東京ディズニーランド – Tokyo Disneyland (and how my birthday went)

I did something I hoped I would never do – I missed my flight! I thought it left at 3.45 p.m. But it didn’t. That was the time it was due to land in Manila. By the time I noticed this grave error on the train at 10.40 a.m. this morning I knew there was no hope at all. Tiernan and Mum both said it was probably because I didn’t want to leave Tiernan behind in Japan.

So I was like “WAHHHHH! WHAT DO I DO!?” And Tiernan was like, “It’ll be grand.” And I was like, “OHHHH NOOOOO!!!”

But in the end it was fine. I bought a new flight from Philippines Airlines and am back in Manila with plenty of time to show up on time for work tomorrow :3 Even though I am kind of depressed about leaving Japan.

Tokyo was very different to Osaka. Everybody is very busy. Our first full day there – my birthday – was the only day of pure rain. To be honest, breakfast was the best bit!

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We made a bit of a judgement error in pursuing Disneyland anyway (you know, birthday and such). For the most part it was still a good day, but walking about in boots filled with water kind of took away from the atmosphere.

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I was still happy as a clam to go there. And the fairytale castle in the rain is still a pretty awesome sight. Particularly when you can see it from the train – hurtling towards you.

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We made the most of things by doing the activities no one else wanted to do. Like taking the raft to visit Tom Sawyer’s tree house and the Indian Camp. Reminded me a bit of a bad school camp all that walking about in the rain and climbing rope bridges.

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I have to admit that the parades with the princesses wearing giant custom-made raincoats and all the street performers cancelled really made the whole day quite average. If this was someone’s first time to Disneyland I would appreciate if they thought it was lame and never wanted to go again. It’s just not as impressive!

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Amazingly, the crowds still turned up. Maybe they thought, as we did, that not as many people would go if it was raining. Definitely not the case!

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We spent most of our time running between the different shops. Must have been a great day for merchandising! I was also disappointed that there wasn’t much stuff for Rapunzel and the Frozen girls. It’s all Mickey, Mickey, Pooh… oh and Stitch.

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I hope I can go again sometime – maybe Paris next? Hopefully, that time, it will be sunny!

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大阪城 – Osaka Castle – By Night and Day!

Tiernan and I have been in Osaka since Sunday. Now, we’re sitting in the airport terminal waiting for a Jetstar flight to Tokyo. We’ve been all over Osaka and Kyoto during the last 3 and a bit days, including visiting Osaka Castle (大阪城) and grounds three times.

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We stayed in the tiny, but cutely convenient APA Hotel Osaka-Tanimachi, a five minute walk from the castle. I didn’t realise this when I first booked the hotel (I was going for price over location). But it turned out really well. Osaka has an amazing subway system that will take you absolutely anywhere.

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Speaking of subway. Osaka made great first impression on us. After flying in at about 9.30 p.m. on Sunday we made for the train. 7 years studying Japanese has left me with at least the ability to read a train map and purchase a ticket. Turned out we would have been fine not having any Japanese at all. At every station someone voluntarily asked us if they could help us find our destination. Then at the last stop. We reached the street level, stepped out into the drizzle and were handed umbrellas by two salary-men entering the subway.

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I love the umbrella system here. You leave your umbrella outside, in case someone else needs it, and you go around the city play swapsies! Anyway, back to the castle…

We had a short wander through the Cherry Blossoms on Sunday. On Monday we came back with our lovely guide Mike. This was after the trip to the Asahi Brewery which I didn’t take pictures of – you’re not allowed to. I actually recommend the Asahi Brewery. It’s appointment only, and the entire tour is in Japanese, but you get THREE BEERS at the end (soft drink options available for the kids). It was really good fun and only a couple of railway stops out of Osaka.

Back to the castle!

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So Mike walked us around while telling us about the two castles that have existed on that site. The castle was the site of great territorial battles during the 1500s. I was interested to learn that the castle was actually destroyed by fire after it was struck by lightning in 1665.

Check out this picture of Tiernan next to the largest single slab of stone in the castle complex. Pretty impressive masonry.

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It costs 500 yen to enter the castle. Most of the floors make up a museum narrating the castle’s shogun-history. It is a bit crowded and there isn’t much there you can’t learn from other museums, but the observation deck is rather nice.

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Last night, even after a 1hr train ride from Kyoto, we ran up to catch the castle lit up at night. It’s such an amazing place and looks good all the time. A night-time bonus was the empty courtyards. The crowds of tourists just disappear when they sun goes down – boy are they missing out!

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By the way… tomorrow is my birthday! And I’m going to Disneyland and I am VERY EXCITED!

Legoland!

The last thing we did during our Singapore trip was really the whole point we did a stop over at all – visited Legoland Malaysia. Now, I am a big fan of Lego and New Zealand does not have a Leogland at all, so it was a bit like being the adult who never got to go to Disneyland as a kid and then finally gets to go. We went from seeing the real merlion to the teeny plastic one!

