Tokyo, the Land of the Rising Sun (PART 2)

Konnichi-wa everyone!

Whoa, it has been close to a year since my Japan trip! The persistent thought of my incomplete Tokyo travelogue has been lingering in my mind so here I am continuing where I left off in the first part. In this post, I will be documenting my activities during my final days in sushi-land. Since this trip happened last December, I may inadvertently leave out some details but I will try my best to recall to the best of my ability 😆

* * Day 2 * *

(Tokyo Disneyland)

Taking cue from our trip to Hong Kong Disneyland the previous year, we allotted one full day for the magical kingdom. The morning sun had already peeked its bright rays through our curtains when we were woken up by our annoying alarm clock which we had previously set at 7.00 a.m. JST (1 hour ahead of SGT). The chilly and crisp winter air outside seeped into our tiny room (or so I felt), causing my reluctance to get out of my warm and cozy bed to snowball (no pun intended) exponentially. I admit that we kinda took our time because we had already purchased a two-day passport (eTicket, at ¥12,400 each) to Tokyo Disney Resort (which includes DisneySea), so we needn’t have to spend time queuing up to enter.

It took us about an hour to reach Maihama station from our hotel (10 minutes away from Higashi-Shinjuku station) and we had to transfer trains twice  – once at Shinjuku-Sanchome station and another at Tokyo station. We had the impression that eating or drinking was allowed onboard due to the huge cluster of vending machines on the train platforms so before we hopped on to any train, we made sure we had a bottle of drink and a small packet of tidbit to keep us awake throughout the journey. Well, it turns out not to be the case… Oops. Eating or drinking on trains, although not prohibited by law, is likewise frowned upon in Japan. But I guess having a little nibble won’t kill, yes?! After all, we had left our hotel without having our breakfast 😦

One of the many vending machines we saw...

One of the many vending machines we saw…

Brazen display of tobacco along the train platform

Brazen display of tobacco along the train platform

Inside the Tokyo station-bound train

Inside the Tokyo station-bound train

Boarded the Maihama-bound train at Tokyo station

Boarded the Maihama-bound train at Tokyo station

The trains are equipped with seats covered in comfy velvet which implies high level of self-discipline among the Japanese. Should such sofa seats be used in place of the hard plastic ones in our trains, they will probably lose their lustre and softness in no time because of recalcitrant passengers who eat and drink on board :\

The priority seats in red are separated from the rest and put in a corner next to the empty compartment between carriages where you can make urgent calls (be sure to shut the doors, though!). Talking on mobile phones in the seated areas of the train is a strict no-no. The Japanese values their peace and privacy a lot, so it’s not unusual to be commuting in stark silence.

Look, a convenience shop along the platform!

Look, a convenience shop along the platform!

Maihama station

Maihama station

Mini Yakult

Mini Yakult

I was looking forward to visiting Tokyo Disneyland because friends had been raving to me about how much more breathtaking and enchanting it is from other Disneylands in the world. Upon further research, I discovered that Tokyo Disneyland is wholly owned by a local leisure and tourism corporation Oriental Land Company and not by Walt Disney Company, hence allowing for more flexibility in the imagineering and construction of the theme park. The innovation of the Japanese is apparent in the rides and even in the range of merchandise in the gift shops, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending more than budgeted.

Once we exited Maihama train station, we followed the (not-very-visible, in my opinion) directions to Disneyland. For the uninitiated, the way to Disneyland is on the right whereas the train to the Disneyland Hotel and DisneySea is on the left. It took us between 10 and 15 minutes to walk to our destination in the sunny but chilly weather.

Red arc

Red arc

There is a Disney gift shop right before this huge red arc for those who wish to buy some Disney merchandise without having to pay the entrance fee to the theme park. If I remember correctly, there was no difference in pricing and almost everything was stocked up there. I felt this was a nice gesture on the part of Tokyo Disneyland because not everyone can afford the expensive admission tickets.

Welcome to Tokyo Disneyland!

Welcome to Tokyo Disneyland!

Opened in 1983, Tokyo Disneyland is the first Disney Park built outside the United States and remains one of the world’s top theme park destinations. It spans over 114 acres on a reclaimed land which is about a 90-minute journey from Tokyo. Unless you forgo all the rides and go around the theme park on an e-scooter, it is almost impossible to explore every attraction within a day (or even two). It is humongous.

We're in!

We’re in!

More whimsical sculptures..

More whimsical sculptures..

A huge Christmas tree to commemorate the season

A huge Christmas tree to commemorate the season

Sleeping Beauty's Castle!

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!

 Birds (geese?) like this one are aplenty at the theme park!

Birds (geese?) like this one are aplenty at the theme park!

A must-visit place for the Pooh fanatic boyfriend..

A must-visit place for the Pooh fanatic boyfriend..

This quote by Eeyore is so aww-worthy!

This quote by Eeyore is so aww-worthy!

Boxes with a cushiony exterior shaped like Pooh's head!

Boxes with a cushiony exterior shaped like Pooh’s head!

It was impossible to miss those conspicuous yellow Pooh heads on the shelves because they were sold in virtually every gift shop! It’s certainly a must-have for all Pooh collectors. Each box contained a few individually packed honey sponge cakes moulded in the shape of Pooh’s head which were too cute to be eaten. I failed to notice that they had relatively short shelf life (like most Japanese snacks) so I had kept mine past their expiry date as I couldn’t bear to open the box. I took my first bite into the sponge cakes six months after their purported expiry date but voila! They were still saccharine and fresh – probably not as fresh as when I first bought them but still pretty much edible and salable. What do you know, the Japanese are such an overly cautious bunch… 😛

So don’t toss your expired (but still looking good) Japanese snacks away without first tasting them!

Disclaimer: The above is just an advice only ah.. please don’t blame me if you get diarrhoea after that ^^’  Thank you.

Winnie the Pooh refillable and reusable popcorn bucket!

Winnie the Pooh refillable and reusable popcorn bucket!

Popcorn pushcarts like the one above can be found at every corner of Disneyland! The design of the popcorn bucket (made with good quality and sturdy plastic) as well as the flavour of the popcorn vary, though. Boyfriend and I happened to find the one that sold Pooh buckets and, of course, honey-flavoured popcorn! 🐻 You can refill your bucket with popcorn of different flavours at any pushcart for a lower price 🙂

Joined the crowd to catch the parade!

Joined the crowd to catch the parade!

Managed to get the perfect shot of Mickey :)

Managed to get the perfect shot of Mickey 🙂

Donald and Daisy!

Donald and Daisy!

Cowgirl Jessie from Toy Story!

Cowgirl Jessie from Toy Story!

Jolly Pooh and Tigger!

Jolly Pooh and Tigger!

Screen capture from my video.. because boyfriend insisted that I took videos instead of still photographs for his favourite Pooh segment -_-

Screen capture from my video.. because boyfriend insisted that I took videos instead of still photographs for his favourite Pooh segment -_-

Due to our ill-preparedness for this trip, we didn’t go around to collect all the FASTPASS tickets like what most travel bloggers had done before we embarked on our exploration of the theme park. It was our biggest mistake because all the tickets ran out by the time we wanted to take the rides. We had to give the more popular rides a miss because the regular queues were insanely long and could take up to two hours. Not wanting to waste most of our day lining up, we went to attractions that could accommodate more visitors at once with shorter waiting time, like Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

Mickey's PhilharMagic

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a 4-D film attraction featuring 3-D effects, scents and water, as well as a number of Disney characters in a 12-minute-long show. Initially, I had my qualms going there because I had the uninformed impression that it would be another 3-D show designed to please young children. But boy, was I so wrong. I was immersed throughout the screening!

You can't see the visuals clearly without those 3-D glasses, but this part was on The Little Mermaid

You can’t see the visuals clearly without those 3-D glasses, but this part was on The Little Mermaid

The theatre is equipped with motion seats that will move in tandem with the movie action but there are also stationary seats for those do not want to watch the show with the vibration. During the show, small amounts of water would be squirted from the seat in front (I think) of every person to simulate the effect of rain or water splashing. Then, there would also be wind effect to mimic fog. I can’t recall what other 4-D effects there were but the whole experience was absolutely delightful. You won’t regret going there at all!

It was starting to get dark at 4 p.m...

It was starting to get dark at 4 p.m…

The Gadget's Go Coaster was one of the few rides we managed to take that day. No complaints - I LOVE roller coasters!

The Gadget’s Go Coaster was one of the few rides we managed to take that day. No complaints – I LOVE roller coasters!

We then caught the second daytime parade in the afternoon at a confined space next to the parade gate where the performance concluded. Although we arrived at the venue late, we were lucky enough to find a spot that was still fairly close to the performers, and so were able to snap some good shots! The characters that made an appearance during this parade were pretty much the same as those who did in the earlier one.. with the exception of Frozen’s Anna and Elsa.

Frozen's Elsa and Anna

Frozen’s Elsa and Anna

Our appetite became especially ravenous after walking around the entire day in the freezing temperature, so time to grab a bite!

Our appetite became especially ravenous after walking around the entire day in the freezing temperature, so time to grab a bite!

A cuppa hot tea to go with our pretzel!

A cuppa hot tea to go with our pretzel!

The long wait did not deter us from joining the queue for the Grand Circuit Gateway

The long wait did not deter us from joining the queue for the Grand Circuit Gateway

Like its Hong Kong counterpart (Autopia), the cars at the Grand Circuit Gateway operate along a guide rail and do not actually require any steering whenever they reach a turning point. The cars move when the gas pedal is being stepped on but will stall when another vehicle is detected in close proximity ahead of them to prevent collision.

Unfortunately, that would be our final time behind the wheels of the electric cars at Tokyo Disneyland because the Grand Circuit Gateway will be closed permanently in January next year to make way for newer attractions 😦

While waiting for the nighttime parade to begin, boyfriend went to buy dinner! Look at the Mickey-shaped egg yolk!

While waiting for the nighttime parade to begin, boyfriend went to buy dinner! Look at the Mickey-shaped egg yolk!

The curry don was disappointing. The curry sauce was decent and there were barely any meat in the dish. The dish above wasn't satisfying either. Since I wasn't the one who bought dinner, I'm not sure how much they cost. But knowing Disneyland, they definitely wouldn't be affordable. I expected better from Tokyo Disneyland

The curry don was disappointing. The curry sauce was decent and there were barely any meat in the dish. The dish above wasn’t satisfying either. Since I wasn’t the one who bought dinner, I’m not sure how much they cost. But knowing Disneyland, they definitely wouldn’t be affordable. I expected better from Tokyo Disneyland

Grateful to have hot tea to keep me warm *brrr*

Grateful to have hot tea to keep me warm *brrr*

The nighttime parade was, nevertheless, stunning with all the bright neon lights adorning the shimmering floats but I personally feel that it was not in any way more magnificent than the one I witnessed in Hong Kong. In fact, I thought the nighttime parade at Hong Kong Disneyland was more memorable. Sounds absurd, I know. Either my expectations were pegged too high or the novelty of it had worn off from me. I just didn’t feel the magic as much as others had claimed to experience.

Or perhaps, the weather was just too cold for me to bear (because, well, my outfit wasn’t thick enough to keep a barrier between the cold and my frail body) that I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the trip. All I wanted to do was to head back to the hotel and tuck myself beneath the comforter 😥

To spare you the agony of loading more pictures on your phone (trust me, it’s more or less the same as those I took in Hong Kong), I’m excluding the photographs (or rather, videos) I took at the nighttime parade from this travelogue.

Following the parade was a short light show and fireworks display at the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. We weren’t lucky enough to get the front spot as the viewing area was immensely crowded. There was a 15 minute (or more) interval between both shows which was strangely not mentioned on the park map, so we left after waiting meaninglessly for 10 minutes. We should have guessed when the crowd refused to budged. I spied the person behind us literally exclaiming in delight and promptly moving forward the moment we vacated our spot ¬_¬ Not long after we got out of the crowd, the fireworks finale began 🙄

Only at Tokyo Disneyland

Only at Tokyo Disneyland

Although bummed out that we missed the fireworks show, boyfriend was quick to realise that most of the rides would be less packed at that time. Hence, we took the golden opportunity to visit the nearest ride before we called it a day. True enough, the queue at Ride & Go Seek was relatively shorter.

The only picture I could take of this ride because photography is forbidden inside (I did take some shots secretly but they turned out blurry)

The only picture I could take of this ride because photography is forbidden inside (I did take some shots secretly but they turned out blurry)

Night view! Beautiful :) How I wish I could stay in one of those lighted houses permanently *lol*

Night view! Beautiful 🙂 How I wish I could stay in one of those lighted houses permanently *lol*

By the time we left Tokyo Disneyland, our belly had already digested the miserable dinner we had earlier on and we were deliberating if we should hunt for places to eat or have supper at Sushizanmai instead. In the end, we decided against both ideas as we didn’t want to dip further into our depleting funds and simply shared a bowl of instant noodles we bought from the convenience store near our hotel. The meal was complete with several kinds of warm soup we bought from vending machines along our journey to our hotel.  #goodenough

A vending machine with touchscreen! It doesn't just dispense drinks but hot canned soups as well

A vending machine with touchscreen! It doesn’t just dispense drinks but hot canned soups as well

We went around different vending machines to collect all the available soup flavours. I love the clam soup! It didn't taste preserved at all!

We went around different vending machines to collect all the available soup flavours. I love the clam soup! It didn’t taste preserved at all!

* * Day 3 * *

(Tokyo DisneySea)

There seemed to be no amount of alarm clocks that could unearth either one of us from our cocoon of blankets. Having gone through the same routine in Hong Kong, we knew it would be near-impossible to wake us up with a single annoying alarm tone, so we had set two the night before – one on my phone and the other on boyfriend’s. Still, the plan failed and it was not until noon that we finally crawled out of bed. The fatigue from the previous day’s event had certainly gotten the better of us. So much time had been wasted on grabbing that few more winks of sleep that we probably wouldn’t even have time to explore half of DisneySea.

But we couldn’t abort our plans because we had already paid for the tickets :/ So off we went with a mild feeling of dread because our legs were not ready for the long travel ahead of us to Maihama station. Mind you, it’s Japan we’re talking about.. which involves a lot of walking. Even transferring from one train line to another at a particular train station could take us up to 20 minutes of brisk walking. I’m always up for long-distance walks. Just.. not that day ∪_∪

Upon arrival at Maihama station which, by then had been all too familiar, we headed directly to the light rail station and waited for the train bound for Tokyo DisneySea.

Zero sense of urgency: Late but we were still able to fork out a little time for photo-taking :P

Zero sense of urgency: Late but we were still able to fork out a little time for photo-taking 😛

Train approaching!

Train approaching!

Comfy seats and Mickey-shaped windows

Comfy seats and Mickey-shaped windows

And we're here!

And we’re here!

