Continuing on from my backpacking trip through Yamaguchi Prefecture, I next ventured to Hiroshima where my main destination was the white marble Hill of Hope on Setoda Island. This beautiful sculpture garden was designed by an architect named Kuetani Ittou who was born in Hiroshima and all of the marble materials were actually mined and transported from Italy. Visitors can freely climb around the walls and up the pristine stairs to see a beautiful view of the ocean. There is also a little cafe here that sells delicious sakura gelato on the way up to the top. Hope is still very much alive here, and this monument beautifully ties it together in harmony with the surrounding area.
Address: 553-2 Setodacho Setoda, Onomichi, Hiroshima 722-2411 Entry Fee: 1400 yen (includes entry to Kosanji Temple and the Kongo Gallery as well)
Getting to Setoda Island
From Hiroshima Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Mihara Station, then take a short ferry ride to Setoda Island and you can walk directly there. This trip takes about 2 hours depending on the ferry time table at Mihara Port. You can also visit the rabbit island from here. These islands make ideal day trips because they are small and you can cover most of the area on foot.
For information on how to get to Hiroshima and my recommended sightseeing points, please see my previous Hiroshima and Onomichi articles.
Other Points of Interest
Right before the Hill of Hope is a beautiful temple complex called Kosanji that you will see on your way there. I enjoyed seeing its striking colors and the beautiful lilies in the water. This is definitely the most gorgeous temple in all of Hiroshima Prefecture. Setoda Island is also very famous for its lemons and you will see various shops selling lemonade here! Though small, this island is the perfect half-day trip and you can easily combine it with a trip to Hiroshima City or Okayama. I decided to take the train to Kurashiki in Okayama because I was meeting a sponsor in the evening. This ended up being a great idea because I got the chance to go on another boat ride and see the gorgeous canal town again!
I first visited Kurashiki years ago while hitch-hiking through Okayama and really enjoyed the rustic charm of the canals. Unfortunately the day I went was a holiday and the canal boats were fully booked, but this time I made it just in time for a boat tour! The ride is only around 15 minutes but you can see the town from a lovely angle while feeling the soft breeze from the canal. I was happy to finally experience this, because it felt similar to the settings of one of my favorite anime called Aria.
Address: 1-4-8 Chuo, Kurashiki City (Kurashiki Tourist Information Center) Ticket Fee: 500 yen
Afterwards it was around 6pm so we decided to eat some delicious seafood at a nearby restaurant called Hamayoshi. I cannot recommend it enough because the squid and sashimi especially were amazing!
Last time I was backpacking in Okayama I stayed in a net cafe near the station, but this time I stayed at the Royal Park Hotel in Kurashiki. Upgrade much? This hotel is around 8000 yen per night but that is a fair price for this area and it has a public onsen plus breakfast included. For the amenities it was more than worth the price.
The next article will be the final part of this series where I will be visiting Shimane Prefecture for the first time. Thank you all for supporting me on this long and crazy journey.
After completing my ninja training at the Naruto x Boruto Theme Park, I decided the next logical thing to do on this vacation was set off on a whirlpool cruise in Naruto city. The Naruto Whirlpools are located underneath the bridge that connects Awaji Island to Shikoku. I used to live in this area nearly 6 years ago when I first moved to Japan. Though it was only for a short time, it felt nostalgic coming back here after all these years where my journey first began. You can see the whirlpools from the bridge but the best way to photograph them is on a whirlpool cruise. The tidal current can change depending on the time of year, so be sure to look at what is recommend from the booking website before you make a reservation. We decided to book a tour at 11:15 on an Aqua Eddy boat from Uzusio because it has an upper and lower deck where you can see the whirlpools from underneath the water. The cruise lasts for about 30 minutes and costs 2400 which was suitable for me.
Using my GoPro I managed to catch some pretty neat footage of the Naruto Whirlpools:
Being on this cruise was fantastic because the weather was perfect and I could feel the coolness of the ocean breeze. I reflected on my life a lot and thought about how much I had changed since I last saw these whirlpools. They really are something else! They definitely looked best from the top deck but it was fun to see the fish from the windows underneath the boat too. Be sure to make a reservation in advance because this cruise is quite popular.
