All posts by aaronwong

The Milelion Directory has been updated for September

Hi all

The Milelion Directory has been updated for September. Starting next month with the website redesign, you can look forward to a much more visual, easy to search directory. In the meantime, enjoy the textual goodness below.

You can always access the latest version of the directory here

Happy earning!
Aaron


Airline Programs

Credit Cards

Hotels

Rental Cars

SIM Cards

Reviews of Flights and Hotels (Trip Reports)

Check out the new and improved trip reports section here!

Other useful stuff

[Last updated: [20 Sept 17]]

The Milelion is undergoing some enhancements

Hah, scared you with the “E” word didn’t I.

Last week I put out a call for suggestions on how you’d improve The Milelion. There were many great suggestions (apart from the one on the bikini pics gallery. Seriously guys, such content would need a paywall and you know it) and I’d like to thank you all for your detailed feedback.

I’m pleased to announce that in early October you can look forward to a new and improved Milelion with a faster design that will enhance your browsing experience with improved readability, new features, better organization and other often requested features. Some feature requests have already been addressed on this version of the site, such as an improved comments system plus timestamps for articles.

I’m in the process of working behind the scenes to make this happen, and one important to-do is tidying up existing content on the site. I started by cleaning up the Trip Reports section of the site, retagging and regrouping posts and adding a proper index. Of course when the new site comes online this section will also have a makeover, but in the meantime feel free to catch up on reviews of hotels and airline products you might have missed!

Check out the new and improved Trip Reports section here!

New Trip Reports Section

If you have other suggestions of things/features you’d like to see added to the site, it’s not too late to sound out!

The Tokyo Ramen Run: Singapore Airlines B77W First Class NRT-SIN

The Tokyo Ramen Run: Trip Planning
British Airways Galleries Lounge, Singapore
Qantas Lounge, Singapore
Japan Airlines B772 Business Class SIN-HND
My Tokyo Food Pilgrimage
Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station
The Great Tokyo Ramen Hunt
The Great Tokyo Ramen Lug
ANA Suite Lounge Narita
Singapore Airlines B77W First Class NRT-SIN


Today’s SQ637 flight would be boarding from Gate 45, which was very near the ANA Suite lounge. I left the lounge a bit late and boarding of First and Business class had almost finished by the time I got to the gate.

Once the ground staff saw my red boarding pass, however, they quickly brought me to the front of the line and got me through.

It was a very wet day in Narita, and with no sign of the rain letting up. You could hear the rain hammering down on the metal roof of the jetbridge.

[digression]

Throughout the trip I had been shooting video with the intention of creating a YouTube story about the Tokyo Ramen Run. I had dreams of Buzzfeed and other low rent clickbaity websites picking up on this with YOU WON’T BELIEVE HOW THIS GUY ATE HIS INSTANT RAMEN headlines. The story would go viral, and I would ascend to the pantheon of YouTube influencers, forever annoying and entitled.

But the one conclusion I came to over the course of my trip was that I’m really not cut out for video making. I already find it stressful enough taking photos of every last thing I do. Shooting video? Totally different ballgame altogether. You have to think of storyboards, and transition scenes, and narrative flow may require filming in places where filming is difficult or not strictly allowed. You have to cut the video, add annotations and voiceovers and background music, fiddle with your lighting, remove background noise, combine clips… I realised it was a nightmare the minute I started trying to put it all together.

Take something as simple as a transition shot of me walking down the jetway.

And then look at what I have to deal with. Shaky, Normandy beach esque camerawork, my stupid out of breath voice revealing I’m not the Adonis my Tinder profile suggests I am, my uncertainty about filming the crew without first asking them….frankly, writing is so much easier.

So in other words, I found that making video was difficult and heroically gave up. Instead, please enjoy this as the sum total of my foray into videography: a 79 second video where I repeatedly mispronounce “Nakiryu” (it’s Naki-RYU, not Na-KEE-ru. Moron)

[/digression]

I boarded through the forward door where I was greeted by the crew and ushered to my seat.

This aircraft was configured with SQ’s 2006 First Class seat, instead of the newer 2013 version. This old girl was quite something when she was first launched, but 11 year of service mean she’s seen a lot of mileage. Granted, First Class seats don’t see as much wear and tear as seats in business or economy (on account of them going out empty way more frequently), but you try looking good 11 years after your prime.

