Japan Shrine

I Miss Japan

We have celebrated both Christmas and New Year in Japan the past three years.

If it wasn’t because of Covid, by now, we would have bought the tickets, applied for the visa and booked our room at One@Tokyo hotel in Oshiage.

In a pandemic-sans world, by now, I would have made a complete itinerary on what to do, eat and see day by day in Japan. I would have started counting my days before our trip. Today would have been day-30 as we usually travel on the 24th December.

Like how it was in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

I know, in a grander scheme, I am not allowed to complain given how good life is going at the moment.

But I also know something will feel incomplete on the 1st of January when we are not ringing in the new year with sushi and sake. And that I won’t have the usual Japan Trip: The Good, The New and The Culture post published on the blog on the first week of next year.

I also can’t help but wonder if we had gone to Japan this year, what kind of things we would have gotten to experience there.

Maybe soaking in the Kusatsu Onsen or eating the famous Nozawana pickles. Maybe we would have gone to Tottori or at least Hiroshima. Maybe I would have the chance to practice the language I have been dedicating 10 minutes a day to learn for the most part of the year.

Maybe I would get to tick off from my ultimate Japan trip list or maybe add more to it. I would be okay either way because I will always miss Japan.

5 AM Thoughts

Yet another day, I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling refreshed.

Instead of coaxing myself to go back to sleep, I stupidly invited what I called as the 5-AM-thoughts to seep into my brain and start its’ dance.

It first started with my thoughts about court cards in tarot to the witch bookmark that kept popping up on my IG feed. Then moved to Tom Harlock’s massive self-love, to the New Moon in Scorpio (whether it could be the reason of my restlessness), to being thankful for quirky bookstores like The Moon Singapore.

I reminded myself to finish the current journal before moving to the red Harry Potter journal I bought on a whim last week and to put some stickers on the journal.

The last one was why the heck have I never treated myself to a writing retreat even though I have always wanted to do it and been jealous of others who have done it.

Time to indulge myself a bit. So:

I am going on writing retreat next year!

Either that or I will book a semi-fancy hotel-stay-cation for myself. Where I can chill, write, order room service and (let’s be real, here) watch some trashy TV.

The Tower Tarot Major Arcana

Un-grounded in Singapore

It is nearing midnight, and I just drew the card for the day from my trust Golden Rider Waite Smith tarot deck. My question:

“What was the theme of the day?”

The Tower

Ha! It’s pretty f-ing clear.

I have been in Singapore for 24 hours now. I have many plans, people to meet, food to eat places to visit. In other words, I have so many things in my mind, which is pretty usual when I travel to places I considered “home”. I have been exposed to too much stimulation. At the same times, I didn’t practice any routines and rituals. I feel un-grounded.

My energy, vibes and everything else feels scattered.

Thankfully this time I did the same thing and booked myself a hotel room (second time around in Hotel G) so I can get some me-time. I am trying to think when was the last time I checked in the hotel to chill and have me-time? The last time maybe was five years ago.

Oh wow, it has been that long!

I so deserve this. I deserve this time in Singapore to rest and recharge ━ mentally.

Hej from Blique by Nobis Stockholm

The height of comfort

We reached Stockholm a few hours ago and for some reason, I am knackered. We dropped our luggage, walked around the block, and had lunch at Waan Thai. They offered a lunch deal and it was good enough to satiate our forever carving for Asian food anywhere we go.

Sarie and Jik decided to venture around, meanwhile, I walked back to the hotel. I needed some RR alone before getting ready to meet Jena for an early dinner in a few hours.

So here I am, not able to sleep, writing from the hotel lobby. This hotel, Blique by Nobis, is impressive. It’s beautiful and hip at the same time. And they are pretty affordable, I mean by the Scandinavian standard. 

Uluru Ayers Rock Australia

Pioneer Lodge-ing in Ayers Rock

I made the mistake of booking the flight tickets without realizing that all the rooms in the Ayers Rock resort were fully booked for that weekend. Our initial option was to sleep in a tent or the AirBnB at the Alice Springs, which is 3-hour drive away. I am a pretty adventurous person, but the idea of either of them put enough fear on me to call the resort diligently every single day to see whether they have any room booking cancelled at the last minute. Thank Universe they had and we ended up with a room at the Pioneer Lodge that looks like a motel but with the price and amnesties of a hotel.

For this long weekend trip, I brought my pink luggage while Jik only carried her backpack, but guess who needed to borrow half of the toiletries from her?

The Ayers Rock Resort is like an all in all playgrounds for the tourists. I usually not a fan of this thing, but I prefer to have this than to sleep in the ground, and I am so glad that we didn’t because those were two chilled nights as they say the cold in the night in the desert is as severe as its heat in the day.

Timaru

Today has been pretty uneventful New Zealand road trip saga wise.

We are staying in at a small town called Timaru for one night before continuing the trip to Queenstown.

First impression of Timaru was that it’s empty. It appeared dead. Sans any kind of activity. Even at 4 PM.

We finally found a watering hole at the corner of the town where we sat down for a glass of beer, two bottles of cider and a cheese platter. All turned out to be pretty meh.

For dinner, we walked to a gaudily designed Chinese restaurant nearby called Golden Palace where we paid a bomb for an even more disappointing meal.

At times like these, I told myself that I ought to learn to eat sandwiches and make peace with it.

Or move to Japan and eat all the onigiri that I love so much, which I can get almost anywhere in that country.

