Tioman Trip Part II: Snorkeling!

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In this second post on our recent Tioman Trip, it is when it gets exciting! Snorkeling! The highlight of the trip. In our full board package, there is a complimentary half day snorkeling trip to Renggis Island and Marine Park. In additional to this 2 sports, we also went on our own to snorkel at another snorkeling spot which is at the extreme right of our resort., I suspect it’s the Tomok Island Our conclusion? The best spot was the snorkeling spot at our resort and the worst was the Marine Park!

As you can tell from the map above, there are many diving and snorkeling spots in Tioman! It is actually very popular among our Singaporean divers as it’s a cheap and accessible place!

I’ve zoomed in on the areas which we visited! Our resort is at Kampung Paya, we visited the Renggis Island and the Marine Park.

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Renggis Island

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You will notice that the pictures for Renggis Island turned out better as I used the underwater mode, but in the other two location, I tried auto mode which looks bad.

Renggis Island is basically a small rock island with some trees on it. In the water near to this island, there were many fishes and if you bring some bread along, all the fishes will be surrounding you. Too bad we didn’t bring any bread along but we are shameless enough to just follow a little boy and his family who brought along 4 loafs of bread. Yes! 4 loafs! Haha. I think the boy is more terrorize by us than the fish. I kept snapping photos right in his face and unaware that I was floating and swimming too close to him at some point in time. Haha.

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There aren’t many corals to look at but there are many fishes! This is another young chap which we terrorized! He broke the bread into small pieces and stuffed it into a plastic bottle! Smart one!

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Marine Park

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This was the worst of the lot. I seriously wonder where did all our RM 5 Marine Park Fee goes to if this is what they call a marine park?! The ones in Redang which I visited more than 10 years back looks better. Haha.

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Boo. I’m so flat and fat.

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The only difference you have at the Marine Park is that, the fishes are huge. Plus there is a floating platform which you can go jump around at. Some efforts can also be seen at the Marine Park where they create these concrete blocks to allow corals to grow in and this I learnt from my Langkawi trip earlier this year.

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The visibility at the Marine Park is also not the best as the ground was very sandy.

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Snorkeling Spot nearest to Paya Beach Resort (Suspect it’s Tomok Island)

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The last and the best spot which we went on our own. If you are staying in Paya Beach Resort, do venture there on your own! When facing the beach, it will be on your extreme right. There is a bit of a swim out from the beach, and the spot is behind the island! There are so many corals and different kind of sea creatures like sea urchin, sea cucumbers, corals and what looks like giant clams. There were also a lot more varieties of fishes!

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In my earlier post, I shared on my experience in the booking of our Tioman trip with Discovery Tours & Travel and also our stay at Paya Beach Resort. You can check it out over here. 

Tioman Trip Part I: Review of Discovery Tours & Travel and Paya Beach Resort

Last weekend, we headed to Tioman for our final holiday of 2014 before our hectic work starts during festive peak! The next holiday will only happen after Chinese New Year in 2015, and that’s in March onwards. Boo!

Anyway, back to our short 4 Days 3 Nights holiday to Tioman. Here is the first part on the review of Paya Beach Resort, Tioman! You can read more on our snorkeling experience in Tioman over here!

Review of Discovery Tours & Travel

We booked our holiday online through Discovery Tours & Travel and it was hassle free. The website allowed us to make payment, upgrade our package to full board and extend 1 day all at the same time. After making the booking and payment online, the sent us our receipt, 3 booking vouchers for land transport, ferry and hotel booking. A week before the booking, as there are some changes for our ferry timing, they also resend the vouchers to our email. A day before, they even texted us to remind us of the location, time and contact person to board our coach! When we returned, our ferry got delayed, but their tour guide waited patiently at the ferry terminal for everyone and ensured everyone has arrived before departing from the ferry terminal back to Singapore! The only down side? The coach provided was uncomfortable as it was a 40 seater coach. The pick up location was at DFS Galleria Scotts road at 6.30am and the drop off location was either at Woodlands Checkpoint or Newton Circles Hawker Centre at around 9pm where we had our late dinner.

Review of Paya Beach Resort, Tioman

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We opted for the most expensive room in Paya Beach Resort and am happy with the space in our Deluxe Suite. Here is an honest review of the place. When we opened our door, this ugly and dirty looking couch greeted us. It is a sofa bed which opens up to a single bed. But gosh, it is one hideous and dirty looking thing. So if you are thinking of booking the Deluxe Suite for a group of 4, think again.

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We were then terrorized by this ugly, dirty looking sofa which can sleep another 2 in the living room. In the living room, there was also a TV, a balcony facing the beach, and a toilet with shower facility. This was the worst of the so call suite. In the end, we used this space to put our luggage, and it did serve us well!

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It did get better when we get to the bedroom.

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The king size bed is huge, clean and comfortable and that is all that matters.

