Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thank You 2017

Grateful for...
  • my source of income which is my sole source for travel funds: my job.
  • my manager for approving all my planned leaves.
  • no urgent tasks/deadlines scheduled when I was on leave.
  • God for keeping me safe and, when I was not in the pink of health, I was at least not totally down while on travel.
  • my good friend from highschool and her family for the hospitality when I visited Tandag (Surigao del Sur): for picking me up at the airport, feeding me, letting me stay at her house, showing me around, accompanying me to Cabgan Island in Barobo, and contacting her aunt's driver when I had to go to Butuan because my flight from Tandag to Cebu was cancelled and changed to Butuan to Cebu.
  • my friend's aunt's driver for picking me up at the bus terminal and finding me a cheap but clean transient hotel so late at night.
  • my friend and her family for taking me to Laswitan Lagoon. Unfortunately, there was no "laswit" at that time (late February). They say the best time to go for a higher chance of seeing the "laswit" is from November to January, and surely when there is a typhoon coming!
  • another friend for letting Baktin and me stay in his house in Toledo, for showing us around his city, and for taking us to Malubog Lake and the hidden local's hideout through the tunnel.
  • Centro Coron for sponsoring two nights stay.
  • Brennan of Baktin Corporation for striking a deal with Kawil Tours for the 30% discount.
  • my butt for not wanting a toilet while out at sea when it was battling a bad case of diarrhea.
  • girl/boy scout travel buddies for donating medicine for the above!
  • having a toilet on the islands of Malcapuya and Banana. Because diarrhea. Ugh.
  • PAL for providing free accommodation, meals, and airport transfers when they cancelled the flight back to Cebu.
  • my brother for volunteering to drive from San Remegio to Cebu City. Because I am a lazy ass driver.
  • my sister's friend for volunteering to take her car to Moalboal and driving to/from Basdiot for lunch/dinner so we could find something to eat.
  • the chance to try out Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) with friends. I enjoyed it and SUPed thrice this year!
  • website translate tools. Though it doesn't do a perfect job, at least I get to find the information I need.
  • all the random strangers who answered my email inquiries when I was preparing for my trip to the Chubu region of Japan. I know it is their job, but I am amazed that they respond promptly (unlike in the Philippines where email addresses are provided but most of the time does not work or is not answered).
  • patience and keeping my cool when Cebu Pacific cancelled the second leg of my flight when I had already arrived in Manila.
  • my friend for adopting me for a night when I was stuck in Manila because of above.
  • those who have taken time to leave a comment.
  • passers-by, people who have taken the time to read one or two of my blogposts, and loyal readers (if there are any?)—forgive me for I have been very lazy in updating this blog this year. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Sesenta y ocho

You'll have a relaxing time here. I am 200% positive!
Spotted along Rizal Avenue Ext., Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Wisdom from the Road #58

On walking
Advise from Mary Schmich:
"Be kind to your knees.
You'll miss them when they're gone."


Lately, there would be times I'd feel a pain in my knee or on the back of my knee. And I'd fervently pray that it would go away and not accompany me especially when I'm traveling. When traveling, I'd walk. A lot. Because:
  • I get to explore and see more of the place I am in.
  • If something catches my eye, I could stop and take photos. Lots of photos.
  • I might discover secret local hangouts.
  • I can observe the local life.
  • I get to burn more calories than sitting in a bus, taxi, car, or train.
  • And, ultimately, I get to save money. I am a cheapo like that.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Sesenta y siete

Have a cup of joe at 14°30'34.81"N, 121°0'48.12"E
Spotted in NAIA Terminal 2 by Zhequia of FTW! Food, Travel, and Whatevs
Thanks Zhequia!


For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wisdom from the Road #57

On waking up early
They say: The early bird gets the worm.
I say: The early bird gets to avoid the crowd.

I probably won't make a good travel buddy because I wake up early (no matter how much I want to sleep in, I always wake up early) and go to wherever it is I am going before everyone else has had breakfast. The advantage of this is that I get to enjoy the place (especially if it's a touristy one) before the droves of people come.

