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The Great Wall of China in Mutianyu

The Great Wall of China is referred to in Mandarin as Wanli Changcheng (10,000-Li Long Wall or simply very long wall) BEIJING, CHINA- S...

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Japan Visa Jitters: The Bank Certificate Struggle is Real!

Hey everyone,

So, like many of you fellow Filipinos, I've been bitten by the travel bug! Japan has always been at the top of my dream destination list. I recall doing some research and planning befire finally applying for a visa. But let me tell you, this whole process has been a whirlwind of emotions – definitely exciting, but also came with a surprising amount of stress!

One hurdle I wasn't quite prepared for was the bank certificate. Apparently, the Japanese Embassy is pretty strict about how recent it needs to be – no more than three months old! This might seem reasonable, but trust me, it adds a whole new layer of complication.

Here's the thing: Bank statements tend to take a while to arrive by mail. By the time I get mine, submit my application, and wait for processing, there's a good chance it'll be outside that magic three-month window. I know, #AdultingProblems, right?

This might seem reasonable, but trust me, it adds a whole new layer of complication especially if you're utilizing a digital bank.

So, what are your options?

Get a fresh bank certificate directly from the bank: This seems like the safest bet, but it can also be time-consuming, especially if you have a busy schedule.

Exploring Online Options: Some banks offer online access to certified statements. This could be a game-changer, allowing you to download a fresh copy right before submitting the application. Worth checking with your bank!

Double-Checking the Embassy Website: The specific requirements might vary depending on your location. The Japanese Embassy website is your best friend – always refer to the official guidelines for the latest information

Plan way ahead: This is probably the smartest approach. Don't underestimate the power of foresight. Factor in bank statement processing times and request a fresh certificate well before submitting your application.

When applying for a visa, especially one with specific document requirements like Japan's, planning ahead is key. You should factor the bank statement lead time when booking your flights (Opt for flexible tickets just to be on the safe side. This might be feasible, but it often comes with additional fees. Ugh, the struggle is real!)

Anyway, this is just a heads-up for anyone else planning a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. Don't let the bank certificate become a roadblock in your adventure! Do your research, plan accordingly, and hopefully, your visa application will be smooth sailing.

Anyone else out there have experience with applying for a Japanese visa? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Japan Tax-Free Treats: A Cautionary Tale from Tokyo!

Hey everyone, travelonshoestring here, fresh off an amazing trip to Japan! Land of temples, bullet trains, and enough kawaii plushies to fill a bathtub (not that I did that... maybe). But amidst the delicious ramen and dazzling neon lights, I encountered a travel snafu that could have turned sour. Let's talk tax-free shopping!

We all love a good deal, right? And in Japan, the tax-free system for tourists is a dream come true. But here's the thing: those adorable Tokyo Banana snacks or that fancy Shiseido face mask? They gotta stay sealed until you leave the country. Yes, you read that right. Consuming those tax-free goodies before takeoff is a technical no-no.

No, I'm not gonna lie, the temptation was real. After a long day of sightseeing, a KitKat calling my name from my backpack felt pretty darn appealing. Luckily, I remembered a quick internet search I did before my trip (travel blogger pro-tip, folks!). It turns out, while full-on customs checks aren't the norm, getting caught with opened tax-free items can land you in hot water.

The worst-case scenario? You might have to pay the tax you avoided, which puts a damper on those savings. In extreme situations, with a large amount of opened items or refusal to cooperate, there could even be fines or worse! Let's just say that wouldn't be a kawaii way to end your trip.

So, what did I learn?

Here are some key takeaways for all my savvy travel peeps:

Tax-free means exactly that: Only buy things you intend to take home unopened.

Patience is a virtue: Resist the urge to crack open those Tokyo treats until you're safely on your home turf.

When in doubt, declare it out: Unsure about an item? Declare it at customs and pay any applicable taxes. Better safe than sorry!

Japan is an incredible country with so much to offer. Don't let a misunderstanding about tax-free purchases put a damper on your adventure. Remember, following the rules ensures a smooth and stress-free travel experience. Now, excuse me while I go stock up on unopened KitKats for my next trip (because, let's be real, who can resist?)

Happy travels everyone!

P.S. Have any of you ever encountered a situation with tax-free items while traveling? Share your stories in the comments below!

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Japan's Tax-Free Rules: A Guide for Travelers to Avoid Unwanted Fees

Busted Before Takeoff: The Risk of Consuming Tax-Free Goods in Japan

In Japan, if customs checked your bags and found you'd opened and consumed tax-free purchases, the outcome depends on the situation:

Worst case: You might be charged the tax you avoided on the consumed items. In extreme cases, with a large amount or refusal to cooperate, there could be a fine (up to 500,000 yen) or even imprisonment (up to 1 year).

More likely: Customs checks aren't super common, especially for smaller amounts. They might just give you a warning and remind you of the rules.

Technically: Consuming tax-free items before leaving Japan breaks the rules. Japanese customs states you must export the tax-free goods.

Reality: Full customs checks with tax-free item verification are uncommon, especially for carry-on luggage.

Here's what to do if caught:
  1. Be polite and cooperative. Explain it was a misunderstanding.
  2. If asked to pay tax, comply.

Here's how to avoid the issue:
  1. Only buy tax-free items you intend to take out of Japan.
  2. Keep tax-free items sealed (especially consumables) until departure.
  3. If unsure, declare the items at customs and pay any applicable taxes.
Remember, following the rules ensures a smooth travel experience.

