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Oversea, Travel

Osaka Day 1: Ana Crowne Plaza & Sennichimae Doguyasuji

Long winded travelogue as usual. 😉

I wanted to visit my ultimate dream country this year due to a symbolic reason but because time & money did not align with my stars, I choose Japan as my second choice. Having experienced winter and spring in South Korea, I’ve always wanted to experience autumn and Japan really excels at that.

By the time I made up my mind to visit Japan, I have only 5 months+ left to book flights and accommodation to coincide with my approximate calculation of autumn foliage timing. I choose to go with full service airline as the price difference compared to budget airline is minimal (besides, I don’t think I want to walk few kilometers right inside KLIA2 yet again). For accommodation, it proofs to be a very challenging affair since it was peak timing for autumn foliage (3rd & 4th week Nov and early December) and I only started looking for places to stay with 5 months to go. Every hostels I looked at were fully booked (not dorm, I go for either double or twin room). And imagined how my eyes had looked when I saw how much a hotel room cost in Kyoto? It’s like those animations where your eyes jump out of the sockets in sheer shock. Hahaha Fyi, they cost few thousands! Siao ar. Eventually I found hostels that only open for booking 3 months before the intended staying date. So I targeted those and booked right at the dot so I could secure the rooms I want.

We visited the big three prefectures (since it’s our maiden Japan trip – for some of us); Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and threw in two more (Nara & Yamanashi). For 16 days and 15 nights (20th November to 6th December 2016) – same length as my Europe trip, we visited Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Yamanashi (Fujikawaguchiko) and Tokyo in my first ever open-jaw trip. I arrived in Osaka and flew out from Tokyo. Reason was because if I were to return back to Osaka from Tokyo and flew back home from Osaka, I would need to spend extra $$ for the Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket from Tokyo to Osaka… which is not cheap btw. Why fork out the extra?

One thing I’m super proud of is I was able to lug my DSLR around for 16 FULL days! Thanks to my weekly exercise and cushioned backpack. Because of that I ended up with over 5.5k photos!!! Another smart move that my sis and me made were to take a small empty luggage with us. We predicted there will be lots of shopping and we were right. And if I can do this again, I will pack way way lesser… yeah so that I can fill in more stuff. LOL. It’s almost winter time and we’re in layers most of the time, so it’s not much different if you wear the same inside outfit for 7 days (hahaha NOT kidding, we washed it la).

Ohh, another reason for choosing Japan was because I’ve seen and heard so many people visiting this country and it has always made me wonder and curious… is it worth the hype? I’ll tell you on day 16. LOL Another BIG question: is Japan expensive? I’ll let you know by the end of this travelogue!

Malaysians need visa to visit Japan but if your passport come with embedded microchip, then you don’t need to apply for short-term visa.

I booked my open-jaw Japan trip with Japan Airline (JAL). The flight to Osaka were a codeshare flight with Malaysia Airlines (MAS). Meaning the flight is operated by MAS. The flight from Tokyo back to Malaysia is by JAL.

We all got a shock when we had to self check-in, print our own boarding ticket and luggage tag. Aiyoo What happened MAS? It’s like flying with low cost airline. Also, from dropping our baggage to the flight snack/meal to the attitude of the stewardess and smiles given, the present day MAS were a stark contrast to few years back. The service given by JAL for my trip back to Malaysia on the other hand were really wonderful. I was greeted with beautiful genuine smiles from the moment I checked-in. Not that MAS people didn’t smile but you can sense something is missing.

Snack Time @ MAS Osaka Flight
Our snack on board MAS at 1.45am! Hahaha This chicken wrapped snack were horrendous.
Yeah, it was a night flight. I managed to doze off and on.

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Oversea, Travel

Incheon + Jeju-do Self Drive Day 1: MAS, Car Rental & Jeju Cherry Blossom Festival

I didn’t want to be ‘cheong hei’ (long-winded) in my prologue post but circumstances prevented it. Travelogue is long-winded as always. So here it goes…

I don’t think anyone will be surprised if I happen to travel to South Korea one day seeing that I’m a Korean drama addict. Well, actually I’ve been to South Korea before. This is my 2nd trip in nearly 11 years!!! Eleven years ago (2003) I made my maiden trip to South Korea following a travel group with my sister. I wasn’t a drama addict back then. It was all about scenery and winter (yeah to my first snow fall!) at that time. Because the trip was so pleasant, I have always wanted to go back again. Sis and me always reminiscence about our feel good South Korea trip. 🙂

My travel buddy for this South Korea backpacking trip is my sis (no doubt) PLUS my mom! All 3 of us are Korean drama addicts. Hehehehe The purpose of our trip this time can be break down into 3 areas: cherry blossom, Korean food and wanting to absorb the pleasantness again plus chucking in some Korean drama filming locations if time permits. Talking about time, well our journey span 15 days and 15 nights (4th April to 19th April 2014) in 5 locations (province/district/city/metropolis) namely Jeju-do, Busan, Jinhae, Jeonju and Seoul. I’ve always wanted to experience cherry blossom and so spring it is.

