18 March 2013

OJT - Week 1

I'm finally legally being allowed to enter the States! After 3 ridiculuous visa application trial.

It has been 1 week plus since I'm here.

We took Emirates from KL for 7 hours and transitted in Dubai, before continuing another 15 hours journey to Dallas. We reached Dallas on Saturday afternoon and Eric Wang was already at the airport to fetch us, he had to wait for a few hours due to the delayed flight and also long queue at the iimigration.
Eric is a super helpful and a friendly guy. He sent us to our hotel, buy us lunch (subway) and then took our car at the Avis rental. We got a Mazda 3.

On Sunday we didn't go anywhere interesting as we were still having jetlag and only able to go to Walmart for groceries shopping, we had to strenghten our bones. :D

We started work on Monday at the DM6 building. Mani introduced us to the team members. I'm actually surprised of how some of them are so opposite from what I thought they are in person. I mean, they are cold in email but so friendly in person and vice versa. But its good to see some familiar faces, the ones that have been to Malaysia before.

Last week, workwise we've been to DFAB, RFAB, DM6 and DM5. Went to several unimportant meetings. Other than work, we also met Kak Rosni and her husband. They brought us to the halal market to get the meat. We experienced the imax theatre wathcing Oz. It was ozsem! :) Went to Allen Mall right after work on Fri.



06 March 2013

Anazmal Amazing Japan Trip 2013


Konichiwa. 
O genki - desuka? :-)

Oshin and Moero Attack (the story about schoolgirls that does super crazy volleyball stunts) are some of the memorable dramas that I have ever watched during my childhood. I'm an 80s baby,so it's not a surprise I would say :) Growing up reading Japanese comics, watching cartoons on TV (Ultraman, Gaban perkasa hitam etc2), watching Japanese drama ( Takuya Kimura was my ex-bf apprently) and listening to Japanese songs (was crazy abt this during my Uni life) has made Japan as one of the must-go country in my travel list.
And so I went there recently :-) Thanks to  non-other than our fav airline co, AirAsia. It was a dream-come-true trip I would say.

At first I managed to grab almost the cheapest fare one can ever imagine which is RM713 for a return tix. I made the booking of course a year ahead from the travel period. It was sometime around May 2012. At that time their currency was about x4 from our money, so I decided to stay for about 6d5n , which is 31st Jan to 5th Feb 2013. And only planned to visit Tokyo at that time.

Who would've thought that their currency dropped to x3 during my travel period and that made us change our itinerary to 12 days instead :D Of course we had to change the flight ticket and so on, but it was still cheap compared to other airlines.


Preparation:

1. Visa
It is compulsary for Malaysian to visa to enter Japan. For travel purpose, we need to request for "Holiday & transit" visa category. The application is free but you still need to go to the embassy for an interview. You need to bring along these items and please arrange them in this correct sequence:

  1. Original passport
  2. One (1) visa application form (downloadable from the embassy website) *The column of guarantor/inviter is not required to fill in.
  3. A photo (4.5cm x 4.5cm) with white background which is taken within 6 month from the visa application and must be pasted on the application form
  4. Itinerary in Japan (downloadable) and for transit purpose, copy of visa to the main destination (USA, CANADA, etc)
  5. Employment certificate (original company letter) stating your position, department in the company and length of service(using the company letterhead) ; If you are a sole proprietor/partner/owner of the company, you need to submit a copy of  your business registration and original company letter.; *For those who are not working: a self explanatory letter stating how expenses will be borne, name and relationship of person(s) accompanying (if any)
  6. Personal savings, latest current account statement, fixed deposit, Tabung Haji or Amanah Saham Berhad (ASB) (original certified true copy by the bank) (need to show the applicant’s name as the account owner, account number and current balance) - minimum amount is around 1.5K at my time.
  7. Copy of marriage certificate (spouse) or birth certificate (children) to show proof of relationship between the main applicant and the person(s) accompanying

** If no issues, you should be getting your visa in 3 working days. 

2. JR Railpass 
This is a value buy if you want to travel between different states in Japan and it is not so useful if you just want to stay at 1 state for example Tokyo for your whole trip. Since we plan to visit Kyoto-Osaka, Tokyo, Hokkaido by train, so this is a very good buy for us. Shinkansen fare is very expensive in Japan, for example from Tokyo-Kyoto can simply cost you ~RM600. And the JR railpass is approx RM1000 and you can use it as much as possible for the whole period.

1 thing to remember is that this pass need to be bought OUTSIDE of Japan as it is only being sold to tourists. Here is the link to travel agents that are selling it and you can simply collect it from their office. http://www.japanrailpass.net/05/en05_1.html

http://www.japan-rail-pass.com is an online system that allows you to buy it too but you will have to wait for a week to receive it.

