Saturday, September 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Sesenta y cinco

Ooh la la, what beautiful eyelashes you have!
Spotted in Greenbelt Makati by Zhequia of FTW! Food, Travel, and Whatevs
Thanks Zhequia!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City

November 25, 2016
Friday
PM

This day is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, five to be exact. After spending my morning visiting more-than-a-millenium-old wooden structures in Horyuji and Hokkiji in Ikaruga Town, I return to Nara City to visit two temples and a palace (or more accurately, its remains).

The bus lets me and two Japanese women alight at the bus stop for Yakushiji, by a large but near-empty parking area. 'Ah, good', I think to myself, 'not too many tourists here.' I follow my map and walk by a dozen vending machines all in a row and two small Shinto shrines (Yasumigaoka-hachimangu and Magotaro Inari) devoid of worshippers and visitors before I reach the south gate of Yakushiji.

If you have some yen, you'll never go thirsty here

Yasumigaoka-hachimangu

Yakushiji
薬師寺
Daily 830AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 1100 yen (800 yen when Genjo-sanzoin Garan is closed)
* Genjo-sanzoin Garan is closed from mid-January to February, July to mid-September, and December

Emperor Tenmu started the construction of Yakushiji in the year 680 in Asuka (a town south of Nara), as an offering and prayer for the recovery of his wife, but, ironically, it was he who died first. His empress continued the construction of the temple and it was completed in the year 698. When the capital was moved to Nara in 710, Yakushiji was also moved to the present site eight years later.

Typical of temples, Yakushiji too has gates, main hall, lecture hall, and pagoda (Yakushiji has two). But unlike Horyuji and Hokkiji, the two temples I visited in the morning, the buildings of Yakushiji were painted in red and white and with green windows.

Yakushiji's Main Hall

Because of fires and wars, most of Yakushiji was destroyed in 1528 and only the east pagoda and the Yakushi Triad (the temple's principal Buddha images) survived. (I wonder how the east pagoda looks. It is currently under a huge tent undergoing renovation and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.) The current Kondo (main hall) was built in 1976, the west pagoda in 1980.

The Yakushi Triad, a national treasure, can be viewed in the Kondo. It was originally covered with gold, but because of the fire in 1528, it is now black and shiny. In the center is Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Healing. Flanking the Yakushi Nyorai are two bodhisattvas: Nikko Bosatsu and Gakko Bosatsu.

Yakushi Triad (Photo from Fudo Myo-o)

 West Pagoda

In the Daikodo (great lecture hall) are more religious national treasures like images of buddha, a stone with an imprint of buddha's feet, and a tablet inscribed with verses.

Yakushiji's Great Lecture Hall

There are a few more buildings but they don't look interesting to me. I proceed to Genjo-sanzoin Garan, a separate walled area a short walk north of Yakushiji.

Genjo-sanzoin Garan is only open seven months a year and I am lucky it is open on this visit. I was impressed with Yakushiji's main hall and pagoda, and, though small and recent (built in 1981), am impressed by Genjo-sanzoin Garan, too. There is something about this small complex that makes me linger and stare a few minutes more.

Genjo-sanzoin Garan


Toshodaiji
唐招提寺
830AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 600 yen (+200 yen for Treasure House)

Just a short 500-meter walk north, I find another world heritage site: Toshodaiji, founded by Ganjin Wajo, a Chinese Buddhist priest, in the year 759.

The first building I see after entering Toshodaiji's gate is the main hall. I take a peek inside and see Buddha statues of different sizes.

Toshodaiji's Main Hall

Behind and to the right of the main hall is the Koro, a small hall containing relics (but I don't see the relics—the Koro is closed). Directly behind the main hall is the Kodo (lecture hall) which is actually a building from Nara/Heijo Palace and is the only surviving building of the former palace.

Koro

Also in the temple grounds are the Rye-do where memorial ceremonies are held; Higashi-muro, where monks sleep; Kyozo, a storehouse for sutras and also the oldest building in Toshodaiji; and Hozo, a storehouse for treasures.

Hozo (storehouse for treasures)

Northeast of the temple grounds I find a path shaded by trees. This path leads me to the Kaizan Gobyo, a memorial for Ganjin Wajo, the founder of Toshodaiji.

