Friday, April 6, 2018

Nagoya, Takayama, Shirakawago, Kyoto, Osaka 2018

Hi I'm back!

From my Japan trip and also a long long pause from blogging. Well, if you'll like to know my whereabouts and what's going on with my life, Instagram is a better place.

When I was in Japan, I had friends messaging me about my trip and whatnot so I thought, why not I just write it down here for you all to read.


Day 1: BWN to SIN

We landed Singapore at 2 in the afternoon and that gave us plenty of time to jalan-jalan and makan before we catch our next connecting flight to Osaka.

Day 2: SIN to KIX 

We reached KIX at around 8 something in the morning. Clearing immigration and claiming our baggage took more or less 30 mins (sibeh efficient these Japanese I tell you) and we're out.

We went to the JR office first to exchange our rail pass since we still had plenty of time before our bus to Nagoya. Took bus from KIX to Hotel New Hankyu (the Willer bus terminal is located at Umeda Sky Building (few mins walk away from Hotel New Hankyu) so instead of lugging our luggage up and down the platforms and interchanging at stations, bus seemed a better option. Had okonomiyaki for lunch at Kiji. 

Search for okonomiyaki in Osaka and the name "Kiji" will surely pop out because it is highly rated and recommended

Umeda Sky Building

The Willer bus's seats have this canopy in case you don't want people to see your sleeping face and also blocking out light

Arrived Nagoya 3 hours plus later, checked in our airbnb, dinner and called it a day.

When in Nagoya, eat all the tebasaki!!!! We tried both Furaibo and Yamachan because chicken wing is life.

Day 3: Me~Guru Tour

If you're taking bus in Nagoya from the Meitetsu Bus Center, you know you're near when you see Nana-chan

Such a steal for a one day ticket covering most places of interest in Nagoya. Fuss-free too, just hop on/off.

Went to Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Noritake Garden, Nagoya Castle and lastly stopped at Nagoya TV Tower for Oasis 21.

Doc, is that chu?


Day 4: Osu Kannon Temple and Shopping street and Nabana No Sato (Winter Illumination)

Nagoya is also famous for their hitsumabushi and near our airbnb, there's one super duper good one! We waited hours for this and no regrets at all!Thank you Ichibiki!
(Yes we tried other unagi restaurant before Ichibiki for comparison and it was a hit and miss.)

A romantic stroll at Nabana No Sato
(Which Bobby kept saying it as "Havana oh nana")

Ogura toast and tea! Never thought red bean paste and whipped cream will taste so good on a toast for breakfast!

Day 5: Takayama!

Checked out airbnb in Nagoya, took Ltd. Expess Wide Hida to Takayama, checked in Ryokan Seiryu, walked around and eat-eat-eat-eat all the way. Dinner was Hida beef kaiseki and after dinner, went for onsen (dipped only for 5 minutes and done. We later concluded that we are not fans of onsen... Sorry)

The Sanmachi Suji District (which consists 3 streets in the heart of Takayama's old town)

 Takayama is super duper quiet at night to be honest. So quiet that even a cat's meow can be heard 9 streets away. (Okay lah I a bit kua-chiong but you get what I'm trying to say) The busiest place in Takayama is probably the train and bus station and the old town area.

Staying in ryokan for the very first time and having dinner in our room is quite an experience for us

Day 6: Shirakawago & Kyoto

Breakfast, went to the morning market, checked out Ryokan Seiryu, took the bus to Shirakawago. Spent 3 hours there and took the next bus to Kanazawa only to catch the train to Kyoto.

Hello Shirakawago. You are so beautiful!

I don't want to know where that finger had been....

Day 7: Arashiyama Bamboo Groove and Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)

Had a heavy breakfast before the long day. Crowds and crowds everywhere...

Tenryuji temple that we didn't go in

The infamous bamboo groove.
Thanis actually told us to be there as early as possible (he took the first train there) to defeat the crowd but Bobby and I snoozed the alarm and just went back to sleep and we're like.. "eff it, sleep first"

 So ya, it was Sunday and the crowd was super scary. The type that you don't walk people also can push you to move. We just simply snapped a couple of photo and escaped as soon as we can.

Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavillion from far.

Day 8: Nishiki market, jalan-jalan, Kyoto Station

We'd been to Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Yasaka Shrine and to be honest, we just wanna chilled and so day 8 after Nishiki market was just a carefree no agenda day.

We never miss this tako tamago when we see it.
Still a mystery how they fit the quail egg into the head tho...

Cannot tahan the crowd in Nishiki market and seeked refuge in this nice bakery (Heart bakery), eating their No.1 cheese bread.

Breads in Japan is so good that it had successfully lured me this non-bread lover to just wanna eat all the breads there.

When in Kyoto, eat everything matcha!

The interesting big stairs at Kyoto station

Day 9: Osaka! 

Okay, day 9 onwards we lagi tah carefree. Had crab kaiseki for lunch and kurobuta pork for dinner. Also went to the Crayon Shinchan official shop and what also wanna buy but my brain was strong enough to stop my heart.

My favorite from the crab kaiseki cuisine. To be honest, some of the dishes are hit and miss. The raw one is just too much for us to enjoy...

Went to Osaka/Umeda area for HEP 5 just to buy Crayon Shinchan's merchandises and also...

Daimaru's 14th floor for Tazumura's kurobuta pork! So tender~~~~~

Day 10: Eat Osaka cooking class, Shinsekai and more of eat and shop.

Because we weren't keen in joining the crowd for hanami in Osaka castle, didn't want to go to USJ as well for the very same reason (crowd, not going to take ride and we'd been to Warner Bros. Studio in London for the Making of Harry Potter). Therefore, a cooking class sounds perfect and we had the rest of the day eating more food and wandering around. 
Bobby's first time cooking a complete course!

Sesame spinach, egg roll, pickled carrots, miso soup, ginger pork and glutinous rice ball's Japanese cousin for dessert.

After the class, we went for a leisure stroll at Tennoji park to make room for.....

Yaekatsu's kushikatsu! Super lucky that we didn't have to queue up when we're going in. After eating, the queue became super long lah.

And..... we went to Harukoma to eat again.....

Look at that!!!!!

And now this!!! Look at that ratio of rice to tamago!!!!

And super happy that we ordered the premium eel for our tummies. Blissful~

Day 11: Bye Osaka

Checked out airbnb, left our luggage at Namba Hands-free center, Shinsaibashi and Dotonburi, night flight to Singapore

A5 Kobe beef to end our trip with a bang!

You may think we are super 舍得 (willing) to spend on food for the trip and yes, you're right. We went full on #eatnia and #yolo when we're in Japan. We actually took the $5 green note challenge last year and managed to save quite a bit to use it as our food fund for the trip. And this year we're doing it again, even though we have no idea what we gonna use the $5s for.
How can these be so good! Why lah Why Brunei don have!

Day 12: Back to Brunei

So yeah, that's the summary of my recent trip and I also have more tips to share with you all.


There's just a gazillion types of passes in Japan. Bus passes, Rail passes, rail + entrance passes.... It's just crazy to find that one pass to fit your schedule.So first thing first (before you go check out the types of passes you want), decide your destinations! Know where you want to go and how long you plan to stay there. Sure a 7 days JR pass seems perfect for everything but if you only plan to stay 5 days in Kansai area only, the JR pass is not going to worth the price you are paying for.

Here's a JR calculator to help make your life easier.

This time, we bought Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass because I wanted to go to Nagoya, Takayama, Shirakawago, Kyoto and Osaka and this 5-days pass was perfect for the trip.

The previous trip, I opted for 3-days Kansai Thru Pass for my day trips to Kyoto, Kobe and Nara.

Make sure you study the passes well so you know what routes are covered and what are not.

Time to arrive before taking train

Here's chillaxing while waiting for the next trip
We usually arrive at least 30 minutes early for trains especially when it comes to bigger station. You will need time to find the gate (JR, Kintetsu, Hankyu, even JR also have difference in them. JR East, JR West, JR Central and so on), then the platform, and then the car. If you arrive early, there's always yummy food and drinks for sale in the train station and also souvenir shops for you to kill time.

