Ka Gonzales


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Solo Hike to Mt. Kurama and Kibune

I know, I know, I know!… Its been months since my birthday!… Please forgive me this time again.. workload and laziness at its finest… In return, you’ll get to see a series of my awkward self-timer photos. So… Enjoy!

Mt. Kurama and Kibune is located outside of northern part of Kyoto. Coming from/to Kyoto to Kurama is quite easy, as its only less than an hour from Demachiyanagi Station. From there, its up to you if you want to go first to Kibune and to Kurama or take the usual route (from what I’ve seen most in travel blogs and guides and what I did too), Kurama then to Kibune.

If you haven’t already know (I’m assuming you know – its my second time in Kyoto, Japan last October, 2014). I was in Kyoto, for just a day. So, imagine cramming all the sights to see and things to do for just one full day – nope don’t imagine, because we didn’t get to see (Arashiyama Bamboo Forest) for the most part of it. Never cram your itinerary friends! Never!… And because of that, one of the things I said to myself that I will do, once I’m back is to concentrate mainly in Kyoto area. And do a day trip outside Kyoto (which, thankfully, I did).

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Then came my Birthday. It was past 9 am when I arrived at the station of Kurama. Only a handful of tourist were there – which is a good thing for me. Once I got out of the station, I was welcome by this kinda-big-scary-red face. I’ve read, that it was called a Tengu and said to be the guardian of the mountain. Past that, I saw a flight of stairs going up to the shrine and paid 300yen, which in return, I was given a map. I barely used the map because I just wanted to stroll along and follow the little crowd. “To where my feet will take me!” As they say…

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At some point of hiking, I encountered this really big, tall, and I think, more than a century old tree. It was really majestic! There’s a path that leads to the cable car/gondola. I didn’t try to ride it, because for me, it will forfeit the sense of ‘hiking’. By the time I reached some sort of plaza – there I saw a few of tourists with a guide. Also, at that ‘plaza’ (let me just call it a plaza, cos I really don’t know what to call it), I’ve noticed and even copy some hikers – praying at the middle of plaza in front of a temple.

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Spoiler alert: look out for a ‘symbol’ on the floor of the plaza! I may not know what’s the meaning of that ‘symbol’ but it felt like you’re energy was renewed just by standing on that ‘symbol’.

As I go further behind the plaza, I’ve been discreetly following a group of guided hikers. You know, latching into them not too far and not too close. By the time, they were taking a break, I think the guide already know that I’ve been following them (because of the look he gave me) – naturally, I acted as if I just saw them and walked past ahead of them. Because, I was busted for latching to a group hikers – I do not know the story of the pictures below.

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Upon reaching Kibune, I didn’t go all the way up of the stairs. For me, those almost 3-hours spent at Mt. Kurama was enough for my day hike. Also, it was almost lunch time and I figured I should be heading back to Kyoto.

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In my opinion, the trail was really an easy hike, good for everybody. Simply follow the map or the signage you’ll be in a good hands. You may or may not copy, when some hikers offer a prayer at the shrine, or when they’re drinking water fresh from the mountain. Its really up to you, whatever reason you may have.

As for me, I did it to reconnect with nature, inhaling the positive vibes-exhaling the negativity, being grateful to be doing the things I (still) can and want to do and to be just really thankful for another year life has given me!

There you have it friends! Hope you enjoyed reading it and also my awkward self-timer photos.

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Spending 3 Days and 2 Nights at Tottori Prefecture

*** Konnichiwa! Yep, I’m here again! I’m alive – my blog’s alive! For my 9 readers (wiping off tears) who’s still there… Thank you very much! ***

It’s my second time in Japan and I wanted to just concentrate around Kansai area. To which, I’m lucky enough to stumbled upon the YouTube videos of @internationallyme – about Tottori Prrfecture.  No… Don’t go yet… Read mine first please? 😀 

Tottori Prefecture is on the west side of Kyoto and Osaka. If you’re the type (like I am) to want to escape the crowd, travel deep and get to know more of your fave the country – this prefecture is perfect for you! See what I did there? hehe

Coming from Okayama, using my 5-day JR Kansai Wide Pass – I rode a train going to Yonago Station. Then, another local train going to my AirBnb house – Shimoichi station – from there it’s just a minute or two to my Airbnb house and a 10-min. bike ride to the sea shore. I arrived around 1pm-ish, after my Host explained to me the do’s and what not’s, She then suggested, there is a supermarket near her house and that I can use her bicycle for free. The excited me, debated whether I should go to the supermarket first (for my dinner and next days food supplies) or to the sea. Of course, food first! – I did bike for a good five minutes going to supermarket before I decided to go back because I really can’t stand the cold plus the wind was really blowing hard.

