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Oversea, Travel

Best Personal Souvenir From Japan – Goshuin-Chō 御朱印帳

When I was writing about my Nara trip early this year (2017), I first mentioned about goshuin-chō 御朱印帳 and that it’s the best souvenir one can get for oneself from Japan. At that time, I was visiting Todai-ji 東大寺, my very first temple visit in Japan, where I came across this seal book. Although I came to know about goshuin-chō (pre-trip) and decided not to get it (pre-trip also), I was in deep dilemma when facing the real deal. “Should I get it or should I not get it?” Ohh I asked this questions many times in my head and to my travel partners.

My heart told me to get it because it’s a very unique momento as one can only get it in Japan.
My mind told me “Hey, it’s expensive!”. “You need to pay for the seal book and also the seals.”

In the end, I went with my heart. ❤️
Did I made the right choice? Wholeheartedly a big YES!

For those who has never heard of goshuin-chō, you must be scratching your head by now. Allow me to explain what it is and the thrills of collecting goshuin 御朱印 (seals) at temples and shrines as well as watching getting it sealed.

What’s goshuin-chō?

Goshuin-chō 御朱印帳 (Seal Book)

Goshuin-chō 御朱印帳 or also known as shuin-chō 朱印帳 is a seal/stamp book. ‘Go’ 御 is an honorific prefix. As the name suggest, it’s a book where you get the pages stamp with special seals of the temples and shrines you are visiting. The book has an ancient style format called orihon 折本 which was and still is use in China and later Japan for Buddhist texts. The orihon is a folding book style, folded in continuous zig zag format like an accordion or concertina. I, myself own a small orihon printed with Buddhist mantras.
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Oversea, Travel

Melbourne Day 3: Victoria Hall & Queen Victoria Market Again (Part 1)

Here’s Day 1’s & Day 2’s recap:
Melbourne Day 1: Federation Square, Hoiser Lane & Flinders Street Station

Melbourne Day 2: Queen Victoria Market, Royal Arcade & Block Arcade

I’ve been talking about Victoria Hall (known as Space Hotel now), my 3 days accommodation in Melbourne several times. Now let me take you in and around Victoria Hall. In my opinion hostel in Melbourne is quite expensive. That kind of money would have paid for a comfy stay in say 4 star hotel in Malaysia. Thank God it’s not New South Wales or Queensland or the accommodation $$ would be even high up. Yes, yes I convert la.

I found Victoria Hall through TripAdvisor (ranking 17/91 in Specialty Lodging). This hostel had poor and terrible reviews in the past. Since undergoing major renovation works (until end of 2010), the reviews have been improving to ‘very good’.

Victoria Hall @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
Victoria Hall. As you can see the rooftop, top floors and ground area are under renovation. The shared kitchen is currently at its sorry state. Functional but a little sore.
Our room is on the first floor – left most of this picture.

Renovated Budget Twin Room at Victoria Hall @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
Our renovated budget twin room for 3 days. It’s a little small (remind me of Hong Kong hotel) but it suits us just fine. On the right is wardrobe, table and chair. Paid AUD74 for 1st night (Thursday) and AUD76 x 2 for 2nd & 3rd night (Friday & Saturday). Just like that RM650+ gone. No breakfast, clean towels are provided and shared bathroom.

Comfy Beds at Victoria Hall @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
Bunk bed with super comfy mattresses. My favorite place! Haha

LCD TV, Ipod Docking Stations at Victoria Hall @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
LCD TV and iPod docking station. Very limited TV programs though. (3-5 channels only)
Power points are available. It’s hidden behind the side table.

Victoria Hall @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
Clockwise L-R: Hallway, hot water station, shared bathroom. Forgotten to snap picture of the bathroom/toilet. They are very cool. Made of stainless steel… even the toilet bowl. Haha

Games Room & Gym at Victoria Hall @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
Games & gym areas.

Security card swipe is needed to access rooms, communal bathrooms & toilets, game/gym/lounge/movie areas, each levels and front door (after dark). So it’s pretty safe. 🙂

All in all I love this place. Great location (only 12 minutes to my favorite Queen Victoria Market) and near to tram station. and I bet the place will look awesome once it’s completed.

Alright let’s continue my day 3.

We said we wanted to go to Queen Victoria Market again a day before we go home but found out QVM doesn’t open on Wednesday (the day we planned to go) so we have to go today, day 3.

