Taipei Zoo Family Guide

My kids and I fell in love with Taipei Zoo the first time we went there.   The place is huge!  165 hectares with 90 hectares open to the public, it is the biggest zoo in Asia.  The landscape is rich in foliage, so if you are not looking at the glorious animals you are looking at rich vegetation.

The animal enclosures don't seem like an enclosure at all because it is big and designed to re-create the animal's habitat.  That said the animals look healthy and well-taken cared.  They have everything!  From pandas, to African elephants, dessert camels, koalas, a gigantic aviary of birds, huge reptile collection, even penguins!  In the 6 times that I have been there, all weekdays, the place wasn't packed. [Read more...]

Guide to a Day Trip at Yilan with Kids (Part 2)

Just 1.5-2 hours away Taipei City,  Yilan has a lot to offer.  We were able to go to 7 places in one day but there are still a lot of places to discover.  For the meantime,  here are the places we were able to visit in a day and that includes travel time from Taipei already! Click here for part 1.

4.   Agrioz Museum Cafe

I accidentally deleted my other photos and was left with this.  Check out Agrioz Candied Fruit Museum and you will see photos from the web.  The cafe has very nice interior with fun additions like this giant table and chair.  If you are a group of 15,  you can schedule a candied fruit making experience.

5.   CP Cheese Factory

Not exactly a factory but they do have delightful interiors and their Japanese cheesecakes are very good.  A cheesecake ranges from [Read more...]

Guide to a Day Trip at Yilan with Kids (Part 1)

Just 1.5-2 hours away Taipei City,  Yilan has a lot to offer.  We were able to go to 7 places in one day but there are still a lot of places to discover.  For the meantime,  here are the places we were able to visit in a day and that includes travel time from Taipei already!

  1. Mr. Brown Castle Cafe

Not your ordinary coffee shop, Mr. Brown fashioned this cafe to an English castle.  I ordered a coffee latte and passion lime cake which was pretty good.  My kids had their fill of gelato.

Best place to sit [Read more...]

Top Trails for Families at Taroko National Park, Taiwan

Since my husband is currently based in Taipei,  my kids and I have gone to Taiwan several times in the past few years.  We always enjoyed our day trips and our food binges.  This time my husband took us East of Taiwan and I must say, as an outdoors person, Taroko National Park in Hualien,  is one of my favourites.If you will be in Taiwan for longer than 3 days or if you have previously gone around Taipei city already or if you prefer nature to city, Hualien, home of Taroko National Park, is worth the trip.  It is a 2-3 hour train ride from Taipei city thus an overnight stay is highly recommended.  Read about How to Get to and How to Go Around Taroko National Park here.

Top Spots at Taroko National Park for Families: [Read more...]

7 Reasons to Visit Taiwan: Asian Traveller Edition

When one thinks of Taiwan they think of rows and rows of factories with little albeit no tourist areas to boast of. I had no intention of visiting the place but since my husband is currently Taipei based I had the pleasure of calling “Ilha Formosa,” the beautiful island, our second home.

Here are my top 7 reasons why you should visit Taipei: [Read more...]

Experience the Magic as Hongkong Disneyland Turns 10

Hongkong-Disneyland-FireworksImagine the most wonderful time of the year, in the happiest place on Earth with all the festivities of a 10th year anniversary! It’s hitting the jackpot thrice!

It seems like yesterday when the nearest Disneyland closest to home opened it’s door to Asia.   And just as you would expect from Disneyland, such a celebration will come with much fanfare and joy.

Listed below are the new attractions people are raving about in Hongkong Disneyland’s 10th Year Anniversary celebration:

MICKEY AND THE WONDROUS BOOK, a brand new live musical featuring Disney’s most loved characters and stories from Mickey Mouse to Olaf and Tangled to Frozen.

Mickey-and-the-Wondrous-BookKids will be delighted to see all the characters they love in one musical show! I can already see the glow in the eyes of the kids!

DISNEY IN THE STARS, is the stunning Fireworks show of Disneyland only more dazzling!

