Narita to Shinagawa – When Your Plane Arrives Late at Night

If you are traveling to Japan and Narita specifically, you will need to consider options for how to get to your hotel or other destination into Tokyo.  Most often used methods of getting from the airport to many destinations in town are

  • the Airport Limousine (bus shuttle service)
  • the Narita Express (NEX) train – from Narita to Shinagawa for example;

On a recent trip, I flew in from Taipei into Narita.  My flight was supposed to arrive at Narita around 8:30pm;  However, the flight was delayed and I actually arrived around 9:30pm and as a result once I walked out into the international arrivals hall and got to the Airport Limousine bus to buy a ticket – I was told “no more busses…”

Turns out the busses that go to the hotels around the Shinagawa station left at 8:35pm as the last service.  So I was more than an hour late.

Next, I tried to get on the Narita Express — turns out – the situation was the same:  No train beyond 8:30 or so;

Now, you (like me) may ask “Why?  Who stops service so early in the evening?” etc.   But at the end of the day – it is what it is…. What do you do then?

I was able to get alternate route – which requres transfers but it worked well.  Here it is:

  • From Narita, buy ticket at the JR train booth/office for the SKYLINER express train. You will ride this train to the Nippori station;
  • At Nippori you need to look for the JR Yamanote line; Before you get to it you will need to get a fare adjustment; Nippori to Shinagawa should be around 200 Yen;   Then the train will be most likely on platform 10 (headed to Ueno);

In case you need to look for characters on the signs – for Shinagawa, those are 品川駅 (meaning Shinagawa Station) or just 品川 (Shinagawa);


Shinagawa Station at Night

Once you make it to the station, several hotels are within walking distance – for example, the Prince Sakura Tower;

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Istanbul, a Few Photos a Day – Installment 3

Istanbul – and the experience from visiting this great city, continue…

I hope you are not tired of these postings – and hopefully, the photos being uploaded via them are interesting enough to capture your imagination and influence a decision to travel and visit this interesting city…

So, here comes installment number 3 – the previous ones are visible here

Now of course it is time to post the next set – this time with views from a high point (hill) in the city – the Bomonti district, which sits high enough in Istanbul, allowing a visitor staying in one of the area hotels to get a very nice view of the city in many directions – towards Topkapi and the Blue Mosque, or towards the Bosphorus and its bridges or just into the new city itself.


Sunset in Bomonti, Istanbul


Another sunset view from Istanbul, Bomonti



View of the Bosphorus from the Bomonti Hilton


Look at the Gates and you can imagine the lavishness inside…

Well, enjoy you travels and think, think – when do I visit Istanbul…..

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Istanbul, a Few Photos a Day – Installment 2

So, the photo postings continue… There will be a series of postings from Istanbul, Turkey, and you better be patient – eventually, I will switch to the Pirin Mountains in Southwest Bulgaria.

If you want to experience the magnificent Pirin mountains ahead of time look in the top right corner of the Home Page on this blog for a link to a iBook you can purchase…Or use this link.

Now back to Istanbul and the Photo Moments from it:


Amazing photo showing Topkapi, Aya Sophia, and the Blue Mosque without headscarf, so we enjoyed only limited views


Istanbul Bridges over the Bosphorus


View from Hilton Bomonti, 33rd floor


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Istanbul, a Few Photos a Day

I have written a bunch of stuff about Istanbul, The Bosphorus, the Bosphorus tour, and other interesting places to see around this amazing and vibrant city.

Then I thought – why bother you with a bunch of writing, when I can provide you with photos from various parts of the city and views that I consider interesting, descriptive, and most of all – that show the color, culture, life and various aspects of Istanbul.

To that effect, let’s start publishing…. Hopefully you will like it, will find it useful, and figure out places you would like to see for yourself on your next trip there.

Here we go

Istanbul Blue Mosque as seen from the Bosphorus

Istanbul, the Blue Mosque as seen from the ferry to Kadikoy

The Maiden's Tower Bosphorus Istanbul

The Maiden’s Tower at the Bosphorus in Istanbul

As usual, please ask me for the high resolution versions of the images above – in favor of Web page speed loading, I publish reduced resolutions. The uncompressed images taken with 24Mpixel DSLR are 30MB each.   ENJOY!



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Boarding Passes: Airport Scams You Can Avoid

I have always wondered why the stores in the various airports want to scan your boarding pass especially when you are NOT shopping in a duty free shop.   Well, turns out there is a very special reason they are doing so …. Surprise – in order to get a nice sweet profit from your presence at their shopping counter.  Many countries around the world levy VAT (Value Add Tax).   That tax can be claimed back by tourists who are not going to ‘consume’ the product in the country under consideration.  For example all European Union countries have the VAT applied in their goods’ prices

That VAT is pretty hefty – on the average, I think around 25%.  Now, you as a tourist, if you are departing for a non-EU country, your shopping becomes a small wealth generation machine for the airport merchants.  They will claim the VAT on your behalf!  No, you will not see a refund or price discount.  You will pay as the next person over who is going to another EU country, but the merchant will claim the refund and pocket it.

The Independent – a UK paper – just published an interesting article with some statistics that demonstrate the degree of money being pocketed by the airport stores”

Prices and VAT / TAX at airports

Courtesy of the

So, next time you are shopping at the airport in a country with VAT – feel free to experiment – ask for a refund or on the spot price discount.  I know, I will – and will test the notion in a week on my next international trip!