We are staying in the 142yo Grosvenor hotel. Inside it has a weird painting of a man hanging by the window to escape from his mistress husband who caught them in the act. 

I booked this hotel solely based on their breakfast pancake-stacks which we will be eating tomorrow.

I finished Liane Moriarty’s latest book: Truly Madly Guilty. I also tried Blood Orange Ecaluptus tea and Chocolate Fingers for the first time today. Both being New Zealand delicacies.

Oh well, today wasn’t that uneventful I guess.

Phoenix Yogyakarta Hotel

I must have mentioned it a few times here that I am an anti-chain hotel. About how I think it’s a soulless business establishment, exist solely due to its convenience and practicality of accommodation. I had to eat my own words when I reached the Phoenix Yogyakarta hotel. In my defense, I didn’t know that it was a part of a chain hotel called M Gallery when I booked it.

The Phoenix Yogyakarta Hotel is decorated impeccably with lots of attention to detail, even the tiny ones. It boosts the vintage theme with heavy Javanese cultural influence.

The service was A+ and both the breakfast buffet and room service were way beyond our expectations. I am impressed by how much the Phoenix Yogyakarta Hotel stay has enhanced our travel experience. If I ever come back here, this will be my Yogyakarta hotel of choice. Not only that, I have been looking into MGallery boutique hotels in Asia Pacific regions. St Moritz in Queenstown looks really good for our next trip to New Zealand.

Airbnb

I am curious about people’s homes. I often wonder what their life looks like from the inside of their home. Does their home represent their characters? And I get more intrigued when I travel to a new place; about the locals, their lifestyles, and day-to-day lives, including their homes.

This interest of other cultures’ homes started when I took a peek into the Parisian living quarters from the same street where our Eiffel Tower facing hotel was located. I wanted to see what a typical French home looks like, and I even planned to master the French language to befriend a French girl who would invite me to stay in her apartment with her friends or family, not unlike the girl in Lessons from Madame Chic. This elaborate, and what I thought of as brilliant, plan stopped when I found out French words have genders in the 4th week of French class.

Thankfully, Airbnb was founded, and a whole new world opened up for me.

I love to Airbnb when I travel. When we went to Europe last year, I managed to turn my cousins into AirBnB-ers. We did the Airbnb Europe edition by staying in nine different apartments, from Germany to Spain. It also satisfied my curiosity about French living, though it wasn’t in Paris. I stayed in a walk-up old apartment building in Nice. I continued staying in all sorts of strangers’ homes from Shanghai to Queenstown.

Airbnb somehow makes the travel experience feel more authentic for me.

Rotorua Airbnb

Located up the hill, City Lights the Rotorua BnB, was a fifteen-minute drive from the city center. It was a rectangular house with a red door. We were greeted by the owner, Naomi, and her adorable dog, Jelly. She showed us around and by the time she left, I had fallen in love with the place.

I have wanted to stay on a farm ever since I played Harvest Moon in high school (it’s sorta like Farmville, only better) and competed against schoolmates. There was a period of time when we reported how many cows, chicken, and sheep we had every morning once we reached the classroom. Retrospectively, it was not the best use of our education money, but hey, at least we were pretending to be the most successful entrepreneur among ourselves, though the only job available was farming. Later, when Farmville became famous, I played it for a while at work, before I got bored and started reading blogs instead while still harboring the desire to stay on a farm. So you can imagine my excitement when we “accidentally” stayed at one.

We booked our accommodation, a backpacker hostel, in the Rotorua city center. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I guess, at the last minute Agoda called to inform us that the place was not available and they would like to help us to book another place. With half an hour left before checking-in, we booked the City Lights Boutique Lodge.

I really liked the living room. It had a tall bookshelf and a fireplace surrounded by big sofas for you to snuggle in. It also had a small study table with a laptop in the corner, but I doubt you would want to think about the outside world when you are here.

The bedroom was marvelous. It was a comfortably sized room with a glass door that overlooked the entire town and glass windows facing a small garden and the farm. The bed was so soft, it reminded me of Westin’s. In the bathroom, they didn’t put the four identical-harsh to your skin-but still worth stealing toiletry bottles we usually find in every hotel. It was all-natural yummy smelling Kiwi made products and all I can say is that it was better than my own skincare range.

We also explored the farm, actually, it’s not really like Farmville since there were only three pet black alpacas (alpacas are like a llama, only cuter) whose wool has been shed and collected for the last four years to be made as blankets, but the neighbors had sheep and cows. So yeah, almost Farmville like.

In the evening, we went to downtown Rotorua for dinner and drinks at this new establishment called the Eat Streat. By the time I got drunk (good wines were cheap in New Zealand) and came back, it was dark and we could see the whole town lit up from our bedroom and thus the name, City Lights.

The next day, Naomi made us breakfast. There were cheese, fruits, homemade muesli, yogurt, bread, the whole spread. It was served with juice and coffee of our choice. Let me tell you, her flat-white was the best cup of coffee I had in New Zealand. It made me stop drinking coffee in Auckland for a while because nothing came close to hers. We spent some time chitchatting about our lives. I didn’t take a picture of the delicious breakfast spread because it felt politically incorrect to Instagram food prepared by someone right in front of them. Unless they are your partner because they must have tolerated your impoliteness from the beginning.

Good companions with tasty breakfast served in front of a breathtaking view. It was a memorable morning.