Yamanashi and Fuji Q Highland

Yamanashi is a very popular destination for tourists and the Japanese alike. The prefecture is surrounded with world heritage sites and lakes. Yamanashi has also various parks that provide a spectacular view of Fuji San. The mountain can be spotted all around town as long as there are no clouds looming. The city is also popular for its many lakes the transition of the seasons have a dramatic effect in regards to the lakes surroundings. Colorful blossoms during the spring and summer periods while silky white snow covered grounds during the winter its nothing but breathtaking.


Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji

The popularity of the spot is also reflected in the price. This was perhaps one of the more expensive spots I have visited in Japan almost everything seemed to be overpriced. I suppose living in the country side in Japan in comparison has this effect on my spending. The purpose of visiting Yamanashi was for spending a couple of days at Fuji Q Japans top amusement attraction. Fuji Q has by far been the best amusement park I have ever been to. Check below for my ride thrill rating and ranking.


 

Fuji Q Highland
Fuji Q Highland – Fujiyama 

In terms of accommodation there are various lakeside hotels available however depending on the time of year you choose to visit the spot prices can fluctuate considerably spring all the way through to the end of summer months the highest prices are charged. If your sole purpose for coming to Yamanashi is to visit Fuji Q highland than the Highland resort would be my number one option the Hotel is a true resort in every sense of the word. Equipped with a pure wood Fuji mountain Onsen and free admission to Fuji Q highland. The more economically friendly option would be AirBnb me my partner managed to book a house in the woods however had we had no car there was no way we could have commuted.

AirBnB
Our AirBnB

In terms of food Yamanashi is famous for Hoto a type of thick cut noodles cooked in a special broth mixed with vegetables a very rich and delightful dish that seems to have been designed for the cold winter days. However, if you fancy western cuisine you are in luck as there are various Italian, steakhouses and American restaurants around town.

Hoto Udon
Hoto Udon

 

Yamanashi instantly became one of my favorite spots in Japan I will be sure to revisit again. Spring is considered to be the most popular period for visiting Yamanashi since the lakes are surrounded by blooming flowers of all sorts of colors and scents.

 

 

 

Fuji Q

Ranking

  • Eejanaika

The only ride in the park with dangling legs. Also, the most intense ride in the park. Thrill seekers are sure to be satisfied.

 

Rating: 10/10

 

  • Fujiyama

Named the King of Coasters perhaps not to the extent of the above ride however this iconic coaster ride is a thrill seekers favorite. The ride elevates to about 80m before it sends you into a heart pounding speed churning adrenaline thrill ride.

 

Rating: 9/10

 

  • Dododonpa

The fastest ride in the park and has recently gone through some restoration. The ride goes up to 180km/h in 1.56seconds enough said.

 

Rating: 9/10

 

  • Takabisha

When I first saw this ride, I was terrified specially after all the reviews I read online. However, in my opinion in comparison to some of the rides above this was disappointing. The 121-degree tilt drop it’s the rides selling point and I think is also its downfall.

 

Rating: 7/10

 

  • Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear

The warning
The warning
Fuji Q Labyrinth of Fear
Fuji Q Labyrinth of Fear

This is not a ride but I thought I will put up here since many will want to experience this one. Firstly, this attraction requires a payment of 1000 yen it is not included as part of the free admission ticket. As far as the experience goes the scares are there random chases, dim lighting it’s all present they sell the experience as a maze. But, it is far from that there is only one pathway to take and there are arrows indicating the path to take. Me and my partner enjoyed it however it wasn’t as scary as they sell it to be and in my opinion the extra admission cost was not justified.

Rating: 7/10

 

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Mount Fuji and the wondrous climb

Mt. Fuji

Beautiful Mt. Fuji
Beautiful Mt. Fuji

Early August I climbed Mt. Fuji. The whole experience felt unreal I had only seen pictures of the volcano mountain or watched it appear in movies. Actually, seeing it in person was truly amazing. The mountain is the highest mountain in Japan, standing at 3776 meters and it is still believed to be active although it last erupted in 1707.

I was accompanied by some friends for the climb.

