Day 4 & 5: Luang Prabang – Night Market, Wat Sane, Wat Mai, Wat Xieng Thong, National Palace Museum, Phousi Hill & Royal Ballet Theatre

From Vang Vieng, we supposed to take the mini bus to Luang Prabang which should depart around 9 am (cost 100,000 kip – around RM40). But the mini bus didn’t turn out after almost 2 hours of waiting. We were arranged to take the VIP bus instead – at 11 am. The journey to Luang Prabang is known to be very scenic but very challenging. It took almost 8 hours for us to reach our destination, even though the distance (according to Google Maps) is roughly around 200 km! How to describe the whole journey? For those of you that had been to Genting Highlands – the journey to Luang Prabang feels like going up and down Genting Highlands for 10 times. But it was indeed one of the most scenic journey I had been to, minus the whole dizziness effect I was feeling from the curvy road.

Along the journey to Luang Prabang

Along the journey to Luang Prabang

We arrived Luang Prabang around 7 pm and we were desperately needing to check in our hotel. The bus station is around 5 km away from the main city and hence we had no choice to take the tuk tuk that readily awaiting us there. It was extremely hard to negotiate the tuk tuk price there as they seem to gang up and offered only a fixed price at around 20,000 kip per person (~ RM8). At last we only managed to lower it to around 15,000 kip (~ RM6). The tuk tuk driver will try to cram as many people as possible into the tuk tuk. Please be reminded that the tuk tuk driver will charge higher if you do not want to share the tuk tuk with others. There’s no choice but to take the tuk tuk that seems to already conquered those tourists’ entry point into the historical city.

Finally we arrived our hotel – Maison Dalabua, which beautifully means “The Princess of Lotus”. Yes, the hotel is surrounded by pond of Lotus Flowers, another very beautiful hotel we stayed during our Laos Trip. The hotel is formerly a colonial building with western architecture. They are currently undergoing some renovation to build a swimming pool and another new block of hotel rooms. Room rate is considerably alright – USD 54 (~ RM170) during low season with well equipped hotel in room facilities. It is situated around 10-15 minutes away from the Luang Prabang town center by foot (where the night market start), at a more quiet area of the city.

Peaceful surrounding of Maison Dalabua

Peaceful surrounding of Maison Dalabua

We went to the famous night market shortly after we check in to our hotel. You can find any kind of souvenirs there, especially handicraft items. The hawkers are very pleasant to deal with and often ready to give discount for real buyers. The night market open around 5.30 pm and close around 10 pm. To be honest, many stuffs that you will find there (especially the handicrafts) consider quite cheap compare to other South East Asia Countries. So don’t obsessed with the bargaining if you think the price is alright for the value of the item you are buying considering that they are also trying to make a living. I really enjoy my shopping here because things are very unique, beautiful and cheap. But beware as little stuff can accumulate and become a lot! I spend almost RM300 just buying little stuffs here! #women&shopping

Night market located at Sisavavong Road

Night market located at Sisavavong Road

Oh ya! while we were wandering around, we decided to take a flight back to Vientiane to catch our return flight as we don’t want to waste 12-14 hours on the road. The flight (Laos Airline) cost us around USD 70 per pax, much cheaper than the published price online. We booked through one of the many travel agent along Sisavavong Road (where the night market located). It turned out to be a good choice as it allowed us to spend more time exploring the former capital of Laos.

Do & Don't at Luang Prabang

Do & Don’t at Luang Prabang – found at one of the many travel agents along Sisavavong Road

The next day, we started our exploration with the many temples around Luang Prabang. It is now a UNESCO world heritage city, like our Penang and Malacca that full with historical and cultural site. We took the bicycle provided by the hotel and cycle around the city. There are many temples around and I only remembered two of them – the one at National Museum and the most beautiful Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of the Golden City). Of course, it is very unfair for me to say Wat Xieng Thong is the most beautiful one. Maybe I should rephrase it as the most well known one instead as each temple has its own distinctness and beauty. Some that I had visited like Wat Sane and Wat Mai are incredible “photogenic” in its own way. As for Wat Xieng Thong, it is the decorative mosaic around the wall. Since it is the most popular one, entrance fees are required to enter the temple, which is at 20,000 kip (~RM 8).

Wat Sane

Wat Sane

Wat Mai

Wat Mai

Wat Xieng Thong with the colorful mosaic decoration

Wat Xieng Thong with the colorful mosaic decoration on the wall

The temple located next to the National Palace Museum is another great beauty with a shield of green emerald on it. It is free to visit around the compound of the National Palace Museum. But to enter the Museum, you need to pay 30,000 kip (~RM12) and camera is prohibited. Decent clothing is required to enter the Museum and clothes rental is available at the locker area. So wear decently when you want to visit the Museum. You will required to keep your belongings at the locker before entering the Museum. It is definitely worth to pay a visit as it gave a glimpse of the royalty of Laos, which is little known by many of us. There is this area with a  huge portrait of the King painted by a Russian Artist. According to one of the friendly guard that insisted to tell me the story about this painting, it is similar to the painting of Mona Lisa, where the portrait is so real that as if the King’s eyes will follow you when you go left and right. Bizarre right?

