Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: Disneyland, Disney Sea & USJ (Japan)

If you are going to Japan, and visiting both Tokyo and Osaka, you might be in a dilemma. Which theme park do you visit if you only had budget for one? Well, I've been to all 3 so here is my review on them. Now bear in mind that I didn't take all the rides as my husband is not fond of too-violent rides and I don't really enjoy taking rides alone so this review may not be as complete as you might like. Nonetheless, hope my review will help you make a decision. :)

Disclaimer: This is gonna be a looooooong post so please bear with me. 

This metropolitan city has 2 theme parks under Disney: Disneyland and DisneySea. In other words? Land and Sea. They both have their own charms but Disneyland has been often described as a more suitable option for family with kids while Disneysea seems to attract more couples and adults.

My personal favourite? Disneysea with its beautiful Disney-inspired architecture, awesome live shows, and the limited edition Duffy Bear and friends.


8 or 9am, depending on the schedule. Make sure you check the timing before you go.

There are several attractions in the land where dreams come true, which are divided into several zones like World Bazaar, Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country etc.

Since my husband is not a big fan of rides, I can only give you a preview of what the rides entail through some of the videos uploaded on YouTube. Most are kiddy rides (read: not too scary) that I'm sure your kids will love, but be prepared for loooooooooooooong queues. You can circumvent that by running (yes, I mean literally run) to get your FASTPASS from the various ticketing machines located near the attraction you want to ride on. More on this later.

Exciting, right? Jeez, writing about it makes me want to go back again. >.< I really miss walking through the beautiful park and eating cute snacks.

Disneyland Tokyo also has a Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall, which is soooooooooooooooooooo beautiful. There's even a throne at the end of the tour where you can pretend to be royalty for a few seconds! Hehe.

I love love love the parades in Disneyland. They are so full of life and there is not a single boring minute as the gorgeously costumed dancers pranced past in their respective fairy tale theme. I will encourage you to catch both the day and night shows as they bring different elements to the table. They switch off all lights for the night show, but that's only to bring out the full beauty of their lights-adorned Disney floats. Check the videos below for a preview.


The timing varies but can be 8am, 9am or 10am. Check the timing here before you go.

The attractions here are super awesome because they appear to take things a little further where imagination is concerned. Also, because it's DisneySEA, all of the attractions are water-based. You can look forward to several zones like Mediterranean Habor, American Waterfront, Port Discovery, Lost River Delta etc.

As mentioned, my husband is not very fond of violent rides so we limited ourselves to tamer rides (tamer, not kiddy...LOL). One of the rides we took was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, only because the queue for the FASTPASS ticking machines was pretty non-existent. =x

Anyway, it was supposed to be a ride that takes you deep underwater where you can then experience the wondrous sea wonders that you will only get to see if you go really really deep. It was an interesting experience because you can then pretend to be Captain Nemo on one of his seafaring adventures. Cool, right?

Another ride I took was the Indiana Jones® Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. My husband didn't join me coz a) he was feeling out of it with the flu and b) he really really didn't like violent rides so he asked me to go ahead on my own. :x

I joined the extremely long queue but on hindsight, I should have joined the single rider queue because I WAS alone and it would have made things faster for me. If you are doing this as a couple, you MIGHT want to join the single rider queue but bear in mind that you may be assigned different seats. Anyway, the purpose of the single rider queue is so that the theme park employee can slot you in any time they have a seat that cannot fit a group.

Now this ride is reminiscent of the Revenge of the Mummy ride at Universal Studios Singapore because it involves similar jerks and jolts during the ride. It's damn scary but damn fun at the same time! I only wished I had time to try other rides but it was getting dark and the husband was, well, sick. T.T

Okay, one of the shows that you ABSOLUTELY MUST catch is the Mermaid Lagoon Theater (King Triton's Concert). This is a live-action show that involves 'mermaids' dancing through the air and telling the story of Ariel, the little mermaid before she met Prince Eric. It is superbly well-done and I cannot emphasize how much you should catch this show. It's totally in Japanese, of course, but hey, their actions should pretty much say out loud what the story is all about. :)

Another show that I REALLY love is The Magic Lamp Theater. Remember our beloved genie? He's here in a live action show featuring that mysterious merchant you saw at the beginning of the animated movie. Super awesome.

If you love the parades in Disneyland, then you will love the ones in DisneySea. But instead of rumbling on, I will leave the following video to show you just how beautiful they are:

Okay, now that I've pretty much covered as much as I can remember, let's move on to how you can maximise your stay at the Disney theme parks.

  • Read this on how to utilise FASTPASS at both Disneyland and DisneySea. FASTPASS is basically a ticket that allows you to avoid the longer queue and advance faster to the ride at a particular timing. Only a limited number of tickets are available but it doesn't mean that you don't have to queue. You STILL have to queue, except you get to the ride a lot faster than a normal queue.
  • If you want to get your hands on the FASTPASS for popular rides, then you need to arrive early at the venue coz people will be there earlier for the same purpose anyway. 30 minutes before opening hours ought to be sufficient.
  • Bring a picnic mat unless you don't mind sitting down on the ground during one of the parades.
  • Bring an empty that you can refill from the strategic water coolers scattered throughout the park. If you are on a budget, this will go a long way.
  • Selfie sticks are a no-no in both theme parks. Your bags will be searched at the entrance so don't try your luck. You can also read more about their notice here
  • If you can only buy ONE souvenir from Disneyland or Sea, the consider getting the Duffy bear from DisneySea coz it's limited edition and can't be found anywhere else outside the theme park. 
  • Above all, behave like the courteous, civilized being that you are. LOL.


It depends, it can be 830am or 930am so make sure you double check the timing before you go.

USJ (Universal Studios Japan) is one of the most well-known theme parks in Osaka, probably due to the ever-popular Hogwarts that it houses within its grounds. Harry Potter fans will make it a point to visit this beautiful spot and stock up on wands/uniforms but to be honest, I found it a little lacking. While you get to visit the shops that you could only read about or watched on the HP movies, Hogwarts was smaller than I expected. Their merchandise was awfully expensive too...I don't know why but I didn't feel very motivated to spend. Except on the butter beer that was much hyped about in the books. LOL.

How does the butter beer taste like? Well, it's sweet but nothing to shout about unlike how it was described in the books. :/

I'm very tempted to buy the wands, of course, but whatever will I do with them? LOL. I can't use a wand to magick my way out of trouble or help me win TOTO's a no for me. Now bear in mind that Hogwarts is an extremely popular place on high traffic days, so you are recommended to get a Timed Entry pass. Wednesdays and Thursdays are presumably the best days to go since the crowds only get bigger from Friday to Tuesday. I went on a Thursday so I was able to enter Hogwarts without a timed entry pass.

Other attractions include the Minion Park, Universal Wonderland and Snoopy Studios.

USJ also has a FASTPASS system like Disney, except it's called Yoyakunori and is only available for rides like Elmo's Go-Go Skateboard and The Flying Snoopy--all kiddy rides. An alternative is getting the Universal Express Pass, which is of course makes it more expensive. Some rides you can look forward to include:

I didn't take any of the rides back then coz I had hurt my foot and I didn't think it was a good idea to go on any exciting rides. :x

I didn't manage to catch any of the shows..(don't know why I was so unenthu when I really love theme parks)...but here are a couple of shows you can catch:

I didn't stay for the night parade because by then, I was tired from hobbling around and the weather was too cold for me to continue staying. Dinner was out of the question too as my husband felt that the food was too expensive and it was more worth it to splurge on good food that was more justifiably priced near our hotel. Plus, it was SOOOO crowded that I couldn't even find a place to sit down to wait for the parade. >.<

Okay, I must admit that this review is not very complete and perhaps a little biased because I wasn't in top form that day. I had hurt my foot while in an onsen previously. I didn't know it then, but I had in fact dislocated a bone. To make matters worse, my travel insurance refused to let me claim, citing that I had to seek medical advice in Japan and then come back to Singapore for a follow-up before I can claim anything. *rolls eyes* I didn't seek medical treatment in Japan coz I didn't know the language very well and I was worried that something might get lost in translation.

Anyway, despite the hype, I didn't enjoy my visit to USJ. I found it a tad 'soul-less' and too commercialized. Of course, I'm well aware that theme parks are technically 'tourist traps' but I didn't feel that way in Disney Tokyo. I guess they did it in a more subtle and effective manner? I don't know. Just my personal feeling. :)

Klook has a rather comprehensive article on how to enjoy Universal Studios so do have a read. 

End of the day, I really really love Disney in Tokyo and I really really hope to return one day. If I had to choose between Disney and Universal Studios, I will go for DisneySea, hands down. Hehehe.

Get your tickets here:

You can also book from alternative vendors on Qoo10 although you MUST be sure to compare prices and read the reviews to make sure you are buying from an honest vendor. Have fun planning your trip!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Soak in an Onsen! (Japan)

One of the experiences that you shouldn't miss out when you go Japan is the onsen, otherwise known as the Japanese hot spring. The reason? Well, it's relaxing as hell and soothes tired muscles after a whole day of exploring, of course. The first time I went to Japan, I went to an onsen called Oedo Onsen Monogatari Odaiba Hot Springs and then when I was in Osaka, I visited Spa World. I will do a review of both onsens in this post. Do note that both onsens have women only and men only baths so no worries about showing off your inner assets to the opposite gender. =)

Oedo Onsen Monogatari Odaiba Hot Springs
An onsen theme park in Tokyo, it's a pretty popular for both locals and tourists. In fact, it's so popular that it was even featured in a Digimon Adventure anime!

Okay, it's not obvious from the scene in the video but if even anime characters are making it a point to visit the place, you know it's a must-visit spot! In fact, it's much like an amusement park where you can wander around in a festival-like place and pay with a number tag on your wrist. You can settle the bill upon leaving but don't go too crazy or you might find yourself running out of yen before the trip ends! LOL.

To give you a better idea of what it's like inside this onsen amusement park, here's a vid to get a preview:

Looks fun, right? I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this amusement park because there are quite a few things to do aside from soaking in the baths (indoor or outdoor with hot and cold springs to balance out the experience). Tired of soaking? There are a few sauna rooms for you to sweat it out.

You can even go out to enjoy the foot bath or fish spa outside. Aching muscles? No worries, because there are additional services such as full body massage and head spa available for an additional fee. After soaking in a hot spring, you are bound to be hungry so head on to the indoor Edo Town for some delicious nom noms like sushi, ramen and yakitori.

There are many arcade games to entertain you but if that's not your cup of tea, you can always head upstairs to the relaxation room where there are loads of recliners for you to relax on. Each recliner comes with a mini TV of its own so that's pretty swell.

What I liked: Everything! I love that you can stay for as long as you like until 9am the next day. It's one of the most relaxing places I've been to and it helps that the Edo town theme they have going on is so festive and fun-filled. The food is reasonably nice too. You will definitely want to spend the whole day there just relaxing!

Click here for directions.

Spa World
This is another spa that's located in Osaka. Similar to Oedo Onsen Monogatari Odaiba Hot Springs, Spa World has both hot and cold springs that you can relax in. The design is much like a Roman bath, where there are various ways to relax. For instance, you can lie in a shallow pool of warm water or you can chill it out in a tub. As for entertainment, there aren't many options. There are a few restaurants but nothing too exciting. Families with young kids may like this place though because it has a amusement pool like Wild Wild Wet where kids can go wild.

You can get a beauty treatment or full body massage but when I was there, nearly everything was closed so I didn't find it as fun as Oedo Onsen Monogatari Odaiba Hot Springs.

What I liked: The design for the baths is quite unique and you definitely can spend a long time in there. But other than that, there isn't much going for it in terms of entertainment. There are full body massages etc. although I think they close quite early around 9 pm. They do have an interesting entrance with all the life size action figures though and there is a security room with security cameras where you can place your valuables.

Click here for directions.

If you ask me, I definitely prefer the Oedo Onsen Monogatari Odaiba Hot Springs because it has so many things to do and eat. Spa World is okay for me but you can still drop by to soak away your aches after walking all over the place! =)

Some tips to remember:

  • You are expected to be naked but don't be shy! Everyone will be naked and there are all shapes and sizes of people enjoying the baths so don't feel too embarrassed. Chances are, they won't even notice your flabby arms or rounded posterior while they are soaking. Just be yourself.
  • Don't forget to wash your body and hair before entering the baths. It's much like going to the swimming pool that way. 
  • Don't stay in the hot baths for too long. Take short breaks after a while because it's not good to stay in there for extended periods of time.
  • Be careful! I slipped and fell while I was entering a bath. I hurt my foot in the process and it was excruciating. Luckily I didn't hit my head. >.<
  • You can put a small towel on your head or on the rocks nearby but if it falls into the bath, be sure to wring it outside the bath. 
  • Tattoos are not allowed, not even a small one because the Japanese associate them with the Yakuzas or gangster ties. You might be able to use a water-proof bandage to cover up but the establishment might deny you entry if you have many tattoos on your body. 

Have fun soaking!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review: Day Trip to Everland (Korea)

I love theme parks so I always try to make it a point to include a theme park in my itinerary where possible when I jalan out of Singapore. Yes, I know there are different types of theme parks but for simplicity's sake, let's stick to those that come with roller coaster rides etc. Hehe.

Japan is known for its awesome theme parks like Disneyland and Disney Sea in Tokyo as well as USJ in Osaka. Although Korea is better known for its TV dramas and drool worthy celebrities, you can consider visiting either Everland or Lotte World after you have cleared out the beauty shops along the streets of Myeongdong. LOL.

Now, if you only have time for one theme park, you'd be curious about the differences. In a nutshell, Everland is more suitable for adults and couples while Lotte World will appeal more to kids. With this in mind, I decided to visit Everland. There are various ways to get to Everland but since we were travelling in a group and we wanted to stay for the night fireworks, we decided to book a shuttle bus package via Funtastic Korea. Besides, I figured that we would be tired out after spending an entire day at the theme park so having a guaranteed transport back was a big comfort. 

The shuttle bus package is undoubtedly more expensive than if you were to take public transport, but I was kinda worried we would get lost after dark or have to struggle with the crowds going home so I thought it was kinda worth it.

The shuttle bus package has 3 convenient pick-up points:

  • Hongik University, Hongdae Station Exit 4
  • Myeongdong Station Exit 2
  • Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station Exit 10
I picked the Myeongdong station since our hotel was nearest to it and it was a simple matter of waiting by the exit until you see someone walking around asking if you are waiting for the shuttle bus. Be sure to keep an active lookout or you might just miss the bus! Oh, and don't forget to bring a screenshot or printout of your booking so the guide knows where to direct you because there might be buses heading to different locations at the same pick-up point. Don't be late either! The bus won't wait for latecomers.

Our guide was a nice friendly guy who spoke eloquent English and gave clear instructions on where to wait after the fireworks. He even gave us his name card in case we got lost. Hehe.

All in all, the pick-up was smooth and before we knew it, we arrived at Everland for a full day of fun and excitement. One thing you need to remember is that Everland is no Disneyland so don't go in expecting the same level of entertainment. Everland has its own charm, which includes a Safari World Tour and T Express (a really scary roller coaster ride) plus we went during Autumn so it was beautiful at the same time.

Words won't do it justice so here are some pictures I took:

Review: Although I personally felt that Everland lacked the magic that Disney has, it still has its own charms. Go in without expectations and you may just enjoy yourself! It comes with the usual roller coasters and theme rides but don't forget to check out the Safari World tour for a unique animal kingdom surprise. If you have time, you may want to check out the Caribbean Bay as well although it involves a different ticket altogether. But no worries! You can get your tickets on Funtastic Korea. Have fun!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Disrespectful Tourists

I'm not sure if you guys had seen this already but apparently some time back, a US vlogger called Logan Paul made a video about his trip in Japan. Among the places he visited was a forest called Aokigahara (青木ヶ原) aka Sea of Trees or what's popularly known as Suicide Forest where he came across a suicide victim. He then uploaded the video onto his channel, but soon took it down due to the immense backlash.

