Free WiFi for tourists in Japan

NTT East now provides WiFi for tourists. NTT East operates in eastern part of Japan. Example: Tokyo, Hokkaido and Yokohama. Remember those days when we rent handphones in Japan? No more!

Where are the hotspots? You will see the stickers pasted on shop from.
Alternatively, you can also check the hotspots here before you go.

Two methods:
1)Using iOS or Android app. Download the app “NAVITIME for Japan Travel” app, provided by NAVITIME JAPAN and obtain the WiFi ID and  password.

2) Free WifiCards with WiFi ID and password from various location. Passport required.

The other cities do provide WiFi for touriset, but not by NTT East.

Osaka  Kyoto
Kobe Fukuoka
Nagoya Hiroshima

One final note though, do remember that you are on vacation, put that phone away.
It is Japan. Time to appreciate the lovely people, culture and surroundings and the loved ones with you.


Green Kyoto

First thing that come to my head when we were thinking about going to Kyoto was…….yes, that famous global green initiative milestone called the Kyoto protocol. Who wouldn’t and I was actually wondering will the city be what it has lent its name to.As the airport limousine bus travels away from the Kansai Airport, which was built on man-made land, I can’t help noticing that all vehicles are moving smoothly at cruising speed. You don’t see over zealous speedy Gonzalez aka fuel wasting. Our bus driver skilfully regulate the acceleration and de-acceleration well according to traffic conditions. Further fuel saving measures, the bus was also equipped with LED fixtures and AC temperature was comfortable, though a bit warm that what we were used to.Reached Kyoto, and wow! Just outside Kyoto station, there is a smoking point. A designated smoking point keeps the rest of the area literally smoke free. And with it, synonymous with smokers, the cigarette butts, none that I can see littered on the streets. Some streets like the shopping belt in Shinjo are completely smoke-free. One can get fined for smoking. As a tourist, it may not be too easy to know, where smoking is allowed and not. Thank god, we’re not smokers. Public transport is big in Kyoto. Got to love the city bus the most. It was punctual. We can just walk up to the timetable information board at any bus stop, check the scheduled arrival time for weekday/Saturday/Sunday and the bus will pull up at the bus stop the exact moment. No need for bus arriving in 1 minute kind of thing and another 3 minutes for bus to actually pull over the bay in Singapore. This punctuality and reliability of the public transport system will naturally reduce citizen desire for car ownership. We also love the fact, bus drivers do actually turn their engine off while waiting for the light to turn green and while loading/unloading at crowded bus stops. Not too sure if this saves fuel, but definitely reduce carbon emission. It makes waiting at the bus stop more bearable, as compared to having 3-4 buses all emitting carbon monoxide simultaneously, like we get in Orchard Road.Retailers, mostly operate up till 8 or 9pm, reducing need for lightings.Cool business attire initiative seems to be taking off well in preparation for the upcoming sweltering summer. We see it everywhere in malls, advertisements and news report of government agencies wearing Hawaiian shirts to work. Looking “kawaii” indeed. Needless to say these cool attire, such cool attire who needs AC?

bicycles parked at Dotonbori

Bicycles are everywhere.

Wider pavements and a generally flat city makes cycling convenient and comfortable for cyclist, pedestrians and motorists too. We rarely see them cycling on the roads. How wide is wide, generally about 2 cyclists and 2 pedestrians. The cycling parking points are well equipped with stand, lock and coin operated. These can be found in subways, bus stations, malls, schools, offices and temples too. As such, we can actually meet cyclists on their way to work, dating couples, kids in baskets, many in their smart suit and ladies in high heels.

our K.O.K.A Trip – Kyoto.Osaka.Kobe."America"

Itinerary for the upcoming Kyoto Osaka Trip in June 2012.
We scored a cheap flight with AirAsia, SG to Osaka (via KL) about $600 for 2 inclusive of taxes.

Lets call it K.O.K.A trip, as I hope to squeeze in Kobe and a little bit of “America” in it. It’s actually Americamura in Osaka.
I bet this will be the closest that I will want to get near America. We’re against their racial profiling for Muslims at the airport immigration. And for that reason together with long queues, we are skipping Universal Studios Japan.

Here is a rough itinerary. Things will change according to weather, and more importantly both our mood and/or whims. Expecting a few rainy days in Kyoto in June too. Anyway, after all, it’s Free & Easy.

Nara Deer
Walking Streets Tour
Imperial Palace
Manga Museum
9am C/Out
Namba 2 days
unlimited pass
Osaka castle
Tokyu hands
Kyoto Uni
Drop Bag
Arashiyama SaganoTrain
Hotel Nikko

Transport museum
Foot onsen
Finish at
Dera (Pillar)
Handicraft Center
(Gion Area)
Gion Night Walk
(Bento next day)
Shop Taka
Last Night
Kyoto Station
Nikko Osaka
Nikko Osaka

charming Putahracsa, heritage Railway Station and nostalgic PlearnWan

We checked out from our hotel in Bangkok and made our journey down to Putahracsa Hua Hin.

