japan

Rather Be – Clean Bandit ft Jess Glynne

This song makes me happy every time I hear it  🙂

We’re a thousand miles from comfort, we have traveled land and sea
But as long as you are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be
I would wait forever, exalted in the scene
As long as I am with you, my heart continues to beat

[Pre-Chorus:]
With every step we take, Kyoto to The Bay
Strolling so casually
We’re different and the same, gave you another name
Switch up the batteries

[Chorus:]
If you gave me a chance I would take it
It’s a shot in the dark but I’ll make it
Know with all of your heart, you can’t shame me
When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be
N-n-n-no, no, no, no place I’d rather be [3x]

[Verse 2:]
We staked out on a mission to find our inner peace
Make it everlasting so nothing’s incomplete
It’s easy being with you, sacred simplicity
As long as we’re together, there’s no place I’d rather be

[Pre-Chorus]

[Chorus]

When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be

[Bridge:]
Hmmmmmmmmmm, hoooooooooo
Be [9x]
Yeah-e-yeah-e-yeah-e-yeah-e-yeah, yeah, yeah

[Chorus]

When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be

Procrastinating…

It’s so easy to procrastinate when I’m at my laptop. I’m leaving for an overseas holiday in 1 week’s time and I’ve got a few things still to tick off my ‘To Do’ list before then.

Fortunately everything for the trip has been booked and planned for. I finally got to pick up my Passport and Visa for China. Third time lucky! I just need to pick up a few last minute gifts for those I will be visiting and pack my bags. No doubt packing will be happening frantically this time next week.

So right now, I’m doing everything I can do to not do my tax return right now. :PConstantly checking Instagram, cos i’m really addicted and my Facebook feed. I just painted my nails as well 😀 I love this colour and I found this bottle when I visited Japan last year. Awesome find!

electricbluenails

As I will be traveling to China, I am going to have major withdraws from all social media. No Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogging! I’ll have to keep my thoughts posted in a word document and spend time uploading when I return in a month’s time.

However I think it will be really good to have a break from technology. I am looking forward to meeting new people, discovering new experiences, trying different foods and taking in the natural beauty of China. I’m sure it will be a very interesting experience.

For the time remaining in Melbourne, I’ve tried keep dates with friends who want to catch up before we go. September is also a really busy week for birthdays – damn all those parents having sex during the start of the New Years.

So far, all I’ve done is downloaded the e-tax software. I suppose I should get onto it now. Wish me luck.

Lil xx

Oh Hai…nah i didn’t go do my tax. Pssht. I looked up photos of procrastinating instead.

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and..i’ll probably I’ll do another post after this one, then…go get something to eat. It’s never ending!!!

My brain is still on holidays

It was kind of funny, when I mentioned I was going on holiday, there were a few odd people who asked me “So are you going snowboarding in Japan?”

No, because it is Summer in Japan and it is so hot! The temperature was around 34-37 degrees. But I couldn’t complain. I was on holidays! Instead, I eventually stopped going out during the day.

To survive the summer heat, one of my best investments was a fan bought from Diaso (100 Yen Store) which is a multi-level (I think 7 levels) store that sells probably everything you can think of for 100 Yen (about $1.25 AUD). Similar to the $2 shop, but better. We totally get ripped off at $2.80 here.

It also helps that there are drink vending machines all over the place. You don’t have to look far to find your next cold beverage. There are some interesting drinks. The Salty Watermelon drink was talked about a lot, so I had to try it. Tastes like watermelon, just not very sweet.

After my visits to Nagoya, Gifu, Toyota & Koyasan I stayed in Osaka for the rest of my trip. I didn’t care about staying in a nice hotel, so I found the Osaka Namba Guesthouse. As I was traveling alone, hostels & backpackers are usually a good place to meet new people. (But this didn’t happen cos French guys only speak French…and my French is limited to…Bonjour?)

The place was comfortable and in a great location. There were just 3 private rooms. I had Wifi, fridge, T.V and air-conditioning, plus didn’t have to share my room with anybody. Plus I didn’t have to go out and look for a laundromat. For 2700 Yen ($33 a night), it was a pretty good deal.

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan was a really great way to escape the heat. This aquarium is the biggest aquarium in the world, and I found it very impressive. There were so many different species of animals and underwater life. The aquarium spirals naturally down level by level, circling the main attraction – the Whale shark.

I sat there for hours, watching all the different types of fish swim around. Especially the large school of fish that twisted and turned, creating different shapes. It was really hard to capture on camera.

It made me think about when we were young we use to say…
“When I grow up I want to be a Marine Biologist.” (Because every girl loved dolphins) And then the girl in me picks up a soft toy as I exit through the gift shop. It squeaks.

As the temperatures start to cool down in the evenings, I make a visit to Osaka Castle at sunset, which is quite stunning.

There was a Kendo & Karate practice session happening in a nearby building in the park.

Night time is a good time to visit to the Tsutenkaku Tower to see the city lights of Osaka.

Osaka is FOOD city. NOM NOM NOM! It’s a little hard to get around not knowing any Japanese. But there are plenty of places with pictures menu’s or plastic model replica’s of the food on the menu for you to point, smile and nod at.

