Categories
Japan Osaka Travel

Japan 2018

First solo international flight ko ngayon. Hindi naman ako masyado kinakabahan kase twice na ko nakapuntang Japan. Nakapag solo flight na din ako dati nung pumunta kong Cebu pero andun naman si Kenneth. Ngayon solo lang talaga ko. 3 days lang naman mabilis lang. Ang ayoko lang sa trip ko na to eh naka parang dorm lang ako (para tipid). Eh medyo paranoid kasi ako feeling ko laging may mangyayaring masama (PTSD). Siguro next time hanap na lang ako ng mura basta solo lang ako sa room. Safe naman sa Japan pero mas ok pa din yung sigurado.

Kailangan ko nang maligo in 10 minutes. Sana wala akong malimutan. At sana wag ako masyadong maligaw dun kasi hindi na ko nagrent ng pocket WiFi. Wala naman ako masyadong pupuntahan.

Mamimiss ko si Kenneth and Almond. ❤️

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Categories
Family Life Pals Travel

2017 Highlights

I’ve been meaning to do this kind of post to just put everything that I want to remember for 2017 in a nugget. So here it is:

  • Spent the New Year with F Buddies at our place. My parents were pretty strict back then; even after I graduated college. So having my friends over for a drinking session for the very first time was very unusual and memorable for me.
  • Jen, our previous LNC teammate, was back from Abu Dhabi (or was it Dubai?) and so we got together and went to our favorite spot (Rue Bourbon). It was another rare occasion.
  • Summer was spent with friends at a private resort. Loads of fun.
  • After 8 years, I finally went back to Singapore! Singapore was my first out of the country experience. It was 2011 and Nick, Xali, and I were fresh grads when we decided to try our luck to work there as nurses. We were there for three weeks and stayed not at a hotel but at Xali’s uncle’s apartment so we kind of felt like a true local. I enjoyed every minute of it. We did our own laundry, bought groceries, cooked almost everyday, watched a movie (my first 3D movie), played the lottery, etc. I even learned how to ride a bike there. So when I had the chance to go back to Singapore to visit Kenneth’s dad, I was really really excited.
  • Tricia, our youngest sibling, graduated from college. Our parents’ pride and relief were pretty apparent since all four of us were already finished with school. Finally.
  • Our dear grandfather passed away. I get teary eyed thinking about it now. We loved him so much and we extremely miss him everyday. 😔
  • Our relatives from the UK had a 1-month vacation here in the Philippines. Our cousins grew up so tall and cute and lovely. I miss them so bad.
  • We got married again, at a church this time. It was a bittersweet moment because our grandfather just passed away. It felt wrong having to celebrate our wedding when we were still mourning.
  • Attended 3 weddings and 1 christening this year
  • This was the year of “artventure”. I rekindled my passion for art and experimented with watercolor, digital design, and calligraphy. I missed being in a school-like setting so attending those art workshops were really fun and refreshing.
  • Celebrated Miguel’s 7th birthday, our cutest cousin yet. I’m still hoping for a baby boy from Ate Beng2.
  • DIY takoyaki at some resto and tried making homemade gyoza but failed. It was bland.
  • Went back to Japan (my favorite country) with Nick, Benson, Bryan and Irving. I feel like I would never get tired of this country. There’s just so much to see and explore! They have the most helpful and friendliest people ever. I purchased my first professional watercolors here as well.
  • Discovered I have gall stones. Boo!
  • We had our so-called honeymoon in Korea. It was our first time there and it was an extremely cold November (as low as 6 °C). It was a fresh experience but we can’t help but compare it to Japan. And there was a time when we got really mad at each other and separated for a while. So for me, memories of Korea were not that enjoyable. But I got to experience autumn (one of the things in my bucket list). It was breathtaking. ❤️
  • I sold my first artwork! It was very satisfying. I’m really proud of myself and I’m so excited where this artventure takes me.
  • Had our F Buddies Christmas Party/open forum. Everybody cried except Xali (boringgg 😂). I think I’ll reserve another post detailing the events and explaining why there was a lot of crying involved.
  • I got a Kindle for Christmas! It doesn’t get here until mid-January though.
  • Isabelle and Illysa, our cute cousins, hosted our 2017 Slumber Party. It was amusing how the two sisters really prepared for the party (prepared the plan of activities, invitations, balloons, snacks). Activities involved were a modeling showdown, watching a scary movie (but we ended up watching their parents’ wedding), blind makeover challenge, sharing secrets, etc. The party ended after the blind makeover game when Illysa cried because her makeup was “ugly”. It was still a lot of fun and I can’t wait for next year’s slumber party. They keep me young (channeling Regina’s mom 😂).

Paalam 2017!

Categories
Art Japan Life

Dust Designs

Haven’t done any blogging lately and I’m hating myself for it. It always crosses my mind but I wasn’t getting myself around to do it. I almost didn’t want to write now because I’m about to sleep already. My neurons are still kind of recuperating from the art class that I took this morning (I took an art class! Yay!). But so much stuff has been happening lately and I need to talk about it. I want my future self to go back and remember these things. Let’s have it as a list.

