Narita Airport’s Smoking Rooms, Free Wi-Fi, and Exciting Toilet Bowls

Japanese packaging for a pack of Marlboro Light Menthols.

As a not avid but long time smoker, something I enjoy about foreign airports is that their assholes aren’t so tightened by political stupidity that they’ve banned smoking rooms.  I understand that non-smokers don’t want to inhale smoke, but I also think it’s wrong to punish smokers, or inconvenience them, for doing something that isn’t illegal.  Singapore’s Changi Airport has smoking rooms.  Japan’s Narita Airport has smoking rooms.  Germany’s Frankfurt Airport has smoking rooms.  NAIA in the Philippines doesn’t have a smoking room, but the Philippines tries to emulate all the laws the US passes, and that airport just sucks anyway, so it doesn’t count.

On a long-haul flight from Manila in the Philippines to New York City, that stop at Narita is a small blessing if you’re a smoker.  I’ve gone through there twice, in different areas each time, and in both instances a smoking room was conveniently placed for people on short or long layovers.

The smoking rooms are completely closed in with tinted glass windows and doors that you open by pushing on a pad on the door, located where a handle would normally be.  Inside is a vending machine, lots of benches, a television, cigarette butt receptacles / ashtrays and even a stand with car-style lighters for people who forgot those or couldn’t get their lighter through security at their point of origin.

A Japanese man and woman taking a break in a smoking room at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan.

When I sat down in the smoking room it had a really relaxing atmosphere.  There was an assorted crowd inside that fluctuated constantly as people rushed in and rushed out to head to their gates.  I saw Japanese businessmen talking in clipped tones, likely about some upcoming project, convention or deal.  I saw airline attendants, Japanese and otherwise, enjoying their breaks.  There were plenty of travelers, mostly Asian, lounging with dazed looks on their faces.

A group of Japanese people in a smoking room at Narita Airport, Tokyo, Japan.

While there, a traveler that looked like he was from the Middle East was trying to give away a meal voucher he had.  He asked me if I had time ‘til my next flight and told me about the voucher, asking if I wanted it.  I only had a few minutes left by that point so I declined.  It was odd, but he went around almost the whole room before running into someone that would take it from him.  It’s possible that everyone had a connecting flight coming up shortly, but I think it’s more likely that most people just won’t take something free, because scams are so prevalent.  No one wants to get suckered.

Another guy I spoke to was from the US.  He was on his way back home to pick up his dogs and bring them back to Japan.  That sparked a long conversation about pet importation, since I had my cat Marble with me on my flight, importing her to the US, and had previously imported her and three other cats to the Philippines from Singapore.  Japan is pretty strict on their import requirements, especially compared to the US which barely asked me for any documentation at all for Marble and didn’t require an import permit.

Sitting on the floor near my connecting flight's gate, charging my phone at a wall outlet.

Narita as a whole is a very modern, attractive airport that reminded me of Changi and the airport in Kuala Lumpur.  My only complaint about the place is that it didn’t have free wi-fi throughout the terminal, though I did find a wi-fi kiosk sponsored by Google.  The catch was that after registering to use the service, you were presented with an advertisement encouraging you to download the latest version of Google’s browser, Chrome.

Google sponsored free wi-fi at Narita Airport in Tokyo Japan.

Leaving Narita and arriving at JFK in New York was like leaving a posh neighborhood and stepping into the projects.  JFK even smells funny, but from what I’ve been told it’s common knowledge that the place is a dump in serious need of remodeling.  One of the most interesting thing about Narita, though, are the toilets.  Have a look for yourself:

A toilet with butt sprayer, butt blow dryer and heated seat at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan.

These types of toilets are common in Japan.  The one pictured above had a heated toilet seat and a sprayer that you could use to clean your backside.  It also had a blow dryer that would dry your backside after it was sprayed clean.  Even if I’d needed to use them, I don’t think I would, since it was a public toilet.  I spent about five minutes looking at the toilet bowl from different angles, trying to figure out where the spray and blow drying would come from, but I gave up.  If I ever have a chance to stay in a hotel in Japan, I might give it a try.  Or France.  I hear they’re used there too.