Fireworks-at-DisneylandCutting-edge technology, spectacular lighting effects and state-of-the-art video projection on the Sleeping Beauty Castle will leave everyone in awe. I don’t know if I’m the only one but Disney’s Finale Fireworks always makes me teary-eyed with joy. It’s like my heart is swelling with hope and joy, I have to cry it out! Maternal hormones!

FAIRY TALE FOREST.  Visualize walking through the whimsical landscape of “Tangled,” the familiar town of Beauty and the Beast to the underwater world of “Little Mermaid.” Wouldn’t it be enchanting!?!

To add to the 10th anniversary flair, Disneyland is also offering a play and dine promo that entitles visitors to a free combo meal in the restaurants inside Disneyland . The combo meal comes with main course and a drink.

For more information on Hongkong Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary attractions and promos, hop on over here.

For an extra touch of whimsy, Hongkong Disneyland has made a game where you can create a personal note using different Disney themes, like the one I made.Hongkong Disneyland Facebook GameTry making you own at Hongkong Disneyland’s FB Page and let your husband or kids be amused.

Let the magic of Hongkong Disneyland fill the entire family!

TheGoMom signature





When is the best time to go to Hongkong with the Kids/Family?

Hongkong DisneylandSince I came out with my travel blog on Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park on a Budget (Part 1) and Part 2, I have received some questions on the best time to go to Hongkong.  Given that we come from hot, hot Philippines,  you would want to go to Hongkong at the time it is cold.  Hong Kong has four seasons: a cool and dry winter, unstable and wet spring, hot and humid summer, and warm and pleasant autumn (Wikepedia).

May to September is their rainy season.  We went before on an August and we were in Disney with our umbrellas.  It was so bad I didn't even take pictures.  Their sunny winter starts November and becomes cloudier by February (15-19 °C parang Baguio).  Their unstable and wet spring is from March to May.  Our last trip was March and we had perfect cool weather but it is true that March weather is unpredictable, see March 2014 freak storm.   July and August is their hottest period.  When we came in for a visit in July years ago, it was so hot the kids refused to stand to watch the parade.   Best time to go is late October to early December.

Another thing to consider is the Chinese Holidays.  You wouldn't want to be going to those places during a Chinese holiday since the parks will be packed, the lines for the rides exhausting and the hotel rates are at its peak.  In our last visit to Ocean Park last March,  there were a lot of people and it wasn't even a holiday,  imagine the horror of being in the park on a holiday!!!

Here is the Chinese Major Public Holiday 2014-2016 schedule from

Image from

Image from

Hope this helps:-)

References: and

Travel Happy!

TheGoMom signature

Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park on a Budget (Part 1)

Hongkong DisneylandIt has been 8 years since the kids visited Hongkong.  They hardly remember what it was like.  With the memory of Hongkong almost blank plus a new toddler sibling in tow,  it was almost like a new experience for everyone.

My husband only has Friday to spare so we went on technically a 3 day/2night tour of Hongkong's best known places for kids, Disneyland and Ocean Park!

Where to Stay:

Since we didn't plan to do any city tours,  we decided to stay at the Tsuen Wan area, near the airport and Disneyland.  We stayed at L' Hotel Nina et Convention Center.  The hotel has a very good location.  The MTR (Hongkong's train station) is just 5 minutes walk away, shopping centers are just beside it plus it is situated right at the Tsuen Wan park.  We got a superior double bedroom at HK$890 net per night.

L' Hotel Nina et Convention Tsuen Wan

The rooms are big (2 double sized beds) with huge bay windows where the kids can sit and watch the city lights of Tsuen Wan.  An extra treat was the glass partition that separates the bathroom from the room.  My kids kept on waving hello as they took a bath in the small tub.  The room was clean but there was no bidet in the bathroom, no wifi and no cable in our TV.  We didn't bother to complain about it though because it was an electronics free holiday for us (except my husband).

