Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Dec: Philippines: Manila: Christmas Lights

Christmas spirit in the hearts of every Filipino starts on the first day of September.  You should not be surprise when you hear greetings of "Merry Christmas" by then.  Some radio stations would start to play Christmas carols too.  Soon you'll feel the rush and the very terrible Christmas traffic is all streets of the metro.

Check out some lights and decors displayed in the city.

High Street

University of Santo Tomas 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Oct: Japan: Tokyo: Autumn Itinerary

Travel Dates

Be Careful (

  • 2014/11/29 23:00 4.5 magnitude, 24 km depth - Shingu, Wakayama, Japan
  • 2014/12/03 14:19 4.6 magnitude, 41 km depth - Tajimi, Gifu, Japan

Hotel Horidome Villa (Tokyo, Japan)
Address: 1-10-10 Horidome-Cho Nihonbashi,Chuo-Ku, Tokyo Station / Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan 
Hotel Review


Arrival at Narita Airport
Catholic Church - 
Roppongi – Ippudo (Dinner)
Roppongi Hills

Optional (Good Autumn Destination): Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa

Fuji: Lake Kawaguchiko  
Optional: Akihabara

Optional: Oedo Onsen in Odaiba
Liberty and Gundam in Odaiba
Disney Sea

St Marc Café  
University of Tokyo  
Optional: Imperial Palace East Garden (closed on Mondays) 
Ginkgo Avenue (Icho Namiki) near Aoyama-Icchome Station
Harajuku (walking adventure until) Shibuya  
Ebisu Garden  
Tokyo Station

Departure at Narita Airport


2014 Dec: Japan: Tokyo: Christmas Illumination

Where to find Robert Indiana's LOVE in Tokyo? It is in Shinjuku I Land Tower.
JR Shinjuku Sta. (West Exit) - 10 min. walk OR Marunouchi Line Nishi-shinjuku Sta. - 2 min. walk

2014 Nov: Japan: Chiba (Tokyo): Disneysea

Tokyo DisneySea (東京ディズニーシー) is a 176-acre (71.22 ha) theme park at the Tokyo Disney Resort located in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan, just outside Tokyo. [Reference]

Getting there: Take JR Musashino Line, drop-off at Maihama station.  Walk towards Resort Gateway station.  This is single direction/roundtrip monorail that go towards Disneyland station, Bayside station, then Disneysea station.

This year's theme is Disney Sea:  "Christmas Wishes".

Right after I pass through the ticket gates, I already saw Minnie's Photo-Op queue. I continue my journey and saw the start of the Holiday Greeting show, since it's too crowded, I went back and waited in the queue.

2014 Nov: Japan: Tokyo: Odaiba

Odaiba (お台場) is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay, Japan, across the Rainbow Bridge from central Tokyo. [Reference]

What to do in Odaiba?

I wanted to go there initially because of Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari, but due to the personal concerns on Fukushima and onsen; with heavy rain where most of the tourists would also go there, I have decided to skip it.  Instead below were visited on the island:

Rainbow Bridge

Odaiba Statue of Liberty
Transportation: Daiba Station (Yurikamome line), Exit 1.

Monday, December 8, 2014

2014 Nov: Japan: Tokyo: Autumn Report

Due to weather condition between my visit in Nov 29 - Dec 03, I was able to see very limited places for the koyo hunting.

Tokyo University - Hongo Campus
Take Metro Nanboku Line and drop-off at Todaimae Station.  The university seems to be open to the public since I felt welcome when I come in.

I took the internal overpass to get into the Main Campus.  Follow the direction parallel to Hongo St.  By the time you reached the Red Gate, close to Metro Marunouchi Line, Hongo-Sanchome Station, you already have seen the following autumn scenes. [taken by nikon d40]

Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 Nov: Japan: Tokyo: Lake Kawaguchiko

Where to buy your bus tickets from Shinjuku to Fuji?

Getting a bit lost on my way from JR West Gate to Bus Terminal, paying the reserved ticket in the counter and rushing to Platform 2 - I’m the last one to board the 7:40 bus heading to Lake Kawaguchiko.  We arrived after 9am in the terminal, but sadly the Red Retro Sightseeing bus is not operating due to Fujisan Marathon - so they mean that I have to walk along the places.

