6 November: Blogging from Changi Airport, Terminal 1

Checked in at Changi Terminal 1 at around 9.30 pm. The counter was not really crowded... Ah! Does that mean the flight would be half-empty? Oh! How I wish :D (to gain some extra space with the same ticket I bought).

Just wondering how's this trip experience going to be like!
Well, both Ying Leng and myself had only 2 hours to finish the last bit of packing before heading to the airport... Felt that something's missing amongst the stuff I packed... tried to recall, and recall... ah! just remembered, it's the chemical warmer! Actually didn't think of bring that 'cos it's autumn... but was told that the temperature dropped to below last 15 degree celsius in one of the last few days. Ok, no worries for this 'polar bear' :P

BTW, the gate's opened already. It's 10.10 pm... Bye... :D
Shall blog again in Osaka :D

It was another disappointment! What?! You mean there's no internet access from the hotel room? I checked the Hotel website and it's mentioned there's Internet access! You mean only those Smoking rooms come with the Internet connection while the rest do not! Hey! Why penalise the non-smoking room occupants! What kind of logic? Isn't it more worse off than the hotel in China!!!! Hey, this is Japan!!! I have higher expectations indeed (ok... the higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment!)

So, what to do? The blog posts were added in only upon return...

6-7 November: In-flight

Zzzzz..... was the main in-flight programme! No, didn't even bother to look at what's screened 'cos was really deprived from sleep in the past few days... Nevertheless, no matter how tired, I'll not miss the in-flight meal. This round, we chose "low fat meal". Here's what's served...
Here's the snacks - sky juice (JAL Original Drink - Sky Time Yuzu (Japanese citron) and a bun with vegetable fillings. The sky juice was light and clear, fading sweetness... yummy - I like it!

It's fully vegetarian! Ok, in YL's words - Rabbit food!

7 November: Arrival

Here's the morning sky in Osaka.

Approaching Kansai International Airport, another airport that sits in an island. The other one I could recall is Hongkong International Airport.
Kansai airport is not that big afterall. Only one terminal. However, it has all the necessary facilities and information for any visitor. It's a good example of 麻雀虽小,五脏俱全. We did our last round of scanning of information, got our JR Pass exchanged and bought the limousine bus ticket to the hotel.

Here's the 2-way ticket bus ticket with a discount of 300 yen for a round ticket.

Here's the ticket to collect our luggage (from the bus-driver) when we arrive at the hotel.

The hotel, Hotel New Hankyu is centrally located just beside the JR Osaka Station, which became our gateway for the rest of our stay.

7 November: Universal Studio, Osaka

Universal Studio was in the itinerary, but was not for the 1st day initially. However, we decided to move it up, from Day 4 to Day 1 as both of us recognised the fact that a fatigue mind couldn't plan well, so we better stick to something that's more 'idiot-proof' - a theme park should be quite safe since it's somehow 'all-planned-for'.

It's back to sub-reality! Yes, surrounded by the cartoon characters! The familiar ones include Peanuts and Snoopy which I was a bit surprise - as I recall seeing them in the Knotts Berry Farm in US (LA)! So, it's also under the umbrella of the Universal Studio!

It's one of those places where we find people spending 10s and 10s of minutes to queue for a show or a ride that lasted from 5 minutes to half an hour. Well, "wait time > ride/programme time". What else can we expect? It's the same for all the theme parks all over the world. If there isn't any queue, you think it's still worth going? Hm... the theme park couldn't survive if you are the only client!!!

Hahah.... So, relax and join the queue. Do what Romans do in Rome!

We queued for the following...