Yup, no Ipad, no TV and no Iphone the whole trip, even for me!  I am so happy and my kids didn't complain:-)

Ticket Prices and Discounted Tickets:

Tickets to Disneyland are at HK$450/adult and HK$320/kid while kids 2 years old and below are free. Tickets to Ocean Park are at HK$320/adult and HK$160/kid while kids 3 years old and below get free admission.  Both can be paid with cash or credit card.

According to Trip Advisor,  you can get discounted tickets of Disney and Ocean Park at the CTS (China Travel Service) at the Hongkong Airport (HKIA) at HK$10 less per ticket.  Another company selling discounted tickets is Ticketmart,  HK$435/adults and HK$300 for kids.  The only problem is you still have to pick up the ticket from Kowloon.  If you are staying with friends there,  they can buy the ticket online and discounted ticket will be mailed to them.

We were supposed to buy our tickets from the China Travel Service at the airport but they are only open from 7am - 10pm.  We arrived past 10:(  CTS has 3 branches at the HKIA, click CTS HKIA to view branches.

For Transportation and Fares around Hongkong, food prices in Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park, What to Expect in Disney and Ocean Park and the best time to visit Hongkong click Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park on a Budget (Part 2).

If you want to compare if it would come out better if you take an organized tour vs making it out on your own click Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park on a Budget (Part 3).

Travel Happy!

TheGoMom signature



Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park on a Budget (Part 2)

Hongkong DisneylandIt has been 8 years since the kids visited Hongkong.  They hardly remember what it was like.  With the memory of Hongkong almost blank plus a new toddler sibling in tow,  it was almost like a new experience for everyone.

My husband only has Friday to spare so we went on technically a 3 day/2night tour of Hongkong's best known places for kids, Disneyland and Ocean Park!

Transportation and Fares around Hongkong:

We went around Hongkong using a cab, bus and MTR (Hongkong's train railway).  The cab from HKIA to our hotel was at HK$ 230.  While the cab from our hotel to Disney is at HK$ 150.  On our way to Ocean Park,  we took the MTR to Admiralty and rode the bus from there to Ocean Park (HK$10.60/adult one way; HK$5.30/child one way).

To get actual cost of your fares, go to MTR site and enter your starting point and destination.

Hongkong MTR Fare Rate

Example, I entered from: airport and to: Tsuen Wan and it estimated the time at 35 minutes with a fare of HK$60/adult and HK$30/kids.  Total train fare is at HK$180.  We took the cab and paid HK$230.

Note that for cabs,  passenger has to pay for all luggage that are placed in the trunk HK$5 each.  Passenger also shoulders the toll fares.  Depending on the license of the taxi you got,  maximum number of passenger is between\""

5 and they are strict on this.

Cab fare rates in Hongkong

Food Prices in Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park:

Fairwood Fastfood in Hongkong

For food, budget around HK$40-70/person/meal outside of the parks. We ate mostly casual dining ramen like Ajisen Ramen and Santouka (we are ramen crazy) and a bowl costs HK$75-100.  Fast-foods prices though are usually between HK$30-40. Try Fairwood or Cafe de Coral for local fastfood.  Click to see their branches.  I usually just share the meal of my kids so that's less one meal already for our family of 5.  For breakfast, we either take brunch to save one meal or eat the cup noodles we bought from their 7-11 stores.

As with any theme park,  the food and drinks are exorbitant!  So what we do is we take brunch and just eat one meal in the park.  We also brought our own water and snacks.  They did check our backpack at the entrance but they just let us in.  I brought a big can of Piknik, lots of Yanyan, some bread, 750ml Thermos jug (my kids want their water cold) and an extra 750ml water bottle.  Just to give you an idea of the food costs inside the park: water bottle HK$20, cotton candy HK$30, popsicle HK$40, $128 for a rice meal (no drinks) in Ocean Park and HK$88 for a complete burger or chicken meal (with drinks) in Disney.

My 2 older kids (aged 12 and 10) were very cooperative and understood money already.  They were doing the exchange rate and they didn't ask for a single souvenir nor popsicle from either Disney or Ocean Park.

