7 Days of Fun in Japan

There had been a series of worrisome events at work that led me browsing through job portals and updating my CV/Linkedin profile. I didn't want to over react. I figured it would be better to just let it pass and see how things go. Thanks to the 4-day holiday (Feb 25-28), I managed to put my thoughts and worries on the back burner and enjoy a week-long trip to Japan.

We booked a promo fare with Vanilla Air October last year, way before I decided to give our living room in Manila a face lift (our contractors are re-tiling as I write). I actually thought of backing out in January because of the expenses, but when I was able to set aside a portion of my bonus for my pocket money and still have more than enough left for the renovation, I didn't think twice. Afterall, the Taipei to Tokyo plane fare and our accommodation were at bargain price. So after getting our visa (which by the way, is gratis or free of charge here in Taiwan) and filing a 3-day leave, we were all set for 7 days of fun in Japan!

Breakdown of expenses
Before I share our itinerary, here's a breakdown of our expenses. I'm happy to report that 50,000 pesos (NT$30,000) was enough to cover our trip BUT this does not include our pocket money.

  1. Plane ticket NT$ 7500 (Php 12,000)
  2. Air b&b NT$ 8000 (Php 12,800)
  3. JR Pass NT$ 8000 (Php 12,800)
  4. USJ Ticket NT$ 3865 (Php 6,100) *we availed of the Express Pass 4*
  5. Data Sim NT$ 670  (Php 1,100)
Total: NT$ 28,035 or Php 44,856

I'm sure you can still make some adjustments- like the Air b&b we chose in Osaka was on the more expensive side, having 3 rooms and 3 bathrooms. We also had to purchase a 7-day JR Pass because we wanted to visit Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo (plus Niigata for me, and Hokkaido for two of my friends). You can use this pass for all JR line trains anywhere in Japan. Such a good deal! You may also opt not to get the Express Pass for USJ if you are willing to wait in line for the rides. However, I do recommend buying the pass because it will save you so much time and energy. The data sim on the other hand was helpful for me since I needed to communicate with my mom (on renovation stuff) while in transit.

The amount you need to save for your pocket money will largely depend on your "traveling style"- the food you want to eat, the stuff you want to buy. This was the only trip in my lifetime (sorry for exaggerating but it's true!) wherein I didn't swipe my card. I think my mom sending me constant updates and photos of her purchases (cement, sand, tiles) did help a lot hehe!

Day 1: Taipei-Tokyo-Osaka
We left Taipei early morning and arrived Narita Airport around lunchtime. After a quick lunch we proceeded to Narita Terminal 2 to have our JR passes exchanged. When exchanging your JR pass, remember to reserve seats for ALL your train trips, including Narita Express. It will be helpful if you know the exact schedule of the train you want to take (check www.hyperdia.com) to make the reservation easy. You need to take the manned exits in all stations if you are a JR Pass holder.
We arrived Shin-Osaka station at around 6pm, left our stuff in the apartment and headed to Dotonbori (Namba Station) for dinner and sight seeing. Trains and subways in Japan can get pretty stressful. I suggest downloading NAVITIME for Japan Travel app to know how to get from one train station to another. It also prioritizes Japan Rail Pass routes and lets you know how much the ticket will cost if you take non-JR lines.

 Dotonbori with the famous "Glico Man"

Ichiran Ramen for dinner and takoyaki, okonomiyaki for post-dinner

Day 2: Universal Studios Osaka
The highlight for me was none other than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even though I want to forget that I got very dizzy and felt like throwing up after the Forbidden Journey ride, it was all worth it! Nakakahiya somebody even had to assist me on my way out hahaha!



Day 3: Kyoto
Upon checking out our Air B&B, we left Osaka and took the train to Kyoto. We left our luggage at the baggage deposit area located on Basement 1 of the Kyoto Station. The baggage deposit area is only open until 8:30pm so be sure to claim your things before 8:30pm. It is more cost-efficient to leave your things at the deposit area, instead of using the lockers (We paid only 500yen each for 5 pieces of luggage, while the lockers cost 750yen). We took the same JR line train to Fushimi-Inari Station. After taking some photos, we took a quick bite at the food street and found our way back to Kyoto Station.


From Kyoto Station, we boarded the train to Kitaoji Station and hailed a cab that will take us to Kinkakuji Temple. There are buses available, but since we're pressed for time, we had to take a cab. I really have no words for this golden temple! So beautiful!!! From Kinkakuji, we took a cab to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, before going back to Kyoto Station and take the bullet train to Tokyo. Please note that it is a 40-minute train ride from Kinkakuji to Arashiyama, and a stress-free 20-minute ride by cab.




Day 4-5: Tokyo/Niigata 
I left early morning to Niigata to meet my church friends and goddaughters. They moved to Japan a over a year ago and the little ones made me promise that I come for a visit. While I was in Niigata, one of my friends booked a Mt. Fuji tour, and the rest took their own time and wandered around Tokyo. They also went to Tsukiji market and made good use of the JR pass by squeezing in a day trip to Hokkaido.


