The Huangshan Puzzle

Huangshan is not the same as Huangshan Scenic Area. I knew that, but I didn’t expect how difficult navigating this would be. -__-

Traveling to Huangshan is pretty complex and probably well covered by Chinese blogs. But not English ones.

There are options, and so I label them a, b, c. You can use whichever option, then move on to the next number.

1a. Bus from Suzhou

There are buses available both from the North and South Railway station, at CNY128. The North one leaves at 6:40am, and that’s what we took.

Our bus arrived at Tunxi (Huangshan City) at 12:30pm.

1b. Train/Bus From Shanghai

At around CNY326, the one high speed train leaves Shanghai in the morning and arrives at Huangshan Railway station, taking 4 hours.

There’s a bus option that takes 6 hours.

2a. From Huangshan Station (Tunxi)

This is if you took the bus.

From there, you transfer at the same bus station to another bus (gate 8, no need to buy ticket at the counter, you pay at the bus) that goes to the transfer point near the foot of the mountain. This costs CNY20, and takes more than an hour.

2b. From Huangshan Railway Station, North (Highspeed train)

If you go outside the huge ass train station, there’s another huge ass bus station. Buy the ticket at the counter and board the bus. This costs CNY18 if I remember correctly, and takes 45 minutes.

3. Transfer (?) bus

This is a CNY18 bus that takes you from the foot of the mountain to your preferred cable car. Since me and my friend wanted the East (Yugun) one, we took that bus. Less than an hour I think.

4. Ropeway up!

From here on, your Huangshan Scenic Area maps should work.

When you pay for the Ropeway, you also pay for the entrance (less than CNY200 – I think CNY190?). This you can pay by international credit card.

PS

The Ropeway is CNY80 for the east one, and CNY90 for the west one. The Cable Car in the middle of the mountain in the west course is CNY100.

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Credit Card in Japan in Less than a Week

A, the dreaded application. Everytime I google they say that for foreigners, credit card applications are painful and usually met with failure. Hence I procrastinated. Plus I had my prepaid card so I figured I should be ok. But since I am encountering some problems lately with a prepaid card, I figured I might as well try.

ANA Mileage. I applied online and got the results within an hour. Guess what – it’s a no.

This Sunday I decided to apply again. To Amazon.co.jp. I received an email in Japanese on Monday that I wasn’t approved. Oh well.

Come Tuesday I received another email saying they’ve linked my credit card to my Amazon account. True enough when I checked amazon I do have a new credit card in my payment method. Oh and that they’re sending my credit card to my house. Eh. Must have read the other email wrong.

So. Profile time (so you can compare).

1. I’ve been in my company 1 year and 14 days as of application. I earn a bit more than the average annual rate based on the articles I’ve read. But those averages are too low based on my friends’ salaries haha.

2. I’ve been in my apartment 1 year and a month.

3. I successfully linked the application to my JP Post Bank account, with about two rent’s worth of cash deposit on it.

4. I did not submit any documents.

And that’s it.

Pontorson/Mont St. Michel Bicycle Route

September 2018

A recommendation for those who want to see Mont St Michel sans tourist crowd is to stay overnight in the island itself.

Now, if you don’t have ~190euros to burn, another alternative is a 30 euro per night stay in the surrounding area. There’s plenty. However, most of them ARE not accessible by public transportation. The closest I found was Pontorson, that has a train station to Paris.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that Pontorson was 10kms away! It should be walking distance ( at least for me) but it is not walker-friendly. There are parts where there are no sidewalks on the main highway. In hindsight, I should have walked on the bicycle route but what’s done is done.

Pontorson to Mont St Michel

Mainly flat (less than half a kilometer elevation gain according to another blog), no turns once you get on the main route. The path is about 2 meters wide, so pretty safe. Plus it is beautiful.

You cannot go up to Mont St Michel from 10am to 6pm, so you’ll have to park at designated areas. There are three. Two near the dam, one near the information center where there’s a free shuttle.

I chose the one near the info center. I parked at parking lot 10, where there’s an area for bicycles then boarded the free shuttle. I think the shuttle stops at the other two parking areas too, but it might be full.

Mont St Michel to Pontorson

If you go during the day it’s the same. However, I wanted to see the night version so I waited until 9:30pm. The route is the same, but the feel is very different.

There are no street lights.

There are no houses on the way (one hostel in the middle).

At one point, a huge sounding dog started barking and so i started pedaling like my life depended on it (and at that point it felt like it did). My French friend said it was pretty safe and I had nothing to worry about.

