Lessons

I didn’t see it coming.

I was all set for my trip to Kyushu when cough and fever struck me on the very same weekend of my flight.  I’m not really the sickly type, but I was literally bedridden from Saturday to Sunday (and Sunday was supposed to be my flight).  I was so sick I couldn’t even stay awake for 10 minutes straight that I can’t imagine myself making it to the airport.

I feel bad because I’ve been looking forward to this trip for almost a year now; it would have been my first time to ride bullet trains; it would have been my first time to Kyushu.

So I’m confined to my home, focusing on recovering, and by God’s grace, recovering pretty well.  Awful as I still feel, I realized these lessons from this experience:

  1. Cancellation options do matter.  I lost a total of ~500 USD–unused national JR pass, Airbnb accommodation and RT airfare–and neither of them were transferable nor subject to cancellation.   Ah, the airfare was especially a deal, just around 80 usd for the MNL-FUK RT, but I was never able to experience it.  The place I booked is hosted by a superhost and based from a guest’s review is just across Canal City.  I booked my national JR pass from Klook and the transaction was a good experience.  Not perfect though because I wasn’t able to enjoy them nor at least get a refund.
  2. Health IS wealth.  Yes I feel bad for the money I practically wasted and feel even worse for the botched trip, but if I didn’t put my health into consideration, I would have ended up in worse shape.  To be honest, it’s a bit traumatizing, but the best thing to do really is to be extra careful and take care of my health, and be less stingy with medicine.  And finally,
  3. There’s always a bright side to everything.  I have tons of personal errands to take care of so that’s what I chose to focus on in my sudden free time.  The host I contacted is extra nice and offered me a special rate the next time I book his place.  I learned that Klook is a nice service to avail.  I also had more time to talk to my family during the week off.

I honestly don’t know when I can plan a trip again or I’ll have the time to go to Kyushu, but I’m wiser for sure this time.

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Viewing the Majestic Mt. Fuji

Being Japan’s icon and rightfully so, seeing Mt. Fuji is definitely a must for me.  There are so many ways and so many places to enjoy the view, but for my trip, I chose to see Mt. Fuji from three vantage points in two days from the Fuji Five Lakes region.  I tried viewing Mt. Fuji from the Chureito Pagoda, Mt. Shakushi and Lake Kawaguchiko.  So yeah, these are the more nature-leaning sightseeing spots for Mt. Fuji.

I’ve read that Mt. Fuji’s visibility is somewhat unpredictable, so choosing the date to see Mt. Fuji (which I set practically four months in advance) was a gamble for me.  But as you’ll see, it did pay off 🙂

Access to Fuji Five Lakes Region Coming from Tokyo

Let me start though by sharing how to get to the Fuji Five Lakes region.  If you’re coming from Tokyo, the cheapest and fastest way to get to Fuji Five Lakes is via bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal.  The trip roughly takes 2 hours and it costs JPY 1750 up to Kawaguchiko.  You may purchase in advance and just approach the counter so you can get your ticket and have your seat assignment, or just purchase upfront. This is a hard lesson learned for me: to make the most of your trip, check the timetable and be at the bus terminal at least half an hour early so you can purchase your ticket.

Shimoyoshida

I was originally going to alight at Kawaguchiko Station, but the bus would stop at Shimoyoshida first, where Chureito Pagoda is, so alight at Shimoyoshida station I did.  And then I wish I didn’t, because I felt I was in the middle of nowhere.  Don’t get me wrong; the town was quiet and lovely, but save from a couple other passengers–a lady and a man–who got off, there was no one else around because the town was covered in snow.  And there were no signage near the bus stop that tells you how far Chureito Pagoda is, or which direction you need to head.  So I mustered up my courage and asked one of the other passengers.  She started telling me that I had to walk, and when I asked how far, she was hesitating.  That got me nervous, for sure, until the other passenger spoke up and told me that he’ll show me the way.  So we kept walking for at least 10 minutes until he spoke up and pointed at the mountain on the other side of the road.  And boy, he did point way up to the mountain’s summit.  For the second time that day, first being the moment I got off the bus, I thought of giving up.  But I didn’t want to waste the gentleman’s kindness so I kept on.  He pointed the way to the train station, i.e., my save point, and then he gave me instructions on how to get to the shrine entrance.  I walked on, but didn’t find the way, so I retraced my steps.  I came across another couple and this time, they took me right at the steps to Arakura Shengen shrine (where Chureito Pagoda is).  So here it is, in pictures:

For a second, I wanted to cry after my phone shut down.  I haven’t texted my host yet to pick me up, and it was about to get dark in the next 10 minutes or so.  But I steeled myself and focused on getting to the train station.  Thankfully, I was able to charge my phone when I got to Shimoyoshida station, texted my host, and then waited at Fujisan station.  I then spent the night at Peace & One resort which I wrote about here.

