Victoria Harbour

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This was probably the most popular sight in Hong Kong and I would say what identifies it besides the Bruce Lee statue at the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade which is as of this writing is undergoing a renovation. I know there’s been an issue running about this to be nominated as the UNESCO World Heritage in Hong Kong and not the Chi Lin Nunnery which they thought about as not UNESCO worthy given it doesn’t really embodies the country in its identity. I can’t comment much about the said issue but to just admire this man-made (I would say) view in which is truly something you cannot miss. Although the Symphony of Lights isn’t really something to be in awe about, the ambiance at the Kowloon Public Pier, the ferries going back and forth Hong Kong Island, street performers at night and the historic clock tower watching Victoria Harbour makes it so popular. The area itself is flocked by tourists day and night. I think I saw more tourists than locals riding the Star Ferry going to the other side of the harbour. It seems rather amazing that TST itself is alived and fueled by the tourists with all its bright lights and luxury consumerism all over the place.

Osaka – Kyoto, Japan 7D6N Itinerary

There’s so many places to explore around Osaka and Kyoto. Given that it was named as the “Nation’s Kitchen” and the “City of Ten Thousand Shrines”, respectively. There’s so much of it to explore and a seven days trip wouldn’t fit much. But if you’re a history lover, here is our itinerary for our 7D6N in the Kansai region.

When I did plan our itinerary, I roughly included every single train ride that we need to get into. Google has a good coverage of Japan that you won’t be much in trouble of getting into the wrong train.

Day 1 

The first day was only getting settled in Japan as we flew via Cebu Pacific which only has a single flight every day. When we arrive it was almost midnight and no more time to explore as trains stops operation right before midnight. You’ll be like Cinderella here in Japan and not your 24 hours bus at home.

Day 1 Osaka JapanDay 2

Second day was spent entirely at Universal Studios Japan. Believe me that it’s worth a visit especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I have blogged our experience at USJ here.

Osaka USJ

We didn’t purchase the amazing pass due to laziness but I’m sure it’s really a good value

Day 3

Third day we were in Kyoto. If you’re a history person, you’d probably love it here (so I did). You walk a little and you see a shrine. Almost everything speaks history. And I just really fell in love. You can read a glimpse of our trip to Kyoto here.

Osaka Kyoto Day 2

We wen’t to Inari later on our trip and went to Kinkakuji straight away.

Kyoto Tour

Kyoto Tour

Some of it weren’t followed

Day 4 and 5

It was maybe of lack exercise which is why we always get a late start. Because the original itinerary intends to start early to be able to complete it. I decided to not follow it and just go where our feet takes us to.

Day 4 Japan

Osaka again. We’ve pretty much done the alternate thing. Kyoto is just an hour or so from Osaka which made the trip a lot easier. Although if you really want to spend a lot more time in Kyoto, I guess it is better to make Kyoto your home base. Day 4 and 5 can be read here.

Day 4 Osaka

Day 6

My energy we’re all depleted.

Day 6 Kyoto

Day 7

Going home. This was probably one of the best part of my trip. Drinking coffee al fresco style at a coffee shop while watching the world passes by contemplating about the whole trip.

day 7 osaka

Last two days here

Osaka Castle

Last 2 days in Japan : Fushimi Inari Shrine – Keihan City Mall & Osaka Castle

Happy New Year!

New year, new beginnings.. This post is long overdue now which is why I really need to publish this rather short  post.

We originally planned to go to Fushimi Inari Shrine and straight to Todaiji Temple after but ended up not going to Todaiji for it would be a long ride and long walk. Around lunch time we headed to Fushimi Inari Shrine. It was only a train ride from Temmabashi via the Keihan Line. We got off at the Fushimi Inari Station and walked for a few minutes.

View at the Keihan Line platform in Kyoto

You will be welcomed by this orange tori gate. You’ll definitely see a lot of orange here. I am not sure the reason behind the color and coming to think of it I need to do a google search.

We had lunch first before walking to the shrine. We had ramen coz basically that’s all most of the restaurants have there. I had a Tempura and fish soba noodles ramen with Inari sushi. The taste isn’t something worth mentioning but I really like the quality of the noodles. For the sushi, it taste a bit weird for it feels like I am eating spoiled rice because it is sour. Oh and this set meal cost me 1080 yen.

After lunch, we set ourselves to walk to the Inari shrine. There’s no entrance fee inside the shrine which made it more a worth going to place in Kyoto. The gates of the shrine is magnificent in orange guarded by foxes which I think serves as messenger to the Gods for them. The shrine has about 10,000 orange tori gates lined up across the hill. It’s a bit of a long walk up to the top which I haven’t had the chance to go up to. But they said and I saw from pictures that it is worth going to. This made me think that I really have to go back there too around November or April (I really have to).

