Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2016 is just around the corner...

I can't believe the year is almost over.

2015 was a good year. Thank you, Lordy.

2016 will be even better...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

What happened today...

Morning activity: I woke up at 630AM. Original plan was to go for a run around the neighbourhood. Scrapped the plan when I saw that the PSI reading was 204. Instead, I did some online baking to settle some bills. Afterwards, I prepped to head out of the house. Today was the orientation for people who are interested to volunteer for the National Museum of Singapore. I volunteered to help out.

Event finished at 130PM. Just like last time, I crashed the lunch plans of Gen and Zuraidah. Hehe! We went to a nice cafe place just next to the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. It was a good place because the proceeds go to charity.

From Bras Basah, it was a short walk to the National Library. I had another errand but since my friend's sister was not replying, I just decided to make other plans. That meant going to the National Library to study.

Around 430PM, I left the library and crossed the street to attend the Sunset Mass at the Church of St. Joseph. The homily was good, very good!

Last agenda for the day was dinner and drinks with Richie. We had a feast for two at Grandma's Raffles City. Then we walked back to Suntec and spent some time chitchatting at Ginza Lion Beer Hall. I was so excited when I saw that the place served umeshu. It really is my fave. Richie also liked it. Hehe!

Now, I'm typing with one eye close. I'm falling asleep. Lol. It's the umeshu. Or maybe it's the haze. Or the packed day? Whatever it is, I'm ready to sleep...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tokyo 2015: Day Trip to Kawagoe

Manila has Intramuros, Kuala Lumpur has Malacca, Tokyo has Kawagoe. Not too far from central Tokyo is a city which allows one to get a glimpse on how Tokyo was during the time it was still known as Edo.

Traditional warehouses, constructed in an architecture style popular during the Edo Period, can be seen lining the streets. Some that date back from the 18th and 19th centuries are still standing.

The Toki No Kane (Bell of Time) bell tower, which is the symbol of Kawagoe, can be seen on one of the streets.

It's easy to spend half a day just walking around to check out the shops selling all sorts of items and restaurants/food places selling yum treats. What I liked most was just observing the architecture of the houses and shops. It was definitely a good break from the skyscrapers and buildings of central Tokyo.

Many thanks to my friend for driving to Kawagoe. More thanks for welcoming me to their lovely home. It was a wonderful dinner with the family followed by the enjoyable stroll around the neighbourhood, and of course, drinks at the neighbourhood izakaya.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tokyo 2015: Yokohama, Roppongi

Sunday morning, I traveled from Higashi-jujo station north of Tokyo to Ishikawacho station in the south. Dean suggested attending Mass at the Church of Sacred Heart. I realised that there was no need to Google Maps the church from the train station. I heard a few groups of people speaking Tagalog. All I did was just follow them and yes, I made it to church on time. Hah!

After Mass, I met up with Dean and we went for a walk around the neighbourhood of Yamate. The architecture of the houses are so different from the ones I saw in Kawagoe. From the design of the houses, one can already learn a bit of the history of the place. From what I read, it was where the Western traders after the Japanese ports opened in the 1850s. The hilly area was perfect because it gave a great view of the sea. The leisurely walk around the neighbourhood also doubles as an architectural heritage walk. Dean and I checked out the Ehrismann Residence, which I read is a registered historical building of Yokohama. The house was built in the 1920s and served as a residence of a Swiss businessman designed by a Czech architect. Today, there is a cafe at the ground floor, while the rest of the house is open for a visit. It was like visiting the ancestral houses in Iloilo or Negros. Hehe!

Further walking and we reached Harbor View Park, which offers a splendid panoramic view of Yokohama port. Apparently, the site used to be a British soldiers' barracks. It would be awesome to see at night. If I didn't have an itinerary, I would have spent more time to check out the shopping lane called Motomachi.

From the south, I traveled to Roppongi. My first stop was the Mori Tower to check out the Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture "Maman." I don't think Kok Kuan will want to see it though. From there, I walked towards the National Art Center. Unlike its sisters such as the National Museum of Modern Art, the National Art Center does not maintain a permanent collection. Instead, the center serves as a venue for various art exhibitions. I was curious to see an Issey Miyake exhibit but it was scheduled in early 2016. I wasn't too keen on the ongoing exhibits but I did enjoy exploring the center.

Kyu Shiba Rikyu (Former Shiba Villa) was the first Japanese garden I visited during the trip. It would also be the place to ignite my fascination and admiration for Japanese gardens. Right in the heart of central Tokyo, located just next to Hamamatsucho Station, the Kyu Shiba Rikyu was an escape from the chaos of the city. For a very minimal entry fee of 150 yen, I was able to visit one of the two surviving feudal era clan gardens in Tokyo. The gardens has a rich history dating back to the 1800s. It was only opened to the public in 1924.

