The sun awaits you in Okinawa

Japan is known for its amazing culture, high tech toilet, delicious food and friendly people. Its cities like Tokyo and Osaka are fusion of traditional and modern atmosphere. Japan is always special, at least for me. This time, I’ve got to visit Japan with Bandi, it’s his first visit to Japan; and we decided not to start our Japan adventure in the mainland, but rather southern from the mainland, much much southern, which is…

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I will not make a post about how much I love Okinawa or reasons why you should visit Okinawa too, because trust me, OKINAWA is THE BEST beach destination for us. We love Okinawa so much that when we waited for our flight out of Okinawa, Bandi has already searched for another cheap flight ticket to Okinawa. He didn’t want to leave Okinawa so bad.

Don’t think twice to put Okinawa into your bucket list. This small Island (which surrounded by so many tiny islands) is a paradise! The food, the beach, the people…

So now let’s talk about technical stuff, because you’re going to Okinawa! No excuse!

How to reach Okinawa?

Fly there! The cheapest option would be flying from Taipei because there are a lot of budget airline from Taipei to Naha International Aiport (Okinawa). I flew with Peach Air from Taipei to Okinawa and it costed me S$100. The second cheapest would be flying local from Tokyo. I also heard there is a tourist package where you can buy from Tokyo to fly to Okinawa and return to Tokyo for only 1,000 Yen!

Another way is from Hongkong or Manila, which also have direct flight to Okinawa. But I didn’t do any search about it because I got my Taipei ticket before deciding to continue to Okinawa.

I believe there are various options to fly direct to Okinawa but usually they’re much more expensive. Singapore has direct flight to Okinawa by Silk Air, but I don’t even bother to check the price.

How to go around Okinawa Island?

Naha City is the biggest city in Okinawa and around Naha, there are trains and buses, however the public transport isn’t working so well in other parts of island like Nago and central Okinawa. (Naha is Southern Okinawa where Airport is in.) So the best choice for visitor is to rent a car! Cars are cheap to rent in Okinawa. I got mine for 18,000 yen for 4 days rent.

From Naha to Nago, it took us about 2 hours to drive if we continuously used toll road, which I found expensive. The normal road has so many traffic lights and could add another 1 hour traveling time. So your choice, time or money, literally.

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Beautiful coastline along the way… you’ll never get tired of it.

How to go from one island to another island?

There are a lot of ferry port in Okinawa main island. We got a free tourist booklet from airport which is very informative about all the islands in Okinawa and how you get there, which ferry you should take, etc. People is also friendly and you can easily ask for information or just browse google on which ferry to take.

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When we boarded the ferry.

We visited Minna Island which is located in the western part of Okinawa, it took us about 20 minutes ferry ride. Minna Island was very small, we could walk from end to end in 10 minutes! We swam, snorkeled and relaxed on the beach.

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I got seasick after snorkeled too long.

Where should I stay in Okinawa?

Hotels are common in Naha City, while Nago has only expensive resort. We booked airbnb studio apartment in Naha which costed us around $300 for 4 nights. I believe you can get the same price for 3 star hotel, but you know how I feel about airbnb. :)

Is Okinawa expensive?

Comparing to mainland Japan, Okinawa is much cheaper! But Japan itself is labeled as expensive destination (which I don’t fully agree to). Personally I think Okinawa is the most valuable destination ever. I got super cheap flight ticket to go there, cheap amazing airbnb, cheap car rental, cheap foods and… FREE BEACH! Think about it, in order to relax and have fun in amazing beaches, you have to pay some fee, and sometimes a night in a resort… but not in Okinawa! There are some beaches that require entrance fee (500 yen to 1000 yen) but there are tons on beaches that are free! We, of course, went to all the free beaches. :p

So if you compare the amount of money with the free facilities, quality of food and extremely pristine clear water beaches, Okinawa is a steal!!!

What are the highlights of Okinawa?

I think 4 days in Okinawa is definitely not enough. I seriously want to come back for 1 week or 10 days trip to Okinawa, doing island hopping and some serious laziness-related beach activity like… reading while sunbathing. But 4 days is enough to make me fall in love. :)

So here’s the highlight:

The Beaches and lookouts

Of course, duh! Okinawan beaches have white sand and sparkling pristine water, which is everyone’s dream beach. The best thing about the beaches is free facilities, like free parking, free shower, free toilet and there is no street vendor that pushes you to buy stuffs like in other Asian beaches. And… I put my phone, car key and some change under my towel which I neglected on the beach and since it’s Japan, nobody stole it. JAPAN IS THE BEEEEST!

Emerald Beach in the Northern Okinawa

Emerald Beach in the Northern Okinawa

Bandi, attempting to do weird stuffs

Bandi, attempting to do weird stuffs

What pose we should do next?

What pose we should do next?

Since we drove a car, we could easily stop by at look-out points or lighthouses, Okinawa has tons of them. If only we stayed longer there, we would’ve gone for some picnic. But watch out for snakes!

