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”.

Bienvenidos Zamboanga

We traveled for around five hours from Pagadian to reach Zamboanga, the only Latin city of the country. As noticed, some of the stores’ names are written in an uncommon word and the dialect used is “chavacano” which is almost related to Spanish language.

Location: Zambonga City, Philippines

Where I Stayed: Casa Canelar

Buddy: Group (5+)

DAY ONE

We checked-in at Casa Canelar and offered us a spacious family room on the 3rd floor for P1,800. The hotel didn’t offer the usual bed and breakfast scheme. The reception at the ground floor was the backdoor of the Gerry’s Grill Restaurant. The best thing here was, the reception collected our ordered foods and the restaurant’s staff delivered it directly to our room.

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Fort Pilar, Zamboanga
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Marian Shrine, Zamboanga

In the afternoon, we roamed on the busiest street of the city which historically witnessed the war siege in 2013. We visited the Spanish era buildings of the municipal hall and its neighboring establishments. We walked on the aisle and waited for the romantic sunset at Paseo del Mar. We also visited and increased our spiritual reflection on the mass held in the shrine of Fort Pilar, an old fortress built by Spanish long time ago.

DAY TWO

We had an island tour in the only pink island of Zamboanga in the morning. The details was on the different post, The faded pink sand of Sta. Cruz island.

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In the afternoon, we headed to the City’s Barter to buy souvenirs. Zamboanga products are characterized by Muslims textiles symbolizing its colorful culture. The different designs of “sarong” and “malong” are the best buys. We enhanced our bidding and bargaining skills for there were so many stores to choose.

After buying souvenirs, we visited the Butterfly Garden. I’ve been to several butterfly sanctuaries but only on that garden I saw and encountered so many live butterflies.  We also visited the nearby museum, El Museo de Zamboanga. Unfortunately, the museum was already closed.

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