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

29 NOV SAT 05:25AM NAIA T3 - 10:13AM NARITA T2
03 DEC WED 11:45AM NARITA - 03:45PM NAIA T3

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]

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

Travel Date: 30-Nov-2014

Where to buy your bus tickets from Shinjuku to Fuji? http://highway-buses.jp/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.

[Updated 25-Oct-2015] Upon checking maps.google.com, I walked almost 3.5 km at 9.1 Celsius average temperature last year. Ref


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

References:





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 agoda.com, but willing to try airbnb.com 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 Turo. 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 Turo. 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: Autumn Itinerary (University Hopping)


Accommodation:

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

Itinerary

Travel Date: October 24-27, 2014

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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_Duck_(sculpture)



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 blogs.wsj.com, 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.




2014 Oct: South Korea: English Catholic Mass

Church goers normally go to Myeongdong Cathedral for mass, since it is easily accessible, known to many tourists, located in shopping area, visible on blogs and websites.

Last February, I’ve been to Yakhyeon Church, but there is no formal mass and no English mass.

This October, we have visited Yeoksam Catholic Church - Roman Catholic.

Yeoksam Catholic Church - Roman Catholic
Where: Yeoksam-dong 722-9, Kangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea 02-553-0801. 
How to go there: Line #2 (green line) Yeoksam Station, Exit 1
Mass Schedule: English Mass on Sundays 9:00 at Basement 2 (KyungHwan-dang Chapel)  




The main church holds Korean mass. Ask around or go to basement 2 and find the main door (KyungHwan-dang Chapel) for the English mass at around 9:00-9:30am Sundays.



Below is the list of other English Catholic Mass around Seoul.





There is another English mass at Sogang University on Sun. 7:30 P.M at subway DaeHeung station line 6

2014 Oct: South Korea: Shopping Zone

Aside from Myeongdong and Namdaemun markets, finally was able to visit other places on this trip.

Dongdaemun
Include visit to underground shopping stalls, street food, Doota Mall, etc.  
DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza) offers exhibit who can see arts.  It may be expensive, but items extremely depict art on it's own.
Location: 281 Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul 



Hongdae Free Market (홍대 프리마켓)
Opens on Saturdays: 13:00-18:00 (from March to November)
Location: 19-3, Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul 
Directions
Hongik University Station (Subway Line 2), Exit 9. 
Go 150m straight, and cross the street.
Turn left, and go 500m straight towards the Hongik University entrance.
Turn right to arrive at Hongik Children's Park.

2014 Oct: South Korea: Campus Tour

Yonsei University is a private research university located in Seoul. (Wiki)
Address: 50 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Motto: The truth will set you free. (John 8:32)



Ewha Womans University is a private women's university in central Seoul, South Korea founded in 1886 by the American Methodist Episcopal missionary Mary F. Scranton.  - Wikipedia
Address: 11-1, Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Motto: Knowledge·Goodness·Beauty

2014 Oct: South Korea: Gangwon-Do: Seoraksan


How to reach Seoraksan from Seoul?

Take subway heading to Express Bus Terminal station, Exit 1 or Exit 2.  Walk towards Dong Seoul Bus Terminal or Gangnam Express Bus Terminal.  Go to the ticket counter to find the next available seat and bus to Sokcho City.  

Fare: 18100krw (724php, 2014). On your ticket, find your platform # and seat #.


There will be reminders on the video screen as the bus depart from the terminal.  The journey will take roughly 2.5 hours.  You'll be given a quick stop half-way the journey to Sokcho.


Upon arrival at Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, cross the street and walk further to wait at the local bus stop.  Board bus # 7 or 7-1.  It will take around 30 minutes to reach Seoraksan.

2014 Oct: South Korea: Seoulful Taste

Ewha University Food Hall
Preference: 9 out of 10
Location: Ewha Campus Complex (B4), 11-1, Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Food: Pork cutlet
Value: 6000krw (240php, 2014)
Atmosphere: Since inside the university, it's a cozy place for studying while eating. Food is very affordable.




