Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fall, in love with Japan 2013 - Part 3

On the third day, we spent the morning in Osaka, and made our way to Kyoto early afternoon.
We checked out of our hotel in the morning, but we left our luggages at the front desk so we can go explore without a worry. We decided to find our way to the JR Namba station so we would know our way there later when we have to make the way with our luggages. We found the Welcome-to-Osaka metal ball!

Got way too excited about a giant reflective metal ball...
After we sorted out the way to the train station, we went to Shinsaibashi for shopping. After shopping we went for box sushi (箱寿司) for lunch! To be honest, the taste wasn't too special, but it was definitely super cute and relatively yummy.

having prism sushi - another thing off my bucket list.

so cute right? Food that looks like toy (like, prism sushi, sushi balls...) excites me ^^
After lunch we went to Dotonbori to get some souvenirs. Since I've been to Osaka way too many times, I didn't really buy much souvenirs from there. Just got some candy for myself (*´∀`). We were having way too much fun so we were kind of rushing back to the inn to get our stuff, and we rushed to the train station. Good thing we checked our routes beforehand, so we made it in time to catch our train.

selfie with shades - MY NEW POLICE SHADES! (been wanting a pair for the longest time because...ATSUSHI <3 )
However, the ride was not a comfortable one. There were not enough room to fit my large suitcase in front of me. I had no leg room. (*´Д`). It was a bit better when KK switched seats with me so I could sort of tilt my leg sideways towards the aisle, but still... uncomfortable!

no leg room (T___T")

still, not having leg room didn't stop us from taking a selfie.
After we arrived Kyoto station, we booked our seats for the way to Tokyo two days later, and then we took the bus to our accomodation in Kyoto. As directed from the information provided to us, we took a bus to Kiyomizu-zaka. This turned out to be quite a challenge; trying to balance myself and preventing my luggage from rolling and bumping into other passengers was not an experience I would want to repeat. After we got off the bus, we located ourselves. We started making our way to the accomodation, which is actually a Japanese style Ryokan in my opinion, although on the booking site, it was named a "hotel". The walk was not too long, but it was a killer because it was uphill! The sidewalk was really rough so during the entire way, I prayed that the wheels on my luggage won't fail on me (because it has happened, twice for that matters). It was also really dark by the time we got to Kyoto, and we were not entirely sure of our ways. Luckily we found our Ryokan without too many problems, but next time, I will surely opt for a taxi to save ourselves from the hassle.

our room when we first stepped into it.

we had a little desk thingie which was so cute

determined to take more selfies before we mess up the room.
The Ryokan we stayed at was operated by a family, who lived on the second floor. The wife was the one that greeted us and she was really friendly. She told us of all the regulations and showed us around the place. When we got into our room, we were so tired, and I was really sweaty. We cooled off (yay AC), dropped off our stuff, refreshed ourselves, and went out to get dinner and do a bit of exploring. We ended up walking into a small Okonomiyaki restaurant, since we didn't have a chance to eat it in Osaka. We ordered okonomiyaki obviously, as well as a dish that I totally don't remember the name of. On the menu, the restaurant claimed that the dish was popular amount regular customers. It looked pretty good, so we decided to order it. It was something like a roll, with egg on the outer layer, wrapping some pieces of pork inside. It was indeed delicious.

our Okonomiyaki nommmmmm!

It had soba in it, which made it more like hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

the pork egg wrap dish popular among regular customers.
After dinner, we decided to take a night walk around the neighborhood. We went to conbini and the local supermarket, where I found eito candy <3. We took a different way back and kind of got lost. We didn't care though, since we were too busy taking photos of the dark, creepy but kyoto-like streets. It was almost like an adventure and I was so glad I went with KK. There's no way I would dare to explore like that if I were to go by myself. After we got back to the ryokan, we just cleaned ourselves up and chilled until we went to bed.

haroooo I'm actually in the photo.

super Kyoto-esque scene.

more creepy but pretty kyoto scene.
The next day we spent entirely in Kyoto, which was quite eventful. More about it next post!

