Friday, March 1, 2019

Winter in Sapporo, Japan? Then prepare for the best and the worst!

The wife and I travelled to Sapporo, Japan to enjoy our first winter. We opted to have our first winter experience in tandem with Sapporo Snow Festival being held every February.

Having visited many countries we thought we were completely prepared for our Sapporo trip. Since it was our first time to experience winter or snow we researched extensively on how to safely prepare for winter. We checked the weather forecast from time to time and purchased winter clothes and boots. My wife even had a taste of winter, minus the snow, when she accompanied our medical student daughter in December last year to Seoul, South Korea during her "elective medical clerkship" for two weeks. She was a bit disappointed though since there wasn't any snow during their stay.

On February 4 we arrived at Sapporo City, Hokkaido and stayed near Odori Park where the yearly Snow Festival was being held. We were jumping, laughing, and having snow fights on our first couple of days. We loved the feeling and sound of snow getting crumpled under our snow boots. In addition, we booked a one hour snowmobile experience and a 5 minute banana ride on the snow. I even fulfilled my dream of making a "snow angel."

That is Naruto restaurant at Otaru.

Otaru Canal

On our fourth day, while visiting Otaru Canal, we were surprised that instead of being surreal and romantic, Otaru area was literally covered with thick blanket of snow and we found it difficult to traverse along the canal bank. Moreover, I could say that there was a blizzard since strong winds were blowing the snow from the roofs. Aside from that, the wife was shaking and coughing profusely due to extreme cold. We never thought winter in Otaru would be so harsh that you couldn't even clearly see the road. So after strolling along the canal bank and shopping at music box museum and Le Tao we decided to return back to Otaru train station without even bothering to try the famous Naruto's Fried Chicken. We took our late lunch back at Sapporo City.

Later that day we learned that Hokkaido was having a record breaking cold snap in forty years. If I remember it correctly, the mercury dropped to as low as -22 degrees Celsius. In addition, Tokyo City was affected by heavy snow as well. On the same day, we received an email from Jetstar stating that our flight was rescheduled. Our (cancelled) flight was supposed to leave Chitose Airport at past 3:00PM while the email stated that our new flight was an hour earlier. I didn't noticed the date, I thought it was the same day, February 9.

Cancelled flights on February 9

Thus on Feb 9, after purchasing several boxes of Le Tao cheesecakes at Chitose airport Duty Free shops, we lined-up at Jetstar check-in counter and noticed that around 5 flights to Tokyo were cancelled due to heavy snow; only our flight was as per schedule. Upon reaching the counter the staff couldn't find our booking; that was the time we learned that our flight was rescheduled from Feb 9 to Feb 11; mind you, we were not alone in this predicament. Several passengeres ahead us were even arguing with the staff regarding their cancelled flights. Since there were 5 flight affected by the heavy snow fall in Tokyo, obviously hundreds of passengers scheduled to leave on that day need to extend their stay at Sapporo City; definitely hotels would be fully booked.

We hurriedly proceed to nearby airport hotel; sadly there was no available room. Fearing that we would end up sleeping at the airport, the wife while in panic mode immediately logged-in to her accounts in Agoda and Booking sites. She's expert on this matter because she's the one normally searching and booking our hotels whenever we travel. Thankfully, within 10 minutes, she was able to book a twin room for 2 night at Sapporo City.

In short, we extended our stay in Japan and spent additional 24,000 pesos for 2 night stay in hotel not to mention the train fares in travelling back and forth between Sapporo City and New Chitose Airport and our meals. Also, can you imagine the time and effort in travel preparation and inconvenience this has caused to us? My wife was unwell due to extreme cold.

We never purchase travel insurance so we ended up spending large amount of money for the extra 2 day. I apologized to the wife since I overlooked the date of our new flight.

Our flight GK108 was allowed to leave while 4 flight were cancelled 

Two days later we were back at the airport. We noticed that several flights to Tokyo have been cancelled on that day too. Nervously we approached the counter and we almost shout in joy after receiving our boarding passes.

The flight to Narita airport then back to Manila was flawless so our stress immediately disappeared into thin air and joked and laughed about our Sapporo winter experience.

At the end of the day, we concluded that our first winter together have been the best and worst times of our travelling experience but definitely unforgettable!

Our next winter escapade hopefully will be at Niseko, Japan and this time we will be prepared for the worst.

No comments:

Post a Comment