Tuesday, November 12, 2019

lebaran holiday july 2019 - pororo park

okay.. since i'm in the mood of writing my past trips, let's write about our trips from our latest. last time we went for holiday as the whole family was to singapore. we were there to visit my sister's baby and to celebrate my mum's, my brother's and my son's birthdays. my mom, dad and brother went there earlier than us because our holiday didn't start until a week before lebaran. since we were going to be there for 5 days, i didn't have any special plans for the kids, but i hoped we could go to some playground or garden by the bay.. but turned out we couldn't go to them both. anyway.. we've been to this park several times before this time, but this would be the first we've been there twice in a trip.

this is the description from their website: go on an adventure with your friends at the one and only pororo park singapore, the largest character-themed kids indoor playground in the country. packed with unique and classic attractions alike, pororo park singapore offers a safe and secure environment for kids between 1-6 years old to explore and create everlasting memories!
many fun-filled activities await you; dive into the shark ball pool, dig into the hinoki pit, play-pretend at petty's supermarket and explore with your friends at poby's playgym. don't forget to hop aboard our star attraction, pororo express train when it's at the station!
pororo park
on the right you can see the overload stroller parking
location: it was located at #02-29 marina square. if you're going there by MRT, the nearest one would be esplanade or promenade.
pororo link
the wooden toys and track to play
hinoki pit (sand like but not really)
ticketing: it's free for baby under 1 year old, and different price for toddler (under 2 years) and child (2-12 years). adult pay less than kids. if you're paying as partners (NTUC, DBS, OCBC, etc), the price would be different as well. for weekday, you can only play for 3 hours per entry, but it's unlimited on school holidays. while on weekend, the playtime is 4 hours per entry but only 2 hours on public holiday per entry. no swapping adults. usually, since we went there once per trip, we didn't know anything about membership or their other pass type. but last time we were there, the counter staff even noticed that we went back twice in a week. and when we declined the membership offer since we were not singaporean, he told us next time we should buy the pororo park savers pass. it's a year pass for 7 transferable visits (for kids) and special price for the first 2 adults. cheaper than paying for each visit. so if you decided to visit this park more than once, probably you should get the pass, especially for family with 3 kids like us, the pass could cover for two visits! parents can go outside the playground and come back in, you just need to ask for the stamp so you can go back in for free. but the kids couldn't go outside the park until the playtime is over.
toddler area
the ball pool
facilities: there is strollers parking area outside the playground. actually, you have to fold your strollers, but lately people just park their strollers open. and it was chaos during weekend. overload parking. there's locker inside for your valuables, but you have to pay yourself. there's a shoe rack for your shoes near the locker area, and it's free. you can also have your birthday party there.
pororo express
train schedule
attractions: when you first got in, you can take off your shoes and keep your belongings in the locker and shoe rack on your left. beside it is petty's supermarket. you can pretend play here with all the stuff you can find in supermarket. unfortunately since this space is a bit separated from other attractions, somehow the kids are not noticing it, so it usually empty or not crowded. behind it is loopy's cafe. since you can't bring your kids outside, you can dine in there in the cafe. they have main menu and several snacks selection. i have to say the food might not be the best, but it's okay. not bad with decent price. afterward, you're supposed to clean up by yourself, but the second and third time we were there, people seemed to not care and just leave their trash behind. on normal day, the staff could clean it, but on weekend, it was chaos and super dirty. so i hope people could understand that they should clean up afterward.
pororo house
bouncy house
behind the stroller parking area (which is across the locker area) is the hinoki pit and pororo link. inside the pit, is a small wood cubes that kids can play with. my kids thought it was a sandbox, but it was tiny wooden cubes. they love it there. while on pororo link, you can find wooden blocks and a track to play. across it is a toddler area. for kids under 2 years old, this is a designated area for them to play to be safe and enjoy more toddler-like toys. it has slide and several toys. beside it is a shark ball pool. the pool is not that big, and i never accompany my kids inside, but i've seen some parents going inside the ball pool.
eddy's classroom
poby's playgym
you can see that some parents go inside
across the pool is the express train. make sure to check the train schedule and line up probably about 10 minutes before. anyway, only kids could ride the train, so make sure your kids are brave enough to ride it themselves or have older sibling to accompany them. the train will come around twice before stopping. then next to it is poby's play gym. it's supposed for kids over 2 years old, but when we were there the first time, my third son was about 18 months and he liked it there. i asked my eldest to accompany him though and ride the slide with him. again, i've seen some parents go in and accompany their kids, but the ceiling was pretty low so i don't like going in. across is the bouncy castle. just make sure to get out when it's too crowded or your kids could bump into other kids. next to the castle is eddy's classroom where you could have your birthday party or join daily classes. between the castle and the pool is the pororo's house. it's a miniature of pororo house where you can go in and take pictures inside. but not much to see when you've been there the second or third time.
theatre and don't forget checking the daily schedule
then there's a daily show (again.. you need to check the schedule) in the little theatre. you need to queue to get in as it doesn't have big space to sit and see. we've been there about 3 or 4 times and we've seen the show almost on every visit and it was different every time. at the back is a nursing room (if you wanted to change the diaper, you need to change it in this nursing room, and not the restroom) and restrooms. there's only one toilet cubicle in the girl restroom with two toilet inside, one is normal size for the adult and smaller one for the kids. so make sure to get your kids to the toilet before they can't hold it.