There are a total of 8 seats in this configuration, spread over 2 rows of 1-2-1. Perhaps it’s intentional, but the color scheme of the seats brings back memories of the old 747 Sky Suite, a product I unfortunately never had the chance to try.

I chose seat 2F, on the starboard side of the plane. There was only one other passenger in the cabin today who settled into 1A.

The seats have plenty of underseat storage, as well they should because there are no overhead bins in the First class cabin at all. This creates the impression of more space.

The area under the footrest can easily store a large carry on, and the crew can store other items under other unoccupied seats or in the closet.

The seats have fairly decent privacy, with the “ears” of the seat blocking you off from the aisle. If you’re in the middle there’s a privacy divider that can be raised (but it needs to be down for takeoff and landing, which give you virtually 0 privacy from the guy next to you, surprising for a First Class seat).

Seat controls are very simple. There are two for the foot rest and one for reclining. Note that with this seat, you’re reliant on the crew to convert it to bed mode. They’ll happily do it, of course, but it’s not like other first class seats I’ve seen where you could do it yourself if you were so reclined inclined (I’m so funny).

Near your head is a reading light with several different brightness settings, as well as the headphone plug.

Interestingly there’s a small light button near the footrest too. I never quite figured out what it does but I think it’s meant to be a nightlight to help you find your shoes.

The IFE remote is definitely last gen, and you can see how the oil of many passengers has eaten away at the some of the button labels.

There’s a lot of space to store/lose things, like this compartment in the armrest.

More storage can be found in the side pocket, where literature and the safety card are kept.

Here’s where you’ll also find the EmPower outlet and two USB charging ports.

The screen is 23 inches wide, which was unheard of back in 2006 when the seat was launched. It’s of course no match for the newer higher resolution screens, but a solid display nonetheless.

SQ made the switch from QC15 headsets to QC25s some time back. I’m still waiting for an airline to introduce wireless headsets eg the QC35, because that’s be a game changer. No more wires to get snagged in seat corners or knock over your drink.

The crew came around to introduce themselves and ask me what size PJs I’d like. I didn’t expect them to offer PJs on a daytime flight, so this was a nice surprise. I already had several of the male amenities kits from my previous First Class jaunts, so I requested the female kit this time round.

I have to say I quite like the female kit. It’s more sleek than the male kit and comes with perfume, lip balm and hand cream. It also has a little strap so you can carry it like a purse.

SQ’s sleeper suit is now a light blue instead of grey (or maybe they have both kinds and just rotate). It’s very comfortable for sleeping and when in doubt, always pick one size bigger than you think you are. At least SQ keeps its cabins at a reasonable temperature, unlike some other Asian airlines which seem to have a phobia of cold.

SQ does serve champagne on the ground in Tokyo, and the age old Dom/Krug debate resurfaced. I decided to go with Dom on the ground and Krug in the air, or maybe it was the other way round. I will say that I can now taste the difference between the two, a fact for which I am very proud. I also had some still water (Evian) to go with it. What I like about First Class is they give you big water glasses. I drink a ton of water on planes, and in J you always have smaller glasses that need plenty of refills.

The menu was delivered along with the pre-departure drinks.

Picking the Japanese selection when departing from Japan was always going to be a no brainer. One thing I noticed, however, was that the Kyo Kaiseki meal on offer was remarkably similar to this one from back in 2010. Only the main course items had changed. I find it hard to believe that SQ hadn’t updated the menus in 7 years (Although I could just have been suay and gotten the same rotation)

Here’s the international menu for comparison. Maybe it’s just me, but serving wok -fried chicken in black pepper sauce with egg noodles seems a bit cheap for First Class.

The usual extensive drinks list was present

With some liquid courage in me, it was now time to brief the crew on what I was trying to do today. I flagged down the leading stewardess serving the First Class cabin and gave her the quick rundown of the Tokyo Ramen Run and how she could help me today with the taste test. She was more than willing to help out (I gather this wasn’t the strangest request she had ever heard), but said she needed to clear it with her inflight supervisor first.

The inflight supervisor paid a visit to my seat a few minutes later to clarify a bit more- what would I be recording, what would it be used for, did I contact SQ’s media department, would any names be mentioned etc. It sounds a bit interrogative but he was extremely pleasant about the whole thing. He mentioned his girls (the flight crew) had been looking for the noodles all over Tokyo and come up empty handed. He told me they’d be delighted to help, but there were some restrictions they had to follow (more on that later) and he’d have to file an incident report with SQ. See, this is why people stick to writing…

Before takeoff, the crew returned with copies of the Straits Times and assorted magazines.

