Jigokudani Monkey Park

This place was one of the highlight of the Japan trip. Don’t know how many of the people out there who knew about this place where one is able to witness bathing monkeys. Seriously Japanese monkeys do bathe!


The gateway to Jigokudani Monkey Park

This place holds ethereal beauty, but do you know the name Jigokudani literally means hell’s valley in Japanese? Fret not there is nothing hellish about this place, it’s quite the opposite, really. Such name was to depict the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests.

Apart from human, only snow monkey is a known primate that is able to live and acclimatized  in cold climate. So yeah, I’ve met our only primate relative under the snow covered mountain alps.

To get to Jigokudani Monkey Park is not a relatively easy feat. From Tokyo, we boarded a bus at Shinjuku Bus Station to Nagano. If you’d remembered, Nagano was the host for 1998 Winter Olympics. This place apart from the home for Japanese snow monkey, is famed for hot springs (onsen), ski resorts, and winter sport activities. It also has the largest ski resort in Japan. We could see throngs of people with their snow board and ski board travelling from Tokyo heading up to Nagano. It was nice, seeing all the gears and enthusiastic ski-ers at the bus station.

So the journey from Tokyo to Nagano took about four hours by bus, costing about JPY4,000 per trip. The price sure is hefty, but bearable, as opposed to using the shinkansen, in which the fare is twice as much.

At the point after arrival I was getting worried about the hike to the monkey park the next morning. Though it was not snowing in Nagano, but according to the live feed from Google, we could see the monkey park in Yamanouchi is covered with thick snow. It was already so cold that night in Nagano, I just couldn’t imagine how it’d be like the next day at Yamanouchi. Thus we planned to head up to Uniqlo to buy extra jackets / thicker muffler to prepare for tomorrow. But then after dinner we were already tired and knowing that shops closed early in Japan during winter time, none of us would want to risk walking out of the hotel to look for Uniqlo. We’d just made do with whatever we had then.

The next morning only 3 of us, being my brother, nephew and I went to Yamanouchi. The rest stayed in late at the hotel. We took a train from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station in Yamanouchi. The fare is JPY 1,210 per trip. Fellow travelers, worry not. Adequate information on ways to get to the monkey park could be found inside the train station, plus the station guard is able to assist when needed.

After the scenic one hour train ride, we arrived at Yudanaka station. We then hopped a bus (couldn’t remember the fare) that took us to Kanbayashi Onsen, the starting point to the monkey park (Jigokudani Yaen-koen). Oh and the entrance fee to the park can be bought at the Yudanaka train station.


The nephew admiring the view of Japanese alps


The train from Nagano to Yudanaka

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I didn’t take much pictures of the scenic route towards Kanbayashi, cause my hands refused to come out of the jacket 😛 soo cold. It was my first time being in a thick snow. The cold was somehow kinda bearable cause there was no wind at that time. The winter jacket that I wore, MNG angorak was suffice in that kinda weather. I also added on head band to cover the  ears and leather gloves for the hand. But the upmost important item would be snow appropriate boots. Mine is not so cause I still could feel the cold ground underneath me but I had to make do with whatever that I had at that time. My nephew was wearing converse (!) so he had a bit of difficulties hiking the icy ground.

But I digress.

Okay, from Kanbayashi Onsen, we hiked the 1.6 km track in the jungle to get to Jigokudani park. The trees were all covered with snow, the view was really breathtaking. Slow walkers and serial picture takers like us took about 45 minutes to reach the park. There were about 3 monkeys frolicking in the hot spring when we arrived there. A few were roaming around looking for food.


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These monkeys, luckily were docile and kinda tame. Just be careful not to feed them or stare them directly at the eyes as these are wild monkeys, they might misinterpret your action as hostile. So avoid eye contact or any contact at all.

Pandang sipi-sipi only.

Met with a Malaysian family from Odaiba, dad is a nuclear engineering student on a government grant, mom is a housewife with 3 kids. Kinda glad to see familiar faces at such a remote place. They also I presumed were surprised to see 3 of us Malaysians there. Initially they thought us to be from a tour group. Then I’d explained that we were travelling on our own, hopping on trains and buses to get there and even across districts and Japan prefectures.  We neither possess JR pass nor internet mobility. And most of our hotels were booked on the day itself/night prior to arrival via booking.com. Impressive they said. Apparently they’ve never met any traveller like us in Japan. Hah. We were bemused as this is they way we’ve been traveling on budget all these times. 