Haha's Restaurant (Loco Quan)

Preference: 7 out of 10
Food: Jeju pork belly
Value: Expensive - 31000krw (1240php, 2014)
Atmosphere: Mostly offer galbi (variety of grilled dishes in Korean cuisine). Has a raggae theme, influenced by the Haha's favorite singer Bob Marley.  Menu are mostly on pork side, hoping they could add more like beef/chicken/seafood as choices for the grilling.

Pal Ja Mak Chang (HaHa's Restaurant) - BBQ Joint in Korea 팔자막창

395-17 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea (서울시 마포구 서교동 395-17)
http://www.paljamakchang.com/

As a fan of Running Man, this restaurant is must-visit for me.  The one in Hongdae is managed by Haha, while the one in Gangnam belongs to Leesang Gary. [Read]



2014 Oct: South Korea: 24 Guesthouse Sinchon Style

On this fourth trip in Seoul, we wanted to move out of comfort zone - Myeongdong. Thus, we are rooting to stay in university area. Our choice in Ehwa is a bit near the bars, staying in Hongkik is a bit crazy-chaotic experience.  So, we decided to stay in the middle, Sinchon station.

24 Guesthouse - Sinchon Style (24게스트하우스-신촌스타일)

Address: 24, Yonsei-ro 5na-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (Changcheon-dong)
서울특별시 서대문구 연세로5나길 24 (창천동)
Email: sinchonstyle@naver.com
Website: http://sinchonstyle.24guesthouse.co.kr/
Booking at agoda.com

Price: Affordable: (PHP 8,856.70 (USD 199.32) for 4 nights on Twin Bed Room - Double Deck)
Compared to Myeongdong (Exit 8) guesthouses, this is a bit cheaper. 

Location: Good. Accessible by airport bus. Lot of restaurants nearby, but there are those that will require you to select meals (15000) each, no sharing. There are a couple of bars and drinking sessions around. It is also close to 2 convenient stores - 7/11 and CU. Across the main road is Hanaro (Hana Mart) where you can buy your returning presents (omiyage/pasalubong). It is also just walking distance (15-20 minutes) to Yonsei and Ehwa universities. 



Check-in Experience: There is a misunderstanding between me and auntie on mail as she requires me to pay additional fee of 28000 krw (for the taxi fare when she returns home) if we arrive at the hostel beyond 11pm. Good thing, she took it back when we were there 10 minutes before 11pm. So we did not pay any additional fee. I read the same experience from tripadvisor.


The guesthouse has no elevator and we were assigned to 3rd floor. 

Room: I chose the double deck compared to pulled-bed due to space. The room facilities include comforter, small towels, television and water thermos. However, they don't provide glasses. 

On our first night (beyond 2am), in the kitchen at basement 1, I can't find the lights but got 2 mugs going to our room. The following morning we had a warning note. 

Going to the basement the following morning, I finally saw the notice saying, "Don't bring mugs to your room". I was wondering how contradicting the service they have, what's the use of the thermos in the room, when glasses are not allowed?

The next thing I did is to ask the uncle everytime I get the mugs, then return it the following morning.



Culinary Experience: They offer simple breakfast like bread, jam, cofee and tea. It is a self service so you have to wash your dishes. There is also a schedule on when can you wash them, since there are also private rooms in the basement.


Rules:



  • No washing of socks or clothes in the room.
  • No foundation or make-up in bed.
  • Turn-off lights, fan, aircon as you go out of the room.

Comments & Tips:



  • No digital lock in the room. It is using traditional keys.
  • There is drinking water thermos, but cups and spoons are available from B1.
  • There are more than 4 power sockets, make sure to prepare your adaptors.
  • LCD TV is also provided with selected HD cable and English channels (e.g. CNN, History, Discovery, National Geographic, Arirang) with of course unlimited non-sub local channels.
  • Water heater is very much working.
  • They provide toiletries at basic shampoo, rinse and bath.
  • They have toilet slippers and room slippers - bring your own to be hygenic.