Date: 27th Sep - 4th Oct 2017
Destination: Kyoto - Osaka - Naruto - Takamatsu - Kobe - Osaka
I've been working in Japan for close to a year now; for a startup, Meguru, that aims to bring people closer to nature and to encourage circular thinking. I met my boss through wwoofing. You can read more about my Japan wwoofing experience here.
The purpose of this trip was to show my parents my work place, at Ayagawa, Takamatsu. My initial plan was to take them around shikoku island; but they haven't been to Kyoto and Osaka, and would really like to have a look, so i decided to show them around Kyoto and Osaka instead.
I must say that the trip was by far the best holiday we ever had together.
One of the best decision was renting a car. Renting a car makes it so convenient for us to go anywhere, at our own pace. We could easily change plan, head back to the hotel whenever we are tired. Although the highway toll and parking fee was quite pricey, i think it's worth it in-exchange for comfort and flexibility. Plus, i think we bonded quite a lot talking in the car. haha.
The only thing that i would change, is that i'll probably not drive the car all the way up to Takamatsu, but take a bus instead, and then rent another car at Takamatsu. That save the highway and petrol fee, and save me the hassle of driving them all the way back to Osaka.
The option of returning the car at another prefecture is available, but the price is pretty steep.
We rented the car from rentalcars.com and it cost us SGD846.37 for a 5 seater car, including English language GPS and full coverage insurance.
You can also rent the ETC card when you are collecting the car. It's a highway card and the rental cost is around 200yen. It makes it very convenient when you pass through the highway gantry (you dont have to stop and take cash out every single time). We rented it and paid the toll fee when we return the car. It cost us about SGD$300 for the highway fee.
I think we paid on average about SGD$50 per day for parking when we were at osaka and kyoto.
We arrived at Kansai Airport around 9.30am, picked up our car, and headed straight to Kyoto.
Our hotel check-in was at 3pm, but because we had the car, we could leave our luggage inside, and when around exploring Kyoto freely.
Our first destination was Kiyomizu-dera, a very nice Buddhist temple. I've been there previously, but i didn't go to the area with entrance fee. I'm so glad that we went in this time round, because it's huge and beautiful.
There are many street side stores outside the temple (like most of the touristy places) and that made mummy very excited. My mum is such a foodie and she loves to try everything.
As for my dad, the first thing that he caught sight of was BEER of course. ... haha
After Kiyomizu-dera, i brought them to Nishiki Market and they love that place so much! Thanks to all the super cheap and fresh sashimi available. My parents are a huge fan of sashimi. We even went back there again the next day because my dad was craving for the oyster that he ate previously.
After Nishiki market, we had ippudo ramen for lunch. It was nice, but not the best ramen we had during our trip. Read on to find out where is the best, in our opinion.
Initially, i wanted to bring them to Fushimi Inari Taisha too, which is pretty near to Kiyomizu-dera. But my boss, who is quite a spiritual person, advised me not to, due to the fox spirits at Fushimi Inari Taisha. Though i'm not a spiritual person, i decided to listen to his advice. I don't want anything bad to happen to my parents. haha. I've been to Fushimi Inari Taisha before, it's a great place for photography.
Here's a picture that i took previously:
After a very late lunch, we felt extremely tired; so we drove to our hotel, check-in and took a long nap.
Our hotel, XIV Kyoto Yase-Rikyu, is extremely pretty, with top great service. It's a membership based hotel. Thanks to Toyo's dad, who helped us reserved a room.
There's onsen in the hotel too, with super nice facilities. Thumbs up!
After our nap, we went out for dinner. We drove around Gion street, but it didn't seem to have much going on there then (though i highly recommend you to check out Gion street and try to spot Geisha. I had a very good time there when i was in Kyoto previously), so we went to Pontocho Area instead, which is a tiny street filled with bars and restaurant.
We had a very delicious bbq Kobe beef meal at Yaruki Yakiniku & Wine restaurant.
We went to Kinkaku-ji, it was my first time there and wow it's beautiful! I highly recommend this place!
Then we made our way to Arashiyama, where we took an old railway train from Saga-Arashiyama station to Hozu-gawa, and then took a 2 hours boat ride from Hozu-gawa to Arashiyama. I highly recommend this! Especially during sakura season (beg April) or autumn leave season (end October). Click here for more information about the boat ride.
Both the train and boat ride were scenic.
After the boat ride, we toured around Arashiyama. My dad almost gave up walking when he saw the amount of stairs he had to climb (it's really not that much), but i assured him that the bamboo forest was worth going to, so we made it in the end.
After that we headed back to Nishiki Market again, ate lots of food, walked around Shinkyogoku Shopping Street, and then head back to the hotel with lots of food, as dad was tired and wanted to rest.
We drove to Katsuou-ji Temple, which is near Osaka. It's an extremely beautiful temple on a mountain, and it's known for victory. You can purchase a daruma doll and make a wish, it's said that if your wish came true, you have to return the doll back to the temple. That's why you see daruma dolls everywhere. I highly recommend this temple if you would like to get out of the touristy places.
The main reason why i chose to go to this temple was because there's a waterfall nearby called Minoo Fall. I'm a super big fan of waterfalls, that's why. I'm really glad that we went, it's beautiful!
After the temple, we went to Dontonbori. I knew my parents would love that place! They love all the crowded places with lots of food stores. My mum went around trying all sort of food again, it was adorable. haha
We spent quite some time at Dontonbori, eating and shopping around. After which, we headed to Umeda Sky Building to see the awesome view. If only we arrive slightly earlier, we would have caught the awesome sunset view (i forgot that the sun sets earlier from autumn onward), but it was still super amazing.
We made our way to Ayagawa, Takamatsu; which is where i'm staying now. On our way there, we stopped by Naruto (2.5hrs drive from Kyoto), which is a very famous place for whirlpool.
There are a few options to see whirlpool, the most famous one is from the ferry, which i took previously. But i compared the ferry timing and the peak whirlpool timing, and it didnt match quite well, so we decided to see it from Uzu no Michi, an enclosed walkway that extends under the Onaruto Bridge. The walkway's observation room sits 45m above the whirlpools, which can be seen through glass panels. I think we made the right decision because i see the whirlpool so much clearer than my previous boat experience.
Before you walk to Uzu no Michi, there are some observation deck on the other side (right side), and the view there is amazing. Do also try the ramen from the only food store there, it's the best ramen we have ever had.
We drove another 1.5 hrs and arrived at my work place in the evening, We checked-in the guest house that i'm managing and then went to a nearby izakaya place for dinner.
We started the day with me showing my parents my work place, seeing all the animals, the cafe, my room etc. My mum was telling me how my grandma has been telling her that she wish she can go back to her young days where she has a place to grow her own vegetables. I was telling my mum to bring my grandma over. I'm glad that they could relate better to why i prefer to stay here instead of the city.
We didn't tour much that day besides going to Ritsurin Garden, Japan's largest Japanese garden. Because we met up with Toyo's parents for lunch and my dad drank so much with them. haha. It was nice seeing them having so much fun though.