Takuhaibin and Hands-free centre

If you are traveling in a large group especially with elderly and young ones, I highly recommend you try the takuhaibin or luggage forwarding services. From airport, you can have your luggage delivered to hotel, between hotels and then to the airport again.

Another thing I want to share with you all is hands-free centre. Do not assume there's always empty coin locker in the train stations especially when you have medium to large size luggage. It's super tiring and disappointing to drag your luggage all the way just to find out that all the lockers are occupied. Do yourself a favour and google if there's any hands-free center nearby and just leave your luggage there.

The Namba hands-free center charges a flat rate of 500 yen for all size of luggage. Coin lockers for large size luggage is usually 600 to 700 yen. There's also tables and chairs, weighing scale in the center so you can still rearrange your stuffs after shopping.


Hyperdia - MUST HAVE
Google Maps (duh)
Google Translate (double duh...)

Couldn't live without these 3 apps when I was in Japan.

Don Quixote

My favorite place to shop! It's 24 hours, it has everything you want and need, souvenirs for your friends and sometimes, it's cheaper!

This is my favorite drink in Japan. Tea + Orange + Honey. So refreshing and light.
The bottled drink above was sold for 160 yen in the vending machine and it costs 88 yen only in Don Quixote! Another example, a box of 5 packs Ichiran ramen was sold for 2000 yen in the Ichiran Ramen store itself but cheaper in Donki for 1800+ yen! And then there's tax refund again. So please bring your passport with you always!

And that's it.

I hope my post will be helpful for those of you who are planning to go Japan, and for others, I hope it's entertaining at least. And dear husband, you finally have something new to read liao.

Love you all~

Thursday, June 30, 2016

On nom nom nom in Dotonburi

Dotonburi, one should never leave the place hungry. Or I should say, it's impossible to starve in this place because you're more likely to have your stomach burst from eating too much. And the only thing you can, or should do is go shop at those drug stores and let them take all your money!

While walking to Dotonburi, first thing we spotted was the famous Glico man sign
(View from Donki, another must visit place because they sell everything!)

Our flight landed at 2 something pm, took a shuttle ride to the terminal, went through immigration check, took our baggage, got the Kansai Thru Pass from the airport, it was already an hour later. We then bought bus tickets to go to OCAT (Osaka City Air Terminal) because our bnb was right across it.

The Kansai Tourist Information Center where we bought our Kansai Thru Pass
Our bus tickets and baggage claim tags
One thing I really admire Japanese is their passion in doing their job. Whether it's the staffs from the tourist center, the bus conductors or salespersons, once they're in their uniforms, they just give a 100% to their job.

See how our luggage were assembled so neatly.
Not only when we're waiting for our bus to the OCAT, even when we're waiting for our luggage in the airport, our bags were all arranged in such orderly fashion that the handles are all placed in the most convenient way for people to grab it. Sorry no photo because there was a sign saying no photos allowed.

After checking in and refreshed ourselves up, it's dinner time!

Doing the cliche, taking pic with the Glico man

First impression of Dotonburi of course was of course the crowd, the neon lamps and oversized illuminated signboards everywhere! I was thinking to myself, "Wu... I wanna eat this... and this.. probably this too... Ah that! I need to get that! That Lion brand foot patch! Is 4 boxes enough? One for cousin, one for PSL and two for me! Just take all my money already!!!!"

Our first order was.... 

Gyozas from Osaka Osho
 Erm.... Bobby and I both agreed that it tasted just like Excapade's one. Meaning to say, we Bruneians are pretty lucky to have all these delicious and affordable Japanese food because honestly, some of the food we had in Japan and here in Brunei weren't that much of a difference. Maybe just ramen, I have yet to taste a delicious bowl of ramen in Brunei with that creamy smooth classic tonkotsu soup because of obvious reason... *cough* not halal *cough*

Anyways, feeling not so satisfied from the gyozas, we decided to have our very first decent meal in Osaka in Ichiran because everyone raves about it saying it's the best ramen ever, it wasn't exactly dinner time yet so the queue was still manageable and also, I need something hot and filling after a long day.

We thought we're really lucky since we didn't see any line outside but upon going in, then we saw a long line of people waiting. Fortunately for us, we didn't need a private room since there's only the two of us and the booth will do so. We probably just waited about 15 minutes from queuing, buying our meal tickets and to our seats.

