Greece 2019

Yes I love Greece. I have written about it back in 2016. Now I will recap on my 2018 trip and write about my recent Apr/May 2019 trip before I forget about it.

In summary, in 2016 I went during the Greek Orthodox Easter to Santorini and Mykonos (link). Then, I went back to Santorini and visit a new island, Naxos (link). Recently, I visited Crete and I also went during Greek Orthodox Easter (link).

I took a leap of faith and went by Scoot Airlines from Singapore to Athens, direct flight for about 11 hours ish. The flight was delayed by 2 hours ish and arrived at Athens about 12 ish in the afternoon.

My domestic flight to Heraklion Crete was planned 4 hours after my original arrival time. So in a nutshell, I almost missed my connecting flight. In any case, this post is not about my flight experience.

Upon arrival at Crete, I had booked an automatic car online with super insurance cover with a third party agent. Their rates were cheaper and I had used them before in Kaoshiung Taiwan. It was easy to pick up the car to begin my journey.

An overview of my car journey:

 

We stayed in Elounda on the first day of Greek Orthodox Easter, ate lamb for Easter celebrations and joined in the mass at the church.

We took advantage of the nearby jetty and went Spinalonga on our own. It was best to visit before 11am or after 2pm to avoid the tourist crowd. The round trip boat ride was 12 euros per pax and the entrance to Spinalonga was 8 euros.

Then we proceeded to Elafonisi for their famous pink beach. It was a long ride with winding mountains and costal roads. Some of the roads were only wide enough for one car but the road were supposed to be for bi-directional. At some of the bends, it was not easy to see any oncoming cars so pls drive slowly and be alert at all times. As for petrol stations, it was easy to find them so no worries on petrol.

When I was reading up on the pink beach, this hotel came up in a few articles. After my own findings, I also booked this hotel, Elafonisi Resort by the Kalomirakis Family. From the hotel, we walked to the pink beach. Upon check out the following day, we drove up to the pink beach. The pink beach was beautiful and the sunset was mesmerizing.

We had dinner at the hotel and it was fabulous. When we checked out the following day, we had brunch at the nearby restaurant, Innchorion. We also saw many other nearby restaurants and they also had rooms for rent. So it seemed like it was easy to pop by Elafonisi for an overnight stay.

After our lunch, we continued our journey to Chania and we stayed at their old town.

 

Then we went back to Heraklion and stayed at their city centre.

 

Finally we returned the car back to the airport and flew back to Athens to stay one night. We had dinner overlooking at Acropolis, it was nice.

Advertisements

Greece 2018

This trip was to revisit Santorini and to check off some of the places which I wanna try out.

At Fira, we stayed at Nisso Thira which was nearby bus station. This time we used the public bus to explore Santorini.

Then we changed hotel to Lilium suite which was right outside the pool.

Then we went up the hills to Sophie Suites Aurora cave suite.

Then we went to nearby to White Deck Honeymoon suite.

Finally taking the trustworthy seajets to Naxos and stayed at Iria Beach Art which was right on Agia Anna Beach.

We also managed to try/revisit Mama, Lucky souvalaki, Aktaion at Firastefanie, Obelix, Senor Zobra, Avocado, Anogi, Mezzo @ Santorini and Gorgona Tavern and Akroiali @ Naxos

Then we flew back to Athens.

Hai-Sai Okinawa again

You can read my previous trip to Okinawa here

IMG_1128.PNG

A few months later (to be exact 4 mths) and a few trips in between, I am back to Okinawa.

Yes, it is the typhoon season and Kansai area had been hit badly by Typhoon Jebi.

Also, this weekend, Typhoon Trami will be landing. Take care folks!

Throughout my Okinawa trip in September, I only experienced light showers on and off and sunny weather. But the trip to the beaches was not as ideal. However I still can snorkel and dive in the nice Okinawa oceans.IMG_1309

As always, I rented a car from the same rental company upon arrival, requested the lady to change the GPS setting to English. I also managed to find some nice, some new places to stay at only $50ish/night. At the same time, I could utilise my SPG/Marriot member to stay at some other nicer resorts but I rather not.

In my opinion, there are many tourists’ attractions in Okinawa but if you are not driving then you may have difficulty to visit these places in a day.

If you have limited time, I recommend these places to visit.

Okinawa World & Gyokusendo Cave  (near airport area)

Usually after the visit in the morning, I recommend Ashibinaa Premier Outlet which is nearby.

Churaumi Aquarium (far away from the airport)

There are day trips buses but having a car is easier as most of all the parking is free and the highway toll is not very expensive.

For me, I will plan in such a way that my last leg of my trip, I will stay at Kokusai-dori area and this is also the area whereby I will return the car. Then on the way back to airport, I can choose to take the monorail train or taxi, a taxi ride will cost about $20.

I am planning a trip back soon!

Hai-Sai Okinawa 4D3N

Earlier this year during CNY, I was planning to visit Okinawa via Bangkok using budget airlines. Then Jetstar started their direct flight service so it was a no brainer to fly from BKK.

In the end, I visited Koh Tao Island (link) during CNY and bought direct flight to Okinawa for May. I try to avoid the peak period which is also the typhoon season.

There are many blogs on Okinawa but mostly in Chinese so I decided to blog a quick entry, citing the important need-to-know details.

The red-eye flight arrived at Naha airport about 8ish in the morning. I collected my GoGo pass at the airport and proceeded to locate the car rental staff, then directed me to the free shuttle bus to the car rental company, about 15mins drive away.

PS: I will update this blog with more photos later. Yes it has been updated. TQVM

What’s GoGo pass?

It is a pass whereby I can visit several places of interests at a discounted price. I bought the GoGo pass + Churaumi Aquarium for about $35/pax (very worth it!). Else I would have to pay 6430yen/pax for everything. I visited all the places of interests except for the Southeast Botanical Garden which was not in line of my driving plan.

Car Rental & GPS

The staff at the car rental company speaks English and you have to read some traffic signs explanation and re-confirm your drop-off location. Depending on which drop-off location, the staff will advise you the nearest petrol station to pump petrol before returning the car.

The GPS installed in the car was easy to use and accurate. But first, ask the staff to change the language to English for you. As for the location, you can enter the map-code (if you have), else the phone number of the destination will be easier.

For example, you search for Churaumi Aquarium on Google Map and it will shows you the telephone number as +81 980-48-3748, you just have to enter 0-980-48-3748 onto the GPS.

>> Picture above showing directions to Neo Park

One of my destinations, which is my hotel at Nago, does not work so I just use Google Map for directions and it is accurate too.

Here is an overview of my 4D3N driving plan:

Google map list here

Day 1

After collecting the rental car, took the expressway towards Nago and the toll was 640yen (paid in cash). The maximum speed was 80kmh and it was an easy drive.

We went for lunch at Nakamura Soba (+81 98-966-8005, enter 0 98-966-8005 onto GPS)

then visited Cape Manzamo, 5 mins drive away (+81 98-966-1280, enter 0 98-966-1280 onto the GPS)

After, we proceeded towards Nago area. We visited Neo Park (+81 980-52-6348, enter 0 980-52-6348 onto GPS)

then Okinawa Fruitsland (+81 980-52-1568, enter 0 980-52-1568 onto GPS)

then Pineapple Park (+81 980-53-3659 enter 0 980-53-3659 onto GPS).

Nearby Pineapple park, there was this hundred thousand years old house which was a restaurant: Ufuya (+81 980-53-0280, enter 0 980-53-0280 onto GPS). Their dinner opening hours began at 6pm and we wanted to reach there before 6pm. But we only reached at about 6.15pm then we proceeded to take a Q number. The estimated waiting time was 80mins but we got our seats 30 mins later. We ordered their specialty Agu Pork Shabu Shabu and it was available despite with no reservations. It was delicious.

A word of caution

Getting to Ufuya was not as easy because it was driving into a bendy hill road. When we finished our dinner at about 8ish, the skies was already dark and the bendy hill road was of low visibility. So please switch on your high beam and drive slowly.

We then proceeded to check into Mr Kinjo at Nago using Google Map because the phone number does not generate a destination on the GPS. It was a fantastic property and we booked it for $40ish per night. The parking was 1000yen per night.

We booked this place because we wanted to visit the Churaumi Aquarium on the next morning which was about 30mins drive away.

Day 2

We left Mr Kinjo at Nago around 9+, went to Churaumi Aquarium (+81 980-48-3748, you just have to enter 0-980-48-3748 onto the GPS), for whale shark and dolphin show.

We watched the Dolphin show at 1pm then made our way back to the car park.

A Tip for you

Please park at P7 Parking Lot which is nearest to Churaumi Aquarium entrance.

From Churaumi Aquarium, we visited the Ryugujo butterfly park (+81 980-48-3456, enter 0 980-48-3456 onto the GPS) nearby.

Then on the way down south, we stopped by the souvenir shop http://www.okashigoten.co.jp (+81 98-982-3388, enter 0 98-982-3388 onto the GPS). It was actually nearby the Nakamura Soba.

Then we proceeded to visit Ryukyu Village (+81 98-965-1234, enter 0 98-965-1234 onto the GPS). Over here, if you have time you can also visit the Blue Cave & Cape Maeda.

Then we visited Murasaki Mura (+81 98-958-1111, enter 0 98-958-1111 onto the GPS) and you can also visit Cape Zanpa if you have time.

Then we went to American Village (+81 98-936-6333, enter 0 98-936-6333 onto the GPS).

Finally we proceeded to Naha for check in at Hotel WBF Art Stay. Their parking was just besides the hotel at 1000yen per night. You will have to pay at the hotel reception; else you pay at the car park exit for 300yen/hr parking. You can also park slightly further away for 750yen per day parking. The hotel can provide you with more information. This hotel was in a good location, within walking distance to Donki/Pablo/Macdonalds and the walking street. The hotel was also 10mins walk away from the Makishi station.

Day 3

We left the hotel around 11+am, went to Okinawa World (+81 98-949-7421, enter 0 98-949-7421 onto the GPS), paid 700yen/pax extra (excluded in GoGo pass) to visit the Gyokusendo caves, watched Eisa Dance at 2.30pm.

>> you will have to go down stairs to the cave then is a flat ground to stroll through the cave. At the end of road, there is an escalator to bring you back to the ground.

then went to Ashibinaa Outlet Mall (+81 98-891-6000, enter 0 98-891-6000 onto the GPS).

Finally we headed back to return the rental car by 8pm at Kokusai-dori, nearby Hotel WBF Art Stay. As advised by the car rental, we pumped up petrol nearby Omoromachi Station then returned car at CARGOES Shopping near Makishi station.

A Tip for you

At the petrol station, the pump attendant will assist you. You just have to inform him you want to pump regular petrol for full tank. S/he will ask if you want to pay cash. Then you will pay him/her cash on the spot. S/he will go to the cashier on your behalf and then return you the change. Please retain the receipt as the car rental may ask for proof of pumping petrol.

Driving in Okinawa

On expressway, the maximum speed is 80kmh.

On other roads, mostly 50kmh and some can be 30-40kmh. Some of the other roads can go up to be 60kmh. If you think you have miss a turn, you can make a left turn and turn one round to go back. Else if the traffic allows, you can make a 3-point turn. Else but not if, turn into some parking area and turn towards the correct direction.

Most of the roads are one way and the traffic lights can change back to red very quickly.

Be prepared to go slow because there are many downslopes and curves.

A Tip for you

Always stop for pedestrian crossing and signal early, the other drivers will allow you to pass through.

Parking in Okinawa

For our trip, we only paid 2000yen for parking which was for the two nights parking at hotels. All the places of interests, shopping areas and restaurants have free parking

Day 4

On our departure day, we asked the reception to call us a taxi to go to the Naha Airport. The estimated fare was 2000yen and we only paid 1530yen and only took us 10mins.

I hope the above information can give you a quick overview.

For now, I am planning for my next trip whereby I can include more sea activities.

More Tips

Pls weigh your luggage before checking in at the airport. This is because you will need to screen your check in luggage before checking in. You are not allowed to repack after screening.

  Summary of places Telephone No. to enter onto GPS
1 Nakamura Soba 0 98-966-8005
2 Cape Manzamo 0 98-966-1280
3 Neo Park 0 980-52-6348
4 Okinawa Fruitsland 0 980-52-1568
5 Pineapple Park 0 980-53-3659
6 Ufuya 0 980-53-0280
7 Churaumi Aquarium 0 980-48-3748
8 Ryugujo butterfly park 0 980-48-3456
9 Souvenir shop http://www.okashigoten.co.jp 0 98-982-3388
10 Ryukyu Village 0 98-965-1234
11 Murasaki Mura 0 98-958-1111
12 American Village 0 98-936-6333
13 Okinawa World 0 98-949-7421
14 Ashibinaa Outlet Mall 0 98-891-6000

See my next trip to Oki here

Harbin Ice Trip 2018

Yeah, I fast forward this post. I will post about my 11 days trip to Seoul during winter later.

———————-

Finally I have decided to make the trip to Harbin. This is because of the recent direct Scoot flight from Singapore.

I also have decided to write this post in a easy to read manner.

This is written for 2018 Harbin Snow & Ice World (冰雪大世界). I went on the official opening day 5 Jan and I went again on 6 Jan.

Be prepared:

Once you land in Harbin Taiping Airport, you will need to walk down the stairs (outdoor) then transfer into a bus.

As we all know, even the normal day temperature is always below 0 deg C. So pls bring along some of your winter wear on your hand carry. You can wear the rest of the winter wear after you collect your luggage.

Airport taxi/bus

You can easily find taxi outside the airport. The taxi fare from airport to Central Street (中央大街) is about 130-160RMB.

For me, I have time so I use the airport bus.

If you land at the international Arrival, you can use the free mini bus transfer to domestic airport. This is because the airport bus departs from the domestic airport.

The fare is 20RMB and you will need to buy the ticket at the bus station inside the domestic Arrival airport. For me, my hotel is at Central Street so I will take Airport Line 3.

Usually the bus will leave when it is full so you may need to wait for a while.

The bus is fast, it takes about 40mins to reach Central Street. The drop-off point is opposite Central Street entrance. You will see Holiday Inn hotel as your landmark.

For the return trip to airport, the boarding area is opposite the drop off point when you arrive. The bus timing is pretty unpredictable but give and take, every half hour frequency.

Don’t be alarmed when the airport bus arrives and there are no more seats. This is because Central Street boarding area is the last few stops before reaching the airport. There are plenty of taxis around the boarding area and they will offer you car-pooling. If you are a party of 3/4 then it will be easier to just take a taxi. The car pooling rate is about 30-40RMB/pax. The toll for taxi to enter airport is 30RMB so it will/will not be included into the fare.

Airport bus timing

The signage at the drop-off and boarding bus stop is the same. As I have mentioned earlier the timing is not really accurate. So try to have enough time if you intend to take the airport bus.

Places to stay

For me I choose to stay at Ibis nearby Sophia Church, along Zhaolin road. This is excellent choice for me because I have paid $70/night (no breakfast). The room is heated, spacious and plenty of space to walk around. The reception is 24hrs and you can store your luggage with them if you need to go on tour such as Snow Town (雪乡) which usually requires 2D1N. It is located inside a shopping centre and just besides Central street. It is also within walking distance to the Ice sculpture park, a smaller scale exhibition compared to the Snow & Ice World (冰雪大世界) and Sophia Church.

I also have look around, there are plenty of hotels/motels around so no worries on accommodation. But if you are here during peak season, it will be wiser to make reservations.

Simcard/Wifi

At the hotel, their wifi is very good and I can even watch Korean drama using Chinese app.

If you need FB/Google/Whatsapp services, then you can either pay for VPN or use a roaming simcard.

If you are using wifi, you can use this substitute app.

  • Google Map – Baidu Map
  • Internet Browser – Baidu
  • WhatsApp – WeChat

Activities

Majority of the winter season tourists are here for the snow and ice festival.

There are many choices:

1. You can take tours from agents whereby they are all over the place. Note: BUYER BEWARE

2. At Ibis, there is a small tour desk at the lobby so I just use their service.

3. For the Snow & Ice World (冰雪大世界), there are many free buses but you pay for the admission fee. From the website, it cost 330RMB (at entrance), 310RMB (website).

4. Pls note that these free buses usually have a time limit, about 1.5hr to 2hrs for you to roam around before boarding.

5. If you miss the bus, you can easily find your way back by using the public bus/taxi.

This sign says from Central Street (中央大街) to Snow and Ice World (冰雪大世界) costs 5RMB single trip.

6. There is no need to spend the whole day there because it is only worth to see it during night time when the lights are lighted. This refers to 4.30pm because the sun sets at 4ish.

7. Furthermore the weather is really cold and the windchill is strong.

I paid for this tour 330RMB and nothing more. On the way back, they will drop you off at a “toilet” break whereby it is a shop.

There is no obligations to buy anything. For example, the Russian chocolate are slightly more expensive than the same Russian chocolates you will find at Central Street.

》this Russian baby chocolate costs 28RMB

》whereas it costs 22RMB at Central Street (中央大街)

》the guide will get your contact number so it is easier to download WeChat to use here. You can also inform the guide if you are late for the return bus.

More activities

As I have paid for the Snow & Ice World (冰雪大世界), I was offered a 20RMB for a day tour the following day. I mean why not since I have more places to go and travelling in a bus with a tour guide is easier.

If you do not like all these day tours, you can easily take bus/taxi to visit but the overall transport costs will be higher.

As you know 20RMB bus for the whole day, means there will be many self-expenses.

Let me list it down here.

1. 龙塔 (Dragon Tower), for photo taking

2. 索菲亚大教堂 (Sophia Church), for photo taking

3. 松花江金河湾湿地 (Golden River), pay 300 RMB, a place whereby you can pay go-kart, ATV, dogs/horses riding, snow tube, winter swim performance and etc

4. Lunch included

5. 太阳岛俄罗斯风情小镇 (Russian style town), 20 RMB (alrdy included)

6. 东北虎林园 (Siberian Tiger Park), pay 300 RMB

7. 冰雪大世界 (Snow Ice Festival world), pay 330 RMB

8. You can skip the activities and wait in the bus or you can leave the tour on your own expense. There is no such thing as you must stay until the tour ends.

9. I revisit the Snow & Ice World (冰雪大世界) because I did not see everything on my first visit.

If you are going by yourself, I have check that for #3, you need to pay 330 RMB and #6, you only need to pay 110 RMB. For the Snow Ice Festival world, it will be 330 RMB. So all in all, total will be 330 + 110 + 330 = 770 RMB but transportation and lunch and other places not included.

I took this one day trip and paid 930 RMB, so it was about 140 RMB extra (I’ve -20 RMB for #5). Not forgetting I have paid 20 RMB in the first place.

So in total 140 RMB for 11hrs of bus , lunch and personal driver and guide was pretty a good deal.

More activities

You can visit Snow Town (雪乡)and if you are being quoted a ridiculous low price then pls start asking qns. Else for all included based on 4pax sharing accommodation will be about 1100RMB/pax. If you want to have non-sharing, you have to pay more. This place is small and have limited accommodation.

I did not visit because it is a 5-6hours bus journey and another 5-6hours bus journey back.

Since I have returned from Seoul and went Harbin the following week, I do not need to see so much snow or skiing.

On your own

I take my time to explore my surrounding, Central Street (中央大街)& Ice sculpture park (150RMB) & flood control memorial & Wal-mart.

All these places are within walking distances.

Winter wear

Yes, you need winter wear.

My suggestions are:

1. There is no need for thermal underwear unless you are working in the snow for the whole day. You need to be “easy” when you visit the toilets.

2. Pls wear more layers if you are on day tours.

3. Pls wear lesser layers if you are going in/out of shopping areas else you are going to burn inside your winter wear.

4. Be waterproof! You don’t want to be wet and get sick.

5. Pls wear good waterproof shoes with good traction. The roads are slippery and when it start melting, higher chance of slip n fall hazards.

6. Try to walk in smaller step to avoid slipping and look before you step. Avoid icy surface and metal surface.

7. Protect your other parts of body such as face, neck, ears and hands.

8. Protect your camera or iPhones. I always keep hand warmer inside my pockets so I can warm up my iPhone else they can just shut down despite having 40% battery life.

9. Another important thing to note. Pls exercise caution and be on high alert when you cross the roads here. Even when it is green man, the cars will still move. There are also roads without traffic lights and you can see many locals/tourists crossing. Don’t forget the road is slippery so pls be safe.

Toilets

I know it is strange that I list this section.

In general, if you use the toilets in the shopping centres, restaurants then it will be less dirty.

Pls bring your own tissue/toilet paper and be prepare for squatting toilets.

If you really “see” something then just try to “unsee” it.

Any other things

Pls bring enough RMB or credit cards which are accepted in China. It won’t be easy to change $ here because even tourists are being restricted to many verification.

If you are using WeChat Pay / Alipay, make sure they can work in China.

Enjoy the ice!

The weather has been good to me. The lowest was -19deg C and the snowing is not as heavy as I have encountered in Niseko/Sapporo.

Of course I have lots of photos to share but my aim of this post is not about that.

❤️