Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tokyo Disneyland

The moment we knew we were going to Tokyo, we made sure Disneyland was part of our itinerary. Who does not want to go to Disneyland, right? Since it was my second time there, I knew Disneyland could not be experienced in one day. Hence planning our day in Disneyland started way before the start of our trip. Here are my tips to avoid disappointment and maximize your visit:

1. Buy your tickets online
Why wait in queue (it could be up to a 40 minute wait) when you can enter the park immediately on arrival? The park is closed to visitors when it has reached the maximum number of visitors for the day. Those with pre-purchased tickets are allowed entry (and access to public transportation heading this way). So to avoid disappointment, buy your tickets online.

2. Choose your date
When you buy tickets online, you can also choose your date. If possible, avoid school and public holidays. Less crowd means shorter queues and human traffic. On certain dates, the park open its door earlier too which translates to more time spent in the park.

3. Stay closer to Disneyland (if possible).
While it is not necessary to stay at a Disney Resort, staying within the neighbourhood would save you traveling time. We stayed in Shibuya and it took us about 60 minutes to get there - 50 minutes by train plus a 10 minute walk from the station to the park. There is also a shuttle bus from Shinjuku train station to the resort and vice versa that will take 50 minutes (depending on traffic of course). Truthfully, getting there was not an issue but since we wanted to be at the gates the moment it opened, we had to leave our rented accommodation at least 1.5 hours earlier. Also the hour long commute felt much longer on our way back after nearly 12 hours of fun! 

Staying closer to the park would also mean you could purchase a 2 day pass and return the following day without a long commute.

4. Plan your activities
Theme park map is available online at Tokyo Disney Resort - Map. Print it out and "study" your route. The park is huge! Studying the park and its attractions would certainly help you maximize your day.

Also check their website on latest updates on attractions that are close for maintenance. 

5. FastPass and PrioritySeating
Take advantage of FastPass (for attractions) and PrioritySeating (for restaurants). With these passes, you only need to turn up at the attraction/restaurant within the time frame stipulated. You can queue at another attraction in the meantime. After taking a FastPass, there is a cooling period before you can take another one. Make sure you only take a FastPass for a ride you really want. 
Without FastPass, we probably would have to start queuing at 12:45pm
In between the times indicated, we queued for other attractions or booked a good spot to view the parade.
6. Souvenirs
If you see one you like, buy it there and then. Retail shops are located all over the park and some are specialized ones too. We made a mistake by thinking we could buy a souvenir somewhere else in the park. Unfortunately it was a specialized souvenir and by the time we got round to the shop that sold it, it was close for the day. 

Also, do not forget to send yourself a postcard from Disneyland. Buy your postcard and stamps from Grand Emporium at World Bazaar and mail it out to get the special Disney stamp.

7. Watch the Parades & Shows
You are allowed to book your spot 90 minutes before the start of a parade. Unless you are solely there to watch parades or in a group where you can assign 1-2 friends to reserve that spot while others explore the park, you would probably be looking for a spot last minute. That is OK since the parade runs through the park, chances are you will get a chance to view it from wherever you are (unless you are standing in line). If you do insist on front row seats, bring your mats because you will have to sit on the ground.

Some shows require reservations or by lottery. Reservations can be made online (in Japanese only) a month in advance. If there are seats available on the day itself, you may attempt to walk-in. For lottery shows, head to Tomorrowland Hall and try your luck.

By applying the tips above, we truly had a good time and definitely made the best of our visit. In fact the next time we are in Tokyo, we will definitely visit again.This time we might opt for a 2 day pass and stay somewhere closer to the park shorten our travel time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tassie in 3 days - Final

Cataract Gorge
We arrived in Launceston late evening. It was 6:30pm and we had checked in to the hotel. I persuaded Mr. H to drive to Cataract Gorge as I was hopeful that the attraction would remain open til late since it was summer (our visit was in January 2015). It was also a 10 minute drive from our hotel which made it worth a try. 

Fortunately for us, the grounds were indeed open! There were a couple of adults reading a book by the picnic bench while their kids splashed about in the pool. The last basin chairlift ride took place at 6:00pm. We missed that but we did get to walk around for at least 45 minutes before we left. Even then, a family arrived just as we were leaving. I have no idea what time the place officially close.

We took a lot of pictures during our time there. Here's some to share.
Built in 1972, this chairlift ride is the world's longest single-span chairlift. We did not get to ride since last take off was at 6:00pm (we arrived closed to 7:00pm).
Alexandra Suspension Bridge - first built in 1904. It is quite sturdy and does not swing easily.
It is so peaceful and quiet here.. at that time at least.
Cataract Gorge from the other side (not the entrance side).
We did a short loop to soak in as much as we could and spotted a wallaby. After looking at us curiously, he hopped away into the trees.
I do not know if the place would be this peaceful at other times. Since we arrived an hour after closing time, we sort of had the place to ourselves.
Panoramic view of Cataract Gorge.
Ducks probably thought we were gonna feed them. They quickly swam close to the edge as we walked by. Alexandra Suspension Bridge in the background.
This swimming pool is open to the public. There were a couple of parents reading while their kids splashed away in the pool.

