Heyyy...I'm back!! I know it's been awhile since my last update and if anyone even noticed, I actually closed my blog while I was away
to avoid stalkers. :p In fact, I took about 5 weeks off work from March to April for two main reasons...one was to go on a family vacation in Japan, and the other reason was to go on a 'secret mission' (as described by my boss), which I'm not allowed to disclose yet. :p Somehow, both my planned & unplanned vacation coincidentally fall around the same time causing me to be away from work for about two months (in total)...good or bad timing I'm not sure...but I'm thankful that my boss and colleagues were very supportive and helped out with my work while I was away. And yes, I had to take unpaid leave and this is definitely not a good timing to be m-i-a from work, but my view is "nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity...when an opportunity comes you grab it coz some opportunities don't come by twice."
Anyway, our Japan trip ended more than a month ago but I haven't got time to blog about it over the past month so I'm hoping to get it done before I begin my next journey. :p This was a self-planned trip so I'm gonna proudly say that I was the 'planner' for this entire journey...haha! Took me quite a lot of time working on the entire detailed itinerary but I enjoy doing this kinda crap so I'm happy with my accomplishment...lol! Aight, enough of self-praise (=no praise)...enjoy the photos! =) Warning: Long post ahead!
21 March 2012 (Wed): Pg - KL - Osaka - Kyoto
Took an overnight flight that we booked on Airasia few months back to Osaka. Honestly, the flight wasn't very comfortable and I didn't get much sleep on board. For long-haul AA flight, I'll try to avoid night flights the next time. Our flight arrived Kansai Airport slightly ahead of schedule and we managed to beat the crowd and get out of the airport fairly quickly using our 'kiasu' skill...lol!
First things first, we went to the airport travel desk to purchase our 2-day Kansai Thru Pass that allowed us to travel on any non-JR trains and buses around Kansai area (including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, etc). Transportation is expensive in Japan so this pass was quite worth it for us as our hotel was in Osaka and we planned to travel to Kyoto for 2 days.
Traveling around in Japan is very convenient but it could be quite difficult for people who can't read Japanese. I did a whole lot of homework especially for the best way to travel around and thanks to hyperdia.com, I was able to work out exactly which train, station, time and duration for every place that we wanted to go...kinda insane but it worked out perfect coz we didn't get lost at all!!
Stopped by a shop at the metro station for some gyoza for breakfast...it's great to have something hot to eat when the weather is so chilly!!
Arrived Shin Osaka Sunny Stone hotel...our 2-nights base in Osaka/Kyoto. Hotels in Japan are really small...just enough space to walk to the bed but they are all very clean though.
Time to head out for some sightseeing after dropping off our luggages at the hotel. Trains make it so convenient to travel anywhere around Japan. My 'homework' comes in handy in to navigate around the complicated routes. =)
Guess what we had for our first meal in Kyoto??
As if navigating the train route is not challenging enough...we challenged the bus routes...lol!! :p No choice coz Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) was kinda out of the way and the best way to get there was by bus.
Successfully made our way to Kinkakuji! It was actually not that complicated la...I was just exaggerating. :p
Honestly, I'm not a big fan of temples but this temple is one of the famous tourist attractions in Kyoto so I decided to go there to get some nice photos..haha! :p
Of course we all gotta get into the photos...lol!!
Took the train again to go to Arashiyama...we traveled on all sorts of different train lines. One thing we noticed was that Japanese are very quiet in trains and it's actually rude to talk on the phone in the trains.
Arashiyama district is known for its scenery...but the main reason we came was for the bamboo forest.
Tenryuji Temple...we only took photos from the outside.
Lucky us...we saw some 'real' Geisha along the streets! =)
After several detours, we finally arrived at the bamboo forest!! It's so pretty!!
I know self praise = no praise but I love this pic of bro that I took...very artistic huh!! :p
Wanted to take some jumpshots with the cool bamboo backdrop behind by bro can never take a good jumpshot of me...I tried almost 20 attempts till my muscle was aching and he still haven't got a perfect one. =.= WeyShin is still the best camera girl...haha!!