Happy Japan Vacation! Arigato Guzaimasu!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Electric Youth Forever: My Night with Debbie Gibson!

Hey everyone! Still buzzing from last night's incredible concert - Debbie Gibson's 35th Anniversary of Electric Youth at the New Frontier Theater! The place was absolutely packed, and the energy? Pure electric! It felt like we were all transported back to the 80s, singing along with our favorite pop princess.

Debbie Gibson was simply amazing! At 53, she still has that incredible voice and stage presence. Of course, she performed the iconic "Lost in Your Eyes," and the entire crowd erupted! It was a full-on singalong, lighters swaying (well, phone flashlights these days), pure nostalgia heaven.

Speaking of rocking the stage, Mickey Bustos totally blew me away! I always knew him as a hilarious comedian, but his voice? SPECTACULAR! Seriously, this guy can sing! Everyone needs to see him perform. Maybe even an ASAP guest appearance? Just throwing that out there, ABS-CBN!

Overall, the concert was a night of pure fun, nostalgia, and amazing music. Debbie Gibson is a true legend, and Mickey Bustos is a revelation! If you get a chance to see them live, don't miss it! You'll be "Lost in Your Eyes" of pure 80s magic! ✨

The entire band and dancers were incredible! The back-up singers' harmonies were flawless, the dancers brought incredible energy to every song, the saxophone added a beautiful layer of sound, and the drummer laid down a rock-solid foundation. You all truly elevated the entire performance and had everyone moving in their seats.

What were YOUR favorite moments from the concert? Share your memories in the comments below!

#DebbieGibson #ElectricYouth35 #NewFrontierTheater #MickeyBustos #ASAPnatinTo #RandomMinds 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Umeda Sky Building: Ticket Hacks for a Heavenly View!

Hey travel buddies! Let me share to you our amazing trip to Osaka, Japan, and one of the highlights was definitely visiting the Umeda Sky Building. The panoramic view from the Floating Garden Observatory? Unreal! But before I get lost in the memories, let's talk about something crucial: TICKETS!

Ticket purchases in a new country can be tricky, so we're here to share our experience and some tips for conquering the Umeda Sky Building!

There are two main ways to purchase tickets for the Umeda Sky Building in Japan:

Walk-in purchase: This is the go-to option for the spontaneous traveler. You can just head straight to the Umeda Sky Building and purchase your ticket at the counter on the 39th floor. Walk-in purchase is the most convenient option if you are flexible with your timing and don't mind waiting in line. However, tickets may sell out during peak times. Here's what to keep in mind:
  • Be Prepared to Wait: Especially during peak seasons or weekends, there might be lines.
  • Cash Only? Double-check if they accept credit cards or if you need to have yen on hand.
  • Price Check: While convenient, walk-in tickets might not be the cheapest option.

Online purchase
: This is the recommended option if you want to skip the lines and potentially save money. This is my preferred method. Why? Because by buying your tickets online you can skip the lines! Who wants to waste vacation time waiting? Buy online and head straight up. Plus, by buying online you can often find combo tickets that include entry to other Osaka attractions, such as but not limited to Osaka Castle or Universal Studios Japan. 

Compare several online travel platforms offering tickets to the Umeda Sky Building, often at discounted prices or bundled with tickets to other attractions.That way you can find deals or combo packages with other attractions that are also popular plus planning in advance especially if you're traveling during peak season, ensures a ticket. That way you won't miss out.

Based on our own experience, Kkday, klook, Rakuten 
Travel Experience and Headout had good deals and their websites were easy to navigate.

To save money think about what other places you want to see in Osaka. Maybe a combo ticket with Osaka Castle or Universal Studios Japan makes sense?

Super important! Don't forget to read the fine print. Make sure you know when your tickets are valid and if there are any days they're not accepted.

Bonus Tip: Download your tickets on your phone for a smooth entry process.

So, there you have it! With a little planning and these tips, getting your Umeda Sky Building tickets will be a breeze. Now, go forth and conquer those Osaka heights!

I hope this helps!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Snoopy Paradise: A Hong Kong Adventure!

Hey everyone,

Calling all Peanuts fans! Today, I'm taking you on a trip to a world of happiness and nostalgia - Snoopy World in Hong Kong!

For those who aren't familiar, Snoopy World is an indoor theme park entirely dedicated to our favorite beagle and the Peanuts gang. It's a place where you can relive your childhood memories and create new ones with friends and family.

Stepping into the Peanuts Gang's World

The moment you enter Snoopy World, you're transported into the charming world of Charles M. Schulz's comics. The park is beautifully decorated with vibrant colors, iconic scenes from the comics, and life-sized figures of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and the whole gang.

Rides and Attractions for All Ages

Snoopy World offers a variety of rides and attractions suitable for all ages. You can soar through the skies with Snoopy on his Sopwith Camel, take a spin on Woodstock's whimsical teacups, or even join Snoopy and the gang on a thrilling 3D motion simulator ride.

More Than Just Rides

The fun doesn't stop at the rides! Snoopy World also boasts interactive games, meet-and-greet sessions with your favorite characters, and live shows throughout the day. There are even themed restaurants and cafes where you can fuel up on delicious food and refreshing drinks.