when you go out from the playground, there's a small toy store so make sure to pass this quickly if you don't want to buy anything from it.

verdict: as i've stated before, my kids love it. we've been there 3-4 times and they still ask to go there again. but i have to agree that they might enjoy it to the fullest when they're over 2 years old and up to 6-7 years. but perhaps my eldest was weird. he still enjoys the park while i saw there wasn't any other kids his age when he was there. and he still asked to go back there.

oh well.. this is a life saver for rainy days, and if you want to just sit and rest. you can take turns with your spouse. one accompanying the kids inside the park and the other walk around the mall. my suggestion: go there on weekdays and start early. it's dirtier and more crowded on weekends. and if your kids like tayo better, there's a tayo station in pasir ris. it's managed by the same management as the pororo park, but we never been there.

Friday, November 8, 2019

kansai international airport

i totally forgot that i haven't talked about the airport! okay.. i've never been to kansai international airport before this trip. usually people would go to japan from tokyo (arrived at haneda or narita) then proceed until osaka and leave from osaka (kansai international airport). but twice we've been there, we always came from tokyo and got back from tokyo too. so this is a totally new thing for me.

when we arrived, it was about 9 am and we were tired since we couldn't get enough sleep on the plane. and we wanted to go to kobe afterward, so after we finished the immigration, we went to HIS travel counter on the same floor (the international arrival floor) to get our SIM card and then bought the bus ticket. there was a JR counter as well, but since the line was quite long, we decided to just get our pass at sannomiya station in kobe. i didn't see any restaurant on this floor, but there was a lawson, so you could get some drink and snack. there were starbucks and doutour coffee shop on this floor as well. for complete floor map, you can see it here. the bus stops were outside of this floor, so when we arrived we didn't have to wander around to other floor, and got our business done on the same floor.

when we were about to go back home, we went to the airport using airport shuttle service from our hotel. and it was way too early for us since our flight boarded at night and it was still about 3 pm when we arrived. so we walked around trying to find things to do. we were dropped off at international departure floor, which was the 4th floor and it had nothing else beside flight counters. there were starbucks and azeria near the departure gate though.. but we didn't see it. the whole map for the departure floor can be seen here.

since the counters haven't opened yet, we decided to go to the 3rd floor which seemed to have all the restaurants. be careful when you use the escalator though, because some of them were skipping floor, so the first time, we got the wrong escalator and we got straight to 2nd floor instead of the 3rd. but it was a good thing, because on that floor, we saw some coin lockers under the other escalator, but it was an all day coin lockers. just like other coin lockers, it came in 3 sizes, small, medium and large. near that lockers area, you could see McDonalds, and just beside it was a lounge area. you could rest in the lounge and even take a shower. you could only take a shower, unfortunately at that time, the showers were full and you had to queue inside the lounge area. husband didn't want to pay for the lounge, so we decided not to take the shower. the staff couldn't speak english well, but he told me that there was another shower room, however, it was in another wing, so we didn't check it out. the whole 2nd floor map can be seen here.