Address: 264-1 Oge, Tosadomariura, Naruto-cho, Naruto- City, Tokushima 772-0053
One of the most famous shrines in Awaji is Izanagi, which is the oldest shinto shrine in Japan that houses Izanagi and Izamami. If you have played the Persona series then you may already be slightly familiar with the mythology. Izanagi is said to be a god of creation so this shrine is very sacred and is beautiful to see. There is a red bridge and miniature garden that make it very scenic. The ema here are shaped like peaches which I thought was pretty unique. I am grateful to have had the chance to finally visit!
Before heading back to our ryokan, we decided to take a quick swim at Tsushi Beach which was walking distance from where we were staying. This beach was really unique because there were so many fish jumping out of the water! I had a couple close encounters with them but they were completely harmless. We were later told that this beach was designated for fishing by someone who spotted us from the shore, but we still had an amazing time here seeing the sunset and I got a really good workout in.
Staying at Yodoso
While I was looking at hotels close to the beach, I found a ryokan called Yodoso that was only 4000 yen per night. On an island famous for its fancy and upscale resorts which get to be pretty pricey, this felt like that ultimate deal. Score! Unfortunately my room was extremely simple and did not contain a private bathroom or shower, but it was okay for what it was; especially since we were only staying here for one night. The seafood breakfast we had was absolutely amazing here and was only 1000 yen extra. I definitely recommend trying the fish here! 1-2 night in Awaji is enough to experience the island.
The Yumebutai Gardens of Awaji were designed by Tadao Ando, whose work I had previously seen on Naoshima Island. I was very interested in these gardens due to their unique square shape. This area was previously destroyed in 1998 by a huge earthquake, so it’s amazing to see how much was reconstructed. While we were here we ran into a photoshoot for a wedding and it was fun to see! The architecture here is breathtaking and it is completely surrounded by flower gardens that you can visit. For me the square one was by far the most aesthetic.
Before driving 6 hours back to Yamanashi where I would catch a local train to Tokyo, we decided to have our last meal on the island at a restaurant called Kitora located inside of the gardens. I decided to order a seafood platter and really appreciated how they put a cherry on top of the salmon roe. Not only did this look beautiful, but the taste was out of this world. I will never forget how much fun I had on this island! Fortunately I was able to 100% complete everything on my itinerary so I was satisfied.
My next trip is currently undecided as I will be temporarily leaving Japan to visit my home country next month now that I have my vaccine passport. However, I have my sight set on Fukui and would really like to sneak a trip in before I leave. Fingers crossed! When I return to Japan I will likely go to Sapporo in the winter so I can take pictures of the snow. I am very excited to see how the rest of this year unfolds.
During Golden Week of 2018 I decided to venture to Korea for the 2nd time and explore its most famous beach resort island: Jeju. This island is extremely unique because not only does it have the best beaches in Korea, but it also has the Nexon Computer Museum with the world’s longest running MMO. There’s also the tallest mountain in Korea (Mt. Hallasan), a folk village with traditional houses, and a fairly famous sex museum. As you can see, Jeju has something for everybody because there is a huge diversity of attractions to see. A lot of people that live close to Korea come here to spend their honeymoons or school vacations, but there are many backpackers like me who travel here too. In this article series I will be detailing my 5 day stay in Jeju in hopes that other people will decide to come in the future.
Traveling to Jeju
The best way to travel to Jeju is to take a direct flight from Seoul. Jeju Air has the cheapest flights that range from $30 – $50 USD roundtrip. The flight only takes about an hour. Jeju is comparable in Okinawa in Japan, but is much smaller and doesn’t have as many islands you can travel to. However, traveling here is much cheaper than most islands in Japan and it has a different vibe. One of the best islands you can visit in Jeju is called Udo which is the very first place I went.
