Osaka: Home Hostel

Can’t fit in the whole building here but Home Hostel truly stood out amongst the gaudy loud buildings in Sinsekai.

The reason why I picked this spot instead of the more popular areas like Namba is because Home Hostel is a skip away from Spa World, Don Quixote (for snacks to bring home) and has a train station with direct train to Kansai International Airport.

Sinsekai is the “New World” town of Osaka. On first look, the vibe is gaudy, almost like Gayworld in Singapore. The area is filled with Kushikatsu restaurants (fried skewers) that arose due to the huge Pachinko (arcade and slot machine centres) and Spa World (onsen theme park).  The buildings are adorned with huge lanterns, vibrant colours and gaming machines.

Due to its nature of the activity – the crowds veer towards the middle-aged men but there really isn’t anything to worry about!

Enter the building and you spy beautiful wall murals all around. The left is the wall of shoe lockers. One of their staff members is an artist.

This is a family-run hostel which explains their cosy vibes. The owner often brings his child to the hostel.

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Kyoto Food: Ichiba Coji

When I visited USA back in 2012, I was awed by the ‘sampler’ platters that eateries have. I loved the concept of being able to try a little bit of everything even when you’re a solo diner.

This is exactly why I like Ichiba Coji. You probably wouldn’t wander in if you’re not in the know.

Woody furnishing all around when you step into the restaurant located on the basement floor.

The serve an ‘Obanzai’ plate which is a platter of many cold dishes that accompany the main. Something quite similar to Korean’s ‘banchan’ dishes.

I loved this restaurant because of the wide variety of small dishes (which you do not need to share, and also, you still can get even if you’re a solo diner).

Name Ichiba Coji
Address  Japan, 〒604-8045 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku, Enpukujimaechō, 京都府京都市中京区寺町通錦小路上る円福寺前町283
Opening hours Monday – Friday 11: 30 ~ 15: 00 (Lunch)
Monday – Friday 17: 00 ~ 23: 00 (Dinner)
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 11: 30 ~ 23: 00
How to get there 3 minutes on foot from Kawaramachi Station on Hankyu Kyoto Line
Keihan Electric Railway Main Line Gion Shijo Station 10 minutes on foot
Google Map Ichiba Coji (Restaurant next to it but accurate location!)

Kyoto: Piece Hostel Sanjo

I love staying in hostels in Japan because of the great price point and also, because of how the country is set up, there is a convenience store in every corner you turn.

Some of the hostels are so up-scale that they feel like boutique hotels.

I took a risk this year to stay in Piece Hostel Sanjo instead of my usual Khaosan Kyoto Theater.

The hostel is decorated in a beautiful industrial theme.

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Osaka: Endo Sushi Kyobashi

This has got to be the highlight of my Osaka trip 2017. Endo Sushi is better known for its Osaka Central Fish Market outlet, tourists are known to throng the famed outlet even before the sun rises.

Instead, try Endo’s Kyobashi outlet which is right by Kyobashi subway.

It is exactly the same as its more famous counterpart, sans the queue and the early timing.

Each plate consist of five pieces of sushi:

  • You can switch 1 piece of sushi but the number must correspond.  For e.g. You can switch Third Plate’s Tamago with Fourth Plate’s Saka
  • For the unavailable sushi, the chef will replace the piece with something of similar value, omakase (the chef’s choice) style
  • Each plate will include Ootoro (the fattiest tuna).

Top: Fourth plate Bottom: First plate

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Penang Hostel: Container Hostel

I stayed a night in Penang as part of my overland journey to Bangkok. I was looking for a simple stay near the ferry as the night was meant to break up the monotony of the overland trip.

Container Hotel was more of a hostel than a hotel and it was situated right by the ferry. It’s a great no-frills stay if you’re not too picky.

Container Hotel group operates multiple hotels in Malaysia, including Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. The concept is similar, a budget hotel option housed in containers. You can’t see it from the exterior but inside, the rooms are made in refurbished containers.

We stayed in the female private pod which was super affordable. Your privacy is accorded with the black out blinds.

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Overland journey to Bangkok: trains, bus and ferry

I have no idea what on earth possessed us to do the long route to Bangkok. In total, we spent about 11 hours + 20 hours = 32 hours (inclusive of transfers) taking a long road trip up to Bangkok.

Yes, I know there is a shorter route. Hey, where is your sense of adventure? We travelled in late Dec, spent New Year’s Eve in Bangkok and flew back to Singapore via Scoot.