I still get confused when using the vending machine system at ‘fast food’ diners in Japan. As I clearly had no idea and the staff kindly tried to help me also by pointing and smiling at the machine. The system is otherwise quite efficient.

Famous foods in Osaka are Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)

Okonomiyaki (A pancake of noodles mixed with egg, flour and ingredients of your choice)

It is also very fun to drink Sake & SoChu at Izakaya bars and try a variety of skewers grilled on the charcoal BBQ. Delicious! This is my favourite!

The Japanese are very adventurous with food. I even tried raw chicken at one of the Izakaya bars. My mum was not impressed.

I think I was pretty lucky to find fun and friendly people at the bars in Osaka. It was a no brainer to try choose bars with English influences, as it was my best bet to find someone who spoke some English. I had a great time at The Dublin Bay Bar where I met some friendly local Japanese people.

As I was missing home, I also dropped into Coolabah, an Australian owned bar. It was footy season, so the bar was buzzing with Footy conversation as the Hawks vs Geelong game had just ended. I’m not crazy about football, but it’s a slice of Australia in Japan 🙂

So i returned to freezing cold Melbourne with a loaded suitcase filled with new clothes, chocolate, lollies, and souvenirs and my heart filled with great memories 😀 xx

OHMMMMMMMMM

My timing for my stay in Japan was just perfectly aligned with the celebrations of the Summer. Guys and girls dress up in gorgeous yukata (浴衣), which is a casual summer style kimono. This creates a very traditional-like atmosphere, buzzing with excitement and the sounds of wooden clogs tick-tocking along the pavements.

The main event starts at 7pm when the sunsets. At dusk the first few fireworks are launched and puffs of coloured smoke can be seen. I thought to myself, what a waste of fireworks! The show is just getting started. As the night continues, more fireworks shoot into the night sky, each one better than the last. Food stalls sell all sorts of yummy delicious foods such as hotdogs, deep fried chicken, salted cucumber on sticks.

The fireworks display last for 2 hours. I was completely amazed and also felt so fortunate enough to see the fireworks display in both Gifu and Toyota City.

Fireworks in Gifu

Fireworks in Toyota

With the weekend over, it was now time to continue on my journey to Mt Koya (Koyasan) where I would be staying at a traditional Ryokan. This time I took the Bullet Train from Nagoya to Osaka which only took 1 hour.

From Osaka, the journey to Koyasan is still another 2-3 hours. As the train moves further away from the city, the scenery becomes more lush, green and finally large mountains appear. The scenery is just beautiful.

Little towns are hidden in amongst the mountains, all easily accessible by train. I am heading up to the very top, which requires transport up the steep slope by cable car.

I arrive, just in time for the 5pm check in at the Shojoshin-in. Very few Ryokans have English speaking staff and I booked this room through this useful website. After a full day of travel, I am very much relieved to be shown the room I will be staying at tonight.

I settle in and observe how peaceful and quite this area is. I am then interrupted by the sound of the telephone to inform me to come down to the dining area as it is now dinner time!

I am shown to a private tatami room by a very cheerful and happy man. He seems more excited about dinner than I am. I am presented with an array of many little dishes. The meal is completely vegetarian and includes Soya beans, Soups, Tempura, variety of vegetables, pickles and fresh fruit. This is accompanied with green tea and rice.

After a delicious and very filling meal, I decide to take a walk around the area. The Ryokan has many beautifully kept gardens, creating a calm, peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. It is not long until it is dark again, so I kept my walk brief before heading back to try get some sleep to prepare for the 6am Ceremony.

Unfortunately I hardly slept a wink. The ‘peaceful’ sound of water trickling in the garden made me go to the toilet about 8 or 9 times throughout the night. It was probably about 5am by the time I was completely exhausted and started to fall asleep.

By 5.50am, a bell rings to notify all guests that the 6am ceremony is about to commence. This is compulsory as a guest of the Ryokan, so I drag myself down to the prayer room.

Two monks conduct the ceremony. This consists of continuous chanting and timely ringing of bells and cymbals for about 45 minutes. After the ceremony it is straight to breakfast. Again vegetarian consisting of Miso soup, Soya Beans, small serve of vegetable and a tofu like cake. Accompanied with tea and rice.

After breakfast, I check out and prepare myself for a long day of walking. At 9am in the morning, it is already very hot, but I pushed myself to cover the entire area and view all the World Heritage listed temples and sites. It was a very rewarding experience.

Completely exhausted by 2pm, I head back to Osaka Namba, where I plan to be based for the rest of my trip. I am looking forward to getting some much needed sleep and my left eye is constantly twitching. xx

Where the F am I?

I arrive Kansai Airport, Osaka Japan early on a Friday Morning. I’m not sure if I really slept on the plane, but I woke up to a beautiful sunrise. This is where I thought to myself, today is going to be a fabulous day…I think I spoke too soon.

This shit just got real. I am in Japan. By myself. I don’t know how to speak Japanese.