National Palace Museum

National Palace Museum

Just opposite the National Palace Museum, it is the Phousi Hil, where you can have a great view of the city from the top of the hill. Entrance fee is 20,000 kip (~RM8). You need to hike up around 300 staircase and you get to see a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. This place is also known as the Holy Mountain of Luang Prabang where Wat Chomsi Stupa is located at the top of the hill.

Phousi Hill - great panoramic view of the city and the holy Chomsi Stupa

Phousi Hill – great panoramic view of the city and the holy Chomsi Stupa

The Royal Ballet Theater is located inside the National Palace Museum compound as well. We went for the show in the evening that cost us 100,000 kip (~RM40) to watch the traditional dance and cultural performance, known as Phra-Lak Phra-Lam that had strong influenced by the Hindu Epic, the Ramayana. Well, I’m not a big fans of all this cultural performance. But prior of my visit, while doing research on Luang Prabang, I came across some travel site that urge for the support of tourists for this cultural performance as it was banned for almost 15 years in the past and was revived during the millennium years. So if there’s no audience, it will be extremely hard to preserve such culture.

Royal Ballet Theater and the traditional performance that somehow similar like Chinese Opera

Royal Ballet Theater and the traditional performance that somehow similar like Chinese Opera

In general, Luang Prabang is easy to navigate around just by foot or bicycle. You can take your own sweet pace, to walk around the once capital of Laos, to see the well preserved culture as well as the remains of French colonization architectures that compliment the old city in harmony.

Peaceful surrounding of Luang Prabang city

Peaceful surrounding of Luang Prabang city

Top: "Pho" Laos Style; Bottom from Left to Right: Coconut Ball, Laos Fried Rice, Laos Stew Buffalo

Top: “Pho” Laos Style; Bottom from Left to Right: Coconut Ball, Laos Fried Rice, Laos Stew Buffalo

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Day 2 & Day 3: Vang Vieng – Rice Paddy Field, Tubing, Nam Song River, Blue Lagoon, Tham Phu Kham Cave, and Xang Cave

Vang Vieng, once known as “The Backpacker Capital”, quoted from wikitravel as below,

“Once little more than a bus stop on the long journey between Vientiane at the Thai border and the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, it has managed to become a destination in its own right. Still not much more than three streets and a bus station, the main attractions are the river, laid back countryside and cave-filled rock formations.”

We booked the transportation via our guesthouse, Moonlight Champa to Vang Vieng. There’s few option to choose from if you would like to travel to Vang Vieng. You can go to the Northern Bus Station to buy a ticket by yourself for the local bus and VIP bus OR you can purchase from guesthouse which normally provide the option of VIP bus or mini van. We opt for the safest one – mini van that cost 60,000 kip per person (around RM25). Journey took roughly about 4 hours with the sealed two lane flat road (some part can be bumpy). Overall ride was smooth except the driver will honk every few minutes to overtake the front vehicles or to alert the opposite vehicles. Do note that transporter will try to maximize every space in the mini van and the journey can be really uncomfortable if you are assigned to sit at one of the “extended temporary” seat.

Mini Van

Mini Van

Cramp Mini Van

Cramp Mini Van

We arrived Vang Vieng around noon time. The mini van transporter will drop you at one of the tour agency office located at the “main road” of Vang Vieng (I’m not so sure where the buses stop). For instance you will feel like you are at no where like what you have seen from the guidebook that look like Vang Vieng. You will find Tuk Tuk waiting eagerly for your arrival and wait to rip you off as Vang Vieng is just so small that everything is reachable by foot. You will be able to reach your guesthouse by walking (unless you really carrying many stuffs that required a tuk tuk).

We  stayed at Vieng Tara Villa – a scenic small hotel just after a bridge, nearly 600-800 meters away from the town.  The view where the hotel situated is just postcard like – luscious green paddy field and the Nam Song River with the backdrop of mountain. Picturing it now while I am writing this entry already make me feel so light. One downfall, in order for you to reach this hotel, you will need to cross a bridge that charge a passing fee for two way. Passing fee is vary by the mode of transportation, either by foot, bicycle, bike or vehicle. This is both applicable for the locals as well as the foreigners and it is not cheap!  4,000 kip for two way by foot, equivalent to around RM 1.50 (more pricey than the federal highway tol)! So you need to really plan your trip so that you don’t pay it unnecessarily. This factor may also explain why the hotel with such amazing view and standard, is only charging less than RM100 (around USD 30) a night for the garden view room (bought the deal from Agoda) with one of the best continental breakfast I had at Laos.