  • CANADA We’re done with our medical test and we passed! All we have to do now is wait for the passport request. Once we get notified of this, it means that they’re going to stamp our passports with PR visas (finally)! So keeping our fingers crossed for that. It’s kind of bittersweet though because that also means we’re leaving our families here in the Philippines. 😢 Oh well.
  • ART VENTURE I’m becoming more serious in pursuing my passion in art. Last week, I took my first ever art workshop about water brush calligraphy and it was a lot of fun. It was kind of bitin and pricey (Php 2,000 for 2 hours) but I enjoyed it. What I liked most about the experience is meeting the artist. I saw firsthand how she works and just listening to her tips and insights made me feel really good about this art venture. Seeing how good she is at what she does motivated me more to be as skilled as her. And then earlier this morning, as previously mentioned, I attended another workshop. This time, it’s about the fundamentals of drawing (Php 1,950 for roughly 5 hours). I guess I’d have to reserve a separate post for this because I’m thinking of writing every detail that happened today because it’s still fresh from my memory. To cut things short, I learned A LOT today. Didn’t think of actually being able to draw this (pictured below). I felt more confident than yesterday and I’m actually glad that I’m taking the necessary steps to improve my skills (even if it comes with a price). It’s definitely worth it! The instructor (Joms de Mesa) said something that I want myself to always remember. He said something along these lines, “If you were able to do this on your first try, just imagine what you can do if you keep on doing this for a year.” And that’s very true and a really good reminder to keep on going. To tie this all up together, I made an IG account dedicated to my art called @dust.designs (hence the title of this blog post). I hope to see a transition (from noob to expert) on my future posts so I need to keep on learning and practicing.
  • TRAVEL Hope everything goes well when we apply for our Japan visas next week. We’re hoping to go back there again this coming October. Nick should better be approved this time! I’m excited to stroll around the districts of Osaka then maybe go back to Kyoto. Not sure. Haven’t made an itinerary yet. I’m also looking forward to go visit some art stores in Japan. I hope I won’t get overwhelmed and start buying everything that looks kawaii. I also notice that most of the quality tools that’s being recommended in art blogs are from Japan, so I think I can buy it cheaper there. More better reasons to go back!
  • LIFE IN GENERAL I’m actually in good spirits right now. Mainly because of me trying to do the things I love like drawing, watercolor and some traveling. I feel happy whenever I produce a decent work and see myself improving. It’s an extra boost if I post it and somebody likes it (sometimes ❤️ or 😲 if I’m using Facebook 😄). Although in hindsight, I sometimes worry and think about some negative things. Thoughts like, “What are you planning to do with art? Are you going to get money from it? There’s a lot of people better than you.” and “Why do you keep on traveling? Traveling costs a lot of money. Do you have a lot of money? No you don’t! Why not save it instead and use it for things that really matter? You’re being selfish.” Stuff like that. I try not to think of these things because it dampens my mood and it demotivates me. I know that this “art thing” isn’t something that’s certain to make me earn money; but I’m loving every minute of it! What’s important is that I’m doing what I’m passionate about and for me, that matters. But it doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit my job (for now) and just do art. Of course I’ll keep my job (for now 😁) while doing stuff I like on the side. I’m just now in a state where I fully understand that life is really short. Yes, earning money is necessary to live. But making art and traveling is what I live for. For me, it gives more value and quality to my life. I’m just thankful that I finally know what I want to do. I felt very lost before. I was in a position where I’m very discontented and don’t know what I’m doing. I wan’t someone to tell me what to do and give me the answers because I have no clue what I’m supposed to be doing.

    And then, just like magic, I finally figured out who that someone is. That someone who will give me the answers. Me. Finally, I was able to figure it out. And I’m not gonna stop now.

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My logo!

Okay, that’s it. Got kind of emotional back there. Haha. I hope I can blog more frequently. I almost forgot that writing feels soothing and therapeutic. It also keeps my mind in the right perspective. Until then!

Categories
Japan Tokyo Travel

Japan Itinerary Day 5/7: Meiji Shrine, Shibuya Crossing & Tokyo Sky Tree

Sep 12, 2016

We arrived in Tokyo at around 7 AM. Our stop will be at Shinjuku. From there, we’ll figure out how to get to our next Airbnb accommodation. Our host sent us very clear instructions on how to get to their house from Oshiage station. Navigating around Japan gets easier and easier because we’re getting used to their transportation network. But we also learned to immediately ask questions when we find ourselves utterly dumbfounded.

So the plan is, once we get settled in, we’ll just take a shower, eat breakfast, then start our day already. Nauwi nanaman kami sa gyudon resto cos they’re usually open 24 hrs. Natutuwa na talaga ko sa chopsticks skills ko (say “chopsticks skills” 10 times). Naalala ko lang uli nung kumakain kami dito. As for those two (Benson & Bong), they’re already in Tokyo as well. Bong will stay with us for one night and Benson will be with his aunties. Medyo nag-kanya kanya na kami when we were in Tokyo. Our itinerary for the day:

  • Meiji Shrine
  • Photos with Hachiko
  • Cross Shibuya Crossing
  • Tokyo Sky Tree

After eating breakfast, we head home to take a shower so we could officially start our day. Bong was already there together with Benson and his auntie.

Another Bong Pabebe Moment:

He told us he won’t be coming with us and that he’ll just sleep ‘cos apparently, he has a headache. He said he’ll just meet us when it’s already time to go to Tokyo Sky Tree which would not be until 6 PM. What. A. Total. Waste. Of. Time. I don’t know about you but for me sobrang nasayangan ako. I also had a headache on our third day before going to Kyoto because I was up late crying (because of the Meiji Collagen incident) but there’s no stopping me from enjoying JaFUN. Hello?? Kelan pa uli ako makakapunta dito no. Anyway, let’s just take a look at the entrance going to Meiji Shrine.

Meiji Shrine

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The grand entrance

Oh, we ate at this gyoza place first before heading to Meiji Shrine.

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Found this cute gyoza place through Google Map’s recommendation
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It was okay kahit sunog yung iba
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We ordered 2 kinds of gyoza (forgot what it’s called)

My favorite moment in Tokyo was this: On our way to Meiji Shrine, we were strolling around a wide array of shops in Shibuya area and everything looks so modern and cool.

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Shops left and right

After crossing the street, the shops were nowhere to be seen. We felt like we were transported into a different era. Look.

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Just entered a wormhole
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Can’t remember seeing a river though

Parang kanina lang naglalakad kami sa isang modern place tapos biglang may ganitong blast-from-the-past effect. I was in awe.

A few more steps and we were greeted by this huge beautiful gate.

