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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Asia Tour with Two Tickets to the Philippines

Tokyo, Japan
Besides seeing and hanging out with old friends and new ones (thanks Simone who introduced me to two of her new friends and Stefanie who invited me to drink with her friends in Tokyo), my one month stay in Japan was coming to an end.  It was short but long...moreso long because the Yen-US exchange rate was at an all time high (Y88 = $1.00) and for some brief patches, I didn't know where I'd be staying and knew that I couldn't afford to pay the Y8000 per night at a hotel (minimum costs).

Since Japan is not the cheapest place to spend a month just "hanging out", I actually considered that I would see if I could fly standby and try to get out of Japan sooner.  I'd have to pay a change fee but I figured it would be cheaper than to stay in Japan.  When I called the airlines, I was told that I could pay $75 to change my flight.  Perfect.  Since my flight was routing through Beijing, I asked if I'd be able to stay in Beijing longer; leave Japan earlier but fly out of Beijing on the original date. "It is against the fare rules" I was told.  So, I decided I'd make the most of Tokyo for the remaining time that I was there and leave on March 4 as originally scheduled.

So, while in Japan, I tried to stretch my money when I could and walked the distances that I could walk.  Thanks to google maps (on your iPhone, it is REMARKABLE!), I walked the streets as if I was born and bred in Tokyo.  Some of my more triumphant walks were Eifukucho - Umegaoka  and Nishi-Shinjuku - Umegaoka.  Since the weather was pretty nice, it was great to not only save money but get some exercise in too.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Japanese Talk

On my last two trips to Japan, I picked up a rental SIM card at Narita airport to use while I was in Japan.  If I remember correctly, the rental for the SIM is Y105 a day with phone calls about Y100 a minute.  BUT, incoming calls FREE!

This time though, I had flown through Haneda airport (which I absolutely love!) and NOT Narita; that way I didn't have to bother with the time and price of paying for a one hour plus train ride into the city (one-way). What I didn't consider when booking my flight though was that Haneda would not have some of the luxuries that I took for granted (i.e. SIM card rental!).  When I arrived in Haneda (blog post: Taiwan to Tokyo), I quickly learned that the small international airport only had phone rentals available.  Since I would be in Japan for over a month, this was clearly not an option for me; I believe it was about Y780 per day!

Just being so dependent on our phones, it seems almost impossible to live now without a cell phone!  Since I couldn't get a phone, had decided to do it the old-fashion way and bought telephone cards instead.  Can you believe that within two weeks, I had already dropped Y4500 ($50) on phone cards? I surely can't! I mean, I know I talk a lot but $50 in two weeks?  Really?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Living on the Cheap(er) in Tokyo

So I made it back to Tokyo in the early morning of February 18 and didn't really have a place to stay.  I was very fortunate that Eri was going to let me crash at her new place for the remaining two weeks that I would be in Tokyo.  Japan in general is expensive and the yen rate, which seemed to be getting stronger with each day, it is not a force you want to reckon with!

Eri would be moving into her new place on February 19.  Since we were all getting together for lunch on Saturday, I just told her that I would find a place to stay the two nights and plan to come over on the night of the 20th.  I had two nights to figure out where I would stay.

My friend Christine had once asked me how to travel on the cheap in Japan.  My answer: not possible!  However, in the last few weeks, I have found that it is possible to travel cheaply but it's still not that cheap! But here is what I found...

My first night I spent in a Japanese Capsule hotel.  I believe the idea of the capsules came up because of the need for Japanese businessmen to find an affordable place to stay and because of the limited space in Japan, they made small capsules, just enough space for you to sleep; because the sleeping spaces were so small, this also afforded the businesses to accommodate more people making themselves more profitable.