Japan Day 6 – Shinjuku & Harajuku

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This was the last day of our trip and so we just explored the area near our neighbourhood. We woke up rather early that day to clean up the apartment and checkout by 8am. The reason why we got up rather early is to make sure that we manage to secure lockers at Shinjuku Station. We hear that it fills up really fast and considering it was a Saturday, we didn’t wanna risk not having any lockers for our luggage. By the time we reached the station it was a little past 8am and we managed to secure lockers at the same spot when we first came to Tokyo. So happy to dump our luggage there and spend the rest of our day exploring.

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But before that, we needed to secure our bus tickets to Narita Airport later in the evening. So we headed up to the appropriate bus stop at the Shinjuku Station West Exit and the ticket booth is just conveniently across from it. One way ticket for adults is 3100 Yen and the journey takes about 1.5 – 2 hours. So do keep in mind of your required travel time and plan accordingly so that you don’t end up missing your flight! Continue reading

Japan Day 5 – Tsukiji Fish Market, Akihabara and Dinner in Shibuya

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On our 5th day we did a mix of places and our first stop was Tsukiji Fish market for some breakfast. We initially planned on camping the night before to catch the Tuna auction early in the morning but we scrapped that idea as we figured proper sleep was more important than seeing cold slabs of Tuna being sold off for millions in the cold EARLY morning. But hey if you’re up to it, then by all means go ahead. We were just too tired after walking around back to back on our 5th day so yeah sleep is our priority.

Getting there was fairly easy for us as we were staying in Shinjuku which literally connects you anywhere. So we hopped on the Oedo Subway Line from Shinjuku Station to Tsukijishijo Station. It takes about 20mins and costs 270 Yen one way. As soon as you reach the station, simply follow the signboard to Tsukiji Market. The building is actually just above the station.

There’s the outer part and inner part of the market. Since we just wanted to grab some breakfast, we wandered off at the outer market and found rows and rows of tuck shops serving fresh bowls of sushi! Continue reading

Japan Day 4 – Square Enix Artnia Cafe

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Since we had some time to spare in the evening after our trip to the Ghibli Museum, we decided to head back to our place in Shinjuku and drop our bags off at our AirBnB and head out again within the area to the cafe.

Getting there was a little tricky at first as we didn’t really do our research before hand on how to get there. But if you have a pocket wifi with you, it should be pretty easy to navigate your way there (I’ve included the address at the bottom of this post).

After asking around various shops, convenience stores and random passerbys, we found our first landmark which was the iconic Square Enix headquarters in Shinjuku. Gamers and Final Fantasy fans would be in awe when you see this building. It’s literally the place where all those famous games are created. Being a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise myself, this was a really cool experience. The cafe itself is right next to it and you will be able to easily identify it by the various sign boards and its’ unique egg design.

Inside there’s another room which is a gallery featuring a number of figurines of characters from their franchise. Continue reading

Japan – Day 2 Hakone

On our 2nd day in Japan we decided to venture out from Tokyo to Hakone where we hear we could see great views of Mount Fuji. We purchased our Romancecar train tickets (don’t ask me why it’s named that way haha. I have no idea) the day before. If you plan to take this train, do purchase earlier as it’s by reservation only. You can purchase the tickets at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center within Shinjuku Station. There’s some tourist brochures set up around the area and useful maps and guides you can pick up for free. We also purchased our Hakone Freepass there. It’s basically a ticket that allows you to travel on any mode of transport within Hakone and discounts to museums, restaurants and etc. They only have 2 days and 3 days passes. Although we were only going for one day, I think the 2 day pass was still worth it for the convenience. We paid 5140 Yen for the Hakone 2 day freepass + (890 Yen surcharge to travel there via Romancecar each way). So that’s a total of 6920 Yen all together.

