Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Kyoto Gion Matsuri 2015

Date of Travel: 16-18 July 2015

We were fortunate enough to visit Kyoto in July 2015 due to a slight "bug" in Airasia's booking system which enabled us to fly from KUL-Osaka, return, for RM257 nett per person. Since it was that cheap, die-die must go, we were there for just 2 nights to catch the Gion festival! We were also very lucky to secure rooms at the Toyoko Inn Kyoto Shijo Karasuma, which has front row view of the festival. "Lucky" means everyday must check hotel booking website for cancellations, until the day I departed. Cost per room was approximately RM300/night. Had I not gotten it, my backup hotel was RM900/night during this super peak season.

Gion Matsuri takes place throughout the month of July, but the epicentre of it is on 17 July where there will be a procession of floats along Shijo to Kawaramachi. I don't know much about the customs, but it was fun seeing the ever busy Shijo turn into a street carnival. Throughout the 3 days, I was hounded by a whistling sound. They play an instrument that sounds like a whistle when the procession goes by. In the spirit of Gion Matsuri, these are repeated over the speakers on Shijo throughout the festival period. The sound can even be heard from my room, and I end up having nightmares of whistling.

On the night before, 16 July, Shijo turns into a pedestrian street and I had fun looking for the floats.

There are barricades in the middle, that stopped us from getting to our hotel entrance. Need to walk 500m to go around it

There are platforms leading into the float

I'm not sure how, but visitors can get onto the float itself. Perhaps by donation or in kind?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Taitung, Taiwan - 3 Days Itinerary

Date of Travel: 1-4 Jan 2015

Of the many times I've traveled to Taiwan, this is one of my favourite excursions. Taitung is a coastal town on the south east of Taiwan. Very picturesque views.

Day 1
- 2:00pm Catch the train from Taipei to Taitung (3hr 46min, $783/pax)
- 5:48pm Reach Taitung, walk to EasyRent
No.610, Ln. 101, Yanwan Rd., Taitung City, Taitung County. T: 886-89-224-000.
EasyRent https://www.easyrent.com.tw, Toyota Vios $2400/day x 2 days = $4800
- Dinner for aboriginal dishes Mibanai Shandimei Restaurant 米巴奈山地美食坊
950, Taiwan, Taitung County, Taitung City, Chuanguang Road, 470號
- Drive to Luminous Resort for the night
Address: 台東縣鹿野鄉中華路一段200號
No.200, Sec. 1, Zhonghua Rd., Luye Township
Coordinates:22°53'52.59"N 121°6'4.80"E
Kuomintang Lantern at Luminous: 8:00pm onwards
Heated Pool: 0700-1100/1430-2200
Spa: 0700-1100/1430-2230
Luminous Hot Spring Resort

Room with hot spring spa tub inside

Personal hot spring bath

Ice cream as part of breakfast!

Custard apple & Custard Pineapple are the local fruit in Taitung

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Xian in 72 hours - Day 3

Date of Travel: 24-26 June 2017

Day 3
Today is our final day in Xian. Our flight departs at 12:15am, so we have 15 hours to explore. We had pre-arranged a hotel car to bring us to the airport for RMB180, as we didn't want to take a non a/c taxi in a 45 minute car ride. So we booked one for 8:30pm. We walked to the Muslim Quarter to visit the Grand Mosque. Unfortunately, today was the 2nd day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and there was a prayer ceremony going on at that morning. We declined to enter the mosque, and wandered around the shops instead.
Free public toilets outside Drum Tower. Not bad!

Follow here to the Grand Mosque
At 10am, shops aren't open yet

So spicy, how to eat?

Xian in 72 hours - Day 2

Date of Travel: 24-26 June 2017

Day 2
Today is our relaxing and shopping day, but we managed to pack quite a lot in. We started the day at 9am with a bike ride on the Xian City Wall. I know Mark Zuckerberg jogged the entire 13.84km on the city wall, but we chose to do a little section of 2.5km from the West Gate to the South Gate. The most famous part of the wall is at South Gate (Yongningmen), where entry fee is RMB80. So what we did was to take a taxi to the West Gate (Andingmen) and enter for only RMB54. From there, we picked up the rental bicycles for 45RMB for 2 hours. A deposit of 200RMB is required. Under the scorching sun, we rode!
Entering West Gate

You can walk, run, cycle or ride the electric cars on the wall

Xian in 72 hours - Day 1

Date of Travel: 24-26 June 2017

How to accomplish everything Xian has to offer in just 72 hours? Xian is unlike any China city that I have been to. I quickly noticed the differences:
  •  It is less crowded
  • People drive defensively, and rarely horn
  • Toilets are clean, and there's always a western (handicap) toilet  in most tourist sites
  • The spoken Chinese have less accent and isn't as loud
I would normally keep my itinerary in Google Drive and saved offline on my phone. For some reason, this did not work! And it's in China, all Google Services are not accessible. So this itinerary is "winging it"!

Day 1
Day 1 starts at 12:15am, as AirAsiaX from Kuala Lumpur lands at 12:15am. Tip: It pays to sit closer to the exit, as there were only 2 immigration counters open at that hour. We chose to accept the hotel transfer @ RMB220 instead of haggling with taxis at that hour. Upon arriving the hotel at 1am, we were pleasantly surprised to find many street vendors selling supper at 1am even. We chose a Muslim restaurant and found out how spicy dishes are in Xian. They claim to be just "a little spicy", but it was scorching all the way to my stomach.
Hotel: Citadines Central Xian.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A different side of Hong Kong

Date of travel: 20-24 Nov 2014

Would you believe that this is Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong?

I had been avoiding Hong Kong for awhile, because there seems to be so much you can do there. Or so I thought. It's been 6 years since my previous trip, nothing much has changed, but yet I managed to find some unique things that I hadn't tried before.

1) First up, we stayed at Sheung Wan, which is on the Western side of Hong Kong island. The Ibis Hotel here had a sneak peak of the harbour, and I could view the Hong Kong Harbour Light Show from my room window. Just download the app, and listen to their music that plays in sync with the light show. Awesome technology. The area of Sheung Wan is filled with local charm, medicine shops, dried seafood, and an Edwardian style Western Market.
Ibis Hong Kong Central & Sheung Wan
The Harbour Lights show visible from my room window
Western Market

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Noto Peninsula, Japan

Date of Travel: 28 July 2014
One of the salt farms along the Noto Peninsula

Departing from Kanazawa, we took a day-trip to Noto Peninsula. It was a beautiful day, and the moment we hit the coast, I felt like I was driving in Australia. Even one of the rest stops felt like I wasn't in Japan anymore. Our first stop was the Chirihama Beach, where you can drive your car onto the 8km beach.