Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mini Travel Log: Yokohama, Japan

It has been 5 years since my last visit to Yokohama. On my last visit, I did not have the chance to visit the famous Ramen Museum here. This time, I was adamant to go there even though I was tired and it was a short trip.

This famous Ramen Museum is actually called the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum and they have a website in English here:  And as the name suggests, it is located at the Shin-Yokohama district, accessible by either the JR trains or Yokohama City Subway (Blue line). I stayed at Yokohama Minato Mirai area so I hopped onto the Blue Line at Sakuragicho subway station. I alighted at Shinyokohama station and took Exit 8. It was only a very short walk by turning left at the exit and then right.

This Ramen Museum features many famous ramen restaurants all over Japan; all under one roof. They charge a nominal entrance fee of 310 yen per person. The interior is a recreation of the old Tokyo which is very beautiful and unique. Each ramen restaurant offers mini ramen bowls so you can try out as many types of ramen as possible with the requirement of minimum one normal sized ramen bowl order. If you're too full and don't have space to try out all the ramen, keep the ticket and come again at night. The ticket is valid for one day.

*Pictures in the gallery below are taken by Lumia 1020 phone in RAW format.

Click on the image for picture gallery

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Milano Expo 2015

The World Expo which is being held once every five years is currently ongoing in Milan, Italy. It opened its doors on the 1st of May and runs everyday until 31st October 2015. The theme for this expo is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life which focuses on quality of food, science and technology behind food production and securing food to eradicate world hunger. However, not all countries follow the theme as some chose to promote their countries like tourism and business. Many middle eastern and oil producing countries also deviate far from the theme like showcasing their model cities and oil fields. In some pavilions, you'd be surprised to find weird objects being displayed like flying car, space age piano and nude arts. So it is a good mix of exhibition apart from just being food. This expo is like bringing the world to your doorstep where you can virtually travel and see many countries in one place.

The Milano Expo 2015 is located at Rho-fieramilano where it is best accessed by the M2 red metro line. While expo tickets can be bought from official online website or onsite, there are many ticket resellers around Milan that sell at cheaper price. I was at the Milano Centrale FS and bought the ticket from a reseller tobacco shop for only 32 euro instead of the official price of 39 euro.

I visited on a weekend so it was overcrowded. I reached at the opening time of 10am and there were already trains of people queuing up to go in. I made a mistake by following this train of people once inside. I had to queue for very long to go into each pavilion. Some queues were up to an hour long wait. From my experience, I would suggest a smart way to beat this queue. Once inside, you should walk all the way to the other end of the expo. The pavilions at the other end should be Oman and Indonesia. You should work your way back up in reverse of the train of people queuing from the start. By this way, you can avoid queuing at all to go inside the pavilions. Just a rough idea of how large the expo is, I visited from 10am until 8pm and still not manage to see all the pavilions.

After my visit, I have mixed reaction about my experience here. People with architecture background should love this expo as it is a display of architecture marvels with so many artistically and futuristic built pavilions. Many pavilions spent a lot of money in high tech projections which are quite nice to watch but I felt they relied too much on technology. In some pavilions, you spend 10-15 minutes walking from one room to another room just watching videos and come out still with no idea what they want to present. Some pavilions still rely on the good old fashioned exhibits and I really find it informative as I can take my time to soak up the information and also admire the things that were on display.

As this expo is themed around food, naturally all the countries try to showcase their local delicacies. But again I think it's a scam job and rip off. Many pavilions provide microwave packed food with lousy taste but exorbitant prices. There are some countries worth mentioning in providing freshly cooked food prepared from onsite kitchens. You should try the ones from Uruguay and Argentina. They really serve good meat and steak with wines. Else you can try the many food trucks selling hotdogs and other titbits especially from Holland or try the Belgian beer and waffles.

Click on the image for picture gallery

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Bali Paradise

I was brainwashed by the media selling me beautiful beaches of Maldives. Originally I planned to visit Maldives for my yearly honeymoon trip; even though I have been there many times before. Luckily it is typhoon and rainy season now for Northern hemisphere. Therefore I changed plan to visit the Southern hemisphere, looking for another great island which offers great beach life. Bali was chosen after much hesitation. But it was a decision that I never regret as Bali offered me more than just beautiful beaches. It was really a different experience combined with many exotic attractions. I haven't had enough of Bali and I have already made plans to return again in the future.