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Hello!

Mores sights after entering the gate.

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Wine inside
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Sake barrels
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Read on to learn a short history tidbit
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Time traveling
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Eto na siguro yung mismong shrine
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Scolded by an old lady after a few minutes (bawal daw umupo dito)
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Sobrang init pa din btw
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Mental Note: Visit Japan in November

We tried going to Yoyogi Garden; but we got lost and Google Maps is not helping. We gave up and just met up with Benson and his aunties in Harajuku to buy sneaks. I ended up buying a Japan release “dawna Stan Smith. Hindi daw iri-release anywhere but Japan. Naniwala naman ako. Pero pag-open nung Adidas Originals sa Uptown Mall dito sa Taguig, nakita ko yung same design at mas mura pa ng 2k. Tss. Lesson learned.

It’s getting a bit late and we still have to go see Hachiko and cross the busiest intersection in the world. It’s one of the things that I’m most looking forward to experience: to witness and cross the Shibuya Crossing. So we said our goodbyes and searched for the legendary dog. Turned out, the Hachiko statue and Shibuya crossing are just a few steps away from each other.

Hachiko

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I’ve yet to see his movie

Shibuya Crossing

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Another photo goal unlocked! 📸
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Who would’ve thought that people merely crossing the street can be fascinating

Tokyo Sky Tree

Tree

It was foggy during the time we were there. But we managed to get some decent photos of the city night lights.

Tree group
These three men (if you can call them that) are all afraid of heights. Wimps.

Nothing much to see here except the view. There was a short dance performance from the crew but that was it. There’s also this huge stuffed Hello Kitty which Bong took a photo of (or a photo with… can’t recall) (don’t ask me why, I don’t know either 😂).

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Loving the 350-meter top view

You can go as high as 450 meters but it would cost you an extra 1,000 yen.

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Off to a karaoke bar to cap off the night
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This place ♥️
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Hey
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Picturan nyo naman ako! Kainis.
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They have unlimited drinks and soft serve ice cream. Really lovin’ this place.
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Benson held a mini concert

It was late so we had to take a cab. So expensive! We paid around 1,000 pesos for a 15-minute ride.

Inside a Japanese taxi

Pero hindi pa talaga kami umuwi. Pumunta pa kaming Don Quijote. 😅

This is how we spent our 7 days in JaFUN (Sep 8-14, 2016):

  • Daily Expenses (soon)
  • Personal Notes, Tips, Whatchamacallit (soon)
Categories
Japan Osaka Travel

Japan Itinerary Day 4/7: Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Japan Day 5: Meiji Shrine, Shibuya Crossing & Tokyo Sky TreeSep 11, 2016

Eto na yung dalwa na sooobrang prepared sa pagpunta nilang Japan. *eye roll*

We bumped into them when we went out to buy some food in McDo. It was probably around 9PM. They looked so tired and hungry. Pretty much like us on our first day in Japan. 😂

B1 B2
Taken the night before with Mark

Short Rant:

From visa application up to their arrival in Kansai airport, they bring nothing but stress. They applied for their Japan visas just two weeks before their departure date. Kenneth and I applied for ours 2 months prior the trip; so I (yes I, not we) had plenty of time to prepare everything. Even after we, I mean I, booked our plane tickets last March (6 months before the trip), I’m already finished with our itinerary just a few days after. That’s why I’m super stressed with these two because I’m the one who’s going to book their bus tickets, purchase their DisneySea tickets, book their accommodation, etc (‘cos I have the credit card). I kept on bugging them to apply for their visas ahead of time so I can do all these stuff in one go. I’m not the type who does things last minute when it comes to preparing for travels. I wan’t everything planned and organized. Tapos andami pa nilang pabebe moments lalo na yung isa dyan (hello Bong). May pa-chat chat pa sakin na, “Baka hindi pa din ako tumuloy kahit ma-approve yung visa ko kasi ang busy ko ngayong September.” 🙄 I just replied, “Ok.” Di mo maintindihan kung nagpapapilit o ano. Pabebe.

But it didn’t stop there. When they arrived at Kansai Airport, pocket WiFi naman problema nila. Hays. Anyway, nakarating pa din sila sa kabila ng lahat. I’m never doing that again. Kanya kanya na lang next time ha. Bawal na pati ang pabebe. *end of rant*

Okay, back to day four. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan was the only thing in our itinerary that day. I was planning on squeezing a temple or garden before going to the aquarium but that didn’t happen due to time constraints and stuff. We needed to get back early for our bus trip to Tokyo anyway. We wouldn’t want to miss our bus. I’m sure the buses here leave on time ‘cos ‘being on time’ is so Japan. This was our last day in Osaka. Huhu.

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Didn’t expect to see this “Tuloy kayo. Tawad pwede.” sign
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Init talaga

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

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Thought of trying this out but the weather was too hot

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Not So Funny Story:

The four of us were not supposed to be together on this day because their plan is to go to USJ (which we’ve been to already) then Kyoto for their second day (also been there). However, Bong had this funny idea (more like annoying idea) of not getting into any rides because he just doesn’t feel like it (say what??). Benson was super pissed. Even I got a little pissed. I mean, what’s even the point of going to USJ and spend 3,500 pesos for the ticket? To waste money? And what’s the point of having someone go with you to a theme park (one of the best in the world btw) if the one you’re with is not willing to go and experience the different fun rides together? I really have no idea how Bong’s brain works sometimes (or most of the time). So that led to Benson cancelling their USJ trip and they just decided to tag along with us.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

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Interesting looking building

Sobrang daming magagandang photo op dito sa Aquarium Kaiyukan. Eto yung hindi ko nabasa sa mga blogs, ang style pala nya (unless mali ako at may iba pa palang way), sakay ka ng escalator na diretso sa 8th floor. Sobrang haba nung escalator (papuntang 8th floor ba naman). Nakakalula pag tumingin ka sa likod. So pag nasa 8th floor ka na, ikot ka pababa na parang pa-spiral para makita yung mga sea creatures at ibang animals. Pag mabilis kang maningin at mag-picture, tapos ka na agad. Bye 2,500 yen. 💸

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I thought Osaka Aquarium would be like Zoobic Safari with dolphin shows and stuff. I thought wrong. That’s why I’m a bit disappointed. I would suggest to skip this one if you only have limited time in Osaka. Unless you want to have photos looking like this:

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Why didn’t I have my picture taken here? This is one of my photo goals. Huhu. Hello Benson.

