Hong Thai Travel: 8 Days Hokkaido/Tokyo: Day 2

// To recap, we signed up for Hong Thai Travel’s 8 Days Hokkaido / Tokyo tour package and in this post and the upcoming posts, I will be sharing them via the days (e.g Day 1, Day 2 etc) but if some locations interest me enough, I will share them in details in a post on its own! This is so if anyone is researching on Hong Thai Travel’s tour package, you can have an idea on what to expect. So stay tuned!

Day 2 was a fun filled day with plenty of activities!

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We woke up bright and early for breakfast before heading to Hokkaido Jingu / Hokkaido Shrine. As the intended Naebo Yukijirushi Factory is full, we were brought to Hokkaido Jingu instead. It was a peaceful shrine and it is the only shrine where you can get Hello Kitty embroidered amulet. Great for Hello Kitty lovers, however the guide told us not to pray at this shrine as this shrine was build for the then Emperor Meiji who was involved in World War 1. I will be sharing more pictures in another post!

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We then proceeded to Ishiya White Chocolate Museum which also deserves a post on its own!

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After Ishiya White Chocolate Museum, we visited Tokei-Dai, which was the first western university in Japan. All of the campus building were destroyed except the main building which houses the oldest clock house in Japan. This wooden building dates back to 1870s!

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After visiting 3 sites in the morning, we stopped for our lunch, DIY tempura lunch which was a disaster. Whoever came out with this idea is seriously insane. In the middle of our table is a hotpot filled with boiling oil, we gingerly put in the sticks of flour coated ingredient, but was scalded by oil popping out from the pot! OMG! I got scalded a few milimeters away from my eyes which resulted in a light scar. I could have been blinded! I know I’m just being a whiny drama queen, but this was a bad idea.

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After lunch, we headed to Sapporo Beer factory where we were walked through the beer making process and treated with 2 glasses of Sapporo beer! Great for beer fan!

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We then headed to Shiraoi Ainu Village to learn more about their aboriginal cultures. Will share more of this place in another post too!

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Another highlight of the trip, is to visit Hell Valley, a spectacular valley just above the town of Noboribetsu Onsen. It displays hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity and is a main source of Noboribetsu’s hot spring waters. I’m a geography student back in my school days and I love visiting sights like these. A warning though, it stinks really bad. I almost give up the walk but press on with tons of tissue covering my nose! Will share more of this place too!

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We were then checked into a hotel where we need to sleep on Tatami at the Noboribetsu town. The lake view out the window is spectacular and there is an in-house hot spring public bath at the hotel. The facility is very much like a public swimming pool and I wasn’t tempted to soak myself in there. We were then served with in-house traditional dinner which wasn’t too bad.

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During summer, the lake in front of the hotel has mini fireworks display, and it was great to enjoy a cool walk by the lake watching fireworks! This is life! And this concludes the second day of our 8 days tour!

Hong Thai Travel: 8 Days Hokkaido/Tokyo: Day 1

// To recap, we signed up for Hong Thai Travel’s 8 Days Hokkaido / Tokyo tour package and in this post and the upcoming posts, I will be sharing them via the days (e.g Day 1, Day 2 etc) but if some locations interest me enough, I will share them in details in a post on its own! This is so if anyone is researching on Hong Thai Travel’s tour package, you can have an idea on what to expect. So stay tuned!

Day 1 was the most painful of all. The journey to Hokkaido was treacherous. Ok ok, maybe I am exaggerating a little. The overnight journey via Japan Airlines to Tokyo wasn’t that bad. It definitely wasn’t SQ standard, the food was not fantastic, but it was comfortable.

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Food served on Japan Airlines

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After 5 odd hours on the plane, we finally reach Nippon land! Oops, that’s me looking tired without makeup. My bad.

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We had almost 5 hours to transit to Hokkaido and it was a long 5 hours. Ate some crappy expensive curry rice at the Airport.

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Thereafter, we started shopping and walking around their domestic airport. Bought a small pack of Tokyo banana to share before hopping back on to continue our journey to Sapporo, Hokkaido!

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The first stop to visit in Hokkaido was Sapporo city. It in the late afternoon and yes, the transiting and traveling wasted most of our first day. We were brought to Odari Park where we get some time to walk about and shop in their underground shopping street.

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There are Zakka stores like these at the underground shopping street that has many pretty household items!