Took BTS to Victory Monument Station, walked on the circular overhead bridge facing the monument. Had a little misadventure, we walked to the right side of the circular overhead bridge, when we should have walked to the left side towards the Rajavathi Hospital. Blessing in disguise though, we now know we can travel to Ayutthaya by minibus in future.

Along the road, there will be lots of white minibuses. Just ask a friendly face, and say “Hua Hin”, they will point you in the right direction. The services on this road only caters for the minibuses to Phetcaburi, Cha Am and Hua Hin. Other roads will have services to Ayutthaya and Pattaya etc.

Upon arrival in Hua Hin, actually walked to Putaracsa Hotel. Once we checked in,  we hired an automatic motorcycle for 200 Baht a day. The lady owner required a copy of my passport and license and a simple proficiency test. Bike check… once done, look for a gas station to fill her up, (in my non-existent Thai language again, though we looked the part), I attempted to ask the attendant to pump at 40 Baht, the Stations only accept 50Baht for pumping).

Oh yes, we did get helmets, a red and white one, it looked basic enough and I wondered if this was the best they had, and if that helmet would make any difference. Soon enough, it proved to be our savior as we fell off the bike at the first u-turn we had to negotiate. My non-familiarity with auto bikes was evident here. Ouch! A few bumps and bruises and some TLC by a Thai elderly woman who helped us up, the helmets had saved us when fell gently on the road.

Btw, there were road blocks at night too. We approached one, were told to slow down but once verified we had our helmets on, they waved us on quickly. Some offenders were stopped and got the ticket though. In Hua Hin, non-helmets, side saddling and toddlers carrying were actually a common sight.

We rode the auto bike extremely slowly to PlearnWan.

For the second time this trip we were at a public place during flag lowering. Everyone stopped in their tracks again. Yesterday in Bangkok Chatuchak everyone just stop, wherever they were facing any direction…it was quite a sight, its like some X-Men unleashing its TIME FREEZE power. This time around, at PlearnWan, I was right in front of the flag, as the flag lowering was in progress. Awesome! You can view the video recording too.

Food sellers can board the train to sell their food or simply transact through the windows. I guess even if the board the train, they will walk the whole length of the train and probably follow the train southwards and alight 1 or 2 stops away. They then take the next train northwards to sell and return back.

We went to the Bismillah, Southern Thai Muslim Restaurant along the Hua Hin Railway track for dinner.

 At night, they have an adjacent stall selling Teh Tarek (Milk Tea) and Fried Chicken with Yellow Rice. We had the following:

2 plain rice + Stir-Fried Beef Chilli & Tom Yum Soup = 130 Baht.
1 hot milk tea + 1 hot tea w/o milk = 20 Baht


Did I mention about the lovely resort we stayed in? Putahracsa Hua Hin.

We took the Oceanbed Pool Villa at SGD$250 per night via an Agoda promotion.


Rocking with Stone Temple Pilot at a room with private pool, jacuzzi and a BOSE set. I’d not ask for more.


On 26 Dec 2011, we were both lazing at home, watching the news on TV, when we saw images of Hua Hin affected by flooding and high waves. I do hope the lovely folks at Putahracsa: Aom, Aun and Kwang, the lovely stall owners we had met in Hua Hin will be safe.

1 night in Bangkok

Our last trip to Bangkok was in 2006. We were actually arranging for a Chiangmai-Ayutthaya-Bangkok-Hua Hin trip, but due to the recent flooding, we had to abort it. After some deliberation, we then decided to do Hua Hin and a night in Bangkok.
We looked forward to arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport and taking the 
Chatuchak Weekend Market was still opened when we left at 7pm. It used to close at 5-6pm, not too sure the reason for this. I did find out though that City Hall will no longer manage the market in 2012. State Railway will be claiming its rights to manage it. There seems to be plans to open on weekdays and to change its layout too. (story here)
No, these boxes were not Xmas presents. Those were sandbags used during the flood.
We took a short walk to MBK for halal dinner and some shopping.
We stayed at Novotel Siam Square for the night. In 2006, it was still located at MBK, but they are now at Siam Square, still spanking new. We also read that during the flood last month, the hotel opened up 250 rooms for the staff to stay in with their families. I’m sure it meant a lot for the staff and families.
My feet in the middle of the Thai Foot Massage. Check out the swollen blood veins of my feet.
The morning after…thought I was looking at pair of girls feet. No kidding, just check out the blood veins at my feet no longer popped out.
The beautiful sunrise at Bangkok overlooking Sukhumvit area.
We had to checkout early and make our way to Hua Hin, via a minibus from somewhere around Victory Monument area.

TWS – Travel Withdrawal Symptoms

I’m suffering from TWS – aka Travel Withdrawal Symptoms. The past year December and June school holidays, I’ve always sought to travel out of the country, but not this Dec 2011. Timing of some events and work and nation building does not allow us to plan for a vacation. Anyway, not going anywhere and not doing any trip planning this time around, allows us to step back and save up some money.

Some lessons learned from previous trips and hopefully to further maximize my travel experience in the future.

