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Archive for October, 2017

Accidental Trip to Singapore

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 30, 2017

Wednesday, July 19th – 21st, 2017

You are banished to Singapore because your visa to India has not been processed yet!

On this trip we decided to stick to countries that either don’t require us (US citizens) to get visas, or if we do need visas, it’s a quick and easy process. Mark wanted to see India next. He looked online and saw that there were 3 visa options. One, you could visit the nearest Indian Embassy and get a visa which would be pasted in your passport before you leave your country. Two, you could go online and get an e-visa, like what we did for Vietnam. And three, we could just show up and get our visa there in India at passport control.

Mark chose the last option. It came with the least amount of work. To me, it seemed like the best course of action. Or at least it did until we checked in at the airport in Hong Kong.

The airlines wanted to see our Indian visas. We didn’t have one yet. “Well, then we can’t let you go,” the agent told us. There was a moment of panic when we thought that we would miss our flight. Then Mark came up with a solution.

We were very early for this flight out of Hong Kong. We also had a ridiculously long layover in Singapore (like 5 hours) before we got on our actual flight to Jaipur. He could submit an e-visa right now and pay extra for a 2-hour speedy processing. We would have our visas before we got on our flight to India.

That would do. Airline agents don’t really care if you have your proper travel documents or not. They only care that they aren’t the ones who get in trouble when you don’t. If things worked out for us, great. If not, we were some poor bastard in Singapore’s problem.

Using the Hong Kong airport’s free wifi, Mark downloaded, filled out, and sent back 2 forms for 2-hour Indian e-visas. Everything was done just in time to get on our plane.

When we got to Singapore, we were stopped. We couldn’t go to the gate for the flight until our documents were straightened out. We went to the business center of the Singapore airport expecting to just check our email and print out our visas. But, the visas weren’t ready.

Our visa photos didn’t have a plain white background. The walls of the airport’s business center were white so, we took some photos there. We emailed them back and waited 2 hours. There was still plenty of time to get this done.

Two hours later and “Huzzah,” the visas were done. The visas came with a note to check to make sure everything was correct. We looked through the PDFs. First was Mark’s visa. His name was spelled correctly. The birthday was correct. Everything seemed in order. Then we looked at the next visa…

It was another copy of Mark’s visa.

“Where’s mine?” I asked.

We called the e-visa company not wanting to wait for an email. “We’re sorry,” the receptionist said, “our offices are closed for the day. Please contact us again tomorrow at 9:00AM local time.”

So we couldn’t go to India that day. Unlike India, as Americans we didn’t need a visa to enter Singapore. Air Asia was really cool and allowed us to change our flight from that day to the next Friday. I don’t even think they charged us anything more than a ticket processing fee which was less than 20USD for both tickets.

Conclusion…

When we finally got to Jaipur, 3 days later, we got off the plane and went to the passport control. There were 3 lines for non-Indians. One, was for people who went to their nearest Indian embassy and had a visa already pasted in their passports. The second was for tourists, like us, who had e-visas. And the third was for people who didn’t have a visa and needed to get one there.  (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

We spent 2 days in Singapore, which was just fine with me. I LOVE Singapore.

The last time we were in Singapore we saw just about everything we wanted to see. So this time around we focused on quirky things. I went to the website Atlas Obscura to find all the odd things to do in town. My favorite was the Haw Par Village because of the Hell theme. The other things were minor or related to statues and plaques.


Singapore
(Republic of Singapore)

How to get there:

You can enter Singapore by bus, train, plane or boat. Though, as of 2017 the train from Malaysia is a bit of a hassle requiring multiple transfers at the border.

Most can get 90-day visas to enter Singapore. Check with the ICA website for visa information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 999
    • Ambulance and Fire 995

Website:

Downloads:

Data:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Singapore!
  • Do not carry the luggage of someone who might have drugs into Singapore.
  • In most countries, it’s best to change money at a bank. For some reason, banks do not change money in Singapore. You must use a money changers.
  • Use a single-trip ticket to use the LRT.
    • Do not get the Adult Stored Value Card since the 5$ deposit is not refundable.
    • When you get the credit on the card returned (ie. You have $6.75 left on the card and now you are leaving Signapore.) you cannot keep the card.

Haw Par Village

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Daily, 9am – 7pm
  • (last admission: 6pm)

Notes:

  • You wanna know what hell will be like?
  • Brought to you by the people who make Tiger Balm.
  • Apparently parents take their kids here to show them what happens to bad little boys and girls, but that just seems mean to me.

Map:

Posted in Singapore | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Hong Kong Travel Tips

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 25, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.

Just about everything else can be bought in Hong Kong, though ibuprofen can be hard to find. Many pharmacies do not sell it, but if you need it, ask.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • It’s best to use a backpack. Elevators can be hard to find sometimes.
  2. Clothes:
    • Hong Kong is all about shopping!
    • There is no sales tax here.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying at a hostel.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • Of course you can buy these here.
    • You can even find your favorite brands… like Dove, Pantene, so on…
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find it here; no problem.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • You can find it here; no problem.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy pain killers, but ibuprofen might be a bit of a treasure hunt.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • An umbrella:
      • When it’s not raining, it’s too sunny. When it’s neither raining or too sunny, air conditioning units drip on your head.

General Tips:

Transportation:

  • Get an Octopus Card:
    • You can get one at the airport or at any subway station.
    • A refund handling fee will be charged if you return the On-loan Octopus less than 90 days from the date of issue.

Food:

  • Eat as much stuff you can only find in Hong Kong you can find.
  • When you get tired of that, eat everything else.
  • When in Macau, eat the egg tarts.

Shopping:

  • If you need electronics here’s the place to get it.
  • There is no sale tax.

Money:

  • Don’t change money when going to Macau.
    • You can use Hong Kong dollars there, no problem.

Scams:

  • The are no prevalent scams to speak of. Just stay away from weird people on the street.

Hong Kong
(中華人民共和國香港特別行政區)
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Hong Kong by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane.

***A entry to Hong Kong is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Hong Kong uses the British style plug.
  • Get an  Octopus Card for public transportation.
    • Get one at the airport
    • Refundable HK$50 deposit
    • You can use it to pay for train, buses, and many other things.
  • If you’re in the market to buy electronics, Hong Kong is the place for you!
    • There is no sales tax, so everything is Duty Free.

Macau
(中華人民共和國澳門特別行政區)
(Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Macau by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane or by boat from Hong Kong.

  • Boats from Hong Kong
    •  TurboJet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR)
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (TAIPA)
    •  Cotai Jet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <=> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR/TAIPA)

***Entry to Macau is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t bother to change your Hong Kong dollars to Macanese pataca.
    • Every where in Macau, from the buses to the shops, take HKD.
  • The best thing to do is the plan out everything you want to see and in what order. Then when you get to Macau go to the tourist information desk and ask them what bus to use.
    • They will tell you the bus number, where to find it, and how much it will cost.
    • Remember to bring a pen and write the information down.

 

Posted in China, Hong Kong | Leave a Comment »

Macau

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 20, 2017

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Macau: Hong Kong’s New Face

The day we visited Macau was a nice day. Hong Kong is a very crowded city with everyone bustling about. Macau is a little crowded too, but mostly with tourists. The worst part of the day was that it rained off and on, other than that, the day went smoothly. After the rough time we had on our first day in Hong Kong, a little rain didn’t stop us from having a good time.

We took a ferry over and got directions from a tourism guide stationed at the terminal. We managed to get on all of the right buses with no adventures what so ever.

We tried an egg tart. It was delicious. I think the tart will be what I will remember the most about Macau for years to come.

After that we went looking for historic houses. We had a lovely time walking through Portuguese gardens when it started to rain harder. Luckily for us, there was a covered walkway not too far from where we were. And that walkway led right to the Venetian.

We did not gamble. We aren’t gamblers, but we loved the Venetian none the less. It is a fabulous place. Everything there is so shiny and over the top.

I’ve been to the Venetian in Las Vegas. It’s quite similar, but the one in Macau is a lot bigger. We spent hours walking around. We wanted to buy something, but there wasn’t anything we really needed.

Later we took the ferry back to Hong Kong. It was a great day.


Macau
(中華人民共和國澳門特別行政區)
(Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Macau by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane or by boat from Hong Kong.

  • Boats from Hong Kong
    •  TurboJet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR)
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <–> MACAU (TAIPA)
    •  Cotai Jet
      • HK (SHEUNG WAN) <=> MACAU (OUTER HARBOUR/TAIPA)

***Entry to Macau is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t bother to change your Hong Kong dollars to Macanese pataca.
    • Every where in Macau, from the buses to the shops, take HKD.
  • The best thing to do is the plan out everything you want to see and in what order. Then when you get to Macau go to the tourist information desk and ask them what bus to use.
    • They will tell you the bus number, where to find it, and how much it will cost.
    • Remember to bring a pen and write the information down.
  • Try an egg tart. No, try 2!

Senado Square

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • Walk around and take photos.
    • Get a photo of the fountain or the pattern on the ground.

Ruins of St. Paul’s

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Notes:

  • This is a 17th-century Portuguese church.

Monte Fort

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 7:00 – 19:00

Notes:

  • The fort was built between 1617 and 1626
  • The Museum of Macau is in the fort.
  • In 2005, Monte Fort became China’s 31st World Heritage Site.

The Venetian Macao

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • You can enter for free
  • The cost of gambling or a hotel stay are another thing.

Hours:

  • Who needs sleep?

Notes:

  • Even if you don’t gamble there is lots of shopping, eating, and sight-seeing to be done here.
  • From the Venetian, and any of the casinos, you can take a free shuttle to ferry (and visa-versa) even if you didn’t gamble or stay in the hotel.

Map:

Posted in China, Macau | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Horrible No Good Stay

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 15, 2017

Wednesday, July 12th – 19th, 2017

I’ve been to  Hong Kong many times. But, I’ve only ever seen the inside of the airport.  It’s a very nice airport.  For the first time I got to leave the airport and enter Hong Kong. I was very excited.

We would spend a week in Hong Kong. Mark wanted to try out accommodations in two different areas. The first place, was one he found on Airbnb. It was some sort of futuristic capsule hotel thing. It was going to be amazing. We would see Hong Kong for the first time ever and stay in a kitschy space hotel.

Best seat on the bus

We landed in Hong Kong and was first greeted by a staff member of the board of tourism. She handed us a free map. We gave her the address of our accommodations and she told us what bus to catch, what stop to get off, and she recommended getting an Octopus Card. We got the card and easily found our bus. We were the first in line. We got to our stop without any problem. Everything went smoothly.

The address was easy to understand. It was something like 140 ABC Street, ABC building, 24 section. We found ABC street, then 130 ABC street. At 140 ABC street there was supposed to be an ABC building, but there wasn’t.

We asked to people around where the ABC building was. They didn’t know. But they only knew the building they worked in. They said they weren’t too sure about the other buildings. One person even walked with us and concluded that the ABC building should be near here; he pointed to a building which was not the ABC building. We thought that maybe there was a typo.

We went to a Starbucks to use their wifi and call our host. It was a headache talking to him. He spoke no English or Cantonese. All his communications were in Mandarin. We used the google translate app to talk to him. We could understand him well enough, but he seemed not to know what we were trying to ask.

We kept the dialog simple. Instead of asking, “What’s the address,” we wrote, “address?” We would run it through a translator and send it to him. He had no idea what we wanted. “Why would people who paid to stay at my accommodation ask about an ‘address’?” The man seemed to be a bit thick.

After 45 minutes of texting back and forth, Mark got a new address. It was about 5 metro stops down the line and nowhere in the neighborhood we thought we would be in when we got the reservations.

We book the place online expecting it to be in one area. In the conformation email we were given a different address and found out that it was actually on the outskirts of where we wanted to be. That was still okay. Now, we were told that we would be staying in a different area all together.

