Sunday, November 9, 2014

Arashiyama 嵐山

Sorry for the lack of update.

I believe you have read my KTP guide and Arashiyama was my first destination! 
Arashiyama is definitely one of my favourite spot in Japan. I went there early because I wanted to take good pictures and also to avoid the rain. You can get a walking map from the railway station. I decided to skip all the temples in Arashiyama because it was too early for foliage during that time.

My first stop was the town. It looks pretty good without the crowd. I should show you some pictures before the crowd flood the area.
The famous Togetsukyo Bridge from the Hankyu Arashiyama Station.
Togetsukyo Bridge before the crowd floods the bridge. 

Without wasting time,  I walked to the bamboo forest as it is the must see place in Arashiyama! 
Le bear happily took a picture at the bamboo forest. 
I was alone at the forest until this couple walk into my picture. 
I've tried asking them to take a picture of me at the bamboo forest but they commented that it is a difficult task after trying a few shots. I think that's when I miss travelling with another human. 

After exiting Bamboo Forest, I took the Sagano Scenic Train(only available in Autumn & Spring) from Arashiyama Station. I strongly suggest that you should ride the train from this station as you can rarely see tourist here and it will be easier to get a seat at the 5th cubicle. Ticket can be purchased at 600Y (~$6). 
So, what's so special about the 5th cubicle? It's a fully open carriage, which means you can take very good pictures!

You might want to refer to the timetable so that you can arrange your time.

While waiting for the magical ride at the station. 

The train have arrived! 

It was really nice seeing scenery from the train. I wished the the momiji was more scenic during that time. It will be really nice to see the momiji from the train. 

There is another option which is to take the boat tour which is more expensive (3800 Yen ~$38). I would like to try that when I return to Arashiyama one day :D

The train will stop at Komeoka Torokko Station and there were so many people waiting to board the scenic train to Arashiyama. I was glad that I took the train from the other station. Hence, if you are using Kansai Thru Pass, you might want to consider the same route as me unless you are using JR pass. 

Then, I took the JR train from JR Umahori back to JR Saga-Arashiyama. Umahori station is only 10 mins walk away from Komeoka Torokko Station. 

Once I'm back in the town, the crowd have started to fill the town. I bought the matcha soy ice-cream at 400Yen and croquette at 200Yen. I think I had the best croquette in Aarashiyama. :P

Unfortunately, it rained before I get to explore the town. I ran to the nearby Randen station and depart for Takao instead of spending more time in Arashiyama. I will definitely go back again for the temples and scenery next time. I hope you don't have to wait too long for the next Japan post! :P

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Vietnam Travel Guide

I have been to the north and south of Vietnam but not the middle part. Hence, this is not the complete guide.
If you have been to the Vietnam, you will agree with me that the north and south are very different people. However, they are still the same nice people.

Taxi: It is wise to use Mai Linh (Green/White) and Vinasun taxi service when you are in Vietnam. There are three types of car: the small one (where you practically have no space for luggage), the sedan and a bigger car. The smaller it is, the cheaper the fare is for per kilometre. I realize that a lot of people are not aware of this but I always choose the smallest car as it is cheaper than the rest.

Motortaxi: Travelling alone but you couldn't ride a motorbike? I think this is the best tool invented for tourist. For me, hire a taxi is too expensive but I don't know how to ride a bike. The easiest solution is to hire a motortaxi! If you are lucky, you might be able to find someone who can speak English and able to story you about the place. A one day tour will cost 150k-200k VND per day. At places like Dalat, a one day tour can cost around 20 USD per day. It will be better for you to have an idea of where you want to go so that you can negotiate with the driver. 

For public bus, they do announce the name of the stations but in Vietnamese language. Taking public transport is the cheapest transportation in Vietnam. You should really use the public bus in Saigon as the bus fare is as low as 0.20-0.30 USD per trip for intercity bus. 

If you want to travel out of the city, you can either book a seat at the local travel agency or take the local bus. I recommend Sinh Tourist for local tour as they are very reliable. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try their local bus company. I used Phuong Trang (pronounced as Fong Jang) to travel from Saigon to Mui Ne last December and it was really good. They have buses scheduled every hour which is good as tour agency have limited choices for the time slot. Phuong Trang is the biggest bus company in the South and their buses and van are all in good condition. I find the quality is way better than the buses you booked from hostel/guesthouse. Furthermore, they stop at proper rest area for toilet breaks.