What to Expect and Not Miss in Disneyland :

Hongkong DisneylandHongkong Disneyland,  if you don't intend to ride every single ride in the park, the whole park can be enjoyed in the early afternoon onwards.  My husband and I knew our kids' energy levels won't extend from 10am (opening hours) all the way to the 8pm fireworks, so we opted to have a leisurely lunch outside Disney and arrived there at 1pm.

Disney had new additions to the park.  They had the Toy Story Land where they had giant characters from Toy Story.  I loved the tall grass entrance to the Toy Story Land.  It gave us the prelude of the giant things to come.   The "Toy Soldier Parachute Drop"  and the "Slinky Dog Spin" were adorable but we had to pass it up because of the 60-minute long line.

They also added the Grizzly Gulch which is a trip back in the old West.  My kids screamed their hearts out at the "Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Car."

At Fantasy Land,  do take a journey around the world in "It's a Small World."  I asked my kids to name the country we were passing and they clapped along when they saw the Philippines!  We missed the show of the "Golden Mickeys"  because of routine maintenance, too bad, it seemed magical.  Mickey's PhilharMagic, 3-D adventure, wasn't that great.

At Tomorrowland,  my kids rode the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride 3 times!  My toddler is a big fan of Buzz.  My 2 older kids had fun shooting at the evil emperor Zurg.  I rode the "Space Mountain" before and got a major headache after, so we skipped the ride.  Kids also had fun on the Orbitron.

At Adventureland, don't miss the Jungle River Cruise and Tarzan's Treehouse.

And of course,  do stay on until 8pm to watch the spectacular fireworks display.

What to Expect and Not Miss in Ocean Park:

Ocean Park Hongkong

Don't miss the Grand Aquarium, the cable car ride from Old Hongkong area, Giant Panda Adventure, North Pole and South Pole encounter, Ocean Theater and the Pacific Pier if you want to catch some marine shows.

We went on a Saturday and it was jam packed!  There were just too many people.  We couldn't even move inside the Grand Aquarium.  My kids had to wait for several minutes before they could get a peek of a window.  We passed up on the rides because there were more sites to experience and besides the kids are not ride fans.  They have a lot of rides though for ride-loving kids.  I promised myself I will never go back to Ocean Park nor Disney on a weekend.

Best Time to Go to Hongkong:

This trip of ours had the perfect weather, not too cold and not too hot.  We enjoyed an 18-22 C cloudy weather.  Before you book,  visit Weather Underground, the site can give you weather history of a place so you can plan better.  Coming from the Philippines,  my kids wanted to visit when the weather is cool:-)

If your schedule permits it,  go on a weekday and check for Chinese holidays before your trip.  You wouldn't want to be in Hongkong when there is a Chinese holiday.  Since China lifted the visa requirement of the Chinese traveling to Hongkong,  the local tourists are just massive.  The huge density of .people can dampen the trip.

To know where we stayed and where to get discounted tickets of Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park click Hongkong Disneyland and Ocean Park on a Budget (Part 1).

Travel Happy!

TheGoMom signature





Himalayas: 6-Day Langtang Valley Trek

kyanjin gumpa

I'm alive. And I'm back!

48 kilometers of combined gentle and steep ascents.  13,000 feet that is high enough to kick off Altitude Sickness.  6 Meatless Days just when you need all the protein. Public Asian style bathrooms that rivals marathon Portalets.  The journey was long and arduous but the views and the company were exhilarating!

It has been a very tiring yet refreshing break for me. I have rekindled my love for the mountains and did a 6 day trek of the Langtang Region of Nepal with 7 girl pals, 2 of which are very good friends and the rest are now buddies.

Langtang Trek

The first two days were horrible. As in, my thighs were screaming in exhaustion!  It was an epic climb that went on for a torturous 10 hours each day!  The first day was a gentle ascent combined with a lot of steep uphill treks amidst lush forests and some rocky grounds in between.  While the second day was supposed to be an easier climb,  our bodies were still aching from yesterday's which made it harder. The weather was cool, about 15 Celsius (coldest at 7) and I really took it slow.  Well, I couldn't have done it any faster.  Apparently,  gym training is not enough.  We were trekking until early in the evening with our head lamps on, asking our Nepalese-girl-guide-now-bff-Goma every 2 minutes, "Are we there yet?!?"