We went to the new address and found nothing. There was no sign for any capsule hotel or anything that would resemble a capsule place. Once again we asked around, but no one had heard of it.

We found a store that had free wifi and contacted the host again. It took another 30 minutes of texting to get more information out of him. By this time I was convinced that he was too stupid to run a hotel or Airbnb accommodations. Later I would realize that it was a bit more sinister than that.

He was going to meet us at XYZ station exit 1. We sent him messages like, “Man = blue shirt, baseball hat, gray pants. Woman = green shirt, black pants. You = ?” We wanted to be able to find him in the crowd and for him to find us. But he didn’t understand. In the end we just when to the designated spot and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

Then we went back to another store with free wifi. Mark texted him again, asking where he was. He claimed he was at XYZ station exit 1. We ran back there. Out of frustration Mark started to yell, “Airbnb guy!” No one answered.

We went back to the store with free wifi. Again he claimed to be at the meeting spot. He said he was there for the past 30 minutes.

I began to wonder why it was so hard for him to understand us, but we could easily understand what he said. No one who is able to put a room on Airbnb is that dumb. Something strange is going on here. “I think this is a scam.”

I told Mark that we should start looking for another place to stay for the night. Mark groaned. His head began to ache in anticipation of the roller coaster ride it would be to get our money back from this fraudster.

During our adventure we passed a Holiday Inn. It was a bit above our budget, but for one night it would do. We headed to the Holiday Inn and got there just in time to see them close up shop. They locked the doors, pulled down the blinds, then they locked themselves behind iron bars. “Holy hell! Is all that necessary?” I thought, from the other side of the street. It looked like they were expecting the Purge to begin in a few minutes. I could hear bottles clanking in the distance.

We looked down the street. As if choreographed, all the shops and businesses in turn pulled similar metal bars down. The whole town was closed for the night. “Yikes,” I thought. “Are we going to have to spend the night at Starbucks?”

I turned to look at Mark. Before I could even ask him what he thought we should do, some shady looking creep approached us. “I have hotel. You need hotel? Yes… I have!” We wanted to tell this slimy guy to get lost, but he was right. We did need a hotel. So, we followed him.

He took us into a dirty building with lots of little shops and dingy looking restaurants. It felt like everyone inside was staring at us and whispering to each other, “Those two are about to be exploited.” The guy we were following was still working the crowd. There were 3 or 4 other tourists he tried to make follow him to his hotel, but they clearly had better option than we did.

The creep took us to a room with no windows and a bathroom that was oddly wet. Mark and I popped our heads in to look inside, but didn’t like what we saw. But, the creep insisted that we enter the room before we made up our minds. “It’s okay,” Mark politely declined, “we don’t need to both go inside.” The creep would not let it go, “Just go inside, please.” So we went in.

There was one single bed and about 1 square foot of space in the room that was neither bed nor bathroom. He quoted a price that Mark thought was way to high for such a dump. I didn’t hear what he said. I was busy thinking about how much I would rather spend the night at Starbucks and how much I needed to get out of the room, but Mark was blocking the way. To go around him, I would have to climb on the bed. I didn’t want to touch the bed. “…And, why was the bathroom wet!? They could not have just cleaned, it’s past midnight,” I thought.

Sensing our hatred for the windowless room with the one twin bed and the mysteriously wet bathroom, the creep remembered another room. The second room, the one in the photo above, was double the size. It had 2 windows and a moldy, but dry bathroom. This room was still terrible, overpriced, and we did not want to stay in it, but it was slightly better than spending the night at Starbucks (which we weren’t completely sure would stay open all night).

We took the room. But we tried not to touch anything. We slept with all our clothes on. We unpacked nothing. And, we left as soon as the sun came up practically running away from the place.

We paid in cash, giving the money to the creep before he left. The creep showed us the light switch, there was only one, and how to use the faucet. Then he said, “People usually give tip now.” Then he stuck his grubby hand out at us moving it from Mark to me then back as if he didn’t know whether he or I or both would give him money.