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Something you should know about me, I am quite scared of heights. That also means I have a problem with big drops and normally can’t handle rollercoasters, but the rides at Legoland sit just on the turning point between fun and scary (ie. they don’t go upside which ways). Judging by the picture below, I was having a pretty good time! Weeee!

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Tiernan and I were so a buzz with Lego! What was even more perfect is that it was only a few days before the Lego Movie came out (which is an awesome movie). The last few weeks have been all Lego all the time. we even bought a little set to put together once we got back to Manila.

I really related to Legoland Malaysia because it was a miniature version of every where I have lived and loved. Like the Omar Ali Suffudien Mosque in Bandar, where I lived as a kid, Looks exactly like the real thing!

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We spent the morning walking around like tourists with our big ol’ backpacks on! Eventually we worked out (too late) that there are lockers around the place – and big ones in the waterpark area – so we really didn’t need to carry all our gear with us. We spent the afternoon in the waterpark, so there aren’t any photos. Indeed, I left my camera battery in Singapore, so I carried my camera around all day and couldn’t use it! Thank goodness for iPhones, right? How could I live with myself without a picture of Tiernan pretending to feed a lego parrot? Seriously.

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In the end it was a really long day. All morning walking around Legoland. All afternoon going up and down the water slides. Racing back to Legoland to have one last re-match on the tomb ride. Then getting back to Singapore by coach at 9.30pm! Sleepy, sunburned, happy, worth it!

Reminiscing on Sentosa

There are a lot of pictures in the post and I feel like I have a lot to say. We didn’t visit Sentosa on the most picturesque of days. To be honest, even after being in Manila for 9 months the mugginess of Singapore was a bit much. So the overcast skies were welcome.

I had been dying to visit Sentosa again for a long time. I last visited before it was Resorts World, back in 1999. Tiernan had never been at all. Luckily, the spirit of the island hasn’t changed much from when I was 11.

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We took the monorail in and made our way tour first port of call – the Southern-most point of continental Asia! (Monorail is about SGD4) It might have been a Friday, but a lot of other people had the same idea about lounging on the beach. A low hanging rope bridge crosses the lagoon to the two viewing towers. Plenty of space for sunning and dunking on both sides.

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We moved on, catching the shuttlebus back up towards the monorail stop. One of my favourite memories about my childhood is the Merlion light show. Of course, we were visiting just after lunch so there were no lights, but we took the lift to the top for views and roars! (SGD12 to enter the big Merlion)

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There were still plenty of cool displays around for Chinese New Year. Tiernan naturally found the drums and took over!

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Trying to fit all of Sentosa’s attractions into one visit was just not possible. So we picked Fort Siloso (an old favourite, but definitely tired and neglected, which says a lot about how World War II is leaving living memory and heading into the realm of history) and the luge and Skyline. I am not going to post any photos of the Fort, as I said, it was pretty sad. And we were disappointed that the laser tag was closed when we got there. But the luge made up for it. One ride and the chair lift for SGD13.

We have set a new bucket-list-esque goal of trying out all the Skyline Skyrides! Since we’ve done the one in Rotorua, NZ, I guess our next stop should be Canada!!

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By the time we had finished up with our activities it was after 6 p.m. Time to head to the cable car and work our way home. The smoggy sunset looked strangely attractive. We went around for 1 and a half rides, which I think is a bit cheeky of us, but we were fairly confused about which of the stops to get off at. Also we were fascinated by watching the dining cable cars go round. Did you know you can wine and dine in the Singapore Cable Car? Neither did I! Looks fun!

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Celebrating the Year of the Horse – Singapore

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In the last week I have been in and out of Singapore three times! I have always loved this place – it’s so metropolitan! Good food, good activities, such a shame accommodation is so expensive!

My flight to New Zealand had a 7 hour lay-over in Singapore. So I took the metro into Marina Bay Sands and had a lunch time stroll along the river – with lovely photographic results. Although Changi Airport in Singapore has plenty to do, it is just so easy to go into town that I can’t recommend it higher if you have a long wait. Everybody loves the Merlion city!

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On the way back to Manila, Tiernan and I made a three day stop. We stayed in the Carlton Hotel, which gets my double thumbs up for their awesome service and their huge breakfast buffet! I tell you, if you want buffet you really have to commit. Waking up at 7am to have your pick of seats and foods is essential. The buffet might be massive, but sharing with a couple of hundred guests isn’t fun :P

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On our first night we took a stroll from the hotel down to the river (just near the Singapore Flyer Ferris Wheel). As it so happened to be Chinese New Year, everything was lit up and there was a lantern festival happening right near by! So, of course, we had to check that out! Tiernan tried his hand at ringing the bells with his spare change while I tried out my night time photography skills. Getting better and better every year!

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This included the requisite selfies :) I will spare you all of them, I think I took about 20. Turned out we got down their really late. The stages were beginning to close not long after we got there. But it was still lovely to walk amongst the red, yellow and purple theme. Happy Year of the Horse! Gong xi fa chai!

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