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Cape Manzano, the elephant rock.

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Oh the view!

Kokusai Street

It’s very touristy, but I kinda like it! This street is full of souvenir’s shop, restaurant and food stalls. Bandi’s favorite kind of street. If you decided to go to Kokusai Street, don’t forget to eat at Mahoroba Soba and try the Spicy Taiwanese noddle. I know it’s ironic to eat Taiwan type Soba in Okinawa. but it’s the best!!!

IMG_9014Shuri Castle

We didn’t manage to go in the castle because if time constraint, but even walking around the castle gave you an idea of how amazing this castle is.

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Kin-town (The Amerinca Town)

We went there very late evening so not much to see, but try to visit this place to try the Okinawan Taco Rice! Taco rice doesn’t originally come from Mexico, It comes from Okinawa!

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Taco Rice!

Okinawan Soba

I don’t really fancy this, but you’ve got to try at least once. It’s a thick hot soba in a clear pork broth soup with mushrooms and sliced pork cheeks/bellies. It is delicious, but when you eat it in a tropical island where the sun is as hot as Zac Efron’s abs, you can’t fully enjoy it.

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The islands around

This is the best highlight of Okinawa, the small islands around the mainland. As I mentioned before, try to search which island you’re interested in and find out which port has the ferry to bring you there.

Minna Island

Minna Island

 

Shisa

It is a legendary “animal” which is a mixture of a lion and a dog, believed to protect Okinawan villagers, that’s why you will see a lot of Shisas guarding in front of people’s home or store.

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Cute Sisha in our airbnb

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I bought a Shisa coin purse for the shisa to guard my coins! :D

There are so many other things which I haven’t explored in Okinawa which will always keep me wanting to come back. I hope this post inspires you to pack your back and go to Okinawa! It’s the most underrated place on earth. :)

Go go go!!!

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Cheers,

May, missing beaches already

On the top of Mount Fuji

I climbed Mount Fuji.

I still can’t believe I did it. It was the most horrible thing I’ve done to myself. And it’s all because internet is such a dark place full of lies! I climbed Mount Fuji because people in the internet says it’s not difficult, that grandparents and kindergarteners climb Mount Fuji. So I decided to write this post and give you the truth; like I always do.

First of all, kindergarteners did not climb mount Fuji. They hiked from 5th Station to 6th Station and then they went back. I met a lot of kindergerteners along my hike from 5th Station to 6th Station. It was a breezy long walk with amazing views.

Some grandparents do hike Mt Fuji, but only those super crazy fit grandparents who train daily. During my hike, I met some ‘older’ people, probably those with teenager kids, but no individual grandparents. The only old people I met were those who led the group of hikers (so it’s probably his professional job). So here’s a flash news: normal grandparents do not climb mount Fuji.

So, who climb mount Fuji?

Fools.

Only fools like me climb mount Fuji.

I’m trying here guys… to make you really really understand that it’s no joke. Do not climb mount Fuji expecting it’s gonna be an easy climb. It’s freaking horrible… grovels and rocks and rain and hail and fog and the cold…. oh the cold…

It’s not gonna be pleasant, it’s not gonna be rainbow and unicorn, the weather might change so fast just like teenager’s mood and the wind will tear your soul apart.

If you read this post and plan to climb Mount Fuji, I want you to be prepared. And even after you accept these ugly truths you still want to go, then go. Go conquer that beautiful mountain!

I’m not a hiker and my ECG test result came out abnormal (inherited from my Dad), even though I do yoga I know I am not generally fit person. But I decided to climb Mount Fuji with 2 persons who are so close to me, my hubby and my bestfriend. I know they would understand my weakness and will not shame me if in any case I couldn’t make it.

If you’re still interested with the story and want to know technicality on “how-to”, go ahead and read, but if you have lazy eyes, just grab the pop corn and watch the vlog instead:

So here’s a story of Bandi, Tannia and May conquering Fuji-San:

Storing our other luggage at Shinjuku Station

I tried to find in the internet on where should I store my stuffs which I didn’t want to bring to Fuji but there is no exact clear answer. I know there are a lot of coin lockers in every train station in Tokyo, but I knew that it’s only for 24 hours. What happen if I want to leave it there for 36 hours? You can do that. You just need to pay the penalty when you take out your luggage. You can leave your bags up tp 72 hours. So don’t worry about luggage!

Arriving at 5th Station – 2,305 Meters

We took the Fuji highway bus on 14th July 9:45 am from Shinjuku Express Bus Station. It’s located in the 4th Floor of Shinjuku JR Station. The bus ticket can be booked online only if your IP address is in Japan, if you’re from overseas then you can call them. We booked our outbound tickets through phone and inbound tickets through internet once we reached Tokyo one day before the hike. The price for one way ticket is 2,700 yen.

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We then exchange the booking code with the actual tickets in the bus station. It’s Japan, so everything is well planned.