From Shinjuku station it was about 1.5 hour train ride to Hakone-Yumoto station. From there we switched over to the Hakone Tozan Train which climbs further up the mountain. This train is pretty unique as it goes up in a zig-zag motion up the mountain. From one station it will go towards the left side. Then when it reaches the next station, it will switch direction to the opposite direction. Which is pretty smart because if it goes in one single direction, it would be far too steep to climb. 40mins later we reached Gora where we hopped over to the Hakone Tozan Cable Car to Sounzan which was a short 10 min ride up a rather steep incline. Continue reading

Lombok: Day 2 and 3 – Gili Islands, Kuta Beach and Tanjung Aan

Day 2 was spent entirely at the Gili Islands (Gili Air, Gili Meno, & Gili Trawangan). We hired a speedboat for the whole day which included a snorkeling package where the driver would stop at various spots for us to freely snorkel. The water was gorgeous and crystal clear! There are a number of small jellyfishes swimming around though, but nothing to be concerned with since they just sting a little. We also went to the deeper side and my friend managed to swim with a turtle which totally made her day! If you plan on taking a speedboat, do take note that the ride is very bumpy and may cause seasickness. Im usually fine with boats, but I somehow got seasick from this. So if you easily get sea sick, do consider taking meds first.

Among the 3 Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most famous. You will find a lot of shops, bars, and activities here. We snacked on some of the best grilled corn on cob here. They had various glazings to choose from and the garlic one was awesome!

There’s a divers association as well if you wanna do some diving. Then there’s also bicycles for rent if you prefer to just hang around on land.

After spending almost the whole day on the islands, we took our speedboat back and headed out for dinner. Our driver took us for seafood where we can choose our own fresh fish to be cooked in various styles. Can’t remember the name of the place, but the food was just alright.

The following day was our final day in Lombok. Our friend had to take an earlier flight in the afternoon while the rest of us have a flight in the evening. Since we had some spare time in the morning, we took the cab out to the Sasak Traditional Village on the way to the airport. You can experience the true village experience here and buy handmade items from the villagers themselves. Entrance is generally free, but it’s a custom to provide donations to the village/tour guide and write in their guestbook at the end of the trip.

After that it was straight to the airport to drop off our friend and bid our farewells to her. The remaining of us then headed out to Kuta Beach for lunch. We had a nice meal at this cool shack facing the beach and they have free wifi as well which makes it a good place to kill some time before our flight. Great spot, but beware of persistent roadside sellers trying to sell you scarves. There’s a bunch of them there and they tend to crowd tourists. We had a few come up into the cafe itself trying to sell us stuff. They’re quite persistent but they will eventually leave you alone if you don’t show any interest.

After lunch we decided to make one last stop before heading to the airport. We made our way to Tanjung Aan beach. This place offers gorgeous views but again, roadside sellers can be found here as well. Just avoid them and you can enjoy a peaceful time by the beach. There’s a number of huts for you to take shade in if you’re not keen on sunbathing. We hanged around here for quite a while just chatting and enjoying the breeze and the view.

After taking a bunch of Insta-worthy photos, we finally made our way to the airport and that was the end of our Lombok trip. It was definitely a memorable one and I would love to come back again one day. :)

 

Expat Life: Week 8 – Mustafa Centre

Mustafa Centre is a popular destination for tourists looking for cheap souvenirs. The place is a 24 hours shopping centre selling just about anything and everything from watches, to cooking ware, food items, electrical items, shoes, bags, perfume, memorabilia and much more. The place is situated within walking distance from Farrer Park MRT. It’s quite simple to get there as there are signboards leading towards the place and since it’s a popular spot, you can simply ask anyone around and they’ll lead you the way.

Some of the popular items here were the perfumes which are sold at cheaper prices and also food items such as chocolates and snacks which would make a great souvenir.

They also have a food centre at the rooftop floor where I had some really good indian cuisine. I took the escalator up but you can also access the floor from certain elevators. I ordered the mango lassi, lamb kebab and pakoras.

I also walked away with a new phone casing for my Samsung S3. Yes I still use an S3 and it’s very rare to find phone cases for this nowadays. So I was glad to find this one for 10 dollars.