Or this:

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📸: Benson

Perhaps this:

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Hello. 📸: Bong

Or maybe this:

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What am I pointing at
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Aliw.

This one also:

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Benson said he looked like a retard here. His own words.

But skipping this is just a suggestion. Because I have a friend who told me that she didn’t like DisneySea so I had doubts of going there. But when we went to DisneySea (good thing we did), I was truly mesmerized. So it depends on the person.

We were pleased that there’s a fast food restaurant inside Osaka Aquarium because we haven’t had breakfast yet. There’s like a mini mall nearby with several food options but they’re not open until 11AM.

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Pineapple twirl. Yum.
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With B1 & B2
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TRIVIA: This is the actual thickness of the acrylic glass they use in their aquariums
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I want this too
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There’s also this petting area for stingrays and some other guys
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Enjoying much Kennetski?
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And this area showcasing the bones of different sea creatures
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Interesting

More photos before saying goodbye:

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Little krabby patty
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Like a queen
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Feeding time
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A cockroach’s ancestor (made that up)
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It has a face! Cute.
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Say aahhh…
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This is the one I’d like to pet
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Fried egg jellyfish (a very well-thought-out name)
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Mr. Grumpy Face
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Aloha
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More jellies
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This is a lung fish
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Bye cutie!
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Is this even effin real??
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My favorite spot

Eating time again. Open na yung mini mall.

Tempozan Market Place

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Yummy katsu

Rinku Town

After eating, they decided to go to Rinku Town. The boys wanted to do some shopping. Apparently, it’s a place with many outlet stores. I didn’t like this idea. Plus the train fare going here was around 500 pesos each. I’d rather go to Don Quijote and buy more Japanese snacks.

Believe it or not, I forgot that we went here because I didn’t take any pictures (as a sign of my rebellion). I originally wrote, “After eating, we went straight home blah blah”. But no, we actually went here. It’s a fact.

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Boooo. 👎🏼

I was browsing Benson’s timeline for more Japan photos and if I hadn’t come across this photo, I wouldn’t have remembered. Since I’m quite disappointed with Osaka Aquarium and I’m forced to go here in Rinku Town, this is my least favorite day of our trip.

So after the boys were done with their shopping, we finally went home and packed our stuff. Before heading home, Benson changed his mind (again) about going to Kyoto for their second day. He must’ve imagined himself with lame-o Bong strolling around Kyoto and decided to just skip that lameness. He also said that he’s not really a fan of temples and shrines. Or ayaw nya lang talaga kasama si Bong na silang dalwa lang? Haha. So after much contemplation, he decided to just tag along with us to Tokyo. Then Bong followed suit. What is happening?? 😂 Problem is, their night bus tickets were for the following day kasi nga sa 3rd day pa dapat nila sila pa-Tokyo. Those tickets were already purchased online a week before their flight. Staying positive, we thought that they could just refund the tickets and just purchase same-day tickets at the bus station. We were oh so wrong. And you can’t change the date that’s indicated on the ticket either.

Balik muna tayo sa guest house. Mark (again, the Airbnb host) was surprised to know that the two will be checking out a day earlier (bye 1,500 pesos – the price of 1 night accommodation 💸😂). He even discouraged them from leaving because he’s not sure if they can buy tickets using cash. Eh laban na daw sabi ni Benson. Before leaving, we had the chance to meet Ken (the other host).

Fun Fact:

We learned through Benson that they’re not just business partners, they are also lovers. Aww. They’ve been together for 20 years I think? Inspiring. Benson also mentioned something about Ken adopting Mark? Uhm, I’m not so sure how that story goes.

Anyway, we reached the bus station at around 9:30 PM. The two immediately asked the staff and inquired about those tickets. Unfortunately, they were strict about the online reservations. Worst part is, they don’t sell tickets there. Transactions should be online. Bummer. Benson thought of Plan B: bullet train. That would cost them sooo much. And what if the tickets were non-refundable? (turned out they were refundable but it was too late to get a refund. bye 3,000 pesos.) But Benson didn’t bother. He’s really determined to go to Tokyo that night whatever it takes (whatever it takes to avoid being alone with Bong? haha). Thankfully, a good Samaritan informed them of another bus station with buses heading to Tokyo almost every 15-30 minutes. About that time, we were already on our way to Tokyo. Our bus left at 10:20 PM while they were still figuring out how to get to Tokyo themselves. Around 12 midnight, I received a message from Benson that they’re already on their way. Whew. What an ordeal.

Now let’s talk about the bus. It’s no ordinary bus. It’s the most comfortable bus ride ever. The travel time from Osaka to Tokyo by bus takes 9 hours. That’s 9 hours of just sitting and waiting for our butts to grow weeds. So that’s why they made this bus very suitable for  long travels like this. Look.

 

It has curtains for your privacy. You’ll be provided with a pillow and a blanket so you’ll be comfy while sleeping. It also has spacious leg rooms and each seat have their own outlets to charge your phones. I read somewhere that some buses have a “ladies policy” where they separate male passengers from the females. Good thing I booked the correct bus. I booked it through Willer Express btw. Alright time to get some zzz’s.

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Bye Osaka! Hello Tokyo!