We choose to walk again since the Saturday morning weather is very pleasant plus there is no point on wasting $$ on tram tickets. Sure there’s the free City Tourist Shuttle Bus that pass QVM but you won’t get to see anything. Walking is the best way to get to know the place you’re visiting.

Melbourne Barber Shop @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
Can you guess what’s on the other side of this door? My initial guess was a restaurant.

Melbourne Barber Shop @ Russell Street, Melbourne CBD
Hey, hey it’s a barber shop actually.

While I was passing by City Baths, I chanced upon rosemary & bay trees behind City Baths’ mini garden. So healthy & green unlike my rosemary. Haha

Bull Dog @ Melbourne CBD
Cute bull dog. Even his vest match the color of the car.

Independent Order of Rechabites @ Elizabeth Street, Melbourne CBD
Love this building. Independent Order of Rechabites.
Opposite this lovely building is City Mart (Asian grocery shop). Too bad we don’t have time if not I would love to check that place out.

Queen Victoria Market @ Melbourne CBD
Here we are at Queen Victoria Market again. Haha
This is the meat & fish hall building.

Trams Stop @ Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne CBD
Opposite QVM is the Elizabeth Street tram station.

Shops @ Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne CBD
Shops at QVM.

We stopped by the deli hall aka dairy produce hall to grab our favorite boreks before heading to the general merchandise section.

Flower Shop @ Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne CBD
Florist at QVM.

General Merchandise Souvenir @ Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne CBD
The ‘general merchandise’ area. Shopping time!!!
We shop for like 3 hours there… still not enough. But we have to stop as we’re heading to another place after lunch.

Bought a Ugg knee-high boots there @ AUD70. Nope it’s not from the ‘UGG’ brand but it’s real sheepskin. Oh so comfy!!! 🙂

Do you know that even if the UGG brand doesn’t exist this kind of boots will still be called Ugg boots? Ugg boots has been a generic terms for sheepskin boots in Australia and New Zealand.

Lunch & Rest @ Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne CBD
Had our lunch just outside the deli hall.

I had spicy pork bratwurst for lunch @ AUD5.50 while my sis had chicken souvlaki also @ AUD5.50.

Lunch & Rest Along Therry Street @ Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne CBD
Perfect day, perfect lunch.

Now it’s time to head back to our hostel to download our goods. 🙂

Stay tuned for day 3 (part 2).

Oversea, Travel

Siem Reap Day 4: Hotel 89, Pub Street, Old Market, Pub Street Alley, Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant

I didn’t have any plan for my last day (day 4) at Siem Reap. Therefore I spent the morning at the hotel enjoying a ‘slow’ breakfast and later chit-chatting with the staff again.

Breakfast @ Hotel 89, Siem Reap, Cambodia
This is what we had for breakfast (included in room rate). The breakfast consist of 2 toasted bread, 2 hams, 2 eggs, butter and jam, orange and/or tea/coffee and a plate of fruits.

It was simple and delicious! I don’t find eating the same breakfast for 4 continuous morning as boring if the food is delish. Hahaha

Let me introduce you to Hotel 89 a little bit.

Hotel 89 @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hotel 89 is ranked as bed and breakfast/inn (I called it hotel as I’ve no idea what else to call it hahaha). I found Hotel 89 at Tripadvisor, ranking #5 out of 106 in B&Bs/Inns category. I choose this place based on the reviews and ratings given by fellow travellers.

Outside Hotel 89 @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
This is the road leading to Hotel 89. I was a little bit put off at first when I saw the dusty road. Don’t be. Hotel 89 turned out to be the jewel in a crown.

Double Bed @ Hotel 89, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The room is cosy and clean. My only complain is mosquito.

Opposite this double bed is a tv, small fridge (below tv) and a desk. The shocking thing about this cable tv is that it has more channels than my Astro at home! LOL

Bathroom @ Hotel 89, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The ahem… toilet is clean too. 🙂
Slippers are provided as well.

Hotel 89 @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
The grand door leading into the lobby + dining area. FYI, there’s only ceiling fans here (except the manager/pc room). Don’t worry all rooms are equipped with air-conditioners. There’s no lift here, only stairs. Thankfully our room was at the first floor. Hehe

Dining Corner @ Hotel 89, Siem Reap, Cambodia Computer Corner @ Hotel 89, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Left: This is the dining area where breakfast is served every morning.

