If you’ve ever looked up day trips from Tokyo on the internet, Hakone will be one of the most prominent results. With it being the real-life location of Tokyo-3 from Evangelion and having many hotsprings, temples, and a great view of Mt. Fuji, that status is well-deserved. It’s also home to one of my favorite museums in Japan which has sculptures that resemble vaporwave visuals called the Hakone Open Air Museum. You should also try swimming in the famous red wine onsen at Yunessan to smooth your skin. Wherever you go you’re bound to discover something interesting here because the nature is vast.
I’ve been to Hakone five times by myself and also with friends so I’ve seen all its major attractions. Here are some of the coolest things that I’ve found:
Eva-Ya: The Evangelion Goods Store
As you exit the station and begin your wonderful journey here, one of the first things you’ll come across is Eva-ya; Hakone’s own original Evangelion Store. Here you will find a number of goods from the anime including water bottles based off the characters’ designs, food with the NERV logo on it, and a life-sized Rei Ayanami. Asuka fans don’t fret because she has plenty of merchandise too! One of my best purchases here was Misato’s cross-shaped necklace (not pictured). I also enjoyed the Unit 01-colored ice cream. Of course you can visit the official Evangelion stores in Tokyo too, but this is the one located where the anime takes places and has slightly different merchandise.
Owakudani is Hakone’s volcanic crater that has sulfur vents and hotsprings making it a beautiful mountain getaway. The sulfide causes the rocks to gain their lovely red hue. In order to reach Owakudani, you must take a cable car ride from Hakone Ropeway. There are black eggs sold here that are said to increase your lifespan. I bought a four-pack of them and thought they were very delicious! Only time will tell if their effect is really long-lasting. Unfortunately due to the danger of the volcanic gas some of the hiking trails have been roped off here, but watching the plumes of smoke form from the main viewpoint is an amazing sight. This crater is definitely worth seeing!
Cable Car Fee: See discounts on the Hakone website (I recommend getting the one with the pirate ship fee included too).
Yunessan is my favorite onsen in all of Hakone because of its famous red wine onsen you can bathe in among many other unique hotsprings and pools. This is a mixed-gender hotspring so swimsuits are required in most areas unless you rent a private onsen or pay to enter the gender-segregated bath called Mori no Yu. The plus side is that you can enjoy Yunessan with all of your friends! Last time I went they had coffee, sake, and pearl-water baths too. Some of the baths rotate while others are permanent additions. The outdoor area has water slides, a mystical cave that you can explore, and various hot springs positioned so you can get a clear view of the mountains. This is always the most relaxing part of my trip. During certain times they serve free glasses of red wine too so be sure not to miss out!
Entrance Fee: 2,900 (a bit expensive, but worth it for the variety here)
I’ve already mentioned that the Hakone Open Air Museum is by far my favorite museum here (see my article The Top 3 Most Innovative Art & Technology Museums for more information), but I also want to point out beautiful Hakone Venetian Glass Museum. This forest of glass has beautiful Venetian-inspired designs and adornments like nowhere else I’ve ever seen. Outside you can find trees and a bridge intricately decorated with glass ornaments as well as a miniature pond. Inside there are many hand-crafted glass sculptures and jewels as well. I was very impressed with the aesthetic here:
The Okada Art Museum is also worth checking out. Though I don’t have any recent pictures, they have many beautiful sculptures in the mountains and footbaths you can use too. There are some traditional Japanese handcrafts and artifacts displayed too.
Entrance Fees: Varies on the museum, but I would research beforehand and budget 3000 – 5000 yen depending on what you want to see. Keep in mind these are some of the best museums outside of Tokyo and have that awesome mountain view!
Hakone Shrine & Pirate Ship Tours at Lake Ashi
A trip to Hakone isn’t complete without seeing Lake Ashi and the famous Hakone Shrine along the shores. I first saw it in the winter when snow was on the ground, but the summer is the ideal time to go if you want to experience the lake. My friend and I decided to buy the tickets to ride the pirate ship and drank a bottle of Captain Morgan on it in true spirit. The ship was very spacious and we could feel the gentle breeze of the lake while staring at the view of Mt. Fuji in the distance. It was exhilarating—an experience like nowhere else in Japan! I think the only other place where you can ride a pirate ship quite like this is at Tokyo Disney, but you don’t have the awesome mountain backdrop that you do here.
Cable Car Fee: See discounts on the Hakone website (I recommend getting the one with the cable car fee included too).
From Shinjuku Station, you can take the Romancecar Express to reach Hakone-Yumoto Station in 1.5 hours for 2300 yen.
