Random Thoughts, Lazy Saturday

I wish the weather now is as nice as the photo above. Two days of nonstop rain made me too lazy to get up and even go out to buy lunch.

  • I’m currently watching Masterchef Junior on the new flatscreen TV ‘given’ to me by my landlord. I complained last time how my TV has not been working and he generously changed it to a new, sleeker one. Dang these junior chefs are amazing… using blowtorch and making smores cupcakes, chocolate ganache tart, steak crostinis… And how can they be so much more mature than those competing in the Masterchef adult edition?
  • More than 40 days of not shopping has left me with a very strong urge to go to Zara. And go to Zara I did. I picked two pairs of chinos because most of my slacks have become baggy— result of too much spinning from the washer, and a dress just because it’s spring! But I need to justify my purchases by saying that they are all for daily office wear hehe.
  • Last week was one of the longest weeks of my life. I still do not know how it was possible for us to organize a Triduum without our church’s “main people,” but we did it. Thank You Lord! Also, a group of Malaysians who attended the Triduum learned about the Holy Week Service through my blog heehee *blush*. I was shy to tell them I was that blogger but I was too happy to learn somebody benefitted from the English Mass post! 
  • BFF time with Monnette. Thank you, Coldplay for having your concert here! Hay I missed having my closest friends to talk to.      

  • Our living-dining room renovation is almost complete! The re-tiling is done, as well as re-painting. The tv cabinet and dining set have all been delivered and assembled. My interior-designer friend said it looks like a Rockwell condo (haha Binondo version nga lang!). I will be home next month to decorate the wall shelves and our mini work area. Still searching for my dream couch, but I had our narra sala set re-upholstered while saving up for a new one. 

The coming week is pretty crucial for me, career-wise. Please, please help me pray for it. Happy weekend!

Taking a Breather

Hello! Thank God for long weekends! I get to pause and breathe and catch up with myself. I was MIA for several weeks because (1) I'm loaded with work, church and life stuff (2) I attended a training in South Korea (3) There are just too many things I need to do I can't even keep up, but most importantly because (4) It's Lent, and as much as possible I want to stay away from all the noise and just enjoy the silence, hoping to hear His voice in that quietude.

The past couple of days I went nature tripping with friends. Most of the time, I just marveled at the beauty of God's creations, whispering how there is so much trouble, how people are suffering on the other side of the world, but still thanking Him for the opportunity to live this life and breathe in all His love and greatness.

I will leave you with some photos, which I hope will also inspire you to quiet down, reflect and find meaning on all the things we are going through.

May we all have a blessed and meaningful Lent.

Above photos are taken at the following places: Yang Ming Mountain, Fugui Cave Light House, Laomei Stone Ditches and Danshui. 

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!