The shrine was made famous from the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha when young Chiyo was running in happiness. I actually made a re-enactment of that scene but without sporting a kimono. Haha. At the shrine you’ll also find a lot of wishing wall. It’s actually fun to look at the creativity of people wishing and their wishes written. 😉

Around early in the afternoon, we decided to head back to Osaka and spent the rest of the day shopping at Keihan City Mall and resting.

Last day in Japan.

Our check-out at the hotel was around 11pm. Fortunately, the hotel allows us to leave our luggage there which gave us time to go wherever we want and spent the rest of the day until we leave for the airport. I had an early walk at the Osaka Castle around 9am. There were a lot of people who were up early and doing their morning walk and jog around the castle. I think the castle grounds is a pretty good place to have your morning exercise. I really wish that I live near the castle. The place was perfect for me.

It was the 400th years anniversary of the Toyotomi and Tokugawa war when we visited so the entrance fee at the castle was reduced to 400 yen only. The castle was built under the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and then fell from the Tokugawa clan. Destroyed by lightning fire, reconstructed and destroyed again from Meiji restoration period. After the WWII bombing, it was reconstructed to what it is today. I really got curious about the history of this castle and if you look at the whole map of the castle, it is quite interesting. There were really security features at the whole architecture of the place which made me think of how they were so intricate and careful at the things that they do. It was really beautiful even from our hotel room I can witness its magnificence.

Osaka CastleAs mentioned from my previous post, I have already visited the castle at night which made it the second time for me to visit it. I didn’t get the chance to go to the castle garden (I need to go back again). After the walk around the castle, I went back to the hotel and we spent the rest of the day drinking green tea at an Italian coffee shop across our hotel. I really enjoyed the cool breeze of Japan outside the cafe and reflect about our week trip in Osaka and Kyoto. It was a nice experience that I won’t ever forget and made me want to travel more.

Day 4 & 5: Korean Town – Tenjimbashi-suji and Shitennoji Temple – Shinsaibashi-suji – Dotombori – Umeda

At the time of this writing it would be exactly three months since my trip and I am afraid it was no longer vivid in my memory that I really need to write it now. It’s Christmas eve for most people but for me it’s just an ordinary day and so I am blogging.

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It’s not very unusual but we started late on our fourth day. I guess that’s why we never so much experienced the subway rush hour in Osaka. We went to Tsuruhashi Shopping street, the one they called Korean Town, on a Wednesday. When we arrived, little did we know that the reason that there were not much shops opened was because it is closed every Wednesday. Total failure! Although, we still found some that were open. Luckily, we run into a Filipina woman who we had a really interesting chat with. She told us to go to Tenjimbashi-suji which we did after we had lunch at a Korean restaurant. (We’re in Korean town duh!)

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For only 1050 yen, We had 삼겹살. It’s a famous Korean dish and is really one of my favorites. The food is pretty good and I was full after but be prepared to smell like charcoal after.

DSC_0453After a satisfying lunch, we headed to Tenjimbashi-suji as it was recommended for cheap shopping. Shopping streets in Japan all look fairly similar. You can always expect one long street of individual shops lined-up. I think it’s actually pretty cool than going to the mall and have to go round and round trying to find shops. At least, a single line will ensure you that you won’t miss any shop as you pass by.

Another interesting find in Japan are their numerous arcade shops, well they are not really arcade shops because you have to shell out a lot of money to keep playing. You will see a lot of old man playing what seems like pinball but not really it.

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We pretty much spent the whole day shopping until our feet can walk. If you are looking for cheap souvenirs from Osaka, you might as well find it here.

For the shoppaholics, shopping might be easy-pissy but for us it’s totally hard. It was hard to get up the next day from all the walking. Thank God I bought a really nice pair of comfortable sneakers or I’d die from all the walking we did.

Fifth day’s highlight was the Shitennoji Temple. If you are not aware of it, it’s the oldest shrine in Osaka and you might as well notice from the picture below on how old it is. You can easily access this temple via the Shitennoji-mae station. It’s just five minutes walk from the station.

20140925_112448 400 years old Shrine 

We got a free pass inside the shrine not because of the Osaka Amazing pass but because there was a Buddhism ceremony so it was free. Yay for us! On a normal day the entrance fee is 300 yen. I think this temple is a must go if you are in Osaka as this resembles one of the Japanese culture. The structure’s architecture was magnificent and the whole area was really well planned. Then I wondered, how come we don’t have such places like this.

