Tuesday, April 26, 2016

9D7N Hokkaido, Japan (2016) Itinerary & Travel Expenses of RM2,490 Per Pax


Just when last month I was sweating like hell in scorching hot country of Sri Lanka, now I'm shivering in this kind of cold weather.

Instagram - Hokkaido 01
#1: Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!❄❄❄

Alright, I'm not in the holiday mood currently but I just came back from the beautiful northernmost of Japan's main island, Hokkaido. Thanks to AirAsia once again as I managed to buy the return airfare for only RM248 per pax when they announced the new route flying directly from Kuala Lumpur to New Chitose International Airport (CTX) last year and instantly I bought for my mom too.

Instead of just mommy and I, later on the group has been expanded up to 11 people. It's was very challenging task cause instead of hiring professional and experienced tour guide or even sign up with any local ground tour arrangement, I decided to take the lead to plan the whole trip; from hotel reservation, car rental, drafting itinerary and budget planning to the place I've never been before. But I glad by end of the trip, the whole journey went well and everyone enjoyed this trip. My aunties said I should become tour guide, not an accountant. Guess I am in the wrong field all this while?

Right after I came back from Hokkaido, few of my friends eventually asking me about this trip. Hence, I decided to share a brief and basic travel guide based on my own first hand experience covering Sapporo, Otaru, Lake Toya (brief stopby), Hakodate and Noboribetsu.

[Bear in mind the exchange rate I changed was 100 yen = RM3.02]

Day 1: 5th April 2016
The flight from Kuala Lumpur to CTS departed at 11.35 pm and the flight duration took about 7 and half hours.

AirAsia X Big Breakfast
#2: AirAsia X Big Breakfast - It was exceptionally big that both mommy and I can't finish them.

Note: The food is served in two session; one hour after the flight take off and three hours before landing.

Day 2: 6th April 2016 
Once we arrived at the New Chitose International Airport (CTX) around 8.10 am (Japan is 1 hour ahead of Malaysia), we decided to venture around the airport first before heading to Sapporo City because it was still early and the hotel check-in time was at 2pm. Plus, our flight depart from CTX on the last day was quite early and we worry we might have not sufficient time to stroll around. There are plenty of things to do, see, eat and shop in CTX; such as Doraemon Waku Waku Park, Royce's Chocolate World, Pokemon and Hello Kitty Store. Majority of these stores are situated at the Domestic Terminal Building Passage which not far away from the international arrival hall.

2016 Japan, New Chitose Airport 02
#3: Doraemon Waku Waku Park, Royce's Chocolate World, Pokemon and Hello Kitty Store at Domestic Terminal Building Passage 

Don't forget to dine in at Hokkaido Ramen Dojyo which houses a collection of piping hot and delicious big bowl of ramen from 10 best ramen restaurants around Hokkaido. The most popular one would be Ebisoba Ichigen, situated just right from the entrance for its sapid shrimp based broth. Unfortunately it was pretty packed and because it couldn't fit in 11 of us, we chosen to dine restaurant next to it and turned out to be good as well.

2016 Japan, New Chitose Airport 03
#4: Hokkaido Ramen Dojyo houses a collection of piping hot and delicious big bowl of ramen

How To Get To Sapporo From New Chitose International Airport:
To travel in the most economical way, there are two mode of transportation; either via JR trains or Chuo bus. Because the latter one takes more an hour to reach Sapporo, we opted for JR train which cost 1,070 yen (approx. to RM32) with addition of 520 yen (approx. to RM16) for seats reservation. The ride takes about 37 minutes for JR rapid trains.

2016 Japan, New Chitose Airport 04
#5: JR Rapid train costs 1,070 yen and the ride takes about 37 minutes 

To know more about the exact train timetable, route and fare from starting point to the end, you can refer to Hyperdia.

We stayed in Hotel Sunroute Sapporo - 5 minutes walk from JR Sapporo Station and less than 3 minutes walk to Subway Sapporo Station. Besides that, there are 4 convenience stores nearby (two Lawson, a 7-Eleven and Seicomart), surrounded by various shopping and entertainment complex like Esta, Daimaru, Paso, Stellar Place and more. For the price of RM321 per night for a triple room inclusive breakfast, this hotel is worth every dollar spent.

2016 Japan, Hotel Sunroute Sapporo 01
#6: Hotel Sunroute Sapporo. Although it was relatively small, but the most importantly each of us got our own single bed instead of sharing. 

2016 Japan, Hotel Sunroute Sapporo 02
#7: Japanese and Western cuisines. After been to Japan quite few times, this is the first time I had breakfast provided by the hotel. I love their curry soup mixed with rice. Oishi!

Did sightseeing on the first day whereby we visited the iconic Clock Tower, passby Sapporo TV Tower and shopping at Sapporo Factory. All of these are 15-20 minutes walk from our hotel, to be precise on the south exit of JR Sapporo Station.

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Sapporo 01-1
  1. Clock Tower - Admission Fee: 200 yen. Opening Hours: 8.45 am to 7 pm
  2. Sapporo TV Tower - Amission Fee: 720 yen. Opening Hours: 9 am to 9.30 pm
  3. Sapporo Factory - a large shopping and entertainment complex. Opening Hours: 10 am to 8 pm

Day 3: 7th April 2016
Otaru, a charming port town lies northwest on Sapporo is a popular tourist spot to be visited all round year, regardless any season. When one way trip from Sapporo to Otaru costs 640 yen (approx. to RM19) and in total cost 1,280 yen (approx. to RM38) for return trip, I would suggest to buy Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass, a  special discount ticket that allow you for unlimited ride for one day on both JR trains and all the Sapporo city subway lines. For the price of 1,700 yen (approx. to RM51), this handy pass is only limited to visitors from overseas with temporary status visit. So don't forget to bring along and show your passport when purchasing it at New Chitose International Airport Station JR or Sapporo Station West Ticket Gate JR.

2016 Japan, Sapporo Otaru Welcome Pass
#9: Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass, for the price of 1,700 yen consists of two different tickets, Sapporo-Otaru JR Round Ticket and Sapporo Subway One Day card. Both could be used on separate days.


Upon arriving JR Otaru Station, we walked straightly to Sakaimachidori Shopping Street where the whole street is lined with countless of souvenir stores, glassmakers and artcraft shops, seafood restaurants and cafes on both left and right of the lane.

2016 Japan, Sapporo Otaru 01-1
#10: What to do and see in Otaru? Walk on the railway track of Former Ironai Station, take a photo of Otaru steam clock, visit any glassmakers and artcraft shop and enjoy the nostalgic tunes at Otaru Music Box Museum

2016 Japan, Sapporo Otaru 02
#11: What to eat in Otaru? 
  • LeTao for the Fromage Double, a double layered cheesecake (There are plenty of LeTao outlets along Sakaimachidori Shopping Street and the main one is situated nearby Otaru Music Box Museum)
  • Kitakaro for the soft custard cream puff
  • 8 layers of colourful soft ice-cream for 580 yen (approx. to RM18)
2016 Japan, Sapporo Otaru Canal
#12: Stroll along the Otaru Canal before leaving this charming port town.

Day 4: 8th April 2016
Kicked off our morning by visiting the Nijo Morning Market for fresh local produce and seafood such as huge Alaskan King Crab, Hokkaido Red King Crab, sea urchins, scallops and more.

2016 Japan, Sapporo Nijo Market 04
#13: Fresh local produce and seafood at Nijo Morning Market

2016 Japan, Sapporo Nijo Market 05
#14: Besides sea urchins and scallops,we had Alaskan King Crab weighted 1kg for our breakfast. It's super fresh and juicy. 

How To Get To Nijo Morning Market:
Odori Subway Station - Exit 34
Opening Hours: 7 am to 6 pm

Right after that, we proceeded to Shiroi Koibito Park, a European style cookie factory. The company's signature product is the Shiroi Koibito cookie which consists of two thin butter cookies and a layer of white chocolate in between. It is among one of the most popular confectioneries from Hokkaido and widely sold around Japan. The park houses of a free area with a shop, cafe and restaurant and a paid area of 600 yen (approx. to RM18) where visitors can observe the cookie production process in the factory.


2016 Japan, Sapporo - Shiroi Koibito Park 01
#15: It's like fairy tales in Shiroi Koibito Park. Every spot of this place is Instagram worthy photos.