Once reaching the station, all of the places I listed can be reached via bus within an hour, but I would allow yourself 6-8 hours here at least. It took multiple trips in both the summer and the winter for me to see everything here, but you could probably see these things in approximately 2 days.
If you decide to stay here overnight, Hakone Japan has some good choices. I plan to stay at a ryokan in the future and will write about my experience.
After fully exploring Pier 2 and Cijin Island, I decided to spend my 2nd day in Kaohsiung seeing some of the major landmarks. Since I rented a bike for 24 hours, I biked 8 km from where I was staying at the pier to reach the famed Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. It was a little scary biking on the highway for the first time in Taiwan, but I managed to survive and catch some neat sights on the way there. The pagodas are surrounded by a lotus pond and are seven stories high, so visiting them is quite the experience. Once you climb all the stairs, you will get the perfect view of the Zuoying District of the city:
The symbolism of the dragon and tiger is a bit ambiguous, but they both represent a balance of power although they have contrasting characteristics. According to Shaozhi, in Chinese culture dragons are said to control water and have great strength, whereas tigers symbolize righteousness and harmony. I was amazed at how both entrances were designed to fit their appearances. Here is some footage I took from atop the Dragon Pagoda:
According to a sign outside, if you walk through the dragon’s mouth and walk out the tiger’s, it is said to bring good luck. So that’s exactly what I did! It still has yet to come, but it’s only the beginning of the year. Inside you will find illustrations of various Buddhist and Taoist characters:
Surrounding the pagodas are other temples and Buddhist statues that you can easily reach on foot. I didn’t stop to see them all, but you could easily spend a few hours in this district of the city seeing them all. People are very laid-back and friendly too.
Next, I biked to Formosa Boulevard Station so I could see its famous murals. From what I read online, it’s one of the most beautiful stations in Taiwan. It did not fall short of my expectations:
The Dome of Light within the station is the largest glass work in the world and was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata. I was amazed by how beautiful it was! Various astrological figures are depicted in this glass (some human-like and some creature-like), as well as very intriguing patterns. To me it looks like a galaxy riddled with the mysteries of our origin:
Another amazing part of Kaohsiung City is its hyper-realistic dog ice cream:
I made a separate post on Aesthetic Food Finds in Taiwan, so please check it out if you are interested! This is my last article in my Taiwan series, but I will be writing a bonus article on the nightlife I experienced here.
From what I’ve experienced, most cities in Taiwan only require 2-3 days of time to see all the major sightseeing spots. I spent around 5 days total in Taipei doing day trips and other activities, but 2 days of full activity worked for me in all the other areas I visited. I hope that everyone can visit this beautiful country and have the same wonderful adventures that I did!
After eating hotpot out of a toilet bowl, I decided to spend my first night of the new year in Taipei stopping by the local temples and shrines like the natives do. In Japan there is the tradition of hatsumode (初詣), which is the first trip to a Shinto or Buddhist shrine on January 1st. I asked my Japanese friends what they normally wish for, and they said they usually wish for necessary things like good health, success in their career, and happiness in life. I am fortunate to have all of these things, so I usually wish for more adventures and exciting encounters. Essentially, I wish to never grow bored or complacent in life. I want to keep exploring the world and advancing at a steady place. Though I will admit, a little love would be nice too!
The majority of Taiwan residents observe the Chinese New Year which occurs later in the month (this year it starts on January 5th, 2020). However, I noticed there were a lot of people here that still visited to the shrines in order to pay their respects. I have mentioned before here that I am not particularly a religious person; I believe we are all our own gods and what we perceive the world as is our customs or religion. Despite this, I enjoy visiting temples and shrines all over Asia. You get a sense of peace and clarity from being outside a temple versus crammed in a western church. I enjoy seeing the intricate architecture and learning about the culture as well. That is why you will see me at a lot of shrines despite me being an atheist–I enjoy immersing myself in culture as much as possible. And in order to fully grasp a culture, you must start at its origin.
Songshan Ciyou Temple
Songshan Ciyou Temple was by far my favorite temple in central Taipei. I loved how the lighting captured the beautiful illustrations on the temple walls at night, and there were multiple floors that you could climb and see different deities. The temple is dedicated to Mazu who is the goddess of the sea despite it being located near the heart of the city. Many people pray for her divine protection and it is a great place to witness Taiwanese tradition:
I loved the unique carvings of the pillars and the beautiful gold statues inside. I was really overcome with awe since this was my first time ever exploring a temple in Taiwan. The temple even had a tiny mascot! It felt a lot like exploring a temple in Japan, but it had a slightly different atmosphere. I spent quite a long time here soaking in the culture and trying to read what I could about its history. It really is an amazing place to see!