there were two food courts alike in the 2nd floor, machiyakoji and gourmet avenue renga toro. the gourmet avenue had u-don (self service udon), goryo (toast, mackarel, western style breakfast, ramen and it had child menu as well), nigirino tokube (sushi), hanagoyomi (soba and udon but it had pork bowl as well), mosdo (burgers and donuts), and world wine bar. we didn't eat there, but we ate at machiyakoji. machiyakoji had ryukishin (ramen), teppan curry indo no roux (curry rice or udon), subway, honmamon (sushi), takomasa (takoyaki, akashiyaki and yakisoba), maido okini kanku-shokudo (japanese style dishes), botejyu-yatai (yakisoba and modernyaki), horai 551, sukiya (rice bowl, open 24 hours), torisanwa (oyakodon and other chicken set menu).

husband still craved from some yakisoba, so he ordered from botejyu. but at the counter, he changed his mind, seeing lots of people queueing at botejyu walked away with modern-yaki. so he ordered the modern-yaki. basically it was similar to the one we ate at mizuno. it had yakisoba as the base of the okonomiyaki, and there was a little batter and egg on top and then covered with bonito flakes, okonomiyaki sauce and seaweed powder. they gave mayonnaise too. i tried a bit and it was delicious. similar in taste as kyo-chabana one, but since the batter was quite thin, it was just like yakisoba with egg on top. one portion would be satisfying for one person.
modern-yaki from botejyu
at first i wanted to eat some sushi, but it was confusing about how to order from the sushi place. they didn't seem to have a specific menu. there were little cards with the name of sushi set that you could order, but some didn't have the picture so i had no idea what it was. so i decided to skip sushi and ordered from maido okini kanku-shokudo. basically it was half self service. you had to get the tray and cutleries by yourself. they would put the main dishes on the shelves with open glass door so you can open and get it yourselves. so you could get whatever main dish that you wanted, they had salmon, mackarel, deep fried oyster or karaage, i totally forgot what the options were. but i got the deep fried oyster one. then you could get rice and miso soup as a set with the main dish. you would get the rice and miso soup from the cashier when you paid for it. afterward, you had to bring the tray back to the tray shelves. you can get your water for free from the drinking tap. taste wise, it was okay, but not mind-blowing. at least i had warm rice to fill my stomach.

back to coin locker. the one at the 2nd floor was a whole day one, but there were some coin locker at the 3rd floor that operated 3 hourly. when you counted per hour cost, obviously the whole day would cost cheaper. but if you didn't stay long in the airport, the 3 hours one would do just fine. but there were not as many as the whole day one. on the 3rd floor there were some shops and other restaurants, including muji and uniqlo. so if you wanted to do late minute purchase, you could do that in the airport. compared to haneda, it had less modern vibe to it. a bit similar to narita but narita was way bigger. kansai was smaller like haneda. there was a hotel near the airport as well, just like haneda. it had access to numerous city in west japan, unfortunately, all of them were about 1-1,5 hours from kansai. not as close as haneda to tokyo, so put that in mind when you were travelling to and from kansai. make sure you had the time allowance.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

meat bun in osaka: horai 551 and futami no butaman

meat bun or steamed meat bun aka bakpao was something that my husband like. and to my surprise, this meat bun stall got recommended by anakjajan and kimdao. so naturally, i would like to try whether it's true. since it was a snack, i didn't put a pin on my google maps, since i thought we would just buy whenever we saw one. they said that horai 551 had many branches, so hopefully we could come across one.
and we were lucky. we were just arrived at JR namba station looking for the exit when i spotted the stall. the staff couldn't speak english, but luckily they understood enough to take our order. they sold the buns in pieces or in sets of 2, 4 and 6. we bought the 2 pieces per box one. for meat buns, it was quite pricey compared to the meat bun price back at home. but the buns were big enough, so hopefully it tasted okay. for horai 551, you could easily spot the stall judging by their red banner and big 551 sign. at first i thought they were just selling meat buns, but when we were at the airport waiting for our flight home, we found a horai 551 stalls selling chinese food as well as the buns.

