Saturday, May 28, 2016

Japan Spring Trip: Hokkaido - Day 2 (Apple Holiday)

In continuation of my previous blogpost on my Japan trip, here's what I did for day 2:



Breakfast! I love the buffet at Mahoraba Hotel. Also, I figured that all the half boiled eggs in Japan.. are served.. COLD. BUT WHY? That was my first and last haha.



It was raining when we left Mahoraba Hotel and we were headed to Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura aka a historic village. Think ninjas and old settlements during the Edo Period. I had to Google this - Edo Period was a time in Japan when the country was under the military dictatorship but it was said to be a time of peace, political stability and economic growth.






So the first thing here as soon as we arrived was to watch a Ninja show, which was... interesting haha. The whole show was in Japanese and I didn't understand a thing but alright, it was quite entertaining in some ways.

Then, we had the free time to roam around the village. It was fairly empty because people were watching other performances or shows. Thankfully the rain stopped and we took some pictures...before it drizzled again. 


This is Matsuga Pond. Japanese garden, anyone?





We grabbed some snack from this store.



Also bought a seaweed rice cracker to try. Freshly baked!


After that, it was lunch time at the Usuzan Ropeway area. View of the place:





LUNCHHH!


We had Kamameshi cuisine (traditional Japanese rice dish cooked in an iron pot), steamboat and tempura. We also had chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken). I'm not really a fan of udon (I prefer ramen) but this one we had was reallyyyy good! The "steamboat" was basically putting pork into the udon soup, and it was great too. Plus the fragrant rice (bottom left of the photo), it was cooked with scallop I believe.



After lunch, we hopped on the Usuzan gondola up to Mt. Usuzan. Mt. Usuzan is an active volcano but it is predicted that there won't be any eruption for the next 2-3 decades or so.

I think the gondola could possibly fit up to a 50 person or more. As usual, windows are squeaky clean, so here are some photos taken from inside the moving cable car:






View of Lake Toya while we were in the gondola. Lake Toya is an ice-free lake. It never freezes even when temperatures fell drastically.





Sorry that the above picture is one of the more terrible pictures because I cropped myself out. Haha, anyway I just wanted to show you that we climbed up to the peak and had a nice panoramic view of Lake Toya and Mt. Showa Shinzan.



Probably spent about less than 10 minutes up there (we were busy taking some pictures while we hiked up, and we were the last to arrive, lol) and by the time we left, dark clouds were coming...



Next, we went to the Shōwa-shinzan Bear Ranch. Nothing really interesting here for me. There were a lot of  (big and fat) crows and the place smelled awful. The place looked quite poorly maintained in my opinion, especially for the Japanese standards where they are known for their cleanliness.



Hey, there.



There were quite a lot of things to buy at the Bear Ranch souvenir shop. Some of the most popular things to buy here are the horse oil cream and horse oil shampoo. So while I was walking around, I saw these vending machine for cigarettes. Oh.



Anyway, we went out to take some pictures. STRONG WINDS. COLD! And yes, those are dark clouds again but it didn't rain.

Did some shopping here, and then we left to head to our hotel.



Initially, according to the Apple Holiday packaged, we were scheduled to stay in a hotel called Jozankei but in the end we stayed in this place called Rusutsu Resort.

Rusutsu Resort is huge - it's actually an ideal place for people to come here and ski. It's a nice place. However, it was quite a distance to walk from the lobby to the room. Not very old-people friendly. Also, the elevators are not very accessible. Essentially, all of us were carrying our luggage and had to use the escalators cause it was nearer like that. Just no.



The room was decent but it was smaller than we like but it was nice and clean.

Each of us were given the option to either choose to have international buffet, Japanese set meal or a meal at the snack bar (like having yakitori etc) at Rusutsu Resort.

We chose international buffet in the end. I forgot to take a picture of the buffet area, but it was smaller compared to the one at Mahoraba Hotel, and the selection was much lesser too. Also, the food was refilled took longer than I would like. I felt like the staffs here were a bit "lazy", somehow. Maybe they're just more laid back.





After dinner, again, we ain't gonna lock ourselves in the room and go to sleep of course. So, we decided to roam around the resort. There were shops connected to the hotel, but we weren't really interested.

We went out of the resort to a convenience store nearby. As some would say - what a bad choice! We were practically freezing as cold wind blow, and it was drizzling again. Cold. Again, I didn't take any pictures cause I was busy making sure my hands get some heat in my jacket.

