Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Dormy Inn Hotel Takasaki (ドーミーイン高崎)

The first thing we did on arriving in Takasaki was to go straight to the tourist information counter at the station and get all the travel details we needed for our planned day out the next day, plus a couple of general directions to the hotel. Apart from giving us the bus timetables we required, the staff there also gave us a whole stack of brochures on things to do in the area. Takasaki's considered the gateway to Gunma Prefecture, which means it has transport links to everywhere else, but isn't considered terribly interesting on its own. With less than a day to spend in Takasaki though, there were still a lot of sights we were forced to pass over. 

It took us about 25 minutes to get our bearings on leaving the train station from the West Exit and ask for more directions to get to the hotel, because my phone had died and the map was lost. Turns out the route was fairly straightforward - go down the main road and turn left before the local Takashimaya, go past the parking lot and lo! The sun was beginning to set by the time we got to Takasaki, and the Dormy Inn Hotel was painted a rather unfortunate dull yellow that made it look sort of crumbly and foreboding in the waning light, so the three of us braced ourselves for the eventuality that it would suck massively. 

When we went into the lobby though, it didn't look so bad. There was a counter for guests to help themselves to free coffee, tea and juice, so I got myself a cup of their special corn husk tea and went to poke around the ground floor while D went through the necessary check-in administration details. That's when I saw the sign board for free ramen from 9.30 pm to 11 pm, and decided I liked the place immensely. 

The only reason we were in the Dormy Inn Takasaki was because there'd been a slight mix up with our rooms in Tokyo, and we decided to cancel the entire reservation there and spend more time in Gunma instead. M went onto TripAdvisor and when she found that the top-rated hotel in Takasaki had been fully booked, settled on the Dormy Inn, which had received a number of fairly good reviews. None of the rooms fit three, but for the rates they were going for, getting an extra single room wasn't much of an issue. 

The rooms were fairly small but contained all the necessary amenities, and being a new establishment everything still gleamed. We were given a passcode for the ladies' bath but rather jumbled instructions on when it was open , so M & I decided to have a look for ourselves. Given what we were told at reception and the size of the building, we assumed there was only one bath to be shared at different periods of time, but we managed to sort out that this wasn't the case. Separate men's and women's baths were located on the top floor, open throughout most of the day save a few hours in the afternoon for cleaning. 

Like our room, the baths were compact but contained everything you needed. There were two varieties each of soaps, shampoos and hair conditioners, one hot indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a cold pool as well as a sauna room. Since we were the only ones about, our bath was a very relaxing one, although I imagine if more people were about it could get quite claustrophobic. 

When we went out to find a place to have dinner, we passed by a stage set up for the Takasaki Music Festival 2013, with events running from the 13th of September to the 6th of October. We went closer, and since the stage was near the bus terminal, I left M & D with the rest of the spectators and zipped across the road to find out where we needed to catch our buses from the next day so we wouldn't get lost. When I got back, an acapella group had just begun a rendition of Stand By Me, so the three of us sang along together with the other audience members. We stayed for the rest of the set. We later got a brochure for the Music Festival, and the rest of the line-up included four nights of jazz, a symphonic orchestra, really underground punk rock and German folk music.  

After dinner, I changed into the hotel pyjamas provided and went downstairs for the strong WiFi connection and to wait for the free ramen. One of the other guests joined me in my vigil. At 9.20 pm, a lady came into the dining area and started setting up the trays and tea. 

At 9.30 pm sharp, she took our orders. 

It was a simple but delicious bowl of ramen, accompanied by a glass of cold mugicha (Roasted Barley Tea) from the dispenser by the ramen counter. I only had one bowl, but both the ramen and the tea were free flow, and I watched the man eat three bowls. When I left, he had just ordered his fourth. 

The pillows were to my liking so I had a very good sleep. The next morning, there were waffles, cold udon and a meat and radish stew in the breakfast buffet spread, and we ate heartily while watching a morning programme that was teaching housewives how to apply fake lashes. There was time yet before the first bus we had to catch, so we lingered before bringing our bags down to leave behind the counter and setting off on the day's adventure. 

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