Conveniently located next to this temple is the Raohe Street Market. This is a great first street market experience as well because it is one of the biggest in Taipei! I found a lot of interesting foods there like stinky tofu fries, dinosaur hamburgers, fried squid with mayonnaise… the list goes on and on. I have been to a number of night markets in Asia already, but I like seeing the unique foods and characteristics each one has!
Confucius Temple was the 2nd temple I visited during my stay in Taipei. I came here during the morning of January 2nd and was surprised to see people dancing and doing yoga here! It reminded me a lot of what I had seen in Vietnam actually. This temple had a more open feel than others that I have been to in Asia and is really worth visiting.
As many people know, Confucius was one of the most influential teachers in Chinese philosophy. I took a number of Asian studies classes in university and actually agree with some of his theories; such as we should make education widely available and cultivate ourselves. The quote: “If you want to change the world, first change yourself” is a good example of Confucian theory. I try to practice this when I travel abroad so I can improve my life and [ideally] the lives of others. I believe that change is something that usually comes with dedication and time much like the ancient sage does.
The most interesting part of this temple is there is actual a chariot driving simulation game you can play in one of the chambers! This is the first time I had ever seen anything like this at a religious ground, and I fully support the use of interactive technology:
Dalongdong Baoan Temple
Right next to the Confucius Temple is the Taiwanese folk religion temple Dalongdong Baoan. It is dedicated to the Taoist saint Baosheng Dadi who sadly I do not know much about. However, I loved the aesthetic of the temple. It had an outdoor garden and a beautiful dragon statue that spits water into a pond full of koi fish:
Right around the corner is street lined with palm trees, lanterns, and tiny shops. Even in January this town had an extremely tropical vibe to it that made me happy to be here! I will be writing more about Taiwanese culture in my future posts. Please look forward to reading them.
On my way from Hiroshima Station to Fukuyama to see Pascom Ongaku Club’s Night Flow Tour, I decided to backpack through the smaller towns in Hiroshima to see what they were like. Though Hiroshima is known mostly for its Peace Memorial and remnants of WWII, I was surprised to know that each town within the prefecture had its own different atmosphere.
I previously wrote about the Rabbit Island I visited at Tadanoumi Port from Hiroshima, so now I will cover two major towns I stayed in east of it: Onomichi & Fukuyama.
Onomichi is a very tiny port town, but is famous for its temple walk, cat alleyway, and ropeway. When I first got off at the station, I felt like there was not a lot to see here outside of the main shopping street. However, most of the major sightseeing points are up on a hill because this town is on the incline of a mountain which makes in extremely unique. Growing up in a place that was pretty flat, it amazes me to see how people live in the mountains.
The temple walk consists of 25 temples you can access on foot by hiking up a hill near the main station. I decided to combine this hike with my morning jog, and it took me around 2 hours to see everything. A lot of the temples are tiny, but there is a large one at the top of the hill and beautiful scenery along the way. There is also a “Lover’s Sanctuary” where you can wish for good luck in love. I found it adorable that there was a cat statue with a heart around it too!
As I was walking up the hill, a number of stray cats came out to bask in the sun. Cat alley is on the way up to the top of the temple walk, so likely you will see come adorable felines on the way to the top!
My recommendation is to take a day trip here, or stay for one night. I stayed at Onomichi Guesthouse Anago, which was in a traditional Japanese tatami-styled house near the shopping street. I had an extremely pleasant stay here, because there was a breakfast option and they also had beautiful folded paper cranes.
Onomichi may be small, but it surprisingly has a large variety of food! There are tons of little shops around the station and even on the way up to the temple walk. I found a vegetarian restaurant that serves delicious Falafel sandwiches, and also tried some anago rice (rice topped with eel) at a shop inside of the station. It is also recommended by locals to try the ramen as well. There are options for every diet here.
Getting to Onomichi
From Hiroshima Station, take the Sannyo line to Itozaki, then transfer and take the same line towards Okayama to get to Onomichi Station. This costs 1500 yen and takes 1.5 hours.
You can also go to the Rabbit Island first from Hiroshima Station, then come here and stay overnight if you have enough time like I did (I would recommend this so you can see the most things).
Fukuyama & Sensui Island
After successfully completing the temple walk in Onomichi, I decided to take the train to Fukuyama at the border of Hiroshima Prefecture because that is where Pasocom Ongaku Club’s event was held (I will be covering this in a future post). When I got off at the station, I was astounded to see this town was much more urban than Onomichi and even parts of central Hiroshima was. Since this town borders Okayama Prefecture, there is a much larger population density here than other towns in Hiroshima.