Towering trees shade the path to Kaizan Gobyo

A lantern at Kaizan Gobyo

From Toshodaiji, I go to the nearest bus stop, a 5-minute walk. It is a bright and sunny autumn afternoon and the temperature is perfect. The short walk gives me a glimpse of this local neighborhood, of locals whiling away time by fishing in the river.

 A peaceful neighborhood

 Gone fishing

A path by the river

Nara/Heijo Palace Site
Tuesdays to Sundays 9AM to 430PM
Free admission

A grand red and white gate (Suzaku Gate, reconstructed in 1998) welcomes me to Nara or Heijo Palace Site. When Nara was the capital of Japan, this was where the emperor's residence and the government offices were. I walk through the gate and find a vast area of grass and one solitary building in the middle that looks so small because of the distance.

  Suzaku Gate

I walk and walk and walk until the small solitary building becomes bigger and bigger and bigger. This building is the Former Imperial Audience Hall, which was the largest and most important building in the palace. The current building is a reconstruction and was completed in 2010, the 1300th anniversary of the Nara Capital. The reconstruction took nine years and it was based upon archaeological and architectural studies. Inside the building are exhibits about its reconstruction.



The grassy areas around are not all grass, there are foundation stones protruding, the only remains of the buildings in the palace.

Building foundations

On the southeast corner of the palace grounds is the East Palace Garden, a reconstruction completed in 1998, but I skip this. I go instead to the northeast side and find the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall. Inside are excavation sites showing visitors archaeological digs in situ. From the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall, I go to the west side, where the Nara Palace Site Museum is. This museum showcases unearthed artifacts such as roof tiles, ornaments, etc.

The Palace Site is so immense that going from one end to the other end made me too tired to go back to the Suzaku Gate. I look for the nearest exit and when I find it, I ask the guard if there is a bus stop nearby. Thankfully there is one just a hundred meters away and I find it without a problem. I wait for bus #12 or bus #14 in an open shed where a stooped Japanese grandma joins me.

Had I been short on time, I would have skipped these places. I am glad I started early in the day which gave me enough time to visit these oft–ignored (by tourists) world heritage sites. I love how quiet these places were. I look forward and kind of dread (the crowds) tomorrow when I visit the popular tourist sites in Nara City: Nara Park and Todaiji.


This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.


Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City (you're here!)
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Todaiji, Yoshiki-en, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and Some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town

For people who love visiting historic places, Nara and Kyoto cities are some of the places in Japan teeming with history. Not only are these two cities previous capitals of Japan, but also these are home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Most people (or at least those that I know that have been to Japan) only do a day trip to Nara from Kyoto or Osaka to see the deer and Todaiji. But being a World Heritage Site nerd, I spent two whole days in Nara.

November 25, 2016
Friday
AM

I arrived in Nara the night before and settled in in Hiloki Hostel. I had already bought my bus pass at Nara Station and had gotten the schedule for the bus headed to the town of Ikaruga, where I plan to start my day of World Heritage site hopping.

The first bus to Ikaruga Town doesn't leave until almost 9AM, quite late for me because I am an early riser (truth is my body clock is that of a grandfather's). I decide to leave around 7AM, taking the train from Nara Station to Horyuji Station, and warming up my legs by taking a 20-minute walk from Horyuji Station to a temple called Horyuji.

The main streets in Ikaruga Town are still and deserted this early in the morning. I walk through main roads and narrow residential areas and I am surprised to find directional signs under my feet. A kilometer and a half or so later, I reach a simple 300-meter lane with trees on both sides and the temple straight ahead—I am almost there! But a sign warning me of bees (the sign was in English) stops me and I do not make a beeline to the temple. Instead I backtrack and find a parallel street free of bees—no shortcuts, no bees.

Nobody out and about yet at 7AM in this town


Beware of bees in this area

Horyuji
法隆寺
8AM to 5PM (430PM November to February)
Admission fee: 1500 yen (includes entry to Saiin Garan, Daihozoin, and Toin Garan)

I arrive at Horyuji about 15 minutes before 8AM and enter through Nandaimon (south main gate), but the Saiin Garan (western precinct), which is a paid area, is still closed. An elderly man in overalls is sweeping outside. I stand and wait near the entrance ramp of Saiin Garan. The only sound I hear is of the man's broom, swish swish swish.