I stood there shocked at the creep’s audacity. This was not the type of hotel where tipping happened. Plus, it’s not like he carried our bags or anything. Mark looked at him and told him, “Well, usually people give tips in the morning, depending on how nice the room is.” The creep looked at the room and whined, “I’m not here in the morning, can I have my tip now?”

Mark gently escorted the creep out the room and started to shut the door as he said, “That’s not how things are done. Tomorrow… maybe… it depends…”

There’s no one around to tip…

The next day we found a hostel and met some really nice people who we explored Hong Kong with. They were the bit of sunshine in the rainy cloud that was our time in Hong Kong. But we still had to deal with the Airbnb host we could not find.

The guy went ahead and charged Mark for 3 nights stay, even though he was not smart enough to give us directions. Mark asked him to refund the money, but the host claimed that we cancelled at the last minute. With Airbnb we can cancel and get a full refund, only if it is more than 3 days before the time of our stay. Since, we supposedly cancelled on the night we were to arrive, he just charged us for the whole 3 nights’ stay.

But we didn’t cancel at all. If we did, he would have been able to keep our money. Mark wrote a letter to the higher-ups at Airbnb and explained our situation. After a few weeks, Airbnb refunded all our money back. But by then we were out of Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong this was hanging over our heads. It wasn’t about the money. It was this feeling of being taken advantaged of. This was our first day in Hong Kong and it was a very bad experience.

But, luckily we met some really great guys from Holland. We would go out to eat with them a lot. We did some sight seeing with them too, but mostly we ate. We had a great time with them and it helped us forget the horrible first day in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong
(中華人民共和國香港特別行政區)
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Hong Kong by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane.

***Entry to Hong Kong is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Hong Kong uses the British style plug.
  • Get an  Octopus Card for public transportation.
    • Get one at the airport
    • Refundable HK$50 deposit
    • You can use it to pay for train, buses, and many other things.
  • If you’re in the market to buy electronics, Hong Kong is the place for you!
    • There is no sales tax, so everything is Duty Free.

Australia Dairy Company

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • 26 – 30 Yuan for a set meal

Hours:

  • 7:30 – 23:00

Notes:

  • I highly recommend the scrambled eggs.
    • They are the best thing on the menu and the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted.
  • Go early and prepare to stand in line.
    • The bigger the group you go with the longer you will wait.
    • You might be placed at a table with people you’ve never met before.
    • The restaurant will be crowded with waiters wizzing by you.
      • Don’t make sudden moves.
      • Don’t bring big bags with you.
    • The wait staff might come off as being a bit rude.
      • They can be a little rude if they like; the food is legit!

Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Downhill direction: Mid-Levels – Central 6am to 10am daily
  • Uphill direction: Central – Mid-Levels 10am to midnight daily

Notes:

  • This is the longest covered outdoor escalator in the world.
  • There are many stops along the way.
  • Be careful when going from the top of one escalator to the bottom of another (or visa versa). Sometimes, you will needed to cross the street, so watch out for traffic.

Noon Day Gun

Basic information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • everyday at noon

Notes:

  • There are other “Noon Day” guns throughout the world, though many have been discontinued.
    • The one in Edinburgh, is fired at 13:00 and is called the 1 O’clock gun.
  • Be careful when trying to cross the street near the gun. There is an underground walkway that goes from the nearby mall to the gun.

Hong Kong Museum of History

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Closed Tuesdays
  • 7:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • There are no audio guides, but there are many short films throughout the museum.
    • They are played in 3 languages, English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
  • Bring a light jacket or a long sleeved t-shirt; it can get chilly.

Tim Ho Wan

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • There is usually a line of people waiting to get in.
  • You might be placed at a table with strangers.

Tian Tan Buddha

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free to see the outside
  • There is a small charge to enter the Buddha

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:30

Notes:

Map:

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Travel Tips for Japan

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 10, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.
  • Deodorant/ Antiperspirant
    • You can find it in the store sometimes.

