My Top 10 Most Favorite Experiences in Bangladesh

the walking bookstore of Bangladesh!

the walking bookstore of Bangladesh!

10. Haggling with street vendors in Dhaka

People selling different kinds of goods in the streets are not new to me. We also have those in my country, but I think how they roll in Bangladesh is a lot more interesting. We saw a man selling books on the streets. He was carrying a stack of assorted volumes on his shoulders. We stopped and tried to haggle with him for a copy of Dan Brown’s latest novel Inferno. We did not agree on the price so we decided to drive on. After about a mile, we saw the street vendor running after us (we only realized it really after a mile, poor vendor). We stopped the car and tried to haggle with him again. He really does not want to give the book on our price so we decided to leave. He tried to run after the car again. Well, to cut the story short, we eventually got the book for five hundred Takas after he ran five miles just to chase us; five unsuccessful haggling sessions; and five close call accidents.

9. Lunches and Suppers with our host families

a typical Bangladeshi dinner

a typical Bangladeshi dinner

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the plate that will make you forget about your diet

Bangladeshi people love eating. So do I. Home cooked traditional food of about five to seven viands shared together in a long table sound like a feast, yeah? Other than eating our meals with our bare hands, the custom of serving the guests by literally pouring some food into our plate made the experience extraordinary; not to mention the laughter in between bites and the stories shared whilst enjoying the sumptuous meal. It is a truly a unique dining experience that exemplifies a traditional feast bound by culture, tradition, and most especially, family and love. By the way, Bangladeshis have a different meal time schedule. Their breakfast is usually served by 11am, lunch at about 2:30pm and dinner at around 10pm.

8. The Road trip in the Countryside 

the view enroute to Sylhet

the view enroute to Sylhet

locals of sylhet in their normal wearing clothes. Long-sleeved shirts usually paired with their traditional lungi (similar to kilt) or trousers.

locals of sylhet in their normal wearing clothes. Long-sleeved shirts usually paired with their traditional lungi (similar to kilt) or trousers.

To really explore a country, you should get out of the main cities and go to the outskirts. Far from the noise and hustle of the metro, the countryside of Bangladesh seems like a different world. Vast green fields and mountain shadows paired with the scent of earth and fresh air give a perfect ambiance to forget everything about the city. The dirt roads on the sides and some muddy puddles; as well as the old railroad which lays there for centuries makes up a scenario that you only see on movies.

7. The House Parties and Dancing

The music makers that made us go gaga all night long

The music makers that made us go gaga all night long

let's do the wacky pose after dancing all night!

let’s do the wacky pose after dancing all night!

It is not just eating they love; also music and dancing. Musical nights and house parties filled with lively music and heaps of dancing is not just once in a blue moon. They pretty much do it quite frequently. Their dancing standard is not high too. As long as you can move a part of your body with the beat (actually, even not with the beat), it is considered dancing. The most important thing is that you are having fun, good fun! Music is a huge part in their culture and tradition. As a matter of fact, musical nights called “Holud” which involve lots of performances like singing, and dancing; and a house party hosted by the groom are both part of a traditional wedding celebration. I just love the energy on these parties! Everyone just dances the night away!

6. Rush Hour Traffic in Gulshan Road

whilst being stuck on traffic in the busy and overcrowded streets of Dhaka, a young mother knocked at our car window to ask for alms

whilst being stuck on traffic in the busy and overcrowded streets of Dhaka, a young mother knocked at our car window to ask for alms

the heavy traffic of Dhaka

the heavy traffic of Dhaka

Who loves traffic? I bet no one really loves being stuck in traffic- most especially in the main roads of Dhaka. During rush hours (usually mid morning and after office hours), the roads of Dhaka become a huge parking lot. Trucks, buses, cars, tricycles, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, and technically anything that moves and has wheels on it squeeze inwards on the ongoing traffic only to be stuck for hours. Sounds not fun at all, yeah? I am sure you are now wondering why I made this one of my favorite experiences. When you are stuck in traffic, it gives you a time to observe your surroundings in a more in depth sense. Best time to people watch as well. Enjoy the sight and sound of the capital city made more interesting by the street vendors of all ages and persistent beggars knocking on your car windows. The heavy traffic in Dhaka contributes on the identity of Bangladesh as a country. Being stuck on it makes you feel you are really there; experiencing everything the country has to offer.

5. After dinner Milk Tea and Desserts

Sweet Treats!

Sweet Treats!

More sweet treats!

More sweet treats!

Milk tea is really my thing, same as with desserts and sweets. I seriously love this perfect combination served every after dinner.  The smoothness of the milk tea and the sweet treat of the desserts make the chilling moments with friends and families a lot more sweet and warm! I also love the late night chilling moments with our friends as we exchange stories, play games, joke around, or just lazily lay on the couch over a cup of freshly brewed tea leaves and a plate of some local sweets and pastries.

4. Overtaking Elephants on the Road

by your leave Dumbo!

by your leave Dumbo!

yeah, you do not see this everyday.

yeah, you do not see this everyday.