A Japanese grandma who is passing by smiles and stops to talk to me. She talks to me oh so animatedly in Japanese and I tell her I cannot understand Japanese, but she goes on, trying her best to convey her message with hand gestures. In the middle of our "conversation", I sniff (my body was adjusting to Japan's low temperatures causing my nose to run), and she points to me then to her nose, makes an X with her forearms, then covers her nose and mouth with her palm. She isn't telling me I stink, is she? (I am sure I brushed my teeth this morning.) I think she's telling me I should wear a mask because I have colds! Aside from that, I understood two other things from our "conversation": that Horyuji won't open until 8AM and there is another temple, called Chuguji, just east of Horyuji. I thank her with a smile and she goes on her way. I love these old Japanese folks!

 Horyuji's Nandaimon (south main gate) was restored in 1438

8AM and Horyuji's Saiin Garan opens. The worker in overalls motions for me to go in. In the temple grounds are beautiful wooden buildings connected by pathways, the open space between buildings covered in gravel.

Horyuji was built by Prince Shotoku in the year 607 to fulfill Emperor Yomei's vow to build a temple and an image of Buddha as a prayer for recovery (the emperor died before he could fulfill his vow). Horyuji is home to the world's oldest surviving wooden structures (no destruction at all, just renovation works): Horyuji's Chumon (central gate), Kondo (main hall), and Goju-no-to (five-storied pagoda).

Left to right: Goju-no-to (five-storied pagoda), Daikodo (Great Lecture Hall), and Kondo (Main Hall)

I do not get to see Japan's oldest (8th century) clay Kongo Rikishi, the guardian deities that stand guard in Chumon, because the gate itself is hidden under scaffoldings and covers for renovation work. I proceed instead to the two buildings at the center: the Goju-no-to and the Kondo.

Kondo (main hall) and Goju-no-to (five-storied pagoda)

I look inside Goju-no-to and see four ancient clay statues of Buddha. In the Kondo are three ancient bronze statues of Buddha for which Horyuji is dedicated, wooden statues of guardians, and wooden statues of gods. And along the walls of Kondo are murals. (No photos allowed inside Goju-no-to and Kondo.)

 Goju-no-to

Across Chumon, behind the pagoda and the main hall, is the Daikodo or the Great Lecture Hall. This was where monks would study and also where memorial services were held. The original hall burnt down in the year 925; the current hall was built in the year 990.

 Daikodo (great lecture hall)

I leave Saiin Garan to go to Daihozoin or Gallery of Temple Treasures, where I see many of Japan's cultural and historical treasures (ancient statues of Buddha, relics, paintings, etc). On the way to the gallery, I pass by Shoryoin or the Hall of Prince Shotoku's Soul, which enshrines a statue of the prince.

 Shoryoin

I move on eastward towards Toin Garan (eastern precinct) where the octagonal pavilion called Yumedono (Hall of Visions) is. Yumedono stands where Ikaruga Palace used to be. In Yumedono are ancient (8th to 12th century) statues of Prince Shotoku, of Buddha, of the monk who built the eastern precinct, and of the monk who supervised the repair of Yumedono.

 Path to Yumedono

Yumedono

Chuguji, the temple the Japanese grandma mentioned, is in another enclosed area behind Yumedono. I go there to take a peek but decide to skip going inside (separate admission fee of 600 yen).

As I exit Horyuji's Nandaimon (south main gate), I see a bus approaching and I run like the wind to catch it. I heave a sigh of relief as I sink on the bus seat and the bus starts to roll away. We travel for a kilometer or so and stop at Horyuji Station. I remain in my seat and the driver looks my way and asks me where I am going because this is the last stop. I can see a smile dancing on the corners of his mouth and I want to laugh myself—I have taken the wrong bus (#72)! I tell him I want to go to Hokkiji and he fiddles with something by his side and produces a printout of directions on how to go to Hokkiji (I guess I am not the first one to have mistakenly gotten on his bus!). Showing me the printout, he tries his best to explain to me in a handful of English words how to go to Hokkiji. He gestures for me to remain seated and he drives the bus out of the station. On the third stop he tells me that we're now at the stop where I have to take bus #97 that's scheduled to come by at 10:09AM. I thank him as I alight. He gets off too and goes inside the small office of the bus stop for a minute then goes out and drives away.