The first thing I noticed was the modernized yet rustic feel. Among shopping malls, upscale bars, and hotels, Fukuyama Castle is also viewable as soon as you get off at the station. I decided to begin my adventure by stopping at the castle first. It is smaller than Hiroshima Castle, but is worth seeing because it is so close to the station.
Since my hotel wasn’t ready until 4pm, I decided to go to Sensui Island and use the famous hotspring there. Sensui Island can easily be accessed by taking a bus from the station to Tomonoura Port (which takes around 40 mins), and then taking a free boat ride from there which takes only 5 minutes to reach the island. You can see a detailed guide and boat timetable from the Fukuyama Tourist Website.
Sensui Island is fantastic for hiking, and there is a boat rental service as well. The accommodations here are surprisingly cheap for only 5500 yen per night. I spent around 45 mins hiking and taking pictures of the scenic island, then I used the hotspring at Kokumin Shukusha Sensuijima for around 1000 yen with the towel included. It was such a relaxing day! I listened to all of my favorite songs and got extremely hype for the event I was going to on the mainland at night. I would love to come here during the summer and go swimming at the beach, because it is extremely private and relaxing.
I stayed at Setouchi Knot Hotel near Fukuyama Station, which was around 3000 yen per night. It is the cheapest hotel in Fukuyama, but was extremely quiet and worth the price in my opinion.
Getting to Fukuyama
From Hiroshima Station, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen directly here. This costs 5000 yen and takes 20 mins (this is expensive because Fukuyama is at the opposite border of Hiroshima Prefecture).
You can also go to Onomichi first like I did, then come to Fukuyama by the Sannyo Line which takes 30 mins and is only 420 yen.
Traditionally every year during the half of October I spend my birthday alone on a remote island in Asia. Traveling to the final destination takes a lot of research and effort, but in return gives me valuable time to reflect on life and also become acquainted with a new culture. Past destinations have included Okinawa and Yakushima (Japan) and Phu Quoc (Vietnam), which were all unforgettable experiences that have taught me a lot about myself and the stunning world around me. This year I wanted to go somewhere similar that had tropical beaches and lush nature so I could relax and do photography. Since I’ve already been to Thailand twice and loved it, I decided to try one of its adventurous neighboring countries: Cambodia.
Cambodia is beautiful, less developed country with a sad past (which I’ll get into later), but is now extremely safe for foreign tourists and backpackers to travel to. Like Thailand and Vietnam, the majority of people you will meet speak English and are quite friendly. On a rainy day while I was in Australia, I came up with a tentative Cambodia itinerary which I managed to successfully complete in the 10 days while I was here. Please take a look at it for reference if you plan on traveling to Cambodia in the future!
Overall, this trip was extremely eye-opening and completely changed my outlook on how I should live my life. Staying 4 days on a small Cambodian island in a village that only stretched for about a mile taught me how to live frugally compared to my extravagant city life. The villagers there were extremely kind and I was always surrounded by friendly people that took care of me. This really helped me let go of a lot of anxieties and insecurities I had that were holding me back recently. Though I have many caring friends in all the countries I have visited, being in this setting helped me resurface to reality and form an entirely new perspective so I could enter a new mindset that I couldn’t reach before. I am very excited to start this blog series and share the knowledge I have gained with others.
Exploring Siem Reap’s Pub Street
I chose Siem Reap as my first destination simply because it is the cheapest city to fly to from Tokyo and has all of the famous temples to explore. Fortunately getting a visa to Cambodia is quite easy; all you need to do is fill out a form and pay $30 to enter the country for a short-term stay. You can do this upon arrival, but I applied for an e-visa through Cambodia’s official government website. This will speed up the process and ensure your swift entry into the country. *Please be wary of other advertised e-visa websites on Google because they are often double in price.
I arrived to the center of the city around 9pm, just in time to try some of the infamous “happy pizza” adjacent to Pub Street–every bar lover’s dream. What is happy pizza exactly, and why is it sold openly around Cambodia?
Traditionally, marijuana was used as a herb in some Khmer dishes to complement the flavour. In the provinces, it’s also used by some for medicinal purposes.
Though recreational marijuana is illegal in Cambodia and most Asian countries, the “happy” foods and drinks sold here create a loophole in which it can be safely consumed by travelers. In addition to happy pizza, they also have regular pizza and food here as well. I decided to try the Happy Angkor Pizza restaurant first due to its raving Google Reviews:
Needless to say, I was extremely satisfied with the light vegetarian pizza I ordered, so I tried another nearby restaurant called Ecstatic Pizza too. “Why just be happy, when you can be ecstatic?” the official website questions you. After my long 10 hour flight, I definitely needed to relax and the “add some extra :)” for a mere $3 more on my receipt did just the trick. I felt calm and ready to explore the rest of Pub Street.
