mOnK3y: Blog http://www.monk3y.com/blog en-us Steven Ang (C) steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Thu, 07 Apr 2016 16:26:00 GMT Thu, 07 Apr 2016 16:26:00 GMT http://www.monk3y.com/img/s/v-5/u841389505-o332559252-50.jpg mOnK3y: Blog http://www.monk3y.com/blog 120 80 Enchanting Siquijor - A journey to the Island of Fire http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2016/4/enchanting-siquijor This is part of a series of posts that highlights our previous travels around the Philippines and Japan.

A look back at our trip to the enchanting island of Siquijor!! 

It's a small island in Central Visayas known for being home to sorcerers, spirits and individuals practicing black magic. Many are afraid to visit the island due to its reputation, but the mystery was in fact the very reason why we decided to visit the island. During Lent no less!! :D

We started our trip in Cebu on a Moundy Thursday in 2012. Me, my girlfriend Sheena, together with a few others drove south to the port of Liloan (southern Cebu) then took a Maayo shipping RORO (Roll-on Roll-off Barge) to Sibulan Negros. It only took about an hour to cross the channel and then a few minutes drive to the port of Dumaguete, where we waited for another RORO to Siquijor. 

This is the RORO (Roll-on Roll-off Barge)  from Liloan Port in Cebu to Sibulan, Negros

Here's our vehicle while we were waiting at the Dumaguete Port.

After a long wait, we were able to board the next RORO, which was probably the last RORO vessel to travel the route before everything closed for the 4 day Lent holiday. 

Here's the passenger area of the second RORO we took

When we arrived in Siquijor, I was quite amazed at how small and rural the town of Larena was, it was quiet and clean, which was very nice and relaxing. We immediately looked around for a place to eat and ended up at a Jo's Chicken Inasal place, just because it was the only one we saw that was open and familiar.

After our meal, we immediately drove south to our accommodation, we booked 2 nights at Hambilica Resort. We planned on spending 5 days in Siquijor but I only booked 2 nights so we could check out other accommodations in the area. I have no photos of Hambilica resort but it's got a nice garden and very personalized service. 

Some flowers from the garden:

While driving around, we noticed a place called Seaview Villas, situated just beside the highway and it was vacant. We checked it out and was able to get a deal for P800/night per villa, I decided to get both villas, the villas were fan only with basic amenities, no room service but we had the whole compound to ourselves. 

Seaview Villas

The beach and the villas... very beautiful

As you can see, even during the 4 day long weekend holiday, we had the beach all to ourselves. The roads were empty too. 

The road towards Salagdoong Beach

Salagdoong Beach,  it's a public beach resort partly managed by the municipal government.

The main attraction at Salagdoong beach are the diving platforms where people can jump directly to the beautiful clear blue water below.

The concrete slides directly into the clear blue water below.

After we jumped at Salagdoong Beach, we then proceeded to the Hidden Beach. It's a few minutes drive away through a beautiful forest like area. It is not open to the public but we went anyway, taking our chances and we're glad we did.

The road to the hidden beach

At the end of this road, we had to park our vehicle and walked about a kilometer or more...

Walking towards the beach

The Hidden beach, not as clean as other areas but it was pretty

After some time at the hidden beach, we headed back to the vehicle and drove to the convent, apparently, this is the biggest wooden structure as well as one of the oldest in the Philippines. It was such a beauty, surrounded by large Acacia Tree with huge canopies.

Next stop was Cambugahay falls, a beautiful cascading waterfall. 

While we were there, I noticed the GF's legs were swollen black like she went through hazing... she jumped at Salagdoong beach a few hours before and landed flat like she was sitting when she hit the water that bruised her legs pretty bad. It was a lot less damaging that it looks though which was the good news. We continued on with out trip.

We heard that there's a ritual at the top of the mountain every lent, so we headed there and see if we could witness some sort of witchcraft of some kind. When we got there, we saw some locals getting ready to make or cook a batch of local potion. It was quite a scene that we've never seen before.

Some also brought prepared loved potions, oil that are said to be beneficial to the body among others...

 

At last, after 2 days of circling around, we reached the town of Siquijor, you will immediately see the historic church around the town plaza.

We also went inside the Assisi High School, it's a very old and historic building just opposite the church.

After we satisfied ourselves exploring Assisi High School and Siquijor Church, we headed back to the villas. Dinner time!

Preparing Dinner... fresh fish! 

Low Tide during Sunset  

I have no idea what kind of fish this is 

Colorful banka along the shore near the villas

Some foreign tourists Another falls, Lugnason Falls

Lugnason Falls

 

A local looking for sea shells during low tide 

    

An unwelcome guest... it was a pretty scary sight

We caught a shrimp right along the shore

There are no supermarket in the island, and as it was lent, no other stores were open either, luckily the local market had some fresh produce and groceries...

We also caught some sea urchins, low tide is a great time to scavenge around the sea grass for some of these, there was very little meat inside each one of them though but it was a great experience.

 

 Another sort of tourist spot in the island is the Capilay Park... it's a fresh water park right in San Juan town center, just across the public market.

While waiting for the boat back to Cebu on our last day, we went up the mountain towards Larena Triad Coffee Shop, a beautiful area with a breathtaking view. The perfect place to end our trip in the Island of Fire. 