Floods seemed to be an appropriate headline given how it was coming down outside…

Once we got to our cruising altitude the crew sprung into action. I had told them that my plan was to have lunch straight after takeoff, go for a nap and then two hours before landing start shooting the taste test.

Satay was served to start off lunch. I’m still not clear why SQ serves the satay course without the table cloth (both in F and J), given that the rest of the meal happens straight after.

I opted for the Japanese set, which started with the sakizuke. Wikipedia tells me it’s an appetizer similar to the French amuse-bouche

From left to right was

  • Marinated squid with kelp, grilled pimentos and tomburi
  • Vinegared wakame, mackerel, scallop with apple jelly and sliced ginger
  • Persimmon, ginkgo nuts and grilled maitake mushroom tossed in vinaigrette and walnut

I liked that the plate they served it on had a little SQ logo on the bottom right.

The sakizuke is served together with the mukouzuke, a sliced dish of seasonal sashimi. I did enjoy the tuna belly marinated with moro miso and wasabi. The accompanying salad of yellow chive, soy sauce with yuzu and mustard gave a nice crispness and tang to accompany the fish, which was very fresh.

The next course of oshinogi featured buckwheat noodles, simmered shiitake mushrooms, egg julienne. This was served along with chopped kujyo leek, wasabi, seaweed, soba sauce and chicken liver terrine, sweet potato in ginkgo shape and burdock. I wasn’t a fan of the flavors to be honest.

Fried lobster simmered in white miso soup with spinach, turnip and yuzu sounded promising. However the lobster had the disappointing microwaved taste you get when it’s overcooked.

I was looking forward to the main of grilled wagyu beef, even though airplane beef is like playing roulette.

This was served with steamed rice with matsutake mushrooms. I was hoping for just plain steamed Japanese rice, but this was all they had. I thought the rice was a bit too wet and mushy.

The beef was described as Grilled wagyu beef fillet in sansho miso and seared Hokkaido scallop in Teriyaki sauce. The beef was passable, as far as airline beef goes. It certainly couldn’t compare to some of the beef I had over the past few days. But the scallop was disappointing. It was overcooked and rubbery, and had the same microwaved to death taste that befell the lobster.

Grilled leek with vingear and tosa zu accompanied proceedings.

As did clear soup with asari clam, mitsuba and sliced ginger

Roasted soybean sponge and sesame cake with green tea ice cream was served for dessert. The sponge cake was nice and light.

Chocolates were brought around to round off the meal.

I definitely didn’t think much of the meal, which was disappointing considering the high standards that SQ sets (plus the fact that we were departing from Tokyo). It didn’t come close to the meal I had on Japan Airlines business class departing from Narita, which I hold to be the best inflight meal I’ve ever had.

I popped into the loo even though I already knew what to expect on the 77W. I like that SQ has gone with glamour lights in their bathrooms, but maybe the dehydrating cabin of an aircraft means you don’t want to see yourself in too much detail.

The usual Tuscan Soul amenities can be found in the bathroom, along with mouthwash.

The toilet doesn’t have a bidet, which I’m sure is a major faux pas on Japan bound flights. I realise that it’s probably not financially feasible for SQ to install bidets just on its flights to Japan (plus, think of all the implications for aircraft rostering), but I have come across some portable options in case the head of SQ procurement is reading this. Got your back, bro.

The tap in the bathroom is automatic. I’ve said enough about recessed vs protruding sinks, so I’ll leave it at that.

Before I headed to the loo I requested the crew to help turn down my bed. When I returned to my seat I found there was a companion waiting in bed for me.  No, it’s not what you think…

I just want to point out that this is one of the special SQ 70th anniversary bears.  He’s got a special T shirt.

The bed in First Class is fully forward facing (unlike those in business class that require you to sleep at an angle). It’s very wide and the padding is excellent. The sheets feel a lot softer and smoother than those in business class

I quickly scrolled through what was on offer in Krisworld for September. Some new movies including The Mummy, the new Pirates movie, the new and improved Baywatch, Alien:Covenant and King Arthur, where David Beckham makes a cameo. No, really.

Although I only intended to nap for an hour, the bed was so comfortable I ended up sleeping the full stretch and was glad I asked the crew to wake me at the 2 hour mark before landing.