In the bedroom, there is another toilet. A semi outdoor area facing the beach. The jacuzzi tub was spoiled when we were there, but their technician promptly fixed it with a new pump. Their rain shower is great and the idea of showering in a semi open space with the sound of waves is liberating.

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There is another balcony facing the swimming pool in the bedroom.

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Overall, it is a comfortable stay. But, there were a few annoying traits for this resort.

  • Crazy Towel Control: They have a strict control on towels. There were only two bath towels given to us and if we need new towels, we need to bring them to the reception, go back to our room, and wait for the housekeeping team to bring us the towel. Yes, what’s wrong with them right?! When we check out of the room, we also need to show them the two towels, before we get our deposit back! This has brought us lots of inconvenience as it’s a beach resort, and we really need more than one. If we don’t ask for a change of towel, their housekeeping team do not change our towel. Is there some sort of towel thief lurking around?
  • No Phone: To make things worst, there is no phone in the room. Yes you heard me, no phone. So whenever we need a change of towel, or when our jacuzzi tub is spoiled, we had to walk to the reception to get help and go back to our room to wait.
  • Mozzies in the room: We brought our our electric insect repellent but after days of smelling that, our throat became dry. Once we switch of the repellent, we saw mosquitos in the room and was bitten too! Even though they claimed to conduct fogging every Thursday, mosquito is inevitable as they have a huge forest behind their resort filled with mosquitos!
  • No Wifi: YES! Isn’t it a nightmare? There is no Wifi in the room and not just that, the Wifi in the common area is extremely weak. It took me a long time to connect to Whatsapp and I could only upload 2 photos onto Instagram. Boo! But in the end, it was a great time to disconnect from work and the Internet world. So if you ideal holiday is to be unreachable, this resort is great!
  • 4 TV Channels: There were only 4 TV channels in there, HBO, CNN, sports channel and one other which I can’t remember. I’m glad I brought a book there and finish reading it on the trip.

The resort is pretty old as well and I won’t call our room a suite, it is probably just a huge chalet room. The only resort why we upgraded to Deluxe suite was because, only Deluxe room comes with a fridge and my traveling companion needs to have a daily intake of cold water. Don’t ask me why.

So how much does all these cost? It wasn’t expensive, in fact, if you can make do with cheaper rooms, it costs very little! We each paid SGD 407 (approx US$ 321) for our 4 days 3 nights package tour and it included the following.

    • 3 nights stay in Deluxe Suite (ahem chalet like), we extended 1 day to make the trip more relaxing
    • Daily buffet breakfast. If you are not picky, it is actually decent with fruits, veg, bread, cereal, eggs station and some cooked food
    • 1 lunch and 2 dinner. If you go during the peak period e.g school holidays or weekends, it will be buffet, otherwise it will be set meal. Don’t expect too much, the food was alright and it keeps you full.
    • 1 session of half day snorkeling trip to Renggis Island and Marine Park (will be sharing more in the other post)
    • 1 session of Guided Rock Fall walk. We tried to trek at the forest behind with vague instruction from the activity centre but couldn’t find the rock fall. Ended up getting bitten by mosquitos even though I was armed with many repellent accessories to prevent it.  You name it, I tried it. Ranging from repellent bands, spray, the latest Off personnel protection battery operated gadget and Sonic phone apps and yes, all these doesn’t work. They have some commandoes mosquitos in the forest.
    • Return Coach transport between Singapore and Ferry Terminal
    • Return Ferry transport between Ferry Terminal and Tioman

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A RM5 fee for Marine Park was not included and the rental of snorkeling gear was also not included. There were also a few meals not included were we didn’t have much food options.

Other than these, there weren’t much activity. The activity is to just laze by the beach, snorkeling and relax. We went for an hour full body massage and it was about SGD 50 if you do it between 10 am to 3pm, it wasn’t mind blowing or cheap but was definitely relaxing.

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We wanted to join their other paid activities like going to the Asah Waterfall at their Mukut Village, but they required a minimum of 6 person to join the tour.

Would I visit Paya Beach Resort again? Maybe as it was a cheap holiday with great snorkeling spots. But perhaps only with a big group of friends where we can play some board games or talk during the down time and go on their other paid activities!

A Special Gift for Baby Seth and a deal for all!

Taking a break from my holiday posts (yes, I do lead a normal lead, and I do wish I’m a full time traveler), I’m here to share a great deal for all mummies or friends of soon to pop mummies!

You know social media works when someone like me knows exactly what to get for a friend’s baby shower! Back in March 14, I read Lady J’s post on a perfect present for her friend’s little one and I thought it was the perfect gift! I didn’t bookmark the page or note it down but I thought, wow, if I have a kid, I would love this too! And just two weeks back, when I was cracking my head to source for Baby Seth’s present, Lady J’s post on MyBabyGift popped right into my mind! Talk about brand recall and “Top of the Mind” brand!