Ritsurin Garden was amazing, my 2nd time there and it's still mesmerizing. My dad enjoyed it so much too. Even though he was semi drunk. he still walked the whole garden with us and kept asking me to take pictures of him. oh daddy..
It was raining so badly that day and the day after too. My original plan was to bring them to Aya valley and Kochi, but it's not a good idea when it's raining.
I brought them to eat a very delicious beef udon for breakfast. (〒761-2203 Kagawa-ken, Ayauta-gun, Ayagawa-chō, Yamadakami, 綾川町山田上甲1949-8 岡製麺所) It's located not too far away from my workplace. Kagawa is the birth place of udon by the way. My parents love it so much! The soup is very delicious.
After which, we headed to Takmatsu main street for a walk, and then to Yashima despite the bad weather. We checked out the Shikoku village museum, which features very old japanese house. It's not such a good idea to go there when it's raining, and it wasn't that impressive too. Every house looks the same after awhile.
We then drove up to Yashima to have a look at the view. There are better viewing point, but my parents were tired of climbing. haha
It was our last day at Takamatsu. I wanted to bring them to a very nice viewpoint at Mitoyo, but they wanted to take it slow and go for massage that day, so i only managed to bring them to Marugame Castle, which was nice too.
After that, we went to Aeon mall (the nearest mall from my workplace) for massage.
At night, i brought them to the restaurant where i'm helping out on some weekends, learning cooking from the chef. I swear the food there is amazingly delicious. It's the first time i ever asked a chef if he could teach me how to cook right after i've tasted his food. My parents love his food too. (〒761-2203 Kagawa-ken, Ayauta-gun, Ayagawa-chō, Yamadakami, 綾川町山田上甲1949-8 岡製麺所)
We bid farewell to Ayagwa, and made our way back to kansai airport. We stopped by Kobe because dad wanted to try kobe beef at kobe. haha. We went to Kobe's chinatown and ate at a random restaurant that we saw. It was delicious, but it makes me feel sick when i had too much. Beef used to be my favorite, but I've been trying to cut down on it due to environmental reason.
As we still had some time after Kobe, we went to Shinsekai for a walk and ate their famous Kushikatsu.
Overall, this trip was such a fantastic one. I can't expect it to be any better. We are planning to go Hokkaido next year! It will be so awesome!
That's about it for now. Thank you for reading and feel free to ask me anything! ;)
Date: 23rd May - 30th May
I went to Shanghai and Hangzhou in May because I had to get out of Japan (visa run), and the air-tickets to Shanghai was so cheap! About $100 for round-trip! No wonder so many Chinese guests are coming to stay at our guest house.
As my trip was half work half travel, most of my expenditure was covered by company, for example transport, food and accommodation; i only exchanged $200 for personal stuff, like shopping, gifts etc.
When i first arrived in Shanghai airport, on my way to the hostel, i was shocked to find out that google map doesnt work in China. I only knew facebook was not allowed but i didn't know that google too, and i stupidly marked all the places that i was interested to visit on my google map. I panicked for awhile, as i didn't buy a phone card too (which is another whole complicated procedure, having to record all you passport details etc, i heard..).
But then i managed to get things sorted out. I asked around and found out that 高德地图 (gao de di tu) and 百度地图 (bai du di tu), is the most common online map that people in china use. MetrolMan is also a good app that shows the train timing in shanghai. Then later i found out about GreenVPN from a guy that i met in the hostel who was kind enough to share with me his password. With that, i could access everything like facebook, google etc. Super awesome.
Anyway, the most important app that has conquered china is wechat. I knew wechat was commonly used but i didnt know the extend of it and i was so amazed when i see how the app has replaced menu, namecards, and even wallets in china. People in china now go out with just their phone and they can make purchases through wechat, exchange contact through wechat, and even view menu etc through wechat QR code. It's amazing. I believe in no time wechat is going to conquer the world. haha.
I book a mixed dorm at Shanghai Blue Mountain LUWAN Youth Hostel which cost about $20 per night. The room is clean, beds are comfortable, and the best thing is it's just right opposite the subway station (luban) which makes it super convenient. The only problem is that there is only wifi in the common area. But i heard that it's the same for the other hostels in Shanghai.
From the airport i simply took the subway to Luban station which cost me just about $2. I was stunned at how cheap it is because transport is way too expensive in Japan.
Places of interest:
I spent 2 days touring Shanghai. 1 day going to all the sightseeing places, and another day with my boss checking out some green initiatives in Shanghai.
I started my tour by foot from my hostel to 田子坊, which was a street with old shop houses. Pretty nice place for pictures and there are lots of interesting souvenir shops there too.
Then i walked towards the french concession area near Fuxing Rd (复兴路) to check out the architecture. I had a great time strolling around.
Next i popped by 复兴公园 , i really enjoy people watching at the gardens in china so much. Watching them dance, sing, play chess, doing taichi, chilling; simply having a great time. :)
I was taking a video of a little boy and his mum walking, and the mum caught sight of me and started smiling and dancing with her boy. She then said this to me "someone asked me what's the most precious moment in my life, and I said it's when my boy hug me and say mama i love you". Aww. How random and sweet.
I then took a train to 人民广场. I wanted to visit the park, but i got a little too tired from walking and i was super hungry, so i went to the nearby mall to grab some food.
南东乐路 is kinda like Singapore's orchard road. Lot's of shopping mall and business building. I checked it out for awhile before heading to 外灘 to see the awesome view of Shanghai.
I guess this is the must go place in Shanghai. It reminds me so much about Singapore though. It's a nice place but packed with tourist. Interesting place to people watch too.
Here are some nice restaurants that my friend who work in Shanghai recommended me. I didn't manage to go to all of them. But i'm pretty sure that the food is good.
Add: 39 Anfu Rd, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
I was researching about some green initiatives in Shanghai before i went, and i managed to find some nice organic restaurants like Hunters Gatherer, Green & Safe, The Urban Harvest. There was even a eco village, a shopping mall that sells upcycled stuff, that i read about in an article.
However, when i was there, most of the green restaurants stopped operating. What a pity! We only managed to visit The Urban Harvest, which was quite interesting. They grow sprouts and mushroom in their restaurant, and you are allowed to harvest them for your meal. Their food is delicious! It's nice that we at least managed to visit one. Come on Shanghai, keep the green spirit up!
Hangzhou is so beautiful! I'm really glad that we decided to spent most of our time in Hangzhou instead of shanghai. I'm just not a city person, nature is where i like to be.
We took a bus from Shanghai airport to Hangzhou which cost us about 110rmb per person. It's cheaper to take from the city, or in fact, train is the best choice. We took train back to Shanghai which only cost us 78rmb per person.
Booked a super nice airbnb place that is located really close to West Lake. The room is very comfortable, the owner is friendly and helpful, and the neighborhood has great vibes with lots of food store around. I highly recommend this place.
Places of interest:
We spent 3 full days in Hangzhou, and we almost extended another day there. It's such a nice and chill place with it's own unique vibe. The main thing in Hangzhou it's of course the West Lake, and that's basically what we did the whole time.
We rented a bike and ride around the west lake, which was super awesome experience.