This trip to Yamanouchi surely is a memorable one. Worth the long and tiring journey from Tokyo. See I’m not a fan of monkeys, apes, orang utans, gorillas and the likes, but somehow looking at these furry snow covered monkeys, they were kinda cute and yeah these are fine monkeys. I dont mind visiting again 😛

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A Trip to Japan


Uh hello there 2014. 10 days into the new year and unlike the year before, this year I was abroad and partied away the new year.

On a bus. T_T.

It was an overnight journey from Nagano to Kyoto.

Well I went to Japan for 12 days, starting from Osaka – Tokyo – Fujiyoushida – Yokohama – Nagano – Kyoto – Kobe – Osaka.

Some of the things I’d gathered/observed during the trip.

  1. Impressive, impressive public transportation. Japan is famed for their extensive railways system, and yes the system can be so complex it is overwhelming at times. Basically in major town like Tokyo and Osaka, railways (on the ground and underground) are major source of transportation. Everyone uses it for their daily commute. The working class, the college students, families and their senior citizens too. I swear there were old people in almost all train/subway rides that I’d took, even some appeared to be close to 100 years old. Damn impressive. Well, I think that is also a factor why Japanese tend to live the longest. Just take an average Malaysian for example, once he reaches retirement age, he would vow to relax at home, maybe do a bit of gardening, house repairs etc. Seems like it is the norm thing to do. But for these Japs, retirement age means little to them as they still go about doing their routine life, such as taking subways to go places, dining out, playing Othello, going to the malls etc.
  2. They have massive train stations catering to many different subway lines, JR, shinkansen (bullet train), airport line, buses, etc. There are retail shops, high street label shops, high end shops (the likes of LV and Gucci), supermarket, restaurants, cafes, all under one station. The stations are huuugeee with many different exit points that lead to different parts of the town. As the subway stations are located underground, it kinda difficult to decide which exit to take, but fret not, there are english signs for all the exits. Note: it is extremely useful to know which exit to take beforehand, to save time and your strength too.
  3. Subways normally offers day pass, which can be purchased from their ticketing machines. For example in Osaka alone there are few subway lines, namely Hankyu, Hanshin, Kita-Osaka Kyuko, Keihan, Nankai and Kintetsu, and as the single journey fare would set you back around 200yen per trip, it is recommendable to purchase day pass 800yen, which offers you unlimited subway rides for the day. It is more economical that way. Some even combine subway pass with JR, such as in Tokyo whereby this type of ticket is fared at 1,580yen.
  4. Still on the transportation system. Everyone cycles in Japan. They use the traditional, vintage-y but very sturdy bikes. There are multi-tier bicycles parking near to railway stations.
  5. The non-existent traffic jam. It’s weird that Tokyo, as the metropolitan city has no traffic jam. Very few cars on the road.
  6. Japanese are very stylish people. It’s like they share the same motto ‘it’s better to be overdressed rather than under dressed’. Since I was there during winter I could see the nice jackets, coats, puff jackets, anorak that these Japs ladies put on. Even the stores are heavy on the items. And the ladies even paired their kimono with furs. So classy. And the men…oh damn you Japanese men, why are you so hot and ever so very stylish. Coupled with the hat, muffler, jacket and designer shoes, they’re good to go and pleasant to ogle at during train rides.
  7. The ladies are very particular on their looks. They put on heavy make up and they also have super nice skin. The hairs are always in place and it seems that they do blow outs regularly. Even the public toilets have separate section for ladies to do their make ups.
  8. All public toilets are clean.
  9. The people are very hygienic, they wear face masks and I once saw a shop worker manually hand scrubbed the pavement in front of his shop. Impressive.
  10. It goes without saying that the Japanese are very polite and nice people.
  11. No foreign workers. Even the janitors are local.
  12. Tokyo and Osaka have multiple city centres that worth venturing into. Its even cheaper to spend the nights in their neighboring towns. Take Yokohama, it’s only 30mins or so from Tokyo. Kobe is also adjacent to Osaka.
  13. There are plenty of museums in Japan, but mostly are closed between 26th Dec – 3rd Jan for their annual maintenance works.
  14. Moleskines are quite cheap in Japan.
  15. No fat people in Japan. I felt huge there.