2016 Japan, Sapporo - Shiroi Koibito Park 02
#16: A paid area of 600 yen (approx. to RM18) where visitors can observe the cookie production process in the factory. 

How To Get To Nijo Morning Market:
Miyanosawa Station on Tozai Subway Line - Exit 5. Turn right after come out from station and walk until reach traffic light and turn right again. It takes about 10-15 minutes walk from subway station.
Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm

Day 5: 9th April 2016
To get to Hakodate which lies in the south of Hokkaido, we decided to do self-drive trip from Sapporo instead of taking public bus and trains. One trip via JR train could cost 5,720 yen (approx. to RM173) whereas for the Chuo Bus cost 4,680 yen (approx. to RM141). Since we are travelled in a big group of family, hence the wise choice would be rent two cars as it save a lot rather than taking JR train and bus. In total, each of us only paid 7,560 yen (approx. to RM228) for the car rental fee of three days, toll, parking fee and gasoline.

2016 Japan Toyota Rent A Car
#17: We rented two vehicles from Toyota Rent A Car.

Talking about car rentals booking, I would personally recommend to rent from Toyota or Nissan as they have English speaking staffs to guide and assist during the car pick-up and in the case of emergencies. On top of that, they offer both Hokkaido Expressway Pass and ETC card, a special service that allow unlimited use of Hokkaido's expressways through the ETC system on flat rate for the rental fee of 324 yen each (approx. to RM10).

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Hokkaido Expressway Pass (ETC)
#18: Hokkaido Expressway Pass or ETC Card for the rental fee of 324 yen 

For a Malaysian who intend to drive around Japan, applicants should apply for International Driving Permit (IDP) at any Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ) offices. Don't forget to bring along the original identification card, valid driving license, two passport size colour photos and RM150 for the processing fee. The application form could be downloaded here.

International Driving Permit
#19: International Driving Permit (IDP)

Regarding the GPS navigation system, the destinations are not based on English road name but rely on "MAPCODE" and "TELEPHONE NUMBER". Thank goodness that Toyota Rent A Car gave us a full list of the mapcode for popular tourist attractions around Sapporo, Otaru, Hakodate, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Furano, Biei and more. All I need to do is to search for our hotels' telephone number. As for the driver seat, no worry it's just the same as ours - on the right side.

Straightly after the car pick-up, we drove all the way and did short brief at Lake Toya, a volcanic caldera lake situated in southwestern part of Hokkaido to have a lunch break and souvenirs hunting before continue to drive for another 4 hours to Hakodate.

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Lake Toya 01
#19: What a bliss to have our lunch with the amazing view of Lake Toya

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Lake Toya 02
#20: Lake Toya speciality - Wakasaimo, Japanese style sweet buns which resembles a sweet potato

Finally after drove for almost four hours, we reached Hakodate and we stayed in Comfort Hotel Hakodate. I booked this hotel through Booking.com and the amount paid upon check-in. A double room inclusive breakfast costs 6,000 yen per night (approx. to RM180). Although the rooms were slightly smaller comparing to the one in Sapporo, but the plus point would be for its unbeatable location - close to JR Hakodate Station, Bus Station and Hakodate Morning Market Square is just two blocks away.

2016 Japan, Comfort Hotel Hakodate
#21: Comfort Hotel Hakodate - 6,000 yen per night inclusive breakfast 

Another advantage of staying in this hotel is one of the famous local burger chain outlet, Lucky Pierrot Hamburger is only situated right behind our hotel. Lucky Pierrot Hamburger is only available in Hakodate so when you are going to Hakodate, don't ever miss this out.

2016 Japan, Hamburger Lucky Pierrot
#22: The most recommended would be the Chinese Chicken Burger and Shrimp Burger but I can say almost all their burgers are taste so good.

For night activity, Mount Hakodate offers the most amazing and mesmering night view. It was awarded the highest rating of three stars in the "Michelin Green Guide Japan". If you are driving, you can drive up and there is a free parking besides Mount Hakodate Ropeway in Motomachi District. However, cause we doubt any more free parking space available as this is one hot and popular tourist spot, we decided to take the ropeway connection shuttle bus (240 yen for one way).

Mount Hakodate
#23: Mount Hakodate, worth taking time out to see for its night scenery. 

Mount Hakodate Ropeway
#24: Mount Hakodate Ropeway - Return trip cost 1,280 yen (approx. to RM38). Visitors can enjoy the view along the six minutes ride up to the mountain.

How To Get To Mount Hakodate Ropeway:
Ropeway Connection Shuttle Bus #4 at the Bus Station nearby JR Hakodate Station. The bus starts to operate at 6.05 pm and departs every 30 minutes. The last bus from JR station is at 9.05 pm and from Ropeway is 9.20 pm. A single fare costs 240 yen. 

Day 6: 10th April 2016
We only spent a night in Hakodate and going to leave this beautiful city on the next day. So before leaving, we visited Hakodate Morning Market Square, drove up to Motomachi District for few popular attractions and took lunch at Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse.

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Hakodate Morning Market Square
#25: Hakodate Morning Market Square for fresh local products and seafood. 

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Hakodate Motomachi District
#26: Buildings and popular attractions within Motomachi District - Roman Catholic Church, Russian Orthodox Church and Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward 


2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Hakodate Motomachi District 02

#27: The historical area of Motomachi District somehow reminds me of Kitano-cho, Kobe for its western-style houses

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Hakodate Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse 02
#27: Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse used to be a warehouse but now it has been developed into a shopping, dining and entertainment complex. 

Our final and last destination would be Noboribetsu, Hokkaido's most famous hot spring resort before driving back to Sapporo. As I want to experience something new, something unique and something different from my past visit to Japan, I decided to extra splurge staying in Daiichin Takimotokan Hotel for omotenashi - traditional Japanese hospitality where we slept on tatami style, enjoyed wide array of Japanese and western style of dinner and breakfast buffet and soaking nakedly in hot spring baths and public pools (onsen). That's the awkward moment I won't forget for the rest of my life. Although it was pricey, but I glad when I saw my family members enjoyed staying in this huge and grand hotel.

2016 Japan, Hokkaido Noboribetsu Daiichi Takimotokan 01
#28: Daiichi Takimotokan Hotel - I never expected the hotel to be so huge and grand. Although it's pricey but highly recommended to stay when visit Noboribetsu.

Day 7: 11th April 2016
How we wish to spend more time in this hotel but it's time to bid goodbye. We intended to visit the Hell Valley (Jigokudani) which displays hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity but because of the heavy snowfalls which we never expected it to be as it was early of spring, we have to cancel the plan. Luckily the room I stayed last night is overlooking the Hell Valley. However, we managed to catch the penguin parade at Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe.

2016 Japan, Hokkaido Noboribetsu Hell Valley
#29: Hell Valley view from my room

2016 Japan, Hokkaido Noboribetsu Nex Marine Park
#30: Penguin parade at Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe - Admission Fee: 2,200 yen (approx. to RM66) for a group of 10 people or more. 

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Sapporo Toyota Rent A Car
#31: Returning our car to one of Toyota Rent A Car offices nearby Sapporo Station. This one is located at Sapporo East Station office. 

Note: Don't forget to fill up the gasoline tank when returning the car.

Day 8: 12th April 2016
Since it was our last day before leaving Hokkaido on the next day, my family members decided to shop till drop at Tanukikoji Shopping Street which consists of seven long blocks of building selling everything ranging from clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, drugstores to restaurants, cafes and night clubs. There is even a souvenir shop selling halal snacks and confectioneries.

2016 Japan, Sapporo Kinotoya Bake - 1
#32: Kinotoya Confectionery - well-known for its baked cheese tart. Only found in Hokkaido (New Chitose International Airport, JR Sapporo Station, underground walkway)

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Sapporo Tanukikoji Shopping Street
#33: My family and I spent almost half our day at Tanukikoji Shopping Street. So many things to see and shop here. Shopaholic mode on!

Talking about Japan tax free shopping, look out for the shops with the sign as below. If you purchase 5,000 yen or more on consumable goods such as food, drinks, medicines, cosmetics and etc, you will be exempted from paying 8% Japanese consumption tax. But do bear in mind, the Japanese will seal all your goods in a bag and you are not allowed to open until you leave Japan. However, you can request them to pack in different bag as long as you didn't open any of these bags while still in Japan.

Japan Tax Free Shop
#34: Japan tax-free shop when customers can be exempted from paying the 8% Japanese consumption tax

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Sapporo Underground Walkway
#35: Just when we thought we done with Tanukikoji Shopping Street, we're absolutely wrong. There is long underground walkway starting from Sapporo Station to Susukino Station houses countless of shops, restaurants and cafe. Japan, just take all my money! 

Day 9: 13th April 2016
It's the last day of our trip and it's time to lug our heavy luggages to the JR Sapporo Station. From there, we took the JR local train to New Chitose International Airport. The earliest train starts at 6.02 am but the ride took longer time than the JR Rapid train although the fares are the same.

2016 Japan, Hokkaido - Sapporo JR Train
#36: Single fare from JR Sapporo Station to New Chitose International Airport costs 1,070 yen and additional of 520 yen for seats reservation.

2016 Japan, New Chitose Airport Starbucks Cantaloupe Melon and Cream Frappuccino
#37: Starbucks new drink - Cantaloupe Melon and Cream Frappucino. I guess this is only available in Japan. 

And the following are the details of travel expenses breakdown throughout my 9 days and 7 nights trip around Hokkaido (excluded my return airfare between Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur and shopping expenses).

PARTICULARS
NOTE
AMOUNT
Japanese Yen
RM
Air Fares
KL-New Chitose Airport (CTS)-KL via AirAsia
Add Ons: Baggage, meals, seats selection

Hotel
Hotel Sunroute Sapporo – 5 nights
Comfort Hotel Hakodate – 1 night
Dai-ichi Takimotokan Noboribetsu – 1 night

Transportation
JR Rapid Train from CTS to Sapporo with seat
Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass
Bus shuttle to Mt Hakodate Ropeway (Return)
JR Local Train from Sapporo to CTS

Admission Fee
Shiroi Koibito Park
Mount Hakodate Ropeway
Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe

Car Rental
Toyota Rent A Car – 2 cars
Hokkaido Expressway Pass (ETC)
Gasoline, Parking Fee

Food & Drinks



1


2
3
4


5







6


7
8


-
-


-
3,000
11,490


1,590
1,700
480
1,070


600
1,280
2,200


5,260
990
1,310

16,520

248
274


536
91
347


48
50
14
32


18
39
66


159
30
40

498



TOTAL:
RM2,490

(The exchange rate by the time I changed 100 yen = RM3.02)

NOTE:
  1. The add ons including 25 kg - 30 kg of luggage allowance, a meal for each flight and seat selections. 
  2. Stayed for 5 nights. A triple bed room including breakfast. Bear in mind I booked this hotel 6 months in advanced before my trip. 
  3. Stayed for a night. A standard double bed room including breakfast.
  4. Stayed for a night. A standard Japanese style room including dinner and breakfast buffet.
  5. Single fare costs 1,070 yen with addition of 520 yen for seats reservation.
  6. Originally the admission fee is 2,400 yen but there is an offer for a big group of 10 people or more. 
  7. Rented a P2 class car with 5 seaters (21,060 yen) and W1 class car with 7 seaters (32,400 yen) for three days. Besides the basic rate, the rental fee including insurance of 3,240 yen for each car. As for the English speaking GPS, it's free of charge.
  8. Rental fee for Hokkaido Expressway Card or ETC is 324 yen each with additional charge of 5,100 yen for 3 days fixed rate toll.
If you are looking to buy Hokkaido omiyage (souvenirs), there are 25 must buy souvenirs (especially snacks and confectioneries) from Hokkaido. Check out the full list here.
25 Must Buy Snacks & Confectionaries from Hokkaido
#38: These are among the 25 must buy souvenirs from Hokkaido and they are not enough. Should brought huge luggages instead. 


Thanks to AirAsia for the incredibly cheap airfare. Looking forward for more new route. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

BIFF Square, Busan

Date Visited: 21st March 2014

Once we got back to the Busan Station from Taejongdae Recreation Area, the day is still shining bright and since it's our last day in Busan before heading back to Seoul, we moved on to visit BIFF Square.

Angel In Us Coffee
#1: Coffee break at Angel In Us Coffee Cafe

BIFF Square, or in full - Busan International Film Festival Square was a center of attraction dedicated to promote Korea's film industry. This was where the annual film festival held but now has became hustle and bustle of busy shopping street lined with variety of Korean beauty products, cosmetics and fashion.