I stand outside and it is a bit chilly. The bus station staff goes out of his office and politely tells me, in Japanese and by pointing to his wristwatch, that the bus will come at 10:09. (I guess the bus driver advised him that there's a lost man outside and to make sure this lost man gets on the right bus.) And like the curious elderly Japanese in Koyasan who have stopped to talk to me, he too asks (still in Japanese) where I am from, if I was traveling alone, etc. Then he remarks, while rubbing his arms, that it is さむい samui (cold) and he leads me inside the waiting room and turns on the heater. I thank him and take a seat in the waiting room.

After a few minutes, a bus arrives and I see the bus station man signal to me through the office window. I get out of the toasty waiting room and wave a thank you to the man and get on the bus. The bus idles for a few minutes, waiting for the clock to tick 10:09. Tinkering with my phone, I have my head down and in the periphery I see blue pants and hear, "Magandang umaga! Kumusta?" I glance up and I am surprised to see a Japanese man. He shakes my hand and explains that he knows a bit of Tagalog because his wife is Filipina. We chat for a minute more and when the bus driver gets on, we say our goodbyes and the Tagalog-speaking Japanese man gets off. And I am on my way to Hokkiji.


Hokkiji
法起寺
830AM to 5PM (430PM November to February)
Admission fee: 300 yen

Hokkiji temple grounds is small. It only has four buildings (five if you include the ticket office by the entrance) and a pond. I am the only visitor in Hokkiji.  The staff at the reception gives me my ticket and a printout of Hokkiji's history (in English).

Hokkiji is a Buddhist temple and was also known as Okamoto-dera. The area used to be Okamoto Palace. There is an inscription found in the pagoda (I didn't see it, but this is what I read from the printout) that on February in the year 622 Prince Shotoku left a will for his eldest son to convert the palace into a temple.

Hokkiji's Shotendo Hall or main hall (left) and three-storied pagoda (right)

Lecture Hall

The three-storied pagoda, Shotendo (main hall), and the lecture hall are closed, and can only be admired from outside. Beside the lecture hall is a small repository where a wooden image of Kannon (goddess of mercy), an important cultural property, is housed.

Three Japanese ladies arrive and they admire the pagoda, the oldest three-storied pagoda in Japan, having been built in the year 685. The pagoda, to me, looks like a shorter version of Horyuji's pagoda, with it being all wood with white walls.

Three-storied pagoda

Ikaruga Town's manhole cover features Hokkiji's three-storied pagoda

I wander around some more and as I am about to leave I see the three Japanese women looking at a tree near the ticket office. I go closer and notice a small wooden plaque with these characters 貝多羅葉樹 バイタラヨウジユ. I have no idea what it means. It must be something important. They pluck some leaves off and bring it to an open rest area and proceed to write with a wooden stick the temple staff had lent them. They see me watching and one of them gives me a leaf and motions for me to write on my leaf too. I thank them and do as I am told and they look at what I had written (I just wrote my name) and give me an approving smile. (I find out later, through research, that the characters on the wooden plaque reads as baitarayoujyu, a pattra tree, the leaves of which were used for writing on.)

What does it say?

I leave Hokkiji and go out to the bus stop. The street is deserted. The benches at the bus stop are bathed in sunshine. I see the three ladies leave the temple and we wave goodbye to each other. I sit on the bus stop bench and wait for the bus that will take me within Nara City's boundary to my third World Heritage site for the day: Yakushiji.



This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.


Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and Some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town (you're here!)
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Todaiji, Yoshiki-en, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City

The next stop on my itinerary: Nara! But first, some essentials such as where to sleep, where to eat, and how to go around (or rather, where I slept, where I ate, and how I found my way around).

Sleep

1-22 Omiyacho 1, Nara 630-8115
+81 74 287 2390
hilokihostel@gmail.com
Facebook page: Hiloki Hostel

I found the perfect hostel for my 2-night stay in Nara: Hiloki Hostel, just a 3-minute walk from JR Nara Station, which is also where buses to all the sites in Nara I planned to visit depart. I was lucky to have been one of Hiloki Hostel's first few guests. When I stayed there, it had only been in business for less than two months!