The bamboo forest is really pretty...we don't see this in Malaysia so pardon me if I'm a bit 'sam pat'...lol!!
We arrived about a week before the cherry blossom season starts so we were excited just to see some trees blossoming. :p
Sunset along Togetsukyo Bridge with the Oi River & Arashiyama mountains in the background.
Dinner somewhere around Namba station...more Udon and Soba...woohoo!!
22 March 2012 (Thurs): Kyoto
Traveled by train from Osaka to Kyoto again the next morning for our second day of sightseeing in Kyoto.
Our first attraction for the day - Fushimi Inari Shrine...you'll find out why I wanted to visit this place later. :p
Everything around this Shrine is orange...very striking.
There were lotsa students on school trips visiting the temples...good way to educate them to appreciate their own culture. =)
Yup...this was what attracted me to come visit this shrine...haha! If we had more time, I would spend a whole lot of time posing around here...lol!!
Us being crazy fooling around again. :p
Initially I didn't plan to go into Nijo castle but bro wanted to hear 'the floor that makes the bird-chirping sound' so we bought tickets to go in.
We weren't allowed to take pics in the castle but well at least we got to see some sakuras.
Nishiki Food Market
Udons for lunch again...me likey...haha!
Next stop...Kiyomizu Dera...another temple on a hill. Had to hike some to reach the temple but there were lotsa shops along the way to distract us. :p
The temple and its surrounding.
Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka slopes...love the feel of walking along this slope.
Gion Geisha district...a trip to Kyoto would not be complete without visiting the Gion district. This area is famous for geisha but it depends on luck to actually see Geishas along the street. We saw a geisha but she was walking so quickly that I didn't manage to get a pic of her.
23 March 2012 (Fri): Takayama & Shirakawago
Checked out of our hotel in Osaka early the next morning to catch a train to Takayama. It was pouring in the morning and we couldn't get a cab so we ended up walking 20 minutes in the rain to the train station. We arrived the train platform 5 minutes before the train departs...we were so close to missing it!
I wanted to take the Wide View Hida Direct Express from Osaka to Takayama because I've read comments about the nice scenery along the 4-hours train ride. But the rain totally ruined our view. =.=
Hida Takayama Washington Hotel Plaza. Usual routine...dropped our bags at the hotel before starting our sightseeing. This hotel is very strategically located right across the train and bus station. The rooms are also nice and clean. =)
Our main destination in Takayama was Shirakawago, a small town an hour away from Takayama. We were rushing to catch the bus and had no time for lunch so the vending machine was a life-saver...haha! I'm really impressed with this machine...it serves hot food!
We got on the bus not knowing that we would be greeted by this winter scenery...and I thought it was spring already??? What a pleasant surprise! =)
So glad that we made this trip here...absolutely worth it! I really thought everything would be brown-ish by now coz winter is over but coz Shirakawago is located in the mountains so the temperature was only 2 celcius when we were there.
I'm easily attracted by nice sceneries and this is what attracted me to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This place is pretty when it's either all white or all green...so winter and summer would be a good time to visit.
As you can see, the design of the houses is quite special. In winter, the roofs are all covered in snow too.
It was raining, cold and so freakin' windy...I was so under-dressed for this weather.
Rivers and mountains always make good backdrop for pics. =) Sorry that we had to ruin the nice scenery with our green raincoat...lol!
Love all these wooden houses!
This is a close-up of the one of the houses that we saw from the viewing point above.
After the vending machine lunch that we had, we decided to get something better...bbq chicken for dinner. =)
24 March 2012 (Sat): Takayama - Tokyo Shinjuku
Our itinerary for the next morning was to walk around Takayama town before catching our bus to Tokyo in the afternoon. Above is the Historical Government House and Jinya-mae morning market.
We then went for a little hike to Shiroyama Park...nothing interesting though.
Some random shots as we walk around Takayama town.