Scenery around Vieng Tara Villa

Scenery around Vieng Tara Villa

Our little hut facing the Mekong River at Vieng Tara Villa

Our little hut facing the Nam Song River at Vieng Tara Villa

The private Bridge to cross over Nam Song River

The private Bridge to cross over Nam Song River

Shortly after our check in, we went to (guess what!) the infamous TUBING!  Well that is actually the main thing we want to check out in this town beside the hot air balloon that don’t function during wet season. This is the activity that once dominated the town and its visitors until it was banned and reopen back recently. Why?? because there were too many fatal accidents happened from this activity. Imagine the alcohol (occasionally with drugs) and the fast flowing river. The idea of it already dangerous. The re-introduce of the tubing activity is much more mild down now (comparing to the photos you saw online). There is an office (I’m not sure whether is the only one) in downtown that organize the tube rentals and send you to the upstream of the river – 55,000 kip (around RM 21) for the rental and another 55,000 kip for deposit if you return it by 6 pm. Only 4-5 bars are open for tubing along the river (all on the left side of the river). The tubing route is around 5 km long from the start to the end. You can stop anywhere you want but transportation is required to get back to the town which often rip tourist off. At times you will feel lost as you not sure whether you already reach the end of tubing. Don’t worry as the end of it is marked at a sign of “End of Tubing”. For the first km of the route, you will find the bars. You can waive at them to signal for stopping. They will then throw a rope towards you and you need to slowly get to the ground by yourself. Keep to the left if you intend to stop as I was swept away totally to the right side of the river and there’s no way that I can swim back to the left side to enter the bar. To be honest, this activity is really dangerous as no designated personnel is assigned to oversee the whole tubing route. Which mean if really something happen, no one would be able to save you. Life jacket is not compulsory and is given upon request at the tube rental office. Do take one as the river really flown very very fast (I’m not sure whether it is because of wet season)! Actually I really like the experience of tubing as it is a very different way to enjoy the scenic landscape of Vang Vieng. If you do happen to visit there, do give a try on this activity but limit your intake of alcohol for a safe and happy journey.

Tubing at Nam Song River. Stop over at one of the local bar where this friendly uncle gave us a shot of Lao Lao Whiskey.

Tubing at Nam Song River. Stop over at one of the local bar where this friendly uncle gave us a shot of Lao Lao Whiskey.

The next day, we went to Tham Poukham (the Blue Lagoon), which is at the side of our hotel (after the paid bridge) and roughly 7km from the bridge. You can rent a bike or bicycle to there but do note that the road there is quite terrible, especially during Wet Season. We saw bike and bicycle stuck in the muddy road. Luckily we decided to take the tuk tuk, that cost us quite a lot – 120,000 kip (around RM50) to send you there, wait, and send you back to hotel. But if given a chance for good weather, I will choose to cycle to there as the scenery along the way is spectacular! The blue lagoon itself is free but there’s a cave on the top which cost 10,000 kip (~RM4) for entry. You can swim at the blue lagoon which is equipped with swings and rope and fishes (free fish spa). To explore the cave, it is recommended to take a guide as inside the cave is really really dark. Guide is advertised at 50,000 kip (~RM20) but wikitravel mentioned is negotiable. We didn’t negotiate and took the guide as per advertised. As the cave is very dark, you need a head-torch to explore it. That will be 10,000 kip (~RM4) for rental. Personally I don’t think the cave is worth to explore as the guide will barely explain anything to you except showing you the path (and I’m not a big fans of caving).

Road condition was pretty bad during raining season. Passed by some small village along the way.

Road condition was pretty bad during raining season. Passed by some small village along the way.

Scenic view along the way - something rewarding if you cycle to blue lagoon

Scenic view along the way – something rewarding if you cycle to blue lagoon

Exploration inside Tham Phu Kham Cave

Exploration inside Tham Phu Kham Cave

There’s other caves on the way to Blue Lagoon which you can explore but again due to the wet season, it was closed during our visit. We rented bicycle (15,000 kip – around RM5 for a full day) to continue our exploration at Vang Vieng. Next, we went to Xang Cave, which located inside some resort. The cave is well lit and 10,has stairs running throughout that makes it an easy self guided tour.  You can have a good view surrounding the city. Entrance Fee is 15,000 kip (around RM6) and it is collected at the entrance of the resort.

Xang Cave and surrounding

Xang Cave and surrounding

Little kids playing at the lagoon at Xang Cave

Little kids playing at the lagoon at Xang Cave

In conclusion, there’s nothing much to do at Vang Vieng during the wet season and one full day would be more than enough to explore the town attraction. As we spend 2 nights here, we get to really wind down and enjoy the scenery. Vang Vieng also more “tourist commercialize” in that sense to cater the general appetite of the western tourists, especially the party seeker. People here  also seem to be less friendly and less genuine than those from Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Probably that is the effect of the disastrous tubing activity in the past that had disturb this little town. Throughout our trip, I rarely see Laotian girls wearing clothing that may expose many of the body parts. Most of them wear very decently (no pants and skirt above the knee and no short sleeve) as Laotian is well known for keeping their tradition and culture until now. But at Vang Vieng, you will find local girls with sexy outfit that work for the massage parlour and hanging out outside waiting for customers -> a tourist scene which is very rare to see in Laos but fairly common around Thailand. Quite a sad scene to see as one of the pride that shown as part of their tourism effort is to maintain its current culture from the various invasion of modernization. Vang Vieng, not so much of a well kept secret of Laos anymore but still with so much potential as a tourism spot -> The Magnificent View – one of the most scenic place I had ever visit around South East Asia.

Lying down, sipping Lao Beer, watching repeatedly "friends" - laid back life

Lying down, sipping Lao Beer, watching repeatedly “friends” – laid back life

Laos

It’s been 3 years that I neglected this travel blog and I decided to continue it to share my passion of travelling. I set a few resolution for myself. My near term plan is to complete my travel check list of all the South East Asia countries. Now I left with Myanmar, Philippines and East Timor region, which I plan to cover in the next two years.