Bali is a very large island. If you were to travel round the island by car, I think you'd probably need a full day. As public transportation is only limited around the town centre, the only way to get around the island is through car rentals or private tour guide with driver. There are many horror stories of foreign drivers of rented vehicles stopped for no reason by corrupt cops. Therefore I opted for private tour guide cum driver instead. I did some homework scouring the internet before going. While one can easily find a private driver from the airport or even outside, many are touts which fleece tourists with high prices and lousy tour experience. Many disgruntled tourists end up complaining online. I decided to look up in Trip Advisor and found an operator which has got the top ranking and positive reviews. So it was a no brainer decision in hiring them. The operator is called Bali Safest Driver which they also have a website at All the tour details and prices are listed in their website which after comparing with other operators, I can certainly say theirs are almost the cheapest. All prices are fixed so no worries of getting fleeced with extras. Best of all, I had such wonderful experience touring with them and on some days of my tour, they did not charge me extra for going extra hours and I was allowed to make modifications to the itinerary.

I was spoiled for choices in choosing where to stay. There are so many hotels in Bali in various parts of the island. Of course the popular ones are along Seminyak and Kuta beaches which are at the town centre. But this place is also the most expensive, price being driven up by tourists. Yes it is the most happening part of Bali, great place for sunset and surfing. But other than that, the sands are brownish, the waves are big and it is over crowded. So not really a good place to chill and relax by the beach if you are not surfing. Nearer to the volcanic mountains and forest, one can choose many boutique hotels in Ubud with nature setting. Down south near Uluwatu with steep cliffs, there are some isolated luxury hotels like the Bvlgari Hotel that has a fantastic infinity pool. There are also many hotels along the Jimbaran stretch next to the airport and this place is popular for sunset seafood dining by the beach. As for me, I chose the quiet stretch of beach at Nusa Dua. This place is to the south east of the airport and easily accessible by taxis. I only paid around 90,000 rupiah for a metered taxi ride (Blue Bird taxi) from the airport to my hotel that includes the Mandara bridge toll. On my first few days here, I stayed at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa. This is a true Balinese experience hotel. The best thing in this hotel is the spa which you must try for a very affordable price. Few days later, I hopped over to Sofitel next door to try out the luxury hotel experience. This building looks spanking new with very beautiful swimming pools. The beach along the Nusa Dua stretch is quite sandy with almost white sands. The waters are very calm, perfect for water dipping. However, it only has sunrise to offer instead of sunset; which can still be an amazing sight if you can wake up early in the morning.

Planning my itinerary in Bali was easy with the tour packages from my private driver. I just modify some to skip most of the shopping places and add in other places that I want to see. Basically my first day tour took me to Taman Ayun, Beratan Temple and Lake, Jatiluwih rice paddy field with lunch and ends with Tanah Lot sunset. Day 2 tour took me to Batu Bulan village for Barong dance, I skipped the many arts and souvenir centres, tasted the Kopi Luwak, continued to Kintamani volcanic area to see the beautiful Batur Lake, back to Ubud area passing through Tegallalang rice paddy terrace and finally back to Batu Bulan village for the Kecak dance. Third day starts at Benoa for Turtle Island and water activities, then see the white sandy beaches like Pandawa at the south and ends with sunset at Uluwatu. After that had seafood dinner at Jimbaran. Had such a wonderful experience with my driver so opted for a fourth day half-day tour to shop for souvenirs and back to Tanah Lot to capture some sunset time lapse. Other days were spent chilling and enjoying at the hotels, beaches and spa.

There are many food to try out in Bali. Of course many people talk about Babi Guling and there are a couple of restaurants that people recommend on the internet. But those are where tourists eat, the taste may not be good and the price may not be cheap. For my everyday meal, I relied on my private tour guide. I asked for recommendations of local food and I was brought to eat in many places where locals eat, not tourists. For newcomers to Bali, one must try the Babi Guling, Ayam Penyet, Mee Bakso and Ayam Bertutu (caution: extremely spicy). As for seafood, you must try the ones at Jimbaran. It may not be the cheapest but at least do try it once for the sunset dinner by the beach. The one I tried is called Ganesha and the seafood was fresh.

For those interested in watching some Balinese dances, try catch the Barong, Legong and Kecak dances in Batu Bulan village. This place is the centre for arts. So the performance here is top notch. Other places in Bali also offer such performances but there is a stark difference. Stick with the professionals.

With just a blink of an eye, my one week holiday here was over. There are many things here that I haven't do or see. I left this island impressed and I would definitely return as I have only explored a tiny bit.

Click on the image for picture gallery

Video 1: Bali Paradise

Video 2: Uluwatu Sunset Time Lapse

Video 3: Tanah Lot Sunset Time Lapse

Video 4: Spinorama Bali

Video 5: Water Sports and Underwater Activities in Bali

Video 6: Bali Legong Dance

Video 7: Bali Barong Dance

Video 8: Bali Kecak Dance