Siem Reap, Day 2: Food Trip, Shopping, and ATV Ride

We walked to Il Forno (located in the alley beside Red Piano) for lunch, and we were both excited to eat since we love Italian food.

Also excited for our ATV ride with QUAD ADVENTURE CAMBODIA.

FEBRUARY 20, 2016

Kim and I started our 2nd day quite late since it was a day off for us for Angkor Park. Mr. Kim, our tuktuk driver, picked us up from our house at past 9AM and dropped us at Pub Street. Since we had not yet eaten breakfast, we went around the area and found Father’s Restaurant. I told Kim that I saw a few blogs recommending the place but I could not recall what dishes were recommended. We decided to go inside and just order what we feel like eating…

We were lucky that both food items we ordered tasted good. I had to remove a few herbs from the fresh spring rolls since these made the food cloying to me. After our late breakfast, we visited every stall in the market near Pub Street so that we could shop for souvenirs.

We walked to Il Forno (located in the alley beside Red Piano) for lunch afterwards, and we were both excited to eat since we love Italian food.

Our same spot in Il Forno when we dined twice during our last day in Siem Reap
Pizza Prosciutto & Funghi
Ravioli That’s Amore – part of their special menu that week; homemade ravioli stuffed with parma ham and ricotta served with cherry tomato and rucola

The pizza was so good and we ended up finishing all slices. Both Kim and I do not eat crust but Il Forno’s pizza crust was thin and chewy so we also got to eat this part. Of course, we did not pass up the chance to order ravioli as this is another favorite of ours. After our excellent lunch, we found out that there were a few more stalls nearby so we shopped for pasalubong clothes.

We also visited the Day Market which was a few blocks away. I was able to buy a small legit leather bag for my mom. The kind vendor gave me a discount of USD 15 (from USD 35 to 20) so yay for that!

Even if it was just early afternoon, the heat was already unbearable so we decided to eat ice cream in Blue Pumpkin. I saw a lot of people raving about it so I had high expectations. Well, the ice cream was good but not really something that I would hype about. The air-conditioned store was heaven though because it kept us safe from the heat. T.T

After finishing our ice cream, we asked Mr. Kim to take us back home so that we could rest before our ATV ride scheduled for late afternoon. We asked him to pick us up again at 4PM then drop us off near Red Piano since that was our meeting place with an employee from QUAD ADVENTURE CAMBODIA.

We found Nico (the employee) and his tuktuk near Red Piano, and he drove us to a part of Siem Reap that already resembled countryside. Once there, we were given orientation on the sunset ATV ride we availed (USD 32). Since Kim and I do not drive a car and have never tried riding an ATV, we were given an ATV drive test. We both failed so we ended up with a guide riding behind us so that they could maneuver the ATV if it was already difficult for us.

The whole ride took about an hour. The best part with the ATV ride was we can stop whenever we want to, if we wanted to take pictures or just admire the view.

We also passed by a lot of locals and most of the kids we encountered happily waved to us. Hopefully, they were not too disturbed by the loud noise that the ATV made. Our first stop was at a big fish pond where we could feed the fish…

We rode our ATV again afterwards and proceeded to our last stop where we could watch the sun set…

Beautiful sunset to end our day

When we finished our ATV ride, Nico drove us back to Pub Street since Kim and I plan to feel the night life in this place. We ate at TRIANGLE where the dining area was out in the open. We ordered fresh spring rolls, barbecue, and flat noodles that was cooked like pancit here… Only the spring rolls tasted good. It was such a letdown because the place has a TripAdvisor sticker + their specialty is grilled food. The meat in the barbecue was too tough to chew and the veggies on the stick were quite soggy. As for the flat noodles, it tasted bland. *sigh*

Good thing we would drop by MISS WONG after this so we decided to just order food there aside from cocktails…

We ordered these cocktails and two servings of Steamed Shrimp Har Gow. If it was not that expensive, we would have ordered more servings. I liked the Passion Fruit Cosmopolitan I ordered but the alcohol was too strong for me. I still ended up with palpitations even if I added water into it. T.T Kim’s Lemon Grass Collins was better since it did not have strong alcohol kick and taste.

We went to another drinking place after this but only Kim ordered a mug of beer since it would be bad for me if I did the same. Not a fan of beer anyway so I did not mind. We walked around Pub Street some more before meeting up with Mr. Kim…

While walking back to our tuktuk, Mr. Kim pointed to the fried ice cream stall. We initially wanted to buy here earlier but the stall was still closed. We looked at Mr. Kim and told him we would buy one before going home. We found the serving to be good for sharing at that time since we were quite full already. We chose mango and dragon fruit to be mixed together then had mango bits as toppings. Oh, it was perfect for the humid weather. We were able to gobble it up after a few bites while riding our tuktuk on the way home.

Called it a night after arriving at our house as we had to get up early the following day to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

 

LINKS TO OTHER SIEM REAP 2016 POSTS:

Siem Reap, Day 0-1: Angkor Archaeological Park – 8 Park Stops in 1 Day

Siem Reap, Day 3: 10 Park Stops in 1 Day, Touich Restaurant

Siem Reap, Day 4: Outskirts of Angkor Park, Bugs Cafe, Lemongrass Garden Massage

Siem Reap, Day 5: Il Forno x2, Blossom Cafe and Training Centre

Siem Reap, Day 0-1: Arrival + Park (1st Day)

Our 1st activity was to watch the sunrise in SRAS SRANG. We were already there a few minutes past 5AM and it was really dark. Kim and I were a bit afraid to go alone and find a spot since we might fall down (too paranoid lol). Mr. Kim, our tuktuk driver, seemed to sense it so he offered to accompany us.

FEBRUARY 18-19, 2016

Kim (my best friend) and I booked a trip for Siem Reap last month. Our flight to Siem Reap was scheduled on the evening of 18th. There was a 30-minute delay but we did not mind it that much.