We spent another day walking around the lake as bicycles are not allowed at some parts along the lake. It was really nice to take our time strolling, taking pictures, watching the sunset. But it gets a little tiring towards the end though. I think it took us about 5 hours slow walk.
We watched The Impression West Lake, a love story performed with impressive special effects on the lake, directed by the internationally-acclaimed Zhang Yimou. There are 2 show timings every night and it's super spectacular. I highly recommend you guys to not missed it!
One of the best thing we did at Hangzhou was hanging around in the parks, watching people singing and dancing. Toyo was even dragged in to perform. It was fun and entertaining!
We also walked around the bamboo forest and botanical garden. It's just so nice to be close to nature.
On our last day, we went around for some "work" stuff. I took lots of videos of him performing and combined them. It was fun! Here's the short clip!
All the food that we had in Hangzhou was so good! The restaurant weren't even pricey at all.
Here are the ones we went:
Overall, it was such a great break to shanghai and hangzhou. It feels like i'm back home for awhile, eating delicious chinese food. I think there's so much more to explore, especially Hangzhou. I definitely would love to go back again next time. :)
I hope you guys will have as much fun as i did.
Date: 14th February to 20th February
Total Expenditure: $340
I was there on a work trip, so some things like food and accommodation was covered. Here's just to give you a rough estimation of some of the expenses:
Air tickets: $196 for both ways (Singapore to Bali)
Bike Rental: $8 per day
Car Rental: $30 per day
Taxi from airport to Kuta: $7
Accommodation: Guest House Approx $18 per night
Some of you might already know that i'm currently in Japan, working for my Kagawa Wwoofing Host.
He started a new company called Meguru which aims to reconnect human with nature and community while leading the way towards a circular society. I'll be managing his Organic Farm, Eco Guest House, Zero Waste Cafe, as well as Music and Events. Our trip to Bali is mainly for research and to form a connection with the various like-minded organisations.
Did you know that Bali is gonna banned plastic bags by 2018? Watch this:
But the main reason we chose to go Bali was because of Green School Bali. Green school is a school built with bamboos, that focuses on sustainability education; hoping to inspire and empower students to be the future green leaders. We all know how important education is, that's why we were super interested to check out this amazing school.
While I was planning for our Bali trip, i came across so many more awesome Green Initiatives in Bali. Which got me really excited! Unfortunately we didnt manage to visit them all, obviously right? There's just too many. If you are interested to find out more about the various Green Initiatives, do check out the videos made by Make a Change World.
Green School, Bamboo Factory, Green Village Tour
We signed up for a morning tour with 3 destinations (Green School, Bamboo Factory, Green Village), which cost USD$40. The tour starts from 9am till 1.15pm.
First stop was Green School! There're so many things I like about the school, here are some:
Besides the well-known information that the school is made from mainly bamboos, i love seeing all the up-cycled furniture and equipment as we toured around. Above picture is some chairs made from waste tyres. They also used unwanted car window as white board by painting them white.
I love their sink! Located beside their dining area.
They have a recycling centre where waste are sorted into 20 different categories. Besides teaching their students about the importance of recycling, they are also trying to spread the idea of recycling centre to other schools in Indonesia.
What i like most is that they have an after-school programme specially for the locals, to teach them english as while as sustainability studies. There's no monetary transaction involved, the locals just have to bring 5kg of waste every month to the recycling centre. This is to encourage as well as educate them about recycling. They have about 327 students in this programme now.
I love their open concept classroom. The tour-guide explained that the whole idea about open concept classroom is to allow nature (or you can call it distraction) to enter. "Distraction is part of your life, accept it." It makes so much sense to me. Distraction is everywhere, we need to cope and adapt to it so that we can stay focus despite the distraction around.
I love that they have a class on Eco phobia. They make the students jump into the mud pit and teach them about things like identifying poisonous snakes, learning how to handle them etc. They even have their own snake catching team! Yes, they use real life snakes to teach the students! I think i need to attend classes like this. It's so true that if you understand how nature works, the role and benefits of each organism, and how to handle them, you wont be afraid of them.
I like how much freedom the students are given to propose projects they would like to take up. They learned about sustainability compass model which states the 4 metrics to define sustainability - Nature, well-being, economics, and social; and are open to initiate any projects that fits this model. Teachers are more like a facilitator. The students also work closely with social enterprises to assist them in various project. One very successful project is called Bio-bus, a school bus that is fueled by used cooking oil around the island. The project is run fully by students in collaboration with hotels and food vendors for the collection of oil, and another NPO that helps to transform the cooking oil into diesel. "What you can do now, do it now," is what the school emphasize.
The school doesnt emphasize on grades, but more of value added projects. Through projects, students will naturally be able to the learn about science, mathematics etc. All the students graduate with not just grades but also resume. The teachers there are also very helpful in writing recommendation.
Green School believe in the importance of engaging parents. They have a co-working space just for parents to hang around in the school and tons of projects that parents can be involved in. Parents can collaborate with teachers to conduct workshops such as photography, cooking etc.
They have a compost station where students learn how to make compost. They process food waste and even human waste and turn them into fertilizers. Students will then use the fertilizer to grow their own crops. Once their crops are ready for harvest, they can even bring them to the kitchen to cook meals for the other students and teachers
Students are taught about Aquaponics at the Aquaponic Station. They even get to make their own little aquaponic tank and bring it back home. It's such a great way to educate about circulation.
That's all i have for Green School. It was such a great trip! I love what they are doing and i hope that there will be more schools like this, especially government schools, where it's more affordable to a wide number of people.
Bamboo Factory Tour was pretty useful and interesting for us because there are so many bamboos in our area (Ayagawa) and we are thinking about how we can best make use of them. The tour guide shared with us the whole process of making bamboo into building materials. I wont be writing about it (it's too much and too technical), i'll just share some interesting facts that i've learned about Bamboos:
Welcome to the part on Green Village, but i'm sorry, i didn't like Green Village at all. Okay, i do think that they have managed to showcase the potential of bamboos very well, but the whole idea of building this resort-like accommodation that cost roughly USD$400 per night, having locals around to serve you, and the fact that i don't see anything like recycling centre etc, just make me wonder about the whole purpose of building a place like this and calling it Green Village. I was thinking more of a village where environmentally conscious locals and foreigners live together, maybe have a community garden together, recycle stuff, or even share their stuff with one another of sorts. Maybe i was expecting too much. Well, it's a beautiful place though, here's some pictures:
ROLE Foundation's Zero Waste to Ocean
I found out about Zero Waste to Ocean through Make a Change world's facebook page. You know, i'm i'm such a fan of Zero Waste efforts so I wrote to the founder, Mike O'Leary, and he replied almost immediately, welcoming us to visit his place. How nice! He's really a man full of passion, doing his best for the people in Bali. The video below will provide you with a good understanding about what they strive to achieve.
Zero Waste to Ocean is an Environmental Education and Research Center which Mike's organisation Role Foundation is currently building. The center will use machinery and systems to recycle or use 98% of all waste. Organic, non-recyclables, and recyclables will be separated and converted into materials beneficial for everyday life. The site will also promote sustainable business such as production of natural dyes, organic cotton weaving, and soap recycling.
