Autumn Story In Japan 2013 – Another UNESCO World Heritage – Nijojo (Nijo Castle)

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After visiting Kinkakuji, we take Bus No. 50 from Kinkakuji-michi Bus Stop (the bus stop that we alighted just now for Kinkakuji) to go to Nijo Castle. We have to alight at Nijojo-mae bus stop, press the bell to inform driver to stop when Nijojo-mae bus stop is approaching.

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The entrance to Nijo Castle is just opposite the bus stop. Entrance tickets are purchased at 600 Yen each. πŸ˜€

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This is the Karamon Gate. Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle’s palace buildings 23 years later and further expanded the castle by adding a five story castle keep.

After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historical site. The castle was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. (Information gathered from Japan Guide)

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We walk through the Karamon Gate to reach Ninomaru Palace which is the castle’s main attraction. Indeed, I am very impressed by the detailed designs with the gold platings on the roof, I thought it is beautiful!

The Ninomaru Palace served as the residence and office of the shogun during his visits to Kyoto. Surviving in its orignal form, the palace consists of multiple separate buildings that are connected with each other by corridors with so called nightingale floors, as they squeak when stepped upon as a security measure against intruders. The palace rooms are tatami mat covered and feature elegantly decorated ceilings and beautifully painted sliding doors (fusuma).

We did go into the palace for a tour and it is really as described above. As no photography is allowed, there will be no photos. πŸ˜€

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Outside of the Ninomaru Palace extends the Ninomaru Garden, a traditional Japanese landscape garden with a large pond, ornamental stones and manicured pine trees.

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Walking through the beautiful garden is an enjoyment under the scorching sun but cooling air. The reason why I love Autumn so much!

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Even though it is still not peak of autumn in Kyoto, we already spot some leafs turning red or orange! It may not be as pretty a sight as compared to full autumn, but with a little of reds among the greens is also very nice! πŸ™‚

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More photos of the garden! It is quite big as we did spent some time to stroll around. ^^

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There is some sort of flea market near the exit of the garden. How lucky are we! The stalls sell food, snacks and some souvenirs.

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We buy some food and settle down at the red bench to rest, eat and enjoy the sun. Ya. I seldom enjoy the sun in Singapore cos it is most of the time freaking hot that I thought my skin is gonna burn, and I sweat in less than 5 minutes. But during the autumn season in Japan, the sun is warm on the skin and the wind is cooling, and I don’t sweat. πŸ˜›

I really miss the grilled mochi with sweet sauce that I had in Ise last November that I am exhilarated to see this. Of cos I have to buy it. But sadly, after tasting it, it is different. Not grill to a crispy outing, and not as yummy. I mistook these for the ones I had in last November. Oh well.

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Okonomiyaki! I love this! I really love this! The vegetables below the egg are so sweet and the sweet sauce + mayonnaise with the eggs and green onions are just yums! After this, we will go to Nishiki Market. πŸ™‚

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Autumn Story In Japan 2013 – 1st time to UNESCO World Heritage – Kinkakuji

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This is the entrance to view Kinkakuji. Just the thought of seeing Kinkakuji right in front of me is making me feeling excited. Kinkakuji is called Golden Pavilion in English and as its’ name meant, it is gold in color as well!

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Love this pathway lined with 2 rows of trees (a pity that the leaves are not red yet) on the way in to see Kinkakuji.

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No this is not Kinkakuji. Opps. After walking through the pathway, we have to enter another entrance and I saw this beautiful building that I cannot resist taking photo with. :p

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We have to purchase entrance tickets from the ticket office first before we can walk in through yet another entrance to finally see Kinkakuji!!! I thought the tickets look nice. Heh.

Ticket is priced at 400 yen per pax. Not really cheap but definitely worth it. Who cares about money when it comes to holiday?! Ok, probably only me. πŸ˜€

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Tada~~~~ The photo does not do Kinkakuji justice as it is actually in fact shining in gold under the sunlight and it is just too beautiful! Some background history of Kinkakuji (information gathered from Japan Guide), it is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top 2 floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will, it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408.

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Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu’s former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.