I just return from my long plan trip to Laos –  a very beautiful country that often neglected by many since the colonization era. Located in the middle of Thailand and Vietnam, border by Cambodia on the Southern and Myanmar and China on the Northern, this country practically got nothing but hilly land and the great Mekong river. That’s explained why it was often “forgotten” by the people since it is “landlocked” and no sea (no trading activities can be conducted in the past). The country started to open up in the 1990’s and the tourism industry beginning to bloom in recent years. My urge of travelling to Laos became stronger after watching their official tourism video back in 2013 – “Finally Found Love, Finally Found Laos”.

I spend a total of 8 days 7 night at Laos, started my travel at the Capital, Vientiane which is the entry point of the only direct flight from Malaysia by Air Asia. Then we travelled to the laid back and once party town of Vang Vieng. We further travelled to the north to Luang Prabang, the UNESCO world heritage town where you can see the finest temples and beautiful culture of Laos here.

Laos Travel Route

Laos Travel Route

I wish I have more days to explore another town in the central region, Phonsavan and Xieng Khouang. Here is where you find the Plain of Jars, that build during the Iron Age. Similar like Stonehenge at England, no one really knows what is the purpose of the jars. This place also the most heavily bombed area by US during the Secret War. I chose to skip it as I want to have a less “stressful” trip with more time to experience the culture and relax. 

If I ever travel to Laos again (which I think I definitely will), I will explore the less travel route – the northern and the southern part. The northern part provides excellent trekking adventure on the many mountainous area. Whereas the southern part lay the infamous 4,000 islands (Si Phan Don), coffee plantation (Bolaven Plateau), the Angkor Temple Complex (Wat Phou) and National Park.

Till then!

For now, I will share my 8d7n Laos trip in details.

Carey Island (Pulau Carey) & Crab Island (Pulau Ketam)

One fine day, I was craving for seafood and some gateway nearby. So I what’s apps few friends and we decided to go for a day trip during the long weekend of Malaysia Day, to Carey Island and Crab Island.

Well I grew up in a small town called Banting, where everybody somehow know everybody. In the past few years, Government is spending a lot to develop the tourism industry around Banting, mainly focusing on the coastal area from Morib to Sepang. Around 20 minutes away from Banting town, lay a small island known as Pulau Carey (It is not actually an Island because it only separated by a river, not sea). This place seems to be forgotten in the great tourism development plan. I was .. I think 10 when I first visited Pulau Carey. That time was with my parents and my little brother. And we got this cicak looking figure as souvenir, generously given by one of the wood craftsman there (because it was his failure artwork).

We started our journey around noon. Stop by at Telok Panglima Garang for lunch. I don’t remember what’s the name of this restaurant, it is just infront of the roundabout turning in to Pulau Carey, next to a Chinese temple (on the right side of the temple). My family called it the “Guan Gong” since the Restaurant Owner (and his sons) has this pair of very unique eyebrow (almost flying up like there is this fear look on his face). This restaurant specialty is steamed fish (well that’s the food my father always ordered every time we visited). The food still taste the same when I visited few years back – still fresh and nice in very reasonable price.

Top Left to Right: Steamed Fish & Choi Dam
Bottom Left to Right: Fried Chicken & Claypot Taufu

Pulau Carey is famous for its settlement for Mah-Meri, one of the many Orang Asli tribes from Malaysia. Mah-Meri people have the reputation of some of the world’s finest wooden crafts. And they are very good in weaving too. To be honest, there’s nothing much at Pulau Carey. There’s this tourist information center, which showcase the culture of Mah-Meri. We are the only few visitors of the day. Entrance is RM5. Our tour guide first show us to play some of their “weapon” by the game of darts. Then he brought us to watch video and show us some magnificent wooden art pieces crafted by the locals. Since our time is kinda limited, so we headed to Pulau Ketam after our stop at this information center. We supposed to further explore Pulau Carey – heard that there’s a beach at the end of the road or visit the many craftsman shop around..next time then.

Probably the most enjoyable activity in the information center

Mah-Meri people are gifted with the talent of wood crafting

Pulau Ketam, another place that I think I went around 10 years old. My father has a friend that teach inside the island where we visited that time. You have to take a ferry from Port Klang (yes Port Klang, not North Port; not South Port; not West Port), which is nearby to the immigration office. The ferry ticket cost RM7/trip. Sadly to say that, the ferry still the same old one many many years ago (based on my friend – Denise commented). My memory to Pulau Ketam almost faded and I can’t recalled anything except everybody live above the sea on the wood. The ferry took around 45 min, including the waiting time to make the ferry full. We were welcome by a lot of locals upon our arrival (apparently the villagers were expecting some guests from outside and thought we were them).

Pulau Ketam a.k.a Crab Island – where “floating houses” perch casually on long wooden stilts

We just snap some photos here and there – entertaining our self. Pulau Ketam is a fishing village mainly inhabited by Chinese. People here seems very relaxing and simple. You can hear people singing karaoke loudly in the house. Children running around like crazy. Everyone seems to know everyone – such a nice feeling isn’t it. There’s no other transport except bicycle here. And the road is really narrow – be careful or else you’ll hit by bicycle here.