My Snoopy World Experience

My inner child did a happy dance as I explored Snoopy World. The classic tunes and vibrant decorations instantly brought back childhood memories of reading the Peanuts comics. While the rides are geared more towards younger visitors, I still thoroughly enjoyed the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron dogfight simulator. It was a delightful blast from the past with surprising 3D effects!

The atmosphere at Snoopy World is pure joy. Parents and children alike were sharing smiles and laughter as they explored the park. I even spotted a few adults sporting Snoopy t-shirts and headbands, proving that the Peanuts gang's charm transcends age. While I didn't get a chance to meet any characters personally, seeing them interact with the younger crowd was heartwarming. Snoopy World truly captures the essence of the comics – a world of friendship, laughter, and simple joys.

A Must-Visit for Peanuts Fans

Overall, Snoopy World is a must-visit for any Peanuts fan, young or old. It's a place where you can celebrate the timeless characters and stories that have brought joy to generations. Whether you're looking for a fun-filled day with family or a nostalgic trip down memory lane, Snoopy World has something for everyone.

Have you ever been to Snoopy World? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

P.S. Don't forget to pack your Snoopy ears and get ready for a day of PEANUTastic fun!

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Use your Japan Multiple-Entry Visa Wisely

Many Filipinos in online groups I frequent ask about extending their stay in Japan. The reasons behind these inquiries vary widely.

Here is one of the most common questions I've encountered:

"If you hold a Multiple-Entry Japan visa and extend your stay to the maximum allowable number of days without using your original return ticket and buy a new ticket for a later date instead would you be penalized?"

Yes, In theory, extending your stay in Japan to the full allowance of your Multiple-Entry visa and purchasing a new return ticket likely won't cause any immediate issues.

You generally wouldn't be penalized for extending your stay in Japan with a Multiple-Entry visa as long as your new stay adheres to the following:

  • Total滞在期間 (taizaikan - period of stay) doesn't exceed the maximum allowed for your visa type. (This information should be on your visa itself). A Multiple-Entry visa allows for multiple entries within its validity period. Extending your stay utilizes this feature, as long as you stay within the total allowed days.
  • You have a valid new return ticket. Not using your initial return ticket isn't a problem, but having a confirmed onward travel plan is helpful.Buying a new return ticket demonstrates your intention to leave Japan eventually.
  • You comply with Japanese immigration regulations. It's advisable but NOT REQUIRED to notify immigration of your extended stay. You can do this at your nearest Regional Immigration Bureau in Japan. This ensures transparency and avoids any potential issues upon departure.
However, there are a few things to consider like Immigration officials might ask questions. 

While not a penalty, staying the full duration on your visa, especially repeatedly, could raise questions at immigration upon re-entry about your true purpose for visiting Japan. This is because ME visas are typically intended for shorter, repeat visits.

Question: "Will I be eligible for a new Multiple Entry Visa when my current ME Visa expires?"

Renewal process considers past behavior.  When reviewing your visa renewal application, immigration may consider your past travel history. If you consistently stay close to the maximum on your Multiple Entry Japan visa, it might raise questions about your ties to your home country or suggest you might be working illegally.

Here's what you can do to minimize any potential issues:

1. Leave before the maximum.  Try to avoid extending your stay to the absolute last day. Leaving a buffer demonstrates responsible visa usage.

2. Provide strong justification for renewal. During the renewal process, be prepared to explain why you need the ME visa again and how you plan to use it responsibly.

It's important to note that Visa renewal is ultimately at the discretion of Japanese immigration officials. The Japanese appreciate honesty and transparency. So, be a good citizen and abide by their rules and regulations. 

It's always best to consult the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date information and specific requirements for your situation.

Your chances of getting your visa renewed depends entirely on the documents you will submit and your personal qualifications as well.

Happy Japan vacation! 

Here are some resources that you might find helpful. 

Embassy of Japan: (

Frequently Asked Questions - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan: (

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Blast from the Past: Reconnecting with Old Friends

Life moves fast. One minute you're glued to your best friend's hip, giggling over inside jokes, and the next, you're navigating careers, families, and different cities or even countries. But the funny thing about getting older – those friendships from your youth, the ones forged in shared experiences and late-night talks, take on a new kind of importance.

Maybe it's because the constant churn of new faces makes you appreciate the ones who've known you at your worst (and hopefully, your best!). Or perhaps it's the realization that the foundation of a good friendship is something precious and rare.

Whatever the reason, I've found myself reaching out to some of those old friends lately. It's not about asking for favors or rehashing the past – it's more about a simple "hello" and a chance to reminisce about the fun times we shared. 

Remember our grueling YDT/CAT trainings under the scorching sun? Or that crazy Christmas party where we had exams the next morning?How about those times when we laughed until our sides ached. And how our idyllic field trip took a frightening turn when unidentified people began throwing stones at us. Who can forget trying to "howl," er, sing at the Alleluiahan? I know our voices are more suited to poetry than melody and harmony.

Those memories are golden, little time capsules that hold a special place in my heart.

Life has undoubtedly taken us all on different paths. We've grown, changed, and maybe even become a little (or a lot) different from the people we were back then. But that shared history, that foundation of friendship, is still there. So, to my old friends – the ones who knew me before social media filters and adulting existed! – I'd love to reconnect. Let's catch up, share stories (both old and new), and maybe even create some new adventures together. Who knows, maybe this time, we'll actually nail that "Sana'y Wala ng Wakas" duet!