There was only one way to start the in-air taste test of Michelin Star noodles…

Fortunately, there was still caviar left over from the meal service. I don’t know what I can tell you about caviar, other than it never gets old.

But the caviar was only the distraction before the main event (how often do you say that?). I whipped out a cup from my bag, handed it to the crew and told them to plate it as they saw fit.

A few minutes later, I had a steaming bowl of noodles delivered to me, garnished with bok choy, carrots, mushroom and chives. The leading stewardess mentioned that she didn’t want to overdo it with the dressing so as not to interfere with the original taste of the noodles. Another glass of Krug was poured, and the tasting began.

I know that the actual Nakiryu restaurant puts some ground up cashews into their soup for an additional nutty kick, so I asked for that on the side too.

As for the taste?

In case you don’t want to watch my inexpert spoken commentary (or simply can’t hear it over the engine noise), my inexpert written commentary is that

  • there’s a chili oil that goes into the soup which gives it a pleasant kick, but it’s not too spicy for those who don’t like heat
  • the soup base as a strong nutty taste. It’s definitely on the salty side
  • the noodles definitely aren’t your run of the mill cup noodles, but if you go in expecting the same standard as what you’d find in a ramen shop you’ll be sorely disappointed. They were pleasantly springy, but not the highlight for me
  • you’ll find very small pieces of freeze dried pork inside the cup. The meat itself didn’t have much taste, but I believe its purpose is to act as a sponge for the soup

Were these unlike any cup noodles I had before? Yes. Were they life changing? Well….hyped up things often have difficulty living up to expectation. I’d say they were good, but it’s the sort of thing I only needed to try once in my life.

Out of curiosity I asked the crew if they could show me the rest of the cup noodles they normally serve on board. Unlike JAL, SQ doesn’t have special cup noodles adapted for high altitude. The noodles they use are just like the ones you’d buy off the shelf at a supermarket. Apparently, the tom yum noodles are the most popular, which isn’t that surprising given that at high altitudes, there’s nothing like a bit of spice to clear the nasal passages.

I wanted to present the crew with a token of appreciation for accommodating me, and asked the inflight supervisor if he could help shoot a little video of the presentation. I then learned that SQ has…very peculiar rules regarding filming on board.

  • You can’t take video anywhere in the galley area
  • You can take photos with the crew, but you cannot take video with them
  • If you take photos with them it’s best practice to black out their nametags (although I’ve not seen anyone do this)

I didn’t want to get anyone into trouble so I just complied, but the rules struck me as somewhat arbitrary. I think the supervisor himself agreed, because he snapped something like 100 photos in the space of 2 minutes. He told me- you can’t take video, but if we take enough photos in quick succession…

To thank the crew for their help, I presented them a box of Press Butter Sands (see my previous post), one cup of Nakiryu ramen (I know, I know, it’s kind of a tease but that’s really the best I could do. I wonder how the battle royale went) and a specially designed commemorative cup of SQ637 noodles

That had a message for SQ management, in case they’re reading this.

There was a further problem- apparently SQ crew are not allowed to accept gifts from passengers. I eventually resolved this by

  • telling them that the custom noodles were made specifically for them and had no retail value
  • opening the Press Butter Sands, having one and leaving the rest for the crew (so it doesn’t count as a “gift”, rather a leftover)
  • accidentally leaving a cup of Nakiryu noodles on my seat when I left (would they be obliged to give it to lost and found, I wondered…)

So SQ’s rules are really strict, but with some creative thinking you can get around them! FYI- it’s not like I didn’t try reaching out to SQ’s media team. I did. And was promptly ignored.

There were lovely views on our descent to Changi.

We landed at Terminal 3 and after a quick taxi parked near the Crowne Plaza hotel.

And that brings us to the end of the Tokyo Ramen Run! Finally, I can scratch off having Michelin Starred instant noodles at 30,000 feet in the air with caviar and Krug while wearing PJs from my list.

I hope that incident report they filed makes for interesting reading…

PS: In case you’re interested, here’s some bonus material from my subsequent visit to Class 95 to talk about miles, ramen and my five point plan for bigger triceps.