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There is a departmental store selling all yummy treats and we got ourselves the popular chocolate coated freeze dry strawberry to try! Yums. Love the sweet and sour combination.

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There was also a supermarket at the underground shopping street, and we can’t wait to have a taste of the famous Hokkaido melon!

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Shortly after the walk about at the underground shopping street, we were brought to enjoy a steamboat buffet. Nothing to rave about as the soup was practically water. There wasn’t any taste at all. There were unlimited shabu meat ranging from chicken, pork, beef and lamb but everything else is non refillable. Yes, very strange, vegetables and noodles were chargeable but not the meat. Strange ya?

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After dinner, we were whisked to our hotel and it gosh, the bed looks inviting. It was a pleasant stay and the room is spacious and comfortable.

That concludes our non eventful Day 1.

Overview of Hong Thai Travel: 8 days Hokkaido/Tokyo (Aug 14)

It has been a really long time since I last blogged and it only goes to show that my life is filled with fun filled activities! I hardly find the time to sit down in front of my Mac to blog nowadays! On top of my usual 3 days of yoga per week, I’ve got to go for 3 sessions of chiropractic therapy per week. Gosh. Anyway, I’ve got lots to share, first up will be on my Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel, Hanoi trip with my company, Lighthouse Tour organized by National Heritage Board and upcoming in September, a short getaway to Tioman! Hehe. If you miss me on WordPress, you can follow me on Instagram here! Just search for somethingboutrenes!

Back to my Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel, due to some last minute arrangement and family constraints in terms of traveling period, we decided to go with whichever tour agency that has a confirmed departure during our intended travel period. In the end, we signed up for Hong Thai Travel’s 8 days Hokkaido/Tokyo tour.

Pros
Generally, the hotels provided in the tour was comfortable and spacious, unlike typical Japanese hotels which I stayed in most of the time. The food arranged was also wide in variety with opportunities to try Hokkaido’s crabs and top up for expensive food. The tour leader (a Hong Konger) was a typical uncle, he was also rather caring and self sacrificial in bringing the group around during his free time. He also brought us to one or two more additional sights which is not in the intended itinerary when time permits.

Cons
Some of the down sides, like all other package tour, most of the places we went to were touch and go, we didn’t get to enjoy enough time to truly soaked in the atmosphere. As the group is a rather some group of 20, there were no local tour guide allocated to us. So in the end, details of local cultures and history were not shared during the trip. We also picked a wrong package of squeezing both Hokkaido and Tokyo in one trip as we didn’t get to see much of Hokkaido in the short span of time, but yummy Ichiran Ramen and shopping in Tokyo more than made up for it. The route in this package also did not cover Furano which is famous for their huge flower fields and Lavender in June/July/early August. Lastly, it was not the best season to visit Japan, Summer in early August in Hokkaido is still bearable with occasional cool breeze but Tokyo was crazy warm!

So if you ask me if I would recommend this package tour of 8 Days in Hokkaido/Tokyo if given a choice, I would not recommend. I would love to visit Hokkaido on a free and easy pace in the future but as we were traveling with parents and in a group of 6, logistically speaking, package tour is the way to go.

During the trip, the trip was not planned according to the above itinerary, the flow of sights was ammended but all the sights stated was covered. In the upcoming posts, I will be sharing them via the days (e.g Day 1, Day 2 etc) but if some locations interest me enough, I will share them in details in a post on its own! So stay tuned!

Creamier Ice Cream Parlour at Toa Payoh, Singapore

Tucked in the corner of a mature public housing estate in Toa Payoh, there is an ice cream parlour gaining popularity for it’s waffle and handcrafted ice cream. The sweet buttery scent of waffle can be detected a few shop units away and as you approach the store, you will be greeted with a huge crowd queuing up for their ice cream and tons of people squeezing in their tiny cafe. I beg I don’t have to tell you the name of the cafe and everyone from all over our tiny island would have known which cafe I’m talking about! It’s Creamier and we thought it is finally time to give them a try!

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Creamier
128, Toa Payoh Lorong 1. #01-835, Singapore 310128

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Their ice cream is good, not too sweet, smooth and yummilicious flavours. Their waffle is worth all the raves but their queue and crowd is pure madness. Would visit them again? Probably but not on a Friday or Saturday evening.