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Cherry Cloud Bliss: My Tokyo Hanami Extravaganza

The air crackled with anticipation as I joined the throngs of people headed towards Araiyakushi Park in Nakano City. It was finally happening – my supposed to be first ever hanami, Japan's legendary cherry blossom viewing party! Unfortunately, the iconic trees are not in bloom yet. I can only imagine, how their delicate pink petals would have started forming a canopy overhead like a soft, fragrant cloud.

Despite the unfortunate delay of the Sakura Blossom, a lot of people still showed up at the park according to schedule. Finding a spot in the maddening crowd proved to be an impossible feat. There are plenty of vendors selling potatoes, hotdogs, cotton candy and other feast. Bento boxes are overflowing with colorful delights, fluffy onigiri rice balls, and of course, sakura mochi – sweet rice cakes filled with red bean paste, a special hanami treat – were all available for sale at the park to tempt your taste buds.

The park was a vibrant tapestry of activity. There is a dance presentation. The dancers were consist of several older ladies and a young child. Families and their friends picnicked under the weeping cherry trees with not a single bloom in sight. Yet, you can see friends laughed and chatted, and couples strolled hand-in-hand, taking in the fleeting beauty of the weather that day. Music drifted from portable speakers, and the air was filled with the excited chatter of children chasing each other.

As we tried to scout the food stalls to choose our lunch, a sense of serenity washed over me. I was imagining delicate petals fluttered down like pink snow, creating a magical atmosphere. The beauty of the blossoms would have been fantastic have they bloom according to the prediction of the weather bureau of Japan.

With no bloom in sight, my brother, his girlfriend and I were really disappointed. We paid a premium room rate for our home stay. The owner Annie Cheng justified the rates as just for the season. Of course she enticed us about the 2 kilometers stretch of Cherry Blossoms she said was there because it was supposed to be the height of Cherry Blossoms.

Her accommodation is just around 2 to 3 minutes walk to Araiyukushi-Mae station. We stayed there for 7 nights. So imagine our disappointment when not a single blossom appeared.  All we can do is sigh. The first 3 nights, we find it weird that there is no heater during night time until morning. I complained it to the owner to no avail. So, on our third night with still no heater, I was fed up and would like a reimbursement so we can change to another accommodation with heater.

The only redeeming factor for choosing that area is seeing how hanami was done. I was bowled over by the sense of community by the Japanese people. 

I was in awe with their shared appreciation for nature despite the absence of ephemeral display of the cherry trees.  It made our very first hanami so special.

Spring evening would have been perfect with yozakura, the nighttime cherry blossom viewing according to my research. The trees were supposed to be illuminated by soft lanterns, casting an ethereal glow on the scene. The atmosphere was supposed to be more subdued, with an air of quiet contemplation. It would have been a perfect way to end the day, reflecting on the beauty I could have witnessed.

My first hanami experience was more than just a picnic under the no show weeping cherry trees. It was a glimpse into Japanese culture, a celebration of the fleeting beauty of spring, and a reminder to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. I can't wait to experience the real deal next year, maybe under a canopy of a fully bloom cherry blossoms in a serene Kyoto garden, or perhaps amidst the lively crowds of Ueno Park.

Have you ever experienced hanami? What are your favorite traditions or memories? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Kyoto Kaleidoscope: A Wanderer's Blog

Hey everyone,

Just got back from a whirlwind adventure in Kyoto, and let me tell you, it was pure magic. This city is like a living museum, where ancient temples brush shoulders with bustling streets, and serenity hides around every corner.

I wasn't sure what to expect. Kyoto is famed for its history and tradition, but there's a modern energy here too. One minute I'm sipping matcha tea in a charming teahouse garden, the next I'm browsing quirky anime stores in Nishiki Market.

But for me, the true charm of Kyoto lies in the little moments. Getting lost (happily!) on cobbled backstreets lined with traditional wooden houses, stumbling upon hidden gardens tucked away behind unassuming gates, or sharing a smile with a local in a perfect little tea shop.

Speaking of food, Kyoto is a foodie paradise! From melt-in-your-mouth okonomiyaki to delicate kaiseki meals, my taste buds were on a constant journey. Wandering through Nishiki Market, the "Kitchen of Kyoto," was an assault on the senses in the best way possible. So many colors, smells, and the freshest ingredients you can imagine!

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove was pure tranquility, sunlight filtering through the towering stalks creating a peaceful, almost mystical atmosphere.

Of course, the temples and shrines are the stars of the show. Kinkaku-ji temple with its iconic golden appearance was breathtaking. 

Kyoto is a city that stays with you long after you leave. It's a place that whispers stories of the past, vibrates with the present, and leaves you wanting to come back for more.

This is just a taste of my Kyoto adventure, I've got more stories and photos to share in the coming posts. In the meantime, if you're thinking about a trip to Japan, Kyoto absolutely deserves a spot on your itinerary.

Stay tuned for more Kyoto Kaleidoscope!

P.S. Any recommendations for must-see sights or hidden gems on a future visit? Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


I fell in love with Kyoto Imperial Palace Grounds. I so love all the trees especially those century old trees inside the palace ground. I am a tree hugger and this place is heaven on earth!

We were literally shivering while walking because of the cold wind. The pavement need some improvement because it is full of small rocks. Senior citizens and pwd should be provided with some sort of transportation by the Japanese government. Peace! 