What I walked into was a street full of strobe lights, loud music, and people from around the world dancing in a trance under the light of the moon. Fortunately I was in the perfect state of mind to join them:
The first bar I checked out was called Angkor What? which is a hilarious pun of the famous temple I was going to the next day. It is actually the oldest bar in Siem Reap and has been “Promoting Irresponsible Drinking since 1998” (though the atmosphere was kind and welcoming with no overly drunk people like in Tokyo). It’s mindblowing to think about how the oldest bar in Siem Reap is actually younger than me!
Though obviously aimed at expats, I enjoyed Pub Street more than I have other expat drinking holes I have visited in Japan and Thailand. This is because the street only stretches for a few blocks and is not overly crowded with obnoxious tourists. Most drinks are priced from $3 – $5 and are extremely affordable. The menus contained a variety of imported beers, fruity cocktails, and other hard liquors. Despite the dirt-cheap prices, I was pleasantly surprised to not run into any reckless drinkers–everyone that I met was just drinking to relax and enjoy the night. And that’s how it should be.
After having my fill I wandered through the night markets (which are a lot similar to those found in Vietnam), walked by a few “Doc of Fish” massage places (I’ve already tried this in Tokyo and it’s quite a weird sensation), then I decided to go back to my hotel. I stayed in a private room at the Jasmin Hotel for less than $20 a night. I highly recommend it because it is close to the center of the city and has a beautiful pool. I was able to sleep peacefully and wake up in time for my tour the next day, as well as finish my morning workout.
I will be writing in detail about my trek through the famous Angkor Wat temples in my next blog entry this week. Thank you to all of my readers! I will try to be as open and honest about my experiences here as possible.
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!
I had a very fulfilling trip to Thailand over NYE traveling to Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai, but unfortunately due to a severe storm my pink dolphin and James Bond Island trips were cancelled. Not wanting to accept defeat, I immediately scheduled my next trip there over Golden Week. This year Golden Week lasts a consecutive 10 days, so both overseas airline tickets and domestic travel costs within Japan are heavily inflated, being even more expensive than the average New Year’s prices. Even though it was quite costly, I bit the bullet and booked my flight. This time I am determined to do what I couldn’t do last time, and more!
My planned itinerary (so far) is listed below:
Narita Airport (international flight is around 2pm on the 26th) → Bangkok → Phuket → Phi Phi Islands → Koh Lanta (and surrounding islands) → Phuket → James Bond Island → Phuket → Koh Samui → Koh Tao → Koh Phangan (for Blackmoon Culture party) → Krabi → Bangkok ↺ Tokyo (on January 7th).
April 26th: Phuket
I will be leaving Tokyo a day before Golden Week starts and arriving in Phuket at 10:00pm. This time is not ideal, but was the cheapest flight I could find. I booked this flight in February, and already most of the discount airlines leaving from Japan were fully booked. This time I am staying at a guesthouse in southeast Phuket near Rassada Pier since I will be sailing a lot. I do not have many plans besides maybe getting some mango sticky rice because tomorrow I will be getting up early for a sightseeing adventure!
April 27th: Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are a popular destination among many Thailand travelers due to their beautiful beaches and nature, and are a destination I feel I most definitely see. This was a tour that I was supposed to go on last trip, but it got cancelled due to the weather. I booked this tour through a private company with good reviews called Phuket Sail Tour and will be traveling around via speedboat. The advantage to this is hopefully I will avoid the crowds, as the people who run this tour are Thailand natives that manage their own company. I look forward to exploring Viking Cave, swimming in Maya Bay, and seeing the monkeys on Monkey Beach (even though I recently saw some in Hakodate).
April 28th: Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta is a beautiful island in Krabi with rich emerald waters and scenic beach huts. My friend who teaches English in Thailand posted pictures of her vacation there, and I’ve been longing to go ever since! I had a great stay in Koh Samui in my rainbow beach hut in January, but I am looking to stay somewhere more remote. I will be taking a ferry from Rassada Pier in Phuket which I booked through 12go, and arriving there early in the morning.
From there, I plan on exercising a rescue dog on the beach from Lanta Animal Welfare to support their foundation and also meet a cute animal. If I have time, I want to venture to Mu Ko Lanta National Park to do some sightseeing, and then return to Lanta Secret Beach near my accommodation, Pinky Bungalow Resort. Pinky Bungalow! What a name!
