Japan Trips

Tonight I am going to finish what I have plan to finish. That is to blog on my Japan trips which I have plan to write for more than 10 years.

I will not be able to backtrack on all my Japan trips for these 10 years so I will concentrate on my recent Japan trips i.e 2017 New Year and 2017 Sapporo Snow Festival.

At the same time, I have too many blog posts to complete but I am not going to do it.



quick recap for 2015 & 2016 & 2017 & 2018

Doing a quick recap before my memory deteriorates.

In the year of 2015, we have been on 12 trips.

In January, we went to Bangkok.

In February, we went to Tokyo.

In March, there was no activity.

In April, we went to Bali.

In May, we went to Sydney.

In June, we went to Gold Coast.

In July, we went to Ho Chi Minh.

In August, we went to Langkawi and Taipei.

In September, we went to Maldives.

In October, there was no activity.

In November, we went to Tokyo and Bangkok.

In December, we went to Bangkok.


In the year of 2016, we have been on 14 trips.

In January, we went to Krabi and Boracay.

In February, we went to Paris, Milan and Venice.

In March, we went to Langkawi.

In April-May, we went to Santorini, Mykonos and Athens.

In May, we went to Phuket.

In June, we went to Hongkong.

In June-July, we went to Taipei and Hualien.

In August, we went to Seoul.

In September, we went to Penang.

In October we went to Bangkok.

In November, we went to Maldives.

In December, we are going to Phuket, Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

In the year of 2017, we have been on 16 trips.

In January, we went to Bangkok.

In February, we went to Hokkaido.

In March, we went to Macau.

In April, we went to Seoul, Bali & Langkawi.

In May, we went to Mauritius but it got cancelled so we went BKK.

In June, we went to Phuket.

In July, there was no activity.

In August, we went to Taipei.

In September, we went to Penang & Marrakech.

In October we went to Osaka & Bali but Bali got cancelled.

In November, we went to Penang & KL.

In December, we are going to Phuket, Maldives & Seoul.


In the year of 2018, we have planned 15 trips.



Greek Orthodox Easter 2016 – Mykonos – Athens

Yassas is Hello.

Kalimera is Good Morning.

Kalispera is Good Afternoon. 

Kalinihxta is Good Night.
I think it is great to travel during festivals so that you can see and experience more culture. Two months ago, I was in Venice for their carnival and it was really fun. I even took a gondola lesson and rowed for 2 hours. 

During Easter, the Pyrgos in Santorini will have lots of fire, lighting up the whole place.

I am glad I was there.

In Mykonos, everywhere is nearby and I take about 10 minutes to arrive at the Mykonos airport. The taxi ride cost 20€. 

The flight into Athens only takes about 35 minutes. 

I use the airport bus X95 to go into Syntagma Square in about 40 minutes and it costs 6€ per trip. I can also use the metro but it will cost a bit more. I prefer bus rides because I can enjoy the scenery better.

From Syntagma Square, I passby the government house where there are guards changing ceremony at every hour. This is also where I will use my city sightseeing hop on/off bus. I will use these tour buses when I want to see everything within a short period of time. 

It is true that when you are younger, you have time but not enough money. When you are older, you have money but not enough time. So when you are really old, you are running out of time.

In the evening, I take the metro and get off at Blue Line Evangelismos station and walk towards the hospital. I continue straight ahead on the upward slope and climb the many staircases to reach the funicular station. It is quite expensive at 7€50 for return trip to Lycavittos Hill. However you can choose to walk too.

I choose to come during evening so that I can see all the buildings light up, especially the Acropolis. It was magnificent.

I manage to get a good deal staying a night at a penthouse in Attiki area, five metro stops away from Syntagma. It is a quiet neighbourhood with amenities and I even discover an airport bus X93 route nearby, about 15 minutes walk from the penthouse. 

This 3 posts sums up my 8 days in Greece and I will be back very soon.

Greek Orthodox Easter 2016 – Santorini – Mykonos

The ferry ride from Santorini to Mykonos takes me 3 hours, making a brief stop at Naxos. It is a comfortable ride along the way. I pay about 63€ for my single ride.

From Mykonos port to Platis Gialos beach takes about 10 minutes. I choose this location because it is nearby several beaches and there is a boat station to go to other beaches. 

From Platis Gialos beach, it is about 10 minutes drive to Chora town. A taxi ride will cost 10€. The taxis in Mykonos have fixed rates and if you cannot find a taxi, you can just call them and give them a landmark location. I alight at the taxi station near Little Venice.