So, if you will visit the Kyoto Imperial palace please come prepared and gear up, lace up your walking shoes, embrace the spirit of exploration, and embark on a journey through the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds. You'll be rewarded with a unique blend of history, architecture, and natural beauty that will leave a lasting impression.

Kyoto Gyoen: More Than Just a Palace (My Unexpected Adventure)

Let's be honest, Kyoto is overflowing with stunning temples and picture-perfect gardens. So when I was planning my trip, the Kyoto Imperial Palace wasn't exactly at the top of my list. "Another palace?" I thought. Boy, was I wrong!

The minute I stepped through the gates of Kyoto Gyoen, a wave of tranquility washed over me. Sure, there's the grand Imperial Palace itself, which you can only see on a tour (definitely booking that next time!), but the surrounding park is what truly stole my heart.

A Park Steeped in History

I wandered along the pathways, each turn revealing a new surprise. One moment I'd be marveling at the ancient Sento Imperial Palace, the next I'd stumble upon a hidden grove teeming with life. Everywhere I looked, history whispered from the moss-covered stones and the meticulously raked gravel.

Finding Serenity in the Gardens

The gardens were pure magic. The Oikeniwa, with its still pond reflecting the sky, felt like a scene straight out of a painting. The Gonaitei, with its perfectly sculpted trees and vibrant koi, offered a moment of pure zen. I spent hours simply meandering through the greenery, breathing in the fresh air and feeling the weight of the city melt away.

A Touch of the Unexpected

Then, there was the Kemari-no-niwa. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a field dedicated to an ancient Japanese "football" game! The thought of emperors kicking around a leather ball cracked me up, but it also offered a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era.

More Than Just a Palace Grounds

The Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds became so much more than just a palace visit for me. It was a journey through time, a haven of peace, and a reminder of the beauty that lies hidden in unexpected places.

Pro-Tip: Pack a picnic lunch! There are plenty of charming spots within the park to spread out a blanket and enjoy a delicious meal surrounded by nature.

So, if you're planning a trip to Kyoto, don't underestimate the magic of the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds. It might just surprise you!

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Tokyo Twist on a Timeless Icon: Finding Lady Liberty in Odaiba!

Forget everything you think you know about Lady Liberty! This week, I'm taking you on an adventure to a place where the iconic symbol of freedom gets a Tokyo twist – the Statue of Liberty in Odaiba, Japan!

Sure, she might not be the colossal green goddess guarding New York Harbor, but Odaiba's Lady Liberty packs a punch of her own. Standing at a proud 12 meters (about 40 feet), she's a charming mini-me version of the original, but don't let her size fool you.

Here's why this little Lady Liberty is a must-see for any adventurer with a global spirit:

  • Unexpected Delight: Wandering the vibrant streets of Odaiba, brimming with futuristic skyscrapers and trendy attractions, you stumble upon this familiar figure. It's a delightful surprise, a reminder that history and culture can weave themselves into the fabric of even the most modern landscapes.

  • Picture Perfect Tokyo: With the majestic Rainbow Bridge as her backdrop, Odaiba's Lady Liberty offers some of the most unique photo opportunities in Tokyo. Capture the juxtaposition of the classic and the contemporary, the enduring symbol of freedom standing tall against the backdrop of a booming metropolis.

  • Symbol of Friendship: Did you know this petite Lady Liberty is actually a gift from France to Japan, a testament to their enduring friendship? It's a beautiful reminder that the ideals of liberty and hope transcend borders, inspiring connections across the globe.

  • A Smaller Package, Bigger Inspiration: Sometimes, the most powerful things come in smaller sizes. Odaiba's Lady Liberty might not be the original, but her spirit shines just as bright. She's a reminder that the fight for freedom and justice is a continuous journey, no matter where you are in the world.

So, the next time you find yourself in Tokyo, ditch the crowded tourist traps and head to Odaiba. Seek out this little Lady Liberty, stand beneath her torch, and let her spirit of freedom ignite your own wanderlust and inspire you to chase your dreams, no matter how big or small they may seem.

Have you ever seen a replica of a famous landmark that surprised you? What inspires you to travel the world? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, April 12, 2024

Chasing Cherry Blossoms in Japan: A Dream Come True!

Hey everyone!

For years, we've been obsessed with the idea of seeing cherry blossoms in Japan. Pictures just don't do them justice – the delicate blooms, the vibrant colors, the whole all seemed so magical. Well, this year we finally made that dream a reality, and let us tell you, it was even more incredible than we ever imagined!

We landed in Tokyo in the dates which supposedly coincides with the published dates of the peak bloom season for many areas as per Japan weather bulletin. Despite the sudden weather change the city was still buzzing with excitement. People were everywhere, strolling under the blossoming trees, having picnics in parks, and snapping photos. The air was filled with a soft, sweet fragrance, and the whole scene felt like something out of a movie.

Our first stop was Ueno Park, a sprawling oasis in the heart of Tokyo. The Somei Yoshino cherry trees, the most common variety, were just starting to bloom because the weather got messed up and it had just snowed the other day so the early blooming cherry blossom were not in it's full glory yet. Their pale pink blossoms formed a canopy overhead, creating a tunnel of delicate beauty. I wandered through the park, mesmerized by the sights and sounds – the chattering crowds, the fluttering petals, the occasional burst of laughter. It was pure joy.