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“MyBabyGift is a luxurious baby gift boutique offering Personalized Premium Baby Hampers & unique babies gifts , both for babies and mummies. All gifts are elegantly presented in our MyBabyGift signature gift box. Our products are not only beautiful, they are also highly practical and durable! We spent considerable time researching, selecting and testing every product we sell. All products are 100% super soft cotton. The baby’s name is delicately embroidered on selected products and your baby gift is beautifully wrapped in our special signature box with a classic satin ribbon.”

- Extracted from MyBabyGift

There were many reasons to get a gift from MyBabyGift and I’m sure many of you can relate to them! Before I begin, I think I’m sounding like I’m writing a proposal to convince my boss to pick my marketing strategy! As a matter of fact, I thought I need a lot of convincing from the man to get this, but he just nodded and say, go ahead. Haha. And oh, to clarify, I didn’t received any monetary benefits from MyBabyGift but I did enjoy a $10 off their hamper using an offer code listed in their Facebook page!

So here are my personal reasons for picking this gift!

Baby’s Mummy is a Glamorous One: If you know my friend, she is one glamorous and stylish babe, you know her child can’t settle for an ordinary gift. It must be special! Extraordinary! Look at her baby shower’s picture! She has a dessert table for Seth’s One Month Old Party! This is even more glamorous than a wedding! Haha.

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Grabbed from Seth’s Facebook (yes, this dude has a facebook page!)

Gift Differentiation: Many friends will be gifting baby clothes and toys, but after receiving 20 – 30 gifts from different friends and relatives, the receiver may not remember who gave what after a while. I want Baby Seth to remember, Auntie Serene bought her a towel with his name on it! I think it’s cool, but maybe not Baby Seth 20 years down the road.

Special Keepsake: I heard it’s really really fast for babies to outgrow their clothes and toys and soon, the regular gifted clothes and toys will be passed down to others, donated or kept in storage. But which mum will give away a towel/jumper/blanket with their precious little one’s name embroidered on it! I won’t! I will probably keep them for as long as it last!

A Romantic Gift: Some of my practical mummy friends prefer supermarket vouchers while others prefer cash, yes, baby can be expensive! I heard they drink a tin of milk within 2 weeks and used up diapers like toilet papers! Gasped! So yes, gift vouchers and cash is good, but leave those to their relatives! I believe this is one luxurious gift which even the practical mum will love. It is something that a new mum may not have the heart to splurge on but will be thrilled to receive! I know I would! Gosh, why am I getting excited about this.

Yet still Practical: It is after all still baby clothes and necessity, we are not talking about diamonds you know!

I don’t have to leave my home: This was one of the best reason! Everything was settled online, I bought the items using my iPhone in a car ride on a Saturday, received them within 3 days! Best of all, it included a card with my message, packed really nicely and delivered to my place! It is best for friends who are overseas and would like to send a gift to your friends in Singapore too! They deliver to hospital or home!

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Look at how delighted Sue Ann (she is still a hottie, can’t believe she just popped!) is when receiving her gift! She squealed in joy and said, this was what Fann Wong received too!

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Haha. Yes, Fann Wong received this for her Baby Zed too! Haha.

When we left her place, the man commented that, seeing how happy the mummy is, it was money well spent. What I forget to tell him was, that’s our Sue Ann. Ever happy and bubbly Sue Ann.

Seeing how thrilled my friend is with the gift, it got me really excited to want to share this deal with my friends! So I unabashedly asked the folks from MyBabyGift if they would like to spread the love to others!

So here’s a special deal for you:

Enjoy $10 off all hampers on http://www.mybabygift.com.sg by using the coupon code SbR (valid until 31 December 2014).

Ok, back to her baby shower! OMG. So beautiful!

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Grabbed from Seth’s Facebook

Look at these close up shots of the desserts. OMG. They looked and tasted so good.

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Grabbed from Seth’s Facebook

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Grabbed from Seth’s Facebook

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Grabbed from Seth’s Facebook

I am really happy for her and am thrilled to have a new addition to SSSS girl’s group! I’m sure Seth will join us in many of our outings and it will be SSSS + s group! Haha.

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Grabbed from Seth’s Facebook

May the Lord bless Seth with lots of happiness, wisdom, and great health! And may the little one brings lots of joy and laughter to both Sue Ann and Tim! Congrats again!

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In case you are looking for the deal, here’s the deal again!

Enjoy $10 off all hampers on http://www.mybabygift.com.sg by using the coupon code SbR (valid until 31 December 2014).

Wedding Picture Taking in Hanoi by the locals

During our Hanoi trip on a bus ride, we spotted an interesting sight. There were 7 local couples taking Pre Wedding Pictures at a Western style building right in front of Louis Vuitton. It is a strange sight indeed and especially weird with all the onlookers staring at you!