We arrived at Siem Reap International Airport at around 10PM (Siem Reap is 1 hour behind Manila). We had a tuktuk driver, Mr. Somnang, who would pick us up from the airport. He was recommended by our Airbnb host. Charge is USD 7. Yup, Siem Reap uses USD as currency especially for tourists. I read in forums and blogs that it is better to already have USD with you rather than having it exchange in Siem Reap since some money changers can rip you off. Do not exert effort anymore to exchange USD to Cambodian riel.

The ride from the airport to our Airbnb home is about 20 minutes. Bunthai, our kind host, waited for us even if it was already quite late. She showed us to our room and briefed us on other details we should take note of during our stay. We chose to stay in her listing (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5140353) because of the following:

  • Near proximity to Angkor Archaeological Park (just 5 minutes away by tuktuk)
  • Clean bedroom (with aircon) and bathroom
  • Strong and reliable Internet/Wi-Fi connection
  • Has swimming pool — perfect for the hot weather
  • Responsive and accommodating host
  • Last but not the least, very affordable rate per night

After settling down in our “home” for the next five days, we decided to call it a night since our tuktuk driver for our Angkor Archaeological Park trip would pick us up at 4:45AM.

The next morning (02/19) Mr. Kim, our tuktuk driver, picked us up from our Airbnb home. He was able to speak with Bunthai and get directions how to get to our place since it does not have an address.

Upon arriving in Angkor Park, we bought a 3-day pass for USD 40. They took a picture of us first then printed the ticket with our own picture in it. Do not lose this pass because every temple you go to checks this before you get to enter the place.

How did we go about our temple run adventure in Angkor Park? I researched itineraries shared online on avoiding crowds, compared each one of them, and came up with my own. The itinerary in this travel series is quite similar to one of the itineraries I encountered online (forgot though where I found it T.T). I’m proud to say that with the route I made (and with a dash of luck), we experienced very few to no crowd at all in most temples we visited. The only exceptions are Angkor Wat and Bayon which are crowded any time of the day, and Phnom Bakeng which is very popular during sunset time.

Our 1st activity was to watch the sunrise in SRAS SRANG. We were already there a few minutes past 5AM and it was really dark. Kim and I were a bit afraid to go alone and find a spot since we might fall down (too paranoid lol). Mr. Kim seemed to sense it so he offered to accompany us. He told us some details about the place then he showed us a picture of him as a student. Apparently, he is currently studying nursing and working as a tuktuk driver helps in his education.

How did I end up with Mr. Kim as our tuktuk driver? I was researching about Siem Reap when I chanced upon a blog that recommended him. I checked out Mr. Kim’s website (Kim Cambodia Driver) and found his rates for tuktuk driving. His rates are reasonable — either at par or cheaper than other tuktuk drivers. In addition, we had unlimited bottled water supply for the whole day, and he stored these in a cooler so we always feel refreshed. Prior to arriving in Cambodia, we talked to each other through e-mail and I had a gut feeling already that he was kind. I have a more detailed review of him in my post on our last day in Siem Reap: https://itskeanne.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/siem-reap-day-5-shopping-more-food-trip/.

Back to Sras Srang — when we already found a good spot, Mr. Kim went back to the parking area. A few tourists started coming at past 6AM…

Watching the sunrise made me feel grateful to be alive as I get to witness the beauty of nature. We took some pictures after and asked another tourist to take a shot of the two of us.

After Sras Srang, we decided to have breakfast first. We asked Mr. Kim to take us to a place he would recommend and he picked Angkor Reach Restaurant, which is located near Angkor Wat. We were quite hungry already and since it was not yet that hot, Kim and I decided to get flat noodle soup (chicken for me, pork for her). We both loved our food plus it was quite cheap compared to the other international breakfast food items they have.

After breakfast, our 2nd stop in the park was PRASAT KRAVAN. No one was around when we arrived so we had the place all to ourselves at first. After a few minutes, a small group of tourists arrived although they also left early.

After taking some pictures, our 3rd stop was PRE RUP. We were quite shocked to see it up close since the place was huge and there was a long, steep flight of rock stairs at the main area. We were already excited to explore the place after seeing these.









After almost an hour of roaming around Pre Rup, our 4th destination was EAST MEBON. It originally stood on an artificial island as it was surrounded by East Baray reservoir. However, it is now dry so no more water around. A unique point of East Mebon are the elephants found in each corner of the 2nd level.

The place was quite small so it took us a short time to explore the place. After this, our 5th stop was TA SOM. I fell in love with Ta Som right away because it was surrounded by nature, particularly huge trees. When we reached the end of the area, it was there where we saw a structure that resembled part of Ta Prohm (based from what I initially saw in pictures).

Checking out the other side before entering…
…The view from the other side! Similar to Ta Prohm, eh?

We traced back our steps to the parking area and headed to our 6th stop — NEAK PEAN. We walked a looooong path before reaching the main area of Neak Pean. From a distance, we could hear a traditional instrumental music playing. Turns out the people playing music were men who were victims of land mine. I did not read any scam about this so I left money in their small basket.

Braving the intense heat at around 11AM

After a few minutes of walking, we finally reached the main area. A LOT of tourists were already there but good thing they were not blocking the structures in the area.

Our 7th destination after this was PREAH KHAN. We walked a pathway of trees before entering the temple proper.

Tourists having fun posing here… but after 5 minutes, they were not done here so we had to move on T.T

We went back to Angkor Reach Restaurant for lunch but it was very disappointing. We ordered lok lak, fish amok, and a breakfast item… and nothing tasted delicious. Total disappointment since we were looking forward to tasting Cambodian cuisine. 😦

In the afternoon, our 8th (and last) stop for the day was ANGKOR WAT so that we can see the buildings lighted by the sunset. We entered through the East Gate since I read a few bloggers recommending this route if we wanted to get a good spot for sunrise. There were lots of monkeys around and one of them tried to steal my water bottle. T.T But the view of Angkor Wat from the East Gate was awesome — since the sun was already at the other side, it illuminated the whole temple.