DETECTIVE CONAN TOWN/STATION

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Nostalgia attack!

This town, all dedicated to Mr Gosho Aoyoma the author of the said manga. From the moment I step out of the station to walking to his “house”, to the lamposts, library with illustrations, and even the manhole, every corner screams Detective Conan. And for me – being a fan of the series, it was pure magic! I spent about 2 hours, had late lunch at Lawson, then head on to Kurayoshi to see the White Wall Storehouses. Apparently, when I arrived there (almost 6 pm), it was  a little late (according to the Tourist Information staff I spoke and based also to the Bus Timetable she gave me). I figured that instead of cramming my day (which I’m used to), I decided to head back – recharge and be ready for the next travel day.

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SHIRAKABE DOZO GUN OR WHITE WALL WAREHOUSES

I woke up a little early, a bit chilly with sunny weather. By 8 am, I’m ready and just waiting for the train to arrived. I headed straight to Kurayoshi station – to the Tourist Information Center (again) – because I planned to visit Misasa Hot Spring Town.

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The feels while walking along this quaint and quiet street feels like you’re zap back in time. With almost to nothing tourists, aside from me and some salary woman/man on the way to work (I assumed because of their briefcases/leather bags :D). Somehow, I felt like I’m a local there. While walking, I saw this cute little restaurant, about to open at 11 am – the chicken karage menu/display piqued my curiosity plus it’s really cheap (around 600 yen). I casually waited a bit to open, until a family of 3 went in before me. The verdict? I am so right to be intrigued! After the meal, I went back to the bus stop and waited for the bus to arrived. Do note; there are infrequent buses going to/from Misasa Onsen Hot Spring Town. So you might want to time your itinerary well (speaking for those, who did not avail a private tour/taxi).

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MISASA HOT SPRING TOWN

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I’m really amazed how accommodating and hospitable Japan people are, even with the ‘language barrier’. After meal, I head out and went back to the Bus stop, there was no people on the road, but I saw two ladies on what it looks like an office – chatting (but no furniture aside the chairs and tables they were using). I asked them – ‘Sumimasen’ – Bus Stop? Misasa Onsen Here?, and they immediately got up from their seats, motioning and X across their chest while walking and talking to each other in a slightly faster pace while I’m following behind. At the right Bus stop, they were explaining to me in broken English that there are infrequent buses going to/from Misasa Onsen and that I should remember the Bus Timetable ( I informed them that I’m not staying there just a half-day tour).DSC_5604I followed the walking tour map of Misasa Onsen Hot Spring Town. Get off at the Bus stop and walked for about 3 km. Know what’s more interesting? I’m the only tourist walking around and when I arrived at Misasa Town Center, there are only a few (say 10 tourists) in town. Yep, so few… right?

(Copy/paste from their website)

Misasa hot springs contain one of the highest levels of radium in the world. Radon is a weak radioactive gas produced by the decay of radium.When inhaled into the body, radon improves the metabolism and boosts the immunity and our natural healing power. The fantastic illumination of the Japanese-style lodgings and this “radiation hormesis effect” are familiar to both tourists and people visiting for health treatment purposes. Misasa Onsen Hot Spring TownDSC_5607

After wandering around (just imagined how many steps I made), I soaked my feet to their public foot bath –  stayed 2 to 3 hours or maybe longer – and then decided to go to Tottori Sand Dunes. I’m counting my money (for the bus fare) and an old lady approached and asked me in broken English if I’m going back to Kurayoshi station, which I politely replied ‘Hai’ I think, she’s trying to make small talk and then, she show me a cute picture of her cat and I said again ‘cute!’ and then told me that cute is ‘kawaii’ in Nihonggo – so there… another Japanese phrase I learnt. 😀 I wasn’t able to talked to her when the bus arrived because she saw (I think) one of her friend.

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From Kurayoshi to Tottori station is 40-50 mins apart. There are buses lined just outside of Tottori station. After a little study of their timetable – look for ‘Bus 0’, that stops at Tottori Sand Dunes – don’t be like me, who, after reading the timetable still got on the wrong bus. And if you’re a little early, you can try different activities such as; Camel riding, Paragliding, Sand boarding and etc. Or if you’re like me, satisfied with simple sunset and people watching… you’re good to go! 😀

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… And to call it a day… Sunset!