This place has got that USS vibes..

This place has got that USS vibes..

Busy Mickey greeting his little fans at the entrance!

Busy Mickey greeting his little fans at the entrance!

..which reminds me, I didn’t get the chance to take any pictures with the mascots at Tokyo Disneyland (and DisneySea). How devastating 😦

It was here we heard a performance of some sort going on and were trying to trace the source of the sounds...

It was here we heard a performance of some sort going on and were trying to trace the source of the sounds…

But first, a wefie! (And check out my Mickey headgear - yay!)

But first, a wefie! (And check out my Mickey headgear – yay!)

Oh, so this was where the sounds were coming from! Look, it's Goofy and his entourage!

Oh, so this was where the sounds were coming from! Look, it’s Goofy and his entourage!

We stationed ourselves behind the existing crowd but were subsequently ushered to a corner by the wardens to allow for a wider walking area ¬_¬

*squeals* HELLO CHIP AND DALE!

*squeals* HELLO CHIP AND DALE!

But the view from our new spot was so poor, we could only see the side profile of the performers. We gave up and proceeded to have our lunch at Cafe Portofino, just in front of the park. It is a counter service buffeteria that offers Italian food options set in a spacious and warmly-decorated hall that instantly places you in the renaissance era.

Outside Cafe Portofino

Outside Cafe Portofino

Not sure about you but I find the interior truly breathtaking!

Not sure about you but I find the interior truly breathtaking!

Something's cookin'..

Something’s cookin’..

Standing in line to get our food..

Standing in line to get our food..

We added a Paradiso set (a bowl of soup and one soft drink) to one of our main dishes (“Piatti”) for an additional ¥570. The portion size was reasonable and was able to keep our hunger cues in check for quite a long time.

I can't remember what this was.. Maybe vegetable soup.

I can’t remember what this was.. Maybe vegetable soup.

Rotisserie Chicken (half portion), ¥1,420

Rotisserie Chicken (half portion), ¥1,420

The half-sized Rotisserie Chicken was roasted through but still retained adequate moisture to keep the meat succulent. The seasoning was fine but nothing to write home about. I felt that the plating of this dish could be done better. Don’t you think it’s too.. bare? I’m not demanding expensive sides. Perhaps, y’know, some fries or mashed potatoes would be able to fill those empty spaces around the chicken.

Linguine Pomodoro with Italian Meatballs, ¥1,260

Linguine Pomodoro with Italian Meatballs, ¥1,260

This was boyfriend’s main course which he gobbled down in a heartbeat. The decently cooked pasta was bathed in creamy marinara sauce and topped with limited number of meatballs. Boyfriend had no complaints about the taste but it was clearly too small a portion to satisfy his hunger.

It had started to drizzle when we exited the restaurant but it was light enough to continue exploring without any rain gear. Armed with a copy of the DisneySea map, we went from attraction to attraction only to find that many of them were either closed or had too long a queue. In addition, the next shows at theatres were hours away so we were left with no choice but to join whichever queue was available to us.

Mediterranean Harbour

Mediterranean Harbour

Venetian Gondolas

Venetian Gondolas

This place sells really appetising sandwiches!

This place sells really appetising sandwiches!

The crowd on a weekday

The crowd on a weekday

Feels like the streets of New York

Feels like the streets of New York

The Tower of Terror houses DisneySea's most exciting attraction - a thrilling, free fall-style ride. It looks scarier at night. As expected, the queue for this was LONG but even if it wasn't, boyfriend would still be too timid to take it. Hence, I was forced to give this a miss..

The Tower of Terror houses DisneySea’s most exciting attraction – a thrilling, free fall-style ride. It looks scarier at night. As expected, the queue for this was LONG but even if it wasn’t, boyfriend would still be too timid to take it. Hence, I was forced to give this a miss..

Restrooms adjacent to the Tower of Terror

Restrooms adjacent to the Tower of Terror

Just a few distance away lies Toy Story Mania! and a snaking queue meandering around barricades positioned outside the entrance. There was a signage indicating the estimated waiting time of two hours placed at the end of the queue. Still, we went ahead and join the line knowing that the wait would be equally long at other attractions. Now let me stress how important portable WiFi routers and a reliable mobile charger are especially in times like this because time crawls at a sloth’s pace without them :\

I don't know about you but entering the attraction through Woody's mouth seems a little horror-esque..

I don’t know about you but entering the attraction through Woody’s mouth seems a little horror-esque..

The tram led us to a 3-D shooting gallery where we toss eggs, pop balloons, throw rings and play other games

The tram led us to a 3-D shooting gallery where we toss eggs, pop balloons, throw rings and play other games

Our shooting device!

Our shooting device!

My score on the left and boyfriend's on the right. I lost. I'm just not good at games :<

My score on the left and boyfriend’s on the right. I lost. I’m just not good at games :<

More games at the Carnival Corral (within the Toy Story Mania!) which didn't have any queue..

More games at the Carnival Corral (within the Toy Story Mania!) which didn’t have any queue..

We couldn't help but feel hungry after spending most of the afternoon touring a large area of DisneySea and queuing hours for a ride that lasted less than 10 minutes.. So we treated ourselves to a good ol' hot dog bun! I liked how the condiments came packed in fold-and-squeeze wrappers so we didn't have to dirty our hands!

We couldn’t help but feel hungry after spending most of the afternoon touring a large area of DisneySea and queuing hours for a ride that lasted less than 10 minutes.. So we treated ourselves to a good ol’ hot dog bun! I liked how the condiments came packed in fold-and-squeeze wrappers so we didn’t have to dirty our hands!

Soon, it was time for the nighttime water show at the Mediterranean Harbour. In order to get a good view, we arrived at the venue about half an hour before but was surprised to find almost all spots taken up by then. Sadly, it wasn’t the best day to be outdoors as well because the rain had been in drizzles on and off throughout the day, wetting the ground. But the Japanese seemed to be well-prepared for that (or perhaps because cleanliness is imbibed in their culture) as we noticed literally everyone around us seated on mats.

The only weirdos seated on the ground without a mat

The only weirdos seated on the ground without a mat

The huge water screens transformed into a gigantic Christmas tree during the performance

The huge water screens transformed into a gigantic Christmas tree during the performance

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

The rain persisted throughout the show and finally transitioned into heavy downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning when it ended. Everyone instantly sought shelter in the Emporio store nearby. Not long after, an announcement came on that the fireworks display would be cancelled due to the bad weather 😐 Ah, bummer…

We remained in Emporio until the rain lightened. Since there was still more than an hour to closing time (Tokyo Disneyland closes a lot later than Hong Kong’s), we went deeper into the theme park to find Mysterious Island and Mermaid Lagoon. Perhaps due to the late hour (coupled with the wet weather), we did not have to queue for any of the attractions we set foot in.

Along the path leading to the Mysterious Island

Along the path leading to the Mysterious Island

The iconic Mount Prometheus in the background

The iconic Mount Prometheus in the background

One of the more conspicuous attractions at Mysterious Island - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is the main entrance to a downward spiral to the ride

One of the more conspicuous attractions at Mysterious Island – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is the main entrance to a downward spiral to the ride

As we walked down the slope, I spotted this weird-looking structure..

As we walked down the slope, I spotted this weird-looking structure..

Water filled the bottom of the attraction because we were about to take a "submarine ride"!

Water filled the bottom of the attraction because we were about to take a “submarine ride”!

Boyfriend insisted on wearing that Pooh tag around his neck... I guess it's true that Disneyland brings out the kid in all of us

Boyfriend insisted on wearing that Pooh tag around his neck… I guess it’s true that Disneyland brings out the kid in all of us

The attraction is based on a spin-off from a novel of the same name by Jules Verne and does not actually move underwater. Suspended from an overhead track (the yellow structure depicted above), the submarine is equipped with “double pane glass dome windows that contain water and bubbles to create the illusion of … diving deep into the ocean”. It’s a very simple dark ride where you have to occasionally flash the torch light to see things. I don’t remember having to complete any mission so it wasn’t as fun and interactive as I thought it would be.

Each side of the submarine, if my memory doesn’t fail me, can accommodate up to 6 people so boyfriend and I had to share a cabin with other visitors. Some may find the inside of the cabin sweltering with no air-conditioning but it felt like a warm haven, a quick refuge from the cold to me 😆 I tried taking some shots in the cabin but the shutter speed of my camera was too slow to capture the fast-moving objects.

With under an hour remaining before the shutters came down, we headed towards the wholly-sheltered Mermaid Lagoon to ride whatever was available. We were able to take most, if not all, of the rides because they were largely vacant. Lucky us!

Spotted King Triton on his sleigh drawn by.. dolphins?

Spotted King Triton on his sleigh drawn by.. dolphins?

The inside of a whale is a gift shop! Look how the ceiling is designed to resemble the roof of the mouth - so cool!

The inside of a whale is a gift shop! Look how the ceiling is designed to resemble the roof of the mouth – so cool!

Blowfish Balloon Race

Blowfish Balloon Race

It's some sort of a carousel, I guess.. The merry-go-round effect made me rather queasy after that lol

It’s some sort of a carousel, I guess.. The merry-go-round effect made me rather queasy after that lol

Mermaid Lagoon Theatre! We were just in time for the final show of the day

Mermaid Lagoon Theatre! We were just in time for the final show of the day

Inside the theatre before the live performance began.. It was a truly captivating one with lots of acrobatic elements. Photography is forbidden in the theatre

Inside the theatre before the live performance began.. It was a truly captivating one with lots of acrobatic elements. Photography is forbidden in the theatre

Jellyfish everywhere!

Jellyfish everywhere!

Took another ride - the Jumpin' Jellyfish! The rides in this area are mostly kids-friendly and family-oriented, lacking the thrill factor as you can tell

Took another ride – the Jumpin’ Jellyfish! The rides in this area are mostly kids-friendly and family-oriented, lacking the thrill factor as you can tell

Ariel's Playground

Ariel’s Playground

Can't remember where the stairs lead to..

Can’t remember where the stairs lead to..

Triton's Kingdom

Triton’s Kingdom

Thereafter, the closing announcement came on and throngs of visitors including boyfriend and me proceeded to take the light rail back to Maihama station. The platform was so crowded that we barely made it to the first train that arrived. Thankfully, the journey home was comfortably seamless and we managed to take the weight off our feet and catch forty winks! Looking back, we were really daring to have slept on a train in a foreign land..

* * Day 4 * *

(Tsukiji Fish Market, 海鮮丼 大江户 Kaisen-don Ōedo Restaurant, Pokémon Center)

Sadly, our shallow pockets meant that we could only afford to tour a city with a high standard of living for a maximum of four full days. As this trip drew to a close, reality started to bite again. On the one hand I dreaded getting back to the grind of my Final Year Project but on the other hand I was psyched about the final full day because the highlights of the trip were left to this day. For the first time during the trip, I was already up and about at 8.30 a.m. JST (that’s 7.30 a.m. SGT), all set for the first destination of the day – Tsukiji Fish Market!

But first, let me parade my haul from a vending machine along a train station platform ^_^

But first, let me parade my haul from a vending machine along a train station platform ^_^

Any travel guides would recommend viewing of the tuna auctions as it is a must-do in Tsukiji Fish Market. Auctions begin at 5.25 a.m. JST and only a maximum of 120 visitors are allowed to view per day. We had initially planned to see the auctions but were not disciplined enough to wake up at an unearthly hour for it. Moreover, since public transport only starts at 5 a.m., we would need to hire a cab to get there. Mind you, Tokyo holds the title of having the most expensive cab fares in the world and we’re obviously too broke for that by the second last day of our vacation. Our journey would probably rack up hundreds of dollars in cab fare because Tsukiji Fish Market is quite a distance from our hotel. We didn’t want to risk being denied entry into the market due to reaching capacity after having gone through so much trouble either!

Our train ride to to Tsukiji Shijo station lasted about an hour. We read from some travel blogs that the station is just directly below the market but somehow or other we got lost and had to walk a bit.

En route to Tsukiji Fish Market

En route to Tsukiji Fish Market

It was reported in that Tsukiji Fish Market would be relocated to a much bigger and newer site at Toyosu, Koto but the move has since been delayed over cost and health concerns.

In a high-tech country like Japan, deliveries from aisles to aisles in wet markets are done on motorised carts

In a high-tech country like Japan, deliveries from aisles to aisles in wet markets are done on motorised carts

Dried goods for sale

Dried goods for sale

A corridor of eateries!

A corridor of eateries!

The sashimi restaurants inside and outside Tsukiji Fish Market are undoubtedly your best bet when it comes to quality and fresh seafood since all the sashimi are delivered fresh from a stone’s throw away. Every alley is lined with such small and cramped restaurants which draw throngs of hungry people from all over the world and the queues may even stretch for hours. Boyfriend and I were seriously spoilt for choice so we chose the one that had one of the longest queues (typical Singaporean behaviour) as well as enticing menu display. Orders are taken in advance so that they can be served promptly the moment customers take their seats in the restaurant.

The lunchtime crowd!

The lunchtime crowd!

Sashimi restaurants had the longest queues..

Sashimi restaurants had the longest queues..

海鮮丼 大江户 Kaisen-don Ōedo Restaurant - our choice of restaurant

海鮮丼 大江户 Kaisen-don Ōedo Restaurant – our choice of restaurant

It was a challenge to move into the inner seats and we barely had space for our bulky backpacks

It was a challenge to move into the inner seats and we barely had space for our bulky backpacks

Once seated, we were served a bowl (?) of hot green tea, pickles and miso soup (not pictured)

Once seated, we were served a bowl (?) of hot green tea, pickles and miso soup (not pictured)

One of the many sashimi platters on the menu (¥2700)

One of the many sashimi platters on the menu (¥2700)

P don served with my favourite uni (sea urchin) (¥2400). Boyfriend and I ordered the same dish!

P don served with my favourite uni (sea urchin) (¥2400). Boyfriend and I ordered the same dish!

Never underestimate the tiny restaurants at Tsukiji Fish Market (or any eatery in Japan, as a matter of fact). They may seem small but their prices are comparable to that  of notable Japanese restaurants in Singapore. The total damage from our sashimi feast  (just those few dishes pictured above) reached close to a whopping S$100 which had well exceeded our budget for this meal. But it was money well-spent. The food was truly remarkable – those firm, thick slices of sashimi were laced with fatty marble and had a slight briny tang. And I had never felt so satisfied eating that huge slab of uni!

I can’t remember if the restaurant accepts credit cards so do bring enough cash along before heading to Tsukiji Fish Market for your breakfast or lunch.

海鮮丼 大江户 Kaisen-don Ōedo Restaurant
5-2-1 Tsukiji
8-Go, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture
Operating hours: 4.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.
Website: http://www.tsukiji-ooedo.com/

After our lunch, we tried to find our way back to the JR station and chanced upon shops like these along the way. You'd be surprised (or maybe not) to hear some of these salespeople conversing to tourists in Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese etc.) because many of them actually come from China!

After our lunch, we tried to find our way back to the JR station and chanced upon shops like these along the way. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) to hear some of these salespeople conversing to tourists in Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese etc.) because many of them actually come from China!

More dried snacks.. not very cheap, eh?

More dried snacks.. not very cheap, eh?

We finally saw fish for sale at the fame fish market :B

We finally saw fish for sale at the fame fish market :B

Some tamago-looking food... To this day, I still have no idea what this is X)

Some tamago-looking food… To this day, I still have no idea what this is X)

Finger foods like this were aplenty near Tsukiji Fish Market. I don't know what this whole street of makeshift street food stalls is called but it seems to be quite a touristy place. (note: after some Googling, I conclude that this could be Tsukiji Nippon Fish Port Market)

Finger foods like this were aplenty near Tsukiji Fish Market. I don’t know what this whole street of makeshift street food stalls is called but it seems to be quite a touristy place. (note: after some Googling, I conclude that this could be Tsukiji Nippon Fish Port Market)

Damn, these BBQ food looked really good! But I was urged by boyfriend to control my spending :'( Ok bye.. I will come back to you next time!

Damn, these BBQ food looked really good! But I was urged by boyfriend to control my spending 😥 Ok bye.. I will come back to you next time!

With the help of our life-saving Google Maps app, we managed to locate the nearest JR station from where we were wandering along and take the next train down to Ikebukuro station! 😀 *prances around*

Alright, I’m going to be honest here. The main crux of this trip wasn’t the amusement parks nor the shopping malls but the Pokémon Center (although the abundance supply of fresh sashimi we could eat was also another major deciding factor for boyfriend). As a diehard Pokémon fanatic since my childhood days (yes, for the uninformed, Pokémon has been around since the late 90’s and not only recently with the launch of PokémonGO), it has been my absolute dream to visit the specialist store because I’ve been wanting to start my own collection of (preferably official) Pokémon merchandise.

Knowing that I would wipe out the Yen we had and possibly max out my credit card there (which did happen eventually), boyfriend wittingly pushed the Pokémon Centre back to the last day on our impromptu itinerary so that we didn’t have to starve on our final days in Japan 😆

Display taken at Ikebukuro station which misled us into thinking that Sunshine City (where Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo store is) was just nearby. We didn't expect to a 25-minute walk to get there -_-

Display taken at Ikebukuro station which misled us into thinking that Sunshine City (where Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo store is) was just nearby. We didn’t expect to a 25-minute walk to get there -_-

A barricaded smoking corner! Can Singapore please adopt something similar so that all the second-hand smoke can be confined within the area?

A barricaded smoking corner! Can Singapore please adopt something similar so that all the second-hand smoke can be confined within the area?

We're here! All the lethargy from commuting and walking the entire day instantly dissipated when I saw the huge Pokémon sign greeting me!

We’re here! All the lethargy from commuting and walking the entire day instantly dissipated when I saw the huge Pokémon sign greeting me!

CHO KEWT!

CHO KEWT!

To prep our wallet for this day, we watched videos taken at the Pokémon Centre on YouTube to know what items were stocked up in that season. Using the videos as a guide, we came up with a shopping list but was dismayed to learn that what we wanted were already sold out and replaced with some other designs 😥 So, lesson learnt: don’t rely too much on YouTube videos for the latest products at the Pokémon Centre because almost everything sold is seasonal. When we were there, we witnessed how crazily fast the stocks come and go. It’s not unusual to see shelves once filled with stuff become empty and replenished again. The staff are that efficient!

I wanted to sweep everything off the shelves but my luggage only had this much space! :(

I wanted to sweep everything off the shelves but my luggage only had this much space! 😦

Towels, shower caps, T-shirts and other wearables!

Towels, shower caps, T-shirts and other wearables!

Stationery. This drives me NUTS

Stationery. This drives me NUTS

Snacks that come in adorable packaging! Bought a few mainly because of the (metal) boxes..

Snacks that come in adorable packaging! Bought a few mainly because of the (metal) boxes..

Pikachu plushies and keychains

Pikachu plushies and keychains

Look at the topmost shelf! Almost empty!

Look at the topmost shelf! Almost empty!

Pokémon toy vending machine! Look what I got :D

Pokémon toy vending machine! Look what I got 😀

3DS casings and covers!

3DS casings and covers!

MORE snacks! Do take note of their short shelf life too!

MORE snacks! Do take note of their short shelf life too!

Our haul! We had more bags after this picture because we went back in to shop again... Total damage came up to about S$300 u__u Thank God it was already our final day in Japan LOL

Our haul! We had more bags after this picture because we went back in to shop again… Total damage came up to about S$300 u__u Thank God it was already our final day in Japan LOL

Unless you aren’t a Pokémon fan, you must be prepared to spend a least S$100 at the Pokémon Centre (credit cards are accepted) because the product selection there is massive. We deliberately emptied our backpack prior to heading out of our hotel that morning because we knew we were going to buy a lot of things at the Pokémon Centre. Still, we had to lug a few bags of our purchases back to our hotel because there wasn’t enough space in our backpack! 😳

Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo
3-1-2 Higashiikebukuro
2F Sunshine City Special Shops Alba, Toshima 170-6002, Tokyo Prefecture
Operating hours: 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.
Nearest JR station: Ikebukuro

On our way back to the JR station, we stopped by a huge arcade with many toy catcher machines. Boyfriend tried his luck at one and successfully got a mid-sized Gudetama after several tries lol

On our way back to the JR station, we stopped by a huge arcade with many toy catcher machines. Boyfriend tried his luck at one and successfully got a mid-sized Gudetama after several tries lol

This is the actual size! It's bigger than my head o_O

This is the actual size! It’s bigger than my head o_O

We spotted this and were enticed by the fragrance of the takoyaki~ We were cash strapped after all the shopping and had to trade money at a nearby money changer to buy dinner :/

We spotted this and were enticed by the fragrance of the takoyaki~ We were cash strapped after all the shopping and had to trade money at a nearby money changer to buy dinner :/

YUMZ. Actually, nothing quite different from the takoyaki we had at the ION Orchard (already closed, by the way) but the experience of having a Japanese snack in Japan felt more authentic...?

YUMZ. Actually, nothing quite different from the takoyaki we had at the ION Orchard (already closed, by the way) but the experience of having a Japanese snack in Japan felt more authentic…?

Trying to explore other parts of Tokyo with so many shopping bags in tow can be a real pain in the arse (besides, we were already penniless and the value in our PASMO card wouldn’t be able to take us anywhere farther..) so we returned to our hotel to pack our baggage and have an early rest.

* * Day 5 * *

(Departure)

With a heavy heart, it was time to bid Tokyo goodbye. Our evening flight meant that we could sleep in and have plenty of time to do a final round of shopping at the airport (and not forgetting our final visit to Sushizanmai for lunch. God, we miss that place) after returning our Wi-Fi router. We used our two-way NEX ticket to bring us back to Narita Airport. It was a smooth ride and we slept throughout the journey.

I love Narita Airport and this is one reason why

I love Narita Airport and this is one reason why

Just when I thought I could leave Tokyo without having to dig deep into my pockets again on my final day, lo and behold, another Pokémon store in the airport! ARGHHHHH STOP TAKING MY MONEY!

Just when I thought I could leave Tokyo without having to dig deep into my pockets again on my final day, lo and behold, another Pokémon store in the airport! ARGHHHHH STOP TAKING MY MONEY!

Of course, what other attire can Pikachu be donning in the airport?!

Of course, what other attire can Pikachu be donning in the airport?!

If I ever strike it rich one day, I'm going to start collecting Pikachu plushies and have a room in my house just to display my collection!

If I ever strike it rich one day, I’m going to start collecting Pikachu plushies and have a room in my house just to display my collection!

Snacks and cup noodles... ~_~ I can't take this anymore..

Snacks and cup noodles… ~_~ I can’t take this anymore..

Found this (the authentic ones) at S.E.A. Aquarium, Sentosa outside the Pokémon Research Exhibition so it's not so exclusive to Japan. For people who can't afford it (or don't see the need to buy the authentic ones), you can find the replica at shops that rent out lockers to merchants to sell products

Found this (the authentic ones) at S.E.A. Aquarium, Sentosa outside the Pokémon Research Exhibition so it’s not so exclusive to Japan. For people who can’t afford it (or don’t see the need to buy the authentic ones), you can find the replica at shops that rent out lockers to merchants to sell products

DS cartridge holder and 3DS covers! Boyfriend bought the Pikachu cartridge holder on the bottom left

DS cartridge holder and 3DS covers! Boyfriend bought the Pikachu cartridge holder on the bottom left

I miraculously managed to refrain myself from spending a single cent at this Pokémon store mainly because I didn’t have any to spare LOL. A life-sized Pikachu mascot would also make an appearance on certain days. Sadly, we missed it 😥

Pokémon Store Narita Airport
Narita International Airport
Narita, Chiba 282-0004. Terminal 2 Main Bldg. 4th Floor
Operating hours: 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.

We had always wanted to try McDonald's at every country we visit so we decided to have our early dinner here!

We had always wanted to try McDonald’s at every country we visit so we decided to have our early dinner here!

Menu looks very similar to what we have back at home..

Menu looks very similar to what we have back at home..

..except for the Ebi Filet-O burger which has been highly raved online! Gotta try it to believe how good it is!

..except for the Ebi Filet-O burger which has been highly raved online! Gotta try it to believe how good it is!

My final verdict: It's not too bad! The kitchen probably prepared it in a haste to serve the crowd so I didn't feel it was exceptionally better than the Ebi burger in Singapore

My final verdict: It’s not too bad! The kitchen probably prepared it in a haste to serve the crowd so I didn’t feel it was exceptionally better than the Ebi burger in Singapore

When at Narita Airport, one must never forgo the souvenirs and leave the shops empty-handed. As broke as we were, we could still squeeze out a few thousands of Yen on credit. I’m not kidding when I say that it was our poorest time of our lives together..

Royce chocolates

Royce chocolates

A not-so-popular choice among the tourists (no doubt the shape is cute though) but I guess if the Japanese made it, it must be nice as well!

A not-so-popular choice among the tourists (no doubt the shape is cute though) but I guess if the Japanese made it, it must be nice as well!

Airport-exclusive KitKats! The matcha-flavoured one is pretty common and can already be bought at my local supermarkets but not for other flavours like strawberry, sakura, etc. WAAAAH SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

Airport-exclusive KitKats! The matcha-flavoured one is pretty common and can already be bought at my local supermarkets but not for other flavours like strawberry, sakura, etc. WAAAAH SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

And THIS is what I have been searching high and low for in Tokyo. I tried finding it at Harajuku and other touristy places but to no avail! It seems to be exclusively sold inside the departure hall only!

And THIS is what I have been searching high and low for in Tokyo. I tried finding it at Harajuku and other touristy places but to no avail! It seems to be exclusively sold inside the departure hall only!

Another popular Japanese snack which expires as fast as a loaf of bread is the Tokyo Banana! Boyfriend bought a few boxes for himself because he LOVES Tokyo Bananas!

Another popular Japanese snack which expires as fast as a loaf of bread is the Tokyo Banana! Boyfriend bought a few boxes for himself because he LOVES Tokyo Bananas!

Interesting toilet design! The black figures on the wall are moving shadows, not of the actual toilet users, of course!

Interesting toilet design! The black figures on the wall are moving shadows, not of the actual toilet users, of course!

Look how SPARKLING clean the toilet is! I wonder how much effort is put in on a regular basis to keep the toilets this white! Even the walls of brand new HDB flats are not as white as this okay lol

Look how SPARKLING clean the toilet is! I wonder how much effort is put in on a regular basis to keep the toilets this white! Even the walls of brand new HDB flats are not as white as this okay lol

A personal sink and hand dryer for introverts like moi? Truly appreciate that thought, Japan!

A personal sink and hand dryer for introverts like moi? Truly appreciate that thought, Japan!

Our meal onboard our Don Muang Airport-bound AirAsia flight! I can't remember what the exact name of this chicken rice is is called but it wasn't disappointing :)

Our meal onboard our Don Muang Airport-bound AirAsia flight! I can’t remember what the exact name of this chicken rice is is called but it wasn’t disappointing 🙂

We landed at Don Muang Airport at Bangkok past midnight on a Sunday with about five hours to go before our next boarding time. It was our longest and most miserable five hours yet because most shops in that dimly-lit dilapidated airport were closed at that time (no offence, Thai readers, but I would stick to landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport next time) and getting free Wi-Fi access (without having to register myself with the service provider over and over again after 30 minutes or so – no thanks) is more impossible than getting connected in the busiest Capitaland mall on a freakin’ public holiday. It truly felt like a budget terminal but yeah, I know I can’t complain because I chose to fly budget, yadda yadda.

That’s it, another lesson learnt. No more transfers at Don Muang Airport ever again! :\

And now, I shall unveil the colossal amount of purchases I made over my 5-day stay in Tokyo. Brace yourself, especially if you’re a Pokémon fanatic.

Japanese snacks from Narita Airport! ALL ARE SUPER NICE. I will buy an air ticket to Narita Airport just to buy more of these!

Japanese snacks from Narita Airport! ALL ARE SUPER NICE. I will buy an air ticket to Narita Airport just to buy more of these!

From Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea!

From Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea!

Snacks from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo!

Snacks from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo!

Universal handphone flip cover with slots for cards (left) and porcelain plate from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo! Pikachu socks from one of the shops at Harajuku

Universal handphone flip cover with slots for cards (left) and porcelain plate from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo! Pikachu socks from one of the shops at Harajuku

We didn't have money to collect plushies but we were able to afford plastic folders and files! So we went around collecting different designs at Harajuku and Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo! :P

We didn’t have money to collect plushies but we were able to afford plastic folders and files! So we went around collecting different designs at Harajuku and Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo! 😛

Nanoblocks (waaaay cheaper in Japan!), pouch, stickers, sticky tape roll - all from Harajuku!

Nanoblocks (waaaay cheaper in Japan!), pouch, stickers, sticky tape roll – all from Harajuku!

Sleeping Pikachu plushie (now my bed companion) and Pikachu backpacks from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo

Sleeping Pikachu plushie (now my bed companion) and Pikachu backpacks from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo

Pikachu headgear, notebooks, cartridge holder, card holder, Pikachu T-shirt, miniature Mew plushie (which ran out of stock really fast!) and more sticky tape rolls from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo!

Pikachu headgear, notebooks, cartridge holder, card holder, Pikachu T-shirt, miniature Mew plushie (which ran out of stock really fast!) and more sticky tape rolls from Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo!

And that’s about it! I sincerely apologise for the long interval between the previous and this part of the travelogue (if anybody was waiting for it at all) because I’ve since entered the workforce and I’m usually too tired to blog when I get home. You won’t believe how many MONTHS I took to complete this final instalment because I kept dozing off at my desk 😄 But blogging helps me to remember key events which I would otherwise forget so I know I had to do it. My terribly poor memory is why I tend to be really detailed in my writing. Sometimes my brows would furrow in anxiety and my jaws drop in disbelief when I reread my archives because I don’t remember what I wrote 😄

But despite the sky-high cost of living in Japan, we appreciate how much importance is placed in the freshness of their food.. and we miss their delicacies (*cough*fresh sashimi*cough*). The Japanese are very friendly and helpful – no doubt about that! We had met security officers who wouldn’t hesitate to temporarily leave their post just to bring us to the nearest washroom because we couldn’t understand a word of Japanese they were saying. Tokyo is definitely worth another visit but I’ll be sure to go back in my thickest winter coat next time with more than sufficient cash 😆 !

Thanks for reading, everyone! 🙂

Read also
Tokyo, the Land of the Rising Sun (PART 1)

Tokyo, the Land of the Rising Sun (PART 1)

Hello everyone!

It is an annual affair for boyfriend and I to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and jet off for a year-end vacation. But unlike previous years where we would remain in our comfort zone and opt for a destination that speaks a language we are familiar with, we dauntlessly planned a free-and-easy trip last December to a country which mainly converses in a language we are absolutely stranger to. I was determined to overcome all the odds, though (even tried to pick up basic Japanese), because I had been dying to bask myself in the glory of authentic Japanese food and Pokémon in their country of origin 😆

Source: Dan Price (FreeImages.com)

Tokyo (source)

We booked our flight and accommodation for four nights (starting from 15 December) via Expedia a month prior (we’re spontaneous like that) which amounted to a cost of S$1762 for both of us. Considering that we made our travel plans very close to the peak period, we obviously didn’t clinch the best deal. In fact, I felt it was extremely pricey for a budget carrier (Thai AirAsia X) with a 5-hour stopover at Don Mueang Airport on return (as we couldn’t afford the direct flights listed.. or so we thought) and a hotel accommodation without breakfast. To top it off, we had to fork out an additional S$264 for our luggage because AirAsia does not provide any free baggage allowance. The staggering amount was also due to the change in flight during the stopover on both departure and return, so we had to pay TWICE the usual baggage cost. Admittedly, it was our fault for not doing proper research before we went ahead with the booking but still… I think what we paid for was equivalent to the price of the direct flight tickets ARGHHHH!!

In-flight meal: Spicy Fried Chicken with Rice and Traditional Thai-Style Omelette (THB180)

In-flight meal: Spicy Fried Chicken with Rice and Traditional Thai-Style Omelette (THB180)

We boarded the plane with a virtually-empty stomach because of my tardiness (I had an advertorial due on that day and had only managed to pack my luggage an hour before I left the house) so we satisfied our hunger with some Economy Class airline meals. As unappetising as the picture above may seem, the dish was actually very tasty and fragrant. The chilli hot basil sauce that doused the fried rice had the right amount of heat. I was literally savouring every spoonful of this flavoursome dish.

What a view!

What a view!

Being amateur travellers without Japanese in our linguistic repertoire, we had our qualms about getting around Tokyo independently. But our worries were unfounded as soon as we landed at Narita Airport. From the moment we touched down to the time we arrived at our hotel, there were English signage guiding clueless tourists like us.

Narita Airport

Narita Airport

* * Day 1 * *

(WiFi router rental, Shinjuku Granbell Hotel, Sushizanmai, Harajuku, Shibuya Crossing & CoCo Ichibanya)

Getting our WiFi router from a telecom booths at Narita Airport

Getting our WiFi router from a telecom booths at Narita Airport Level 1

Everything went well until we tried communicating with the locals, that is. Before we left the airport, we combed the first storey for a telecom booth that we could purchase a prepaid SIM card from because we would need internet to use Google Maps on the go. We eventually rented a 3G WiFi router at ¥1,000/day (converts to approximately S$12+, slightly cheaper to rent from Changi Recommends which charges S$12/day) from the first booth we spotted (didn’t bother going around comparing prices) because there was a daily mobile data limit for SIM cards which I remember was definitely not enough for one full day of touring. The price of a SIM card was also comparable to that of renting a WiFi router so it made more sense getting the latter. Plus, up to four devices could be connected to the router at the same time too! Yay to live Instagram updates!

The WiFi router we rented

The WiFi router we rented

Rental of the router is chargeable from the pick-up day to the return day, regardless of whether it will be in use. According to the information leaflet we saw at the booth, the maximum download speed of the WiFi router is 40 Mbps but may slow down in trains (especially Shinkansen, or bullet trains, and subways), near mountains, seasides, basement floors on and near high buildings (higher than 15 storeys) so it is advisable that you share your itinerary with the staff before committing to the rental. Insurance (in case of loss or damage of item) is also available at ¥300 per day. You would need to produce your credit card for them to do a “temporary” charge to it as a form of deposit.. just in case you fail to turn in the router.

There were a few staff manning the booth and we were served by one who couldn’t really speak and understand English (but he was nice and I could see that he was trying very hard). Boyfriend had to rely on Google Translate (all hail the mighty Google) to get our message across. We wanted to know their operating hours as we were afraid that they would be closed by the time we reached the airport for our departure flight. If I remember correctly, they open at 8am and close at either 6 or 7pm (Japan time). I’m not sure about the telecom booths on other levels but if you’re going to arrive in or depart from Narita Airport at ungodly hours, then you should play safe and rent a router from Changi Airport instead.

Following that, we took the elevator down to the basement floor to purchase our Narita Express (NEX) pass to Shinjuku station (map here, line coloured red). There was a long queue at the ticket office and we had to wait for close to 45 minutes for our turn. The same pass could also be used for travelling back to the airport via NEX on our day of departure.

Waiting for our NEX train to Shinjuku station

Waiting for our NEX train to Shinjuku station

The time of arrival for the next NEX train clearly depicted on the electronic scroll board and trust me, the trains come on the dot

The time of arrival for the next NEX train clearly depicted on the electronic scroll board and trust me, the trains come on the dot

The platform serves different train services such as the JR (Japan Rail) and Keisei Electric Railway so it is important to pay attention to the announcements on the electronic scroll board as well as through the PA system to know if you should board the incoming train. You don’t want to get lost in a foreign country!

Inside one of the NEX train cabins

Inside one of the NEX train cabins

Upon boarding the train, we went to look for the seat number indicated on our passes, though we could technically occupy any one we saw since the train was quite empty. There is a storage space for the baggage at every cabin but you have to be quick to get the lowest compartment (the most convenient one which doesn’t require you to lift your heavy luggage). Once we fixed the position of our luggage, we secured them with the provided combination lock. With plenty of legroom and a comfortable reclining seat in a tranquil environment, I was kinda worried I would fall into deep slumber and miss our stop LOL.

All in all, the journey took about 1.5 hours. Reminders would be made a few minutes before the train pulls into the station to allow you to have ample time to collect your luggage. And the moment we alighted, I could immediately feel the chill (and omg I hate winter) 😐 We were supposed to take a 15-minute walk from Shinjuku station to get to our hotel but clearly that wasn’t possible in this cold weather. So we hailed a cab! This was despite having warned about the exorbitant cab fares (even for short distances) in Tokyo. True enough, it was expensive for we paid about S$15 for a 10-minute ride.

Never been so excited to ride a taxi!

Never been so excited to ride a taxi!

The first thing we noticed upon entering the cab was this plastic partition that separated the driver from the passengers, perhaps for safety or hygiene reasons? We had to show the driver the address of our hotel on our phone and pass the cab fare through the rectangular gap on the plastic panel. Honestly, it felt kinda.. weird. Haha.

Shinjuku Grandbell Hotel

Shinjuku Grandbell Hotel

Partially covered with foliage, the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel is inconspicuously located at the back of an alley, away from the main road. It seemed like a housing estate to me at first glance as the hotel signage wasn’t even noticeable (why the grey on grey though). Still, I loved the serene surrounding and how it was near to convenient shops and popular restaurants.

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It was 20 minutes past ten when we arrived at the hotel and all we wanted to do was dump our luggage aside and sink into the bed, re-energise ourselves before we hit the streets. But the concierge wouldn’t accommodate to our early check-in request (stipulated check-in time is 3pm) unless we paid ¥7500 (S$91.. that’s ninety-friggin’-one Singapore dollars), like, whaddaheck?! It wasn’t like it would affect their housekeeping activities because the room was clearly ready for occupancy. I was raging inside and annoyed (which spoiled my morning) by that ridiculous policy but both of us didn’t want to waste time loitering around the area with our bulky luggage (or worrying about our luggage at the lobby) so we relented! Looking back now, we shouldn’t have because ARGH it’s S$91 goddammit!!! Imagine the things I could do with S$91!!

*sigh* The hotel 无缘无故 (without any reason) earn ¥7500 from us. This, I cannot swallow! :angry:

Bought this from one of the vending machines at the lobby

Bought this from one of the vending machines at the lobby

The Japanese looooove their vending machines. Look, they even dedicated a room for one at the hotel HAHA

The Japanese looooove their vending machines. Look, they even dedicated a room for one at the hotel HAHA

Our room number

Our room number

Economy Double room

Economy Double room

The room overlooked the alley leading to the main street and was illuminated by the morning light that shone through the window. I’ve come to appreciate hotel rooms with unobstructed window view because it seems like a privilege these days only offered at deluxe rooms, so this was definitely a plus point.

It was also equipped with the necessities like a bar fridge, hairdryer, kettle, coffeemaker and a TV. Speaking of which, the hotel very kindly *cough* treated us to the preview of selected premium television channels (HBO and the like) for a day. After which, we would need to PAY to access them if we don’t want to watch the free channels (the only English channel with clear reception was CNN I think – pathetic and unacceptable).

NANJA KORYA?! (WHAT THE HELL?!)

Is it a common practice among Japanese hotels to charge (unreasonably even, in my book) for every nitty-gritty thing? Money seemed to be king in this hotel and I absolutely hate it -_-

Also, just a word of caution if you’re intending to book the cheapest room at Shinjuku Grandbell Hotel: the Economy room is as small as the typical cage apartment you see in Hong Kong. After assembling our luggage on the floor, there was practically no space for walking around the bed. If you’re claustrophobic, please do yourself a favour and upgrade to a bigger room.

The toilet was the best part of the room

The toilet was the best part of the room

The toilet bowl control panel!

The toilet bowl control panel!

The highlight of the bathroom was, of course, the smart toilet bowl which releases jet of water to cleanse your private area after you’re done with your business. I used to think that it would create more mess but the water pressure (adjustable to your preference) was actually strong enough to remove any fecal residue and what’s more, there’s even a function to blow-dry so you don’t wet your underwear after! On top of that, the position of the nozzle can be adjusted to aim the water at the right spot. My favourite function of all, however, has got to be its ability to warm the toilet seat before you sit on it because cold toilet seats are my mortal enemy especially during winter. So thank you, Japan, for this brilliant invention!

Now, where can I get this smart toilet bowl in Singapore?

Fog-proof mirror

Fog-proof mirror

Another discovery we made (I sound like a suaku) in the bathroom was the steam-proof shower mirror! It does not fog up because that particular area is heated and it saved me the trouble of wiping my mirror every time after bath. This is such a great toilet accessory to have so why aren’t other hotels following suit?!

Shinjuku Grandbell Hotel
2-14-5 Kabuki-cho
Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
160-0021, JAPAN
Nearest subway station: Higashi-Shinjuku

Tel :+81-(0)3-5155-2666
Website: http://www.granbellhotel.jp/en/shinjuku/

* * *

After spending close to an hour frolicking in bed, we headed out for an early lunch at Sushizanmai, a famous sushi restaurant, under the recommendation of the hotel! It was conveniently located less than 10-minute walk away but the journey felt like an eternity because of the cold.

Vending machines, vending machines everywhere!

Vending machines, vending machines everywhere!

Sushizanmai

Sushizanmai

Sushizanmai entrance

Sushizanmai entrance

You might have heard of Sushizanmai as they were in the news (albeit one that caused a fair bit of uproar) recently for paying US$117,000 for a 200 kg bluefin tuna, an endangered species. But putting the negativity aside, this restaurant is regarded as the best sushi restaurant in Tsujiki Fish Market (where their main outlet is) and is known for serving reasonably priced sushi meals. They have over 40 branches in Tokyo and Kanagawa and are open 24 hours.

Sushi prices

Sushi prices

Apart from sushi, Sushizanmai offers delectable bowl dishes with complimentary miso soup as well. Throughout our stay at Tokyo, we have patronised the restaurant more than twice and had tried various dishes on the menu. On several occasions, we were given seats at the counter and the friendly itamae (chef), knowing very well that we were foreigners, would try to strike up a conversation in English with us. The service staff also provided us with spoons for the miso soup even though (based on our observation) it is to be drunk directly from the bowl. All these little actions made us feel so welcome we felt so happy spending our money there 😆

Kanpai! (Complimentary and refillable hot matcha)

Kanpai! (Complimentary and refillable hot matcha)

Chawanmushi (¥500)

Chawanmushi (¥500)

Chawanmushi - ingredients

Chawanmushi – ingredients

The scrumptious steamed egg contained generous portions of shrimp, eel, shiitake and chicken and had a bit of zest from the small piece of orange peel. Served hot, the egg was so soft and silky, it melted in my mouth!

Sea Urchin Temaki Sushi (¥500)

Sea Urchin Temaki Sushi (¥500)

It wasn’t long ago that boyfriend and I had our first taste of uni (sea urchin) and I remember how we were so apprehensive about the flavour and the texture it would leave in our mouth. Now that we have become complete lovers of uni, we find it hard to satisfy our craving in Singapore because not only is the serving generally small, it is also expensive here! But at Sushizanmai, the pocket-friendly price of the uni maki meant that we could have our fill of the coveted sea urchinIf you haven’t tried uni before, it actually feels like caviar on the palate and tastes slightly like seawater with a hint of sweetness. It’s hard to accurately describe the taste, though, because I find it rather unique, so keep an open mind and try it some day!

Clam Miso Soup (¥400)

Clam Miso Soup (¥400)

When it comes to customer service, the Japanese never fails to go the extra mile. Noting that we already had two complimentary bowls of miso soup that came with our don, the service staff who attended to us offered to swap them with the clam miso soup we separately ordered at only ¥200 each. In other words, we got to have two full bowls of clam miso soup for the price of one! We certainly did not make any special requests or show any signs of displeasure; she made the arrangement on her own accord!

Squid Leg Tempura (¥480)

Squid Leg Tempura (¥480)

We ordered tempura on our last day at Tokyo because we were starting to feel deprived of fried food after consuming mainly healthy dishes which were either steamed or raw since our arrival. We had something similar at Itacho Sushi (a sushi chain from Hong Kong) back home and we wanted to try for ourselves the original version of it. Although the taste didn’t turn out to be vastly different from what we had in Singapore, we preferred the squid leg tempura at Sushizanmai (duh!) as it was better battered (not too oily too despite being deep fried) with a light crunch.

Deluxe Tuna Don (¥2800)

Deluxe Tuna Don (¥2800)

Undoubtedly, what boyfriend and I miss most about Tokyo is the generous servings of fresh and high-grade sashimi in restaurants (so much so that there were still pieces of sashimi left even after we were done with the rice) while paying tens of dollars less than in Singapore. For less than S$40, you get an assortment of thick and succulent chunks of bluefin tuna (yes, the highly-coveted fatty ones too) over seasoned rice. The cold, buttery chewy flesh had a nice pale pink-red colour and was adequately moist. Boyfriend loved it so much that he had it at every single visit.

Deluxe Chirashi-don (¥1480)

Deluxe Chirashi-don (¥1480)

As much as I would love to sink my teeth into those bluefin tuna, I couldn’t resist having my all-time favourite Chirashi-don because I prefer variety. The Deluxe Chirashi-don boasts an assortment of thirteen kinds of rawfish and shellfish atop vinegared sushi rice for just (..wait for it..) S$19?! There were unagi (eel), ika (squid), saba (mackerel), salmon, tako (octopus) and many other types of sashimi as well as tobiko (fish roe) and tamago (egg) – all probably were still alive awhile ago. I don’t know how else to describe this dish, except to say that it’s pure perfection.

Both dons were so good, we completely abandoned our low-carb way of life and finished our meals down to the last grain of rice. Seriously, already writing this is giving me the urge to pack my bags and fly to Tokyo right now!

Sushizanmai (Higashi Shinjuku)
1-1-13 Okubo, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture
169-0072, Japan
Nearest subway station: Higashi-Shinjuku
Operating hours: 24 hours

Tel: +81 3-5155-6655
Website: http://www.komura.co.jp/shops/detail/22#_=_iy

* * *

Foreseeing that we would be slightly jet lag on our first day in Tokyo, we didn’t plan anything strenuous on our (non-existent) itinerary and instead, went sightseeing at Harajuku and visited famous landmarks around the busy Shibuya station. The cheapest and most efficient way of getting around Tokyo is via subway but before we could do that we had to familiarise ourselves with the different routes and service providers – which is no mean feat, I tell you – or risk getting lost. Just by looking at the map is enough to give anyone a throbbing headache! We learnt that the easiest way to understand the map is by looking at the line symbol and station number because there was no way we could remember all the station names.

Subway ticket machine

Subway ticket machine

Even buying the pass can be a tricky business because certain terms we Singaporeans use such as ‘top-up’ is labelled differently on the ticket machines. But we eventually got the hang of it after a few attempts. If you’re going to Tokyo for the first time, here are some step-by-step guides to buying subway passes (or PASMO, as the Japanese call it) from the self-service ticket machines:

How to buy a subway pass

How to buy a subway pass

How to add value to your subway pass

How to add value to your subway pass

The subway station near our hotel (a 10-minute walk away) is an interchange station for the Oedo line (E) and Fukutoshin line (F) so in a way, it added to our convenience and saved us transport time. It is also worth noting that both lines are operated by different companies so they are accessible by different gates (housed on different levels) with separate charges. Boyfriend and I once entered the wrong gantry but fortunately the station master promptly refunded the money to our cards. We couldn’t afford to let the money go to waste because train fares in Tokyo aren’t cheap. I think we added ¥1,000 to each of our card about four times throughout our 5-day stay even though we only took the train up to four times each day!

¥4,000.. that’s approximately S$50 oh my god, and about how much I pay for my concession pass every month in Singapore. Oh Japan, Y UR COST OF LIVING SO HIGH?! (And we still have the cheek to complain about our transport fares back home)

Our subway station! (taken on the final day)

Our subway station! (taken on the final day)

The level of discipline among the Japanese is truly admirable. More vending machines that dispensed beverages and snacks were found at every corner of the train platform but even so, the platform and trains remained sparkling clean. I can’t imagine how dirty our train platforms would be with all the regular spillage if we were able to purchase food and drinks there.

Another memorable feature of the train stations in Tokyo was the use of melodies to signal train departures (typically about 3 seconds after train doors are open). As far as I can remember, every station has its own jingle and listening to them made our mundane train rides more enjoyable (I kinda looked forward to every station in the train HAHA). Many of them are also based popular songs like “It’s A Small World”/”Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (the two jingles I heard on separate occasions at Maihama station where we got off for Disneyland and DisneySea, and I understand that it was recently changed to “Let It Go” – how cool!) or Astro Boy theme song. The melody is so loud and crisp that sometimes I’d see passengers in the train waking up from their slumber and rushing out as it played LOL maybe Singapore should implement something similar because I find it more effective than the boring “doors closing” announcement 😆

I wonder if train companies have to pay royalties for using those popular jingles, though.

* * *

Ice cream vending machine inside Meiji-jungumae metro station!

Ice cream vending machine inside Meiji-jungumae metro station!

We took the subway and alighted at Meiji-jungumae station – just four stops away – to get to Harajuku, a district known for having the most fashionable brands in Japan. Contrary to what I saw on the internet, there weren’t many Lolita girls or people dressed in a bizarre fashion in sight, perhaps save for one or two loitering around the street with a boombox on their shoulder. Majority of the people there were decked out in normal winter outfits, or maybe.. those I saw were tourists just like us LOL

Harajuku

Harajuku

Since it was winter, there was nothing practical for sale that we could wear in sunny Singapore so we mainly combed the streets for food!

As we were walking around Harajuku, we saw a long queue forming outside this pastry shop called Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku and couldn’t help but get in line as well. Being Singaporeans, a useful rule of thumb is that anything with a queue must probably be something good. True enough, those almond cream sticks (or “Croquant Chou”) the shop was selling were so delightful, they’d warrant joining the snaking queue again (which, by the way, moved rather quickly too).

Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku

Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku

Almond cream sticks from Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku

Almond cream sticks from Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku

Encrusted with almonds on the surface (had initially thought they were cereal), the cream sticks were hand-piped-to-order with sweet milky custard to the brim. It kinda reminded me of the cream puffs from Beard Papa but these were a lot more gratifying because you get to relish in a bountiful amount of fresh custard with every bite. Apparently, Zaku Zaku originated from Hokkaido and was a huge hit (well, it still is judging from the queue) when it opened its first stores in Tokyo last year.

Harajuku

Harajuku

Harajuku

Harajuku

Japanese schoolchildren donned in their signature school ensemble dotted the shopping district as it was a weekday afternoon (winter break would only commence four days later on 19 December). Apart from a multi-storey Daiso, there were small boutiques carrying streetwear as well as other sundry shops selling toiletries. I blew most of the money we had allocated for that day’s spending at a gift shop (sorry, forgot to snap pictures!) that stocked up on Pokemon-themed items. I have a soft spot for anything Pokemon and it is also one major reason why I had always wanted to visit Japan. So go ahead and take my money!!

As we were walking along the streets of Harajuku, our attention was suddenly drawn to the massive heart-shaped cotton candies a few girls were holding. Beside them was a flight of stairs leading to a shop called “Totti Candy Factory” which we wouldn’t have known if not for the walking advertisement.

Totti Candy Factory price list

Totti Candy Factory price list

Sans makeup at Harajuku... How daring of me.

Sans makeup at Harajuku… How daring of me.

Totti Candy Factory is basically a shop that sells merely cotton candy in fanciful shapes and vibrant colours – a novelty which, no doubt, attracts the feminine eye. There are a few flavours (marked by different colours) that you can mix and match for your pyramid-shaped cotton candy but the option to switch around the flavours is not available for the heart-shaped one I’m holding in the picture above. The standard flavours for that were strawberry (pink) and soda (light blue) but honestly the taste wasn’t anything spectacular.

Another way to draw customers to your shop is to have an eye-catching banner overhead just like how Calbee+ does it. It’s impossible to miss Calbee+ when the area around it is illuminated by the three spot lights affixed above its banner at nighttime.

Calbee+

Calbee+

Calbee+ food

Calbee+ food

In addition to the racks and racks of potato chip bags you’d expect from a Calbee shop, there was a kitchen at the back that serves freshly-made potato sticks in a cup! I can’t remember what toppings there were but mine was sprinkled with cheese powder. Crispy, crunchy and salty to the right amount, these are a gazillion times better and more addictive than Jagabees! You’d definitely need more than one cup to momentarily please your palate.

Potato sticks with cheese

Potato sticks with cheese

* * *

Following that, we returned to the subway station to catch the train for Shibuya because I wanted to sightsee some more before heading back to our hotel. Shibuya is where you can find the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world in front of the Hachiko exit of the subway station as well as a very popular dog sculpture, just a stone’s throw away. Visiting these attractions had been a lifelong dream (no joke!) and I was extremely elated to be able to finally strike them off my to-do list.

Shibuya

Shibuya

Shibuya crossing

Shibuya crossing

It was an interesting sight to witness hundreds of people surging forward at the same time while the motorists waited patiently on one side for the traffic lights to turn in their favour. It would have felt like a scene from Resident Evil if it had rained! 😀

Hachiko sculpture

Hachiko sculpture (a very kind Japanese man had offered to take this picture for us)

I remember watching Hachi (a movie based on the true story of a very loyal Japanese dog that waited faithfully for its owner to return home without knowing that he had already passed on) many years back and crying buckets of tears over it. When I found out that there was indeed a sculpture made in honour of Hachi, I told myself that I would visit it one day, and I’m glad I really did!

* * *

We settled on an affordable meal at CoCo Ichibanya for dinner after having spent most of our moolahs for the day at Harajuku. The outlet near our hotel also opens late into the night (like 1am) which was perfect for late-night eaters like us.

CoCo Ichibanya (Higashi-Shinjuku outlet)

CoCo Ichibanya (Higashi-Shinjuku outlet)

We’ve had dined at CoCo Ichibanya before we visited Tokyo as they have outlets too in Singapore, so we knew how the food tasted like. But unlike the Singapore outlets (or those outside Japan, I guess), you do not incur additional charges for every increase of spiciness level of the curry. The dishes are also a lot cheaper (and I’m talking about a price difference of about S$8 here) in Tokyo and not forgetting, more choices on the menu as well.

Minced Meat Cutlet Curry (¥659)

Minced Meat Cutlet Curry (¥659)

Curry, being the highlight of the menu at CoCo Ichibanya, is generously soused over the rice (most of it hidden beneath the cutlet) and the meat. It is fragrant, mildly thick and extremely appetising with a very recognisable sweetness that you would normally find in Japanese curry. The pork cutlet in this dish was well-battered with fairly chewy flesh and the portion was big enough to last ’til the final spoonful.

Soft-boiled Egg and Chicken Meatball Curry (¥714)

Soft-boiled Egg and Chicken Meatball Curry (¥714)

This is one of the dishes I believe isn’t available in Singapore. Well, it probably does with just the chicken meatball patty on rice and you’d need to make extra payment to have the egg added. The egg yolk, in fact, marries well with the curry to give it a thicker and more buttery texture. Therefore, I would really recommend adding a soft-boiled egg to whichever curry rice dish you have at CoCo Ichibanya. The meatball patty was extremely tender and moist (even without going with the curry) although I wish it would come in a much bigger portion.

Overall, I must say that the standard of the food there is not far off that of the outlets in Singapore. But while the food in the Tokyo outlets is served with people on a super tight budget in mind, it is the complete opposite in the case of the outlets back home and can cost me at least S$35 for just two simple dishes (after GST, of course).

CoCo Ichibanya Curry House
1-1-2 Okubo
Fujiichi Bldg, Shinjuku 169-0072, Tokyo Prefecture
Nearest subway station: Higashi-Shinjuku
Tel: +81 3-5287-5518
Website: https://www.ichibanya.co.jp/english/

That’s all from me for my first installment of my Tokyo travelogue! Do stay tuned for the subsequent parts! 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Enjoy a Fuss-Free Travel with Laneige Perfect Renew Travel Set

SPONSORED

Hey everyone!

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With the mid-year school holidays (our version of summer break) just around the corner, many of us would already have plans for a getaway trip out of Singapore. My internship will come to a complete halt this coming June and I may be taking a short break before my next school term commences in August. I don’t have a particular place to go in mind yet but it’s possibly going to be somewhere not too far away as I’d prefer to set aside more funds for my year-end vacation instead.

My shortlisted destinations are Bali, Bintan Island and Bangkok. Perhaps a staycation at a boutique hotel doesn’t seem like a bad idea too!

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Bali (cr: freeimages.com)

Villas in Bali are available for booking on The Luxe Nomad!
Click here to find out more.

But regardless of the destination, packing is the integral step to the journey. Packing light is pivotal to creating an effortless and stress-free trip, but it also takes an experienced and adventurous person to do it well. I used to fail miserably in this aspect of travel planning because I am overly-cautious and averse to risks. I would end up bringing all my full-sized beauty products and other redundant stuff because of my “just in case” mentality, eventually only leaving a meagre amount of weight and space for my holiday loots.

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Fuss-free travelling tip #1: collect small pouches (which are usually free with purchase of related products) to store small items like makeup and toiletries, and buy small containers to store your shampoo and shower gel (that is, if you have rather sensitive skin like me and can only use certain products, just to be safe)

It also never ceased to amaze me how flight attendants report to work with only a small baggage in tow, and even more so when they are flying to farther destinations like Europe and USA. But according to my air stewardess friend, it’s not difficult as it seems. When it comes to toiletries and cosmetics (which are what occupy the most space in my luggage), they pack minimally (since most hotels have the bathroom essentials) and throw in only travel-sized items. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But many a time the brands I use, especially for facial products, don’t come in travel sizes.

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Fuss-free travelling tip #2: save those samples you obtained from Sephora (or anywhere else) for your travels! A 20-cent coin placed there for you to compare the size (my LipIce sample so cute and miniature right?!)

So I started exploring other products which also exist in deluxe sizes – Laneige in particular, which was brought to my attention by Luxola Singapore.

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Beauty essentials. I love small pouches like this. Always come in handy when I travel 🙂

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Laneige Perfect Renew Travel Set consists of 1x Multi Cleanser 30ml, 1x Perfect Renew Skin Refiner_EX 50ml, 1x Perfect Renew Emulsion_EX 50ml, 1x Perfect Renew Essence_EX 15ml & 1x Perfect Renew Cream_EX 20ml

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Basically, all the products needed in your daily skincare routine in a pouch! How convenient is that?

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Each of them smaller than the size of my palm

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Laneige Perfect Renew Skin Refinger_EX is a gel-type skin refiner that makes skin texture smooth with boosting effect.

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Laneige Perfect Renew Emulsion_EX delivers moisture balance with soothing effect.

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Laneige Perfect Renew Essence_EX prevents premature aging with helping face contour firming effect.

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Laneige Multi Cleanser mildly and thoroughly cleanses for a clear and brighter skin.

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The facial wash gave my skin a sticky feel which went away after applying the cream below

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Laneige Perfect Renew Cream_EX enhances elasticity and moisture barrier with repairing effect.

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#nomakeup

I have been using them for the past few nights (even though I’m not on a holiday) and I must say I see significant improvements in my skin texture. I felt instantly refreshed after washing my face with the cleanser. My face appears to be smoother and more dewy (I seriously think I look a few months younger) the next morning too.

Most importantly, these products are light and portable. C’est Magnifique! They are absolutely perfect for travel. And I will definitely bring them along when I go on my year-end vacation to protect me from the dry climate.

If you’re not intending to get one for yourself, why not make this a gift for your Mom this coming Mother’s Day? 🙂

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This product is available on Luxola for S$65.
Quote “BLX-FIONASEAH” at checkout to enjoy 15% off on all first time orders by 29 May 2015. This offer is not valid on non-discountable brands as found in the FAQpage.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Hong Kong, the Land of Dim Sum (PART 3)

Hello everybody! Hope your Christmas and New Year were a joyous one!

My holiday is drawing to an end and I’m down to my final week before I embark on my 6-month internship next January. Before life gets busy again, I shall wrap up my Hong Kong travelogue with this post detailing my fourth to sixth day in the bustling city! 🙂

* * Day 4 * *

(Times Square, Avenue of Stars & Tim Ho Wan)

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Narrow buses (12.8 metres long, 2.5 meters wide and 4.4 meters tal) for narrow streets

The memory card in my camera had already reached its maximum capacity by this day (thanks to Disneyland) so we went to scour for a spare at Times Square and eventually got a 32GB one for about HK$120 (roughly the cost in Singapore). Prior to that, we were quoted more than twice the amount for a similar memory card of the same capacity at another shop. The salespeople there seemed shady and were very eager to pounce on us the moment we spoke Mandarin Chinese (Bf did the talking since he’s more equipped with IT knowledge) so yeah, do take the precaution of checking the prices before purchasing, if you’re intending to buy any IT stuff. Overcharging scams (especially tourists) are rampant no matter where you go.

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Christmas brownie from Starbucks!

Bf is one ultimate movie buff with a weird habit of needing to watch movies in every city he visits. Even back home in Singapore, he has to watch at least one movie of any genre except horror once a week. I’m not really a movie fanatic so I was quite reluctant to spend precious time in the cinema, especially when I’m on a holiday. But Bf’s insistence meant that I had to accede to his request or all hell would break loose.

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Movie at Cine Times, Times Square

There was limited movie selection at that time so we settled for the 3D version of Exodus: Gods and Kings.

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Received free Lindt chocolates for buying the movie tickets

The price of the movie tickets (HK$145 is about S$25) is a great example of the city’s high cost of living, so don’t expect dirt cheap prices for entertainment. Frankly I wasn’t very happy about paying HK$290 for a pair of movie tickets when we could’ve spent it on something more Hong Kong-exclusive. The 3D effect was absolutely unnecessary and the best part? I zonked out because I wasn’t in the mood for any biblical movies. :\

Due to hygiene reasons, 3D glasses were not available for loan so we had to purchase them at HK$10 each. If I’m not wrong, Singapore cinemas also have this practice.

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Cool toilet cubicles with availability lights (lights up when the cubicle is in use) at Times Square!

The escalator leading to Causeway Bay station is just an elevator ride away from the cinema. We hastily took the train after the movies to Avenue of Stars because dusk was falling. Avenue of Stars is modelled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to honour people who had contributed to the Hong Kong film industry.

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Keep RIGHT on the escalators in Hong Kong

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Interchange at Admiralty station. Notice how the Chinese translation of our Admiralty differs from theirs? Ours literally translates to “海军部”, in case you didn’t know

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Alighted at Tsim Sha Tsui, the nearest station to the Avenue of Stars

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To get to Avenue of Stars, it is stated online that we’d need to take exit J of Tsim Sha Tsui station. However, we found out that the nearest exit to the tourist attraction was actually exit L so I don’t know why it was written that way.

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You’ll pass by landmarks like the Hong Kong Space Museum (you have to cross the road)…

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and the Hong Kong Museum of Art

The huge hemispheric dome of the Space Museum was really eye-catching! That’s definitely going to be on my itinerary next time I visit Hong Kong. The popular stretch of waterside promenade is just behind the Museum of Art!

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The 4.5-meter tall Hong Kong Film Awards sculpture, located at the entrance of the Avenue of Stars

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Christmas caroling!

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Hong Kong skyline again!

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With the ferris wheel in the background, this place kinda resembles Singapore’s Marina Promenade right? I told ya these two cities are mirror image of each other

The entrance also leads to Victoria Harbour on the right, so be sure to turn to the correct direction!

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Huge clapperboard along the promenade

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One of the many bronze statues

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And this.. and many many more!

The smell attract us to this makeshift stall selling   grilled squids

The smell attract us to this makeshift stall selling grilled squids at HK$30 each (quite expensive but it is really tempting!)

Here are some of the more prominent celebrities and filmmakers in my book 😀 Excluding the deceased, those without the artiste’s signature or hand prints most probably couldn’t make it for the opening ceremony.

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Malaysia-born Michelle Yeoh makes it to the walk of fame!

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Deceased

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Deceased

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Deceased

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Let’s take a break from the stars and see Bruce Lee in action! This is the actual reason for visiting this place

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Leon Lai’s hands look stumpy lol

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The end of the avenue

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Gorgeous backdrop

Like the Peak Terrace, you could also engage any of those professional photographers stationed around to take pictures and print them out instantly for you. We used their services because we were too shy to ask passersby for help (we were using a DSLR and some might not know how it operates). The images turned out to be rather impressive. The service isn’t very expensive too so it’s definitely worth a shot!

We were too engrossed with those stars on the floor that we totally forgot about A Symphony of Lights – a light and sound show along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront that’s staged daily at 8pm. I don’t remember hearing anything exceptional too as we were strolling along the promenade :\

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Nice Christmas decorations!

After that, we left for our dinner at Tim Ho Wan! I wanted to see if the standards vary from country to country. Since Tim Ho Wan originated from Hong Kong, it has to be way more awesome right? I was so thrilled!

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We went to the Sham Shui Po outlet!

Snapped some pictures on our way to have dinner because that’s what tourists do.

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Hidden passageway at the MTR station. Just kidding. Bf needed to take a dump urgently so the station staff allowed us into their toilet. It’s actually accessible to anyone even though the door is locked. Just ask anybody working at the MTR and they will give you access to their washrooms 🙂

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Dwellings everywhere!

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And the search for Tim Ho Wan begins! Wanted to find without the help of GPS

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Floor graffiti hehe

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We’re near!

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And here we are! Spot this huge L-shaped logo hanging above the road

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NO QUEUE! Let’s enter!

I noticed that you don’t have to wait to be seated if there isn’t a queue outside the restaurant. You just enter and ask for a table. Don’t just stand at the entrance and expect anyone to invite you in because that makes them think that you’re still deliberating whether to dine there. I actually like this way better as it gives me ample time to browse through the menu at the entrance without feeling pressured to enter.

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Chinese and English order chits. Prices are about the same as in Singapore

Unlike the Singapore outlets, they didn’t seem to have monthly specials which features new dishes to keep customers coming back. It’s working well here so I wonder why it’s not introduced there.

I honestly feel that there are more food choices in Singapore so if you haven’t been to Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong yet, don’t worry. You’re not missing out on anything because most dishes, if not all, can be found back home 🙂

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Not much variety for drinks (HK$10)

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But there’s Pu-Er tea! (HK$2 per pax)

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The legendary Baked Bun with BBQ Pork (HK$18 for 3)

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Yum yum yummy

The buns were softer, less crispy and more vulnerable to crushing so I had to hold it with extreme care. But it definitely tastes as good as the first time I ate it in Singapore. More detailed review here.

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Soup dishes are a must-have to go along with your meals in Hong Kong! This is Double-boiled Papaya Soup with Snow Fungus (HK$15)

I seldom order soup dishes at Tim Ho Wan knowing that I would be fully satiated from all the side items. But somehow dining in Hong Kong makes me feel extremely obliged to drink soup (maybe because of the cold weather). This double-boiled soup is sweet, refreshing and not forgetting, nourishing.

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Steamed Malay Cake (HK$16) but this is not on the English menu. Try asking for this verbally!

The upgraded version of our very own Huat Kueh, this sponge cake-lookalike is very soft and fluffy. It’s nice but it’s nothing spectacular. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re gonna order a lot of food.

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Deep Fried Spring Roll filled with Shrimp and Egg White (HK$20)

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Close up! I must have this every time I dine at Tim Ho Wan or I’d feel that I’ve missed out something!!

My favourite food after the baked BBQ pork bun, this always comes to my table piping hot. You could literally see steam emitting from the open ends of the roll. But that doesn’t stop me from taking the first bite out of the crispy roll within seconds after it’s served (though it really burns my tongue lol) because the egg white inside tastes best when it’s hot.

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Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings (HK$26)

This is Bf’s must-have dish at Tim Ho Wan. The skin is thinly smooth and yet it can hold the prawns (which are extremely fresh by the way) well despite my poor chopsticks handling skills.

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My main course was Congee with Pork and Preserved Egg (HK$16)

Thick and gooey, this congee is a perfect combination for a light dinner! Of course, mine wasn’t light anymore with all those side dishes. It is fragrant, properly seasoned and the nicely diced pork and preserved egg make it extremely easy to eat.

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And Bf’s one was Steamed Rice with Beef and Pan-Fried Egg (HK$21)

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Unveiling what’s below the egg

This systematic dish is completed with a fried egg and a thick layer of beef above some white rice. But it’s another ordinary and disappointing dish that’s probably left in the steamer for too long. Bf commented that the beef was overly braised as it was too soft and sticky. He ended up leaving half of it uneaten.

As for desserts, we had…

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And for desserts, we had Tonic Medlar & Petal Cake (HK$10)

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Close up!

Don’t know why it’s called a cake when it’s obviously jelly. But whatever it is, this has a really unique appearance and taste. Called Tonic Medlar and Osmanthus Cake in Singapore, it’s served cold and has this pleasant fruity taste which I find really appealing. However, being jelly-like, I had difficulty transporting it onto my plate because it kept slipping off my fork and chopsticks! Grrr.. I think I need to attend classes on handling utensils.

The bill came up to about HK$174 (S$30) for all those dishes above! Cheap or what? There’s also no taxes to pay! Do note that this outlet (not sure about the rest) does not accept credit card so do remember to bring sufficient cash in smaller denominations (if I remember correctly, they do not accept HK$1000 bills).

Tim Ho Wan (Sham Shui Po)
G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street
Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: 2788 1226
Opening hours: 8am – 9.30pm daily
For other outlets, click here
Nearest MTR: Sham Shui Po

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On our way home, we overshot our intended station (Causeway Bay) and ended up at Tin Hau because both of us were using our phones. Hahaha tourist boo-boo.

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The subway we took to get to the MTR station!

* * Day 5 * *

(Ladies’ Market, Argyle Center, 涛记香港仔鱼蛋王)

Whenever I go abroad, my luggage would already be filled to the brim by the third day. But strangely for this trip, it’s not even expanded yet! It’s already the fifth day and I hadn’t really bought a lot. I was starting to feel deprived of shopping but I couldn’t buy much as we had already blown our money on food, foot massages (relatively cheap there!) and entrance fees to attractions. We were trying to preserve some of the remaining funds for traditional Hong Kong snacks for our folks back home.

Knowing that I’m such a shopping queen, Bf kinda took pity on me and approved my shopping itinerary at the very last minute. We were supposed to be going to Ocean Park that day but we couldn’t get out of bed in time for the hotel shuttle bus. The theme park also has shorter operating hours so it wouldn’t make sense going there after noon.

So we decided to spend our final day “walking” around Ladies’ Market and the shopping areas in the vicinity! 😀

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Mong Kok MTR station

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Umbrella vending machine at Mong Kok MTR station! So coooool

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Description of the umbrella. Looks like it’s quite durable!

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Life is made easy by the Octopus card because everything (and I mean everything) can be paid using it. Why can’t Singapore follow suit and stick to ONE card instead of churning out more variations of it?

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Saw another Maxim’s Cakes outlet and was tempted to take pictures of the cute 3D cakes!

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Had this Mango cake for teabreak

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And this honey cake as well!

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Welcome to Mong Kok! One of the most densely populated areas in the world.

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FOOOOD

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So many hotels that charge at an hourly rate – if you know what I mean

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Ladies’ Market. Nothing much to see and most of the stuff they were selling were even pricier than those I saw at Temple Street

Under the influence of Bf, I bought a Winnie the Pooh bed sheet set, and also a toothbrush holder with a Pikachu face on it (lol). That’s all I bought at Ladies’ Market because you can’t really find great bargains there. Despite its name, not everything is targeted at the ladies (although majority of them are). There are also shops that sell unisex and IT stuff. You just gotta keep looking around 🙂

You would also see people touting foot reflexology and massage services along Ladies’ Street. If you find the price quoted to be too high, you can try your luck at negotiating for a lower cost because they are usually rather desperate for customers. I casually remarked that HK$118 (for 45 minutes) was too pricey and surprisingly the person lowered the price to HK$110 (not much difference but it’s still moolah) on her own free will. Bet Bf was secretly beaming with joy because he was complaining about his sore feet (pain from walking too much) just a moment ago.

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Met a (greedy) new friend at the foot massage parlour! His name is Xiaobai

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Bf was particularly excited to see this vehicle of the Emergency Unit (E.U.) on the road, thanks to the HK TV series called E.U. we watched a few months back

Mong Kok has a lot of commercial buildings and we got lost trying to find Argyle Centre. We were at one point led further away from our destination because the police officer whom we enquired about the directions gave us the wrong information -_- There were many police officers patrolling around the area, perhaps on a mission to prevent the protest from taking place there. And in case any of you are wondering, we did not encounter any protesters throughout our stay in Hong Kong so it’s pretty safe if you avoid the areas of demonstrations.

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Finally found it using GPS

If you’re a shopaholic, this is the place you have to visit if you’re in Hong Kong. The items at Argyle Centre are relatively cheaper than those at night markets, and it has many levels of shops and boutiques for you to explore.

I bought 3 pairs of shorts for just HK$100 at one of the shops in front of an escalator. Exchanges were supposedly not allowed as these items were on sale. But the kind salesgirl still went ahead to measure my waist and hips and thereafter advised me on the size I should take. She also told me that I could try them on at the mall’s toilet and exchange for different size within the same day if they didn’t fit. However, I hated the hassle of trying on clothes so I only wore them for the first time at home. Although the shorts are a little tight on me (blame it on my bulging tummy), the quality actually seems reasonably good. Strangely, the buttonhole on each pair of shorts were still sealed so I had to manually cut it open.

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Doesn’t this place remind you of Far East Plaza? And a little bit of Bugis Street

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For Hello Kitty lovers

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We stopped by this tuck shop as we felt like munching on something!

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Hong Kong’s Curry Fish Ball. The fish balls there taste different from the ones we eat in Singapore. Theirs are more chewy and the texture is a little similar to cuttlefish ball. It’s still very delicious nonetheless!

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Milk Tea with Pearl to quench our thirst

I satisfied my shopping urges with a bag of shorts (as mentioned earlier) and 3 sets of undergarments – a panty and wireless bra – made of the most comfy and stretchable Nylon, that costed me only HK$480 in all. That’s less than S$90 for 3 pairs of extremely good quality intimates. Where else to find?

We grabbed a quick bite at BreadTalk (our homegrown Singapore brand) at the ground floor before heading to Jordan for our dinner.

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But first, how about some appetizers? Haha

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Yay, finally got to try the original 鸡蛋仔 (egglets, HK$10) in Hong Kong!

Oh gosh, I kept pigging out in Hong Kong. But I couldn’t help it because the food was too irresistible! Even a simple snack like the egglets could make me go gaga. And that explains my expanding waistline 😥

By 10pm, most of the shops were already closed and we were left with a few eateries to choose from. We eventually settled for 濤记香港仔鱼蛋王 (Tao1 Ji4 Xiang1 Gang3 Zai3 Yu2 Dan4 Wang2) just across the road from the egglets shop.

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濤记香港仔鱼蛋王 specialises in fish balls

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Front

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Iced Lemon Tea and 鸳鸯 (mixed coffee and tea, both at HK$10 each)

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Beef stew (HK$25) with rice (HK$3)

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I had my qualms about the taste at first because it looked kinda bland. But it’s surprisingly good! It’s no doubt a simple main, but the flesh was really tender and savoury, not a single bit tough at all.

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Fish ball soup (HK$25)

The fish balls had the same kind of texture as the ones we had at Argyle Centre but these were definitely fresher and bouncier with a springy consistency. The soup was light but tasty and didn’t overwhelm the palate.

濤记香港仔鱼蛋王
No. 209 Shanghai Street
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Jordan, Tsim Sha Tsui

That night we tried flagging for a cab back to our hotel because we had an early flight to catch the next day. But there was no taxi in sight for almost 20 minutes, and it was freezing cold! We kept having to change our position because some shameless people were also trying to cut in front of us. Well, when in Rome, do as the Romans do right? So we followed suit and eventually got a cab. Ha, suckers!

* * Day 6 * *

(Departure)

It was time to bid Hong Kong goodbye. As much as I couldn’t bear to leave. all good things must come to an end.

We hired a cab to Hong Kong station (also accessible by MTR, just 4 stops away) to take the Airport Express Line (AEL) because the hotel shuttle bus was fully occupied. The roads were clear that morning so it only took us less than 15 minutes to arrive at our destination. The cab fare was less than S$10 (around HK$50).

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Tried buying train tickets from the ticketing machine but failed (forgot why)

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So we went to the Customer Service counter instead to purchase the tickets! And they were even cheaper than if bought through the machine

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Neat!

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Elevators to take you down to the platform

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On the train! Spot the cemetery in the background. Hong Kongers have learned to co-exist with the dead

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Airport station

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Weigh your luggage here! It’s a really useful tool and I wonder why Singapore doesn’t have this

Check-in was done at Terminal 1 but our departure gate was all the way at Terminal 2, so we had to take several escalators (shuttle bus is also available) to get there. Food souvenirs can also be bought at the airport, albeit pricier than in the city.

And that’s about it! 🙂

People had been telling me how impolite the Hong Kongers are before the trip but I experienced nothing of it (if you disregard the cab thieves at Jordan because they are everywhere). Instead, I was overwhelmed by the friendliness and hospitality of the people who attempted to converge to our communication style when we couldn’t express ourselves in Cantonese. Hence, I truly enjoyed my stay there.

The next time I go to Hong Kong, I will certainly set aside days to tour the outlying islands like Lantau and Lamma, as well as its neighbouring regions Shenzhen, Macau and Guangzhou. Also not forgetting the remaining parts of Disneyland which we failed to explore due to lack of time!

Hope you enjoyed my Hong Kong travelogue and thanks for reading my first post in 2015! 😀

Read also
Hong Kong, the Land of Dim Sum (PART 1)
Hong Kong, the Land of Dim Sum (PART 2)

Hong Kong, the Land of Dim Sum (PART 2)

Hey everyone!

Thanks for following my Hong Kong travelogue! This is part 2 of my experience as promised and would only cover day 3 of my Hong Kong trip.

* * Day 3 * *

(Victoria Peak, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong & Temple Street Night Market)

We set off from our hotel a tad later that day because Disneyland really worn us out. No alarm was able to wake us up that morning, regardless of the volume. But somehow we were only woken up by the persistent door knocks by the housekeepers, who politely asked if we were ready to have our room made at 10.00am 😮 Okay, I really appreciate them checking up on us but isn’t that too early for housekeeping? I would always greet them with a half-woken face and unkempt hair (for which they realised and became really apologetic) but by the fourth morning, they kinda took the hint and stopped asking us. Haha maybe late risers are uncommon in Hong Kong. Of course, you can always tell them to come back again at a certain time.

While planning the itinerary for this trip, I tried to include scenic excursions and alternate them with my shopping days. Hong Kong has quite a number of tourist scenic spots but the most popular one is definitely Victoria Peak (or The Peak), where travellers would flock to to get a good view of the city. With an altitude of 552 m, it is easily the highest mountain on the island and accessible by the Peak Tram. The Peak Tram Lower Terminus is a 15 to 20-minute walk from Central MTR, or even longer if you have a camera in tow because you’d be able to see a few famous Hong Kong landmarks along the route.

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Here is a Vitasoy vending machine. We particularly loved the packet lemon tea. Vitasoy is everywhere in Hong Kong. Even our complimentary bottled water in our hotel is under this brand.

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Maxim’s Cakes is like our Breadtalk, a very common bakery and can be found in almost every MTR station. It’s endorsed by actor Julian Cheung as his face can be seen plastered everywhere in the shop.

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Got this long FLOSSS-inspired bun from Maxim’s Cakes for breakfast. It’s not bad!

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Bank of China Tower, snapped on our way back to the MTR station because it’s a lot nicer at night

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If you need to recharge after the long walk from the MTR station, take a break here! (omg how lame can I get)

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We are here at the terminus!

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Got our Peak Tram tickets at HK$40 each!

At the counter, we were offered a Peak Tram Sky Pass package (The Peak Tram + Sky Terrace 428) for HK$80 (U.P. HK$85) and a 3-in-1 combo ticket for Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and Peak Tram Sky Pass return for HK$310 (U.P. HK$325, online price at HK$290). We considered taking up the Peak Tram Sky Pass package but declined eventually due to a miscalculation 😐 It’s only HK$5 more anyway.

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With the wax figure of Sir Li Ka-Shing, a Hong Kong business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, at the Peak Lower Terminus

As for the second package, we dismissed it without giving it a second though because Tigerair had given us a few perks for flying with them – one of which was a discount of HK$40 for each regular adult admission ticket (U.P. HK$240) to Madame Tussauds Hong Kong which came up to be a lot cheaper than the price of the combo ticket.

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Almost couldn't make it for this train!

Almost couldn’t make it for this train! It’s pretty packed as you can see.

The tram was constantly moving uphill and the gravitational pull was so strong, I could feel my entire body reclining backwards. As a Singaporean who frequently experience train breakdowns in my country, I really wonder what would happen if the tram malfunctions amidst the journey. It’d be a terrible feeling trying to keep your balance.

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Was gonna simulate alighting from the tram but got off because the door was gonna close on me! LOL

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At the Peak Market where you can find lots of Hong Kong souvenirs for your family, friends and colleagues back home

Spotted "my" shop! Bf pointing to the shop and back at himself. It's actually a shop selling baby stuff

Spotted “my” shop! Who’s my prince? *Bf pointing to the shop and back at himself* It’s actually a shop selling baby stuff 😀

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A shop (Candy Haus, just a level below the Sky Terrace) selling all the Pez collectibles! I’d totally buy it if they had a Pokemon collection 😦

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More individual ones! Bf tried to find a Pooh Pez but to no avail

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More uncommon ones you don’t see it in most candy stores (not even Candy Empire). By the way, photography is forbidden in this shop. I didn’t know it until they stopped a Japanese tourist from taking pictures (after I was done with mine heehee). Even so, these photos are just too adorable not to share!

Now, let’s head up to the Sky Terrace 428 for a splendid view of Hong Kong! It is called Sky Terrace “428” because it’s 428 metres above sea level! 🙂

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Hong Kong’s skyline

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More view

Upon entering, you would be handed an audio guide (in the form of an iPod Touch) with lanyard attached. Earpieces are available but we didn’t loan any due to hygiene concerns, so we used ours instead.

The Sky Terrace offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view across the Hong Kong. There are even fixed coin-operated binoculars around for use but you don’t quite need it if you have a powerful long-range camera lens! There were also professional photographers touting their services and you could engage them if you want a nice group shot against the breathtaking backdrop.

Our only mistake was going to the Sky Terrace when the sky was still bright. All we could see were buildings engulfed in mist so there was nothing really spectacular to see. It would be a lot better at night when all the lights are lit up! And also worth noting is that the ticket is per entrance basis, meaning to say that you won’t be able to enter using the same ticket again once you exit from the terrace.

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They had this campaign going on to promote love expression and sending of messages to the future

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Here’s our message! Hahaha doubt we will be back to see this though

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At the basement of the Peak Tower, you will see tables with this placed in the middle

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And these are postcards written for the future, separated by dates of postage (i.e. these will be mailed out to the specified address at the stipulated date)

There’s really nothing much to do at The Peak Tower so naturally, people would just pay to visit Madame Tussauds museum after the Sky Terrace. For us, going to Madame Tussauds Hong Kong was already part of our (or rather, my) plan and I was really looking forward to it 😀 I’m obsessed with wax figures!

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After the Tigerair discount, we only paid HK$200 for each ticket 🙂

Bruce Lee as their mascot

Bruce Lee as their mascot

There was a private event at the museum when we were there, so we were directed to the lowest level where the Historical and National Heroes and the Royal Family can be found! Most of the leaders are from the People’s Republic of China, though, much to the pleasure of the their people who crowded the museum.

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Oh hello, Pablo Picasso! Why are you not in Singapore?

William Shakespeare

Poem and playwright William Shakespeare

Dutch painter Rembrandt  van Rijn

Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn

Theoretical physicist and philosopher of science, Albert Einstein

Theoretical physicist and philosopher of science, Albert Einstein

Leader of the Nazi party, Adolf Hitler

Leader of the Nazi party, Adolf Hitler

Fifth President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein

Fifth President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein

Japan's post-war Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida

Japan’s post-war Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida

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Our stern-looking Ministor Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (a huge contrast with the one in Madame Tussauds Singapore where he looks so much happier beside his late wife)! Felt a sense of pride to see a Singapore representative in an overseas museum. It shows something about his role as a leader because not everyone makes the cut to have a wax figure in Madame Tussauds!

Father of Modern China, Dr Sun Yat-sen

Father of Modern China, Dr Sun Yat-sen

Former President of China, Hu Jintao

Former President of China, Hu Jintao

First Premier of the People's Republic of China, Zhou Enlai

First Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou Enlai

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Current President of People’s Republic of China, Xi JinPing. Photography with him is chargeable and many PRCs were queuing up to have a picture with him lol

Elected President of the People's Republic of China in 1993, Jiang Zemin

Elected President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993, Jiang Zemin

Deng Xiaoping, leader of China from 1978 until his retirement in 1992

Deng Xiaoping, leader of China from 1978 until his retirement in 1992

Former President of China, Hu Jintao

Sixth Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Wen Jiabao

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Yang Liwei, the first man to be sent into space by China’s space programme

Diana, Princess of Wales and the mother of Wills and Harry

Diana, Princess of Wales and the mother of Wills and Harry

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.. and the first in line to the throne right in the middle 😉 😉

The late Leslie Cheung, considered as one of the founding fathers of Cantopop. I remember how the news of his death shocked the world in 2003 than it got very extensive media coverage

The late Leslie Cheung, considered as one of the founding fathers of Cantopop. I remember how the news of his death shocked the world in 2003. It was such an unexpected event that it got so much media coverage. Stories of his death ran on the newspapers for days and TV channels were playing his movies for the entire week. Such a prominent figure. We’ll miss you, Leslie.

Beats me why Leslie Cheung is in this section too. Maybe there isn’t enough space in where he is supposed to be :\

I intentionally left out some leaders who are also featured in Madame Tussaud Singapore with the exact same pose and attire (e.g. President Obama, Soekarno, etc.). What puzzled me was the absence of Hong Kong and Taiwan leaders CY Leung and Ma Ying-jeou. Perhaps they didn’t agree to having a wax figure of themselves?

Moving on to the TV Studio! In Singapore, we only have Oprah Winfrey (why no Ellen huh?). But Hong Kong pretty much has their own pool of talented variety and talk show hosts very well-known in Asia so finding figures to fill this area shouldn’t be much of a problem.

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Sandra Ng, one of my favourite HK comedians!

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Comedian and host of variety show Super Trio, Eric Tsang!

Following the TV Studio was the World Premiere which features successful artistes from all over the world so many of them can also be seen in Singapore.

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There’s also a Marilyn Monroe wax figure in Singapore but with a different pose (kneeling with both palms on the ground to reveal her cleavage). This is supposedly her in her signature white dress, standing above a subway grating blowing the dress up. It would be better if there was really a wind source from below!

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One of Hollywood’s most watched actors during the 20th century, this is Humphrey Bogart

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Leon Lai, one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop (the other three are Andy Lau, Jackie Cheung and Aaron Kwok). But he looks weirdly feminine here lol

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The very helpful Sir Alfred Hitchcock holding my information booklet for me. Possibly the best-known British-born filmmaker, he was a master of the “suspense” movie genre

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Donnie Yen as Ip Man! I don’t like his nose here. It looks too pinched and his nostrils are too large :\

Other figures not featured here are Audrey Hepburn in her iconic “Little Black Dress”, Johnny Depp and Indian movie star Amitabh Bachchan.

The World Premiere also houses SCREAM, described as “the deadly scare zone set against a chilling backdrop of an abandoned asylum, promises to stir up guests’ deepest and darkest fears using a mix of live performers and wax monsters”. As a fan of gore and horror movies, I was exhilarated to know that there’s a section dedicated to gutsy people like me! 😛 Bf was reluctant to enter because he’s a scaredy-cat so I went in all by myself while he waited for me at the entrance.

Truth be told, I was a little nervous. I waited for more people to join the line before I decided to partake in this spine-chilling adventure. For awhile, I waited at the entrance because nobody else was interested in this and I was afraid to enter the chamber alone hahaha! Fortunately, a large group (family of 5) entered and gradually, more people joined the queue. I guess these people who suddenly appeared out of nowhere were also waiting somewhere for a queue to form 😆

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Bf was frightened just by the thought of zombies doing jump scares in the chamber

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Moi! The first batch of people moved forward and stopped at the person in front of me, so I became the first person for the second batch 😥

While waiting to explore the asylum, we heard screams and faint laughter from the batch of people who went in before us. Kinda made us even more anxious 😕 When it was finally our turn, everyone had to put their hands on the shoulders in front of them and we went in in a line, like a choo-choo train. Photography is not allowed inside so yeah, no pictures to show, sorry!

The job of the first person in line is to navigate. I have very poor sense of direction, coupled with terrible vision, but thankfully, the lady behind me knew the place well (she had gone through this before a few years back) so she advised me on where to go. There were many doors in the asylum leading to different chambers but I only opened one of them. Jump scares were very minimal (like 1 or 2?) and the performers would only attack people in the middle of the line. So I was perfectly safe! 😀 *victory sign* SCREAM is really not as scary as it’s painted to be. It’s all in your head! At the end of the tour, everyone even went, “Huh like that only? CHEY” 🙄

Our next stop was The Champions where it honours some of the top sportsmen and sportswomen of all time.

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Lee Lai Shan, the former world champion and Olympic gold medal-winning professional windsurfer from Hong Kong and the only athlete to win an Olympic medal representing Hong Kong, not as part of China (Wikipedia)

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Maria Sharapova is ranked world No. 2 by the Women’s Tennis Association and is the top Russian player

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David Beckham in his younger days

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Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, former champion sumo wrestler and the 58th yokozuna of the sport. However his face looks it’s wearing out here. The hair, for once, isn’t real hair.

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Liu Xiang, one of China’s best athletes

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Tiger Woods taking a dump.. I mean, squatting down

Other sports heroes not mentioned here are Yao Ming and Muhammad Ali.

Right after that, we had to climb the stairs to access Hong Kong Glamour where the Hollywood A-listers mingle with the hottest Asian celebrities.

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The sparkly Robert Pattinson though I feel that there are other Hollywood celebs that are more worthy of his spot in the museum (Edward fans please don’t kill me)

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Another favourite female Chinese actress of mine (after Michelle Yeoh), Li Bingbing!

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Cantopop singer and actress, Kelly Chen

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Michelle Yeoh

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Lang Lang, a renowned Chinese concert pianist

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Angelina Jolie and Brat Pitt look like they’ve undergone a divorce here. Why so glum and why are their faces so greasy 😐

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Cantopop singer Aaron Kwok doesn’t look like him here

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Heartthrob Louis Koo *_*

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Cecilia Cheung, actress and Cantopop singer who has called Singapore her home now

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It’s Johnny Depp again!

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Taiwanese model and actress Lin Chi-ling who will be lead actress in the “Triumph in the Skies 2” movie

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South Korean actor and “auntie killer” Bae Yong-joon

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Nicole Kidman enjoying the attention of the pap

Of course, Andy Lau is there too but his wax figure is the exact replica of the one in Singapore (or vice versa). Huang Xiao Ming was probably removed because I couldn’t find him.

Next, we went to the Authentic History section to catch a glimpse of wax figure making process where they used Donnie Yen as an example. Of course, everything was pre-recorded and the artifacts were already displayed neatly for viewing.

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Left: the fabric used for the clothing and right: the different types of eyeballs. Right down to the specifics

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The different kinds of hair. You’re able to touch and feel them!

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Madame Tussauds herself when she in her late twenties! Unbelievable right?!

We’re coming closer to the end! *sniffs* We took the stairs again this time to see the Music Icons!

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Actress and Cantopop singer Miriam Yeung who would occasionally burst into laughter. Eerie 😐

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Elvis Presley, one of the staples in Madame Tussauds

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Jay Chou obviously needs a different pose for his wax figure, and probably also lesser powder on his face

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Singer-songwriter, dancer, musician, and actress, G.E.M.

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Cantopop and Mandopop singer, actor, TV host, model, cartoonist, MV director, and producer and designer, a major figure in popular music culture (Wikipedia) – Leo Ku. Wow, what an impressive portfolio

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Of course, how could we forget the mother of Little Monsters, Lady Gaga?

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Cantopop, Hong Kong English pop, Jazz, and R&B singer Janice M. Vidal who looks nothing like the real person. She is set inside an oversized music box that plays her signature tune, “Do you know?” upon turning the huge winder key beside it

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Lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury

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Couldn’t help it

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The Beatles! Can you name them all?

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The late Anita Mui (Madonna of Asia) who succumbed to cervical cancer a few months after her close friend Leslie Cheung passed away

Last but not least, there is the Fantasy Kingdom that showcases different superheroes and characters from movies, mostly. An expanded new area, it was officially opened in September last year. I think this section is created for kids.. or people who are young at heart 😀

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Hey Spidey!

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Bf’s excited to see Ironman

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Will the real Wolverine please stand up? HAHA btw Bf came up with the fake claws which amused people who walked past. So creative hor?! (And if you’re wondering how he got so many pens, that’s because he had his pencil case in his bag. Lazy person was too lazy to pack his stuff, he even brought along his school pencil case to Hong Kong. Major #facepalm)

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Awkward pose with Hulk because I don’t like any Marvel superheroes

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Astroboy.. I thought he’s usually top-naked?

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I’m not a Hello Kitty fan but I’m attracted to it because it’s PINK!

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Doraemon, the blue robotic cat! (I didn’t know he was a cat, did you?)

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Hong Kong’s very own cartoon pig characters that has gained a huge following in the city – McDull and his mother Madame Mak at a Hong Kong-style cafeteria!

I’m sad.. because there’s no Pikachu. Why?!? 😦

To mark the opening of Fantasy Kingdom, wax figures of five protagonists from the much anticipated movie, “The Monkey King” (2013) were also unveiled on the day of opening. This is the first time Madame Tussauds Hong Kong has created wax figures based on fictional characters from the same movie. (Source)

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Donnie Yen as Monkey King

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Xia Zi Tong as Silver Fox

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Zhang Zilin as Nu Wa

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SADAKO. The good thing about having real hair on a wax figure is that you could meddle around with it. Teehee (we arranged it back after that la)

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There’s even a specially designed 3-D snake tail installation for fun photos! I’m obviously too fat to be Nu Wa.. had difficulty squeezing into the tail 😥

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Aaron Kwok as Buffalo Demon King

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And Joe Chen as Princess Iron Fan

They’re probably going to change the theme once every few years. What a great way to get visitors to return to the museum! Will Singapore do something similar too? 🙂

We were at the souvenir shop when we spotted a conspicuous and familiar wax figure. We couldn’t figure out who that was so we asked the guy at the cashier.

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大 S

Really 一点都不像咯! I think it’s the eyes. They’re too far apart. And her arms (especially the hand on the hips) look too fake.

And that’s the end of our tour around Madame Tussauds Hong Kong! No doubt it has more variety of wax figures so even though the entrance tickets were expensive, I felt it was worth the money.

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We managed to take this somewhere near the Peak Tram Upper Terminus. So yup, please only go to the Peak Terrace at night

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Bye Victoria Peak!

It was close to 9pm by the time we were at the lower terminus and we hadn’t had our dinner, so we took the MTR train to Yau Ma Tei, hoping to find some great eats at Temple Street Night Market!

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(Poor picture quality coz I used my phone) We had this huge hot dog! Forgot how much this was but I think it’s around S$2

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Guy gave me a death stare as he caught me photographing him #guaguagua

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Flash drives

Cartoon-theme flash drives and luggage tags are aplenty at the night market. Luggage tags were typically going for HK$100 for five pieces (or HK$20 each) and they make perfect souvenirs for anybody. Bf and I bought a few for our tutees. The flash drives were selling for about HK$25 each but I didn’t buy any because I doubted that it would work on the computer. It also had an unbelievable amount of storage space (can’t remember how much, probably 32GB) which is just too good to be true. I don’t want to save vital information on the flash disk and then it ends up getting corrupted or something. However, having said so, if you don’t use it as a storage device, it’s actually a pretty cute key chain.

The night market didn’t have a single food cart so we were kinda disappointed as we expected it to be like those in Taiwan where you’d find food sold everywhere. As we explored the area, we chanced upon an eatery that seemed to sell affordable (a huge concern because our funds were running low) yet authentic Hong Kong food.

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Eat Together!

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Milk Tea (HK$12)

The taste of Milk Tea in Hong Kong seemed to be consistent no matter which eatery I went to. They were generally fragrant and thick, even after the ice in it had melted. It was my staple drink in Hong Kong.

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Radish Beef Brisket (HK$28)

This is definitely incomparable to the beef brisket we had at Mak’s Noodles in terms of flavour and portion but it is still a decent dish. I enjoyed the soft radish but the beef brisket, although tender, was a little gristly.

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Tomato, Beef & Egg with Rice (HK$30)

This was boyfriend’s main dish. The gravy was tomato-flavoured and topped with sliced tomatoes that are soft to the core. The diced beef was also moist and reasonably tender.

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Fried Rice (HK$38)

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Close up!

I was craving for a rice dish so I ordered this! It smells as good as the fried rice in Singapore but the taste is distinctively different. The rice in Singapore is drier but the one I had in Hong Kong is a little oilier and stickier. Also, the latter tasted a bit more chewy, which I feel is what sets it apart from our fried rice. I don’t dislike any of them because I truly enjoy both. They just have their own unique characteristics! 🙂

大家食 Eat Together (Yau Ma Tei Branch)
Yau Ma Tei Wing Sing Lane No. 16
油麻地永星里1b號
Tel:  6386 0000 (Main), 2395 7138 (YMT Branch)
Website: eattogether.hk
Nearest MTR: Yau Ma Tei

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Roadside fruit stall

Bf and I bought Banana Milkshake and Papaya Milk juice from a fruit stall beside the eatery after dinner. The Banana Milkshake was not bad but the Papaya Milk was horrid and tasteless. We couldn’t drink beyond three quarter of the cup so we threw it away in the end. Even though Hong Kong is in close geographic proximity to Taiwan, they are not necessarily good in the same areas. 😕

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And we took a taxi back to our hotel because we had already missed our last train!

That’s all for day 3 but there’s still more to come! So be sure to stay tuned for the next part 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Read also
Hong Kong, the Land of Dim Sum (PART 1)
Hong Kong, the Land of Dim Sum (PART 3)

Hong Kong, the Land of Dim Sum (PART 1)

Hello everyone!

December marks the end of a long grueling year for those in the workforce as well as those students who have studied so hard for their finals. So what better way to celebrate the holidays than to go on a vacation? I’m not sure about you but it has been our (with Bf) tradition to travel before the year ends. We’re still touring Asia because our financial means are limited. Hence for this holiday, we had chosen Hong Kong as our travel destination! 🙂

source: freeimages.com

source: freeimages.com

Like our previous vacays, our trip was an impromptu one as we had only decided where to go two weeks before our departure. Our itinerary for 6 days and 5 nights in Hong Kong was only planned two nights before, based on recommendations on Lonely Planet and blogs. We made our bookings through Expedia once again and surprisingly, the rates for the air tickets and hotels were still rather affordable. However the airfares did not include checked baggage so we had to fork out additional money for that. We also paid extra to book our desired seats (S$5 per seat if I remember correctly). On the whole, we spent about $700 each for airfare and accommodation. Quite reasonable, if you ask me!

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We travelled with Tiger Air! It was a four-hour plane ride.

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Nice blue sky! #nofilter

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Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport has two terminals – 1 and 2. Our plane landed at Terminal 2 but we had to take the free shuttle bus to Terminal 1 because that’s where the arrival immigration clearance is done. Quite troublesome though. As signage was not very clear, we were for awhile unsure of where to collect our luggage. So we kinda followed the crowd and had to ask one of the airport ambassadors for directions.

But to be honest, I was really anticipating this trip. Watching a truck load of Hong Kong serial dramas from a young age has definitely strengthened my desire to visit the city. The show Triumph in the Skies (one of my favourites), for example, had made me really excited to be at the Hong Kong International Airport. Being clean and modern, it serves as a very good comparison to Changi Airport. I also like that the arrival hall is surrounded with glass windows to allow sunlight through, making the place look really bright and cheery.

This post would cover only the first two days of the trip.

* * Day 1 * *

(Getting the necessities, Cosmopolitan Hotel & Keung Kee Roasted Meat Restaurant)

Our first thing to do upon arrival at the airport was, of course, to get a prepaid SIM card with 3G data. We had a few recommendations for that from travel blogs but we managed to narrow the list to one which had unlimited data usage for our entire 6-day stay in Hong Kong. If you’re interested, you can get it from booth A04 at Terminal 1. Each SIM card costs about HK$200 (S$35). You can also get other necessities like the Octopus card for tourists (their version of EZlink card) and Airport Express Travel Pass (AETP) from the same booth. If you have travelled with Tigerair, you can also buy tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland at a discounted rate (10% off) from there.

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Octopus card at HK$10 each

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Airport Express Travel Pass, HK$160 for two to Hong Kong station

The AETP is very useful if you’re not planning to take a cab to your hotel. Mind you, taxi hires in Hong Kong are not as cheap as you think. If you get caught in a jam, you’re gonna chalk up a lot of money for the ride. I’d say the fares are comparable to those in Singapore. Furthermore, I feel that taking the train is a lot faster than a cab due to possible traffic congestions.

For the AETP, you can opt for a single or return journey (on the same day) ticket but the price of one depends on the station you’re alighting at. My destination was Hong Kong station, which is the furthest on the Airport Express Line (AEL) . Hence, my ticket was on the pricier end. The entrance to the AEL is conveniently located next to McDonald’s. Speaking of which, we had McDonald’s for lunch! It was where I made my first order entirely in Cantonese (so proud of myself)! I’m not very fluent in Cantonese myself but I’d tend to feel pressured to “fit in” when they speak to me in their language. In fact, the cashier probably thought I was a fellow Hong Konger until I hung my camera around my neck HAHA.

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From this picture you can already tell that the Hong Kongers are also eloquent in English.