Did we enter Angkor Wat using this gate for sunrise during our 2nd day trip in the park? Find out here. 😉

It took us more than an hour to explore the place as Angkor Wat is insanely huuuge. It was a good thing this was our last stop for the day so we could take our time to go around. I read that visitors can climb the highest tower in the temple. We were supposed to do so but the line was so long + out in the open so the heat of the sun was a killer. We just moved on to the other areas of Angkor Wat.

After taking pictures here and there, we went to a spot with very few people to watch the Angkor Wat get illuminated by sunset. Since this is the only temple facing west, it is more ideal to watch the sunrise here; but, I do agree with other travelers that being present here during sunset is a sight to behold as well.

After a whole day in Angkor Park, I told Mr. Kim that we will have dinner in Cuisine Wat Damnak. When we got there, we were told that we should have a reservation to be entertained. This was quite weird to me because I researched about the place and no one mentioned that it was just a reservation-only place. I decided to take Kim to Marum Restaurant instead.

Marum is managed by an NGO that focuses on helping street children and marginalized youth. Most of the staff are students in training but during our visit, I saw two people who had “teacher” at the back of their shirt. Curious on what kind of food they have? This restaurant serves Cambodian cuisine but they put a twist in every dish.

We were given free appetizers and one of them is silkworm. We gave the teacher a weird look when he told us what it was but he just laughed and said that it tastes good plus there’s a creamy texture inside. We contemplated for quite some time whether to eat it or not… in the end, oh come on let’s do this for experience. True enough, it did not taste weird so we were able to finish this.

Free appetizer — the one at the rightmost side are silkworms

For dinner, we had mushroom and rice brie balls, dumplings, and fish amok. Everything tasted delicious and Marum was able to redeem fish amok to us. We also ordered Cambodia Beer and Angkor Beer since we kept on seeing these in the restaurants inside Angkor Park. Kim and I prefer Cambodia Beer over Angkor since the bad beer taste was not prominent.

Happy ladies because of the delicious dinner. Bawing-bawi ang masamang lunch!

We ended up with happy tummies because of our dinner in Marum, and we highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Siem Reap. Do not expect though that their prices are dirt cheap. Price of dishes start at  USD 4 and above.

Headed home after dinner to catch some z’s and be prepared for the next day.

LINKS TO OTHER SIEM REAP 2016 POSTS:

Siem Reap, Day 2: Il Forno, Quad Adventure Cambodia, Miss Wong, Pub Street

Siem Reap, Day 3: 10 Park Stops in 1 Day, Touich Restaurant

Siem Reap, Day 4: Outskirts of Angkor Park, Bugs Cafe, Lemongrass Garden Massage

Siem Reap, Day 5: Il Forno x2, Blossom Cafe and Training Centre

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa

We arrived at Sensoji Temple at past 8AM and the place was deserted. Total opposite of the Sunday vibe and environment

Shops started to open a few minutes after 9AM. At around 9:30, the number of people also started increasing and the streets slowly got busier.

JANUARY 20, 2016

We only had a few hours left before our airport service picks us up in our lodging. Our only destination was to go back to SENSOJI TEMPLE to buy local street food. During our visit last January 17, we saw tents near Hondo that were selling all sorts of food — steamed sweet potato, takoyaki, crab claws, big crab meat on sticks, etc. We were not able to buy back then since we were following Toshi-san around and it was almost lunch time.

We arrived at Sensoji Temple at past 8AM and the place was deserted. Total opposite of the Sunday vibe and environment.

The only people around were locals who quickly visit Hondo before going to work/school.

Shops started to open a few minutes after 9AM. At around 9:30, the number of people also started increasing and the streets slowly got busier. A rice cake shop caught my attention because of the cute edible designs they sold.

We were looking for a shop that sells Adidas shoes when we chanced upon a long alley near the temple that is full of shops. Most of them were still closed but there was a shop there that sells luggage. I bought a hand-carry luggage there so that I can transfer my other pasalubongs + I now have my own hand-carry luggage. No need to borrow one from a relative or friend, yay!

I took a look at some of the bags and clothing stores opened there, and they sell affordable items. T.T Such a pity but I guess that’s a good reason to go back here. We went back to our unit after the shopping trip and finished our final packing.

Our driver arrived promptly and he spoke English well. If I am not mistaken, my office mate booked our van with TOKYO AIRPORTER (http://www.tokyoairporter.com/fares.html) since we paid the exact rate of 21,000 yen for an 8-seater van. No other or hidden additional charges like tax, toll, parking as the rate in their site is already “ALL IN”. We had to get the 8-seater instead of the 5-seater van since 3 of us in the group (including me) had 3 luggage each, while our other office mate has a backpack and a suitcase. If you are a group of 4-8 people with at least 2 luggage each, we highly recommend availing this rather than pulling your suitcases to ride a train or take a bus.

We were already in Narita Airport at around noontime. Our flight was scheduled in the evening so we had lots of time to eat, shop, and chill in the airport. It was in an airport shop where I finally found the ViVi issue where Reina Triendl is part of the cover page. YAAAAYYY!!! I also bought the latest tankobon of One Piece there. *-*

It is still quite surreal that I was able to finally visit Japan. Tokyo has been one of my must-visit destinations since high school and now that I have done it, I can’t wait to go back to Japan and explore the other areas — Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Hiroshima, and many more.

Til we see each other again, Japan. じゃあね!

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 1: Tofuro Restaurant, Hotel Monterey Akasaka, Gindaco Takoyaki

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Day 3: Mt. Fuji, Komagatake Ropeway, Lake Ashi + Cruise

Tokyo, Day 4: Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara, Shibuya – Tokyu Hands, One Piece Mugiwara Store, Ichiran

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, Maisen

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, and More Food Trip

We started our 6th day in Tokyo really early — left our Airbnb place a few minutes after 5AM to catch an early train going to TSUKIJI MARKET. It was really cold that morning for me, around 4C and when we reached Tsukiji Market, it got even colder because of the wind.

JANUARY 19, 2016

We started our 6th day in Tokyo really early — left our Airbnb place a few minutes after 5AM to catch an early train going to TSUKIJI MARKET. It was really cold that morning for me, around 4C and when we reached Tsukiji Market, it got even colder because of the wind.

