Tag Archives: Marriott

Tokyo

14 Oct

(This post is way overdue..but here goes)

Konnichiwa! Leaving Manila was pretty upsetting and sad. I made great friends and had a fabulous time exploring the culture and living like an expat. My mom even made the journey, and I had very little time to show her around metro Manila and no time to travel to some of the other Philippine islands. I scheduled us to take the same flights back to the US and therefore we would be flying back to JFK via Narita, Japan. Neither of us had been to Japan before, and the Yen is such that its no longer as outrageously expensive as its been in the past, so we opted for a three day stopover in Tokyo. Fortunately, I have amassed a large number of Marriott points which allowed me to book us into the Ritz Carlton Tokyo. De-planing in Narita was easy, but traveling from Narita to downtown Tokyo was almost a 2 hour bus ride on the “friendly” Airport express. The whole bus experience was extremely efficient. They tagged all of our checked luggage and gave us the ticket stubs. They dropped us off at the hotel entrance and matched the stubs to the bag tags. The Ritz reception is located on the 45th floor and our room was on floor 51. The one luxurious / slightly unsettling thing about hotel check-in in Asia, is they typically show you to your room and explain all the amenities. I say unsettling because the entire time I can’t stop thinking, “there’s a stranger in a my hotel room…if you touch me… I kill you”. Its a brilliant idea, especially if something is broken or is not to your satisfaction, but it still makes me a little nervous. In Tokyo, I Lee, escorted us and she had a degree from the Boston University, go figure! I Lee explained that on Saturday nights in the summer we can see fireworks from the giant picture window in our room. This hotel could seriously not get any better, and we were very excited. After showering and professing our love for the heated Japanese toilet with all its fancy buttons, we went to the lounge on the 53rd floor for a delicious spread and a happy hour cocktail. Attached to our hotel was the midtown tower, with shopping, restaurants and a park. Our first restaurant experience was at a small sushi bar with the freshest sushi I’ve ever tasted. The waitress could barely understand us, but somehow we got everything we ordered, from an electronic pin-pad.

The next day we went to the Meiji shrine, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. Of course in advance of this visit we researched Japanese temple and shrine etiquette. But once we got to the main shrine there was a fellow tourist instructing her husband in exactly what to do. “Now wash your hands, no dip the scoop into the water and pour over your hands, now bow, now clap.” We felt bad for the poor guy and her sons, yet we couldn’t help following them to listen to her explicit directions. We were also able to witness a traditional wedding ceremony, which we hoped might happen. The poor wedding party in their traditional outfits and long suits in almost 32 C / 100 F degree weather! And like crazy people, we walked directly from the shrine in Shibuya to the Shibuya crossing and then to a beer garden, which was closed on Sunday. We were drenched, but getting that first glass of champagne at the Ritz lounge was definitely well earned. Going off the Tokyo blog, we made our way to Ebisu. There were three to four restaurants on the street we thought was mentioned in the blog, but neither of them had a name in English on the sign. We opted for the one mom chose, which turned out be an exclusively chicken restaurant, Momotaro. All of our food came out on skewers and was extremely tasty. I also tried the Shochu ( pronounced show-j-ewe)

On Monday we had booked an afternoon tour. After getting lost a couple times, and arguing over directions, we made it to the Intercontinental hotel for the pick up. Why they made us walk to the Intercontinental, when nobody actually staying at the hotel was taking the tour was annoying. It only got better from there…sarcastic tone included. We had one guy wearing a hat with a fish head coming out the front and an Angel’s baseball t-shirt, two very nice looking Indian families, two American guys (I thought it was a father and son but my mom seems to think otherwise), and another American family of six. The adults in the American family consisted of an older looking, hefty husband and wife, their daughter, and her husband who looked like he was probably in the military. Half way through our walk of the Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens, I realize the daughter is smothering a roughly 4 week old infant in between her breasts and a toddler. Why on earth you would tote an infant in record heat, I mean people were dying, around Japan is beyond me. I’m not a mother, but I’m pretty sure there is no way in hell I would take a one month old on a 4 hour day tour. And not only did the mother ask if the park in the middle of downtown Tokyo was affected by the tsunami (I mean seriously?!) but then on our river boat ride the daughter changes the infant on the dining tables and then proceeds to breast feed. Not to mention that fish hat guy was late to the bus after the first stop and did not shut up the entire time about how all the Japanese women love it when he tells them they’re beautiful. I really couldn’t make this up if I tried. We really did see some great sites, Sensoji Temple that we wouldn’t have seen unless we were on the tour, but do not see them on the Grey Line tour.

