2023 has been one heck of a travel year with lots of memorable experiences. And while I have had some fantastic flights this year with airlines like Singapore Airlines, Delta, and ANA business class to Tokyo. There have also been some other fantastic travel experiences. These cover various activities, from hotel stays to spas, breweries, and even some unique anniversaries.
The Onsen at Tokyo Haneda is by far one of my favorite discoveries and experiences of 2023, which is unsurprising since it only opened in January 2023. I have enjoyed this place so much that I have been there four times this year, and I make sure to pop in whenever I stay in either the Hotel Villa Fontaine Premier or the Hotel Villa Fontaine Grande.
The Onsen is the perfect spot to relax after a long transpacific flight or if you are about to head out on a long journey like earlier this year when it took me 40 hours to get from Tokyo to New York via Vietnam and Germany. Highlights of the Onsen include:
- Super convenient, located practically on the doorstep of the airport.
- Wide range of baths for the ultimate relaxation experience.
- No time limits or restrictions so you can truly immerse yourself.
- Operates overnight throughout the night, making it ideal for watching the sunrise or sunset.
Needless to say, not everything is perfect, and it does have some drawbacks, although I must admit I am being critical for the sake of it here.
- It’s hard to see airplanes from the baths since they point in opposite directions.
- No tattoos are allowed; if you have tattoos, you must cover them before coming in.
- The Japanese experience may be unusual to foreigners and does take some getting used to.
The De Garde Brewing 10th anniversary was a trip to remember; not only was it a fantastic experience, but there were many friends there as well, which made the experience much more enjoyable. As a craft beer lover, I could not have asked for more from the trip. Outstanding beers with a wide range of flavors, a stunning location, and great company. What more could I have asked for?
The standout fact about the trip was meeting the De Garde founder and owner, Trevor, who proved to be an amazing host and a fountain of knowledge about everything brewing. I learned more than I thought was possible about craft beer in the space of an afternoon. Highlights of the event include:
- An amazing beer selection to sample and taste, some of the best I have come across.
- The private tour was a highlight; it was unrushed, informative, fun, and so much more.
- Great company and friendly crowd both at De Garde and attendees.
- As a fan of sours, there were some stunning ones on offer, arguably some of the best I have ever tasted.
If you are wondering what could have been a negative, it was due to third-party suppliers. A couple of food vendors did not show, leading to a backlog at the primary vendor, with waits of one to two hours. However, that still did not take much from what was a fantastic experience.
Nothing beats a fantastic surprise when it comes to travel experiences, and the LATAM Airlines VIP Signature Lounge Santiago Chile SCL blew me away within seconds. I don’t know what I expected when I got off my LATAM flight from New York, but I definitely was not expecting the stunning lounge that awaited me. I Never expected the LATAM lounge in Santiago to rival Oman Air’s Majan Lounge or some of the other premium lounges in Asia.
The lounge is feature-rich, with almost every amenity you could want. In addition, the staff were excellent and very helpful. Although this was a business-class lounge, it felt much more like a first-class lounge and screamed premium quality. The cherry on top for me was that the lounge never got busy during my whole stay, and who does not like some peace and quiet? Features of the LATAM Airlines VIP Signature Lounge include:
- The staff is amazingly friendly and responsive and have a truly staggering level of service.
- Beautiful color schemes and decoration, an exquisite setting.
- Classy and elegant showers and bathrooms.
- Complimentary premium drinks on demand.
- Incredibly stable and lightning-fast internet.
- A nap area that is private and, most importantly, quiet.
As impressive as the lounge was it did have a couple of issues in my eyes at least.
- No views of the airport; I love to watch aircraft landing and taking off from lounges.
- The nap room bedding was not the softest and most comfortable for me.
- Little natural light; while the lighting was adequate, more natural light would have been better.
This was a one-off event to celebrate 90 years of Air France. I purposefully scheduled a stop in Paris on my return from Turkiye to catch the Air France 90th Anniversary Exhibition and Fashion Show, coinciding with the Paris Fashion Week 2023.
I was fortunate to attend since the fashion show was sold out, and a friend of mine managed to get a last-minute ticket from someone who canceled. The experience was beautiful, with many things to see and buy, including some stunning posters and luggage tags. It was so good that I can’t wait to come back for the Air France 100th Anniversary event in 10 years’ time. Highlights of the event included:
- Some stunning artworks and posters, including an amazing one of Mount Fuji.
- Amazingly executed displays showcasing the history and pedigree of Air France.
- Air France memorabilia: There are lots to see and even purchase, including the set of plates from 1960 that I bought.
- Chatting with the store manager and learning more about the history of Air France and the displays on show.
Honestly, this was such a brilliant experience. There were not that many downsides. I would say it was super busy at times if I were super picky. Not to mention how hard it was to get some tickets. However, what do I expect for such a sought-after, in-demand event?
It is very difficult to describe why the Hamacho Hotel in Tokyo stuck with me, but it did. It is not a super luxurious facility with lots of amenities. In fact, it is a quality city hotel that delivers on many levels and has that X factor that is so hard to pin down. You remember your stay, and it was fun. However, there is no standout reason; it is a combination of all the little things that make this place so special. Highlights of my stay include:
- Excellent location for accessing the airport as well as exploring Tokyo.
- Brilliant food at both breakfast and dinner.
- Quick and stable Wi-Fi, perfect for catching up on some work.
- Very comfortable rooms.
- The hotel has the perfect balance of Amenities for a hotel of its type: not too many or too few.
The hotel had very few drawbacks, although if I had to pick, the table in the room was a little on the small side, especially if you wanted to get your laptop out and catch up on some work. That and the couch was not comfortable sitting on to work.
We travel to have experiences; ultimately, some are memorable, and some are best forgotten and never revisited. I was lucky in 2023, and the list of memorable trips and experiences far exceeded those that did not live up to their billing. Whether I was sampling sours at De Garde or Relaxing in the bath at the Onsen at Tokyo Haneda, 2023 will definitely be a year to remember, and some experiences were so good they will be repeated time and time again.