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Overnight Junk Cruise in Halong Bay

The second part of the trip is the highlight of the trip! A junk cruise overnight in Halong Bay, it feels like heaven when just sailing on the junk in the middle of Halong Bay without Wifi. Yes, no internet connection, no TV in the room, just conversations and a breathtaking view.

We started with a small boat sending us to the main junk!

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Our room is much better than expected. This Victory Star Cruise by Bai Tho Cruises is one of the more luxurious one in Halong Bay. Our colleagues went on an earlier trip and theirs was terribly warm and old. As we traveled with our CEO, we got upgraded for free. Haha.

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This was the view at our balcony. Ahhh. This is life.

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We were also blessed with beautiful cloudy and cooling weather! Our colleagues who went a few months before us in May complained that it was so warm that they perspire every where they go. We went in July and it was supposed to be even hotter than in May, but we were lucky that it was a rainy week right before we landed in Hanoi!

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The meals are all included as well and it was great!

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Vietnamese spring roll! Yummy.

After lunch, we visited Sung Sot Cave. I love caves and this cave has 3 chambers and the last was spectacular! It’s huge and I was awed by it.

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Ignoring my oily face as it was not an easy feat walking and climbing the cave, look at the top left hand side where I was pointing, doesn’t it look like a male genital! Haha.

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This is the last chamber of the cave and it is really beautiful.

After visiting the caves, we were brought to Dao TiTop Island. There were two options, (1) to go swimming by the beach or (2) to climb up a small hill.

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I would suggest to skip the swimming and go straight up the hill. The beach was small, crowded and pathetic! The 99 steps up the hill is worth the climb.

I didn’t have a nice picture of the island, but grab this off someone’s blog here. Beautiful pictures!

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So from the picture above, you can see that the beach is tiny and climbing up the hill to the pavilion up there, will give you this view.

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Hundreds and thousands of islands in Halong Bay!

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After touring the cave and island, we got back to the cruise, showered and were ready for dinner!

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We also saw sunset during dinner. Absolutely stunning.

After dinner there were pretty much nothing to do, so we tried Squid fishing at night. No one caught anything except the staff who caught one during our dinner. It was said to be a windy night where the current is too strong the the visibility of the water not clear enough to caught the squid. It is not exactly fishing, it is more trying to hook the squid!

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Thankfully for the staff who caught a squid, we saw one of it! Haha. We also caught a tiny crab which happens to be climbing up a rope.

The next morning after breakfast, we took a quick tour to the Monkey beach on a small boat.

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This reminds me of the caving adventure we went on in Phuket! Phuket is way way better, you can read on it over here and here.

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You can also choose to rent a canoe to explore the area on your own.

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And there, the monkey. As it was drizzling a little, most of the monkey were hiding in the forest.

A quick highlight of our Hanoi city tour

Right before our Hokkaido trip, we went on a 4 days 3 night Hanoi / Halong Bay trip with our company and before I completely forget about this trip, I shall do a quick blog of some highlights. The number of pictures in my phone is accumulating and I really need to start blogging before my next trip! I’m going Tioman in the coming weekend! Weeee. Saving

So. In this first post, I will be sharing some of the sights in Hanoi city and in the second post I will be sharing on Halong Bay.

Like many Asian cities, Hanoi is a bustling city filled with life!

In Hanoi, we visited and watched the water puppet show. It is an interesting cultural experience but I personally find it too draggy and the show is too long. It was interesting for the first 15 – 20 mins. Haha.

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Another interesting place in Hanoi is to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and if given a chance, you should go in to take a look at Uncle Ho while he rest there peacefully. His body is preserved and protected in there and it is available for public viewing for a limited time each day.

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Old Quarters in Hanoi is great for buying souveniors, paintings and knock off sports bags. It is great visiting either in the day or at night!

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At night, this place is equally lively!

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There are many tourists and locals in the middle of the Old Quarters enjoying beer and street snacks while people watching. Just next to the Old Quarters is  a small park and lake where you can tour around and enjoy some peace in this busy city.

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Here are the things I bought from Old Quarters and supermarkets. Some souvenirs, snacks, a comfortable printed pants for travelling and sleep and a knockoff North Face bag for my helpers.

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Hong Thai Travel: 8 Days Hokkaido/Tokyo: Day 5

// To recap, we signed up and went 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!

The overview of the tour package can also be found here. Day 2,  Day 3 and Day 4’s  itinerary is already shared in previous posts! Day 2’s post is here, Day 3’s post is here and Day 4’s post is here!

Day 5 is the last day in Hokkaido and we were so sad to leave Hokkaido. In this Hong Thai package, we didn’t see much of Hokkaido as we only spent 4 days in Hokkaido. It is a pity but we will be back!

In Day 5, we started at Hokkaido Seafood Market and had a chance to pick our additional seafood and pay for it on our expenses for lunch! Yummy! Will share more pictures in a separate post of the crabs and sea urchin which we tried.

