機場站; Simplified Chinese: 新千岁机场站) is an underground train station in New Chitose Airport located in Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan. Operated by Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido), it is the main railway station serving New Chitose Airport and is located directly below the domestic passenger flight terminal building. The station is located on the Chitose Line (Airport Branch Line) and is the terminus for the Rapid Airport services connecting to Sapporo, Otaru and Asahikawa. A JR Visitors' Information Desk is located in the ticketing concourse for foreign visitors to exchange their Japan Rail Passes and Hokkaido Rail Passes.

The second floor shopping concourse in the domestic passenger flight terminal at New Chitose Airport

Taking the escalators down to the first floor concourse of the domestic passenger flight terminal at New Chitose Airport

Finally arriving at the main station concourse of New Chitose Airport Station

The entrance to the JR Visitors' Information Desk at New Chitose Airport Station during the mid-afternoon rush hour

The main station concourse at New Chitose Airport Station during the mid-afternoon rush hour

The interior of the JR Visitors' Information Desk at New Chitose Airport Station crowded with foreign tourists during the mid-afternoon rush hour

After completing all the necessary Hokkaido Rail Pass exchange documents at the JR Visitors' Information Desk, I finally received my Consecutive 5-Day Hokkaido Rail Pass (Ordinary) at 2.55 p.m., with the dates of activation valid from today until Sunday (7 February). With my Hokkaido Rail Pass in hand, I made my necessary seat reservation for the in-bound trip to Otaru, only to find out that due to a power fault on certain trains for New Chitose Airport from Otaru at the depot in Sapporo, train service was only available as far as Sapporo and Asahikawa, with services to Otaru expected to resume from 4.30 p.m. onwards.

For the in-bound trip to Otaru, I would be scheduled to catch the Rapid Airport train No. 165 bound for Otaru, which would be scheduled to depart New Chitose Airport Station at 4.33 p.m., and then arrive at the Otaru terminal station at 5.46 p.m.. With everything that was necessary completed, I grabbed my belongings and promptly left the JR Visitors' Information Desk at 3.10 p.m. and went to the staffed ticketing gate to show my Consecutive 5-Day Hokkaido Rail Pass to the ticketing officer.

I then went to check which platform the Rapid Airport train No. 165 bound for Otaru via Sapporo would depart from. According to the departure information screens, the Rapid Airport train bound for Otaru via Sapporo would be expected to depart at 4.33 p.m. from Track No. 1. Without wasting anymore time, I promptly took the elevator down to Tracks No. 1 and 2 in preparation to catch my late afternoon train bound for Otaru via Sapporo, eventually arriving at the platforms by 3.15 p.m..

Airport (エアポート) is a dedicated rapid train service operated by Hokkaido Railway Company between New Chitose Airport, Sapporo, Asahikawa and Otaru in Hokkaido, Japan. The service provides direct railway connection to New Chitose Airport from the major cities of Otaru, Asahikawa and Sapporo, with services to and from Asahikawa functioning as Super Kamui limited express services between Sapporo and Asahikawa. The service is capable of reaching a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), with an average trip between Sapporo and Otaru taking 37 minutes.

The service commenced on 1 July 1992, four years after the opening of New Chitose Airport, as the local Hokkaido prefectural government felt the need to provide rail service to the airport to increase tourist arrivals into Hokkaido. 721 series, 781 series and 785 series EMUs were used as the rolling stock at a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph), with the 781 series and 785 series EMUs operating as Lilac and Super White Arrow services between Sapporo and Asahikawa. The 781 series EMUs were retired from service on 30 September 2007.

From 1 October 2007, 789 series EMUs were phased in on these services to replace the 781 series EMUs, operating as Super Kamui limited express services between Sapporo and Asahikawa, together with the 785 series EMUs at a speed of 130 km/h (80 mph). These services reverse direction upon arrival at Sapporo to continue their return trips. From 19 July 2014, 733 series EMUs were introduced on these services to complement the existing fleet of 721 series EMUs.

However, the top speed for all Rapid Airport services was reduced from 130 km/h (80 mph) to 120 km/h (75 mph) after 30 August 2014. While no Green Car (first class) accommodation is provided for the Rapid Airport service, reserved seating ('u' seat) is available in Car No. 4 at an extra cost of ¥300 (S$3.66) for adults and ¥150 (S$1.83) for children below the age of 12 years. There are no extra charges necessary for the Rapid Airport service for passengers travelling with either a Japan Rail Pass or Hokkaido Rail Pass.