The attraction that you can spot along the walk

Coincidentally, there were some visitors that came here for a purpose on the same day. They are some volunteers for art performance from different countries, came here for a reason to exchange knowledge with the locals……and with another obvious reason – to create awareness on Recycle to the younger generations here. One thing about Pulau Ketam – it is really dirty. There’s no proper drainage system in this island. Therefore, rubbish is everywhere. We decided to stay and watch the performance. And the consequences – we missed the last ferry out at 6pm. But it was indeed a very good performance by kakiseni. One word – CREATIVE. I guess it did successfully scared the kids there, especially on the “rubbish monster” (i called it). Hopefully if I got the chance to return here, Pulau Ketam can be FREE from rubbish.

The performance by groups of art enthusiasm

Now you know what I mean. Picture paint a thousand words.

We headed for dinner after the performance finish. One must eat Crab when you at Pulau Ketam a.k.a Crab Island. The name of the Island explained already, isn’t it? We ordered plenty of seafood – from Crab, Prawn to Squid. The food is so-so but it satisfied my craving for seafood 😀

Seafood Feast

Since no more ferry, we have to hire a private boat to take us out. It cost RM 160 per boat. Since there is 6 of us, so the cost after divided is still ok. The boat is really big anyway – I think can fit in 10 – 15 people. You can always asked around for people to share the boat. We didn’t manage to get any cause it was a little bit too late that time.

Overall, a trip is always nice with friends around. But it is disappointing to see places that full with potential to develop as a  tourism spot – neglected by the government. I mean, it could be much better for an island like Pulau Ketam, which can be develop to something like Namiseom Island at South Korea (too ambitious maybe) or the similar Tai O at HongKong.

Summary: Osaka & Kyoto Itinerary

Pleased to share with you the summary itinerary of my 4 days 3 night Osaka + Kyoto trip,

ITINERARY

PLAN REMARKS COST
Day 1
Morning
Arrival to Kansai Int’ Airport Train Tix: Kansai Airport Stn. -> Shinsaibashi Stn. 980 ¥
Check in to Accomodation: Hana Hostel 2800 ¥
Noon
Namba & Shinsaibashi Area
Afternoon
Osaka Castle Area Train Tix: Namba Stn. -> Morinomiya Stn. 240 ¥
– Peace Park Entrance Fees 200 ¥
– Osaka Palace Entrance Fees 540 ¥
Osaka Business Park Train Tix: OBP Stn. -> Shinsaibashi Stn. 240 ¥
Evening & Night
Namba & Shinsaibashi Area
Day 2    
Morning
Kuromon Market Walking distance from Namba Stn.
Noon
Depart to Kyoto Train Tix (JR): Osaka Stn. -> Kyoto Stn. 540 ¥
Purchase Kyoto Pass at Kyoto Stn. Entrance 500 ¥
Check in to Accomodation: K’s House Kyoto 2300 ¥
Afternoon
Kiyomizu-dera Temple Area
– Kiyomizu-dera Temple Entrance Fees 300 ¥
– Jinshu Shrine
– Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka
– Ishibe Koji
– Maruyama Park
– Yasaka Shrine
Night
Gion Area
Day 3
Morning Purchase Kyoto Pass at Kyoto Stn. Entrance 500 ¥
North of Kiyomizu-dera temple
– Heian Shrine
– Nanzen-ji Temple
– Eikando Temple
Noon
– Path of Philosophy
– Ginkaku-ji Temple Entrance Fees 500 ¥
Afternoon
Kinkaku-ji Temple Entrance Fees 400 ¥
Ryoan-ji Temple Entrance Fees 500 ¥
Evening
Depart to Osaka Train Tix (JR): Kyoto Stn. -> Osaka Stn. 540 ¥
Night Check in to Accomodation: J-Hoppers 2500 ¥
Fukushima Area
Day 4    
Morning
Tennoji Area Train Tix (JR): Fukushima Stn. -> Tennoji Stn. 170 ¥
– Tsutenkaku Tower
Noon
Umeda Area Walking distance from Fukushima
Depart to Kansai Int’ Airport Train Tix (JR): Osaka Stn. -> Kansai Airport Stn. 1190 ¥

Total Spending for the 4 days 3 night trip is around RM 1,000.

Including the flight ticket will be around RM 1,500.

AFTER BUYING SOUVENIR

Total Damage became RM 2,500 😦

NEXT DESTINATION: BEIJING, CHINA ❤

Day 4: Osaka – Shinsekai & Tennoji Area

Day 4, my last day at Japan. My flight is in the afternoon. So I had only few hours to visit one more place and I choose the Shinsekai/Tennoji Area.

Shinsekai (新世界 literally means “new world”) doesn’t really look like a new world. The moment I walked out from the train station, I realized I was surrounding by old people. It was really different from the other part of Osaka which I visited such as Namba/Shinsaibashi Area. Everything seems to be in slow motion here and relax. I kinda felt that i went back to 1990’s as all the setting seems like the old Hong Kong TVB Drama which I used to chase. I get off  at Tennoji station, in the thought of walking around the neighborhood for a bit. I thought it was really easy to get to my destination, which is the Tsutenkaku Tower. In my mind, since is a Tower and it must be somehow tall, I can just lift my head and follow the direction where the Tower is. Apparently I was wrong – the Tower is not actually that tall and it can be blocked by the greens and other not so high buildings.