These magnificent views, however, more than made up for the pains.

Above the clouds at Langtang.Langtang valleyThis lush forest enveloped us.Forest at Langtang Valley, Nepal

Strength and endurance.  Along the path, we encountered these men carrying sacks of rice yet their pace is steady and calm.  I was climbing with just my day pack and I was complaining like hell!  One Seed Expeditions,  an American Company, who arranged the entire trek  for us provided us with guides aka porters (prefer to be called guides).  I am pleased the way One Seed protects the guides by enforcing a 20kg limit/guide.  Each guide carries for 2 persons, which meant I had to limit the pack they would carry for me to 10kg.langtang valleyWe crossed, if I'm not mistaken, 5 hanging bridges along the way.Hanging bridges at LangtangDreamy lake that seems to be carved out of a fairy tale.  I stood there for awhile waiting for one of Snow White's seven dwarves to appear. lake at langtangThe climb is not as easy as everyone thought it to be.  Ravines offer a clear and present danger and the sometimes loose, rocky ground made it extra challenging.  But of course,  we wouldn't pass up a photo op of the wonderful view.lantang valleyOur group always takes 2 long stops per day. One for lunch. One for ginger tea. Ginger tea stop by the riverside.lantang riversideBreakfast, lunch and dinner are exclusively vegetarian.  Except for the "sawa" (getting tired of the same food) factor, all the mountain lodges had the same menu, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Vegetarian fried rice, noodle (chow mien), soup, pizza calzone (fried momo), dumplings (steamed momo) etc.nepal - foodWe squealed in delight at the first peek of the snow covered mountains.Lantang ValleyPhoto below courtesy of my friend, Anna.Snow covered mountainThe steady and powerful stream of Langtang River energized us.Langtang riverTibetan prayer wheels like this dot the trek path.  The wheels contain the Buddhist mantra "om mani padme hum." According to Wikipedia, Om purifies bliss and pride; Ma purifies jealousy and need for entertainment; Ni purifies passion and desire; Pad purifies ignorance and prejudice; Me purifies greed and possessiveness; and, Hum purifies aggression and hatred. When an individual spins the wheel, it is said that the effect is the same as reciting the mantra as many times as it is duplicated within the wheel.prayer wheels at langtangFluttering prayer flags, Tibetan style architecture and roaming yaks welcomed us in Langtang Valley, our last stop before our final destination. You can see a "mani stone" similar to a prayer wheel is on the right.  If you are to pass this,  stay on the left of it as a sign of respect.  Langtang valleyAlong the trek trail, lodges are strategically located to provide bare and basic accommodations.  They are not spick and span but it's better than setting up tent. Some lodges have public hot showers you wouldn't dare go barefoot in.  Each lodge also has a dining area with a small fire place where everyone gathers for the night to get some heat.  My friends and I look forward to lunch and dinners when we could laugh our thigh aches away.   Accommodations in Langtang ValleyOur final destination, Kyanjin Gumpa!  It is stunning in its simplicity and beauty.  nepal - kyanjin gumpaAl fresco dining, at its best.nepal - al fresco diningProud to be Pinoy!  Of the 8 girls, 5 were Filipinas.  The 3 others were a Japanese-American, Korean-American and a Mexican-American.  We went through hardships (half of the group had altitude sickness that we had to cut our stay Kianjin by a day) and witnessed the beauty of Langtang together, needless to stay good friendships were formed.Filipinos at LangtangPosing with the Nepalese family who owns the lodge we stayed in. Children who are staying in the mountains has to be sent to Kathmandu for schooling.  As early as 5 years old,  the children stay in a boarding school in Kathmandu for 10 months.  Whew!  Talk about an early onset of parent-child separation anxiety.Nepalese family at Langtang One thing I noticed with the Nepalese is that they seem to embody contentment.  It is amazing.  In this world of discontent,  they seem to be happy at their current state.  They don't have much material wealth and they seem to be content to have just that.  I see it when the guides interact with us, when the owners of the lodges welcomes us in and in the people we pass by.  Could it be because they are all in the same state, there is no one to compare with?  Could it be their religion?