We bought ours from below agent as it offers the cheapest price compared to others in KL area and it is very close to my hubby's office. (You could look for Derick, he's awesome and friendly)

MALAYSIAH.I.S. Travel (MALAYSIA) SDN. BHD.Suite 1206, 12th Floor, Central Plaza, 34, Jalan Sultan Ismail 50250 Kuala Lumpur,ï¼­ALAYSIATEL (03) 2141-9626
FAX (03) 2141


3. Food
If you are a sushi / Japanese food lover , you probably don't need to bring your own food. As I am a sushi-hater, and not so much of a fan of Japanese food, I had to bring a luggage full of food -_-' Plus muslim and halal food is quite tough to find in Japan, so I heard. So we just prepared, in case. Don't want to starve to death in foreign country. Hehe.

:: Yup, it looks like we're going for camping -___-' ::


4. Money
I didn't have time to count back every cent I spent in total. I think it should be around RM4000 per person. I will update this once I'm done with my detail calculation.

5. Health
This is important, make sure you take care of your health before your trip. My MIL even suggested that we took vacsin shots from local clinic before we go there, but we didn't. Sorry ma. :-)

6. Itinerary
I've been travelling to a few places and I never plan to take any tourist guide package. I've always prefered the free and easy trip which I plan by myself.
So if you're going to travel by this way, no matter where you go, the most important thing to plan is where to stay and how are going to commute from 1 place to another once you're there. Plan your routes well so you won't be wasting your time asking people around.

And it is always good to know the places you're going to visit beforehand, to have a maximum satisfaction when you actually arrive at that place. Google should be very helpful on this.

7. Phrasebook / Dictionary / Blank Notebook 
Call me poyo, I actually attended Japanese beginner level classes 6 months beforehand :P I've always wanted to learn Japanese and it was one of my new year (don't remember which year tho) resolution list. :-)
It's not necessary to know Japanese langguage but it comes in handy when you want to communicate with the local or ask them questions when you're lost as you know most of them do not know how to speak the international language - English.

I also prepared a small notebook full of phrases and routes and info on tourists spots.



The trip: 

12 days / ~ 2 weeks itinerary in Japan.

We safely arrived Haneda Airport at around 2300 on 25th Jan. Kirihara (Azmal's gig friend) was kind enough to wait for us at the airport. He offered us to stay at his house for 2 nights. Arigatou Kiri san! With the sudden climate change, my body wasn't feeling so good at that night.

:: Us with the awesome Kiri san at his house ::


2nd Day
The next morning we went out really early as Kiri had to go out for work. We went straight to Shinjuku and the temp was around 1deg at that time that we ended up drinking hot coffee at Starbucks for a few hours before we could head anywhere else. We took our own sweet time lingering aorund the city and spend some few hours at Takashimaya store. (coz it was cold outside too)

:: Shinjuku ::

:: JR Shinjuku ::

:: Me and Takuya Kimura ::


Then we headed to Harajuku which is 1 station away from Shinjuku. We had Tiger biscuits for lunch and shared it with a Japanese couple that we met on a bench. We immediately became friends when they were kind enought to show us the way to Omote Sando (the wife drew a map in my small notebook) :-) So we walked to Omote-Sando which is just a few metres away from the Harajuku train station. I can say this place is quite similar to Jalan Bukit Bintang , a lot of designers and branded store and rich people with their tiny dog, the one like Paris hilton's own. :P So it's an urban place. Nothing much as I wasn't into those thing I guess. We passed through Harajuku and didn't manage to catch any girls in their cosplay, quite sad but I managed to find 1 Harajuku-alike girl in Hokkaido :) We had our dinner at a Pakistani-turned-Japanese kebab shop and it was yummy! Or were we too tired and hungry? :P Azmal had 2 kebabs. I bought new boots as the new Timberland boots were killing my feet!

:: I think this is Tokyo tower building, Shinjuku ::


3rd Day
I had a fever. SIGH. Maybe due to the extreme cold weather (for me so far) and my body couldn't handled it. I slept till noon and was only able to go out from the house around 2pm. Half day gone! Such a waste as Kiri took a leave on that day and we were supposed to go to a few places. But anyhow, we managed to visit Asakusa temple and Skytree (not the observation deck tho) We ate Udon at Level6 inside Skytree building and it was yummy. I don't remember the shop name tho. We slept at Khaosan Samurai which I have prebooked in Agoda for a vr reasonable price - RM150 for 2 person in 1 room.