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The Big Durian


Kota Lama

Had an impromptu weekend trip with the girls at work to the Big Durian. We booked Air Asia a week before the trip, therefore had to pay exorbitant fees; amounting to RM424 per person (plus our share of 25kg luggage). But nevermind. The sole purpose of this trip was just to release and have fun with the friends.


  • Since we opt for weekend trip, we had to rush to the airport immediately after work. Being close to monsoon season, it rained heavily every afternoon, including that fateful Friday. There was no taxi willing to pick us up, therefore we had to walk under the drizzling rain from our office to KLCC. From KLCC we took LRT to KL Sentral and then KLIA Express to Salak Tinggi and then a shuttle bus to LCCT Airport. Phew!
  • Bargain, but do not overdo it. In certain shopping areas like Tanah Abang, bargaining is a norm and expected. However there is no such thing as to ask for 70% reduction; the sellers won’t entertain you. Express your bargaining skills moderately.
  • Bajaj or the motorcycle trishaw charges similar fees to taxi. Use this when you’re in a hurry. It has the ability to maneuver through narrow passages and between vehicles. Your safety, however, is never guaranteed.
  • Jakarta is also one of the dustiest (if not the most) city that I’ve ever been. Use face mask when you’re expose to the vehicles on the road, hydrate well and use toner every time after cleaning your face.
  • Cheap food can always be found on the roadside. Similar items sold at the mall’s food court are priced thrice as much.
  • Being a huge city, its not always easy to go to places such as spa or hair salon from where you’re at the moment. Therefore its better to plan ahead and let the taxi drivers know exactly where you want to go; give them the exact location
  • Shopping experience at the malls are not that enticing. I think Indonesia is a bit late when it comes to sale season. The items in Forever 21 & Top Shop that are on sale in KL, however are sold at normal price in Jakarta.
  • We shop a bit at Martha Tilaar..I bought a lipstick at about RM10.
  • We ate too much nasi penyet and JCo donuts.

Places that we’ve been in a span of two days:

  • Tanah Abang
  • Mangga Dua (Pasar Pagi and the Mall)
  • Monas
  • Taman Anggerik Mall
  • Grand Indonesia Mall
  • Kota Lama area (the railway station, Museum Wayang, Cafe Batvia)

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Whatever it is, I love the city and its vibes. Won’t mind to re-visit this huge city again soon. Next time perhaps to venture into South area, such as Kemang, which I heard its the city’s trendier area.

Total expenses (minus flight) – Rp1,600,000 (RM457.60 @ 0.000286 rate on 18.10.2013)

Medan, Sumatera Utara

Sumatera Utara.

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Actually aku tak berminat sangat travel to this part of Indo, walaupun susur galur keluarga aku berasal dari Palembang. Sebabnya? Sumatera bagi aku kurang tempat menarik untuk traveler, berbanding dengan kawasan Indo yang lain, such as Tanah Jawa, Sulawesi dan Irian Jaya.

Akan tetapi.

Travel tetap travel. Hatta walaupun dah penah ke Medan suatu ketika dulu, tapi bila abang aku offer nak pegi lagi (cheap AA tix) so aku pun ikut lah depa. Lagipun ni cuma weekend trip, aku pun on kan saja.

Medan ni merupakan bandar ke-4 terbesar di Indo. Mempunyai ramai penduduk cina bertutur dalam bahasa hokkien, so rasa macam balik kampung plak (cina kedah & penang memang cakap hokkien). Kami di pertemukan dengan driver Kijang berketurunan cina yang baik hati. Bahasa indonesia bapak Ah Wan sangat flawless. Abang aku booked hotel Citi Inn International kat Jl. Sun Yat Sen (klakar dowh hotel ni) untuk kami berenam..kami share 3 connecting bilik. Aku tak amek gambar hotel..sebab haha…bodoh la hotel ni. Toilet takde pintu..cuma curtain jarang. Cermin dinding toilet pun yang jenis jarang..tak mampu aku nak berak dengan inzal. Hot shower tak berfungsi, lampu ketiga-tiga toilet tak boleh tutup, rasanya only 2 charging plug yang available untuk seisi rumah (wtf), tak ada sabun mandi, etc etc. Pendek kata memang lawak la aku rasa hotel ni. Tapi for RM160 per night for all 3 rooms, nak complain apa nya. Ha ha.