Just about everything else can be bought in Japan.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • Don’t take big luggage on the train.
      • One suitcase or one carry-on only.
      • Backpacks are okay if you put it on your lap or on the rack above the seats.
    • Mail your bigger bags from the airport (in Japan) to your hotel.
  2. Clothes:
    • Uniqlo is the best choice for affordable clothes that can fit larger sizes.
      • Go one size up. If you are a medium back home, in Japan you are a large. Large –> X-Large.
    • They have stores like the Gap here, but it’s more expensive than back home.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying at a hostel.
    • You will need your towel at most onsens (hot springs).
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • You will need these at hostels and at some onsens.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store or at grocery stores.
      • You can find many popular brands like Dove, Pantene, Finesse, and Lux.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find it, if you look hard enough.
    • The bigger the city you’re in, the easier it will be to find.
    • Just to be safe, bring extra from home.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • Japan loves sunscreen!
    • You will find lots of brands.
      • They have gels, lotions, sprays, sprits, and the other day I saw one advertised as being extra milky…
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
    • Do not bring Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, or Codeine into Japan.
  8. Other things you should bring
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone

Try Calpis!

General Tips:

Transportation:

  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan.
  • It takes a few days to get a hang of the Tokyo subway system, a few weeks to understand the buses, and about a year to master both of them at the same time.
    • Public transportation is a lot easier in the other Japanese cities.
  • Generally, there is no free parking in Japan.
    • Sometimes shops will have free parking for customers, but only for customers. So, technically, that’s complimentary not free.

Food:

  • You can save money on food by buying bento boxes at convenience or grocery stores.
    • You will be given chop sticks.
    • Some grocery stores will have microwaves to heat up your food and even chairs and tables where you can eat.
    • All convenience stores will heat up the bento you buy if you ask.
  • Some kaiten Sushi restaurants are very affordable. Like:

Shopping:

Money:

  • It has gotten a lot easier to get money from a non-Japanese bank in Japan.
  • Use the Japanese Post or the 7-Eleven ATM.
  • Before you leave for Japan, call up your bank and ask if your bank card will work in ATMs in Japan and if so, which ones.
  • Credit cards mostly do not work here.
    • Sometimes they do, so try it if you really need it.
    • I saw a Discover card logo listed as a paying option at a pharmacy once…

Scams:

  • The are really no scams being run on tourists in Japan.

Tattoos:

  • You will be asked, at most onsens, to cover up any tattoos you might have.
    • I think you can just put a bandage over it.

Visa:

  • To enter Japan, you will need to have a ticket leaving Japan, unless you have a visa already or an ARC.

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan.

Posted in Japan | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Robots & Drink Baths

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 5, 2017

Saturday, July 8th and Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

People have this idea that Japan is a quirky place where strange things happen all the time. This notion pops up mostly on meme posting sites, but sometimes you can see it on the news as a “crazy thing they’re doing in Japan now”. Case in point, the Bagel Head trend. It was called a fad that was sweeping Japan. It was not, but since everyone is conditioned to believe that the Japanese love odd trends and most readers/ viewers had never been to Japan, this falsehood was easily taken up and retold.

Bageling one’s head was no more a trend in Japan than it was in New York or London.

That said, you can find crazy stuff in Japan. But, it’s mostly kept in and around Tokyo where tourists can find it. The thought is, “If this is what tourists expect and are willing to pay for, we’ll do it!” I introduce to you the Robot Cafe:

It’s a shame what happened to Daft Punk.

It is advertised as a robot burlesque show. It has a lot of stuff. There are many things going on during the performance, however at no point did I see any actual robots or burlesque. There is a scantily clad baddie who dies in an absurdly sexy position, but there is no dancing involved. When there is dancing, it’s more peppy than sexy, so not burlesque.

a non-robot performing a non-dance

So, what is the show about?

I saw it. I definitely did. But… I’m still not sure what happened.

This is how I imagine the board meeting to decid what the show would be about went…

Boss: “Okay, we going to do this thing. Any ideas on what it should be about? Remember, no idea is a bad idea!”

Person 1: “I watched Fern Gully last night, why don’t we just plagiarize that?”