Luckily I met a nice old man (Yes OLD man) that actually walk me to there for a good 15 min. The journey was so long as I can’t strike a conversation with the friendly Old Man (He was speaking in Japanese to me through out the journey). At first I was nodded whatever he said with smile…then the smile started to get really uncomfortable cause beside smiling and nodding, I don’t know what else to respond. He as well was scratching his head through out the journey to make me understand what he was saying. But I think I manage to do some small conversation with him with my very minimal Japanese, something like “Namae (Name)? Nan-sai desuka (how old are you)? Kodomo (children) how many? Uchi (house) where?”

Molly and the Old Man

Tsutenkaku a.k.a Eiffel Tower of Osaka was build in 1912 and it was the real hoo-haa that time cause it was like one of the tallest (64 meters). Apparently the one we seeing now is not really the real one. The original one already destroyed in 1943 during a fire broke down and the government decided to take the steel of Tsutenkaku for war used instead of repairing it. Hence Tsutenkaku contributed its body to the nation.

Many view of Tsutenkaku

Oh ya, around the Shinsekai area, you will notice a lot of this statue called Billiken that look like baby that is sitting down on the floor with both his arms straight and close to his body. I found the name very cute to pronounce. Apparently Billiken will bring good luck to those that purchase it and better luck for the one that is given a Billiken. I quite like Shinsekai area because of its colorful bling bling bizarre decoration which make me felt that I was in some fantasy land.

Shinsekai bling bling bizarre yet old fashion decoration

Molly had a date with Billiken at Tsutenkaku

 

After some photo taking and admiration from outside, I went back to Hostel to pack. I walked all the way from Fukushima to Umeda to take the train to Airport. Umeda – the business district, I didn’t really make my way to explore this area especially the nigh view from the Floating Garden @  Umeda Sky Building. Till next time then!

Umeda

There are still many places that I haven’t got the chance to visit due to the short trip. I believed I’ll come back again to this Beautiful Land.

My final meal at Japan before boarding – SUSHI

FLY OFF AND BACK TO MY REALITY LIFE OF WORKING NOW……………………AND FINALLY I FINISH WRITING THIS TRIP THAT TOOK ME FOREVER…

Day 3: Kyoto – Heian Shrine, Nanzen-ji, Path of Philosophy, Ginkaku-ji, Kinkaku-ji & Ryoan-ji

As usual, my master plan is to wake up early…and again – the rolling bed, snoozing alarm action repeated again. I started my 3rd day at Japan around 10 am. Good weather today in the sense is not raining – but super hot. Same breakfast – bread and milk to kick start my journey.  Went back to Kyoto Station to get the Day Pass and take a bus to Heian Shrine (平安神宮). I just took some photos outside. Apparently there is this paid garden which is stunning during cherry blossom time. Since I visited during summer, so I decided to skip it.

Heian Shrine

From Heian Shrine, I walked myself to Nanzen-ji Temple (南禅寺). There’s a lot of small temples surrounding Nanzen-ji, which separate fees apply for entering. Nanzen-ji’s central temple grounds are open to public free of charge. There’s a large brick aqueduct that passes through the temple grounds which is part of the canal system to carry water and goods in the past. I found it amazing cause I never seen something like that before – the ancient people are smart isn’t it?

Nanzen-ji

The bridge that carry water

My next destination – Ginkaku-ji Temple (銀閣寺). There’s a connecting pathway from Nanzen-ji to Ginkaku-ji, which is known as “The Path of Philosophy” (哲学の道). The distance of the pathway is around 2km (but I found it so much longer 😦 ), which follow a canal that lined by hundreds of cherry trees (will be stunning during April time). The path gets its name because of the influential Japanese philosopher called Nishida Kitaro – apparently he walked here and came out with his great philosophy. So how can I missed the opportunity to also having some inspirational. Maybe I can be the next Aristotle :p

Deep thoughts of my life during the walk on the path of philosophy :p

Trust me, it was not easy to complete the philosophy path after 2 days of walking around. I felt my feet was swollen and my shoes were torn apart and therefore I stopped almost every 200 – 300 meter of walking to take a break from the feet pain. So I came out with the new name for this pathway – instead of  哲学之道 (“zhe xue zi dao” in pin yin chinese), I called it the 折鞋之道 (“zhe xie zi dao” – the path of shoes torturing). Haha!

Path of Philosophy -> Path of Feet Torturing

Some landmark that you may find along the path of philosophy.
Must check out Yojiya Cafe which has very beautiful landscape inside (the lady face symbol product that is famous for face oil absorbing paper – very expensive)

I was extremely hungry when I finally arrived Ginkaku-ji. I rushed to the first restaurant that I saw and pick the cheapest food in the menu which proved to be a total unsatisfactory meal. The set I picked is called “The Philosopher Set” ( 哲学套餐) which consist of 3 cold tofu, 3 bean curd, porridge, and a cup of soy milk/yogurt taste dessert. All this cost me a whopping 1680 Yen (around RM65)!! When I finished my lunch and continued my journey to Ginkaku-ji, I found out that there are so many other restaurants around!! Lesson learnt: be patient instead of rushing.

healthy meal required a heavy price tag

Ginkaku-ji literally means Silver Pavilion – please don’t expect the temple is build using silver. People believed that the name of the temple is just the nickname to show contrast with the Golden Pavilion – Kinkaku-ji. Well maybe the name is derived from the sand since it looks silverish? <- my belief

Ginkaku-ji – The Silver Temple..hmm where’s the silver?