The hostel is small with the reception, common area, and kitchen on the ground floor (I think a washing machine and dryer are also available for a fee); three private rooms on the second floor; and two dorm rooms on the third floor.

Let's talk about the dorm, because that's where I stayed. There is one 6-bed mixed dorm and one 4-bed female dorm. The ladder to the upper bunk was inclined making it easy to go up/down. The bed was comfortable and I was grateful for the lamp and outlets (two regular and two USB outlets) provided for each bunk bed. There are small lockers provided in each dorm room. The dorm room floor has two toilets (one for each gender), two shower rooms (one for each gender), and two sinks. The dorm room did not feel cramped and there was enough space for luggage. Keys to the room and to the hostel are provided for each guest. Hiloki, the owner, being a traveler himself, has thought of all the necessary things a traveler might need in a hostel (well, except for the towel—no bath towel provided so bring your own).

The only downside (which wasn't a problem for me, but might be for others) is that the hostel reception is only open from 830AM to 1130AM and 330PM to 830PM. I made sure to arrive after 330PM for check in (if you arrive early in Nara, you could just leave your luggage in a locker in Nara Station). And when I checked out after two nights, Hiloki was kind enough to let me leave my luggage at the reception and I just came back for it when the reception opened in the afternoon.

If I have the chance to go back to Nara, I would definitely stay at Hiloki Hostel again!

Price:

Dorm beds start at 2500 yen.
Private rooms start at 4500 yen.
Book Hiloki Hostel through booking.com

* All Hiloki Hostel photos were taken from booking.com.

 Common area and kitchen at the ground floor

6-bed mixed dorm

4-bed female dorm


Eat

1-1-10 Omiya, Nara City 630-8115
Weekdays 10AM to 11PM
Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays 9AM to 3PM

Maysunoya is a Japanese fastfood restaurant serving rice bowls (beef, pork, chicken), curry, and set meals. There are four branches of Matsunoya in Nara City and several around Japan, and the one I dined in was just outside Nara Station and a few steps from Hiloki Hostel.

I had the oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) which includes a bowl of miso soup for 490 yen. It was a delicious and filling meal, and cheap (for Japan, I would think).

Oyakodon (490 yen)

やよい軒
1-1 Sanjo Honmachi, Nara City
Daily 7AM to 11PM

Another good restaurant I found was Yayoiken, a restaurant serving teishoku (traditional Japanese set meal). There are many branches around the country and I discovered it at Nara Station. There was no English menu outside but the food photos and the shokuhin sampuru (plastic food samples) looked good. And indeed the food was delicious! I was so glad to have walked in and tried the irodori (790 yen) which had six different kinds of food on a tray plus a bowl of rice and a bowl of miso soup.

Irodori (790 yen)

16 Kasugano-cho, Nara City 630-8212
Daily 11AM to 630PM

Tenpyoan Cafe is located in Yume Kaze Plaza near Nara Park. There is another branch in Nara City but quite far from the city center, and another branch in the neighboring city of Yamatokoriyama. I had lunch at the branch near Nara Park and being in that location, it was very busy, with a long queue of tourists.

Their menu consists of only five items, and only two of which were meals. I was grateful for that because by the time I had a seat, I was so hungry and did not need a long list of dishes to mull over. So I had two choices: chicken and rice set, or noodle set (choice of hot or cold noodle). I chose noodles (miwa soumen set), hot. The taste was okay. And for 1230 yen, I thought it was too expensive.

Miwa soumen set with drink (1230 yen)


Wander

There are trains in Nara but the best way to get to the many sites in Nara City is by bus. The bus network serves all sites a tourist might possibly want to visit, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites waaaayyy out of town: Horyuji and Hokkiji. (Within Nara City are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, Heijo Palace Remains, Kasuga Taisha, Gangoji, Todaiji, and Kofukuji.)

The 1-day Bus Pass costs 500 yen, while the 1-day Wide Bus Pass (which can reach Horyuji and Hokkiji) costs 1000 yen. A 2-day Wide Bus Pass costs 1500 yen. The bus passes can be bought at the Bus Information Centers at JR Nara Station and at Kintetsu Nara Station. A bus route map will be provided with the pass. To use the pass, you just need to show the pass to the bus driver when you get on/off the bus.