What to buy?
Vietnam is the best place to purchase Hada Labo skin care and Sunplay sunblock! This is because these products were manufactured in Vietnam and the price is 2-3 times lower than other South East Asia countries. Furthermore, you can find cheap traditional medicinal oil too! If you happen to be at the tribal village, you might want to purchase some handmade souvenir. A handmade clutch will cost around 35k VND (~$1.8 USD). 

What to eat?
The best thing about travelling in Vietnam is their food! It’s very delicious as  they rarely use artificial coloring and flavouring in their cooking. However, it is very difficult to find vegetarian or Halal food in Vietnam as almost every dish involves meat. Like in Thailand, there’s always a bowl of fresh vegetable on the table.

Spring rolls and Pho are the common food in Vietnam. Don’t miss out Banh Xeo when you are in Saigon and Bun Cha when you are in Hanoi! You can't afford to say ‘I will only try this in other region’. The rule of thumb is people from different region eat different food with the exception for Pho and spring rolls.

One good thing about travelling in Vietnam is that you can easily find a decent room with ensuited bathroom at the price of USD 8. However, these guesthouse are located a bit far from the tourist spot. I usually trust Trip Advisor for reviews. However,I will recommend you to check the room before making a decision. This is extremely important as I have seen workers who sleep in the guestroom before the visitors arrived.It will be good to stick with lonely planet if you prefer the staffs to speak good English as the guesthouse recommended by lonely planet can cost a few USD more.

Most young adults speak decent English but they are too shy to speak up. You can’t expect a middle age man/woman to speak with you in English. People at their age only learn English for their living. However, it is wise to use basic English word. Google translate can be quite useful when it comes to communicating with the local.

To buy simcard or not
If you must buy the sim card, please don't buy it at the airport. Frankly speaking, Vietnamese are very generous with their Wifi service. Almost every shop provides free wifi service and some does not require any password! Hence, do think twice when you want to purchase a sim card at VN.


The easiest way to navigate around is by using a map/google map! Trust me, VN is not a place where you can easily catch someone who can speak little/good english on the road. 

Travelling from Airport 
Saigon: Catch a A/C local bus (#152) out of the airport and get off at the last station. You will find yourself at the bus stop located opposite Ben Thanh market. 

Hanoi: There's a few option to the city center. 
a) Minivan 
Once you exit from the arrival hall, turn right and walk to the end. They charged 40k VND per trip and they will drop you off at the city center. They will drop you off at Quang Trung street. 

b) Local Bus (Red & Yellow- #7 & #17)
They charged 7000VND per trip. I would recommend bus #17 as it will stop at Long Bien bus station which is nearer to Old Quarters. 

Disclaimer: The author has been to Vietnam for four times in the past 4 years and most of the information are up-to-date. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to fully utilize your Kansai Thru Pass 3 Day Pass

Some people commented that it is not worth buying KTP. However, you can save a lot by using the Kansai Thru Pass if you did your research.

It is never wise to use KTP if you plan to travel around Kyoto while staying at Kyoto. You have to travel across the prefecture to make it useful.

I used google map to plan my route as it will tell me how to get to the place using the rail and bus. However, I think physical map is quite useful but you have to know how to read a map well.

The thing about the Kansai Thru Pass is that you can leave as early as possible as the pass worked from 12:01am of the day till 11:59pm of the day. I start my journey quite early every day as I wanted to avoid the crowd at the tourist place.
To make sure that you fully utilize the pass, you have to spend an average of 1670Y per day.
If you follow my itinerary well, you can easily save up to 4560Y (Appx 50 USD).

I paid 5000 Yen for a 3 Days Kansai Thru Pass but I've actually spent at least 9560Yen in total! How awesome is that?

Here’s how I did it.

Day 1: Osaka-Arashiyama-Takao-Osaka (2340Yen)

Osaka- Arashiyama  
Shinsaibashi station – Umeda Stn                                                               230Y
Umeda Stn (Hankyu) – Interchange at Katsura Station – Arashiyama Stn 390Y
Arashiyama- Takao  
Arashiyama Randen Stn – Randentenjingawa Stn                                      200Y
Randentenjingawa Stn – Takao by Bus #8 at Platform A                            400Y

Takao- Karasuma Stn by bus #8                                                                 500Y
Karasuma Stn –Tengachaya Stn                                                                390Y
Tengachaya Stn-Shinsaibashi Stn                                                              230Y
Subway around Osaka
If you travel from Arashiyama to Takao without KTP, you will need to pay extra for the bus fare as Takao is not included in the route of the 500Yen bus pass.

Day 2: Osaka-Koyasan-Osaka-Kyoto-Osaka (3680 Yen)
If you study the Kansai map, Kyoto is at the north of Osaka while Koyasan (Wakayama) is at the South of Osaka. It wasn’t as rush as I’ve expected but if you want to do this, you have to start the journey around 7am. Journey to Mount Koya will take approximately 2 hrs one way.
The best thing about travelling in Koyasan by using the KTP is that the cable car and bus fare is included in KTP. Hence, basically, you just need to pay for your food. If you are lazy, you can travel from one sight to another sight by bus. But, this is not necessary as Koyasan is quite small and it is very nice to walk around.


Osaka-Nanba                                                                                                                    200Y
Nanba (platform 4) - change train at Hashimoto (platform 5) to Gokurakubashi Stn (platform 4)    850Y
Gokurakubashi Stn – Koyasan Stn                                                                                   380Y
Koyasan Stn – sights at Mount Koya by bus                                                         (200Y per trip)
Koyasan-Osaka 1430Y
(return the same way)

Shinsaibashi Stn-Kyobashi Stn                                                                                    230Y
Kyobashi Stn –Shichijo Stn                                                                                          390Y
Shichijo Stn- Hana Hostel by bus                                                                                 200Y

I used the Keihan Main Line instead of JR. What’s the point of paying extra anyway? 
P/S : JR Osaka-Kyoto cost 540Y one way
Mistake: KTP & Kyoto bus pass can only be used on the green color city bus! You can’t use it on Princess Line or whatsoever. I made this mistake and paid 200Y extra
I stayed at Hana Hostel Kyoto. I did ask the hostel staff if I can get to their hostel by using KTP. They recommended JR Line which cost 600Y for a one way ticket. But, I managed to find out that I can actually get to Kyoto via Keihan Main Line and use the local bus to the Kyoto Station.
You can actually take the city bus from Keihan Main Line Station to Kyoto Station using the city bus!

Day 3: Kyoto-Osaka-Kurama-Kibune-Osaka
Shinsaibashi Stn-Kyobashi Stn                 230Y
Kyobashi Stn –Shichijo Stn                       390Y
Shichijo Stn- Hana Hostel by bus              200Y

Shinsaibashi Stn – Yodoyabashi Stn         200Y
Yodoyabashi Stn –Demachiyanagi Stn     460Y
Demachiyanagi Stn- Kurama Stn              410Y
I wanted to try out the hiking trail from Kurama-> Kibune but the local advise me not to as I was alone. You can either walk from Kurama Station to Kurama Jinja (Steep Slope and stairs) or take the cable car. I choose to walk as I will miss lots of place if I were to use the cable car. I walked up and took the cable car back to Kurama.
From Kurama, I took the train to Kibune Station   200Y
From Kibune, I took the bus to Kibune Jinja         160Y
Well, you can walk if you are not using KTP. It is around 1-2km from the bus station.

Kibune Jinja – Kibune guchi Eki               160Y
Kibuneguchi Eki – Demachiyanagi Stn     410Y
Demachiyanagi Stn –Yodoyabashi Stn     460Y
Yodoyabashi – Shinsaibashi Stn               200Y

Where to buy the pass?

You can get it at Kansai airport or Tourist Information Center. For more information, please click here.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kansai 10D9N Itinerary 关西十天行程

Hello readers!

Going to Kansai but don't know where to start?
You will be pleased to know that we are sharing our Kansai 10D9N itinerary!
We've covered 4 places namely Osaka, Kyoto, Mount Koya and Kurama. It might look simple but we have spent a lot of our time on our research. We can tell you what to do in Kansai if you have 10 days, where to go in Kansai and how we saved on our transportation.

