Saturday, December 15, 2018

Thailand: 1 Day Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle Tour

*This is super long overdue post!*

Chiang Rai is a small city in the most northern province of Thailand situated approximately three hours away from the most popular sister city of Chiang Mai. Of course if I had the chance, I would love to stay at least for a night here rather than taking an excursion tour but unfortunately due to time constraint, that's my last resort. I booked this tour from the hostel I stayed in Chiang Mai - So Hostel a day before it start for the priced of  800 baht (approx. to RM84).

Our first pit stop is Maekhajan Hot Springs. a public hot spring that is well-known among the local and it's consider to be part of their rest stop before continue their way to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. The hot spring is exceptionally hot and therefore, don't ever think to take a bath here. However, you can purchase eggs from any of those stall nearby and boil them in this natural hot springs.     

Thailand - Hot Spring Chiang Rai

Our tour then continued with the stunning Wat Rong Khun which also known as The White Temple for its dazzling white colour inlaid with mirrored glass. This is obviously the main highlight of this tour. I blogged about this marvelous temple before - you can check out here: Wat Rong Khun - The White Temple of Chiang Rai.

Thailand - Chiang Rai Wat Rong Khun 00

After that, we moved forward to the Golden Triangle where we get the chance to witness the meeting points of three Indo-China countries; Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. Both of my parents been and experienced this Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle tour before, and they keep telling me how awesomeness of this Golden Triangle where they got to enter these three countries for free. So now, I want to experience myself to see how true is that. 

The tour package doesn't include a boat cruise along the Mekong River to the Laos island of Don Sao. If you are interested, you have to fork out extra fee of 300 baht (approx. to RM31) for it and also 30 baht for the entrance fee to Don Sao Island.  

Note: You are required to show your original passport when taking the boat ride on the Mekong to across Laos. Hence, remember to bring along your original passport in case you would like to take this optional tour. 


Thailand - Chiang Rai Golden Triangle Boat Ride
Golden Triangle, the meeting points of three countries; Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos

Thailand - Chiang Rai Golden Triangle Cross Border to Laos

And because this is a quick overview tour, we're given only a short limit of time to explore the island. Luckily it was small little town and there's nothing much to wander and venture for. There are few shops around selling abundance items like counterfeit handbags, local dry food which I found it's uninteresting.  

Then, we board on boat again back to Thailand border. From there, we had long hour drive to Mae Sai, a small town in northern Thai border. It's very popular among the visitors for it's close proximity to Myanmar border which is located a mere ten meters away across the river. However, unlike what my parents told me earlier, we're strictly prohibited from entering into Myanmar due to visa issue. For your information, a Malaysian is required to apply for visa in order to visit Myanmar. You can check out my post on Myanmar here. As a result, we can only catch a glimpse of Myanmar from far.  

Thailand - Chiang Rai Northern Most of Thailand

Thailand - Chiang Rai 03
So close, yet so far away

On the return leg back to Chiang Mai, we had our final and last stop at the ethnic hill tribes villages of Akha and Yao Lahu. Once again, we're being told that we need to pay extra of 300 baht (not again!) if we would like to visit Keren Hill Village which is famed for its long-necked tribe. Since it's optional, I chosen not to join cause I've seen this long-necked tribe when I was in Myanmar and you know what, it's free somemore.  

Thailand - Chiang Rai Native Village

Thailand - Chiang Rai Native Village 02

Would I recommend this one day tour execution? In case you only have a short period of time spending in Chiang Mai, then it's no harm to sign for this. But like I mentioned earlier since it's a whirlwind tour, everything is indeed rush and pack. That's explain why I dislike joining any organised tour company/agent, unless I have no other option. If I were given another chance to be back again in future, I would love to explore and discover Chiang Rai myself than signing a tour. Probably what my parents experienced are way more better than mine due to the different package tour they took. You know like they said, "When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."  

1 Day Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle Tour
Tour Price: 800 baht 
Tour Includes:
  • Pick-up from Chiang Mai's hotels/hostels 
  • An English speaking tour guide
  • An air-conditioned car/minivan
  • Admission fees to all places indicated in tour except for Don Sao Island
  • Lunch
Majority of this tour starts at 7 am and end by 9 pm, at least.
Date Visited: 14th April 2014

Thursday, December 13, 2018

5 Reasons Why You Should Apply BigPay Card

*This is not a sponsored post, neither an advertorial.*

But since I received quite a number of queries regarding this, hence I decided to blog and share based on my own experience. 

BigPay Card Cover

I've been traveling for more than 10 years and throughout my travel record, the number of times using credit or debit card when travel abroad can be calculated using all my 10 fingers, or even lesser. Except for the part where I need to do all the bookings like hotel/hostels, transportation and even entrance tickets prior to my trip, I would try my best not to use both credit and debit cards due to its unflavourable exchange rates. Not until I was introduced with BigPay card.

What Is BigPay Card?
BigPay is a prepaid Mastercard with a mobile app that will not only save your time but as well as your money in anywhere around the world. It works as an e-wallet but with the accompany of physical card. Let's say if the shop or restaurant you visit doesn't accept e-wallet payments, you'll still be able to pay your transaction by using your BigPay card. 

Why You Should Apply BigPay Card?
1) Best and Favourable Exchange Rate
This is the ultimate reason why I apply for a BigPay card. I heard a lot and saw many comments on social media network saying that BigPay card offers the best and favourable exchange rate when spending abroad and it's really true. Let's take a very good example of my recent trip to Europe last October. Before leaving for my trip, I went and exchanged in the money changer for €1.00 = RM4.88. But when I used my BigPay card to pay for McD's meal in Portugal, the rate was €1.00 = RM4.82. Probably you can't see the differences when spending in small amount of money but in the case you can't help yourself from buying luxury handbags (like my cousin did), then you will see the significant difference. Even my own CIMB debit card charged me at the rate of €1.00 = RM4.96 (refer the third photo). So heartpain!

BigPay Card 01

BigPay Card 02

CIMB Debit Card
The transaction of using CIMB Debit card. You do the maths of the exchange rate. 

2) Earning and Collecting AirAsia Big Points
As per other e-wallet players here, BigPay also have its own rewards system through AirAsia Big Points. You can link your AirAsia BIG member ID to your BigPay account by using your email. Many of my friends keep asking me how I managed to earn and collect points like up to more than 75,000, oh well I should say thanks to BigPay card to be exact. Most of them thought I get all this points by flying with AirAsia frequently but the truth is through top-up or make any purchases on my daily spend by using this card. Not just for AirAsia itself, you can use BigPay card to make payment for other airlines too. From there, you'll instantly earn points too.   
  • Top of every RM50 = 1 Big point
  • Spend of every RM20 = 1 Big point

BigPay AirAsia Points
My BIG points

IMG_20181210_110153
My boyfriend BIG points - my jaw dropped when seeing his one

3) Save Money on AirAsia Flights
When you purchase a flight ticket from AirAsia, you know you'll being charged a processing fee of RM8 per person per way for both credit and debit card whereas RM4 for online banking. However, if you use your BigPay to make payment, you can enjoy zero processing fee. On top of that, you can even get exclusive discount for the add-on luggage and meals. 

AirAsia BigPay Zero Processing Fee
When purchasing AirAsia flight using BigPay card - Zero processing fee and discount for add-on luggage and meal.

AirAsia BigPay No Zero Processing Fee
Without using BigPay card

4) Instant Money Transfer
Not only for paying transactions, BigPay is also allowing you to transfer money to your friends or family. The entire process is fast and easy, without any extra fees being charged. Let's say your friends and you yourself decided to split your dinner bill but then, you don't have any small change and so are your friends too. So the best way is by just transferring the money into your friend's BigPay account. 

5) Easy Access and Tracking
If you want to trace the transactions you done previously, you can do so by just log in into your apps and key in your 6-digit passcode rather than entering both username and password which I personally think it's time consuming. Staying up to date on your spending has never been more hassle free. And in case you notice there's unauthorised transactions, you can immediately freeze your card through the apps. 

So How To Apply Big Pay Card?
1) Download BigPay - Asia's Money app from Goggle Play Store/App Store and it's completely free to get this card. 
Use my referral code and you'll get RM10 when you sign up!

My referral code: FCO0WICSM0

2) Since BigPay is a prepaid card, therefore you need to top up at least RM20 before receiving your card. 
3) Once you get your card, activate it and you will receive RM10 from using the referral code. So in total, you'll get RM30. 

The Downside of BigPay Card
Somehow BigPay do have it's own drawback too. The most common problem I encounter is sometimes the payment I made failed or being declined. Therefore, it's wise not to transfer all your money from your bank account to BigPay. What I normally do is top-up when I feel it's necessary or when the amount is insufficient. Don't be so silly and transfer all your money just for the sake of earning the points. This is because once the transfer done, you unable to transfer back the money store inside your BigPay account into your associated bank account anymore. Be a smart user 😉

Another thing you should take note is that withdrawals performed in Malaysia is subjected to a fee of RM6 per transaction and overseas withdrawals will be charged at RM10 per transaction.

Conclusion, if you are someone who love to travel like me, then you should sign up and apply for a BigPay Card. This card really gives me a peace of mind without have to worry of the exchange rate.

2018 Italy Milan 02
Now I can shopping abroad without worry about the exchange rate. Thanks to BigPay Card!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Summary of My 17D Balkans Travelogue (2018) Covering Istanbul, Bosnia & Herzegovina & Croatia

And here comes the end of another travelogue of mine - like, finally! This year I managed to complete at least 5 travelogues before year-end; Solo Trip To Europe (2017), 9D8N Australia Melbourne & Sydney (2017), 6D5N Central Vietnam (2018), 6D5N Kyushu Japan (2018) and now this one - 17D of my Balkans trip covering Turkey, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia. Feeling accomplished cause my motivation for blogging is finally back on track! I almost lost my interest and passion not just in blogging, but in travelling too dating back 2 years ago.

2018 Balkans Travelogue Cover-1

SUMMARY OF MY 17D BALKANS TRIP COVERING ISTANBUL, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA AND CROATIA
Here is the compilation of my Balkans travelogue at a glance (obviously I'm lazy to summarise everything 😜):
2018 DT Balkans Itinerary
(Just click each of them and it will link you to the individual blogpost)

For this post also, I would like to share not comprehensive one but a brief and basic travel guide based my own first hand experience to Turkey (Istanbul), Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia.

VISA
For Malaysian, visa is NOT required to enter into these three countries. Therefore don't have to worry about applying any visa at all. That's show how powerful our Malaysian passport are, right? However if you are intended to stay more than 90 days for each respective country, then you have to go and apply for the visa. I don't have experience for this cause normally, I only stay one or two weeks for each country. 

CURRENCY EXCHANGE
Before embarking for this trip, I exchanged Euros and some Turkish lira (I changed in KL Nu Sentral). You can bring along US dollar, British Pound or even Singapore Dollar cause these currencies are also widely accepted in most of the European countries.
  • Turkey's national currency is Turkish lira. It can be found in Malaysia. But in case you don't have the time to change, no worries cause you can exchange in Istanbul. TRY100 = RM102
  • Convertible mark (KM/BAM) is the only legal tender in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I exchanged in Sarajevo International Airport - the first Bosnia's airport I landed. €1.00 = 1.95KM on average*. But because there is 1% commission being charged, hence I got €1.00 = 1.93KM
  • The official currency for Croatia is Croatian kuna. €1.00 = HRK7.13 on average*
*The rate I exchanged in May 2018
Huawei P2013
Top: Bosnia & Herzegovina's convertible mark
Bottom: Croatian kuna 

PURCHASING TRANSPORTATION TICKET
The most frequently asked travel questions - where to buy all these transportation tickets and when? Being "kiasu" in me, I always prefer to buy all my buses and trains ticket prior to my trip in order to secure the seats, especially when the bus and train schedules are quite limited. Except for my train ticket from Sarajevo to Mostar and a-return day trip between Split and Sibenik, I booked all my bus tickets from GetByBus (click here). It's a legit and reliable website, so don't have to worry cause it's really pretty save and secure buying bus tickets from this website. 

GetByBus Website

The only downside of this website is that you have to print out your tickets. They don't accept mobile ticket. And another thing you have to take note is that for all intercity buses, there is an extra fee of €1-2 charge for luggage fee. Remember to keep some small change.

SIM CARD
Because I was travelling alone, hence it's freaking costly to rent a pocket WiFi by my own. Besides that, for your information Bosnia & Herzegovina is actually doesn't consider to be part of European coverage even for both pocket WiFi and travel sim card. What I did is I bought my travel sim card from Hello1010 (click here) and purchased another one for Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo Airport. 

2018 Day 3 Bosnia 02 Sim Card

There you go! Hopefully I don't miss out any important travel tips and info relating my trip to these Balkans countries. In case you have any queries or doubt, feel free to leave a comment or email me. 

TOTAL SPENDING
As usual, I simplify everything for easy reference - which include means of transportation, hostels, entrance fees, food but excluding my shopping spending throughout my trip around 17 days. 
PARTICULARS
AMOUNT
€/KM/CZK
RM
Air Fares
Singapore Airlines (Return fare Kota Kinabalu to Istanbul)
Pegasus Airlines (One-way Istanbul to Sarajevo)
Turkish Airways (One-way Zagreb to Istanbul)

Cities
Sarajevo – 2 days
Mostar – 2 days
Dubrovnik – 2days
Split – 2 days
A Day Trip to Split
Zadar – 1 day
Plitvice Lakes National Park – 1 day
Zagreb – 2 days
Istanbul – 2 days

Ground Tour
Herzegovina Tour

Others
4GB Travel Prepaid Sim Card - Bought from Hello1010

-
-
-


-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-


60KM


-

2,190
293
955


301
188
782
419
149
289
300
363
250


150


103

TOTAL:
6,732
Exchange rate  €1.00 = RM4.84 as at May 2018

Curious about my souvenir travel haul? There are two items I die-die must buy whenever I visit different country or city which are the fridge magnet and postcard. Besides these two, another one would be the stamps. Sometimes I would spend up to RM100 by just buying these three things. As for this trip, my total spending for souvenir and shopping is RM1,026 including numerous of fridge magnets, postcards, stamps, a T-shirt, a skirt and a dress when I was in Croatia. 

2018 Travel Haul 4
A hardcore collector for fridge magnets.

2018 Travel Haul 3
Souvenirs from Croatia including tea towels, liquid soap dispense and a T-shirt for my nephew.

Istanbul Shopping Haul 1
Pouch and fridge magnets from Istanbul.

Istanbul Shopping Haul 2
Turkish ceramic bowls in various sizes.

AIRLINES EXPERIENCE & THEIR IN-FLIGHT MEALS
For this trip, I flew and experienced 4 different type of airlines:
1) Silk Air for my journey between Kota Kinabalu to Singapore. I even blogged about this airline before (click here).

2018 Silk Air BKI-SIN-BKI
In-flight meal for Silk Air. I like their fresh fruits but not their main meal. Feel like eating thick flour instead of fish meats.

2) Singapore Airlines for the trip from Singapore to Istanbul as well as for the return. Finally I got to fly with the World's Best Airline. However, I'm quite disappointed with the fleet for the flight to Istanbul cause it's one old aircraft being used. The in-flight entertainment wasn't fascinating and not many options were given. Even for the in-flight meals, I found out it's just so-so and nothing to shout. 

2018 Singapore Airlines In-Flight Meal
For the route Singapore to Istanbul, their meals are quite acceptable. 

2018 Singapore Airlines In-Flight Meal Istanbul to Singapore
But for the route from Istanbul to Singapore, the meals look kinda sad and unappetising. Luckily there's an ice-cream to cheer me up

3) Pegasus Airlines for one-way journey from Istanbul to Sarajevo. Pegasus Airlines is a Turkish low-cost airlines with no-frills, similar to AirAsia where the fare doesn't include free baggage allowance, in-flight meal and entertainment. 

2018 Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Sarajevo

4) Turkish Airlines for a trip from Zagreb to Istanbul. Turkish Airlines is a national carrier airline of Turkey and it's full-fledged airlines. This is one of the most expensive fares I ever bought in my life just for a single trip. 

2018 Turkish Airlines Zagreb to Istanbul In-Flight Meal

Never thought this is going to be a lengthy post but I'm glad that finally this is the end. Now I'm going to have a cup of nice hot coffee and at same time, thinking which travelogue should I blog next.

DT Backpacking in Croatia

Friday, December 7, 2018

Foodie Friday: Nakiryu - Tokyo's Second Michelin Starred Ramen Restaurant

#nonhalalpost

So for my trip to Tokyo this year, not just one but then, I managed to experience two distinctive ramen restaurants that are awarded with a prestigious Michelin Star. The first one is Tsuta (click here) and the second one is this one - Nakiryu, which I am going to elaborate further in this post. 

Nakiryu Tokyo Michelin Ramen 01
#1: Nakiryu - World's Second Michelin Starred Ramen Restaurant

Frankly speaking, I know nothing about Nakiryu until my travel partner brought me here. He does the planning, and I just follow cause I'm not the type of traveler that will roaming further just for the sake of food adventures, unless I happen to be in the nearby neighbourhood. And because of its location sat on the non-touristic area, no surprise I wasn't aware of this ramen restaurant at all.

So which dish of Nakiryu causing it to receive the coveter French honor? It's their signature "Tantanmee", a kind of noodle inspired from Chinese Sichuan served in spicy broth and yet, it's so delicious and rich in flavours. And guess what, a bowl of this signature Tantanmee cost only 850 yen (approx. to RM31) which is slightly cheaper than the famous chain restaurant of Ichiran, or even Ippudo.  

Nakiryu Tokyo Michelin Ramen 02
#2: Open kitchen with 10-seater bar

Similar to Tsuta, Nakiryu is a typical small Japanese restaurant houses with 10-seater bar. When we went for the very first time, luck wasn't on our side cause we're late and it closed. Hence, we decided to come back again during the dinner time. We arrived 30 minutes earlier before its opening time at 6pm and glad that we're among the first batch to get into the restaurant. The process of ordering ramen is alike most regular ramen shops - purchase a ticket from the vending machine inside the shop. However, I encounter difficulty when ordering it as there is no English menu available but with the help of the boyfriend, I told him my ultimate choice would be none other than the signature menu which is the "Tantanmee".

Nakiryu Tokyo Michelin Ramen 03
#3: The signature "Tantanmee" in a spicy broth topped with minced pork (850 yen)

Nakiryu Tokyo Michelin Ramen 04
#4: Also the signature "Tantanmee" but with additional topping - charshu (braised pork) - cost 1,050 yen

My choice - Tsuta or Nakiryu? I choose the latter one - okay, I have to be honest I'm biased cause I love spicy food more. Although Nakiryu is famed for its spicy noodle, the boyfriend who has lower tolerance to spicy food, he approved this ramen and turns out to be his favourite one too. The  texture of the handmade thin noodles are so chewy and springy at the right level. And with its spicy broth mixed with peanuts (do take note if you are allergic to nuts) making it is undeniably creamy, rich and packed with flavours, oh boy - this is the real definition of a perfect bowl of happiness. 

Unfortunately, each patron is only allowed to order one bowl of ramen for the convenience of other customers who are in the queue. But don't worry cause you are allowed to add noodle (kaedama). 

Nakiryu Tokyo Michelin Ramen 05
#5: Nakiryu instant noodle - available in any 7-eleven. But of course, dining at the restaurant itself would be better. 

HOW TO GET TO NAKIRYU
The most closest station is Otsuka under JR Yamanote Loop Line and 5 minutes walk on the south exit of the station.
Opening Hours: 11:30 am to 3:00 pm 
                           6:00 pm to 9:00 pm 
Be sure to get there at least an hour before the opening time cause I came across someone ranted that they waited for almost 2 hours.

READ ALSO: Tsuta - World's First Michelin Starred Ramen Restaurant

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Balkans (2018): Istanbul, Turkey - My Starting & Ending Point of My Balkans Trip

Selam Istanbul!

2018 Turkey Istanbul 01

Frankly speaking, I never imagine that I will visit Turkey by my own someday. My friends and I have been discussed about our trip to Turkey for the past few years but then, we never materialise it to date. One of the main reasons is due to the airfares - most of the times the price of the airtickets to Istanbul from Kuala Lumpur were over our budget. Not until (again!) my friend who manages the Mytravelmatez FB Page shared with me about Singapore Airlines promo. All-in return fares from Kota Kinabalu to Istanbul for as low as RM2,100 which I personally think it's a great bargain. Informed my friends about this but because each of them are committed to their worklife, at the end I decided to go ahead to travel by my own. It's not like I had never experienced travel alone before, right? So without thinking any longer, instantly booked the ticket before the price increase. My motto, "Book first, think later"

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

6D5N Itinerary in Kyushu, Japan (2018)

2018 Fukuoka Cover

Ever heard of Fukuoka and wondering where it is? Fukuoka is a city in Fukuoka Prefecture on the island of Kyushu and it is the largest city on this southernmost island of Japan. Another interesting fact of Fukuoka is that it is more closer to Busan (South Korea) than Tokyo where you can take ferry to across . I bet another thing you never knew about Fukuoka too - it's the birthplace of Ichiran Ramen! 

Best Time To Visit Kyushu 
Any time at any season. It depends on what are you fancy with - whether spring, summer, autumn or winter. For me, definitely my pick would be on the autumn which falls between October and November where the temperature at a pleasant level and the weather is practically stable. If you are looking for something more happening, then you should go in the month of July for the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. However, try to avoid from mid-August to late September cause the island might experiencing the Pacific typhoon season.

2018 Fukuoka Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival
Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival running for 15 days from 1st July yearly.

Flying In Kyushu
Fukuoka Airport is the main international hub serving those international flights from Mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and more. Heading to the city centre from the airport is pretty easy cause the airport is so close to the city centre which takes approximately of 10 minutes by subway.

Travel Around Kyushu
There are 7 prefectures with over than 10 cities around Kyushu Island (as per the map attached below). Therefore, if you ask me how many days should be allocated to visit Kyushu - of course, the longer, the better cause Kyushu Island is so huge and there are many interesting cities worth for visit. But if you are pressed for time, then I would recommend you to focus on Fukuoka, Beppu, Kumamoto and Nagasaki - just like what my friends and I did recently where we managed to cover all these within 6 days and 5 nights trip.

Japan - Kyushu Map
Image source from Japan Guide

Get Around Kyushu
Generally, there are two ways to travel from one city to another within Kyushu Island; either by renting a car or relying on the trains. If you prefer the latter option, then you should consider of buying the JR Kyushu Rail Pass. Click on the link for more info about the validity, price and coverage.

JR Kyushu Rail Pass
All Kyushu
3 days
15,000 yen
5 days
18,000 yen
Northern Kyushu
3 days
8,500 yen
5 days
10,000 yen
Southern Kyushu
3 days
7,000 yen
Fukuoka Wide
2 days
3,000 yen
Reduced rates (50%) apply to children aged 6-11

However, my friends and I decided to rent a car and do self-drive trip cause we love of having another road adventures. We rented from Budget Car Rental with a free shuttle service from Fukuoka Airport to their office nearby.

2018 Fukuoka Airport Budget Car Rental

NOTE: For a Malaysian who intend to drive around Japan, applicants should apply for International Driving Permit (IDP) at any Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ) offices. Do bring along your original identification card, valid driving license, two passport size colour photos and RM150 for the processing fee. Don't forget to fill in the application form at JPJ office too. Only those who apply IDP is allowed to drive in Japan.

6D5N Kyushu Itinerary
Day 1: Fukuoka Airport → Yufuin → Beppu
Day 2: Beppu → Kumamoto
Day 3: Kumamoto
Day 4: Kumamoto → Nagasaki → Fukuoka
Day 5: Fukuoka
Day 6: Sayonara Fukuoka

DAY 1
Right after we clear with all the car rental process, straight away we drove to Beppu, a home to more than 2,000 onsen (known as hot spring in Japanese). But before that, we did a stopby at a small town by the name of Yufuin for its colourful and vibrant Yufuin Floral Village.

2018 Japan Yufuin 01

Setting in the old English atmosphere, almost all the houses and stores here are painted in bright yellow colour and built in an average size where one can almost touch their roof, if you are tall enough. Despite its size, all the shops are beautifully manicured with multicoloured flowers, bushes and vintage lamps which causing this place a good photo opportunities if you are looking for Insta-worthy spots. Besides souvenir stores that selling all kind of stuff like soft toys, Japanese cartoons (Totoro, Kiki), owl-themed items and more, you can find cat's cafe and owl museum too. 

2018 Japan Yufuin 03

2018 Japan Yufuin 02

2018 Japan Yufuin 04

Yufuin Floral Village
How To Get Here: Less than 20 minutes walk from Yufuin Station on JR Kyudai Main Line
Tel: 0977-85-5132 (If you are renting car, you need to enter telephone code to get here)
Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 5.30 pm daily
Admission is free of charge.

From Yufuin, it takes approximately an hour drive to Beppu. Beppu is well-known for its hot springs and there are more than 100 hot springs there. Some hotels and even traditional inns have their own hot springs within their building and allowed their guests access for free. Even the one you book that doesn't have this special service, don't worry cause onsen (hot spring) can be found almost everywhere around Beppu and the cheapest one we found cost us 100 yen. That's like RM4. Freaking dirt cheap!

2018 Beppu Manhole Cover
Beppu - home to more than hundred of 100 hot springs #thetravellingnails

After soaking and relaxing in an onsen bath, it's time to fill our hungry tummy. And we had Icchome Ramen - a clear broth-based soup served with Charshu, boiled egg, green onion and kimchi. Yes, an unique combination and this is my virgin experience eating ramen with kimchi together. 

2018 Beppu Icchome Ramen

In Beppu, we stayed for a night in International Hostel Cabosu House Beppu Original where we got to experience sleeping in a tatami-styled room. It's a very simple and basic Japanese-styled room but very spacious which can accommodate up to 4 guests. We booked the one ensuite with a separate toilet and bathroom. As for the parking, we were requested to pay additional of 700 yen. 

2018 International Hostel Cabosu House Beppu Original

International Hostel Cabosu House Beppu Original
Type of Room: Economy Japanese-Style Room with Ensuite
Room Rate: RM342 per night

DAY 2
In Beppu, we only intended to stay for a night and therefore before leaving this city, we visited few places like Umi Jigoku and Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa.

Umi Jigoku - Umi means "sea" and Jigoku indicates "hell". Why this place is known as sea hell is because of its colour - an unique cobalt blue coloured hot spring. Umi Jigoku is undoubtedly to be one of the most beautiful and sophisticated out of all seven hells. It's exceptionally hot and so don't ever bother to take a bath here. Besides the popular onsen eggs, don't leave this place without trying their Jigoku pudding which made by the steam of Jigoku. 

2018 Japan Beppu Umi Jigoku

2018 Japan Beppu Umi Jigoku 2

2018 Japan Beppu Umi Jigoku Pudding
#thetravellingnails

Umi Jigoku
How To Get Here: Bus #5, 7 and 9 from JR Beppu Station
Tel: 0977-66-0121. Free parking is provided at all the hells.
Opening Hours: 8 am to 5 pm daily
Admission Fee: 400 yen for visit Umi Jigoku only. If you are interested to visit all the seven hells, then it costs 2,000 yen. 

Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa - This is where you can cook your food by steaming them using the natural heat of the hot spring water. Sounds interesting, right? Visitors can choose and purchase any variety of food which they like to cook/steam by their own such as seafood, chicken, pork, vegetables, sweet potatoes, dumplings and more for between 150 yen to 3,000 yen. Unfortunately for us, we didn't have the chance to experience this cause there are like more than 50 people queue before us. It's like almost two hours of waiting and therefore, we decided to skip this. It's wise to come as early as 9 am or choose to come during non-peak hour. 

2018 Beppu Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa 1

2018 Beppu Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa

Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa
How To Get Here: Bus #5, 7 and 9 from JR Beppu Station
Tel: 0977-66-3775
Opening Hours: 9 am to 9 pm (8pm is the last cooking time). Closed on third Wednesday of each month.
Admission Fee: 400 yen for visit Umi Jigoku only. If you are interested to visit all the seven hells, then it costs 2,000 yen. 

From Beppu, we proceeded to Kumamoto which takes about three hours drive. As for Kumamoto, we stayed here for 2 nights and we booked Riverside Hotel Kumamoto. We enjoyed staying in this hotel due to its excellent and great location - very close to Shimotori Shopping Arcade and less than 10 minutes walk to Kumamoto Castle.

2018 Riverside Hotel Kumamoto

Riverson Hotel Kumamoto
Type of Room: Modern Japanese-Style Room Ensuite with private bathroom 
Room Rate: 10,800 yen with additional charge of 1,000 yen for parking fee (Approx. to RM464 per night and can accommodate up to 3 guests)

Right after we done with the check-in, we walked to Shimotori Shopping Arcade for Kokutei Ramen. If you are searching for authentic Tonkatsu Ramen in Kumamoto, then Kokutei Ramen is highly recommended for its milky and creamy pork bone broth-based ramen soup with a strong garlic flavour. We're lucky that we don't have to travel far to savour for this yummylicious bowl of ramen. We ordered Kokutei Recommended - Tamagoiri Ramen where instead of serving the hard boiled egg, they served two fresh egg yolks to make the broth more creamier and it costs 900 yen for normal size and 1,500 yen for the extra large size. 

2018 Beppu Kokutei Ramen
Kokutei Ramen
Opening Hours: 10.30 am to 8.30 pm

DAY 3
It's time to explore Kumamoto, the capital city of Kumamoto Prefecture. Kumamoto is recognised for its hilltop Kumamoto Castle. In Japan, there are "Three Premier Castles" amongst both Japanese and the foreigner - Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture which I've been with my mom 5 years ago (click here), Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture and Kumamoto Castle is one of them. Unfortunately due to devastating earthquakes in April 2016, the castle suffered a heavy damage and the inner grounds are closed to the public recently. However, visitors still able to witness the massive fortress from the outside.      

Before reaching to the castle, we visited Sakuranobaba Johsaien which is about less than 10 minutes walk from our hotel. This is a Japanese tourism facility where not just consists of tourism information centre but also filled with plenty of shops selling souvenirs, snacks, desserts and more. Here, we stumbled upon a buffet restaurant where we can enjoy both Japanese and Western cuisines under one roof at the price 1,500 yen for an adult which we think it's pretty reasonable and affordable. 

2018 Kumamoto Sakuranobaba Johsaien 1

2018 Kumamoto Sakuranobaba Johsaien Lunch Buffet

After the satisfying lunch, it's time to do some exercise by hiking up the hills to sight the majestic Kumamoto Castle. Like I mentioned earlier, although we're not allowed to enter due to earthquake, we still able to spot some part of the fortress from the outside. The main castle is scheduled to be reopened to the public in Spring 2021. Perhaps I should revisit Kumamoto for the second time merely for this premier castle once it's reopening soon (fingers crossed). 

2018 Kumamoto Castle

2018 Japan Kumamoto

Since we still have plenty of time, we went and visited Suizen-ji Joju-en. It is a photogenic Japanese style lakeside garden offering a scenic and spectacular view. This vast garden is well-maintained and definitely worth to visit though situated quite distance from the city centre. It's so peaceful and relaxing strolling along a circular path. I bet this garden would be ten times beautiful during the sakura (cherry blossom or spring) season. 

2018 Kumamoto Suizen-ji Joju-en 1

2018 Kumamoto Suizen-ji Joju-en 2

Suizen-ji Joju-en
How To Get Here: Take tram from JR Kumamoto Station
Opening Hours: 7.30 am to 6pm (March to October); 8.30 am to 5 pm (November to February)
Admission Fee: 400 yen

DAY 4
On the next morning, we woke up super early in order to catch the first ferry ride to across to Nagasaki. From our hotel, we drove all the way to Kumamoto Port which is about 30 minutes drive. Since it was too early, there's no traffic and we managed to catch the 7 am ferry ride instead of the 7.30 am ride we planned earlier. This is the main highlight of our trip cause I always love to take ferry while doing self-road trip. If you would like to know more about the schedule and fares, click here.

2018 Kumamoto-Shimabara Ferry

This so called "high-speed car ferry" takes approximately an hour ride from Kumamoto Port to Shimabara, the nearest port of Nagasaki. From my observation, only my friends and I were the only foreigners on the ferry cause majority of them are the local heading for work. Upon arriving Shimabara Port, it takes another two hours drive to Nagasaki city centre. Tired? No, cause two of us decided to apply for IDP though there were three of us to avoid from over-exhausted for driving the whole island. 

In Nagasaki, we parked our car in Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and from there, we decided to walk to the nearest attractions. One of my biggest regret for this trip is that we didn't intend to stay longer in Nagasaki cause there are so many things to see and do here.  

2018 Japan Nagasaki Attractions

Places of Interest In Nagasaki:
  • Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum - museum with photos and artifacts documenting the atomic bombing of Nagasaki dating back in 1945
  • Urakami Cathedral - Reassembled remains of this Catholic church destroyed in the atomic blast in WWII 
  • Nagasaki Peace Park - A park that commemorates the atomic bombing of Nagasaki City by displaying number of dramatic sculptures and statues to remind the visitors of the nuclear catastrophe and the need for a peaceful world and free from war. 
  • Hypocenter Park - Not far away from Nagasaki Peace Park, stands the Hypocenter Park marks the exact location and hypocenter of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
How To Get To Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Surrounding:
From JR Nagasaki Station
Streetcar: Take bound for Akasako, get off at Hamaguchi-machi and walk for 5 minutes.
Bus: Take Nagasaki bus #1, 2, or 9 and get off at Hamaguchi-machi. Walk for 5 minutes.

NOTE: From Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, it takes roughly around 10 minutes walk to Urakami Cathedral, Peace Park and Hypocenter Park. There is a tourist information centre located inside the museum and you can request for the map.

After recalling our history knowledge of the World War 2 in Nagasaki, we head back to Fukuoka - this is where we started and also where we ended our trip for this journey. In Fukuoka, we booked to stay in Montan Hakata Hostel. I admire the concept of this hostel especially the spacious lounge/common area. And the best part is that free breakfast provided to all the guests which we only found out about this on the second day. Silly us! 

2018 Fukuoka montan HAKATA Hostel 1

2018 Fukuoka montan HAKATA Hostel 2

Montan Hakata Hostel
Type of Room: Triple room with private bathroom 
Room Rate: RM375 per night for a single bed and a bunk bed and breakfast is included
Nearest Station: Higashi-Hie Station under Kuko Line

2018 Fukuoka JR Hakata City

Now, let's get to know some facts of Fukuoka. For your information, Fukuoka has two centres - Hakata and Tenjin. If you are into shopping activities, then you should consider staying in Tenjin cause it is the largest shopping district in Fukuoka. Several huge department stores such as Daimaru, Mitsukoshi is located at this area. Even the Japanese biggest discount store, Don Quijote is not far away. 

DAY 5
So, what to do and see in Fukuoka? Here, we decided to return the car we rented and get around Fukuoka by taking public transport, especially the subway. In case you are travel extensively, you can consider to buy an all day subway pass costs 620 yen on weekday and 520 yen on weekend. 

First thing to do in Fukuoka is to eat Ichiran Ramen. A trip to Fukuoka is incomplete without savouring this well-known ramen dedicated solely to perfecting classic tonkatsu. You can find Ichiran Ramen restaurant in both Hakata and Tenjin area but the one in Tenjin offers something special - serves in "Kamadare Style" with a specially rectangular shaped bowl and this is exclusively found in Fukouka only. 

2018 Japan Fukuoka Ichiran Ramen

2018 Japan Fukuoka Ichiran Ramen 2

2018 Japan Fukuoka Ichiran Ramen 3

Ichiran Tenjin Nishidori
How To Get There: 
Nishitetsu Omuta Line: 5 minute walk from Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station
Subway: 8 minute walk from Tenjin Station
Opening Hours: 10 am to 7 am daily (Yes, they open for 21 hours with 3 hours break only)


Yatai, the mobile food stalls are known to be Fukuoka's iconic. There are approximately 150 yatai scattered across the city of Fukuoka but the common place to look for them is particularly on the southern end of Nakasu. Yatai are normally open from 6 pm till midnight and typical Japanese dishes like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), oden (hot pot) and ramen are among the food served there. 

2018 Japan Fukuoka Yatai

You will be surprise that one of the popular attractions of Fukuoka is Canal City, a uniquely designed mall houses variety of clothing stores, restaurants, cinema and remarkable character store like Studio Ghibli gift store which is popular for Totoro. Then on the 5th floor, there is a Ramen Stadium hosts 8 distinctive famous ramen shops from all over Japan. Somehow this place reminds me of Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum which I have yet to blog about it till now. 

2018 Fukuoka Canal City 1

2018 Fukuoka Canal City Ramen Stadium

Canal City
How To Get There: 
Canal City is located in the middle of Hakata and Tenjin Station. It takes about 15 minutes walk from Hakata Station or 20 minutes walk from Tenjin Station.
Opening Hours: 10 am to 9 pm daily


Kushida Shrine, a Shinto shrine is famous for the happening and grand festival of Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. It goes without saying then that this shrine is beloved by the citizens of Fukuoka. When you visit this shrine, don't forget to drink the water from well with three cranes which believes to bring longevity and eternal youth. 

2018 Fukuoka Kushida Shrine


2018 Fukuoka Kushida Shrine 1

Kushida Shrine
How To Get There: 
It takes about few minutes walk from Gion or Nakasu stations of the Fukuoka subway.
Opening Hours: 4 am to 10 pm daily
Admission is free and open to public.

Total Damage For 6D5N Trip Per Pax
PARTICULARS
AMOUNT
¥
RM
Accommodation
Cabosu House Beppu Original – 1 night
Riverside Hotel Kumamoto – 2 nights (+ parking fee)
Montan Hakata Hostel – 2 nights

Transportation
Car rental
Ferry ride
Toll
Gasoline
Parking fee
Tram & bus around Kumamoto
Subway around Fukuoka

Admission Fees
Beppu - Umi Jigoku
Kumamoto - Suizen Park
Nagasaki – Atomic Bomb Museum

Food and drinks

-
7,867
-


9,000
1,487
4,083
557
553
650
660


400
400
200

10,464

114
309
250


346
55
156
21
20
24
24


15
15
7

387
TOTAL (RM)
1,743
Exchange Rate ¥100 = RM3.70 as at September 2018

Is 6D5N Sufficient To Cover Fukuoka and The Surroundings
Absolutely no! I would suggest to spend at least 8 days or more (if possible and time permitted) when planning your trip to visit Fukuoka and other surrounding cities. Perhaps you can include Kitakyushu, Miyazaki or even planning a day trip to Hashima Island, commonly called as Gunkanjima where this island has appeared in several international films including the South Korean film "The Battleship Island".

Battle-Ship_Island_Nagasaki_Japan
Image source

AirAsia Is Flying To Fukuoka Soon?

air-asia-fuk-KL
Image Source

According to this news shared by Azra (Life of A Traveller), looks like AirAsia is going to launch another latest route between Kuala Lumpur to Fukuoka soon. The official announcement including the flight schedule is expected to be announced by AirAsia later by this month and the flight will probably begin between January to March 2019.

So, let's us wait and hope to see this great news soon. Hopefully this post of mine can you give a rough idea on planning your trip to Fukuoka and other cities of Kyushu Island.