:: Red bridge, "shit" building (LOL) and Tokyo Skytree ::

:: Market along Asakusa temple ::


:: Kiri & Us at the Skytree station ::

:: Tokyo Skytree ::

:: Dinner at Udon restaurant, Skytree ::



4th Day
Took train from Asakusa to Tokyo (Yamanote line)and Tokyo to Maihama (Keiyo line). From Maihama line we walked to the bus stop where we waited for our shuttle bus to hotel. All Disney resort and partner hotels provide a shuttle bus between Disneyland, Disney Sea and the hotel. So it's pretty convenient. The bus stop was just right in front of Disneyland. The moment I saw the Disney sign board with all those memorable Disney theme songs playing out loud in the background, I was totally delighted, speechless and was just simply happy.  It was as if all my childhood dreams and memories that I kept for so long finally came true :) I felt like crying for happiness! :')




















We reached at the Palm & Terrace Hotel Resort in Maihama at around 1130 am and couldn't check in yet coz it was too early, so we just leave our luggage there and went back to the station and took the train back to Tokyo and change to Yamanote line to go to Shimbashi. From Shimbashi we took monorail (again I forgot the name) to go to the Odaiba City. It's a new well developed city where we met a giant Gundam. Man, the size is almost the same height as the mall that stood beside it. It was a jaw-dropping moment.

: Gundam and Us ::

:: Statue of Liberty in Odaiba City ::


:: Odaiba City ::



After that, we headed to Shibuya, to meet the most famous Akita dog - Hachiko. We also had witnessed the busiest trafficlight-crossroads in the world. It was awesome to see it with my very own eyes.

:: Us with Hachiko ::


Then we went to Akihabara - the electronic city of Japan. There were a lot of electronic stores but I had nothing specifically to look for. I guess people like photographers would surely love this place. I think 1 day is not even enough to go to every shop here.

:: Akihabara ::

We reach our hotel almost midnight and sleep right away after shower and prayer. 
I like everything about that hotel except for there is no wifi in the room. It is really bis and it probably fits a family with 3 kids conveniently. It is the cheapest Disney partner hotel which cost us about RM700 for 2 nights, but this price is only offered through online booking.

Here's the 180deg pic from my iphone5 panorama view.




5th Day
We were supposed to go to Disneyland in the morning but we reached there at about 2pm :( SIGH. It was all because of the dryer machine that won't dry our clothes properly and I didn't have any longjohns to wear at that time. So we had to wait for 2 rounds of drying up the clothes before we went out.

So we ended up running around like crazy couple inside the Disneyland, trying to finish up the attractions and rides inside there. We even skipped our lunch and only took some biscuits in the evening. It was a lot of people and the queue was quite long for some rides but they were so efficient. Man, the rides are sooo mind-blowing! Especially the space-thingy ride. I would probably go again if I got a chance to be there again in the future! I want to!

 
:: I almost cried when I see this castle ::

:: Cinderella's castle!! ::

:: Lovely Daisy ::

:: Minnie's house ::



:: Mickey and Us :: 
:: Cinderella stole my shoe ::




:: Cinderella ::

:: Snow white butt ::

:: Princess Ana ::


6th Day
We checked out from the hotel at about 12pm and took the shuttle bus to the bus station in Maihama and then we took the train back to Tokyo station by JR Keiyo line. From Tokyo station, we took the shinkansen at about 1pm. On the way to Kyoto we could spot the famous Fujisan. Simply beautiful.

:: Fuji san :: 


We arrived Kyoto Station at about 4+pm. Kyoto station is simply amazing and big! There are about 4 shopping stores like Isetan insde the station itself! Due to time contraint we didn't go to the stores. We headed to our hotel which I have also prebooked through Agoda at about RM350 for 2 nights. The hotel name is Econo Inn and it is located at Kawaramachi-Gojo area. It is quite comfortable except that the toilet is super small for big-sized humans like us :D Since it was already night time, we didn't plan to go out far but we only walked out to find combini' (convenience) store to stock up our food. We managed to find bread loaf, finally!



7th Day
Kyoto train lines are not as many as Tokyo so we decided to buy a daily pass ticket for local bus which is 500yen per person. On this day we were supposed to visit 3 famous temples (Gin and Kinkakujin) but we only managed to visit 1 which is the oldest one called Kyoto Kiyomizudera temple. Little that I know that it is on a hill and we had to hike about 30minutes just to reach the temple! If only I knew it earlier... I would've just skip this place. haha. But well, it's such a beautiful and very well preserved building. I didn't regret climbing up once I saw the beautiful lake and nature at its best. From here, one can simply enjoy the view of Kyoto city too.

