Author: Yellow Duckie
The other day Sue-Anne asked me a question that I can't seems to get it off my head. Her question was " What is your best experience, thus far, in Japan?". After giving much thought about it, I have come out with a list of my best experiences (since I can't decide which is the best) in Japan and here it is:

1. Spending an evening at the New York Bar (Park Hyatt Hotel) with live Jazz Performance
For a Jazz lover like myself, I have actually dreamt of being in a Jazz bar with a live performance with the city night's light as the backdrop and New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Hotel has it all. I couldn't ask for more.

As we reach the entrance of the hotel, I was totally unimpressed by the casual entrance which I thought that the Putrajaya Marriot Hotel was more impressive. Not until we arrived at the lobby which is situated on the 41st floor. I was totally dumb founded. As the lift opens, the dim hotel lounge that overlooks the city lights greeted us. I was led to a hall way full of bookshelves and then I was on my way to the 52nd floor where the New York Bar is.

"Are you ready, Ivy?" was Sue-Anne's question to me and before I could answer it, the lift door opens revealing one of the most magnificent scene I have always dream of seeing and I couldn't help it but I was caught breathless. I even let out a gasp that made the lady at the counter turned and look at us. Trust me, at that moment, time really stops and I wished I could hold that moment for a little while longer. Standing between me and the city lights of Tokyo was a thin glass window. I was so thrilled. I was trying to keep my calm but trust me it was really difficult. I wasn't quite dress for the occasion (more like a Texas farm girl) but it didn't stop me from getting into the bar, thank God for that!

To our excitement, a live Jazz performance were on at that time and that was it, I really couldn't ask for more. Not until the bill arrives (there was a cover charge for the live performance), Sue-Anne literally had a headache after that but I must say, it was worth it all.

2. Sento
Communal bath house. I have never tried bathing with some many other girls in a bath room. So I tried it in Kyoto and I must say, it was quite an experience. It is not our culture to bare ourselves with the same gender and bath. It was initially quite ackward but the women there were all so casual about it so it does help. I find it pretty hard to get undress but I eventually did as I was pressing for time. I must say, this experience will tear down your pride and dignity (hehehe alright I am exaggerating).

However, I do recall one of the lady who happened to be soaking in the tub staring at me when I make my way to the tub. As I sat there I couldn't understand why is she looking at me strangely until I look at the angle she was looking at. From where she sits she could actually see me pretty well (eeewww.. she must have been looking at my butt!) and then I recall my dilemma earlier on at the shower. I couldn't decide which was the shampoo and which was the soap (They didn't bother labelling it in English!). So, you could have guessed, I studied both cleansing liquid like I was doing some research on them. In the end, I actually mixed both of it and use it as a shampoo. I guess she must have found it amusing. Weird gaijin!

The soak in the hot tub has an extremely positive result although soaking for 10 minutes could be a pure torture for a low heat intolerant person like myself.

3. Outdoor Onsen
I was lucky enough to be able to try the outdoor hot tub at 19.2 degree celcius , the water in the tub of course is hot. Mind you, you'll have to walk out naked from the room to the tub which is situated outside of the bath room. After ten minutes of soaking in the hot tub ( if you can withhold that long), you will have no problem withstanding 19.2 degree celcius with no clothes on.

4. Dinner by the Irori
Irori is a pit that is found in the middle of an ancient traditional Japanese home where there is a pot hung over the ceiling and it is used to warm the house and cook dinner ( I think so). My trout was cooked over the charcoal in the Irori. Having dinner by the Irori simply gives you a whole new experience of eating by the fire place. Hiromi ( the inn keeper of Goyomon, Ainokura) served me a really sweet warm sake to go with my meal, needless to say it was really a good compliment to the extravaganza meal she served me.

5. Boating at Lake Yamanakoku (with no experience in rowing a boat)
I was glad that Sue-Anne suggested that we go for the boat ride to watch sunset over the Mount Fuji. Word of advise, even if don't know how to row a boat, you'll get it somehow so pick up the oar and start your adventure.

I rowed the boat for half an hour (spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get the boat to get where we wanted it to go) and unbelievably we did manage to get quite far out from the dock. The view... needless to describe. Thank God for the clear weather, we could even see the walking trail on the mountain itself! When it was Sue-Anne's turn to row the boat back, she wished she hadn't asked me to row further away from the dock.