The Toyko Ramen Run: ANA Suite Lounge Narita Review

The Tokyo Ramen Run: Trip Planning
British Airways Galleries Lounge, Singapore
Qantas Lounge, Singapore
Japan Airlines B772 Business Class SIN-HND
My Tokyo Food Pilgrimage
Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station
The Great Tokyo Ramen Hunt
The Great Tokyo Ramen Lug
ANA Suite Lounge Narita
Singapore Airlines B77W First Class NRT-SIN


Although the NEX station is attached directly to Terminal 1, there was still a fair bit of walking needed before I got to the SQ check in area.

Narita’s Terminal 1 is split into North and South wings, and picking the wrong one can mean a lot of wasted walking. SQ is located in the South Wing, at the G check-in desks.

I’m sure they’ve seen much worse, but the look on the check-in staff’s face was priceless when I showed up barely balancing 6 bags on my trolley. The lady did a very Japanese cover-mouth-with-hand gesture before calling her colleague over who helped me transfer the bags onto the belt.

She was even more surprised to know that I only wanted to check three bags and hand carry three large duffel bags onboard (technically SQ only allows 2 pieces for First class passengers, but there’s no way they’ll make a fuss). I felt vaguely insulted at the insinuation that I did not look physically capable of carrying all of it.

I asked them to attach “fragile” tags to all my bags (although I know in all likelihood that they don’t make a difference). In the end I only used 41kg of my 70kg allowance (50kg from First + 20kg from KF Elite Gold). But as I said from the start, weight wasn’t so much the restriction as was volume.

Narita airport has a special queue for security (but not immigration) for Star Alliance Gold and First and Business Class travelers on Star Alliance. I must say I’m quite a fan of these Gold Track queues, which can be found in an increasingly large number of airports worldwide. This is one area where Star Alliance is genuinely differentiating themselves from competitors, and it does make a difference to have priority access even when you’re flying economy.

Immigration was seamless thanks to my APEC Business Travel card, and before I knew it I was on the way to the lounge.

SQ uses ANA’s lounges in Narita. ANA operates lounges in both Satellite 4 and 5 of Narita airport. I was headed towards Satellite 4, where the ANA Lounge (for business class passengers) and ANA Suite Lounge (for first class passengers) were located on separate floors.

Tokyo Narita Terminal 1 Map

A quick lift ride up to the Suite lounge…

And finally it was time to relax.

My boarding pass was scanned and stamped and I was admitted into the lounge. The staff offered to store my duffel bags, which I really appreciated.

The Suite lounge was almost exactly the same as I remembered it last time round. It’s got a good amount of natural light, plenty of seating and although it’s comfortable enough, it’s definitely not a luxurious experience. It lacks many of the frills that you can find in other first class lounges, like a spa, dine-on-demand or buggy service/tarmac transfer. I certainly wouldn’t consider it to be in the category of “come early to the airport for” lounges.

That’s not to say the lounge is bad per se. It’d be a very passable business class lounge. For example, there’s a large work area with numerous private computer terminals and printing facilities.

These enclosed workstations are private and great for catching up on work

There are also a few more less private work desks to handle overflow.

The rest of the lounge offers comfortable seating with places to hang jackets when you sit down.

There’s a separate dining area with sit down tables that is accessed from a small ramp up from the main seating area.

This theme of adequate but not luxurious is repeated with the F&B. Despite the large number of staff in the lounge, they’ve gone with a self-service buffet spread instead of table service.

The interesting thing is that ANA has posts the entire menu of its lounge offerings online on its website, so you can check beforehand what to expect.

I was in the lounge around the breakfast time, which meant the spread has the following:

The hot items on offer for breakfast were omelettes (cooked on the outside but still runny on the inside, which was lovely) with tomato sauce.

Smoked bacon, sausages and mixed vegetables

Wonderfully fluffy Japanese rice (of course)

There were two containers of soup. The non-rotating option is Miso.

The rotating option this month was hot and sour soup. Man, I wish I came in November. Japanese style clam chowder sounds amazing.

And, to my delight, a fridge with Haagen Das ice cream. This is a new addition since my last visit. Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla were available.

There is a kitchen doing freshly prepared hot items, but the selection is more or less the same as what you’d find in the business class lounge. It’s definitely not on par with the sit down dining you’d find in, say, The Private Room or the FCT.

Here’s the selection (which hasn’t changed since the last time I visited)

You’re given a small buzzer after you order.

When the buzzer goes off, return to collect your food.

The ramen wasn’t bad for airline lounge ramen. I mean it didn’t hit the heights of some of the bowls I’d had over my past few days in Tokyo, but come on.