We had decided to embark on the climb during the night in the hope of reaching the top before sunrise in Japanese referred to as the “goraiko” (arrival of light). From the foot of the mountain to the summit there are ten stations. However, the most popular station to start the climb is at the 5th station. This is where we began our adventure. Taking pictures and extremely happy we started our walk. So far so good this is going to be easier than expected, we thought. It did not take long for me to change my mind. With each station the climb got steeper and the pathway narrower. Slow moving crowds of people made the whole process even more tedious. Taking prohibited routes was the only way we could have reached the summit in time for sunrise. Risking our lives while the onlookers whispered “sugoy”, was enough motivation to get the climb done. With each station, there are small inns that provide light food and refreshments at extortionate prices, but most importantly a resting place before continuing on with the climb.

Taking a rest is extremely important something that we did not do regretfully. By the time, we had reached the last station exhausted legs and burning headache from the altitude had kicked in. The sky started to slowly break away from the night and hint of light started to break through the clouds. The air felt colder and the wind had started to pick up. The line of people had slowed down significantly no doubt from exhaustion. This slightly frustrated us since the sun broke through the clouds lining the sky with orange and purple. Breathtaking to say the least and worryingly calming.

Sun breaking through the clouds
Sun breaking through the clouds

Worried that we may miss the sunrise rendering the whole climb as pointless we gave in to frustration and forced our way through the crowd. Not very characteristic of me. However, only having one bottle of water throughout the whole climb, and a couple of steamed buns which I came to regret later on, and slight sleep deprivation mixed with a brutal climb, I had a reason to be frustrated. We finally did it we had reached the top walked through those Japanese style gates. Waves of people had already taken the best spots for the viewing of the sun. Nonetheless I managed to find a good spot behind a man shorter than me. The sunrise made the whole climb worth it, the decent however is another story. People oohed and ahhed the more the sun became visible. Couples embracing each other and some crying. Claps and cheers all around the moment the sun had fully exposed itself. A warm fuzzy feeling ran through me resembling tranquility it made the climb feel like a real achievement.

Now, the way down, at this point we had no sleep and only about an hour’s rest in the cold of the summit. Initially I was looking forward to the descent, oh how I changed my mind after a couple of steps. A slope with a smooth surface made the process worst then climbing up the mountain. I slipped and fell once after a couple of breaks I chose to look past the pain and run down that mountain. “I am never doing this again”, kept repeating in my head on the way down, every tree at this point started to look like drink vending machines. As you may have already guessed once I reached the bottom I run towards the first vending machine and bought four bottles of sports drink and finished it all in one shot. Those who were getting ready to climb the mountain looked at me terrified. I looked like I had come back from war; sweat drenched and pale with four bottles of drinks down in 20 seconds, no wonder I was getting strange looks. I couldn’t help but laugh at the people who were about to start the climb (now I looked like a madman). All smiles like we were before them – bound to change once they reach the 7th station.

Sea of people admiring the view
Sea of people admiring the view

Saying that it was a one of the best experiences in my life. Not only because the climb is a test of character and resilience but it really felt like an achievement. Doing it with good friends made the whole experience worthwhile. It was hard probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Will I do it again never as the famous Japanese proverb goes “He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man, he who climbs twice is a fool”.

But having climbed the mountain was a very unique and a special experience.

Thailand a traveler’s tale

Thailand A traveller’s tale

Living in Japan in December is a bittersweet time. The weather is super cold however if you are into snowboarding and skiing then Japan is your dream location. If you are like me and can’t ski and loath the cold and you are on vacation, you would want to get out and travel somewhere warm.The problem with this is Japan is slightly isolated therefore the places you can travel to is very limited. For this reason, the most popular destinations during this season is either Thailand or the Philippines. Therefore, I was caught up between these two destinations. Speaking with a few friends who had traveled to Thailand or had family living there I chose to give it a shot.

I instantly fell in love with the country. There was sunshine all day I felt right at home. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt on December is an awkward experience. It was especially humorous to see Christmas trees displayed around Bangkok or Christmas songs blurring out from stores and convenience stores when the weather was 35 Celsius. The hot weather somehow reduces that special feeling associated with Christmas.

What made me love the place so much?

Prior to travelling there, I had this idea of Thailand being relatively dangerous and a heavenly world for sex tourists. This is partly true being a tourist you have to stay on your toes, and yes sex tourism is one of the biggest attractions for many. In my experience, I had a very comfortable stay the people where super nice some of the nicest I have met in my vast experience in travelling. On one or two occasions I was charged extra on Taxi rides but I suppose that is expected being and looking like a tourist with a camera strapped around his neck. In terms of travel from the second day onward I started using the train service. It’s cheap and convenient but most importantly you avoid the chaotic traffic in Bangkok. MY GOD the traffic …

What did I do whilst staying there?