Over the next few days, we ventured to other iconic cherry blossom spots. We marveled at the weeping cherry trees in Nakai. The sole tree we saw has its branches cascading down like a waterfall but the pink Sakura is just starting to bloom. Not yet in it's full glory.

While In Araiyukushi temple in Nakano, the towering stalks of the delicate cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom too. Every location offered a unique perspective on this fleeting spectacle of nature. How we wish the original Sakura bulletin were on schedule. Then, it would have been perfect!

But it wasn't just about the aesthetics. Cherry blossoms in Japan are more than just beautiful flowers; they're a cultural touchstone. The tradition of Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a celebration of spring, renewal, and the impermanence of life. Picnicking under the trees with friends and family, enjoying the beauty of the moment – it's a reminder to slow down and appreciate the simple things.

This trip was an unforgettable experience despite the Sakura bloom delay It wasn't just about ticking something off my bucket list; it was about immersing myself in a different culture and appreciating the beauty of nature. If you've ever dreamed of seeing cherry blossoms in Japan, I say do it!  It's truly a magical experience. And it would be better if all of the Sakura trees were in full bloom. I hope the Japan weather bureau would be more accurate next time around. I wish we would get a FREE all-expenses paid trip to Japan next year when all of the cherry trees is in full bloom!

Do you have any questions about my trip? Have you ever seen cherry blossoms in bloom? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Royal Wax Works: An (Almost) Regal Encounter in Tokyo!

Tokyo isn't exactly known for its palaces and pomp, but on a recent trip, I stumbled upon a touch of British royalty – well, almost! Let me tell you about my hilarious (and slightly surreal) encounter with the Duke and Duchess of wax form, of course!

Nestled in the heart of Odaiba, Madame Tussauds Tokyo is a haven for pop culture and historical figures. As I wandered through the museum, I rounded a corner and came face-to-face (or should I say face-to-wax?) with Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Now, I'm not gonna lie – the detail on these figures is incredible. From Kate's perfectly styled hair to William's sharp suit, Madame Tussauds' artists did an amazing job capturing their essence. For a moment, I almost felt a royal aura!

Of course, the experience wouldn't be complete without the obligatory photo op. I struck my best regal pose (think afternoon tea with the Queen level of elegance) and snapped a picture with the future King and Queen (of wax, that is).

This "meeting" was a fun and unexpected highlight of my Tokyo trip. It's a reminder that a little bit of whimsy and a dash of imagination can turn any museum visit into an (almost) royal adventure.

Have you ever had a close encounter with a wax figure? Share your stories in the comments below!

Thursday, April 4, 2024

ODAIBA, TOKYO JAPAN: Happiness at Madame Tussauds

OMG, guys! I just had the most fun-filled day at Madame Tussauds Tokyo, and I NEED to share it with all you fellow fangirls and fanboys out there!

First off, let me just say: childhood dreams DO come true!

Remember the era when we have 
posters of our idols on our wall growing up? Yeah, well, I practically got to hang out with them all today!

finally meet Jackie Chan face to face! He happens to be my childhood idol because of his funny antics in his martial arts movies.

I remember going to his gym in Hong Kong whenever we went on vacation there. My Papa Vito is such a good dad because he would accompany me to Jackie Chan's gym and inquire if Jackie was there. I was dreaming of having a snapshot or even to get a glimpse of him. Unfortunately, he was so busy and was always out! Finally, in Tokyo Japan we did some high kicks together (well, I attempted some, haha).

Next off is Michael Jackson! I moonwalked right next to him (okay, maybe just shuffled awkwardly) Ha ha ha 🤣

Then, I got all cultured, posing for Michael Angelo as the Mona Lisa except that I had a giant, cheesy grin.

The music legends were next! Madonna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga - slay queens unite! We belted out some (questionable) karaoke together.

And speaking of legends, Bruce Lee was also there! We exchanged fighting stances (again, mostly me flailing around, but hey, the spirit was there!).

Of course, it wasn't all action and pop stars. I got to channel my inner Audrey Hepburn with a classic pose, then went full-on Captain Jack Sparrow with Johnny Depp. ‍☠️

Even royalty wasn't off limits! I rubbed elbows (virtually, of course) with Prince William and Kate Middleton and even got to sat at the Queen of England's throne!!!

And let's not forget the history makers! Sharing a moment with Nelson Mandela and President Obama was truly humbling.

Finally, I got a little taste of Japan with Prime Minister Abe (hope I didn't bow incorrectly!).

This wasn't just a trip to a wax museum, it was a journey through my fangirl fantasies!

Seriously, if you're ever in Tokyo, Madame Tussauds is a MUST. You might not get to hold an Oscar or become president, but you can definitely get the perfect Instagram pic with your idols!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go rewatch all the movies, listen to all the music, and maybe (just maybe) try to recreate some of those epic poses.

Who are your ultimate fangirl/fanboy icons? Let me know in the comments, and maybe we can fangirl together on the next adventure!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Pop Music Icon Debbie Gibson set to electrify Manila with an Electric Youth Anniversary Show!

Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the mega-hit album “Electric Youth”, the record- breaking singer-songwriter-producer is set to electrify the Philippine stage in a massive 2-hour long concert full of hits and surprises on 26th April 2024 (Fri), 8 pm at New Frontier Theater! Get ready for a fun and emotional night of nostalgia and “newstalgia”, as Debbie performs favorites from the Electric Youth and her greatest hits!

