My best delay ever
I am writing this from the comfort of a hotel room, at the Mitsui Garden Hotel PRANA Tokyo Bay. It is, in my opinion, the second best hotel I have stayed in in my lifetime. (The first being the Four Seasons Tokyo with the firefly garden.) For the privilege, I am not paying a dime.
I actually talked on the phone with my mom before taking the flight to Tokyo, where she said I should save some minutes on my phone just in case. I pointed out I won’t be needing them, since my phone won’t work in Japan or Korea. I even got onto the plane during the phone call. I even got into the wrong seat because I was not paying attention. I sat in a middle seat, but it turned out my assigned seat was actually in one of the exit rows. I was in the seat closest to the door, with a Japanese flight attendant (flying back from training, not working this particular flight) in the seat next to me.
Anyhow, as cool as the seat was, it turned out the #1 engine had a valve problem. This valve problem took nearly 3 and a half hours to fix. About an hour before we took off, people who wanted to go back into the terminal were provided with vouchers good for both USD10 worth of food at any participating vendor in the airport AND good for 2,000 bonus miles on any of the SkyTeam airlines (Northwest, KLM, AirFrance, etc.).
I had some "Mexican" food that consisted of a vegan burrito, guacamole, and guacamole and chips. I overran the voucher by 63 US cents, so I paid that. The seats at the airport in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the food court were made out of a hard rubber, so I actually got more enjoyment pondering the reasons and design for that than I did the "Mexican" food.
Since the Northwest website (albeit in a very convoluted way) allowed me to choose an Asian Vegetarian Meal several weeks ago and add it to my itinerary, the food onboard was better than usual. Though the naughty part of this panda got more enjoyment out of people watching – some of the passengers looked like they were going to die from unhappiness because of the flight being 3 hours late into Tokyo. I slept 9 solid hours on the plane (being a panda, and being in the exit row, I had considerably less trouble sleeping than other passengers).
I was refreshed, to the say the least, when the plane touched down in Tokyo. It appeared from the boards that there was a JAL flight going to Seoul that I could have made the connection for. But instead, my ticket to Seoul was changed to KAL this morning. All the people missing their connections got put up in one of two hotels and were given another airport meal voucher and 2000 more frequent flier miles. I can’t vouch for other people, but my ticket to Seoul was bumped up to Korean Air Prestige Class (their Business Class) and I was given access to their lounge in Narita.
I didn’t know what the Mitsui Garden Hotel PRANA Tokyo Bay was, other than some other passengers mentioning it is right next to Tokyo Disneyland, and that it was an hour away from Narita airport. Thankfully, I did not have to lug my suitcases to the hotel and back – those stayed at the airport.
A big sign in front of the hotel proclaimed "GRAND OPEN!!!" I was given meal tickets for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a late-night snack. I had the late-night snack, since none of the others coincided with my stay at the hotel. That turned out to be a tabehodai (all-you-can-eat/buffet), or as the waitress called it, "freestyle restauran." Unlike buffet restaurants elsewhere, the food at this one was high quality. Likely because of the price of a room in the hotel (which I am not paying, yay!) and the fact that most Japanese people do not eat much at buffets because they either can’t eat much, or they have moral reservations about eating too much.
After my late-night snack, I headed up to the seventh floor. The seventh floor has a Japanese-style spa (no sauna though). I relaxed in there for awhile, before heading back down to the lobby to buy some bottled green tea in a Lawson convenience store. I did not need to change money for this, since I had some leftover Japanese change from 2005.
It was after 1am at this point, but in my room, I had to take advantage of the flat panel TV. The Panasonic model in my room apparently can surf the Internet, which brings me to the one major thing the hotel lacks – Internet access. Not even wireless. But that didn’t matter too much, since I love watching Japanese TV. It does not drive me insane from stupidity like TV channels is most other countries do. I got to see a news programme where they talked about all the products made in China. But instead of just leaving it at that, they had a game show where they gave contestants Chinese flags. Their mission was to attach the flags to each Chinese-made thing in an average Japanese home. Even to little toys (which the flags dwarfed). I was surprised about the only Japanese-made thing they could find in this home – shoes. Not the cool wooden ones either, but rubber-soled shoes. That surprised me, since I have never ever had Japanese-made shoes in my wardrobe. Later on I watched part of Easy Rider.
Sunrise was pretty awesome as well…
The alternative to this would have been to stay in the basement sauna at Incheon Airport, since I was originally going to arrive too late to catch any buses into Seoul (about an hour and a half away from the airport in Incheon). That would have cost me money. In my case, flight delays rocked my world in a good way.