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konnichiwa (hello)– ohayo gozaimasu (good morning) — sumimasen (excuse me)– do itashimashite (you’re welcome)– domo arigato (thank you very much) – sayonara (goodbye) —  some kind words i learned from my recent trip to the land of the rising sun. and here are some interesting facts about Japan and some of my experiences which made my stay absolutely fantastic:

Japanese, in general, are so polite.  though English for most of them is an extra challenge, if you ask for anything, they would find ways to extend help.  and  as a sign of respect, they would bow their head down to waist level – Taragis!

I thought KYOTO is Japan’s old capital, it’s not.  i’ve learned that NARA was then Japan’s capital prior to KYOTO and TOKYO.  it is a small city, just an hour- train ride from OSAKA.   NARA describes the old Japan – i’ve seen typical Japanese villages, old temples and even some geishas around – Ayos!

Japan’s railways, subways and bullet trains are no less than “ASTIG”, haha.  it’s quite confusing at first, but sooner  you’ll get used to it.  these systems simply made life in Tokyo and the whole of Japan a lot more easier!

Taxi! Oops, never open the door! Astig, door automatically opens and closes for you, para lang prinsipe ang sasakay, waaah. only in Japan??

Sakura a.k.a. Cherry Blossoms.  I have no idea that Sakura leaf is edible until my friend gave me a bread with fresh, caramelized Sakura leaf on it, it tastes good though. 

Japan’s spring weather during my stay, according to Yahoo’s 10-day forecast, was supposed to be 10-20 degrees, but H—  nah, t’was 3-9 degrees C and imagine, I only brought a windbreaker, tees, and shorts thinking that it’s gonna be just like Baguio, later to find out that Japan’s weather is so erratic especially during transition.  it was freezing and left no choice but to get fleece jacket and  thermals (putek GINTO ang presyo, waaah)!

Ramen House –  Irasshaimase! Walastic, Japanese authentic noodles, magicSARAP!  Noodles freshly done in front of me, SUPERB!

Sushi Bar – maguro (tuna), salmon, mackerel, king crab, caviar, name it, you can have it — walang binatbat ang DADS.

Get drunk with Nihonshu or sake ( “sake” is also the general Japanese term for alcohol), it is brewed using rice, but it’s more like our local coconut wine a.k.a. LAMBANOG.  Sake is served mostly at Izakaya, Japanese term for restobar.

On my 9th day, 3 men in black approached me as I exited at Akihabara station (a.k.a. electronic town in Tokyo)— haha, as expected… immigration police!  While these guys were talking in Japanese (syempre di ko maintindihan), I just answered back, “YES?, I’m really sorry guys, I don’t understand what you’re trying  to say, anyway, here’s my passport”, that’s it, they just needed my passport and tried to look for my visa.  then, they gave me back my passport and said “Sorry. Domo arigato”. Haha. nice experience, I should have asked them to have some pics with them- sayang!

Onsen — a term for hot springs in the Japanese language.  the last but the best experience I’ve had.   Just google it to find out or you may want to go to JAPAN to know what an ONSEN really is. Astig!

Japan has a lot more to offer.  The cities I’ve visited: Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Tokyo, and Yokohama are truly remarkable.  I encourage you to visit Japan.  Though it’s a common knowledge that everything in Japan is expensive yet of good quality, yes it is.  My Japan adventure is totally different from my other trips and I consider this as one of my best trips, though expensive, i’d still say “I shall return.”  Travelling though is not about how much you spend, it’s all about how much you gain from it. 

But how frustrating that I didn’t see any Japanese paper… walang PAPEL DE HAPON sa JAPAN? waaaaaaaah!

“Domo Arigato”

Gone in 13 days.

Before archie finally migrated to the US in 2005 (that was a long a time though haha), we decided to make a short trip across Southeast Asia to spend some time together abroad, to escape from work (haha), to have some imported beer and “pulutan”—and of course another adventure to add to our several trips together here in the Philippines.  Since all of us three couldn’t afford much time to go on-leave, we had to squeeze our visit to five countries: Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Singapore in just 13 days.   We had a total of four flights, two bus rides and a boat ride to finish our trip.  Each country has a unique picture, and each photo I have here simply describes its distinct beauty.

Our first stop:  Selamat Datang! Malaysia – as what Malaysians say, it’s truly Asia!  Departing from Clark @ 10pm via Air Asia, we reached KLIA @ past 1am.   To save money (tipid tip no.1), we just stayed at the airport until 7am before we went to KL via KLIA Express.  We spent the whole day roaming around downtown KL. Of course we landed first at the magnificent Petronas Towers, then KL Tower, had lunch @ little India (tried a lot of indian food), then @ night, had some beer @ beach club café.  The next morning, with our huge backpack, we took the monorail going to Bukit Bintang, stayed there for a while, bought some souvenirs, tried some malaysian dishes and then went to the airport via KLIA express to catch our flight to Bangkok in the afternoon.   Terima Kasih!   

Next stop: Bangkok, Thailand (3rd day).  Sawasdee Amazing Thailand!  We arrived at the airport @ dinner time.  From the airport, we took a bus (tipid tip no.2) bound for Silom, where the famous Patpong (known as a red light district at the heart of Bangkok) is located – also a busy night market!  We had dinner along the side street of Silom (tipid tip no.3), had some thai noodles and the famous tom yum.  The next day, we had a typical thai breakfast along the street, Winner!  We strolled around Bangkok, visited the grand palace, a lot of temples, then spent the rest of the day at Chatuchak market, the largest weekend market in Bangkok.  Of course, the night wasn’t complete without a bottle of Singha, Thailand’s pride!  KHOB-KUN Thailand!

Fifth Day:  In the morning, we left Bangkok via a provincial bus and reached the Thailand-Cambodia border at lunch time.   After 2 hours in the line for immigration procedures and security check, finally we crossed the border.  We hired a taxi to bring us to Siem Reap, the home of the Ancient Angkor (a must-see paradise).  After a 5-hour drive, we finally reached Siem Reap, immediately we had dinner and had some Angkor beer (first night pa lang beer na!)  We spent 2 days to see the Angkor, truly– AMAZING!   On the 8th day, we left Siem Reap early in the morning and went to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, visited temples, the historical killing fields during the time of Polpot (leader of Cambodian communist movement), and walked around the city and at night had some Angkor beer by the bay.

9th Day:   Early morning we left Phnom Penh for Vietnam – about 5 hrs to reach the border, and then another 2.5 hrs to reach Ho-chi-minh City (formerly Saigon). we arrived at the city earlier than expected and we had enough time to stroll downtown and have some shopping, and had snack @ Jollibee.  Of course at dinner, we tried the famous vietnamese noodles and some authentic vietnamese dishes.  We spent our night at Eden Bar, had some Saigon Beer and of course we tried our very own SMB — “masarap pala ang feeling” when you encounter Philippine products abroad, we were so proud then.  Thank you, Vietnam.

10th Day! Welcome to Singapore!  Finally we reached the first world (haha)!  Airport pa lang, astig na! we spent 3 days in Singapore. We went to Sentosa , took the cable car.  then we went to chinatown and little india –food trip (tipid tip no.4)!  Had some shopping @ orchard road, hangout with pinoy friends @ lucky plaza – tagged as the Philippine department store in Singapore, met a lot of OFWs (saludo ako sa mga bagong bayani).   Had so much fun! (In the picture @ the lower right: Don, Archie & Joel (BatangMangyan)

Finally, the 13-day trip is over!  Much fun, not so expensive though (courtesy of promo flights and cheap backpacker’s inn we discovered in The Lonely Planet).  Indeed, the trip was no less than extraordinary!  We learned a lot of things – discovered different cultures/values, tried various dishes (this is what I like most haha), and of course met a lot of people.  Along this new adventure, the most important thing is the time we spent together, truly it’s exceptional.   And I’d say that it’s not how many hours we spent; it’s how much we put into the hours. 

“The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything.  They just make the best of everything.”