6. Tsukiji Fish Market
Although we only had 4 hours of sleep the night before, waking up at 5.30 am for the Tsukiji Fish market was worth it. Getting into the wholesale area was quite an adventure itself. One must be really careful on where you are walking as there are many trucks zooming for every corner of the road. The Tsukiji whole sale fish market is a really great aquarium for sightings of giant tuna, giant size shell fishes ( "see ham" with the size of your knuckle) and many other weird sea creature that you would never imagine could be eaten. Beware of angry fish mongers!

7. Hike from Magome to Tsumago
Getting lost in the beginning of my walk was quite discouraging but I am glad that I pressed on. The journey was a mixture of walking along side highway and nature trail. You will pass by villages, plantation fields and loads of beautiful sceneries. As I was threading on this trail, I get a feeling of how it feels like for the people in the olden days travelling between these two towns (except of course when the trail leads to the highway).

The most rewarding scene was the Male and Female waterfalls ( so it was named). Although you will have to detour a little from the trail (about 150 m), the sight was quite worth it.

The trail is about 8.6 km and it took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Tsumago from Magome.

8. Dinner at Mutzimi's House (Sue-Anne's Student, and I hope I got her name right)
Less than 24 hours of my arrival in Japan, I was so blessed to be invited for a dinner at a Japanese home of a great Japanese Chef. I must admit that the dinner was very different from what they served in the restaurant and I really enjoyed the meal.

This was the menu: Squid salad, stew taro with squid, cawan mushi, Gyoza, baked seadfood pasta with cheese, chest nut rice and grapes from Mutzimi's father's vineyard.

It was quite worth getting pins and needles at my feet after sitting on the tatami floor for too long and I really appreciate Sue-anne for taking the effort to translate to me what they were talking about.

9. Standing at the platform when a shinkasen(bullet train) passes through the platform without stopping
At the speed of about 250 km/h, you could feel your andrenaline rises when it passes you by. Of course the ride itself is one of a great experience when you are in Japan.

10. Ride on a giant ferris wheel
With the diammeter of 117 m, you can imagine how huge the wheel is. Before the ride I wished that it would move faster but during the ride, the slow speed that it was moving at was just right. From the top, it was really a sight to behold.

11. Walking at the crossroad of Shibuya
For those who watch cantonese movies, you could probably identify a scene of Tokyo that is always included whenever the location is set in Tokyo. Loads of people crossing at the crossroad that was surrounded by sky scrappers and huge LCD screens, yup, I was told it was the crossroad at Shibuya.

My jaw dropped when I saw the amount of people there. Upon seeing the crowd in Shibuya, I think the massive crowd in Hong Kong is really nothing compared to this.

12. Cycling in Kofu
I was rather surprised that I could still cycle after so many years of not riding on a bicycle. I actually enjoyed it. To only funny incident about riding the bicycle is that, one day I have decided to cook dinner. I was so carried away shopping for groceries that I forgot that I will be riding a bicycle back to Sue-Anne's apartment. I shopped as though I still have my 1.5 litre red wira(hero) to bring my goods back. It didn't hit me that I have limited space in bringing my goods back until I stood right in front of the bicycle's basket. I was playing jigsaw puzzle with the goods (not to mention that I did a little shopping at the mall). With a bag hanging from one side of the bike and a basket full of goods, I managed to ride home safely.

This is my list so far. Although I have only noted these experiences, I must say that the entire trip itself was really a sweet surprise and an eye opener. I never thought I would have enjoy Japan so much and I did.
Author: Yellow Duckie
Day 6

We made a trip to the Cultural village to take a look at the "Orang Asli" houses. Although the initially plan was to visit a real live house but the cost was simply off the budget so we settled with the cultural village, live-like size houses and I must say, for the minor fee od Rm45, you'll get to the all the different houses. Quite a good deal I must say!

Grinding Rice Posted by Hello

The heat was quite unbearable after lunch time and it drobve us to seek shelter in the air-cond room. To kill time we borrowed a box of scrabble and knock ourselves out with it!

An afternoon game Posted by Hello

We then spend the later part of the afternoon stolling along the beach and share our thoughts away!

Casting Shadow Posted by Hello
Author: Yellow Duckie
Day 5

The following morning, we took a flight out of Kota Kinabalu to Kuching. Shortly after our arrival, we got a ride from our hotel and headed off straight to Damai Beach, Kuching.