Then I took a bus to Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) to see the difference between two. The golden Pavilion i is much much more catchy than the black-greyish looking Ginkaku-ji. It was so shiny and sexy – I felt the view infront of my eyes is like a painting instead of real. Apparently the temple was rebuild during 1950’s after a monk  burned down it which later on he also attempted to suicide in the fire. This was later became the basis of a famous novel called “The Temple of Golden Pavilion“. I am always fancy about sociology and what leads human to behave certain way. So this incident had caught my great attention. I did some googling on it. The monk was taught that the most beautiful thing in the world is Kinkaku-ji, which lead him to have his love-hate relationship with the temple. Perhaps because of his obesession towards the temple, he choose to destroy it rather than let it falls to the hand of others (Post WWII that time)?

P/S: I bought the book and currently reading it.

Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Temple, It look like a painting isn’t it?

Next stop: Ryoan-ji Temple (龍安寺). Took a bus from Kinkaku-ji to Ryoan-ji even though is actually a walking distance – too painful to walk already that time. Ryoan-ji is famous for its rock garden. Interesting fact about the rock garden:

The garden consists of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. An interesting feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

Quote from Kyoto Travel

Apparently you will also feel inner peace when staring at the rock garden. Do I?

Staring at the rocks…What did you realize in life?

One of my specialty – Imitate drawing. The “victim” this time is a drawing at Ryoan-ji. My version of “when I change, the whole world change” known as “When we are together, the whole world change” -> Wedding Card design for my brother

It was near to evening that time and I made my move back to hostel to collect my luggage and prepare myself to return to Osaka. It was already quite late by the time I reached Kyoto Station. I made a very brief tour around Kyoto Station and made a clearer look at the candle looking Kyoto Tower. Then I board into the JR train to Osaka (again don’t know whether the express/normal train I took).

Kyoto Station with the view of Kyoto Tower

Back to Osaka, I went back to Hana Hostel to collect my remaining luggage (I only packed some of my stuffs to Kyoto and left the remaining at Hana Hostel). Here I met the amazing Hana Hostel Staff, Masae which somehow reminded me about my best friend Puv because of the curly hair. Had a quick chit chat with her and it was amazing.

Me and my new friend, Masae

After that, checked in to my next hostel – J-hoppers which located at Fukushima. Here I stayed at a ladies dormitory. I was starving again and couldn’t find any interesting partner in the room to hang out. Therefore, I went to look for dinner myself. Since is the last night at Japan (and also the unsatisfactory bean curd lunch set), I want to treat myself something better. After few minutes of food hunting, I saw this interesting restaurant where the friendly staff was promoting it outside. I glanced inside the restaurant and decided to walk in after I saw another two Japanese ladies that did the same as me after reading the menu at outside.

Oishi neh! Never taste beef and squid as good as this.

I met lots of awesome people here: the staffs that work at the restaurant; the two ladies that walked in before me; and another guy that sit next to me. All of them are super friendly, trying their very best to talk to me. Dinner wouldn’t be so good without the companionship of them. After a good meal, couple of beers, and awesome companions, I left the restaurant and went back hostel for a good night rest.

my new friends that I met at restaurant: Hanako, Ritsu and  Joe

The awesome restaurant crews. I only remember the pretty lady in the middle: Saki 🙂

 

That put a perfect full stop for my last night at Japan 🙂

Day 2: Kyoto – Kiyomizudera, Jinshu Shrine, Ninenzaka, Sannenzaka, Yasaka Shrine & Gion

The next day, apparently set alarm at 7am so I can utilize my time to the max. Well you can continue the story for me…and yes – snooze alarm and continue to sleep. I only started my journey the next day at around 10am due to my habit of rolling on the bed and snoozing my alarm. That tatami bed at Hana Hostel is evil – I just can’t wake up cause is too comfortable!

I bought bread and soy milk for breakfast from a mart nearby, then headed to Kuromon (Black Gate Market) after series of exploration. Kuromon is a market that sell all the fresh stuffs from vegetables, meats, fish and etc. The thing that caught my great interest is the fruits, which all look so fresh and tasty. I bought a peach – since is really hard and expensive to get in Malaysia. Weee………….so juicy and sweet. I felt the juice splashing out when I bite it. Even an old man that pass by me when I was enjoying the new treasure I found, can’t hold but to ask me “oishi neh!”

Peach: “eat me Molly!”

Ojisan that passed by me stop and stared at my peach

Without further delay, I continued my journey to the next city – Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan. Another series of adventure in exploring the train system, thanks to all the kind Japanese people – I made it to Kyoto. Again was confused by all the express/normal train that came at the same platform. This time I took the JR train. Same advise – don’t care so much just get in as long as it will get you to the final destination. Don’t ask me cause I don’t even know whether I was taking the normal or express train – all I know: it stop at some stations but also it skipped some stations.

waiting train under the heat

Checked in to K’s House Kyoto which is around 15 min walk from Kyoto Train Station. First thing when arrived Kyoto Train Staion: get the Kyoto One Day Pass (500 yen = RM20) – really worth every penny. It allows you unlimited ride by bus.

