Trips: Taking the Long Route Round to Tokyo (Part 1)

LIGHT BITES

Travel Smart


Welcome to refined living

And we're off to the land of sakuras, cheesecakes and heart-stopping retail adventures

Tokyo is not Monocle’s most liveable city for the third year running for no reason. The metropole simply gets everything right. From having an excellent public transport system to the unparalleled food scene (and everything in between), Tokyo has been doing right by its inhabitants for a very long time. 

Along with the world-famous Tsukiji market, districts like Shibuya, Harajuku and Ginza are all perennial favourites for their own unique interpretations of modern Tokyo living. Just like anywhere else in the world these days, the Japanese capital changes and adapts at such a breakneck speed that even yearly visitors still find new things to do and explore. It is no wonder how Tokyo still manages to routinely pull in repeat visitors.

This trip rounds out 2017 for me, and I’ll be spending New Year’s Eve amongst the enthralling visuals that Tokyo has become known for. Apart from the revisiting its famous mega-districts, my goal for this trip is to uncover the city’s lesser known areas and activities. I’ll also be trying to uncover just how the city has managed to perfect a balance between sustaining its large population and its reputation for having a tight-knit community approach to living. Oh, and a short jaunt up to Karuizawa is also on the cards.

But first, how am I getting there?

 

My journey to Tokyo will begin in Singapore (obviously), and looks something like this: SIN - KUL - BKK - HND. Before you start judging the fact that what is usually a simple 2-segment trip to Tokyo has instead morphed into a 6-segment monstrosity, hear me out okay fine that is kinda crazy.

 

But this craziness is not without genuine reason. For one, If I had opted to take a direct flight, I would either have to endure a ridiculously long layover, or have to stomach an unimaginably high ticket price. This was just the folly/result of booking flights at the last minute. 

Thus, booking this itinerary allowed me to:

  1. Avoid having to endure a 13 hour layover in XMN or a similarly long one in PVG
  2. Not spend 1.2k on an ANA or SQ ticket
  3. Earn 8000 miles for the flight (wow 100% accrual!) compared to a stunning 0 miles if I chose the next best option
  4. Explore KLIA in all its full glory (just kidding, it was really boring..)

Also, if you can’t imagine anything worse than a 13 hour layover, try sampling a 13 hour layover at a Chinese airport. They’re notoriously horrible places to transit at. Based on the information I’ve gathered about the airports at Xiamen and Shanghai, I’d be hard pressed to choose between the two, and not for the right reasons.

And so, behold the 6 segment horror. Well, the flight itinerary can actually be split into two portions as I flew with 2 different carriers (3 actually if want to be a stickler for detail).

  1. SIN - KUL with SQ and KUL - SIN with SilkAir (MI)
  2. KUL - HND and back via BKK with Thai Airways (TG)

Thankfully, I had very time-efficient transit durations. Unfortunately, this meant that my transit in BKK only gave me an hour to find my way around Suvarnabhumi. What about the KUL switcheroo? The more inquisitive ones would ask me what kind of hassles I would encounter there because unlike the transit in BKK, I was catching a flight that was operated by another carrier.  

Aha! Enter the magic of airline baggage interlining. I’m pretty sure that many people won’t know that airlines, especially those within the same alliance, except for Oneworld (or so I’ve been told), have baggage interline agreements between themselves. This meant that I was allowed to check in with SQ in SIN and request that my bags be checked all the way through to HND (on TG) by providing my onward flight details. 

By doing this, all I needed to do for my next flight was to collect my next set of boarding passes at KUL at the airside transfer desk. My luggage would be safely whisking through the airport's sorting maze and to my next plane without having me to clear customs and re-checking in my luggage. And so, for those that have found split itineraries that offer worthwhile savings, always check whether this is an option for you! Note however, that budget carriers do not offer interlining arrangements (boo).

I promise I'm not crazy

The reason why I’m sharing this itinerary is because it shows just how many permutations there are available when getting from point A to B. It also shows that by originating in another city (KUL), I was able to fly with a reputable carrier and earn a substantial amount of miles for the same amount of money than if I were to start in SIN. While I’m sure many (especially families) would be aghast at this method of travel, it is an interesting option to explore when all other alternatives are equally as unpalatable. 

You could also generate a set of itineraries to anywhere else in the world that is similar to this extremely roundabout way of getting to Tokyo; you just have to be creative enough. My advice is that if the money saved is worth going through a slightly longer flight duration and extra boarding/disembarking procedures, why not go for it? 

 
 A typical Pachinko parlour, photo from The Guardian

A typical Pachinko parlour, photo from The Guardian

I’m quite excited to be heading back to Tokyo since I haven’t been there for a good 5 years (Pokemon Go wasn’t even a thing back then) and I’m curious to see how the city has changed. Also, if anyone is in Tokyo while I’m there and wants to join me, drop me a message on Instagram or something. 

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