Tag Archive: Asia



We are home, and still dreaming of the sites we visited and the food we enjoyed. Times are better and “lost in translation” is soon a thing of the past. Google translate and the young helpful Japanese make life so much easier. When we touched down and trooped out of the Namba train station, we couldn’t figure out which direction to take to reach our hotel. When the map says it’s near, hailing a cab is out of the question and that means we should drag our luggage to our hotel just a couple of blocks away. A pair of young Japanese happily walked us to our hotelcrossed 2 streets with us and even offered to take my suitcase. Using Google translate, the young fellow asked if there’s some other place we’d like to pass by before checking in at our Namba hotel. Bless their hearts!

Love how these young Japanese ham it up!

On the way to our hotel — both in Osaka and Tokyo — we took note of all those red and gold lanterns, lightings, food stalls and shops where purchases are so neatly wrapped. Those snack foods packed in cute boxes and bags, as well as young adults in twinning outfits or in school’s winter uniforms. I just love how traditional structures, decor and traditions have survived and withstood the onslaught of modernity in all aspects of Japanese life. Like onsen, tea ceremonies, food alleys, Shinto and Buddhist shrines, temples and pagodas dotting the city landscapes. And how the locals show respect with a bow after rendering service even when no one is looking!

My love affair with Japan began long before I started traveling. Back when I was still in school, I had a weekend foster brother who is Japanese. Kazuhiro is from Osaka but we’ve lost touch many years ago. How I wish we remained in contact. My father who never had a son readily welcomed this Japanese lad on the many weekends he spent with us in our ancestral home in the province. I remember his fastidious attention to cleaning the bathroom that our family made sure he bathed LAST. My father would egg us all to hit the showers before Hiro — as we fondly called him — took his bath. Invariably, Hiro left behind him sparkling clean bathroom tiles after all the scrubbing. And that includes brushing the bathroom slippers squeaky clean!

My only regret was that we were too busy feeding Hiro with local delicacies instead of leaving him to try his kitchen skills. Back then, we weren’t too keen on Japanese cuisine. Sushi and ramen were totally not favoured over mami and siopao to ignoramus like moรญ and eating raw would have been unwelcome even to my Pa and Ma. Too bad. At the time, what I considered “unmistakably Japanese” then was limited to thoroughly clean, a manicured and pebbled garden, a bow to show appreciation, welcome, and bye, perfectly-cooked rice and good tea!


Mt. Fuji isn’t hiding behind any clouds this winter. From the Observatory of Metropolitan Government Building across our hotel, Mt. Fuji can be spotted clearly. One morning, we decided to hop on a JR line to reach Otsuki (pronounced Otski) for a closer view of the majestic mountain. But we found many of the other train passengers heading towards a rail express line towards Lake Kawaguchi. Seeing a poster in the station of Mt. Fuji viewed from the lake, we decided to pay extra for another hour-long train ride towards Kawaguchiko where we found a taxi to drive us around the lake then back to the station. We’re happy with the photos we snapped but knew they’d have turned out better if it was later in the day when the mountain is reflected in the lake waters. At noontime, no such dreamy reflection as the sun shone brilliantly.

Viewed from Tokyo Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku, Tokyo
Viewed from the Train

Our taxi driver took our photos as he very kindly offered so we two can be photographed in a single frame. We tried not to squint our eyes and stood still for more posterity shots. There were not too many tourists at the time and the few we met are staying the night in one of the lakefront hotels. Next time I come here, I should do that. The view is fantastic especially when the dame shows up in all her splendour sans the clouds.

Viewed from the Taxi

It’s a long journey to meet them snow monkeys in Jigokudani Park. The Shinkansen ride took 1.5 hours from Tokyo to Nagano where a Snow Monkey Pass can be bought to cover the nearly one-hour bus trip and entrance fee to the park. That’s not bad but you need to walk from the bus stop to the park. Should have ordinarily taken about 30 minutes of walking 2kilometers but the narrow paths are slippery with last night’s snow. Icy by the time we got there and our rubber shoes are no longer good to go. We rented snow boots and finally started walking — for a good hour! No way you can go faster as we eyed the edge of the paths that showed drops I dare not even imagine. Here and there, we dropped to our knees as we slipped and our weights carried us down the paths. At one point, our hands “burned” as we slid hanging by the ropes. It was tempting to give up but having wasted 2.5 hours on a train and bus, we decided to wing it.

Lonely walk towards the park,
Snow all around!

The hot springs serve as haven for these macaques during winter. The heat keeps them warm as they frolic between the mountain slopes and the pond. Never aggressive, but it’s wise to keep a distance. On a few occasions, a couple of macaques squirrelled past me. Every now and then, there’d be “quarrels” among them — I guess claiming their onsen spots — but nothing so dramatic, nor threatening. After a while, you get used to the snarling sounds. It’s just magical just watching them have a good time.

Almost there.
Finally there.

The snow monkeys are having a good life here. An onsen life in the wilds. While we stood watching, Mama Monkey and her babies are soaking warm in the pond. The park sits close to many nearby onsens catering to humans. Same hot springs, I bet, but nothing beats how these snow monkeys are enjoying their own brand of onsen-dipping. The peace and quiet is only broken by camera shutters busily snapping shots, and humans doing what they do worst — being noisy. If these monkeys aren’t quarrelling, they just sit quietly with eyes closed, seemingly meditating. You can say they behave better in onsens than many humans. ๐Ÿคฃ

These snow monkeys are having a good life.
Mommy and Baby enjoying the onsen as Papa dozes.

I’m glad we came. It’s best visited in winter when the macaques are drawn to the hot springs. But I should have remembered to wear snow boots to keep me from slipping, and a beanie to keep my head and ears warm. Well, hard lessons learned. For those of you making plans to visit this winter, pay heed. So there.


Our first home base was in Osaka. Right in Namba’s Dotonbori area. The aroma of food wafting from the food stalls and restos kept us going especially on our first night. We have made our wagyu dinner reservations but ended up in the wrong resto branch. And that’s after some time looking all over the place, scanning all the alleys. We were tempted to just skip it and instead check out the many ramen or yakitori or crab places but how can we give up on matsusaka beef ๐Ÿฅฉ? The staff in the “wrong branch” took us to the right outlet just a few meters away. Seemed like they’re used to guests getting lost or missing the right branch. The night ended well and we were satisfied with our first dinner in Osaka. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

Wagyu Dinner at Matsusaka-gyu M
Fushimi Inari Looking Empty of Visitors

Woke up early the next morning for a train ride to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, but it seemed most everybody had the same “brilliant idea”. Walked all around until our knees went jello, then moved to Fushimi Inari where once more, a long line of visitors have already assembled. Alas, the gods smiled on us and we found a break in the line so we promptly took snapshots of the shrine’s vermilion gates looking empty. By the time we were done, we took the Keihan Line to Kyoto’s geisha district, Gion. This time, we failed to spot any geisha, geiko nor maiko. But we enjoyed Hanamikoji alley in peace as the sun set in Kyoto.

Another Tourist Trap: Arashiyama Bamboo Park
Sundown in Gion District

Osaka and Kyoto are just 15 minutes apart via Shinkansen. So convenient. And from the JR Namba Station near our Osaka crib, we took the rapid express train to Nara Deer Park the next day. Just under an hour. Easy. But not as easy is the trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. Took the 1.5 hour Shinkansen, the half-hour local train from Hiroshima to Miyajima and finally the 8 minute ferry ride to the island. But hey, if you have the time, and the JR Pass, it’s worth visiting. The pass is good for the Shinkansen, local train and ferry. Just make sure you don’t doze off on the ferry ride or you’d end up making a round trip!

Miyajima Island
Nara Deer Park

On our way to Tokyo, we broke our journey in Kyoto for a quick visit to Kiyomizu-dera and to enjoy some Uji matcha delights. Suitcases left in the station’s coin lockers, we were off to take the local train from Kyoto Station to Kiyomizu-gojo via Tofukuji. The uphill climb from Exit 4 took a half hour. The thick crowd we met served no encouragement to truly explore this beautiful temple but we’re not complaining. Time enough for a visit and catching our late afternoon Shinkansen to our next crib, Tokyo. Watch this page for more of our adventures!

Kiyomizu – Dera

This 2022 is a better year judging by how the pandemic woes have eased and how international borders have opened up. Soon after we returned from our Nile cruise early in 2020, we survived a lockdown which saw us cancelling as many as 3 international trips in 2020 and staying in for much of the time throughout 2020-21. Sad news from family and friends we havenโ€™t, couldnโ€™t visit reached us and all we could do was pray and try to stay healthy. My annual visits to my family in Sydney was put on hold until OZ borders opened up in February 2022. I wasted no time and secured a visa to visit Sydney last May 2022. Stayed a good 6 weeks and felt gratitude seeping in that our family is well and in good health.

Check out these blog links:

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/06/07/sydney-fish-market-finds/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/06/10/my-vivid-sydney-2022/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/07/03/anna-bay-in-port-stephens/

La Familia. OZ Chapter.
It was winter that mid year in Sydney. Lovely to bond with family again, especially since there are just 2 of us sisters in the original branch of the family.

Soon after, it was time to visit a niece now based in Guam. Renewed my US visa to visit this territory in the Northern Pacific and spent a month, thinking there isnโ€™t much to do in this tiny island. I was prepared to get bored and promised not to whinge. Well, I must have done whatever there is to do in Guam from hotel staycations, duty-free shopping, watching a musical, binging on movies in the nearby cinema, trying Chamorro meals, driving and touring around the island, swimming and other water adventures. There were a number of family friends to meet up so thereโ€™s aplenty to do and catch up on. Besides, there was a birthday to celebrate!

Check out these blog links:

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/08/21/a-chamorro-sunday-in-guam/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/08/25/wednesdays-in-chamorro-village-guam-2022/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/08/27/checking-in-at-the-tsubaki/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/08/31/driving-around-guam/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/09/04/the-beach-scene-dusit-thani/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/09/06/bikini-sandbar-or-island/

A day excursion to Bikini Island
And a birthday to celebrate!

In between these visits, I made 2 domestic trips. One to holiday in Boracay with dear friends who are my extended family, and another to Cagayan de Oro in Southern Philippines to celebrate a friendโ€™s retirement and birthday. My relationship with these extended families makes me feel so very thankful for their friendship and the bond that ties us forever. Their children are all my godchildren โ€” from baptism to wedding โ€” and our friendship counts decades with the younger members forging an equally strong bond among themselves. This relationship will last beyond our lifetimes!

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/04/10/that-corner-of-paradise-boracay/

Beach is life.
Justice Meloyโ€™s Retirement Party

And then thereโ€™s our Fukuoka trip this last month of the year. Not our first time to Kyushu Island in the southern part of Japan, but we were just too eager to travel again as a group. Who cared who was guiding us or where we were going? Destinations hardly mattered. There were just 3 major sights: a garden in autumn foliage, an active volcano and a gorge, and a canal cruise. And onsens and kaiseki in between. Enough. In the company of these travel buddies, weโ€™re good. Fun as always. More fond memories. We are blessed.

Check out these blog links:

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/12/02/japan-is-always-a-good-idea/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/12/04/gorges-volcanoes-porsches/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/12/05/a-canal-cruise-in-yanagawa/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/12/09/an-onsen-zen-state-of-mind/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2022/12/10/kaiseki-anyone/

Travel Buddies
Feeling grateful.
Wishing for an even better 2023.

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year, everyone! May this Season bring us peace and joy in our minds and hearts.


It’s been 9 weeks. And before then, around 4 weeks of clinic visits and lab procedures. I haven’t had 13 slow and easy weeks in the last few years. A quick check of my busy travel calendar the last few years confirm this. And you know what? If you’ve been under “house arrest” for a considerable time, the first day out heightens all your senses to appreciate the air you breathe, the noise you hear or perhaps the lack of it, the temps that make you sweat or the breeze that cools your skin. The Harbour Square within the CCP Complex is a favorite spot within the metropolis. Antipolo too but it’s too far out and the traffic going there is near-unbearable. So between the waters and the mountains, I longed to instead count the yachts bobbing up and down in the bay.

There are still a few days before the year is over but Bali was def the last trip in 2019. Thoroughly enjoyed with the family despite the intermittent chest pains, which I assumed must have been acid reflux. My guardian angels must have worked overtime to bring me home safely and guided a family doctor to remind me to see my cardiologist instead of a gastro-enterologist. I did, and then had medical attention in the nick of time. After more tests pre- and post-stenting, my cardiologist declared I’m good to travel again. Yey! Two trips lined up for next year, and now working on a possible 3rd and 4th. I am so happy. And thankful for the trips made in the year 2019 without mishap. I still cringe at the thought that any one of these trips could have turned really nasty. I am thankful as I remember.

Same group on 2 separate trips to Brunei and Malaysia

Ticked off a few squad goals including this Hokkaido in Winter!

A third of the fambam in London.

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/21/touchdown-london/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/23/one-in-a-million-stonehenge/

Cardiff Castle in Wales

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/24/from-london-to-london-2019/

Amsterdam, Volendam, Marken, Giethorn , Zaans Schans, Delfth and The Hague

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/25/its-been-awhile-amsterdam/

Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/01/touchdown-brussels/

The Cotswolds

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/16/the-cotswolds/

Off to Graz, Ljubljana, Trieste and Istrian Peninsula (Croatia

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/08/18/road-trip-through-austria-slovenia-italy-croatia/

A family trip to Bali, Indonesia

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/09/05/bali-highs-๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ–๐Ÿ˜๐ŸŽถ๐Ÿงœ๐Ÿป

So what’s in the drawing boards this coming 2020? Well, there’s a booked Nile cruise in Egypt, and the South American adventure should soon be firmed up, plus there’s that wedding later in the year in Barcelona. Same travel buddies…. unless of course we start growing tired of each other ๐Ÿ™„. We have yet to plan for that trip to Europe with my soon-to-graduate #aponimamu. And another adventure with my soon-to-retire dear friends. We’ll see. Meanwhile, let’s have a truly Merry Christmas in our hearts and a Prosperous, Harmonious New Year ahead.


The last week-long family trip (to Korea) was when I turned 6-Oh. Bali was next choice and should have been scheduled last year when I turned 65 but I was out of the country then ticking off a dream trip. So here we are — the entire caboodle minus 1 ๐Ÿ˜” — finally having our highs in BALI.

We touched down on an early morning flight to Denpasar and was promptly whisked away to Seminyak to spend the rest of the day there. Potato Head Beach Club was planned as an entire day’s destination and activity and on hindsight, that worked out really well. A friend has just been here and we thought the young members of the family would enjoy the vibe here. And so we started our holiday in a beach (Seminyak) and ended the holiday week in another beach (Nusa Dua). In between, we managed to develop temple fatigue ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿคฃ

First Day in Seminyak

Taman Ayun and Ulun Danu

Selfie and Swing Shots in Bali

More Temples in Ubud

Kopi Luwak, anyone?

Marriott Vacation Club


In Bali, we stayed in Marriott’s Bali Nusa Dua Gardens. Nusa Dua is at the southern tip of Bali and its gated hotel and beach resorts form an enclave providing a more quiet, even more reserved resort vibe than its Legian and Seminyak cousins. Marriott Vacation Club opened this Nusa Dua Gardens only 3 years ago, and built it right alongside Courtyard by Marriott.

Our hotel room is on the ground floor and opens up to the lagoon pool and Lazy River area. Just a short walk from it is the Courtyard by Marriott where they have another poolside bar, a fitness Center and 5 dining venues. A hotel shuttle brings guests to the Nusa Dua Beach where Marriott has an exclusive space and to the shopping arcade for some retail therapy. The arcade has plenty of dining options too. But I like the beach vibe best. Lounge chairs, umbrella tents and white sands. My idea of a Bali holiday.

If you choose to linger in the beach, Marriott has set up a bar to make sunset watch truly fun for its guests. It’s so relaxing here. We felt pampered as the lounge chairs were comfortable and the staff so accommodating. But we headed back to the hotel after a couple of hours here. The landscaped lagoon pool and the Lazy River were just as inviting and we liked the idea of the poolside bar to enjoy our happy hours.