  • ET Legend - Thought it was the ride which I experienced previously (can't remember whether it was a GoldCoast or at LA). That would be a good one to start off with I thought. Unfortunately, it disappointed us... it was snapshots of "ET" and some of its models (talking in Japanese), which did not quite make sense to us... disappointing... I must admit: Wrong choice...
  • Of course, one other thing that made YL flared-up was the photo-taking stage of which all who entered will take a picture with "ET". "Why? and can't visitors have a choice, etc..." She questioned. Of course, to some, it's against one's rights & principles!!! (yes, we have to right to do or not to do certain things on request). Well, from the theme park's perspective, it's just another revenue generating opportunity. Since visitors will not be going through the same entrance again, let's take down some potentially good memories in print that he/she could choose to bring home. For so many photos that they take everyday, why worry that they'll pick ours and do anything undesireable. I think, big organisations like this could be trusted! We are not in any of those mini-operations! Moreover, those people are just doing their job (they've been tasked to do). Of course, we still have a choice, if you would have insisted, it's fine to skip this item... Well, the experience could not be too different from one theme park to another... The purpose of going through the same motion is to revisit the experience :D Missing a couple of them is fine... the key is... just relax and enjoy...
  • The Spiderman ride was a good one - an exciting one! It's one of those indoor roller coaster (something like the Indiana Jones). But the highlight is, it's coupled with those 4D effect!!! It's the first time I experience the ride of this kind! Worth going :D
  • The Back-to-the-Future ride is a typical theme park ride - no surprise, but it's the revisiting of the experience! It doesn't come with the 4D effect.
  • Another one that comes with a long long queue was the Jaws ride in Amity Village. To compare with what I went through in the other Universal Studio, this is a scale-down show! A couple more (better ones, such as the parting of the Red Sea) were not available here.
  • The Terminator 2: 3-D show started off with a longwinded introduction... sigh... it's really buying time (I guess it's because the entire dialogue was in Japanese, though it's a live show). No surprise either... well, it's worth the value of money to watch such shows :D
  • The last item was the Universal Studios Cinema 4-D show (Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic). The sky turned dark and the queue was extremely long... It was already 5 pm. Well, surprising, the wait was shorter than expected 'cos the show ran in the theatre. Equivalent to the Terminator 2: 3-D show. Yawn yawn and dozed off intermittently... because of the long.... day.

What other thing(s) that caught my attention...

  • The Snoopy bun! So cute!!! I bought one, took a picture and ate it while it was still hot. 啊!我把可爱的“史奴比”吃进肚子里了!
  • The spiderman-fested souvenir shop! Of yes, shop as if I've unlimited budget! 蜘蛛侠,你的魅力不可挡也!

All in all, the key objective is just to relax and any surprise was really a bonus (to me). No where, it's near the ones I visited in LA or even Goldcoast. Those were better! or was it because, experiences and exposure over these years have heightened my expectations? Hm... of course, is age another factor? I wonder... not really... I'm a "changed" person when I'm immersed in the environment... but somehow, it could not quite successful in bringing out the 'young me'...

Back to the hotel at almost 8 pm. Checked it and went out for dinner. A bento set - something simple and manageable...

8 November: Nara

Nara - another ancient city. With reference to the map, indeed, the places seem to be within walking distance... ok, nevermind undermine walk! It could kill, especially when not enough pre-trip preparation done.

We identifed a couple of places. My key interests... not really the deer (though it's what it's well-known of), but the World Heritage Sites! Yes, my eyes grew big as I saw there are so many of them congregated at one place, almost all within walking distance. Yes. Earmarked 2 which must go... Kofukuji Temple and Todaji Temple.

We arrived at the Train Station and there, we got a map - pretty clear one... and the route to the first location is straightforward. One bonus was, we stopped at the Tourist Information Centre along the way and got a local Goodwill Volunteer Guide - Tomoko, who kept us company for the rest of the day. Indeed, if we were not ambitous of thinking to visit Osaka Castle on return to Osaka (which actually this was not materialised on the same day), Tomoko would have brought us further to see another one to two more sites... what a pity!

On the other hand, as YL pointed out, with the guide, there were more stops made and each stop lasted longer... hence, it stretched the stay... Well, afterall, I think it's worth having someone to bring us around (what's more it's free!)... more importantly, there's some explanation (made in layman terms) that means the visit more meaningful. From all the past experiences, nothing beats having a 'live' commentor than referring to the book or write-ups put up in the various locations. Of course, the interaction with locals is another bonus :D

Along the way, came across a shop that was crowded with long queues - a closer looooook: It's mochi making. Hey, wasn't this something I saw in a Youtube clip a few days ago? There, the traditional and modern ways of mochi making! The mochi was hot when served! Really, nothing beats viewing "live" - the tradition!