One thing I was disappointed was I missed the live sushi service that ANA has started to offer. This is definitely a new addition to the lounge, and became a daily thing from June 2017.

If you’re visiting the ANA lounge, these are the serving hours.

  • – ANA LOUNGE, No. 5 Satellite, Narita International Airport: 15:30–16:30
  • – ANA LOUNGE, No. 4 Satellite, Narita International Airport: 17:00–18:00
  • – ANA LOUNGE (near Gate 114), Haneda Airport International Terminal: 09:00–10:30 (daily service from June 1, 2017)

The drinks selection is pretty solid, with two different types of champagne on offer (what, you thought I was going to comment on the sake selection?). There’s a non-vintage Ayala

And a non-vintage Tattinger.

And your usual juices. Everyone’s favourite self-pouring beer machine is there too.

I assembled myself a tide-me-over meal to last me till lunch. As soon as I sat down, a waitstaff approached me with a hot towel.

The food quality is fine, but again the offerings are more in line with what you’d expect in a business class lounge than a first class one. The staff were very observant and moved in quickly to remove unwanted plates, and they also topped up empty drinks at your seat. However, the entire F&B experience must go down as a missed opportunity for ANA to differentiate itself on the ground.

If you need to freshen up, there are a few shower rooms available in the lounge.

No bathtubs here, but very well maintained and clean showers with good water pressure.

One difference between the regular lounge and the Suite lounge is the inclusion of The Amenity by Shiseido bath products (in the green packets on the left). These are fairly fancy and a step up from the regular packets (multicolored, on the right)

Considering what an excellent First Class product ANA has in the air, their lounge is a bit disappointing. It wasn’t that the service was bad or the place wasn’t well maintained, just that what was on offer seemed lackluster compared to what other airlines have.

Boarding was announced for my flight back to Singapore, and it was time to put those Nakiryu noodles through an in-flight taste test!

The Tokyo Ramen Run: The Great Tokyo Ramen Lug

The Tokyo Ramen Run: Trip Planning
British Airways Galleries Lounge, Singapore
Qantas Lounge, Singapore
Japan Airlines B772 Business Class SIN-HND
My Tokyo Food Pilgrimage
Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station
The Great Tokyo Ramen Hunt
The Great Tokyo Ramen Lug
ANA Suite Lounge Narita
Singapore Airlines B77W First Class NRT-SIN


By the end of my Tokyo trip I had amassed a rather healthy load of luggage. There was of course the 132 cups of Nakiryu ramen…

But as I mentioned in my previous post, I still had luggage space leftover. Most people would consider squeezing 132 cups of noodles into their bags as an accomplishment and quit while they’re ahead. Fortunately, I’m crazy that way, so I started a spree on AirFrov and agreed to help 20 more people buy Press Butter Sands.

What are Press Butter Sands? They’re like crack in cookie form. Think layered shortbread made with fresh Hokkaido butter, with buttercream and caramel pressed inside. They’re made by the same company that does those famous Bake Cheese Tarts (which are now available in Singapore, in the off chance you didn’t know)

Image result for press butter sand tokyo
Photo: TimeOut Tokyo

And it’s Japan, so of course they come packaged beautifully. They’re great gift ideas, and I’d encourage you to think about buying some back the next time you head to Tokyo (they have a 10 day expiry)

Offtopic: You have the option of buying the “Fresh” Butter Sands or the “Packaged” ones. The packaged ones come in the box shown above and cost 1,020 JPY for a box of 6 and 1,700 JPY for a box of 10. The fresh ones are individually wrapped and cost 170 JPY each. I honestly couldn’t taste a difference between the two. They were both lovely and instantly addictive.

I ended up buying about 25 boxes in total- 20 for people I’d pledged to on AirFrov and the other 5 as gifts. I’d advise you go early in the day because the queues can be unpredictable (when they first opened they had a ticket system to cope with the overwhelming demand but it seems to have died down a bit). Going later in the day runs the risk of stock selling out.

I could bore you with more and more stories about how I told myself “ok, just one more item” but suffice to say that when all was said and done I had 132 cups of noodles, 25 boxes of Press Butter Sands, 4 bottles of champagne, assorted electronics, 5 cups of custom designed ramen, various green teas and a stuffed toy or two. (And for the record, GST was paid on all applicable items. IRAS has an app that allows you to declare and make payment for dutiable goods before you return to Singapore, after which you can proceed through the green channel as per normal. Despite my six bags, I wasn’t stopped. I attribute this to my honest face)

What did this mean in terms of luggage? Well…

There was now the small matter of getting all that to the airport. My original plan was to take the Tokyo Shuttle bus, which would cost a mere 1,000 JPY for a one-way journey from Tokyo Station to Narita.