Yes you read it right; we did overtake an elephant on the road, twice! How random, yeah? My first encounter with the Bangladeshi Dumbo was during our road trip in the countryside. I was so amazed by the experience that I panicked with excitement I forgot I have a camera on my hands. The second encounter was a bit more random. We saw one on the main roads of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh! Imagine a full grown elephant trotting in the main highway side by side with a Mercedes! These random things are something you never really see everyday.

3. The Hookah and Shisha at Regency Hotel

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The Hookah Lounge at the Regency Hotel

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The foyer at the lounge

the private cubicles and couches matted with arabian carpets.

the private cubicles and couches matted with arabian carpets.

Hookah in my National Attire! Cool!

Hookah whilst wearing my National Attire! Cool!

Our last night in Bangladesh was capped with an authentic Hookah and Shisha session at the Hookah and Shisha lounge located inside the  Regency Hotel. It was fun blowing out thick flavored smoke from a pipe in between laughter as we share stories with friends. The ambiance is so relaxing and the entire place just shouts “goodtimes”.

2. Strolling the Tea Gardens of Sylhet

the entrance gate to the private tea plantation we visited in Sylhet

the entrance gate of the private tea plantation we visited in Sylhet

the panoramic view of the tea gardens of Sylhet

the panoramic view of the tea gardens of Sylhet

the beautiful and serene tea fields

the beautiful and serene tea fields

A three to four hour drive northeast of Dhaka will bring you to Sylhet- the home of the Saints and Tea Gardens. You will be amazed by the picturesque view of the Surma Valley covered with terraces of tea gardens and lush green tropical forests. Be lost for miles of green carpet of tea garden on the hill slopes as the scent of fresh tea lingers your nose. Take a stroll and walk on the trails and emerge yourself with nature in this beautiful green paradise. Indeed, a visit to the tea plantation in Sylhet is truly a memorable experience. An adventure you would not want to miss when visiting Bangladesh.

1. Attending a traditional Bangladeshi Wedding

the newly wed Bangladeshi couple during the Reception Dinner- the last big event on their weeklong wedding celebration

the newly wed Bangladeshi couple during the Reception Dinner- the last big event on their weeklong wedding celebration

the groom feeding his lovely bride

the groom feeding his lovely bride

 

the well decorated reception venue all set to cater 5,000 guests

the well decorated reception venue all set to cater 5,000 guests

This will definitely on the top of my list. Well, obviously not every tourist would have the chance to witness one so I guess we were just pretty damn lucky. We were invited to take part in the wedding of the awesome Ashik Ahmed and his beautiful bride Sara (thanks to my good friends Sadid and Tanya Chowdhury who extended the invitation). It was one of the most memorable experiences as far as my traveling career is concerned. They made us wear their traditional attires and even made us part of the weeklong wedding celebration! We were given the opportunity to join the groom’s entourage and perform at the “Holud” or the musical night where we danced and sang for the guests. We also helped in some preparations of one of the most expensive and grandest weddings I have seen so far. By the way, just for a quick fact, the total number of guests in the weeklong celebration is estimated to reach about 5000. Yes, the wedding is that big! (I am so amazed by the experience that I plan to write an entire separate article just on the wedding experience alone) The total experience is surreal! Very impressive!

families and friends of the bride and groom

families and friends of the bride and groom

 

 

 

 

 

 

we are obviously having so much fun!

we are obviously having so much fun!

I may have stayed in Bangladesh for just over a week but the memories and experiences it brought me will remain for a lifetime. It may not be the most beautiful country on the planet, but It has a unique charm not only through its culture and tradition but most importantly to its amazing, amazing people. Trust me, you should include a visit to Bangladesh in your bucket list. A humble country with a unique appeal that will definitely give you an adventure of a lifetime!

i think i can be a successful rickshaw driver if i'll pursue this career :)

i think i can be a successful rickshaw driver if i’ll pursue this career :)

Chilies! Chilies! lots and lots of Chilies

Chilies! Chilies! lots and lots of Chilies

i got a kiss from an indian princess! Yey!

i got a kiss from an indian princess! A perfect moment to end my epic adventure in Bangladesh!

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12 Things you should know about Bangladesh

The Meadows of Bangladesh (Photo courtesy of wallpapersworldbd.com)

The Meadows of Bangladesh (Photo courtesy of wallpapersworldbd.com)

Bangladesh may not be a popular tourist destination but it is definitely a place that you should visit at least once in your lifetime. It is one of the most interesting countries I have visited so far- a perfect destination for anyone who loves to experience different cultures, traditions, and cuisines. As a travel addict and food adventurist, for me, this country is epic! But before you pack your things and fly to Bangladesh, it will be best if you must first know this few pointers. Here are a dozen of things that I believe you should know about this humble but very interesting country:

1. It is not a part of INDIA. It is a country.

I am sure most of you know this fact already; but I am also pretty sure that some still don’t. When I told some of my friends that I would be visiting Bangladesh, most of them thought I was going to India, including my Aussie best mate who eventually came with us in exploring the humble but very exciting country.

The  People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a country in South Asia, located on the fertile Bengal delta. It is bordered by the Republic of India almost all around it (to its north, west and east) except by the south-east which they share the borders with the Union of Myanmar (Burma). It is separated from the Democratic Republic of Nepal and the Kingdom of Bhutan by the narrow Indian Siliguri Corridor. Together with the neighboring Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura, it makes up the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. The name Bangladesh means “Country of Bengal” in the official Bengali language.

2. It is a Muslim Country, not Hindu.

Though it is the direct neighbor of India, thus making a huge contributor to its history, food, music, customs and traditions, and even language; religion tells a different story. About 90% of the people of Bangladesh practices Islam. It also has the fourth largest population of Muslims in the world. skin

 3. There is a dress code. Not much skin, please.

locals of sylhet in their normal wearing clothes. Long-sleeved shirts usually paired with their traditional lungi (similar to kilt) or trousers.

locals of Sylhet in their normal wearing clothes. Long-sleeved shirts usually paired with their traditional lungi (similar to kilt) or trousers.

I felt I was out-of-place when I arrived at the airport in Dhaka on my casual tee and a pair of walking shorts. I felt so under dressed big time! My outfit screams I am a foreigner and a first-timer in Bangladesh! I believe Bangladesh is one of the most conservative countries that I have visited so far. Women are usually dressed fully covered from shoulders to feet (some traditional locals have their heads even covered not to expose their hairs). Men usually wear long-sleeved shirts and pants (or lungi- their version of a kilt); some of them even top it with a sports coat even under the scorching sun. Kinda’ impressive, to be honest. If you plan to roam around in the streets of Bangladesh, I highly recommend following their dress code (most especially if you are a female). A normal blouse would work but it will be a lot better if you top it with a scarf to cover the shoulders, and perhaps the breast up to the neck.

4.  They love dancing. They really, really do.

In the Philippines- the country where I came from, singing is a big thing. Everyone loves to sing. For every family, there would definitely be one or two very good singers. In Bangladesh, it is a different story. Everyone just loves to dance! Whatever move you make, as long as it is with the beat (well, not really), it is well accepted. There are no awkward moves or whatsoever- as long as you are having fun, that’s it! Dancing is so big that it is one of the highlights of a traditional Bangladeshi wedding. We are fortunate to be invited to attend one, and man! It was epic! The celebration usually lasts for a week with heaps of music, fun, and dancing! There are special musical nights sandwiched in between formal receptions and proper ceremonies. How cool is that?

5. Bangladeshi sweets are divine!

assorted local sweets and pastries

assorted local sweets and pastries

Cuisine in general is somewhat similar to Indian food- savory, thick, and spicy. The food is very tasty that it creates a symphony of flavors in your mouth in every bite. Their version of Biryani is amazing and their curries are just perfect to tingle your palette’. What really got me though are their desserts! The variety of their after meal treats are just a piece of heaven! My personal favorites are the “Mitha Doi” (sweetened homemade yogurt), “Roshogolla” (sweetened fermented/curdled milk soaked with sugar water), and the Mishti Doi which I coined “Dhaka balls”. Golf ball sized sweets made up of milk, flour, ground nuts, and heluva’ ingredients I could not identify. These are must try! Trust me. So if you have a sweet tooth too, you will never be disappointed in this country. Their wide selection of sweet treats will definitely solve your cravings.

6. Bangladeshis normally eat with their bare hands.

This way of eating is not uniquely Bangladeshi since there are also few countries around the world that do this. Although cutleries are available upon request, expect some “stares” from the locals when you eat with a fork and a knife. According to my local Bangladeshi friends, it is not really rude to use cutleries since some of them actually do use them too in some occasions, but it is just a signal that loudly shouts to the rest of Bangladesh that you are a foreigner (of course, in addition to the fact that you look a bit different). I would recommend embracing the culture by enjoying your meals whilst in Bangladesh the traditional way. Just make sure to wash your hands properly! And since I already mentioned, “staring” on this entry, let us talk about it more in the next number.

7. The locals love to stare; and they stare a lot.

local rickshaw drivers in Gulhan, Dhaka

local rickshaw drivers in Gulhan, Dhaka

When we roamed around Dhaka, You will see a lot of people on the streets. Some of them selling different kinds of goods; some begging for alms; some just chilling; and some just staring, yes, just staring on something or at some point, at you. Trust me, when they stare at you, they do not mean to intimidate nor mean any harm. Perhaps because you look different, they were just amazed by your presence in their streets.  And since they actually already figured out that you are not from their country, then they become curious of where you came from or what brought you there.  They really make you feel you are the center of attention. Bangladesh is not really a popular tourist destination, therefore, locals are not really that used to see a lot of foreigners in their land. If you find yourself caught in the middle of locals staring at you, do not panic and do not be paranoid. They simply acknowledge your presence and perhaps making you feel at home.  I suggest do not stare back- just give them a warm smile, a friendly wave, and a nice “Hello”. You will be surprised on their sweet response after that.

8. “Tipping” may not be compulsory but widely practiced.