As soon as we broke away from the crazies we began the frustrating adventure of trying to find the Shinjuku Washington Hotel and the restaurant Zauo. After more arguing over directions we finally found it. Why all that trouble for a restaurant? This wasn’t just any old Japanese restaurant where everyone just orders off the menu….boringgg. This restaurant gave us the option to catch our own fish and then select how we wanted it prepared. Half grilled/half sushied, all grilled, the choices were endless. We stood by the water with our poles waiting for any type of fish to bite. My mom thought it would be a good idea to swish the line back and forth in the water so the fish don’t realize the bait on the hook is dead. But nothing seemed to work until our waiter came by and gave us magical bait, which looked like steak. Mom caught a fish and our night was complete.

Going back to the airport was difficult. There was still so much to do and see and eat. The Delta Lounge in the Narita airport made life a little more bearable, Especially the amazing beer dispenser. After stocking up on green tea and cherry blossom kit kats, getting on that plane meant that my red hot south east Asian summer was officially over. All I can hope is that I’ll be back soon.

Advertisements

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

27 Jul

As I mentioned in my previous post, Zest airways is not not very reliable. I made sure to get to the airport well ahead of my 645am departure, even though my updated booking said the flight was 10 minutes later. I was a little nervous for this trip as well because it was my first time traveling alone to an Asian city, let alone a primarily Muslim city. Not that it means anything bad, but I always try to make sure I’m respectful and following the rules of other cultures. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but nothing booked in advance. However, I was fortunate enough to book the Renaissance hotel, which would give me all my Marriott perks, including a hotel concierge that could help me call local businesses.

The Kuala Lumpur LCCT, low cost carrier terminal, does not connect to the commuter train which runs straight to the KL Sentral train station, so a taxi was pretty much the easiest option. Right outside the baggage claim I paid 75r for a one way to the hotel, which took about an hour. After freshening up, I bee lined to the concierge in order to plan my stay. While the Petronas towers are great to look at, I didn’t feel the need to queue up at 6:30am to get one of the 1,200 tickets that are available everyday but Monday. Although I now know that tickets are available online, or for a small fee the hotel will buy the tickets for you. I had a laundry list of other options, such as, the Batu Caves, Melaka, Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary, and the Malaysia Heritage walking tour. I decided to head to the Batu caves via public transport. The MRT subway was comparable to Hong Kong, cheap and clean. The KTM komuter has train cars reserved specifically for women. I rode in these cars to and from the Batu Caves.

Many people on trip advisor say the caves are unimpressive. As you can see from my pictures, I tend to disagree. I’m also guessing many of those people don’t understand how important the caves are to the Hindu culture.

On my way back from the caves, two men, and when I say men I mean man-babies, were in the women’s car on the way back to Sentral. One of them gathered the courage to come over and ask me if I knew where Sentral was, I said “no”, then he asked what my name was and I turned away. He obviously didn’t get the hint, because he asked “Hello?” to which I informed him that he was in the women’s car and not allowed to be here. Clearly non-understanding, he asked if I wanted some nuts, to which I responded, “no, there’s no eating or drinking allowed on the train.” Thus the term man-baby, because he may be a grown ass man, but he certainly can’t think or act like one.

On my way back to the hotel I stopped at the Central Market. This is also where my Eat, Pray, Love walking tour with Be Tourist left from the following day. It’s touted as the oldest market in KL, but according to my tour it was actually relocated from its original spot a block or so away. However, buyer beware, the prices are not very cheap and not all the vendors are willing to negotiate. Now I’m obsessed with negotiating, so I really took my time to troll the area. The first night I met a great couple from Australia. They were truly genuine people and, as always, great travelers. I say great travelers because Aussies have the passion to travel and include everyone around in conversation. Hopefully their next trip will be to NY.