 

If you would like to check out more photos from this trip, click here to access the entire album.

The trip was amazing, Siquijor is so close to both Cebu and Dumaguete yet feels so different and relatively distant. It's definitely worth the trip specially if you're into places like old churches, beautiful beaches and amazing waterfalls. Imagine all of them in one tiny island that can be explored in a day... what more can you ask for?

 

 

 

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Beach Cafe Capilay Juan Larena Lugnason Park Philippines Salagdoong San Siquijor Triad Visayas http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2016/4/enchanting-siquijor Mon, 04 Apr 2016 01:00:00 GMT
It's Easter Sunday 2016 - Taking a look back at our life the past 2 years http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2016/3/its-easter-sunday-2016 Life caught up with us in 2014-2015 and we never had a chance to fully travel like we used to, take photos and write about them. After almost 2 years in Japan, we headed home to the Philippines and together with it, routines and circumstances changed. In effect, we were not able to travel as much as we wanted and had been holed up here in our newly found haven for the time being, Tagaytay City. 

I just want to compile some photos of what little travel we did the past year or so, aside from a spur of the moment nostalgic trip to Japan last December 2015, which lasted for a month, nothing much really happened. A few beach trips here and there, some road trips, rock climbing and mostly getting stuck behind our monitors was the story of our life in 2015. Oh, and of course, we started cooking real food, baking and eating healthy.

When we decided to come back home in 2014, we actually decided that we will stay in Boracay Island for at least a year, who wouldn't want to stay, work near a beach like this? 

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Puka Beach, Boracay Island, Aklan Philippines

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Working right on the beach in Station 3, Boracay Island, Aklan, Philippines

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Sunset in Station 3, Boracay, Aklan

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Sunset at Puka Beach

We did stay for 2 months in Boracay but as reality would have it, the internet sucks big time, we rely very much on the internet for much of our income since coming home and we need stable internet connections. Alas, Boracay was no better than anywhere in the Philippines, some areas have fantastic 4G signal from Smart Telecommunication but other areas have zero coverage, our rent was outrageous... even more expensive than our place in Japan, it's nice though but just not practical enough for us to stay for a whole year.

So we packed up and headed back to Cavite, we did not last long there... we were longing for a quieter place like what we were used to, we used to live in Cebu, then Japan and then Boracay so living in Cavite was a bit too crowded for us to begin with. We searched for places where we thought we could set up base again and along the way we ended up acquiring properties, one in a golf course in Silang and another in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna but since both are not ready for occupancy yet, we ended up in Tagaytay, which is not bad at all. Almost 2 years later, we are still here :)

A very good friend of mine let us use his spare car for a few months, which we used to do some day trips around Tagaytay City. We were able to explore the historic town of Taal, with its gigantic church among others.

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In February 2015, we headed to Romblon, Romblon for some much-needed beach trip... we have been to this place a couple of times since this is where the GF's roots came from. Tiamban beach is likely the closest beach resort to the city center, Bonbon beach is a bit closer and more picturesque but there's no huts nor any kind of facilities there, besides you can walk from Tiamban to Bonbon too during low tide.

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Tiamban Beach Romblon-1280009Romblon-1280009OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GF staring out into the sea Alad-2010053Alad-2010053OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alad Island beachfront Romblon-2010045Romblon-2010045OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our hut in Alad, very windy Romblon-2010087Romblon-2010087OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dried Fish in the sun, Alad Romblon-2040123Romblon-2040123OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

San Pedro Beach Resort... very beautiful, amazing and quiet resort

Then after our trip there, nothing much happened for a few months, we were just stuck in Tagaytay City... then came October 2015 and we were back in Romblon again. The highlight of our trip, this time, was when we headed to Logbon Island, a big island right in front of Romblon, Romblon... we have been here before but we had more fun this time around.

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While at the beach, we can't help but notice the white structure at the far end of the beach, it's unusual to see such a nice structure on an island with no electricity, no roads and no motorized vehicles of any kind aside from motorize pump boats. We were told that it's an abandoned house built by one Manoling Morato. We can't resist the urge and headed there and checked it out. The walk up the house was steep but once we got there, it was breathtaking.

Baguio Romblon-1010270Baguio Romblon-1010270OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Once you get up there, this will greet you, the structure's facade.

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View from the terrace, Logbon beach

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Another view from the terrace, it's so beautiful! Baguio Romblon-1010249Baguio Romblon-1010249OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Errrr... did I say beautiful? :D

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It's definitely okay for me to wake up to this view every day...

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Living area, with everything left intact... time eating away on the furnitures.

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One of the bedrooms in the house, notice the large Bible at the table.

This is one of the most beautiful places I've been and sadly it's abandoned...

After our trip to Romblon, we thought that was it for our 2015... right at the end of the year, we thought we should try and apply for multiple entry visas to Japan so we can go there anytime we want in the future. As luck would have it, we both got 5-year multiple entry visas, which will allow us to not only go to Japan anytime for the next 5 years but also gives us a chance to go there during the Olympics in 2020. How awesome is that?