ROLE Foundation collects soap from hotels and villa around Bali, sanitize and reprocess them into new soap. The soap will than be distributed to orphanages, disadvantaged and poor communities who lack access to basic hygiene products. Their program offers skills training and employment for disadvantaged local women.
We had a whole list of green cafes to visit, there's just so many nice cafes in Bali, especially Ubud. Here are some nice ones that we visited:
I found out about them through Make A Change World once again. We are starting a Zero Waste Cafe in Ayagawa, so it's important for us to visit other Zero Waste Cafes around the world.
Warung Gouthe was started by a couple who met whilst training in a 3 star michelin restaurant. The cafe is based on the concept of family where they serve simple but delicious "grandma recipes" meal. They cook daily in small amount to minimize food loss, use mainly glass jars to avoid plastics, and buy fruits and vegetables everyday from local market to ensure that it's package free.
The cafe is pretty cozy and their food is delicious! We manage to have a short conversation with the owners, who were extremly warm and kind. They shared with us about the challenges they faced trying to get packaging free stuff, and how they are trying their best everyday. Kudos to the both of them and their lovely team!
The Elephant is a quite a huge organic restaurant that has a variety of vegan and glutton-free food. The restaurant is very clean and comfortable, with a great nature view.
We were there just for tea, but i must say that their coffee and smoothie tasted really good! I love that they use bamboo straws.
This restaurant serve really tasty and healthy organic food. What i like most is their permaculture garden. They used coconut husk around their bedding, making the garden look organised and tidy.
Emas Hitam Permaculture Farm
Emas Hitam Indonesia (EHI) is a registered Indonesian NGO, working in sustainable development with a focus on agriculture. They provide comprehensive permaculture training to farmers in Bali as well as other parts of indonesia.
We randomly found out about them through our ubud's guest house owner. We visited their farm and volunteered for awhile to help them on preparation work for a ubud food festival, where they sold their freshly grown vegetables as well as home-made sauces and jams, while spreading the word about permaculture. The team is made up of very passionate bunch of people, doing their very best to improve agriculture in Indonesia. I love their positive vibe! It was really nice to know them.
We didn't have a lot of time to tour around, but i'm so glad that we made time to go to Amed for diving! We rented a car, because it takes 3hrs to get there from Ubud and we were pretty tired of riding.
We booked a morning dive to Liberty dive-site from Euro Dive Bali, which cost about $45. The dive was at 8am, so yes we departed from ubud at 5am in the morning. The facilities and equipment at Euro Dive were pretty well maintained and organised, and their staffs are very nice and friendly. I wrote to them so many times asking so many questions about the dive, and the staff patiently answered to all of my questions.
Liberty dive-site is so beauty! Filled with marine life. I think it's one of the best dive site i've been to. We were lucky too, that the weather was nice, sea was calm, visibility was clear, We had such an amazing time. Totally worth the long drive.
Other fun activities we had, which is kinda work-related (because my boss is also a musician), was hanging out with the local Djembefola, playing music together.
It was really nice watching them jam at Kuta beach, seeing people around dancing. I love how music brings people together.
Before i end, I have to talk a little about Food right? Food is such a big part to traveling. Well i only have one thing to recommend (sorry!), Warung Babi Guling, is a must try in Bali! Fried pork with rice, it's delicious! We went to the store near south kuta, called Warung Bai Guling Pak Dobiel Nusa Dua. You can find them on google maps.
Oh one last thing that i have to recommend is our ubud airbnb host. They are so awesome! Extremely nice and friendly! We spent so much time interacting with them, they are simply so nice to talk to. They provided us with so much information about the things that we were interested in, and always serve us tea and sweet snacks. The room is very nice and clean, surrounded by a pretty garden. I love the place so much! Do check them out!
Overall, our Bali trip was extremely fulfilling! It's really nice to check out the various green initiatives around the world. We hope that we can do more of such trip in future. Till then! :)
It was about a year ago when i first saw a video about Kamikatsu. I remember how impressed i was that there is an official zero waste town in Asia. Kamikatsu was the main reason why i chose to travel Japan, but to actually be given a chance to volunteer there, was way beyond my expectation and I can't be more happy and proud about it.
Here's a short video clip that i have done about Kamikatsu. I didn't intend to do a clip at first, knowing that there are already many more professional videos done about the town. I didn't see the need to duplicate efforts; but then i realised that there ain't any in mandarin. There are so many Taiwanese and Hong Kong tourists in Japan, so i thought it will be good to do a video with mandarin subtitles to reach out to them. So here is my very simple video about Kamikatsu and the awesome things that they are doing:
Date: 21st November 2016 - 15th December 2016
I volunteered at Kamikatsu for about 1 month. It's kinda different from wwoofing as food and accommodation wasn't included, but i think they are going to start a wwoofing account soon, it will be so awesome!
Here's a summary of the amount i spent there:
Total Expenditure: SGD$345
Transport: $56 (including bus from osaka to tokushima)
Food (MSIG): $83 (i only buy the cheapest ingredients, and thankfully, i got a lot of free treats and received many free fresh vegetables from the farmers there :) )
Shopping: $41 (i needed to buy some clothes because it was getting cold)
Accommodation: $165 (it's 500 yen per day for accommodation fee, 300 yen per day for utilities, and 30 yen per day for common service expenses)
How to get there?
My Volunteering Experiences
When i first decided to volunteer here, i had the impression that i'll be merely doing hand-on things like helping to sort the waste at the recycling centre and serving and cleaning at the zero waste cafe. I didn't expect to be able to work so closely with the team on projects to reduce food waste and food packaging, and even had an event specially organised for me to share about my experiences at The Food Bank Singapore. It was such a rewarding journey for me and i'm so thankful for it.
I spent a day at the Gomi Station helping the residents sort their waste into the different categories. I'm pretty sure that most of you are curious about what exactly are the 45 categories and what can it be converted into, so here you go!
The first time i met Terumi, the owner of Cafe Polestar, was 2 months before i started volunteering at Kamikatsu. My Kagawa wwoofing host brought me to Kamikatsu (because i kept bugging him to bring me there) to attend a tour conducted by Terumi. Back then i told her that my dream is to start a Zero Waste Cafe in Singapore, and she told me that she owns a Zero Waste Cafe in Kamikatsu! That was how it all started, with me deciding to volunteer at Kamikatsu to not only learn about their waste management, but also about cafe management.
I usually help out at the cafe on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday, mainly assisting in cleaning, serving, food preparation, and some translating. Lunch is provided to all staffs included me! Their food is so delicious! I specially love their pastries!
I had such an enjoyable time volunteering there! Terumi, her husband Takuya, and master chef are so nice and kind. I learnt a lot about coffee making and food presentation too!
Be sure to check them out:
カフェ・ポールスター (Cafe Polestar, Kamikatsu)
Address: Japan, 〒771-4501 徳島県勝浦郡上勝町大字福原字平間32−1
I usually volunteer at Zero Waste Academy on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Because i used to work for The Food Bank Singapore, my main tasks was to help them to look into food waste and food packaging reduction. I was amazed by how receptive they were about my suggestions and how efficient they are in putting things into action.
