Friday, June 27, 2014

5D4N Osaka, Japan: Day II.

Update: You can now find the other days here: Day IDay IIIDay IVDay V and first ONSEN experience!


Day two rise and shine at 630am. Malaysia time it was 530am. Sacrificed my sleep for more onsen because we bid farewell to Hotel Rosa Blanca after breakfast. BEST ONSEN EVER. You people should know by now how much I treasure my sleep. If not, go read this first! Anytime I can get more sleep I would so when I actually sacrifice it for onsen, it's like so obvious how much I love onsen more than sleep. Although I had to be naked. More on that next time.




So, Mie Prefecture was covered and next, we headed towards Shiga Prefecture, which was about 1 and half hours away (I think!). Our first destination was to Port Otsu, where we went for a 90 minutes cruise along Lake Biwa (Japan's largest lake). 





 We got there early so we just sat down by the lake and check Facebook/update Instagram. 


Michigan is the name of the baby that we were on.


It's not as big as Star Cruise kind of cruise, but it's gorgeous!


The entire place was empty and only we were allowed to go through. Other visitors had to use the other area. Felt so VIP-ed then.


Japanese Beef Curry and Seafood Pasta.

After having our lunch, we were brought around the ship/boat and were given short history and stuff about Michigan. Oh, that was Mike having the time of his life with his sandwich and he's from Michigan. So, he was overly excited about being in Michigan, the ship/boat. Mike is doing his internship with the Tourism Department of Shiga Prefecture, that's why he joined us for the day. He's 23 years old, too tall and he has the cutest black puppy in the world. Haha.


One thing I love about Michigan is this red wheel thing is the one moving it and watching it turns and do its thing is quite a nice feeling. Then, it was windy to walk outside but not too windy until your hair is all over the place and stuff. So, that was pretty nice.




After goofing around and getting to know more about this cruise, it was time for us to sit down and relax. Live performances that involves the participation of the audience without us having to  go on stage, I like. Super relaxing and entertaining!







So, we covered cruise in the morning and next will be up the hills. Up to the cooling hills where there is no such thing as sweating. Ahhh I love that.

It was about 20-30 minutes from Port Otsu (if I'm not mistaken) and our second Tour Guide, Ms Michiko-san did such a great job telling us about the location, stories and stuff. Her map is the best d. 

Welcome to Kansai, everybody! :)


Arrived safely! They advised us to bring a cardigan/sweater to go to this temple because it will be cold. I didn't have any with me at that moment so it didn't matter. Turns our we don't need them at all. The weather was cooling and perfect to my skin. PERFECTO.

Mike kinda have an obsession of photo-bombing anything and anyone. 


Enryakuji Temple.
To get to this majestic-full-of-historic-moments' temple, we walked for a little bit but its okay because the view was amazing. It's a lot like going up to the Penang Hill, but I think this hill is a lot bigger.

So, we covered sea lake and hill on day two and it was time for check-in to our lovely hotel for the day, Biwako Ryousuitei where I felt like a total VIP. 


We checked in, dropped our luggages and off we went out again. This time for hotel inspection. Five hotels in total. Good thing it was all located very nearby and we didn't spend too much time in the bus. It was quite a rushed inspection because it was getting really late. The actual plan was for us to check-in at Biwako Ryokusuitei go for onsen and then dinner and then onsen again. But that didn't happen of course.




We got back to the hotel and it was time for us to say goodbye to Mike and his boss. I don't know boss name because he rarely speaks to us. I think one of the difficult thing in Japan is the language. Next time I go I need to bring a translator with me. So yeah, that was Shiga Prefecture on day two and it was amazing :)


We got into our hotel room (three of us shared for that night) and lo and behold, we have our personal onsen overlooking the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. THANK YOU GOD!

Although we have our own onsen, we still went to the public one at night after dinner because it's fun like that :)



Okay, not much time to goof around. We quickly change into our yukata and went downstairs to our VIP room for a fine dine dinner. I love wearing yukata on my goodness. So tempted to get one home but then it's so hot in Penang that it'll just end up in the cupboard anyways.







Not used to sitting on the floor at such a long time for dinner. Girls supposed to sit with their legs to one side. We did that for the first 5 minutes and then it's crossed legs all the way. Very impolite especially with the yukata on but we were so hungry and tired that we judt did it anyways. Our Japanese friends just laughed at us. Hah.


My first time tasting raw sea urchin. I didn't like it. The texture is fine but the taste is just very er.. fruity? And I hate fruits? So, maybe you guys will like it. Apparently, it's really expensive here. Another thing which I find hard to eat; raw seabass. I mean come on. We make sure it's 110% cooked here, whether grilled or in steamboat and then they serve it raw there wor. I took one and stopped. Tak boleh lah ni. Raw prawns all still can. I don't know why raw fish I cannot. Other than salmon, trout and tuna of course. These are exceptional ones.

Oh! And we had shabu-shabu. Totally different from how Malaysians eat them. Our shabu-shabu is sweet and very flavorful right? Theirs is different and so much more healthier. It's only hot water. You put your raw vegetables and slices of beef in there and when it's cooked, you take it up and dip it in a brown sauce and that's it. I thought it was quite bland to eat with rice, but that's how they do it. I ended up having a lot of wasabi with it. Haha.