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I love how Kinkakuji is being reflected upon the pond like a mirror image. Everyone is crowding around the pond attempting to take a photo with Kinkakuji, so how can I miss it? I manage to get myself a good spot and snap snap snap. πŸ˜€

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After viewing Kinkakuji from across the pond, the path that passes by Kinkakuji from behind leads through the temple’s gardens which have retained their original design from Yoshimitsu’s day.

In the garden, I came across these statues that people throw coins at for luck.Β Apparently, I do not have much luck cos I did not manage to throw it into the ‘bowl-like’ stone! Hur.

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And I came across these 2 cute doggies sitting in a pram. Kawaii!

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Outside the exit of the garden, there is a Fudo Hall, a small temple hall which houses a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the 5 Wisom Kings and protector of Buddhism.

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There’s this machine outside of Fudo Hall where after inserting coin into it, we will receive a slip of paper forecasting our luck and it’s in English! But remember to find the machine with the correct language cos I initially use the one with Japanese Language. Lol.

Oh and I got a ‘吉’!

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Besides Fudo Hall, there are also souvenir shops (I bought a few Kinkakuji keychains in gold!!!) and a small tea garden where we have matcha tea and sweets (500 yen) in the most traditional way.

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A lady in kimono serves us tea just like how I watch it on TV. Though the matcha tea is really bitter (not sure if all traditional matcha tea taste like that) and the sweet is really sweet (duh!), I enjoyed the time here, chilling and relaxing in a traditional way. It’s only on free and easy trip that we have the luxury of time to do this!

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Attempting to act traditional by kneeling on the tatami but ended up sitting instead. Hehe.

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While leaving Kinkakuji and walking towards the bus stop to our next destination, we came across the famous Yojiya which sells cosmetics products and some other girl stuffs. We walk in and take a tour, and that’s it. Haha. Too expensive!

Overall, I really love Kinkakuji and hope that some day I will be back again, this time bringing my parents. ^^

Autumn Story In Japan 2013 – Breakfast and Subway / Bus to Kinkakuji!

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2 December 2013 – We wake up around 6.30am and are planning to leave the hotel around 8am. I love Citadines Kyoto because it provides a very homely and cosy feel which allows me to sleep very well even on the first night! πŸ˜€

Hui Ping has the tuna salad (bought from the supermarket near our hotel) for breakfast.Β I try a bit of the salad and I fell in love with the sauce! It’s neither Wafu Sauce nor Sesame Sauce and I do not know how to describe the taste of the sauce either, but it is really good!

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The hotel provides a small packet of cookie that is very buttery and delicious, which I have it for breakfast. But I am not sure if it is refillable because it is never being replenished in the room every since I eat it. Haha.

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A photo a day at the entrance of the hotel. The grey knitted top is the one that I bought at Uniqlo the day before. It is quite thick and really keeps warm!

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At Gojo Subway Station waiting for train. There are several ways to go to Kinkakuji but the more efficient way is to travel by the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Subway Station and transfer to a bus. Oh remember to grab a bus route map from Kyoto Station Tourist Information Centre (we collected ours the day before) as it is very useful for planning the route.

And also we bought the Traffica Kyo Card (3000 Yen, but the usage is up to 3300 Yen) which can be used on all buses and subways. We purchased it at the Tourist Information Centre in Kyoto Station too. However, do note that there is no refund of any remaining amount.Β 3300 Yen was just enough for us during our stay in Kyoto for 4 days.

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The journey to Kitaoji Subway Station takes about 15 minutes. Once alighted, just followed the signage towards Kitaoji Bus Terminal.

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There are 2 link-way to go to Kitaoji Bus Terminal from the Kitaoji Subway Station. One blue and one red. So just go towards the blue one. And you will see the bus terminal. Look for the one going to Kinkakuji and Bus 101 / 102 and start queuing.

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The bus comes in a while. In Kyoto, we have to board the bus from the back door and then press the bell when the stop that you are alighting flashes on the screen. Insert the Kyo Card into the machine for fee deduction before alighting through the front door.

The seats are all cushioned on the bus! Though comfy, we notice that the seats are so narrow that tall people like us find it a little cramp. Nonetheless, we do enjoy the 10 minutes bus ride looking at the passing street view and immerse ourselves into Kyoto’s morning. πŸ™‚

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Alighted at Kinkakuji Bus Stop and cannot resist taking photos with the beautiful cafe exterior design and the pinkish wall!

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Directions to Kinkakuji from Kinkakuji Bus Stop: While facing the cafe after alighting from the bus, turn to the left and walk towards the traffic junction, then we immediately spot this huge signage to Kinkakuji. Probably a 10-15 minutes walk. πŸ™‚

Autumn Story In Japan 2013 – It is all about food and shop in Kyoto Day 1 :)

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It’s unbelievable how I managed to survive carrying a 26 inch luggage and a big hand carry bag up several flights of stairs in the subway station in order to arrive at the hotel. Amazing me. Still glad that I still have the energy to go out immediately after checking-in to hotel room. πŸ˜€

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First, we explore the streets just outside our hotel and I really love staying here! There’s a 24 hour supermarket along the street (on same side as our hotel, turn left upon exiting hotel entrance) and I love supermarket in Japan! So much snacks, and what’s not to buy!

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As we have not taken any food since we shared the waffle on NEX, we decide to buy sushi and dessert from the supermarket to eat. We settle at a small bench next to the supermarket and start on our first sushi in Kyoto. It’s yummy even though it’s from the supermarket. Awww….. how I love Japan!

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Our dessert! Glutinous rice top with sweet and big fat red bean!!! I really do not understand why red beans are always so damn delicious in Japan. Cos grass is greener on the other side? Hur.

We continue exploring the street and are delighted to find a drugs store and a 100 Yen shop around! There’s a super huge 7-11 on the opposite street. There’s a Yayoiken Restaurant and MacDonald on the right side of the hotel. Β Now you know why I love staying at Citadines Kyoto!

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There’s an Aeon Mall nearby to Kyoto Station. It’s actually next to New Miyako Hotel. If you go from Kyoto Station, either look for New Miyako Hotel direction or Hachiko Exit of Kyoto Station. Kyoto Station is big and quite complicated but it really has everything! Shopping malls (a lot!), underground shopping mall (there’s 2!), restaurants (a lot!), Drugs Store and supermarkets (a lot!).

Once you get use to the station layout, it’s actually easy to navigate but be prepared to walk a lot! Back to Aeon Mall, there are 2 sides of Aeon mall separated by a bridge. The one on the right side has more restaurants and shopping. Uniqlo, Muji, Gap, Daiso and some individual shops. Oh, and a huge supermarket too!

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Christmas decorations are already all around on 1 November 2013 (that’s really early!) and how I love them! The stairs are decorated with many Santa Clauses but I thought they look more like the 7 dwarfs. Opps!

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First thing into the mall is to look for food for dinner! I know we just had sushi and dessert but those are like snacks. Haha. Google this Shabu Shabu Buffet Restaurant before my trip and seems like the reviews are not bad. So we decide to come and try. It’s call Shabu Shabu Ku Raku.

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Happy me. I thought the price is cheap (I think around $20+ per pax) so do not expect great variety of food or what’s not. But it’s enough to satisfy me. Notice the pot of soup, it’s actually plain water. Most people has the misconception that Shabu Shabu soup is like chicken soup or pork bone soup cos it’s like that in Singapore.

But in fact, if you have Shabu Shabu in Japan, the soup is just plain water. You are not supposed to drink it. It’s just for the purpose of cooking your food. The main highlight is the dipping sauce!

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We had pork and beef. Well it’s not the best-est meat that I have (with nice marble and all) but it’s really not bad. The slices are thick and the meat are fresh! I mean those I have in Singapore are really thin that I have to cook 3 slices together in order to taste the meat. Lol.

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Sauce! This is soup (not sure what kind of soup), add a little Yuzu Sauce (I think it has pepper in the sauce as well) and green onion. Dip the meat in it and yums! I really love the sauce much!

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There’re also mushrooms, vegetables, udon and ramen at the counter for grab. Hui Ping took this photo of me looking disgruntled. But I am not. πŸ˜›

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Free flow of Vanilla Ice Cream which is so rich in milk! Slurps.

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After dinner, we see Daiso and we go crazy in it cos it’s so so so big! It’s 100 yen for everything and almost everything you need.

Then, we shop at Uniqlo and I bought like 2 winter jackets (the fat and fluffy kind, one for mum and one for myself) and also a knitted above knee top to match with leggings. OMG. Uniqlo is damn cheap in Japan (Of cos la, duh! It’s Japanese brand) and I nearly killed myself when the 2 jackets that I bought here are later on put on sale in Tokyo. It’s like a further discount of another $20! Smacks self on the forehead.

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Hui Ping needs to go to the ladies and so I settle down on the bench outside to wait for her after buying this apple tea from the vending machine. But I do not really like it. It’s not the drink, I think it’s just me. I don’t like the combination of apple and tea, it just…. taste… weird.

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We walk back to Kyoto Station and the temperature has dropped a little since night is here. Walk pass this restaurant selling fruit tarts and is attracted by the rows of display! We order 1 slice to share and we chose the cheapest one. Haha. This slice cost like $9! But it’s so yummy with the fresh fruits on top and the smooth cream below coupled with a crispy buttery crust at the bottom.

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No these are not from the fruit tart restaurant, we bought them from a bakery store next door. Love the Halloween Themed Bread which has curry filling inside. But I didn’t get to eat it cos I left it in the fridge and totally forgotten about it. Hu!

The pudding is yummy! I have it for breakfast on a certain morning. It has this vanilla custard taste and, is so soft and smooth! πŸ˜€

Time to call it a day and we return to our hotel for rest. Looking forward to the next day as it’s a day of sightseeing and history digging!

Autumn Story In Japan 2013 – 11 hours To Kyoto!

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Upon clearing the custom and collecting our luggages, we proceed to the JR Office to exchange for the actual JR Pass which we purchased in Singapore and, also make reservation for Narita Express (NEX) and Shinkansen. Note that JR Pass must be purchased outside of Japan, and reservation for seats is free with JR Pass.

Here we are waiting at the platform for NEX (departing at 9.45am) to Shinagawa Station to transfer to Shinkansen for Kyoto.

Tip: Most people will transfer at Tokyo Station but Tokyo Station is big and more complicated, hence, the more straightforward transfer will be at Shinagawa Station.

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We are boarding Narita Express 12, so just look out on the electronic board to check if you are at the right track. Β Then proceed to the respective car no. as indicated on the ticket (it will be indicated somewhere on the platform) and wait there.

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Happily waiting for NEX to be here. πŸ˜€

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The trains in Japan will always arrive earlier than the departure time either for the cleaners to clean up the train first before allowing passengers to board or time allowance for boarding. Note: The trains depart damn promptly in Japan, so be punctual, otherwise, if miss the train, that’s it! Hur.

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Once the train departs, we immediately saw blue sky! Yeah! First sight of Japan since arrival! A pretty day!

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The whole journey will take 1 hour and 8 minutes, arriving at 10.53am. Train arrival timing are often damn accurate too. Oh well, it’s Japan and my favorite country! As for luggages, NEX has space in front of each car for storing, but we place it in front of our legs instead since there’s a big seat space allowance. It’s just nice for me, with my legs against the luggage. Not the most comfortable position but still manageable. πŸ™‚

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Of cos there are food services on train! Since it’s early morning, we shared a cuppa coffee and a waffle. Yums!

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Keep a look out of the station on the electronic board on train while eating!

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After arriving at Shinagawa Station, just go up an escalator and walk a little (could not remember exactly the directions but it’s very easy with signage and all) to transfer to Shinkansen. Similarly, look out for the electronic board for the Shinkansen track no. and stand at the car no. assigned to wait for it.

Horror stories have been shared about waiting at the wrong track or how complicated it is to board trains in Japan. Well, I would not say it’s simple but it’s definitely not complicated. Haha. Just need to be alert and keep smart!

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In Shinkansen, there is mininal space or rather no space to store big luggages. But it is also impossible for me to travel light cos I have lots of barang barang to bring and buy from Japan. Lol.

So no choice. I brought a 26 inch luggage and place it in front of my legs. I thought Shinkansen seat space allowance is slightly bigger than NEX, so it’s more comfortable, alright just slightly more comfortable.

I suppose the bigger luggage can also fit into the space in front of me cos I saw people bringing bigger ones! It can be taller than mine but definitely cannot be fatter. However, it does pose a little inconvenience to the people sitting by the window next to me when he / she needs to alight (I am seated in the middle). And also, the people sitting in front may have difficulty reclining his / her seat too much.

Nonetheless, Japanese are kind and helpful as I have not received unhappy faces or words from them because of this. Appreciated it!

The journey from Shinagawa to Kyoto is 2 hours 40 minutes. Damn long and I am restless throughout the journey because I have already seated for 7 hours (on flight) and 1 hour (on NEX) before that! If I add all the hours up, it takes me 11 hours in total to get to Kyoto!

Once arriving in Kyoto Station (which is big!), we go around lugging our luggages to purchase tickets for our day trips and tickets to return to Tokyo. We then proceed to Kyoto Subway Station to take a subway to Gojo Subway Station which is where our hotel Citadines Karasuma Gojo Kyoto is located.

To our horror after arriving Gojo Station, the nearest exit to the hotel (Exit 1) does not have elevators or escalators. There are flights of stairs ONLY! We brave the staircases with our luggages and manage to reach ground level safely. Haha!

Lucky us, the hotel is just steps away from the exit! πŸ˜›

Autumn Story In Japan 2013 – Flying to Japan again after 8 months!

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31 October Night – OOTD for flight to Japan! I have been planning for a Free and Easy travel to Japan, mainly – Tokyo (just for shopping), Kyoto, Nara, Hakone and Kawaguchiko – to hunt down the many World Heritage places.

The planning took me several months because I am one for details and also, I totally have no idea on how to read a map. Alright, maybe simple map, yes, but not the complicated ones. For someone like me, I will need to research on the easiest way of transport to tourist attractions as well as description of directions. Oh well. I am done and here we go.

Oh and I managed to catch hold of the SQ promotion which cost me ‘all-in’ $788 for a return flight to Tokyo. (If only the luggage check-in weight increment to 30kg is implemented earlier) Heh!

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This time round, I am not going with my parents. I am travelling with one of my best-est friend, Hui Ping. It has been 4 years since I last traveled with her!

We met up for an early check-in and settled down at Coffee Bean for salad and hot drinks before the flight. The salad at Coffee Bean is bad. I like the shredded chicken, egg, tomatoes, cheese and all but the sauce is really too much and overwhelming!

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This time round, I got the seats at the upper deck of SQ A380 and it is definitely a much better experience than the previous time when I was seated at the lower deck. It is more quiet, less busy and the seats are 2 by 4 by 2. The window seats have a storage compartment (which is quite spacious) by the side which is so much more convenient for me to store my barang barang.

But remember, do not choose row 74! Because there is no storage compartment for this row. I choose it unknowingly for my return flight. 😦

After 7 hours of sleep, awake by baby crying, sleep, awake by baby crying, we finally saw the sun rising into the sky! The baby crying is really non-tolerable because he is crying non-stop! Cried for 10 minutes stop for 5 minutes and cries again. How lucky am I when I meet the same baby again on my return flight. Oh well.

Nonetheless, since I am on a holiday mood, nothing can spoil it and I remain excited + happy that I am landing in Japan soon! πŸ˜€

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Landed around 7.30am (Japan time). The queue at the immigration is terrible as it is super long! I thought I should take a photo of the long queue (since I am too bored queuing). Suddenly, one of the officer shouts at me to stop taking photo. Fine.

My first encounter of a fierce Japanese in my so many trips. Alright, I think not the first one but one of the rare happenings. πŸ˜›

This post is not too interesting since it is mostly about me ranting on and on. Opps. I shall end here.