Pullman Cairns International Hotel

We stayed at Pullman Cairns International for my half business half pleasure work play trip in Cairns, the hotel where the conference I attended was held. There were also queen rooms and rooms with harbour view, but work booked the room for me through the conference and I got a 7th floor double room with a mountain/city view. Richard, of course, stayed with me.

The 5-star hotel room was very spacious even with the double double bed inside (not typo). Instant coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), Twining teabags (tea and tisane) and milk are free at the minibar and refilled daily. We got complimentary wifi for up to three devices during the conference days, but didn’t bother with it after the conference was over.

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room
Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room and a Richard checking out the minibar

The bathroom was also really big and beautiful with shampoo, conditioner and shower gel also refilled daily. Loved the massive and thick hotel bath towels.

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room Bathroom
Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room Bathroom (totally just an excuse for a mirror selfie)

It’s been showering intermittently through our trip, but we stuck around Cairns for a few more days for pleasure and extended our stay in the same room after all work finished. On the last day, the sun did come out and I managed to get this shot with a blue sky!

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: City Mountain Room View
Pullman Cairns International Hotel: 7th floor city mountain room view on a sunny day

The great thing about facing this direction was the view of the pool from the balcony, not for the reason you think — well, I mean, bikini views are pretty awesome — but because it conveniently gave me an opportunity to scout out the reception dinner that happened on the pooldeck before attending it on the first night. Shut up; social events are stressful. tongue

Gorgeous hotel room. The only thing I could complain about the hotel is having to clumsily insert the room keycard to operate the lifts instead of being able to do it through contactless. I also don’t think I ever dissociated the hotel lobby smell with the work conference, but absolutely enjoyed my very comfortable stay at the Pullman Cairns International.

Hotel Oak Forest, Hakuba, Nagano, Japan: Meals

In true foodie spirit, I took a picture of almost every course I ate at the hotel we stayed at for the ski trip, and split the food section into this entry of its own! As mentioned in the post for Hotel Oak Forest (ホテル オークフォレスト) itself, the meals included in our ski package were daily Western breakfast, and Western plus Japanese style dinner.

Hotel Oak Forest: Breakfast

There’s one individual hot breakfast dish every morning on top of a buffet section with common Western foods such as salad, cereal, bread, coffee, milk and juice.

The Western breakfast buffet:

Turned out I didn’t even need to fruit up, because there’s one available at the buffet every morning. It was oranges on most days, and pineapples (beautifully presented in pineapple peel boats) and grapefruits on others. I was very happy with their breakfast options, but I may be biased because I’m a caffeine addict and this time I didn’t have to supply my own coffee every morning.

The Western breakfast hot dishes:

The hot dish was a combination of sausages/ham/bacon and scrambled eggs/omelette.

Hotel Oak Forest: Dinner

We had dinner at the place on all but the last night (where we went out to town to have yakiniku). I thought the dinner servings were small at first, but got used to it eventually and riced up as appropriate.

Hotel Oak Forest: Dinner Table with Room Numbers Unlike breakfast where the individual dishes were served as soon as you’re seated, the next course of the five-course dinners wasn’t served until everyone at the same table has finished their previous. White rice, green tea and water were available as self-service. Other rooms who opted for the Japanese dinners have their kaiseki meal arranged on their table before their arrival.

For our five-course dinners, there’s always the sashimi salad as the first course, a soup, a seafood entree, a main meat dish with a broccoli floret, mashed potatoes and three pieces of carrot, and last a dessert. On several nights Richard ordered a beer with his dinner, which was added to the room bill as extra charges that we paid at checkout.

Night 1 Dinner

First taste of the food at Hotel Oak Forest. We had a salad with three very thin slices of salmon sashimi, a mushroom broth, a small piece of mackerel with a small piece of daikon radish, pork with a white mushroom sauce, and a dessert that tasted like light cheese with whipped cream on top.

I didn’t mind the mackerel too much even though both Richard and I thought there were far better ways to prepare fish than cooking it through the way they did. The pudding was quite tasty once you knew what to expect from the second mouthful on.

Night 2 Dinner

Second night, we had an octopus sashimi salad, pasta soup, fried crab claws, chicken, and some sort of processed/preserved apple slices.

The fried crab claws turned out to be the best seafood entree of all nights.