This is how we spent our 7 days in JaFUN (Sep 8-14, 2016):

  • Daily Expenses (soon)
  • Personal Notes, Tips, Whatchamacallit (soon)
Categories
Japan Kyoto Travel

Japan Itinerary Day 3/7: Kyoto – Arashiyama & Fushimi Inari-taisha

Sep 10, 2016

Two of the things that I’m looking forward to see in Japan is right here in Kyoto. The moment I saw pictures of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the torii gates in Fushimi Inari-taisha, I was completely blown away. I can’t wait to witness them with my own eyes.

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Hello Kyoto

When we reached Arashiyama, I had no idea that it was a huge place with many shrines and temples scattered around the area. The place is so zen. On our way there, I thought that this was just the location of the bamboo grove that I’m so eager to see. When we saw the map (given to us by a personnel at the train station), we saw the different tourist spots that we could check out before we can reach the bamboo forest.

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The map

First, you will be greeted by this bridge.

Togetsu-kyo Bridge

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Wishing it was fall

History Tidbit #1:

This bridge is 400 years old.

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That lush greenery

I want to go back here during the fall season. I want all these greens to turn into oranges and reds.

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Everything about this place spells “chill”
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Takoyaki at last!
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Big octopus chunks
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Takoyaki by the river

On our way to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, we got lost. We couldn’t figure out how to get there it was so frustrating. We tried asking questions and this lady was very patient explaining to us the directions. With the map in hand and the lady’s instructions, we still couldn’t seem to figure it out. The lady advised us to enter the Sogenchi Garden (for an entrance fee of 250 pesos each) and from there we could make our way to the bamboo grove. But some other person was pointing us to a different direction. Turns out, there are two routes going to the bamboo grove. One is through the garden (for a fee) and the other one doesn’t require us to pass through a temple or garden (which means no entrance fees) but it’s much farther.

Tenryu-ji Temple

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aka Temple of the Heavenly Dragon

History Tidbit #2:

One of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. This temple is said to be caught in fire several times (8 times to be exact) and underwent major reconstructions through the years.

So clearly, we chose the shorter route and bought entrance tickets to the garden. It was a good decision because we get to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Sogenchi Garden is breathtaking. It looks very calm and peaceful. This garden is a piece of art.

Sogenchi Garden

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Perfect place to do some meditation or yoga

History Tidbit #3:

For 700 years, Sogenchi Garden retained it’s original form since it was laid out in the 14th century.

At this point, we were still having an argument. I was so pissed at Kenneth because he easily becomes irritable whenever we get lost. Getting lost is part of the travel! And if I’m gonna get lost, I’d rather get lost in Japan. There are so many interesting things to see along the way. He’s so focused on getting to our destination that he can’t seem to appreciate that we are in a different country and that we are being surrounded by things that we can no longer come across once we go back to the Philippines. And if we didn’t get lost, we wouldn’t be able to see this:

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No idea what this is but I find it cool

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He kind of settled down and maybe realized that I’m right (?). But that’s how we are. We argue, then we laugh it off. Sabi ko sa kanya:

“Wag ka kasing mataray.”

“Ikaw din naman mataray. Wag kang mataray.”

“Eh mataray nga ako.”

“Eh mataray nga din ako.”

Then we find ourselves laughing. It’s basically our everyday life in Japan.

Photos before reaching the bamboo grove:

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We thought this was it but it isn’t. But we are sooo close.

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Tempted to buy some charms
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So relieved to see some kind of gazebo to sit and get a short break from all the walking
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We’re almost there!

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

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* huge heart eyes *

AT LAST! The long, tiring walk and all those petty fights are so worth it! Kenneth was completely amazed. Kenneth’s not really expressive so when he likes something that I like, it makes me doubly happy.

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Can’t contain my happiness
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When you look up
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Bamboo heaven

It is true. No photo can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of this bamboo grove. ❤️

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I can look at this all day

As much as I want to assemble a tent and practically live here, it’s already time to go  to our second destination. Some interesting things we saw while heading to the train station that will take us to Fushimi Inari-taisha:

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Wooden dragonfly maker
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Now I look back and think that I should have bought one. This could have been a great souvenir (or those charms perhaps).
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Monks?

We stumbled upon many shrines but this one is free to enter.

Nonomiya Shrine

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So zen
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Wishes and prayers hung on wooden plates (wooden plates not free)
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“Sana magustuhan na tayo ng mga crush natin”
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Envied these guys. We were so DEAD tired at this point.

I’m not quite happy with how I approached our trip overall. I wasn’t able to take it all in and truly experience these historic sites around me. I’m more focused on getting great pictures that I forget to stop and savor it all. All those history tidbits, I only learned about it when I tried Googling all the places that we went to. It would be so much better if I knew the meaning and the story of what’s right in front of me.

Fushimi Inari-taisha

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Fushimi Inari Shrine

Tried their street food. It was quite expensive (250 pesos) compared to our isaw which is only 5 pesos. Unfair.

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Not sure what this is
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What I ate: chicken in skewers. It was bland.

I think the reason why I bought this was because the guy selling these asked me my nationality. When I said Filipino, he replied with, “Ganda.” I was sold. LOL.

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Rice cake wrapped in strips of pork

Done with snacking. Just a few steps away and we’ll reach our final destination for the day.

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Greetings from the foxes

History Tidbit #4:

And I thought, why foxes? Upon googling, foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues scattered across the shrine grounds. And who’s Inari? The Shinto god of rice.

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Another travel goal unlocked 😁

It’s my ultimate dream to have my picture taken with these torii gates alone. With so many tourists walking along the same path, it would be difficult to achieve this shot. Kenneth’s patience was tested while taking this photo. Before taking the shot, I instructed him to hold up the camera so the people behind us would stop and let Kenneth take my picture. It was kind of embarrassing because it took about an awkward 30-45 seconds before all the people ahead of us disappear into view. But I’m so happy with the result!