However, their policy on luggage is strictly one piece only. That wouldn’t work out with my six pieces.

We have a trunk room in the shuttle; One (1) piece of baggage (suitcase) is checked free of charge for adults and children. Please use the courier service if you have additional luggage.

So I thought about the other option- the Airport Limo bus.

These guys cost 2.8X as much as the Tokyo Shuttle.

However, they’re more generous on luggage. Two bags are allowed to be checked…

…plus they say on their FB page that they’ll gladly take more if space permits.

It’s interesting that the price differential between the Shuttle and the Limo is so large that if you had, say, two large bags, it’d still be cheaper to buy two shuttle tickets than a single limo ticket. I really struggle to see why that’s the case- at the end of the day a bus is a bus. Both are air conditioned, both take the same time to get to the airport, both have comfortable seating, selected buses on both services have Wi-Fi…maybe I’m just missing something.

I didn’t know whether checking 6 bags on to the Airport Limo would be pushing it, so decided to take the train instead. I’d never taken the Narita Express before because it’s quite pricey, but it was about the same price as the airport limo (2,820 JPY) and didn’t have any luggage restrictions.

Prices shown here are 200 JPY lower in off-season and 200 JPY higher in busy season. I rode during the off-season, hence 3,020-200=2,820 JPY

The Narita Express runs from Tokyo Station to Narita in a promised time of 53 minutes (versus 80-90 minutes for the bus). The main issue I now faced was getting to Tokyo Station from my AirBnB. It was about a 1.5km walk, and I didn’t fancy doing that with all the bags I had.

It seemed a taxi would make the most sense, but I had heard horror stories about how expensive Tokyo cabs could be. Fortunately, I learned about an app called Japan Taxi, which is sort of the Japanese taxi industry’s response to Uber.

Image result for japan taxi app

There’s a 500 JPY voucher you can use for your first ride through the app.  Simply enter “GOOGLE” during sign up.

You’ll need to send an OTP to your mobile number to activate your account. International numbers are supported.

Once you’re done, confirm that the coupon appears in your account.

Although it’s a Japanese app, it’s clearly designed for tourists and you can enter addresses in English. The map pulls from Google Maps, so you can be sure all your key POIs will be inside.

The app provides you with a fare quote. Be very sure your 500 JPY coupon is reflecting before you click call taxi!

One quick point about the 500 JPY voucher. It can only be used if you book a taxi from Nihon Kotsu. There’s no booking fee, but the app charges you a 410 JPY surcharge for pickup (so in other words, there’s a booking fee). I guess you get the convenience of the taxi coming to your door, but that also means you don’t end up saving that much over a street hail.

Once your cab is confirmed, you”ll receive a code to show to your driver when he arrives.

The taxi driver showed up quickly, was impeccably polite and loaded all my bags without saying a word. Cabs in Tokyo are really big (most are Toyota Crowns, but you have a Prius here and there) so boot space isn’t a problem. It probably says more about how many bags I had that he had to place one bag in the front seat.

A receipt was generated immediately after drop off. My 500 JPY coupon applied and I paid 880 JPY in total. Not cheap for such a short ride, but not as bad as I feared.

It was just my luck to be heading into Tokyo station at the peak of peak hour, but after much polite pushing and shoving I made it to Platform 4.

The train arrived dead on schedule (as you’d expect in Japan), and carriages filled up quickly.

Narita Express trains have 2-2 seating throughout.

There’s a lot of luggage storage space on the train in the form of luggage racks at the front of every carriage.

As well as overhead space above seats.

Seats are fairly wide and have a reclining function. They’re good for napping.

And a useful tray table that folds down from the seat infront of you (no food or drinks are served on this train). Wi-Fi was available, but it was appallingly slow for a country like Japan.

A screen above tracked the progress of the train towards Narita, and we arrived exactly on time at 9.01am. I swear the train was ahead of scheduled but deliberately slowed down as we approached if only to keep the published schedule.