Shitennoji Panorama

A bad Panoramic View @ Shitennoji Temple

When we had enough of the shrines, relics and old stuff, we were off to Shinsaibashi-suji for some premier shopping (coz you know we have to). Oh well, it’s another long street of all the expensive, luxurious brand you can imagine. At the front of the shopping street, you will be welcomed by UNIQLO and H&M. Why do they always have to be in-front or beside each other?

DSC_0482The best thing about Shinsaibashi-suji? There’s free wifi. Hahaha. I should’ve really got a Docomo wifi so that I am not searching everywhere for wifi.

And this year you might have heard about.. Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary and yes Hello Kitty is not a cat. You will find a lot of store dedicated to Hello Kitty here but just be ready for your money to be taken away. Haha! 

Now I know why the lady we met in Tsuruhashi told us about Shinsaibashi-suji, that you should dress well when you go there. There’s only a slim chance for you to find a cheap item there. However, there’s one thing I noticed about the Japanese. Back in my home country, if you don’t dress well and walked into a high-end shop.. You will get quite a stare and be snobbed by the sales lady. But in Japan, tho I was just wearing casual outfit, I never get to experienced to be snobbed. They were actually very enthusiastic about selling their products to, which makes me to really wanna buy the Samantha Thavasa bag only if it won’t cost me a fortune.

At the end of Shinsaibashi-suji, you will be welcomed by the famous Glico billboard and apparently when we visit it was being fixed. It was replaced by a Glico girl.

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Dotombori Cruise

Dotombori was another walkathon. You’d really develop some leg muscles while you’re in Japan. There’s no question why they all look skinny and slim from all the walking they do everyday. I would appreciate this kind of walking if only we have a great subway system and trains. (Deep sigh!)

After Dotombori, we went back to our hotel and last minute went to the Hankyu Department store at Umeda. Good thing we purchased the one-day unlimited subway pass for 800 yen which made us save some yen.

You can spot Matsuya from this street which was my favorite Gyudon fast food chain. The food was priced reasonably and it taste good (at least for me), especially the rice. We weren’t able to try the HEP 5 ferris wheel because we got there so late. So we only did some strolling around and went back to Temmabashi around 22:00 where our feet led us walking to the Osaka Castle.

It’s kind of creepy walking at night. The place looks kind of eerie at night especially the outer moat but it was such an experience and the weather was good too (a chilly kind of night). We spent the rest of the night walking around the castle before resigning to our hotel rooms.

Reminiscing about my trip to Osaka makes me want to travel more and experience other places. Travelling opens you up to different perspectives.

I will write about the last two days of my trip before I head of to Subic for the New Year.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Kyoto (Kinkakuji – Nishiki – Kiyomizudera – Gion) – Japan September 2014

Third day in Japan was the Autumnal Equinox Day. It’s usually held around September 22 or 23 and this year it was on the 23rd. From my original itinerary plan, third and fourth day should be spent consecutively in Osaka because of the Amazing pass but unfortunately I won’t get much from the free entrance on different landmarks because it is a holiday and most are closed those days.  We (I) decided to head to Kyoto instead and  of course had a late start. We left Temmabashi around half past 8 in the morning and arrived nearly 10am in Kyoto Station. We took the Keihan line going to Tambabashi and changed line to the Kintetsu line going to Kyoto Station.

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Vending machines at Tambabashi Station

We specifically went to the Kyoto station just to purchase the one-day unlimited bus pass (500 yen). The bus pass will allow us to ride Kyoto buses as long as we can. I think in DSC_0273Kyoto the buses are the much more ideal way of travelling (except for traffic) since the trains don’t have much coverage around the area. After purchasing the bus pass, we went to the Kyoto-jimae bus station and got a glimpse of the Kyoto Tower.

Our first stop was Kinkaku-ji because according to Trip Advisor, it is best to go to the Golden pavillion in the morning when there is less crowd. We took the bus 205 which stops at the nearest bus stop to Kinkaku-ji. I know we should’ve taken the Roku tourist bus but there was a long line at the bus station which made us decide not to ride it. I am not sure if we made a good decision or not but I think the ride was fine. There’s not much traffic anyway, just many stops.

The entrance inside the Golden Pavillion costs only 300 yen and I think it was one of my best money spent in Japan. My jaw dropped when I saw the temple. When I was looking at pictures of the temple on Flickr, I was already in awe but seriously seeing it in person was a different story. It’s beyond beautiful probably because of the authentic gold leaf around the two stories of the structure and also the fact that it is at a perfect position on a pretty landscape. I know it would be much more beautiful when all leaves are red at autumn but for me, it was already beyond perfect when I saw it. This is really worth a visit if you happen to be in Kyoto. This also belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

We spent around one hour walking around the temple grounds and then we head over to Senichimae.