But then that's still 5 years away, and we wanted to use our brand spanking new visas immediately (excited much?) so off we went to Japan. It was nostalgic, to say the least, but I have yet to upload my photos from that trip. I'll cover the entire trip in a separate post instead.

So that's what happened to us for the last 2 years.... by the way, all photos in this post were taken with an Olympus EM-10, 17mm f/1.8, 9-18mm, 45mm and 50-150mm.

 

 

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Aklan Boracay Japan Philippines Romblon Tagaytay http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2016/3/its-easter-sunday-2016 Sun, 27 Mar 2016 02:06:49 GMT
Nokogiriyama (Saw Mountain) - An unusual destination not too far from Tokyo http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2016/3/nokogiriyama This is part of a series of posts that highlights some of our memorable trips within Japan.

We consider ourselves as weekend warriors, at least previously, so we always try to find something to do during weekends. On one weekend of October 2013, I noticed a little less known attraction in Chiba called Nokogiriyama or Saw Mountain. As you will see below, the mountain is breathtaking, with some rare Buddhist mountainside carvings that we never saw anywhere else in Japan.

For some reason, this place is rarely mentioned in articles or guides for day trip destinations around Tokyo. Admittedly, it is a little bit far, about 3 hours away, and required us to depart from early from Tokyo to catch the bus across the Aqua line. But I must say, the trip was worth it. 

After we've decided on the trip, we started by heading to Shinjuku Station, near the Odakyu department store... I believe we were suppose to catch the 7:00am bus to Kisarazu Station that day but you can easily check the schedule at the bus stop below. By the way Shinjuku was about 45 minutes away from where we used to live so it was an even longer journey for us.

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Bus stop 35 in Shinjuku Nokogiryama-0020816Nokogiryama-0020816

The bus along the Aqua line from Yokohama to Chiba  Nokogiryama-0020817Nokogiryama-0020817

Getting off the bus at Kisarazu Station... about 1.5hours after we boarded in Shinjuku  Nokogiryama-0020818Nokogiryama-0020818

A shot of Kisarazu Station, it's relatively quiet on a Sunday morning.  Nokogiryama-0020821Nokogiryama-0020821 Nokogiryama-0020823Nokogiryama-0020823

We took the train to Hama-Kanaya Station Nokogiryama-0020832Nokogiryama-0020832

Hama-Kanaya Station  Nokogiryama-0020840Nokogiryama-0020840

Outside Hama-Kanaya station... very small typical rural station in Japan  Nokogiryama-0020844Nokogiryama-0020844

From the station, you will have to walk about 15 minutes or so along the shoreline to reach the Ropeway.   Nokogiryama-0020842Nokogiryama-0020842

You will pass by this small torii along the way Nokogiryama-0020846Nokogiryama-0020846

Base of the ropeway... lots of buses but it's not all that crowded and most tourists are local too. Nokogiryama-0020850Nokogiryama-0020850

Entrance to the ropeway station Nokogiryama-0020851Nokogiryama-0020851

Ticket counter, adult is JPY500 oneway and JPY900 round trip, children is JPY250 oneway and JPY450 round trip.  Nokogiryama-0020853Nokogiryama-0020853

Lining up for the ropeway  Nokogiryama-0020867Nokogiryama-0020867

View from the ropeway looking down and beyond... that's Yokohama I believe at the other side.  Nokogiryama-0020870Nokogiryama-0020870

A very unusual looking post box right at the view deck Nokogiryama-0020872Nokogiryama-0020872

A small shrine at the view deck  Nokogiryama-0020873Nokogiryama-0020873

View from the viewdeck looking at Tokyo  Nokogiryama-0020876Nokogiryama-0020876

This is the only restaurant on top serving anything from Ramen to Sundae cones  Nokogiryama-0020879Nokogiryama-0020879

GF had some fish, miso soup Nokogiryama-0020880Nokogiryama-0020880

Miso Ramen for me  Nokogiryama-0020895Nokogiryama-0020895

There you go, 329 meters above see level and very windy  Nokogiryama-0020891Nokogiryama-0020891

Need to look closer?

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From here, you will enter the shrine, I believe there are 2 shrines... there's a minimal fee to enter.

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After walking for a few minutes, you will see this carving, carved directly on the rock surface. Amazing!  Nokogiryama-0020914Nokogiryama-0020914

If you look up from here, you will see the overhang cliff... which you can access too after some steep climb

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Another shot of the carving Nokogiryama-0020948Nokogiryama-0020948

GF! Don't jump!!!

 

After this area, you can explore the other side of the mountain and check out the many Buddhas around, including the biggest rock carved Buddha in Japan. Nokogiryama-0020965Nokogiryama-0020965

Headless Buddha  Nokogiryama-0021036Nokogiryama-0021036

Rock carved Daibutsu (Giant Buddha)

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Tiny Buddhas  Nokogiryama-0021063Nokogiryama-0021063

Skinny Buddhas

After what looks like a few hours of hiking up and down the mountain, we were back at the view deck/ropeway terminal... as you can see, the view is breathtaking.