Right: 3 PCs with wifi internet. Free to use. They also provide printing and CD burning services. Also in this room is the manager office. You can’t see it but it’s on the right side.

In summary Hotel 89 is a wonderful place to stay. At US$20 per night for a double room, this place is valued for money. They even go into small details like serving drinks & cold towels every time you return to the hotel (which is a blessing!), daily bottled water in rooms and we even have Cambodian bed-time story to read every night!

Other worth mentioning is the availability of tuk-tuk and car just outside the hotel anytime of the day.

What shines most for Hotel 89 is the invaluable and friendly staff and top notch services. If you ever go to Siem Reap, try Hotel 89. Highly recommended by me!

A short quote to sum up Hotel 89:

Every time I come back to Hotel 89, I feel like coming back to my home. 🙂

Around 10am we head out to Pub Street again.

Pub Streeet @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Pub Street is basically deserted from morning-noon. Come evening the crowds will start to build up.

Fruits Stall @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
A couple of fruit stalls by the souvenir shop. The oil paintings on the left… they’re pretty ya?

We head to Old Market again.

Spices & Tea @ Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Spices and teas @ Old Market. Since I got addicted to lemongrass, I bought a packet of lemongrass tea and ginger tea.

Rice Stall @ Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Rice stalls @ Old Market. I saw one particular rice called Ginger Rice. I wonder how it taste like.

Waxed Sausages Meat @ Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Waxed sausages @ Old Market. This is somewhat shocking to me. I thought ‘lap cheong’ is for Chinese only.

Amok @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Amok Restaurant. Like the architecture and color.

Wanderlust @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
@ Pub Street Alley. Love the buildings.

Wanderlust @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Wanderlust @ Pub Street Alley. This is a fashion boutique. Unfortunately pricey!
Wonder whether this Posting Box is in use or for decoration purpose.

BBQ Banana Stall @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
BBQ banana… didn’t try. Didn’t dare to try. Haha

Posting Box @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Can you see the 2 postcards with pictures? That’s mine.
I sent 2 letters and 2 postcards home. Cost me US$5.40!!! *pengsan*
Stamps for 1 letter is 3100 riels (about US$0.77)
Stamps for 1 postcard is 300 riels (about US$0.75)
The extra $$ is for their service.

I couldn’t find Siem Reap post office (passed by its supposed location according to map twice but nowhere to be found). Thankfully we have posting box here at Pub Street Alley (shop name is Paris Sete) and another one I saw at Angkor Market (supermarket).

Pub Streeet Alley @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
@ Pub Street Alley.

Blue Pumpkin @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Guess what? We had our lunch at Blue Pumpkin again. We ordered fried spring rolls (fresh spring rolls is better) and toasted aubergine, tomatoes and olives sandwich with of course Lolita drinks again.

After lunch, we head back to the hotel to pack our suitcase. In my case, my Deuter backpack. 😉

We only went back out for our last dinner in Siem Reap.

Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant @ Pub Street Alley, Siem Reap, Cambodia
We saw an English monk having his lunch here so we decided to try this restaurant at night. Hahaha

Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant @ Pub Street Alley, Siem Reap, Cambodia
I like the black & white table setting.

Stir-fried Oyster Mushrooms @ Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Oyster mushrooms with basil and bean sprout @ US$5.00. Please excuse the blurry pict. Hehe
A delicious combination! Yummy O. Do try it.

Spring Roll @ Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Spring Roll @ US$3.50.
It’s nice but I prefer the one from Blue Pumpkin.

As always rice is complimentary.
Total: US$11.75 (inclusive of lime juice and coconut juice)

The next day, day 5 we woke up around 3.30am, had a very early breakfast at the lobby then off we went to the airport. Thank God AirAsia is on time. In fact it landed earlier by few minutes. Haha

Alright that sums up my Siem Reap travelogue (fhewww finally!).