If you love what you are reading, please help us to share our love around ;) 
Day 1
Arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIX). Got my Osaka Unlimited Pass & Kansai Thru Pass at the visitor counter.
Checked in at Osaka Hana Hostel.
The main idea was to travel around Osaka, using Osaka Unlimited Pass (OUP) on the first 2 days as I have to use the pass for 2 days consecutively. Due to time constrain, I only went to places with free admission:
Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
Cruise Ship Santa Maria
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
HEP 5 Ferries Wheel
Floating Garden Observatory
Tombori River Cruise

Day 2
Osaka Castle Museum
Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden
Osaka Museum of History
Shintennoji Temple
Tennoji Zoo
Natural Hot Spring Naniwa no Yu
Tsutenkaku Tower*

Additional place: Shinseikai and Shinsaibashi (Not included in OUP)

Day 3
Traveled out of the city for two interesting museum:
Instant Ramen Museum- you can make your own cup noodle for 300Y.
Asahi Beer Museum- you will be introduced to the whole beer process making and get 3 free drinks (alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages) at the end of the visit.

Explored Nanba Area

Day 4
Arashiyama & Takao
Tenjinbashisuji Walking Street

Mount Koya

Then traveled to Kyoto for the following 2 days.

Day 6
Fushimi Inari ,Tofukuji, Kiyomizudera Temple, Higashiyama Walking Tour, Gion

Philosopher Path Walking Tour, Nishiki Market,  Imohe Temple

Day 8
Back in Osaka
Kurama & Kibune

Day 9
Kuramon Market
Minoo Park
Shinseikai & Shinsaibashi area
Day 10
Back to Malaysia

*Didn't managed to go up as the queue was very long and the waiting time was 1 hour. You should make Tsutenkaku Tower the first thing to do in Osaka during weekends.

Details will be up soon!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Travelling Solo

I never thought of doing solo backpacking this year.
However, after listening to my friend's experience in Japan, I have the courage to do the exactly same trip as her.
The opportunity came as MAS was having promotion and I booked the ticket on the very last day!
The trip won't be a success without the help of ryn and my friend.

So, how was it?
It was great! *Except that nobody will be there to help you take picture*

My friends were telling me how great it is to have the courage to travel alone. It wasn't difficult until you finally do it. Frankly speaking, I met a more girls  who travelled alone compared to guys during my trip. I think girls nowadays do have more courage than guys ;)

One thing about travelling alone is you have the flexibility of changing plans all the time. I don't know what will I be doing the next day until late evening when I have time to do some research about it. Moreover, you will find it easier to listen to the advice of other travelers and make changes to your plan. Anyway, the only person you need to ask is yourself.

Another thing which I enjoy very much about travelling alone is the absolute freedom. I get to follow my rhythm, desires and my pace.  I think I'm already addicted to the feeling of it. <3

Trust your gut feelings all the time! If you feel like going to the park today, you should just do it. I learned a lot about trusting myself and my gut feelings. I always find something awesome by trusting my gut feelings.

However, it is always good to take safety measure especially when you are a girl.  It's good to check out hostel reviews and some feedback from Trip Advisor beforehand. Imagine arriving in the city at late night without pre-book accommodation, it is always wiser to have a few backup plans in hand. I have learned my lesson well in Vietnam last week. If you are planning to visit during the peak season, always book your accommodation earlier.

Remember, always keep a low profile. You won't want to attract unnecessary attention from pickpockets and etc. Safety should come first before anything else.

Tell us why do you like about travelling solo!

P/S: If you are still thinking if you should travel alone, just do it! You will be glad that you make the decision =)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Trip planning 101

I'm not sure if this is something to do with age. But, I can't handle tedious planning anymore. I hate reading the same information again and again (because everyone is writing about the same thing) while hoping that someone has a totally different experience. It's nice to have their advice in mind but I would prefer to write my version of stories.

I tried to plan for my first solo backpacking trip but it didn't work. I managed to find some information about Kansai and book my accommodation. I didn't know where I was going until I reach Japan. One thing about travelling during peak season is that always pre-book your hotel beforehand unless you have extra cash to spend.

Here's one you can do to avoid disappointment
#1 Read and have a brief idea on places which you can go

#2 Talk to travelers at your guesthouse.
This is very useful if you are visiting during spring or autumn. They will tell you where are the places worth going.

#3 Talk to the tourist information center.
I meant the official one but not the tour agency. It's always better to refer to Trip Advisor compared to the tour agency.

#4 Read up blogs from people who has similar interest as you.
As for most people, they might think that visiting a tropical fruit plantation or the Orang Utan sanctuary is interesting because they don't have it in their country. As for a Malaysian like me, I have seen all of these since young and I don't really bother going to these places.

#5 Check the weather
It is very important to have the correct outfit especially the weather can be quite different throughout the country or region.

What are your planning tips?