The decision to visit Tokyo wasn’t a simple one for me – to say that a city known for raw fish and crowds is out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I can barely even handle being in Ikea on a Saturday without having a panic attack or walking by the seafood section in a grocery store without turning just a little green. These quirks fall under the category of personal problems, but I couldn’t imagine how I would handle a destination that would burst my fairly cushioned travel bubble.
Somehow, though, I was convinced to hop on a plane from JFK to Tokyo…the fact that the tickets were in business class might’ve had something to do with it.
This trip actually started a week ago with a three night stay at Hotel Punta Islita in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
It’s always interesting for me to finally see properties that I’ve been selling for a while. Travel is all about expectations and it’s part of my job to manage my clients’ expectations to a point where, when they arrive to a property, their expectations are either matched or exceeded. I had previously written a blog post on Hotel Punta Islita, which I became increasingly interested in after visiting its sister property, El Silencio. Interestingly enough, that blog post was spot-on even without me having visited – Hotel Punta Islita is an incredibly authentic property that still provides the level of service and accommodations expected from a luxury hotel.
Something all travelers should note when going to Costa Rica: if anyone tells you that a road transfer takes a certain amount of time, go ahead and add on an hour or so to that final count. I learned this on my last trip to the country and the Guanacaste area is no exception. We landed at the Liberia airport and hopped in our private transfer, which was slated to take about an hour and a half. After two hours on roads that snaked through open fields and over lush, green mountains, we reached a sign that read “Hotel Punta Islita – 28 minutes.”
We then embarked on the bumpiest, most winding road that I have ever been on…and each mile marker only made it worse.
“Surely we’ve been on this road for at least fifteen minutes,” I thought to myself, right about the time that we hobbled by another sign that read, “Hotel Punta Islita – 23 minutes.”
If you couldn’t gather by this description, the hotel is very isolated. Guests have plenty of options for excursions, but I personally didn’t see a need to leave the property on a 3-4 night stay. I always recommend doing split stays between destinations within Costa Rica anyway, so I’d recommend tacking Hotel Punta Islita onto an itinerary that already includes its sister property in the cloud forest, El Silencio, and one of our partners in Arenal, like Nayara Springs.
After testing the waters with Costa Rica, we returned to the States for less than a week before jetting off to NYC for a stay at the brand new Viceroy New York. With its trendy vibe (I’d expect nothing less from Viceroy), this new Virtuoso partner property is a great contender in the New York hotel scene. While it was a short stay in order to catch the nonstop flight from JFK-Tokyo, it was a nice start to the trip, especially when we were able to enjoy a morning of watching the city’s first snowfall of the year.
Our 13 hour flight to Tokyo’s Narita airport was my first experience in an international business class flight with lie-flat beds and individual pods. Now that I’m seeing life outside of coach, I can understand that air travel can be much more than a means to an end. When it’s done right it can be an opportunity to relax and unplug from the outside world. For leisure travelers, it’s a great start to getting into a true vacation mindset. Needless to say, I don’t have any immediate plans of going back to coach.
We arrived into Tokyo right after sunset, meaning I had to wait until the morning after arrival to see a magnificent view of the city from my 33rd floor room at the Shangri-La Tokyo. This partner property offered a fantastic introduction to the city with its great location beside Tokyo Station and beautiful, well-appointed rooms and suites (their Presidential Suite was easily one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of walking through).
On the first day, I enjoyed a walk through the Imperial Palace and navigated the metro system to Shibuya and Shinjuku…and by navigated the metro, I mean I walked diligently behind my guide as he led the way. I can’t imagine how a first-timer to Tokyo could ever grasp the subway system. If I were on my own, I would legitmately still be huddled in a corner trying to find my way out of the expanse that is Tokyo Station (seriously – just the one station spans a whopping 3 miles).
Lost In Translation certainly picked the right city for the title…speaking of which, we had the pleasure of staying at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the undisputed champion of hotels in Tokyo (and where Lost in Translation was filmed!).
The view from a room on the 48th floor would be astounding any day of the week, but, as luck would have it, the sky was clear enough to watch a magnificent sunset illuminate Mt. Fuji in the distance. The sight was so gorgeous that even the front desk agent walked across the room and gasped, proclaiming that it was the prettiest she had ever seen it – photos definitely don’t do it justice.
That night, I had the pleasure of a site inspection and drinks in the Sky Bar with members of both the sales and marketing team for the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The view of Tokyo from the Sky Bar at night was truly breathtaking – it’s impossible to grasp just how large the city is, but that really put it into perspective.
In both of the magnificent hotels I experienced this incredible sensation of floating. The Shangri-La and the Park Hyatt are each located on the higher floors of a larger office building and, with floor to ceiling windows in many of the common areas, it feels as though you’re walking above the skyline. At night, the city comes alive, its lights pulsating so vividly that you’d swear it had a heartbeat.
While three nights was certainly not enough time to explore the entirety of Tokyo, it did give me a great perspective on the destination and the level of luxury hotels that we offer, which were truly some of the best I’ve stayed in. And, amazingly, I survived both the crowds and the raw fish (let’s be honest, I’ve lived off of Udon noodles for a few days – especially when my companion ordered chicken skewers and made the comment, “I can’t tell if that skewer is regular chicken or intestines.” Um…that’s not something I’m willing to take my chances on.) and am excited to continue this adventure into Asia.
Next up: a quick stop in Malaysia before visiting a destination that tops my personal bucket list…where would that be? You’ll just have to stay tuned to the blog to find out (and make sure you follow my Instagram [lindseyepperly] and Twitter [@lindsey_epperly]).