It’s no doubt easier to get to Haneda from Tokyo, but as I explained in the trip planning post the timing of the flight from Narita worked better for me. I hope this post provides some clarity on the different transport options available to you if you need to get to Narita.

Free Hertz President’s Circle status for World and World Elite Mastercard holders

I got a tip off from a reader that Hertz has actually been offering free upgrades to Hertz President’s Circle for World Elite and World Mastercard members all this while. I’m not sure how this slipped under the radar for so long, because the promotion period started all the way back on 1 July 2017 (and ends 30 September 2017).

President’s Circle is the highest published tier of Hertz’s loyalty program. Note that I say “published”, because there exists a further invite-only program known as Hertz Platinum that has benefits above and beyond those of President’s Circle.

That said, President’s Circle membership is not insignificant either. It normally requires that either renting 20 times or more or spending US$4,000 with Hertz in a 12 month period. Key benefits of this tier include

  • Guaranteed vehicle availability
  • Guaranteed one-car-class upgrades with every rental
  • 25% bonus points on all Hertz or Hertz 24/7 rentals
  • 900 points after every 10 qualifying rentals, the equivalent of a Reward Rental Day

If you want to read more about people’s experience renting cars as a Hertz President’s Circle member, check out these threads here and here. As you’d expect, there are great stories and not so great stories- some people get upgraded for free to really, really nice cars and others get nothing more than what they booked. Your experience will definitely vary, depending on which station you rent from, the inventory situation at the time and how nice the guy behind the counter is.

My general experience is that Hertz prices tend to be more expensive than competing car rental companies, but I’m sure that varies depending where you go. It never hurts to have elite status handy, and if nothing else it will allow you to cut the queues at the counter.

Moreover, because most car rentals do not require pre-payment, there’s nothing to stop you from booking a car with Hertz and making a safety booking with another company. If Hertz upgrades you to a super vehicle, just cancel your safety. If Hertz pulls up a 30,000 mile Toyota Corolla, walk away.

Do I have a World Mastercard?

Image result for citibank world mastercard rewards

It is ridiculously easy to get a World Mastercard in Singapore, and you don’t need a high income to get one. Here’s a listing of World Mastercards in Singapore and their income requirements

When you first sign up for this offer, you’ll fill in your personal details and get a standard Hertz base tier membership. As per the T&C, you’ll need to wait 14 days for the upgrade to reflect in your account.

[HT: Ziyang]

How would you improve The Milelion?

Hello everyone!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I have absolutely no clue how to do anything technical on WordPress. Therefore, I’ve always just chugged along and prayed for the best. The problem is, when things do go wrong (like some content disappearing with the recent site migration or the site getting suspended temporarily for excessive CPU usage), I often have no idea how to fix it quickly and it stresses me out to no end.

As the site grows bigger the demands will only increase, and it’s important that the UX continues to be as smooth and as hassle free for all of you as it was on day one. Therefore I’m going to bring on a freelance webmaster to help make some fixes and optimizations on The Milelion.

Here’s where I need your help- if you’ve observed any annoying bugs, issues or if there’s anything at all you think would make the site easier for you to use (features, arrangement, layout, whatever) please leave a comment and a detailed description and I’ll see what can be done.

Be nitpicky, please. If I’m going to bring someone on board I’d rather fully employ them than have them sitting around twiddling their thumbs. If you’ve always been enduring some minor annoyance in order to access the ramblings of The Milelion, now’s the time to say something.

For example, Eddy wrote in to let me know the site doesn’t appear properly when a wide screen monitor is used. I assume it will be an easy fix for someone who knows what they’re doing.

Other features I’m thinking about

  • Implementing a system that allows you to reply to comments via email. For example, I post a comment. John replies to it and I get an email notification. Instead of going back to the site to reply, I can hit reply in my email program and shoot a message back
  • Improving site loading times and minimizing webpage size. The site still scores quite poorly on Google’s PageSpeed Insights and I’m sure there are easy fixes

  • Making full use of page width. In the current theme there’s a lot of white space on either side of posts and this also compresses pictures so they’re harder to read

  • Improving the current comments system to make it easier for people to converse in real time, maybe like a chat (I thought of creating a forum but do we really need another? HWZ and Flyertalk should be sufficient for most miles chasers in Singapore)

This list is of course not exhaustive and I’d really value your input here.

So let me know what can be done better, what needs to get fixed, and I’ll put together a list and engage someone who knows what he or she is doing

Thanks
Aaron