Boss: “Yea, that sounds nice.”

Person 2: “Why don’t we have a 50’s Americana style dance off with cheerleaders… like half-way through the show?”

Boss: “Good, good. Keep it coming!”

Person 3: “I like parades. Why don’t we have a parade? … with really unnecessarily loud music to kick things off?”

Boss: “Genius!”

Person 1: “Since you liked my Fern Gully idea, why not have some teen… I mean post pubescent genetically altered martial art amphibians?

Person 2: “Oh, and let’s rip off Tron while we’re at it!?”

Person 4: “I like fire breathing mechanical chickens!”

Person 2: “Maybe we should call it a phoenix?

Person 4: “No, it should be a chicken.”

Looking for the plot of the show as a robot dies in the background.

Boss: “I’ll do all of that! Unfortunately the mechanical chicken will cost so much that we will not have money left in the budget to get any robots. But I think the people will enjoy the chicken much more.”

Mark enjoyed the show. I was just confused. There were zero robots. I think there was one guy in a robot costume, but he was on stage for less than 5 minutes.

At Hakone Kowakien Yunessun you can soak in hot water and enjoy a beautiful view of the nearby mountains. But, this is not why most people go. They go to get coffee poured on their heads, to sit in wine, sake, coffee, green tea, and whatever the special liquid of the day is. This is the kind of kitch I like.

This one doesn’t have as many international tourists. It’s a bit hard to get to and the information online is mostly in Japanese. It can also be a bit expensive at 4,000 yen when most osens cost 500 yen. But, with a little persistence we found an online coupon that got us in for 3,000 yen with a complimentary lunch set. (It’s still expensive, but whatchya gonna do?)

I enjoyed it! My swim suit smelled like wine for weeks afterwards, but it was worth it.


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Robot Restaurant

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.694312, 139.702865

Address:

  • 〒160-0021 Tokyo, 新宿区Kabukicho, 1−7−1 新宿ロボットビル

Phone:

  • +81 3-3200-5500

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 15:00 – 23:00
  • 1 hour show
  • Show up at least 30 minute before the show.
  • There are 4 shows a day.

Videos:

Notes:

  • I didn’t really like it, but many people did.
    • The area where we sat was too cramped.
    • The show made very little sense.
    • Honestly, I thought the tickets were overpriced even with the online discount.
    • Had it been a $20 show, it would have been worth it.
  • The food is not that great.
    • Mark and I didn’t order the food. In fact, only one group of people did.
    • It looked like the bento you get from 7/11, which would be fine if it didn’t cost $10.
  • Bring ear plugs.
    • The music is quite loud.
    • Kids are given ear protection, like those worn by people who work on the tarmac at airports. Adults are given nothing.
  • Not too far from the Godzilla head.

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
(箱根小涌園ユネッサン)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.239393, 139.045280

Address:

  • 1297 Ninotaira Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa

Phone:

  • 0460-82-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  •  YUNESSUN 2,900 JYP
  • MORI NO YU 1,900 JYP
  • YUNESSUN & MORI NO YU Combo  4,100 JYP
  • Addition costs:
    • Towel Rental:
      • Bath towel 100 yen,
      • Face towel 50 yen
    • Swimsuit rental: Men’s 650 yen, Women’s 1080 yen, Children’s 650 yen
      • Sizes range from men: M~6L
      • Women S~4L
      • Children 70cm~160cm
    • Lunch:
      • Inside the Yunessun area (Fontana): ~600+JYN – 900JYN
      • There are more restaurants outside the Yunessun area, but still in the building: Prices are higher than Fontana

Hours:

  • YUNESSUN: (Swim suit sections)
    • 09:00-19:00(March-October)
    • 09:00-18:00 (November-February )
  • MORI NO YU: (Naked Section)
    • 09:00-21:00

Notes:

  • Shampoo and Conditioner are complimentary and placed in the showers.
  • You should bring your towel or rent one there.

Map:

Posted in Hakone 町, Japan, Kanagawa 県, Tokyo 都 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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