I had the chance to join them for their Zero Waste Kamikatsu sharing sessions in various schools.
I had the chance to sit in a meeting with their corporate partner to discuss about manufacturing a durable paper bag to replace their current plastic bags.
I even had an event specially organised for me to share about The Food Bank Singapore with the residents of Kamikatsu and some ideas that i had to improve Kamikatsu as a Zero Waste Town.
All these were unexpected, and i can't be more glad about it. It felt really good that besides learning from them, i get to also contribute a little to this wonderful town.
Besides zero waste, there's another thing extremely interesting about this town.
You know how Japanese are very particular about food presentation? We often see plastic leaf decorations on the Japanese dishes right? There's a company called Irodori that works with the elderly at Kamikatsu to harvest leafs and sell them to high class restaurants all over Japan!
Kamikatsu climate is extremely suitable for growing beautiful leafs. They have a wide variety of pretty leafs all year round.
What i like most is that the company does not hire the elderly, instead, they partner with them. That means all the profits from the sale of the leafs go directly to the elderly, just a cut of it goes to Irodori as commission. So the elderly there are actually extremely rich and happy. haha.
How it works is that the company created a online system where they share information about what types of leafs are on demand, quantity, and destination. The elderly will then bid for the leafs that they would like to supply and state the quantity that they are able to supply, pack them, and then send to the logistic company for delivery.
I had the opportunity to volunteer a day with an elderly to see how things were done. It was such an eye-opener. Kudos to the boss of Irodori and his team for this very worthy business idea.
Other Interesting Experience
Zero Waste Academy has a craft shop where they sell goods that are made from unwanted materials. I had the chance to learn how to make the above bag in a most old school method! It was so fun!
All in all, It was such a rewarding journey for me to be able to volunteer at Kamakatsu. I'm so in love with the town! The people that I've worked with there are so capable and inspiring. I'm pretty sure that i'll be back again.
I hope you guys will also get the chance to experience what I've experience! Feel free to ask me anything :)
Date: 31 Oct 2016 - 17 Nov 2016
I already been to Taiwan last year with my mum, i didn't expect myself to be going there again so soon, but the opportunity came, so why not right? Since we toured the Northern and Central Taiwan previously, i mainly focused on the south this time round.
Cities that I've visited:
Total Expenditure: SGD$1452.42
Transport: $467.62 (including one-way air-ticket from Toyko to Taipei at $138.68, and $154.94 from Kaohsiung back to Osaka. By Scoot.
Food: $284.90 (in which $63 is on alcohol) I partied a little with the friends that i met at Kaohsiung.
Miscellaneous (Gifts, haircut): $63
Adventure (Diving): $244
Most Memorable Experience:
It’s always nice to be able to see my overseas friends again. My Taiwanese god brother, whom i met last year when i traveled taiwan with my mum, works at Paper Plane Hostel, a new hostel that has very comfortable beds, high-tech facilities, and excellent service. The cheapest dorm only cost about TWD$450 per night with delicious breakfast included if you book directly from their facebook page. I stayed there for about a week in total, hanging out with my brother and his friends at night, going for supper, listening to live music at a bar, and KTV too. I had so much fun with them that it was so hard for me to leave. It's always the people that makes a trip so wonderful. Always.
Getting my bike license in probably one of the best thing that i did last year. It's so nice to be able to simply rent a bike and go wherever i want to. The route to Lavender Cottage at Xinshe is so pretty! It has lots of curves which makes it rather dangerous but extremely fun to ride on.
Initially, i wanted to ride from Taitung to Taichung, i heard that 南橫公路 is extremely beautiful. Unfortunately, there was a landslide just before i went Taiwan, so the road was close and it will probably take some time to be fixed.
Somethings to note when riding in Taiwan:
If you love sea turtles like i do, don't miss this place. Xiao Liu Qiu is known as the turtle island in Taiwan. I spotted about 8 turtles during my dive. The water viability was above 20m, absolutely fantastic! Way better than my dive in Kenting, if you are considering between those two.
Overall, I had a wonderful time in Taiwan. After 3 months volunteering in Japan, it was nice to finally take a short break.
The 2 main things that I wanted to do in Taiwan was diving and riding. I did both and it was way better than expected. I feel rejuvenated now and I’m ready to start working hard once again in Japan.
I’ll be writing about my 3 months wwoofing experience in Japan soon. There’s just so much to write about, please give me some time. Stay tuned! :)
Omg! I'm finally done updating about my Vietnam trip! Jumping with joy now!
It took me quite awhile to do so. Hats off to all the bloggers out there! I never intend to be a blogger and i don't consider myself as one. There are so much more work to be done in order to be considered as a true blogger, i don't think i have the energy for it. I started this blog because i wanted to force myself to consolidate all my travel experiences in a more organise way, so that it can be useful for others. There were a couple of occasion previously when my friends came to me asking for advise about a country that i've been. I wasn't able to share much then because i forgotten most of it. I felt a little ashamed for not being able to help, so i decided to start recording everything down as i travel - pricing, timing, hostels etc. I truly hope my little effort will be useful for your planning and please feel free to ask me anything. :)
A lot of my friends asked me this question. I feel that every city is unique in its own way, but if i really have to choose, it will be:
They are basically cities that have plenty of things to do and see. Click on the individual city if you would like to find out more. :)
Most Memorable Experience:
That's all i have for now. My next trip will be JAPAN! Till then my friends :)
Date: 18 March 2016 - 18 June 2016
Cities that i've visited:
Total Expenditure: SGD$1927.50
Transport: $528.30 (including one-way air-ticket from Spore to Hanoi at $128, and $60 from HCM back to Spore. Tiger Airline, without check-in baggage). Yes i only brought 12kg worth of stuff.
Insurance (MSIG): $250.90
3 months visa: $155. I when all the way to the vietnamese embassy in Singapore to apply for the visa, thinking that it will be cheaper than doing it online. Apparently it's not. Check this out: http://vietnamvisa.sg/
International Riding & Driving Licence: $24 You probably wont need this.
Necessities (phone card, laundry services, shampoo and other groceries): $416.80
Miscellaneous (gifts, books and other shopping items): $61
Cities that I did not visit but would love to go in future:
TOP SAVING TIPS:
Best HOSTELS that I've stayed
Great atmosphere with friendly staffs is the most important thing for me in deciding which hostel to go for. Here are a few hostels that i would highly recommend if you have the same opinion.
Must EAT Vietnamese Food
There are plenty of delicious food in Vietnam! My top favourites are:
There are many other food that i would recommend you to try, especially when you are at Hue, Dan Nang and Hoi An, plenty of awesome local speciality. But there isn't a particular stall or restaurant that i can recommend you to, simply because I don't think it was the best you can find.
Overall, traveling Vietnam is definitely one of the highlights in my life. Biking around, admiring the beauty of nature was my favourite activity there. I definitely recommend you to go Vietnam, and if you ever do, feel free to ask me anything. :)
I decided to quit my job to travel. Contrary to many others, I didn't hate my job, it was a job that I was and still am very passionate about. I left because I was getting comfortable. I left because i know the clock is ticking, that there are different phases in life and this is THE moment. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to do the things that i always dream of: getting myself out of my comfort zone, immersing myself in nature, and gaining other forms of experiences through volunteering.
