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Before the sun even made its way up, Chantelle had to wake up and get ready to bolt. We said our goodbyes and she was off on a cab to Haneda.
Saying Goodbye and One Last Thing
I slept a bit more and did the usual breakfast at the lounge. I wanted to squeeze in one more thing before I left Tokyo. There were a few options open to me but what I ended up choosing was Odaiba, the large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. The line to take me there was right at Shiodome and it seemed like something I could do quickly and still make it back to the hotel for my 1:30PM bus that I had pre-arranged with the concierge.
I hopped on the sky-train (Rinkai Line) and soon enough I was on my way to Odaiba. When you finally get on the island you get a sense that they were trying to make the island somewhat futuristic and a special urban project. It looked like they were trying to set up its own special community outside the many malls and convention centers they seemed to have. I arbitrarily decided a spot to get off where I could find the exhibition hall for Toyota.
When I got there nothing seemed to be open because it was still before 10. There were also a bunch of kids eager to try out the games and simulators they had set up. Once everything opened I just roamed around the huge hall filled with Toyota and Lexus cars most of which I had never seen before since they were never released in the North American market. The Japanese sure have a fascination with weird funky boxy cartoon-like cars. The only thing I got to try was the Gran Turismo 5 simulator. I also got my first glimpse of the Toyota GT86 here.
Next door to the Megaweb Toyota Exhibition Hall was VenusFort which is a Venetian-themed mall that would give Vegas a run for it’s money. I wish I had more time to shop here as they had a bunch of outlet stores but with time running out all I got to do was buy some unique kit-kat flavors (brown sugar and almond tofu) and a super mini star destroyer LEGO kit from a vending machine.
After that I rushed it back to the hotel, picked up my stuff, checked out and hopped on my bus to Narita.
Everything at Narita went smoothly and the big bonus was that they actually bumped my economy seats to first class because they were probably over-sold on economy. This was the best thing ever because I have never been able to get first-class for international flights. What a treat. Once you go first-class you really can’t go back to economy. I was so excited that I tried to split my time between watching movies and using the flat-bed to sleep. Too bad the flight from Tokyo to Vancouver isn’t long enough. My flight departed at 5:40PM and arrived at 10:15AM local time.
* INSERT TIME WARP *
Back in Canada
So after more or less a full day, I was time warped back to Canada on the same day I had left.
Coming back to Canada gave me a sense of homecoming, relief, accomplishment and at the same time the realization that the epic trip was coming to an end. YVR was a comforting sight to see as we were making our final approach.
After collecting my bags I head over to Avis to pick up my rental car. At first I was supposed to get some Chevy Cruze but the wait to get it was excruciatingly long because they were back-logged. I went back to ask them how much the upgrade to the BMW 328xi was (I saw a few on the lot) and the guy crunched some numbers and offered it to me at around $10 extra a day. I have always wanted to drive a BMW and this was my chance so I said “yes” right away. I ended up getting a white one soon after and I was off along my merry way.
I won’t say much about the BMW later so I’ll insert my blurb now. It’s only a 328 but damn they weren’t joking about BMW’s being fun cars to drive. I pushed it hard my whole time in Vancouver and Seattle and wow this thing was a joy from the corners to the straights. I’m a believer.
Sheraton Vancouver Airport
First stop was the hotel. I had gotten the Sheraton Vancouver Airport for two nights via Priceline at a pretty good rate of $70USD + tax. I used my Platinum member blurb but they weren’t willing to give me access to the lounge but she was nice enough to upgrade me to a slightly better room. I got settled in and contemplated taking a nap but I was surprisingly awake and so I figured I’d hit the road.
First order of business was…bubble tea at Bubble Queen. Joanna had taken me to this place a long time ago and I had to go back for more. Their specialty is in fresh mango shakes and also chocolate shakes from real pieces of chocolate bars. Their hidden jewel is definitely their bubble waffles (daan jai in Canto) but the twist they introduce is that they actually put flavoring inside the waffle. The one I picked up was green tea mochi which was SO FREAKIN GOOD. If there’s something that has to come to Toronto it’s Bubble Queen. For heaven’s sake, I’ll even run the franchise here.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
Refueled, the next destination was a place that Joanna had recommended to me. I start driving north into North Vancouver and made my way to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge – the lesser known cousin of the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The beauty of this park is that it is completely free vs. paid admission at Capilano and because it is lesser known, it is also less crowded. I spent the rest of the afternoon going across the bridge and hiking through the paths in the park. There were a ton of locals hanging out in the park because there were some nice bodies of water to swim in and rocks to jump off into the water.
And this is what I mean by Vancouver being awesome. All of these things are so close to the main city that you really have your choice of outdoor activities at your fingertips. To get something like this in Toronto you’d have to drive way farther and get something probably only half as nice.
Dinner with Old Friends
For dinner, I had arranged something of a junior high school/high school reunion. I managed to pull Henry Bian, Kelvin Lau and Shelley Chen together where we had a lovely dinner at Fable Kitchen in Kitsilano followed by the most amazing gelato at Bella Gelateria downtown. It was great catching up with the gang as I haven’t seen them in a very long time.
After that very very very extended August 14 I called it quits. The weird part was that I was never really that tired to the point of passing out.
- Odaiba – I wouldn’t exactly recommend Odaiba to first time visitors of Tokyo but I can see it being a cool area to hang out as more of a local for shopping and entertainment arcades. I saw some tour groups in the area but honestly there are better places to spend your time.
- Priceline – Heading back to North America, I knew it was time to take advantage of Priceline again. On average I got my Vancouver hotels for about 70USD a night which is really good. Even the Sheraton hotel manager told me that the rate I got from Priceline is the lowest it gets. Learning how to use the Priceline bid yourself system is a topic for another day but if you want to know the tricks, ask me. It’s the only way I go when booking hotels.
- Keep in mind that the only downfall of getting a hotel near the airport is that you’ll most likely have to pay for parking so weigh that into your costs.
- Bubble Queen – As mentioned above, this place is a must-visit if you’re a bubble tea lover like myself. It’s located in Richmond (8888 Odlin Cres though this may have changed as they did recently change units)
- Fable Kitchen – One of Henry’s picks but an excellent one. The steak I had was the best I’ve had all year. Fills up quickly so make sure you make reservations. Tons of good food along this street (1944 W 4th Ave)
- Bella Gelateria – Best gelato in the world potentially. Read this article to see the proof: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/05/best-gelato-in-the-world_n_1651945.html
- Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge – Hands down better than Capilano for the fact that it’s free and less crowded. You can’t go wrong.
- Farewell to Chantelle at the Conrad Tokyo
- Breakfast at the Conrad lounge
- Explore Odaiba and more specifically Palette Town – Megaweb Toyota Exhibition Hall and VenusFort shopping center
- Head back to Conrad to pack and check out
- Take pre-arranged bus to Narita Airport
- AC4 5:40PM -> 10:15 AM (same day)
- <TIME WARP>
- Pick up BMW at Avis
- Check into Sheraton Vancouver Airport
- Bubble tea and waffles at Bubble Queen in Richmond
- Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
- Dinner at Fable Kitchen
- Gelato at Bella Gelateria
Check out the Next Day
To read about my adventures doing the famed Grouse Grind in Vancouver, check out Day 86 – Vancouver – Grind It Out.
If you’re looking to do any travelling around Japan, I highly recommend picking up a JRailPass. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase it before your trip and ship it to your home.
Curious what else I did on my trip to Asia? See the full itinerary and all 89 days.