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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正纪念堂), Taipei, Taiwan

I am in so much trouble, there are still so many backlog posts for my Taiwan trip and I am traveling to Hanoi on 26 July and Hokkaido in 31 July! We are also planning a Tioman trip in September! Haha. Our friends are teasing us and asking if we are changing our job to full time traveler and how I wished that’s true.

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Back to sharing on our Taiwan trip! We decided to wake up early one morning to visit Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall since our hotel  (Hotel 73) in Taipei is only 5 minutes walk away!

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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正纪念堂) is a famous monument, landmark and tourist attraction erected in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, former President of the Republic of China. It is open and free entrance to public between 9am to 6pm.

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We decided to head there before 9am to witness the grand opening of the bronze door and the entrance of the guard and guard changing performance. The usual guard changing happens every hour but the opening is a performance not to be missed!

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ABRACADABRA! TADAH!

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After watching the opening performance and taking the obligatory picture with Mr Chiang, we headed down to their art and history exhibition hall which is also free and open to public!

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Penny University at Katong, Singapore

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A few weeks back, we happened to be in the east during one of the weekends to run some errands. It was a crazy day where we get to Simei to buy facial products, Tampines to get a bed from Courts, Ikea to get some containers and delivering the containers to my office in Bedok there after. Decided to take a break after all the rush before visiting my parents in the North West, we stopped by Penny University at Katong for an afternoon snack.

PENNY UNIVERSITY

402 EAST COAST ROAD
SINGAPORE 42899

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This is me when I’m running errand, bare faced in T-shirt and specs. Heh.

Mid day break at Penny University was an excellent decision! Even though we were both not coffee drinkers, we love their brunch and we love how each dish is not overpriced! Here is a quick review of some of the dishes we ordered! Yums.

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Double Poached Eggs on Toast (SGD 6.50). If you love Poached Eggs and Marmite on toast, you will love this!

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Citrus Moroccan Chicken (SGD 6.50). This was an interesting dish that surprised us. Love the combination of a savory flavouring e.g Cajun infused with citrus and mandarin oil. The spice and the tang in a salad makes it great combination!

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Vanilla Infused Greek Yogurt with Granola (SGD 6) and berries! Even though I can probably prepare this at home, we just can’t resist yogurt with granola and berries.

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How can we complete a meal without dessert. We tried resisting their Lemon and Strawberry tart but failed terribly. It was good. How can I say no to lemon tart? Especially one with strawberry chucks in the bottom!

I know the amount of food we ate no longer sound like a snack. Haha. But it was all good. Yums.

Affordable Yoga Accessories from Fuzzy Flex

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Loving this henna design yoga mat bag from Fuzzy Flex!

Do you have trouble finding an affordable entry level Yoga mat and yoga accessories? I love Manduka’s yoga mat and our studio uses their pro series mat but gosh, they ranges between SGD 100 – 150! Because of the outdoor yoga event, I had to hunt for a yoga mat of decent quality. I used to own cheap yoga mat sold in Watson for SGD 10 during promotion but gosh, they are heavy, stink when you first use it and their grip is non existent. Recently I bought a new mat at Bedok Mall FairPrice Finest store and love that it is light, used eco friendly material and at an affordable rate of SGD 49! The fuzzy flex yoga accessories are designed in Singapore but made in China (are you even surprised? heh) and they offers free delivery in Singapore. If you are looking for an affordable yoga mat at a decent quality, you can probably give them a try! Here are a list of retailers they are sold in or get them direct from their website!

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Using their Yoga Mat and Mat towel!

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Do I look like a yoga hippee here! Heh.

Note : Yoga accessories featured here are bought and paid for on my own. No monetary rewards were given. All views expressed are purely of SomethingBoutRenes’s own.

Real Yoga’s Outdoor Yoga at Singapore Botanical Garden

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When most of you are still in bed this morning at 7.30 am after watching Argentina and Netherlands winning the game, there are whole lot of people at Singapore Botanical Gardens! There were seniors practicing Tai Chi, enthusiastic tourists, early morning joggers, dog walkers and us, the yoga lovers!

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Our studio organized Monthly Outdoor Yoga which is free for all to attend, and this month, we were at Singapore Botanical Gardens. I love practising in the outdoor! With crisp clean air, clear blue sky and birds chirping in the background, it was liberating! Looking forward to joining the next Outdoor Yoga! If you are keen to participate this free event open to all, you can check out our studio’s website here or their facebook page!