Let me just say that I merely scraped the surface of Tottori Prefecture. There are tons of things to do and see. From hiking the snow capped mountain, visiting the Flower park, a town/station dedicated to Detective Conan, White Wall Storehouses, Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography and to the sleepy town of Misasa Hot Spring – all these and more – definitely no reason for me to not go there!

I would’ve gone to the Flower park and Mt Mitoku if my time permits, but I guess, that’s just another reason to come back!

And if ever you stumbled upon this blog and want see it for yourself, I guarantee you… it will never disappoint! 

There you have it, Friends! Thank you so much for reading! 😀


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Whirlwind Trip to Taiwan

Hello, Friend! Yep! I’m back from hiatus… From a very, very, long, long looonnggg hiatus! I know you don’t want to see lame excuses written in here. So, all I can say is… Sorry!  

***’Heavy rain’ will be the most used word***

Taipei for just Two. Full. Days = Awesomeness!

DAY 1, JUNE 2

Arrived in the wee hours of the morning. Slept at the airport, wait for the Klook kiosk to open at 5:30 am ( I availed the promo of pocket WiFi Php 98/day – less than 200 pesos for two whole days), bought a bus ticket going to Taichung 280 TWD and along the way, while on board, it keeps on raining – heavily.

Day Trip to Taichung, Taiwan

We are a group of six adults and a 4 yr old. Its only practical to hire a driver/private charter while touring Taichung. Prior of our arrival, I’ve contacted Mr. Liu via WhatsApp +886 927 888 032 (seen his name around TripAdvisor and blogs) – do note he speaks little English and I speak/understand little of simple Mandarin – my solution? Google Translate!

Our assigned driver that day is Mr. Zhu. He is very helpful, kind and accommodating. He  introduced me to ‘Conversation Translator’ app for us to be able to at least talk to each other. He explained – gave us insights about the places we’ve been via that app.

Rainbow Village

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Zhongshe Flower Market

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After Flower market, we head on to Lavender Cottage. At that time, the heavy rain still pouring, that’s why were a little sad we weren’t able to tour Lavender cottage. Had it not been raining heavily, we were to visit two other sights or more, instead we call it a day. Our driver, drop us off at the Bus station going back to Taipei. Night time, at Taipei city, after checking-in at our accommodation (AirBnb) – still with the heavy rain – off we go again to look for a place to eat. Were tired and wet and sleepy, we decided to just eat anywhere = McDonald’s.

Day 2, JUNE 3

Feeling refreshed and had a good night sleep. It was dark and gloomy weather, with a little drizzle outside, we head out to buy some breakfast – a typical Taiwanese breakfast – bread, noodles, bun and dumplings ( I’m assuming here – I really don’t know their typical breakfast).

Our planned itinerary (in no particular order):

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial

Lungshan Temple

Ximen District

Trekk the Elephant mountain for the view of Taipei 101

Eat in Din Tai Fung

All this planned itinerary remained a plan. From dark and gloomy weather became what I’d liked to call ‘Signal no. 2 storm’ weather. The only time we sorta explored Taipei in Da’an district – mainly because we were looking for food. First, for breakfast. Second for Lunch, (supposed to have it delivered – decided not to –  you know, language barrier) so, off we went to search for KFC restaurant near our accommodation despite the heavy rain. By dinner time, we found out there’s a Din Tai Fung near us and wasted no time to looked for it and bought our choices of buns and dumplings which, by the way, oh soooo delicious!

If you asked me, what really happened in Day 2 of our Taiwan trip? Nothing! I guess, it’s one those times I told myself and the group – we should come back. Like really, really come back.

Taiwan, we shall return!

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Thanks for wasting your time here!

 

 

 


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Epic Japan Trip – Visiting the Harry Potter Theme Park

…and other parts of Universal Studios Japan (last autumn).

Purpose of Visit?

That was the one question I answered with confidence – I wrote specifically  – To visit the Harry Potter Theme Park. Yep! I wrote that down to my Visa application form. Without any hesitation – that’s what I wrote. If you don’t know already and if its not obvious.. I am a HUGE HARRY POTTER FAN.

The day has come!

One glorious day. The sun is out. The sky is clear. I even wore my old Harry Potter T-shirt! 😀

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Me thinks, I’m a little under dress – most of the people I saw, wear their best Harry Potter costumes (which makes me a little jealous).