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This was in the standard seafood steamboat lunch which was not bad a deal, but we couldn’t resist topping up for more!

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After lunch, we headed to Otaru and I love this place. It’s beautiful, plenty of cafes and good food, we ate cheesecakes (again!), ice cream, cream puffs, shopped at Musical box museum and just walk around the different shops. Wish we had more time though, I can spend a whole afternoon here! Will share more in a separate post too! Look out for it or follow my blog by clicking on the button on the right for more updates.

Someone in our tour group was late after visiting Otaru as he was lost and his family couldn’t find him. After searching for almost 30 – 45 minutes, he finally appeared and we were too late for the second sight. The Olympic Ski Stadium. It is still upsetting as we can only visit the Ski Stadium after dinner as the dinner reservation cannot be pushed back, and that means, we can’t take the chair lift as it is closed by then. DAMN.

Anyway, after Otaru, we headed for dinner. We were still full from our seafood lunch and plenty of food at Otaru! We had another indulging dinner where we ate Wagyu beef, abalone and a BBQ buffet. Gosh. The wagyu beef steak is amazing.

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After dinner, we then headed to Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium, it is a beautiful sight and if you are here in winter, it will be amazing.

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 Li Xiao Lu Shopping Street was not part of our Itinerary and it closes really early! If you can see, the clock states 7.30pm and most of the shops are all closed! The tour guide brought us here for some food souvenir shopping as they offer for up to 10% discount off the retail price for some of the items and it is cheaper than in the airport. So we decided to buy them and pack it into our luggage.

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After dropping our luggage and loots in the hotel, people who are not tired went on to Sapporo’s Red Light District’s Susukino which is famous for Ramen and of course, sexual services. It is definitely interesting as the way they allow their customers to pick the girls is very professional and high tech! It was an eye opener. Ramen is great as well!

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Old Hakodate Post Office and Red Brick Warehouse, Hokkaido, Japan

//Two weeks back, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. Last week, I’ve also shared on the places of interest we visited in Day 4 of our trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing in details on some of the sites we visited in Day 4 with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

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On the fourth day, we were also brought to the Hakodate-Meijikan, Old Hakodate Post Office, over here, the buildings are more western influenced and it is currently now converted into a small shopping mall, selling mainly souvenirs to tourists.

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There is a strange old man showcasing his pet rabbit on a table. The pet rabbit is also very tamed and simple ignore all the ooo and ahhh around it. Haha.

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Spotted these cute owls and resisted them! My room looks like a bird park now, or more accurately an Owl Park and I need to stop spending and adding clutter to my room! Haha.

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Inside the post office is also a mini bear museum which we didn’t buy the ticket to enter. This picture shall suffice. Heh.

Just next to the Old Post office is a cluster of warehouse, the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse. The shopping isn’t great and it is more for tourist to take a break with some cafes in there and to take pictures of the pretty brick warehouse!

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We also spotted the Pure White Corn in one of the seafood warehouse, and their Japanese name which is written in Kanji (Chinese Character) is loosely translated to “Snow Spirit”. Heh. This was when his mum bought her second corn of the day!

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In the warehouse, we also went to try the already too famous Snaffles Cheesecake of Hokkaido. Even though the chain is now in Singapore, it tasted better in Hokkaido then the ones in Singapore! Haha.

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The buildings are all too pretty!

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On the way back to our tour bus, we spotted this.

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There is a no trespassing sign, but seriously, that guy has got a bus in front of his porch and who can resist not taking a photo with it?! So guess what I did? I ran in and took a quite picture and ended up looking too nervous in the picture. Damn.

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Fort Goryokaku and Goryokaku Tower, Hokkaido, Japan

//Two weeks back, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. Last week, I’ve also shared on the places of interest we visited in Day 4 of our trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing in details on some of the sites we visited in Day 4 with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

After lunch, we went to Fort Goryokaku. It is now converted into a park and declared as a Special Historical Site. It is also home to the Hakodate city museum which we didn’t see. This place is also the favourite spot for cherry blossom viewing and if you are here in spring, you are in luck!

“Goryōkaku was designed in 1855 by Takeda Hisaburō. His plan was based on the work of the French architect Vauban. It is shaped like a five-pointed star. This allowed for greater numbers of gun emplacements on its walls than a traditional Japanese fortress, and reduced the number of blind spots where a cannon could not fire. The fort was built by the Tokugawa shogunate to protect the Tsugaru Strait against a possible invasion by the Russian fleet. Goryōkaku is famous as the site of the last battle of the Boshin War (Goryōkaku no Tatakai). The fighting lasted for a week (June 20–27, 1869).”

- Wikipedia

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My favourite was going up Goryokaku Tower where we can see the overall view of the Fort! This is my first time seeing a star shaped fort and it is definitely interesting! There are many star shaped fort around the world (mainly in Europe) and there were pictures shared in the Tower too!

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Isn’t the view spectacular! I was really wowed and mesmerized by this view.

