Monday, December 8, 2014

Japan 102 - Matsubaya Ryokan (松葉家旅館) @ Kyoto

Matsubaya Ryokan (松葉家旅館) was our 1st hotel we stayed in Kyoto. It was located not farfrom the Kyoto train station, about 15 minutes walk with large luggage. We dragged our luggages across the Kyoto train station and followed the map provided by the hotel without much hassle. This traditional hotel located at a quiet alley across the Higashi Honganji Temple. For ¥17,640 a night (total 3 nights for about MYR1,700 back then), we got a D-type room Tatami floor just nice for 3 person. The hotel is quite traditional although they also offered western styled rooms. We loved out traditional Japanese room especially the Japanese Futon (Japanese floor mattress) which was very comfortable to sleep in. Their Japanese bathroom pod was very amazing and usable even though it's very small in size. I liked the Yukata (traditional Japanese robe) provided and used it whenever we were back in the room. The young attendant at the front desk was very helpful and helped us made some reservations free of charge but the older gentleman, presumably the owner, was not as friendly. Location was very good as we used Kyoto train station mainly to get around all the sightseeing places around Kyoto. Restaurants and convenient shops were easily accessible around the corner so it was very handy. Overall, we had a nice stay at this hotel/traditional Japanese Inn for 3 nights.








Traditional Japanese tea table which had to be pushed aside to make room for the futons during sleep




Asahi vending machine!
Complimentary PC usage although WIFI is avaialable for free too



I loved the Yukata
Address: 〒600-8150 京都府京都市下京区上珠数屋町通東洞院西入上珠数屋町329 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Japan 101 - Tips to Survive & Navigate Japan (Kansai Area in Particular)

This is a long overdue post since my last year's trip to Japan in May, but since it was one of the best trips I ever had so I'm gonna start writing about Japan, although it might take a while to complete but I'll try. First thing first, tips to survive and navigate the country that you don't speak the language...

1. Data SIM Card: Before landing in Japan, I ordered a 1GB Data SIM Card online from b-mobile (http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/). The SIM Card is valid for 14 days which was good for my 10 days stay. I paid ¥4,190 inclusive of delivery to Kansai Airport's post office. My flight landed at 0825 in the morning just nice to pick up the courier package from the post office which opens at 0900. Minimum 4 days order prior to collection is required for airport pick up and the SIM Card will be ready to use as soon as you open the package. I slotted it into my iPhone and it worked perfectly within minutes. It's a lifesaver as I used it mainly for Google Map and HyperDia ( Japan online train schedule) so I didn't get lost in Japan. I also used it to research and plan for restaurants and places of interest on the go, not forgetting the constant uploads of amazing pictures to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.




2. HyperDia: One you get connected to the Internet on your smartphone, HyperDia (http://www.hyperdia.com/en/) is your best way to navigate the Japan huge but efficient rail network. The app/website will tell you the exact time and platform the next train will arrive/depart. Japan is a developed country so their trains are always on time and reliable, totally unlike the one in Malaysia. Thanks to HyperDia, I managed to plan my trips around Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe and Kinosaki Onsen easily without any hassle. 


3. ICOCA and Hakura Combo: ICOCA and Haruka is a discount ticket package for foreign visitors arriving at Osaka's Kansai Airport. It provides transportation from the airport into the Osaka or Kyoto by the Haruka Limited Express Train and an ICOCA prepaid card (pre-loaded with ¥1,500) for the use on urban transportation at a discounted price in Kansai area. I bought the one-way Hakura-ICOCA combo at ¥3,000 (current price is ¥3,030) and got a pretty Hello Kitty and Osaka Castle card design as souvenir. You save about ¥1,500-2,500 on the Hakura ticket depending which destination you're going. The ICOCA is like the Ez-Link of Singapore or Octopus Card of Hong Kong, you can use it at most of the shops and transportation in Kansai area. I reloaded my ICOCA card couple of times just to ease my smaller purchases at the convenient shops.

Book your ICOCA and Hakura Combo from the official website before you fly into Japan (https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel-information/pass/icoca-haruka/).