The local currency in Bangladesh is called "Taka"

The local currency in Bangladesh is called “Taka”

Prices of goods and services in Bangladesh is really cheap; so as the wages/salaries of the common people. Tipping the attendants, waiters, drivers, or butlers is highly recommended. Again, I would like to reiterate that it is not compulsory but it will be highly appreciated. Come on, an extra bucks for tips won’t really harm your wallet plus it is so worth it to give for the amount of hospitality and service that they will provide you.

 

9. Tobacco is dirt-cheap but Liquors and Beers are gold.

If you are a smoker, you will be very happy with the price of tobacco in this country. A pack of cigarettes costs just a little more than a dollar! Yes, that is how cheap “ciggies” are in this part of South Asia. Unfortunately, since it is a Muslim Country, alcoholic drinks are not really very common. Unlike in some countries where you can buy a six-pack of beers almost everywhere, alcoholic drinks are only available on lounges and bars in five-star hotels. No dude, you won’t find them on 7/11’s or in convenience stores and even if you do, they are very, very expensive.

 10. Moneychangers accept only Major currencies.

thIf you are from a country that is unheard of, I suggest that instead of your local currency; bring US dollars, British Pounds, or Euros with you. Although credit cards are widely accepted in stores and restaurants, cash will always be handy in street shops and fares. The local currency in Bangladesh is called Taka. In case you still have some Takas left after your trip, exchange them back to dollars before leaving the country. You might have a hard time looking for an outlet outside Bangladesh that would be willing to get your remaining Takas out of your hand.

11. Very Heavy Traffic and lots of Crazy Driving.

a normal day in the main streets of Dhaka

a normal day in the main streets of Dhaka

Traffic is not new to all of us, especially if you live in the city, but the traffic in Dhaka is one of the most challenging that I have seen so far. Try not to go near the main roads during peak hours and unless you would like to be stuck for a while sitting in your immobile car. Outside the city routes are equally challenging. Drivers drive fast and swerves a lot. They just love to overtake every vehicle ahead, which makes it like a real time “grand tourismo”.  Near death experiences happen every five minutes and close calls for collisions (like half and inch clearance between moving cars) are normal. If you are looking for a real adrenalin rush and thrilling adventure, take the front passenger seat of a passenger van or bus and enjoy the heart-pumping and unforgettable ride.

12. Bangladeshi People are excellent hosts.

the beautiful family that hosted us whilst in Bangladesh

the beautiful family that hosted us whilst in Bangladesh
(Sadid and Tanya 3rd and 4th from the right)

Hospitality at its finest- that is how I will describe it. The people are very warm, sincere, friendly, and kind. Our hosts (special shout out to Sadid Chowdhury and Tanya Ahmed and their amazing families, relatives, and friends) really made us feel very special and welcomed. They treated us not as friends when we were in Dhaka but as members of their family. Seriously, I have never experience that kind of hospitality and accommodation anywhere else. I am confident to say, we did not find friends in Bangladesh; we found a family.

the former President of Bangladesh during the reception night (Ashik and Sara Ahmed nuptial). He is a close friend of our host family. He too welcomed us to Bangladesh when we were introduced to him.

the former President of Bangladesh during the reception night (Ashik and Sara Ahmed nuptial). He is a close friend of our host family. He too welcomed us to Bangladesh when we were introduced to him.

Categories: Bangladesh, Travel, Uncategorized, Unique Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Best Bistro in Bangladesh: Cilantro Cafe and Mediterranean Restaurant

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If you found yourself lost in the middle of Dhaka, Bangladesh looking for a place to eat, go to Cilantro! This new restaurant located in the heart of Dhanmondi is the latest craze for local food lovers and foreigners alike.  With its very interesting and unique concept, it is a perfect place for food trippers and food adventurists searching for an extraordinary dining experience. They provide a wide variety of cuisines made from fresh ingredients and spices for an authentic and exceptional gastronomic dining. To be honest, this place is one of the most impressive restaurants I have seen in my traveling career. The Zen-like ambiance is surreal which is made possible by the intricately designed contemporary interiors; the perfect chiaroscuro of natural lighting and genius use of empty bottles as lamps and chandeliers; and the soothing noise-free-nothing-loud house music. The place is surely perfect, and their food, OMG! The fusion of western, mediterranean,and local cuisines in their menu will surely bring you to Nirvana in every bite. Exceptionally delicious!  Hat’s off, their food is simply divine!

Starters

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Chicken Lollipops with Homemade sweet chili sauce

We started our incredible dining experience with their signature chicken lollipops and very famous homemade fries. The chicken nugget style appetizer infused with lemon grass and local spices; dipped in their special sweet chili sauce is really the perfect introduction to the entire dining showdown. Shoot it down in between bites of their homemade fries dunked on the special garlic dip! Dude, you will really feel you are a Champ!

Main Entrée’

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The famous Thai Platter

We tried a variety of dishes when we went to Cilantro for a late lunch. Their bestseller Thai Platter is superb and definitely one of the best dishes in the menu. I just love the fusion of flavors that plays in your palette. The perfectly grilled chicken satay served with freshly made potato chips and homemade peanut sauce on the side will make you think twice if you really are in Bangladesh.  If you are a certified carnivore, this is also the perfect place for you!