My first stop is to visit the windmills. Then I proceed to enjoy the sunset at little Venice and stroll along Mavrogenous Square. I also see the Panagia Paraportiani Church. 

You can join a day tour or buy your own return trip to visit Delos. This ticket booth is near the Panagia Paraportiani Church.

I also have an early dinner at Niko’s taverna. On someone’s recommendation, I also have dinner at Ling Ling, modern Chinese cuisine. 

To me, Mykonos is a party island but it is quiet and peaceful. Mykonos has a different vibe from Santorini.
In Santorini, you can see the sea. But in Mykonos, you go to the sea. I feel that the views in Santorini has the wow factor. But I know each island has their distinct vibes. 

I have a great evening and after dinner, I join in the Easter possession and walk with them around Chora. 

The next day, I hike to Psarou Beach which is about 30 minutes up & downward slope. 

I arrive at Nammos for lunch and if you are driving, be prepare to wait because there are so many people wanting to come to Nammos. It is a trendy beach with fantastic food and they play some English tracks.

As it is Easter week, many restaurants are roasting lamb for Easter feast. 

On my third day, I want to visit the Paradise beach and I wait at the boat station. There are no boats because it is Easter. I did not feel like driving to the beach so I hike over the mountain trail from Platis Gialos Beach towards Agia Anna Beach. It is a fun hike about 30 mins and I get to see the mountains and seas from a high point. I have my Easter lunch at Nicola’s Taverna and they are very busy. 

After a hearty lunch, I just lie down on the beach and enjoy the sunshine in a cool weather. 

Some of my favorite Greek desserts.

To recap, I have spend 3D2N in Santorini and 4D3N in Mykonos. I will spend another night in Athens before I end my short trip to Greece.

I will update later.

Greek Orthodox Easter 2016 – Athens – Santorini 

Greece was beautiful and I cannot wait to go back again to do more islands hopping.

This blog contains my one week in Greece, mainly Athens, Santorini & Mykonos. If I have more time, I will definitely spend more time in Greece, visiting more beautiful islands.

This year 2016, the Greek Orthodox Easter collides with May Labor Day and the red eggs fighting and lamb roasting are a must try/eat.

Some Greek islands are not suitable for all year round travels. You can refer to this Blog for more advices. 

Upon arriving in Athens at about noon, my next flight to Santorini will be in the evening. The flight time takes about 45mins and if you wish to travel by ferry, the ferry time is about 7hrs, boarding at Piraeus port. You will need to check for flight/ferry timing on websites. There are many ferries/airlines companies.

Prior arriving at Athens, I have arrange for McArthurGlen outlet for a return trip via taxi. From the website gathered, it costs 22€ per way. My return trip is complimentary because I have purchase the Athens City Sightseeing Red & Green line and on the ticket, it was stated: get a free trip to McArthurGlen outlet. 

Since on my last day, Greece is still celebrating Easter and the shopping will be closed. I choose to go to the outlet on my first day of arrival. I store my luggage at the airport baggage service, minimum storage duration is for 6hrs.

The McArthurGlen outlet is 10mins drive away and I visit Nike, Adidas & H&M. Upon return, I approach the Information counter and they help me to contact the taxi company.

The flight to Santorini is quick and I have made transport arrangements from my villa in Imerovigli village to meet me.

There are many stairs in Santorini so a good pair of walking shoes is preferable. 

For dinner, it is at Aegeon, which is just above my villa, at the square. There is a car rental company, bakeries, supermarkets nearby the square.

I have also made arrangement for car rental from Motor Inn (Link) and they will deliver/collect the car  to/from me the next day. I rent an auto car for 40€/day with insurance. I go around the whole of Santorini in a day and the petrol is about 20€. If you require a driver to bring you around, and you get a quotation about 20-30€/hr then it is a good deal. 

There are plenty of motorbikes and ATV for rental too. In Santorini, there are many up/downwards slopes so be extra careful. Some lanes are narrow and you might need to reverse so that the oncoming cars can move first. 

From Imerovigli, I drive up to Oia, arriving at about 0930hrs and walk my way around the famous three blue domes.   At about 1030hrs, Oia is crowded with tourists. I also visit the ammoudi bay which is just below Oia. 

Then I continue driving, along the coastline to go to the Pyrgos and then the Red beach. 

You will need to do some trekking/hiking to arrive at the Red Beach as that is the only way up/down.

Then continue driving to Afros black beach for lunch and they have fresh wild fish which is tasty. The sun beds are complimentary if you dine at the restaurant.

Then I continue driving around Santorini and finally stop at Fira for some souvenirs shopping. There is this restaurant Mama’s house which is nice. It is nearby the Fira taxi station. 

Then in the evening, I meet up with a local photographer to help me take some photos with the caldera and Skaros Rock at sunset. The photos are amazing.

For dinner, nearby my villa in Imerovigli, about 10 mins walking, there is this popular local restaurant Anogi, which serves pretty nice food.

In Greece, Greeks eat very late at about 9ish so try to go early to get a seat. 

The next morning, I hike to the Skaros Rock and have breakfast at one of the restaurants facing Skaros Rock for the beautiful views.

My ferry to Mykonos is in the afternoon and I take a mini-bus/taxi for 25€ to the port. 

In Greece, there is nearly impossible for you to fly from islands to islands without a flight back to Athens. So you need to return to the Athens in order to fly out. Otherwise, taking ferry will be the better option. 

My ferry (sea jet company) departs 1415hrs from Santorini and arriving at Mykonos at 1625hrs. By taking ferry, I save on time and expensive air tickets and luggage. The ferry is fast and efficient and I experience zero seasickness.

If only I have more time, I will use these ferries and do more islands hopping.The ferry makes a quick stop at Naxos.

The Next blog will contains about my time in Mykonos.

From Langkawi to Koh Lipe

I realised there are many articles on how to get to Koh Lipe and they are written in a very general style. Hence I am writing this article, focusing on the excitement & frustration of the journey from Telaga Terminal Jetty Langkawi to Bunga Resort Jetty Koh Lipe.
You can find out easily when is the open season for the direct ferry route – Langkawi to Koh Lipe and it will take you about 90mins for the ride.
If you arrive at Langkawi airport, it will take you about 15-20mins and 26ringgit taxi ride to Telaga Jetty.

I will recommend you to purchase the ferry tickets online because when the ferry season is open, there are plenty of tourists taking this route.

It is also advisable you arrive at least 60mins before your scheduled timing for check-in. The official recommended timing is 2 to 2.5hr before scheduled timing.

Once you have arrived at Telaga Jetty, you will fill up the Thailand Immigration Card and your passport will be detained by the staffs. 

Then you will walk to the Langkawi Immigration Office by foot, about 5mins away. You will wait for the staffs to call out your name then you will collect your passport from him/her. You will then wait in the queue to have your passport stamped by the Immigration to indicate that you are exiting Malaysia.  

You will then return back to the ferry, handover your ferry ticket and passport to the staffs. Your passport will be kept by the staffs until you arrive at Koh Lipe.

 On the ferry, they adopt a free seating style so first come first served for the seats.   

The ferry will docked near to the Koh Lipe Jetty and you will board a long tailed boat to arrive onto the beach, the Koh Lipe immigration is here on the beach. This beach is called Pattaya Beach, which is on Koh Lipe.


You will then get down from the long tailed boat and land on the shallow water of the beach. So please remove your shoes. 


You will be whisked towards the immigration office and you will validate your return ferry ticket with the staffs.

Now it is a waiting game. You wait for your luggages to arrive and the staffs will just place it on the beach.

You will also wait for your name to be called then you collect your passport and stand in queue to get landing rights onto Koh Lipe.
There is no system here and the staffs are not your friendly customer services. They really man-handle you so please don’t get offended. You are on holiday and don’t let these negativity ruin your vacation. 
You cannot collect the passport for your boyfriend, husband, Aunty or Uncle. Each person will collect their own passport once their name are being called. So please wait around patiently. 
Finally you are done and you can either walk/motorbike taxi to your resort.

Koh Lipe is beautiful and we have a great time on both the sunrise & sunset beach.

On your return trip, you are also advised to check-in 2-2.5hrs before scheduled time.
You will handover your passport to the staffs and wait patiently again for your name to be called. 

Then you proceed to clear immigration to get stamped exiting Thailand. You will not get back your passport because the staffs will detain your passport until you arrive back at Langkawi.
You will now proceed to board the long tailed boat in order to board the ferry.


Upon arriving at Langkawi, some passengers are complaining because they have a flight to catch in an hour time. 

However, the staffs want to unload the luggages before passengers can alight. I will suggest you to have ample time for transfers. The ferry will not always arrive on scheduled time. 

In addition, you still have to collect back your passport and clear immigration after you alight from the ferry.


After you have clear the immigration, you still have to hail a taxi to go to airport, which is about 15-20mins away.


