Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Getting around Tokyo and Kyoto

Just came back from Land of the Rising Sun and I am so excited that I feel like blogging about it. I absolutely love Japan, the people are so friendly, the place is clean and just everything Japan is awesome except...the language barrier. Gosh, I should try learning some Japanese (or Korean first? *sigh*).

This time around I went to Japan with my former housemates of A-5-5 Plaza Prima Setapak. The last time we all went on a trip together was back in June 2011 to Taiwan. I was pretty excited since I have never been to Japan before but I have heard that visiting there is fun but confusing. So, initially when the group decided not to join any travel agencies but rather to walk on our own, I was pretty worried. But in the end I am glad we did decided to venture on our own. Of course, we had our own share of problems such as bringing our heavy luggage across train stations, getting lost when it came to searching directions of the places that we want to go and not knowing what to eat.

I took up the challenge of planning our itinerary in Tokyo and that means first and foremost I had to learn about the Tokyo subway lines.

***Here, I want to thank Stephy so much for helping to answer my enquiries about Tokyo since she went there in Oct 2012***

When I first saw it, my mind went blank and I ignored procrastinated it for a few days before finally taking up the courage to finally learn it. Omg, how can anyone understand this confusing map? 

Anyway from what I gathered, there are mainly 3 operating subway lines that me and my friends used. Tokyo subway is divided into the 2 main lines (and different companies) - Tokyo Metro and Toei-Oedo plus few private subway lines. Tokyo Metro consists of 9 lines - Ginza (G), Marunouchi (M), Hibiya (H), Tozai (T), Chiyoda (C), Yurakucho (Y), Hanzomon (Z), Namboku (N) and Fukutoshin (F) whilst Toei-Oedo consists of 4 lines - Asakusa (A), Oedo (E), Mita (M) and Shinjuku (S). There are also private lines such as Yurikamome and Rinkai which brings you to Odaiba (which is one of the main attractions that we visited).

We bought the Tokyo Metro 2-day Open Pass which costs 980 yen (~RM34) which allowed us access on any of the 9 Tokyo Metro Lines but not on the 4 Toei-Oedo Lines and also not for any lines owned by private companies. There is also the Tokyo Open Subway Pass which actually allowed access on all 13 lines but it is only for one day and costs 1000 yen (~RM35). Buying our 2-day pass meant that we had to pay fares to places which can only be reached by Toei-Oedo Lines such as Tokyo Metropolitan Govt Office observatories, Tsukiji Fish Market and Asakusa Sensoji Temple.

Another famous thing I have heard from many travellers to Japan is the JR Pass. It gives you access to any JR lines which are usually long distance trains. So, if you are planning to go to places such as Kyoto, Osaka, Hokkaido, Iwate, etc. it is advisable to get one of these. However, there are 6 types of JR Passes - the JR Central, JR Shihoku, JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR West and JR Kyushu. It is good to first look up which places do these passes covered before deciding which pass to get. We bought the main JR Pass as we were going to Kyoto. It costs 28300 yen (~RM1047) for the ordinary pass for a minimum of duration of 7 days.

You cannot buy the JR Pass in Japan. You have to purchase the exchange order first at your own country. But to do so, means you also have to do your visa first as they required a copy of it. After getting your exchange order you may then exchange it for JR Passes at any JR Exchange Offices located in main subway stations across Tokyo. We exchanged ours at Shinjuku station. Read more here:

Besides travelling long distance across Japan, JR pass can also be used within Tokyo. The JR Yamanote line links several main stations such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Hamamatsucho, etc. At Hamamatsucho station, you can also use JR Pass to take Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport.

Navigating through the subway stations is actually pretty simple if you know beforehand which station you want to go. There are clear signboards (written in English too!) all over the stations. The only problem for us was knowing which exit to go to in order to reach the place of attraction. For that, you may need a Tokyo Map. If you don't have one, I highly recommend you pick up a Tokyo Handy Guide at the Japan Tourism Information Centre at Haneda Airport (the book in orange). It has a simple map of each major areas of Tokyo.