One of the common room service in Japan when you;re staying in a Japanese-style-room with tatami mats is that when you leave your room for dinner, they will come in and set the beds for you. No need to remind them or let them know that you going out also. Their service is seriously best d. Have I mentioned that their beds are super comfy also? 



Beds only NOT! Toilet also so syiok. It's always nice to sit on a hot/warm toilet seats, especially when you're travelling or in a cold room or anywhere cool lah. It's veryyyy relaxing. No kidding.

To all the lazy people out there, I found a solution to poop more times and feeling good while doing it! I think it's called a bidet and I think you can get them installed in your toilets from Coway. No need English words also you will know exactly what each button will do when you press on them. Wahhhh I love this so much at one point I sat there quite long. Hah.



The end for hari kedua.

I realized trying to finish all five days in Japan in words is super tiring mentally.


Quite sad that it's over. I need another holiday soon. Heh.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

5D4N Osaka, Japan: Day I.

Date: 16-20 June 2014

Update: You can now find the other days here: Day II, Day III, Day IV, Day V and first ONSEN experience!


About one and half month ago, my boss told me that she was going to send me to Japan for a Fam Trip. Fam Trip is also called Familiarization Trip, where you experience all the famous touristy place or the places that they want to introduce, get familiar with them so we can come home and put them in our tour packages.


The last time I went to a Fam Trip was to Club Med Cherating end of last year.


My reaction upon hearing the word, 'JAPAN' was priceless. Not that I can see how I looked then but I can imagined how I'd look if I were looking at a mirror. My eyes wide open with one eyebrow raised to a side, mouth widely opened with a very soft 'huh?' and body all straightened up. 


It was an insane moment. I couldn't believe it. It's Japan okay. JAPAN!


Of course minutes after that, more questions were asked towards my boss and then finally, I came to understand that the invitation was aimed towards the KL travel agents and since Holiday Tours & Travel have a branch in Penang and since they decided to send someone from Penang instead of KL, I was chosen. *proud*


Thank You Jesus :)


So, I flew to KL from Penang (MH 1161) on the 15th, Sunday evening and waited for few hours to board the 7-hours flight to Osaka (MH052). Initially, Koay had football training so he couldn't drop me off at the airport but he changed his schedule. Aww. He wouldn't admit it but I think he was sad that he couldn't see me for the next one week. Hah. 


I actually asked if I could get seat upgrade to business class but no because flights were full. If not, sure ada chance d. It'll be nice to be at business class for 7 hours. It would feel super great! 


A hint! If you want to be upgraded to business class for free, don't check in too early and always be in proper clothes. No slippers. Wear nicely and maybe, just maybe they can do give you an upgrade. You're welcome :)




I requested for window seat and was given a window and emergency area's seat. That means more leg space although it was like very very near to the toilet. Good thing no smell or anything. When I settled down and became comfortable in my seat, I begin chatting with the lady next to me, only to find out that she was going to Japan for Fam Trip too. The same one with me. Hah. How nice. So we got to know each other more and stuff. So nice.


I tried watching Glee but was so tried my eyes kept closing. I even declined supper. Maybe because I had seafood sandwich at KLIA earlier and they were serving egg sandwich for supper. I slept until 4-5am and they started serving breakfast, which I ate happily, while watching Glee from before. 




It's funny that when we reached the airport, it didn't feel like we had so little sleep. I was definitely so awake and all pumped up to explore Japan. That is not until when I got into the bus and found out that we have 2 hours before we reach our first tourist attraction that the 3 girls crashed. Slept like a baby. Fastest 2 hours bus ride for sure. 


We were greeted by our Japan Co-ordinator, Mr Nagaoka-san and our temporary Tour Guide, Ms Miyako-san and the Manager of Nippon Travel Agency (who handles all our travelling documents), Mr Yamazaki-san. 


I really hoped that these names are correct. I have a lot of name cards okay. Don't judge me please thank you. 




This trip was planned for us to cover 4 prefectures; Mie, Shiga, Kyoto and Osaka, where we will spend a night at each prefecture. Mie was the first one and we headed straight to Iga-ryu Ninja House.


I must say I was pretty excited for this one. When we got there, we got to choose our Ninja 'costume'. Obviously black is Ninja's color and the rest are just for fashion sake. Hah.





Only 3 of us for the entire week. Don't ask me why my headband was tied like that. I know it's supposed to be across the forehead like Jane and Selina's. I don't know why mine was like that. The ninja lady there tied it for me. Everything was done for me, so yeah. 

 Then, we walked for quite a bit to the place where this whole Ninja thing was 'founded'/'discovered'/'created'. This exact hillside where Ninja hides in the old times from some political influence or something. I can't remember the story behind it. 



Ninjas used to be really small and petite group of people. They are even shorter than me I kid you not. Small but really fast. They showed us how Ninja moves around in a house and stuff. It'll be super fun to live in a ninja house just because there are so many hidden doors/pathways/weapons that you can 'play' around with. Hah. Love the experience!