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Photo goal unlocked 📸

Kenneth is not really “the photographer” and doesn’t care if he has that perfect shot. As long as that thing or place is in the photo, it’s good enough for him. But I’m not like that, so I had a plan. A few months before this trip, I already briefed him that I want my photos to look like this and that; then I showed him sample photos so he will have an idea on how to frame the photo and stuff. And in fairness to him, he did a really good job; and I appreciate him for that (even if I can see him low-key frowning while doing it). 😅

History Tidbit #5:

So those orange things are called torii gates. Thousands of these torii gates lead to Mount Inari. (*Google Google*) These gates are donated by companies or individuals and each gate costs ¥400,000. The bigger ones could reach up to 1 million yen each. And those Japanese characters written in each gate are the names of those donors

We didn’t finish the trail because it would’ve taken us one and a half hours to reach Mt. Inari and another 1.5 hours to return. So I encouraged Kenneth to head back. Few more photos before going back to Osaka:

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Closer look at the shrine
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Idk why I get cheerful whenever I see a takoyaki stand
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Bye Kyoto! Mwahmwahmwah!

Dotonbori Part 2

Dotonbori has a lot to offer when it comes to food so a single visit wouldn’t be enough. This time, we tried okonomiyaki and soba at Mizuno.

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Looks can be deceiving

ANG SARAAP! Especially the soba. We thought we wouldn’t be able to finish everything because the servings were huge but we devoured every last bite. They were closed when we got there but we still fell in line. The manager was evidently annoyed because people kept on falling in line even if there’s already a ‘closed’ sign blocking the entrance. Thankfully, he let us into the queue. Maybe because we’re tourists and he thought that this would be our last chance to try their famous okonomiyaki. I chose the variant with minced meat, squid, shrimps, scallions and octopus bits. Sarap talagaaa.

I can say that this is the most tiring day of our 7-day trip. I’m not sure how many miles did we have to walk to accomplish our Kyoto itinerary. Even if we researched ahead of time and have all the navigation apps that you could think of, we kept on getting lost. And this resulted to countless arguments; plus the scorching heat is not helping with our tempers.

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Hoping I could see you again 😢

This is also the day when two of our friends will join us for our last day in Osaka before heading to Tokyo. It does get tiring arguing with Kenneth so it’s really fun seeing these two argue with each other for a change. 😂

This is how we spent our 7 days in JaFUN (Sep 8-14, 2016):

  • Daily Expenses (soon)
  • Personal Notes, Tips, Whatchamacallit (soon)

 

Categories
Japan Osaka Travel

Japan Itinerary Day 2/7: Osaka – Universal Studios & Dotonbori

Sep 9, 2016

USJ Day! It was a 15-minute walk to Shin-Imamiya Station (from Ken & Mark Guest House) going to Universal City Station. Some morning sightings while strolling around Osaka:

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Goodmorning lola!
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Initially thought this was a gasoline station
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They have vending machines for a lot of things
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More proof
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La lang 😅

We got off at the wrong station going to USJ. So while waiting for the next train, we (or I) had time for photo op.

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Fake buying
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I wish I have natural curly hair
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Nice one husband (but I’m the one who framed this so technically, I took this shot 😏)

Universal Studios Japan

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This entrance screams, “Heyyy youuu!”

We bought Express Passes online because I read from other blogs that waiting time for the most popular rides could take up to 2-4 hours! Especially for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. We wouldn’t want to waste time so we bought the passes for another Php 3,000 each (refer here for a step-by-step guide on how to buy it online). A total of Php 6,500 per person for the park entry ticket plus the Express pass. Sooo expensive. To think that our roundtrip tickets to Japan costed us Php 6,200 each. Anyway, no time for regrets.

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These two right here are ultimate snobs
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Surprisingly, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not the highlight of my USJ experience
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The mandatory photo with the globe of course

We rode Hollywood Dream: The Ride first.

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Then we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and took LOTS of photos.

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Aaagghhh 😍
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Choo choo
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Mr. Weasley’s car: The Flying Ford Anglia
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Fred & George 😊
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I don’t know why I didn’t buy even one thing from Honeydukes
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Should have bought this at least
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“The wand chooses the wizard” -Mr. Ollivander
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A travel blogger advised to go to Hog’s Head instead to avoid the long lines here

Second ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Didn’t take a picture. I’ll make it up with more photos of the wizarding world.

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Slightly annoyed that I’m the only one enjoying this and my husband’s just like, “Meh.”
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Ah, what a sight.
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Why does it have to be so expensive 😭
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I really like Voldemort’s wand for some reason

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I’ll come back for you (when??)
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Read somewhere that this ride is for kids. We’ll save this for our future son (or daughter).
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Go Gryffindor

It’s way past lunch time so we had to eat. This right here costs around 2,000 pesos. Next time, we’ll just bring snacks.

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Not that good and not worth it
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At least he’s enjoying his corn
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Frozen butterbeer! Verdict: Just okay. Tastes like caramel.
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Students from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic!
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All smiles despite the heat
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All was well indeed. See you again!

Side Note #1:

When I was trying to buy our Express Passes online, we had the option to choose what time will we be entering the wizarding world. I chose the earliest time available which was 11:50 AM. After choosing the time, another time will be given for us to be allowed to ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. In our case, it was 12:10-12:40 PM. One thing that I learned from our USJ experience is that, I should have chosen a later time to enter Harry Potter world. Maybe around 6 PM would be perfect. The line was short when we got there so we weren’t able to utilize the full potential of our Express Passes. And I’ve also read that the Harry Potter world is best viewed at night. I can only imagine. Sayang talaga. I felt that I wasn’t able to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at its best. I could have taken better photos. I say this because we also went to DisneySea and stayed there until closing time (10 PM). DisneySea at night was magical. We left USJ early (around 6 PM) because we were already done with the 7 rides that we planned. Oh well.

JAWS for our third ride.

