Seoul Searching, Day 1 (DMZ, JSA)

A gigantic city of gray where you can visit sets of Korean Dramas and wait outside buildings for K-Pop artists to show up. This was the image I had of Seoul from the countless K-Pop and Drama fanatics in the Philippines.

But my research for my itinerary and lead me to a discovery: Seoul is more than just a concrete jungle. My plan for Day 1 especially made me excited because I was going on a tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Joint Security Area (JSA) right by the border of North Korea.


The tour began at President Hotel, the meeting point.Read More »


5 Things to See in Kyoto (that aren’t temples)

Temples are like good books. They’re all basically the same thing: words in black ink on pages bound together within stiff boards. But each has its own charm and unique story to tell; each I can spend an entire day perusing.

But I’ve discovered that many people aren’t as keen with temples as I am or don’t have the time to appreciate a lot of them for stretch of hours like I do, which lead me to making this list as a guide for anyone who’s seen enough of Kyoto’s temples and shrines, but still itching to see more of the city.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama is a district on the western side of Kyoto. It is home to Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site like the famous Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Despite the temple’s distinction, it’s a bamboo grove that attracts droves of tourists to Arashiyama.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Sagano, Kyoto, Japan by Daniel Peckham is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The grove is bisected by a path that takes wayfarers to a small shrine (most popular among women for its God for Matchmaking) and a small park. The grove itself is picturesque and calming – the conversation between the hollow giants and the wind silences inner conflicts. But this conversation gets muffled by loud voices and endless camera clicks so go at an early time (the grove is accessible 24 hours) if you want to enjoy the grove in silence and peace and, in summer, a more bearable temperature.

Other attractions: Togetsukyo Bridge || Monkey Park Iwatayama || Music Box Museum
Romantic Train and River Boat Ride
Beyond Arashiyama’s bamboo grove looks like nowhere, but don’t let the empty path fool you into thinking there’s nothing more because just a few meters from the end of the grove is Torokko Arashiyama Station, the last stop of the charming Sagano Romantic Train before it snakes its way between mountains and over a wide river.

Sagano Romantic Train
On the way (嵯峨野観光鉄道) by Alex Chen is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

At the train’s fourth and last stop, passengers have two choices: return to Arashiyama on the same train or return to Arashiyama via the river. A bus outside the station goes to Hozugawa Ferry Terminal, the starting point of an approximately two-hour boat ride that takes its passengers back to Arashiyama.
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Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon… People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul.(Goodreads)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought I knew how this book would turn out as soon as I read its blurb. It was obviously going to be just a retelling of the Christmas Carol except instead of ghosts there would be a nosy family. But a quarter through I already knew I was wrong and that I was going to like it.
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HOW TO Renew Passport in Japan

First things first: if you don’t live in Kanto, Hokkaido, Tohoku, or East Chubu, you don’t need to go to the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo to have your passport renewed – unlike someone I know who actually went all the way to Tokyo from Kyoto. I swear though, the Philippine Embassy should indicate on their website that you can renew your passport in Osaka too.

Now that I got that out of the way, renewing your passport is pretty straightforward:

Step 1: Gather all the requirements
1. Fully- accomplished application form
2. Passport for renewal (i.e. old or current passport)
3. Copy of passport photo/data page and amendment page, if applicable
4. One (1) self-addressed Japan Post ¥510 Letter Pack envelope (make sure you write your address)
5. Passport fee of ¥7,800
6. Additional requirements (if passport is green or was issued before 01 May 1995, if applicant is a minor or has dual citizenship, and if applicant is a married woman who wishes to change her name)
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A year is a single white cell
In combat –
bloody, miserable, hurt.
Yet the war has just begun.

A year is a punctuation,
a flick of ink
Barely visible, crucial,
indistinct, indispensable.

A year is twilight,
the corners of shadow,
the shallows of sadness to come
and nothings to experience.

A year is a gray petal
cleaving itself from past and future;
time has lost its meaning.
It flutters aimlessly.

A year is nothing,
does nothing to pain,
goes nowhere from death.
Her weak, bony hands are still in mine.