  


Day 6: Tokyo
I went back to Tokyo for some shopping in Shinjuku and Harajuku. I caught the Anello 'bug' and purchased a navy blue one on a whim. When I converted the price, the bag costs only NT$1000, it was 可惜 not to get it. Below is a collage of all the drinks I tried and loved in Japan. The Starbucks Sakura Latte tastes like a dream!!!





Day 7: Back to Taipei
We took the first Narita Express train from Shinjuku to Terminal 2 and it was time to say Sayonara. Ahhhhhhhh. That was a really nice vacation. Food, sight seeing, catching up. I wish I can have more days like these so I can stop thinking about life.

Until next time, Japan!

Taipei Series: How to Apply for an Open Work Permit

Congratulations on getting your APRC! Applying for an Open Work Permit (OWP) is the next step after obtaining your permanent residency. Basically, it is a 'freedom card' from your current employer because you can now finally resign after sponsoring you for a work-permit and ARC! Half-kidding aside, the OWP and your APRC will allow you to work with any company or organization of your choice, without them having to sponsor you and undergo tedious work permit application yada yada. BUT, of course you still have to meet the employer's qualifications for the position.



So how do you apply for an Open Work Permit? You need the following documents:
1. Duly-filled application form (doc file)
2. APRC + 2 photocopies of its front and back sides (both sides must be on the same page)
3. Passport + One photocopy of the bio page of your passport
4. One photo
5. NT$ 100 application fee

Once you have all documents ready, you need to go to the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and submit the requirements personally. WDA is located at No. 39 (10th Flr), Section 1, Zhonghua Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei (臺北市中正區中華路一段39號10樓). Nearest MRT stop is Ximen Station, Exit 5; same building with TaiSugar Hotel- office side.

You have the option to wait for the card for an hour or two, or have it delivered to your office or residence.

Do note that if you have updated your passport (and your APRC), you also need to update your OWP card. Update of information is free of charge, just bring your old and new passport and their photocopies. Hope this helps! Shoot me an email through the contact box if you need more information.

Balikbayan

Hello, world! Long time no post! 新年快樂! 恭喜發財! Happy Year of the Rooster!!! I was away for a short while for Chinese New Year break. I spent 12 days in Cagayan last December so this time around  I stayed a full week in Manila. It would have been a perfect timing to go on an out of town trip (still wishing for a Palawan getaway) but because I volunteered to shoulder the expenses for some home renovation and improvements (huhuhu bakit ang mahal ng tiles), I had to curb my spending and opted to just stay at home, meet friends and do all the usual balikbayan stuff. Still truly grateful I got to visit home twice for the past 2 months.

Can you believe it was my first time to check out SM Aura? I asked my brother several times to take me there but no luck. Finally this time, after dinner somewhere in Serendra, it was still early to head home so we dropped by SM Aura. I've heard about the beautiful chapel on the 5th floor and went there to have some quiet time and thank Him for the many blessings - my life, family, friends.


My friends know of my balikbayan routine upon arrival: hair cut, mani, pedi, the works. So when I set up lunch dates or dinners with them, they'd ask me if I'm done with everything. And by everything they meant the whole beautifying package haha! I have to be defensive and explain to you that in my 7 years in Taipei, I have never been to a salon here. Hair cut for women costs around NTD 1300 (x 1.5 for PHP), with an extra charge for shampoo and blow dry (grabe no?). The cheapest is NTD 350 using the quick-cut style (done in 15-30 mins with timer pa). I get by without manicure and pedicure. Mani and pedi cost NTD 500 each, basic cleaning only! They will charge extra for polish- depending on what kind of polish or nail art you want. That is 2-3 meals already (or even more if you buy from 自助餐) ! So anyway, I rest my case.

We'll be complete in December! Miss you Kayms!

I missed you Erica, more than I missed Max's fried chicken hehe!

No, I didnt tell Rach I'm wearing stripes! #matchymatchy

I tried to meet as much people as I can even if it was a little exhausting. It was sooooo nice to catch up with my high school and college friends. I'm amazed at how some friendships can withstand the test of time and distance. Thank you, my dearest friends for always being so supportive of your balikbayan friend even if I fail to make paramdam sometimes.

Things are now back to normal after my Manila trip. I'm filling up this planner I ordered from Paper & Co. I love how classy it looks and it is not too bulky. I had it monogrammed because I'm a sucker for all things personalized. The inside pages are also pretty and provide an ample space for writing or doodling.




Speaking of writing, a friend lent me a copy of Abbey Sy's The ABC's of Journaling. I found this list part on Journaling Challenge quite helpful so I'm posting it here for when we run out of things to write :)


1. A day in the life
2. Something interesting you saw today
3. Goals for the week
4. 5 things you're grateful for today
5. What's in your bag?
6. 5 facts about yourself
7. Favorite pastimes
8. Highlights this week
9. Snippets from your recent trip
10. What kept you busy today?
11. 5 entries on your bucket list
12. Random ideas in the shower
13. A skill you want to learn
14. Your hometown and why you love it
15. Me time de-stressing ritual
16. Lines from your favorite book or film
17. A memorable past experience
18. What you ate today
19. Notes from a recent article you've read
20. Beautiful scenery you saw today
21. Lyrics to a song that's been stuck in your head

Have a nice weekend everyone! It's 9 degrees here today!!! Brrrrrrrrr.