4. JR-West Rail Pass: In Japan, train is the most convenient way to get around so rail pass is the most economical way to visit a few cities in a short few days. I bought the 4- days Kansai WIDE Area Pass for ¥7,000 (current price is ¥7,200) and went to Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Kinosaki Onsen with it. I got to experience the Shinkansen with the rail pass too from Kobe to Osaka. Most importantly, this rail pass got us to Kinosaki Onsen, a picturesque hot spring town 3 hour train ride away from Osaka. Kinosaki Onsen was one of the highlights of my Japan trip for sure.

The rail pass came with some discount vouchers and places of interests around the stations accessible by the rail pass. Book your rail pass from the official website before you fly into Japan (https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel-information/pass/kansai_wide/)


So, with the 4 items mentioned above, I'm sure you will be ready to explore Japan, Kansai area in particular, without much hassle. Enjoy Japan, because it is a lovely wonderful country, and it is the land of rising sun!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cuti Cuti Malaysia 111/ Food For Thought 219 - Weng Yin Seafood Village (九哩香海鲜村) @ Port Dickson

Since we had lunch at the hotel, we decided to drive out at night for some nice Chinese seafood at Weng Yin Seafood Village (九哩香海鲜村). It is located at 9 and a half mile along Jalan Pantai, on the left as we drove from Avillion Port Dickson. It was a busy Saturday night so we only got table at the non air-conditioned space rather than the nice chilly air-conditioned dining area. Still, we were too hungry to be bothered by the heat and went straight to order the food.  
The food were simple and nice. The Three Flavoured Fish stood out the most with its sweet, sour and spiciness tastes all in one fish. I liked the fresh crabs and Big Teddy whack most of the spicy Mantis Crayfish. Overall it's a good dinner with pocket friendly price tags. When you are in this beach town looking for seafood, look no further than this restaurant here... 


Spicy Mantis Crayfish with dried chilli for RM13 
Stir fried Kangkung for RM7
Kam Heong Crabs for RM49
Three Flavoured Fish for RM35

Address: Lot 4132, Batu 9.5 (KM15.5), Jalan Pantai, 71050 Port Dickson 
Tel: +6012 629 1178
Business Hour: 10am-2pm and 6pm - 11pm

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cuti Cuti Malaysia 110 - Avillion Port Dickson

This year's birthday I'd spent it at Avillion Port Dickson thanks to MATTA fair promotion. We paid RM700 nett for a 2D1N stay at the Premium Water Chalet (normal price about RM870), quite expensive still for a beach resort without white sandy beaches. But it's my birthday so what the heck I deserved a treat. The hotel is a lil dated but pretty well maintained. I liked the balcony with sun chairs facing the sea and watching sunset from the room. Another nice feature that I liked about the room was the en-suite open sky bathroom and Pangkin daybed. The four-poster king-sized bed is huge and comfy but the air conditioning needs improvement as it took a while to cool the room.  













Our room included the access to aVi Lounge (pictured below) which served complimentary afternoon tea and evening cocktail. The lounge is very nicely done with the round seating area under the sun extended out to the sea. It was a lovely place to spend our afternoon although the sun was scorching hot.  





Fried rice from the Village Court


Beautiful peacocks roaming freely around the resort... and they are not shy to show off...



My favourite part of stay... Watching the sun setting right in front of me... It felt serene to watch the nature works its wonders... 










Evening cocktails at aVi Lounge... 





The next day we went to aVi Spa for some pampering. Big Teddy treated ourselves for a 60-minutes aVi Traditions Malay Healer massage (RM230 per pax). It was one of the best massage that I had in a long time. The room was extremely pleasant with the balcony facing the sea, giving us a very calming feeling. The masseurs were professional and we enjoyed it very much. They even let us have our ginger tea right outside at the balcony facing the sea enjoying the sound of the waves. 

Such a nice way to end our weekend getaway... Despite I'm another year wiser now... 






Address: Avillion Port Dickson, 3rd Miles, Jalan Pantai, 71000 Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan
Phone: +606 647 6688