Our first mission that morning was to look for the famous SUSHI DAI or SUSHI DAIWA. Once we found the long line, J stayed behind. We thought that it was the line for Daiwa which has faster turnaround since they have more seats but we later learned that the line was for Dai (the original shop). The rest of us in the group decided to look for other breakfast options…

A few sites recommended this because of the huge crab meat but they did NOT mention about the generous amount of wasabi flavor here… ended up eating 2 bites of this only

We spent 3 hours going around the market, buying food, and resting inside a coffee shop. We also encountered a woman handing out survey forms to tourists. Main topic is Tsukiji market and the move that is going to happen late this year. I read a few articles saying that the relocation is mainly due to sanitation and safety reasons. Guess we were lucky enough to see Tsukiji in its original area before the big move.

After 3 hours, we decided to go back to Sushi Dai to check if our J had already eaten. To our surprise, she was still in line so we told her we would go around some more. After a 5-minute walk, I saw a sign that we were in GINZA already. Too bad though that all of the stores were still closed.

When we returned to Sushi Dai at past 10AM, J was already done and she said that every penny was worth it in Sushi Dai. The place charges 4,000 yen for 10 sushi pieces, in case you’re wondering. Sushi is served omakase style, meaning you leave it up to the chef to come up with the different kinds of sushi. There is no fixed menu but rest assure that each sushi is fresh and tastes really good. My office mate also said that you can order extra pieces of sushi.

After our visit in Tsukiji Market, our next stop was KAWAGOE. We boarded a train going to Takadanobaba Station, and bought tickets for Honkawagoe Station. The purchase was quite confusing though since the employee was not fluent in English. She showed us a poster that highlights a Kawagoe package. She said that it already includes 2-way ticket via New Red Arrow Line (reserved seating, scheduled rides) and bus pass in Kawagoe. We bought it and since we still had almost an hour before our train ride, we ate a light lunch in a nearby shop.

About 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, we went inside the station to look for New Red Arrow’s platform. Do not make the mistake of boarding trains randomly. Always ask around. We asked nearby locals if the train already arrived. We showed them the ticket and they would shake their heads to say that the train was not yet there.

True to the character of punctuality, our train arrived on time. It was clean and the seats were comfortable enough that I drifted to dreamland after a few minutes of sitting down. The doors connecting each cabin were also awesome because there was no knob or handle; instead, I had my hand near the door surface and motioned it like I was swiping on an invisible surface. Should have taken a video of it for better demonstration, lol.

Inside the reserved seating train

The ride to Honkawagoe was about 45 minutes and we were at a loss where to go out. Eventually, we found it but the problem was finding the bus going to Old Town. After speaking with an employee in the station, he gave us a map with bus schedules and when we checked the time, it was already boarding time for the Koedo Loop Bus (http://www.koedo.or.jp/foreign/english/bus/). I ran like crazy when I saw the bus from the exit, and when I reached the bus, the driver had just closed the doors. I knocked loudly at the door and the old driver laughingly opened it. Now that I think about it, that was really embarrassing!

We remembered that we bought a package so we showed our train ticket but the driver did not accept it. Not sure if the employee in Takadanobaba forgot to give our bus tickets, ugh. Since we did not know the distance of the places, we bought a 1-day unli pass. It was a waste in the end because we did not ride the bus anymore after that. Also, from the station, Old Town is apparently just walking distance. The loop bus drove around different spots in Kawagoe before we reached Old Town. No regrets though because at least we can all say that we were able to ride a vintage Japan bus.

It was amazing to see lots of snow in Kawagoe at that day because in Tokyo, there was just little snow left. A few roofs even had small icicles with water dripping due to the heat. The old buildings looked amazing! This long stretch of Old Town was able to preserve the vibe and look of the Edo period.

What else to do but take pictures, look into shops, and find a restaurant that sells unagi which this place is known for…

Unfortunately, an unagi restaurant was nowhere in sight and when I checked Google Maps, it was quite far and we only had less than 2 hours to explore the place before our scheduled train trip back to Tokyo. 😦 I tried dango instead, thinking that it is the same or similar to fish balls here in MNL… Wrong! Dango is apparently made from mochi… That was okay for me but the sauce that came with it did not taste good at all. Good thing I just bought one stick. Still willing to try dango when I return to Japan, perhaps it was just a “miss” incident.

I was really hungry already since we did not have heavy lunch earlier. There were few shops opened at past 3PM that sells decent food but either the price was too expensive or the type of food sold did not interest my appetite. Eventually settled for soft-served matcha ice cream. I was given a small cup of sweet tea as part of their free tasting activity inside.

After finishing the ice cream, my office mate and I walked back towards the train station. Also took some more pictures of people and places while walking…

Five minutes before the scheduled departure, we were already at the platform but we made the mistake of going to the side where the doors were closed. We ran with all our might to be able to reach the correct area where the doors were opened. We made it in time, thankfully!

Our destination was Shibuya to eat at the famous MAISEN (MNL has a few branches of Maisen already!). Indeed, their katsu was really good — crunchy, juicy, not too oily. But the best part of our dining experience in Maisen was getting to use their own salt & spices. Too addictive! If they were selling it there, we would have bought at least a bottle each. It was also funny because it was in Maisen where my office mates saw a woman who really looked like me, especially with her side view. We also had the same habit of smacking our lips together and tucking hair behind an ear. Quite freaky but really interesting and funny.

On the way home, we dropped by SOLAMACHI where my office mates bought Tokyo Banana. Turns out that this is a famous Japanese treat so they bought a few boxes as pasalubong. Before leaving the mall, we also bought takoyaki for our drinking session at home.

While walking to our Airbnb unit, we saw the Skytree all lit up. Since it was our last night in Tokyo, we just had to take a group selfie with the Skytree in the background. Yay to selfie skills!

At home, while packing all of our clothes and pasalubong, we had our drinking session ongoing. The takoyaki still tasted good despite being quite soggy already. We did not lake the taste of the sake from the convenience store because of the very strong alcohol taste. For me, it somehow resembles isopropyl alcohol, yikes!

