Sakura – Grass Edition?

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May 13, 2017

About nine months ago, I remember a guy telling me to go to Fuji on May. That’s probably because of this – the grass sakura. I think it would have been majestic had Fuji-san graced us with her presence, but that is one elusive sight. Was it still worth it? For people who want to take a breather from the city, most definitely.

How to get there

From Kawaguchiko station (look at article Fujinomiya), go to Platform 7 for the Shibazakura. There’s a shuttle bus at JPY2000. That’s round trip, with entrance tickets included.

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We’ve got the most special seats in the place. Right next to the driver!
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They also have shows. They’re not much, but it’s decent entertainment.
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Hello, Mt. Fuji – flower edition! This is the reverse of the usual shot. See that platform? Normally people go up there, and the real Mt. Fuji is right behind us. Unfortunately, the mountain’s hiding so we had to settle with the flower edition.
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The good thing with the rain is that you get shots like this.
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Shibazakura! Fields of flowers, lake, mountains. What else do we need?

 

 

 

 

 

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Aokigahara Caves

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May 14, 2017

It’s a pity Aokigahara is famous for the suicide, when it is has a beautiful forests and plenty of caves. They have lava cave, wind cave and ice cave. We started with the Ice Cave, walked around 20 minutes to go to the Wind Cave, then walked around two hours across the forest.

It costs JPY600 to go to both caves, btw.

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Narusawa Ice Cave

The cave is pretty small, and there’s an area that is around 3/4 of a meter high, so better practice your squats before coming here.

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Here’s someone starting to squat to pass through the small tunnel.
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The end of the tunnel above wasn’t impressive, but the way out (this view) was pretty cool (cool – get it? haha sorry).
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I don’t know why they have bars on the ice. It’s not like people will steal them. (Yeah, people might touch but come on, it’s ice!)
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You have to wear a helmet. And you should. These scratches are proof of all the heads they protected. 😉

Wind Cave

The wind cave path is right behind the toilet! Turn right, then walk for around 20 minutes. I doubt you’ll get lost. Don’t go off the trail!

Once we got there, I kind of got confused why it’s called a wind cave. Really. It looked just like the Ice Cave!

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With a much impressive pillar of ice.
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The natural refrigerator! There was even some picture of people offering this to their “lord”. I remembered the guy from Frozen selling ice – probably similar, eh?
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At the end of the cave is this simulated stock room. They stored silkworms and tree seeds here.

The Infamous Suicide Forest

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May 14, 2017

I am not a superstitious person but I’m pretty easy to scare. So when I knew I was walking into what is known as “Suicide Forest”, I was pretty scared. I kept on thinking that I’ll see some personal effects of those who have left. About five minutes later, I was kinda hoping. No luck.

How to get there

There’s a pass you can buy at the ticket booth in Kawaguchiko station for a two day unlimited pass for JPY1300. It passes through the Aokigahara area, and some parts north of the Kawaguchiko river. As one way fare to Aokigahara is JPY670, we decided to just buy the pass.

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This is our introduction to the forest – parasitic trees. That didn’t bode well for us.
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It was pretty dense – this is just the entrance.

Superstitious or not, we were careful to follow the directions.

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This is what the rest of the forest looks like. Plenty of moss. Very quiet for those who wanted a lifetime of silence.

Now, after our trip, that’s when I started to read on Aokigahara. Here are some items I’ve learned:

  • This place has been mentioned in literature, one of which was the manual for suicide (in Japanese). So people actually go here. About a decade ago, they usually find a hundred bodies here (take note, find). However, with how famous the place has become, they stopped publishing the numbers.
  • The reason why it’s scary? It’s unnaturally quiet. As it is very dense, it probably serves as noise cancellation. Did I feel it? Nope. I am not a quiet person. So my friend and I were talking the ENTIRE time, sometimes with music. In  hindsight, I’ll probably be scared had I been alone.
  • There are signs discouraging people from suicide. I didn’t see one – or maybe I saw one but didn’t recognize it as it’s in Japanese. But I did see a lot of  “do not go off the trail” signs.
  • Years and years ago, they even had the practice of leaving people here to die. That and with all the suicides, the atmosphere is believed to be “malevolent”. Oh, and they even have a practice (based on one blog) where one person sleeps next to a dead body when found to appease the evil spirit.
  • It IS creepy. Please don’t go there alone.

6 hours in Xiamen

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April 30, 2017

With six hours for my layover, there’s NO way I’m staying in the airport. Almost all nationalities can leave the airport if they have a 24 hour transit. Some nationalities even have 72 hours (not for Filipinos). Since my layover is from 6pm to 12mn, might as well have dinner in China, right?

Immigration

There’s a separate lane for the 24/72 hour visa free entries. The girl at immigration speaks decent English, and that’s about all the English I encountered. I had a friend write some Chinese phrases, and boy were they helpful!

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My “script” has ~three sentences: 1. Please take me to xxx restaurant. 2. Please take me to Xiamen Airport and 3. I don’t have a visa. Can I stay here for 24 hours, and may I leave the airport?

Transportation

At the taxi stand, I talked to the lady helping everyone. She helped us hire a car for only CNY60. It took us 15 minutes (yes, I timed) to go to the restaurant another friend recommended.

Since the restaurant was full, my buddy and I decided to just walk around. We asked some people (they have a google translate-ish app they used to talk to us), and off to the lake we went.

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Sorry for the picture quality. We were rushing. Either way, you’re not missing anything.

Food

Near the lake is a restaurant. Of course we didn’t order the weird stuff. We paid CNY96 in total.

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This is one of those restaurants where you point and they cook it for you, I think. Since we don’t speak Chinese and these are probably expensive, we decided to just go with the normal dishes.
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This is streetfood. Of course we didn’t try it.
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At the airport, a drink is around USD0.15. That’s so cheap! In Japan, a drink is at least a dollar. O.O

Back to Xiamen Airport

We then flagged a cab, and it took us 20 minutes and CNY40 to get back. We were back to at the airport three hours before our flight, with the check in counter opening 10 minutes after we arrived.

It was a good two hours of experiencing Xiamen.

 

The Swiss Alps’ Santis

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May 2, 2017

To kick off the the conference’s touristic programme, our bus went to the mountain near St. Gallen – Mt. Santis! Probably the most beautify alpine mountain I’ve ever seen (and that includes Mt. Fuji)

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Our bus went up a semi-deserted road and passed through these beautiful houses surrounded by snow.
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We then took the cable car up to the top of the mountain.
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Hello, Swiss Alps!

Schiphol Airport

May 1, 2017

With the exception of the offloading issue, this European airport is a delight. I so loved ING’s campaign of ____, here I come. I initially saw this, not knowing it was a campaign. But it was so fitting. The next week was filled with culture shock!

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On my way back, I saw it again. This time, with Tokyo, here I come! Which I found funny ‘coz I AM going to Tokyo.

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They had plenty of food, and since I’m a Diners card holder, I was able to maximize the benefits of having that credit card.

Schiphol Airport has plenty of shops and stalls to choose from. I thought that I bought a cheap set of perfume at EUR50 for two bottles, but my classmate said they weren’t cheap. But my fellow flier bought one bottle at CHF90 in Zurich Airport. Well, it’s all relative.

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Seeing this reminded me that I AM in the land of tulips! Oh, I wish I could have gone out!

and just some quick comments about Zurich airport – they have plenty of Toblerones! Well, as expected from the motherland of Toblerone:

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Huge toblerone. My boot for scale.