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Japan and South Korea: cherry blossoms spring flings!

The evidence of the forthcoming spring is heralded by all things botanical – and most convincing and much-awaited of them all, the blooming of cherry blossom trees. During this time, vegetation slowly regains signs of life with their remarkable display of lush, vibrant colors enough to lure a crowd of locals and committed travelers. The cool, crisp air the season brings (a mild 10-15 degrees Celcius during daytime) also contributes to a reassuring ambience perfect for a nice stroll through some soul-inspiring landscape. Continue reading

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The Sands of Mui Ne

The famed red and white sand dunes in the Vietnamese coastal town of Mui Ne, some 200 kilometers off of Ho Chi Minh City, is nature’s massive arena for what is considered to be one the most breathtaking sunrise you can ever witness on this side of the continent. While we naturally prepared for the likelihood of a disappointment, we still carried on with the plan to see what the hoopla is about. Continue reading

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Japan Rail (JR) Pass: will it pay off?

Currently priced at JPY 29, 110 (about PhP 10,811), some first-time travelers to Japan struggle whether or not to purchase a 7-day ordinary Japan Rail (JR) Pass. Its price is a major turn off, yes. But once you realize how convenient it is to have one at your disposal, you will agree that it is definitely worth the extra budget.

Here are some tips on how you can make your JR Pass pay off: Continue reading

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Chris’ Top 10 Things to do in Japan

1. Get naked in an onsen

  • Dipping in an onsen or hot spring is an integral part of the Japanese culture. The practice dates as far back as 552 AD and is believed to free oneself from carnal sins. It’s Japan’s answer to Korea’s jjimjilbang. Onsens or sentos are found in most hotels but the best ones are in the mountainous slopes with water supplied straight from its natural source. The experience can be a bit intimidating but once you get the hang of it (pun intended), it’s actually pretty liberating.

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Osaka Alternative Activity: Make your own Cup Noodles!

While browsing for alternative activities in Osaka, I came across an interesting write-up about an instant ramen museum not very far from the city. It was on a lazy Sunday morning when I decided to visit the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda, a quiet neighborhood about 35 minutes from downtown Osaka. I figured this was a perfect way to beat the swelling peak season crowd in the city. It would also be interesting to know the evolution the instant ramen has gone through over the years. These, and of course, a chance to create my very own cup noodles. Yup, a customized cup of umami goodness – from designing the container to selecting the toppings and soup base – all for just JPY 300 (PhP 112). Awesome! My inner Martha Stewart was thrilled.

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My PhP 57,000 Japan Solo Trip Budget for 11 days

Japan’s notoriety for being one of the most expensive destinations in the world has greatly affected its potential for tourism growth. But during the last few years, considerable efforts to put an end to this age-old rumor has become more and more palpable. Some of the perks visitors now enjoy include heavily discounted transportation passes, free wifi connection across the country, and generous tax deductions on certain purchases. A budget traveller like myself was even surprised to find out how seemingly affordable everything was during my first visit in autumn of 2014.

My 11-day journey in the land of the rising sun fittingly began in the culinary city of Osaka and ended in the country capital of Tokyo. And in between these two equally interesting destinations, I managed to squeeze in side trips to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Hakone, and Kawaguchiko (for Mt. Fuji) – all within a budget of PhP 57,000 (USD 1,280).

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Cheap accommodation options in Japan

Whether you’re a serious traveler or a penny-pinching backpacker, hotel/ accommodation expenses can eat up a huge chunk of your travel budget.  Thankfully, the hospitality industry revolution Japan has undergone over the last decade made it possible for both tourists and locals alike to find pocket-friendly accommodations. So to those looking to save a few yen without necessarily sacrificing their level of comfort, consider staying in the following on your next Japan trip: Continue reading