the buns were quite big and soft and they would warm it up when we ordered them. they also gave a tiny packet of mustard, which was weird for us since we just ate the buns just as is back at home. perhaps even with chili or tomato sauce, but never mustard. the dough was soft and not chewy like the one we had at home, but the filling was the star. almost half the buns was fulled with meat. and it was a densely meat, so no wonder it was pricey. unfortunately, the meat only tasted a bit salty and nothing else. husband like the meat to be a bit sweet. so it was an okay bun, but not our favorite.
then when we walked around namba area, i got lost. i spotted a futami no butaman stall and remembered that that one was recommended by paolo. but i didn't bring any money at that time, and i forgot where it was. but luckily, when we passed the same road to go to matsusaka, we found it again. so we stopped by and bought some. the seller was an old lady and she obviously couldn't speak english, so we communicated with some hand signs and it was okay. at futami, they only sold the buns in pieces, a box of 3, 4 and 6 or 12. so we bought 2 pieces, since husband counted even when we bought more, the price was still the same.
they always had some buns already heated in the back so when we ordered, the lady got the already-steamed bun from the steamer and put it in a box. they also gave tiny packet of mustard as well. compared to horai, the buns size were slightly smaller. but not too much difference. the dough was a bit thinner. but the meat was different. while horai one was dense, the futami one was minced. both tasted a bit salty and umami, but the futami one had more garlic or onion inside. we could hear the crunchiness from the onion when we ate the buns. price wise, it was less expensive than horai.

which one is better? i think it's totally up to your taste. if you like buns with more and dense meat, then obviously go with horai 551. but if you like something with more onion, more like chinese bun (one with onion/garlic with a bit of meat juice inside), then buy futami. for me, both were okay, but we still like the meat buns from our hometown better. plus, they were cheaper here!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

half day nara trip

we decided to go to nara for half day since we never went to nara. and i honestly didn't know what to do except for its famous wild-deer sightings. anyway, you can check here to get some ideas what to do in nara. the website also offered half day itinerary suggestions and full day and even several days itinerary. you can try follow one. for us, i decided to go to todaiji and then up to nigatsudo, then if we could walk more, we should see kasuga taisha before heading back to the station.