Kami sampai Kuala Namu International Airport (dulu Polonia) jam 9pm. Amek cab untuk ke bandaraya Medan. Airport baru ni jauh dengan town..about 45mins – 1 hour camtu. Singgah makan kat Restoran Ayam Penyet Surabaya otw to town. Biasa saja..waroeng penyet lagi sedap kot. Maybe sebab dah lewat, banyak item dalam menu tu dah abes. Hampa harapan aku nak minum alpokat.

Dah sampai hotel. Ingat maybe nak kluar balik ronda2 town..tapi memandangkan hotel tu far from town (cam kat area pekan koboi – kosong time malam tu) so makanya aku pun tido saja la.

After breakfast kami hire cab (turned out to be our designated driver kat sana sampai balik) bawa kami ke Pajak Ikan. Pajak Ikan ni tak jual ikan, tapi jual telekung, kain lace, barang2 ke haji, etc. Mak aku pun suka lah. Shopping serba sedikit then kami ke few places pulak. Semuanya bercirikan shopping. Tapi Medan ni nan hado..as compared to Bandung. Aku beli telekung sepasang and kain lace. Lunch kat Garuda Nasi Padang..sedap tapi mahal la. 6 orang RM100+-. Mahal la tu for nasi padang standard, and dekat indo plak tu.

Then petang tu aku dengan abang aku naik motor beca pegi spa. Spa yang ermm..busuk sikit aa as compared to the ones in Bali or Bandung. Harga kemain lagi..urut plus lulur Rp270k. Mahal la bagi aku. Tapi dah sangap plus sakit badan, aku pun bayar je la. Lepas abes session, lebih kurang 2 jam, aku tengok2 abang aku dah takde. Dia whatsapp suruh aku balik sendiri sebab dia pegi tempat lain. So ok la..aku pun jalan2 sikit tapi ya ampun there’s nothing there. Kawasan tu walaupun kat town tapi cam takda benda menarik. Aku pun malas nak pegi jauh2..just singgah Indo Mart beli coffees & nuts then aku amek motor beca balik hotel. Kat sini nescafe kotak dia macam-macam jenis weh..ada caramel, mocha etc.

OK tips, harga teksi and motor beca adalah sama..walaupun teksi jauh lebih selesa dan kurang bahaya berbanding beca. Tapi bak kata abang aku, kesian kat depa ni competition too steep & tak ada peluang kerja yang lain, so amek lah service beca depa. Terpulang la.

Malamnya kami semua pi Sun Plaza, tak silap aku shopping mall paling gah kat Medan kot. Jangan tak tau, kat situ ada MNG, Sogo etc. Kedai makan pun best2 la. Ada 3 bookstores, Gramedia, Popular dan Times Bookstore. Dinner kat Waroeng Ubud, food not bad..aku makan mee goreng indo, small portion tapi mengenyangkan la.

Kami balik after that. Capik mengantuk semua ada. Abang aku keluar balik pi mana ntah..aku terus tido.

The next day aku bangun sesudah subuh sapi’e. Gara-gara arahan shopaholic yakni mak aku, yang nak ke Pajak Ikan sekali lagi. *pitam. Tapi aku ada agenda lain, nak pegi Pasar Buku..nasib baik dekat2 je. So aku ke Pasar Buku dulu then meet up dengan diorang kat Pajak Ikan. Aku beli buku-buku Pramoedya Ananta Toer, tak terdapat di Gramedia mahupun kedai buku lain. And satu buku dari Habiburrahman El Shirazy. Total tak sampai RM60 untuk semua buku tu. Good investment rasanya.

Tips. Dekat Pasar Buku tu ada Merdeka Walk, terdapat cafe2 & fast food cam Pizza & McD. Go to McD for wifi, tapi jangan masuk toilet dia. Nanti menyesal.

