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blue pin: visited; yellow pin: transit;

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 17: Tokyo (Japan) - Seoul (South Korea)

Haneda Airport
A very small airport, feel like the budget type. :P


Haneda Airport

Other than those few fridge magnets from every city, we didn't shop at all during our whole trip, so we bought our favourite Royce chocolate from the airport duty free. In Japan, they have more varieties than in Singapore and of course cheaper.


Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky


And a small pack of green tea Kit Kat. Only available in Japan.

They have an airport lounge too, but not much things to eat here. It was very bare minimum. :(


The airport lounge

The Asiana flight that we took was pretty new, the TV was a touch screen. Cool!


Touch screen TV


Just tap the screen to navigate. Much much easier to use.


And a pretty good headphone. Wow!! Usually this kind of headphone only available for business class passengers.

They served a pretty good meal too.


Sweet and sour fish with rice. Yummy!!

Back in Seoul after a 2 hours flight. Well, that's all from our Japan trip... :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 13: Nikko - Tokyo

We woke up to a great breakfast in the morning. It was prepared freshly for us when we came down to the breakfast area.


Bacon omelette

Finished our breakfast, packed our thing and left our luggage at the reception. We were going back to Tokyo later in the evening.


What a great clear sunny day...

Ryuzu Waterfalls







One last thing to complete the Japan experience is to relax in hotsprings. We asked the hotel and they recommended this spa for us.


Yashio-no-yu spa

It wasn't easy to go to this place without our own car. We were supposed to take a bus from one of the appointed bus stops but the bus left when we reached there. The next bus was only an hour later so we walked about 1km in a deserted road.

Halfway through there, a man stopped by his car and asked us whether we wanted to go to that spa. We said yes, and he told us the spa was closed for the day. :(

Anyway, we were almost there so we continued walking. And it's true, the spa was closed. Oh no I didn't want to walk another 1 km back. So we did what we never do before, hitchhiking. :P

We hitchhiked with an old couple who also came for the spa. The Japanese couple didn't speak much English but we managed to ask whether we could get a ride and whether they could dropped us somewhere central.

Ah.... what a nice feeling to ride in a car hehehe... Finally they dropped us near Shinkyo bridge, and we said "Arigato gozaimashita" with heads bowed deeply to show our appreciation. :P

Shinkyo Bridge
The most famous bridge in Nikko.




River under the bridge

We had lunch at a restaurant nearby the bridge.


A cute cup




My curry rice was yummy.


Hubby had ramen

After meal, we explored some Nikko temples. They were all located in one area, not very far from the Shinkyo bridge.


Fallen maple leaves


Many sky high trees at the temples

Toshogu Shrine



Toshogu Shrine was a bit different from the rest of temples we saw so far. The temple was decorated in many bright colors.


Toshogu Shrine

Rinnoji Temple



After those temples, we basically finished our sightseeings in Nikko. It was still pretty early, so we tried one more time to find a hotspring to visit.

We went back to Nikko station and asked the officer at the tourist info. She gave us a list of spa, and many of them were pretty far from here. Only the small ones were quite close but we didn't want to go to a small spa. So in the end we chose a medium size spa that didn't look very far but the transportation wasn't easy. She told us to take a public bus in front of the station but the bus service wasn't very frequent and its service ended at around 5pm so we might need to get our own transportation from the spa.

Not very ideal, but anyway we went to the bus stop and waited. Then I checked out another bus stop a few metres away and asked an old lady who was waiting there. She told me that the spa we wanted to go have an hourly shuttle bus and she was waiting for that too. What a lousy tourist officer!

So we went with the shuttle bus and the ride took about 20 minutes. Actually the spa is also a hotel and its location is very secluded. All we saw were just trees and not even a single car passed by us. It was definitely safer to go with the shuttle bus. :P

Ooedo Onsen Nikko Kirifuri
The spa entry fee was ¥700 (SGD 11). The male and female baths were separated so we went our separate ways and agreed to meet up after one hour.

I wasn't sure what to do when I went into the changing room. Saw mostly middle aged ladies and they all stripped down everything. Oh well, just follow hahahaha...

Then I have to shower, the spa provided each shower booth with a pail and a small bench for us to sit. It was quite weird having shower while sitting down.

After shower, I slowly dipped into the hot bath. This was really hot, had to do it very slowly until I could dip in totally.