April 29th: Koh Lanta Island Tour
On my 2nd day in Koh Lanta, I will be snorkeling at Koh Ngai, seeing the glistening Emerald Cave at Koh Mook, swimming and sunbathing at Koh Kradan, and seeing tropical fish at Koh Chuck! That sure is a lot of “Kohs” (which means “island”)!
I booked my tour through Easy Day Thailand. I do not know a lot about them, but the tours in Koh Lanta are limited so I hope to make the most out of my situation no matter how it goes (it should go well).
April 30th: James Bond Island Sunset Tour
I will be taking the first ferry back to Phuket from Koh Lanta, then having Phuket Sail Tours (which I booked for Phi Phi too) pick me up at Rassada Pier. This was another tour I was supposed to do last time, and I have high expectations for it! If you look through most trip itineraries for this island, you will see that most boats leave early in the morning to go here. The tour that I booked specifically says it leaves in the afternoon to avoid crowds, and I am looking forward to getting that picture perfect Instagram-worthy sunset photo!
If I’m going to be a tourist, I’m doing it right!
May 1st: Tango Beach Resort at Koh Samui
I definitely splurged a bit here, but the price is still reasonable at $50 per night. I will be staying at Tango Beach Resort on Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui! This is the party beach and I plan on spending the entire day there. Last time I stayed at the budget New Hut Bungalows which were actually very nice and cost approximately $10 per night, but this time I am looking for more luxury! I am hoping the rain holds off on this day, or else I will just focus on writing.
May 2nd: Koh Tao Island Tour
Koh Tao is one place I haven’t been where everyone tells me I need to go! I debated about staying overnight here, but again I prefer the accommodations and convenience of staying in Samui since you can reach other places easier. That is why I opted to take the one day speedboat tour here so I could see all of the island’s main points.
I am most interested in climbing to the famous viewpoint in Koh Nangyuan and taking pictures of the beautiful waters crashing below. I am also looking forward to snorkeling in Mango Bay! I will be snorkeling a lot during this trip, so I hope I don’t get tired of it!
May 3rd: Pink Dolphin Tour + Blackmoon Culture Party
This is the main reason I’m going back to Thailand. I’ve never told anyone this, but I think about meeting these pink dolphins almost every day. I was supposed to see them, but the great storm of Phuket last month cancelled my trip. This time however, the weather should hopefully be on my side. Or else I am postponing other things on this trip until I see them!
This will be an insane day, because immediately after the tour I am having my bus drop me off at Na Thon Koh Pier where I will be sailing to Koh Phangan for the Blackmoon Culture Party! I had a very memorable time at the Fullmoon Party I went to during the 2019 Countdown. I made friends from all over the world, and the kind folks at Wild & Wandering Backpackers Hostel let me store my luggage there for a great price. I definitely plan on paying them a visit this time around!
Unlike some articles on the internet say, these parties are safe and I did not witness any drug-taking there. The fire rope definitely exists, and partying with hundreds of people on the beach is a crazy experience, but ]the majority of people there were kind and respectful. I’d say this is definitely a beach worth partying on!
After the party ends, I will be taking the first ferry back to Krabi at 7am!
May 4th-5th: Krabi
During my last two days in Thailand, I am meeting up with my old friend from college in Krabi! I did not plan much other then drinking on the beach with her and hiking to the Tiger Cave Temple! I feel like there is no better way to end my trip then spending it this way and reflecting on my trip over gorgeous views and farewell drinks on the beach. I am super excited to write all about my experiences (I still have many to write about from the last trip)!
I will be flying back to Tokyo at 5:30am, which again is not ideal, but is the cheapest price I could find for Golden Week. I will likely be sunburnt and exhausted when I get back, but the relaxing moments I have in between will make it worth it! I am excited for yet another exciting trip in Thailand!
From December 29th – January 7th, I will be going on an absolutely insane solo trip to Thailand to kick off 2019. This trip will have psychopath levels of traveling, but after spending many hours in the office and being exhausted from partying until sunrise, this will be a much needed-break.
This will be the 8th country I have traveled to this year. Since the start of 2018, I have traveled to Hong Kong, Macau, Korea (two times), Japan, America, Vietnam, and soon Thailand. I rarely get nervous about traveling by myself, but sometimes I fear the potential flight or ferry delays the weather could cause. Regardless, in the case that I do miss a flight or a ferry, I am more than happy to spend an extra day on the beach as most Asian countries are very accommodating to foreigners who respect their culture. I am excited to try new food, meet people of different cultures from all over the world, and gain new insight and ideas from the experiences I have.