At the Tower, there is also a Ice Cream chain – Milkissimo – which is popular in Hokkaido. It can also be found in the airport if I am not wrong. Their ice cream is yummy and the reason why ice cream in Hokkaido is exceptionally good, it’s because they get their milk locally and it is all fresh! No wonder I’m all fat and chubby after the trip. Rawr

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Mt Showa Bear Ranch and Mt Showa, Hokkaido, Japan

//Two weeks back, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. Last week, I’ve also shared on the places of interest we visited in Day 4 of our trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing in details on some of the sites we visited in Day 4 with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

After fruit picking, we headed to Mt Showa Bear Ranch. Over here, we get to feed the bears with cookies and watch them wave and play among themselves. The premise seems clean and there were playgrounds are tubs for the bears to play and cool themselves down.

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They remind me of the Disney movie “Brave”!

“The Ussuri brown bear , also known as the black grizzlyis a subspecies of the brown bear found in the Ussuri krai, Sakhalin, the Amur Oblast, northward to the Shantar Islands, Iturup Island, northeastern China, the Korean peninsula, Hokkaidō and Kunashiri Island. This subspecies is thought to be the ancestor of the North American grizzly bear. Ussuri brown bears crossed to Alaska 100,000 years ago, though they did not move south until 13,000 years ago. The Ainu people (native of Hokkaido) worshipped the Ussuri brown bear, eating its flesh and drinking its blood as part of a religious festival known as iomante.”

- Wikipedia

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That’s a pole dancing bear right there! Haha.

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Bears who are hungry will be waving at you for food, while the rest just chill and bask in the sun.

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The more playful and aggressive bears are kept in cages. Poor thing!

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Just next to the Bear Ranch is Mt Showa, the youngest active volcano in Hokkaido. We can see that it is still steaming and there are definitely activities in the volcano!

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There is a fruit stall outside the bear ranch and we got ourselves a white corn! You can read more about the Pure White Corn in this article. It is the first time I’m eating a corn raw, yes you heard me, RAW. And it tasted so good. It’s milky, sweet and like bubble milk tea in a corn! The juicy is also milky white. We all got insanely excitement after eating them! His mum ate 3 during the trip after discovering them.

Fruits picking, Hokkaido, Japan

//Two weeks back, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. Last week, I’ve also shared on the places of interest we visited in Day 4 of our trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing in details on some of the sites we visited in Day 4 with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

In the morning of Day 4, we visited a fruit farm and had a lot of fun picking and eating fruits at the same time. The farm is supposed to be an organic farm, and we are encouraged to pick and eat at the same time. We don’t even have to wash the fruits! There are many types of fruits grown in the farm, but because of the season, we are only allowed to pick plums and blueberries. The honey peaches are almost in season, but not sufficient for us to go crazy picking them. That’s a pity!

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Our guide demonstrating gladly how the picking and eating is done. Basically, pick, rub off the natural white powder on the surface of the fruit, pop the entire plum in your mouth, enjoy and spit out the seed.

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When we were told to start picking, we ended up taking a lot of pictures and got “scolded” by the guide! He told us to not just take pictures, but to start picking and eating! Haha.

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On the left: Fruit with natural white powder On the right: After rubbing it off.

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It is extremely sweet and juicy! I think if my family is here, they will go crazy! Especially my mum! Haha. It is the day where I ate the most plums! I think I ate like 4 plums! That’s not a lot considering there are people who ate a lot more. Haha.

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Look at the bright red! We were told to pick fruits which is dark red in colour. The redder it is, the sweeter it is.

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Next we took a quick ride on the bus to the blueberry farm, own by the same family. The farm is huge!

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For blueberries picking, the trick is to pick those which are really fat and plump!

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After eating the sweet plums, the blueberries are really sour! We decided to secretly pack some blueberries for breakfast the next day! Blueberries go well in yogurt!

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Even though we didn’t get to pick the honey peaches, we can get them at a bargain! Each packet is 450 yen, which is approximately SGD5.50. What a bargain, considering that they are fruits from Hokkaido and they are really overpriced in Singapore! There are two types of peaches and the one in yellow is crazy sweet! We bought a packet to share! Sugar overload. Heh.

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At their fruit stall, we also noticed that there are many yellow umbrellas hanging on the ceiling and there are so many bird’s nest! Not the kind you eat but it’s barn swallows! When we asked the lady tending the stall, we were told that they have been allowing the swallows to reside at their stall for many generations, and since it was a practice started by the great grand parents generation, and all is well in the family, they decided to just maintain it. The reason for having yellow umbrellas? To catch the young swallows who are learning to fly! Such an interesting sight.

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The little ones asking for food!

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Definitely a great experience and one of the many highlights of the trip!

 

Hong Thai Travel: 8 Days Hokkaido/Tokyo: Day 4

// To recap, we signed up and went 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!