Perfectly grilled Ribeye steak

According to some of my reliable sources, they serve the best steak in town, and I could not agree less! For steak lovers, their rib-eye steak grilled-the-way-you-like-it is seriously very tender and tasty! A genuine sumptuous meal that will make you forget about your diet. All of their steaks are served with their version of Java rice and some buttered veggies on the sides. Also, try their chicken grilled in extra savory barbecue sauce. The sweet and savory bestseller will explain itself why it became a bestseller.

Desserts

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The classic chocolate cupcake

I’m a big fan of desserts- that is why I agreed on the label written below their dessert menu: Never dessert desserts. For chocoholics, you have to try their mouth-watering chocolate brownie shots! These are shot glasses filled to the rim with very moist half-cooked dark chocolate brownie mixture with heaps of melted marshmallows and groundnuts. Also try their signature home-baked cupcakes available in different varieties and flavors! After these sweet treats, you will really be saying to yourself, I am happy I did not dessert their desserts.

 Beverages

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The very refreshing pink pineapple signature drink

Pink is not really my favorite color but their Pink Pineapple and the Pink lemonade really got me bigtime. I just love the fruity slash citrusy slash zesty taste of these two drinks. They sweetened them perfectly that you will still taste every flavor they infused on your drink. Truly refreshing! Also try their tamarind base drink and the mojito, which I heard to be two of their most popular mixes.

If you feel like injecting a little bit of caffeine in your system, their coffee selection will take care of that. Their freshly brewed imported and local coffee beans make a perfect cup of Americano or Cappuccino!

The total dining experience is Cilantro is truly remarkable and extraordinary. The perfect ambiance paired with their world-class signature dishes brought this cozy restaurant in the pedestal in terms of food and dining in Bangladesh. With this, I give the Cilantro Restaurant 9.5 claps out of 10. Bravo!

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Cilantro is located at 49 Satmasjid Road, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh. They are open from 12pm to 11pm daily (except Fridays: 5pm-11pm). They accept all major credit cards.

Categories: Bangladesh, Food, Restaurants/Cafe/Bistro, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where to stay in Japan (Complete Accommodation Guide)

 

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Japan offers a wide range of accommodation types in both Japanese and Western styles, including some unconventional forms such as capsule hotels and temple lodgings. Rates range from less than 2,000 yen per person in a dormitory to over 25,000 yen per person in a first class hotel or ryokan. Below is a list of accommodation types with typical overnight rates:

Low Budget

Dormitories

1,000 to 3,000 yen per person

Dormitories, usually housed in older buildings, can mainly be found in large cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Many dormitories offer women-only rooms.

Hostels (more details)

2,500 to 4,000 yen per person

Hostels offer lodging and meals at the lowest budget level. Japan Youth Hostels, a member of the International Youth Hostel Federation, operates more than 300 hostels across Japan. 

 

Unique Lodgings


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Capsule Hotels

3,000 to 4,000 yen per person

Mainly targeting a male clientele in need of nothing but a bed, capsule hotels accommodate their guests in small capsules. A television, a shared bathroom and coin lockers are usually provided.

 

Love Hotels (more details)

6,000 to 12,000 yen per room and overnight stay

Not meant as tourist lodgings, love hotels are visited by couples who wish to enjoy some undisturbed time together. Rooms at love hotels can be rented for 2-3 hours during the day or for an overnight stay.

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Temple Lodgings

3,000 to 10,000 yen per person

It is possible for tourists to spend the night at some Buddhist temple lodgings (shukubo). A stay often includes two vegetarian meals and the opportunity to join the morning prayers. One of the best places to experience a night at a temple is Mount Koya.

Japanese Style

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6,000 to 30,000 yen per person

Ryokan are traditional Japanese style inns with Japanese style rooms. A stay at a ryokan typically includes dinner and breakfast and is recommended to all travelers to Japan as it gives you the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese lifestyle.

Minshuku (more details)

4,000 to 10,000 yen per person

Minshuku are Japanese style “bed and breakfast” lodgings. They are usually family run, offer Japanese style rooms, and often include one or two meals in the price.

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Japanese Apartments and Houses (more details)

10,000 to 50,000 yen per apartment/house

An increasingly popular, but still relatively rare type of accommodation (currently mainly available in Tokyo and Kyoto) are entire apartments or houses offered to foreign tourists for short term stays to experience a true everyday lifestyle. On offer are apartments with traditional or modern interior, as well as restored historic houses. 

Western Style

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Western Style Hotels

8,000 to 50,000 yen per room

Western style hotels, including various international and Japanese hotel chains, can be found across Japan, especially in the larger cities.

Business Hotels (more details)

5,000 to 10,000 yen per room

Business hotels offer small, simple Western style rooms with snacks and drinks provided by vending machines. Some business hotel chains, such as Route Inn, APA Hotel, Super Hotel and Toyoko Inn, operate dozens of hotels across Japan.

 

Pensions

4,000 to 12,000 yen per person

Pensions are comparable to minshuku (see above), except that they offer rooms in Western style rather than in Japanese style. They often include one or two meals. 

