Archive for the ‘places’ Category

May 1, 2018

Japan – Kyoto / Kawaguchiko / Tokyo

I know this is a long overdue post, but I finally managed to get over my laziness and muster some effort to write about the Japan trip. So what do I think about Japan?

Hits (like):
Kyoto : All my best days in my Japan trip were spent at Kyoto. Mix of city and traditional Japanese landmarks, if you have to choose a week to spend at either Tokyo or Kyoto, go for Kyoto. All the listed places in my itinerary are awesome, but especially worth mentioning would be that Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo-jo castle. Both places are fucking amazing and mind blowing. It is said that Kyoto has shit tonnes of temples so, what I experienced here might be just the tip of what’s more awesome. If I get to choose again, I’d cut out Tokyo to spend more time at Kyoto.

Kawaguchiko : Kawaguchiko (a lake side town) is a great place with killer views too. I was here for Mt Fuji, as it was my lifelong dream of witnessing Mt Fuji from the base with my own eyes (when I saw it from the plane back in year 2000 while en-route to USA). Most people opt for a day trip here, but don’t be like them hippies. Put 2 – 3 days here to roam around, it’s worth the time. There are plenty of places to hike in the vicinity of this town, and they’re mostly outdoor. But there’s also a roller coaster theme park here if that’s your kind of shit (those coasters look quite intense) but this is even more awesome because at every dip and scream, you get to see the majestic Mt Fuji laughing at your ass for being such a pussy. Mt Fuji is just so surreal. (our hotel was just right next to the theme park and full view of Mt Fuji)

Disney Resort at Tokyo : I’m not a fan of Disneyland but I had a blast this round at Tokyo Disney Resort (combination of 2 theme parks – Disneyland and DisneySea). With proper planning this time round and also the blessing for having a very organized crowd, we managed to hit 18 rides in Disneyland and 15 in DisneySea. We spent a total of 13 hours at each park, from dawn till dark. Sure the tickets were expensive but it was well worth spending than at a shittier Tokyo city (which you should give a miss).

Nakamise Dori 仲見世 and Senso-ji Temple 浅草寺 at Tokyo : Both located at the same area. Nakamise Dori is a shopping street teeming with souvenir stores, food stalls and art stands. Starts at Kaminari-Mon, which is a big ass gate, ends at the Senso-Ji Temple – all in 1 stretch of happening road. It reminded me very much of a night market in Taiwan, only that it is much smaller in size and is throughout the entire day. What’s most important is, it doesn’t cost a thing to enter the place and the temple.

Payment machines around Japan : I’m a big fan of its payment machines. You know, you enter the restaurant, instead of having a server waiting for you to check out the menu, you do that at the side before entering the restaurant, make up your damn mind, place the order at the vending machine and the machine spits out your order coupon, then you go get a seat. Server gets the coupon, and you get served. How about that? Very organized and there’s no need for communication (unless necessary at all). It resolves the problem of getting the wrong order and waiters songlap-ing the $$ from cash register.

Misses (dislike):
Tokyo in general : Tokyo in general is a shithole. It’s overcrowded as fuck and if you’re unfortunate enough to hit the public transportation at the peak hour, you’re in for a nightmare. If you’ve seen videos of platform workers stuffing commuters into a jam packed train like sardines, yes it’s all real and I’ve experienced it myself. It was a fucking insane experience. Transportation is also expensive in Tokyo (albeit well established), most of its day-passes are very limited and simply does not worth the value unless one goes to shitloads of places within the same day. I allocated 1 week for Tokyo. Bad call. Tokyo at most, only needs 4 days. 2 of them at Disney Resort (only if one has not been to a Disney theme park). I’d have cut out Tokyo if it wasn’t for Disney (for my daughter).

Entry fees for almost all the places of interests :A lot of the temples require entrance fees or cover charge, and if you’re planning to visit shitloads of them, they could add up. While I understand the need to maintain these places, I can’t fathom why these places can’t be funded through other means? Like sales of trinkets or through donations (oh they have that as well). It makes me feel that visiting Japan is all about money. In Penang, none of our temples inside the UNESCO area require entrance fees. Those POIs that require fees, are usually cheap and they give you a bang for the buck, not like a small parch of shitty rock garden or something like that.

Bus driver duties : Japanese bus driver was equipped with a microphone, and for some fucking strange reasons, he was required to talk to his bus commuters like he’s a DJ or something. Like when there’s an interesting area that he drives past, he’ll go “Hey guys that’s where my friend Tamaukasi lives, he’s still a virgin with a lot of doll pillows” in Japanese. Or maybe something like “This is the last stop guys, better get off the bus if you do not want a wasabi root shoved up your ass”. Gets fucking annoying after a couple of turns.