So. If you are thinking of doing what I did, check the headlamps of your bike and for goodness sakes try to go with someone else.

Getting a Schengen Tourist Visa from Tokyo (France)

I applied last August 6, and this afternoon I received my visa with a personal note (in Japanese) saying “Enjoy!”.

So. Time to pass on the experience.

Before applying

  1. Book your appointment online. In my case it was at least two weeks before I see the next open one. You can easily change it, so book it now! Oh, and print that out.
  2. Prepare requirements.
  3. Get your leave approved by the boss! Actually, since you are in Japan, I assume, better get that approval as step 1.
  4. If you are using the letter pack, take note of the tracking number so you can check if the post is on its way.

During the application

  1. See the post right before this one.

After the application

  1. A, the good old waiting game. Keep waiting sweetie.
  2. One week later, you can check the status of your visa (status as in whether it’s done processing, not whether it is approved or not). If it says that there’s no passport being processed with the details you key in, assume it’s still in progress.

The Requirements. 

The most I’ve ever had to prepare. Let’s get to it.

  1. Checklist. Just print it out, and tick what you’ve submitted. As there are items with options, what I did was underline what I prepared to meet that requirement. For example, I didn’t book a tour, just did my itinerary, so I just underlined “program of my visit” in number 8.a) 2.
  2. Visa application form. That’s easy.
  3. Photo. Again, easy.
  4. Passport. Probably the easiest. I submitted a barely stamped one as I got a new passport, so I offered the old one (with the old Schengen visa) They didn’t nope, they’re good with just the new one. Oh, I presented the original AND a copy.
  5. Cash. 60euros in local currency. Ouch.
  6. Resident card. Just provide a copy, and be ready to show the original.
  7. Employment Certificate. (comment if you want mine). Basically it should  have the company header, date and signature (or stamp), with your name, hiring date and monthly salary. In the Philippines we need to be working with our company a year or so (at least that’s what we think), but here I’ve been with my company 10 months and there were no issues. They’re happy to keep just the original copy of this one.
  8. Purpose of stay. Just printed an itinerary (they ask you about it, so be ready), and underlined “other document showing the program of the visit”
  9. Proof of itinerary. I provided a return ticket. Now, here you have the option of getting a tour company to reserve one for you, or paying for it yourself. I decided to take the risk and just book it (and thus have the cheapest one. I got my tickets at around JPY77,000 yen. I’ve been checking lately, and the cheapest one at this point is more than JPY100,000 yen).
  10. Proof of accommodation. I book via booking.com, and make it a point to select no prepayments AND free cancellations.
  11. Money. Get a photocopy of your bank statement (or passbook), and make sure it’s updated. It’s 65 euro per day, multiplied by number of days and exchange rate. I wrote my calculation in this sheet. I think I needed around 80,000 yen. Then since they need 3 months, I also did the computation for them to show when’s the earliest date they need to check. The embassy girl praised me, so I think it worked. Bring your passbook too so they can check it. They’ll return it to you and just keep the photocopies.
  12. Insurance. I paid 15 euros for this. Just google Mawista. Yes, it is a German insurance, but I had no problems with it.
  13. Minors. meh.
  14. Self addressed envelope with an 82 yen stamp. Just buy it when you buy your letter pack.
  15. B. Letter Pack 510. Keep note of the tracking number!

 

And that’s it! Now I’m flying to France soon!

 

 

 

French Tourist Visa from Tokyo

August 8, 2018

As always, Filipinos need visa everywhere blah blah blah.

So for those who need a Tourist visa from France – not just limited to those from the Philippines – here’s my experience. I do not have the results yet – so when I do get my visa (hopefully!), I’ll post all the requirements and what I did. If I don’t post anything… oh well. 

Quick tips:

  • There’s no consular in Nagoya, despite what google says. It is ONLY in Tokyo.
  • Apply for your appointment the moment you book your ticket. They have around 10 people/slot; 5 slots per day, so it CAN be limited. Here’s the link. It says that June to September is busy, and in my case (today’s my appointment), I had to wait almost a month for the next available appointment.
  • The place can be a bit far from the stations, but google can help. It is right next to a school, white building, and well, embassies are pretty obvious (with the government seal and what not)

My Experience:

  1. At the entrance I was scanned (pretty standard). They have a list of people to come in – hence the around 10 people/slot comment above.
  2. You get your name called (yey, no assigned number! You are actually treated like a person haha)
  3. I come in, and she asks for the preferred language (of course Filipino is not an option).
  4. She asks for my requirements, I pass them to her. I asked if she needed my old passport with my old Schengen visa, she said no. While looking at my papers, she asks if I’m going as a tourist (yes), and what places I’m planning to visit. So I recited my itinerary (which is in the file) ⇒ Paris, then Versailles, then Mont Blanc, then tree house in Estretat (where we both laughed), then back to Paris. She complimented how organized things were (will that help? I hope!), and asked me if I know how much the fee will be. I said EUR60, and she gave me the JPY amount (7802yen). She tells me go and wait for my name to be called again so I can pay.
  5. Within 5 minutes my name was called, and I paid. There she took my fingerprints (I don’t know why – my last fingerprints were still valid) and my picture.  She then confirmed if I want my passport delivered by post or if I want to pick it up, I said I want it delivered.
  6. She said I’m done, and so I leave.

I came in around 9:25 (at a 9:30 appointment), and was done at 9:50am.

And now I wait.

The Emotional Roller Coaster to the Top of the Rising Sun

Yes, that is the marker to the top of Fuji that is surrounded by so many Japanese and gaijin (foreigners) alike. Millions of people hike to get here every year, likely with half of them giving up upon reaching the crater. Unfortunately, the peak is on the other side of the crater, and you have to take another 40 minute walk to get there. I strongly suggest going clockwise so you get the chance to glimpse the shadow of the mountain.

The first one’s the real thing, here’s the-picture-to-post-in-social-media.

I’m here to share, and somewhat rant.

It started off well, with the preparations on their way. Then someone semi-cancelled the day before then fully cancelling half an hour before, then ending up with two officemates, one of which I promised to invite should I ended up going up Fuji again (which at the time I had no plans to do haha). So since these are officemates I’ll be working with for a while, cancelling on them last minute was not an option.

We got into the Yoshida trail, and surprisingly, the hometown of the guy I was with is Yamanashi! (Fuji is nestled between Yamanashi and Shizuoka). So this guy knows one of the owners of the stores, and we had a place to ourselves to prepare.

Taking a picture at the bottom jump off, we even had a guy in a dinosaur costume with us! Haha it was too adorable.

Things were going really well. Even if it was raining (so much for me being a 晴れ女/sun lady, like the opposite of 雨女, rain lady).

Then we were getting ready to leave, and since it was raining, I decided to change into my waterproof clothes. While unpacking, I see that I brought three Japanese books with me! Three! I’d say they are about 1.5-2kgs! I used the bag travelling from Nagoya to Tokyo, and forgot to take them out! Aaah, that was a バカ私 (stupid me!) moment. Thankfully, since the guy I was with knew the owner, we could leave some of our stuff! Yey! (Did I mention emotional roller coaster? And we’re just at the jump off)

Then during the hike, we were chatting a lot, even if I miss more than half of the convo coz it’s Japanese. It was fun.

Around 8th station, the guys I was with were tired. Apparently, this is the girl’s their first hike! Darn. And I learn that they started going out that month. Now, let’s explain why this is a reaaally bad thing as far as I’m concerned. I HATE being a third wheel. I didn’t mind before but I had this experience where I went out of town with a new couple and they basically were the sweet new couple. Which is nice. For them. I was better off alone. So no, there’s no way I would voluntarily subject myself to being a third wheel unless it’s an old married couple and I reaaaaaally like one of them (as in a good friend).

Going back. We reach the top (not the summit, the top), and the girl really wanted to sleep. But the thing is it was really cold and they didn’t bring an emergency blanket (even if I told them to), so I had to share mine. So instead of the well prepared me being warm, the three of us were cold. And I was shivering for at least an hour. Yes, I timed.

It was miserable.

Then the guy apparently had altitude sickness since 7th station (which was at least 5 hours before), and decided to keep quiet about it. Darn.

So they were a lot more miserable than me.

I suggested they go down, but I wish to go to the summit so they should go without me. There’s two of them, and the guy had hiked Fuji once before. So off they go (even with me not done packing my bags).

Ok, I am now left alone. Can it get any worse?

I decided to go around the crater clockwise. It was shorter to the summit, and I wanted to go to the toilet. But when I started walking, the crowd on my left was too thick I couldn’t move. Counterclockwise I go.

My headlamp dies.

Oh darn.

I took my phone out, turned the torch on, and started my miserable walk. I’m tired, so no thinking…. no thinking. Stop being sad. I hate this hike. I really should be careful on who I make plans with. Only do difficult hikes with trusted, proven people. What did I say about no thinking?!

Oh. I have to pee. Oh crap.

Now I probably am one of the very few who had the opportunity to pee at the crater of Mt. Fuji. Do I care if people likely saw me? Nope. No thinking, remember.

The sun is almost up, thank goodness. I don’t need my headlamp anymore.

I finally reach the summit, and darn was that an ugly summit (remember the first picture?) People crowd against the marker that you can’t take a decent picture. Here you see bad mannered Japanese and foreigners alike. So really. Touristy mountains are no fun.

But I’m done, and since I’m going down, I was planning on semi running to catch up with the other two people I’m with.

I saw the first way down, and I asked one of the strangers if it was the way down. Yes, he said.

I started going down, and from the onset I knew it wasn’t the route I used last year. Every turn I ask people – is this the way to 5th station? They say yes, and point me to the next marker.

One guy decided to run along with me, saying he’s also going to the 5th station. I was semi running down, and this guy was fully running. Whoa. Faster down I go.

Halfway through I saw a sign saying this is the Fujinomiya trail. Oh, thought so. But I figured the trails connect to one another at the 5th station, so no worries.

2.5 hours later we’re done. It’s a record for me. We went really fast, passing people and only resting once – for 3-5 minutes. I’m so proud. Thank You Lord.

But wait, that is NOT the fifth station I know. No, I need to get my books! People are waiting for me! Ok, I’ll just have to walk to the other 5th station.

I ask the guy at the store – Yoshida trail 5th station is on the other side of the mountain! O.O

After a while the guy I was with offered to drive me to the station where I can take the bus up to Yoshida 5th station.

I’m hitchhiking now?

I ask that we take a picture together, and I sent the picture to my sister. I’m not completely stupid. Haha. Just a bit, as this blog is showing.

So we took the bus to the parking lot where he is parked, then got into the car, off to drive an hour to the other station. 10 minutes into it I felt like throwing up. But he wants to talk (in japanese of course) so we talked. With me very close to throwing up.

Oh, and we saw people doing the Fuji marathon! Aaand I still wanna throw up.

We were able to park, and I asked the guy for a meal so I can treat him as thank you (I didn’t think it was appropriate to pay him money).

Thankfully, my officemates decided to meet me in that station with my books so I didn’t have to go up again. Yey!

So my trip was a sad (cancelled) happy (dino!) sad (books?!) happy (i can leave them here!) sad (third wheel) happy (hiking well!) miserable (top) semi happy (summit) really happy (running down and meeting people) sad (i’m on the other side?!) feeling bad (i wanna throw up) happy (books!)

And at the bus someone left his wallet and when i tried to take it, a Chinese guy rushed to take it before I did and said he’ll return it and made a point to check the seat number. I left to get my bags at the luggage compartment, and the Chinese was gone, not returning the wallet. It was stolen right in front of my eyes. I realize I have gotten too comfortable in Japan, and this is a scary reminder that I shouldn’t be.

So that was my less than 24 hour trip. I left at around 2pm to catch the 2.45pm bus, and I was home around 1pm the next day. And I slept the rest of the day. 🙂

Chinese Tourist Visa

Hey China, I wanna go back!

This is my third stop in China – first was as a transit passenger (Xiamen), second was an exchange student (Beijing), and now as a tourist (Shanghai).

So let’s get straight to it.

Where to Apply

  1. Tokyo
  2. Nagoya (this is where I went). They are open weekdays, from 9am-3pm for applications. I went during lunchtime, coz I’m a salarywoman whose only “official” free time is lunch time.
  3. Osaka

What to Prepare

  1. Online application
  2. Passport photo (there is a booth at the embassy at JPY800 for five shots, 3 passport sizes and 2, er, bigger pictures)
  3. Bank book (it might not be necessary, but I didn’t have an ID so I had to show my bank book with transactions showing me receiving money from my company)
  4. Flight reservation
  5. Hotel reservation

What to Do

  1. Go to the Nagoya embassy (Itochu Building, 4th floor. Google will work for you here).
  2. Take a number at the entrance (It’s just one big room). Select the individual applicant button.
  3. Wait til your number is called, then submit requirements.
  4. Go back at the designated date (around one week. In my case, one week exactly).
  5. Pay the JPY9,400 fee.

Done!

Quick notes

  • They will never give multiple entries for tourist visas. Yes, I asked. Come on, it’s my “3rd time”!
  • Apply 3 months maximum in advance, per website. But the girl in the counter recommended I apply at 2 months 3 weeks max.
  • Bring your company ID. I didn’t have one, hence I showed my bankbook showing I receive money from the company. Or a business card will also work.

Pretty simple and painless. Except for how expensive the fee is, China visa application is probably a favorite. 🙂