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Walked back to the station  Nokogiryama-0021104Nokogiryama-0021104

It says 107KM from Tokyo  Nokogiryama-0021119Nokogiryama-0021119

Rode the train towards Kisarazu Nokogiryama-0021124Nokogiryama-0021124

It was already sunset when we arrived at Kisarazu (about 1hour I believe).  Nokogiryama-0021125Nokogiryama-0021125

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu. This is the biggest Mitsui Outlet Park to date.

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That was our day trip... from here we took the bus all the way back to Shinjuku.

You can check out the album here for more photos of the trip

The trip was well worth our time, it was a lot less touristy than most places we've been to in Japan with mostly local tourists around us. You can really feel the Japanese countryside as soon as you arrive at Kisarazu station, the stations and towns along the way are small, rustic and quiet. No food vendors along the streets to the ropeway station either, and everything was relatively cheap.

It was a pleasant surprise to see such a beautiful place like Nokogiriyama so close to Tokyo yet relatively unknown to many. I even asked my Japanese teacher and she said she never heard of it. So if you got a few days in Tokyo and tired of the usual tourist spots and traps... you might want to consider taking a side trip to this magnificent historic mountain.

 

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Buddha Chiba Japan Nokogiriyama Olympus buddhist m4/3 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2016/3/nokogiriyama Sat, 26 Mar 2016 23:00:00 GMT
My return to Micro 4/3 system http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2014/5/my-return-to-micro-4/3-system I just want to post a short blog and update today about my return to micro 4/3rd.

A while back I wrote about my shift from Fullframe to micro 4/3 system. A lot has happened since that post and I have gone from using the Olympus Kit I had when I wrote that topic to several other Olympus bodies and lenses, a few Panasonics, Ricoh, Fuji and even went back to Nikon. In the end I came back full circle to Olympus and I just received my latest body, it's the Olympus E-M10 and a few lenses that I think better fits my shooting style. 

Here's a photo of my latest kit. Olympus E-M10 with the 14-42mm EZ, Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R.

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I have not really been seriously shooting much lately and was just testing out various systems and not focusing on taking better photos. I am hoping that with this kit, I will be back to taking the kind of photos that I used to take and capture my travels in a way that I have never done before. 

If you are asking why I came back full circle to m4/3, my answer is simple, the image quality from the cameras on this system has come a long way and if you consider how small the package is, it is really amazing. I mentioned that I tried to get back to DSLR again and bought the Nikon D5200, Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and 55-300mm but I found the AF sluggish and inaccurate. It is also not as travel friendly as m43 so I decided to let it go and ordered the E-M10. 

Here's how small my current kit is. I took a photo of it beside my phone, Samsung Galaxy Note II. The bag is an Amazon basic bag that I got for like $10 and the lens on the small pouch outside is the 40-150mm. 

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Inside it looks like this: E-M10 and the 14-42mm EZ, while the 9-18mm is underneath the 45mm f/1.8.

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So I will definitely write a more thorough write up of my adventure with this set up. I have always been a wide angle shooter and the 9-18mm should be able to satisfy my needs. The 14-42mm EZ is very small and is great as a walk around lens. The 45mm f/1.8 for lowlight and portraits and the 40-150mm is for the occasional telephoto shots that I take. I might need one more wide angle fast lens but with the good high ISO performance of the E-M10 I might be able to get by using the 14-42mm EZ instead. 

I will be putting this kit to the test in the coming weeks as I go around Japan for 2 weeks. So watch out for my travel photos when I get back. 

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) 14-42mm 40-150mm 45mm 9-18mm E-M10 EZ Olympus R f/1.8 m4/3 m43 micro4/3 mirrorless photography http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2014/5/my-return-to-micro-4/3-system Sat, 10 May 2014 09:01:43 GMT
Snow Country (Yuzawa, Niigata) http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2014/1/snow-country-yuzawa-niigata This is actually our first real trip to experience deep snow and skiing so we were pretty excited. The place we chose was Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture, as it is one of the places in Japan where a lot of snow usually accumulates during winter. It's about 3 hours away by bus from Tokyo and everything is just what I had imagined.

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All the photos were taken with either the Fuji X-E1 and 55-200mm or the Panasonic GF-2 and 14-42mm kit lens. 

We started our trip with a bus ride from Ikebukuro to Echigo-yuzawa. We prefer to travel by bus since the place is only 3 hours away from Tokyo and is a lot cheaper than going by Shinkansen. The bus we took was pretty cool, with three individual comfortable seats per row and it was not full since we took the day bus. It cost around JPY2,500 one way. We usually book my bus through www.bushikaku.net, the site is like a centralized booking system for different bus companies throughout Japan. You can pay by Credit Card or through the convenience stores. Sadly though, the site is only available in Japanese and I often have to use Google translate just to understand most of what's written. 

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This is the highway towards the town and goes all the way to Niigata proper. Snow covered mountains is a common sight and the mountain ranges are just amazing.

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We stayed at Angel Grandia Resort near Nakazato Station. The building in the middle of the photo is the Resort.  It has it's own ski slope right in front of the building and is also very near the big Nakazato Ski Resort. If you are staying at the resort, you are also entitled to great discounts on snowboards, skis and accessories. One thing to note is that in Yuzawa, they have a free shuttle service that connects different resorts for free. If you check the time table and make use of it, you can actually go around the Town without paying for bus fares and such.  This photo was taken right above the train tracks at Nakazato Station.