Night 3 Dinner

Third night, it’s a very fishy sashimi salad, an almost creamy soup, white fish fillet in tomato sauce, an unnaturally tender beef (I think) steak, and a small slice of apple cake.

Richard said the super fishy sashimi salad reminded him of fishing baits and didn’t touch that course. I wasn’t a huge fan either, but adopted his plate anyway because food was scarce.

Night 4 Dinner

Fourth night, it was back to the salmon salad for the first course again, which had us worried that there were only three dinner sets on rotation and we’d exhausted their options. Following the salad this night, though, was an again almost creamy corn soup, mackerel in miso sauce, chicken, and a jelly.

Night 5 Dinner

Fifth and last dinner at the hotel for us, it was calamari sashimi salad, pasta soup, white fish fillet, beef, and back to the processed/preserved apple slices.

I still haven’t figured out what they did to the beef and apples.

Hotel Oak Forest: Food Summary

Breakfast was awesome; dinner less so but decent. The strangest thing overall with the meals offered was the meat. You could never quite tell on first bite that “Oh yeah, that’s beef/pork/chicken.” It’s almost always like a mystery meat of sorts. Food presentation was excellent, but sadly one can’t ski on visual excellence; I could really use bigger portions for dinner. I guess at least you could have as much rice as you wanted.

Hotel Address: Japan 〒399-9301 Nagano-ken, Kitaazumi-gun, Hakuba-mura, Hokujō, 3549

Hotel Oak Forest, Hakuba, Nagano, Japan

For my third ski trip in Hakuba (白馬), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), the 9 of us (later 8 as one left earlier) stayed at Hotel Oak Forest (ホテル オークフォレスト).

Hotel Oak Forest: Lobby
Hotel Oak Forest: Lobby

Hotel Oak Forest: Access

Hotel Oak Forest isn’t located conveniently near any slopes, which seems to be a common feature of all hotels and ryokans within the Hakuba ski resort. Getting to and from the ski fields involve a daily morning bus trip out and an afternoon bus back. Connecting trips are required for certain areas such as Tsugaike Kogen (栂池高原). We actually arrived after the last shuttle bus had left and didn’t get any skiing done on the first day.

Hotel Oak Forest: Shuttle Bus Timetable
Hotel Oak Forest: Shuttle Bus Timetable

Oak Forest seems to be the first (and therefore last on the return trip) stop of many buses, which meant the longest trip, but also almost a guaranteed seat each morning; it has its perks, I guess. The hotel had also arranged to pick up and drop us off at our desired bus stop on arrival and departure, and also offered to send us out to town for free when we asked for them to get us a taxi, which was nice of them.

Hotel Oak Forest: Features

Free wifi! A lift! Daily housekeeping! In-room TV, fridge, safe! These were all features I never had from ryokans on my previous trips in Nozawa Onsen (Yamasanso) and Ishiuchi Maruyama (Garden Villa Ishiuchi). Hotel Oak Forest has been the nicest and most modern accommodation I’d stayed at for ski trips so far; well, I suppose the whole Hakuba ski area is very Westernised. We joked that our accommodation gets better and better with each trip.

The facilities that Richard and I didn’t use were the laundry and public onsen, the latter which I really regret. The onsens were open both in the morning and at night, and apparently had both indoor and outdoor sections. I should have at least got in and had a peek! … I just realised how inappropriate that came out.

Hotel Oak Forest: The Rooms

All rooms were en-suite, which is absolutely awesome! We first stayed in a traditional Japanese room with tatami flooring and futons on the third floor for the first day, then moved to a Western room with two single beds on the second floor from the second day on.

The Japanese rooms were very spacious for just the two of us, but I’m pretty sure the room was meant for more because the 4-5 singletons all shared one room on the same floor. My only complaint of the room was that super bright piercing green light on the alarm on the ceiling.

Hotel Oak Forest: Japanese Style Room
Hotel Oak Forest: Japanese style room on the third floor

In comparison, the Western counterparts and their en-suite bathrooms were a lot smaller and felt cramped to me when we first moved there from the Japanese rooms. Richard appreciated the beds more than the futons, though.

Hotel Oak Forest: Western Style Room
Hotel Oak Forest: Twin beds (messy = mine) in a Western style room on the second floor

The rooms weren’t very soundproof, and twice on the one night I woke up from inconsiderate loud English speakers walking by. Otherwise, I wasn’t sure if we were just lucky, this time we didn’t have any issue with cigarette smoke sneaking into our room like my previous trips, and I didn’t for one second take that for granted.