From the start of the revised timetable on 26 March 2016, in collaboration with the opening of the upcoming Hokkaido Shinkansen line, the 785 series and 789 series EMUs used on Super Kamui limited express services are scheduled to be withdrawn from Rapid Airport services beyond Sapporo, resulting in through services between New Chitose Airport and Asahikawa being discontinued. From the same date, every service will either use 721 series or 733 series EMUs between New Chitose Airport, Sapporo and Otaru.

The main station concourse at New Chitose Airport Station shortly before I headed down to the station platforms

Finally arriving at the station platforms at New Chitose Airport Station

A 5-car 789 series EMU, operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 153 bound for Asahikawa via Sapporo, on Track No. 2 at New Chitose Airport Station. This train would function as the Limited Express "Super Kamui" No. 25 between Sapporo and Asahikawa after reversing direction at Sapporo Station

The name plate on the station platforms at New Chitose Airport Station

An advertisement screen detailing the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line on 26 March 2016 on Track No. 1 at New Chitose Airport Station

A 6-car 721 series EMU, now operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 157 bound for Sapporo, on Track No. 2 at New Chitose Airport Station

A 5-car 789 series EMU, now operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 163 bound for Asahikawa via Sapporo, on Track No. 2 at New Chitose Airport Station. This train will eventually form as the Limited Express "Super Kamui" No. 29 between Sapporo and Asahikawa after reversing direction at Sapporo Station

The departure information screens for Rapid "Airport" trains departing from Track No. 1 at New Chitose Airport Station

Track No. 1 at New Chitose Airport Station shortly before the Rapid "Airport" train No. 165 bound for Otaru via Sapporo arrived at the station

After spending almost 1 hour 15 minutes of anticipated waiting on Tracks No. 1 and 2, a 6-car 733 series EMU finally arrived at New Chitose Airport at 4.32 p.m. on Track No. 1, approximately 15 minutes behind schedule. The train had just arrived from Otaru via Sapporo as the Rapid Airport train No. 154 bound for New Chitose Airport earlier, and was to become the Rapid Airport train No. 165 bound for Otaru via Sapporo. Once the train doors were, I boarded the train via Car No. 4, which was the reserved seating ('u' seat) car, and settled into my assigned Seat No. 5A for the late afternoon trip of 1 hour 13 minutes to the mid-sized suburban port city of Otaru.

My baggage was then stowed in the baggage rack near the seats in preparation for the routine late afternoon trip to Otaru. At around 4.42 p.m., all the train doors were closed, and the Rapid Airport train No. 165 finally pulled out of New Chitose Airport Station for its short, routine late afternoon trip of 1 hour 20 minutes to the mid-sized suburban port city of Otaru at reduced speeds between Teine and Otaru-chikko due to icy tracks. I was then on my way for a late afternoon trip of 1 hour 20 minutes to the mid-sized suburban port city of Otaru located slightly to the northwest of Sapporo.

Otaru (小樽市) is a suburban port city located northwest of Sapporo in the Shiribeshi Sub-prefecture, Hokkaido, Japan. Located on the coast of the Sea of Japan, the city is an important port for Hokkaido, and is the closest major seaport to Sapporo to obtain goods and services coming to Hokkaido by sea. Otaru has many historical tourist areas and infrastructure, most notably Mount Tengu, which is notable for skiing and other winter sports. The city has a population of 123,385, as of 1 January 2016.

721系 快速エアポート165号 小樽行き 新千歳空港駅に入線シーン

The rear view of the reserved seating ('u' seat) car on board the 6-car 733 series EMU, operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 165 bound for Otaru via Sapporo, during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at New Chitose Airport Station

The front view of the reserved seating ('u' seat) car on board the 6-car 733 series EMU, operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 165 bound for Otaru via Sapporo, during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at New Chitose Airport Station

A view of my seat, 5A, during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at New Chitose Airport Station

The view of the reserved seating ('u' seat) car on board the 6-car 733 series EMU, operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 165 bound for Otaru via Sapporo, from my seat during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at New Chitose Airport Station

Awaiting departure from New Chitose Airport Station

721系 快速エアポート165号 小樽行き 新千歳空港駅から恵庭駅間

Making a brief stop at Eniwa Station

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Eniwa

Passing through Megumino Station

Bypassing a snow-covered field in the suburban city of Eniwa

Bypassing a snow-covered field in the suburban city of Kitahiroshima

The view of the reserved seating ('u' seat) car on board the 6-car 733 series EMU, operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 165 bound for Otaru via Sapporo, from my seat between Eniwa and Kita-hiroshima Stations