Passing through Narita is, overall, a pleasant experience with a clean environment, satisfactory amenities and interesting people watching opportunities.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Part 5: Hotel Chinatown 2 Review

Hotel Chinatown 2 is located on Jalan Petaling in the Chinatown area of Kuala Lumpur.  It’s a little tricky to find it, because there is also a Chinatown Hotel Inn or something like that a few doors down.  Also, the only visible sign is the one high up on the building, that you can see in the above picture.  There is a sign at the street level entrance, but that entrance is hidden from the main walkway by street vendors.

This hotel is a great find, if you go into it with the right mentality.  If you’re looking for luxury, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  This place is all about price and location.  For two nights in the hotel (check-in Monday afternoon and check-out on Wednesday morning) we paid a total of about 188 ringgit.  That’s a good deal!  As for the location, the door to the hotel opens onto Jalan Petaling, which is a touristy type area in Chinatown with lots of shops where you can browse for souvenirs.  Also, it’s two blocks from the Pasar Seni train station, which we put to good use.

As for the hotel itself, the lobby area is very comfortable.  It has a few cozy couches, a TV, a book rack with a guitar on top, and a few computers for public use at 1 ringgit per 10 minutes.  There’s free wi-fi, which worked for me on my Nokia E51 in the lobby, but I couldn’t connect properly up in the actual room.  I kept getting a “no reply from gateway” error.  I don’t know what that was all about, but it didn’t really bother us too much, so I didn’t ask about it.  We just used the paid computers for a little while in the evening to keep up with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The room we booked was the “standard” room, which came with a double bed.  It was a bit cramped, honestly, and that feeling was compounded by the fact that there was no window.  At first that bothered me a bit, but then I realized that it probably had no window because it was on the back or side of the building.  That’s a good thing, because it meant we wouldn’t hear as much of the racket from the street below.  The paint was worn and scuffed, the floor was a bit dirty, and there were no toiletries provided.  The TV in the room only picked up 5 or 6 channels.  Only one of those channels was in English and it seemed to rotate between different stations.  What I mean is, if you left it on that channel, which was 12 I think, it might be National Geographic at 8pm, Animal Planet at 9pm, and then a local station at 10pm.  I thought that was kinda odd, but again, it didn’t bother us that much.  We weren’t really there to just lay around in the room watching TV.  If you do happen to be up late though, around 1 or 2 am, flip through the channels until you find a program where there’s a girl sitting behind a laptop, presenting requested music videos.  Neither the program nor the videos are in English, but it’s hilarious!  They played these crazy Indian music videos, complete with “Slumdog Millionaire” dance routines and the accompaniment of the high pitched female vocals.  Besides that, the videos are just hilarious!  I don’t think they’re meant to be, but they were to us!  Also, the music really isn’t that bad at all in most cases.

I think the best features of the room were that the water was nice and hot for showers, and the air conditioning blew nonstop and got nice and cold at night.  Even under the thick blanket it was a bit cool.  Both of these things were a nice change for me, since I’ve been living in Singapore.  Here, the air conditioning isn’t used much and the water heaters are small and I can rarely finish showering before the hot water runs out.  I think I stayed in the shower for 30 minutes each time, enjoying how hot the water was and the fact that it stayed hot.  Plus that cold air conditioning is a relief after a day out in the sun there.

Another thing the hotel has going for it is the staff.  They’re very friendly, very helpful, and very knowledgeable about the city.  They helped us find the train station and also told us how to get back to the airport for the best price (a cheap bus from the downstairs area of KL Central).  Also, the guy at the counter had a conversation with me while I enjoyed a cup of coffee and my wife was busy on one of the public computers.  Oh, and the rooms are cleaned daily.  At least, I think it was cleaned.  The bed was made at least, and nothing was missing from our bags.  That’s always a bonus.  If you do have something expensive, the place has safe deposit boxes in the lobby too.

The hotel also has some dormitory style areas that can be rented out.  I didn’t look around there too much, except for one time when I passed through it to get to a bathroom.  It looked clean and the beds were set up two to a cubicle.  There was a youngish looking girl writing a paper on her laptop at a table in the dormitory area.  I guess it must be fairly safe.  I did see a TV behind the front desk that was showing views from security cameras, so that area must be kept under surveillance to make sure nothing happens to the guests.

Overall, we were satisfied with our stay there.  If we find ourselves in Kuala Lumpur again and need to stay the night, we’ll definitely be trying for a room there again.

Here are some of the photos we took inside the hotel: