Kyushu Part I

August 17, 2017

I’ve always loved Japan since my first visit to Tokyo when I was 21, like it’s literally one of my favourite countries in the world. But I’ve never travelled extensively across Japan except for that few major/popular cities like Tokyo and Kyoto so stepping foot and exploring Kyushu last month really opened up a fresh new perspective.

Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island, located southwest of the main island Honshu is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. As an early  centre of Japanese civilisation, Kyushu offers many historic treasures, modern cities and natural beauty. My trip was only 4 full days, and I wish I had more time to fully explore and bask into the nature (think active volcanoes, beaches and natural hot springs) and slow pace life in Kyushu.

Checked into our first ryokan; Yama no hotel Musouen after 1.5 hr drive from Fukuoka airport.

  1. a traditional Japanese inn.

After a quick wash up and rest, we took the chance to explore Yufuin area which is…beautiful. It’s one of my favourite parts of the trip with its quaint shops lining the streets and walking around in a yukata! Mouth-watering cheesecake at Yufuin Milch! I’m so excited that they are opening a store in Singapore soon! It’s so fluffy and it just melts in your mouth yumsss~

Sorry for using the word favourite again but this is one of my fav meals in Kyushu. I had the beef mabushi and the beef was cooked to perfection along with the fragrance of the charred rice. And when you’ve enough of it, you can pour some soup over to make it into beef congee which tasted as good or even better!

Appetizers!You gotta try this place if you’re in Yufuin for their famed local cuisine!!

Yufu Mabushi Shin

2F 5-3 Kawakita Yufuincho Yufushi, Oita Prefecture

+81 977-84-5825

The Traditional Japanese Rickshaw was just a few minutes drive away and it’s surrounded by incredible sceneries. For that moment, I felt like a chinese princess being escorted to meet my prince hahah

Just look at the view, will you?

The iconic Japanese vending machines.

A much needed onsen sesh within our ryokan with a view after a long day!Followed by a massive dinner spread in the ryokan restaurant! Life’s good~~~

We woke up really early the next day for a long day of adventure ;

  1. Kokonoe Dream Bridge
    1208, Tano, Oaza, Kokonoe-machi, Kusu-gun, Oita Prefecture
  2. Kuju Flower Park
    Kuju Oaza, Kujucho, Takedashi, Oita Prefecture
  3. Mt Aso Helicopter Tour
    2163 Kurokawa Asoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture

There were so many scenic pitstops along our drive in Kyushu Kokonoe Yume Grand Suspension bridge is 390 meters long, 173 meters high and is the highest suspension for walkway in Japan. It’s nice to enjoy a cone of milk soft-serve while enjoying a full view of 2 waterfalls when you’re standing in the middle of the bridge. 

We stopped by another Hanabishi for another round of local cuisine on the way to Kuju Flower park to try their renowned beef bento set

If you’re big on flowers and you’re in Kyushu then you have to visit Kuju Flower park! The spacious park covers 49 acres of land and has many different flower fields such as lavender, sunflower, poppies, blue berries etc. On a clear day, you can enjoy the gram-worthy view with Mount Kuju as the backdrop!
Note that it’s closed from Dec-Feb tho!

Aside from coastal and mountainous views, I’d recommend you to take in the vast beauty of Kyushu from an aerial view. I’m glad we took the helicopter ride cos we saw so many things we could never see just by driving/taking public transports.

Helicopter tour in Aso was very comprehensive and our guide was very detailed in explaining every landmarks. Another good thing about it is that it’s located in Cuddy Dominion which is an animal park so I got to see ponies, alpacas and other cute furries as well. 

Lo and Behold, this was the most fun part of the trip ; rowing a boat to a waterfall.

Takachiho Gorge is a narrow chasm cut through the rock by the Gokase River and the cliff columns remind me of the scales of a dragon. It was so therapeutic to experience the cascading waterfall, green foliage and majestic surrounding cliffs. There are 2 ways to enjoy the gorge. First is by rowing a rental boat which was what we did, another was to walk on the paved paths along the gorge. 

Just a few mins walk away, there’s a very interesting somen stall which serves somen (very thin wheat noodles, similar to soba) through a bamboo trough and doused with boiling water. I’m sure some of you caught that on my IG story! It’s known as flying as somen so you’ll have to catch as much somen as possible with your chopsticks as it passes you through the bamboo trough. Super fun!!

I forgot to take pictures there so I took this from Google to show you!

Pic creds here.

That’s all I have for you for the first part of my trip! I’ll be back for the second part soon. Meanwhile, you can check out our itinerary at this link here!

(Stay tuned!

Sophia Chong

Featured New Zealand Travel

Lake Taupo & Acacia Bay villa

May 25, 2017

We spent the weekend hitting the roads to Lake Taupo, 4.5 hours drive from Auckland city. We, or rather I needed an escape from the city and bask into New Zealand’s famed nature and Lake Taupo seems like one of the best choices in the north island. Lots of greens, cows, sheeps and horses along the way which I really enjoyed. NZ has such beautiful skies that every sunset is so unique and beautiful. This blog post is done up in a way where I want to express myself from “the moment” so I’ve little scribblings on every photo which either express how I felt at the moment the photo was taken or little details of it.

River leading to Huka Falls. On the way to Taupo, you will see New Zealand’s longest river, The Waikato River. We did an hour hike along the river near hula falls and I probably breathed the freshest air I’ve ever inhaled there.

Moving on, we drove half an hour from Huka Falls to Orakei Korako which is is a highly active geothermal area most notable for its series of fault-stepped sinter terraces. You can find lots of mud pools and geothermal pools (not for swimming/soaking tho) there.

Cute little sheeps everywhere!
Fun fact : Did you know that NZ has the highest density of sheeps per unit area in the world? There are approx 27.6 million sheeps in NZ and there are only 4.6 million human population. SHEEPS RULE THE WORLD!

The balcony which I spent every morning drinking my coffee. It would be a perfect dinner/breakfast spot during summer.

I was very blessed to stay in an incredibly gorgeous and spacious lakeside villa with breathtaking view of the lake and mountains during my time in Taupo and I’d highly recommend it to anyone especially if you’re on a honeymoon or if you’re travelling in a big groups (cos it can fit about 10 people comfortably). I’ll spare you the details for now and feast your eyes with pictures (:

Sleeping in the master bedroom with a floor to ceiling glass window is the best cos I stargazed to sleep and woke up to a scenic view of the mountains. Can’t describe how soothing that is for the soul.

Stone bathtub just outside our room

If you had been catching up on my Instagram stories when I was in NZ, you’d notice that Jin and I are such a cooking couple. We love cooking together and eating together to a movie so we couldn’t resist the BBQ pit in our courtyard. I have to say it was a challenge to bbq in 10 degrees celsius so he did most of the work while I stayed indoor most of the time :p

We love spending time like this. Food wine music movies and conversations. 

And one hell of a kickass movie room!

Staying in this lakeside villa certainly made our road trip a better one. We loved coming home to such a big yet cosy heated house, with stars as our ceiling and our favourite jazz playlist playing throughout the house with their home sound system. The villa is  secluded in a very private and safe estate, and is very accessible to supermarkets and cafes within 15 mins drive. There are 4 bedrooms so it can comfortably fit a big group and you can use the facilities at the point including tennis courts, a petanque area, 2 private boat ramps & access to private beaches.

One thing that we really like is that the place is very tastefully decorated with nice art pieces and ornaments. The kitchen is also furnished with good quality and sufficient cutleries, pots and pans, condiments and sauces! Yum!

Here’s the link to the villa if you’re planning a trip to NZ/Lake Taupo. Highly recommend!

I just got back to Singapore yesterday and I’m so jet lagged so I’ll be back soon (:

Sophia Chong

Featured New Zealand Travel

Waiheke weekend and how we met FAQs

May 10, 2017

We spent the weekend in Waiheke Island and it was nothing short of beautiful. I didn’t think I would like it that much initially but that was definitely one of my favorite days in Auckland so far. I took a 9.5 hour plane ride last Tuesday from Singapore to Auckland (New Zealand) to visit Jin and I’m here to stay for 3 weeks. He has work in the day so I’m just using this time to reset myself, and do up some work.

So, many of you seem very curious about our relationship so here’s a FAQs since I’ve some free time on hand (:

  1. Is he a korean/kiwi and does he speak fluent English?
    He’s full korean and yes he can speak fluent English cos he lived and studied overseas.
  2. How old is he?
    He’s 29 this year
  3. How tall are the both of you?
    He’s 182cm and I’m 168cm, and we both think our heights fit perfectly :p
  4. He’s so sweet, he’s always cooking for you!!! Can he cook well?
    YES YES YES YES YES YES YES. He makes the best pasta and I love it when he makes me korean food – toppoki!!!
  5. Does he live in Korea?
    Nope, he lives in New Zealand now.
  6. Why is he always so emotionless on your Instagram Stories?
    “I’m a man of many expressions, they just don’t get to see it” quote Jin. He’s just very shy and awkward in front of camera. He asked me if he’s suppose to smile or what haha.
  7. Is maintaining a long distance relationship difficult?
    Well, on my part I wouldn’t say it’s very difficult. Sure, sometimes I wish he was with me to celebrate some moments or a shoulder for me to lean on in tough times. But I think generally we are very independent people and having whatsapp and facetime make things a lot easier. We talk every day and send loads of pictures to each other just to update each other about our lives. Sometimes, he stays on the phone with me while I fall asleep so I feel like I’m sleeping next to him. We are both primarily at the stage of building our careers so some space apart helps to let us grow in different ways together. Although it’s a little expensive to maintain a LDR (air tickets, overseas expenses etc) but we only see each other every 2-3 months so if we spread out the costs, it’s probably the same or even lesser than a regular relationship. Besides, it’s fun that we get to travel to see each other. It’s like going on a holiday! We have only been seeing each other for 5+ months but we have already experienced 4 countries together 😀 Also, it’s interesting to learn about each other’s cultures. I’ve always had a keen interest in Korean politics (particularly North) and I love getting insights from him. So…LDR difficult? Nah not really for now.
  8. Will you move to live with him?
    We’ve briefly talked about this but nope, not at the moment or near future.
  9. Can you speak Korean then?
    I’m learning from him and kdramas hone my skills so I can speak just a little bit now.
  10. How did you guys meet?
    Here’s the question everyone’s curious about! I shall just answer it here once and for all.

     We met on.........Tinder.

    BUT our story is a little different so let me bring you through hahah.
    One fine day, my mum was asking me why wasn’t I dating anyone for such a long time and she was getting a little worried. I told her that I just didn’t have time to be in a relationship and I haven’t met anyone I really like. I kinda do have a type which is tall asian guys who are more westernized (so like studied/lived abroad but can’t be douchy or spoilt at the same time. TOUGH RIGHT?) So I thought ok fine, I’ll go on Tinder. So I saw Jin’s profile and went like hmm not bad, tall quite handsome dress quite nicely and he doesn’t seem like a Singaporean which is good cos that means he probably doesn’t follow me on IG or know who I am at all. After all, I wanted to talk to someone who knows me for ME and not the Instagram girl. At that time, he was in Singapore to visit his brother hence we were able to match on Tinder. But honestly, we didn’t think much of this “match”. We barely texted each other initially and we didn’t meet up and suddenly he told me he was back in Korea for 3 weeks to finish up a project. For some odd reason, we started texting more, almost every night after he left Singapore. And it went on for 2 months. And he still hasn’t came back to Singapore. He did ask me for my Instagram handle, but I just came up with some random excuse that I hardly use IG so no point following. The only thing he knew about me was my first name. Not even my last name so he couldn’t google shit up. I really just wanted him to talk to me without knowing other “unnecessary” stuff about me and so he did. I’d send him bare face pictures but he didn’t stop talking to me. We continued talking every day, sending random photos, created a joint Spotify playlist to share songs we love, drunk called each other at 3am to talk about life, work, family and such. Sometimes, he would run out of his house and talk to me at his rooftop at 3am in 0 degree. And inexplicably, we started getting attracted to each other despite having not met each other before. It felt special, yet weird at the same time? I remember asking my close friends if there was something wrong with me for feeling this way for a guy I’ve never even met before. From “what are you doing”s, it became “wish you were here”s and “it’s weird that we feel this way about each other”s but somehow we couldn’t shake it off. In the end, he couldn’t come back to Singapore cos he had to relocate elsewhere (he was deciding between NZ and Japan at that time) and we both felt like it would be a waste to just let it slip just because of distance. How special and rare was it that our feelings were mutual under such a circumstance. So we took a leap of faith to meet in Seoul and agreed that if we don’t feel the same, we will just take it that we gained a new friend and he was just gonna be my tour guide in Seoul. I was so scared on the plane to Korea. I was scared to death actually. What if he was a creepy guy, what if he turned out to be completely different, what if he was a rapist or a human trafficker. Yet on the other hand, there was something reassuring in the guy I had been talking to for the past 2 months and it must really have been something solid for me to be willing to take the leap of faith. And so it did…he was everything I thought he’d be, if not even better. He was caring, sweet, understanding, good-looking, tall, humorous, weird in just the way I like. And we fell in love almost immediately in Seoul. I fell for his weird antics, his genuine heart, the way he makes me feel when I’m with him and he fell for me ; the me that he doesn’t care about on Instagram, the me without make up and fancy clothes, the me who had accidentally let out a burp on our 3rd day, the geeky me who can’t stop talking about North Korea politics while all he cared about was art and design, museum and galleries, and also the me who loved to do embarrassing things to him in public. So that was how we met, and we still thank God every day for this even though we met on the most unexpected and unassuming platform.

Sophia Chong