Monday, April 30, 2012

Japan2012: Kyoto 5D/4N Itinerary - Day 2

Date of travel: 2-6 April 2012

Kiyomizu Temple at night

Day 2 - Shopping & Kiyomizu Temple

Today's weather forecast was rain, rain and more rain. What else can you do in a brand new city when it's cold and wet? We go shopping! Not wanting to get wet, we chose an indoor shopping area starting at Shijo Street at the Kawaramachi intersection. There are 3 great areas to explore here: Nishiki Market, Teramachi Shopping Arcade and Shin Kyogoku Shopping Arcade. All of them are individual shops in covered alleys. We started at Nishiki Market by taking a bus to Shijo Street.

Buses are convenient for tourists. It covers almost every tourist spot in Kyoto, for a flat fee of 500¥ per day. You can buy these passes at the Kyoto station via vending machines, but we got them from Hana Hostel itself. To use them, hop on the bus from the back entrance and look for a ticket machine (if there is one) and insert your ticket. Some buses charge a flat fee, and some charge based on the distance traveled. Upon exiting, head to the front entrance and insert your ticket again. If it is the first time using your ticket, the date will be stamped at the back of the ticket.
Inside Nishiki Market

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Japan2012: Kyoto 5D/4N Itinerary - Day 1

Date of travel: 2-6 April 2012

Kyoto Tower from Kiyomizu Temple

Kyoto is great! It is an all-rounder city that has everything packaged into one place. The transport system is topnotch and easy to navigate to all the tourist areas with a single daily pass card. The city is super clean where you won't find cigarette butts on the floor. Tourist sites are naturally beautiful and very tourist friendly. Shopping is great with most major departmental stores on one street. I loved it!

Day 1: Adjusting to customs

Our AirAsia flight landed at Osaka Kansai airport at 3:45pm. Having been pre-warned by others, we ran for our lives out of the plane (we were the first one out) and arrived first at the immigration counters. Another flight had landed before us and there were about 100 people ahead of us in the queue. It took us 45 minutes to clear immigration! I do not know how long those poor people had to wait after us.

Review: Hana Hostel, Kyoto

Date of travel: 2-6 April 2012

This is the very first time I have ever stayed in a hostel in my life. Japan is after all a very clean place, and should offer top notch facilities even in hostels. Plus it has great reviews on TripAdvisor. Having heard so much about it, I was anxious to experience it for myself. This stay was actually forced upon myself, due to the high prices of accommodation in Kyoto. The most basic 3-star hotels were going at about RM550 per room per night, whereas this place was 3400¥ per person per night for a Private Twin room with ensuite bathroom. This works out to be about RM260 per room per night. In short, we loved it!

Upon arrival, we had to pay a 1000¥ deposit for the key, which is refundable upon checkout. Since we were staying for 4 nights, we were each given a coupon to redeem for either 1 day's worth of bicycle rental, a set of postcards, or 200¥ off per person. Kyoto is a great place to cycle as it is relatively flat, so we opted for the bicycle ride which would have cost 500¥ otherwise.

We got Room 205, which was at the end of the corridor

Open the main door, and this is what you'll see. A closet on the right, a toilet and a bath straight on

The closet has extra bedding if you need it

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Japan2012: What Did I Buy Back?

Before leaving for Japan, I had done my research and came up with a list of things I was looking for. We came back with a whole lot more!

1. A 20" folding bicycle (Brand: Switch)
Cost: 13800¥ =  RM524 + RM85 for baggage weight on AirAsia

2. Bicycle Bag
Cost: 2470¥ = RM94

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara, Japan

Date of travel: 6-8 April 2012
TripAdvisor's 2012 Winner. The actual award was for: Travelers' Choice® 2012 Winner Bargain

Have you ever been to a hotel that claims to be Eco-Friendly a.k.a. Lohas? What exactly does that mean? Nara is a town in Japan neighbouring Kyoto and Osaka. The entire town has taken great efforts in going green and eating organic vegetables and preserving the environment. Thumbs up to them. For guests at such a hotel, these are some of the facts:

1. Only Check-in, no check-out
To improve efficiency, no key is needed to your room. You will be given a PIN to open your room door. Full payment is collected upfront, so on the day of check-out, simply throw away your PIN and kindly leave the room by 10am. No need to visit the reception again.
PIN required at your room door, and the main entrance after midnight

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Japan2012: Top 5 Favourite Restaurants in Kyoto - Part 2

2. Akiyoshi Yakitori
We found this place by chance again. I had initially intended to locate the intersection of Sanjo and Kawaramachi, where there were many recommended restaurants in the area by the river. The views here were worth the hunt, we found cherry blossoms on both sides of the river which was lined with restaurants. After scouting around, we picked Akiyoshi because it was most inviting and it served Yakitori, which was on our To-Try list.

This is what the shop-front looks like

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Japan2012: Top 5 Favourite Restaurants in Kyoto - Part 1

When we first got back, everyone was eager to know - "How was your trip?!". Since I got asked that so often, I wrote a brief summary of our trip. The immediate next question commonly asked was, "Anything good to eat there??". Food has become an integral part of anyone's holiday, such that it's important enough for me to write first and foremost about food!

1. Macchaya, Kyoto
This restaurant was conveniently located at a building very nearby our hostel. We walk pass it everyday, and browse the signboards at the Ground floor. We have no clue which board is for which restaurant, nor what the board says, nor do we know what they sell. The building has 5 storeys and 1 basement. Due to the cold night, we took a chance and went into this building. It was also by luck that I hit the 4th floor button and we arrived at what we now know is a well-known restaurant in Kyoto!
Locate Sukiya, enter the door on the left and go up the lift to the 4th floor

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Back From Japan Summary

Our trip to Japan was generally very good. It certainly served its purpose of forgetting everything about Malaysia for 10 days. We ate a lot of different foods, loved visiting the locals' neighbourhoods, and had luck on our side on many occasions including seeing the cherry blossoms. Did many crazy things like being in the middle of a typhoon and cycling in 3°C weather!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Plaza Premium Lounge LCCT

After clearing immigration, I was looking forward to using my recently acquired Citibank Premier Miles card for a free entry into the Plaza Premium Lounge at LCCT. I had visions of nasi lemak, toilets and hot showers.

What I found instead was a slightly more comfortable chair, free read of The Star, funky porridge and self made sandwiches, and free flow of drinks including beer. I ain't complaining; afterall it was a free entry. After having a hearty sandwich and hoarded 8 bottled water to bring onboard, I can say it's convenient to have this facility since it's free.

Update: 29 April 2012
In LCCT airport, there are actually 2 Plaza Premium Lounges. One is just before heading upstairs to immigration at the International departure, and another is after clearing immigration. I had the pleasure of visiting the lounge BEFORE immigration yesterday, and boy was it so much better! It has a toilet and shower (where you can loan a towel), much better food and seating environment. When I visited at 4:30pm, they offered bolognese chicken spaghetti, steamed rice with ayam masak merah, a variety of salads, mushroom soup and porridge. They even had ice cream! Overall, the one Before is really much better. The only problem is not being able to take water bottles for the plane journey. Your choice!