Sunday, 22 June 2014

Travelogue : Neon Goes Japan (Tokyo Day 1)

Ok, this is it, I'm finally getting down to it and blogging about my recent trip to Japan, AND IT WAS AWESOMMMMMMMMME! Seriously, I think this is by far the best trip I've been, with amazing friends, and new people that I've met!



So I'll be writing about this trip in parts, since I was there for 8 days, and I can't possibly put 600+ photos in one entry.(Well, I could, but you're not gonna be able to stomach all the selfies at one sitting, so yeah) So, this will be a few part travelogue thingy, and all of it will be under the header of

'TRAVELOGUE : NEON GOES JAPAN - *blahblahblah*' 

Now that this is over. 

Let me begin with telling you guys what the trip is about and the entire drama and hoo haa before the actual trip. 

The program that I signed up was called Jenesys, which is an acronym for (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths). It is a project advanced by the Japanese government from the standpoint of providing a sound foundation for strong solidarity within Asia through large-scale youth exchange. This programme is left in the charge of JICE, which is the Japan International Cooperation Center. After learning about Japan and their culture, participants are to go back to their own countries and promote Japan and the areas that are less known. 

From what I have heard, a lot of people from my academic school and course signed up for it and only 60 people are going to be selected to participate in this ALL EXPENSE PAID TRIP to Tokyo and another state. Thankfully for me and my smart ass for signing to chaperone the Japanese students when they were here, which I really enjoyed and had no regrets doing, more about it here. When I was selected initially, you had no idea how happy I was, since the keyword here is FREE anyway, and being Singaporean, you bet your ass I'd say sign me up when I had the opportunity. 

But anyway, nearing the actual day of flying, and mind you the flight was the 2nd NIGHT of when the holidays began, which from the sound of it, is pretty great. And it is! Until the fact that we have a ton of pressing CAs that demands to be submitted when school reopens, and if you calculate it, we only have 21 days of holidays, or should I say 'more-time-given-so-you-can-do-your-CAs', and after you minus of, we are only left with 12 days! 

And smart asses will say bring your laptop there and do it at night. HAH! What a joke, and I turned out to be that smarty pants who brought it and didn't do anything, and have extra baggage to carry, well done Neon. 

Anyway, nearing the holidays, I had an extremely terrible high fever and my whole body was under fatigue due to the strong medicines I had taken and I was so weak I couldn't go to school on several days because my body was so weak. 

And I was thinking of how awkward things will be there, because I'm not close with the classmates I would be going with, one of which I fought with their clique just a week before! And you know I was turned off because I only started packing the night before and I wasn't even done on the day itself! Me and my mom were actually discussing if we can fake fake and say I had food poisoning and just don't go altogether, and since it was a night flight you see, so we had time to make the decision. BUT THANK GOD I DIDN'T.

...
DAY 1

So deciding to go anyway, at that point still reluctant, I arrived at the airport late, and wondered why I didn't reach later because all we did was just stand there, AND ALL OF THAT TIME I COULD'VE GRABBED DINNER and I was so fucking hungry then cause I only had lunch. And after realising we can just do whatever we want since we weren't checking in yet, me and my family decided to get us me some BK cause that was nearest at the point, after we placed our orders, they called us to be back. Alamakkk, what is this. So my family stayed to collect the orders while I ran back to check our luggages in first. 

Initially I was sooooo scared because my luggage compared to a lot of the rest was wayyyyy bigger, and I packed in so many unnecessary nonsense inside, and I was afraid that it would be overloaded even before I shopped for anything in Japan. And thankfully, I was standing proud and tall at 18 kg. For some reason, the flight was at 1:50am and we have to only meet at 1, by 1130, everyone was rushing to get in, and after a few bites of BK's double swiss, and a very quick goodbye to my family, I went in with everyone.

And I still remember at that point, I just wanted to say 'can I don't go?', because I just felt so out of place. But thankfully, I found a great friend Amanda, Ambrella, Ermanda, Manders, whatever that she wants lah tbh, and we pretty much roamed the airport and chatted till check in. And coincidentally, WE BOTH BROUGHT BA KWAs as gifts for the homestay families (Explained in later parts) Got to meet and chat with some Year 3s, and they were pretty cool and really nice people, as I found out myself. 

Since the flight tickets were bough in bulk, the seats were assigned by the way we queued, but coincidentally enough, me and Manders were sitting next to each other! How lucky! Megan switched seats with Clara(another Year 3), so the 3 of us sat together in the end. 

Sadly for us we got the middle part of the cabin, which means no window view! :(. For some reason during the 7 hour flight I couldn't fall asleep, but the other 2 did! Or at least they tried. Meanwhile for me, I managed to watch Frozen for the first time(I know, finally, about time huh?). And I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around why people thought that movie was SOOOOO AMAZING?! I mean the idea is cute and stuff, but it was really just ok. 

And after 7 hours, and change of 1 time zone, we arrived in the future, Tokyo Japan. And one thing I LOVE about the airport is that it is super minimalist and CLEAN. The Japanese weren't kidding when it comes to cleanliness. Compared to our 'Garden City', Japan is like standing on top with a killer view ok. Right from the beginning we were separated by the state that we were going. And right of the airport, the weather despite just a few degrees lower than Singapore, felt AMAZING already. 

Destination 1 - Hotel. The hotel we were staying at was Hotel East 21, a 4 - star hotel, expected for a school prepared trip. And since it was free, no complaints here. The trip from the airport to the hotel was pretty quick, 20 - 30 minutes? And along the drive, the view was very interesting. Tokyo is an extremely modern city and a lot of the structure and roads are similar to Singapore, so it feels like home, but better. 

 Just got off the plane, surviving on little sleep, hence the shades, Haha! 

 This is so gorgeous, a boat pier just along the streets like that, HOW COOL!



Our personalised nametags, to make sure we don't get lost, and also for people to know our names.

When we reached the hotel, we were separated into our rooms, and we were separated into rooms of 3, and I was assuming that I'll be roomed with Galen and Ruey, since we're in the same class. But I was roomed with Vishnu, a.k.a the funniest guy ever, and Brenan, the only one out of the 20+ of us who could speak Japanese. So what can I say, I'm lucky. 

After settling in our luggages and bags, we went for lunch. And Oh My God, the first meal that we had was enough for me to just walk out and buy me my own meal. 



I know from the picture it looks nice(maybe), but you realise that it is ALL VEGGIES and no meat. I don't know about you, but I am a meat person. I like to eat meat, and it has to be there for every meal, so you can imagine how hard of a time it must have been for me boo. Ok, so the first photo was basically spaghetti with tomato sauce. Except the sauce was more like soup. Ok wait, maybe it was tomato soup, but I never had a thing with sour stuff, so it was pretty much so so for me. I actually finished it because I saw everyone else finishing it.

As for the tofu, it was just not my thing. Tofu, sticky sauce, and broccoli, carrots and a side of salad. Ok girl bye. In my head I thought we would come to Japan, and eat Japan food like sushi, and ramen, soba maybe and all the Japanese stuff. Well, up till then, not yet. 

Once lunch was over, and boy didn't that feel long, the coordinator told us we have an hour to do our own stuff before the next activity commenced. And the hotel is SURROUNDED by many places, eateries, supermarkets, coffee houses and fast food chains. It is literally NEXT to the hotel, walk out of the door and 20 steps, and JUST 20 STEPS, you reach burger king and Tully's coffee. Totally recommend for people to stay in that Hotel if you every visit Tokyo. It is so convenient! And the eateries and restaurant usually closes at 11pm to 1am, which means you don't have to go far to get supper!  

Deciding to go to the supermarket, since that was the most by-default place to go, me and Ambrella, Ker Xi and Amirah went together to see what Japanese supermarket or more known as 'mart' by us. 

 All the Japanese Maggi Mees
 Isn't it cool that they sell iced coffees by the litre? In Singapore they only have it in cans and bottles. And most of the time, they sell it in speciality stores like Daiso. 


 BENTO BOXES. BENTO BOXES! They sell bento boxes just like that in a supermarket, like sushi at cold storage! Look at the presentation of the food, 
 Fried foods, wait, is this a supermarket, or am I at a hometown buffet?
 LIPTON LEMON TEA in a pack. OMG, that is it, I'm moving to Japan. This is almost unreal.






 With new friend a.k.a twin Ker Xi. We have the same surname haha! 


Japan is every addict's heaven ok. They have both booze and cigarettes in a vending machine, hello, no more age limit problems.



 Ok, so while touring around the mart, we came across this interesting plate of stuff, and with the peanut powder, it instantly reminded us of the Muah Chee we eat here in Singapore, and it was super cheap, so we decided to buy it and try.  From the photos I know it looks not bad, but the texture of it is nothing that I've ever tasted. There was no resistance, it just a few bites and bloop. Funny thing was after we all ate one, we just wanted to be 'nice' and share it with everyone else. And the reaction, the same! Haha!

The view from my hotel room, gorgeous isn't it?!


After the hour of break we had, we proceeded to a workshop/orientation for the actual reason why we are there, and I just have to say,  it was ohhhh-soooo boring. And the thing was I was sitting on the front row and half the time, I was dozing off! And I am one of the UGLIEST sleepers ever. My head will go round the world and swirl and twirl is I don't have a proper pillow. So you can imagine how many people saw that. But cut me some slack ok, I haven't had sleep since the day before! 

The briefing took forever, and when I heard claps and cheers, I instantly knew that it was over. And looking back, I should have fought the sleepiness and stayed awake. 

Before I knew it, there was a part 2! The divided briefing for students specific to the state they are posted to. That was just generic, and I felt like the briefing at that point was a little bit unnecessary, since we weren't flying off till 2 days later, and by then most of us would've forgotten already. Oh ya, before the thing ended, the coordinator wanted to test our level of Japanese, and clearly I had none, 0, absolutely a empty shell. So when she asked me the 3 questions,(till now I don't know what they are), all I did was nod, ya, and mm. See lah, #mylife. 

Since the briefing ended early, we had another hour to rest before we needed to assemble for dinner. Everyone went back to their hotel rooms to sleep, except me, because I was too cheap to throw away my dailies, and you can't sleep in your contacts, so I fought my sleepiness and just tried staying awake by going to Ruey's room to watch movies he downloaded. Except, I didn't finish and reckoned to go back to my room and just lay on the bed. 

 The view the minute we step out of the hotel, caf├ęs, marts and restaurants!



Finally dinner came, and when we went down to meet, THE WEATHER WAS SUPER AMAZING. It was cool but not cold, almost like Singapore during rainy seasons, except, without the rain! Walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner, and due to food restrictions, I didn't managed to sit at the Japanese type of table!

 ^ The 'Japanese' table we didn't get to sit. T_____T
Instead, we just got this regular one.  (Photo Credits : MaryN)

And after coming from the shock that we had at lunch, with no meat, we sat down to this!

RICE, SALAD AND BEAN SPROUTS SOUP. 

I was in panic mode, because I can't simply eat and survive on a day without meat, I really would die. But with the graces of god and a decent menu, the meats came.

On the platter, friend chicken and sweet potato patties. 

The chicken was pretty ok, but the sweet potato patties, hmmm not my thing. But I love the way the rice is cooked in Japanese. It is more moist and sticky, like you can use your chopsticks to pick up a ball of rice. 

After dinner, Me, Manders, Ker Xi and Amirah managed to walk the streets of Tokyo before heading back to the hotel, and the 7-11 there is so different from the ones we have in Singapore. Comparatively, ours really fade to the background! The 7-11 there are super huge, and they really sell everything, and they're so nicely decorated! From bento, to spaghetti and noodles, everything there is just elevated. But Japan is famous for their convenience stores anyway, so there really isn't competition lah. 

Initially wanted to write about day 1 and 2 in this post, but it's just too long! Day 1 is kinda picture-less cause we just settled in and didn't do much, BUT I PROMISE YOU, there'll be more photos in the coming parts ok! Ending this post with a few selfies taken on the streets while walking back! 



Being able to travel with great friends and amazing people is the really the centrepiece to making a trip special and perfect.

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