No hablo ingles : The general Japanese public do not speak English. This is especially inconvenient if you’re in a restaurant with no English menu. Online apps with the camera translation aren’t helping either. Their flawed engine would translate a dish to something like “chicken tits motorbike winter”, or something worse. So most of the time, we’re reduced to sign language. There’s a time when my wife had to sign to the Jap chick at a convenient store to buy ‘menstrual pills’, but somehow it got translated to cigars (for some reason, my wife didn’t think of using Google translate FROM English to Jap writings).

Neutral (meh…) :
The Japanese people : The Japanese people aren’t as polite/friendly as everyone says (overrated). Well, not the way I like it, I should say. They’re not generally rude, you have to give them that. The only rude encounter I had was at the immigration. The overall Japanese society is apathetic to everyone. They don’t give a fuck about anything, unless they have to… which then they’ll be polite about it. They’re obliged to sound/act polite and it’s very rote. It felt fake, and there’s no feel of sincerity to it. Most of the time, it made me feel uneasy. Fake smile, fake bow, fuck me. I prefer them to be rude but sincere than a fake courtesy. If you want genuine politeness and courtesy, you should check out the Taiwanese. My favorite people on Earth. However, I also have to say that the streets in and around Tokyo/Kyoto/Kawaguchiko look very secure and feels very safe. I haven’t seen any loiterers or vagabonds or people peeing on the streets like what I saw at USA/Germany/Indonesia/China/Malaysia.

Food : I have always liked Japanese food. I don’t know if this is just me but, with the exception of that fantastic Houtou noodles at Kawaguchiko, and some expensive sushi at Tsukiji, the general Japanese food at Japan isn’t any better than the Japanese food at Penang like many said it is. There are good ones in Malaysia that are even better than those at Japan, true story. So, that sort of failed to justify the pricey food there… My wife and daughter are of the same opinion.

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December 25, 2017

Tokyo, Japan – Itinerary and planning (3+2 days) – part 3 of 3

This is part 3 of my Japan trip (which I am breaking up into 3 parts, like below)
– 3 days itinerary for Kyoto (link)
– 2 days (0.5 + 1 + 0.5) itinerary for Kawaguchiko (one of the Fuji Five lakes, for Mt. Fuji appreciation) (link)
– 3.5 days itinerary for Tokyo (sans Disney Resort), 2 days itinerary for Disney Resort (Disneyland and DisneySea)

In the actual itinerary, I took most of the 2nd half of Day 6 to travel to Tokyo by bus, and when I’ve reached Tokyo, the first thing I did was to get the IC card for each of us. If you have a kid in the group, your kid is entitled to a half-priced IC card for junior, just like my daughter – which you’d need to purchase at the JR ticketing office (can’t do that from the machine). And then, I made a beeline to the hotel to reunite with my bags (they were sent from Kyoto via TA-Q-BIN, remember?), get my shit together again and set out to Odaiba. However, in the 5 days itinerary, that Odaiba visit can be parked anywhere in the evening, so I’m going to do just that for the sake of convenience…
Now, the disclaimer:

– Since I’d traveled all the locations above in the same trip, my actual itinerary took longer than just 10 days. It was close to like, 13 days (1 day for Bangkok, 1 day for traveling between areas in Japan, 1 day for inbound/outbound flight and misc time loss). If you’d like to follow the exact itinerary listed above for all the areas, you might want to account an extra 2 – 3 days to the 10 days.
– In December, Japan has a relatively short daylight (like Taiwan). It starts to get dark at about 4pm, so naturally, I shifted the daylight loss by starting earlier in the morning.
– It’s also getting very cold in December (although not the coldest yet). If you have a fear of cold, you might want to just go to somewhere hotter instead.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited.
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 11-yo daughter, and myself. I managed to hit > 95% of what I’ve planned, with almost perfect timing accuracy. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work as well for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing and to experience Japan (with the final 2 days in Disney Resort). The itineraries involve a lot of walking, averaging about 20,000 steps each day. That’s roughly about 16km of walking per day. If you’re not into walking or has a fat ass, this is probably not your kind of shit. (Go find one of those gay tours)
– The itinerary hinges on the assumption that you’d do your own planning/research on the public transportation. You can choose to splurge on taxi or go smart by subway/bus. Doesn’t matter. Just Google around for info.
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too. (Japan has a lot of temples, shrines and pig related obsession from its culture to food).
– The day to day planning can be shuffled around, depending on your dates of travel, as some of the places might be closed on certain day of the week. So, check your schedule vs the places of interests during your planning.
– This is just my own planning. It may not be as good as others’. If you think there are flaws with my planning, that’s probably because I’m an amateur.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Kawaguchiko, Japan – Itinerary and planning (2 days) – part 2 of 3