I'm only at the very beginning of my adventure and it has already been so amazing.
I am not planning to travel a year around the globe. I prefer to take things slow, so that i can have a better understanding about a country's history, traditions, and cultures, as well as have substantial time to build greater friendships.
I was in Vietnam for 3 months. I volunteered for 2 months, as an english teacher, hostel receptionist and a marketer/event helper for a social enterprise cafe. I spent my last month exploring Vietnam, from the north to the south. I was constantly stunned by its beauty and had my fair share of motorbike adventures.
I will be heading Japan next, for another 3 months, volunteering at organic farms through WOOF (World Wide Opportunity for Organic Farms). Why japan? Many of my friends asked. Japan are well-known for its culture of innovation, beautiful packagings, and delicious food. What's more attractive to me is their efforts towards waste reduction and their upcoming minimalist lifestyle trend. These are good enough reasons for me to spend the extra pennies.
What's after Japan? I've gotten my work and travel Visa for New Zealand. I might or might not forfeit it. It all depends on my experiences in Japan. I'm keeping my plan as flexible as i can. Let's see how it goes. Stay tuned for more updates!
Taiwan is so beautiful! It has everything one can ask for - mountains, sea, food, shopping areas, as well as night life. What's more, they have nice and friendly people, which is usually key that makes a trip so amazing.
Unlike my other trips, this was more of a luxurious vacation for me, as i went there with my mum. We definitely spent a lot more than what i would have spent, if i was there alone. I had to make sure that my mum was comfortable. The bulk of our expenditure was on Taxi Fares, so it will be best if you can travel taiwan in a group of four. If i were to go there on my own, i'll probably rent a bike and tour around with it. I can only imagine how beautiful and fun it will be...
Dates: 22 October 215 - 4 November 2015
Destination: Taipei - Chiayi (Alishan) - Tai Chung - Sunmoon Lake - Cing Jing - Hua Lien - Jiu Fen - Taipei
Air tickets: SGD$535 for two, including baggage and seat selection. We managed to get a 50% discount from Scoot. How fortunate.
Insurance (MSIG): SGD$61.75 per person
Transport (excluding flight): SGD$1,150 for two
Accommodation: SGD$1,352 for two
Entrance fee: SGD$90 for two
Overall Expenditure: Approx SGD$5000 for two including shopping and food.
Day 1: Taipei -> Chiayi
We arrived at Taipei International Airport at 5.30am and our train to Chiayi was at 8am. I booked the High Speed Rail tickets online (http://www5.thsrc.com.tw/en/ticket/tic_time_search.asp) for SGD$51 per person. Booking online enables you to get an early bird 10% discount. In case you are worried that your flight might get delayed, and you missed your train, fret not, they are extremely flexible. All you have to do is to go to the counter to change your ticket timing, and you will only have to forfeit the discount.
We wanted to get a sim card; unfortunately, the counter does not open till 8am. We then went to the 7eleven to grab some Bian Tang for breakfast.
Silly me, followed the wrong High Speed Rail Station directional sign. It directed us to Taoyuan High Speed Rail Station instead of the one at Taipei. We ended up taking a 20mins bus ride (TWD$60) to Taoyuan. Thankfully, the train tickets to Chiayi from Taoyuan is much cheaper, though we forfeited our discount. It takes about 1hour 30mins to get to Chiayi from Taipei. Our Minsu arranged a taxi driver to pick us up from the train station.
Where did we stay?:
What did we do?
It's took us about an hour to get from Chiayi station to the mountain. The taxi driver dropped mum and I at the mountain's tourist information counter while he drove our luggage up to our minsu (TWD$2000). There was a nice park with 3 waterfalls at the tourist information counter area. We had Steamboat for lunch (TWD$320) at a small and quiet restaurant and took a stroll around the park. We spent about 1.5hours there before we headed back to our minsu, via a free pick-up service from our minsu.
Rested awhile at our minsu before we headed out again to visit the tea plantation. I love how there wasn't any other tourist there, just the two of us walking around; exploring the area.
Went back to our minsu for dinner (TWD300 per person). We were served with 5 ingredients, a soup and rice. It was delicious!
Day 2: Alishan, Fen Qi Hu
We were contemplating if we should go to Alishan. One of the staff at our minsu advised me not to, as he felt that the place is too crowded and over-rated. He said the view at our minsu was way nicer than Alishan. To be more economical, he advised us to take a train to Fen Qi Hu instead. But, mummy felt that we should go since we were already at Chiayi and Alishan is a "must go" place at Chiayi. (Mummy likes crowded places, touristy area makes her happy :p). We paid TWD$5000 for the day trip to Alishan and Fen Qi Hu, inclusive of guide fee, which i think it was still way too expensive.
That place was indeed filled with tourists from China, but we did had a nice walk. Our guide was really nice, he was trying his best to ensure the tour to be worthwhile. On our way to Alishan, we stopped by a couple of places to see the "thousand years old trees". It was pretty.
Before we headed to Fen Qi Hu, our guide took us to watch a traditional Alishan Yuanzhuming Dance Performance (TWD$300 per person). That place had such a great view and the performance was pretty nice too!
Fen Qi Hu is famous for their old railway track and train station. It would have been nice if we took the train there to gain the experience. They were famous for their Bian Dang (TWD$150 each), Donut (TWD$25), and Muah Chee. I think the bian dang is a little over-rated, but the donut was delicious!
We headed back to our minsu after Fen Qi Hu; rested for awhile and joined the Fire Flies tour organised by our minsu. It was such a pity that it was not the fire flies season. We only saw 5 pathetic fire flies, but it was fun hanging out with the other tourists. Most of them were from other parts of taiwan, while some of them were from Hong Kong. We spent the night chatting and drinking beer.
Day 3: Chiayi -> Taichung
We woke up early, hoping to catch the sunrise, however, sadly, the weather wasn't ideal for that.
We wanted to take the 3pm train down to Taichung, but it was raining heavily in the morning, so we couldn't go with our initial plan - the bat cave tour. We decided to book a taxi down to Chiayi station instead (TWD$1200) and took the train to Taichung. The normal speed train was so much cheaper than the high speed rail; moreover, our hotel was located right opposite Taichung train station. It took us about 1hours 20mins from Chiayi to Taichung (TWD$285 for two).
Bidded farewell to our friends from the minsu. So glad to know them :)
Where did we stay?
What did we do?
We had lunch at the nearby mode mall. The famous Chun Shui Tang restaurant had an outlet there. The boss of Chun Shui Tang is the originator of bubble tea; despite so, I like Koi much more. But, their beef noodles was good! We spent about TWD$395.
We took a taxi to Fengjia Night Market (TWD$220). We listened to our previous minsu's staffs advised and tried whatever that had a long queue. Chicken Steak (TWD$65), Da chang bao xiao chang (TWD$45), Red bean dessert (TWD$85), lala (TWD$70), fried mixed mushroom (TWD$50), we tried them all! They were good, but way too unhealthy. There were a lot of clothing shops at Feng Jia too! I bought a really nice, good quality, and comfortable shoe at Air Space for only TWD$999.