The Malaysian Heritage walking tour ended up being way more than I ever expected. Not only did we eat South Indian food with our hands in honor of the first money lenders in KL, but we also had local fruits, two kinds of roti and coconut pancakes, stingray and clay pot chicken with rice. We walked just as much as we ate, which was perfect because I wasn’t too full, but I also could not digest another food particle. Our guide also took us to three of the oldest and therefore important places of worship in KL culture, Masjid Jamek, a Hindu temple, Sri Mahamariamman, and the oldest Taoist temple Sin Sze Si Ya Temple. Since its still Ramadan, and therefore prayer is now 7 times a day, we did not enter Masjid Jamek, but the two temples we did enter both had fabulous history and very unique teachings. To cap off the evening, we went to a local pub to get to know each other better as a group. It was great. Together we represented, USA, Canada, Turkey, UK, Norway, Germany, and China. What a great environment to meet new friends. Before I went to KL it was represented to me as a boring city, but I beg to differ. I definitely hope to return and spend more time in Malaysia.

20130727-225903.jpg

20130727-225928.jpg

20130727-225946.jpg

20130727-230000.jpg

20130727-230013.jpg

20130727-230023.jpg

20130727-230040.jpg

20130727-230055.jpg

20130727-230119.jpg

Toledo, Ohio

9 Feb

According to foursquare, I have been to the Detroit Metro airport (DTW) six times. This is scary. When this fun fact recently popped up, I forced myself to recall every single time I had been there for work, including the pre-foursquare occasions, and realized it was indeed more than 6 times. eek! The first four times was going to and from Ann Arbor, which was was a tease because Ann Arbor is actually a really cute town. (I refuse to acknowledge it as a city since it seems so small.) The only disturbing incidents I remember about this was trip, was that 1) my coworker insisted on checking his luggage for a five day work trip simply because his cologne bottle was over the 3 fl. oz. limit, and 2) the friendly staff at the Melting Pot insisted on seating me and my coworker in a romantic booth after we insisted multiple times that we were in fact not together and not celebrating any special occasion. The other two check-in’s were to a training in downtown Detroit in February. Gross. One night the trainers had taken us to the Hard Rock cafe. I decided it would be really cool to buy a couple Hard Rock Detroit shirts. After all, it is Detroit Rock City. After dinner, back at the hotel, we decided to keep the libations going at the Marriott concierge lounge. I shoved my purchases under a chair and put my giant puffy white coat over the chair. When we were eventually kicked out of the lounge because it was closing I, of course, forgot my shirts. I realized this once back in my room, but decided to go to the lounge when it opened. Somehow, no one had found my shirts, and they were apparently thrown out and believed to be forgotten leftovers. Fortunately, I am a Marriott Platinum member almost 4 years running, and thankfully, the good Samaritan in the concierge lounge was kind enough to re-purchase the t-shirts and send them to me! WOW. I really lucked out.

DetroitView from Detroit MarriottRenaissance Center (GM)

However, this trip, I was merely flying into Detroit because the only way to get to Toledo, OH is to drive an hour south east from Detroit, or fly through O’Hare to the Toledo airport. Given this awesome winter option, my coworkers and I decided it would be much better to fly directly into Detroit and drive. Especially since the Toledo airport is still about 30 min outside Toledo. hmmm. Unfortunately, we flew in late on a Sunday in the middle of a minor snow storm. Avis is finally starting to catch up to technology, and now emails your space number ahead of time. Unfortunately, there didn’t happen to be a car in the space I was assigned, (sigh). After waiting in line, because no one else had cars in their assigned spaces, we ran to our new car assignment just in time to catch a down pour. Fabulous. Thankfully, Avis had the car running with the heat blasting and we were able to get on our way with a warm car. After some dicey roads, we finally made it to the hotel around 1am, only to see that the receptionist was “running errands” and would be back in 5 minutes. Woof. Who really runs errands at 1am? And to top it all off… I go to put my pajamas on, only to discover they are soaking wet from the earlier rain incident. Therefore, I would like to extend my deepest apologies to the unfortunate people in the surrounding rooms who might have heard a hair dryer going on at full blast at 2am. Luckily, we were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons which has a variety of stores and some nice decent places to eat like Bar Louie and Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi. Also, Toledo is the home of Tony Packos Hungarian hot dogs and chili, which is famous from M*A*S*H*. However, I suggest staying away from the BP on Front st. around 4pm since they have a sign on the door that says “Closed for 5-10 Min. Shift Change” and almost none of their pumps take credit card. Thanks to the wonderful people at Delta, my coworker and I were able to catch and earlier flight. He dubbed it one of the worst places in the world, but I’m not so sure yet.