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The moment we arrived there we got curious and wanted to walk outside, so we went out and explored the surroundings, the snows were still very fresh and was perfect to play around. So what else would a first time traveller to snow country do? Play in the snow!! 

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The next day we decided we're going to check out Gala Yuzawa Resort, the only resort in Niigata with its own Shinkansen Station. Since we don't really know how to ski or snowboard, we just went there to explore and look around. When we arrived, we bought the Gondola round trip pass for (JPY1,200) to the landing area of the resort. Here are a few photos from the ride up... 

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as you can see, it is very scenic and beautiful. 

 

When we arrived, we saw the different ski slopes they have, from beginners, to intermediate all the way to expert level slopes. It's a very nice resort but it is definitely more crowded compared to other resorts in the area. 

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When we went back to Echigo-yuzawa station, we decided to try this delicious looking Soba... and it was indeed Oishi (delicious)!

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Right inside the station is also a big place where you can buy different kinds of presents and local delicacies. 

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Also, right there at the station, in one of the stalls, we discovered one of our favorite Japanese food, Motsu. It's relatively unknown to the international crowds or foreigners but it's definitely one of the best food to eat during winter. It's boiled innards with radish, potatoes and other stuff I don't know... all that matters is it taste really good. 

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The next morning when we woke up, we were greeted by a very gloomy weather and heavy snow... We were happy though as it means fresh snow and the perfect time to play. Nobody is out on the slopes yet and everything was empty.  Niigata-1010939Niigata-1010939 Niigata-1010949Niigata-1010949

Yours truly playing in the snow.... and that about sums up our trip to Niigata. 

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Thank you very much for getting this far. I hope you enjoyed my photos. Cheers!!

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Angel Fuji GF2 Grandia Japan Niigata Panasonic Resort Ski Snow Snowboard Travel X-E1 Yuzawa lenses mirrorless photography winter 新潟 湯沢 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2014/1/snow-country-yuzawa-niigata Tue, 07 Jan 2014 10:26:00 GMT
First sunrise (初日の出) of 2014 in Inubou-saki Japan http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2014/1/hatsuhinode-in-japan The first sunrise of the year is considered very important in the land of the rising sun. They call it 初日の出 (Hastsuhinode) which literally translates to the first sunrise.  We learned that a place called Inubou-saki on the eastern tip of Chiba prefecture is the first place in Honshu, which is the main island of Japan, to see the first sunrise. If you go through some of the photos in my gallery, you will realize that the sun is one of my favorite subject and I thought I can not let this chance pass.

初日の出-1039初日の出-1039

First Sunrise January 1, 2014

Around December 29, 2013, we decided to push through with the trip. But wait! The sunrise was forecasted to occur before 7am, and we are a good 3-4 hours away from Inubou-saki. The only way we will be able to do it is if we stay near or around Inubou-saki the day before. We searched around and consulted my favorite website japan-guide on the best way to approach the place. 

And here's how we did it. We decided to stay in a small historic town called Sawara in Chiba that is famous for its historic riverside area with many old and traditional Japanese houses. On our way there on the morning of December 30, 2013, we decided to stop at Narita Station and took a stroll to the Naritasan Temple. It is considered as one of the best and biggest Buddhist temple in Japan. It is not very well known although its only a few minutes away from the very popular Narita Airport. 

The main street towards the temple called Omotesando. Lined with shops. 初日の出-1010412初日の出-1010412 many of the shops sells eels and chestnuts.   初日の出-1010413初日の出-1010413 Just after the shops, you will notice a big traditional gate on your left. When you enter, you will see a smaller elevated entrance. Look on the pond on both sides and you will see a lot of turtles.  初日の出-1010416初日の出-1010416

 sleepers tied to the door 初日の出-1010417初日の出-1010417

A small pagoda on the right side

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an old structure that used to function as a resting place for horses and horsemen 初日の出-1010424初日の出-1010424 after the building above, we came across this pavillion  初日の出-1010430初日の出-1010430 a typical thing to do when you are in a temple in Japan is to write your wishes on a piece of paper and tie it to trees and or fences near a pavillion  初日の出-1010432初日の出-1010432

The main pagoda is probably the biggest pagoda we've seen yet 初日の出-1010435初日の出-1010435

Here we are... 初日の出-1010444初日の出-1010444

Sheena pretending to clap and pray 初日の出-1010449初日の出-1010449

another angle of the pagoda

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on the far end of the temple, there is a big elongated pond. It was serene, cool and almost deserted.  初日の出-1010468初日の出-1010468

After a couple of hours in Narita, we headed to Sawara where we slept for the night. Sawara is a very small and sleepy town about an hour away from Narita. 

We woke up at 3am on January 1, 2014, got ready and walked towards the station. The station opened at around 4am. We took the first train out to Choshi, which is the main town just north of Inubou-saki. 

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At Choshi, we got off the modern train, bought this roundtrip ticket below and hop on a two-car diesel "chug-chug" train. It was very packed and almost felt like riding the Yamanote line during rush hour but it was only around 530am.