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Guide to Surviving Night Safari, Singapore

Last year during my birthday, I celebrated at the Singapore Zoo and River Safari with free admission for birthday girl! This year, we celebrated his birthday at the Night Safari! I realized that many of my friends do not know of this awesome promotion when I shared some pictures online! So here’s any shout out! For all Singaporean and Permanent Resident of Singapore, on your actual birthday, you will be entitled to free admission to all 4 major parks; Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park! If you have the strength and stamina, you can visit all of them in one day for Free! Haha. You can read more in my old post here.

In this post, because I have insider information (birthday boy used to work in Night Safari during his school days), I’m going to share a simple and insider guide to survive the Night Safari while it is still fresh in my head! We went on a Wednesday night and even though it is a weekday and non school holiday, it is crowded with throngs of tourists and tourists who came via tour group! If you choose to visit on a Friday or Weekend evening, there are additional Tiger / Lion feeding show which we missed out on. But nevertheless, it will be a great guide to share over here! Our trip was seamless and we went through the entire park smoothly without any frustration! Night safari is definitely recommended to visitors who want family friendly night activities!

So here goes!

(1) Aim to reach the park around 7 – 7.15pm
On a less busy day compared to weekends, this will give you ample of time to grab your tickets and go for the first animal show! On a weekend evening, you may want to reach even earlier to beat the crowd! The park opens at 7.30pm but the ticketing booth opens at 5.30pm!

(2) Go straight for the 7.30pm Animal Show

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If you happen to reach earlier, you will then grab a good seat at the animal show! We got there at around 7.30pm and all that is left are front row seats which is fine by us! What’s not to like when you get great view of the animals and for kids, you get a better chance to be picked to go on stage!

(3) Immediately exit the park and go back to the entrance near ticketing counters to watch the Thumbuakar Performance at 8pm

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Not sure why, our performance was only a quick 10 minutes show. Perhaps only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, will they show the full performance. Do remember to keep your tickets as you need them to enter the park after the show!

(4) Go for the walking trails

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Ok, it is at this point where people gets all frustrated. Usually most people will go for their tram ride first and the queue to the ride is really long! That’s because most of the tour groups will only go for the animal show followed by the tram ride, and that can be really frustrating for the rest of the free and easy visitors! So my advice is, go for the walking trails where it is extremely peaceful (at some point it is so dark it can be creepy) and get up close and personal with those nocturnal animals! My favourite would be the newly added Wallaby Trail where we get to get really close to the Wallabies! To walk the entire walking trail, it will take about an hour or two, depending on your pace!

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Fishing cat!

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Wallaby!

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The romantic and breathtaking night view you will get while walking the trail.

(5) Take the tram!

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After you have completed the entire walking trail, it will bring you back to the entrance plaza and here’s when you can relax and rest your feet on the tram! During the tram ride, you get to see some animals which are off limits to visitors who are walking the trail!

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(6) Complete your night with some sweet treats!

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We had to reward ourselves with some ice creams at Ben & Jerry’s as the birthday boy gets a 10% discount and after surviving through the walk and heat, we had to enjoy some ice cold sweet treats!

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Self Planned 9 Days 8 Nights Taiwan Family Tour Itinerary

I’ve got one reader who stumbled upon my blog and am asking about my Taiwan trip which I planned for the family! It will take me a long while before I share on all the sights and places we have visited so I’ve decided to share the itinerary and details of our trip over here! It includes all the costing, hotels, tour guide driver and flight details. Yes, I know it looks like an official and professional itinerary, I am just in love and crazy about planning our holiday! Haha. It is probably good to share them here and for my own future reference as well!

Let me know if you choose to download the document and find it useful! If there are any interesting sights which I missed out during this trip, do share as well! I may go back to Taiwan next year or the year after!

Download my Self Planned Itinerary here -> Taiwan Trip 10 – 18 May

Rock Formation at Ye Liu, Taiwan

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Many people told me that Ye Liu in Taiwan is overrated and extremely touristy but since most of us have not been there, I thought we should go see it on our own.

My conclusion? It is an interesting place but yes, it is really too touristy. In order to take picture with the famous Queen Head, there is a line to queue and it is guarded by a staff.

As I’m a geography student during ‘O’ levels, all natural phenomenon is interesting to me! Haha. From most of the pictures I saw, I expected the area to be sandy and muddy. But surprisingly, all the brownish ground is hard and solid. No slushy and sandy ground.
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This is not the queen but one of the princesses I think.