Marriott Vacation Club’s newest holiday resort in the Asia-Pacific is tops. May I just say that the morning we prepped to head for the beach, I had a minor mishap. I missed a step but held my balance, albeit awkwardly, and at the expense of putting my weight on my big toe to break the fall. The very gracious staff attended to me without delay — asking if I wanted to be brought to the clinic, giving me water, a pack of ice on my toe, and never leaving my side. Thank you May and Chandra, and a couple more whose names I can’t recall. Thank you, Marriott, for giving us another wonderful holiday.

For those interested in buying membership in Marriott Vacation Club (Asia-Pacific), let me know. And no, I’m NOT doing this advert because I’m on Marriott’s payroll. Just a satisfied member of Marriott Vacation Club here. Ta Ta!

Bali Shots!


When you travel with younger members of your family, you’re bound to be doing things you’d normally not do. Like these crazy snapshots on a “nest”, a heart-shaped or round “frame” on the edge, a “hanging bed” or a swing at the edge with the perfect ocean view! We’ve seen these photo opps all over Bali, and found many young people line up for the selfie-shots. What’s that term again? Instagrammable. Some risked their lives for that instagrammable shot. Oh yes! We instantly liked the round and heart-shaped frames as they seemed “safe”. At first, no one wanted to take a swing at the swing. I did. Hmm, why not? I calculated I can just sit there for the shot without really swinging. And voila! ๐Ÿ˜œ Everyone else in my caboodle followed suit after me and actually ended up doing more poses, more photos.

Look Grandma…. no hands!

Hanging around with apo.

By this time, temple fatigue was about to set in so it was a timely break. The panoramic view in this corner of Badung was quite refreshing and the “selfie pros” that comprise the staff were at one’s service to give you all the tips for a good “instagrammable shot”. Oh, this was insane. But lots of fun. Those frames and hanging swings, beds, nests and cocoons may look steady but we could actually feel it shake! While there was no need to really swing away, the prospect of falling off and sliding into that ravine still posed a bit of a scare.

That tattoo was their idea!

Posing for the camera.

Pardon me for this photo dump. We spent a good half hour here, maybe more, just to indulge ourselves. Many more came after us. Never thought this could be good business! For IDR 60,000, you get lotsa laughs doing all these selfie shots! Hooray for camwhores ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

My first shot. Look at that grip!

A hanging cocoon?

This is where it all happened. IDR 60,000 pp.


You can’t visit Bali without hitting the temples dotting the entire island. Balinese architecture is very distinct and it shows in its many temples. Whether on land, up in the hills or by the lake, these temples, big and small, adorn the entire island. While Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, the island of Bali is 90% Hindu.

On Day 2 in this island, we visited 2 temples: Ulun Danu Beratan and Taman Ayun. We timed our visit to Tanah Lot at sunset but we failed to consider Bali’s traffic jams. And what horrendous jam we were in — lasting nearly four hours! When we realized we’d miss sunset here, we scrapped Tanah Lot and headed straight back to our hotel in Nusa Dua. Nearly 9pm when we reached it. Maybe another day. Two temples today will do for my caboodle.

Ulun Danu Beratan is a Shaivite water temple on the shores of Lake Beratan. There was a good crowd when we visited, but we noticed they were mostly locals. You may say it’s their Sunday family day since the temple complex includes restaurants, and a garden park. I like this temple complex as it is well-maintained and any temple by the waters is a natural charmer. Being in the highlands via a zigzag road much like our local summer capital (Baguio City), the weather here is cool and breezy. And because it was far from the island capital, there were not as many tourists. Most visitors were locals. By late afternoon, it was foggy around the lake near the highlands of Bedugul mountains when we passed it a second time on our way back to the hotel. Foggy in Bali! And yes, did I say it was cooler too?

Pura Taman Ayun required us to wear those shiny green sarongs. Sun was shining brightly but temps were actually tolerable. We didn’t break a sweat even as we rounded up the temple complex. Because this temple is only 17 kms from Denpasar, it’s among first-of-mind temples to visit for tourists. Built in 1634, it claims to be the mother of all temples in Mengwi. With Chinese inspirations, this Balinese temple with its moss-lined walls and lily ponds is a Bali landmark that shares the same anniversary as another iconic Bali landmark, Uluwatu Temple. Across the temple complex is a Museum which features Balinese rituals and passages. If you don’t want to go too far from the capital and have limited time, this is a good temple choice. And without the traffic!