While packing, I could not believe that our week-long stay in Tokyo was coming to an end already. *sigh* Good thing we still had half-day left the next morning to do some last minute exploration and shopping in the Asakusa area. Til the next post!

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 1: Tofuro Restaurant, Hotel Monterey Akasaka, Gindaco Takoyaki

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Day 3: Mt. Fuji, Komagatake Ropeway, Lake Ashi + Cruise

Tokyo, Day 4: Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara, Shibuya – Tokyu Hands, One Piece Mugiwara Store, Ichiran

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara and Revisiting Shibuya

We went straight to Akihabara, and Mark and I were in pure bliss because we were in the popular anime place! We visited the big DONKI (DON QUIJOTE) store first to buy all sorts of pasalubong, mainly food (instant noodles + chocolates). After that, we headed to RADIO KAIKAN and went crazy at each floor. We were not allowed to take pictures, especially in areas of action figures. T.T

JANUARY 18, 2016

We were greeted in the morning by the first snowfall in Tokyo for 2016. Toshi-san’s prediction that we would be able to experience it was right on mark. We were not able to witness the actual snowfall but seeing that much of snow was already enough to make me happy. The last time I saw snow was back in January 2014, which was also my first time to see it.

Thick snow covering the roofs of every house and building
More snow!

We started the day quite late, leaving the lodging at past 1PM. We had our late lunch in the food court of SOLAMACHI, and I picked the store which sells Japanese curry dish.

We went straight to Akihabara, and Mark and I were in pure bliss because we were in the popular anime place! We visited the big DONKI (DON QUIJOTE) store first to buy all sorts of pasalubong, mainly food (instant noodles + chocolates). After that, we headed to RADIO KAIKAN and went crazy at each floor. We were not allowed to take pictures, especially in areas of action figures. T.T The place has all sorts of merchandise for anime lovers — manga, action figures, CD copies of the shows, drawing guides, OST CDs, etc.

I wished we could have stayed longer so that we could visit more anime/manga places in Akiba. *sigh* We went to Shibuya afterwards to do some more shopping…

Hello there, Hachiko! We finally met!

Our first stop was TOKYU HANDS, which has 7 floors and per floor, it has 3 sections (A, B, C). The place sells all sorts of items — ballpens, friction pens & highlighters, brush pens, postcards, stationery, bags & wallets, cosmetics, etc. Shopaholics will definitely love this place!

I was excited and itching to go to our next destination, which was recommended by Mark since he absolutely loves the same show to… ONE PIECE MUGIWARA STORE in Parco Shibuya. YAAAYYY!!! Good thing it was just walking distance from Tokyu Hands. So happy to see huge figures of Zoro, Luffy, and Chopper outside the store. I splurged on the One Piece gachapon machines outside, and bought some more keychains inside the store. I also bought a Perona cellphone audio jack, but I AM SO SAD TO SAY THAT I LOST IT HERE IN MNL. 😥

We went to look for ICHIRAN after our shopping trip for One Piece goodies…

There was a line but we decided to stay since it seemed like we would not wait that long. We ended up sitting in separate cubicles so we were able to experience eating alone.

It was interesting how we ordered our ramen — we were asked to “create” our ramen using a vendo machine, which would let out a small paper slip after you paid for it. Then, the waiter would hand out a paper so that you can check your preferences when it comes to flavor, richness, garlic, sliced pork, green onions, original red sauce, and noodle texture. This part resembles the way Ramen Nagi in MNL does things so it was familiar to me at that point.

I liked the way they cook their ramen because it is not that salty. It was good but still not decided if that is indeed the best ramen.

We called it a night after this dinner since we still had to wake up really early the next day for Tsukiji Market.

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 1: Tofuro Restaurant, Hotel Monterey Akasaka, Gindaco Takoyaki

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Day 3: Mt. Fuji, Komagatake Ropeway, Lake Ashi + Cruise

Tokyo, Day 4: Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, Maisen

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa

Tokyo, Day 4: Shrines, Temples, and Museums

Our first stop during our 4th day in Tokyo was the MEIJI JINGU (or Meiji Shrine) in Shibuya. It was just around 8AM so there were only a few locals when we got there.

Toshi-san explained that “shrine” is used for sacred areas under Shintoism while “temple” is for Buddhism. He taught us how to pray like the locals and explained a bit more about Meiji Jingu.

JANUARY 17, 2016

It was the last day of our company outing (but not last day in Tokyo for me and a few colleagues) so we had to check out at Hotel Monterey Akasaka.

Bye to this nice view of Tokyo from our room

Our first stop during our 4th day in Tokyo was the MEIJI JINGU (or Meiji Shrine) in Shibuya. It was just around 8AM so there were only a few locals when we got there.

Temizu — process to clean one’s self before entering the shrine
Raking the pebbles neatly also helps in cleansing visitors

Toshi-san explained that “shrine” is a term used for sacred areas under Shintoism while “temple” is for Buddhism. He taught us how to pray like the locals and explained a bit more about Meiji Jingu.

I kind of drifted away from the group when I saw the ema at one side of the shrine. I only saw these in some anime shows I watched so seeing them in reality was a delight. Most of the ema are written of course in kanji, but I still found it fascinating to look at some of the ema with cute drawings.

When I returned to the group, Toshi-san was already giving instructions on meet-up time and place as he would give us free time to explore the place. I followed a few office mates exiting the shrine but I remembered that there was one area in the shrine proper which I did not check out. I traced back my steps and found some locals crowding a wooden box where they were getting a piece of paper.

At first, I thought it was like a fortune cookie where you get to know your luck/fortune for the day… But apparently, they were getting omigokoro which is a poem card written by either Emperor Meiji or Empress Shoken. According to the printed paper in English:

“Emperor Meiji wrote about 100,000 waka and the Empress about 30,000 waka, which are not only excellent as literary works but also constitute significant teachings to enhance the national moral character. Meiji Jingu has chosen fifteen waka each from among their composition in order to provide visitors and worshippers with the divine grace of the Imperial couple in the form of omikuji (oracles).”