This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.


Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City (you're here!)
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and Some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Todaiji, Yoshiki-en, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City

Monday, September 4, 2017

GPSmyCity: Article Upgrade Giveaway

GPSmyCity is a free travel app for iOS and Android, containing thousands of travel articles for hundreds of cities all over the world. These articles are written by fellow travelers (like you and me!), not travel agencies who want to sell you their tours. The app will have suggestions on where to go, what to see, and where to eat in the city you are visiting.


Download the app, search for the city you will be visiting, click on an article that interests you. If you want to review these articles later on, these articles can be downloaded for free for offline viewing. And for a minimal upgrade fee, you can access the GPS-aided maps. All of the places mentioned in the article will be pinned on the map. In addition, tour routes will be displayed, and turn-by-turn directions between places will be provided. With this app and the map upgrade, you can do away with old-school (and often inaccurate) paper maps.

Some of my blogposts are already up on the GPSmyCity app and four more have been chosen by the GPSmyCity Team for publishing:
Hooray! For the release of my new articles on GPSmyCity, the upgrade (to access its GPS-aided map) to my Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo iOS article app will be given away for FREE from September 4 to September 10! Please click on the link and try it out! (If you haven't already downloaded and installed the GPSmyCity app, it will prompt you to do so.)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Wisdom from the Road #55

On hitching a ride
Not all hitchhikers are evil.
Not all drivers who stop for hitchhikers are evil.
If you believe otherwise, please stop watching horror movies.

2012. My friend and I went to a sleepy part of Medellin and did not ask the habalhabal driver to wait for us. When it was time to head back, we found ourselves walking half a kilometer to a dusty road where we saw some trucks passing by. We stuck our thumb out to hitch a ride on a truck hauling sugarcane. By the time we reached the highway, the cab of the truck was already standing room cab only. Thank you sugarcane-truck driver for saving us from having to walk under the heat of the sun.

2012. I joined some officemates for a hike at Babag. They were hares, I was a turtle. Thankfully, this turtle did reach the goal. On our hike down to the highway, I, again, was the turtle. But this turtle kept his ears open and when he heard a truck approaching, he turned around to hitch a ride. And overtook his hare-officemates. His hare-officemates laughed and ran as they caught up to join him in the back of the truck. Thank you truck driver for saving our weary legs!

2014. I found no motorcycles for hire at the parking area of Hidden Beach in Aloguinsan. I sat under a tree debating whether to walk to the highway (it was a little after noon and it was scorching) or to wait and hope for a habalhabal to arrive. While the debate went on in my head, I saw a shiny white van slowly move out of the parking area. I quickly walked towards it to ask for a ride to the highway. Thank you Mr Teban for letting me hop in your shiny van with the AC on at a cool and comfortable temperature.

2015. It was drizzling when my friends and I turned to leave Manunggal. We were still 5 or 6 kilometers to the highway. I let my friends go ahead. I slowed my pace and strained my ears for any hint of a vehicle approaching. Eventually, an open bed truck did come and it was rolling along slowly because of the very bad road condition. I asked the driver where he was going and it turned out he was headed to Balamban. Perfect, that's where we were headed, too! I asked if we could hitch a ride and he answered in the affirmative. I called to my friends to come back and pile in. And we were on our way! Thank you! Woohoo!

2016. My friends and I had just arrived at the Cebu pier from our weekend in Pamilacan Island in Bohol. It was night time and I was trying to think of the fastest and safest way to get home. I saw an army truck waiting outside and three army guys were talking to some of their friends and helping them up the back of the truck. I asked where they were going (Lahug) and because I am a cheap ass, I asked to hitch a ride (though it was not the most direct route home, I figured I'd be safer). Thank you, army people!

2017. Along the highway in Oslob, Hitomi, a Japanese Couchsurfer, and I were waiting for the bus. Hitomi would wave at passing cars. I was surprised when one pick-up truck slowed to a stop. He thought we wanted to hitch a ride. That's how we got a free ride back to Cebu City. Thank you Hitomi for waving, and thank you kind sir for letting us get a free and faster ride!

Yes, there is still kindness in this world! (But of course, we all have to be on our toes and not let our guard down.)


For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.