When booking for our MAS trip (about 10 months earlier), we can only gamble at our travel dates as it’s difficult to predict when the cherry blossom are going to spring into actions. Turns out I was a bit late, belatedly late and right on time for some cherry blossom viewing locations. Oh well, you can’t beat mother nature. Usually cheery blossom will go into full bloom in the southern part first (like Jeju-do) as it’s nearer to the equator (warmer) while the northern area (like Seoul) will bloom later as it’s colder. A day before my trip, I read news that cherry blossom in Seoul is already in full bloom. Ahh tough luck! So I went into this trip knowing the cherry blossom luck will not be my side. Tsk I choose MAS over AirAsia yet again because the airfare is more or less the same.

It’s good to know some easy Korean greetings and to learn Hangul (Korean alphabet) which I had it in me. The Hangul did helped me whenever I need to order food from the menu. Other than that I just resort to my broken Korean language, weird sign language or English to talk to them. Learning how to ask “how much is it?” (이거 얼마에요? / igeo eolmaeyo?) is very important for the ladies. Hahahaha.

Memories from this trip can be divided into pleasant (at the beginning of this trip) to “what man???” (at the ending of this trip). What man? because many sellers in Seoul spoke to us in Mandarin. Hey you, I may look Chinese and I’m a Malaysian Chinese but I’m a banana la. So a lot of time I have question marks above my head. It also spoiled my mood. It feels like I’m visiting China all over again. The “Korean’ feeling was lost. In a nutshell, my South Korea trip this time did not fare as good as my first trip there. Maybe I was expecting too much? And when I came back from this trip, I was like “Did I just visited South Korea? How come I couldn’t feel it.” I think writing this travelogue will help me to appreciate this trip. So let’s see how I feel when I finished this travelogue.

It was too bad to hear about MH370 and the Sewol ferry incident that happened around our trip period. Heartfelt condolence to the family of the lost ones.

For Malaysians, you don’t need visa to visit South Korea if you’re just visiting for a couple of days.

If you have read my Shanghai trip the previous year, you would know that my flight was a midnight flight. I swore never to do it again. Sigh. But I did it again! I can help it if I can but I couldn’t. MAS only has one flight per day to South Korea and that’s midnight. Thankfully I did not become a zombie this time. I managed to catch some sleep. Fhew! The flight depart at 11.30pm and reach Incheon Airport the next day at 6.25am (Korean time). It’s suppose to reach at 7.10am (6 hours 40 mins). So we arrived early. Fyi South Korea is an hour ahead of Malaysia.

Midnight croissant snack presented to us about an hour after we departed from KLIA. It was yummy.

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Oversea, Travel

Shanghai Day 1: MAS again, Maglev Train, The Bund & Becoming Zombie!

Long post as usual. 🙂

I went to Shanghai and Hangzhou on a 5 days 4 nights trip (15th September to 20th September 2013) with my ex-classmates of over 2 decades and sister in tow. It was an idea manifested during our Chinese New Year gathering.

The first time I traveled oversea with friends was 7 years ago to Bangkok. The Bangkok trip were quite enjoyable so I thought this one would be alright too except it wasn’t for my case. I didn’t enjoyed much. Either because Shanghai has not much to offer or because of the company.

Ever since my horrible experience with Airasia I’m not really fond of traveling with them again unless I have to. And this time I don’t have to. We managed to secure some really cheap seats from MAS. MAS Shanghai return ticket only cost RM1001/pax. Airasia’s Shanghai return is either only cheaper or expensive by few ringgits. So of course we choose MAS.

For this trip, I didn’t bring my DSLR which I think is kinda clever of me. LOL All the photos taking were done by my sis’ Lumix and my Samsung S3.

For Malaysians, you will need visa to visit China and you have 2 options when applying for the visa. Either you go to the Chinese Embassy yourself or apply through travel agent. We apply our visas through travel agents as it’s more convenient.

I thought I was smart by choosing the plane schedule that depart at 1.40am and reach Shanghai at 7.00am (5 hours 20 mins). Seems like a good move right? Sleep in the plane and then touch down and we can have a whole day there. WRONG! I forgot refreshment and meal are served in the plane hence not much sleeping is done. In fact some of us only slept for 1 to 2 hours in the plane. LOL Another lesson learned!

Breakfast was served at 4.50am. I was just falling asleep. This is chicken with dry noodles. Quite yummy.

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Oversea, Travel

London Day 1: Flying With MAS, Heathrow Connect & Piccadilly Circus

First let me tell you the prologue story to my Europe trip (a very loooooong one). A haunting story that I wish I will never be put in a similar situation ever again. It kills off the vacation mood and put you in a tense and pressure situation. WTH!!!

Beware travelogue itself is cheong hei as usual. You can just skip the writing and look at the photos.

London has always been in my top to-visit-city list from a very young age. Thanks to AirAsia X I was finally able to fulfilled my dream vacation. AND also no thanks to AirAsia X for suspending the London route January this year and put me on a whirlwind headache (Paris, Delhi and Bombay routes were suspended as well). Yup I was one of the many ‘suffering’ victims of the suspended routes. We were given 3 choices by AirAsia X; 1. to cancel reservation and opt for full refund/credit shell; 2. re-route to any other AirAsia X destination without any additional cost; 3. transfer to an alternative airline (MAS) subject to availability without any additional cost.

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