:: Kiyomizudera Temple ::

:: Kiyomizudera Temple ::
:: Azmal, on the way up to the temple. Beautiful sky ::
:: Kyoto city view from the temple ::

We then headed to the Munipical Musuem of Modern Art which is not so far from the temple, where we saw some brilliant arts by local artistes some even students' from the local university. This is not a must see but we decided to go since we missed museum visit while we were in Tokyo, and this place is free entry, so why not :-)
:: Beautiful lake outside of the museum ::
:: Azmal trying to be artistic and all :P

:: Outside the museum ::

That night we took JR to Osaka. It was about 30mins from Kyoto. I regret that I didn't study so well about Osaka before heading there. The only place I listed down was the Osaka Castle but we skipped that too since we reached Kyoto late the day before.When we reached Osaka station, we decided to find a place to have dinner. We had to take private line monorail to Dotonbouri (the only place that I know and listed in my itinerary). We had some expensive crab there.

:: Ketam / Lobster ::
:: Sunset in Osaka ::


We headed back to Kyoto and met a new super-friendly friend on the train. Her name is Naoko and she is so friendly that I receive email from her almost on daily basis up till now :) She kept on asking me to go there again and stay at her apartment. :-) I hope I can be there again too someday. You just wait for me Naoko. :)

8th/9th Day
Today is the day my itinerary says 15hours of travelling. -__-'.

We checked out from hotel at about 1130 and took a bus straight to Kyoto station. Been told by my ex-schoolmate who has been living in Japan for 4 years that we must visit Inari Shrine as it is simply magnificient and beautiful for photo-shooting. So we put our backpacks at the coin-locker in Kyoto station and took JR train to Inari. And it was a great last minute decision. I believe it is the only place on planet earth that has so many red poles.It is even listed in the tripadvisor web as 1 of the unique place on earth to visit.

:: Azmal at Inari Shrine ::


And below is our train routes from Kyoto - Tokyo - Shin Aomori - KitaHiroshima. (~15hours), I didn't capture Kita Hiroshima below because it wasn't the original route that I searched in Hyperdia. Kita-Hiroshima is actually 30mins away (before) from Sapporo station. Hayate-39 train is by far the most advanced bullet-train that I've ever ride so far. It has automatic doors for restroom for god sake! And Hamanasu train is not even a shinkansen, it is an old train and the restroom was quite horrible and smelly. I had to hold myself from going there and luckily there were no nature's call that night.


We even had the chance to go through undersea-bed tunnel which is called the Seikan Tunnel.(http://jr.hakodate.jp/global/english/train/tunnel/tunnel_omosiro.htm) It is just unbelievable what these Japanese can do! We didn't realize that we were in a tunnel until Jiha's husband told us about that :) Now knowing that we had that chance is just so overwhelming. 

It was super cold when we reached New-Chitose train station. We decided to eat bread and sardines before taking JR to Kita-Hiroshima. Jiha was already there when we arrived at Kita-hiroshima station at ~7ish. Her house is only a few metres away from the station. 

Jiha served us nasik-lemak for breakfast and it was the best dish I've had in Japan by far :) How I missed Malaysian food since Day 1. haha. The long train journey was so tiring that we both slept till 1pm. 


At about 2pm went to Ainu village in Shiraoi by JR. From Shiraoi station we had to walk for about 20mins to the Ainu village in the bloody-cold weather. :p I almost froze to death..(I like to exagerate like that)

:: Us with Ainu villagers ::

:: Just speechless. Such a priceless experience ::

Frozen Lake at Ainu Village : The most beautiful scene I've ever witnessed my whole life




Over here, we also get to see a real life big bear. Ainu people worships bear. You can read more about it here.



Other than that there's also a traditional music/dance performance once an hour. The admission fee is 750Yen per person adult. Click here for more info.



10th day
It's Sunday and Azman was on leave. After zohor+Asar prayer and lunch at home, he brought us to a Ski resort for us to experience the ski and snowboarding activities. :-)

It was almost 4pm when we arrived at that resort. I forgot the name of the resort though.

The whole package was quite cheap compared to other ski resorts that I've heard so far. It cost us about RM100 per person for the snowboard/ski+chairlift+goggles.

We started to try out our hidden skills at the foot of the hill. Azman thought me how to make turns, how to stand up from the ground while wearing the ski gear, and so on..the class was about 10mins  and I graduated with flying colors as per my sensei :D we immediately purchased the chairlift ticket and hop on it right away. Jiha did not join us and waited for us inside the building.







Little that I know the chairlift has only 1 pitstop and its at the highest peak -__-'
Here goes my unforgetable scariest moment in Japan.

