When the girls from KL suggested a holiday in Hokkaido, I agreed immediately to join in. In my mind, I would be just another name in their list of 5, one more to make up to an even 6 without needing to do much. After all, they were well-heeled travellers. I told them I was easy and would leave all the planning to them, the only wish I have was to see cherry blossoms (sakura).
The planning started in February. We found that there were limited flights between KL and Tokyo, with connecting flights to Hokkaido very expensive. Comparing with package group tours, the air tickets would take up more than 60% of our budget. We wanted our budget to be as closed to package tours as possible. Was it realistic?
We were saved by NATAS fair. The Japan Tourism Association and ANA had a joint promotion, one-for-one package tours to Japan – S$998 (without tax and surcharge) for two includes air ticket and two-night stay in Sapporo. Even with all the charges included, we each paid S$1022 for flights all the way from Changi to Chitose and two nights stay at a three-star hotel – well worth it. The girls would drive down from KL to Singapore the night before and leave for Hokkaido the next day.
After the flight was booked, the rest of the planning was relatively easier. The girls are used to driving long distance compared to this Singaporean. So it was decided that they would take turns driving and thus apply for the international driving licences in KL. We discussed about the car rental. I told them, I need a space for my butt and my bag. The car would need to sit 6 and space for at least 4 bags. In the end, everyone decided they would each carry a small case and we booked a Toyota Vellfire online. The girls even made a trip to the showroom in KL to check out the car. The car rental cost us 27,000 yen per person. The car was a perfect fit.
Although a big car, my friends found it easy to manoeuvre. However, even when fully loaded, the car still felt pretty light when driving in high wind areas.
Our itinerary for the 10 days trip would cover Sapporo (including a forgettable one hour drive to Otaru), south to Hakodate, and then eastward to Noboribetsu and Furano, with a side trip up north to Asahikawa Zoo, then further east to Lake Akan and finally a long seven-hour drive back west to Lake Shikotsu/Chitose on the last leg. My friends pondered hard if we should make the drive to Shiretoko World Heritage Site on the north-eastern tip of Hokkaido but decided against it due to lack of time.
So, how did my holidays with five women went? Lots of estrogen for sure, but generally we worked pretty well together, loading and unloading the bags and lending a helping hand to the more senior in our group.
I wouldn’t think there were any differences between a Singaporean and a Malaysian but I found out this Singaporean is a clock watcher and the Malaysians are not. The first two days were difficult when I couldn’t get them to commit a wake-up time for breakfast. (We are on holidays, they claimed as if that explains things.) Thankfully at the other hotels which include breakfasts, breakfast stops at nine and they were all promptly seated by eight.
With no clock watching, it’s no surprise that we drove 1.5 hours to arrive in Otaru in time to see all the tourist shops closed (at 5pm) but early enough to catch the photogenic blue-hour for the Otaru canal photo shoot.
The no clock-watch also meant we abandoned all rational thoughts and repeated the one hour drive along mountainous route to make an impromptu re-visit to Lake Mashu at noon, which we missed because of mist the day before, despite the fact that we had a seven-hour drive back to Chitose, and we hadn’t had lunch.
My posts for the next few days would be all about my Hokkaido trip.