No shrine staff to watch over this. Goes to show how honest Japanese people are as they trust that no one would dare not to drop 100 yen.

After getting an omigokoro, I noticed two women in the other stall browsing boxes then getting a small item and paying for it. I got curious so I checked it out. The items sold looked like amulets but everything was in kanji, except for the price. Then, I found one amulet which had an English translation — unfortunately, I found its purpose not that relevant for me but at least it confirmed that all the items were amulets indeed.

I picked an amulet randomly, praying that it was of more relevance — whether for luck, work, love, or health — then paid for it. I was already itching to go back to the bus so that I could ask Toshi-san what kind of amulet I got.

But, before I left this area, I saw a couple dressed in traditional clothes passing by. A woman and photographer were following them so I guess they were having a pre-nup shoot here. So lucky to be able to see locals wearing their traditional clothing~!

I was able to catch up with two office mates and we passed by Toshi-san who was counting the number of people going back to the bus. I tried to ask about the amulet I bought but he said he would check later.

We went to the souvenir shop first before heading back to the bus. Once we were complete in the bus, Toshi-san mentioned to the group that I bought an amulet. Turns out that what I chose was a luck amulet and he told me to keep it with me at all times. He showed his own luck amulet which he keeps in his wallet. He said that the amulet had been with him for 40+ years already, even before he got married. Amazing!!

My luck amulet and omigokoro

Our next stop was the TOKYO IMPERIAL PALACE, where the Emperor of Japan resides. Of course, we were not able to get close and see the Emperor. But Toshi-san said that there are certain occasions when they open a part of the palace so that people can go closer and see the Emperor and his wife when they greet the crowd. If I’m not mistaken, one of the occasions is New Year.

After Toshi-san explained everything about the place, we were given some free time for picture taking before we leave the place…

We went to Asakusa area afterwards and visited SENSOJI TEMPLE, which is for Buddhist worshippers. Toshi-san said that most Japanese people practice both Shintoism and Buddhism so temples and shrines can be easily found.

Most of the people in our group chose to do some last minute shopping around the area, and the ones left behind with Toshi-san are the people who would be extending stay in Tokyo — me + 3 office mates.

We visited on a Sunday so the temple was full of worshippers and tourists, yikes. Toshi-san took us around the whole area of the temple and he took time to explain every area and statue to us.

I love hearing things directly from a local as it makes me feel closer to their culture, and it always fascinates me to hear their own stories and opinion. 🙂

At one point in our walking tour, Toshi-san led us to an area where we could get our omikuji, the famous fortune-telling paper slips in Japan temples. We dropped 100 yen coin each, shook a metal can with wooden sticks and took out one stick, located the drawer with the same number as the one in the drawn stick (note that the number is in kanji though), then get the paper at the topmost. The one I got was…

..the BEST fortune. I showed it to Toshi-san and he suddenly hugged me tightly. He patted me at the back and happily told me that I was really lucky to get this one so I should always keep it with me. Apparently, drawing daikichi (great/best fortune) is quite rare. Yay! If one gets bad luck/fortune, the paper slip must be tied to a nearby tying station (not sure what it is called). Toshi-san said that this is practiced so that you leave the bad luck/fortune behind.

After exploring the area, we started to walk to our meet-up place with the rest of the group. We passed by a long alley of different kinds of stores — souvenirs, local delicacy, bags, accessories, etc. Toshi-san recommended a local food, can’t recall its name though since the matcha flavor I got did not taste that good.

After regrouping, we had our lunch in a restaurant nearby…

…then traced back our steps to go back to our bus. The four of us who would be extending would get our luggage while the rest of the group would head back home that evening.

We parted ways with the rest of the group, bid our goodbye and said our thanks to Toshi-san and Yamada-san (our bus driver). After that, we took a cab going to the Airbnb unit I booked for our extended stay in Tokyo. It was a good thing that the Airbnb listing was just in Asakusa area so paying for the cab was not that bad. I chose a listing from Shoji & Coco (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4807040) because of the following:

  • Price per night is at par with other listings but this one has a spacious area that really fits 4 people i.e., not cramped
  • Clean bathroom
  • Walking distance to Oshiage station, Tokyo Skytree, and Solamachi (mall)
  • Responsive and helpful hosts

After settling down, we headed to UENO PARK to start our museum hopping… which ended up in us going to just one museum since we were too tired already. We only visited the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE — a bit of a bummer though that most of the stuff inside do not have English translation, but we were still able to appreciate the displays inside.

We took a rest in one of the coffee shops in the park then headed for Shinjuku. We went back to BIC CAMERA (visited a few days ago) to purchase a 3-day unlimited train ticket for 1,500 yen. Note that this is only for Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines — thankfully, most of the stations we rode were under these lines. We only paid extra for a few stations under JR line.

We shopped in the nearby Uniqlo afterwards then headed to Ichiran Ramen for dinner. The line was long though and an employee said that we would have to wait for about 40 minutes. We decided to look for another place since we were really hungry, and we stumbled upon a place that sells food in sizzling plates. We waited for about 10-15 minutes since the place was small and full of customers.

It was worth the wait since the food was good. Also a welcome break from soupy dishes!

We went back to our lodging after this dinner to get a long rest and prepare for the next day. 🙂

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 1: Tofuro Restaurant, Hotel Monterey Akasaka, Gindaco Takoyaki

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Day 3: Mt. Fuji, Komagatake Ropeway, Lake Ashi + Cruise

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara, Shibuya – Tokyu Hands, One Piece Mugiwara Store, Ichiran

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, Maisen

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa

Tokyo, Day 3: Mount Fuji, Komagatake, Lake Ashi (Kanagawa)

After a few hours of bus ride, we were able to reach LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO where we got to see a full view of Mount Fuji. We were lucky because it was not yet cloudy so we were able to admire its beauty. It kind of reminded me of Mount Mayon, except Fuji has snow at the top part.