8 November: Kofukuji Temple 兴福寺, Nara 奈良

This is one of the World Hertiage sites in Nara. [see Wikipedia] famous for its 5-storey pagoda, which is the 2nd tallest of its kind in Japan. It's completely made of wood without any nail. Yes. Indeed, there are numerous structures in the world were build solely with timber. I guess, it's the design and the way it's built that made the difference; and of course, what's inside and what the history behind it.

Well, Tomoko further explained about what the several layers (from the vertex to the base) symbolised (which I could not remember... but definitely, the explanation enabled me to appreciate the huge structure presented before my eyes). It's the history, religion and culture. It's the life style of that era.

There are other 'national treasures' which happen to be open the public during this period. Unfortunately, we have not gotten the time to see....

8 November: Deer Park, Nara

It really caught me by surprise when I saw so many deer on the road... er... the park, I mean... did not really see anyone of them crossing the road though we saw this sign along the lamp posts, also those 'deer crossing' signs. Hahah... that reminds me of Australia's "Kangaroo crossing"!!!

The encounter with deer? Hm... they are hungry animals! hahah... probably already conditioned by the environment - hungry for the deer biscuits. Well, when out of their natural habitat, their responses and needs are also different. What I remember of them... their wet nose and tongue... eeeee........ yak yak.....

It seems like trishaw is another common sight across many Asian major cities too!!! The most recent one was in Nanjing, the previous one was in Beijing... don't recall seeing this in European countries! It seems like Asians are more prone to the concept of 用自己的人力,劳力来赚钱。

8 November: Todaiji Temple 东大寺, Nara 奈良

It's one of the grand temples that I saw in Japan... Huge, despite the fact the size shrunk over 2 rounds of reconstruction. I think I missed the Nandai-mon Gate (mentioned in the map) or was that the "natural looking gate" that comes with original timber look? There isn't elaborate painting of the pillars - the timber simple gave that original & simple religious look.

There are similarities and differences of the Japanese temple structure as compared to the Chinese! At least, the immediate difference spotted is the 2 'corners' on the roof of the temple. Instead of the dragon heads (which are very common in amongst the Chinese structures), we saw "fish" heads!!! hahaha... not ordinary fish, ok! (Take a closer look at the picture I took at Osaka Castle). These golden ornaments (known as shibi in Japanese) were believe to protect the building from catching fires.

Inside the temple housed the Great Buddha Vairocana (15m high) seated on a lotus pedestal, while situated outside the hall was Pindula which is believed to have miracle powers to relieve pain if one rubs the corresponding part of his body. Well, Tomoko put it across humorously, he was sent out of the hall because he was so clever and not paying attention in the teaching! Hey, that reminds us of sending the hyperactive students out of class!!! Hahaha...

Tomoko highlighted to us the 4 colours that are associated to temples (in Japan) (not sure if it applies to others...): White, Black, Red and Green. Think there's one more colour... ah!!! can't remember what' it is... is it golden colour? Hm...

8 November: Streets in Nara

Here's a close-up of a shrine

9 November: Toji Temple 东寺(五重塔), Kyoto 京都

It took us a while to figure our way out of Kyoto Train Station, which was supoose to be one of the largest JR Train station in Japan! Certainly, it was... with more than 30 platforms! Fear not, the helpful station personnel pointed us to the right train platform with ease... :D

The garden was beautiful... littered with the yellow-turning-red maple trees! wow! so, it's the autumn scene that I never got the chance to see. Simply.... Beautiful.

This time, got the opportunity to enter the 5-storey pagoda which was built in during the Edo period. Fully timber. It was well-preserved... and obviously, the main supporting pillar was the one in the centre (心柱), which the buddha statues sat around it (in the 4 directions). Also, the paintings on the wall. Ah! If there's a guide, we would be able to appreciate what it is all about better!!! What a pity!

9 November: Njio Castle 二条城, Kyoto 京都

The castle is considered huge as it comes with 2 moots and 2 palaces! However, it's puzzling why were there stone bridges that link the 'islands' with the main land? Isn't it the moot is meant to 'cut off' any access (a defence mechanism)? Well, perhaps we have been too used to the role of moot (from the European castles, etc).

