Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Shanghai Diaries circa World Expo 2010

Sooooo, I have been on a few trips back to our favorite Land of the Rising Sun since my last entry here, but I haven't had time (or effort) to organize my thoughts and photos. Meh. In the meantime, I want to share some posts from when I went to the World Expo back in 2010. I didn't have a lot of access to the internet back then, so they were hosted by my now-deleted LJ. :)

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The Shanghai Diary #1, also known as, "I can’t tweet, so help me God!" 

I woke up in this room that’s strangely reminiscent of the room I stayed in in Tokyo with Paul, but this one has no windows, the carpet is really dingy, and I’m crossing my fingers really hard there are no bedbugs.

Surprisingly, I am online! We found the ethernet cable and, consequently, the internet. (YEY!) However, I don’t know what I was expecting knowing that most of the sites I frequent and use as my sounding boards–facebook, twitter–are blocked. Livejournal, obviously, surprisingly, isn’t. So is Gmail. (Hooray!) Thank God for small blessings. The Chinese still believe in unlimited email accounts.


I’m going to have to vent on LJ for the next few days, since it’s the only one available to me. If it suddenly gets blocked, I’ll try using my vox or multiply, but I hope I don’t have to.


Travel last night was really convenient. The roads here are...

A COCKROACH!


... Sorry... got distracted. Thankfully it was only a small one. Dead now.


As I was saying, the roads are really wide and paved. SO MANY FLYOVERS. It was like look- ing at a real life version of the Philippines in 2000 in a Pugad Baboy comic. One of the things I remember thinking was that they had SO MUCH LAND. Well, duh, Sheila, you’re in freaking CHINA. More later. Gotta shower and start our day. 


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The Shanghai Diary #2, otherwise known as, "If I could tweet, they would be as follows:"

"It’s 9AM on a Thursday and my feet are screaming. I shouldn’t be surprised. They were so loud last night they almost lost their voices."

"I don’t think I like it here. I don’t like the people. They are rude. I miss Tokyo and its polite & disciplined Japanese."


"Great, my camera ran out of battery by 6PM."


"Ohmygod, Manong! Personal space! Personal space! PERSONAL SPACE!"

"Why do these other countries’ pavilions have a "sister to China" theme? I thought this was a World Expo & you’re supposed to promote yourself."


"And while we’re on that note, why doesn’t anyone speak English? I have not encountered
a person who understood us the entire day."

"My knowledge of the language is really thin. I’m worried if I start speaking a single word of Chinese, the person I’m talking to will start going off on a tangent and I’ll reply with a pathetic & charming  ’Huh?’"


"I think I know how it feels like to be at the Tower of Babel. God, you are weird. Yeah, you know exactly why I think this."


"Ohmygod. It’s the squat-down toilet seat. No Thank You. I’ll die of UTI first."


"NORMAL TOILETS! Clean and with auto-flushing! And no lines! THANK YOU LORD! (And yet, I raise my eyebrows at your sense of humor, God. Why’d you have to make me threaten myself first???)"


"Why is there a fly in our windowless hotel room?"


"You understand I ask that because I wonder how it came in and where it came from."


"The Turkish guy manning the ice cream stand was freaky and snappish. Too bad. I think my mom would have liked him. Damn them and their straight noses." 


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The Shanghai Diary #3, or "We went to London to visit the Queen’s seeds."

I think you can surmise from the way I described my lower appendages in the previous post, that we’d naturally have trouble waking up and getting ready the day after. This morning found us late to rise (compounded by the fact that our room does not have windows, so if you don’t have a watch, you wouldn’t know what time of day it is.) But, aching feet or no, we HAD to try to visit the expo again. And so we did.

Our strategy for today had been to avoid the zones where all the country pavilions were, and instead focus our morning, actually afternoon, in what we thought of as the not-so-popular areas. Unfortunately, we underestimated the popularity of Japan... which stretches even to its industrial pavilion. No matter, we were able to hang out nearby and have a really heavy lunch of Kukuru Takoyaki, pansit and gyudon to make up for our measly dinner from the night before. We did explore the shops outside, but due to the masses in line–the wait to get in was about 3 hours...egads–we reverted to our previous days’ strategy: look for a pavilion with little to no or, at the very least, moving, line and explore that instead.


The Urban Footprint pavilion next door, and the Korea Business Industrial a few meters away, though packed with people inside, didn’t having long waiting times. We were hoping to get inside Coca Cola, but we knew even without looking, how much of a disappointment that would be, crowdwise, so we opted to go to the Case Pavilions zone. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Pinoy Guide to Japan Travel: Booking Sites

Ok, this was a long time coming, but now that we've tackled flights, let's talk accommodations.

But before all that, make sure to read my previous post on choosing hotels. Done it? Great!

With the presence of the internet, booking places to stay has never been easier. There is a wealth of sites dedicated to the hospitality industry, with photos and reviews. Travelers now have better knowledge of different properties, and thus, better control over their decision-making. Plus, it doesn't hurt that because of all the competition, some websites offer special deals and discounts! Here are my favorite ones to visit when I'm looking for places to stay, whether it be in Japan or other countries.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Shoes Were Made for Walking

One of the most important things to consider when traveling is having the right pair of shoes. I think that they can either make or break your trip or rather, your feet, especially in places where you have to walk all the time.