One of the Best-Selling albums in Philippines in 1989, Electric Youth defined an entire generation and had us wearing out the cassette in our Walkman, while memorizing the lyrics to classics such as “Lost In Your Eyes”, “We Could Be Together”, “No More Rhyme”, and of course, the inspiring title track “Electric Youth”. The tracks “Who Loves Ya Baby”, “Over The Wall” and Silence Speaks (a Thousand Words) were also fan favorites from the album.

Fast forward 35 Years later, the album has stood the test of time, with the songs still on regular radio playlists while racking up hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify. Debbie Gibson has grown from strength to strength as a timeless force of artistry. She has tread fearlessly and successfully into multi-genres of the entertainment world. After conquering the pop world with her first 3 albums, she starred in 17 musicals over 17 years, playing iconic characters such as Eponine in Les Miserables, Sandy in Grease, Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, Velma Kelly in Chicago and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

In 2020, Debbie Gibson returned to the Billboard charts with a #4 Dance Chart smash “Girl’s Night Out”. In 2021, she guest starred in “Lucifer” on Netflix, and did a successful residency at The Venetian in Vegas with New Kids On The Block member, Joey McIntyre. In the same year, she released her first album in 20 years, “The Body Remembers”, which shot to #2 on Apple Pop Sales Chart, achieving over a million streams in the first month. In 2022, she released her first holiday album, Winterlicious, and completed a sold-out Winter Tour in the USA. In 2023, she was invited to perform as the “Nightowl” in the hit TV series, The Masked Singer, and announced a book deal for her upcoming memoir.

Debbie Gibson shows no signs of slowing down. She was honored with the Trailblazer Award in January 2024 from The Women’s International Music Network at the 12th Annual She Rocks Awards.

Come celebrate with the legendary Debbie Gibson, and We Could Be Together this 26th April 2024 (Fri), 8pm at New Frontier Theater.

#DebbieGibson, #ElectricYouth, #ManilaConcert, and #80sNight , #Debbie and #80sMusic.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Baguio City

Baguio, known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, is a popular tourist destination for its cool climate, scenic landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. But beyond the usual tourist spots, Baguio offers hidden gems waiting to be explored. 

Here are some off-the-beaten-path destinations you can check out for a more unique and authentic Baguio experience:

Mount Costa.Escape the crowds and find serenity amidst a haven of vibrant flowers and unique art installations. This botanical garden boasts a captivating display of nature's beauty with a touch of creativity.

BenCab Museum.Immerse yourself in the world of National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, also known as BenCab. This museum houses his extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and sketches that showcase his artistic journey.

Teacher's Camp.Take a step back in time at this historical retreat built during the American colonial period. Originally a haven for American teachers, Teacher's Camp is now a peaceful sanctuary surrounded by pine trees, perfect for relaxation and reflection.

Laperal White House.For a touch of mystery, visit the Laperal White House, rumored to be the most haunted place in Baguio. This abandoned mansion has a dark past and is said to be a haven for paranormal activity.

Tam-Awan Village.Experience the rich cultural heritage of the Cordilleran people at Tam-Awan Village. This artist's haven showcases traditional woodcarvings, woven crafts, and other indigenous artworks. You can also interact with local artisans and learn about their craft.

Bell Church.This unique church in La Trinidad, Benguet, is a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts. It is a Taoist temple built with Chinese architectural influences, offering a blend of cultural and religious significance.

Asin Hot Spring.Relax and rejuvenate in the natural hot springs of Asin. These sulfuric springs are believed to have therapeutic properties that can help ease muscle tension and improve blood circulation.

Mirador Hill and Eco Park:This park offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of Baguio City. It's a great place to relax, enjoy the fresh air, and take in the scenery. You can also go on a short hike or bike ride on the trails.

The Baguio Botanical Garden:Established in 1904, this sprawling garden is home to a diverse collection of plants and flowers. It's a great place to learn about the flora of the Cordillera region and enjoy a leisurely walk amidst nature.

The tourist hits:

Wright Park:This park was formerly an American military base. Today, it's a popular spot for horseback riding, biking, and picnicking. You can also visit The Mansion, the official summer residence of the Philippine president.

Baguio Museum:This museum houses a collection of artifacts that tell the story of Baguio City, from its indigenous roots to its development as a popular tourist destination.

Tam-Awan Village:This artist's haven is a great place to see traditional Cordilleran art and crafts. You can also meet local artisans and learn about their craft.

Museo Kordilyera:This museum houses a collection of artifacts that showcase the history and culture of the Cordillera region. You can learn about the different indigenous groups, their way of life, and their traditions.

Camp John Hay: This former American rest and recreation center is now a popular tourist destination with a variety of activities to offer, including horseback riding, ziplining, paintball, and golfing.

Strawberry farms: La Trinidad Valley, just outside of Baguio City, is known for its strawberry farms. You can visit a strawberry farm and pick your own strawberries, or enjoy strawberry-flavored treats.

Tree Top Adventure Baguio:This adventure park offers a variety of zip lines, ropes courses, and other challenges for all ages.

Burnham Park:This park is the heart of Baguio City and a popular spot for boating, biking, horseback riding, and picnicking. You can also find a number of restaurants and cafes here.

Session Road:This is the main thoroughfare of Baguio City and a popular spot for shopping, dining, and nightlife. You can find a variety of stores, restaurants, and bars here.

Good Shepherd Convent:This convent is famous for its strawberry taho, jams, and peanut brittle. You can also visit their chapel and admire the religious artifacts.