Exhibit A: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto. The beautiful photos we see on the internet that had us putting the bamboo grove on our to–visit list is always a picture of tranquility. To catch this zen moment means arriving early.

There were only half a dozen souls at the bamboo grove at 830am.

I arrived at the grove around 830AM and there were only five or six other people there. When I passed by the grove again in the afternoon, around 2PM, it was flooded with people. It was an "expectation versus reality" moment, and not a smidgen of zen.

The 2pm crowd

I have no Exhibit B, but you get my drift.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Sesenta y seis

Imagine all the people lemons, living for today...
only to end up in a plastic cup to quench your thirst.
Spotted in SM City Dasmarinas by Zhequia of FTW! Food, Travel, and Whatevs
Thanks Zhequia!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 8.75: Dizzying Dotonbori

November 30, 2016
Around 7pm, maybe

After checking in and settling in my room in Hotel Mikado, I debated with myself whether to grab dinner from a nearby convenience store or to go to Osaka's kitchen: Dotonbori. The thought of it being my last night in Osaka, thus the last chance to see Dotonbori at night, propelled me to the nearest subway station.

It was just a 4-minute ride from Dobutsuen-mae Station to Namba Station, but when I stumbled out of Namba Station, I was dizzy with hunger. Exacerbated by the wall of people that greeted me when I turned the corner to Dotonbori. I almost did a 180-degree turn and marched away. But the lights beyond the 100-deep people magnetized me and I squeezed my way through.

Upon seeing this, I almost made a 180-degree turn and marched away

The lights and the giant signboards all around gave me a jolt of energy and I momentarily forgot about my hunger, and did not mind weaving and dodging the human obstacles around me. There was a giant crab, humongous gyoza, a big floating pufferfish, a massive scallop, etc.


 Giant crab

 
 Humongous gyoza, and a large, pink octopus

 
 Big floating pufferfish, and a massive scallop

But then the medley of smells wafting from all directions reminded me that I was here to eat. I know I should find a busy restaurant with a queue of customers because that means the food is good, but I was too hungry to wait in line. I veered to the right, to a less busy street, and found myself entering Hanamaruken. The ramen is supposed to be really good here, but I decided to order just chahan (Japanese fried rice) and gyoza (dumplings).

Hanamaruken

Chahan, gyoza, and soup

After dinner, I got out into the chilly night to find the Glico Man for an obligatory tourist photo, and then walked off my dinner along Dotonbori River.

 Glico Man

Dotonbori River



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Yoshiki-en, Todaiji, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City
Kyoto: Day 5.5: Tofukuji and Shimogamo Jinja (soon)
Kyoto: Day 6: Ginkakuji, Ryoan-ji, Ninna-ji (soon)
Kyoto: Day 6.75: Gion Night Walking Tour (soon)
Kyoto: Day 7: All Day in Arashiyama (soon)
Kyoto: Day 8: Last Day in Kyoto (soon)
Osaka: Day 8.75: Dizzying Dotonbori (you're here!)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City

November 27, 2016

I wake up to a rainy morning in Kyoto. It's bed weather, but I didn't come here to sleep, did I? I get my butt off the bed and prepare for a day in Uji City, just a 20-minute train ride from Kyoto City. Why Uji? Because it has two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Byodo-in and Ujigami Jinja. And because I like matcha.

I arrive in Uji Station hungry. It's still raining. I haven't had breakfast yet. From the station I take a left and spot a convenience store, but there are no tables inside. I am not sure if the plastic tables outside, off to the left of the convenience store, are for convenience store customers, but I eat my boxed meal there anyway.

Uji City's manhole cover

I study Google map and plot my route to Byodo-in. As I follow my chosen route, I find that it is through small roads in residential areas. I like it. It is quiet and peaceful. I take a few snapshots and just enjoy my surroundings, eventhough my shoes and socks are already soaking wet.

