What to do when you really suck at directions

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I am probably the worst person alive at remembering directions. I once took a test to try to become a pilot but I’m so glad I didn’t because the plane would probably go missing like entering the bermuda triangle. 😂

Trust me, I need like at least five trips to remember how to go to one place – eg. my cabin onboard.

Every time I change ships, I always ALWAYS GET LOST. Like I freaking can’t remember where my cabin is. Especially when you are in a big ship that is as bit as a city – like close to 10K people. When i first moved to Japan, I moved into my apartment at 8pm. It was a very quiet neighborhood. But.. that’s not the problem. The problem was, my house was stuck in the middle of the estate and all the houses look the same! 😱

Basically, I could get lost the moment I step out of my apartment. I could probably open my neighbor’s door (Like WTF?). I remember I was so hungry I nearly died in the new apartment as there was no food, not even toilet paper. It was then I realized that it’s a do or die situation to get my bum out of the house.

So here’s the tip:

What to do if you suck at directions

1. Brightness

If you’re heading for civilization, go towards the direction where it seems brighter. Usually the lights are all congregated at the train station. Whichever there is light, there are (possibly) human beings = help = shops = food = water = survival!!

2. Know your left from right, front from back

This is essential for figuring out where you are and how to go back to where you came from. If you could find a landmark (bullet point 3), stand at the landmark and remember what you could see in all directions. If you can’t remember all that, at least remember one piece of information such as “I see a statue on my left.”. With this information, you can trace back your steps!

3. Landmarks

Landmarks are essential in helping you to find your way! For example, there was a railway track two streets away from my apartment, I counted the number of houses I would pass before I reach the railway track. You could also use signboards (but if they remove it, that’s it though) or try to find something special you could spot in the area which are different from the rest.

4. Personalize

Well this doesn’t mean you should destroy property, but rather it helps you differentiate your door from your neighbor’s door. In the neighborhood i was in, all the buildings looked the same. All the walls and windows and doors are in the same color. Now it’s your chance to hang that piece of funny door decor you always wanted. The bigger the better, the easier to spot! (Think about easier spotting of your luggage on the luggage belt if it’s bright pink!)

5. GPS

Well, to be honest GPS doesn’t point you right to the door. Probably just to the right building. I don’t rely on GPS because if my phone is flat, I’m dead. But still, it helps.

6. Bring a friend

I love this one the most! Bringing your friends to your house or having a flat mate, your problem of getting lost is solved! (Unless your friend is like you then uh..) This might sound really lame but it is a technique i used frequently while i was living by myself in the neighborhood. 😂

I hope you had some fun reading this article. Last but not least, if you still can’t figure your way out, take a cab! 😀

 

Shiretoko Five Lakes Tour

Shiretoko is famed for its crystal clear lakes and possibly has one of Japan’s clearest lakes. Unfortunately I couldn’t show you in pictures because it is all snow covered. But the tour guide told me that it is best to visit Shiretoko in Autumn when all the leaves are red and yellow which would be a beautiful sigh to behold! 😍

The Five Lakes (知床五湖)are situated in close proximity to each other and they are in a protected zone by the eco-organization. Meaning that, you are not allowed to go there on your own. Hiring a tour-guide is a must. There are only a certain number of people who are allowed to enter into the park per day.

My buddy and I joined a snowshoe tour in the morning before we did the ice walking tour in the afternoon. The weather was perrrrrfect! Really, i had my fingers crossed the previous night. 🤞

Some pictures during the tour:

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Bear claw marks!

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Blue sky. Good weather. Nothing more i could ask for.

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What a glorious view!

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Trudging along.

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At one point, the tour guide called us to a tree which puzzled me as I thought he was gonna show us something special. But he asked for a volunteer to squat under the tree. Lo and behold!

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We finally took a break after reaching the last lake! photo GOPR0889_1488620625071_high_zpsgdrz9akq.jpg photo GOPR0890_1488620615743_high_zps7gjqkzc3.jpg

And finally, towards the end of the tour… photo 20170304_110111_zps7fuc7hae.jpg photo 20170304_110443_zpsggw3rc4e.jpg photo 20170304_110222_zpsloqycrkj.jpg

Overlooking a sea of drift ice!

Hope you enjoyed this article.

Some useful information:

Traveling To and Around in Hokkaido

Traveling to Hokkaido has been made relatively easy now with the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen since March 2016. It now takes about four and a half hours from Tokyo to Hakodate which is south of Hokkaido. Easy! No scanning of baggage and waiting around for planes.
I have yet to try this out but this is something I am gonna do next time. I took a plane this time because the bullet train is still more costly and also the plane ride takes less than 2 hours.