A perfect gateway for the weary souls of the city! We checked in to Holiday Inn Damai Beach and soon found ourselves wondering off the the beach nearby.

Where the river meets the ocean Posted by Hello

The have a fairly decent beach, which I suspect is man made due to the massive amount of tiny rocks on the shore. The picture above is taken somewhere at the end of the resort, which I think it's really interesting as this is my first time see a river that flows into the ocean! The water in between is actually not SALTY!
Author: Yellow Duckie

Water Taxi Posted by Hello
Author: Yellow Duckie
Day 3

Kota Kinabalu ~ Kinabalu National Park Headquarters
After a good rest last night, we were all set to reach the foot of Mount KK by noon. The journey to Mount Kinabalu National Park takes about close to 2 hours. The scenery was pretty much the same, but we did make a pit stop at the wooden stalls along the way to check out the "Kundasang roasted peanuts" that Sue Ann's mum was talking about and devoured a fresh pineapple. It was RM 1 each and we pay another ringgit to have them peeled for us, it was sweet and fresh!

We reached the National Park headquarter and checked in to the lodge where we are supposed to spend a night. The lodge was simply marvellous! We have a great view of the mountain from the balcony, unfotunately it was covered by the thick midst. After a short break we set off towards Ranau town for lunch.

National Park headquarter ~ Ranau ~ Poring Hot Springs
We had some light lunch of "pau" from the famous "Pau Shop". Their signature dish was the "Tai Pau" with the size of the pau that's one and a half time bigger than my palm. We then travelled for another half an hour before reaching Poring Hot Springs for the canopy walk and a hot bath.
The milky hot water is a natural resources of the earth and is believed to be good for the skin. You can make use of the little tubs around the around the area but please take note that it takes like forever for the tub to be filled, we gave up when the water reaches only up to our waist (sitting down).

Milky river of the hot springs Canopy Walk

Our day ended with a delicious dinner at one of Ranau's local restaurant.

Day 4

We rise early to catch a glimpse of the Majestic Mount KK. To our disappointment, due to the heavy fog, we could only catch its shadow silhouetting behind the thick fog that hangs around the air.

Our Best view

Up in the mountain, especially a well known national park such as this, one would expect that having meals at the hotel restaurant would cost you a bomb but we were so wrong. We had breakfast at the Hotel right beneath the foot of Mt KK and the food was cheap considering the portion served was big! To add on, the ambience was superb... surrounded by thick green forest.

Breakfast at the foot of Mt KK

After breakfast we headed toward the Timpohon trail ( which leads you all the way up to the summit of the Mt KK if you track long enough and all geared up for it)... we managed to track as far as 800 m... I consider that a great success. Our walk back to the gate was slightly unpleasant as it started to drizzle rather heavily. Thank God we managed to track back to the car without any injuries.

We then moved toward Kundasang town, headed for the Desa Cattle farm, Mesilau Golf Course and finally to the Mesilau Resort (another track to the summit of Mount KK). If you are looking for some peace and quiet, Mesilau resort is the perfect place. Sitauted way above the hills, the Mesilau Resort is hidden away from the eyes of passerby along the main street of Kundasang. A Toyota Pajero finds it difficult to climb to the altitude at which the resort is situated.

Timpohon trail leading to the summit of Mt KK

L-R: Desa Cattle Farm, Mesilau Golf Course and Mesilau Resort Activity Center

Author: Yellow Duckie
Simpang Mengayau, Sabah

Day 2

Kota Kinabalu ~ Tuaran
Our journey begins as early as 8 am. Thanks to my uncle's pajero, we were cruising comfortably along the bumpy roads of Sabah. We headed off Foh Sang for breakfast before setting out to Tuaran town via the Tuaran Link Road. The journey to Tuaran town takes about 35- 40 minutes. We paid Aunty Jenny a visit and headed off towards the sunday market where the hanging bridge is, a common structure to get across rivers in Sabah.

Tuaran's hanging bridge "Sa Bak" sold at the market...wished I could buy them

Tuaran ~ Kota Belud
We cruised through the vast padi fields of the Sabah's countryside. There are not much development done to this part of the state and it's a wonder how one can passes their time here. I can't never imagine staying here for more than a day! I supposed these people spend quite a fair amount of time watching the satelite tv as the wooden houses along the road have at least one Astro satelite attached to its roof...I supposed life here it's not so boring after all.
Along the road, there were many wooden huts where the villagers would sell their harvests such as rice, potatoes, vegetables,fruits and also roasted corn to passer-by like us.

Roast Corn...don't be deceived by the burnt husk, the corn inside is nicely roasted and sweet :)

After about an hour plus we arrived at Kota Belud town. My attempt to look for the "Tamu", open air market, was unsuccessful. Nevertheless we got a glimpse of how this town looks like, pretty much like Tuaran. According to my dad, whose last visit to Kota Belud was about 20 years ago, this town is much more developed than it was before.

Kota Belud is known as the cowboy town of Sabah. Most of the Bajaus resides here and in the olden days, they were the famous horse riders. Although the only horse(a skinny one too) i see was the statue in front of the town's welcome board, I am sure there are some horses to be found, most likely somewhere away from the town.

Kota Belud Town

Kota Belud ~ Kudat
It took us another hour from Kota Belud to Kudat. Half way through the journey, it started to drizzle, we were quite worried that we might not be able to get good shots of the tip in this kind of weather. On the way, we managed to get some Kudat's famous Peanuts roasted in sand in one of the wooden huts by the road side. Although I am not a big fan of roasted peanuts but after tasting the Kudat's peanuts, I seriously think that they roast pretty good peanuts!

Fortunately it was bright and sunny when we arrived at Kudat town. Although the weather was on our side, to our dismay, this town looks deserted when we arrived. We were expecting some crowd as it is a sunday but I guess the people in Kudat seems to be resting at home. 98% of the shops were closed so we headed towards the fishing dock for a short visit before setting out to hunt for fresh seafood for lunch. Seems like there are more actions in the fishing docks than the town itself! I think some fishermen have just returned from the sea when we got there. There were workers sorting out fishes and there were loadful of fishes all over. We managed to braced through the unpleassant fishy smell and took some shots of the dock.

Lunch was pretty hard to find in Kudat town on Sunday unless you don't mind settling down for KFC. However, we managed to find a place, right behind the fish market, for good seafood at unreasonably cheap prices. We had a fried fish (medium sized), two types of shell fishes and another dish of prawns. The bill came out to about RM 30+ only!

We had this for lunch... yummy!

Kudat ~ Simpang Mengayau
The road to Simpang Mengayau (Tip of Borneo) wasn't all tarred. Most of the journey was on a paved dirt road so it was like sitting on an OSIM chair. We passed by the Rungus longhouse, Honey bee Farm and the Gong Maker's place but unfortunately we did not stop by to any of these places.

Our journey takes less than an hour to reach Simpang Mengayau. The moment we arrived, we were mesmerized by the beauty of the white sandy beach. The beach is well perserved. There were only two families were picnicking there. Right by the side of the road, village children were selling sea shells they collected in a wooden hut. You'll find some polished crowie shells, some rare shells and salted fish for sale.

Sue Ann and I at the Tip of Borneo ~ apparently where we were standing is the tip of borneo not those rocks behind us.

Although there is nothing much here except the beatiful beach. For those who are interested in spending a night here, wooden huts are available for RM5 per space or you could also choose to have your own private hut (Remember to bring your own mosquito net!). There's a canteen where you can have your meals and proper common bathrooms for your use. For a perfect peaceful vacation with a view of a beautiful beach, perhaps this could be a good choice. Although we were told by the locals that they are not entertaining the idea of developing into a tourist 5 star beach resort, but you'll never know. So if you have the chance to visit this place, my advise is don't miss it.
Author: Yellow Duckie
Land Below the Wind

Day 0
Arrived around 9 pm and was driven straight to Chuan Hin for its famous pan fried dumpling, "ikan bakar", "sotong bakar", "daging bakar", beef tendon stew and many others pan-fried delicacies.Slightly before midnight, Sue ann arrived and soon our night ended with a wonderful sleep.

Day 1
With the sun way above our heads (the sun tend to rise pretty early in KK), we headed towards Sinsuran for my favourite pork noodle. It was then followed by a great shopping trip at Centerpoint. I was surprised that there's so many good bargains in KK!

Later in the afternoon we headed off to Tg Aru Beach to catch the sunset. We settled down at the Tg Aru Beach Resort and enjoyed the magnificient view of the scenery.

Sunset at Tg Aru