lots of deer once you stepped off the bus
so, we arrived by train, we brought all our baggage since we were moving hotels that day. so after we arrived at JR nara station, we had to find coin locker. fortunately, there were some coin lockers inside the arrival area, and some of the big ones were free. it was really fortunate since usually the bigger spaces were harder to get. and there was a coin changer at the side of the lockers so it was easier to change your money to 100 yen coins. i have to applause husband though since he managed to squeeze a big luggage, a medium luggage and a medium bag into one locker! you should see the other people's face when they waited for us to unload our baggage. they thought when we got out the two medium ones, that was all our baggage. imagined how surprised they were when they saw we still had one more inside!
see how old the wood is? that's why i said they looked dusty and dull
the creature at the gate
another one
anyway, once we finished the baggage situation, we faced two options, went by bus or on foot. we're supposed to walk so we could pass isuien garden or yoshikien garden. but husband was still tired for two days walking so he decided we should get the bus. so i didn't know for sure whether there was another bus, but there was this sign that we should ride bus from certain number bus stop if we wanted to see certain places. and the cost was more expensive than the one we found at google. since we were not prepared enough, we just hopped in and paid. actually, the sign on the bus said that we should paid in exact amount since they didn't provide any change. and we didn't have exact amount, so we thought oh well.. we might lose our change. but apparently, there was this change machine in front of the bus. so when you didn't have the exact amount, you just need to put the big coin in and it would spit out the exchange in smaller coins. for example, if you only had 500 yen coins, it would spit out five 100 yen coins as exchange. and if you needed smaller coins, you should put the coins until you got the change you needed.
anyway.. we paid and got our change and at first, we totally thought that we would stop at the last stop. but luckily, i looked at google maps and found out we were near nara park. so we decided to jump out and found out where we were. turned out we were lucky to got off at the right time. we were the opposite of nara park and we only need to walk shortly to todaiji temple. oh.. when we were on the bus, we could see the deer halfway, probably we could see it around the garden area up until nara park. but there were numerous of wild deer at the park. which made the park a bit smelly and dirty. back in indonesia, when there was any animal involved, it would make the site dirty because of the poop. and we were wondering whether japan could be any difference, since everything in japan seemed to be very clean. we haven't seen any dust almost everywhere we go. even the temples that we went to were very clean. but turned out we were wrong. nara park was full of deer poop, so you need to watch where your feet landed so you didn't step on any poop.
todaiji temple
daibutsu-den hall
the giant buddha was supposed to be inside, but we didn't get in
the park itself was quite big so your kids could run around in the park. but let me remind you that nara deers were wild deer, so made sure your kids don't bump into them or tease them or chase them. they might attack back. anyway, before we went there, i saw some colleague videos about how to feed the deer. you could buy the deer biscuit at many sellers around the park, anyone could do since it was sold at the same price. apparently there was no competition there. so, you should put one hand on your back and the other one was up holding the biscuit, then you should swing your arm forward and up again to indicate the deer to bow down. you should make them bow at least 3 times before giving them the biscuit as reward for being polite. but i've seen the deer keep asking for more even though they have run out of their biscuits. and i even saw some tourists just gave the biscuits without asking them to bow first. oh well.. the park was quite busy and i didn't see any park keeper so people could do whatever they want.
during our short walk, there were some shops selling souvenirs and snacks. and then there was this one straight path to todaiji temple. you should stop at the nandaimon gate and take a look at the giant creatures inside the cage at the gate. then you should walk a bit more before turning left. the entrance to the daibutsu-den hall was on the left near the toilet. fyi, i went to the toilet, and this was the first and only time that i found toilet in japan was dirty and smelly and not sophisticated. the toilets were ordinary toilets, not the one that had added toilet seat with warmer and stuff. i forgot whether it had changing table or not. anyway, the entrance was near the toilet, and you had to pay the ticket to get inside to daibutsuden hall. inside the hall, you could see the famous big buddha statue, but since husband was full of temples already, we decided to skip it. and we walked toward nigatsudo. it was one way path, so you would go from the entrance to the hall and then take the other way to find the exit. we then walked up the path, passed a pond and a recovery site toward nigatsudo.
ashoka pillar


halfway, we found a little shop and husband was hungry so we stopped there and ate lunch. then we proceed going up to nigatsudo. while todaiji was almost flat with small steps, nigatsudo was full of stairs. to reach nigatsudo, you had to walk up some stairs. and then there was this open area where there was some cafe or shops at the side. you could take same rest here, but probably if the cafe or shops were opened, you need to buy something in order to sit there. there were two ways to go up, the east way was the path that i took. the stairs were pretty steep and it was made of stone. children could go up, but there was no handrail, so you need to hold your kids' hand. i didn't think elder people especially the ones with knee problem could go up. when you've reached the top, you could pray and buy some prayer's ticket, but if you just walked around, then it was totally free. the view from the balcony was quite pretty if the weather was clear. just across the balcony, there was seating area where you could drink some tea and sit and rest, but it was floor seating and you should clean up yourself before leaving it. then you could go down using the wooden entrance to go back to the open area.
the way to nigatsudo
from there, actually you could go to smaller nara park and kasuga taisha after passing the forest, but husband found nara was not appealing to him. so he decided to just go back to the bus station and then to the train station and went to osaka instead. there were other places to visit, but we didn't get the chance to see. anyway, if you're interested, you should check kofukuji temple and naramachi area as well. you could bring kids or older people, but not all area were comfortable for kids and older people. and bring your own mask if you couldn't stand the smell. oh, and the bus stop was quite confusing as well. the dropping point and the pick up point were not closed by, so we almost got it wrong. so made sure you read the sign carefully, whether it's the pick up or the drop point. another small thing.. i noticed the difference between the temples in nara and kyoto, somehow the ones at nara seemed old. the wood was old and the paint looked dull, while the one at kyoto was shiny and clean. i didn't even see any spider webs at the ones in kyoto, but here.. everything seemed old and dusty. probably it needed more maintenance, but probably they'd like to keep the authenticity. anyway.. it looked and felt different. but, it's worth visiting if you had spare time and around kyoto or osaka since nara could be reached from both places.