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Ang medyo nakaka-turn off nga lang talaga eh yung mga rides na ang voice-over eh Japanese language. Although maganda yung visual, hindi mo fully ma-appreciate kase hindi mo maintindihan yung sinasabi. Tulad nung ride na to. Nakaupo kayo sa isang medyo malaking boat at may tour guide kayong kasama tapos biglang may shark na a-attack sa inyo. Medyo actor ang peg ni kuyang tour guide dito kase kunwari binabaril nya yung shark tapos mega acting sya sa pagma-maneuver nung boat para maka-iwas dun sa shark. Yung buong ride na yun, nagsasalita sya in Japanese na wala kaming maintindahan. Nagre-rely na lang kami sa mga nakikita namin at sa facial expressions nya. Mas na-enjoy siguro namin kung may naiintindihan kami sa mga sinasabi nya.

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Sulitin ang Express Pass. Cute ni ate 😁
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Tired.
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Am I still in USJ?

Side Note #2:

There’s a third lane for some rides. So there’s the regular one, the express, and then there’s a singles lane. If you’re in a group and fall in line on the singles, chances are, you won’t be sitting together. But if you’re in a hurry and don’t mind being apart, the singles lane would be the perfect choice.

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Random shot that I took. I find it cute.

Fourth ride: Flying Dinosaur. Three words. Best. Ride. Ever.

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I MISS YOU!

Instead of the usual roller coaster na nakaupo ka, dito, nakadapa ka. Medyo kakaiba yung feeling. Pagbaba namin dun sa ride, hindi pa din ako maka-move on dun sa experience. Basta ang saya. Si Kenneth medyo takot yun sa heights pero super nag-enjoy sya. Sulit daw yung 2.5 hours na pila. Matagal yung pinila namin dito kasi hindi na sya kasama sa Express Pass namin. Kung alam ko lang, sana yung Express Pass na may Flying Dinosaur na lang yung kinuha namin. Another fail.

Jurassic Park: Ride (forgettable) and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (same concept with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey pero mas ok to) for our 5th and 6th ride.

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One frozen mango for 250 pesos. No thanks! But I got curious I almost bought one.

Our last stop was Space Fantasy: The Ride. This one surprised us.

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Magical 😱

Touristy Moment #3:

Basing from the name (Space Fantasy) and its facade, we thought it was a kiddie ride. We almost didn’t want to continue because we couldn’t figure out how to lock the locker compartment (so we could store our bags there during the ride). The attendant told us to insert ¥100 coin. It turned out we were inserting the coin in the wrong machine. So there’s this machine nearby the lockers and I thought that’s where we could get a ticket or something for us to utilize the lockers. When I inserted a ¥500 coin, the machine dispensed five ¥100 coins. Ang labo. Kenneth already refused to continue with the ride. We were already tired. But I asked the attendant again (for the last time) and if we still can’t figure it out, we will leave already. I even suggested to put our things inside the locker and leave it unlocked, because that’s how I trust the Japanese people. Kenneth refused again. Okay. So upon asking, the attendant accompanied us and showed us how. Turned out, the coin slot for locking the compartment was beside the keyhole of the locker. The machine’s purpose was to exchange your money for ¥100 coins if you don’t have one available because the lockers are only accepting, yes, ¥100 coins. Ay sus. Buti na lang natuloy kami sa ride kasi it was unexpectedly awesome.

So a few seconds into the ride, it was slow. We were like, “Ho-hum. Boring. Pambata.” But after a few minutes, we were transported into space! Ang galing nung effects. The stars seemed real and the pace was going fast. Hayyy super ganda. I will not forget the exploding sound at the end of the ride with matching explosion of stars. Parang milky way. Hay ang ganda talaga. What a great way to end our USJ visit. Off to Dotonbori!

But first, ride ratings:

  • Hollywood Dream: The Ride ★★★★☆
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ★★☆☆☆
  • JAWS ★★☆☆☆
  • Flying Dinosaur ★★★★★
  • Jurassic Park: Ride ★★☆☆☆
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman ★★★☆☆
  • Space Fantasy: The Ride ★★★★★

More random photos before we go.

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Bye USJ!

Dotonbori

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It’s so “alive awake alert enthusiastic” here

We were so excited to eat ramen in Japan. Upon searching Google, it shows very good reviews for Ichiran (there are 2 branches in Dotonbori). Unfortunately, I liked Ramen Nagi better (or fortunately rather ‘cos they’re more accessible to us). Ramen Nagi’s broth is richer and their noodles are firmer.

Ichiran
Ramen in Japan at last!
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Takoyakiii. We’ll try this tomorrow. Still full from the ramen.

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Short Story:

I had a headache the following morning because I was up late crying (I don’t know why it led to crying. It’s just that I was so annoyed. Grr.) So after eating ramen, we saw a Don Quijote store and I got excited. Based from the numerous travel blogs I’ve read, everything here is cheap. Madaming mga nag-bilin samin ng mga gusto nilang ipabili (perfume, collagen powder, wallet, green tea, etc) so I gathered all the strength I have left to do some partial shopping. Para at least sa mga susunod na days konti na lang yung bibilhin. Sobrang pagod na pagod na pagod na talaga kami. Hindi na ko makalakad ng maayos (I’ll remember to not wear boots next time). I was literally walking like Lotus Feet (yes, that character in the movie Feng Shui). Pinilit ko na lang talaga. Tapos eto pa yung mangyayari. 😔

To cut the story short, I bought 6 pieces of collagen powder for my officemates. One piece is around 800 pesos. When we got home and upon reviewing the receipt, 10 pieces na collagen powder yung na-punch ni ateng cashier. I paid for 10 but I only got 6. Grrr. Kayo na bahala mag-compute. Medyo madami kaming pinamili kaya di ko na naisip i-check yung receipt bago umalis. Japanese language pa yung resibo. Sobrang siksikan din mga tao dun sa store kaya hindi mo na talaga maiisip. Lesson learned. You can learn from my mistake as well. I know I won’t be accepting too many requests the next time I travel anywhere.

