This year's travel adventure was a trip Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka, places I have never traveled to before. Prior to this trip, Tokyo was the only Japanese city I have visited and I was very excited to see other parts of Japan.
The first leg of my trip was a 4 day stay in Kyoto. I flew into Kansai International Airport and the easiest and fastest way to get to Kyoto from Kansai that I found was taking the Airport Express train called "Haruka" line which takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes as it only stop about 5 or 6 times. After collecting your luggage at Kansai, go to the second floor and across the pedestrian walkway to the adjacent building which is the train station. There you will see 2 sets of automated ticketing machines, one for the Nankai Electric Railway and the other is for the JR line. If you purchased the JR pass, I believe you need to go into the ticketing office to get it. I didn't buy the pass so I went directly to the automated machines, selected English and bought my tickets to Kyoto. When buying tickets for the Haruka, there are 2 tickets you need to buy and it cost me around 2850 Yen. I believe one was for 960 Yen and the other was for 1890 Yen. Don't lose these tickets as you will need them to enter and exit the train platforms.
One thing that I found extremely helpful when using the various public transportation in and around Kyoto/Osaka/Hiroshima is to get an ICOCA card. Prior to my trip, I read many blogs that weren't entirely clear if the ICOCA card was usable outside of Kyoto and Osaka. I can say that from what I have seen, it is now available to be used all over Japan. The only caveat seems to be that you can only get your deposit back in the Osaka/Kyoto area.
To get one of these cards, look for one of the automated ticketing machines for one that dispenses the ICOCA. The price of the card is 2000 Yen (1500 Yen available for use, and 500 Yen is the card deposit). To reload the card, you can go to any convenience store like 7-Eleven or Family Mart and tell the clerk you wish to do so.
You can get the 500 Yen back when you return the card at the end of your trip but there is a 220 Yen service charge. If your load amount on the card is less than 220 Yen, then it will take the balance as the service charge and you still get your 500 Yen back. One good thing about the card is the balance on the card is good for 10 years, so if you intend to return to Japan within that time, you don't need to return the card at all.
The Court Hotel Kyoto Shijo was the hotel we chose to stay in during our time in Kyoto. Overall, I would agree to the 3 star rating for the hotel. It provided us with everything we may need while there and even had a laundry room if we needed to wash our clothes. One thing disappointed me was that we booked a non-smoking room and they did not have any left when we checked in. Luckily, the room wasn't too smelly and the next day when housekeeping came, they did a steam vacuum to the room and the smell was virtually gone.
The room we got was a standard twin(standard) room. Amenities included in the room were the usual bathroom items, sleeping robes, hot water kettle, tea and cookies (replenished daily), and slippers. The bathroom has the usual Japanese toilet complete with heated seat and bidet. But with all Japanese hotel bathrooms, it feels like being in a cruise ship. The one thing missing from the room is a safe which it seems like isn't included in a lot of Japanese hotels.
The hotel is very centrally located and a bit outside of the busy section of Kyoto. The Nishiki Market and shopping district is only about a 15-20 minute walk. The Gion district is about another 15 minute walk past that. Kiyozumi Dera is about a 45 minute walk (but be warned, its a bit of an uphill trek on the latter half of the walk). To get to Nijo Castle, it is an easy 15 minute walk from the hotel. To get to Arashiyama (the bamboo forest and the monkeys at Mount Arashi), its an easy 10 minute walk to the Shijo-Omiya station to take the Keifuku Line which is an above ground light rail tram to the Arashiyama station. I will talk about the sites I visited in upcoming posts. :)
There is a lot of restaurants close to the hotel as well as a Family Mart and a Fresco (supermarket). I would recommend this hotel but if you want to be closer to the shopping district, then I would definitely recommend the Hotel Sunroute chain which we stayed with in Hiroshima and Osaka (more on this later as well).
That's it for now, stay tuned for the sites that I visited while in Kyoto. For now, Mahalo Nui Loa :)
Oahu - Waikiki Beach Marriott
Oahu, Hawaii is one of my favourite places in the world to vacation. When I go to Oahu, I stay in Waikiki or in Laie which is near the North Shore. Last year, I decided to get one of those DNA tests done on myself to see what my DNA ancestry is. Being a quarter Filipino, I was convinced that I must have Spanish blood in light of the 333 year Spanish rule of the Philippines. When the results came back, I was surprised to learn that I had no Spanish blood. Instead, I had 12% Polynesian blood originating from the Guam/Samoa/Tonga area! Now I'm no expert in family trees but I believe this means that one of my grand parents may have Polynesian roots.
It now makes so much sense to me why I always felt at home in Hawaii and why I am always mistaken for being Kama’aina when I'm there. If you want to get your own DNA test done, consider using my referral to 23andMe, they have 2 types of tests that you can do. One simply does the Ancestry and the other a more advanced Health and Ancestry report.
walk to the Ala Moana mall. The Waikiki Marriott guest rooms are in 2 towers located on the north and south ends of the property called the Paoakalani (north), and the Kealohilani (south) towers. The main difference that I've noticed between the two towers is that the Paoakalani tower mainly has city and Diamond Head views, and the Kealohilani tower has ocean views.