One way road trip to Bangkok

No. Route Type Price Time  Link
1 Singapore to Butterworth Sleeper bus 45SGD 10hours Starmart Express via RedBus
2 Butterworth to Georgetown Ferry RM1.20 15 mins Penang Port
3 Georgetown to Butterworth Ferry 0 15 mins Penang Port
4 Butterworth to Padang Besar Train
#9500 /9208
RM29 2h 25 mins 12go.Asia
5 Padang Besar to Hua Lumphong Sleeper train #46 1225THB 17h 10mins 12go.Asia

Total costs in SGD: $103.69
Time spent (not including land transfers): Approx 32 hours

We booked all train rides and bus rides about 1 month ahead. There is no need to book ferry rides. The booking was really simple once you figured out how you are going to reach Bangkok.

Why did we do it?

My roomie and I always enjoyed road trips and we were inspired by this Tripzilla article that travelled to Bangkok by train entirely. Instead of doing the entire trip by train, I decided to break it up to include all forms of overland public transport – bus, ferry and train.

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Japan 2016: EkoNeko

I seemed to be naturally drawn to cat cafes when I am overseas. Perhaps it’s the attachment I have to my cat, being away from my cat makes me feel a little… empty and void of furry-loving.

While my travel mates went mildly hysterical at Pokemon Centre at Ikebukuro, I took a short train ride out to EkoNeko.

Alight at Ekoda and walk through this alley

You can read more about EkoNeko on Rocket News. The concept is quite simple: All of the cats are rescued and up for adoption. The cat cafe serves as a temporary foster home for potential adopters to spend time with the cats. However, you can’t just pick up a cat and head home, there is a stringent interview process to ensure your commitment and responsibility.

The entrance fee for an hour is 1100Y with proceeds going into the upkeep of these strays. The staff doesn’t speak much English but enough to understand your request.

The cat cafe is about an apartment size big with plenty of cat toys, climbing posts and cages all around. No nasty smells.

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Taipei: Ping Xi line timetable and map, sky lantern tips

Prior to my trip, I searched high and low on the net for a map and timetable of Ping Xi line and I could not find them anywhere.

To get to Ping Xi

Taipei Main Railway –> Rui Fang

From Taipei Railway Main Station, purchase a ticket to Rui Fang to switch trains.  While you can purchase tickets on the day of, the recommendation is to purchase a day ahead so as to get reserved seats. The train ride takes about 30 minutes or so and costs approximately SGD3-5 maybe?

At Rui Fang, you will switch to Ping Xi line.

Ping Xi Line Map

The tricky thing about Ping Xi line is that the trains run infrequently. There is only one train that comes every hour. If you miss that train, you’d be stuck at that station for another hour. Try to be there at least 5 – 10 mins early.

The entire Ping Xi line map:

The typical stops are:

  • Hou Tong (aka Cat Village)
  • Shi Fen – where shops are beside the train tracks and a popular spot for releasing sky lanterns. Also a transit to Jiu Fen (another tourist hot spot)
  • Jing Tong – an old mining village
  • Ping Xi – alternate spot for sky lanterns and also a transit for Jiu Fen

Ping Xi Line Timetable

No idea how to read the Chinese characters and want the Ping Xi line timetable?

The timetable is quite self-explanatory. Look at the timing at the station, that is what time the train will depart. The trains are punctual, you can start boarding usually 5-10 minutes prior.

P.S. Click the image to download.

Direction: From Rui Fang to Jing Tong

As of October 2016, subject to changes

Direction: From Jing Tong to Rui Fang

As of October 2016, subject to changes

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Midori Sushi: familiar contemporary sushi

As compared to Iwasa Sushi, Midori Sushi veers onto the more commercial side. In fact, Midori has been rated to be one of the better sushi chains with higher quality dishes that do not break the bank.

Let me put this up front, I am no connoisseur in food. In my world, I rank it by:

  • Good: I would eat this 1-2x a week
  • Meh: I would eat this 1-2x a month
  • Bad: I would eat this 1-2x a year

Midori falls in the good category of course.  The sushi is familiar to me, I have seen most of them before and most importantly: The chef asked me if I wanted wasabi!

There are multiple Midori outlets throughout Tokyo. Venture into the more popular outlets and you’re probably going to wait 45 minutes or more. We were at the Kichijoji outlet at 7pm or so and waited about 20 minutes.

There was a more expensive option at 2,800Y but we were so full and satisfied with the 2,000Y option.

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Traditional Sushi: Iwasa at Tsukiji Market

We were all geared up ready to get up at the crack of dawn to queue for Sushi Daiwa (the shop operated by legendary Sushi Dai’s son) but alas, holiday sleep got better of us.

We reached Tsukiji Market at 10am or so on a Saturday.. and we didn’t even qualify to queue which was snaking a few bends complete with a burly chef at the end of the line to stop potential tourists.

Oh well, we trooped off to Iwasa for our Omakase experience.

We went with the Omakase set although, on hindsight, I might have enjoyed the dons more.

I think we were there about 10+ am on a Saturday and the queue was manageable, about 30-45 mins before we got a seat. Most people seemed to eat very quickly and leave.

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