Logan Paul in a screenshot taken from his deleted video

In case you are not up to speed on the news, here are a few news articles you can check out:
  1. YouTuber Logan Paul apologizes for filming suicide victim, says ‘I didn’t do it for views’
  2. Suicide prevention group slams YouTube celebrity Logan Paul over controversial video
  3. YouTube punishes Logan Paul over Japan suicide video
  4. YouTube star Logan Paul apologises for film of man's body in Japan
Now, suicide is no joking matter but apparently this man saw fit to make light of the matter and uploaded it online. And that's not all, on top of this particular video, the other parts of his trip in Japan on video were just as cringe-worthy. You can watch a super cut here where he even took off his pants in the middle of the streets in Tokyo and threw a Pokémon ball at random passers-by including a Japanese policeman. >.<

I'm sure you've seen or heard of disgraceful behaviours but this really takes the cake for me. Whether you are a tourist or frequent traveller, the most important thing to do is to respect the place you are visiting and NOT pull stunts like this for the sake of eyeballs. He's not alone either. You have American tourists who bared their butts at a Buddhist Temple in Thailand, Chinese tourists who shake, kick and climb trees to create cherry blossom 'rain' for photographs etc. Seems like common sense is not so common after all.

So how do you become a respectful tourist? Well, Tailwind by Hipmunk has a rather insightful article on this so I'd suggest you have a read. In other words? Always remember to treat someone else's 'home' with the sincerity and respect that you want others to treat you with and people will return the same favour.

Oh ya, this reminds me of a movie I recently watched. You can catch it on Netflix but you can watch the trailer below. =x

Monday, December 18, 2017

Review: Oriens Hotels & Residences (Korea)

I visited Korea last year in 2016 and stayed at this hotel called Oriens Hotels & Residences. This is located within walking distance (about 10 minutes' walk) from Myeongdong so it's quite convenient. One thing to take note though, you might want to remember which point to start walking from Myeongdong or you might get lost. Myeongdong is like a maze that could get confusing, especially at night when the crowds are in attendance.

I decided upon this hotel because my ex-colleague had glowing reviews of it when she visited Korea some time back. I booked both accommodation and airfare via Expedia so the price was quite reasonable. I can't remember the exact price but I do remember it being quite reasonable and of course, cheaper than a hotel room in Japan. Heh.

Anyway, its address:
50 Samil-daero 2-gil, Jung-gu Seoul, Korea

What I like about it:

  • spacious room equipped with a small kitchenette, big fridge and dining table
  • friendly and English-speaking front desk 
  • walking distance to Myeongdong and various subway lines
  • accessible to a few eating places and convenience store
  • it's near the airport limousine stop from Incheon airport
  • it has a lower level at the front door where you can leave your shoes before you step up to the room level.

What I don't quite like about it:

  • The toilet's water flow is a bit weird. It flows outside the shower area to the toilet drain under the sink instead so it wets the entire toilet. 
  • It's a little confusing to walk from the airport limousine bus-stop but you can actually access the hotel lobby via its indoor car park. 
  • The lift is a tight squeeze for 4 people and their luggage, especially our big and bulky ones.
  • The rooms are fairly close to each other, for example, we were able to look into our friends' room when the blinds were not drawn so you may want to take note of that. 

Review: We enjoy our stay at this hotel for a few reasons. It was quiet and reasonably near to Myeongdong. The rooms are quite spacious and come with a kitchenette, but could do with some improvement to their toilet design. You might be a little confused as you come up from the airport limousine bus-stop though so remember to access the hotel lobby via the indoor car park. The front door is quite prominent so no worries there. It just takes a bit of an uphill walk.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Review: The Berkeley Pratunam Hotel (BKK, Thailand)

So I visited BKK in July and I decided to stay at a hotel in Pratunam because of its proximity to Platinum Mall, TALAD Neon etc. I had stayed at Asia Centara Watergate Pavillion previously in 2015 but I decided to try another hotel. This time: The Berkeley Pratunam Hotel.