Posing with our efficient and pretty guide, Goma, and our guides-in-training, Keshor, Depak, Suman and Bedang.  Missing in the photo is funny guy Chering. I enjoyed talking to them.   Goma is very conversant while the boys though a little bit shy would gamely sing and dance with us.    Langtang guidesLush forests.  Cool weather.  Challenging terrain.  Langtang River's energy powering you in every step.  Picturesque verdant mountains with some snow capped ones.  Entertaining and diverse girl power for company.  Kind and witty Nepalese guides-turned-friends.  Cathartic conversations with friends.  A journey, I'll surely have good memories of.Sharing with you this Wonderful Langtang Journey,

TheGoMom signature


8-Day Backpack Tour of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka: Day 2 – Tokyo

a shinkansenWe took a leisurely breakfast in Namba and purchased our one way Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket to Tokyo at the JR office there.  I made a major mistake and should have bought a JR pass instead:(  The JR pass would have allowed us to use unlimited JR trains for 5 days for only Y22,000/person.  Compare that to the one way fare we paid of Y 13,240/person.  JR, Japan Railway Group, has a very extensive network of trains and buses all over Japan.  When planning your Osaka-Tokyo-Osaka trip go to Hyperdia and un-click Nozomi because the JR pass does not cover Nozomi Shinkansens.  Click this to know more about the JR pass.


HARAJUKU.  An area where Japanese teenagers hang around dressed up in cosplay (costume play). If you want to buy a costume or try some edgy, fashion forward clothes explore Takeshita Dori nearby. Buy Japan's famous crepe along the way. They say best time to visit is on a Sunday afternoon. Read more about Harajuku.


Then hop on the train  to visit SHIBUYA (one stop away).  It is a shopping and entertainment area.  Try to be at the large intersection of Shibuya in front of the station's Hachiko Exit shortly after office hours. You will be amazed at the sheer number of pedestrians crossing and the brightly lit neon advertisements scattered all over.  It's like Times Square in New York!  Read more about Shibuya.

Hachiko Exit in Shibuya Station

CAN SKIP PLACES: I think you can skip the TOKYO TOWER, it ain't no Eiffel tower.  Though it is said to be 10 meters taller than its model Eiffel Tower, I found it ordinary.  The parks UENO and YOYOGI PARK are just simple parks for locals to visit.  IMPERIAL PALACE is a park area surrounded by a moat and massive stone walls.  Apart from the moat you see on the outside there is just a big grass park inside.

Upper left is Imperial Palace, Upper right is Tokyo Tower, Lower Left is Yoyogi Park,  Lower right is Cherry Blossoms inside Imperial Palace

Upper left is Imperial Palace, Upper right is Tokyo Tower, Lower Left is Yoyogi Park, Lower right is Cherry Blossoms inside Imperial Palace

WHERE TO STAY:  In Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan,  proximity to the station is key.  You should be looking at hotels that are less than 0.5 km away from the station.  We stayed at Hotel Sun Members located at the back of Washington Hotel which according to Agoda has a 0.7km distance from Shinjuku - it took us 20 minutes to walk to the hotel! (Note:  I was traveling with kids and 2 senior citizens)

Also coordinate with the hotel in advance which exit to take.  There are 200 exits in Shinjuku station!  Ask them to e-mail you a walking map.  It is such a challenge finding the hotel!  But then again that's part of the experience:-)

WHERE TO EAT:   There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from and  all are delicious.  Even the restos in the train station where you order from a vending machine is yummy.   But for some fine dining, try Gonpachi Restaurant in Nishi Azabu.  It inspired the set of the iconic Kill Bill movie of Quentin Tarantino and has drawn Hollywood celebrities visiting Tokyo. I find the food average but the ambiance compensates for it.  Expect to spend minimum of $50 per person.  Reservations are recommended.