Please remember your luggages because luggages might go missing. Please have an open mind else you will end up getting grumpy and frustrated by these issues.

Alternatively, you can always travel to Koh Lipe from other parts of Thailand. This will enable you to skip the Malaysia & Koh Lipe immigration. 

Have fun.

How to do cash/credit card tax refund in Europe

In summary:

In Japan (Tokyo):

  1. You meet the minimum spending requirements and the store will process the tax refund for you on the spot.
  2. You have to produce your passport and the store keeper will keep the tax refund slip inside your passport.
  3. The tax refund is processed immediately and deducted from the total payment.
  4. Upon leaving Japan, there is no need to do any customs inspection or tax refund.
  5. Yes, as easy as ABC.

In Thailand (Bangkok):

  1. You meet the minimum spending requirements and the store will process the tax refund for you on the spot.
  2. You have to produce your passport and the store keeper will keep the tax refund slip inside your passport.
  3. Upon arriving at Bangkok airport, you have to locate the customs inspection before checking in for your flights.
  4. You show to the customs your tax refund slips and obtain a stamp on your tax refund slips. You may have to show the customs your purchases.
  5. Then you can proceed to check in for your flights and check in your luggages.
  6. You have to clear the immigration and enter the transit area.
  7. You will have to locate the tax refund office inside the transit area and show them the stamped tax refund slips.
  8. You will then receive your tax refund in Thai baht.

The reason why I have listed down both Japan and Thailand tax refund procedures is to differentiate the different procedures. Also, to highlight the challenges.

In Europe:

I am restricting this tax refund process to Paris CDG airport. It is more or less the same procedures in Europe.

No matter where you have purchase your items eg. Italy, Spain, Germany, France and etc. You only can claim your tax refund from the airport you are flying out of Europe.
Just make sure you have meet the minimum spending requirements and the store keeper has issued you a tax refund slip. At this point of time, the store keeper will give you two options for tax refund. Although some shops only have credit card option, please ask the storekeeper.

(1) through credit card (it don’t have to be the same credit card you use to pay for your items) – you will get back the full 12% tax (depending on the country) and it will need at least two months for the refund.

(2) through cash – you will get back less than 12% tax (depending on the country) and a charge fee of 3€ per tax refund slip for commission.

Therefore, you can consolidate your purchases and process the tax refund on the same day. You cannot purchase today and process the tax refund tomorrow. You have to process the tax refund on the same day you purchase your items. 

For example: you can buy Prada bag, LV bag, Chanel Bag from three dirrenent stores on the same day in the same shopping mall. Then you take these three receipts to the tax refund counter and process them into one single tax refund slip. This one single tax refund slip will cost 3€ commission fee instead of three tax refund slip which will cost 9€.

Next, it is the most crucial part on how to get back your tax refund.

I am restricting these process to Paris CDG airport. It should be more or less the same in other airports.

  1. Locate the tax refund counter in the airport.
  4. There is a bar code on the top right corner of the tax refund slip.
  5. Use the tax refund counter machine and scan the bar code.
  7. It will tell you whether the bar code has been verified.
  9. If it says error, then proceed to the human tax refund counter.
  10. If it says verified then you are good to go.
  11. Do not proceed to check in your flights and luggages, you have to collect your tax refund before you check in your flights and immigration.
  12. If you have chosen cash refund, then take your verified tax refund slips to the human tax refund counter and s/he will proceed to process and return you the money. Please take note that you will not get back the full 12% tax refund because they will charge a commission. However, you get back your money on the spot.
  14. At this point, the officer may request to check your purchase.
  15. If you have chosen credit card refund, then take your verified tax refund slips and insert into the envelop provided by the storekeeper. Then you will seal it and drop into the mailing boxes provided at the tax refund office. There is no need for stamp as it is a prepaid envelop. You will have to check again in 4-8 weeks on your credit card bank statement for the refund.
  18. You can proceed to check in your flights and luggages now.

I hope you have fun shopping and a smooth journey for claiming back your tax refund in Europe.

Yes the branded names in Europe are definitely cheaper but only in relative terms.

Please spend within your means.

Prego/A bientôt/You’re welcome/不客气

*added on 14 Apr 2017*

I realised I did not include South Korea tax refund. I hope is not too late.

I have just came back from Seoul and in a few words, the tax refund in Seoul have gotten simplified. 

1. Most stores are giving instant tax refund on the spot.

2. You can scan your tax receipts downtown such as Myeongdong before you arrive at the airport. 

3. This means that you will only need to proceed directly to the tax refund counter to collect cash at the airport.