Its address:
559 Ratchaprarop Road, Makkasan, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand

To provide some perspective on Centara Watergate:
  1. rooms were spacious
  2. bedsheets had holes in them
  3. front desk was ok but seem to lack a little of the famed Thai friendliness they were supposedly known for
  4. walking distance to Platinum Mall etc.
  5. entrance was around the back, not very obvious from the main road
  6. 2 restaurants, only tried one of them and food was acceptable. 
  7. access to amenities like a swimming pool, spa room and bar
  8. next to a shopping centre that was nearly devoid of people
  9. cable channels were available at no extra cost
As for The Berkeley Pratunam Hotel, things I liked were:
  1. spacious rooms, like really spacious
  2. proximity to Platinum Mall, Pratunam Market, etc.
  3. well-defined and grand entrance that you can see from the main road
  4. next to The Palladium World Shopping, where there is a shop selling Zebra products and really cute Hello Kitty plates
  5. provides breakfast vouchers for buffet breakfast, which was ok
  6. friendlier front desk, but looked overwhelmed due to the huge number of guests checking in and out
  7. next to TALAD Neon
  8. cable channels were available at no additional cost
  9. opposite to this apparently famous chicken rice, but I wasn't too impressed by it.
Things that I didn't like:
  1. our first room was leaking water onto our luggage and the hotel repair man promptly came to fix it but to no avail. They moved us to another room instead.
  2. certain lights weren't working 
  3. rooms were spacious but in some cases, quite worn out
Some pictures of our rooms:

TALAD Neon Market during the day
TALAD Neon Market at night

First room

Replacement room

Review: The hotel was ok due to its location and spacious rooms. I can tell the hotel is trying its best to take care of its guests although the rooms are a little worn out and need maintenance. Not exactly a hotel I will stay at again, but it's great for families and quite value for money. Breakfast buffet was ok...nothing much to shout about but acceptable. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Review: Namba Oriental Hotel (Japan, Osaka)

Booking a hotel has got to be one of my most favourite things to do when planning a trip. I'm not much of a hostel/AirBnB person so I often turn to hotels to provide accommodation. In this review, I'm gonna talk about Namba Oriental Hotel that's located in Osaka where I travelled to on my last vacation.

First off, its address:

2-8-17, Sennichi-Mae, Chuo-Ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka 542-0074, Japan

I gotta say I'm really pleased with my choice this time because:
  1. the room was more spacious than I expected, it even had a sofa where my husband happily napped on from time to time
  2. close to railways and MRTs like Namba Station
  3. smack in the middle of a shopping district and walking distance to Dōtonbori
  4. near to food places (there were many restaurants just downstairs) and Kuromon Ichiba Market
  5. walking distance from a limousine bus service that you can take from the Itami airport 
  6. quite clean and tranquil 
  7. beautiful water fountain for Instagrammable moments
  8. not very important but it had an ice machine that we could get ice from when I hurt my foot
What I didn't quite like:
  1. the lift we took to go to the lift lobby was a little smokey, probably due to the Pachinko arcade that was located in the same building on a lower floor
  2. it didn't have a safe to keep our valuables
  3. no cable channel that we could watch, you had to purchase a movie card for 1200 yen in order to access additional content
  4. WiFi was a little slow so I resorted to using my own WiFi egg for Internet access
  5. sometimes the chambermaids forget to clear an ice bucket or replenish our toothbrushes, but not a biggie...
But other than that, the hotel was pretty great. Wouldn't mind staying at it again next time. Here are a few pictures I took of the hotel and room:

Review: Our stay at this hotel was extremely pleasant. I loved its central location and proximity to shopping districts, food places and transportation. It's A LOT OF WALKING but still considered quite close. The lift heading up to the hotel lobby was a little smoky due to a Pachinko arcade on a lower floor. Wouldn't mind staying at this hotel again. The front desk and chambermaids were all very friendly, and it's surprisingly tranquil despite being located in the middle of a shopping district. I also LOVE the fact that the shopping district is sheltered so you never have to worry about unpredictable weather!