I used to be a very introverted gamer, but now that I’ve gained confidence in myself I like traveling to new countries because it feels like I’m starting a new save file in real life. Going to a new country is like being born again because everything is so different and by the end of each trip, I feel fulfilled and ready to work harder towards my goals. My planned itinerary (so far) is listed below:
Tokyo bassline party on Dec 28th (#RIP1228) → Narita Airport (international flight is around 11am on the 29th) → Bangkok → Full Moon Rave Island for NYE (Koh Phangan) → Koh Samui → Koh Tan → Phuket → Phi Phi Islands → James Bond Island (overrated, but I want to take my own pictures here) → Chiang Mai → Chiang Rai → Bangkok ↺ Tokyo (on January 7th).
My friends that have been to Thailand have already told me that this is too much to fit in for the 10 days I am here, but I am a highly motivated person who doesn’t sleep a lot and likes to see and experience as many things as possible, so I feel like this is the perfect challenge for me. There is no better feeling than the satisfaction that comes with pulling off a crazy trip like this.
Here are the current things that I am planning to do (gathered from my research so far):
December 28th: (RIP Party in Tokyo)
The night of the 28th will be the ultimate pre-New Years celebration for me, because my friends are throwing a UK Garage and bassline party in central Tokyo called #RIP1228. My friend Carpainter, who is UK Garage and techno artist in Tokyo, is headlining, and I am also excited to Genick perform, who is young and upcoming bassline/garage artist there. The party will go from around midnight ~ 5am, so immediately after it finishes I will be taking a train to Narita International Airport to board my flight at 11am. Though I will be very tired, I am thankful for this final opportunity to say goodbye to all of my Japanese friends for a while:
After hopefully getting some rest during the flight, I will arrive to Bangkok around 4pm and begin my adventure around the city! The first stop I wish to make straight from the airport is the infamous Unicorn Cafe. A quick Google search comes up with hilarious results:
The next day (30th), I plan on waking up early and doing some running around the city. The Totoro Cafe (May’s Garden House) is where I want to have lunch, and I also want to try some sticky mango rice somewhere! As for sightseeing, currently the Airplane Graveyard, the Grand Palace, and Wat Arun are at the top of my list. If there is time, I will also check out the Sathorn Unique Tower (which is an abandoned skyscraper you can climb) and the Contemporary Art Museum. It is likely I will not have time for all of these things, but I will be sure to make the most of my experience! On the morning of the 31st, I will be making my way to my next destination: Koh Phangan.
There is also a hilarious bar I found online called “Krystal Club Thonglor 25” where I wish to drink out of the crystal skull flasks that they have on their website. Too funny. Hunting for aesthetic things and having unforgettable memories is what I’m after (even if they are somewhat tacky)!
The next day (December 30th), I plan on waking up early and doing some running around the city. The Totoro Cafe (May’s Garden House) is where I want to have lunch, and I also want to try some sticky mango rice somewhere! As for sightseeing, currently the Airplane Graveyard, the Grand Palace, and Wat Arun are at the top of my list. If there is time, I will also check out the Sathorn Unique Tower (which is an abandoned skyscraper you can climb) and the Contemporary Art Museum. It is likely I will not have time for all of these things, but I will be sure to make the most of my experience! On the morning of the 31st, I will be making my way to my next destination: Koh Phangan.
31st – 1st: Koh Phangan
Ah, the infamous full moon rave island! As an avid partier, this is one place I cannot ignore. I have read mixed reviews of these parties being overrated and overcrowded, but I’m from Tokyo so that is nothing new to me. The biggest con of going here for NYE is most accommodations are overpriced, and the cheap hostels require a 4-5 night stay (which is too long for an island that is relatively small in my opinion), so I am just going to enjoy the party for the evening and take the first ferry back.
I am taking a bus from Bangkok booked from 12go Asia at 6am on December 31st, then taking a ferry to arrive at Koh Phangan around 4pm. That will give me just enough time to get food, maybe go for a swim, and start barhopping. The only thing I’m worried about is storing my luggage, but hopefully I will find a locker or will be able to bribe a hostel to let me store my suitcase there.
If you’ve watched the comedic Travels with My Father on Netflix, there is an episode where the son takes his father to Koh Phangan where his father stares at his son in disbelief as he dances (quite hilariously) through the drunk hoards of people and mingles with the locals. After drinking out of a bucket of alcohol with his son, he then proceeds to read ‘Reporting on Hitler’ with noise-reducing headphones.
Your reaction to the full moon parties will either be one or the other from other blogs I’ve read (I’m hoping I can enjoy it as much as the son). If not, I will perhaps nurse a cheap bottle of wine and try to camp on the beach, or just go swimming somewhere in Haad Beach until sunrise. I am not very worried about staying out all night, because in Japan, Korea, and other European countries, parties go well on past 6am. I am going to try my best to enjoy the time with the people I have around me, because that is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life.