Okay enough. Kyoto naman bukas!

This is how we spent our 7 days in JaFUN (Sep 8-14, 2016):

  • Daily Expenses (soon)
  • Personal Notes, Tips, Whatchamacallit (soon)
Categories
Japan Osaka Travel

Japan Itinerary Day 1/7: Osaka Kansai Airport & Ken and Mark Guesthouse

Sep 8, 2016

We were already at the airport three and a half hours before our flight. The plane will depart at 3:00 PM then 8:00 PM (Japan time) would be the arrival time. At first, I thought the 8:00 PM that’s indicated in our ticket is also Manila time so I thought that it would take 5 hours to get to Japan. That’s why at 6:45 PM (Manila), I was just chilling in the plane because I thought we still have one hour before arrival. But the pilot suddenly spoke and announced that we will deplane in about 15 minutes. I got excited and started to fix my things and my hair then wore my shoes.

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Hi cute photobomber 😁

Kansai International Airport

Picked up our rented pocket WiFi from Pupuru. You can return it by dropping it off in any mailbox in Japan. In our case, since we’ll exit Japan from Tokyo, we dropped it off at Narita Airport. Renting pocket WiFi is highly suggested. Worth the extra cost.

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We were already given instructions by Mark (our Airbnb host in Osaka) on how to get to our accommodation. He taught us how to buy tickets and what train line to get into. He told us to get off at Tengachaya station and that he will meet us at the exit. From that station, it will be a 15-minute walk going to our temporary house. One thing that’s great about our accommodation is that the owners don’t live in the house (unlike most of the Airbnb accommodation you’ll find). Ken and Mark have their own house just a few blocks away from the guest house. I guess it’s more comfortable that way. But even if the owners were not around, Mark is accommodating with our inquiries. I’ll just send him a private message if we have any questions on how to get from one place to another and he will respond as quick as he can.

Touristy Moment #1:

So ganito pala yun. Insert bills/coins first, choose how many passengers, then select the ticket amount. Instead of choosing the name of the station you want to go to, you choose the appropriate amount for that specific station. Siguro since sobrang daming train stations, amount na lang yung nilagay kase yung ibang stations naman same fare lang. Baka hindi na magkasya sa screen lahat ng stations.

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The intimidating ticket machine
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Our first train tickets

Downtown Osaka

We had no problems reaching Tengachaya station. Mark was already waiting for us when we got off the train. He didn’t have any pictures of us to recognize our faces but he immediately waved when he saw us (how?). The 15-minute walk from the station to the guest house with our luggages in tow was really tiring. Mark was already discussing some “things to know” while we’re on our way to the house. He speaks good English so there weren’t any problems communicating and he seemed very nice. We were already hungry when we arrived at the guest house and we just wanted to stuff our faces with Japanese food. But Mark had to tour us first around the house, discuss some house rules and help us with our itinerary and stuff (huhu so many things to remember). When Mark was done, it’s finally time to eat!

Our accommodation is in a good location and booking Ken & Mark Guest House was a really good decision. I highly highly recommend it. There is another station near the guest house which is just a 5-minute walk. Around that station, there are McDonald’s, Family Mart, some restaurants (mostly gyudon restos) and a supermarket. It was already 11 PM. Good thing there’s a 24-hour gyudon restaurant nearby. We had our really late dinner there. Before leaving us, Mark taught us how to buy the food tickets.

A quick tour around the neighborhood:

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Available in almost every corner of Japan
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Bikes everywhere
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And of course
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Staple Japanese treats
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Family Mart pastries
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Had to try at least one of these

Touristy Moment #2:

In Japan, most of the restaurants have this food ticket machine where you have to buy the food tickets first, then sit at a table, give the food tickets to the server, and wait for your food. It was kind of intimidating at first but I had gotten used to it because we almost always had to buy food tickets in every restaurant we went to in Japan. And most ticket machines have English translations so you’ll be fine.

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I think I ordered the gyumeshi.
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Food ticket machine
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Clumsy as ever

The gyudon was okay. Nothing special. What I liked was how clean and organized the restaurant was. The servers were also very courteous.

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So fresh and so clean clean…
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Hey temporary neighbors

I had my worries of eating in Japan because I really don’t know how to use chopsticks. I’ve tried using it whenever we eat at ramen places here in Manila but I always end up asking for a fork. 😁 I find it hard to use chopsticks and my hand gets tired from using it. It’s like I’m having hand tremors. But after a few days of using chopsticks in Japan, I learned that you just have to relax. I was really proud of myself when I was able to eat my food with little difficulty. But there were times when I cheat and just use the spoon (which is intended for the soup) to scoop up the rice. Hihi.

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Look at the trying hard chopsticks user (namely me)

Since we arrived in Japan late, we just went straight to bed after our late dinner and had some rest because we were going to Universal Studios in the morning; which meant I would finally get to see the wizarding world of Harry Potter! Yay! Kenneth is not a Harry Potter fan and calls Harry Potter ‘Harry F*cker’. Such a party pooper. Some photos of the guest house:

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House front
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Dying to change to these comfy slippers
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Very very (OC level) tidy living room
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Kitchen area

Toilets in Japan are very very special things. Mark said, “When you go back to the Philippines, you are going to miss our toilets here.” Yep. He’s right. Most of their toilets have automatic bidet, deodorizer, vacuum (to suck out the funky smell), fake flushing sound button (if you’re nagpupururot and want to avoid the humiliation) and buttons to change water temperature, nozzle position, and water pressure. Their really serious about their toilets.

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May massage pa!

USJ day tomorrow!

This is how we spent our 7 days in JaFUN (Sep 8-14, 2016):

  • Daily Expenses (soon)
  • Personal Notes, Tips, Whatchamacallit (soon)