A while back I wrote a Mysterious Orientations column about air travel in sensible countries, which engendered a fair bit of readership and some commentary as well. Due to visa renewal requirements, I am embarking today on a short trip out of Japan, this time to somewhere I have never been, Shanghai, China. I will be gone until the weekend, and will add posts to Mysterious Orientations en route if possible, but if not, I’m sure I will have plenty of column fodder upon my return.
This is one of those (in)famous Japanese short holidays, in which intrepid Tokyo-ites go huge distances in a short time, take several guided tours punctuated by arranged “shopping opportunities”, and arrive home wearier than when they left. Still, when you consider the price and the amenities, it is a heck of a deal: roundtrip airfare from Tokyo to Shanghai on China Airlines; four days of food, hotel, tours, and so on; transfers back and forth to the airport; and some other little stuff mentioned in the brochure. All for about $300 US.
There are some caveats: you cannot pick your flights, so you may have to go to the airport at oh-dark-thirty in the morning, or arrive home in the wee hours. Luckily, neither of those scenarios presented itself this time around. Also, you don’t get to pick your hotel and restaurants, which can be an issue, especially at that price point. So a few minutes ago, just for grins and interest, I logged on to the website of the hotel where I’ll be staying, the Vivasha Resort Hotel, and checked it out. You can see it at http://www.vivasha.com. On their opening page, a collage of Shanghai images, is their slogan: “It’s just too good to be true.” Indeed, upon having a look through the site, it appears to be a perfectly fine location from which to explore the city, not to mention a good deal more luxurious than either my apartment in Tokyo or the business hotels that I typically frequent when traveling. It will be interesting to see if it really is too good to be true.
In Hong Kong last year, the hotel (Kowloon’s Panda Hotel) more than lived up to its billing. It was fairly central, there was a shuttle from the front door of the hotel to the Star Ferry Terminal, and there was a French bakery with freshly-squeezed orange juice just across the street. That was another one of my cheapie visa runs, a week away from the Land of the Rising Yen, including hotel, air, and transfers for $350-odd. Only one tour, but that was fine with me. I can handle relatively few “shopping opportunities” without getting a bit cranky. One of my tour mates that time around was an Indian gentleman, by all appearances a wealthy one at that. We entered into the amethyst emporium “shop op”, and he proceeded to amass a small fortune’s worth of the semi-precious gems. When the shop assistant tallied up the total, it came to some large number with a seven at the front (70,000 or 700,000 Hong Kong dollars). She smiled winningly (and perhaps a bit flirtatiously) at her customer, and said demurely “How very fortunate; seven is a very lucky number in China.” No doubt as a result of years of honing his bargaining skills, he replied briskly “Indeed? In India, six is considered a very lucky number.” I didn’t stick around to see the resolution (I was too busy laughing), but he did indeed leave the building with a big grin and an even bigger bag o’ swag, so presumably the two came to some sort of accommodation.