Just a few words to finish off the Japanese holiday before the start of my PhD. Make sure that you read your holiday paperwork before you travel. Even better, before you buy your tickets. I thought that my return flights were cheap at £550. I thought it might be because it was with Air China and I had to travel via China. Also the hours of travel weren’t great and my connection back not to good either. On the up side, I could leave the same day as my visa with only 90 minutes connection.
I wrote the Japan blog on my last morning (Monday), then walked into town to look for lunch. I was going to get a McDonalds or something for ease but as I walked past the very first restaurant that we ate in when we first arrived in Atsugi. It’s a little like a transport café but plenty of foreigners and families go there. I was drawn there and turned back. I sat down and was handed an English menu which we didn’t get the first time. Steve and I quite like Korean food as it’s a little spicier than Japanese food and we had Kimchi Jjigae when we were in Tokyo. On the menu was, “Crispy pork with spicy Kimchi rice bowl. The picture showed no rice but rice came with it, as did miso soup and pickle. I ordered 3 extra Gyoza with dips and had my favorite meal of the holiday. Typical of me to find the best place on the last day.
Anyway, Steve arrived around 4.30 pm, the earliest all week. I had already packed and showered so we chatted and I told him of the meal. He was hungry so we went back there with my bags. Steve had what I had while I just had Gyoza. We went on to the station and Steve said goodbye at about 6pm (10 am English time). In Japan all the rail lines are owned by different companies and don’t mix so well. We were on one line that goes to Tokyo (Shinjuku) where I have to change onto the JR (Japanese Rail) line to get to Narita airport. Therefore I couldn’t buy a ticket all the way to the airport. Shinjuku is a massive rail station with lots of different rail lines and you can only buy tickets for the line you want near the line itself from self-service machines. The first step is to find and follow signs to your line. By the way, the information places are a great help so if you’re not sure what to do, talk to them. Anyway I found the line but couldn’t find how much it cost to the airport so queued up at the ticket office. Good job I did as the last train to the airport was leaving in 10 minutes from across the busy road. I ran across the road (well walked fastish) and got there on time. I also had an allocated seat so I found where my car stopped and waited there. Most stations have platform doors these days and most signs are also in English, at least in the big stations.
Once I was in my seat and on my way I had 80 minutes to kill so read my flight details etc. I was horrified to discover that my flight was not until 9 am on Tuesday morning and I would arrive around 8 pm Monday. I looked again at the automatic message that was in my calendar and it definitely said 1 pm Tuesday. Of course, they put everything in English time in your calendar and its 8 hours behind Japanese time. I found a locker to put my big case and asked at an information place if there were hotels. They gave me a list but didn’t know prices. I WA’ed Steve and he recognised the second one which he had stopped at and sent me a link. It was around £50 a night for students so I booked online and picked up my case from the locker. The free shuttle arrived and I dropped my bags and headed to the bar.
Anyway, the shuttle left at 6.30 am back to the airport and I set off. We had a 5.30 hour flight to China which was turbulence all the way so they couldn’t serve food or drinks and I was famished and thirsty. I had forgot my water in the fridge at hotel and couldn’t but anything in China as I didn’t have local money. I walked around looking for an ATM without finding one then went to a shop and showed them a £10 note. The girl looked at it sideways and sowed it to her mates and they laughed. She asked where from but didn’t understand what I said. I left and found a free water machine but they only had the choice of hot or warm water. I tried the warm but it was around 60 degrees C. The perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Also, we had to collect our bags and immediately check them back in again. This meant considerable lugging around and stress and there was no air-conditioning at the airport. We finally got on the plane and I asked for some water. I drank the small cup they gave me and couldn’t get my headphones in the socket so had to ring the girl again. I’m already getting a bad name for myself because people were still boarding and I was giving her stick from the start. She came and showed me the socket and I asked her to try. She couldn’t do it either so she said she would move me when everyone was aboard. Once everyone was on she showed me to my new seat and just as I was settling in a girl came back stating that it was hers. I apologised and went in hunt of the stewardess again.
I found her and took her back where she showed me another seat and I could finally settle down to watch the films. By now everyone knew me as the trouble maker. Finally our food and drink arrived but it never really satisfied, especially my thirst. I asked several more times for water or arrange for a change, only confirming my status with them. It’s a long journey home and I read my arrival details and Purple car parking details for getting the shuttle. I was horrified to learn that I would not arrive in Gatwick until 8 pm at night (Tuesday). Trouble was, I had left my car at Heathrow where I flew from. Shit, what would I do? Good job I took the late arrival insurance.
When we arrived I got my bag and found a National Express office and they sold me a ticket to Heathrow for £27 but it left in 4 minutes. I hurried outside and found the bus just in time. Once back at Heathrow I had to find Purple parking but there was nothing in the paperwork to say how to get the shuttle. I tried the phone number but the office shut at 9 pm. I asked a guy outside and he said that Purple parking was on the fourth floor. I got there and showed them my paperwork but they had no record of me. I explained that I flew out of terminal 2 but had arrived back at terminal 5 (where the bus dropped me). A second guy recognised that I needed the shuttle rather than meet and greet and they told me to go back to floor zero but didn’t know where to catch the bus from. I got back down to floor zero and found a sign which said that I needed bus stop 30. I arrived there to read the sign and it said to ring a number. The same number that I had already rang. They gave a mobile alternative for out of hours but nobody answered that either. A Greek guy stopped at the stop and I talked to him. He had used them before and said he never had to wait long for a bus and it shouldn’t matter that I was at a different terminal. He was right and we got back where I picked my car up and drove home. Claire had left me milk, crumpets and bacon and eggs in the fridge with bread. I made myself crumpets and tea and finally got to bed around 1.30 am Wednesday. Of course, by this time it’s already 9.30 am to my body clock and I only managed 3 to 4 hours sleep.
The best thing about Japan is the people; they are unique in the world and the nicest I have ever met, especially at Gina’s. Rock on Guys! Try to come back in March.
Just about recovered now and already back to UK time. Not quite ready for Monday morning when I should sign up for my PhD at Nottingham University. I have no idea, where to go, at what time, where to park or what to bring. How did I get on this degree? Here we go again!