Udo Island Day Trip
Udo Island was my first destination once I reached Jeju Airport. Fortunately you don’t need to fly here and can instead take a relaxing 15 minute ferry. The reason I wanted to go to Udo is because it is the perfect cycling destination. The island was named for its somewhat rectangular shape that looks like cow lying down. I also chuckled because the name reminded me of U-DO in Xenosaga. You can see most of the attractions on Udo within 3 – 4 hours via electric bike. E-bikes can be rented for around $10 per day and are extremely worth it. This was my very first time riding an e-bike, but fortunately it wasn’t scary! You can see the ocean from any point in Udo making it a wonderful spot for photography. Everyone rides slow so they can stop to take pictures.
Since I was starving, I stopped at a local seafood restaurant near the bike rental shop. I couldn’t speak much Hangul but I was able to place an order. They whipped me up some spicy crab and muscle stew which tasted amazing. For dessert, I decided to try the peanut ice cream that Udo is famous for. They placed two adorable teddy bear crackers on it too. The salty and sweet combination makes it worthy of all the praise that it gets. You can find this food literally all over the island and it’s much cheaper than food in Seoul.
Finally feeling full, I decided to make my way down to the beaches. Gwakji Beach and Hamdeok Beach were my two personal favorites. Both can be reached via e-bike in less than 30 minutes and are found on the north side. Exploring these beaches can take up to an hour. I came here in late April so it was a bit cold to swim but the weather was near perfect. Korea’s weather is similar to Japan’s but is slightly more mild.
Besides the swimming and biking, there are many other exciting things to do on Udo. You can go horseback riding for a short time if you talk to someone near the stables. If you like art, most of the buildings are painted in bright colors and there are murals all over the island. The food here never disappoints. The octopus-shaped bread I tried was filled with cheese and absolutely amazing. Just the atmosphere of being on a small beach island is awesome too. I enjoyed walking inside the the giant shells that were near the pier and also petting the store owner’s dogs. Everyone here is extremely friendly so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier.
On my way back to return my e-bike, I stumbled upon one of the best DJ booth turned ice cream shop ever. The chef was spinning some fresh island beats as he was whipping up ice cream. This was an extremely rare vibe that I was not expecting:
The store Udo Prince Story (우도왕자이야기) has both phenomenal food and music. If you come all the way out here, be sure not to miss out. This was the best instant dance party I ran into here and was the perfect way to end my day trip.
After an exciting first day in Udo, I rode the ferry back to the main island where my accommodation “GreenDay” was. There are a few hotels on Udo, but there is much more selection and nightlife on the main island of Jeju.
I chose GreenDay because I thought the name was hilarious and the dorms are only $15 per night. I couldn’t pass up staying in this colorful little house:
GreenDay Address: 251-9 Samdoi-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea
I took a cheap taxi to Seongsan Port, then a 15 minute ferry to reach the island. The ferry ticket is only $10 one way. Please see the Udo Ferry Time Table for reference.
In my next article, I will be talking about some of the quirky museums that I explored. Please stay tuned for more!
After visiting the eye-popping Rainbow Village, I decided to take a cheap local bus from Taichung Station to the famous Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan (its name immediately made me think of Pokémon Sun & Moon). After an hour and a half ride, I was dropped off at Shuishe Pier, which is part of the central hub of Sun Moon Lake. There are a number of restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops that you can browse around, although the real adventure lies elsewhere! From here you can ride ferries and buy tickets to attractions around the lake. The ferry will take you to Ita Thao Pier and Xuanguang Pier which both have a number of hiking trails and sightseeing spots to explore. If you are unsure of what to do, the official Sun Moon Lake website has a number of itineraries available.
Originally I was thinking of going to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village and ropeway (which is a huge amusement park with a waterpark), but due to the mild and foggy January weather, I opted to do some hiking instead. My favorite viewpoint that I discovered was the Ci-en Padoga built by Chiang Kai-Shek in memory of his mother. This was about a 40 minute hike through a bamboo forest but was easy to access thanks to the English guideposts. The ferries depart from pier to pier every half hour, so you can see the majority of sights in one day. However, if you wish to see the smaller islands and go to the amusement park that I mentioned above, you will definitely need two full days.
Unfortunately due to the fog it was hard for me to capture good footage of the hike I took, but the mountains surrounding the lake were breathtaking and gorgeous. I would say this was the 2nd most beautiful place that I have been to in Taiwan; the 1st being Taroko Gorge. I wish I could have spent two full days here, but I was happy with all of the scenery I was able to see in one day. Getting between the piers only takes around 15 minutes, so you can definitely make the most of your time here if you plan it out.
When you purchase your ferry ticket (mine was only 250 TWD because they thought I was a student), you are given a map with all the major landmarks on them. If you are a seasoned traveler, I would just follow your instinct and go wherever looks most interesting to you. The guideposts make it pretty straightforward, and there are always usually hikers around to ask in case you get lost. Sailing around and feeling like I was in an RPG was honestly the best aspect for me. It was so nice getting out of the city and into this amazing world of nature:
In my next article, I will be writing about Taiwan’s southern city Kaohsiung and Cijin Island. Thank you to all those who have kept up with my wild adventures!
Although I have just returned from Australia, I’ve already decided where I’m traveling to next in order to celebrate my birthday; the historic and tropical areas of Cambodia! I chose Cambodia as my next destination because it has a similar climate and activities as Vietnam and Thailand, which were two of my favorite vacations because of their laidback beaches and inexpensive lodging. I will be staying in Cambodia for a total of 10 days, though 2 of them will be travel-heavy due to layovers. I will be bringing my Nintendo Switch and playing Fire Emblem to keep me occupied during these times.
I am most excited to try the local cuisine, explore the famous Angkor Wat temples, and even volunteer to be a bear keeper for a day! I will also be flying to the tropical island known as Koh Rong to soak up some sun and party on the beach. Then I will be flying to the capital to learn about the sad history of the killing fields and visiting the memorial. I hope to keep a good balance of exploring and taking part in cultural events here to make the most of my experience.
My planned itinerary (so far) is listed below:
Tokyo → Siem Reap → Angkor Wat → Tonle Sap Village → Siranhoukville → Koh Rong → Koh Rong Samloem → Phnom Penh → Killing Fields → Siem Reap ↺ Tokyo
Oct 1st: Arriving to Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the cheapest city to fly to from Tokyo, so I booked a $450 flight through Vietnam Airlines from Narita Airport. This is a discounted flight that includes a 3 hour layover in Vietnam, but from my experience, this time usually goes by quickly (especially if you pregame in the airport). Since it is my birth week, I will not be holding back on indulging.
Once arriving to Siem Reap, I plan on hitting Pub Street and trying the infamous happy pizza. I will be posting my own review to let everyone know about my experience. I have extremely high expectations for it, but even if it’s not “happy”, there are tons of other restaurants and bars around to explore. I definitely want to try the bar Angkor What? not only because of its hilarious name, but also because I will be visiting the historic Angkor Wat (temple) the next day. If there’s time, I plan on visiting the Old Market too.
I will be staying in a private room at the Jasmin Hotel for less than $20 a night. I chose this hotel because it is close to the center of the city and has a pool, so I am excited to go swimming here since it was too cold to during my Australia. I already know this is going to be an awesome trip!
Oct 2nd: Exploring the Angkor Wat Temples
This will be a travel-heavy day as I explore the most famous temples on a sunset tour I booked from GetYourGuide. This tour is highly rated and only costs $19 to go with a group of people, so that will give me a good opportunity to meet fellow backpackers. We will be heading deep in the jungle to see the main Angkor Wat temple, and also trekking to the other aesthetic Buddhist temples around it. The tour last for 10 hours, but I am more than ready to go hiking again! I think it will feel like going through ruins in a videogame, which makes me feel a little like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.