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The bus ride took about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so we reached Fuji 5th Station on noon. We ate our lunch and bought the walking stick made of wood, which is a perfect souvenir from your Fuji adventure. You will know why later on!

5th Station to 6th Station – 2,390 Meters

We took Yoshida Trail (the most common trail people take) so all the stations I’m mentioning is in Yoshida Trail. The walk between 5th Station to 6th Station is nice and breezy. From the altitude you can see it’s only 85 Meters difference in altitude, so with the long walk, you don’t really realize you’re climbing a mountain.

At the end of 6th Station, you can take a selfie like us coz this is gonna be your last happy selfie.

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6th Station to 7th Station – 2,700 Meters

Most of the terrain during this climb is grovels and sands, in a long zig-zag inclined road. Just right before reaching 7th Station you will have your first spiderman climb on the rocks. It was fun!

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7th Station to 8th Station – 3,020 Meters

I think this is the most exhausting and difficult part of the climb. It’s all big rocks with sands so you have to use both your hands and your legs to climb. I stopped in every corner and I started to have difficulty yo breath properly because the thin air. The original 8th Station supposed to be on 3,360 Meters but somehow they moved here… I think it’s probably because it’s just too difficult so people won’t quit if the distance between 7th and 8th are too far from each other. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it rained! We took out our gears and wore our raincoats… and kept walking.

8th Station to Original 8th Station – 3,360 Meters

Still the same… grovels and rocks and then it stopped raining coz… it hailed! On this moment my soul has already been torn apart… I kept imagining laying down in my bed with warm tea on my hand…  but the reality is I was cold, my hands are frozen til I thought my fingers needed to be chopped off (I’m a drama queen whaaat). We started to be panic because it was already 7 pm, the sky was getting darker and darker and we haven’t reached our Mountain Hut… I knew nothing to book Goraiko-kan Hut which is located in the highest of all huts!!! Good job, May!

Original 8th Station to Goraiko-kan (8.5 Station) – 3,450 Meters

I remember it was only the 3 of us and the other 2 persons climbing up from 8th Station. Soon, the 2 persons stopped at a mountain hut before us… and there were only the three of us left, climbing slowly…

When we finally reached Goraiko-kan on 8 pm, I was so happy…. I just wanted to sit in a warm room and rest. I had better… I ate a bowl of ramen. It was the best ramen I’ve ever eaten in my life.

We were given shoe bag where we put our dirty shoes in and then shown into our sleeping bag. We were sleeping in the attic and because I drank too much water before sleeping, I had to go to the toilet in the middle of midnight and the toilet is outside the hut! Noooo!!! I had to walk out alone in the cold! brrr….

Anyway, I had about 3-4 hours sleep until one person started to turn on a torch light and made noise when he packed his stuffs. He was then followed by other people and in minutes, everyone were awake, including us. We ate breakfast in the small attic (imagine it was only 1 meters attic so you have to sit or crawl when you move), which we got from the staffs the night before. It was rice with salmon and tamago. After breakfast, we packed our stuffs and made a move. I was so scared with the cold I almost wanted to give up.

To be honest, even though I groaned a lot, I’ve been very sure I would reach the summit all along… until that morning… when I saw darkness and felt cold. I couldn’t imagine I had to climb in the cold! But of course Tannia and Bandi cheered me up and made sure it’s gonna be alright.

Goraiko-kan to Summit (3,776 Meters)

The distance between Goraiko-kan to the summit was techincally very near, but with the elevation and the cold with little rain, it took us 1 hour to reach the summit. Bad news, there were no sunrise because of the fog. But to be honest, I didn’t really care about the sunrise anymore. I JUST WANTED TO GO BACK TO A WARM PLACE AND SLEEP.

We bought a 500 yen canned drinks that were boiled in the water. Yes they put cans into this boiling water so the canned drinks were boiling hot. Great idea! We held into this small hot can and felt the instant relief of warmth… Oh…. finally… after such a wet cold climb…

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We sat inside a crowded mountain hut and everyone felt so proud of themselves, exchanging stories. I was just so sad because now I had to descend back to where we started, which seemed so horrible for me because I didn’t have any energy left and I had no appetite to eat anything; I was just so tired.

Summit to 5th Station (Descending Trail)

The descending trail is different from the ascending trail. The descend trail is longer but easier. It’s just a small zig-zag road full of rocks and grovels. We descend for 4-5hours I couldn’t remember just because I sat down to rest for every 10 minutes. LOL.

Like I told you, I was in low batter mode already.

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Aftermath

I was definitely proud of myself, no doubt. Climbing Mt. Fuji is by far the greatest physical challenge I’ve ever encountered; and completed. However if you asked me whether I will ever do it again, the answer is very easy: NO WAY in a million gazillion years.

I was left sore and beaten up and I slept the whole evening til the next noon. Bandi insisted to wake up earlier so he could go to Tsukiji Market. Crap.

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Cheers,

May, loving Japan even more.