Since it was our first time, we followed the recommendation that says pick half, medium and regular for each item.
 I love the design of the booth!

It's private yet you can fold up the panel in between so you can still interact with the person sitting next to you. There's a water dispenser on the left too and it's just so great for a aquaholic like me! (I always feel paiseh to ask for water refill). Then there's window blind right in front and you can only see the server's hands and hear voices talking to you. Once your order is complete, the window blind will be lowered and you will have your private me-time with your heavenly bowl of tonkotsu ramen.

With an extra egg and also extra charsiu because we're greedy and hungry like that!

O.M.G! Seriously super awesome man this bowl of ramen!!!

The broth, the noodles texture, the charsiu.... PERFECT!

However, the regular red sauce was a little too spicy for me therefore with my second order, I only picked half.

But still, one of the best ramen ever!

Our verdicts~

Next, we were still a little full from the ramen. We decided to roam around the busy street before we have something heavy again.

Makes me wonder what is the FIRST delicious melonpan ice cream in the world... Anyone knows the answer?
Or, it's just their way of being humble.

As you can see, food in Japan isn't really that cheap (please don't compare with food in konbini like onigiri, we're speaking in general). That melonpan icecream costs 400 yen which is about BND5.00 (depending on the exchange rate but I'm just going to use BND1=80 yen for this trip), so ya... considering a polo bun kiap ice cream... $5.00. You get the idea.


Sorry for the blurry photo
I like it quite a lot because the warmness from the toasty bun with the cold icecream, superb!
(But Bobby didn't really enjoy it. -_-")

Next, we walked back to the alley where Ichiran Ramen was located but this time, not for the ramen but for Sekai No Yamachan!

Sekai No Yamachan, with 75 shops in Japan

Love the vibe of this restaurant
The main reason I went inside this shop is of course.....

Their famous chicken wings!
.... which... honestly... was a huge disappointment to me..... :(

It tasted by like some ordinary chicken wings that I can just make using my air fryer and marinate it just with salt. Sorry if any of you fans out there disagree with me but I think Lee Loi Fatt's chicken wings win hands down.

But then on the other hand...

This was so so good!

This Kani Douraku (Grilled crab paste) was absolutely to die for!

Grilled scallop
As for grilled scallop, we thought the one we had in Tsukiji market was better.

So ya, that's the fourth place we ate in Dotonburi (gyoza, ramen, melonpan with icecream and yamachan) and if you think that's it... you're so so wrong.

Dotonburi Kukuru Konamon-Museum

I bet you all can guess right away what we had here..

Yeap, takoyaki!

Flavor-wise it was really great but texture... I prefer Gindaco's, crispy outside and mushy inside. This takoyaki that we had was a little too gooey for our liking.

As the finale for the day, we picked.....

The main branch

Hello, we're in Osaka. Of course we had to have it here because that's where Pablo cheese tart started! Their "rare/medium" cheese tart is so famous that most of my friends were excited over the cheesecakes review over other Japanese food. This revolutionary cheese tart is one of the must-try I must say.

We picked dine-in because we just wanna have it right away! And also, Pablo only has two premium cafes in Japan, one is in Dotonburi and the other one in Omotesando. Since we're in Dotonburi, we will just eat there.

My plain cheese tart

You can picked either rare or medium and the difference is, the rare one is the gooey one that flows right out after you cut it and the medium is slightly firmer and we didn't specify which one we wanted and just order the plain set and Bobby the cinnaple set.

You can view the video of me cutting the cheese tart here.

It was pretty good but we're already quite full from all the eating and to be honest, we were both struggling to finish it. So tips for you all out there, don't be so greedy and want to eat everything in one go because you may not enjoy it fully. Hehehehhehehe.

Dotonburi is such a wonderful place that Bobby was disappointed there's no such eating street in Tokyo, so meriah and ceria. We stayed in Osaka for 5 nights and we went there 3 times! Oh well, for Shinsaibashi the shopping street as well but that's another story for another day.

If any of you are interested in visiting, I had marked all the places in the map here.