After ringing in the new year with random strangers who become my friends, I will take a ferry to Koh Samui (which looks more beautiful than this island) to start my new year!
January 1st – January 3rd: Koh Samui
Happy new year! The first thing I’m doing when I get to my bungalow hut (hopefully it’s the pink one) in Koh Samui is sleeping. This will be the day that I likely sleep the most, but as soon as I wake up I am going for a dip in Lamai Beach. The location of my beach hut is ideal because I am very close to both Lamai and Silver Beach, that are two of the most beautiful in Koh Samui. Afterwards, I wish to see the Grandfather’s Grandmother’s Rocks for hilarious photo opportunities, and maybe grab some Cafe 69 near the Bophut’s fisherman village for lunch to top it off (haha, puns)!
If I have energy, The Secret Buddha Garden and the Na Mueang Waterful look like wonderful destinations for the adventure-loving me. If I can find a moonlit bar somewhere near the pier then that is likely where I will end my night, else I will just take a bottle of wine back to my hut and prepare for the next activity: The Pink Dolphin Tour.
When I realized pink dolphins were real, I knew I absolutely had to see them!! Everyone in my life knows that I love things that are pink, aesthetic, and awesome, so this tour will be the ideal adventure for me. I am so stoked to see these dolphins and go scuba diving near one of the islands where they live. I am excited to travel to Koh Tan by speedboat to get some nice pictures of them and then enjoy some snorkeling. What a way to kick off 2019!
Continuing this crazy quest, at 8:15 on January 3rd, I will be flying to Phuket for more shenanigans!
January 3rd – January 5th: Phuket
People tell me that Phuket is overrated and “polluted” with expats, but I don’t think that’s true at all. I don’t mind going on tours with other people because I usually meet someone I enjoy talking with, and if not, I can just listen to my favorite music and stare at the aesthetic scenery so that makes me content. Phuket has some amazing beaches. I am staying at a hotel on the coast of Patong Beach because I am interested in experiencing the nightlife, but the southern beaches such as Karon and Yanui are very remote and perfect for those getaway vacations. However, I am not trying to “getaway” in Phuket–I am staying in the central area because I want to experience the main attractions and nightlife.
Upon arriving, I will first be exploring the Upside Down House, then going to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to feed and hopefully take care of these precious animals. I read online that they have been harmed by people riding them as a tourist attraction, and that going to this sanctuary is a good way to interact with them without hurting them. I am excited to do things listed on the Afternoon Visit itinerary such as bathe and walk in the jungle with them! I am not sure what to expect, but regardless, it looks like an amazing time!
The next day (January 4th), I have 3 activities planned: The Tiger Kingdom, a tour to James Bond Island through Phuket Sail Tours during the sunset hours, and finally a dazzling night at the theme park Phuket Fantasea! I am going to be absolutely exhausted by the end of the night, but I will get to experience so much wildlife and swim at so many beaches so I’m absolutely stoked for this!
On January 5th, I booked a tour to the Phi Phi Islands through Voyagin because it was fair-priced and included a lot of destinations that I wanted to see. Although there are a lot of options available, I am most looking forward to exploring Viking Cave, swimming in Maya Bay, and witnessing the monkeys on Monkey Beach. Regardless of if I am by myself, I already know that I’m going to have a great time!
At 7:20pm, I will be leaving and heading to Chiang Mai for the final, and perhaps most aesthetic part of this tour!
January 5th – January 7th: Chiang Mai
While I was in Vietnam, a bartender at the Unicorn Pub was telling me about a temple that had golden toilets. For aesthetic purpose, I had to seek this temple out. The name of this temple is Wat Rong Koon, and its intricate design is absolutely breathtaking:
I have booked the Package B Tour through KKDay and am so excited to learn more about it! During this tour, I will be going to a hotspring, visiting this glistening temple, going to the Black House museum of architecture, and ending my trip by seeing the traditional lifestyle of the Chiang Rai Hilltribe village people.
At the end of the tour, I have requested to be dropped off directly at the Chiang Mai airport, and then will fly back to Bangkok to catch my overnight flight back to Tokyo. I have put around 30+ hours of research into this trip and have booked all of my flights and tours about 2 months in advance, so I am absolutely thrilled to finally go to Thailand!
In the case of poor weather or flight delays, I am hoping I can quickly think on my feet and find alternative activities to do. I love beaches, photography, night markets, and going to bars, so I expect to have the time of my life while I’m here. I am excited to open my heart and mind to a brand new culture so I can continue to grow and connect with others.
Look forward to hearing from me soon! I want to share my experience with everyone!