Oct 3rd: Sailing through the Floating Tonle Sap Village
In the morning I plan on waking up early and jogging through the city to see the famous Preah Ang Chek & Preah Ang Chorm temples. I also want to try some street food and familiarize myself with more of the local shops and parks. Maybe even do a little souvenir hunting too.
In the afternoon, I booked another cheap tour from GetYourGuide to see the the floating village on the Tonle Sap lake. This is a fishing village that is similar to Ine that I visited in Kyoto, and looks very relaxing and interesting to see. I love being out on the water and feeling the wind in my hair!
Once the day comes to an end, I will be taking an overnight bus from Siem Reap to Siranhoukville that I booked through 12goAsia for $25. Though this is a 10 hour trip, it’s way more cheap than flying, and I really want to experience it at least once. The reviews on the website are quite mixed, but I had a pleasant time riding buses in both Malaysia and Singapore so I think I will be okay on this trip. It will be an adventure, at the very least!
Oct 4th – 7th: Partying at Koh Rong
From Siranhoukville, I will be taking the very first ferry to Koh Rong so I can begin relaxing and partying on the beach! I booked a single room at Treehouse Bungalows right near Police Beach where all of the parties take place. My room is less than $30 per night and is in a real treehouse! I am so excited to take pictures and see the beautiful view of the oceanfront. There are many bars and hostels around the area, so it’s extremely easy to make friends on this island. I have been to the Fullmoon Party in Thailand before, so I already know what to expect here.
I also plan on sailing to Koh Rong Samloem, which is another beautiful and more private island that is easy to get to by longboat. It has the gorgeous Saracen Bay to explore as well as a variety of other nightlife options. I might also attempt a jungle trek to Long Beach on the main island if I have enough energy. Basically I’m just going with the flow to see where life takes me!
October 8th: Visiting the Killing Fields
To reach the capitol city of Cambodia; Phnom Penh, I will be taking another inexpensive bus from Siranhoukville that I booked through 12goAsia. This trip will only be 6.5 hours, and I’m sure I will be tired from my island adventure so I won’t mind the travel time.
Once I arrive, I will be going on the Killing Fields tour I booked through GetYourGuide. I do not know much about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge Regime, but I do know it is a tragic part of the history of this country and I would like to learn more about it so I can write a proper article.
During my stay in Phnom Penh, I will be staying at a place with the hilarious name of Lovely Jubbly Villa. Once again, this is a conveniently located accommodation with a beautiful pool, so I had to book it. I expect to have a “lovely” time here!
October 9th: Freeing the Bears
As I have said before in my previous blog entries; whenever I travel to a new country I like to volunteer with animals. I have been accepted to the Free the Bears Bear Keeper Program, and am excited to help rare species of bears in Cambodia! This program also has other locations in Thailand and Vietnam.
While being a bear keeper, I will be preparing food for the bears, cleaning their habitat, and grooming the ones that are friendly. I am always happy to contribute to the well-being of endangered animals, as I am lucky to have a lot of things in my life already. I hope to look for more programs like this in the future if it goes well!
October 10th: Exploring the rest of Phnom Penh
Before taking my late night flight home, I plan on exploring the city of Phnom Penh and see all that it has to offer. Some of the places I’m interested in seeing are: The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, National Museum of Cambodia, Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh Night Market, The Russian Market, and of course experiencing the night life.
At the end of the day, I will have to fly from here back to Siem Reap, where I will take my overnight flight to Tokyo. I hope to sleep well after all of this travel!
October 11th: My Birthday
For the last few years of my life, I have always spent the day of my birthday on tropical islands, but this time I really want to spend it with my friends in Tokyo. I am leaving this day open for spontaneous shenanigans to ensue, but I know for sure that on October 12th I will be going to a footwork party called Battle Train Tokyo CLIMAX in Ebisu! My favorite underground DJ Carpainter is playing, and I know that it will be an awesome event.
I am extremely excited to turn 26 this year because each year that passes I am able to experience more of the world and learn more things about myself. Overall I will always feel very young at heart and still plan on traveling as much as I can!