Thailand
Lovely golden statue glowing under the burning sun

Honestly, I think I overstayed. I was in Bangkok for one week for those who have traveled there know that in terms of sightseeing there isn’t much there, and the whole city can be covered in 2 days. However, I did meet some great people and they made my stay worthwhile and took me around. The highlight of my sightseeing tour was certainly the temples and the floating market. The eloquent detail of the temples left me in awe beautiful golden temples and Buddha busts illuminating with the reflection of the sun was truly beautiful. The floral scent of burning incense created a magical atmosphere that heightened the experience. The burning sun had at this point left me and my friend exhausted so we decided to visit a local Thai restaurant.

Thai food?

Exotic dishes.
Exotic dishes.
Thai Dessert - Banana honey and vanilla ice cream with nuts
Thai Dessert – Banana honey and vanilla ice cream with nuts

Thai food instantly became my favorite kind of food. Without a doubt, Thai cuisine is the king of exotic dining. Each and every dish bursts with exotic flavors. Pine nuts and herbs dried lime and salted shrimps ate with this mysterious leaf that I could not figure out what it was created a rainbow of flavors on the tongue. This was one of the two starters. Next came deep fried chicken placed inside wrapped banana leaf which had to be patiently removed to expose the scrumptious chicken dipped in smokey pomegranate sauce. My friend ordered me an equally exotic soft drink consisting of mango and passion fruit with a dash of lime mixed in honey helped cool me down. The main dish was the classic green curry and rice. Creamy, not too spicy and extremely fragrant. Lastly, came the dessert honey coated banana with vanilla ice cream and pistachio was the perfect finish.

I took two things away from eating Thai food. It’s not just about stuffing your mouth it’s an experience. Travelling to Thailand is not complete without proper Thai eating experience.

I am sure you are salivating by now so let’s move on…

The floating market.

The floating market was great despite the long wait to get on a motor boat. The trip is brilliant slowly taken around it was amazing to see people who actually live around the area. The gentle breeze caressed my face as we went the water was surprisingly clean without any poignant smells or flies. Slowly we approached the shops who sold cold beers for extortionate prices and plenty of gift shops and creative art work on display. There were many food stands which were great I tried the noodles it was brilliant.

Definitely a highlight and a must visit if you travel to Bangkok however it takes two hours from central city to the river therefore be careful if you get a taxi. Luckily my friend who was Thai managed to bargain a great price for being driven to the floating market then took us to the Golden mountain and back to the hotel for 1600 THB. I know a great deal. Therefore, having the ability to speak Thai or being with someone who speaks Thai could save you a lot of money. Believe me. Also, being in Thailand finding someone to hang with is extremely easy people are very friendly or you could use apps such as tinder or something to find someone to hang with.

Floating Market
Floating Market

Thai boxing

Being a boxing aficionado it was only tempting to visit a Muay Thai event. The atmosphere was relaxed although a little tense. The fighters came in and performed their initial dance. People stared with excitement including me. The referee stepped into the ring and asked the fighters to touch gloves and the bell rang. Both fighters were extremely respectful bowing and touching gloves. It was great to see such sportsmanship in a violent sport most people associate with thugs. The traditional Thai music started to play as the Thai spectators roared and cheered as the two competitors kicked and threw straight hands to the face. On one side of the stadium people where actually betters shouting out odds and betting right there in the stadium. It was fascinating to watch. The fights normally started very slow it was almost like a Beethoven composition. It started slow and built up into something rather chaotic and violent. In one particular fight it was round three. The athletes approached each other one threw a leg kick the other responded with a Thai clinch and started to knee the ribs. At this point the other fighter also got a clinch and they placed themselves in the center of the ring exchanging brutal knees to the kidney and ribs being ringside I could hear the impact of those shots on the men. At one point one threw a elbow making a deep flesh cut on the opposing opponent with blood flowing  and dripping on the canvas. The betters were at this point screaming in excitement and money exchanged hands in dramatic fashion. I knew the fight was over. The fight ended with the opponent who had caused the cut to finish the fight with knees to the face.

Muay thai Thailand
Brutal beauty

Overall I loved Thailand outside of Japan if I could live anywhere else in the world it would surely be Thailand. I felt regretful not visiting Pattaya I will make sure I do so on my next visit. The sun is continuously shining the food is great the people are friendly. Despite all this Bangkok itself was relatively expensive and traffic was chaotic and certain tourists just take away from the magic of the country but putting that aside this is now my favorite destination. Let me know your thoughts, have you traveled to Thailand before? What was your experience like?