On our way up there, Azmal's right hand glove fell off -__-'
When we arrived at the highest peak the wind was very strong. With heavy but fluffy powdery snow falling, you can imagine how was the temperature at that time. Me and Azmal were so pale and Azmal's gloveless right hand almost turned to ice.

But, it was almost dawn when we were up there and we had the opportunity to see a beautiful sunset.

:: Sunset ::


But I looked down and my heart literally stopped.
It was all whitey and steep.
The hill was so damn slippery. I moved my feet an inch but my body moved a few metres. -__-'
It is definitely not the same as when I practiced down there. It is because this place is meant for pros and not beginners. There was a truck that comes by purposely to make the hill slippery -__-'

There were pine trees by the edge of the hill, where I supposed to ski down and Azmal supposed to snowboard down. Azman was there with us and he couldn't wait to go down so we let him go down first. When he came up for the 3rd round, we were still at the same spot. We were there for almost an hour.

I tried to move and push the ski gear but it was too slippery and I didn't know how to turn to my left side properly and avoid the hill edge. Plus the strong wind push me towards the pine trees! The only thought I had at that time was that I was gonna die if I don't make myself fall on the ground. I was pushed towards the tree I swear it was the scariest moment for me by far. I didn't even realize I have started crying at that time. I never felt so hopeless of myself until that moment.
Now for those who have been in this situation for the 1st time will exactly understand how I must've really feel. T____T

I tried to find alternative ways to go down like asking the truck driver to send me down ; hop on the chairlift to go down but there were all nonsense. There is only 1 way to go down!

Luckily my hero was there to rescue me. Azmal was so patience and waited for me even he was freezing like hell. Finally we decided to use Azmal's snowboard to go down. We both sat on the board and slide down until I don't see any pine trees anymore. It was half way down. I wore back my ski gear and ski down like a pro :D

I swear that it will be my last time I'm going to take a chairlift in my life. Period.

We spent a few more hours and play around at the hill foot. Finally Jiha also joined us we both skiied together but we had to climb up the hill by foot because of my recent phobia occurence. :P



We left the resort at about 7pm and headed to Udon restaurant nearby for dinner.



11th Day
Jiha went out to meet up her friend in Sapporo. Due to last night's extreme activities, we woke up quite late and only went out after Zohor prayer. We took JR to Sapporo and met Jiha at the station. Jiha then took us to Sapporo Masjid, Hokkaido University, local bundle and fashion shops, old govt building that has been converted to a museum. We also went to the Sapporo Ice Festival. The festival begins on 5th Feb but they started to have some shows on 4th Feb which is on this day. So we had the chance to see some lighting show. It was simply awesome.
:: Sapporo Masjid ::

:: Old government building ::


:; Me and Jiha ::

:; Harajuku wannabe girl ::

 :: Sapporo Ice Festival - icecarved building ::






:: Hokkaido Uni ::



12th Day
Our last day in Japan.

I had a mix feeling.
Sad to leave Japan. - especially the washlet . LOL :D

Washlet that does its' job efficiently 

Happy to go back and to Malaysia - had to be the delicious food and weather!

We went out from Jiha and Azman's house at about 11am. Jiha called a cab to send us to the train station and we stopped at New-Chitose which is the airport station.

I purchased our flight from Skymark (from Sapporo to Tokyo Haneda.) for ~RM350 per person.

Since it was still early, we decided to leave our bags at the airport (coin locker) and went back to Chitose station by JR where Rera outlet situated. We spent there for about 2 hours. The stuff there were quite cheap, I got a GAP pants for only RM40! Woohoo!



We said farewell to Jiha and went back to airport at about 5ish. Our flight was scheduled at 630pm.

The flight was on time and we reached Haneda airport domestic terminal at about 810pm. We had to take a shuttle bus to go to the international terminal.

:: Me at Hello Kitty, Haneda Airport ::


Our flight back to Malaysia was at 1130pm. And we reached Malaysia at 6ish.

Overall I think this trip is simply unforgetable. The only thing I would've change is maybe the route. It was a last min change so the route is quite messy. Instead of Tokyo(middle)-Kyoto(south)-Hokkaido(north), we should've plan to go from bottom to up which should be Kyoto(south)-Tokyo(middle)-Hokkaido(north). It will be less energy spent on commuting.

Japan is one of the most amazing country and probably one of the unique places I've ever been so far. From the people, the culture, the development, the technology (the list goes on) Japan will always be in my heart and I hope to be back there again someday in the future.

I Love Japan 
Watashi wa Nippon ga daisuki

Forever.