Happy Travels!

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Turkey: Istanbul – More Photos

Istanbul – what a fascinating city.  A mixture of cultures, religions, customs, and on and on and on…So how do you write about it?   I think, with great difficulty.   You just have to experience it – and what a better way to do so but via photos.

So here we go – continuing the Travelogue – and will do so almost every day in order to give you as much as possible views from around different parts of the city.





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Turkey: Istanbul Travelogue…

Istanbul – what an amazing city.   Recently my family and I had the great opportunity to spend 6+ days in this city.  We were really impressed – more about that in postings to come – but here is a summary as to why:

  • Cosmopolitan city
  • Yet, brimming with history and ancient sites to visit and experience
  • An incredible mix of cultures, religions, art, and so on and so forth
  • Great food!!!
  • Smiley and ready to help people (even after you realize English is not spoken widely)
  • Efficient and even in rush hour capable public transport and taxi cabs
  • ….(I am sure I will summarize more given enough time)

With that summary (above) in mind, let’s see some photos as teasers of what will come soon enough… Enjoy – and as usual ask me for the full resolution photos (from my 24Mpixel DSLR)


Istanbul-Historic-Sites Hagia Sophia The Grand Bazzaar

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Bulgaria: Pirin Mountain Lakes – Continued

Earlier last week I posted a quick snippet of information about a beautiful corner of Bulgaria – the Pirin mountains and Pirin National Park.  As mentioned, you have good access to the mountains and park from the town of Bansko.

Today – let’s take a look specifically at the way to get to a couple of the glacier fed high mountain lakes — they are amazing in their severe beauty and well worth the good work out you will get getting there from the starting point we used.

From Bansko we drove in the direction on Banderishka poliana, (you can also get to it via the Gondola Lift from Bansko), and drove from there in the direction of Banderitsa Challet, where you could park and hike further up the mountain, or continue a while longer and park on the road and continue with a hike to the Vihren Challet – which is really the starting point for the hike to many of the lakes in the region.   The photo below is a composite MAP and photos I pulled together to give you both a map idea of the Vihren Challet and trail to a few of the lakes as well as a few photos of the lakes and scenery – i.e. to show you the hike is WELL WORTH it.


Some additional advice for your hike:

  1. Make sure you find a place to park close to the Vihren Challet – unless you drive up early in the morning – it is not likely that you will find parking space at the Challet, so plan to park on a safe space along the side of the road
  2. Bring water with you.  The hike is long and even though the air temperature is very comfortable – on our hike the weather was great: sunny, around 85F…but it is very dry and you can get quickly dehydrated.
  3. Comfortable, preferably hiking shoes – enough said!
  4. Map – pick up one from your hotel or Bansko, information center
  5. Some snacks / food — you will spend around 3 hours on the trail
  6. CAMERA!!! Of course – you will take tons of photos – the mountain, peaks, lakes, plants are incredibly beautiful

Enjoy your trip!

Posted in Bansko, Bulgaria, Bulgaria tips and tricks, Photo Gallery, Photo_Blog, Pirin Mountain, Travel Outside of China | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Beijing – Winter Olympics 2022 – Incredible

China-Beijing Something unexpected and really strange happened in the last couple of days – Beijing was selected as the host for the 2022 Winter Olympics Games!!! Isn’t that incredible…?  Why would I say that – well – very simple:  Beijing and its surrounding areas are NOT a winter wonderland!

Beijing is for sure a very dynamic, interesting, sports oriented and full of energy city.  BUT – that does not make it a good candidate for a Winter Olympics host.

The place is bone dry in the winter – cold and dry.  Usually, in the hotels you have to request a humidifier to ensure you get some help with the climate to help the skin on your body and make your stay more comfortable.

Now think how can such environment be conducive to winter and snow and ice dependent sports….?   The only answer is man-made snow !   But that is very water and energy dependent – and both of those are in relative short supply in the capital ….!

So I fully expect that the local government will mobilize an army of people to both clean up the city as well as man machines to generate snow.  If a country can pull off such a challenge – China is your choice – a society focused on the state’s success and good position in the global view.

I certainly hope the games are successful and snow abundant – I just wonder how was the choice made and was it purely investment dollars (RMB) driven with nature, natural resources, clean air – all being secondary and tertiary…!   Oh, well….!

China-Beijing-Skyline   Beijing-China

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Bulgaria: More About the Pirin Mountain Lakes

If you were intrigued about the picturesque mountain lake in the previous posting, let me provide you with some more visual clues to the origin of these lakes.   The Pirin mountain in Bulgaria is one of the big mountains on the Balkans.  Its peaks are high and nature stunning — you will find out more about that in the upcoming postings I will provide.

Here is a map with the general location of the area I will continue providing more information on:


In the meantime, here are some more photos to feed your imagination…


Pirin-Bulgaria-Summer-Snow      Porin-Mountain-Summer-Snow-hiking


These images of course are in low resolution to ensure the Web site loads up relatively fast…If you would like access to the full resolution including uncompressed (~30MB size) source images, please drop me a note via the feedback form below…

Stay tuned for more images and iBook I am planing to generate over the next 1-2 weeks as we complete the trip.

Posted in Bansko, Bulgaria, Bulgaria tips and tricks, Observations, Photo Gallery, Photo_Blog, Pirin Mountain, Travel Outside of China | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment