Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Tokyo - 1 Japanese Inn, 1 Capsules, 1 Hostel, 1 AirBnB & 5 Hotels I Stayed Before

What a long title. Plan to simplify it but it seems pretty boring. 

Searching for accommodations can be pretty tedious, especially when Tokyo has been labelled to be one of the most expensive cities and to keep within budget it's not an easy task. For this scenario, I always set a price range between RM200-300 per night for a hotel room of two. Before one proceed to book any sleeping accommodations, here are few tips I would like to share:
  • Get to know the area you plan to stay cause Tokyo's main attractions are scattered around. Much of the Tokyo's budget stay can be found in the Taito area, especially Asakusa and Ueno. Taito area is not a bad idea to save your cost but bear in mind, in order to get to more popular areas like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku might takes 40 minutes to an hour by train. 
  • The most cheapest option of course would be the capsule hotels but do take note, majority of them cater for male guest only. There are few can accommodate for female guests but quite limited. 
  • Search for more affordable local chain hotels like APA, Sunroute, Smile, Tokyu Stay, Toyoko Inn and more. The rooms are usually tiny and cramped, but most of them are conveniently situated near to stations. 

That's all for my sharing. Now it's time to check out the kind of sleeping accommodations I stayed before. To date, I've stayed and experienced 9 different type of sleeping accommodations throughout my 6 trips to Tokyo. And normally I don't book the same accommodation when going back to the same country/city, unless that particular stay creates the best, a pleasant and unforgettable one.

1) House Ikebukuro
It's my maiden trip to Japan, thus my first time going to Tokyo. My friend did all the planning as well as the booking and she booked to stay at Tokyo House Ikebukuko. It's a Japanese-style room where we slept in tatami. Location wise, it sits in the calm neighborhood of Ikebukuro and once you walk further, there is vast array of shops and eateries. The toilet and bathroom is located outside of the room and it's shared. The icing on the cake? Free basic breakfast is provided every morning.

Tokyo House Ikebukuro 2

Tokyo House Ikebukuro 1

Date Stayed: 29th October - 2nd November 2010 (4 nights)
Room Rate Per Night: RM113
Nearest Station: JR Ikebukuro Station and Ikebukuro Subway Station


2) Smile Hotel Tokyo Asagaya
This is exactly the first conventional hotel I stayed when I went Tokyo in 2015 with my mom and my two younger brothers. Because two of my brothers were kinda huge in size, so I need to search for a room with two single beds, rather than a queen bed. Trust me, the queen bed doesn't fit them in. Smile Hotel Tokyo Asagaya is conveniently located adjoining to JR Asagaya Station. This is my family's favourite hotel because not just that there's a Starbucks, McD and plenty of eateries nearby but there is a 24 hours department store within the walking distance.

The downside of the hotel, the nearest metro station (Minami-Asagaya) takes approximately 10 minutes walk from the hotel. 

Smile Hotel Tokyo Asagaya 01

Smile Hotel Tokyo Asagaya 02

Smile Hotel Tokyo Asagaya 04

Date Stayed: 4th July - 11th July 2015 (7 nights)
Room Rate Per Night: RM280 per night for a twin bedroom.
Nearest Station: JR Asagaya Station


3) Smile Hotel Tokyo Nihonbashi
I wish to stay back at Smile Hotel Tokyo Asagaya (as above) but because the room rate shoot up dramatically after a year, no choice but to choose other hotel. Booked another local chain hotel, Smile Hotel again but this one is located at other area which is Nihonbashi. Probably because the location is in the heart of Tokyo, the rooms were indeed cramped and tiny. The advantage of booking this hotel is that it's so close to Kayabacho Metro Station, less than 5 minutes to Tokyo Metro Station. 

Smile Hotel Tokyo Nihonbashi 1

Smile Hotel Tokyo Nihonbashi 2

Smile Hotel Tokyo Nihonbashi 3

Date Stayed: 4th July - 11th July 2016 (7 nights)
Room Rate Per Night: RM448 per night for a twin bedroom and RM400 per night for a double-queen room. 
Nearest Station: Kayabacho Subway Station 


4) Tokyo Ekimae Bay Hotel
Before joining my friends for Hokkaido trip, I flew to Tokyo first. It's my first time to travel around the capital city all by myself. And I thought why not experience staying in capsule hotel since I never try it before after been to Japan quite a few times? This capsule hotel I booked is not that cheap as I expected but the ultimate reason why I booked here is because it is short distance to the bus terminal as I need to catch the earliest bus heading to Haneda Airport.  

Tokyo Nihonbashi Bay Hotel 1

Due to flight delayed and causing me to arrive at this hotel at wee hours, therefore I didn't have the chance to fully explore the whole hotel but what I know is that their services were exceptionally impeccable. Before I step into the capsule room, there are few row of lockers for the guests to store their bags. Unfortunately, it couldn't fit in my 26" luggage bag and so, I just left outside. Inside the locker, there's a Japanese Kimono robe for each guest to exchange before going to bed. 

Tokyo Nihonbashi Bay Hotel 2

Talking about their bathroom, I was totally "Wow" non-stop the moment I stepped in - spotless clean, bright and it smells good too. 

Tokyo Nihonbashi Bay Hotel 3

Date Stayed: 14th October - 15th October 2017 (1 night)
Room Rate Per Night: RM196 per night for a capsule room - female only.
Nearest Station: A 7-minute walk to JR Tokyo Station and a 2-minute to B1 Exit of Nihombashi Metro Station. 


5) Wise Owl Hostels Tokyo
Right after I done with Hokkaido trip with my friends, I went back to Tokyo again before leaving back to Malaysia. Like I mentioned earlier, I will not book the same hotel/hostel cause I love to experience new things. The reason behind why I booked here - simple, it's all because of Fukurou which indicates owl in Japanese. I'm big fan of owl. The rest, I'm sorry but nothing to shout out. 

Wise Owl Hostels Tokyo 1

Wise Owl Hostels Tokyo 2

Date Stayed: 23rd October - 24th October 2017
Room Rate Per Night: RM109 per night for a bed in female dormitory.
Nearest Station: Hatchobori Subway Station


6) AirBnB - Villa Minowa Tokyo
It's my virgin experience of booking AirBnB in Japan. The reason why I never thought of booking my sleeping accommodation through AirBnB before this is because it was heavily banned by the government, not until it is legalised in 2018. Guess I make a right choice of staying here because first, the host went above and beyond to ensure we have the best experience during our stay. Secondly, the whole place was sparkling clean as well as the bathroom eventhough it's separated and shared. Everything is well prepared and absolutely complete which making us feel like home sweet home instead. The best part, there is a 24-hour supermarket just across the road. What else can we ask for more? The link here.

Tokyo AirBnB - Villa Minowa Tokyo 1

Tokyo AirBnB - Villa Minowa Tokyo 2

Tokyo AirBnB - Villa Minowa Tokyo 3

Date Stayed: 13th March - 15th March 2018 (2 nights)
Room Rate Per Night: RM270 per night for a large private room.
Nearest Station: 2 minutes walk to Minowa Subway Station


7) Hotel Villa Fontaine Tokyo-Nihombashi Hakozaki
Hotel Villa Fontaine is another local chain hotel similar to Smile Hotel. Two reasons why I would recommend to stay at this hotel are because the limousine bus to/fro airports at the Tokyo City Air Terminal is only 1-minute walk from the hotel and another one is because there is a complimentary breakfast provided. Who can't resist free meal, right?

Hotel Villa Fontaine Nihonbashi Hakozaki

Hotel Villa Fontaine Nihonbashi Hakozaki 2

Hotel Villa Fontaine Nihonbashi Hakozaki 3

Date Stayed: 17th March - 19th March 2018 (2 nights)
Room Rate Per Night: RM320 per night for a double bedroom with free breakfast.
Nearest Station: 2-minute walk to Suitengume Subway Station


8) Sun Members Tokyo Shinjuku
For my recent trip to Tokyo which is end of June this year, I decided to book and stay at this hotel because it's the most closest to my client's hotel and still, within my budget. I don't want to stay at the same hotel as my guest cause it's significantly pricey. Of course I wish I could stay there as that particular hotel is quite popular and well-known but for the price of RM700 per night, I guess it's wise for me to pick other hotel instead. Choosing to stay at Sun Members Tokyo Shinjuku is not a bad idea after all because the room is pretty spacious than my client's room. 

Sun Members Tokyo Shinjuku 1

Sun Members Tokyo Shinjuku 2

Date Stayed: 27th June - 29th June 2019 (2 nights)
Room Rate Per Night: RM432 per night for a standard triple room.
Nearest Station: 550m away to Tochomae Subway Station and 15 minutes walk to Subway Main Station.


9) Hotel Listel Shinjuku
Just when I thought I will be staying the same hotel throughout the whole trip, out of sudden my client decided to change hotel cause the previous one she stayed kinda uncomfortable for her. Very cramp according to her. Therefore for my last two nights, I booked and stayed at Hotel Listel Shinjuku just to next to her newly booked hotel. Turned out the new hotel I booked, the room tend to be more cramp than the previous one I stayed. Another thing is I personally think that the location of this hotel is not that convenient and excellent comparing to all the hotels I stayed previously. So it's best not to book this hotel at all cost. 

Hotel Listel Shinjuku 1

Hotel Listel Shinjuku 2

Date Stayed: 30th June - 2nd July 2019 (2 nights)
Room Rate Per Night: RM269 per night for a small double bedroom.
Nearest Station: 10-minute walk to Shinjuku Sanchome Subway Station

Another thing you should take note when booking a double bed room is to make sure whether the bed is in semi-double (some use the term small double) or standard double queen size bed cause the first one is relatively smaller. Even my sister and her husband who are in average size felt that the semi-double bed is too squeezy for them. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Recap of My 9D8N Australia Sydney, Brisbane & Gold Coast Travelogues


SUMMARY OF MY TRAVELOGUES

Day 1: 11th October 2014
Touched down Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport and explored around Sydney Town.
- Chinatown
- Paddy's Market
- Darling Harbour
- Harbour Bridge
- Sydney Opera House
(Post here)
Stay: Malaysia Hall Sydney  

Day 2: 12th October 2014
Sydney - Bondi Beach, Fish Market and Queen Victoria Building (Post here)

Day 3: 13th October 2014
Blue Mountain (Echo Point, Three Sisters & Scenic World) - Post here 

Day 4: 14th October 2014
From Sydney To Brisbane And Its Attractions In CBD & South Bank (Post here)
- Queen Street Mall
- Brisbane City Hall & King George Square
- Albert Street Uniting Church
- Wheel of Brisbane
- South Bank Grand Arbour
Stay: Riverside Hotel South Bank

Day 5: 15th October 2014
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary of Brisbane

Day 6: 16th October 2014
From Brisbane To Gold Coast And Harbour Town
Stay: Zenith Ocean Front Apartment

Day 7: 17th October 2014
Warner Bros. Movie World of Gold Coast

Day 8: 18th October 2014
Sea World of Gold Coast

Day 9: 19th October 2014
Surfers Paradise And Leaving Gold Coast Airport

Extra Posts:

MY SHOPPING HAUL FROM AUSTRALIA

2014 Australia Shopping Haul 3
#1: All these I bought from Paddy's Market in Sydney. 

2014 Australia Shopping Haul 5
#2: Top and dresses for my mom, brothers and myself.

2014 Australia Shopping Haul 4
#3: A collection of magnets, keychain, coaster, card holder. 

2014 Australia Shopping Haul 2
#4: Baggage tags, keychains, magnets and mousepad got these from Warner Bros. Movie World. 

2014 Australia Shopping Haul 1
#5: Can't leave Australia without buying their local snacks. Bought from Coles Supermarket in Gold Coast.

Brisbane Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary 15
Thanks to my best travel buddies for the fun, joy and happiness throughout the trip. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Surfers Paradise & Leaving To Gold Coast Airport

Throughout our three days in Gold Coast, we spent most of our times in Surfers Paradise. One of the main reasons is because we were staying nearby too - so it's quite convenient and easy to reach for us. Each time after we came back from theme parks like Warner Bros. Movie World and Sea World, definitely we will go and hang around Surfers Paradise first before heading back to our apartment. 

Gold Coast Surfers Paradise 3
#1: Peace to Surfers Paradise

The thing you should do in Surfers Paradise is none other than hitting its golden beaches. Although you don't know how to swim or even surfing, you still can go there relax, laid-back and do people-watching. And if you happen to be in Gold Coast on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, there will be more than 100 beachfront market stalls you can visit to. 

Gold Coast Surfers Paradise 4
#2: Must pose with the iconic Surfers Paradise sign 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Australia Day 8: Gold Coast - Sea World

<< Previous Post: Australia Day 7 - Warner Bros. Movie World


So yesterday we had a day filled with fun and excitement at Warner Bros. Movie World and as for our third day in Gold Coast, our agenda is to get up close and personal with an amazing array of marine life at Sea World.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Australia Day 7: Gold Coast - Warner Bros. Movie World

<< Previous Post: Australia Day 6 - From Brisbane To Gold Coast & Harbour Town

Gold Coast has always been a favourite holiday destination for those looking for relaxed and laid-back beachside escape. So, no surprise to see quite number of people hitting the beach and some even went for surfing. However if beach is not your thing, fret not cause Gold Coast offers more than you can ever expected. One of them is the thrilling theme parks. 

Being the theme park capital of Australia, Gold Coast is a home to the biggest collection thrill rides and amusement parks that cater for all age groups. But due to time constraints, we can only pick two of theme parks for visit; Warner Bros. Movie World and Sea World. 


So on our second day in Gold Coast, we head on to Warner Bros. Movie World first, whereas for Sea World we save for the second day.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Australia Day 6: From Brisbane To Gold Coast & Harbour Town

I don't know what got into me. I blogged about my 2014 trip to Australia previously but then, I stop halfway. And when I browse through my last post regarding this travelogue, it was on 3rd July 2017 - gosh, that's like more than 2 years ago. It's funny how I able to complete my 2017 Australia travelogue but not this one. 

Honestly speaking, I was pretty dilemma whether should I continue with my super long backdated travelogues especially those between 2014 to 2016, or just proceed to blog with trip I went recently like Bangkok and Taiwan? But to think of it, this is the platform or space for me to share my own experiences and adventures. It serves like a diary for me, and that's the reason why I named my blog "Journal". In addition, I can browse through all my travel photos at anytime and anywhere I want. So after the long consideration, I decided to clear all my backlog travelogues as soon as possible before my memories for all these trips slowly fade away from my brain which unable to store plenty of things. 

Continue from here.

Heading To Gold Coast From Brisbane
After Sydney and Brisbane, we moved on to the last leg of this trip, Gold Coast. From Brisbane, we took train which took approximately 70 minutes from South Brisbane Station (cause we stayed nearby) to Nerang Station of Gold Coast. The trains run half hourly from 6am to midnight, 7 days per week. Upon arriving at the station, we then continued by taking bus #740 heading to Surfers Paradise, the most commercialised tourist suburb with the highest concentration of accommodations and attractions. 

Brisbane To Gold Coast Via Train
#1: Train from South Brisbane Station to Nerang Station of Gold Coast. Then continue by taking bus no.740 to Surfers Paradise. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

4D3N Kuching Itinerary For The First-Timer

Kuching is one of the cities in Malaysia that I went pretty often. Mainly because part of my family members are staying there and that's explain why I always go back Kuching like every 1-2 months. Another reason is because I'm a Sarawakian too, though I wasn't born there. Since I've been there many times, hence I thought why not create a post for those who are interested to go Kuching for the very first time? Plus, quite number of my friends actually asked me - what to do and see in Kuching, so here's the post as your reference to plan your trip there. 


Besides being the capital city of Sarawak state, Kuching is the largest city of East Malaysia as well as the largest city on the island of Borneo. The name of the city, Kuching is thought to derive from the Malay word "kucing" indicates cat. To date, cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Bahru of West Malaysia do have direct flight to Kuching without any stop.

Sarawak need passport? The most common question I always came across. Oh well, it's up to you; either just bring along your identification card (IC) and you will receive a temporary visitor slip which need to return when exiting the state (do not lose it or else, you need to lodge police report) OR you can even show your passport and you will get a stamp. Yes, a stamp on your passport even you are a Malaysian. This applies to a Sabahan too when visiting Sarawak. However for Sarawakian who is going to Sabah, there will be no temporary visitor slip given or even stamp on the passport. That's shows how powerful Sarawak status is.


Another question I got is, what's the currency for Sarawak? Dude, Sarawak is part of Malaysia and therefore, Sarawakian is also using Ringgit Malaysia (RM/MYR).

Now here is my recommended 4D3N Kuching itinerary if you are visiting for the very first time:

DAY 1

Begin your Kuching trip by going to Padungan Street Area for photo opportunity with various cat statues and savouring local food at Song Kheng Hai Food Court. Do try local food and snacks such as Belacan bihun, kompia, fruit rojak and cococane juice there.

Opening Hours: 11am to 5pm. Closed on every Monday. 
Kuching Song Kheng Hai Food Court

Continue by heading to Padang Merdeka as this is where abundant of attractions situated; ranging from historical museums such as Sarawak Museum, Sarawak Art Museum and Islamic Heritage Museum to creative and colourful murals depicting Kuching's rich history and culture stretching along the street nearby Electra House, Open Air Market to Indian Street Pedestrian Mall. 
Kuching Art Murals

Kuching India Street Pedestrian Mall

DAY 2

Kicking-off your day by having Sarawak Laksa for breakfast at Choon Hui Cafe. Even the late Anthony Bourdain, the world-renowned travelling & celebrity chef came here twice just for the laksa. Don't forget to saviour the popiah and kaya toast too.
Kuching Choon Hui Cafe

Visit the Sarawak Cultural Village. Since it is situated 45 minutes away from the Kuching city center, hence you might either need to rent a car or take a Grab for a single-trip between RM30 or more. Also known as the "Living Museum", Sarawak Cultural Village is an ideal place for those who want to discover and learn more about the local culture, heritage and lifestyles of the various ethnic groups and tribes. Here, you get to see different kind of traditional houses, cultural dance and performances.  

Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm daily
Entrance Fee: RM54 for adult and RM27 for children if you purchase online here
Kuching Sarawak Cultural Village

Take a stroll at Damai Beach, which located opposite of Sarawak Cultural Village. It's a nice beach with a stunning view over Santubong mountain. However, the beach is not suitable for those who intend to go for swimming. You can grab some snacks and drinks before heading back to the city center. 
Kuching Damai Beach

Dropby at Cats Museum while on the way back to the city center. Housed on the ground level on the Kuching North City Hall Building, this cat-themed museum contains more than 4,000 artifacts including paintings, photos, art, souvenirs and memoriable related to the feline family. 

Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm daily
Entrance Fee: RM3 for adult and RM2 for children.
Kuching Cats Museum

If you happen to be in Kuching during the weekend, why not end your night by going to Siniawan Night Market. This night market only opens on weekend - Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Approaching to 30 minutes drive away from the city, this small and charming heritage town is an amazing place to spend the evening by hunting for local delicacies on the street lined with two rows of wooden shophouses, and Chinese lanterns light the street below.

Opening Hours: 6pm to 11pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only.
Kuching Siniawan Night Market

DAY 3

A trip to Kuching is absolutely incomplete without having kolo mee. So far the best kolo mee I ever had is Sin Lian Shin at Green Road. You can either opt for plain or seasoned with red sauce (basically it's the char siew sauce which makes the noodle taste slightly sweeter).
Kuching Sin Lian Shin Green Road Kolo Mee

If you are looking forward for something close to the nature and also wildlife, probably you can consider either going to the Bako National Park or Semenggoh Nature Reserve. However, you can only pick one as it impossible to do both in a day. I haven't been the latter one but it will definitely on my wishlist for my next visit.

During my recent trip to Kuching May this year, we drove to Bako National Park which is about 30 minutes drive from the city. We reach there as early as 8am in order to catch the boat from the terminal to the jetty of the national park. I personally think it's best one need to be physically fit and tough to get through the trekking trail cause there are few trails were pretty tough and steep. We're grateful we managed to sight few Proboscis monkeys (the main star of the national park), silver-leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaque monkeys as well as wild board running free around the park during our visit.

Two type of fees:
1) National Park Entrance Fee: RM10 for adult and RM3 for children.
2) Boat Ride Fee (Return): RM30 for adult and RM20 for chiclren. The last boat ride back to the terminal is 3pm
Kuching Bako National Park

After a full-day of jungle trekking, quench your thirst by having Kuching's best ice-kacang (shaved ice) at Swee Kang Ice Kacang. Besides a bowl of standard ice kacang, don't leave the shop without trying the "White Lady" drink which is pretty popular and only can be found in Kuching.

Opening Hours: 12pm to 6.30pm. Closed on every Thursday. 
Kuching Swee Kang Ice Kacang

On your last night in Kuching, take a walk and enjoy sunset at Darul Hanal Bridge, the latest additional of Kuching's attraction. Built with "S-shaped", it is a pedestrian bridge that connects both north and south side of Kuching river. 
Kuching Waterfront

DAY 4

Before bidding goodbye to Kuching, why not bringing back some kek lapis (traditional layer cake) as souvenirs for your friends and family? It's best to go on your last day of your trip in order to maintain the freshness of the cake. There are two shops highly recommended for selling the best kek lapis; Kek Lapis Dayang Salhah and Mira Cake House. Generally, each cost RM10 and if you bought 10, you will get 1 for free.  

How To Get These Two Kek Lapis Shops:
Take a boat across from the Waterfront 7-Eleven and turn right until spot a green mosque. Kek Lapis Dayang Salhah is just behind the mosque while Mira on the left side. There are signboards for both. 
Kuching Kek Lapis Layer Cake

And in the case you are searching for tourist memento and tribal handicrafts, venture and wander a very long row of shophouses along Waterfront Main Bazaar Street. Besides getting some typical knick-knack stuff, you might find local items such as the famous Sarawak black pepper, Sarawak laksa paste, instant kolo mee and more. 

Last but not least, enjoy a hot cup of coffee pairing with cake at a cafe of Kuching Old Courthouse before depart to Kuching International Airport.
Kuching Old Courthouse

Where To Stay In Kuching
The best area I would suggest when comes to picking accommodation in Kuching are those in between Padungan Street Area to Kuching Riverfront for its ideal and convenient location. Most of the hostels and budget hotels are located along Padungan Street Area whereas for 5-stars international hotels such as Pullman and Hilton are situated in the heart of Kuching.

For a long-list of food you should try and have when in Kuching, do read my post here.
Food Must Have When Visit Kuching-2

Extra Info
To make your trip to Kuching more interesting and fun-filling one, schedule your trip to visit during Rainforest World Musical Festival or Kuching Food Festival Fair that held annually, most probably in the month of July every year.

Rainforest World Music Festival 13
Rainforest World Musical Festival, a three-day music festival celebrating the diversity of world music that held annually at Sarawak Cultural Village. Next year will held on 10-12 July. So save the date!

Kuching Food Festival Fair
Kuching Festival Fair, a month-long food fair houses hundreds of mouth-watering local and international cuisines.