K’s House Kyoto

my new obsession on high tech toilet

My first stop – Kiyomizudera Temple Area. All of a sudden, rain fall! I got no umbrella with me so I had to walk under the rain. So it really delayed my whole plan as I need to constantly stop to wait for the unpredictable rain to stop (it just rain for like 15 min, then stop…then start again and the sequence went on and on). Kiyomizudera temple (清水寺 – temple of clear water) is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. The name derived from the Otowa waterfall’s pure water. It is one of the many UNESCO world heritage sites at Kyoto. Entrance fees is 300 yen, around RM 12). Very beautiful temple indeed! I got myself a “fortune telling” paper called O-mikuji 御神籤 by using the traditional way of shaking out a stick. Well I got number 8, apparently I got the Great Blessing 大吉. Too bad the fortune telling is in Japanese. Hence I can’t decode it 😦

Many different view of Deva Gate of Kiyomizudera temple

Kiyomizudera wooden stage and view

Otowa waterfall – separated to three streams which represent longevity, success at school and fortunate love life. If you drink three of it, you are consider greedy. Guess which one i drink?
Oh ya, they have sanitizer for the cup too..coolio!

Behind Kiyomizudera Temple’s main hall is Jinshu Shrine, a shrine that dedicated to love and matchmaking. Lots of young girls were there to wish for good luck in love. Since I’m a young girl too, so I wish for my good luck in love too. Well well, and again, I went to get another “fortune telling” paper :p this time is in English by randomly taking from a basket and I got a Blessing 吉. This shrine possesses a pair of “love stones” placed around 6 meters apart, which lonely visitors can try to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone with their eyes closed implies that the pilgrim will find love, or true love. I almost want to try it to test how true is it…but too many visitors that day and I felt shy shy :p

Jinshu Shrine – the temple of L.O.V.E

“Everybody needs someone, Everybody needs love LOVE, Everybody wants something to believe in” ~ remind me of David Choi’s song

Hopefully is a great blessing 🙂

“Raindrops keep falling on my head…la la la” -> I can sing like that at first. But later on, it became really heavy. Luckily I found a small cafe that I can stop and sip a cup of tea. I ordered some sweet dessert -> Red Bean Soup something like that, which cost me around 600 Yen (RM25).

Very expensive Red Bean Soup with Glutinous ball

Then I continued my journey that has no destination. Walked pass Ninenzaka (Two Year Hill) and Sannenzaka (Three Year Hill) which you somehow will pass by when you exit from Kiyomizudera temple. These pathways display traditional Japanese style buildings. This part of Kyoto is among the very few areas that present a unified wooden cityscape. There’s a legend here, if you fall at Ninenzaka, you will die within two years; if you fall at Sannenzaka, you will die within three years. So watch your steps (if you believe).

Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka

I found myself ended at Yasaka Shrine when the rain started to fall again. Everything was so peaceful as the night started to fall. I was just sitting there at a corner waiting for the rain stop, swinging my feet up and down (I do this when I am relax). Trust me, you can’t feel your feet already by that time.

Yasaka Shrine

If you still can walk, you can continue your journey to Gion, which is just opposite Yasaka Shrine. But I decided to go back Hostel to take a shower (taking advantage on the Day Pass – Unlimited Ride) and come back again later on.

my favorite shot – the nigh fall

K’s House is a familiar name for backpacking hostel around Japan. I’m sure when you google accommodation for backpacking hostel at Japan – that is one of the most well known search result. My experience staying here is amazing as well – very clean, well equipped, friendly staffs (the male staffs are handsome *wink* and help me to translate my fortune telling paper in Japanese – excuses to start a conversation). There’s a bar next to the hostel that will be loaded with travelers at night. I took the 8 person mixed dorm (2,300 Yen = RM100) and met one of my roomate, Alex when I return. He is from US but teaching English at Korea now. We went for dinner together at Gion, Kyoto most famous geisha district.

My Bed for a day at K’s House Kyoto

I love Gion, because of the traditional wooden houses around and the narrow street. It gave me this mysterious feeling of wanting to know more. I didn’t really take a lot of photos here which I can’t seem to explain why? Maybe that’s the mystery. Haha! We stopped by at this restaurant Issen Yoshoku 壹钱洋食 (more like I intentionally looking for it cause it was introduced in the guide book). They served a variation of the popular dishes – Okonomiyaki at 630 yen (around RM 25). Something special about this shop – you will find mannequin dressing in kimono in every table to keep you company and the wall is full with sexually theme ema (絵馬).  The mannequin can look quite scary.

Issen Yoshoku – apparently the food smell nice that the dog want to chase the little boy and bite his pants

Do you need accompany?

kamogawa river view from Gion

After walking around Gion for a while, we left and went back to K’s House. We continued our night at the bar, grabbed some beers and meet some people. Here we met another guy, from Luxembourg – Luc. He is an intern working at Osaka at some bridge building company (if not mistaken). We had fun talking about his life working at Japan, then to Election at US and etc. This is the fun part of being a traveler instead a tourist – you met people from different places. A great way to end the night with few cup of beers and alcohol in your system.

Meet my new friends 😀