Hotel Oak Forest: The Food

The meals included in our package were daily Western breakfast, and Western plus Japanese style dinner. The three rooms of us shared the same table for every meal except our first breakfast, likely before they figured out we were all friends. I took so many pictures, I have decided to move this section to an entry of its own!

Hotel Oak Forest: Lockers and Rental Shop

Ski gear lockers for every room were available in the dry room, and things dried properly overnight, at least for us. The brother told me theirs didn’t quite because there was simply too much gear for their locker.

Hotel Oak Forest: Rental Shop
Hotel Oak Forest: Awkward couple mirror selfie disguised as a photo of the ground floor changing room / laundromat / rental shop

Gear rental wasn’t included in the package, but we decided to rent our stuff from the shop downstairs anyway. I thought what I ended up renting (skis, boots, poles and ski pants only) was very acceptable, but they didn’t have the half size shoes we needed. They also had to summon the rental guy each time, which was fairly inconvenient; one time he took over 15 minutes to appear and we already had to leave to catch the bus.

Overall

Overall, the time spent at the hotel was very comfortable and I especially loved the free wifi available on every floor, as well as the breakfast buffet. I know the area is very Westernised and it wouldn’t be fair to compare a proper hotel to the more traditional ryokans I stayed at in other regions, but I would quite happily stay at Hotel Oak Forest again.

Full gallery sans food:

Hotel Oak Forest address: Japan 〒399-9301 Nagano-ken, Kitaazumi-gun, Hakuba-mura, Hokujō, 3549

Redleaf Resort, Blackheath

We stayed at Redleaf Resort for 2 nights for our

The room was new and clean, and a lot bigger and nicer than my expectations; the air-conditioning was certainly appreciated! The resort was quiet most of the time as well, with the exception of that screeching noise from next door when they used the shower.

The highlight for me was the breakfast buffet (of course!). Well, our package didn’t come with it, but we added it at check-in for $19 per person ($17 if booked ahead through the websites?). It was nice to pig out before heading out for the day.

It is nice to pig out whatever and whenever. It’s good to live in the first world.

Overall, it’s a very comfortable stay. We didn’t use any of the other facilities like the sauna room, swimming pool (possibly closed when we visited), tennis court or game room. Maybe next time?

Hotel Princess Garden, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan

Hotel Princess Garden (ホテル プリンセスガーデン) was a comfortable five-minute walk from Meguro Station (目黒駅), so even though we were tired from a whole three days of skiing and a long bus trip back, we weren’t complaining. We didn’t check in until after 10 pm so the stay at the hotel was brief. Our room was very small as expected, but at least it was clean, quiet and comfortable, and had all the amenities. We had a nice hot shower and a decent night of sleep.

Hotel Princess Garden: Twin Room
Hotel Princess Garden: Twin Room

Oh look, a space between the two beds, unlike some other hotel! tongue The room was 10,500 yen (~A$110) for the both of us for just that one night and no breakfast the next morning. Good enough for now!

Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno, Tokyo, Japan

We stayed at Hotel Villa Fontaine – Ueno (ホテルヴィラフォンテーヌ上野) for two nights (our first two nights of the trip) as part of a custom package deal from Cathay Holidays that also came with return flight tickets from Hong Kong to Japan. Well, it was actually only the hotel for me, because I bought my single trip ticket through Qantas after I knew which flight the brother and friends intended to take, and found just the right flight to make up my Sydney-Hong Kong-Tokyo-Sydney multi-city deal.

Hotel Villa Fontaine – Ueno is normally a convenient five-minute walk away from Shinokachimachi Station (新御徒町駅), so we thought it would be easy for us. Except it was pouring outside when we arrived in the area in the evening, and the exit we got out from (A2) had an escalator up but only stairs down, so there was no easy turning back as soon as we stepped out.

We got two economy, non-smoking, twin rooms; the brother and I shared one, his two female friends shared the other. At the discount price we weren’t expecting much, especially since it also included breakfast buffet in the morning. This was what greeted us when we opened the door.

Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno: Economy Twin Room
Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno: Economy Twin Room with twin beds directly side by side

I suppose technically it’s still a twin room… and at least the room and the en-suite bathroom were very clean and tidy. Continue reading “Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno, Tokyo, Japan”