We bought the JR Hokkaido Pass this time but I definitely felt it was very underused. At 24,000 yen, we probably only used this for 4 or 5 days and wasted 2 days of it. To be honest, Hokkaido is really vast and this pass only allows us to take JR trains and not the bullet trains. We only had 7 days and it really isn’t enough because we spend half the time traveling. Due to my biasness to Biei and Furano, we stayed in Biei for the first 3 nights. We made new friends there and they ended up driving us for Day 2 and Day 3! (Note: we arrived on Day 1 evening) They also drove us all the way to Abashiri which was like about 4-5 hrs away by train. If they hadn’t drove us, we couldn’t have reached there earlier. The amount of JR trains we took probably didn’t cover the cost of the Pass as well. To go to Utoro, you have to take a bus from Shiretoko which wasn’t cheap but not covered under JR. Boo.

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Shiretoko station.

And so, my advice is – don’t buy the 7 days Hokkaido Pass. Instead, the flexible 4-day pass would be a better choice. Why? The reason is because you will end up getting so tired of just moving everyday with your luggage and the places are so pretty and there are so much to see and do in one place that you would want to stay longer than 1 night in 1 place! Really. After discussing with my buddy, we really should’ve bought the flexible 4-day pass instead.

But wait – there’s an even better option if you are traveling to Tokyo after that.

The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass!!

It covers the Hokkaido Shinkansen all the way to Tokyo at just 2000 yen more than the normal Hokkaido Rail Pass!! PLUS it is flexible 6 days use in a 14-day period!! Like wow.

Seriously. I should have gotten this. I wonder why I didn’t know about it then.

In summary:

1 – If you can rent a car and drive around, that’s the best – because the best places in Hokkaido are inaccessible by train. If we hadn’t had the ojisans to drive us around, we probably wouldn’t have seen the best parts.

2- Get the JR Hokkaido Pass flexible 4-day if you only have 1 week to spend in Hokkaido. Or get the JR East-South Hokkaido Pass if you have 2 weeks to spend in Hokkaido and you are heading down south all the way to Tokyo after that.

 

 

Drift Ice Walking Tour

Drift ice also known as Ryuhyou (流氷) is a phenomenon that is commonly sighted in winter from late January and till late March. It really depends on the wind direction and weather, to be honest. This time, my friend and I signed up for a drift ice walking tour for our YOLO experience so I shall be sharing more about this.

We signed up the tour by Shinra, an environmental group that runs eco tours in Shiretoko. They do a few other tours too so you can mix and match or pick a full day tour. Bear in mind that you would be asked for your weight when you sign up so please be truthful about this so you get the correct size of dry suit plus you won’t crack all the ice.

Price: 5100 yen for adults. 2600 yen for kids 7-12.

The tours conduct pickup at a few designated places and hotels. In our case, we actually booked a hotel in that list which turned out to be probably the best hotel i stayed for this trip. We chose to stay at Prince Hotel Kazanomiki (プリンスホテル風のみき).

Word of advice here: do note the name of the tour guide you are assigned to in the confirmation as there can be another tour at the same time as yours by another tour guide.

We got taken away in a small van and we were told to change into the dry suits provided by the tour guide. You would have to wear something warm inside like a base layer and if possible a fleece jacket if it is really cold.

The dry suit is actually not easy to put on. It feels like you are binded by rubber and i think i probably walked like a penguin.

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My buddy Helen in her dry suit

To add on to yout sense of security, you will never drown in this as the dry suit keeps you afloat on the water. Plus, it helps u stay warm! I frankly didn’t feel cold in this.

And then the tour guide started leading us to the seaside and we treaded on the ice in one line. She tested out the path and made sure that we don’t step on thin ice. Well, it wasn’t easy. Some ice are so slippery that I could hardly stand up. Some people fell a few times and that’s normal.

For me, the experience was …kinda terrifying. I was so conscious of my step then and while shooting with my gopro that I lost my step quite a few times. The ice was moving as we walked. It was thrilling. I was wondering if I would fall into the water anytime.

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Dipping my toes in the icy cold sea.

Adding on, you are actually able to fully immerse into the water! (If you dare to)

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We stayed and watched the sunset and it was probably the most memorable experience i did the entire trip. We were so lucky to be able to do it that day because the following day most of the ice were already swept away by the wind!

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Here is a video I made from the tour:

Enjoy!