My initial plan to take the bus until Music Forest and walk back to the station. But with the activity, I did the opposite and started walking.  

Upon arrival I saw the peak covered with snow, this is the only photo that was taken.
One and only photo taken on Fujisan peak upon arrival (still inside the bus) to Lake Kawaguchiko.
After taking a break, the next time I saw it everything is covered with clouds!  I just learned from the station that service to Fifth station is cancelled due to snow.

2014 Nov: Japan: Tokyo: Roppongi

Roppongi is a district of Minato, Tokyo, Japan, famous as home to the rich Roppongi Hills area. Many foreign embassies are located in Roppongi.

The name "Roppongi", which appears to have been coined around 1660, literally means "six trees". Six very old and large zelkova trees used to mark the area; the first three were cleared, and the last were destroyed during World War II. [Reference]

What Roppongi offered me on this trip?

Franciscan Chapel Center (Roman Catholic) - The English-Speaking Roman
Catholic Parish of the Archdiocese of Tokyo
Address 4-2-37 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032 JAPAN
All English Mass: Sat 8 AM, **6 PM**; Sundays 8 AM, 10 AM, 12 Noon 6 PM


Maman (sculpture) 
It is a bronze, stainless steel, and marble sculpture by the artist Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture, which depicts a spider, is among the world's largest, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide (927 x 891 x 1024 cm).[1] It includes a sac containing 26 marble eggs and its abdomen and thorax are made up of ribbed bronze. The title is the familiar French word for Mother.

It alludes to the strength of Bourgeois' mother, with metaphors of spinning, weaving, nurture and protection.

The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.
— Louise Bourgeois

2014 Nov: Japan: Tokyo: Oishii Experience!

Sharing with you oishii experience in Kanto, Japan!  
Oishii (おいしい), meaning: nice; tasty; delicious

Location: Restaurant along Ningyocho St.
Preference: 8 out of 10
Food: Zuke Maguro Tsukimi Don - seasoned tuna bowl with raw egg malted bean sauce
Value: 650yen
Atmosphere: Local/Traditional

Location: Hakata Ippudo, Roppongi
Preference: 9 out of 10
Food: Shiromau Classic - Ippudo's original tonkotsu broth served with ultra-thin noodles, pork belly, bean sprouts, black fungus and spring onions. Classic Hakata-style ramen.
Value: 780yen
Atmosphere: Local/Traditional

2014 Nov: Japan: Tokyo: Hotel Horidome Villa

Hotel Horidome Villa (Tokyo, Japan)
Address: 1-10-10 Horidome-Cho Nihonbashi,Chuo-Ku, Tokyo Station / Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan 
Stayed: Nov 29-Dec 03, 2014 (4 nights) 

PriceAffordable for a decent and a bit old hotel in the middle of expensive city of Tokyo.  Small Double Bed - Non Smoking with Free Wi-Fi (PHP 9,494.23 (USD 217.69), 2014).  I found this the cheapest in, but willing to try for my next trip in Nagoya.

Also, the price fit my Agoda points, so I got a night free of charge.  Thanks to Agoda.

Location - Accessible. Located in Chuo City (near Tokyo) and is in between 2 stations that are connected to different Lines which makes it very accessible.
  • Ningyōchō Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line; Toei Asakusa Line)
  • Kodemmachō Station (Hibiya Line)
From the Airport:
The cheapest option to take is Narita Access Line.
At Asakusa or Higashi-Nihombashi station, transfer to Hibiya Line to reach Ningyocho (Exit 6 is with elevator service) cross towards Exit 5 and continue walking along Ningyocho St.

Staying Safe and Avoiding Travel Emergencies

Every adventure whether road trip or flight destinations can have it's up and down moment. What's important is to learn to let go and move to the next entry in your itinerary. Below are things you might want to re-consider in your next trip.

Read the map.
Know in advance where you are heading to.  Find the central train stations and bus terminals.  Try to study the nearest subway exits to reduce walking time.  Check the closest banks, hospitals or drugstores near your hotel.