It was easy to fall in love with the garden. From different points of view, there is always a scenic perspective to be seen. Once in a while, I would hear the sound of the shinkansen but it was not loud enough to distract me from appreciating the beauty of the place. I took a long time just walking and enjoying the garden that I reached my next destination a bit late. Lol!

I left the gardens and walked for about 15 minutes or so before reaching Zozoji Temple and eventually, Tokyo Tower. The former is the head temple of a certain Buddhist sect. The temple has a number of interesting features but I did not have time to explore them anymore as they were already closed. I just took a few photos and then continued walking to Tokyo Tower.

Before the Tokyo Skytree was erected, Tokyo Tower was the tallest structure in Japan. I only went for the main observatory and just as I expected, interesting views of the city can be seen. I waited for nighttime just to see the buildings lit up.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tokyo 2015: Shibuya, Omotesando, Harajuku, Shinjuku

The day started with experiencing Tokyo rush hour at the train station. On my way to Shibuya, there was a huge crowd at Oimachi waiting to board the train heading to Shinagawa.

Like every other commuter at the station, I got pushed, shoved, elbowed and thrusted to get inside the train. Just like in the movie or some Youtube video, there was a train station attendant in white gloves who pushed people in so the train doors would close. At times, she had to close the doors. Add to that the train station chimes that kept on playing. It felt like being in an anime movie or a manga comics. Despite the chaos, no one was complaining and everyone just proceeded in an orderly fashion! What a full on Tokyo experience on my first hour of exploring the city! Haha! (I was later told that there was an incident in one of the stations that resulted in train delays and the huge crowds in other stations.)

After figuring out my way using Tokyo's dizzying network of trains, it was nonstop walking from morning til night. Hachiko statue. Shibuya crossing. Architectural walk in Aoyama. Omotesando. Harajuku. Meiji Shrine. Shibuya crossing at night. Clubbing in Shinjuku. Catching the train back to Shinagawa. It was only first day of exploring the city and I already knew I was going to love it.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Tokyo Day 2

Today was such a good day!!!

I managed to cover the things I planned for today. There were a few surprises and some experiences that are worth telling eventually. Haha!

Basically, I did a lot of walking today - Shibuya to Omotesando to Harajuku to Meijijingu.

Afterwards, I went back to Dean's place to shower and rest for a bit.

In the evening, I checked out the gay area with Dean. He and his friend Mark brought me to Alamas for drinks and then Arty Farty for dancing!

What a nice day today turned out to be! I couldn't be more grateful.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Just before I fly...

Typing this entry from one of the many free Internet terminals at Changi Airport. One of the many reasons to love this airport. Haha!

I woke up around 3AM. My flight is at 8AM, but I figured I'll head to Changi early. What's new? I'm always early at the airport anyway.

For a second, I thought of taking the train from home to the airport. However, I decided against it when I saw that the first train from my place departs at 530AM. That would see me rushing, rushing, rushing. Haha!

So last night, I booked a cab to pick me up this morning at 4AM.

A few minutes before 4, I messaged the cab driver requesting him to SMS me when he is already at the parking lot near my block. He promptly replied saying that he is three minutes away.

By 4, I left my place and took the lift down. When I walked over to the parking area, the white Merc was already there. The trunk was already open so that I can put my luggage.

When the cab driver saw me, he quickly got out of his car and greeted me a very cheerful "Good morning!" He then walked over and said, "Allow me to help you with your luggage!"

Wah, I'm so impressed. I let him do the heavylifting and I made my way to the passenger seat.

Mr. Cab Driver then says, "You should enter on the left side of the car. There will be more space for you." I follow Mr. Cab Driver. When I got in, I noticed that he already pulled the front seat forward so that there is more leg room for me.

Wah, I'm even more impressed!

It was a nice, smooth drive to Changi. As it turns out, I made the right decision to be fetched at 4AM. We reached Changi 20 minutes before 5. Along the way, Mr. Cab Driver and I made some small talk. I asked him about his work. He asked me about living in Singapore. What a nice, nice cabbie!

The whole cab fare cost me an arm and a leg (lol!), but I thought it was worth it. I just met the most professional cab driver ever! My other thought was, "Hmm, this is how cab service should really be in the first place. But because I dun experience such kind of service every time I take a cab, I get surprised when I get a good customer service experience! Haha!"

Oh well, if the cab ride is an indication of how this trip will be, then it will be awesome...