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It is beautiful if you can just enjoy the place and ignore the crowd. Our tour guide driver also pointed out two fossils on the ground. As these formations were under seawater million years ago, you can see some interesting fossils of creatures/plants.

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Lomo’Instant Camera by Lomography on Kickstarter

I used to own a Diana Mini Lomo camera until I spoiled it. I had trouble changing and putting on new films, often left the unfinished films in the camera and got really lazy to send the films in to develop into photos. I love the vintage and whimsical look but really dread taking pictures randomly just so I can quickly send them in to develop into photos. It also cost a lot to develop films nowadays and there were so many damaged or overexposure ones which I can no longer retake.

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I’ve heard of the Lomo’Instant Camera by Lomography on Kickstarter in May 2014 in a video but it never occur to me that I can pledge a sum and sort of pre-order one! It was only until last night when Alphania shared with me and I am so glad she did!

I no longer have to wait to develop a lomo picture and no longer have to take random pictures just to complete the film! The camera will have lomo effect but on a Instax print!

I love the idea of Kickstarter where creators try to raise funds and get people to pledge some money and if the goal is reached, the creator will then use the money and make it happen. It is an interesting way to fund individuals or projects which may not be materialized without the funds. There is definitely some risks in funding these projects as it may all go down the drain should the project fails.

But Lomography being a reputable company for making lomo cameras, many were sold with their latest project! They aim to raise USD 1 million and they reached the goal last night! If you wish to support this project and secure one of the cameras, you have less than 45 hours to go! If you support them through this project, you can get free FREE Close-Up lens, selfie mirror, colour lens, and camera strap! All because they hit the various milestones in their fundraising!  They aim to deliver the product by end November 2014 and I am keeping my fingers crossed! I got the San Remo one! Pretty!

If you are living in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, instead of paying USD 25 for shipping and handling, you will only need to pay USD 15. I almost missed out on this until Alph told me. Read up here on how to do that. If you didn’t managed to get a package which comes with Fisheye and Portrait lens, you can add them for USD 30. Read up here.

 

 

Hua Shan Creative Park 1914, Taipei, Taiwan

It has been 2 weeks since I last blog and I really need to stop procrastinating and get down to penning down my Taiwan trip before I forget them!

In this post, we went to Hua Shan Creative Park 1914 in Taipei, Taiwan! I really love this place because of the vibe, it is a place where creativity flows where there were many interesting exhibits. But we went with my parents which is not the best company for modern art. Haha. We arrived too early and most of the shops/exhibits/flea market stalls only open after 11am – 12pm!

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While exiting the nearest train station, spotted these mosaic walls of a primary school. So pretty!

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If you see this structure, you are almost there!

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Isn’t this beautiful! The entrance of Hua Shan Creative Park 1914, it used to be a wine factory but was later converted to a creative space where there were galleries, exhibits and events.

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There was a beer event but tickets were sold out before the event day!

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A cute little tea house.

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Ignoring my failed attempt in having a creative pose, did you notice the root of the tree is surrounding the door frame?

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There were a few free exhibits but my favourite would be the one featuring art done by Aboriginals.

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There are a few gift shops and stores selling unique items too!

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I love all flea markets and especially those with handmade crafts and we are lucky to chance upon one there!

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Bought some of these pretty bands!

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Really pretty leather crafts but they are too pricey for my pocket.

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This store is my favourite! Timetraveler 1888 makes clocks which are laser cut from vinyl records. I got one for myself featuring Wizard of Oz but I really fell in love with the above cat one! But too bad I’m not quite a cat person (CW, you will probably love it!). The clock is really fragile and I got to handcarry them home! I got mine at close to SGD 68!

Cycling Around Family Owned Farms in Hualien, Taiwan

When on a holiday, I love wandering around and exploring the area in bicycle/scooter! When we were told that the Flower Happiness Bed & Breakfast in Hualien provides bicycle for us to ride around, we were thrilled! We made an effort to wake up early and went cycling around the various family owned farms!

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This is the view we get when we step out from our room the next morning! Wow!

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Early morning without makeup and extremely chirpy! Haha.

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Various lettuces and local greens! Most of the fruits and vegetables found in Hualien are locally farmed. According to the tour guide driver, he shared that when the Japanese colonize Taiwan, the people were given only 2 main topics to study on, agriculture or medicine. A lot of them took up agriculture and that explains why Taiwan fruits and vegetables are highly sought after internationally just like Japanese’s fruits and vegetables! We tried many of their fruits in Taiwan and there were so deliciously sweet! Yums.