Then, we watched a Ninja Show and boy, it was goood! I was even 'selected by them for a 'show' in front of other visitors. Paiseh betul. They made me hold like a long bamboo-like stick and asked me to aim at a hanging balloon and to blow the needle (that was already inside) towards it. First time, failed. to my defense, it was far! Second time, POP! Everyone kept laughing and I was clueless because they spoke in Japanese. So, I just kept smiling. Not so fun being laughed at without knowing the reason. Ahhh such bizarre moment for me.






Oh! We saw these two boys who were so cute! Cannot tahan! So handsome bunch of boys! Selina even asked the parents' permission to take their photo. Haha.


After the show, we were given three times to throw shuriken at a wooden board. 

After all that ninja actions and bizarre moments, it was time for mam mam. We were so hungry we could swallow a cow each except for Selina because she doesn't eat beef. Hah. Our lunch was at this service area along their highway called the Meihan-Ueno Drive-in. Cannot compare this 'rest-stop-eating-place' with the ones we have along our highways.

No need to talk about being in a large area, ours also very big. Want to talk must talk about the quality of their food and service and food. It's insanely high in quality. They even serve free coffee/oolong tea/green tea.


I ordered what was highly recommended on the menu. Beef. Beef has a name but I forgot. Urghh. This beef melts in the mouth alright. I think it has more fats than meat. Few bites and I was ready to stop. 


After makan, we walked around for some local food shopping. I didn't get anything because I really wasn't in the mood for shopping. No idea why. Afterall, first day only what. One thing I tried on that was err.. disgusting? Not really lah but it tasted super odd. Jeruk-ed lala. No way I'm ever putting that in my mouth again. Local goodness but no thanks for me :)


The girls managed to squeeze homamade ice cream into their tummy but not for me. I was ready for another round of sleep. Before we say goodbye to this place, we took a photo with their mascot. They all kept saying, 'kawaii' which means cute. It's alright. Never into this kind of soft toys whether small ones or giant one.




Oh did I also mention that this one bottle of water costs abour RM3 and I kept it for few days. Expensive water is expensive. 

 Next on our itinerary is the ever famous Ise Shrine. Japanese peopel takes their shrines veru seriously. Before they enter, they bow. Before they leave, they bow. Even when they leave their school, they bow. Such patriotic action towards their nation. 

It's a very big piece of land where a lot of walking is needed. Their walkways are all scattered with small pebbles/stones/rocks. It is believed that these pebbles will purify your whole self from all the sins that you have within you. So, as you walked towards the most inside of the shrine, you're already quite cleansed spiritually. Other than these pebbles, they also have holy water from the mountains where you have to wash your hands and mouth following a certain steps. 




After Ise Shrine, we walked to the Okage Yokocho - food and shopping street. One of my favorite place to be at. It has these olden days' houses and shops and walking down the street just gives that oh-my-goodness-I'm-in-Japan-for-real. You can find food, souvenirs, restaurants, bars and all sorts of things there. It's a very warm street. Actually the weather was really cooling but I wasn't talking about the weather warm kind. You get it.





Another kind of beef that I tried. This one super yummy! For one stick like that, I think it was RM30.


The famous dessert shop. Every Japanese will know of this brand. Their famous dessert is like our ice kacang. They don't have all sorts of beans and syrup. They only put green tea syrup and a ball of red bean paste. Japanese all-time favorite dessert. Not so much for me although I like green tea. Three people can share one bowl.


Thank God that was our last tourist place to go. Energy level zero already by then.Our stay for the night is at Hotel Rosa Blanca. One of the most beautiful hotel I've even been. We did a quick hotel inspection where we see all the category of the rooms in the hotel. Super sweet. They even have a wedding chapel on top of the hotel. It is the most beautiful walk-down-the-aisle. SERIOUSLY! 





 View from my room. That is not a tennis court. That is a helipad and the white patch is the outdoor wedding walk-down-the-aisle. The idea is you arrive at the resort with your groom and walk straight to your guest and exchange your vows. Sweet.


Junior Suite.
Nagaoka-san: Sarah, next time you come here with your bf and stay in this room. Very romantic.
Me: No way! Not married cannot!
Nagaoka-san: Can lahh. Why cannot?
Me: Cannot! Not husband cannot lah!


Cottage Room. Can accommodate up to 8 people. One of my personal favorite because can fit so many people leh! 


Our final inspection: Wedding Chapel. SO BEAUTIFUL COVERED WITH WHITE ROSES AND A CROSS! Christians in Japan is like less than 1% okay. LESS THAN 1%!


Fancy dinner at the hotel where we were served with all kinds of goodies. My most loved is the cold cut of duck with slices or orange.SO YUMMY! I tried sake and plum wine too. Oh so good. 


My room. One person gets one room each. My room very nice. 


I went for onsen but I'm going to talk about onsen on another separate post because it's too special :)


Only first day away from home and I had to have skype sessions with the family already. More on Sha Lynn because I miss her so terribly lots!


Ahhhh. Day 1 over. That was pretty tiring.

Day 2 will come soon when I really have the time.