I’ve been meaning to do this kind of post to just put everything that I want to remember for 2017 in a nugget. So here it is:
Spent the New Year with F Buddies at our place. My parents were pretty strict back then; even after I graduated college. So having my friends over for a drinking session for the very first time was very unusual and memorable for me.
Jen, our previous LNC teammate, was back from Abu Dhabi (or was it Dubai?) and so we got together and went to our favorite spot (Rue Bourbon). It was another rare occasion.
Summer was spent with friends at a private resort. Loads of fun.
After 8 years, I finally went back to Singapore! Singapore was my first out of the country experience. It was 2011 and Nick, Xali, and I were fresh grads when we decided to try our luck to work there as nurses. We were there for three weeks and stayed not at a hotel but at Xali’s uncle’s apartment so we kind of felt like a true local. I enjoyed every minute of it. We did our own laundry, bought groceries, cooked almost everyday, watched a movie (my first 3D movie), played the lottery, etc. I even learned how to ride a bike there. So when I had the chance to go back to Singapore to visit Kenneth’s dad, I was really really excited.
Tricia, our youngest sibling, graduated from college. Our parents’ pride and relief were pretty apparent since all four of us were already finished with school. Finally.
Our dear grandfather passed away. I get teary eyed thinking about it now. We loved him so much and we extremely miss him everyday. 😔
Our relatives from the UK had a 1-month vacation here in the Philippines. Our cousins grew up so tall and cute and lovely. I miss them so bad.
We got married again, at a church this time. It was a bittersweet moment because our grandfather just passed away. It felt wrong having to celebrate our wedding when we were still mourning.
Attended 3 weddings and 1 christening this year
This was the year of “artventure”. I rekindled my passion for art and experimented with watercolor, digital design, and calligraphy. I missed being in a school-like setting so attending those art workshops were really fun and refreshing.
Celebrated Miguel’s 7th birthday, our cutest cousin yet. I’m still hoping for a baby boy from Ate Beng2.
DIY takoyaki at some resto and tried making homemade gyoza but failed. It was bland.
Went back to Japan (my favorite country) with Nick, Benson, Bryan and Irving. I feel like I would never get tired of this country. There’s just so much to see and explore! They have the most helpful and friendliest people ever. I purchased my first professional watercolors here as well.
Discovered I have gall stones. Boo!
We had our so-called honeymoon in Korea. It was our first time there and it was an extremely cold November (as low as 6 °C). It was a fresh experience but we can’t help but compare it to Japan. And there was a time when we got really mad at each other and separated for a while. So for me, memories of Korea were not that enjoyable. But I got to experience autumn (one of the things in my bucket list). It was breathtaking. ❤️
I sold my first artwork! It was very satisfying. I’m really proud of myself and I’m so excited where this artventure takes me.
Had our F Buddies Christmas Party/open forum. Everybody cried except Xali (boringgg 😂). I think I’ll reserve another post detailing the events and explaining why there was a lot of crying involved.
I got a Kindle for Christmas! It doesn’t get here until mid-January though.
Isabelle and Illysa, our cute cousins, hosted our 2017 Slumber Party. It was amusing how the two sisters really prepared for the party (prepared the plan of activities, invitations, balloons, snacks). Activities involved were a modeling showdown, watching a scary movie (but we ended up watching their parents’ wedding), blind makeover challenge, sharing secrets, etc. The party ended after the blind makeover game when Illysa cried because her makeup was “ugly”. It was still a lot of fun and I can’t wait for next year’s slumber party. They keep me young.
Sounds good, right? And this includes plane tickets, airport fees, accommodation, food, a pocket WiFi, a trip to Universal Studios Japan and a few souvenirs. But a little disclaimer, I just have to say that this isn’t easy. You need to have the stars aligned in your favor to be lucky enough and get the cheapest flight, to not be choosy and book the cheapest (but still decent) accommodation, and be patient enough to do some research to score some deals (ticket discounts and vouchers).