The overview of the tour package can also be found here. Day 2 and Day 3 itinerary is already shared in previous posts! Day 2’s post is here and Day 3’s post is here!

Day 4 was a fun filled day with plenty of activities! We started off at a plum and blueberries farm and had lots of fun picking and eating as we go! Haha. I will be sharing more pictures in a separate post for this sight!

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Next up, we went to a Mt Showa Bear Ranch and had lots of fun feeding them!

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Just next to the Bear Ranch is Mt Showa, the youngest active volcano in Hokkaido! Will share more on the Bear Ranch and Mt Showa in other posts.

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During this trip, our itinerary didn’t include visiting any flower farms in Furano so the tour guide decided to stop by a sunflower field for us to take pictures!

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As we have some time in between, the tour guide decided to stop us at a Seaweed information center which was outside of the itinerary! At this place, it shows us how seaweed was collected and processed and there were lots of seafood products on sale.

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Lunch was yummy with Hokkaido scallop being the prime ingredient, we had grilled scallop, scallop in soup, scallop in rice and a stuffed squid. The rice was really good.

We then proceeded to Fort Goryokaku which was beautiful! A pretty and peaceful park and if you are here during the cherry blossom season this entire park will be in pink! My favourite was going up Goryokaku Tower to see the overall view of the Fort which is a star shaped fort! Will share more pictures in other posts!

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Hokadate Meiji-Kan (Old Post Office) was not listed in the itinerary but it turns out to be a beautiful place! I love the vibe of this place and there is a building selling pretty stuffs! Stay tuned to check them out in a separate post!

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After visiting the Old Post Office, we went for the worst dinner ever! It was a buffet with some hot food and BBQ but as Japan is under a nuclear energy crisis, the place didn’t turn on it’s air conditioner or probably turn to a temperature which was not cooling and we had a stuffy, warm and smelly dinner.

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Immediately after dinner, we head up to Mt Hakodate via cable car and the queue is crazy long! We queued up for almost 30 minutes before boarding the cable car and it was crowded! But we are not complaining as the view and cool breeze is enjoyable!

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After a very long day, we finally checked into our hotel which was spacious and clean!

Jigokudani or Hell Valley, Hokkaido

//Last week, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing on some of the sites we visited in Day 3 in details with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

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I love visiting natural sights and it thrilled me to see a natural phenomenon which is not available in Singapore (come on, we only have Bukit Timah Hill) and something I’ve never seen before. So when we are at Hell Valley, I was thrilled.

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It is a valley with hot steam vents, sulfurous streams (means smelly) and other volcanic activity! It is also th emain source of our resort’s hot spring waters in the area of Noboribetsu.

Apparently there are many walking trails through the forests above Noboribetsu and if you follow them for 30 minutes, you get to Oyunuma, a sulfurous pond and nearby mud pond. Also, flowing out of Oyunuma, there is a river where you can enjoy a natural foot bath! But in a group tour, we do not have this luxury of hiking up to see them, but instead was given some time to walk on the wooden platform to the centre of the valley!

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Beware, if you are someone who pukes easily after smelling rotten stuff, please stay away! It smells like hundreds of rotten eggs all around you! I had to press my nose with a wad of tissue to survive the walk! Clean air is something we don’t appreciate until it’s taken away!

Shiraoi Ainu Museum,Hokkaido

//Last week, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing on some of the sites we visited in Day 3 in details with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

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In the Shiraoi Ainu Museum houses a replica village of Ainu houses along a lake. Ainu people are the indigenous people of northern Japan and every hour (starting 15 minutes after the hour) there is a free performance with traditional Ainu folk dances and songs demonstration. Some of the performance are simple lullabies while others are chilling performance before the killing of animals.

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There is also a museum at the village showcasing the lives of Ainu people. It is a little creepy when we visited as there aren’t anyone else there and the thought of the movie, The night of the museum popped out. Heh.

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The other section of the village was an area with bears and Hokkaido dogs in cages, which I thought was pretty unnecessary. The cage is small and the living condition was not exactly the best. It is definitely interesting for tourists to see live animals but they could improve their living area. As for the Hokkaido dog, can’t it be trained and be allowed to run freely?

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Outside the village, there are also some souvenior shops selling wooden crafts and they even cut a tiny piece of wood to let us smell them. It is a nice fragrant!

Ishiya Chocolate Factory, Hokkaido

//Last week, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing on some of the sites we visited in Day 3 in details with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

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In this post, I will be sharing on the second spot we visited in Day 2, the Ishiya Chocolate Factory. Ishiya is the brand of the famous “White Lover’s Chocolate” which in the past can only be bought in Hokkaido and was never imported. But because of its growing popularity, it can now be found in Tokyo airport and in Singapore whenever there is a Hokkaido fair.