Image from  I wasn't able to take decent pics:(

Image from I wasn't able to take decent pics:(

WHERE TO SHOP: GINZA and OMOTESANDO for high end shopping.  HARAJUKU for fashion forward and cutting edge styles.  SHIBUYA for casual shoping. DAIKOKUYA, KOMEHYO and DON QUIJOTE for pre-loved (used) branded bags ranging from Hermes, Gucci to Louis Vuitton.  I was able to buy an LV in Don Quijote in Shinsaibashi, Osaka and another one in Daikokuya.  I felt bad that I didn't get a Gucci bag from Komehyo, I should have:(   Buy Shisheido products,  they are all over Japan at half the price or even lower than in Manila.  Also,  bring your passport when buying a bag to get tax rebate:-)

Shops selling Pre-used Bags in Japan

HOW TO GET THERE:   From the station nearest you, ride a train to Harajuku.  From Harajuku ride a train to Shibuya. take Hachiko exit.  Or you can take a 20 minute walk to Shibuya from Harajuku.  Then if you want to head to Gonpachi board a train for Roponggi, exit 2.  If you plan to shop,  plan your commute through Hyperdia (route search engine for whole Japan).

EXPENSES IN US $ AND PESO PER PERSON (room rate though is twin sharing):

Detailed expense in Tokyo

Note:  Children below 12 years old enjoy half fare price. Fares/charges or routes may differ at your time of travel.  Please just use this as your general guide.  For exact time of train departures and arrivals,  please use  Just input the destinations in TheGoMom's guide (be careful of spelling - misspelled destinations will result in area not found).

Click this for my Day 1 Post - 8-Day Backpack Tour of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka: Namba Osaka

Stay posted for 8-Day Backpack Tour of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka: Day 3 Mt. Fuji and Hakone

Travel Happy!

Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 6.07.03 AM


8-Day Backpack Tour of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka: Day 1 Namba, Osaka

Best of JapanI love Japan!  The mix of beautiful gardens and nature, rich culture, high tech stuff, cool weather, good food and kind people makes it my best place to visit in Asia.  Here is my recommended Day 1 (complete with expense breakdown) of backpack trip to Japan with the fam.

My family of 8 (including extended family - I don't have 6 kids) took the Cebu Pacific flight that arrives Osaka at 8pm.  Everyone was excited but still fell asleep on the 4-hour plane ride.

Cebu Pacific flights are cheaper by almost P2,000/person.  And since there were 8 of us traveling,  that translated to P16,000 savings.


Change your money at the airport if you haven't in the Philippines.  A fellow Pinoy traveler said we should have exchanged in the Philippines because the rate is better.  As for our experience,  money changers in Osaka are hard to find and if you do find them the rate is not as good as the airport, so change at the airport.  Money changers in Tokyo and Kyoto are plentiful but rates are still better at the airport.


We stayed at Hotel Monterey in Namba, Osaka. It is a luxury hotel for only P 6,000/night.  The hotel resembles an Austrian royal palace and it has a magnificent view of Namba.   It has a full grocery just nearby that sells wonderfully prepared packaged meals.

The lovely chapel is right inside Hotel Monterey.  View of buildings from our room.

The lovely chapel is right inside Hotel Monterey. View of buildings from our room.

This JR station is right beside Hotel Monterey.

This JR station is right beside Hotel Monterey.

Since it was already 9:30pm when we got to Hotel Monterey, we decided to just get packaged food for dinner.  And because it was late, most were between 30-50% off (most groceries do discounts after 9pm)!  Food in Japan is all good - fine dining, fast food, vendo or packaged!

Hello Kitty Donuts, anyone?

Hello Kitty Donuts, anyone?

