As I was planning my trip to Tokyo, I was told numerous times that it was a ridiculously expensive city. I ended up bringing about ¥35,000 in cash for food, drink, and whatever else I wanted to throw some dollar bills at (not including my hotel), and only had about ¥2,000 left after five days. I’m a fairly money-conscious individual, but do like to indulge every once in awhile. While there were certainly things I didn’t do while in Tokyo given my time constraints (the Robot Restaurant, for example), I left feeling like I did everything I had originally wanted to and was able to really enjoy my time here. So, if you’re wondering “how much money should I bring to Tokyo?”, keep reading for the breakdown of all my expenses over five days.
Figuring out which area of Tokyo to stay in and then finding a hotel that doesn’t cost a fortune can be a logistical nightmare (especially when traveling over the popular sakura/cherry blossom season). After plenty of research on where to stay, I opted to pay a bit more for accommodation in a central area, as opposed to staying a bit out of the way to save some money. Shinjuku was on just about every travel guide and blog I read, so once I settled on that location it was time to choose a hotel. I narrowed it down based on price, distance from the metro, and facilities. The only hotel I found at the time to be within reason was the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex.
These are snippets of what I’ve experienced living in Hong Kong over the past years: from the funny to the weird, and everything in between. I’ll continue to update this post as I come across more strange and wonderful things around the city.
70. Where this anti-smoking ad is more likely to make you laugh than to quit smoking.
69. Where honesty is key.
68. Where you’ll find “Monkey Head” on a menu.
67. When monks wear “spicy” shoes on the MTR.
66. When people have too much money and too little sense, and decide to cover their Porsche in black velvet.
65. When restaurants need to specify that liquor is intoxicating, as opposed to it being..?
64. When these are the things I see on my commute to work in the morning.
63. When the Hong Kong Observatory issues a T8 (strong typhoon warning) without it even raining, and the whole city literally shuts down..
62. When precautions are taken very seriously around a work site..
61. Where people need to be reminded of proper hygiene practices.
60. When it’s 30°C outside and people are wearing a down jacket and Hawaiian shorts.
59. Where this outdoor display is meant to entice you to eat here.
58. Where the elderly take their exercising seriously.
57. Where the world’s most insane beauty products exist.
56. Where people are badass.
55. Where seeing this becomes normal.
54. Where clothes can be incredibly ironic.
53. Where you can purchase a “Mini Portable Toilet”.
52. Where you can find people sleeping at the bottom of stairwells.
51. Where soup exists for your hands.
50. Where department stores display Halloween and Christmas decorations side by side.
49. Where fashion is taken seriously.
48. Where products like this actually exist and famous soccer players actually promote them.
47. When you’re not sure what the marketing strategy is.
46. Where people own incredibly large cellphones.
45. Where you always get a good laugh out of locals wearing English shirts.
44. Where you can find a truckload of bamboo just lying on the street.
43. When fancy port-a-potty’s equipped with carpeted floors, a full length mirror, and a framed picture are rented for the Rugby Sevens.
42. Where drying your entire wardrobe along a public walkway is a thing.
41. When a notice regarding “throwing animal discharge from height” is posted in your apartment building.
40. Where the love of egg tarts is real.
39. Where you’re just not quite sure what to do in some situations (so you just take a photo instead)
38. Where you can wait for the bus in style.
37. Where you have announcements like this in the MTR:
“Please hold onto the handrails and not just look at your mobile phone.”
36. When businesses run out of the back of a van.
35. Where you can get some exercise on the side of the road.
34. Where the food safety and hygiene guidelines are questionable.
33. Where people will queue for hours on end.
32. When a water pipe bursts, construction workers are more concerned with taking a picture of the flooding street than fixing it.
31. Where advertisements sure know how to catch your attention.
30. Where DIY projects consist of sticking oven mitts to the handle bars of motorcycles.
29. Where you can buy wine by the plastic glass in the grocery store.
28. Where this is considered entertainment at a nightclub.
27. Where your choice of local grocery store is based solely upon how much its name makes you laugh.
26. Where public stretching in short shorts and no shirt is serious business.
25. When candy wrappers warn consumers that “children and elderly people should not eat absolutely.”
24. Where you can’t walk more than two blocks without seeing one of these “litter cum recyclables” bins.
23. Where you can find horse figurines, among other oddities, randomly stuck into large rocks.
22. When these are a few words of wisdom imparted on you by a local restaurant owner:
“Don’t go back to Canada. So many animal. So few people. Don’t waste your life.”
*Mr. Wong from Mr. Wong’s, Mong Kok
21. When eating pig skin is considered a delicacy.
20. When your concept of what dessert is completely flipped around.
19. When signs like this are posted outside of the washrooms at a bar.
18. Where people are really serious about Hello Kitty.
17. Where this is on display at an amusement park.
16. When this becomes a regular sight on a night out.
15. Where adults dressing the same is a thing.
14. When the smog is so thick you can no longer see half of the tallest building in your area.
13. Where embarrassment does not exist.
12. When the weather is more indecisive than I am.
11. When owning an oven is the epitome of wealth and the envy of all your friends.
10. When you can take the escalator up to the gym.
Bonus: having a McDonald’s right underneath.
9. When you can find preserved whole baby crabs in a snack bag.
8. When Groupon sells stuff like this.
7. When you climb up a mountain and have this as your view (just ignore the smog).
6. When the only way to get hot water in your flat is by turning this on.
5. Where people either fear or are obsessed with dogs.
4. When families and couples coordinate their outfits so they all match.
3. When it is 20° out and people are wearing winter jackets and boots.
2. When you’re on the MTR and see a man plucking out his facial hair with tweezers.
1. When you’re at the gym and
a) Men are wearing shorter shorts than women
b) People are wearing their work clothes
c) One in five people are talking on their cellphone
The Discovery Bay to Mui Wo hike is perfect if you’re wanting to get off Hong Kong Island without wasting much time getting to and back from your hike. This hike is very straight forward and offers fantastic views of Discovery Bay and the surrounding islands (if the weather is cooperating). The first half of this hike can be challenging, with a lot of uphill stairs and a fairly steep climb up to Tiger’s Head. However, the rest of the trail is flat and downhill. The hike ends at Silvermine Bay Beach, so bring your bathing suit and take a quick dip in the water before catching the ferry back to Central.
If you want to visit temples in Japan, most people will direct you to Kyoto where you’ll find plenty. However, if you’re only staying in Tokyo, you’d be missing out if you didn’t make the trip to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Although a very popular tourist spot, I loved walking around the Sensoji Temple and the surrounding Asakusa area. You’ll see plenty of locals partaking in various Buddhist practices, try a range of snacks at one of the numerous shops, and grab a souvenir or two before you leave.
If you ask for suggestions on where to go for a fun night out in Tokyo, it’s likely that many people will tell you to head to Golden Gai in Shinjuku. This well-known area of Tokyo is famous for its nightlife. You’ll find 6 parallel alleyways with tiny bars crammed everywhere (there’s said to be over 200 bars). Many tourists come here for a bit of bar hopping (if you manage to find a seat), though there are a handful of bars that cater to a “Japanese-speaking only” crowd. While I can’t say I loved Golden Gai, I thought it was a unique experience that is worth checking out.
The Shinjuku district of Tokyo is a bustling, hectic, and very modern part of the city, however, there are a few spots only steps away from the busy main streets that offer visitors a glimpse into the old Tokyo. One such place is Memory Lane (translated from Omoide Yokocho, but also known as “Piss Alley”). Here you’ll find an assortment of tiny shops that serve up yakitori, soba noodles, and (of course) plenty of drinks. Aside from just being really cool to walk through thanks to its narrow alleyways, cramped bars with people laughing, eating, and drinking, and Japanese decor strung throughout, this is where I found the best bowl of soba noodles.
When I came back from Cambodia, a lot of people asked me how I liked it and, likely surprising to most, I had a hard time articulating my feelings. I know lots of people absolutely love Siem Reap and for good reason – there was certainly many things I really enjoyed while I was there; the temples are beautiful, the history is rich, the food is great, and the people are lovely. But, as with any area (especially here in Southeast Asia), once it becomes popular with tourists, it tends to lose a lot of its authenticity. Essentially, the reasons why people originally fell in love with that place have been stripped away and replaced (ie westernized). This is how I feel about Siem Reap.
When I travel, I love to immerse myself in as much of the local culture as possible. One way I do that is through my stomach. I love local food and always look forward to trying regional dishes throughout the countries I visit. Everyone knows a handful of Thai and Vietnamese dishes, but I was less familiar with what Cambodian food was all about before my flight to Phnom Penh. I certainly ate my way through the country at various night markets, little hole-in-the-wall shops, and street stalls, and really came to appreciate the local food scene here. Though not necessarily my top choice for Southeast Asian food, I really loved all the local food I ate in Cambodia while I was there. If you’re wondering what to eat in Cambodia, here is a list of my 10 favorite dishes. Continue reading What to eat in Cambodia: My top 10 picks
This is a continuation from my previous post on the first two temples (Banteay Srei and Preah Khan) I visited during the second day of my temple-hopping adventures in Siem Reap. After having seen five temples in the last 24-hours (I went to Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm the previous day), I had three more temples to tackle: Neak Pean, Ta Som, and Pre Rup. Despite being hot, hungry, and tired, I was looking forward to cramming in a few more temples before my Cambodian adventures were over.