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Longer stays

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Weekly and Monthly Apartments (more details)

From 40,000 yen per month

Apartments and shared apartments, rented on a weekly or monthly basis (sometimes even on a daily basis), are among the most inexpensive ways of staying in Japan for an extended period. Several companies have emerged which specifically target a foreigners in Japan.

note: all entries on this post are taken from the official japan travel guide website (www.japan-guide.com).

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Transportation in Japan (Complete Guide)

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Japan has an efficient public transportation network, especially within metropolitan areas and between the large cities. Japanese public transportation is characterized by its punctuality, its superb service, and the large crowds of people using it.

Railways

Trains The best way to travel in Japan.

Shinkansen Japan’s high speed train (bullet train).

Night Trains About Japanese sleeper trains.

Taking the train How to use Japanese trains.

Timetables About printed and online train timetables.

Guide to Train Tickets Details on regular and discount train tickets.

Rail Passes A list of the best rail passes in Japan.

Japan Rail Pass Unlimited, nationwide train travel for foreign tourists.

Seishun 18 Kippu Cheap ticket for unlimited travel on local trains.

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 Airplanes

International Air Travel About international air travel to Japan.

Domestic Air Travel About domestic air travel in Japan.

Discount Air Tickets A list of discount air tickets and offers.

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Buses

Bus How to use local, short-distance buses.

Highway Bus About long-distance buses.

Japan Bus Pass About the pass for long distance bus travel.

Ships

Domestic Ferries About ferry routes between Japan’s islands.

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Cars

Car Rental About renting a car in Japan.

Driving in Japan About driving a car in Japan

Highways About Japan’s network of expressways.

Taxi Japanese taxis.

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Regional Transportation Pages

Transportation in Tokyo

Transportation in Sapporo

Transportation in Yokohama

Transportation in Nagoya

Transportation in Osaka

Transportation in Kyoto

Transportation in Kobe

Transportation in Hiroshima

Transportation in Fukuoka Narita Airport (Tokyo)

Haneda Airport (Tokyo)

Kansai Airport (Osaka)

Itami Airport (Osaka)

Central Japan Airport (Nagoya)

Kobe Airport

Shizuoka Airport

Komatsu Airport

More Transportation Related Pages

Bicycles About everyday bicycles.

Survey: Commuting Survey about daily commuting.

Rush hours About the rush hours in Japanese cities.

Platform jingles About Tokyo’s platform jingles.

Budget Travel Advice on saving money on your Japan trip.

Tour Packages About individual and guided package tours.

note: entries on this post were all from teh official japan travel guide website (www.japan-guide.com)

Categories: Uncategorized, Travel, Trains, Japan, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Food is Divine!

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One of the things that Japan is so popular about is the Food. As a traveler and an adventurist, Foodtrip is always part of the itinerary. Sushi is obviously the main food attraction, and i would say, it really deserves to be one! Sashimi and Tempura will make you forget your name while Beef Yakiniku will let you remember it again as the tender juicy meat melts in your mouth. Ramen and Yakisoba will leave you teary eyed after gulping the sake in one shot. I may be a little biased since Japanese food is my personal favorite, but, it is not enough to say that Japan really is  one of the most “delicious” countries in the world!

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Things you need to know about TOKYO!

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In the eyes of a backpacker, Tokyo is the modern Japan. You will see the advancement of this nation in technology when you visit this very busy capital. They say that your trip in Japan will never be complete without trying to cross at the Shibuya Crossing- the busiest street in the World. Approximately one million people walk down that pavement everyday. Unbelievable but true. If you are an anime’ fan. Visit Akahibara. This is also where gadgets-too-good-to-be-true are found. Yes, this is the kinda’ “techy” place in Japan. I strongly recommend that if you’re in Tokyo, maximize on modernity attractions, just like how Lonely Planet suggested it.

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Tokyo is Japan’s capital and the world’s most populous metropolis. It is also one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, consisting of 23 central city wards and multiple cities, towns and villages west of the city center. The Izu and Ogasawara Islands are also part of Tokyo. Prior to 1868, Tokyo was known as Edo. A small castle town in the 16th century, Edo became Japan’s political center in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government there. A few decades later, Edo had grown into one of the world’s most populous cities. With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the emperor and capital moved from Kyoto to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo (“Eastern Capital”). Large parts of Tokyo were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and in the air raids of 1945. Today, Tokyo offers a seemingly unlimited choice of shopping, entertainment, culture and dining to its visitors. The city’s history can be appreciated in districts such as Asakusa, and in many excellent museums, historic temples and gardens. Contrary to common perception, Tokyo also offers a number of attractive green spaces in the city center and within relatively short train rides at its outskirts.

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Shibuya is one of the twenty-three city wards of Tokyo, but often refers to just the popular shopping and entertainment area found around Shibuya Station. In this regard, Shibuya is one of Tokyo‘s most colorful and busy districts, packed with shopping, dining and nightclubs serving swarms of visitors that come to the district everyday. Shibuya is a center for youth fashion and culture, and its streets are the birthplace to many of Japan’s fashion and entertainment trends. Over a dozen major department store branches can be found around the area catering to all types of shoppers. Most of the area’s large department and fashion stores belong to either Tokyu or Seibu, two competing corporations. Center Gai at night A prominent landmark of Shibuya is the large intersection in front of the station’s Hachiko Exit. The intersection is heavily decorated by neon advertisements and giant video screens and gets flooded by pedestrians each time the crossing light turns green, making it a popular photo and movie filming spot. Shibuya Station and surroundings will be undergoing major redevelopment over the coming years. On the east side of the station, a new large culture, shopping and office complex, the Shibuya Hikarie, opened in spring 2012. The Tokyu Toyoko Line platforms will be moved to the underground, which will enable through traffic with the Fukutoshin Subway Line from spring 2013. This will be followed by a major redevelopment of the Shibuya Station building, including the move of the platforms of the JR Saikyo Line next to the platforms of the JR Yamanote Line. Furthermore, the pedestrian plaza on the west side of the station will be enlarged and made more pedestrian friendly in combination with a rearrangement of the bus and taxi stops.

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Akihabara, also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo, that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan’s otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. Akihabara has also been undergoing some major redevelopment recently with the addition of the Akihabara Crossfield complex aimed at promoting Akihabara as a center for global electronics technology and trade, and a major renovation of Akihabara Station and surroundings. On Sundays, the main street is closed to car traffic from 13:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October through March). Side streets lined by electronics shops and maid cafes Electronics Hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from tiny one man stalls specializing in a particular electronic component to large electronics retailers, line the main Chuo Dori street and the crowded side streets around Akihabara. They offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods and electronic junk. A few chain stores, such as Sofmap, Ishimaru and Laox, each operate multiple specialized branches along the main roads, while small independent shops can be found in the side streets. The only mega sized store is the Yodobashi Camera complex on the east side of the station. Note that some of the electronics on sale are only intended for use in Japan due to voltage and other technical differences, Japanese language documentation and limited warranties. However, several stores also feature a selection of international models intended for overseas use, and most also offer duty free shopping to foreign tourists on purchases of over 10,000 yen (passport required).

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Asakusa is the center of Tokyo‘s shitamachi (literally “low city”), one of Tokyo’s districts, where an atmosphere of the Tokyo of past decades survives. Asakusa’s main attraction is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries. Asakusa can easily be explored on foot. Alternatively, you can consider a guided tour on a rickshaw (jinrikisha, literally “man powered vehicle”). A 30 minute tour for two persons costs around 8000 yen. Shorter and longer courses are also available. Dempoin Dori (Dempoin Street) For many centuries, Asakusa used to be Tokyo‘s leading entertainment district. During the Edo Period (1603-1867), when the district was still located outside the city limits, Asakusa was the site of kabuki theaters and a large red light district. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, modern types of entertainment, including movie theaters, set foot in Asakusa. However, large parts of Asakusa were destroyed in the air raids of World War Two. And while the area around the rebuilt Sensoji has regained its former popularity after the war, the same cannot be said for Asakusa’s entertainment district. The opening of the 634 meter tall Tokyo Skytree, a twenty minute walk across the Sumida River from Asakusa, has led to an increase of tourists recently.

note: entries on this post were lifted from the official website of travel japan

Categories: Japan, Tourist spots, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Four Destinations in Japan

 
 
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TOKYO: In the eyes of a backpacker, this is the modern Japan. You will see the advancement of this nation in technology when you visit this very busy capital. They say that your trip in Japan will never be complete without trying to cross at the Shibuya Crossing- the busiest street in the World. Approximately one million people walk down that pavement everyday. Unbelievable but true. If you are an anime’ fan. Visit Akahibara. This is also where gadgets-too-good-to-be-true are found. Yes, this is the kinda’ “techy” place in Japan. I strongly recommend that if you’re in Tokyo, maximize on modernity attractions, just like how Lonely Planet suggested it.

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KYOTO: for me, this is the “old and real” Japan and this is where I met a real Maiko (apprentice Geisha) –considered as one of the highlights of my trip. Great Temples and gardens here are cheaper by the dozen too. I strongly recommend that you visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. A very unique place shaded by the calmness and grace of tall bamboo grass. The Golden Pavilion will also amaze you, for sure.  If you have plenty of time, walk by the path of Philosophy. At night, stroll the streets of Gion, and if you are lucky enough like me, you might meet a Maiko who will be willing to pose with you in front of the camera. 

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HIROSHIMA: this is where is saw one of the best scenic icons i have seen in my life. From Hiroshima proper, i took the ferry to Miyijima.  The Floating Torii Gate will take your breath away. I found a good spot with the perfect view… truly, conducive to reflect and daydream!  I sat on one of the bench that faces the sea and the torii, the serenity and  ambiance-  undeniably perfect. The “almost seven hour trip” from Tokyo via Shinkansen is more than worth it.  By the way, do not forget to check the A-dome freedom park, right at the center of Hiroshima. The Museum is also a must see. one of the best and “touchiest” I’ve seen so far.   