Through a residential area


Byodo-in
平等院
Garden 830AM to 530PM
Byodo-in Museum 9AM to 5PM
Phoenix Hall 930AM to 410PM (admission is every 20 minutes)
Admission fees:
Garden and Byodo-in Museum 600 yen
Phoenix Hall 300 yen

Byodo-in's Phoenix Hall was built in 1053. This building I have seen before...on a 10 yen coin. And now it is in front of me and I struggle to take a photo—it is difficult to operate a camera with two hands whilst keeping an umbrella steady between my cheek and my shoulder.

Phoenix Hall

Inside the Phoenix Hall are Buddhist art that one can see for oneself by paying an additional 300 yen. I forgo this—only a maximum of 50 persons every 20 minutes is allowed inside and the waiting time now is 40 minutes—and proceed to the Hoshokan (Byodo-in Museum)...very slowly. For along the way are trees in fall's beautiful hues.


I enter the Hoshokan to check out what's inside since this is included in the 600 yen admission fee I had paid for. (But, to be honest, it's so I could take shelter from the rain!) Inside the museum are many Buddhist statues, ancient roof tiles, a temple bell, and other important cultural assets.

The view from Hoshokan

Before leaving the Byodo-in temple grounds, I check out the smaller buildings and sub-temples, too.


Jodo-in

Rakan-do Hall

The rain still hasn't slowed down but there are many more visitors coming in as I leave Byodo-in. Behind Byodo-in is Ujigawa (Uji River) and I cross the river via a vermilion colored bridge to see two small shrines: Uji Jinja and Ujigami Jinja.


Uji River


Uji Jinja
宇治神社
9AM to 430PM

In front of Uji Jinja is a chinowa, a large, round ring made of reeds. A chinowa is where worshippers pass through as an act of purification, but I do not see this in action as all the worshippers are inside the shrine where a ceremony is going on.


Chinowa

Uji Jinja


A little boy in traditional garb

Ujigami Jinja
宇治上神社
9AM to 430PM

A short slightly uphill walk from Uji Jinja is Ujigami Jinja (or upper Uji Shrine). Ujigami Jinja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is estimated to have been built in 1060. Looking at the shrine from the side, I can see that the roof is asymmetrical and that the front one is more curved and extended.



After visiting the two shrines, I go back across the river where I had seen a street lined with shops and restaurants. A visit to Uji, home of the Uji matcha, would not be complete without trying matcha flavored stuff.


I stop at the first restaurant I see. I can't read its signboard—扇家—nor the labels (except the price) on the display of plastic food samples, but I am sure the green noodles are matcha flavored noodles.

The name of the restaurant is 扇家 (read Ogi-ka according to Google translate)

扇家's shokuhin sampuru (plastic food samples)

I call the attention of the old lady inside and point to the display of a bowl of green noodles with a strip of fish on top. On this rainy day, a bowl of steaming green tea soba with fish sure hits the spot. The fish is really tasty and the noodles don't taste strongly of green tea. And before heading back to Kyoto City, I make some space for a cone of matcha soft serve ice cream.

,
Green tea soba

Green tea soft serve ice cream


Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Yoshiki-en, Todaiji, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City (you're here!)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 4.5: Todaiji, Yoshiki-en, and Kofukuji in Nara Park

November 26, 2016
1PM (very hungry!)

Next mission: lunch near Nara Park. Big mistake. All the hungry people have converged in restaurants near the park, specifically in Yume Kaze Plaza. Because it is near a tourist area, meals here are expensive. But I am too hungry to find a cheaper option. I add to the long line for Tenpyoan Cafe and wait my turn.

After eating a ton of carbs (rice and noodles for energy!), it is time to join the hordes of tourists in Todaiji to visit the world's largest bronze Buddha.

Todaiji
東大寺
Todaiji's Daibutsuden:
April to October 730AM to 530PM
November to March 8AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 600 yen

I dodge tourists and deer as I walk towards Todaiji's Nandaimon (Great South Gate). I hate crowded places but a place as famous as Todaiji and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site? I just have to see it!