Day 4: Tai Chung
Our initiate plan was to head to Sinshe. I heard about the lavender cottage there that has pretty view and awesome lavender ice cream, and a Yang Sheng Mushroom Restaurant that apparently has really tasty food. We didn't go because the hotel staff said it was not the right season to visit, as the flowers have yet to bloom. I regretted not going after hearing from a taxi uncle how pretty it was and worth going to. Oh well, we had a good time still, visiting Tung Hai University, the National Taichung Museum of Fine Arts and walking around Park Lane. We even caught a movie together. It was forever since i last watched a movie with my mum.
We took a bus to Tung Hai University (TWD$26). It is famous for it's Luce Memorial Chapel, designed by architect Chen Chi-Kwan. Beautiful indeed. You will find a lot of family wandering around the campus hills and grassy fields.
We then took a bus to the Fine Art Museum. As much as they claimed how good the place is, it wasn't that impressive to me. But, the good thing was that it's free!
We walked from the Museum to Park Lane, which was about 20mins walk towards the people's park. Park Lane is Taichung's newer trendy spots, the building is specially designed in tune with nature. We were there on a Sunday, so there were a lot of flea markets, food stall and gigs around the mall. Pretty interesting and nice to walk around.
We then headed back to Mode Mall to catch a movie (TWD$885 for 2 tickets and popcorn set). It was a pretty good break after a whole day of walking.
Day 5 - Taichung -> Sun Moon Lake - > Lushan hot spring
We booked a taxi for TWD$4000. I coordinated all my taxi bookings with Uncle Liu (+886 927888032). He is the one arranging the itinerary and linking me up with the various taxi drivers for each area. It took us about 2 hours drive to reach Sun Moon Lake, which had an entrance fees of TWD$200 per person. That place was filled with tourists.
It was a pretty nice place to visit, but a little over-rated in my opinion. We hopped in and out of various boats to visit 3 main stops, Shuishe, the main area where our taxi driver alighted us, Xuan Guang Si, where you will be strongly advised to try the Ah Ma's herbal eggs, which i think was nothing special. Lastly, Itashao where you will find plenty of street food stores. We tried a chicken wing with glutinous rice stuffed in it; it was very delicious! Do visit the bean curd store too, the home-made bean curd drink is extremely tasty.
After Sunmoon lake, our driver stopped us at a couple of random places to take pictures and to try some food. The above picture was taken at a store that sells pineapple tarts and some other pastries. They specially designed their building in such a fantasy way to attract visitors. But, you don't have to buy their food if you don't want to. We also went to Feeling 18, a chocolate store that was packed with people. I wonder if their chocolate is really that tasty. I'm not a fan of chocolates, so we didn't buy any. We tried their ice cream though, it was average.
We then headed to Lu Shan Hot Spring. Lu Shan was once a popular place for Hot Spring; however, there was a landslide a couple of years ago, which resulted in the severely reduced number of visitors today. The cost for hot spring was TWD$700 for public pool and TWD$1200 for private pool. We were so silly to have taken the private pool, it would have been so much more fun at the public pool as compared to a tiny room. Mum was complaining that she felt giddy after only soaking for 10mins. No more hot spring for her she said.
On our way to our minsu, we stopped by a restaurant with a fantastic view for dinner! They are famous for their chicken, and i swear it was the best meal i had in Taiwan. Fabulous! The soup, vegetables, and chicken was terrific! We are so glad that Uncle Liu recommended us there.
Where did we stay?:
Day 6: Cing Jing
My best friend Shijin told me so much about Cing Jing Farm that i was extremely eager to go. Indeed, that place is spectacular! I couldn't stop taking pictures. I'm very thankful for the awesome weather!
The highlight was nonetheless these fluffy sheep. When we were there, the place was packed with students. But, because of their execution, we managed to catch both the sheep and the horse show! They usually only have one type of show per day, so it was a blessing in disguise. :) Oh, the entrance fee for the farm was TWD$160 per person.
Before we headed to the Swiss Garden, we had lunch at a steak place. WARNING: DO NOT EAT THERE. It was the worst steak i've tasted in my entire life. We chewed so hard that our teeth aches throughout the day. I can't remember its name, but i'm sure that you will not miss it, as it is situated right outside the farm exit. DO NOT EAT THERE! You have been warned!
The entrance fee for the Swiss Garden was TWD$120; I do not think it was worth us going at all. The garden was pathetically small, so as the flowers. But, if you have nothing else to do, then sure, give it a go. I would advise you to have lunch at Carton King Restaurant instead, it's situated right before the entrance of Swiss Garden. They have great view at level 2 where you can see the whole swiss garden. That was where we were supposed to have lunch, but mum was craving for steak. I sneaked in to Carton King to check out the view, that was where i found out how small Swiss Garden is, but my mum said "Let's just go". Alright, if boss say so.
Zheng Qing picked us back to the minsu after we were done with our tour. He said "Tonight we have a small night market right outside my place. It happens once a week and there's a store that sells fabulous steak!". I looked at my mum, "Steak?", the thought of it makes us extremely disgusted. We told Zheng Qing about our horrible lunch experience, and he too had tried the steak from that store and agreed it's horrible. He kept emphasizing how good the night market's steak was, so despite us feeling rather sick of steak, we tried it nonetheless. It was indeed delicious and cheap, too! Just TWD$110 per dish, and the one we had for lunch was TWD$220. Disgusting.
Day 7: He Huan Shan -> Taroko Gorge -> Hua Lien
Hired another taxi to Hua Lien for TWD$5500. Uncle Cai was super nice and outgoing, he even took the trouble to climb a mountain with me and brought me to many nice spots to take awesome pictures.
We didn't climb the tall and popular mountain because mummy wasn't fit enough to do so :p. We went to hike at a shorter mountain instead, which was recommended by our taxi driver's friend. But, Mum refuse to climb that as well; she rested in the car. It was just me and my taxi driver conquering the mountain, which was rather fun. The view there was beautiful indeed.
Stopped for lunch at a place with a nice bridge and a temple on top. I'm so sorry that i do not know the name, i was just following the taxi uncle around. We wanted to climb up to the temple, but sadly, it was under construction. What a waste.
He then alighted us at Lushui Trail for a short walk. It was a pretty nice place to visit and it was not difficult to track at all.
Here comes our favorite - Qi Xin Tang. Photo does not do this place justice at all. I'm always a sea person, so the scenery of this place makes me go wild.
Finally, we arrived at Hua Lien. Our taxi driver dropped us at Hua Lien night market for dinner. There was nothing fancy there, as it is one of the smallest night market in Taiwan. But, there was this corn shop that sells delicious corn! We were there early, at around 6.30pm and the store was empty. At first, we thought it was a restaurant, as it was huge and was surrounded by many chairs for people to sit while queuing. We couldn't believe that they were only selling corn. Choose your corn, weigh them, and make your payment. Our corns cost us about TWD$120. Mum and I were so glad that we were there early. Our driver came back for us, and brought us to our Minsu.