JANUARY 26, 2016

We started our 3rd day early as we had to leave Tokyo and head for the Hakone area to view Mount Fuji.

At a stopover

After a few hours of bus ride, we were able to reach LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO where we got to see a full view of Mount Fuji. We were lucky because it was not yet cloudy so we were able to admire its beauty. It kind of reminded me of Mount Mayon, except Fuji has snow at the top part.

Toshi-san, our tour guide, gave us some time for picture taking. I was too engrossed with looking at Mount Fuji and snapping photos here and there that I did not know there was a shop in the area that sells local delicacy. Toshi-san bought us a box of mochi (matcha and strawberry flavors) and I could only chose one — strawberry won and it was sooooo good.

Apparently, this was only available in the area so yeah, I really regretted not being able to buy this one. I saw a similar box in the shop near Komagatake Ropeway but it was too expensive.

When we arrived in Hakone Komagatake Ropeway, we had lunch first.

After lunch, we had time to go around the area before going to the ropeway. We entered the shop where I first tried a gachapon (Hello Kitty keychain). There were all sorts of food and local delicacy which you can buy as souvenir.

I went near the shore of Lake Ashi afterwards to admire the view and take some shots of trees and a few locals…

When our call time for the ropeway activity drew near, we headed to the main area of HAKONE KOMAGATAKE ROPEWAY. Riding this would take you above Mount Komagatake where you can have a better view of Mount Fuji.

The cabin we rode was full of people but luckily, a senior office mate called me to a good spot near her side where I could step on an elevated floor and have a better view of the surroundings. The ride to the top was about 7 minutes and if you are acrophobic, better stay in the middle of the cabin space.

When we reached our destination, we only had 20 minutes to explore the area since we already had a schedule for the Lake Ashi cruise. Some of us ran right away and made our way to a higher, elevated area to check out Mount Fuji.

Ran all the way from this spot (where I took this picture) up to the top, near the house

Unfortunately, it was already cloudy and we could only see the tip of Mount Fuji. 😦

Hide and seek with Mount Fuji

We maximized the remaining time by exploring the other parts of the area and of course, took pictures here and there…

©Nicole – Me on top of Mount Komagatake

After our 20 minutes of free time, we rode the cabin again to go back to LAKE ASHI and wait for our cruise ship

Upon boarding, some of us went on the topmost deck of the ship. Brrrr, it was very windy up there plus winter season so it was really a double cold combo. Good thing I was wearing my long padded coat which has a neck cover and hoodie. Best Uniqlo winter wear investment ever!

Despite me freezing due to the temperature and wind, I still managed to capture some good sights during the cruise. Toshi-san also shared legends and other cultural stories about Lake Ashi.

©Nicole – Company photo during Lake Ashi cruise

After the cruise, we rode our bus to head back to Tokyo. Caught some z’s during the trip so that I would be energized that night.

Upon reaching Tokyo, our bus headed for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which is located in Shinjuku area. I think there is no entrance fee for this but be prepared for the long line of visitors at night. We went up to the 45th floor where we enjoyed looking at Tokyo at night. There was also a purikura booth there — my female colleagues and I tried it, and it was fun!

©Nicole – While waiting for our turn to ride the elevator going to 45th floor

Processed with VSCO

We went to a restaurant in Shinjuku afterwards, and had another round of hotpot. There was also a buffet which had Korean and Japanese cuisine. I was so thrilled to see Japanese curry and kimchi there so even if these did not seem to be fit to pair with hotpot, I still grabbed a few servings.

4 trays of meat for the hotpot *burp*

A few of us decided to stay behind after dinner so that we could do some late night shopping in the area. Shops visited were BIC Camera, Uniqlo, and MatsuKiyo (famous drugstore Matsumoto Kiyoshi). I splurged at MatsuKiyo and bought items like Shiseido Perfect Whip Facial Foam, Sahada Shizuku Pack Gel, CURE Natural Aqua Gel, Liese Bubble Hair Color, Curel Intensive Moisture Cream, Shiseido Eyelash Curler, Hada Labo Gokujyun Light Lotion (which is actually their term for ‘toner’).

Called it a night after MatsuKiyo shopping as the next day would start early.

©Nicole – Shinjuku Shopping Squad? :p
©Nicole – Train ride back to our hotel

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 1: Tofuro Restaurant, Hotel Monterey Akasaka, Gindaco Takoyaki

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Day 4: Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara, Shibuya – Tokyu Hands, One Piece Mugiwara Store, Ichiran

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, Maisen

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland (Chiba)

Our 2nd day in Tokyo was dedicated to TOKYO DISNEYLAND. We were already there even before the gates opened but the crowd ahead of us was already HUGE. There were lots of teenager students (on their field trip perhaps) and families waiting as well.

JANUARY 15, 2016

Our 2nd day in Tokyo was dedicated to TOKYO DISNEYLAND. We were already there even before the gates opened but the crowd ahead of us was already HUGE. There were lots of teenager students (on their field trip perhaps) and families waiting as well.

I read about a few rides in Disneyland offering Fast Pass so we ran towards Space Mountain to get one but apparently, what we got was the one for Stitch Encounter. T.T Good thing the line in SPACE MOUNTAIN was not yet long… or so we thought. The real good thing was that the line was moving quickly even if it was quite long already. I got to ride the same attraction in Hong Kong Disneyland (which I really enjoyed) so I had good expectations on this one.

While waiting for our turn in the Space Mountain attraction

After riding Space Mountain, we explored Disneyland to take some pictures then got a Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain. Quite a crazy idea to ride a fast-moving cart in an open space during winter, huh.

After getting our Fast Pass, we ran to the area where a lot of people were waiting for the DISNEY PARADE OF CHARACTERS. The first set was FROZEN and I saw lots of kids who were smiling widely as Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf passed. But, the main highlight was Elsa and her iconic song “Let It Go” (Japanese version) was playing while her float was moving. I was not able to capture a good shot of her since she was still far from our place. We had to leave the place before I could have a good view of her because we had to meet Toshi-san near Disneyland Hotel at 11:50AM for lunch. *sigh*

We had a buffet lunch inside DISNEYLAND HOTEL, and there were different cuisines to choose from. The highlight for me was the desserts area because everything looked mouthwatering but at the same time too pretty to eat.

After lunch, we headed back to the theme park to ride Big Thunder Mountain, try a few more attractions, and look for characters we would love to take pictures with…

Donald Duck!
©Nicole – IT’S CINDERELLA’S FAIRY GODMOTHER! Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!
©Nicole – Crossing a bridge while on Tom Sawyer Island

While waiting for our turn for Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes
Same as HK — Tokyo also has “It’s A Small World” attraction

While walking, I also took some shots of locals inside Disneyland…

It was a bit of a bummer though that we were not able to see the fireworks display as we had to leave at 5PM to continue our itinerary.

We went straight to Shibuya to see the busy and iconic SHIBUYA CROSSING. It was chaos when the pedestrian light turned green, especially since we came to see it on a Friday night. From the crossing, I went with two colleagues to the side where we could get to Uniqlo. We were surprised to find out though that the rest of the group was nowhere to be seen. We went to Shibuya Station but we could not find where Hachiko was so we decided to go back to Uniqlo since we know the meet-up place and time for regrouping.

We were able to meet up with the rest of the group a minute earlier than the call time, and Toshi-san led the way to the restaurant for our dinner. I was not able to get the name, but they had good sashimi (which I am not fond of so that says a lot) and grilled meat.

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel but a few of my colleagues decided to buy some drinks and snacks since the night was still young. LOL. Drinking session was in our room and ended late, even if we had to wake up early the next day.

Mount Fuji will be up in the next post!

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 1: Tofuro Restaurant, Hotel Monterey Akasaka, Gindaco Takoyaki

Tokyo, Day 3: Mt. Fuji, Komagatake Ropeway, Lake Ashi + Cruise

Tokyo, Day 4: Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara, Shibuya – Tokyu Hands, One Piece Mugiwara Store, Ichiran

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, Maisen

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa

Tokyo, Day 1: Arrival + Food Trip in Tokyo

Thanks to our company, I was able to go to my dream country since high school. Since it was in January, it was still winter in Japan so being from a tropical country, it was a challenge to look for and buy winter wear.

JANUARY 14, 2016

Thanks to our company, I was able to go to my dream country since high school. Since it was in January, it was still winter in Japan so being from a tropical country, it was a challenge to look for and buy winter wear. I already had a few winter clothes from our Korea trip last 2014 but I saw Uniqlo Megamall selling HEATTECH EXTRA WARM tops. I knew that I had to buy at least two since I tend to feel cold easily. A few tips when looking for winter wear:

  • Uniqlo and H&M are go-to places for both clothes and accessories. Best to go there during sale since you can get 20-70% discount.
  • I was lucky that our Korea and Japan trip happened in mid- to late January so I was able to take advantage of the end-of-season sale in various stores.
  • Some of my friends also told me that you can get good items in ukay-ukay stores. I went with some of my office mates before our Japan trip and true enough, everything was cheap — boots around Php 300-600, coats for about Php 400-800.
  • “Cheapest” way is to find a relative or close friend who has the same size as yours and borrow some clothes and coat. 😉

Back to my actual travel — our first day was dedicated for our flight to Tokyo, and we arrived at Narita International Airport around 4PM. Note that Japan is 1 hour ahead of Manila.

Thanks for the safe flight, Delta Airlines!

We met with our tour guide, Toshi-san — even if he is already a senior citizen, he walked so fast and he was quite talkative! From the airport, he took us to an area near Akasaka to have dinner at TOFURO RESTAURANT.

Hello Tokyo! ❤
Dinner for 1st night: Tofuro Restaurant

Most of the dishes we had tasted good. There were only 2 dishes that I was not a fan of, but mainly because of personal preference — these had white/red beans in it.

Salmon Carpaccio

After dinner, we headed to HOTEL MONTEREY AKASAKA for check-in. The room was quite small for 2 people but not really complaining since the bedroom and bathroom were both really clean and neat. Japanese toilet is also awesome, by the way. Toshi-san warned us though that it is not advisable to buy and bring one home since as far as he knows, the water used in Japan and Philippines are of different kinds.

Once we have checked in and rested for a bit, we decided to go out for midnight snacks. But first, we had to look for Uniqlo so that a few of our office mates could buy winter clothes and accessories…

Unfortunately, one of my office mates and I got separated from the group. Getting lost was not that bad though since we were able to see a few more sights in the area…

Tokyo Skytree from where we were

Eventually, we were able to contact each other (thanks Viber!) and decided to re-group in our hotel. After getting back together, we decided to look for a place to have our midnight snack. We passed by Gindaco Highball Sakaba which was full of people standing up — both inside the store and outside the freezing street. We roamed around the area for a few more minutes until we decided to go back to Gindaco. The only available table was only outside but we did not mind since we were hungry already. Interesting to note that it is a standing bar so all customers were just standing while eating and drinking. It was unusual for us but a cool experience.

Back to the food — I was so excited to order since their main item is takoyaki. Yay!

Their takoyaki was really big compared to those sold here in MNL + each plump ball contained a big chunk of octopus. Each bite was really good and even Hana’s (Little Tokyo) paled in comparison with this one. They also offer other variations of takoyaki such as green onion and cheese.

After eating, we headed back to our hotel and called it a night so that we have lots of energy for Tokyo Disneyland the next day.

Drainspotting!

 

LINKS TO OTHER TOKYO 2016 POSTS:

Tokyo, Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo, Day 3: Mt. Fuji, Komagatake Ropeway, Lake Ashi + Cruise

Tokyo, Day 4: Meiji Jingu, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Ueno Park

Tokyo, Day 5: Akihabara, Shibuya – Tokyu Hands, One Piece Mugiwara Store, Ichiran

Tokyo, Day 6: Tsukiji Market, Kawagoe, Maisen

Tokyo, Day 7: Revisiting Asakusa