With every person I brush past, my expectation of Todaiji goes down a notch. In my head, the number of tourists is inversely proportional to the site's ability to make me go "wow". But, Todaiji, you prove me wrong. The humongous, ancient-looking wooden gate (Todaiji's Nandaimon, the largest temple entrance gate in Japan, designated as a National Treasure), the two dusty, old, wooden guardians (Kongo Rikishi, built in the year 1203, also National Treasures) residing in the gate, and the Daibutsuden or Great Buddha Hall (the largest wooden structure in the world) make me understand why many people come to see this place.

Nandaimon

One of the two Kongo Rikishi

Daibutsuden or Great Buddha Hall

The Great Buddha Hall up close

In the center of the Great Buddha Hall is one great—no, gigantic—bronze Buddha! The Daibutsu or Vairocana Buddha is also a National Treasure. My neck almost snaps as I tilt my head, straining to see the Buddha's head. (I am exaggerating, but believe me, it's big!)

Daibutsu

Inside the hall are other ancient looking statues, scale models of Todaiji from different periods, and a long line of people waiting...to crawl through a hole in a column! The hole is said to be the same size as the Daibutsu's nostril and whoever can crawl through it will be granted enlightenment in his or her next life. I don't attempt to crawl through it because I know I will only plug the hole and prevent the rest of the visitors from finding out if they'll find enlightenment in their next life.


Scale models of Todaiji

Somebody's going to receive enlightenment in her next life

There are smaller buildings and a museum in the temple grounds but I skip those and go to the small lake with a wooden boat. Some people take a break on the benches around the lake, some go for a bit of souvenir shopping in the shops by the lake, others, including me, treat themselves to a cone of soft serve ice cream (mine is peach—it's really good!).


Peach-flavored soft serve ice cream

Since Yoshiki-en, a garden recommended by Yoshiko, the Naramachi Walking Tour guide from this morning, is just nearby and free for foreigners, I swing by. (Isui-en, another garden, is also nearby, but requires an admission fee of 900 yen. Zero yen versus 900 yen? Easy choice.)

Yoshiki-en
吉城園
9AM to 5PM
Closed February 15 to 28
Admission fee: 250 yen (free for foreign tourists, just present your passport)

In Yoshiki-en I walk through a pond garden, a moss garden, and a tea ceremony garden. It is late in autumn and most of the leaves have already fallen off, but still I find the garden beautiful and peaceful (zen!), especially the moss garden.

Pond garden



Moss garden


Since the Naramachi Walking Tour this morning only skirted past Kofukuji, I decide to give it a thorough visit and check it off my World Heritage Site list. It's just an 8-minute walk from Yoshiki-en.

Students practicing their music near Kofukuji

Kofukuji
興福寺
Temple grounds open 24 hours

National Treasure Museum
9AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 700 yen

Eastern Golden Hall
9AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 300 yen

Combination ticket (National Treasure Museum and Eastern Golden Hall): 900 yen

Kofukuji, designated as a World Heritage Site, was established in the year 710 and some time in the past had as many as 150 buildings. Today, only a few of the buildings remain: the Tokondo (Eastern Golden Hall), five-storied pagoda, three-storied pagoda, and two octagonal halls (northern and southern). The Central Golden Hall is currently being reconstructed and scheduled to be opened in October 2018.

Kofukuji's Tokondo (Eastern Golden Hall) and Five-storied Pagoda

The current structure of the Tokondo (Eastern Golden Hall) was built in 1415 (the original was built in 726 and destroyed by fire and rebuilt five times). Inside the Tokondo are bronze and wooden images of Buddha, designated by Japan as either a National Treasure or an Important Cultural Property, some dating back to the 7th or 8th century. In the nearby National Treasure Museum are more Buddhist statues and Buddhist art. (Taking photos inside the Tokondo and the National Treasure Museum is not allowed.)

Southern Octagonal Hall

Three-storied Pagoda

Having had my fill of Buddhist art and images, I head back to Hiloki Hostel to get my luggage and haul ass to the next city on my itinerary: Kyoto.


Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Todaiji, Yoshiki-en, and Kofukuji in Nara Park (you're here!)
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City