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Chatted with one of the locals and found out that he once worked in Malaysia before! He had great impression of Singapore and love our stable political scene, clean and secure environment! I have to agree with him!

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I got permission to take picture with the zucchini he planted! Should have bought some from him! Fresh zucchini for breakfast. Haha.

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Isn’t it beautiful! I love rice paddy fields! You will noticed that there are many graves up on the hill and while cycling, we explored a little too far and found ourselves in a graveyard. Nothing eerie happened but I was uneasy with the idea of cycling in there and got out pretty quickly.

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Spoke to another farmer and he was upset that the tomatoes he farmed got sick and died.

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Sneaked into another unattended farm to take picture of melons!

Flower Happiness Bed & Breakfast, Hualien, Taiwan

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Flower Happiness Bed & Breakfast (website)in Hualien is another Minsu stay which left a great impression! The rooms are spacious, prettily decorated and clean and the air is clean because it is in an area with lots of family owned farms! The best of all, we were served with desserts and coffee/tea once when we got there and their Tiramisu is good! Love their homemade porridge breakfast too. They even provide bicycles for us to ride around the neighbourhood! Wee!

The only issue we had is that in general, Hualien has lots of mosquito during summer. RAWR. Haha.

Here are the pictures!

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Model Piano perfect for phototaking!

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The bicycles are not in the best conditions with some rust and all, but it worked fine for us!

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The owner is building another Mushroom house to expand his Minsu business!

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Where we had our high tea!

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High Tea Desserts!

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Breakfast area!

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Simple and light breakfast!

This is one of the rooms we got, it is a room for 4 but was available so we got upgraded!

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It is so spacious that my sister and I did yoga at night in the room! Haha.

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This is the other room!

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Came with a tub and slightly more fancy!

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The view we all got! Mountains everywhere and clean fresh air! Will share in the next post on our cycling adventure!

Alishan National Scenic Area, Taiwan

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The forest walk in Alishan National Scenic Area is another highlight of our trip! I love walking among these magical trees where many of them are more than thousands of years old!

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2170 metres above sea level, the weather was perfect except a few showers / drizzles during our walk. Haha.

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Took a mini bus ride from Alishan carpark to the forest walk entrance and walked past this pretty train station!

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The forest behind me looks like a scene out of Harry Potter / Twilight! Haha.

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We walked for a couple of hours and thankfully the boardwalks made the walk enjoyable and manageable.

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A small old school suspension bridge!

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The magic about these trees is how they grow in different shapes!

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Trees above a few thousand years old are considered sacred and they build a couple of tomb like monuments for those trees which died.

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Beautiful pond in the forest.

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Minsu: 歐風小鎮, Europe Villa, Cingjing, Taiwan

I have so many pictures and posts to share on my Taiwan trip but I can’t find enough energy to share them! I do hope I can share them all before my Hanoi trip in July! Rawr!

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So in this post, I will be sharing my favourite place we stayed during our trip. All of our hotels and Minsu (homestay) are planned and booked by our Tour Guide Driver and this one, Europe Villa, in particular is my favourite!

Minsu, homestay, in Taiwan comes in all themes and sizes and even though it is mostly run by families, they can be so well run that it feels like a hotel!

This Minsu is really beautiful and I love the cottage theme decor! The staffs are extremely helpful and friendly and the rooms are really comfortable and clean! The location of the Minsu is up in the mountains in Cingjing and the air and view are terrific! Two thumbs up!

We only reach this Minsu at night and at first upon entering this place, it seems a little spooky but when in the morning, it was breathtaking!

The photos doesn’t do it justice! Trust me on this, this place is the best! Haha.

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The flowers are fresh ones!

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There were three bedrooms allocated to us and each on various levels from ground to third level. We were forced allocated the room on the third level but in the end, we were rewarded with a fake fire place which flickers like the real deal! Haha. The other two rooms in the other levels came with a boring electric heater but ours flickers!

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Spot the little details of their Cottage logo everywhere!

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This is the view we got at the balcony! On the far right, you can see the most expensive Minsu, approximately S$630 per night for their cheapest suite. It is the The Old England which looks like a castle!

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We woke up early for breakfast and a walk around the place!