Ilmichi shrine
second floor of nigatsudo
view from the top
and a bit ice cream to end the walk

dotonbori and kukuru takoyaki

i bet when you heard about osaka, you'd automatically think about dotonbori, namba and shinsaibashi which all came alive at night time. all the food stalls offering lots of different food, all the shops with local specialty souvenir and lots of other stuff to do. we've been to dotonbori before, but since this time we didn't bring any kids, we hoped we could try more food.
i didn't know that they have their own website, but turned out they do. so if you're curious about the food and shops option, you could check it here. they put it in several different categories, shopping, eating and even entertainment, so make sure to check it out.

for shopping, aside from several tax free stores (like laox) and beauty-related (like matsumoto kiyoshi and tsuruha drugstore), there was kuidaore store that sells local osaka souvenir called kuidaore taro and another one was naniwa meibutsu. for eating, osaka specialty included takoyaki, okonomiyaki, melon pan with ice cream or custard inside and obviously kushikatsu. but there were other kind of food like sushi and coffee shop as well. let me break down the food for you.

- takoyaki: perhaps this would be the most selling stuff in dotonbori aside from okonomiyaki. every few steps you might see stalls selling takoyaki. some would sell only original squid one, but others would sell with lots of different topping option like sausage and cheese. some notable stalls were creo-ru (they sold okonomiyaki and kushikatsu as well), kukuru (this one was pretty famous and they didn't sell lots of topping, the easy way to find this stall is to look for the giant red octopus on top of the stall), takohachi (also sells okonomiyaki and yakisoba as well), takoyaki doraku wanaka (this had other branch too, and it had several seasonings), and konamon museum (beside eating, you could see food museum as well).
our takoyaki
- okonomiyaki: several notable sellers were chibo and botejyu (but if you missed it here, you could eat them in the airport's food court).

- kushikatsu: obviously the famous one was kushikatsu daruma (just find the angry chef/man dummy in front of the store or on top of the sign) but there were other shops selling kushikatsu too.

- sushi: genroku sushi (you can easily spot this by finding the big hand holding a sushi piece dummy on top of the store sign, and it was a conveyor-belt type sushi restaurant), ganko sushi (it didn't only sell sushi but also fried food and nabe, there were private rooms too), kiyomura sushizanmai (this one opens 24 hours), daiki suisan kaiten sushi (another conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. last time we passed by this restaurant, they had a tuna cutting show).

- ramen: kinryu ramen (just find the dragon) and shitennoh ramen.

- other notable places: kani douraku (just find the crab, there were two branches along dotonbori. this restaurant served all crab dishes, you had to make reservation if you wanted to dine in non smoking area since it was limited space. i think it had japanese-style seating so it was kids friendly. we always wanted to try this place but the place was quite expensive to justify our curiosity), osaka oshko (look for the big gyoza sign, this was quite a popular chain restaurant selling chinese food), dotonbori imai (their best dish was kitsune udon), yakisoba juza (obviously selling yakisoba, the famous one was tomato yakisoba).
kani douraku
almost at the end of the street there was a small van selling melon pan with ice cream. last time we didn't buy because of the long queue. last time we bought from kunamon museum so this time we wanted to try kukuru. it was delicious. the batter was soft and the squid inside was delicious as well. the sauce was not too much and combined with mayonnaise and seaweed powder, make it more delicious. we bought the 8 pieces in a box and it was satisfying for us. but they had option with more balls. obviously prepare your empty stomach because there were delicious food everywhere. you just need to pick the right one.
don't forget to take picture with the famous glico man