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when we arrived in Inubou-saki, we felt the typical vibe that accompanies any big event or festival in Japan.  We walked for 10-15 minutes towards the boulevard and everybody was there to witness the first sunrise of the year and what I sight it was. 初日の出-1010504初日の出-1010504

the first sunrise 初日の出-1010509初日の出-1010509 another shot of the boulevard 初日の出-1010520初日の出-1010520

the view was stunning, although the white building on the right is already closed.  初日の出-1010523初日の出-1010523 it says "a parking lot with views of the first sunrise" 初日の出-1010527初日の出-1010527

Sheena, dreaming! ha! 初日の出-1010525初日の出-1010525

silhouettes  初日の出-1010528初日の出-1010528

the beautiful Inubou-saki lighthouse

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Post office in Japan is very popular and many people try to find unusual post boxes. I saw the only black post box in Enoshima and this is also the only white post box I saw in my entire stay in Japan. Most of the boxes come in red.

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just fooling around 初日の出-1010576初日の出-1010576

Sheena fooling around with a baby dinosaur 初日の出-1010583初日の出-1010583

went back to the station

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here's the chug-chug train on our way back to Choshi 初日の出-1010594初日の出-1010594

vintage train! 初日の出-1010592初日の出-1010592

and we're back in Sawara! It was beautiful... and deserted because it was a public holiday. No tourists, no open shops and we had the street all to ourselves.

According to japan-guide, Sawara is a small town northeast of Narita City that prospered during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Sawara's historic center lies along a canal and is known as "Litte Edo" for its small district of preserved and restored traditional residences, merchant shops and warehouses from the Edo Period.

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beautiful vintage window... notice how thick it is. 初日の出-1010631初日の出-1010631

 

some jars

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typically, you don't see many flags in Japan but in this town we saw 4 or 5 flags. we just had to pose beside it.

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one of the famous attraction was the waterfall bridge 初日の出-1010653初日の出-1010653

an old storage

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vintage processing...

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somebody was enjoying the serene old-town  初日の出-1098初日の出-1098

 

some corks we saw on the side of the road

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cute toys on the kitchen window of one of the houses in Sawara 初日の出-1108初日の出-1108

and yours truly!

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the end! It was a blast! an exciting 2 day trip to experience one of the most celebrated events in Japan. 

I hope you enjoyed the post!!

 

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) 2014 Asia Chiba Honshu Inuboh Inubou-saki Japan Narita Panasonic Sawara mirrorless photography sunrise いぬぼ 初日の出 千葉県 犬吠埼 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2014/1/hatsuhinode-in-japan Thu, 02 Jan 2014 00:45:00 GMT
My Weekend trip to Shimoda Izu Peninsula with the Panasonic GF2 and Fuji X-E1 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/8/my-weekend-trip-to-shimoda-izu-peninsula-with-the-panasonic-gf2-and-fuji-x-e1 I just got the Fuji X-E1 2 weeks ago and the Panasonic GF2 a few days ago. I was excited to take both of them for a spin. It's summer here in Japan and I missed the beach so we headed out and took the train for 4.5 hours to the nearest white sand beach from Tokyo that I know, the sleepy town of Shimoda in Izu Peninsula.
 
These first 13 shots were taken with the GF2 + 14mm f/2.5.
 
1. Waiting for the train. 
"Yokohama Station" "横浜" "Panasonic GF2" "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
2.
JR Tokaido Line "Panasonic GF2" "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
3.After a few hours on the first train, we had to transfer and I saw this guy connecting these two cars
"Atami Station" "熱海駅" "Panasonic GF2" m43 "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
4.Inside the train on our last leg of the 4.5hour trip. 
"Izukyu Train" "伊豆急電車" "Panasonic GF2" "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
5.This train is quite old too
"Izukyu Train" "Panasonic GF2" "GF2" m43 "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
6. Ahhh... arrived at last. This is the view that greeted me :happy-084:
"Sotoura Beach" "外浦口" Shimoda ”下田し” "Panasonic GF2" GF2 "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
7. Had to cool down a bit and ate some shaved ice
"かけ氷" "Panasonic GF2" Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
8. Say hi to my ever loyal companion of 10 years now :happy-084:
[IMG][/IMG]
"Panasonic GF2" "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5" Shimoda "Sotoura Beach" "外浦白浜"
 
9. Crazy lady:wink: jumping in front of a traditional building in this town, apparently made of stones that are common here
 
10. When it was time to eat, we head out to a local eatery, I ordered a bowl of Ramen and the lady asked me if I want the big serving for the same price. Of course I said yes.... then they served me this. A serving good for one person :eek:
Shimoda "下田" Ramen Noodles "Panasonic GF2" Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
11. Since I used the GF2 as back up camera to the Fuji, here's the Fuji camera in action
"Fuji X-E1" Panasonic GF2" Shimoda "下田" Sotoura Izu "Panasonic 14mm f/2.5"
 
12. Here's my usual landscape kit, some filters, a bag for longer lens and a small bag for the camera, all attached to a belt that I sling around my shoulder.
 
13. Just wanna show the old school shutter release.
"Nikon AR-3" Fujifilm X-E1" "Panasonic GF2" Panasonic 14mm f/2.5" Shimoda
 
Here's a few from the Fuji X-E1 with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm
 
14. SOOC Jpeg in Velvia Simulation mode using some square filters. Sunrise
"Fujifilm X-E1" "Fujifilm 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8" Landscape Shimoda Sunrise "外浦" Izu
 
15. SOOC Jpeg in Velvia Simulation mode using some square filters. Sunrise
"Fujifilm X-E1" "Fujifilm 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8" Landscape Shimoda Sunrise "外浦" Izu
 
16. SOOC Jpeg in Velvia Simulation mode using some square filters. Sunrise
"Fujifilm X-E1" "Fujifilm 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8" Landscape Shimoda Sunrise "外浦" Izu
 
17. Chuo Shirahama view
"Fujifilm X-E1" Fujifilm 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8" "Chuo Shirahama" Izu Shimoda "Izu Peninsula"
 
18. Chuo Shirahama Beach
 
I have to say, I quite like the GF2. I did not expect much from it as I only got it to test around and to use some of my m43 lenses that I have. It definitely exceeded my expectation. I always read that the GF2 have a noisy sensor etc but I think it makes for a fine second camera. :smile: 
 
I will be selling it as I originally intended and not because it is a bad camera. :smile:
 
Thanks for looking folks. :happy-084:
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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Fujifilm 18-55mm Fujifilm 55-200mm Fujifilm X-E1 Japan Panasonic Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 Panasonic GF2 Shimoda camera lenses m4/3 m43 micro4/3 mirrorless photography 下田市 下田白浜 伊豆 日本 関東 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/8/my-weekend-trip-to-shimoda-izu-peninsula-with-the-panasonic-gf2-and-fuji-x-e1 Fri, 23 Aug 2013 06:44:51 GMT
BBK-3 Shoulder Bag (The $40 bag) http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/5/bbk-3-shoulder-bag-the-40-bag As I have just migrated from Nikon Fullframe to Olympus m4/3, all my accessories (my Tripod, Ballhead, Bags, filters etc etc.) suddenly became a bit too big for my camera. So one of the things I really need is an appropriate shoulder bag for the m4/3 setup, I searched around and found bags that were good for my m4/3 kit such as the Thinktank Retrospective 5 or 7, The new Thinktank mirrorless movers series, Tenba messenger bags, Billingham and a whole lot more... the only problem is that they were all a little bit too pricy.

I used to own the Thinktank Retrospective 30 and I know how well made the Retrospective line is but where I currently live it costs more than $100 for even the smallest version. The Tenda is a little bit too padded for what I need, the Billingham is just way out of my budget and so I ended up checking out ebay.  It took me awhile but I found a pretty good looking bag called the BBK-3 for around $40. The vendor where I bought it have a good illustration of the size of the bag so I decided to order it.

It arrived in roughly 10 days... and packed like this:

BBK-3 Bag "Shoulder Bag" "Camera bag"

I was kind of confused and when I opened it I realized they put the whole bag inside the padded inserts to minimize shipping cost.

"padded instert" "camera insert" BBK-3 Here is the whole bag when I finished putting the insert, as you notice it's has a bit of a retro look, and although some of the materials used were faux leather the build quality is pretty good. I was quite surprised... it's definitely very good value for money. I wish the locks were magnetized and not buttons though but otherwise it's really nice. As you can also see, the shoulder pad is wide and very long.

BBK-3 bag "camera bag" "shoulder bag" canvas

 

Here's the whole bag: It came with 2 big dividers and 2 small half width dividers and a cover flap to seal everything.BBK-3 "camera bag"

I immediately put my lenses on the bag to see how it fits, my lenses are way smaller than DSLR lenses and they fit quite good, the bag seems to be the perfect fit for my kit.

BKK-3 Olympus "Olympus Lens" m4/3 m43 bag "camera bag" There are two large pockets in front ideal for filters, memory cards, batteries etc... and two more small pockets on the side for small stuff.

BBK bag "camera bag" m43 "shoulder bag"

Here's my whole kit when I put everything, 4 lenses and a camera. I can basically put any lens I want on the camera and tuck it away. 

BBK-3 "OM-D" E-M5 Olympus "camera bag" "shoulder bag"20130524_183401.jpg

If you are are looking for an affordable Camera shoulder bag with removable inserts, I think you want to have a look at this bag.  This also comes in different sizes, there's the BBK-2, BBK-4, these two have almost identical design to the BBK-3 only smaller. There's also the BBK-5, BBK-6 both with different designs and dimensions.

here's the specs:

http://www.ebay.ph/itm/320915475623?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) BBK-3 Camera bag Shoulder bag camera Shoulder bag canvas m43 m43 system bag http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/5/bbk-3-shoulder-bag-the-40-bag Sun, 26 May 2013 05:48:10 GMT
My move from Nikon Full Frame to Olympus M43 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/5/my-move-from-nikon-full-frame-to-olympus-m43 After a few months of living here in Japan, I decided that my photography gear were too heavy to bring along for daily use. I use to shoot with Nikon Full frame gear for 3 years before I came to Japan. Even though I love my Nikon gear very much I had to let it go to make way for my new system of choice, the micro 4/3, specifically the Olympus system. 

I let go of all my Nikon gear and acquired a modest micro 4/3 starting kit.