Also, in order to know the best transfer routes, you should definitely download iphone apps (I forgot which one my friend used, sorry!) that teaches you which lines you should transfer to get from one station to another. I used this website which was so helpful for me in planning our subway routes.

That is mainly about our transportation in Tokyo. For Kyoto, we bought the All Day Kyoto Bus Pass which costs 500 yen (~RM18) that allowed us on any Kyoto buses within a certain area of coverage. However that area covers mainly all the famous tourist attractions so it is also a good idea to get one considering that you have to pay 220 yen each time you get into a Kyoto bus. If you don't like waiting around for buses, Kyoto has 2 subway lines - Tozai and Karasuma. You can also use JR Pass to access JR Nara Line that brings you to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Read more in here: 

When you purchase the bus pass, they will also provide a bus route map for you which will teach you which buses are available for you to transfer. But the problem we had with the map was it did not teach you which bus stop on which side of the road were we supposed to wait for =.=

Okay, that is all I know about transportation in Japan. Going to start my resolution to blog more ;) 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

how now brown cow

Yippee, leaving for Land of The Rising Sun today.

But hor....





I GOT FLU!!!!!!

So how now brown cow? Of all times, I have to catch the cold bug now. And temperatures keep dropping at Japan right now. How to survive the cold weather when I already caught the flu?

ANDUEEEEEEE!!!!!! :( :( :( :(

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pangkor Days

In September of oh-twelve, another memorable trip happened.

This time the destination to the island of Pangkor, Perak. With BF friends. It was a short trip, just the weekend but food and jokes were aplenty throughout the whole journey.

pic credit: phon
The 10 of us started our journey in 2 cars, stopping for breakfast at Old Town in what was terrible weather conditions - strong winds and heavy rain during wee hours of morning.

Oppa gangnam style fever
Lunch time! Food was awesome, I really don't know how my friends always seem to know where to find good eats, no matter whichever states we are in.

Finally, we arrived at Anjungan Resort:

Swimming pool shaped like a boat
The place where we stayed during the weekend was so awesome I am going to put the link *here* LOL. We booked the family room for 4 pax.

snippets of our room

Moi roomies
The room had 2 storeys. Wished it was slightly bigger coz we had 6 girls lol. But it was real comfy and sometimes too comfortable that we really don't feel like leaving the room!

Picturesque view
As soon as we arrived and unpacked our belongings, it was time to head for the beach, which was strategically located right opposite our resort. Goodness knows how long it has been since I last went to a beach. Lucky for us it was almost sunset as we swam in the water, so it was not too hot.

pic credit: phon
As us girls swam, the guys build the fire. I felt bad because it was such a tough job building a fire from scratch, and then making sure it is fiery enough for barbecue-ing. Definitely not easy, really applaud the guys. I didn't really help much since my wilderness survival skills are practically non-existent. I will die if they throw me inside a forest :(

That night we had barbecue dinner by the sea with flashlights guiding us. One of my favourite moments was just sitting by the beach with the waves crashing onto my legs as I looked up at the night sky. Really relaxing and I don't mind doing that for hours.

On that same night, the party continued at the guys' room where we had a small birthday celebration surprise for Wai Loon! I don't think he was that freaked out lol but it was a real memorable moment too =)

Favourite photo! Pic credit: Phon
Alas, the next day was our last day at Pangkor.

Pic credit: Mel
The morning started off with breakfast done in what else but BF style - bread with kaya and butter topped off with cheezels and twisties. Surprisingly it tasted good. I had fun making them for others as well.

Some of them swam in the pool, some went to the beach to enjoy the view, some just sat at the deck chairs while some relaxed in the room. One remained asleep all the way.
Me: Phon, what is the check-out time?
Phon: When Phak Hoe wakes up.
Me: =.=!!
And trust the guys to deliver our food supplies to the pool - just throwing them from the balcony =.=!

the next kpop boyband. pic credit: phon
Before we knew it, it was time to pack our stuff, bade goodbye to Anjungan, got into a van and then took a boat back to Lumut.