Fall, in love with Japan 2013 - Part 2

So the second day of our trip, we decided to go to Nara. I've been there before, but KK wanted to see the deers so I went with her again. We took the JR to Nara, and since I had to get my foreigner travel pass in order to take the JR train, we also reserved seats for the train to Kyoto for the next day.
When we got to Nara, we checked out the tourist information centre to see if there are maps or pamphlets since we didn't have a solid idea of what we wanted to see.
A very nice lady gave us maps and helped us decide on a course to see the most of Nara, and we were off.

our adventure begins! - with a selfie of course.
To be honest, we just spent most of the time hanging out with the deers, petting them and trying to take selfies with them - it's not as easy as it seems.

got everyone in the shot ^__^
always on the look out for the little ones
KK wanted to feed the deers before we leave Nara but in the end we both forgot. Oh well, that will give her a reason to return next time!

gimme the foooooodssss, human!

Unlike the previous time I went to Nara, this time we actually went into some of the temples. There was one special buddha on display, and legend has it if a sick person touches a picture of it and then rubs the corresponding part of his/her own body, the person will heal. I took a picture of it just in case it comes in handy in the future (^_^;). The weather was pretty good - great condition for outdoor pictures! During the entire trip, whenever I visited a shrine or a temple, I wished for the same things - good health for dad and good relationship for myself (*´∀`).
just gotta accept the fact that there's always gonna be random tourists in your photos.

love this shot - pretty blue sky really makes a difference.

somehow I always ended up with selfie duties when I travel with this girl.

obligatory touristy shot - not what I usually go for but it's nice sometimes
Binzuru, the healing buddha image I was talking about earlier - feel free to use this image. you're welcome.
Buddha in the house
we also got our fortunes - hmm not entirely sure what it was saying but I got the jist of it...
"mom! stop kissing's embarassing!"
We stopped by another tourist centre for washroom break midday. The centre also provided visitors with hot or cold tea, wi-fi and AC! We stayed there for a little while and then we were off again after signing the guest book. KK also found her new lover, Sento-kun, standing in front of the building.

what a sweet couple <3

leaving our trace in Nara
After more hanging out with the deers, we decided to have kaki no ha zushi (柿の葉寿司) for a late lunch. Kaki no ha zushi means "sushi wrapped in Japanese persimmon leaf",  which is originated from Nara and Wakayama. The reason for using persimmon leaves is because persimmon leaves have sterilizing effects, so the sushi can be preserved for longer before it goes bad. To further extend the period of freshness, the kinds of toppings  (ネタ)used for this type of sushi are limited. Many of the toppings are pickled and thus, have a sour taste. Unlike traditional sushi, kaki no ha zushi are not consumed with wasabi and soy sauce. It was really flavorful and delicious on its own. We shared a box and each time we unwrapped a sushi, it was like opening a surprise because we weren't sure what we would be getting next! (source for info on kaki no ha zushi, because obviously I was no expert on it! :

shared this 12 pcs box with KK
After lunch, we headed back to the souvenir area and KK bought some souvenirs. We took the train back to Umeda (Osaka). We dropped by kiddyland, where we shopped at the Kapibara-san shop, Snoopy shop, and Rilakkuma shop. We also had dinner at Umeda before we headed back to Namba.


The name's Cheburashka/チェブラーシカ! (okay I cheated, I could never remember his name....)

Snoopy store! I swear I got snoopy crazy because of KK...but I'm actually more into his brother, Olaf <3

our dinner - I'm pretty sure it was an Oyako don...
When we got back to Namba, we went to Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori because I wanted to show KK the awesome night view there, with all the brightly lit commercial boards along the Dotonbori river. It's definitely one of my favorite places to go at night. KK also got to experience the scene of all the hosts standing around trying to get business for their clubs. /laughs/

This is my idea of beauty, I'm a city girl afterall.