This is part 2 of my Japan trip (which I am breaking up into 3 parts, like below)
– 3 days itinerary for Kyoto (link)
– 2 days (0.5 + 1 + 0.5) itinerary for Kawaguchiko (one of the Fuji Five lakes, for Mt. Fuji appreciation)
– 3.5 days itinerary for Tokyo (sans Disney Resort), 2 days itinerary for Disney Resort (Disneyland and DisneySea) (link)

Initially, I wanted to do a longer Kawaguchiko excursion – like maybe, a 4-day visit instead of just 2. I felt that there’s so much to explore in the area (and also to partly increase the odds of seeing Mt Fuji. The elusive view of Mt Fuji is infamous for getting obscured by clouds/fogs or inclement weather). But because my daughter and wife wanted to do Disney at Tokyo, I had to plan for a 2-day excursion instead. The actual plan was a bit different for us, instead of a clean 2 days, it’s more like 0.5 day, followed by a full day, and then the final day another 0.5. That’s because on Day 4, I had to take the bullet train (Tokaido Shinkansen) from Kyoto to Mishima, and then a bus to Kawaguchiko area. That takes up the whole morning and left me the 0.5 day. The final 0.5 day was for the afternoon travel to Tokyo by bus. So, you see, that made it hard for me to use the 2 day unlimited bus pass for Kawaguchiko lake area. That was why I planned for a location that’s out of the unlimited pass coverage area to make myself feel better about not losing out too much (psychological).

To make things easier, I’m going to simplify the itinerary into flat 2 days instead.

Anyway, here’s a disclaimer (copy/pasted from the Part 1):

– Since I’d traveled all the locations above in the same trip, my actual itinerary took longer than just 10 days. It was close to like, 13 days (1 day for Bangkok, 1 day for traveling between areas in Japan, 1 day for inbound/outbound flight and misc time loss). If you’d like to follow the exact itinerary listed above for all the areas, you might want to account an extra 2 – 3 days to the 10 days.
– In December, Japan has a relatively short daylight (like Taiwan). It starts to get dark at about 4pm, so naturally, I shifted the daylight loss by starting earlier in the morning.
– It’s also getting very cold in December (although not the coldest yet). If you have a fear of cold, you might want to just go to somewhere hotter instead.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited.
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 11-yo daughter, and myself. I managed to hit > 95% of what I’ve planned, with almost perfect timing accuracy. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work as well for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing and to experience Japan (with the final 2 days in Disney Resort). The itineraries involve a lot of walking, averaging about 20,000 steps each day. That’s roughly about 16km of walking per day. If you’re not into walking or has a fat ass, this is probably not your kind of shit. (Go find one of those gay tours)
– The itinerary hinges on the assumption that you’d do your own planning/research on the public transportation. You can choose to splurge on taxi or go smart by subway/bus. Doesn’t matter. Just Google around for info.
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too. (Japan has a lot of temples, shrines and pig related obsession from its culture to food).
– The day to day planning can be shuffled around, depending on your dates of travel, as some of the places might be closed on certain day of the week. So, check your schedule vs the places of interests during your planning.
– This is just my own planning. It may not be as good as others’. If you think there are flaws with my planning, that’s probably because I’m an amateur.

Read the rest of this entry »

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December 24, 2017

Kyoto, Japan – Itinerary and planning (3 days) – part 1 of 3

Just came back from a ~2 weeks Japan travel covering Kyoto, Kawaguchiko and Tokyo, thought of sharing my super awesome itinerary in this blog. The actual plan was an elaborate one, including an arrangement for a 24 hour stopover at Bangkok prior flying into Japan via KIX (and exit via NRT) and up to which day to do laundry. But for the sake of convenience, I’m going to write this in simplified form, and span it with days instead of the actual one whole itinerary. So, shit is going to get break up into the following:
– 3 days itinerary for Kyoto
– 2 days (0.5 + 1 + 0.5) itinerary for Kawaguchiko (one of the Fuji Five lakes, for Mt. Fuji appreciation) (link)
– 3.5 days itinerary for Tokyo (sans Disney Resort), 2 days itinerary for Disney Resort (Disneyland and DisneySea) (link)

That way, you can just use whatever that suits your travel needs, like, you can do Tokyo first, then the lake or even, use one of the itineraries as an excursion for your existing boring itinerary. You get the idea. This post features the itinerary for Kyoto. I’ll do separate posts for Kawaguchiko and Tokyo as part 2 and 3 respectively. But before I begin the Kyoto itinerary, please read through the disclaimer:

– Since I’d traveled all the locations above in the same trip, my actual itinerary took longer than just 10 days. It was close to like, 13 days (1 day for Bangkok, 1 day for traveling between areas in Japan, 1 day for inbound/outbound flight and misc time loss). If you’d like to follow the exact itinerary listed above for all the areas, you might want to account an extra 2 – 3 days to the 10 days.
– In December, Japan has a relatively short daylight (like Taiwan). It starts to get dark at about 4pm, so naturally, I shifted the daylight loss by starting earlier in the morning.
– It’s also getting very cold in December (although not the coldest yet). If you have a fear of cold, you might want to just go to somewhere hotter instead.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited.
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 11-yo daughter, and myself. I managed to hit > 95% of what I’ve planned, with almost perfect timing accuracy. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work as well for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing and to experience Japan (with the final 2 days in Disney Resort). The itineraries involve a lot of walking, averaging about 20,000 steps each day. That’s roughly about 16km of walking per day. If you’re not into walking or has a fat ass, this is probably not your kind of shit. (Go find one of those gay tours)
– The itinerary hinges on the assumption that you’d do your own planning/research on the public transportation. You can choose to splurge on taxi or go smart by subway/bus. Doesn’t matter. Just Google around for info.
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too. (Japan has a lot of temples, shrines and pig related obsession from its culture to food).
– The day to day planning can be shuffled around, depending on your dates of travel, as some of the places might be closed on certain day of the week. So, check your schedule vs the places of interests during your planning.
– This is just my own planning. It may not be as good as others’. If you think there are flaws with my planning, that’s probably because I’m an amateur.

Read the rest of this entry »

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June 20, 2017

Indonesia – Bali

If I were to summarize my Bali trip in one word, it would be ‘unexpected’. For some strange reasons, I had the impression that Bali is a small place, despite the fact that I could see myself from the map that it’s goddamn huge! But it was ‘unexpected’ in a good way for me. I expected it to be a just mediocre holiday destination but the trip unexpectedly turned out to be quite pleasant for me and my family. Here are the list of hits and misses of Bali:

Hits (good):
Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang : To be frank, you’ll only be impressed with the first few Hindu temples you visit in Bali. After that, it gets trite and common, and most of them would look all the same after that. Just like those churches in Europe. But not Lempuyang. This place has a magical feel, and it’s the only temple in Bali I’d vouch for. Its magnificent view of Mt. Agung (subject to weather condition) and serene ambiance, makes me feel at peace.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces : It has a UNESCO label on it, and rightly so. On a clear day, you’d see contrasted green or yellow fields of rice terraces against the blue sky. Takes away all the stress.

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan : The water temple that is surrounded by a well maintained park. Because it is located at a highland, the air is cool here and breezy. Great place to relax and killer postcard scene to be had.

Twin Lake view : Located not far from Beratan lake, it is a free viewpoint with some restaurants lined up along the street. It’s a great place to have some local snacks/meal, while enjoying the super awesome view of the 2 lakes – Buyan and Tamblingan.

Kintamani : Another viewpoint that I’d vouch for. Kintamani’s view of Mt. Batur is damn nice! Like the twin lake viewpoint, the air is cool and breezy here, which is pure bliss.

Ubud Monkey Forest : It’s not about the monkeys. Fuck the monkeys. But this ‘monkey forest’, does look ‘magical’ with its ass old vines and trees. You can hike around the place too. Of course if you like monkeys, that can be a bonus for you. There are shitloads of them here, but they’re pretty much harmless.

Tirta Empul : Holy bathing place. Can be full of tourists sometimes but, it’s special enough to warrant a visit here at least once. If you’re a believer and has strong faith in Hinduism, I’d recommend to take a soak in the spring water (which are just blessed piped water, by the way).

Penglipuran village : Has a bamboo forest right outside of the main village. A stroll along the forest gives you the calm (or creeps, depending on the size of your balls). The village itself is also very unique – the traditional Balinese village setting, complete with their own private temple at each home (which is common throughout Bali). You can just walk into any home, the tenants will welcome you… with hope that you’d purchase some souvenirs, drinks or food (which are reasonably priced). An eye opener to even the locals (especially kids born in modern times), I heard.

Pasar Senggol Gianyar : Reminds me of those ubiquitous night markets throughout Taiwan. Shit tonnes of food at dirt cheap prices.