Top 5 Must-see Hokkaido Spots in Winter 

In this post, I’m gonna share my top favourite spots in Hokkaido which not many people know about. These spots are recommended to me by the locals while I was living there. If you have only been to Sapporo, then you haven’t seen the REAL beauty of Hokkaido.

Spots are not in any particular ranking. All places are accessible via JR trains and buses.

  1. Biei
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Mile Seven Hill in Biei @dingalingy_

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Foxtracks at Mile Seven hill in Biei @dingalingy_

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Biei hills 美瑛の丘

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Ken and Mary tree, Biei ケンとメリーの木

Biei, also named Patchwork hills, is one of the prettiest places in Hokkaido and Japan. Your favourite Calbee potatoes are grown here if you still do not know. Biei is also famous for its agricultural products such as onions and pumpkin.

The reason why it is called Patchwork hills is because every season, you can see something different about this place.

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Biei hills in Autumn after harvest.

2. Furano

Furano is well know for its flower fields in spring and summer. In winter, you can’t see any of that but nevertheless it is still pretty like a winter wonderland.

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At Shikisai no oka, Furano.

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Ningle Terrace ニングルテラス

3. Shiretoko – Utoro

In winter around Feb to mid March, tons of drift ice (Ryuhyou 流氷) from the Okhotsk sea would gather at Abashiri and Shiretoko. It’s a sight not to be missed!  photo GOPR0985_1488619114762_high_zps4dvgmfro.jpg

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Drift ice at Shiretoko @dingalingy_ 流氷

You can do even walk on the drift ice! There’s lot of tours doing that. I’m gonna write a separate post on that.

You also cannot miss going to the Shiretoko Five Lakes. It is also said that they are one of the clearest lakes in Japan. But in winter they are frozen and covered with snow but still the snow capped mountains are a sight to behold.

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Shiretoko five lakes 知床五湖

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Close up of Shiretoko five lakes 知床五湖

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Shiretoko five lakes snowshoe tour

There are snowshoe walking tours conducted for Shiretoko Five Lakes. Bear in mind that this is a protected zone and only a certain number of visitors are allowed into this area and has to be led by a guide. Sightings of wild animals such as bears are not common in winter as they are still hibernating.

4. Teshikaga

A lot of people don’t know that actually Teshikaga is a really beautiful place. It is not common on the tourist radar because of the lack of promotion of its tourist spots.

However in Teshikaga, you can actually see this:

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Lake Mashu @dingalingy_

A huge crater lake that used to formed part of an active volcano.

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Lake Kushiro canoeing

There’s plenty of activities you can do such as hot air balloon rides, canoeing, snowshoe tours. It is also very close to Lake Akan, another famous lake in Hokkaido.

5. Otaru

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To be honest, I really only went to Otaru for this Canal and its sweets. It’s a huge draw for couples. If you are going to visit with your partner, this is a must-go place with your other half. In winter, this place turns ultra romantic when it snows.

Otaru is also the mecca of pastry sweets (in japanese we call it sweets). Many famous candymakers have their main branch there. For example:

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LeTao

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Rokkatei 六花亭

There’s also Kitakarou (北菓楼). All these shops have free tastings which is why I usually skip dessert after lunch.

However, beware of the hoards of tourists here.

Hokkaido, my favorite place on earth.

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It has been more than 3 years since I last set foot on this land. This snowscape from the plane makes me feel even more excited than ever and I immediately wished that it was Christmas.
This vacation I chose to reconnect with my old friends whom I met more than 3 years ago. The keyword is “reconnect”. And this time round, I decided to come in winter to have my slice of winter wonderland. If you have read my previous blogposts where I was working as a helper at a guesthouse, you guessed it right – I’m heading back there – but this time round as a guest!

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Me, frozen to my toes at Biei station.

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Hallway

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A warm and welcoming entrance.

I’m gonna say a few words of advice to travellers seeking the authentic experience of Hokkaido as I’ve lived here before. Yes, hotels are comfortable but nothing beats staying in a place that you can feel like home. And this is the number one reason why people kept coming back.

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Hoshi no Anne, Biei

Hoshi No Anne | Email: hoshinoanne-hata@nifty.com

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View from the dining room the next morning.

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Breakfast – Western style.

Breakfast consists of fresh salad and fruit and some pumpkin potage. The main is actually homemade bread made by the owner which i have simply forgot to take picture of as i was too hungry and busy eating.

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Check out the view!

In any case this place is full and you failed to secure a room, you can also check out this place which is a similar rustic cottage guesthouse located not far away:

Alp Lodge Biei

http://www.alp-lodge.comE-mail alp-lodge@memoad.jp