Arriving into DetroitTony PackosTots at Bar Louie"Birmingham Ethnic Neighborhood"

Savannah, Georgia

9 Feb

Over the last couple years I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Savannah. So much time, in fact, that every year I file a Georgia tax return. Fortunately, Savannah is a wonderful place to visit. There are many fabulous restaurants, historical sites, nearby beaches and of course, ghost tours. The Savannah / Hilton Head airport (SAV) is one of the easiest airports to get in and out of. While there the airport lounge is sparse, and not worth going to, there is a Dewar’s Bar and Grill which will get the job done. There is also a sunglass store and flip-flop stop, in case you forgot to bring some. Given the fact that I am there for work, I have only had a limited amount of time site seeing. One particular Monday night, my coworkers and I decided it would be a really good idea to take the haunted pub crawl. The pub crawl starts at the Moon River Brewery, which has a decent bar menu, good brews, and is surprisingly very much haunted. the rest of the tour was a bit foggy, as there are no open container laws in historic Savannah. 😉

A couple of other fun activities I’ve actually had a chance to partake in, (in no particular order): The Savannah College of Art and Design Store, a trolley ride, a day trip to Tybee Island, the Juliette Gordon Low house, staying in Hilton Head Island. However, what I did most often while I was in Savannah is eat! I like to think of myself as an amateur foodie. I saw amateur because many times the word foodie is synonymous with snob. While I have been known to splurge once and a while for a good meal, I love food of all price ranges. Rather than go into detail about why I love each restaurant on my list, I thought I’d give a brief synopsis. (Please note that Lady and Son’s is not on here, for good reasons.)

  • Toucan Cafe – While, not in the center of town, this is truly a hidden gem. I have never had a bad meal here and the price is very reasonable. Monday nights even have a some discounts on a couple wines.
  • Elizabeth’s on 37th – Probably the most expensive restaurant in Savannah, but totally worth every penny. The mint Julep’s are authentic, spicy mussel that’s served as a palate cleanser should be an appetizer. The menu changes seasonally, reservations are highly recommended, and valet park if possible, because the surrounding area is a little scarey late at night.
  • 700 Drayton – Located in the Mansion on Forsyth Park, which is also my preferred hotel in Savannah, along with it’s sister hotel the Bohemian, but we’ll get there later. Again, while pricy, the menu and exceptional staff, deliver an enjoyable meal and overall dining experience.
  • Noble Fare – Another expensive restaurant with a great soup, scallops and duck.
  • Jazz’d Tapas – Reasonably priced with an extensive menu and wine specials on Monday’s, although their cocktail list is exciting as well.
  • Rooftop of the Bohemian Hotel – Limited, but good menu. Great view of the city, great cocktails, music some evenings, and an energetic atmosphere.
  • Garibaldi’s – Pricy Italian, but very delicious menu
  • Sapphire Grill – Pricy Seafood, but very delicious menu
  • Ciao Bella – Italian with outdoor seating. Bring an extra sweater if sitting inside.
  • Vic’s on the River – I love their biscuits, cocktails, and scallop entree.
  • The Distillery – A popular SCAD hang out, they have great pub food. I’ve ordered take out many times from here because they’re quick and they don’t mess up my order. They also have a great tap selection while I wait for my food! The lump crab balls and pretzel treasures are personal favs.
  • Maxwell’s – A fairly new wine bar / tapas place that I really hope does well. They have a bottomless mimosa brunch.
  • Leopold’s Ice Cream – Truly a Savannah institution. Their ice cream flavor change every season, and they also serve panini’s
  • The Pink House – Another local institution. Reservations are highly recommended days in advance.
  • Alligator Soul – Very southern menu. Skip the tourist trap that is Lady and Son’s, and go here instead.
  • B. Matthews – Great brunch, worth the wait. Also serves a nice dinner.
  • J. Christophers – Also a great brunch worth the wait.
  • Jen and Friends – While not a restaurant, this place has every type of martini you could ever possibly want.

With a list like this, this is no reason to eat at any sort of fast food chain. I also want to point out that I’ve stayed in all of the downtown Marriott’s, however, nothing beats the Autograph collection hotels, The Mansion on Forsyth Park and the Bohemian hotel. Both have charm and a luxurious atmosphere, and occasionally, deals during the off-season. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to visit Savannah during its infamous St. Patrick’s Day celebration. However, it is considered number two in the country, or something extraordinarily close to that, and is therefore worth checking out. Cocktails at Jazz'dOutside Elizabeth's on 37th