[Video] Facts that will make you want to travel

An amazing & inspiring video from BuzzFeed that will make you simply want to grab your backpack and go.

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Takayama – Shirakawago: Potraits of Classic Japan

If you ever stepped your feet in Hanami-Koji Dori in Kyoto and thought that you have finally seen the look of Japan in its old time; you might probably had not visited Takayama. Shirakawa-go is a small village located outside of Takayama.

Both are MUST VISIT IN JAPAN.

Takayama

Located in the Gifu perfecture that famous for its Alps scenery, Takayama is 4-5 hours away from Tokyo by Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train). Accompanied by majestic view of Japanese alps, rivers, and national parks along the way, 4-5 hours won’t feel so long. I was busy taking photos and barely slept on my way to Takayama from Tokyo.

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This is a small town, 1-2 days is enough to experience the whole city. But it is just as good to stay here longer for relaxation and experiencing how actually people live in this lovely town.

Just right at the opposite of the train station, it is an area called Sanmachi. This part of the city is the heart of Takayama. It is still well-preserving the old looks of classic Edo; which means you only need to do just one thing in here: WALK. You don’t need to worry the direction where you are going; every corner of Sanmachi has its own uniqueness. But for convenience purpose, you can grab a free map at the small kiosk right in the mouth of station exit.

No matter where you are going you can see old Japanese wooden building housings, traditional Japanese restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, boutiques, snack shops, & local sake breweries. That’s why even though the area is not so big, it can take 3 hours to finish walking around the cities. All the building has its own charm that will tempt you to step your feet in.One thing that I like about walking around this area is because it is so quiet. I didn’t see many people during my walks in Sanmachi. Even when I stumble upon one, they almost did not make any sound and really enjoyed their walk just like I was. This quietness also continue in restaurant. I am from a country where everytime I have a meal with a group of people, I will be loudly talking and laughing with the others. But in here, people rarely talk and seem like devote themselves to the food they having. Even when they talked, you barely hear the voice even if they sit in the next table from yours. So, PLEASE RESPECT this tradition and don’t make too much noise when you visit Takayama.

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Foods here are great. Takayama is famous for its Hida-Gyu (Hida beef) which tastes just as delicious as the famous Wagyu. That’s why, unquestionably it’s a bit pricey to give this famous beef a taste. People here make almost everything can be made using Hida-Gyu as the ingredient: Japanese yakiniku, Hida-Gyu Ramen, Hamburger, and even Italian Pasta with Hida-Gyu.

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Beside Hida-Gyu, Takayama is also famous for its Miso Ramen. Seriously, I can’t find Miso Ramen anywhere else in Japan that can equal Takayama’s! Both the noodles and the soups are genious!

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In the north-east part of the city, after crossing the big red bridges, Takayama’s city landmark, there is a place that you can do sake-tasting there. If you are interested, the staff will help you to recommend the good sake with a very good English.

From him, I also learnt that in the center of the city at night there is one narrow alley that is full with Japanese Izakaya’s. During my visit, the alley looks almost like dead city. I didn’t hear loud music coming from the bar or attractive girls invited me to go inside. It was just a street full of lamps and closed door with a few people walking. 100% different from Legian in Bali or Soi Cowboy in Bangkok or any nightlife center in the world that usually loud and wild. I dared myself to walk into one of the izakaya. When I was inside, It’s just like any other bar in the world: music, alcohol, people; all in Japanese style.

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Other place to visit in Takayama is a place called Hida No Sato. I don’t recommend anyone to go here if they’re planning to visit Shirakawa since this is just the mini version of it. Up in the north part of Takayama there also some castles and ruins. They are just okay, but worth to visit if you have spare time. Early in the morning there are also 2 traditional markets that you can visit. Go there for shopping and try some local delicacies.

For accomodation, a must to do: stay in Japanese Ryokan instead of regular hotel.

Shirakawa-go

One of UNESCO heritage world’s site, Shirakawa-go is located 45 minutes away by bus from Takayama. People say that it’s best to visit Shirakawa-go in winter. Well, I haven’t proved it yet since it was summer when I visit Shirakawa-go.

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Shirakawa-go is a small Japanese traditional village, famous for its Gassho Zukuri House, Japanese style house made of wood and roof made of thick pile of dried straws. This is to protect the house from thick snow in winter.

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Some of the houses are open for people to visit after paying some fees. The most famous one is called Wada house, house belong to Wada family. The family will greet you warmly and serve you tea made from straws.

The village is very small. If you walk fast, you can  finish walking around it in 30 minutes. Normally people will walk around 1-2 hours in the village for each visit.

Other than Gassho Zukuri houses, you can also enjoy the beautiful scene of Japan traditional village. Rice fields, sun flower, trees, koi-fish ponds, river, water turbines, temples, sun light, etc. Just walk! You will feel like you are in that village you see in Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai movie. A perfect Asian summer image.

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In the winter, all the greens will turn into white. Since it’s located in the middle of mountains, the temperature in winter is very cold and the snow is very thick. All the street, rice fields, rivers, fish ponds, and everything in the village will be covered in snow; makes everything totally white in daytime. Night time in Shirakawa-go during winter is one of the most awaited moment by photographers. The yellow light emits from the snow covered Gassho Zukuri house’s square windows is a perfect contrast to the snow. Just go up to the hill outside the village and take photo.

Not just in winter and summer, rumour has it that Shirakawa-go gives you different experience throughout four seasons. That’s what make it unique. Good thing is, the village is always monitored by cctv. So, if you really want to know how the village looks in any point in time you can just go live-streaming it without having to visit it. Here’s the link for that:

http://210.172.199.29/live

As a conclusion, of all UNESCO heritage site that I have visited, Shirakawago is in my top 5 list. So, for people looking for the look of classic Japan and feel the atmosphere of it; Takayama and Shirakawa-go is a must go. It’s a totally different experience from visiting Tokyo or Osaka, but I guarantee it’s just as nice if not better.
Do contact me if you have some inquiries about how to go to these 2 places. Arigatou!

Get in touch with Komodo Dragon in Indonesia!

Well, no. I didn’t actually touch Komodo by my hand. But I did, went to visit the dragon in their habitat, Komodo Island, one of The New 7 Wonders Of Nature.

There are several ways to visit Komodo Island. In my case, I took The Hunting Komodo by Camera 2N/3D by Perama Tours.

The Trip

The journey starts early in the morning on October 9th 2013 in Perama Office at Senggigi, Lombok. Using Perama bus, we went to Labuhan Lombok in the east part of Lombok to then ride the boat to Komodo Island. On the way to Labuhan Lombok we made stop at several shop and also to a village in Lombok (which I can’t remember the name) that famous for its people’s skill on making pottery in traditional way (using bare hands).

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Then we later went to continue our trip to Labuhan Lombok with the scene of Mountain Rinjani accompany us along the way. They provide “Kue Bantal”, lombok traditional snack made from sticky rice and banana, on the way.

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Soon after we arrived at Labuhan Bajo, we ride on the boat and depart. Our first stop was Perama Beach Resort, a private island of Perama Tour itself where we spent our time playing volley ball and snorkelling. We also had our experience doing coral plantation by simply binding a coral to a pipe and drown it to the sea.

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After dinner, the crew invited us to do “Poco-Poco” dancing on the beach which is not a common dance even for Indonesian like me.

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After sweating up our body, we then continue the journey in the night to the next stop, Satonda Island. It took the whole night to reach the island. If you ever join this trip, please make your time spend some minutes in the front deck to enjoy the stars. I’ve never seen the stars in the sky that many in my entire life. It was like the stars were all around you.

Satonda Island is famous for its stunningly beautiful lake. The salt level is higher than the sea that you would easily be able to float on the water. It was so good to enjoy the morning sunlight, floating in the lake, hearing nothing but the sound of nature. Ah! Serenity.

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Somewhere in the middle of the lake, you can also sit down on the stromatolite stone. This is a stone with ability to grow it’s size just like a living creature. Rumour has it that there are only 5 places in the world that has this stone.

The next destination is an island called Dempu. There’s not much to see here, we just wait here until night so that the boat will arrive at Komodo Island in the morning. They do this because Komodo Island is surrounded by many small islands, makes it hard for the captain to steer the boat in the night. This also to avoid the shipwreck tragedy that happens some years ago.

BAM! When I woke up the next day in the morning, I was stunned by the rare landscape of Nusa Tenggara area. It consists of many hilly small islands with dry savannah covering most of the island surface.

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About 9 AM, we finally arrived at the long awaited Komodo Island!

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Upon arrival, we needed to wait for the ranger for about 15 minutes, which then he explained to us about 3 available routes to explore the island. We took the longest route which require about 1-2 hours to complete. 50% of the track is flat, the other 50% is sloppy hill. It is not so hard to walk on the track. You can survive even if you’re wearing flipflop even though a proper tracking gear would be better. The surface of the island is about 390 square kilometers, and there are only 2800 Komodos live on it, so that it’s quite a challenge to locate on of them in the jungle. We were so lucky that we were able to find one in the jungle and see it very closely!

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Even though most of the dragons we find were just laying around in the ground, we were prohibited to get near to it closer than 6 meters. We would never know when they would feel threaten or hungry. And you don’t want to be like Mr.Rudolf from Switzerland who were eaten by the dragons years ago. During our tracking in the jungle, we only managed to see one dragon, and that’s already consider lucky. Even so, we were able to see more of them in the kitchen area.

After we had enough of cam-whoring The Komodo, we continue our trip to the other part of the island to enjoy the pink beach. Yes, the pink beach! A beach that is pink!

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Beside the long vast pink-colored beach that is very comfortable to chill down, this place also offers majestic view of rich underwater ecosystem! This is the best snorkeling spot on this trip even though the water temperature is so cold that I can only endure for 30 minutes in the water. But I enjoy it so much. Too bad, I didn’t bring underwater camera with me.

The pink beach concluded my long adventure. I was dropped at Labuhan Bajo and spent a night in there. This is a small seaport. The length is probably not more than 5 kilometer, yet along the main street you can find a lot of cafes, diving centers, and tour organizer. I am a bit regretful for not staying there longer. I could have been diving or visiting any other beautiful places in Flores from there.

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The trip was ended by a party hosted by Perama. I don’t quite like it since the music is too loud and the sound system is so trashy. They should have provided a better sound system if they want everybody to join the party. Nevertheless, The “Poco-Poco” dance is again one more time entertained us.

And, it’s the end of my adventure, looking for the Komodo dragon.

The Atmosphere

My first impression on joining this trip was: I feel like being a stranger in my own country. Of 23 people, only 2 including me are Indonesian. The crew said to me that it is actually not normal to have Indonesian on the trip. Most of the time the participant are domestic tourist. The last time they had Indonesian participant was in June. I really don’t understand why Indonesian is not so into this kind of adventure. I don’t even see any single local tourist from other tour in Komodo Island nor in Labuhan Bajo.

Yet, I have extraordinary feeling about this trip. The people on the tour are sooo nice and friendly. They are from many different places around the world and are very open to talk and share stories. There was a sweet old couple from Holland (husband is 80 years old, wife is 70 years old) that makes me so inspired to never stop travelling. There was also a Czech couple that are very friendly. I spent most of my time with them. And some other more! I made friends with all of them at the end. It made me a bit sad when the trip ends.

Also, kudos to all the friendly and helpful crew of Perama. As far as I know, there is no single complain from the participants to the crew.

The Accomodation

Well, we have 2 options to sleep; in the cabin or in the deck. Sleeping in cabin will cost IDR 1.000.000 more expensive that the deck. Yet, after the first night, I regret for have choosing cabin. In my opinion sleeping on the deck is nicer because the room in the cabin is so small and the worst that it has a bad smell. The only advantage of sleeping in the cabin is that we protected from the strong wind and we can store our things more securely.

The cabin:

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The Deck:

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Beside the not so pleasing place to sleep, the other thing is quite okay. They have enough bathroom and fresh waters to keep us clean. The food is also okay, it’s not a 5 star restaurant quality, but it’s still nice to chomp; and we can have our meal as much as we want.

Final Words

In the end, I will give this Hunting Komodo by Camera from Perama 7/10. It is definitely not as good as Titanic, but I think this is quite okay. And of course, who are expecting for a fancy facilities if you’re looking for an adventure?

There are many other ways to visit Komodo Island. You can just buy a ticket to Labuhan Bajo and go to local tour organizer to Komodo Island, or charter a boat in the port. For me, I prefer this boat trip because it is more adventurous. And since I was travelling alone, going on the boat and live on it for some days is a good way to meet new people. As a result, now I feel more inspired to travel more, share more stories, and inspire more people. Ciao!