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Even though the place is called a factory, it is more of a mini theme park than a factory. The owner of this place, created a happy and chirpy place and other than housing a mini showcase factory, there is also a rose garden, and some exhibits of his collectibles e.g antique tea cup sets, chocolate boxes, toys and gramophone etc.

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According to the guide, some tour agency only brings their customers to the rose guide and does not include the entrance ticket to visit the collectibles and the factory. So if you are coming with a tour, do read the itinerary carefully!

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We spotted an apple tree at the rose garden! Haha.

His collections are very extensive and it is like a mini museum in there.

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Beautiful antique tea cups.

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Love the floor tiles! Haha. Sorry for being random.

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These are my favourite. Antique chocolate boxes. Look how intricate these chocolate boxes are, chocolate in the past are luxury items and cocoa beans are really expensive. This fact I learnt from a Nutella event, where the creator of Nutella wanted everyone to enjoy having Chocolate spread, he created a Chocolate – Hazelnut mix as Hazelnut was cheap than and chocolate was only for the rich. I can imagine how expensive chocolates are in the past just by looking at the boxes.

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Beautiful vintage posters.

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Here’s where the factory begins.

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The factory is so beautiful as well. But of course, this is only a showcase factory where they produces limited quantities each day. They’ve got another full scale factory somewhere else in Hokkaido.

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After touring the factory, you can also see and buy these beautiful hand crafted sugar crafts. These are too expensive and pretty to be eaten.

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Children can also sign up for workshops! Now sure how though, it’s all in Japanese.

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The antique toys collection continued before we end the trip with some Ishiya soft served ice cream! If you are trying them, get the duo flavours one with milk and chocolate! Yummy.

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This won’t be the only ice cream you see as eating in this trip. Haha.

Hokkaido Jingu (Hokkaido Shrine), Japan

//Last week, I shared on an overview of our long awaited Hokkaido/Tokyo trip via Hong Thai Travel and I also shared on some of the places of interest we visited in our Day 2 and Day 3 of the trip. In this post and more, I will be sharing on some of the sites we visited in Day 3 in details with a lot more pictures! So stay tuned!

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“Hokkaido Shrine enshrines four kami including the soul of the Emperor Meiji. A number of contributors of the Exploration in Hokkaidō such as Mamiya Rinzō are also enshrined.”

” Emperor Meiji (明治天皇 Meiji-tennō, November 3, 1852 – July 30, 1912), or Meiji the Great (明治大帝 Meiji-taitei), was the 122nd Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from February 3, 1867 until his death on July 30, 1912. He presided over a time of rapid change in the Empire of Japan, as the nation quickly changed from a feudal state to a capitalist and imperial world power, characterized by Japan’s industrial revolution.”

In his reign, Japan fought and win during 1894, the Sino-Japanese War; where Japanese victory establishes Japan as a regional power with control over Qing Dynasty and Korea. And also in his time, 1904–1905, the Russo-Japanese War; Japanese victory earns Japan the status of a great power.

- Extracted from Wikipedia

So with all these history, our tour guide advises us, all Chinese from various parts of the world to not worship in this shrine. Buying the pretty amulet is also not encouraged as it is also inviting blessing from Emperor Meiji. This is definitely a history lesson as I’ve visited so many temples and shrines in Japan but was unaware of who they are worshiping. According to the guide, there are many Buddhist temple in Japan and those are alright. For example, my favourite temple in Asakusa worships Goddess of Mercy and the temple in Nara which worships Buddha. So these, according to the guide, is alright for us to worship there. But not Meiji Shrine in Tokyo and this.

With that, the idea of buying those pretty exclusive Hello Kitty amulet as souveniors is gone!

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Now back to the touristy pictures. Like in all temples and shrines in Japanese, visitors are encouraged to wash your hands and rinse your mouth before entering the temple.

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If you look carefully at the structure of the temple, doesn’t the roof resembles those ancient Japanese armour or helmet we see in anime?

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But no harm taking some pictures of these pretty Rilakkuma Wishing Board! Too cute and only seen in Hokkaido Shrine.

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Gah, my arms is huge! That’s the consequences of not going for my combat classes regularly.

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Pretty entrance towards the shrine. These are cherry blossom trees and when in full bloom, this corridor will be bursting in pink! Awww, I can only imagine.

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The shrine is so peaceful and the air is cooling and clean!

Near the entrance to the temple near the carpark, there is a shop selling handmade pastries and in there, there is free pastry given to all visitors. It tasted a little like red bean mochi pancake.

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There are also free hot green tea provided at the little hut.

Hong Thai Travel: 8 Days Hokkaido/Tokyo: Day 3

// 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 3 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 many wars. 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 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 1 was counted as departing from Singapore’s Changi Airport and Day 2 transiting in Tokyo. Day 2 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. It is technically a 7 days trip as the 1st day is counted in as departing from Changi Airport and overnight on the plane. So in my blog here, the first day of activity with transiting at Tokyo Airport is considered as Day 2. Booo.

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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