 

 

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NIKKO: it was snowing when i visited this place. Though very cold, i can’t help but be astonished and mesmerized by this UNESCO site. Yes, the whole area  is a world heritage site. Truly amazing. Magical and Beautiful. The snow that caps the wooden torii and the five-storey pagoda is like magic dust that transformed the whole place into wonderland. The temples and gardens are just so magnificent. By the way, when you get to Nikko, instead of taking the bus to the site (from the station),i suggest that you walk. It’s about 45 minutes by foot from the station to the temples. With this, you will not miss the red bridge. You will understand what i mean. When you get there. Remember, from the station, WALK. Do not take the bus.

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Categories: Japan, Tourist spots, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Two Autumn and Three Winter Nights in BEIJING!

Two Autumn and Three Winter Nights in BEIJING!.

Categories: Beijing, China, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Japan- the country that gave me my biggest travel disappointment

Japan.

“of all the places that I’ve seen, Japan gave me my biggest travel disappointment…”

Since I was young, one of my dream destinations is the “land of the rising sun”. I am always fascinated with its uniqueness and culture. I am always amazed with its modern hype and technology. And, I  am always craving for its food!

I was fortunate to have the chance to explore this  wonderful country. My sole intention was just to site-see… but, surprisingly, I experienced more to what I was expecting. Yes, Japan really has all the things a traveler is looking for:  perfect views, unique culture, nice people, diverse attractions, and of course, good food.  Although, one might hesitate to plan a trip to Japan because of the cliché that everything in Japan is expensive, I am telling you, that idea is half-baked. I might somewhat agree to that statement, but, I assure you that whatever amount that will come out of your pocket there, i am 100% sure it’s worth it. Simple explanation: “what you pay, is what you get”. 

When I was planning for my trip, I had a very hard time making my itinerary. I was so eager to see all the places and sites, unfortunately, I have a pretty limited time. I did my best efforts to squeeze in all the attractions and sites into my month long trip schedule. It’s just impossible to see all the attractions of Japan in just thirty days, so , I have no choice but to rank them all according to my interest so I can eliminate the least. It was a tough decision to make,  and I’m quite sure every traveler had experienced this dilemma.

 One very important thing to consider is the budget. Since I know that the prices in Japan is quite higher than most other countries, I took note of the value of my prepared money for Japan. It will for sure lose its value or purchasing power dramatically when I get there.

I would like to see all the best places in Japan (those who survived my list, of course), and mind you, these places aren’t located in just one area.  With the vast land territory, its gems are scattered on different areas. Therefore, expect to have lots of transfers and travelings from one site to the other. What’s good is that Japan has a very wide array of transportation means… and all of its major areas are interconnected with a sophisticated railway system.  With this in mind, I decided to avail of the Japan Rail Pass.   This all-in-one passport for all JR trains (which includes the shinkansen or bullet trains), buses and ferries under the JR Company will give you an unlimited access for seven days (14 and 21 days are also available). The price of which is very reasonable that it is only a couple thousand yen more compared to the price of one round-trip shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Osaka. Imagine, unlimited access to all JR public transport for two weeks! This is one of the great deals that I recommend and must-haves if  you are planning to go to Japan.

If there are three places in Japan (aside from Tokyo) that you should never miss, it should be Hiroshima, Nikko, and Kyoto. Tokyo will present you a showcase of hype and tech which is considered the present and modern Japan while Kyoto will indulge you into its intact culture and ambiance.  The world heritage sites of Nikko will take your breath away while the calmness and serenity embedded in the historic place of Hiroshima will touch your heart. (an extensive discussion on these places is posted as a separate entry).

One of the things that Japan is so popular about is the Food. As a traveler and food adventurist, “Foodtrip” is always part of the itinerary. Sushi is obviously the main food attraction, and I would say, it really deserves to be one! Sashimi and Tempura will make you forget your name while Beef Yakiniku will let you remember it again as the tender juicy meat melts in your mouth. Ramen and Yakisoba will leave you teary eyed after gulping the sake in one shot. I may be a little biased since Japanese food is my personal favorite, but, it is not enough to say that Japan really is  one of the most “delicious” countries in the world!

 

Over-all, my experiences and adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun were remarkable. May it be sites, sounds, people, or food… Japan just got me. and I voluntarily and helplessly fell for everything  it offered.

So,you may be wondering why did I say that Japan gave me my biggest travel disappointment? simply because she has a lot more to offer and I am already too amazed and stunned! I was disappointed that I did not have enough time to see everything. I was disappointed because I should have insisted in inviting my other friends and family to join me in exploring it,. now, I feel so shabby of not pushing the luck that deprived them to see and experience the magic of Japan. 

 I was not stunned by its beauty and diversion…  because I  was moved. I was not welcomed well as a tourist by the Japanese…  because they treated me as a friend.  I was not completely happy and satisfied with what i experienced in Japan… because I would like to experience more. Yes, in short and simple language, in my short stay in the “land of the rising sun”, I fell in love with  it.

Japan, I believe, is a place one MUST see and experience.

Absolutely amazing.  

Truly unique .

Simply  Extraordinary.

” of all the places that I’ve seen, Japan gave me my biggest travel disappointment… but, i think you are an idiot if you will not see it even just once in your life…”

Categories: Japan, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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