Before leaving Takayama, we had another round of vending-machine lunch box...we almost tried everything they had in that machine...lol!! :p
I didn't mention earlier, we almost bought the 7-day JR rail pass but decided not to after working out the math that it would be cheaper for us to use different modes of transport to travel around. Based on my survey, it was more economical and convenient to travel by bus to some places but all the websites to book tickets are in Japanese so we had to ask our high school friend who's working in Tokyo to help us with it. Thanks YouYang for helping us with all the bus tickets! =)
The journey from Takayama to Tokyo turned out to be a pleasant surprise too. I wanted to take a nap during the 6-hour bus ride but the sceneries kept me awake. We were back in winter again...haha!!
What a great timing for our bus to stop for toilet break...it was snowing!!! Yes I know we are very 'sam pat' again...you gotta understand that we live in a country with only one season!
So glad that we took this bus...hehe! =)
First glimpse of Mt Fuji..more to come!!
Arrived Tokyo Shinjuku around 8pm. We decided to call it a day after dinner coz it was already late. Tokyo was just a quick overnight stop for us because we were saving it for the last 2 days.
Shinjuku was very happening and crowded on a Saturday night...I didn't really like it though.
A trip to Japan would not be complete without staying at a capsule hotel...haha! It's not really that cheap but just for the experience. The Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel is only for guys so bro and dad stayed there while me and mom stayed in Sunlite Shinjuku Hotel.
25 March 2012 (Sun): Tokyo Shinjuku - Lake Kawaguchi (Mt Fuji)
Beautiful weather on a Sunday morning in Shinjuku!
Went back to the Shinjuku bus station to catch our bus to Lake Kawaguchi. The journey took about 2 hours.
Finally arrived at Kawaguchiko station...lucky us we bumped into our cute friend...Hello Kitty! :p
Our accommodation in Mt Fuji...K's House Mt Fuji. We got ourselves a 3-person suite with attached bathroom. This hostel is very cosy, clean and nice! Love it!!
Lake Kawaguchi was within walking distance from our hostel...we were very lucky coz the weather was lovely. The scenery around the lake is absolutely stunning! Most people go to Hakone to see Mt Fuji but I would recommend Lake Kawaguchi.
Took the Kachi-kachi Ropeway to Mt Tenjo for an aerial view of the lake.
It's not easy to get a clear view of the entire Mt Fuji. We waited for quite some time for all the clouds to clear just to get a perfect picture of this mountain!
You have no idea how many pictures we took of the mountain! As I was editing all these pictures, I realized they all look the same...why the heck did I take so many pics then??
Best thing about coming up Mt Tenjo is that we got to see both Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi...both equally stunning. =)
Both of us rented bikes from the hostel and went wandering around the lake to catch the sunset.
The sky is so clear but too bad the wind was kinda strong so couldn't really see a clear reflection of the mountain on the lake.
We were busy taking pics until it got dark...lol!
Prepared dinner ourselves at the hostel kitchen.
26 March 2012 (Mon): Goodbye Japan!
Our original plan was to tour around Tokyo for the last 3 days of our trip which was supposed to end on 28th but unfortunately, me and bro had to give up Tokyo this trip and fly out earlier to another city for our 'special mission'. We forfeited our tickets back to Malaysia and bought another ticket last minute which costed us a bomb...haha! So mom and dad toured around Tokyo themselves for the last 3 days. I guess we'll just have to save Tokyo for the next time then. :p
Had lunch at a special ramen place before heading to Narita airport. All those toilet paper holders caught my attention...good idea huh...lol!
Sayonara Japan!! Hello to another exciting journey!!
Just to share my 'masterpiece'...haha!! I'm such an auditor...lol!!
Oh I even worked out an expense report....hahahaha!! :p
That's all for now. Finally completed this long post. Thanks for scrolling! I'm currently using the free wifi at JFK Terminal 5 before I head elsewhere to look for a better place to spend the night in this airport before catching my next flight tomorrow morning.