 

Brief Taipei Guide

October the sight of rain washing the streets as shop signs with bright neon lights burn and reflect on the sleek wet ground. Resembling something from 80s cyberpunk movies. The humid air wraps itself around pedestrians as sweat trickles down their forehead. A small island of roughly 7 million inhabitants Taipei has become an extremely popular tourist destination. Tourists from Japan and China can be spotted wandering the streets with expensive cameras admiring the small shops and never ending market food stalls.

Bright neon lights give life to this city.
Bright neon lights give life to this city.

Initially I thought of Taipei as a country not quiet developed to the extent of the Japanese or the Chinese both economically and infrastructure wise. Boy how wrong I was. State of the art buildings can be spotted from every corner of Taipei exquisitely designed shopping malls with exuberant shoppers can be seen enjoying their day out. Expensive cars are driven through the city like buses in London. I don`t mean your average Mercedes and BMWs I am talking about Ferraris and super cars I could not name.

Taipei 101 can be spotted from anywhere in the city.
Taipei 101 can be spotted from anywhere in the city.

Despite the obvious illustration of wealth and a stable economy what really makes Taipei unique is the abundance amount of nature surrounding this metropolitan city. Elaborately designed temples can be spotted surrounded by lush green trees and other kinds of plants. To absorb the beauty of the city and gather a sense of what Taipei truly is, Elephant Mountain provides a 360 bird’s eye view of the city. Here on a clear day the 101 building can be seen in its full glory and for photographers this is heaven. I warn you the climb to the top it’s a brutal affair. There are many steps and the humidity will have you dripping.

Food stalls are very popular.
Food stalls are very popular.

Public transport in Taipei is amongst some of the best in the world. I would go as far as saying it’s in par with Japan. Trains arrive as indicated on the time board. The carriages are clean and above all it’s very cheap. However, public transport is not limited to subway or over ground. The city is full of Taxis. These are not the sort of taxis that try ripping you off for being a tourist. They are all equipped with meters that start at 70TWD and later at night 90TWD. The service is great and the drivers are extremely helpful.

I believe Taipei can be fully admired during the night. It is during this time of the day that the famous markets open. These markets offer games for prizes, clothes, pineapple cakes (a popular delicacy) and an overall great atmosphere. The smell of fruits linger as you walk past juice stalls, fried fish of all kinds and steaming hot buns are put on display wetting the appetite. There is one food that you will encounter and its presence can be smelled a mile away. Stinky tofu. Strong poignant smell fills the nostrils and won’t fade until you are well distant from the food stall. If you are brave enough you may want to give it a try.

Markets are part of the attraction.
Markets are part of the attraction.

If you enjoy hot springs Taipei has an area dedicated to wondrous hot mountain water. The hot spring town is surrounded by nature and hotels and baths varying dramatically in prices. The quality of the hot spring of course is determined by how much you are willing to spend. Living in Japan I visit onsen`s regularly and normally they are the highlight of the week especially after a hard week of work. Taipei is not far behind the hot spring offered is quality. Clean and waters of varying temperatures to accommodate all types of hot spring admirers, makes visiting a must when you visit Taipei. The trip on the train itself is worth the time. As the carriage journey`s over ground allowing you to admire the beauty of the city.

Jiufen a very local town offering souvenirs and all kinds of food. Tea shops are around every corner with dozens of tea on the menu for you to try. Wandering beyond the main point of attraction can be extremely rewarding. I and my friends stumbled upon a small shop hidden away from the center. The inside was decorated with years of photography and photobooks. Classical music was smoothly playing in the background whilst the sound of rain from outside could be heard. There stood Paco a man in his 60`s we briefly spoke about photography and the great work he had on display. This was perhaps the highlight of my trip to Taipei.

taipei-25

I will remember Taipei as a city of many wonders. Great food, friendly people and amazing beauty. I will perhaps return in order to travel the island more extensively. I will highly recommend Taipei. If you are living in Japan or surrounding countries flights can be acquired cheaply and for accommodation there are numerous great hostels and hotels around the city. I stayed at Sleepy Dragon in Songshan I would highly recommend it. The staff are great it includes complimentary breakfast and the subway is 5 minutes away. Most importantly it won`t break the bank.

The link to Sleepy Dragon: http://www.sleepydragonhostel.com/