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This is our only western breakfast in our trip! Most of our breakfast served in other hotels are porridges and we were just so sick of it! This breakfast was definitely welcomed and the small homemade butter roll is to die for! Yums!

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Spot the little cottage logo again! It is the shape of the overall building.

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The lobby of this place is so pretty too!

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Exploring the secret garden.

DIY Jade at Lu-Fung Jade Workshop, Hualien, Taiwan

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My mum and her auntie pattern. Haha.

Lu Fung Official Website
Address: No. 91 Zhongxiao Street, Shoufong Township, Hualien, Taiwan.
Email: lufung97@yahoo.com.tw
Tel: +8863 865 2323

After Jade hunting at Baibao creek shared in the previous post, we went to Lu Fung Jade Workshop (如豐琢玉工坊) nearby to have our raw jade made into accessories. If you didn’t bring your own Jade, you can also pick some rough ones at the workshop to try DIYing your own jade accessories at a fee. You get to take them home.

This workshop is funded by the government to retain the heritage of jade booming industry back in the 1920s – 1940s. Back then, Taiwan jade was mined by the Japanese and was extremely famous around the world. In the town where Baibao creek is, many families survived on Jade crafts and the town was prospering. But after years of prosperity, the town got complacent and the industry died. In order to preserve this part of the history, the government support Lu Fung Jade workshop which allowed visitors to learn more on Jade processing.

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Above is a quick recap of what we picked!

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Here’s how to differentiate a jade versus a rock, jade allows light to penetrate!

There are five steps in the process.

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Step 1: Cutting them to reveal more details and characteristics of the raw jade. In the above picture, the raw jade is huge and that is the size you will pick when you go after Typhoon season!

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Remember the big green one we picked? The Jade craft master cut it into half to reveal the jade inside. Isn’t it amazing? What looks like a rough rock revealed the beauty of the jade inside! The master advised us to keep the jade as per the way it is. After cutting it into halves, it looks like a rugged jade mountain paperweight.

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Step 2 & 3: It involves the designing and cutting of the rock to the desired shape.

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Step 4: Smoothing out the jade using sand paper like material. This is really tough! While trying it out, I hear my fingers getting scratched!

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We are not very good students. We really suck at it. Haha.

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Trying hard to focus on it but still sucks.

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Gave up and got the master to do it!

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Step 5: Polishing and Buffering the jade using horse skin. This step we left it entirely to the master as it requires great technique and tolerance for heat!

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Step 6: Assembling and adding finishing touch.

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That’s my final product! A teardrop shape keepsake! The transformation is amazing! There is a Chinese Proverbs which goes

“玉不琢不成器,人不学不成才” which is translated as “Jade must be carved and polished before it becomes an ornament, man must be educated before he can achieve great things.” and yes, isn’t it true!

Jade Picking at Bai Bao Creek, Hualien

Another one of my favorite destination in our Taiwan Trip is Bai Bao Creek (白鮑溪) in Hua lien. During a holiday, I prefer to be engaged in an activity while taking in the scenery, it definitely beats just making a photo stop at a location.

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At Bai Bao Creek, we were there to hunt for jade! As the source of the stream flows from an old Jade mine, there are plenty of raw Jades left for picking even after the miners stop mining them.

According to our tour guide driver, around 3 days after the typhoon seasons, the jades which are picked are bigger than palm size and they are rolling around you for your picking. Usually the aboriginals will go upstream in the forested area to pick them and sell them to the nearby Jade workshop. Even though there are plenty of jades to pick after Typhoon season (October – November), it is a dangerous activity (plenty of snakes), takes a lot of energy (to carry those rocks down) and requires a lot of luck (it must be around 3 days after typhoon season). Our tour guide driver once happened to be available for picking and managed to lug down a whole bag full of jade!

Even though it wasn’t Typhoon season during our picking (mid May), we did manage to pick a few in that 1 – 2 hours of picking. It requires some techniques, patience and luck!

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That’s my family hunting for jade! There are a lot of back bending activities, lifting huge boulders aside, balancing in the fast moving streams and algae covered rocks and attempting to differentiate between rocks and jades!

A few characteristics of raw jade, they are green and when put against sunlight, it is a little translucent.

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Too bad we are only there for a short 1 – 2 hours, otherwise, I would love to swim in the stream! The water is crystal clear and very cooling! Perfect for a dip during a hot day!