Lepas aku shopping buku dan mak & aunty aku shopping kain, kami pun balik dan check out. Zas pi shopping cake & bika ambon pulak..kat kedai Zulaikha ni. Famous orang kata. Then beli peanut cookies kat tempat lain plak. Singgah toko buah, aku beli alpukat 3 biji, tak sampai RM6 weh murah gila. Kat Malaysia sebiji pun dah RM5.

Then Ah Wan si cab driver pun menurutkan kehendak kami untuk makan seafood. Maka kami terus ke Pantai Cermin, sejauh 2+-jam dari Kota Medan.


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He he.

Air coklat tu pun beratus orang mandi. Ombak ngan angin kuat gila. Tapi tengah2 laut tu air biru muda…cam mengancam jugak kan. Cuma depan2 ni air kaler milo la..milo sedap, air laut ni aku no komen. Oh pasir dia kaca2, hence the name Pantai Cermin. Tak sure betul ke tak tapi aku rasa betul la.

Seafood chinese style..sedap, kepiting (ketam) gemuk2 and murah. Masakan tak jauh beza dengan local chinese seafood. Enjoy la kami makan tepi laut dengan angin kuat tu.

Lepak buang masa sekejap then kitorang pun terus ke airport. Dari Pantai Cermin to Kuala Namu I’national Airport amek masa lebih kurang 45 minit. Ada juga train yang menghubungkan airport dengan kota Medan. Tak salah aku bayaran Rp80k sorang. Airport depa ni besar dan moden..tapi maybe sebab baru, ada banyak lagi kedai tak buka. Siap ada retail boutique bagai.

Kali ni jugak first time dalam sejarah kami sampai 3 jam sebelum scheduled flight. Awal gila! ha ha tapi tu la..tau2 dah abes journey di kota Medan ni. Balik KL esok keja!

Weekend trip to Sandakan, Sabah – Day One

To start this off, Sabah is situated in Malaysia. Borneo is a name of a huge island which comprises  Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysian states), Brunei and Kalimantan of Indonesia. I find that it weird that westerners keep on referring to ‘Sabah in Borneo’. Sabah is in Malaysia!

Went to Sandakan (a city in Sabah) on the weekend with the family. We stayed at the charming boutique hotel called Nak Hotel in the city. It’s an old hotel that still maintains its style and charm of that in the 1960s. The best part was that it has an awesome rooftop bar where it also serves daily breakfast over there.





Sandakan is also a getaway for ecotourism in Sabah, as there are Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Kinabatangan River, Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary in Labuk Bay and islands such as Turtle Island, Berhala Island and Lankayan Island (a bit far, about 1 hr 30 mins boat journey).

First day we went to Labuk Bay, roughly about one hour journey from the city. There lies a proboscis monkey sanctuary, in a form of mangrove swamp forest. Only in a certain parts of Borneo that one can see this endangered species. Nowhere else in the world but here. So yeah, this place is a must visit. The proboscis monkeys are wild and not confined in the sanctuary. They only make their appearance twice daily for feeding. It’s just that this mangrove is their natural habitat, and along with the increasing development in the coastal area, these monkeys are threatened with extinction. Something has to be done in order to prevent this possibility, ergo this sanctuary.

Entry fee : RM15 for Malaysians

Feeding time a.k.a viewing time : Platform A – 9.30am & 2.30pm; Platform B – 11.30am & 4.30pm


Can you see a teeny tiny proboscis?

After lunch we headed for another 2 hours journey to Sukau district as to experience the wildlife of Kinabatangan River.The river spans across over 500kms in length, making it the second longest river in Malaysia. We got into a long sampan man by a local kid. The sampan can fit about 9 people for RM150. Only when we were in the middle of the river that the boatman told us that the river is infested with crocodiles.


Anyway, the river journey took 2 hours (plus another one hour stalking the wild elephants. so yeah, 3 hours on the crocs infested river. nice.) We saw horn bills, monkeys, macaque, and of course, the wild elephants. This is quite a rare event as wild elephants moved in groups and are nomadic in nature. It was just so happen that a few elephants were there just beside the river bank that day. They were eating and upon sun down, were expected to be making their way into the river for a sip of water and a bath. But we were pressed for time so we didn’t wait until the sun down.


The wild elephants

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