Osaka, Please Hold the Last Sakura

This year, the cherries blossomed so early than expected in Osaka and its nearby cities. The data was according to the Japan’s forecast as we checked it a day before we traveled. Seeing a cherry blossoms was deleted from our travel expectations but we’re still hoping to at least see even one petal left hanging on the tree until our arrival.

Location: Osaka, Japan

Where I Stayed: J-Suite East Namba, nearest station is Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka of Tanimachi Line

Buddies: Family

DSC_0032Day 1 – Osaka City Tour

We woke up with a cool breeze when opening the room’s sliding window. From there, we glimpsed on the vicinity of the neighborhood and noticed that the area was so quiet. The air smelled clean though high rise buildings circling the apartment.

At 7am, there was a news feed in the social media showing flowering trees at the park along O River. It was only four subway stations away from our location by Tanimachi Line. We prepared and headed to the station for a quick ride to Temmabashi Station. It was our only chance to see real cherry blossoms.

We lost our instinct compass when we went out from the underground station. We already crossed the busy road but came back when we realized that we were tracking on the opposite direction of the map.

DSC_0045aCherry Blossoms

Flocks of tourists were also heading to the area. Everyone was in hurry and steps were quick and fast. The displayed banners and signs containing instructions and visibility of traffic enforcers guided us until we reach the park. The trees were at their peak blossoms. It was so wonderful that we had watched it so close. There were park’s staffs who control the mobs. They kept on reminding the people to move and not to stay longer in one area (speaking in Japanese but their gestures are quite understandable). Tripods and selfie sticks were surprisingly not permitted for taking photos. Even carrying my child on my shoulder was also not allowed.

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After an enjoyable walk, we turned back to visit the food market and have breakfast on one of the food stalls. We refueled our bodies since our first hours already consumed a lot of our energy. After our first sumptuous Japanese meal, we left the park crossing the bridge of O River and walked up to Gokurakubashi Bridge, the northern entrance to Osaka Castle park.

Osaka Castle Park

The Osaka Castle Park is surrounded by trees, moats, and stone walls as first defense of the castle from the invaders during its historical time. This significant and well unique structure is a symbol of the culture which was continuously preserved by ages. The entrance to the park is free but there is a payment when accessing the castle tower.

After a short stay at the tower’s ground, we walked south and accidentally visit the Shudokan. It is a school for martial arts and intriguingly observed the locals (mostly grandpas) while harnessing and sparring with their wooden samurai sword. We stayed there a bit longer for my kid was enjoying it and didn’t want to leave.

DSC_0200When the students took their breaks, we moved out from the school and headed to Otemon Gate, the southwestern gate of the castle. We walked south passing the Osaka Museum of History until we found an old style Japanese house. We didn’t find anything to identify its name. However, it was so peculiar that it still stands untouched even surrounded by modern buildings.

DSC_0218aWe headed directly to the nearby Tanimachiyonchome Station and rode a subway train (Chuo Line) to Osakako Station. The nearest station to the attractions that we planned and included in our own“Do-It-Yourself” tour.

DSC_0232aTempozan Giant Ferris Wheel

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel greeted our eyes from the subway station. We walked for around five minutes to reach this giant ride. We bought our ride tickets and the giant structure soared us up at the height of 112.5 meters from the ground for approximately 20 minutes. From the top, the panoramic views of Osaka Bay and overlooking views of the city filled our sights. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Osaka Aquarium, and even the Universal Studios are an eye away from the top. This gigantic ride supposedly non-stop but it stops when the riders are not quick enough to catch the moving cabin during entering and exiting.

DSC_0256aOsaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

At 2pm, we found ourselves queuing at the entrance gate of the Osaka Aquarium, which claimed to be one among the largest aquarium in the world. We entered and walked straight to the escalator which was the longest escalator ride I ever experienced. I was shocked that I  forgot to click the camera but instead busy on counting if how many floors was its equivalent. The escalator started from the 2nd floor straight up to building’s top floor. From the top floor, the fish tank viewing started all the way down to the ground. There are so many varieties of marine species from arctic and pacific we saw. Some are huge too!

DSC_0297aDSC_0294aThe pathway down to different fish tanks was dark and crowded. I personally ensured that I would not lost sight to my child who was enjoying them much. The aquarium is the best place for children to meet up with different species of fishes and marine animals. A lot of different families of penguins, dolphins, and seals are there too to entertain both adult and young visitors.

DSC_0267aAt 3:30pm, we went out from the aquarium. We’re both tired and hungry. The famous “takoyaki” and chocolate filled crepe partially filled our emptiness while a light rainfall started to moist our jackets.

We rode the Chuo line subway back to Tanimachiyonchome Station. From there, we changed subway platform to Tanimachi and rode to Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka station. We arrived in our accommodation at 4:30pm.

DSC_0321A few minutes walk from our accommodation, we found the LIFE supermarket as our lives saver. We bought foods for our dinner at 20% to 40% off. The best time to buy those delicious cooked meal is during the night partnered with Japanese precooked rice and cold beers. I’m so impressed that the cashier never speak English (but I think can understand) and handed me the change with two hands while the head was down and said “arigato gozaimashita”.

The Golden Triangle of India

I disbanded from the culture I newly known and started to love. This is what I felt after the Golden Triangle trip in India.

The Golden Triangle is the most preferred tour as most of the tourists I met were with the same route. It refers to the triangular shape formed in the map of the three cities of India; New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Tourists preferably choose this tour to see the marvelous Taj Mahal of Agra, archaeological sites within Jaipur, and historical landmarks in New Delhi for a certain duration.

The six-day tour price ranges between 12 to 15 thousand Indian rupees per head including 3-star accommodations, transportation, tour guides, taxes, rides and other services as agreed with the tour agency. The more people to join the tour reduces the marked price. Budget tour packages for cheaper option was also offered by the tour agents.

DSC_0180Our customized itinerary prepared by Map My Tours was so hectic but I personally enjoyed it. I traveled with a small kid so we didn’t follow the normal tour program. The continuous communication of the tour agent was necessary to well discuss the arrangements and lay out the certain possibilities of changes to the tour. The role of Mr. Shrawan of Map My Tours was very important and his replies to our messages timely attracted us. His tour package was grabbed which urged us to apply tourist E-visa online to enter India. Besides, he agreed that the whole amount of the tour package will be paid upon arrival. His presence on our arrival and meeting on us on the last day of the tour was deeply appreciated.

I’m very thankful to Sanjay for driving us safely to the tourist sites of the Golden Triangle. He was neat and kept the car clean. He was consistently on time and always offering a cold bottled water to drink after we came back from every tour. He talked less but his working attitude gave us comfortable ride from traffic jam of New Delhi towards cows dominated road of Agra and mountainous highway of Jaipur. I felt sad when he finally brought us back to the airport on the last day. His personality marked on our hearts and I highly recommend him to be my tour driver if ever I visit New Delhi again.

Hotel Reviews

All the hotel bookings during my Golden Triangle trip were arranged by the travel agent. It is my part to give feedback, both positive and negative, on things I encountered. This is my personal assessment and I hope it will be accepted positively.

Taurus
Comfortable Bed of Taurus Hotel

Taurus Hotel is a few minutes drive from New Delhi Airport. This hotel was our tour starting point. The building is under renovation so the vicinity I’ve seen on arrival was not safe and convenient. The receptionists were so accommodating and helpful.

The room was in ordinary size but the bedding was so comfortable. The AC was working nicely and so cold that we need to adjust its setting.

The hotel has two operating restaurants but we chose Alpha 63 for our early dinner. The restaurant was untidy to look especially the utensils and the table. Flies was also spotted even we were inside the building. The restaurant staffs were so busy at that time, but they managed to entertain us. The “biryani” was served very spicy though I requested to make it non-spicy. The assigned waiter offered to replace it but I declined. I knew, the waiter will be charged when the food was returned. However, the vegetable pizza was delicious and cheesy. This restaurant introduced the levels of spiciness to us.

The complimentary breakfast was mostly Indian cuisines. The attitudes of some guests during our stay were noticeable for they were standing and eating near the buffet table.

Heart Rate: Room ♥♥♥♥Staffs♥♥♥Foods♥♥♥Restaurant♥♥

Taj Vila
Comfortable bed of Hotel Taj Vila

Hotel The Taj Vila was our luxury hotel in Agra located near the mall. The receptionists were already expected our arrival. A welcome drink was served while relaxing comfortably at the reception hall.

We had a nice executive room with a coffee table and modern amenities. The bedding was very comfortable which gave us a peaceful night. Unfortunately, the internet was slow so I didn’t enjoy much of my social media life for a night.

The restaurant’s non-veg pasta was the first food we ordered through room service. As expected, it has a little spicy taste. Some menu can’t be served without hot savor. The complimentary breakfast in the restaurant was superb for selection of Indian and Intercontinental cuisines as buffet. Eggs can be cooked according to  desire as the standby cook was available. The restaurant has stylish decors and relaxing fined dining atmosphere.

Heart Rate: Room♥♥♥♥Staffs♥♥♥Foods♥♥♥♥Restaurant♥♥♥♥♥

The Anuraag Villas was our next accommodation situated in the middle of residential village in Jaipur for two days. This hotel gave us the feelings that we were just at home. The receptionist was approachable and comfortable to communicate. We were so touched that he offered a complimentary cake for our trip buddy who was celebrating a birthday. The staffs are mostly young and humbly shy on talking just like me. Speaking English language is not our comfort zone.

The room was wide and bedding was basic but that old wood cabinet massages our eyes. Simplicity is beauty as what we called it. The window’s location of the bathroom was so challenging. There was nice view from the window while sitting on the porcelain throne. At night was my greatest concern, my silhouette might be seen from the outside when taking a shower .

The restaurant is purely vegetarian so expected that there is no meat found on the menu aside from eggs. The complimentary breakfast was prepared upon ordering and can be served either in the room, restaurant or in the garden. Breakfast at the garden must be tried to experience dining while a flute musician is serenading.

Heart rate: Room♥♥♥Staffs♥♥♥♥♥Foods♥♥♥Restaurant♥♥♥

Clarks Inn
Comfortable Room of Clarks Inn Hotel

Lastly, the Clarks Inn Hotel was our hotel in South Delhi for two nights. Its location is excellent because it’s near to metro station. There is also a good restaurant named Storm Bar and Grill which is few minutes away by walk.

The room was big with an old sofa. The bedding was so nice and soft. However, the bed’s headboard was with bad odor so we were avoiding to be near it. The plastic water dipper and bucket in the toilet were dirty.

The restaurant rid us from spicy food. The unknown chef was very appreciated for granting our request of zero spicy taste on our ordered food. It was important for us as we are traveling with a kid and I also have low tolerance on spiciness. We preferred the menu served in the hotel than dining out.

Room♥♥♥♥Staffs♥♥♥Foods♥♥♥♥Restaurant♥♥♥

Conclusions

I was surprised that most of the hotel bellboys are always expecting a tip from guests. They didn’t ask verbally but their gestures are showing that they were asking of it.

Majority of the foods served in India are spicy. My sense of taste was crippled due to spiciness. We always relied on the flatbread, “paratha or nan” every time that we can’t survive on the ordered Indian food.

DSC00888The level of cleanliness in India specifically for toilets and bathrooms were so different compared to previous hotels where I stayed. The toilet bowls were not properly cleaned. Black stains were visible in the toilet bowls of all hotels where we stayed even at the restaurants and Delhi’s modernized airport.

Overall, my trip in India ended with a smile and satisfied feeling. The Indian greetings, the daily transfer, the hot and spicy foods which has burning sensation in my ass, the squirrels, cows, crows, monkeys, and pigeons… I am missing them all.

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