Making a brief stop at Kita-hiroshima Station

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Kitahiroshima

My reserved seat ticket for the segment between New Chitose Airport and Otaru

Bypassing a snow-covered field in downtown Atsubetsu-ku, Sapporo

Passing through Kami-nopporo Station

Bypassing some housing areas in downtown Atsubetsu-ku, Sapporo, as the train approaches Shin-sapporo Station

Making a brief stop at Shin-sapporo Station

Bypassing some housing areas in downtown Shiroishi-ku, Sapporo

Passing through Shiroishi Station

Crossing the Toyohira River between downtown Shiroishi-ku and Chuo-ku, Sapporo, as night starts to fall

Bypassing some housing apartments in downtown Chuo-ku, Sapporo, as the train approaches Sapporo Station

Making a brief stop at Sapporo Station

721系 快速エアポート165号 小樽行き 札幌駅から手稲駅間

Making a brief stop at Teine Station

721系 快速エアポート165号 小樽行き 手稲駅から小樽築港駅間

Making a brief stop at Otaru-chikko Station

721系 快速エアポート165号 小樽行き 小樽築港駅から終着小樽駅間

After a delayed late afternoon trip of 1 hour 20 minutes from New Chitose Airport in the suburban city of Chitose, I finally arrived at the Otaru terminal station at 6.02 p.m. on Track No. 5, approximately 16 minutes behind schedule. Checking to see that I had left nothing behind on board, I alighted from the train and took the escalators down to the ticketing gates, where I showed my 5-Day Hokkaido Rail Pass to the ticketing officer at the staffed ticketing gate before entering the main station concourse.

Entering the main station concourse, I promptly made a mobile phone call to my dad to tell him that I had already arrived at Otaru Station. He then replied to me that the rest of the family had already checked in at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru, and that he was on route to Otaru Station to fetch me in a rented black Toyota car. Soon enough, my dad finally arrived outside Otaru Station at 6.10 p.m.. With the car doors opened, my baggage was loaded into the rear passenger seat while I got into the front seat.

Soon enough, once everything was loaded into the rear car seat, we finally departed Otaru Station at 6.15 p.m. for a short and quick early evening road trip of 25 minutes to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru located on the hillside by the Sea of Japan. Along the way to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru, both my dad and I made a brief stop at a 7-Eleven convenience store located in downtown Otaru to purchase some beverages and light snacks for the upcoming days of our white Lunar New Year winter festival vacation in Hokkaido, Japan.

Otaru Station (小樽駅) is a railway station located in the port city of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan. Operated by Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido), it is the main railway station serving the suburban port city of Otaru and is a major stopping point for most commuter trains on the Hakodate Main Line. The station serves as the terminus for local trains to Kutchan and Rapid Airport services to New Chitose Airport via Sapporo, with seasonal limited express services to Kutchan and Niseko stopping at the station.

Tracks No. 4 and 5 serving some of the westbound Hakodate Main Line trains bound for Sapporo, Iwamizawa and New Chitose Airport at Otaru Station during the early evening rush hour

The 6-car 733 series EMU, now operating as the Rapid "Airport" train No. 184 bound for New Chitose Airport via Sapporo, on Track No. 5 at Otaru Station

The main station concourse at Otaru Station during the early evening rush hour

The exterior view of Otaru Station at night

Finally departing Otaru Station

Travelling along the icy roads of downtown Otaru at night shortly after departing Otaru Station

Travelling past some closed shophouses in downtown Otaru on route to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at night

Travelling parallel to the coast of the Sea of Japan on route to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at night

Travelling past some small shophouses on the coast of the Sea of Japan on route to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at night

About to turn to the hilly road leading to the Otaru Aquarium and the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru

Travelling up the snow-covered hill near the Otaru Aquarium up to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru

Finally approaching the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru

After a short early evening road trip of just 25 minutes from Otaru Station located in the city centre, we finally arrived at the main entrance to the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at 6.40 p.m.. Parking the black rented Toyota car at the hotel's car parking area, my dad helped to unload my baggage from the rear passenger seat before we went into the main hotel lobby. Entering the main hotel lobby, we went to the hotel reception counter, where I simply showed my passport to the hotel receptionist.