Melasti Beach : Nice beach beside some cliffs. Place is right next to Indian Ocean, which is blue and has huge beautiful waves. If I wasn’t pressed for time, I’d sit there for a long time to admire the view the whole afternoon.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu : Famous for its sunset view. The walk along the cliff offers magnificent view of Indian Ocean and some impressive waves down there. Place is touristy and full of nasty monkeys – but do not let that dampen your spirit of going there.

Waterbom : I don’t know about the claim of being the No.1 waterpark in Asia (I haven’t been to many waterparks), but this place is really a gem. If you have a day to kill and the weather’s inclement, head over to this waterpark and kill your whole day here.

Misses (bad):

Goa Gajah : Old temple but much of it is in ruins. There are a few filthy ponds nearby which are eyesores and there’s not much going in its compound. But outside the temple, there are shitloads of stalls with vendors pestering everyone to buy their overpriced merchandise. If you miss this place, you won’t miss a thing.

Ubud traditional art market : Place is a shithole. Stuffs are cheap… yes, but only after you bargain till there’s no tomorrow. I don’t like this kind of way of doing business, so…

Pura Kehen : Another temple which is located in some town smack dab of nowhere. Small compound, and there’s nothing much about it. You’d feel ripped off for having to pay to enter this temple because it’s like paying for nothing…

Kertha Gosa : Unless you’re a history nerd, this place offers nothing much other than a couple of re-created buildings of some old remnants of a guest house surrounded by a small moat. There’s also a museum in the complex which has very limited exhibits. Conclusion: This place is as boring as watching paint dry on a wall.

Tirta Gangga : Boring park with fountains and ponds. I don’t find it interesting but, can be a great place for a family picnic if that’s your thing. Because the place is located far to the north-east of Bali, I’d say to goddamn give it a miss unless you’re in the area.

Taman Soekasada Ujung : Another water palace like Tirta Gangga, which also used to be a prison for ‘evil sorcerers’ or something. Fucking mind boggling I know but, one would expect the place to look darkly impressive at the very least but, place looks like it’s trying too hard to be a botanical garden/park but failed miserably.

Goa Lawah : Bat Cave Temple – that’s the only impressive thing about this place – its name. Its just a small temple by the roadside. Having to pay to visit this place makes it feel like a RIP OFF. I couldn’t even see the bats because they’re hidden in a cave, which is restricted to visitors/worshippers. There’s totally no point of visiting this place unless you’re here for some religious purposes.

All the malls : Malls at Bali are big jokes. Most of them has retarded air conditioners (stuffy as shit) and overpriced merchandise that can be found right at the stall across the street.

Entry fees for almost all the places : My gripe is that, some of the places do not even have proper facilities like clean toilets or even a fucking parking lot – so why the entrance fee? Escapes me. I guess it is just there to part your money from your wallet in case you’re smart enough not to buy any of their low quality ‘handicrafts’.

Taxi drivers : Seriously, there are just too many of them. More of them in Kuta than those monkeys in Ubud. They’re everywhere and they’d honk at every passing foreigners on the road. If you cross the road, one or two of them would stop to ask if you’d like to go somewhere. Goddamn taxi drivers. The Bali government should consider a proper public bus (hop on and off kind) service instead of letting these shitbags to ply the streets of Bali.

Average (meh…) :

Pura Tanah Lot : Post card place that every visitor would post a picture of, when in Bali. Place looks great but, is too crowded to be able to get a decent picture there. So crowded with tourists that it has become filthy, and the reeks of tourist trap. Go there at planned time, and it might be great.

Pura Taman Ayun : A major temple of sorts. Its walls look majestic but otherwise, it looks like any other Hindu temple you can find around Bali. Might be good to visit this before you visit other temples to appreciate it.

Kuta Beach : Impressive wave but, it’s a beach teeming with people and a bit polluted due to proximity to Kuta & Denpasar. There are better beaches around Bali.

Balinese food : Greasy as hell, and not too spicy (some can pack quite a punch). Taste wise, it’s nothing to shout about. The only thing I enjoyed there was the Babi Guling meal (roasted pork). The rest are just… meh. (maybe that’s because I come from Penang).

Turtle Conservation And Education Center : Place not meant for entertainment, but more for educational on turtle conservation around Bali (as the name implies). If you’re on precious vacation time and you want max enjoyment, this might disappoint you to some extend.

Ocean rafting to Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan : Great experience on the high speed raft but the snorkeling wasn’t as impressive as say… Redang or Lang Tengah at Malaysia. Corals are bland and dull, fishes are shy. The beach club by Bali Hai is old and dated.

Bintang beer : You see signs everywhere promoting it like it’s the holy water that will give you eternal youth. But really, it’s just very normal. Go for the brand ‘Anker’ instead…

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