Mines View Park:This park offers stunning views of the Benguet mountains and the gold and copper mines that were once a major industry in the region.

The Baguio Cathedral:Also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Atonement, this neo-Gothic cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in Baguio City.

Colors of Stobosa(developed around 2018). This vibrant neighborhood in La Trinidad, Benguet, has become a popular tourist destination for its colorful houses. The brightly painted houses create a visually stunning scene and have become a favorite backdrop for Instagram-worthy photos.

Heritage Hill and Nature Park Garden(opened in 2022). Located within the Diplomat Hotel compound, this park offers stunning views of the city and surrounding mountains. It features landscaped gardens, walking trails, and a viewing deck, perfect for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a tranquil escape.

Igorot Stone Kingdom(opened in 2021). This park showcases both modern and traditional Igorot culture, featuring massive structures, sculptures, photo spots, and viewing decks depicting the rich heritage of the Cordillera Region.

The Baguio Botanical Garden. Established in 1904, this sprawling garden is a paradise for plant enthusiasts. Home to a diverse collection of over 8,000 plant species, explore themed sections like the Rose Garden, Orchidarium, and Cactus Garden.

St. Francis Xavier Seminary Bamboo Educational Demo Farm (Bamboo Sanctuary Location: Pacdal Liteng Road, Baguio City (inside the St. Francis Xavier Seminary) Entrance fee: Free (donations are welcome)  Open hours: 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM (Sundays and Fridays only)

This is a popular destination known for its resemblance to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, Japan. It's a great place to relax, take a leisurely walk amidst the towering bamboos, and capture some beautiful photos.

Bamboo Eco Park Another spot you can visit is the Baguio Eco Park, which also features a bamboo section. While not as extensive as the Bamboo Sanctuary, it's still a nice place to experience the beauty of bamboos.

The Pink Sisters' Convent and Chapel is a famous landmark in Baguio City. They are also known as the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Saint Ignatius Chapel: This stone church features neo-Gothic architecture and stained glass windows.

Saint Vincent Ferrer Church: This church is known for its facade with a large rose window and Spanish colonial-inspired architecture.

The Manor (The Presidential Summer Residence):Located within Wright Park, The Manor is the official summer residence of the Philippine president. While tours of the interior are not allowed, you can admire the beautiful architecture and the surrounding gardens.

Vanilla Café:This glasshouse cafe sits within Kamiseta Hotel and offers breathtaking views of Baguio's mountains and pine trees. Imagine sipping your coffee surrounded by nature's grandeur.

Cafe by the Ruins:This cafe, as the name suggests, is located beside historical ruins, creating a unique and charming atmosphere. Enjoy a cup of coffee while surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking the mountains.

Seollem Cafe:This cafe boasts trendy Korean-inspired interiors, perfect for those who appreciate a modern and stylish ambiance. Indulge in Korean-inspired coffee drinks and pastries while taking Instagram-worthy photos.

Cafe Fleur: This cafe transports you to a Parisian cafe experience with its elegant interiors and floral theme. Enjoy a cup of coffee and pastries amidst a charming and romantic ambiance.

Cafe de Angelo: This cafe feels like a quaint garden cafe in your own backyard. It features a cozy ambiance with outdoor seating and serves comfort food made with fresh, organic ingredients.

Patch Cafe:Nestled within Bloomfield Hotel, Patch Cafe offers a warm and inviting atmosphere. Perfect for unwinding with a cup of coffee and a good book.

The Coffee Library: This cafe is more than just a place to get a caffeine fix. It also houses a small library where you can browse books while enjoying your coffee. A haven for bookworms and coffee lovers alike.

The Cliffhanger Cafe: This restaurant lives up to its name with its breathtaking views of the mountains and the Banaue Rice Terraces (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the distance. Enjoy a meal while surrounded by nature's grandeur.
(This restaurant is actually located in Banaue, Ifugao but within driving distance from Baguio)

Good Taste Restaurant:This restaurant is housed in a heritage building with traditional Cordilleran architecture. The interiors feature beautiful woodwork and a warm ambiance, perfect for a special occasion.

Lemon and Olives Greek Taverna:Experience a slice of Greece in Baguio at this restaurant. The restaurant's design reflects a Mediterranean theme with whitewashed walls, blue accents, and pops of greenery, creating a refreshing and inviting atmosphere.

Arca's Yard: This restaurant features a cozy and artistic ambiance. Artworks from local Baguio-based artists and sculptures from the Cordillera region adorn the walls, making it a visual feast. The restaurant also boasts a beautiful view of the city's mountains.

The Country Steakhouse:This restaurant offers a cozy and cabin-like ambiance. Enjoy a hearty steak dinner with a backdrop of exposed brick walls and wooden furniture.

Centerpoint Buffet & Restaurant at Azalea Residences:This restaurant features a modern and sophisticated ambiance with large windows offering stunning city views. It's a great option for a special occasion or a celebratory dinner.

The Night Market:Immerse yourself in the lively night scene at Baguio's Night Market. Explore stalls selling local handicrafts, souvenirs, fresh produce, and all sorts of interesting finds. Don't forget to try the street food for a truly local experience.

This is just a glimpse of the many hidden gems Baguio has to offer. So, ditch the usual tourist spots and explore the off-the-beaten-path destinations for a more memorable and authentic Cordilleran experience.



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