Japan Day 4 : Shimizu (tea ceremony and furry dogs)

Our first (and only) tour during our Diamond Princess Cruise last May took place in Shimizu. We didn’t sign up for any of the other tours because we wanted to explore the places ourselves. But we did join a tour in Kobe after we got off the ship because we had some time before our flight back to the Philippines.

Our Shimizu tour started really early that morning. We had a quick breakfast at the Horizon Court before heading off to the Princess Theater to wait for our briefing. We were placed in the Yellow group:


There was a little bit of light rain that day

Our first stop was the Miho Shrine. On the way there we spotted this Kanjani8 ad. Hello Ryo-chan!


At the shrine, our guide taught us the proper steps to pray and make offerings

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One reason why we don’t like joining tours is because we like taking pictures of everything, and there’s usually not enough time to do that when you’re with a group. In fact, since we hung around to take pictures at the temple here, we got left behind. But our guide told us to just follow the boardwalk if we get separated


Ezra hates boardwalks because she fell off of one in Alaska. Not that it was the boardwalk’s fault – she’s just really clumsy.

The path lead us to Miho no Matsubara (Miho Pine Grove)



We saw this huge pine tree while walking



Behind us is the legendary tree where the angel hung her feather robe while she took a bath in the sea


Supposedly this is one of the places in Japan which offers a clear and unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately it was raining that day so the clouds blocked our view.


Where are you Mt. Fuji? :(

This was our guide’s solution:


Ta-dah! Pretty clever! I have to give her props for being prepared XD

We made the most of the situation. Here’s our obligatory family portrait with “Mt. Fuji”:

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We tried XD

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Japan Day 3 : All aboard the Diamond Princess!

After spending two days exploring Japan ourselves, it was time for us to board our ship and begin our 7-day cruise. We loved our free time, but this is what we came to Japan for, so we were really excited.


Our hotel was not too far from the pier, but we had lots of bags with us so we decided to get a taxi. Our driver dropped us off at the entrance of the Osanbashi pier.


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There were lots of people there, just like an airport



The first thing we did was dropped our luggage off (after making sure they had the bag tags on of course)

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Afterwards we proceeded to the check in counters. They were still closed so we had to wait for about an hour before checking in

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Princess Cruises was celebrating its 50th year, so there was gold everywhere


After having our documents checked, we were finally allowed to board the ship


Ezra and I stayed in room C724 – which was the room number my parents had when we went on our Alaskan cruise last year

This time my parents had the room across the hall from us, and they had a balcony :D



My mom wanted a room with a balcony during our Alaskan cruise but we figured it would be too cold to stay out there anyway. At least our Japanese cruise was a bit warmer and we were able enjoy the view every now and then

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Adventures in Akihabara, Shibuya, Harajuku and Yokohama

Our second day in Japan, yay! We only had one day to ourselves before we had to board the ship for our cruise, so we wanted to see as much of Tokyo as we could during this time. We decided to go to Akihabara, Shibuya and Harajuku by train. We chose these places because they seem to be the most popular among tourists.

Our hotel was a short walk to Kannai station. All the places we wanted to see were part of the Yamanote Line – the green circular track on the map. So we figured it would be easy for us to get around by train.



Here’s a shot of the street near our hotel from the overpass


We had to pass by the Yokohama Stadium on the way to the station


After a 0.4km walk, we made it to Kannai Station

Upon arriving at the station, we found a map of the train system and these ticket machines



We stood around for a while trying to figure out how to buy tickets and which station to go to, but in the end we figured it would be safer to go to the ticketing office to ask for help. The map was in Japanese so we really had no idea where we had to go.


Waiting for the blue line at the platform


Made it inside the train! The crowd wasn’t as bad as I expected, and after a few stops we all managed to get a seat


Ezra saw this interesting sign on the train. We’re not sure what it means though. Are you not allowed to expose your armpits on the train? What do you guys think?


Our first stop for the day was Akihabara. I’ve been told that no anime fan should visit Japan without stopping here to check out the anime merchandise. My dad also wanted to go because he heard that you can get electronics here for a much lower price compared to other places.

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Hello Akihabara!

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It’s finally here – the big 3-0! I can now proudly say that I made it out of my 20’s alive (well … mostly). Turning 30 is considered to be this huge milestone in everyone’s lives, and I can sort of understand why. I suppose this is the age where a lot of us start to seriously evaluate our lives and we begin to list down our past accomplishments. Either we smile and think “I’m proud of myself” or we ask ourselves “what have I been doing these past three decades?”. I feel like I belong to the latter group, but there are also several aspects of my life where I am proud of myself for what I have done and what I have accomplished. I may not be as successful and as far along in life as some of my friends (thank you Facebook for the constant reminder), but I can honestly say that I’m happy with where I am, and that’s good enough for me.


(Amie trying to do “3” and “0”)

I always imagined myself celebrating my 30th birthday in a fancy way – with a huge party, surrounded by lots of people (just like when I turned 18). But I think growing up made me realize that it’s not about the amount of people in your life, it’s about the quality and the connections. I think most adults would rather celebrate life events surrounded by a handful of special people than a room full of acquaintances.

I was a little bummed when I woke up on my birthday because I had a 7am class, and I hate having to wake up early. Fortunately, my class went smoothly so I had a stress-free morning. I also had a 3pm lecture that afternoon, but Dustin volunteered to cover that for me so I could just relax the rest of the day. Thanks Dustin! Hooray for wonderful friends! :D And speaking of friends, I had a nice birthday lunch at Dalcielo with Amie, Dustin and Ma’am Chrys.


 We had a delicious meal. I ate so much that I could barely move by the time we were finished.

When we returned to the office after lunch, I found a pleasant surprise for me at the Physika tambayan:



Aww thanks brods and sisses.