I swear I have way too many photos of this scene in my blog, but I will never get tired of it.
We called it a night after that night stroll and went back to our inn. Next day, we were planning to spend the morning hanging out in Osaka and then setting off to Kyoto after lunch. Our adventure continues in the next post.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fall, in love with Japan 2013 - Part 1

So I've decided to write up a series of posts for my trip to Japan in October 2013.

Not entirely sure how many parts there will be (nor how long it will take), but I'm determined to finish blogging about the entire journey... LET'S DO THIS!

The entire trip was about three weeks. 10 of those days were spent with KK in four cities - Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo - and then the rest of the time spent either meeting up with my Japanese friends or by myself in Tokyo. I've also made a weekend trip to Hiroshima to meet up with someone special to me after KK left Japan.

So the trip started when I flew to Osaka (KIX airport) after midnight of the 9th. KK and I made separate ways to Japan because we had different flight conditions and we each tried to find the cheapest way for us to travel.

I flew into the country by Peach, a low-cost carrier. This explains why I had to fly at such awkward timing. It was really early in the morning when I arrived KIX. Coincidentally, Bella (and family) was flying out of the country from the same airport on the same morning, so I just waited around until she showed up at the check-in counters. It was nice seeing her there since I wouldn't be able to see her in HK before her flight back to Toronto. It was our last chance to meet until I visit Toronto or she visits HK again. T___T"

started the trip right by seeing this lovely face <3

Saw some of EXILE while waiting for B. ^^

After Bella left, it was still really early. I just roamed around the airport and texted my oniichan, whom called me stupid because I didn't let him know I was coming to Kansai until then, and it was too late for him to come to Osaka to meet me (he lived an hour away but I assumed he had work). Then I found a locker to keep my luggage because I planned to go to my favourite outlet mall, Rinku Premium Outlet (which was close to the airport), to shop before heading into the city.

always bad weather whenever I go there...
I spent about 2 hours there and already did a bigger damage to my wallet than I had anticipated. No regrets though... hehe! Afterwards, I went back to the airport to pick up my luggage and headed to Namba. I dropped my luggage off at the inn that I would be staying at, but it wasn't time for check-in yet, so I went out and poked around Shinsaibashi.

EXILE's TV show ended so the ad got taken down....but at least Nino was there to greet me!

my favourite Osaka spot.

Glad to see a familiar face - the lovely Glico man
I've bought some little things like accessories, and also two chip n' dale unibearsity keychains (same style as the stuffed toys below) from the disney store.

Would've bought them too if I didn't have to worry about luggage space.

After that nice afternoon stroll, I decided to head back to the hotel to check-in, and to have a short nap before my evening plans. Before KK arrived (she flew in from Tokyo and took the Shinkansen to Osaka), I planned to go to the Exile Tribe Station and 24 karats shop and then have a short meet-up with Hiromi, whom messaged me that morning when she found out I was in Kansai.

So being the direction dummy that I am, I managed to get myself lost on the way to the Exile shops even though I've been there at least twice before. That also made me late for my meet-up with Hiromi but luckily she was understanding and we managed to have coffee before I had to find KK. It was nice seeing Hiromi again two years after I first met her in Toronto. It was also kind of amazing how we were able to meet up in two different countries.

Thanks for treating me to coffee, we will def. meet again!
Hiromi took me to the train station where KK was arriving at. There was a little glitch when we were trying to meet up but in the end we successfully found each other. We decided to go back to Namba first and eat our dinner there. We just randomly went into a ramen shop and ordered their house special. Unfortunately for us, it was not that good because it was very oily.

first night's dinner - ramen and gyoza

tiring day for the both of us but yay we're in Japan!
After dinner we headed straight to our inn since we were both really tired. We decided to have an early night in so we would be well rested for our adventures ahead!