Mt. Shakushi

Mt. Shakushi’s summit is one of the underrated viewing spots for Mt. Fuji, but when you conquer the two-hour hike, it’s said to be worth it.  Note that I wrote “said to be” because it was too cold for me and I didn’t have enough time. But the trail is beautiful, too:

 

Lake Kawaguchiko

Following my failed quests to reach Chureito Pagoda and Mt. Shakushi’s summit, I had to ask my host several times if Lake Kawaguchiko is at sea level or not.  The lake is one of the most scenic spots to view Mt. Fuji and this spot is the most accessible of the three, and is actually within the busy town.  The lake is just a 5 – 10 minute walk from Kawaguchiko bus station and there are plenty of signs to guide the way.  I was running on a tight schedule so I just managed to take a few shots of Lake Kawaguchiko:

This time, Mt. Fuji wasn’t completely visible at all (or maybe I was just looking at the wrong direction^^;;) In any case, it was still worth checking out Lake Kawaguchiko, mostly because I’d lose sleep for days in regret if I didn’t! Haha!

Two days, three spots, priceless encounters with places and people.

Japan Tourist Visa Tips for Philippine Passport Holders

Have you been wanting to go to Japan, but are intimidated by the visa application?  Read on then as I share with you tips on how to improve your chances of getting a tourist visa!

Before I continue though, let me just remind you that

  1. I’m not guaranteeing 100% approval.  That’s really up to the embassy to decide!
  2. I’ll be talking about how I prepared and what I think helped me bag a multiple entry visa, and most importantly:
  3. Check what’s stated in the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines’ website.  I did, and still do from time to time.

So, let’s continue!  Japan started granting multiple-entry tourist visas for Philippine passport holders residing in the Philippines only in 2013 but they have further relaxed the requirements as of September 30, 2014.  That makes Japan even more accessible for us, and we can be granted a visa valid for up to 5 years with a maximum stay of up to 30 days.  Sweet, huh?  😀

Now, on to the tips:

  1. Whether you’re aiming for a single entry or a multiple entry visa, you need to have a valid passport first.  This may be common sense but I can’t stress enough how important it is.  And, renew your passport six months before it expires!
  2. This is just my personal preference, but my preparation took years.  I didn’t aim for Japan right away; I traveled to other countries first and went to South Korea before attempting my first Japan visa application.  This is to build a good travel record and prove that I’m really just visiting for recreation and not for any other business.
  3. Know the type of visa you intend to apply for.  Check here what best suits you.  What I did was apply for a single entry visa last year and this year, multiple entry.
  4. Gather the documents.
    • Make sure you completely and correctly fill out the visa application form.  Read the instructions carefully!  It doesn’t hurt being neat, either; avoid erasures and corrections as much as possible.  The form is actually editable, so use it to your advantage.
    • For photos, it’s best go to photo studios and tell them you want your picture taken for Japan visa application, and they’ll know what to do.
    • If you’re a first-time applicant, you will most likely need NSO documents such as a copy of your birth certificate and/ or marriage certificate.  If you’re dreading long lines and stress-inducing waiting times, fear no more because you can now order said documents online and be delivered to your doorstep in three working days, for your convenience!
    • In getting your bank certificate, it’s best to do so days before you submit your visa application.  In this case, I believe the more current your document is, the better.  As to how much money you should have in the bank, the Embassy hasn’t really specified; but when I applied for a five-day stay in Osaka last year, I had ~PhP50k and more than ~PhP100k when I applied for my Tokyo trip (also for a 5-day stay).  The rule of thumb is they want proof that you’ll have enough money to cover your expenses for your trip.
    • The daily itinerary need not be too detailed, but it has to show that you do have a pretty concrete plan of what you’re gonna do during your stay.
    • Other documents that are not required but will boost your application are transportation and accommodation bookings (if not staying with a friend or relative).  As much as possible, choose plans that have a flexible cancellation policy.  For first-time applicants who are employed, a certificate of employment (COE) is not required, but it’s a good supporting document nonetheless.
    • In general, remember that the documents should be within the prescribed validity and format, and your documents should be neat.
  5. Submit your requirements.
    • Except for a few cases, visa applications should be submitted through travel agencies accredited by the Japanese Embassy.  This option is actually easier, hassle-free, and they will review your documents before accepting the application.
    • Remember that not all travel agencies process all types of visa application, so read and confirm with the agency/ies of your choice.
    • Visa application itself is free, but the travel agencies charge processing fees.
    • When is the best time to submit?  Personally, for tourist visa application with no guarantor, 6 – 8 weeks before travel is enough.  If you think this is too close to call, I’d say the advantage of applying close to your intended travel dates is that your documents are more up-to-date.  You might want to check with your travel agency of choice as well.
  6. Wait and hope for the best!  Processing time is officially around 7 – 10 working days, but you can get yours in as early as 2 – 3, which I did in my two applications.  If you have a guarantor, expect the processing time to be longer since there will be more papers to verify.  Your travel agency will inform you when your passport is available for pickup.