Download offline maps and travel guide applications.  If you are a bus rider going to Singapore, you may want to download their application. Going to Seoul and traveling on train, then load this tool.  Heading to US and having a road trip alone, visit RelayRides. Study your GPS navigation system - you don't know when you'll need it.

Don't forget to get lost! That's when you'll experience the real adventure.

Know the latest!
Listen to the news and the latest happenings in the metro.  If you can't avoid your trip and learned that there is national issue ongoing to your destination, do more research on the places where you can stay safe.  Avoid demonstrations and heightened police areas as it may be dangerous for foreigner like you as you might not understand what's happening as the locals speak.

Know upcoming transportation strikes, road closures for festivals (like Philippine provincial street parties or Fuji-san marathon) and all-shutdown holidays (like Nepi Day in Bali) or attractions with scheduled preventive maintenance (like gondola or cable car service). 

What's the weather?
You may be dreaming to see snow, but you should know when to avoid blizzard.   
You also don't want to spend all your day and night in the hotel or  getting stuck in traffic for hours, just because the city is under a bad weather.

Do you still have the money?
Carry money that is beyond your budget.  Notify your credit card provider that you are traveling abroad to allow foreign transactions.  

Keep in mind that this is not for your shopping spree.  You'll never know when emergencies happen.  It can be simple as you’ll need to buy new boots due to your frozen feet when using your old gamuza type of shoes during a sudden rainy autumn day. Or you unexpectedly need a jacket since you missed to check that you brought a wilting leather suit.  Or it can be a shocking sight in the arrival belt that you’ll receive your luggage on its broken state. And you can no longer bring it back home, so you need to buy a new luggage.

Worst is being affected by weather condition and getting delayed or canceled flights. You'll need to have money to provide yourself additional unaccounted meals and accommodation that is beyond your prepared budget.

Stay connected.
You maybe out on your solo adventure, hibernating from the bustling busy life in your home city - but don't make your family worry about you.

Have a constant communication with them with your day's itinerary and your whereabouts – It’s not just you reporting to them, but also you knowing the latest with the people you left behind for your trip.  Be good even when you are away from home.  Take note you will still need their approval on your next adventure.

Article requested by Emma Powers, the Community Coordinator at RelayRides. They are a peer-to-peer sharing car rental service, and with the shift to more of a sharing economy, we are inspired by personal experiences and advice.  I have not personally tried the service, but for safety and security read

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Oct: South Korea: Itinerary

Hotel Name: 24 Guesthouse Sinchon Style
Address: 57-17 Changcheon-dong (24 Yonsei-ro 5na-gil), Seodaemun-gu, Shinchon / Hongdae/Seoul/South Korea

Express Bus Terminal Exit 1 or 2, 
06:25 Dong Seoul Bus Terminal → Sokcho Intercity Bus Terminal (every :00,:30 minutes) 
10:00AM Sokcho Intercity Bus Terminal (Seoraksan Sogongwon Stop) 20-30 minute intervals; approx. 30 minutes
04:00PM Departure at Seoraksan
07:00PM Arrival in Seoul
Optional: Visit King Sejong, Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5).

Walk along Yonsei Univ.
Reach Ewha Womans Univ. Station (Line 2), Exit 2 or 3.
Ewha Womans University Museum
Go to Hongkik University
Haha Restaurant
Hongdae Market
City Hall - Deoksugung Doldam-gil (Deoksugung Stone-Wall Road)

  • Go to Anguk Station - Walk along the Streets of Samcheong-dong Line 3, Exit 1
  • Luden Loquen SPACE (Cafe LN), 5, Bukchon-ro 5na-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul - 10:00-22:00
  • Temple Night Lights -  Gyeongbokgung 2014.10.22~11.03 (10/28 closure)

  • Sunday
    Sunday Mass - Yeoksam Station, Exit ½ - Yeoksam Catholic Church - Roman Catholic
    Nakseongdae's Garosu-gil Road / Gangnam
    Rubber Ducky at Jamsil
    Ace Pizza Club
    DDP - Dongdaenum Design Plaza

    Optional: Banpo Bridge


    City Hall - Deoksugung Doldam-gil (Deoksugung Stone-Wall Road)
    Hongdae - Trick Eye Museum

    2014 Oct: South Korea: Gyeonggi: My Love from the Star at Kintex

    You think it’s over?!  It ended last August 15, 2014 in Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in Jung-gu, but the star will continue to shine from Kintex, Ilsan-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do until August 31, 2015.