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That’s me and my sister showing off all the loots we picked! To give credit to the real pickers, my Dad picked one decent size and quality jade which is suitable for further processing, my sister’s boyfriend picked one decent size and quality jade and a few rough ones of good size. I picked a lot of tiny ones which we can’t do much with them and my mum picked a huge rock with only 5% of jade content in there while my better half, he got none as the heat got into him. Haha.

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You see the big black one? That’s the one my mum found! Haha. She was resting and playing with water most of the time. It seems like we picked a lot, but there is only 2 which can be further processed. The rest is either too thin or that there are cracks in the jade which is not suitable for processing.

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The big green one was found by the tour guide driver! He is good! In the next post, I will share how it looks like after processing them!

“8 reasons why I feel like the Luckiest Girl on Earth”

Here is a post which I have been meaning to write. It is a post all about him and I felt so proud of him while writing this post. No, I am not sharing who he is here but I would like to share on why he is such a great person to love. I often read articles shared on Facebook like “When you know you are dating a gentleman” or “Top 10 things that differentiate a man and a boy” and all.

Here is my very own list of “8 reasons why I feel like the luckiest girl on Earth” and I feel really proud penning this down. Basically, it is a list of things which guys can do (some of the points are very broad and can apply to girls too) if you want your girl to feel like the luckiest girl on earth. HAHA.

“8 reasons why I feel like the luckiest girl on Earth”

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  • Because he sacrifices his own comfort for my comfort without a word of complaint

He often picks me up from Yoga even after his own workout session just to ensure that I have my dinner and that I get home safety and comfortably. The yoga studio is usually either in town or in the north and it takes a long time for me to get home. Very often, I will just settle for bread as dinner after the session because of the traveling time. But he will rush his workout session and dinner, just so he can pick me up!

  • Because he spends time with my family, actively talk to my granny and participate in family activities

You know how sometimes you feel that it’s such a chore to talk/spend time to/you’re your relatives and families where they can be longwinded and intrusive? But whenever we visit my family, he will actively talk to my grandma and participate in whatever that is going on. My grandma even told me that he is very easy to love. Haha. Awww.

  • Because he often makes me look good in front of his family

He often initiates to buy food and gifts for his family and when we present the gifts for them, he will often say it is from me! Tell me how not to love this man? But that aside, he still shares my clumsy and forgetful moments with his family just to tease and laugh at me. So perhaps, he doesn’t exactly paint a good picture of me in front of his family. Haha.

  • Because he loves me for who I am

He is rather accepting of my clumsy, forgetful, overthinking, emo and messy nature. Instead of nagging me, he chooses to advise, laugh, poke and tease me. This man accepts whatever I am and is amused most of the time.

  • Because he makes me a better person

Sometimes he is my better half (the other time, I am!) where he teaches me to take care of my health, drink more water and exercise more. His love for his family and sacrificial love even for his extended family makes me want to be a better person like he is too. Whenever his family asked him to pick up his aunt from the dialysis centre even on a Saturday night where it can be disruptive to his social plans, he has no complaints. He never once needed to be asked to send or pick up his family members when they go on a holiday.  He is also a kind person. Do you know of anyone who picks up snails on the road and put them to the grass patch just so it won’t be crushed by pedestrians? Perhaps the snails will be screaming silently “Not this WAY!” but he saved their lives. Haha.

  • Because he don’t mind spending extravagant amount on gifts on special occasion but it must be useful and can make me happy

So I will never receive my Chanel 3.55 from him but boy, he got me a Cable Box when I am stuck in a room with four walls and no entertainment, an iPad Air so that we can watch movies on budget flight to holidays and now, he is going to sponsor half of the tour package for the upcoming New Zealand trip for my birthday! But at this rate of spending, we will never be rich. Boo. Haha.

  • Because he is my cheerleader and motivator in life

Sometimes he inevitably stresses me when he asks me when I’m going yoga, not because he wants to stress me but just because he needs to make arrangement to pick me up.  This ensures that I go for my yoga lessons at least three times a week. After each session, without fail, he will say good job and I felt like a shining star thereafter!

  • Because I can learn new things from him

He has the most amazing knowledge on cooking and animals which was accumulated from the years of watching food channels and Nat Geo/ Animal Planet.  He has so many fun facts about animals that I’ve never heard before. At times, I will doubt him of the theory though. Haha.

So what are some things your other halves do that makes you feel like the luckiest person? Do share and add to the list!

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