Tsk! I can’t wait to go back there again. It will not be that soon though. Have another place in mind. 🙂

p/s: Paid RM78 for my AirAsia flights. Cheap le? Hehehe

Here’s my complete 2010 4D/4N Siem Reap Travelogue:
Siem Reap Day 1: Khmer Kitchen Restaurant & Artisans d’Angkor (Part 1)
Siem Reap Day 1: Angkor Temples – Preah Khan & South Gate & North Gate of Angkor Thom (Part 2)
Siem Reap Day 2: Center Market (Phsar Kandal) & Red Piano
Siem Reap Day 3: Angkor Wat & Ta Prohm (Part 1)
Siem Reap Day 3: Bayon, Angkor Thom, Blue Pumpkin, Old Market (Phsar Chas) & Angkor Night Market (Part 2)
Siem Reap Day 4: Hotel 89, Pub Street, Old Market, Pub Street Alley, Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant

Oversea, Travel

Siem Reap Day 3: Bayon, Angkor Thom, Blue Pumpkin, Old Market (Phsar Chas) & Angkor Night Market (Part 2)

Here’s Day 1 to Day 3’s recap:
Siem Reap Day 1: Khmer Kitchen Restaurant & Artisans d’Angkor (Part 1)
Siem Reap Day 1: Angkor Temples – Preah Khan & South Gate & North Gate of Angkor Thom (Part 2)
Siem Reap Day 2: Center Market (Phsar Kandal) & Red Piano
Siem Reap Day 3: Angkor Wat & Ta Prohm (Part 1)

After Ta Prohm, I still have to make one more stop even though it’s urgghhh SCORCHING HOT!!! There is no way I’m going to miss the beautiful Bayon temple.

On the way to Angkor Thom (that’s where Bayon lies), we passed Ta Keo again. Here’s a snap shot of it from the moving tuk-tuk.

Ta Keo @ Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Don’t bother visit Ta Keo if you are pressed for time. This temple lacks carvings and the steps are more dangerous than those found in Angkor Wat.

Terrace of the Elephants @ Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
This is Terrace of the Elephants. And nope I did not visit it. Just zoomed pass since it is just by the roadside. With no shades whatsoever don’t think I’ll go down and have a look. Hehe

Bayon @ Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Here is the the beautiful valley of Bayon!

My tuk-tuk driver asked me another ‘heart attack’ question.

Tuk-tuk driver: “I meet you at the other side?”

Me: “Ohh no no. You wait here. We come back here.” Muhahahahaha

Bayon @ Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Love this shot. 🙂

Bayon Angkor Thom @ Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The most recognizable image/structure of classic Khmer architecture after Angkor Wat is probably Bayon; towers with 1 ‘smiling’ face on each of the 4 sides facing north, south, east & west. But not all towers spotting the 4 sides though.

Bayon Angkor Thom @ Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Another wow moment. I don’t think I can build something like this even with ‘unlimited’ supply of lego set! Haha

Photo below was photoshopped to B&W to bring out the artsy effect. Hehe

Bayon Angkor Thom @ Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Notice some tourists’ heads at the lower left corner? Hehe we’re so tiny.

The photo below was actually very dark SOOC. After some photoshop treatments, it became one of my favorite photos of Siem Reap.

Bayon Angkor Thom @ Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hope you like it too. 🙂
Take a while… look and be mesmerized. How on earth did they built that?

Tell you something. When I first passed Bayon on my way to Preah Khan on Day 1, I didn’t know ‘that valley’ was Bayon. Because from far, it doesn’t look like Bayon. It’s more like some old ruins with faded stone color located centrally at Angkor Thom. But as you near this ‘valley’… WHAM BANG… behold… you’re looking at one of the most beautiful thing on earth! 🙂

After a mere 15 mins at Bayon (yes too bad, I would love to stay longer but wait till you hear my reason haha) we told our tuk-tuk to bring us to The Blue Pumpkin for lunch. It would seem that I’m the ‘puteri lilin’ (candle princess) type but I assure you I’m not. It’s just TOO HOT and because I was templed out very early on… remember??? So everything I see also feels like I’ve seen before and so I didn’t take long at each temple. 😛

And this wraps up my visits to Angkor Archaeological Park. Among the few temples I visited (few may be the word but they are the 4 must visit temples); Preah Khan, Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon, I love Bayon the most – had a nice feeling there. At other temples somehow I feel there’s this energy and sometimes eerie feeling. The most eerie temple is Angkor Wat. Hehe

We had the most amazing lunch at The Blue Pumpkin because the food were great and also because we finally found an air-conditioned restaurant!!! We didn’t know about the air-cond at first but we decided to check out their first floor (lounge) and wah la… upon opening the glass door… cool air! But funny though the air-cond wasn’t very cold… just cold enough to sometimes let you sweat a bit. Hahaha ya I know funny but we’ll take it.