The must-go-to Shinsaibashi strip is a 6 minute walk from Hotel Monterey.  However,  if you love Zara, Uniqlo and Gu they are at the opposite end of Shinsaibashi and is a 10-15 minute from the hotel.  If you are planning some major shopping on these brands,  look for hotels at the Shinsaibashi area.  If you are not too finicky about rooms with a smell of cigarette you can try Hearton Hotel, Shinsaibashi.  I stayed there during my 2010 visit and the location is fantastic (3-5 mins walk to brands and Shinsaibashi station) but the hotel has that cigarette smoke smell:(


From Kansai Airport head to the train station and purchase a Nankai Airport Express ticket to Namba (50 minute train ride).

EXPENSES IN US $ AND PESO PER PERSON (room rate though is twin sharing):

expense breakdown in nambaNote:  Charges or routes may differ at your time of travel.  Please just use this as your general guide.  For exact time of train departures and arrivals,  please use  Just input the destinations in TheGoMom's guide (be careful of spelling - misspelled destinations will result in area not found).

Click this for my Day 2 Post - 8-Day Backpack Tour of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka: Day 2 Tokyo (Harajuku, Shibuya, Pre-loved bag Shopping etc)

Travel Happy!

Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 6.07.03 AM











Mt. Fuji - Station 5.  Jump off point for mountain climbers of Mt. Fuji.

Mt. Fuji - Station 5. Jump off point for mountain climbers of Mt. Fuji.

I just came back as the tour group leader of a one-week backpack tour across Osaka, Tokyo and back to Kyoto.  My ward,  my family of 7 including my 2 kids (aged 9 and 11), one senior citizen with rheumatitis (my mom), one senior citizen with a cane (my dad), one 5 month pregnant sister-in-law and my 2 adult brothers.  We are all dead tired but the experience will be documented under Japanese Immersion heading in our album.

I don't think you can get to experience the real Japan on a guided tour group sitting on a motor coach.  Japan is a vibrant city with its intricate train system, myriad train platforms and exits (there are 200 exits in Shinjuku station!), tens of vending machines littered everywhere, beautiful temples, very helpful and polite people, street signs in Japanese character, cold weather not to mention amazing bathroom discoveries.  There is just so much to love about Japan!

Of course my parents swore to stick with tour groups since it required too much walking.  On hindsight,  I would not recommend it to senior citizens, pregnant women and children below 10.  They are right,  there is just too much walking.

In my succeeding posts across June and July, I will share with you our:

Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto 7-day Itinerary

7 Days in Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto at Php 55,000  ($1,200) /person (including airfare)

Shopping in Japan

Traveling Light

Commuting in Japan

Hope you can follow my Japanese experience and someday soon have your own Japanese experience.  Or if you have been there already,  hope you can share some tips to fellow Pinoy parent travelers as well.

With you in this Happy Chaos called Parenting!

Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 6.07.03 AM

Bali Restaurants: Potato Head, Mamasan, KU DE TA, Ibu Oka

My trip to Bali  was a vacation of sheer eating pleasure after another.  Needless to say, I gained a few pounds.  But that is not the subject of this post.  I want to share with you the hip restaurants my high school buddies and I dined in through the course of our stay.

Potato Head, Seminyak, Bali

Ok now this is Chill!  I sooo love Potato Head.  The ambience gives the perfect setting to chill and let loose.  It's a huge restaurant bar with a fairly large pool that diners can dip in when the sun bathing in the bed bars gets too hot.  We had our perfect lunch here.

Upon entering the compound you will be greeted with rows of old wooden slatted windows of different sizes and colors and ages.  You go into a tunnel walkway where you get more of the old windows.  And then you are welcomed with this ultra hip lounge and house music.  I had to [Read more...]

Bali: Getting Acquainted with Bali

Potato Head, Seminyak

I was astounded to know that Bali stretches a good 140km from East to West (like Manila to Tarlac).  I was kinda picturing the likes of Boracay from station 1 to 3.  But I was wrong.   It's a region!  Therefore,  choosing the place you will choose to settle in depends on what you are looking for.

We stayed in the hip area of Seminyak.   It is the high end spa and chic boutique shopping capital of Bali.  Most of the top  restaurants in Bali are here.  My friends and I were kidding each other that [Read more...]