Where did we stay?:
Day 8: Hua Lien
We got Uncle Cai to bring us around again. It was easier that way since it was quite a distant drive to all the scenic places. It cost us TWD$3500.
First, he brought us to Liyu Lake Wetland. It is called Liyu because the mountain behind it has a shape of a fish. It was quite a pretty lake to visit.
Then, he took us to this other small lake and told us to look out for jade. We got our feet soak in the water searching for jade. He said that was where people used to find jades. Well, it was nice soaking my feet in the cool water.
We then visited the cows! We tried the milk pudding there and it was delicious!
Next, was my favorite of the day - Shi Ti Ping. After which, it was bay view all the way back to Hua Lien, so beautiful! We stopped at random places to take photographs.
We ended our day at Gongzheng Street. There are plenty of good food there including the famous xiao long bao at Gongzheng Baozhi. I love it so much! The xiao long bao skin is very different from what we usually eat, it's much thicker and slightly bigger than the usual XLB. I love it! It was TWD$5 for 1.
We spotted a oyster omelet store that was really crowded and decided to give it a try. Extremely tasty indeed! We heard that Hua Lien is famous for their dumpling soup, they call it "Bian Shi". It was good! After much satisfaction, we headed back to our minsu.
Day 9: Ruifang, Shifen, Pingxi, Jiufen
Took a cab from our minsu to the train station (TWD$200) and then a train to Rui Fang (TWD$80 per person). When we arrive at Rui Fang, we immediately went to deposit our luggage in the locker room. It only cost us TWD$50 per luggage per day. We bought the 1 day train ticket for Pingxi line and took the train timing booklet from the information counter. The train comes every hour, so it's better to take note of the timing to and make your plan accordingly.
It was so crowded at Shifen, but I think among all the stations at Pingxi line, Shifen was the only one worth going to. We also went to Pingxi too, but there was just some old street and nothing else. We heard it was better to release the lantern at Pingxi because it is less crowded there, but so many people were releasing it at Shifen that we felt extremely tempted to. Moreover, we were afraid that it might rain by the time we arrive at Pingxi, so we did it at Shifen instead. We were glad we did so because Pingxi was so quiet and it's actually more fun to see many lanterns up in the sky than your pathetic one.
We walked to the waterfall. I'm a huge fan of waterfalls and oh it was so pretty!
We went back to RuiFang Station and took a cab to Jiufen (TWD$205). We could have gone there by bus, it's just 10mins ride, but mummy was tired.
Where did we stay?:
We had to climb a huge flight of stairs to reach Jiufen old street; Mum was panting like crazy. The old street was pretty interesting to walk, there were so many food to try including the famous taro balls, poh pia with peanut and ice cream, and fish ball soup. They were all averaged though. We tried the taro balls at the famous Ah Gan Yi Yu Yuan , but i find it a little over-rated. We definitely have better Taro balls desserts here in Singapore.
The weather wasn't perfect then, as it was constantly drizzling, so we headed back early.
We took a cab again (TWD$205) to Rui Fang Station and then a train to Taipei station (TWD$118 for two)
Where did we stay?:
What did we do?:
After Jiufen, we rested at our hotel room for awhile before heading out for lunch and shopping around Ximending area. It was halloween that day and we saw a lot of teens dressed up in their funky and weird costumes.
Oh, we tried Grilled Mochi and it was delicious! It can be easily spotted, as it always has a very long queue. We also tried bitter gourd juice, i know, the sound of it seems disgusting, but it's actually quite good, refreshing and healthy! There's an old building called Red House Theater at Xinmen MRT exit 1 area, and I read that they usually have indie flea market inside, but it was reserved for halloween party that day when we were there.
We then headed for foot massage (TWD$800). Mum was asking about massage ever since day 2 at Alishan. I didn't feel well after the massage, so we headed back to the hotel. What a waste! I wanted to walk around the street at night, as i reckon it will be extremely interesting to see everyone in their halloween costumes. I would have gone to the pubs or clubs there if i wasn't with mum.
Day 11: Yehliu Geopark, Jingshan, Danshui
We headed to Taipei West Bus Terminal and took bus 1815 to Yehliu (TWD$20 each). It took us about 80mins to get there. The bus driver was so harsh with the brake that we all felt so uncomfortable. The little girl behind us puked.
It was so crowded at Yehliu. No, we didn't take picture with the Queen Head because everyone was queuing to take picture with it. ...
Mum was so excited when she saw that there were so many stalls selling dried seafood there. My mum is a huge fan of seafood and we bought so much dried fish, scallop, etc back home!
We took bus 862 to Jinshan for lunch. There are many buses that goes there, you just have to look at the information board at the bus-stop. Alight right in-front of the Macdonalds and head to the old street, there's a famous stall selling duck meat at Kuang An Temple. That place was mad crowded, but the duck is extremely delicious! They sell their dishes in a standard plate size. What you need to do first is to grab a seat and then grab whatever food you want. Payment comes later before you leave.
The old street was filled with street vendors and there were lots of food to try!
We then took bus 862 again and headed all the way to Danshui (last station). It took us about an hour plus long, but it was a scenic ride all the way by the bay. Beautiful!
There were plenty to see at Danshui! Lots of food store and small shops. They are famous for their Tie Dan (eggs), i bought none, as i already purchased them at Shifen, how dumb, it was so much cheaper at Danshui with much more variety to choose from.
We took the MRT back to Ximending.
Day 12: Taipei
We were supposed to head to Yangmingshan for Hot Spring, but because mum didn't like hot spring (her body is too weak for it), we stayed in the city instead.
We visited Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and went to Taipei 101, but we didn't went up because the weather wasn't good.
So it was shopping time! Taipei has lots of metro mall which was fantastic because the weather wasn't good then. We went to Zhongshan Metro Mall, which was located between Taipei Main MRT station and Shuanglian MRT Station. There wasn't much to buy then, as the clothing were mainly for winter. I bought lots of shoes though! I love the shoes there, they are cheap and of good quality!
We headed to the famous Shilin Night Market in the evening, Do alight at Jiantan station instead of Shilin Station, as it's much nearer there. Shilin Night Market was huge indeed and was filled with lots of food store and shops. There's so much information about it everywhere, so i guess i do not have to elaborate.
Day 13: Taipei
Well, it's shopping time again. We went to East Taipei, which is the main shopping area of Taipei. We alighted at Zhongxiao Dunhua Station and walked around that area. We got so bored of walking after some time that we ended up watching a movie together. What a great way to rest after so much of walking! We then headed to Wufenpu, which was kind of like a wholesale market where you can bargain and get extremely cheap clothing! I bought quite a lot of stuff there. We got back to Ximending area and bought some food souvenirs for our friends.
Day 14: Taipei
We went for another foot massage before heading to the airport.
Overall, Taiwan is such a wonderful place to visit! Thanks to my mum, i got to visit it in a more luxurious way. I'll definitely visit taiwan again in the near future, but the next time i'll head to the south area where i can probably do some diving. By then, i will be able to ride a bike around ;)