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Silver,
  • Olympus 17mm f/1.8
  • Olympus 75mm f/1.8
  • Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.7 Kit lens
  • Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 Super telephoto lens
  • Gariz leather sleeve for the E-M5

OM-D E-M5 Olympus Camera Lenses photography m43 m4/3 micro4/3 "micro 4/3"OM-D Kit Even though I love my Nikon gear, the transition was not very difficult... the Olympus E-M5 is as customizable as the Nikon, the buttons may not be as many nor as easy to access while shooting but they are certainly workable. Also, the size difference was staggering, from a DSLR gear of about 3 kilograms down to only about a kilo for the micro 4/3 setup. Since the micro 4/3 system have very good prime lenses, I am slowly becoming a prime convert... the quality of the Olympus prime lenses are superb, and sharp too. 

It may not be for everyone but for anyone looking for a good light very capable set up, a nice m4/3 kit is really all you need. 

 

 

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Camera E-M5 Japan OM-D Olympus Photography m4/3 micro4/3 mirrorless http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/5/my-move-from-nikon-full-frame-to-olympus-m43 Fri, 24 May 2013 14:08:04 GMT
三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店 (Mitsuya) http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/5/-mitsuya I went to Shimokitazawa (Odakyu line Shimokitazawa Station) about a week ago... The place have lot's of shops but very few people during weekdays. Lot's of small shops and of course there are some ramen shops as well.

 

I decided to try 三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店 since it looks empty at that time...

三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店 三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店

 

三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店

When we opened their menu, it was all in Japanese and there were tons of choices too... the waiter seemed to have noticed and grabbed an english menu with clear explanations and some pictures and gave it to us. I decided to order the Marutoku Tsukemen so I could taste their egg and Pork Chashu. Mind you they also have Cheese sauce tsukemen which I might try the next time I head there again

三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店

You can choice the temperature and size of your noodle... the Oo-mori is already 600Grams and is the same price!!! Whew!!

三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店

And here's my order Chu-mori Marutoku Tsukemen, at 450g was good enough for me... It was packed full with good stuff. The chashu was awesomely soft and flavorful, the egg was pretty good too, I also got a good serving of steamed vegetables. 

 

The soup/broth is thinner than in other shops like Fuunji, it is a bit on the sweet side as well although not as sweet as King Kong's broth.  The flavor is not very strong but enough to make you ask for more.  Despite ordering the noodle hot, it was still quite firm so everything was well and good. It's balanced pretty well I love it.

三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店 Their Gyoza is pretty decent as well.

三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢店

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at this place and would definitely recommend everyone to try it.

They have a couple of branches around, Here's their website for the full list: http://idc-inc.jp/


View Larger Map


 

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Japan Tokyo kitazawa odakyu ramen sendagaya shimokitazawa tsukemen 三ツ矢堂製麺 下北沢駅 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/5/-mitsuya Wed, 01 May 2013 06:39:24 GMT
A taste of FUUNJI (風雲児) http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/1/a-taste-of-fuunji Fuunji is a very small establishment in West Shinjuku and apparently one of the best Tsukemen (Dipping Noodles) restaurant in Tokyo. With seats of about a dozen only it's not uncommon to see people lining up outside the restaurant waiting for their turn. I went there together with some of my friends.

Tokyo

People lining up across the street

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 After a few minutes we were right outside the door, as you can see there's more people standing inside waiting as well.Tokyo

Then it was our turn to buy the ticket/stub from the vending machine. Here you have four(4) main buttons to choose from, as far as I understood the choices are Regular Ramen (JPY700), Special Ramen(JPY900), Regular Tsukemen(JPY750) and Special Tsukemen(JPY950). Then below them are several other smaller buttons for the extras that you want to put in on your order such as Egg, Nori (JPY100-200) etc. Since this place is known for its Tsukemen, all of us ordered the regular one. 

 

You can actually see some award recognition of the place above the vending machine, unfortunately I was not able to check from which organization it was.

Tokyo

After buying the stub you once again fall in line behind the people who are eating, most Japanese eat really fast and are usually done in 10 minutes or so. While we were waiting one of the staff took our ticket/stubs and asked us if we want a big portion or small portion, all of us got the big portion. In case you are wondering, yes both portions are the same price. 

 

It did not take long before we were seated and served our order... a huge plate of Noodle together with a separate bowl of soup. The soup's flavor and scent is really strong, you can easily notice the powdered dried fish. The Noodle is very firm, heavy and good too.

Tokyo

All in all I would say Fuunji is worth all the hassle.  It was actually my first Tsukemen in Tokyo and all I can say is I will never look at Tsukemen the same way again. :D

 

All photos were taken with the Galaxy Note II as I was not able to bring my camera with me so the pictures are quite noisy.

Here's a map of Fuunji (風雲児)


View Larger Map

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steven.ang@gmail.com (mOnK3y) Best Tsukemen Food Fuunji Fuunji Tsukemen Japan Nishi Shinjuku Nishi-Shinjuku Noodles Shinjuku Tokyo Tsukemen ラーメン 新宿区 〝西新宿" 風雲児 http://www.monk3y.com/blog/2013/1/a-taste-of-fuunji Wed, 30 Jan 2013 08:39:47 GMT