On both my stays at this hotel, I was given a room in the Kealohilani tower with ocean views. The room has large patio doors that you can open to get that nice sea breeze and a very spacious balcony with loungers and a small table. In each room, you get the usual amenities that you would expect in a quality hotel like an inroom safe, bathroom amenities, mini fridge, alarm clock, iron
Since the hotel is a little further away from all the craziness of downtown Waikiki, you can sit on the balcony at night and easily hear the surf without all (just some) of the drunken yelling!
Apart from the hotel lobby, the first floor of the hotel also has 2 Starbucks Coffee shops and 2 ABC stores for your snacks, drinks and last minute souvenirs. These are located very close to the elevator banks of either tower of the property which makes it super convenient. There is also an Enterprise Car Rental, a number of souvenir shops, and a Segway of Hawaii tour office. I have never booked a tour with Segway of Hawaii but have seen them all over Waikiki and looks super neat to do. Maybe one day I will do a tour with them with some friends and do a review of it.
The pools, hot tub, exercise room, dvd rental machines, and hotel restaurants are all located on the 2nd floor of the property. I personally didn't spend much time using the pools and hot tub because few times I soaked in the hot tub after a long day playing, I felt that the chlorine levels were too high and irritated my skin too much. I much prefer swimming in the ocean anyways.
One negative to the hotel is the resort fees are higher than some other hotels in the area. If I remember correctly (cuz I chose to block it out of memory) the resort fees total US$27/night. To help make up for the high resort fees, you get quite a bit of freebies which include coupons for alcoholic beverages redeemable at the pool side bar (Moana Terrace I believe?), WiFi, dvd rentals, etc. It doesn't really make up for it but its something I guess. You also have to pay for parking separately which according to their website is US$40/day. I am not sure if you get a cheaper rate if you are a guest at the hotel (I would hope so).
Some notable landmarks that are very close to the hotel is the Honolulu Zoo which is minutes away and the St. Augustine Church which is right across the street, the Rainbow Drive-In is about a 10 minute walk away, and Leonard's Bakery is about a 20 minute walk north. There are 2 GoBiki bike racks that are across the street on Kalakaua Ave which makes it even easier to get to places if you don’t feel like walking.
Overall, I would rate this hotel at an 8.5/10. I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone who is vacationing in Oahu and wishes to stay in the Waikiki area. On my next trip to Oahu, I will likely stay at this property again and will update this post if I find anything noteworthy.
If you have stayed at this hotel, tell me what you think of it in the comments section below.
- Mahalo Nui Loa
Arriving in Siem Reap during the early afternoon from Hong Kong, I was picked up by Siem Reap Private Day Tours at the airport and brought my hotel, the Prince D’Angkor Hotel and Spa. During the 15 minute drive from the airport, I was afforded my first look at the city of Siem Reap and was quite surprised at how modern it looked. Because of the pictures I have seen in the past, I had envisioned unpaved roads, and shanty type homes lining the streets. Instead, what I saw were buildings ranging from 2 to 15 floors high, many businesses, and electricity! It looked very similar to a street you would find in Manila or Taiwan.
When I arrived at the Prince D’Angkor Hotel and Spa, I was very warmly greeted by the staff who offered a me seat on one of the many couches and given a cold beverage while they checked me into my room. This experience was a stark contrast from other check in experiences I’ve had where I would line up, wait my turn (which would sometimes be over 30 minutes) and stand in front of a counter twiddling my thumbs while staff typed into a computer. After what seemed only to be a few minutes, I was all checked in and a bellhop was ready to show me to my room. Along the way, the bellhop gave me a rundown of where the hotel amenities are, and the hours for the buffet breakfast which was included with my stay.
The room I was assigned had a balcony facing the inner courtyard of the hotel complex which overlooked the pool. I was glad that I spent a little extra and went for the deluxe room when I booked as the superior rooms face the parking lot and it seemed like most do not have a balcony. Not really a big deal as most people who come to Siem Reap do not spend a very long time in their rooms but I like having the option of sitting and relaxing in my balcony after a day of touring. The room itself was quite spacious and had the normal amenities that one would expect (wireless internet, a/c, fridge, tv, dvd, kettle, coffee, tea, etc). The hotel gives you 2 complimentary small bottles of water which they replenish daily. However, please be aware that the large Evian bottles are not complimentary.
I felt that the bathroom was a little bit dark and could be a little cleaner. Not having an exhaust system for the moisture makes it feel damp inside but that is quite typical of bathrooms in Asia I find. There is a separate shower stall and tub so it felt a little cramped as well.
the places I wanted to go. There is also a modern mall called Lucky Mall that is across the street where there were a few retail shops, restaurants and a super market.
The famous Pub Street, where most of the restaurants are located, is only about a 10 minute walk away and from there, you can get to all the different shopping markets very easily. I will make a separate blog post regarding Pub Street and the surrounding area in a future blog post. I plan to also include a "travelling tips" section for the Angkor Wat area to hopefully help other travellers coming to Siem Reap for the first time, stay tuned. In my next post, I will talk about my tour the temples and ruins.
- Mahalo Nui Loa.
Join me as I celebrate life through travel, food and photography.
I will only send out newsletters once a month or so. I promise not to spam