April 28, 2014

Stuck in Kota Kinabalu

Hello hello! I'm blogging from the hot city of Kota Kinabalu. I am here for a few days for The Boys' Brigade of Malaysia 50th Brigade Council Meeting. Just last night, my bags were packed, and I was looking forward to be back in Kuala Lumpur by now but things took a turned. I checked my flight itinerary and found out that my flight is actually tomorrow morning instead of this morning.

So here we are, stuck in the Kota Kinabalu for another day with no accommodation. We didn't want to stay another night at our current hotel because the hotel is charging us a much higher price than the first night. That's when having internet connection really helped. We checked out, walked the short distance to another hotel and am now waiting for the room to be ready.

This is my 2nd time here. It's crazy hot and humid. Nothing much to do if you don't go to the island or climb Mt. Kinabalu. There is a few malls, some markets and that's about it. Any locals have any recommendations on what to do? We have tried seafood, bak kut teh, Chinese, western, Indian, Malay food.. Gone to all the malls, walked Gaya Street, Handicraft and Philippino Market... We only have today left. Flight is early tomorrow morning... Any must do or must see? 

Ok. Room is ready.. 

Follow me on Instagram at @theestherchew for photos :) 

April 22, 2014

Staying in a Capsule Hotel in Tokyo

*edited title because someone corrected my English :(

Japan is famous for its capsule hotels, mainly catering to males who needed a few hours to lay their head. We made a mistake of not booking our accommodation in Tokyo until it was too late - which pretty much led to an adventure of a lifetime. Rockstar and I had to spend 2 whole nights in a capsule hotel. For me  it was a pretty exciting thing. I mean, what more could be worst after we had spend a night in a comic book cafe the previous trip. 

Rows of bunk beds at the female floor. 

The room was separated in male and female with about a dozen 'coffin' like bunk beds lining from one end till the other end of the room. All you get is a somewhat spacious bunk with towels, blanket, pyjamas, bathroom slippers and a narrow cupboard. Everything was pretty clean and neat. You shuffle in and out of your narrow space, minding your own business and everyone is just looking to get some decent sleep. It's not the best place but I have slept in worst condition. 

Narrow space between my bunk bed and cabinet. 

Bathrooms were another matter. My first time was met with just a sole companion *thank God* sitting on a stool, facing the wall. All I could see were her bare shoulders and back amidst the steam rising from the hot water. Lost in her own thoughts, she wasn't aware while I explore the rest of the bathroom, trying to figure how this communal bath thing works. She was still facing the wall when I stripped butt naked and half ran over to the opposite wall. Water was hot and so soothing. I waited till she left before I pulled myself away from the wall. The cool air half dried me as I walk to the locker area for my towel. Phew... Thank God no one was around.

Many bare butts later, I consider myself a pro. Communal bathrooms... pfft, no biggie...

Upper part of my bunk bed. Pillow, a reading lamp, and a clock. 

Here are some tips for those who are planning to stay in a capsule hotel :

1. Most capsule hotels only cater to male. If you are a female, please check carefully if they do have accommodations for female. 
2. Only 1 communal bathroom. There are different time slots for male and female usage. Please check and adhere to that timing. You do not want to be caught naked in there when it's not your slot. 
3. Communal bathrooms have lockers. You strip, put your clothes and towel into the locker and walk to the shower area. Do not attempt to bring your towel. There will be no space to hang or place them without them getting all wet. 
4. Some capsule hotel do have somewhat private shower rooms which are also unisex. So if you are reluctant to bath in public, do check if they have private ones. 
5. Everything is provided - toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, moisturiser, toner, hair gel, etc, Use them, and them place them back in either the 'used' container or at their original place. 
6. DO NOT ever wear the bathroom slippers to anywhere other that the bathrooms.
7. Do not make too much noise. You will risk disturbing other guests. Good luck trying to win an argument in a language that you won't understand :)
8. Capsule hotels are close from 10am-6pm. If you plan on staying a few nights, you can leave your baggage at the reception.  

I think that's all I can think of now. Will add on later if I have any other tip. 

The lower part of my bunk bed. It was long enough for me to stash my suitcase. Blanket at the bottom, pyjamas in blue and brown towels on top. 

So yup, that's my experience staying in a capsule hotel. It wasn't too bad. Everything was clean. And if you need some privacy, just draw the curtains. Rockstar didn't enjoy it one bit. But you know what, I kinda of like it. I can now say that I have experience a capsule hotel in Japan. :)

April 15, 2014

Super Japan : On-time Metro

Hi everyone! I just got back from a 10 day of awesome, fun-filled holiday in Tokyo. I love Japan. Not just for its cleanliness and weather but also for its punctuality. Eventhough they have one of the morst comprehensive train networks in the work, Japan trains are never ever late. And that really helped me when I travelled around.

I have tons of photos and stories to tell but here's a video to keep you busy while I sort and edit those photos.  

April 3, 2014

Kyoto : Nijo Castle & Gion Street

Gosh! Time flies so fast. A couple of months back I was in Japan, visiting the beautiful city of Osaka and Kyoto. Guess what? I am heading back again to Japan, but this time, to the city of Tokyo. 

I am so exciting! Looking forward to cherry blossoms and hanami parties :)

Anyway, since my flight will be leaving in a few hours, lets just go through some photos from my previous trip.

In Kyoto, we had the opportunity to visit Nijo Castle, the last place where the samurais stood. It was there, at this significant place that the Shoguns signed over their rights as head, to the emperor. That's where the Shoguns and Samurais era ended. 

Entrance to Nijo Castle

Signage at the entrance

Map of Nijo Castle

Gate Arch of Ninomaru Palace

Ninomaru Palace

Ninomaru Garden

Back view & Roof of Ninomaru Palace

View of Honmaru Palace from the top of one of the towers, which was burned down.

Close-up of gate

Walking down the another garden (I forgot the name) in Nijo Castle. Such beautiful colours of Autumn.
Next, we headed to the old part of town, which is known as 'Gion'. We started from the north and headed down south, walking past old buildings and cobblestone roads, passed by tiny streams and brushed past colourful people. Gion is a must visit if you are ever in Japan. Spend a day or two ambling down memory lane and getting lost in its maze.

Houses in Gion

Beautiful Willow trees and Autumn leaves

A stream with beautiful housed covered with wooden blinds

Artists and wannabe artists seating by the riverside; drawing, painting, sketching the buildings in Gion.

A newly-wed having their wedding photo shoot session

One of the many stone walkways in Gion

Cutest post office in the world :)

Anyone knows what is spit-roasting?

A famous temple in Gion, know for its peacefulness and serenity ( I forgot what it's called)

Another building at the temple

A busier section in Gion

We ended that long day walking pass the river and enjoying the sunset and cool air. It's been a beautiful day in a beautiful city.

Sun is setting along the river

Sunset on Kyoto River

Nijo Castle
- requires entrance fee
- train station stops right outside the castle
- historical place
- takes at least 2 hours

- free
- lots of eateries and few temples and parks
- old section of Kyoto
- spend the whole day walking around