Anyway, we went back and got ourselves ice-cream sandwich from a vending machine.



And passed by this carousel in the resort. We saw many students from the same school that day, they were playing at the arcade.



That's the end of Day 2! I'll blog about Day 3 in the next week :)

Read Part 1 HERE!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Japan Spring Trip: Hokkaido - Day 1 (Apple Holiday)

Hey guys! I recently went to Japan (Hokkaido and Tokyo) with my family. So, I haven't really done this for awhile, or perhaps never did, but I had a great time so I thought I'll try and make at least a blog post every week about the one week I spent there.

This is also perhaps relevant for those who are interested to take a tour with Apple Holiday/Apple Vacations.

Believe it or not, but this is actually the first overseas trip we have as a family since 2010 as we haven't been to anywhere else except for Bangkok, Thailand. The last time was we went somewhere else besides Bangkok was in December 2010, where we went to South Korea for winter.

Anyway, let's start right from the top, we took a flight from KLIA to Narita Airport via Japan Airlines (JAL). It was a 11pm flight.


First impression - I loveee the plane! So basically, for our size, there was a lot of leg room. And the seats were 2-3-2 design, so basically it's easier to get out even if you're at the window seat.




Food was not too bad. And then there's the on-flight entertainment which was quite good - as in the movie selections wasn't bad.


So obviously, I was very pleased. Maybe for the seasoned travellers these are expected. And yes, I like the small pillow and the blanket provided.

Fun fact: Our tour guide, Ernest, told us that Japanese will "die" when they fly with Malaysian Airlines (MAS) because they think that it's too cold. It's quite true - I felt a little warm the few times we flew with JAL on this trip but the flight back to KL was kinda cold actually.

Here's our first meal in Japan! We flew to Narita and had a quick bite while we wait for our flight to the New Chitose Airport, the largest airport in Hokkaido.




So, actually there wasn't any lunch provided, according to the Apple Holiday itinerary, but they treated us for a lunch meal! So that's nice.




First proper meal at Japan, if you don't count the snacks that we grab at Narita airport.

So, the first place we went was this place called Noboribetsu, a city in Hokkaido, Japan:





So we were at this place called Jigokudani aka Hell Valley in Noboribetsu. The pictures above the landscape at the entrance of Shikotsu-Toya National Park at Jigokudani. So it's called 'Hell Valley' because the area is famous for onsen (hot springs) so being here is quite spectacular - to see for ourselves the origins of the onsen and things that goes on in the bowels of the earth.

It smells because those smoke you are seeing is actually sulphur. Did I also mention how cold it was? The temperature was lower than we expected, and I must say I actually underestimated how cold it can be.



But the lack of heat didn't stop us from getting green tea ice cream from a vending machine. It tastes so good!

First day is always a little exhausting because of all the travelling on flights, so after we walked around the park a little, we checked in to our hotel and it was free time. 

We stayed in Mahoraba Hotel which is really near (less than 5 minutes drive away from the park itself).


Entrance for the room we stayed in. Ta-da!

Everyone was free to do whatever they like since the next thing in line for the day was dinner. So many people actually went to experience onsen... but I didn't. (Why is another matter :P).

This place is actually highly rated on TripAdvisor for its onsen. It's one of the best and biggest ones. Two levels in the building is dedicated for onsen area. 

Anyway, I rested for a bit while my sisters went for onsen. "Liberating," they said. Next was the buffet dinner in the hotel. Awesome!


Noticed how almost everyone was wearing the same thing? That's because the hotel actually provides yukata (supposedly a Japanese kimono intended for summer) for all the guests to wear, various sizes available. Just grab it from the room.









Well, I was delighted! It was one of the best buffets from the trip. The selection was great and there was salmon and tuna. What's not to like?!



We came back after dinner to see our rooms set up with tatami. Our tour guide told us earlier that we could set it up ourselves or the hotel staffs would do it for us. How nice of them. Anyway, there's no air-conditioners or fan in the room but we could open up the windows and it was enough to keep us cool for the night. Yeap, it was that chilly.



Since the night was still kinda young, we roamed around the hotel ourselves. There were some shops just outside the hotel...


... And we got ourselves some soft-serve again!


That's all for now. Will blog about Day 2 next!