Confirming our route going to Nishiki Market was quite a story. We asked an otosan (father) we saw in front of the gate of Kinkaku-ji on what bus we have to ride going to Nishiki Market. Apparently, we don’t know any Nihon-go and so English is our way of communication there. I’m already pretty sure that the same bus will take us to Senichimae. However, I still did ask just to make sure that my analysis of the bus route is correct. We showed the man with his wife and cute little kids the bus route map we got from Kyoto Station. He spoke a lot of Japanese sentences which we didn’t understand and from the looks of his face, he’s debating of which stop we should get-off. We had a pretty long conversation with the man without even understanding what we are saying to each other along with our “what were you trying to say” faces. Regardless, we were able to understand what he was pointing on the map though. So after like thirty minutes or so, we went to the bus stop and head over to Senichimae. While on the bus, we met some religious Filipinos who rode the bus with us. They asked if my friend is a Filipino and that if she also attended the anniversary mass of their church. Probably, one of also the best thing on a trip is the random small talk with friendly strangers. The bus stop information we got was correct and we arrived smoothly at the Nishiki Market. Most shopping places in Japnishiki marketan is usually one long street and Nishiki Market is no different. I think it’s kind of like a wet market but not really. You can find mostly peculiar food. We only did walk and observed for a bit before we took our lunch. We had an obanzai at Ichiba coji. I recommend this restaurant (not a food critique tho). It’s not that expensive but not cheap either. Meal starts around 1250 yen. I pretty much enjoyed the food. We asked again how to get to the Kiyomizu-dera albeit I know that I have to ride the 207 bus. But this time, I think it was my worst decision that day. The cashier said that we have to ride the 207 bus so I confirmed that my analysis of the bus route again is correct. We were about to leave when the cashier approached me and gave a sketch. She explained that there are two 207 buses and that I have to cross the road from Nishiki and ride the bus stop there. I was a bit confused because I thought that the other stop will get us to Kiyomizu-dera faster. Then I made my worst decision, I followed her advice and wait for the 207 bus which will take us almost around Kyoto passing the Kyoto Station and then nearly the last route is Kiyomizu-dera. Ha! We spent like an hour riding the bus where it could have only been 5 or 10 minutes. I lost the chance of seeing the temple at the golden hour and wasted an hour of day sitting on the bus. Kiyomizu-deraIt was probably not the best picture but the walk going up to the temple was such an experience. It is another UNESCO World heritage site. We checked if it really the temple that has no nails but we found nails. I didn’t quite understood what they were referring to about the nails. The other temple was being renovated and so it doesn’t fit quite well in the picture. I will certainly need to go back here and I will make sure that it is when the leaves are red. It was already around six in the evening and we were already dead tired. I suggested that we head over to Gion which was the old Geisha district in Kyoto. We rode the bus again and got off at the Gion station. We were searching for a nice restaurant to eat dinner and we came across Hanamikoji-Dori. I still didn’t know that place before and I only realised it after coming back from Japan. We didn’t explored the street much and ended up going home to Osaka. Getting the correct bus was quite a struggle and I only guessed which train station we need to hop into to get back to Temmabashi. I only remembered Sanjo station that it has the Keihan line so we decided to go there. We rode the bus at Gion bus stop headed to Sanjo. Inside the bus, we still debated if we were getting the right station that will take us to Osaka. Then a local approached us that we were riding the wrong bus and so we got off at the bus stop which incidentally in front of the Gion-Shijo exit. The local get-off the same bus stop with us and told us instructions and then that’s when I saw the Keihan line sign on the Gion-Shijo exit. And it was like a miracle from heaven. We were able to go back to our hotel safe and sound.

Tip: If you’re not adventurous and not good with physical map, get the docomo wifi.

We wrapped up our day tired and exhausted again but really happy.

Osaka – Universal Studios Japan September 2014

Never thought I would start blogging again.

I start something, get bored, delete it and later on decide that I wanna do it again. It’s probably a blog life crisis – if there’s such a thing. Nonetheless, I am writing again.

First time travelling. Why Japan? If your going to ask me where I would like to go? I would answer South Korea without hesitation. It might be because of my love for their culture, their patriotism and respect for their history and competitiveness and probably a lot more reasons. However, flights were expensive so I have to choose another place that might be a good replacement for Korea. That time I had no real idea what to expect in Japan. When we booked the flight, I just did a google search of Osaka and Universal Studios and a bunch of other placed popped up and I was “There’s so much to explore”. Okay. Let’s go to Osaka. And boy, I wasn’t disappointed…not a single time.