Some fun photography sessions ensued while waiting for our boat. How coincidental that our boys were all dressed in white tees. Nobody asked them to posed this way as well. Apparently, they all just thought it was "cool". Posers =.=!
Blurry sunset
One last food destination needed - seafood at Tanjong Karang with sunset view :)

The sunset aptly symbolize the end of our short but fun trip. It was time to head back to reality, back to KL. So sad :(

P.S. I know the pic is crappy. Took it with Iphone.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Ipoh food brings KL friends together

Wanted to write a nice post to start off 2013 but didn't know what to write about. The usual route would be of course, a recap for 2012.

How was 2012 for me? Well, it was good but also bad. It was the year I officially made the move from a houseman to a fully registered pharmacist, complete with license and all. But now, I am stuck with a job that leaves me confused and at times, unsatisfied.


But the highlight of 2012 was all the wonderful trips I took, made sweeter with the best travel companions. One of it was the BF trip to Ipoh back in June 2012.

Honestly, I don't really travel much around Malaysia. There are only 3 places in Malaysia I feel is worth travelling to - Malacca, Penang and Ipoh. Because these places offer the most awesome food!  Best part of this trip is that we have Ipoh people (well, partially) to bring us to all the best places offering local delights :)

pic credit: Phon
The participants

#1: We start off our food adventure in Ipoh with brunch at a coffee shop absolutely packed with people. Custard was so sweet, so heavenly for sweet tooth people like me. We also ordered a few other dishes - satay of meat and innards, chee cheong fun and soup noodles.

Suzanne brought along her polaroid camera. Her film is awesome with coloured frames! How coincidental is the fact that her nail polish was matchy-matchy with the polaroids?

#2: After brunch, time for tau foo fah! Thankies to the guys who braved the long queue to get us some famous and delicious tau foo fah.

#3: Lunch was "yim kuk kai" (salted chicken) bought from a famous shop. We practically ate both the chicken down to its bones. It was salty but so so delicious. As you can see from the photo above, why use chopsticks when we can use hands? Lol.

#4: Dinnertime! One cannot go Ipoh and not try their famous "nga choy kai" (bean sprouts and chicken). This is practically the most well-known dish of Ipoh. We went to the same place that Suzanne used to bring me when I visited Ipoh back in 2007. This place is famous but notorious for its long waiting time as only one man is preparing all the dishes.

#5: Suppertime! I seriously don't know how I was able to digest that amount of food in the 24 hours time span. Although it was kind of late, surprisingly there were still so many people having supper that night. Sotong rojak and mixed fruits ice kacang with ice-cream was our choice for late-night meal.

We went back tired but with our stomachs full. Suzanne's grandmother so graciously allowed us to stay at her house during the weekends.  

#6: Day 2 started off with brunch at Foh San restaurant, the restaurant well-known for its dim sum. I also came here back in 2007 but the place has changed much since then. They renovated the place to a much bigger venue, to accomodate the increasing crowd, no doubt. However, the taste has changed too. It was not as delicious as I remembered it to be, sadly.

But, we still ate to our hearts' content.

#7: And after that, we went back again to the same coffee shop the from previous morning to meet Melody's cousin and his family. Their daughter is so so so adorable ok. 

Ok, after all the food pictures, now are the random pics I took:

An abandoned house. It was at Concubines' Lane where rich men's mistresses used to stay back in the good ol' days. I bet this house tells many stories.

Captured this photo from inside the car. Love how the bright colours of old buildings complement the bright blue sky.

I have been thinking of getting a lomo camera for a while now but I also love polaroid cameras. We wrapped up our weekend getaway at Ipoh with this group photo.

Okay, now for more awesome pics taken by friends:

pic credit: wailoon
pic credit: phon
pic credit: wailoon
Models: Mel, Kian Ti and Ben
Photographers: Wai Loon and Phon
Location: Concubines' Lane, Ipoh

This sequence of "dramatic" photos taken at Ipoh are my all-time favourite pics because they are so funny. From jump shots to this. Only found among crazy people like BFClassmates :)



(unless you ask ms blogger first)