The first thing I do is head for the tourist info area. I realise at this point that I have overlooked the part of getting from Kansai Airport to Osaka station as I figured that I would be able to rely on the tourist desk to help me. However whilst they can speak English, the instructions are given in broken English and it is still easy to make the wrong move.

Error number 1.
Jumping on any train at the station platform.
I was sleep deprived and didn’t even think about checking which train it was I needed to catch. All I knew was trains on this platform go to Osaka. I happened to choose a limited express train, headed for Kyoto. This cost me extra money, as the ticket inspector spoke to me in Japanese before presenting me with a calculator, which I assumed was the fare adjustment. ‘Oops

Error number 2.
Wearing the wrong pair of shoes.
When I finally got to Osaka, the next challenge was to find the Umeda Sky Building. I thought I had instructions written down correctly, but after going up, down, in out and around, I found myself at the information desk again asking for directions. I was very hot, sweaty with blistered feet and relieved to find this building so I could be on my way by bus to Nagoya. ‘sigh’

The bus trip took about 3 hours. This is not the fastest way, but it was cheaper than taking a bullet train, costing me only 2000 Yen.  I had some time to kill, so my friend advised me to go to Sakae Station and wait for a few hours.

Error number 3.
Dragging luggage downstairs
Either the station did not have elevators, or I could not find them. To get myself to Sakae station meant changing a few trains. I got lost over and over again, trying to understand the station masters instructions in broken English. At one point in time, I could not be bothered carrying all my luggage down a flight of stairs so I decided it would be OK to drag my suitcase downstairs. This however created a loud explosive sound and I managed to scare group of Japanese girls who gave me dirty death stares as I continued to drag my luggage all the way down. ‘Oops’

When I FINALLY made it to Sakae Station. I found a luggage locker and rewarded myself with a huge ice cold drink from Starbucks. At Sakae Station there is a huge man-made building called ‘Oasis 21‘. I took a photo of the building from the garden level, where there are a lot of nice trees, green grass and seating areas. On the roof top level, there is a massive pool of water. It was very serene and peaceful and I spent some time enjoying the cool breeze and the beautiful sunset.

After a little bit of shopping, which included purchasing a very much needed hat in the hot Japanese summer, it was time to meet my friend for dinner and party until the early hours of the morning. It was a Friday after all 😉

Konichiwa Japan! This is just the beginning. xx

Escaping the cold

It was time to escape the bitter cold, miserable Melbourne weather and have a little break in hot and humid Singapore.

It’s been a while since my last overseas trip. I am always envious of other people and their travels. So of course now it’s time for everyone else to envy me. 😀

I’ve never really done much of solo travel. I get quite nervous about it. Something about being alone, nobody to talk to and also my poor orientation that causes me to walk around in circles terrifies me. Plus I always seem to get bomb tested at the airports, which is annoying.

However on a couple of occasions now traveling solo I’ve met some lovely and interesting people, who I would not have bothered to talk to if I was not alone. My mother taught me never to talk to strangers, but I’m not three anymore.

The small talk and general chit chat is a great time killer on long-haul flights. My flight on Jetstar to Singapore was great as I shared a row of 4 seats with another gentleman. I pretty much passed out as soon as the plane took off and woke up to find he had decided to take up two seats to himself, and I had the luxury to do the same.

So naturally we got to chatting and killed an hour or so on the 7 hour flight. It’s a little scary how much of yourself you end up sharing with a complete stranger. Although not all the nitty gritties were explained, I met this guy’s family of 5 gorgeous kids and his Ex-wife. He was based in Qatar and rarely visit Melbourne, but hopes to base himself back in Melbourne with this new Lebanese wife. He also had something to do with weather technology and envisaged stopping war and famine by breaking the drought. He was a very interesting and intelligent person who I was grateful to have the company of on what would have otherwise been an uneventful flight.

I did manage to find some time to sleep and chill out. Jetstar’s pay per view entertainment unit was very convenient and I paid $5 to watch a Japanese’s film called Bread of Happiness.

It was a very cute film about a couple who own a little cafe in Lake Toya, a remote and scenic part of Japan. They enjoy the simple life of baking fresh bread and making good coffee for those who live in this small village plus any guests who are on break from their busy or mundane lives.

The film travels through the four seasons of the year, welcoming guests with strained and emotional relationships, helping them face their pain and sorrow in order to find their happiness again. It was a very beautiful and meaningful film. As I plan to visit Japan on this trip, it helped me brush up on a few basic Japanese words too.

Right now I am fortunate to be surrounded by lots of love and family. Not to mention the free accommodation and being taken to the best places around Singapore eat. The Singapore Garden and Flower Show is also currently on exhibition. I have never see so many different types Orchids in my life. My favourite display was the smurf garden filled with Sunflowers, bluehydrangeas and red cacti plants. Excuse the crappy camera phone photo.

I sometimes get sad thinking about when the fun will be over. However I definitely have to be thankful for the experiences and really make the most of every moment. I spent some time reflecting on my time and experiences spent traveling to various other places in Australia and around the world. Whilst wish I could go back to those places, I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to do so many amazing things. Plus…there’s definitely more fun times ahead to look forward to. So what’s there to be sad about? xx