    On a personal note, not much of the bloggers have been posting about the movement of the exhibition to Kintex. I learned about it from a small shop in DDP that it was moved.  So on our last day before departure, we choose to suddenly change our itinerary and skip:
    -Bukchon for the palace walls, art paintings and breakfast at LN cafe
    -Trick Eye and Ice Museum at Hongdae

    It took us an hour to reach Daehwa station from Sinchon.  And another 30 minutes to reach the Outdoor Special Exhibition (near Kintex 2, Hall 8).  Don’t worry about getting lost as there will be a lot of signs and direction pointing to the star’s location. 

    Exhibition Period: 2014.9.5 - 2015.8.31
    Exhibition Time: 10:00 - 19:00
    Admission: 15,000krw (Adult)
    How to get there? [Google MapsLine 3 (Ilsan Line), Daehwa Station, Exit 1 (750m for Kintex)

    The Story
    My Love from the Star (You Who Came from the Stars) is a South Korean television series about an alien who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty and, 400 years later, falls in love with a top actress in the modern era. 

    The fantasy romance stars Kim Soo-hyun (Do Min-joon, DMJ) and Jun Ji-hyun (Cheon Song-yi, CSY) (who is the famous Sassy Girl and her small screen comeback after 14 years). They are the very first male and female lead to win the Grand Prize ("Daesang") with a same drama. [Reference]

    The Experience
    We were welcomed by Lyn's song as we give our tickets to the staff.  

    You’re my destiny, you are
    You’re my everything,
    The thing that hasn’t changed is my love for you

    Then the exhibit started as we push the wall, just like DMJ in his unit when he gets into the library.

    Zone 1 - Exhibition of the black robes used by the aliens, palanquin (sedan chair) used on the cliff, costumes, umbrella and hairpin from Joseon Dynasty

    I can consider it interactive since some of those exhibited can be touched, you'll be allowed to carry traditional umbrellas, seat on CSY bed, photo shoot on the library, and others.

    2014 Oct: South Korea: Jamsil: Rubber Duck Project

    Rubber Duck is any of several giant floating sculptures designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman.

    The world tour project named "Spreading joy around the world" was established in 2007, and have visited several cities, to name a few:
    • 2010 Osaka
    • 2013 Tsim Sha Tsui, Beijing 2013, Taoyuan 
    • 2014 Ho Chi Minh, Hangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai

    Glad to see it during my visit as it being held in Seokchon Lake in Seoul Korea from 14 October 2014 to 14 November 2014.

    How to get there: Jamsil Station, Exit 1

    Per, the project’s official website describes the duck as intended to “heal wounds” and “relieve tension.”

    Controversies Behind:

    Construction of extended are in Lotte complex has come under intense scrutiny by Seoul city, which demanded additional safety and transport measures before allowing it to open. Public unease was fanned by the appearance of sink holes in Seokchon Lake and a drop in the water level in the lake. No proof has been found that the holes or water decline are linked to the construction of the complex. [Reference]

    Giant duck 'passes out' on Seoul Lake as it lost some air and seen drowning. [Reference]

    Now you'll understand why there is tight security around rubber ducky.  There are almost 3 officers doing rounds and the viewing deck is closed to public.

    2014 Oct: South Korea: Doeksugung Palace Night Lights

    During spring and autumn, 2 grand palaces in Seoul offers special open night tickets, where tourists and locals can get inside until late night.

    Since the website is limited to korean language, getting tickets is just so hard.  Even I tried calling the number, they told me they will call me back with someone who speaks in English, but I have not received any.  From Facebook, I knew that tickets are already sold out after its availability just within 3 hours.

    But that experience did not stop me from looking around.  As an alternative, we have visited: 

    Deoksugung Palace (덕수궁)
    Address: 99, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul  서울 중구 세종대로 99
    Direction: Get off at City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 – Exit 2 / Seoul Subway Line 2 – Exit 12, turn left at the exit and walk straight for 30 meters)

    *What I really like in these set of night photos, having it taken without tripod.