I actually didn’t spend ₱18,000 because I bought a lot of stuff for my online shop called RanShoppe (shameless plug) and I also did some art tools hunting for my artsy projects (for watercolor painting and calligraphy – check out Dust Designs if you’re interested) (yeah, another shameless plug). But not everyone has an online shop and not everyone has this art hobby, so all the money I paid for those things doesn’t count. Some of you may think that this is a joke and say that the ₱18,000 could just cover the plane tickets and terminal fee alone. But as I’ve mentioned earlier, you have to be really lucky to get a roundtrip ticket for just ₱2,400 like I did (thanks to GetGo). But even if the circumstances are different for you now, I think you can still pickup a couple of money saving tips with this trip. So this is how I managed to do it:
Visa Application (₱950)
For the second time around, I applied for my Japan visa via Reli Tours and Travel agency because they have the cheapest handling fee. Luckily, I was granted a multiple entry visa for this trip. Yay!
I booked my ticket via Cebu Pacific using my GetGo points. At that time (maybe 7 months before our actual trip), GetGo held a promo. For only 10 points, you can book a one-way ticket to any country you want (so 20 points for a roundtrip ticket) and all you had to pay for is the travel taxes and web admin fees which amounted to ₱2,400. If you have a gazillion points, you can also have the option to pay the taxes and fees with those points so you can basically fly for free. I had about maybe 15,000 GetGo points at that time because I kept on converting my BPI Real Thrills Reward Points to GetGo points. You can do this as well if you have a credit card and love traveling. If you can cover the base fare with just GetGo points, all you have to do is pay for the taxes.
Accommodation via Airbnb (₱2,650)
I stayed in Japan for 7 days so that’s just ₱450 pesos per night! Some person gave me a referral link and that includes a ₱1,000+ voucher discount for my booking. You can also get an additional discount from Airbnb for a one-week stay. I came with four of my friends on this trip so what I did was, I gave them my own referral link and they got the same discount. I’m going to share with you my link as well if you also want to get that P1,100 discount on your first booking with Airbnb which is: www.airbnb.com/c/gleniza.
We stayed at Four Letter Words Hostel which is a very humble and straightforward accommodation. All the basics are available: comfy sleeping nooks, fast WiFi, hot showers, it’s also in a great location plus you get an entertaining and very kind host. He even offered us a free stay on our next trip to Japan! He said that we can stay there for as long as we want and bring some friends. I honestly don’t know what more could you ask for.
Pocket WiFi via Klook (₱1,615 – only ₱230 per day)
This I think is optional for some people. But I like renting a pocket WiFi when traveling to Japan. Their train lines can get pretty complicated so I always have to look up train stations and the appropriate fare for each train ride online. When navigating, the site I always go to is called Hyperdia. This amount could get much cheaper if you’re traveling with your friends or family since you could just split up the total rental fee. I was given a 7GB data allowance and I only consumed around 4GB during my whole stay.
Kansai 3-Day Pass via Klook (₱1,990)
I got a 3-day pass since I planned on traveling to Nara, Kyoto and Kobe. You can opt for a 2-day pass which is a couple hundred cheaper if you want to leave out Kobe in your itinerary. But going to Nara and Kyoto is highly highly recommended! In my case, I lost my pass when we were in Kyoto so I had doubts to go to Kobe the next day. So it’s up to you if you would like to get a 2 or a 3-day pass. Klook also offers promo codes, and since I’m a first time Klook user, I was able to get roughly 15% discount when I purchased the pass and pocket WiFi. I just used the promo code GETKLOOKD (not sure if this is still active though).
As you may notice, I kept on thinking of ways to get discounts in every purchase I make for this trip. That’s what I meant when I said that you got to have patience. Research first before making hasty (and expensive) decisions. Ok next:
Universal Studios Japan ticket via Klook (₱3,380)
I didn’t really visit USJ during this trip because I had the chance to go there last year. But my friends did so I included it here. I was busy buying stuff in Don Quijote while they were enjoying their USJ visit. I think last year, we spent ₱3,500 for our USJ ticket; so booking via Klook is a bit cheaper. And as you may already notice, Klook really helped us a lot with this trip. It’s very convenient that we can book all these things with just one app. Aside from convenience, the most important thing is that it’s cheaper.