The next day we went to Nara, which will be Part 2 of this series. ^^ v

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Recap and 2014 Aims

Ahh... it's been a long time since I worked on this blog. At the beginning of the year school was taking up all my energy as I had to spend a lot of time working on my final year project. When school was finally over, I was busy with life - taking a trip to NYC with my bff, enjoying the last days in Toronto, settling down in Hong Kong, and going on my awesome trip to Japan with KK. Before I knew it, the year ended and my blog collected an inch thick of dust. =__="

I've decided to do a recap of my 2013 (for my future reference) since it was one of the best years of my life up till now. I've challenged myself throughout the year, and I feel like I've grown a lot as a person. I will forever treasure all the new encounters and memories this year brought me.

Major Things that happened in my 2013:

1.) My final year project as a Marketing Major - worked in a team and created a marketing campaign for our client - ASUS. It was a really nerve-wrecking, yet fruitful experience as we had to meet up with our client, come up with a proposal and a presentation for them. This was a really good opportunity to experience the 'real business' scene.

2.) I've become more active this year. Although I still couldn't seem to stick to one kind of sport for a prolong period of time /laughs/. I've been playing badminton with my friends regularly on a weekly basis for a few months, then that sort of stopped as many of them turned to rock-climbing and bouldering. I started hitting the gym around Spring time, then switched to swimming in the summer time. Unfortunately I stopped exercising religiously since I moved back to Hong Kong, but even in my daily life, I'm trying to walk more. I'm trying to do things that are better to my body but I need to learn to be persistent with it hahaha.

3.) Finally finished with my Undergrad and moved back to Hong Kong. Finally having to deal with this annoying question, "what is my future (career) plan?"

4.) Met a bunch of friends online, and eventually being able to meet them in person. This was such a wonderful and amazing experience for me. They were really understanding, and gave me motivation and encouragement when I needed them. They definitely added colours to my otherwise boring life. I sure hope they will stay in my life for a very very long time :)

5.) NYC trip with the bff - we've talked about this for years and it finally happened. I'm really grateful that he was nice enough to book everything and took care of me so well during the trip. Roaming around NYC was really fun and tiring, and it made me super happy to finally being able to watch the Lion King musical!

6.) Japan trip - I had been looking forward to this trip ever since KK and I decided to go together. I was a little worried whether or not we could get along for 10 days, but we did and the trip was awesome!!!! I can totally see us taking another trip without major problems and I'm glad I found a good travel buddy <3 After KK left Japan, I went off to Hiroshima to meet someone special. Had a really fun weekend there and then went back to Tokyo to meet more of my online pals. The whole 3 weeks in Japan was probably the highlight of my 2013 and I can't wait to go back again!

7.) Bleaching and Dyeing my hair - now I'm obsessed with light hair colours and I don't know how to go back to having dark hair T_T"

8.) EXILE live tour (live viewing) and One Ok Rock WAYWAW Tour 2013 - just...pure awesomeness. I realize how lucky I am to be able to see an OOR live, because it's so much harder for fans to get tickets for lives in Japan and I'm really glad I got to see them in Hong Kong.

I've also done a lot of fun things like exploring downtown Toronto with Terri, going to the big buddha with my girls (Bella -and family- and KK), meeting up with Tammy again, going to Ocean Park (going on roller coasters in OP and haunted houses for the first time in my life) with KK, taking a family trip to China (ironically without my parents), trips to disneyland with my cousin, watching 風たちぬ with bff when he came back to HK for a short visit, etc...

All in all, 2013 was a pretty enjoyable year for me. I've learned a lot, faced a lot of challenges, had a lot of fun, and met a lot of awesome people. I'm sure 2014 can only get better, because I'm grateful for all the awesome people that are in my life, and with them, I feel like life can only get better ^^

In 2014, I hope to finally figure out a career and find a lifestyle that suits me. I really want to have a new start in Japan. Although my parents are not fond of the idea, I know if I don't try it for myself I would regret it. Well I don't know how it will turn out, but for now I'm just taking life one step at a time, and who knows where my next step will take me?