Checking my passport, the hotel receptionist then informed me that with my parents assigned to Room No. 517, I was to be in Room No. 518 on the fifth floor, where my younger brother was already resting. My dad also informed me that we would have dinner at the French restaurant, Blau Küste, at eight o' clock later on. With that, we took the elevator to the fifth floor, arriving there by 6.45 p.m.. Entering my Room No. 518, I helped my younger brother to sort our attire for the upcoming days in Otaru before settling down to have a rest from my railway trip from New Chitose Airport.

Both our Rooms No. 517 and 518 consisted of a king bed and two twin beds, with an additional room door located by the main room entrance door for enhanced privacy. Furthermore, both our bathrooms had a small private hot spring (onsen) bath, where we could relax ourselves in the event that we were feeling tired from the bitterly cold air after going out. However, owing to the bitterly cold wind and surroundings, the windows in the bedroom were not designed to be opened.

The overall beautiful view of the Sea of Japan from the open-air car parking area near the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at night

The exterior view of the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at night

The main hotel lobby at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru shortly after I had arrived at the hotel

Finally arriving at my Room No. 518 on the fifth floor of the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru

The first view of my Room No. 518 at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru shortly after I had arrived at night

The overall beautiful view of the Sea of Japan from my Room No. 518 at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at night

After having a well-earned early evening rest in my Room No. 518 after my evening rail journey from New Chitose Airport, we finally received a phone call from my parents at Room No. 517 at 7.45 p.m.. Since our dinner reservation at the Blau Küste Restaurant would be in 15 minutes' time, we prepared our necessary belongings, such as our own camera, and took the nearest elevator to the hotel lobby on the first floor, eventually arriving at the main entrance to the Blau Küste Restaurant at 7.50 p.m..

Entering the restaurant itself, a waiter positively identified our reservations at eight o' clock, and directed us to a window table facing the Sea of Japan, also leaving us with the set menus to make our reviews. Once we were ready to eat dinner, a waiter came by to our dining table to take down our main meal orders for dinner. Given that this was our first time staying at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru, we decided to undertake the four-course French dinner, which included the soup and dessert.

Soon enough, the starters came over, which consisted of a seafood cocktail, together with a creamy cauliflower soup. Both tasted reasonably good, with the latter tasting better. Upon finishing the two courses, we received our main courses, which consisted of two beef tenderloin cuts with a fish slice and sauce, which tasted quite reasonable for our tastes. It was not that long until we finally received our dessert courses, which consisted of small fruits with vanilla ice cream. Overall, this French dinner was decent enough to commence our first night in Hokkaido.

The main hotel lobby at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru at night

Overlooking the open-air hotel corniche by the Sea of Japan from the Blau Küste Restaurant at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru

The interior of the Blau Küste Restaurant in the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru during dinnertime

Reviewing the French dinner course menu at the Blau Küste Restaurant in the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru

The first course: A seafood cocktail consisting of sliced yellowfin tuna with scallops and crispy bread

The second course: A bowl of creamy cauliflower soup with chopped bacon inside

The main course: Slices of beef tenderloin with a fish slice and steak jus

The final dessert course: Vanilla ice cream with small fruit compote

The main hotel lobby at the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru shortly before we headed back up to our Rooms No. 517 and 518 located on the fifth floor

After having a very hearty and sumptuous four-course French dinner at the Blau Küste Restaurant in the Hotel Neuschloss Otaru, the clock was finally showing 9.10 p.m.. Since we were feeling stuffed to the brim already and that there was nothing much left to do, we paid up our dinner bill, which would be included in our hotel bills, and decided to head back up to our Rooms No. 517 and 518. Having our belongings, we took the elevator back up to the fifth floor, eventually arriving back there at 9.20 p.m..

Once we were back in our Rooms No. 517 and 518, I went to have a hot relaxation in my own private hot spring (onsen) bath and changed into my pyjamas before setting up my electronic devices to be charged for the night. Given that I was planning to go for a regional shopping trip to New Chitose Airport the next day, I knew that I could not stay up late that night. Soon enough, by around eleven o' clock late that night, I finally turned in for a well-earned good night's rest.

This officially brings the first segment of my white Lunar New Year winter festival trip to Hokkaido, Japan, in February 2016 to an official conclusion. The remaining three segments of the report shall be posted up once I have managed to select the highest quality photographs and videos for these parts. Like every other trip report, do feel free to comment and / or ask questions at any time, as the comment forum is always open. Please do be patient as these require time and effort to be completely posted.

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