The Blue Pumpkin @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
First floor @ The Blue Pumpkin.

The Blue Pumpkin @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
The special seats (right) – where you get to put your legs up in a very large sofa (bed?).

Tuna Sandwich @ The Blue Pumpkin, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tuna sandwich @ US$5.25 (sorry blurry); Very yummy… surprisingly!

Fresh Spring Roll @ The Blue Pumpkin, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Fresh spring rolls @ US$1.50; Delicious and ‘fresh’. The mint leaves and nutty-vinegar sauce blend perfectly with the spring rolls containing shrimps.

We also ordered a health drink called Lolita @ US$1.75 (shared with my travel partner since I’m still cautious about what I drink). It’s a mixture of apple, ginger, lemongrass and wild honey. This is my TOP FAVORITE drink. Especially refreshing after a hot day out at the temple. Highly recommended!!! It got me hooked on lemongrass!
Total bill: US$8.50. Worth it; awesome food & drink plus air-conditioned lounge. 🙂

After lunch we checked out Kokoon (next to Blue Pumpkin), a boutique selling shawls, candles, artworks, shirts and many more. Bought a lemongrass soap @ US$3 (yeah expensive).

Old Market @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Then we walked to Old Market (Phsar Chas), the place to get souvenirs!!!

Cambodian Silks @ Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cambodian silks… pretty colors ya?

Buddhas & Bayon Carvings @ Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Buddha & Bayons carvings. I was tempted to get one of the Bayon carvings but couldn’t find the perfect one.

Souvenirs @ Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Let’s buy! buy! buy! haggle! haggle! haggle! Hehe

Let’s see what I bought…
1. Cambodian trousers (very cute!) x 2 @ US$12 – usual was US$17 per trousers
2. Cambodian scarves x 4 @ US$20 + got 2 free scarves (a bit expensive but totally worth it as they are really beautiful) – usual was US$7/US$8 per scarf
3. Postcards (4 packets of 10s) @ US$3 (cheap neh?) – usual was US$2 for 1 packet of 10s
4. Tees x 3 @ US$3.90 (yes your read that right! super cheap hehe) – usual was US$5 per tee

Really satisfied with my loot. Yes I’m a great haggler! Hahaha Besides knowing how to haggle, you need to know the secret of shopping at Siem Reap. Remember I told you I learned an important Cambodian custom from a hotel staff which will benefit my shopping later?

Here it is… Cambodian has this custom whereby when they make the first sale of the day it will signify good busines to them for the rest of the day. Which means for us the customers, be the ‘early’ customer… hagglehagglehaggle to bring the price down to 50% or more. 🙂

One thing I like about haggling in Siem Reap is they will entertain you no matter what unlike some other places e.g. Chatuchak in Bangkok where they have kinda ‘fix’ haggling prices. Plus Cambodians are really friendly people. I had a bunch of fun time haggling and talking to them. 🙂

So how do you know you’re the first customer? You don’t. Just go early. Afternoon is early enough. When we’re there after lunch, the place is quite deserted.

After shopping we went back to the hotel to rest. Only come out again for dinner at 5.30pm.

Guess where we went for our dinner? Hehe Blue Pumpkin again. 😛

Blue Pumpkin @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Blue Pumpkin @ ground floor. Pastry & bread anyone?

Blue Pumpkin @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Ice-cream & cashier counter. Didn’t try the ice-cream though.

Stewed Pork with Mushroom @ Blue Pumpkin, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Stewed pork with mushroom with rice @ US$4.50. Sorry for the blurry photo. This is yet another delicious dish. Ordered Lolita again. Haha Total: US$10 – bill includes macarons 😉

Then we head to Angkor Night Market for more shopping.

Angkor Night Market @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
The souvenirs here are almost the same as those found in Center Market & Old Market. So we basically walked by hurriedly. Again please don’t mind the blurry picture. I had no patience. Haha

Angkor Night Market @ Siem Reap, Cambodia
Managed to grab some magnets and 2 beautiful purses (not from this stall mind you). 🙂

We also visited the Noon Night Market which is just across the road. Boring stuff as they are yes… same-same stuff.

When we went back to our tuk-tuk, my driver was shocked. Haha Shopping that fast? kekeke

That’s all for day 3.

Coming up day 4 and day 5.