I'm very particular about shoes and I tend to only bring one pair when traveling, depending on the place we're visiting. For sunnier climes, I have my favorite Fitflop sandals. These are my go-to shoes for Singapore, Hong Kong, countries in southeast Asia and local spots. They are SUPER comfy, as they're designed to cushion our feet, which means MAXIMIZED WALKING! Different styles mean you can take your pick of which sandal will best complement your travel fashion, so they can be casual or trendy. I admit that they're pricey as they average about 4000PHP a pair, but they are worth it because they last long--I've owned mine for about 4 years or so? And I've basically worn them everywhere! I even wore a pair to a wedding because they were the only shoes to fit my then woefully-pregnant feet. (Photo: At a roof deck in Singapore. Marina Bay Sands, I think? I don't remember. LOL. My head's cut but got a nice photo of my blue Fitflops.)

For travel to colder places, I've had to look for a different brand of shoe. Naturally, my sandals won't be able to protect my precious toes in those areas, and for some reason, Fitflop doesn't always have stock nor does it carry all styles of their closed shoes locally. (A shame because they apparently also have boots, ballet flats and sneakers!) So for spring and autumn travel, my husband and I have turned to my go-to brand for sneakers, Skechers! Specifically its GoWalk series which we've found to be lightweight and soft on the feet. Though the material of the sole isn't as thick as that of Fitflop's, it still provides a cushioning effect that makes long walks enjoyable. My husband loved wearing it so much he wants to use it for work even though he thinks it looks too casual. And did I mention that it's lightweight? (Photo: That's me wearing my blue Go Walk at a park in Shinjuku this spring.)


Incidentally, we chanced upon a promo stall of Skechers at the ATC last weekend, primarily featuring the Go Walk line. (They have new colors!!!)




 

Now for a disclaimer: I'm not being paid to endorse these. Or write this blog post. (Maybe I should be though? LOL. :P) They really are just my favorite footwear brands that are readily available locally. The next time you are looking for a good travel shoe, maybe you'd want to check them out.

Fitflop is available in Rustans, Res Toe Run and Bratpack. Their biggest stand-alone store, I think, is in MoA. 
Skechers is available in most department stores, but I recommend the Skechers boutique in Glorietta because they have more designs.




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tips for Choosing Accommodations in Tokyo

This was originally part of my Accommodations post, but seeing as it got too long, I'm using it as a separate entry. Yay! More blog posts!

So, how to choose where to stay? Here's what I think:

1. Choose a place near a railway station.

Wherever you decide to visit, my key recommendation, owing to the nation's advanced, extensive, and hugely efficient transportation system, is to stay near a railway station. If you are near one, you can basically get anywhere. An added plus is that Yamanote Line (the train that goes around Tokyo) stations usually have affordable dining options nearby.

2. Map out your itinerary and see where you find yourself spending the most time in!

Railway tickets can get pricey--the minimum you'll pay for a stop on Tokyo's Yamanote Line is 130Y or about 65PHP--so it might also be best to map out the exact tourist spots you plan on seeing, or seeing more of, and look for a good place to stay nearby. For example, when we're in Tokyo, my husband and I tend to favor Ueno in Taito Ward because our usual hotel there is about a 10-15 minute walk to Akihabara (for him) and a 5-minute walk to Ueno Park and the market area of Ameyoko/Okachimachi (for me). Some of our friends prefer the area near Ikebukuro Station on the western side for its proximity to Otome Road. Most foreigners like staying in Roppongi and Shinjuku or Shibuya for the nightlife. Staying in an area where you find yourself spending more time in will save time and help keep transport costs low, although, naturally, weigh it also with the price of the hotel room.

3. Cheap is not always better!

Last April, I met a fellow traveler who told me their travel agency booked them a hotel near the airport in Narita because it was cheap. (Look up the prices of accommodations there and you'll see that, yes, they are cheaper than the ones near the city center, but not as cheap as to be incomparable. I'm sorry, did that make sense?) This wouldn't be a problem if you mean to just tour the surrounding area. But if your main goal is the meaty part of Tokyo, it's about an hour away by train, so you have distance, time, and transport fare to contend with. The train stations also have closing hours. Anyway, long story short, they missed the last train* and were forced to take a taxi. They spent about 10000Yen or about 5000PHP. (I couldn't stop myself from wincing.) In the end, they ended up spending more despite getting a cheaper room.

*By the way, if this ever happens and you somehow miss the train going back, it's better to stay in the city and find yourself a 24 hr cafe or a capsule hotel to spend the night in. We don't suggest taking a cab, unless you can really afford it--flag down rate is 660Yen.

4. Book months beforehand.

I must also mention that making reservations beforehand is essential if you want to get a good deal. Japan is expensive, yes, but it can be manageable if you make preparations way in advance, because there are a lot of tourists, and most of them are local. Knowing that, it will also be helpful if you're aware of their holidays or special dates. Travel starts to pick up in March when Spring begins late in the month. The first few days of May constitute Golden Week. Places get full in summer when school is let out around July and during the Obon Festival in August. It winds down by the start of Autumn around September/October. Hotel fees have been found to be (relatively) cheaper during winter.

For reference, I tend to peg our accommodation costs to between 1000-2000PHP/person a night, and then adjust depending on factors. You can get a decent twin or semi-double to double room for upwards of 3000PHP in business hotels. For solo travelers, single rooms can cost 2000PHP-up, but we recommend also exploring other options such as hostels, guesthouses and capsule hotels with shared baths which go for 1000PHP-below. Groups can try out AIRBNB.

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So far I've only been to two other key places in Japan--Osaka, and Kyoto--and these tips can also apply to those cities, and I'm assuming, to similarly big cities in the country. Although, still do your research! I suggest checking out Japan-Guide and my friend's site, Magnetic-rose.net, for more information!