 

Feeling more confident now?  Great! Now plan, prepare and go for it!

At a Train Station

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I always travel light. The only times I carry luggage is when I need winter clothes, or if the trip takes more than one week. Otherwise, it’s just a backpack and a smaller bag for going around.

So this is me at a train station in Hong Kong, the Airport Express station in Kowloon, to be exact. I consider this a self-portrait of sorts, a mirror of myself quite literally and figuratively.

Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you, Viivi, for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award 🙂 Dear readers, if you haven’t checked out GOTRAVELGLOBAL yet, you definitely should!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given to bloggers by bloggers. It is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the eleven questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate eleven blogs to receive the award and write them eleven new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.

**

And now, for the answers to the questions:

When did you start your first blog and if it is not the current one about what it was?

I kept a Multiply site around 2007 – 2010, and it was mostly about music and events I went to, and sometimes personal stuff.  I rarely wrote it in it though because at that time, I switched into a job that had me move around a lot.

Dream travel destination?

Batanes!  It has such a beautiful landscape, and from the stories, wonderful people, too.

Name one book/movie that has inspired you

The Shawshank Redemption is one movie I find inspiring, how Andy Dufrense didn’t let himself rot in prison but rather use his skills to transform the life of everyone around him (and he ended up exposing the warden, too).  He also found his way out carefully and creatively too, with a lot of patience.

What countries have you traveled to?

Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan.  I’d want to keep coming back to Japan, though I target to visit Tunisia, too.

Tell something funny that has happened for you in plane

A group of middle-aged men kept ordering cans of beer throughout the flight so they got pretty drunk towards the end of the trip.  As the plane was about to land, one of them went, “wheeee!

What is your own favorite post from your blog?

That would be my recount of climbing Umeda Floating Garden Observatory.  I’m masochist that way.  Haha!

Another one is my post about Singapore Botanic Gardens.

What are your three must listen road trip songs?

夏恋 and 2C の彼女from SID; L’Arc~en~Ciel’s songs (especially songs from True and Heavenly).

Do you believe in destiny?

Yes, I believe there are no accidents.

Share your secret blogging advice with everyone

Stick to your blog’s purpose.  Why are you keeping it? What do you want to share?

Train, car, ship or plane travel? Which one do you prefer?

I prefer plane and train travels especially scenic trips. Manila’s MRT not counted.

Introduce your blog in three words

Lost and Found ^-^

So there 🙂 In turn, I’m nominating the following:

mesteereanwinds

GOTRAVELGLOBAL

~JustAnotherSoul~

The Travel Buff

Young OFW

Uncover Travel

JFAB

My Passenger Diaries

and here are my questions:

  1. What got you into travelling?
  2. What place is on the top of your bucket list?
  3. Cityscape or nature?
  4. Are you more of a planner or are you more spontaneous?
  5. What’s the longest flight you’ve been in, and how did you spend your time?
  6. What’s the most exotic food you’ve ever eaten?
  7. What is the number one place in your country that you recommend?
  8. Do you collect mementos from your trips?  What are those?
  9. Who or what inspired you to write?
  10. What’s your favorite time of the day?
  11. What do you miss most about home when you travel?

**

Hope you enjoyed reading and in answering the questions too 🙂 spread the sunshine!

 

Puerto Princesa Underground River

I’m probably one of the few people who don’t really mind not seeing Boracay–now please don’t throw tomatoes at me or something–but Palawan? I can’t not go to Palawan!

My friends and I went to Palawan at the same year the Underground River was officially listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.  The National Park it’s in is also listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Before getting to the National Park though, you have to ride a ferry at Sabang.  Boat rides can make me anxious, but the sea and the limestone mountains pleasantly distracted me.

The place was packed when we got to the entrance of the cave, and I took some pictures while waiting for our turn.

And then it was finally time to go in!

I regret not having a decent camera with me by the way.  I was at the mercy of my boatmates who had DSLRs with killer flash with them. My shots inside the cave look like frames from a James Bond opening sequence! >_<

I feel proud of these two shots though:

The ride through the river is about 45 minutes long. And I noticed by the way that the boatmen follow a script, even down to the jokes 😛

And then we finally got to the exit where we were greeted by the beach… and monkeys!