The main palace "Ninomaru Palace" was open for access... it's plain... moving from one room to another room... along a corridor that supposedly uniquely designed Nightingale Floor so that when one walks, the corridor floor will squeak... Hahaha... it's to detect any intruder??? How about ninjas who were suppose to be light and could 'fly' around? hahaha... I wonder... Well, true enough, it's unique to the palace as I yet came across this in other castles or palaces that visited so far... 'cos all of them came with concrete/tiled floorings!!! The overall impression was it's not lavish except those golden linings and art pieces on the walls of each room - with golden colour spreaded across the wall... the paintings were mainly garden scenes with some animals like tiger and eagle in some rooms... of course, that's where power was!

Unfortunately, the inner palace, Honmaru Palace was not opened to public.

Anyway, it's a pleasant experience to walk through the beautiful gardens - so beautiful and colourful! wow! It's a pity that the sky turned totally dark at 5 pm.

9 November: Fortune Teller in Kyoto

This little shop caught our attention, on our way to the Toji Temple:

10 November: Osaka Castle 大阪城

Took the train to Osaka-jo station. It was soooooo..... quiet... so unlike other stations despite the fact it was past 9.30 am!

Basically, it's a huge park... with the castle standing at a certain height, which could be easily spotted from far. Yes, there's a moot... and yes... there's a stone bridge... typical of any Japanese castle? I wonder. It's white with black top. Yes, I see the 'fishes' too! (ok, the golden ornaments). It's 8 storey high with a lift that went all the way to the 6th storey. Basically, it's a museum now! Can't find the 'smell or taste' of the old palace. It's as good as a newly erected building. No wonder it's not a world heritage site (probably because of all the work done).

In this museum, it's where the history of Japan unfolded... through the multimedia presentation. The life of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. It's complex! Yes, he seemed to be another great ruler, who united Japan! That reminded me of Qin Shihuang! but it took place so many years later...

One thing struck me when I finally arrived at the foot of the castle...

I felt like I was standing in front of the Paro Dzong! So majestic!!!

11 November: Last Dinner in Osaka

We came across this Ramen shop during our food-hunt. Pretty interesting, just order the Ramen from the vending machine!

Here's my sudden crave of cheese cake... yummy... it simply melts in the mouth... and the juice....... yummy ^.^

11 November: Departing Osaka... and Home Sweet Home

The only item in the itinerary was "Home Sweet Home". In fact, this was the morning that we didn't take our own sweet time 'cos we knew there's a flight to catch, especially it had been raining since the night before... better be early than be sorry.

At 9.15 am, we checked out from the hotel and scroll over to the bus stop to wait for the limonusine bus.

Something I admire the Japanese is really their efficiency and punctuality. Just a couple of minutes before the bus arrived, one of the ground crew started tagging of the luggage, etc. And at exactly 9.40 am, the bus departed the station!
Here's my 18kg luggage (just 4 kg more...)

Because of the rain, it took almost one hour to arrive at the airport. Anway we were still early! Ah! Amongst the first to checkin to get the boarding pass!

After clearing the immigration point, we still had almost 2 hours. Well, well... what other better pastimes than shopping!!! Hahaha... getting the best bargains is definitely not my forte. To me, shopping is very straightforward. Have a target, look for the item and pay!

Anyway, over the years, I've sharpened my strategy of buying things! Anything that's available in the airport - Buy last! Buy at the airport... then it will not add on to the 20kg limit. Of course, have to strike a balance too! Else will be too bulky and troublesome to hand carry! Well, well... managed to squeeze the 7 boxes of stuff into the haversack.



The flight departed slightly late (around 1.15 pm Japan hours)... but we were informed that we'll arrive at 6.35 pm (Singapore time), about 25 minutes ahead of time!

Here's our special meal - the low fat meal! Heng-ah! no more rabbit food. Presented to us was a piece of beef! Don't care - just whack!!! hahaha... Still could not get over the 'rabbit food' we got in the inbound flight... felt so deprived...

Well, guess what we had for dessert? It's a banana! So nicely wrapped... while others enjoyed a cup of ice-cream :( So, it's not just rabbit food, but also monkey food???? (to conclude this trip?)

Watched 3 in-flight movies: