Friday, July 26, 2013

How's The Weather Today?

It's 1.15pm and the rain just subsided. However, the weather felt different, and kinda bizarre. It's quite unusual for me to see the sky as  gloomy this. As if it can read my mind, or my heart rather... (drama! :)) Anyways, it's really dark outside for this time of the day and the street lights are turning on automatically. Hmmmmm... Is it mists or fogs that im seeing outside my office window or is it the haze coming from our neighbors? Hmm, I wonder. All I know that it's making it hard for to me to focus on my work and not thinking of things that's not supposed to be thought of (confused much?)

Speaking of weather, it's raining a lot these days. I love rain. Yes both "rains", I mean the rain rain and the kpop star, Bi Rain
:P (he completed his mandatory military service just recently.. ehem..)..I can't remember it raining this much in July last year. Malaysia used to have only 2 seasons which is the hot and rainy season. Nevertheless, one can still enjoy traveling in the rainy season in the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia as it does not flood much as compared to the East Coast (rainy season in the East Coast starts in November until March). However, since few years back we have an additional season which is the Haze Season - which is really not a good time to travel here as you can only see and smell smoke. The smoke is coming from our neighbor country which had hot spots that burns the forests / agriculture plantations. And there are also cases of open burning but I do not want to dwell on this. U can just simply google them and you'll know what's been happening. This year the schools have to shut down a few times as the air quality was really bad. (I guess school kids love the hazy season). So those who intend to come to Malaysia, do take note that the haze season is in June-July.. I'm not sure about August but usually it subsides when the heat cools down. I think the East Coast of Malaysia is less affected of the haze, but I could be wrong. Btw, June to Septmber is the perfect time to go to our islands - perhentian, redang, tioman - you wont regret going there :). Well, I think that's all about the senseless ramblings about the weather for today.

Ahh... It's raining again.. I even saw a lightning in the horizon. I think I better lie down for a bit and enjoy the sound of the rain.. (it's the lunch break time btw)

It does not look that dark in the picture isn't it. Pardon the quality of my phone cam.But in actual, it was really2 dark outside..

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Osaka Observations

1. For families with young children, stroller really helps. Not like in Seoul, young people here actually uses the elevator and people won't stare when you use them. I would say, Osaka is very stroller friendly (and i believe this is the case for other major cities in Japan as well). Almost all places are equipped with elevators - almost. However, certain parts of the subway doesn't have elevator and you would have to exercise your muscles and manually carry the stroller up the stairs.

convenient to carry your bags / shopping bags
2. Bring snacks that your kids like to avoid them going hungry as food here is quite difficult for Muslims. Bring your won ration - lots of them. However for sushi lovers - ur in heavennnn~. I myself LOVE sushi, however, remember to bring ur own soy sauce as the ones in Japan are non-halal as alcohol is normally used to produce them - including miso soup, shoyu, mirin and the likes.. I bought mine from Jusco the ones in small packets at the Sushi section which is very very convenient convenient.

3. For the captain who is not quite adventurous in the food department I brought along packs of rice and cook them with my trustee old portable cooker bought from Akihabara a couple of years ago. Top the rice with fried omelettes and were good to go :) (remember to bring some kicap kipas udang ya :P). Last time it was very difficult to find this portable cooker in the country but lately there is one local brand which i know of that produces them. However, it can only be bought online or directly at their suppliers. Its called the Musafir Travel Cooker. I dont know how it performs though. I'm using Sanyo brand and it's sturdy, compact and easy to clean. For lil Q, I bought those instant porridge which I packed to go for our trips as Q is really a picky eater and normally wouldn't want to try anything new especially if it looked gross. 

cooking station :P - make sure you clean the space after you cook.
sardine fried rice and chicken porridge
Having lunch at Nara Park
4. Cleanliness is like an obsession here. Yet, finding a trash can is a huge feat. I'm really puzzled how they maintain the cleanliness without any trash can in sight? The best bet is to find a washroom,  chances are there will be a dustbin inside.

5. In Osaka (i think this is the case in the whole of Japan), if u ever cast a stone in any direction, chances are it will hit at least one vending machine. haha. They are in abundance! I doubt that you will ever go thirsty in Japan. However, it's really difficult to find chocolate drinks in the vending machine as well as in the mini marts. And unlike in Seoul where the Banana Milk is very popular, you can hardly find them here. I only managed to find them in of the vending machines in the Osaka Castle compound. The vending machines would normally sell coffee, fruit juices and mineral water. 

6. It is not as easy to find coffee shops in Osaka. I don't know how's the coffee culture in Japan, last I read it's quite the in thing there. But during our stay I hardly come across any, I don't even see any Starbucks even though I know there is one in the vicinity of our hotel but i just couldn't locate them.

7. It's not easy to find souvenir shops in Osaka as compared to Kyoto. However, there are good ones in the Osaka Castle compound. They also specialise in samurai / ninja stuffs here. If you happen to go there, do shop for your souviniers as you might not easily find other shops. The one we found on the way to Kaiyukan only have Japan souvinier but did not have
anything spcecific related to Osaka itself. You can find lots of souvinier shops in Nara though. There was one shop that we found on our way to the Nara JR station which sells variety of good quality souvinier named Kamei, Narashi Sanjyodori (tel: 0742(22)7628). The obachan is friendly and speaks acceptable english. If you're on way to the station, the shop is on your left. The captain bought his replica of Samurai sword here for 5k yen ++ :P. Remember to ask for the declaration letter informing that the sword is not made of dangerous materials, they do provide them with your purchase (only if you ask). This is to be prepared just in case customs got interested with your sword. The captain had not had any problem with it :P

Green Shop  - can be found otw to Kaiyukan. A souvinier shop selling Japan souviniers but nothing specific on Osaka.
8. Through my experience, I found that people who works in restaurants and railway stations spoke acceptable english. We can actually get around by asking people we met along the way. The railway officers especially helped a lot. However, as I said before, preparation, ie. some research on it's transportation system and general overview of the city and your hotel area is necessary to help get your bearings.

where to go??

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My First Photobook

Ok again, before anything I have no affiliation with Photobook Malaysia whatsoever and this is not a paid entry. This entry is based on my own experience which I would like to share with my readers. 

Actually I did my first Photobook using FotoBuk software which I bought at a bargain when I last bought my camera. I put a lot of effort into creating that book - I painstakingly gathered all my photos which are scattered around the place, arranging them according to date and ocassion and finally putting them together in the FotoBuk. The FotoBuk software is one that is really2x UN-user-friendly that it's really SO difficult to put it all together. And at last, all my efforts has gone to waste when the document that I worked on is corrupted. I actually redone the whole thing THREE freaking times and its still not working - mind you that I have to go back and forth to the shop to send the softcopy. I was so frustrated that I vouch that I will never go near photobook again.

However, recently I was "influenced" by a friend about a deal pon Groupon on this photobook,  I don't mind sharing - it's Photobook Malaysia. I browsed their website before actually buying the deal (bearing in mind the ordeal that I endured before with FotoBuk). I liked what I found, they actually have ReadyBooks which are templates where you can just drag and drop your pictures in the album. The designs are also great and decent unlike some other brands are offering. It is so easy and user friendly and the album can actually be sent in online. I couldn't be happier when all they take to process the album is ONE day. Can you believe that?? I sent in my Photobook on Thursday and on Friday afternoon I received a notification email saying the book has already been shipped out. WOW!!! Totally amazing, right. On Monday I received the book at my office and I really liked it. The quality is very good and in the future I won't be looking at any other brands.. :) So here's the final product- can't wait to share it with my friends and family.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Surviving Tsuyu-Osaka: Day 2

We decided on heading towards the Osaka Castle this (not so) morning to take opportunity of the good weather. Do take note that the  Osaka Castle Nishinomaru Garden is closed on Mondays. The nearest subway station to the Osaka Castle is the Tanimachi 4-chome Sta. of the Subway Tanimachi Line (Green Line). It actually takes around half and hour to 45 mins leisure walk (outdoor) to get to the castle. We enjoyed walking through the castle compound as the view is breathtaking and gives a sense of calmness. Perhaps because the garden is closed, the place is not that crowded - all the better for us to enjoy  the place with minimal distractions :).

However, if it rains, especially during a heavy rain, do consider to postpone your visit until the rain stops unless you're prepared to get soaked :P For me, the highlight of Osaka Castle is the perfectly kept compound and gardens. It must've taken a lot of effort to tend to such a huge area. However, I hardly see any worker during our visit. 

Inside the castle itself there's not much things to see except for the history of the castle with a very interesting 3D animation. I have never seen such thing before. The plus point for parents with strollers is that you are allowed to use the elevator :)  while others have to use the stairs. The castle has 9 exhibition floors if I'm not mistaken.

Outside the castle there is an area with a souvinier shop - do buy your souviniers here as they have good varieties which you could not easily find at other places. This shop also claims to be the ninja / samurai specialist and for those who are interested,  they do have wide range of ninja stuffs there.

you will see this building after you exit the subway station

walk through all these landmarks to get to the castle

soaking up the breathtaking view while sipping coffee from the vending machine :)

quite a long walk to get to the castle

After visiting the castle, we decided to explore the Minami area - which is the downtown of Osaka. We got lost inside the underground shopping mall which was connected to the Namba station as we didn't know which exit to take. Starving, and with Q being less cooperative, we decided to take a break and have our lunch (at 4 pmish). We ate like we haven't eaten in years! (thus, no pictures.. haha..) Only after that we were able see clearly and decided to get out of the underground mall and asked around :P

We almost lose hope of finding the Tombori River Cruise jetty when we bumped into the boat while resting at a deserted area by the river. We quickly head to the direction of the boat and tried to find the jetty and after a loong walk, we found it! At last.. We were happy to  get to relax and enjoy looking at the buildings with the neon lights adding to the festivity mood.

By looking at the map I always knew that the Shinsaibashi St and Dotonburi is close but little that I know that it's so close that we could've covered the area in 1 go yesterday. We head back to our hotel via Shinsaibashi Station which is easier to us compared to the Namba Station where we got lost earlier.

we saw the boat!
Tombori River Cruise

the famous Glico Man - it's even in the map!
-End of Day 2-

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Oh, the places I've gone.....

Is there such a thing as time machine? For foursquare users, the answer is yes! As an active foursquare user, I was psyched to come across this feature while blog-hopping and decided to give it a try. The time machine visualizes all your check-ins and will transport you back to the place where you checked in. Try it for yourself!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Surviving Tsuyu: Osaka - Day 1

I have prepared a complete itinerary for Osaka. However, due to the weather, we played by ear most of the time. If it's raining, we will opt for indoor activities. It was drizzling when we got out of the hotel at 12 that day, so we decided to go to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan which is located at the Tempozan Harbour Village. We took the subway from Osaka Station to Hommachi (Midosuji Line) and exchange to Chuo Line to get to the Osakako Station. The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is about 5-10 mins walking distance from the subway. U can also use JR Train but its quite far from the place. There is no signage once you get out from the subway station , neither you would see the Aquarium from the station. So I would say, just follow the crowd. People who get down at this station would normally go to the Aquarium.

Intersection outside the Osakako Station. Walk the opposite direction.
Tempozan Market Place from afar. Kaiyukan is just nearby.

We bought the Osaka Kaiyu Ticket from Osaka Station which entitle us to enter Kaiyukan + unlimited Subway ride within Osaka City for 1 day at 2,550 yen. Admission to Kaiyukan itself costs 2,300 yen, so i think its worth to buy this ticket if you intend to explore the city further after visiting the aquarium.
The Kaiyu Ticket can be bought at the Osaka Station Tourist Information Centre located on the 1st Floor (Refer to my previous post for more info). The tickets can't be bought at Kaiyukan itself.

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan was SUPER packed on that weekend. I was surprised to see the crowd upon entering the Aquarium area - we can barely see anything as it is totally crowded. Luckily Q is small and she squeezed in between the crowd to get to the front and look at the animals / fishes.  She was super excited and enjoyed very much looking at the huge fishies / penguins and sea creatures. The crowd was concentrated at the entrance of the aquarium -  it got better further inside the aquarium as the crowd disperse. 

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
the crowd - its much worse near to the entrance
From it's website, it said that Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquarium in the world. Indeed it was the largest i have ever seen in my life. It was divided into a few sections but what I remembered the most is the pacific ocean tank. The gigantic pacific ocean tank housed a HUGE whale shark called ‘Yu-chan’. It was really amazing seeing the sea creatures of the pacific ocean - which was something alien to us.

The Pacific Ocean Tank

 Dolphin Tank

Yu Chan

We spent about 2++ hours inside the Aquarium and when we went outside there was a street performance. Although the performer spoke Japanese, Q enjoyed the show very much. It was 3.30 pm ++ and we were really hungry but Q won't budge until the performance end.

street performance
Tempozan Marketplace - which also houses a huge Ferris Wheel- I wonder if its the same Ferris Wheel depicted in the anime "Honey & Clover"
We had lunch at Bab Ul Hayat, a halal turkish buffet restaurant which is located inside the Tempozan Market Place (3F). It was quite pricey but the food was delish! Make sure that you are really2 hungry to get your money's worth. However, alternatively there is a small kebab joint on the way from the subway station to Osakako. A meal there costs less than 800 yen. We were really famished by then to walk to that place, so we had lunch at Bab Ul Hayat instead.

Bab Ul Hayat
Turkish fare- its very different from Malaysian cuisine, but delish!
After that, we went shopping at Shinsaibashi Suji- a major shopping area. It is located just 2 stations away from Umeda Station. However, from Osakako we have to go back to Hommachi to exchange to the Midosuji line which is a couple of stations away. Shinshaibashi Suji is a long stretch of covered street dedicated for shopping. It is a very busy street with a lot to see. I was really overwhelmed and wasn't able to concentrate on shopping - the thing i normally do best :P. It doesn't help that Q was really acting out and we were super exhausted. I just bought a straw hat at Uniqlo that night. Also went into Daiso - it's better to shop at Daiso here as yen has fallen and the price is cheaper from Malaysia by a few cents :) Also packed some Sushi to go for dinnah *yum!* 

like like like
Shinsaibashi Suji
My favourite three....

Sushi To Go

-End of Day 1-