Friday, August 12, 2016
We had a long drive ahead of us. KH and I split the 300KM drive to Chitose. The expressway was quite boring with no big rest stops. Mostly just toilets and a vending machine. Pushed on and arrived at Mitsui Outlet Park, Kitahorishima at about 2:00PM. Our Mitsui Premium Outlet in Sepang has a similar design, but the selection of brands is much better in Hokkaido. Although shopping was high on the list, eating lunch was more important. The food court offered a good selection of lunch options. Miso ramen is popular in the Sapporo region, so KH tried that. I for one found it to be overpowered by garlic oil. I chose Hokkaido pork don with leek. What I ate was pretty close to what Senya serves in KL. Kudos to Senya.
Found the best bargains at Rockport and Banana Republic. Surprisingly, they also have a supermarket there selling fruits and vegetables. When we left MOP, our hands were full of shopping bags. Been trying to find SK's Albion products for two weeks but to no avail, so we drove to AEON Chitose to have a look. Just like MOP, our AEON also looks like it's Japanese counterpart. But in Malaysia, the packing station after the check out counters are missing. Perhaps when we are more serious about recycling. Couldn't find Albion. Such an elusive brand. Ended up having dinner at the food court there. Both of stood at the udon counter not knowing what to order. Lucky for us, the uncle quickly pulled out an English menu. Saved! Dry udon with grated yam and shoyu for me, and soupy udon with clams for KH. We topped up with some tempura. What caught my eye was the way the udon was cooked. The boiled noodles in the tank were actually fished out with a net. When it was time to leave, we took a while to find the correct exit. So confusing.
Drove back to New Chitose Airport to settle the biggest loose end, which was the rented car. According to KH's plan, we were to stay a night at Chitose Airport Hotel since our flight out was quite early. We weren't sure where it was, but made a wild guess that it would be at the international terminal. We parked the car and went hunting. Truth be told, it was like a wild goose chase. No signs at all. Asked the information counter and were told that the hotel is located at the domestic terminal. Go figure. Ran back to the car and re-parked closer to the domestic terminal. Such a pain unloading our stuff from the car. We bought so much stuff! Lugged everything to the hotel which was only accessible via one particular lift lobby. Pengsan.
Didn't have any time to rest. Immediately ran back to the car and drove to New Chitose Airport POPLAR with the iconic picture of William S. Clark on the roof and the famous quote, "Boys, be ambitious!". Returned the car with a full tank of fuel and hopped on the free bus back to the airport. Finally could slow down a bit and explore the terminal. By that time, most of the shops were closed actually. So sad. From my observation, one can actually buy most of the famous food products from the airport at standard tax-free prices. Would save you the hassle of lugging your stuff from place to place. If you're a Doraemon junkie, do visit the Doraemon WakuWaku Sky Park. And if you have chocolate in your veins. visit the Royce' Chocolate World there.
Once we had finished our terminal crawl, it was time to rest and shower. Afterwards, we had to worry about packing which is always a headache. Once we had gotten that out of the way, we toasted our trip with a bottle of Suntory peach liquor, grilled chicken wings, fried chicken and chocolate cake. Sleep came easily.
Early next morning, I flung open the curtains to a view of quiet a tarmac with a few parked airplanes. Freshened up and went for the free buffet breakfast. A combination of Japanese and Western food was served. After breakfast, we checked out and pushed our luggage to the international terminal. Plenty to see along the way as there was the Steiff Discovery Walk with a whole bunch of life-sized soft toys, kinda like taxidermy. Check-in didn't take long and lucky for us, we only exceeded our baggage allowance by 500 grams.
Since my last trip to Japan in 2014, Japan had tweaked their consumption tax refund procedures. Visitors no longer performs the refund at the airport, but can immediately enjoy tax-free prices at the many shops that display the "Tax-free Shop" logo. Tax exemption applies for consumables or non-consumables that cost a minimum on JPY5,000. Be reminded that it is JPY5,000 per category. By law, consumables are sealed and can only be consumed out of Japan. However, customs doesn't check the items as they run on a trust system. Visitors just need to submit the tax invoices upon departure.
We did some last minute shopping at the duty-free area before boarding the flight back to KL. That concludes our Hokkaido adventure. Definitely need to get the next Hokkaido high!