Autumn leaves

It was the end of summer and autumn was at its beginning. Leaves were starting to change colors, weather started to get cooler. In short, it was a good time to travel. Some might argue that, “No, Kansai is best at November when autumn is at its peak”. But if you do not like to join a big crowd in November and the colder weather, I think late September is a good time.

Welcome to Kansai! We arrived at Kansai International Airport (KIX) late at night. Just after we boarded-oDSC_0015ff the plan, I can feel that I am already in Japan. Very friendly people, we took the tram from the boarding area to the Immigration. Queueing at the Immigration didn’t took so long maybe because it’s already late. When we got our passports stamped we headed to the JR West office to buy our ICOCA + Haruka Express round trip ticket worth 4060 yen. According to my research, it is pretty good value considering we won’t get much from a 7-days JR pass. The ICOCA is a reloadable card (eliminates falling in line to get train tickets) and it’s preloaded with 1500 yen plus the round trip ticket thru JR Haruka. Accounting it, we saved I think around 2000+ yen.

We took the JR Haruka Express going to Kyoto and get-off at Tennoji Station. We used the Haruka Express ticket we bought along with the ICOCA. From Tennoji Station, we changed platform to catch the subway Tanimachi line going to Temmabashi. Temmabashi station was our home base for our week long trip in Kansai. I think it was a strategic location considering Temmabashi houses the Tanimachi Line which provides access to the whole Osaka Municipal Subway and the Keihan Line which can bring us in Kyoto.

Universal StudiosDay 1: Universal Studios Japan. We took three transfers going from Temmabashi to Universal Studios. You know the feeling of waiting to get your picture taken from the Universal Studios globe because you want the word “Universal” is captured. When we arrived, we bought our tickets which cost around 6980 yen. Again, queue is not pretty bad. You just have to choose which line moves faster. We went on a Monday since there are more people on a weekend and the day after is a holiday in Japan means there would be a lot of people that would go. USJ is pretty jam packed lately because of the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you are not aware of Harry Potter, oh well you are missing a whole lot of your childhood.

After buying our tickets, we went inside and straight to get our timed-entry tickets to Wizarding World. They had this timed-entry to limit the people going in because every one would want to go inside. We arrived at 10am in USJ and the timed-entry ticket we got is around 6:30 in the evening. Considering it was still fairly early in the morning (USJ opens at 9am), there’s really a lot of people wanting to go inside Wizarding World.

I haven’t been to any Universal Studios and this was my first time going so I cannot really compare it to any of the other theme parks. I think USJ is pretty awesome, I like how the buildings are structured, the architecture looks exquisitely planned and I was pretty amazed. I thought I am transported into a different place with Japanese characters everywhere.

Japanese Fashion

You will be able to notice how Japanese are crazy of dressing up. Their fashion is incredible, I felt like I was under-dressed. We spent the whole day before going inside WWHOP roaming around USJ and going to rides. Apparently, even we went on a Monday, the lines were still long. From 10am to 5pm, we were only able to go to 3 attractions, The Space Fantasy, The Amazing Spiderman and Sesame Street 3D. I think we spent a whole lot of our time falling in line where I felt my legs has gained some abs from the workout of standing. Haha.

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And of course, the highlight of our USJ trip was the magically enchanting Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Wizardng World of Harry Potter

We were able to ride the Forbidden Journey which was beyond amazing. I can’t describe how much I enjoyed it.. for you to have it experience yourself and you will know. I didn’t screamed out of horror but screamed out of happiness during the ride. I didn’t even bother with the queue for it was like another trip itself inside the Hogwarts Castle. While, the Flight of the Hippogriff was a bit par from the Forbidden Journey but it was still nice feeling the cold weather of Osaka while having the view of Hogwarts in front of us.We were also able to try the butterbeer and did shopping around Hogsmeade. Every thing inside was so nice I felt like I have to break Gringotts. Haha.

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Even if the timed-entry ticket says the we were only allowed to stay for an hour, we spent our whole night until closing inside the Wizarding World. I still don’t want to leave at 10pm but we were so tired and it’s already closing time so I had no choice but to bid farewell to this magical world of Harry Potter. I certainly would like to go back.

Tip: Since everyone will be on their way home from Universal Studios, the train station would be full and good thing if you have the ICOCA card, you don’t have to fall in line to buy tickets.

The whole day seemed not enough to explore Universal Studios Japan. If you went early, you can still purchase the Express pass which will be able to let you skip the long lines and ride as much as you can. There’s also other attractions like the One Piece show but it was already sold out. For more USJ pics. Visit my Flickr page. More Japan posts soon.