We arrived at the Universal Studios around 9 am. It was jam packed but manageable Tuesday morning! Thirty minutes passed, the gate open, people started to get in and run like they were being followed by a zombie! We ran too, but make a sudden stop at the entrance of Hollywood dream. There was little line forming and so we thought, instead of being crammed at HP theme park, why not try the other attractions first?.. Yep, past 9 in the morning – we were seated right in front of the ride, screaming our lungs out and  having the most scary and yet exciting ride we have ever had!

After that exhilarating first ride, we went to Harry Potter theme park, got our “Time stamped ticket” – ours was scheduled around 11 (I think). And since there’s still time, we opted to try another ride(Space Fantasy) before going back to the HP park.

 This is it! My insides are screaming for excitement! Can’t believe that I’m actually here! 

(I’m sorry if my post are full of exclamation)

Upon entrance – my hand was sweating, really nervous and yet happy (an understatement).. I’m humming the song. Que: The Harry Potter theme song. And then, I saw it! The entrance to Hogsmeade village! I really made it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I uttered a short prayer of thanks, and then moved forward to the most magical place a Harry Potter fan can ask for!IMG_1419IMG_1446

Past 2, we had our lunch. After that, we tried other attractions like Shrek 4D, watched a parade, went to Hello Kitty museum and then back again to Harry Potter theme park and rode the Flight of the Hippogriff (they had to drag me out of HP theme park). After leaving the HP theme park, we wanted to try the zombie run but retreated because of the long line.

Before going home, we tried two other attractions which is the Back To The Future and Spider Man (both were meh to me).

So there you have it! After months of wishing and dreaming, finally, the life long dream has been realized and it was legend-wait-for-it-AWESOME-dary!

Next (dream)item to cross off the list: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter!


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Birthday Trip to Bohol

It’s March! And my Birthday month! *woohoo!*

And I’m glad I’ve found this little paradise!

I’ve been to Bohol quite a lot of times (plus this is my mom’s hometown). I thought for a change, instead of staying to the usual place like in Alona beach. Why not try the other side of Bohol? And I couldn’t be happier!

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 Vitamin sea as they say! 😀

Last week (or 2 weeks earlier, depending on when this post is going to be up), as a gift to myself – together with my mom, decided to have a short vacation and have a-little-mother-and-daughter-getaway.

In short time that we have stayed there, I already fell in love with the place! It’s quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of city. Plus, the rooms we had at Anda White Beach Resort is too big for the two of us! (and we loved it!) The pool and the beach is always clean, food are delicious and sumptuous. And most of all, the staff are all friendly and courteous! Thank you, “BOOK NOW, PAY LATER” scheme, Agoda! (this is not a sponsored post – I just loved our stay here and I thought, it’s worth mentioning).

We had our grandest time! The best (so far!) stay/vacation – one can have! = STAYCATION! My mom even like the idea of it! (Me thinks, I should be readying my wallet in case, my mom ask for it again).

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After the 2 glorious days, we spent at Anda White Beach Resort –  sadly, it’s time to leave (as I would like to call my-very-own-slice-of-paradise). We went straight to Panglao island and stayed at Bohol Bee Farm.

IMG_0293The flowers bloom at Bohol Bee farm!

When in Bohol Bee Farm, never to miss out to try their garden/flower salad (organic), the malunggay spread and the spare ribs! My mom love the malunggay ice cream, though for me – trying it once is enough. Breakfast is free – which is good news! And they gave us the biggest room! They also offer a tour to their guest ( I forgot to ask if it’s free or not).

After weeks of staying late at the office – this is the reward I really had in mind. To just eat, relax, sleep, swim and doing it again the next day! 😀

IMG_0310Lantaw restaurant (overlooking view at Bohol Bee Farm)

Some Bits and Tips:

We didn’t avail the pick-up/drop-off van transfers of Anda White Beach Resort. Instead, after exiting Tagbilaran Intl. aiport (we did the second option):

(A) Ride a bus – get off Guindolman and ask a tricycle driver to shuttle you to Anda White Beach Resort. Bus fare (92 pesos) and tricycle going to resort (300/one way).

(B) Ride a van – get off Anda and walk a good 5-8 mins to resort. Van (120 pesos). Going back, just ask the hotel receptionist on what are your options going back to Tagbilaran.

Tagbilaran city to Panglao island:

According to the tricycle driver we rented – the usual rate is 250 – 300 pesos(one way).

So, if ever you are thinking where you want to spend those overtime pay, why not spend it to Bohol? I urge you not to think twice!

This could be waiting for you!

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Thanks for reading my babbling!