That evening, I had a nice Korean dinner at the 88 Resort and Spa with my parents and some friends. I’ve been celebrating my birthday here for three years now, lol.


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For my parent’s 31st wedding anniversary this year our family decided to go to Japan. We booked a 6-day cruise with Diamond Princess (blog entry about our experience HERE), but we arrived in Japan 2 days before it started so that we could have time to explore by ourselves. Our flight was around 5am, which meant that we had to leave  our house at around 1am. Nevertheless, I was excited because JAPAN! It was always a dream of mine to visit this amazing country.


We were welcomed by this sign upon arriving at Narita airport

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We passed by these interesting plate display on the way to the immigration counter

We stopped to use the restroom and I found myself facing a traditional Japanese toilet:

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I used my fair share of these back in Myanmar.  They’re quite common in Asia but we don’t really have them in the Philippines.

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I like how they had an illustrated guide on how to use the toilet on the wall XD

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Ezra looks very excited to be in Japan.  I told her to pose like a high fashion model, and this is what happened:

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She just looked high XD

Since we didn’t have a meal on the plane we were very hungry. Fortunately, there were several places to buy food at the airport

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We found this little convenience store there which sold some packed Japanese food

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Ezra checking out the different kinds of onigiri

We didn’t have anyone to pick us up so my dad bought tickets for a bus heading to Yokohama, where we would be staying

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We were impressed by the efficiency of their transport system. The bus was scheduled to leave at 11:15am, and it left at exactly that time! Why can’t buses do that in the Philippines. Also, the bus had seatbelts! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bus with seatbelts before.

After about an hour, the bus dropped us off at this station where we could grab a taxi that would take us to our hotel

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We spotted this interesting looking vehicle on our way there.

Our cab driver (who was very nice) dropped us off the Daiwa Roynet Hotel, which would be our home for the next two days.  They shared the building with other offices and the hotel lobby was located on the third floor. They had a designated elevator for hotel guests, but we didn’t know that and we ended up going into a different elevator.  Fortunately we realized our mistake and quickly found the correct elevator.

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After checking in, we were given our room keys. I thought they were interesting because most hotel key cards I’ve seen were made of plastic, sort of like a credit card. This one’s very thin and flexible – it almost feels like paper. It’s probably the same material they use for our MRT cards.

After we got settled in our rooms, we bought some snacks and drinks at the convenience store downstairs and ate lunch in our rooms. (We bought burgers from Jollibee on our way to the airport before leaving Manila, but we all slept on the plane so we didn’t get a chance to eat them. We ended up having them for lunch instead.) We agreed to go out and explore later that afternoon so I tried to use our spare time to catch up on some sleep, but Ezra kept wanting to eat all the snacks we bought. I don’t have any pictures of us at the convenience store or in our room but we did take a lot of videos using the GoPro and compiled the footage in a vlog, which you can watch at the end of this entry).

At around 5pm, we headed out to see Yokohama’s Chinatown, which is supposedly one of the largest in the world.

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Beautiful details at the entrance

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Nice clean streets


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Congratulations Ezra and Kurt!

I haven’t mentioned it here on my blog yet, but my baby sister got married last week :) I’m extremely happy for the both of them, and I can’t ask for a better brother-in-law. I’ve witnessed their relationship blossom and grow stronger over the past 14 years and I’ve never seen two people more perfect for each other.

If you read my blog, you would know how close Ezra and I are. We share clothes, interests, ideas, friends and secrets. We’ve always been each other’s outlets whenever we needed someone to talk to. The most we’ve been apart was when I lived in Katipunan for my graduate studies, but even then I would always come home during the weekend. We shared a room up until I was 15 and I remember how we used to love staying up, talking to each other. Even when we finally got our own rooms, they were right next to each other, separated only by a thin piece of plywood, and we could just yell through the wall whenever we needed to talk. If it was any other guy I probably would have a hard time letting go and giving her up, but I know that Kurt would take care of her and make sure that she remains close to our family. He’s not only my sister’s husband, but he’s also one of my closest friends, and that makes things a lot easier. The three of us went to the same high-school, and he was even part of my entourage during my debut. I love how they never make me feel left out when we’re together, and how they remember to include me in their plans.

They haven’t shared that many pictures of their wedding on social media yet and I don’t want to spoil it for them by posting photos before they get the chance, so I will leave you with this (which I grabbed from Ezra’s FB page).


It was a court wedding and it only lasted about 15 minutes. Fortunately, the couple that was supposed to get married after them never showed up so we were able to stay inside the chapel for a few extra minutes and take some photos/videos.

Congratulations to the happy couple! Wishing you the best on this new chapter in your life :D

Thailand 2014 : Ancient Siam

Last December our family went to Thailand and we scheduled a visit to The Ancient City (AKA Ancient Siam).  It’s a huge outdoor museum where they have replicas of famous landmarks around Thailand, with some of them being life-sized.  It’s popular among tourists because it’s like taking a tour of the country and learning its history without leaving Bangkok. 


Tourists have the option of bringing their own car, riding a tram or renting a golf cart to explore the place.  We decided to rent a car at our hotel and hire a driver to take us around since we weren’t familiar with the place but we still wanted to be flexible with our time and not join a tour group.  We spent the day just driving around the park and stopping at all the displays that we found interesting.  We had to skip a lot of them because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to see the entire place.  It was that big.

Here are some pictures we took at the museum:

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We found a baby elephant and took pictures with him/her

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This was the shopping area where you could buy gifts and souvenirs to take back home


So pretty~


We found some musical instruments and played around for a bit

This was where I took my 51st self portrait last year


Of course we saw lots of replicas of Buddhist temples and prayer rooms

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