  • Cheap travel: Not saying, you should stay in a bug infested motels or rooms, but why spend $400 a night, when you are going to sleep at 2am and be up and about for a morning stroll or  a day trip tour that departs at 6am. It will work out to a rate of $100 per hour for those sleeping hour. Talking about day trip tours..
  • Day Tour trippers: I have issues with packaged tours. I joined a packaged day trip to Great Ocean Road, Melbourne. We left super early, waited for others, received instructions, herded through the exploration and rushed through it. Lots of toilet breaks and it really felt like a school excursion at times. Being told when to sit, move and eat..It takes a bit of planning if we want to F&E, but totally worth it.  We did not do any tour in South Korea. All was F&E and we had fun being clueless and totally flexible about everything. We explored Seoraksan, not just the cable car and back down, but we walked the waterfall, view the sunrise from our hotel balcony(both the false dawn and true down), walked on a frozen stream and filling up our bottles with coolest of spring water.
  • Plan everything and.. : …look forward to fail. Totally! Ever wondered how our life sets out to be. When you had always planned for something but the Almighty planned something else for you bigger and better and making you coming out of it, more enriched. My partner was never an early riser, and in some countries where the day is shorter and offices close at 3pm it can make your day shorter and before you know it, it’s night time. In Melbourne, we planned to take the Puffing Billy Train Ride, wife woke up late, and insisted on eating first, and by the time we actually got our directions right and headed for Belgrave, we actually missed the scheduled last ride up to the mountains by just a minute. We actually heard the train whistle blown and it went away.  We checked with the friendly station master, who gave us direction to take a bus up and meet the last train coming down halfway. We took the shuttle bus, paid a dollar, together with primary school kids. The bus driver stopped at where we need to alight, got down the bus and pointed to us where we should go. I remembered he used the word “Paddick” to describe a “grass patch or small field” and I was thinking “they have paddy and rice farm up here?”. We both had fun walking along people’s houses, and there was a beautiful lake, and we managed to take the last train down, although it was 1/4 of the whole experience.
  • Overrated Tourist spots: Some tourist spots can be totally wasteful. Example in the tiny capital of Kuala Lumpur why would anyone visit both the KLCC Twin Towers and KL Tower, went up both buildings for the high-rise experience when they are like 1-2km apart. Wouldn’t being high up on one be the same as the other? Yes right, the paid one might revolve 360 or give you a 720 view, when you walk around twice, but how different can it be?
  • Train: Train will soon be a thing for the past, especially steam trains. The newer electric ones just does not have the same feel to it. While heading to Nami Island in Seoul, we’ve missed taking a classic steam train ride to Gapyeong Station by just a day late. The classic system had ceased operation and we have to take the new modern system.
    We’ve also witnessed the Malaysian KTM Railways closed down it’s train services in Singapore, and operated from Woodlands Checkpoint instead. A whole stretch of 26km of rail track disappeared and the majestic Tanjong Pagar and rustic Bukit Timah Train Station will be converted into something else other than a train station.
  • Get your Ride: The flexibility to go where/how/what/when and why worry about taking a wrong turn? Definitely half the fun. It doesn’t has to be a big MPV or convertible car, as long as you are in control and gives you the mobility to go somewhere more of a “not a Lonely Planet” spot.
    A 2 wheeler would be excellent too. But observe safety and put on a helmet even if not required by law. Having travel insurance is one thing, but getting a knock on your head in a road traffic accident can spell DOA – Dead On Arrival

Seoul Day 8: Nami Island (Halal Drama Cafe)

Finally we hit Nami Island aka Republic of Naminara. Looked forward to eat at the Drama Cafe on the island. We had trouble reaching there a few days ago, due to the shutdown of the old train services. A new line had in fact just opened on that day, and we did not understand the whole situation till we went to the tourist information counter. Even then, the counter was not able to print out a map of the new rail. We got a hand drawn one. We were hoping to go Nami in the old train. Can you imagine, we missed it by just a single day?? Such luck!!

Anyway, day 8, we took the new train system to Gapyeong Station. It was like only the 2nd or 3rd day in operation. Everything fresh and sterile.

Walk out of Gapyeong station, there will be a line of waiting cab and just say,”Nami Island Ferry Terminal”.

Bought “a VISA” to enter Nami Island. It was basically a ferry ticket, but as Nami Island prides itself as a Republic, they have their own passport and you will need “a VISA” to enter. I was wondering if the current UN president had a role in this, but this island was around even before his appointment.

Marketing itself as a UN ambassador or UNICEF of some sort, the global UN spirit is all around, the ferry that took us there was also full with an array of international flags.

We had lunch at the Drama Cafe a Halal certified Vegetarian restaurant.

The order came in 2 metal tins, 2 metal spoons and 2 pairs of gloves in a metal tray. Took a quick look around they were all shaking the tin vigorously. We were a bit apprehensive as it felt like playing with our food.

Single hand shake
Double handed shake

The Kimchi pancake. Egg, onion, cabbage, vege and kimchi.

Animals seem to roam freely here. Absolutely lovely. Pretty chicken.