After about ten minutes, I went to the outdoor area bath. I was surprised when I saw a young boy about 5 years old in that pool! Anyway, he was just there for a while and left soon after. The outdoor bath was more popular, it just felt so nice to dip into a hot bath in a cool weather and to make it sound more romantic, we bathed under the moonlight. :D

After a few minutes, I came out from the bath and enjoyed the scenery surrounding us. My body didn't feel cold at all, so I just walked around in the outdoor. (Just hope that nobody had a powerful telescope :P) I repeated this a few times and then it's time to go back. We were both very excited when we met again hehehe... Hubby was enjoying himself too, but he said this is more like a girl thing and he bet all the guys there must have followed their wives. :D


The view from the spa

How I love Nikko, this place worth another visit in the future.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 9: Yokohama - Kamakura - Tokyo

Kamakura
This little town is only about half an hour train ride from Yokohama. We reached there in the afternoon and the train station had already overflowed with people. Since we dragged our luggage along, we had to find a large locker to deposit them before starting our sightseeings. Lockers were not many in a small station like Kamakura, and with the crowd madness like this, of course none of the lockers were available.

So the only way is to drag it along with us to see the Big Buddha. Well, anyway this is not the first time for us. :P


Took Enoden train to Hase station

Luckily we could find a locker in Hase. So not so bad after all.


See the crowd

There were many souvenir and snack shops along the way to Big Buddha.


Freshly made rice crackers


A giant rice cracker

The Big Buddha
It isn't a very big Buddha after all, the one at Mount Sorak is at least two times bigger.


Big Buddha








Buddha slippers

We went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. The chinese food in Japan was actually pretty good.


Seafood fried rice

And to our surprise, they had kong bak pao (pork belly slices with bun). We ordered some and they were excellent.


Kong bak pao

Other than the Big Buddha, there's nothing else to see in Kamakura. It's just not worth the hassle to come all the way here for this. We should have just skipped it and go directly to Tokyo.

We reached Tokyo in the evening, and straight away check in to Toyoko Inn.

Toyoko Inn Otsuka-eki Kitaguchi no. 1
This Toyoko Inn is the worst I ever stayed. The building is so old and it reminds me of cheap US highway motels. Not only that, the breakfast variety is equally bad. Others usually provide miso soup, rice balls, salad, some Japanese side dishes and bread. What they have here is only bread and coffee/tea, not even some orange juice.

And the room rate here is more expensive than all my previous stays. Yes, I know this is Tokyo, but the other Toyoko Inn (Asakusabashi Kosaten) that we are going to stay on the later part of the trip has the same rate and it is a brand new hotel.

Not a good day after all. :(


Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 4: Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the most important destination in our trip. I allocate 4 days just for Kyoto alone and plan it such that it coincides with the peak of autumn foliage. And what we are going to do here is simply temple hopping! Not that I am very interested in temples but Kyoto's most gorgeous autumn colors are usually found around the area.

Nijo Castle
Even the promotional brochure didn't look interesting. So we just took photos from outside and left.


Main entrance


This is the building they put in the brochure. Must be the best looking one though. :P

Honganji Temple
The temple is huge but architecture and foliage wise isn't very impressive.


The lotus fountain and the main gate of Honganji.


Stone lantern and the main gate




Feed the doves


Dragon spurting out water


Main temple building


The interior

Opposite the temple, there's a small island dividing the road. I had more fun here than the temple earlier. :P




Fallen ginkgo leaves.






A Japanese style house across the road.

From here we took the subway to Nanzenji Temple.


Foliage along the way to Nanzenji temple.

Nanzenji Temple
Finally, my first favourite temple for autumn foliage.


Nanzenji Temple




Isn't it superb?




Girls in kimono


Main temple building


Decorative roofs


See the colors. My mouth was wide open most of the time. :P


These red maple leaves are very close to the ground. It 'floats'.


Close up look of the maple leaves.




The temples in Kyoto are usually surrounded by the mountains or hills.


Sightseeing in style.

Next, lunch at Coco curry house. They have a few branches in Seoul and it's my favourite eating place.


Tori karaage in curry.


Beef steak in curry.

Kyoto Imperial Palace
The only way to see the Imperial Palace is through the guided tour. Need to book in advance.


It's a huge group!


Roof made of cypress bark.


Arranging the rocks. This is not exactly a Japanese rock garden, but same concept.


Model of cypress bark roof, hiwada.


The bark is arranged layer by layer and secured with bamboo nails.

See how long it takes to make the roof this big! And it only lasts for 30 years.


Shishinden, the most important building in the palace and is used for important ceremonies such as enthronement.


The ugliest building in the palace with a rusty aluminium roof. It is a warehouse. :)

Oikeniwa Garden


Japanese garden is all about nature. The trees represent the mountains, water is the ocean and pebbles are the shore.


He sketched to keep the memories alive while the rest of us took pictures.


Gonaitei garden

Nishiki Market
A traditional market selling a lot of Japanese stuffs.


Nishiki market


Cute sweets


Fish eggs


This shop is all about fortune cats.




Red bean desserts soak in water!


Took a break in a cafe.


Ice cream and mini donuts. Yum!

Usually there is a shrine near the market and Nishiki market is no exception.


Lanterns


More lanterns


Red lanterns