Transportation to and from Kansai International Airport (₱850)
I included this separately because traveling to and from the airport is pretty expensive. From the airport, we just rode a train going to Tengachaya station which is just a 10 to 15-minute walk from our hostel. It was quite a long walk because we had our luggages in tow. But it’s much easier since we don’t have to transfer train stations.
Tourist Spots (Almost Free)
With our Kansai Passes in hand, we toured around Kyoto, Nara and Osaka for cheap. So all we need to set aside are the entrance fees for the different shrines, temples, etc. But the great thing is, most of the entrance fees for some of the great tourist spots are free! I think I only shelled out ₱200 when I went to Osaka National Museum of Art. It would have been another ₱200 when we visited Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) but our good friend Irving took care of that (Thanks Irving!). But still, it’s just a couple of hundred pesos and the rest of them are free! Let me show you around:
Food (it depends)
This is somewhat tricky because different people have different appetites. In my case, I can go having only two meals per day; but I’m always tempted to buy desserts (which can get a little expensive). And it also depends on your food choices because some restaurants are really pricey (like when we craved for katsu). Your best bet for a filling but inexpensive meal is at gyudon restaurants. It’s a good thing that everything is somewhat still fresh from my memory so I can give you a general food price guide when eating out in Japan.
Instant noodles [₱60-80]
Sandwiches at Family Mart/Lawson/7-11 [₱100-120]
Takoyaki (6-8 pcs) [₱250-300]
Katsu meal set [₱500-600]
Ice cream cones [₱150-200]
The above amount can buy you a keychain, maybe two fridge magnets, and one pouch of Kit Kat. So if you have a lot of friends and relatives requesting for their pasalubongs, or if you want to try all the different flavors of Kit Kat and other Japan goodies, adjust this amount accordingly.
And that’s it! So a sample itinerary would be:
Day 1 – Arrival at KIX (in our case we arrived at night)
Day 2 – Nara
Day 3 – Osaka (USJ)
Day 4 – Kobe
Day 5 – Kyoto
Day 6 – Osaka + Shopping
Day 7 – Departure
I hope this helps! Enjoy your Japan trip in the near future!
We arrived in Tokyo at around 7 AM. Our stop will be at Shinjuku. From there, we’ll figure out how to get to our next Airbnb accommodation. Our host sent us very clear instructions on how to get to their house from Oshiage station. Navigating around Japan gets easier and easier because we’re getting used to their transportation network. But we also learned to immediately ask questions when we find ourselves utterly dumbfounded.
So the plan is, once we get settled in, we’ll just take a shower, eat breakfast, then start our day already. Nauwi nanaman kami sa gyudon resto cos they’re usually open 24 hrs. Natutuwa na talaga ko sa chopsticks skills ko (say “chopsticks skills” 10 times). Naalala ko lang uli nung kumakain kami dito. As for those two (Benson & Bong), they’re already in Tokyo as well. Bong will stay with us for one night and Benson will be with his aunties. Medyo nag-kanya kanya na kami when we were in Tokyo. Our itinerary for the day:
Two of the things that I’m looking forward to see in Japan is right here in Kyoto. The moment I saw pictures of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the torii gates in Fushimi Inari-taisha, I was completely blown away. I can’t wait to witness them with my own eyes.
We were already at the airport three and a half hours before our flight. The plane will depart at 3:00 PM then 8:00 PM (Japan time) would be the arrival time. At first, I thought the 8:00 PM that’s indicated in our ticket is also Manila time so I thought that it would take 5 hours to get to Japan. That’s why at 6:45 PM (Manila), I was just chilling in the plane because I thought we still have one hour before arrival. But the pilot suddenly spoke and announced that we will deplane in about 15 minutes. I got excited and started to fix my things and my hair then wore my shoes.