With this last entry, we have come to the end of my Tassie in 3 days series. Overall, it was a wonderful trip but seriously, 3 days is just not enough to absorb the real Tasmania. We definitely would like to go back and hopefully, we can stay on for about a month or so. Hahahaha.. 

Click on the quick links to read about the other places we covered on our 3 day Tassie adventure: Day 1 - Part 1 & part 2Day 2 - Part 3 & part 4Day 3 - Part 5 & final

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tassie in 3 days - Part 5

Summary of Day 3 (Clockwise): Spikey Bridge,
Fresh oysters at Frecinet, Cataract Gorge &
Coles Bay.
On our final full day in Tasmania, we drove from Hobart to Launceston via Freycinet. Ninety minutes into the drive, we realised that the distance was longer than what we expected (see what happens when not proper planning is done?). We decided it was best to lower our expectations by reducing the number of sights to visit. This way we could enjoy the little that we could instead of trying to squeeze in everything and enjoy nothing.

Spiky Bridge
Approximately 2 hours from Hobart, we arrived at Spiky Bridge. It was drizzling, so we decided to appreciate this historical bridge from the comfort of our car! Hahaha.. Two other groups thought and did the same too. Fortunately, it was an attraction that did not require much effort from a visitor. 

The highlight of this bridge would be the architecture - stones are placed in vertical positions resulting in a spiky look (hence the name). Not much to do here except take pictures. If it was not raining, I would have probably walked across the bridge for a photo or two. There is a board with some historical information about the bridge for your reading pleasure  (it is clearly readable from inside your car, no need to step out).

If you are not in a hurry, you could stop at Great Oyster Bay which is located opposite the bridge. Nice spot for pictures too.

Spiky Bridge - built by convicts in 1843.
From Spiky Bridge, we drove towards Freycinet. With no definite plan, we were happy to see a signboard directing us to the visitor information center. Throughout our trips in Australia, we often depended on recommendations from friendly staff manning the visitor information center and have not been disappointed once. This time was no different and we eagerly drove towards the center to listen to what they have in store for us. Upon reaching the center, I cannot help but laugh and realised that this time we were on our own.

Visitor Information Center - was just a shed.
We were not the only ones who needed help. Anonther couple were already going through the recommendations that were displayed at the shed. Despite being unmanned, it was quite informative and gave us an idea or two on what to do. Once done with taking notes, we drove on to Freycinet National Park.

Wineglass Bay is one of the popular attractions in Freycinet National Park. To actually stand on the beach there, one would need to trek for at least 2 hours (4 hours return) and it is not something that can be done ad-hoc. Due to the difficulty level of the trail, this trek is best planned in advance. Since we made no planning whatsoever, getting to Wineglass Bay was not an option for us. 

After a quick stop at the Visitor Center (this one was manned with friendly staff),  we were presented with several doable options. One was to drive to Cape Tourville and walk along the boardwalk to the light house. The route was along the cliffline and we managed to catch a tiny glimpse of Wineglass Bay from here. This was the closest we got to the famous bay. Hahaha
No matter how hard you squint, you won't be able to see Wineglass Bay in this picture (it is the thin line of white located on the right side of this picture towards the back.. in between the two "mountains").
Lighthouse at end of Cape Tourville's boardwalk.
There was nothing much to do at the lighthouse and we made our way back to the car. We then walked towards Sleepy Bay (approx 10 minutes) and Little Gravelly Beach (approx 30 minutes). The walk was not difficult but extra care was required at  certain areas - steep and slippery. While I managed well with my walking shoes, proper shoes with good grip are definitely recommended. 
Part of the trail leading down to Little Gravelly Beach. This is the not slippery part.
At the bottom is a quiet cove with big rock boulders. This spot is much quieter than the lighthouse. You could swim here if you wanted to, although there were no takers when I was there. We took pictures and made our way back to the car.
Quiet cove with big rock boulders.
Looks like I am about to be swallowed by a giant worm.
No swimmers that day. Not as windy at the cove compared to the lighthouse too.
There were quite a number of activities one could do here at Freycinet. Unfortunately these were the only areas we got to cover. To maximise your visit and planning, I recommend you to read up all the activities you can do here at http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3371. This was something I should have done prior to the trip.. but it's OK, we learn from our experiences right?

Lunch was at Freycinet Marine Farm after reading good reviews from Tripadvisor.com. I thoroughly enjoyed everything we ordered - oysters & mussels. Not exactly the cheapest but not expensive either.
Fresh oysters
Only shells left - mussels and oysters.
With a full tummy, we said our goodbyes to Freycinet and drove on to Launceston. I had to snap this signboard. What do you think does it mean? 
Beware of
a. hitting a kangaroo or
b. kangaroo lifting your car?
Oooo.. we stopped at Bicheno Blowhole too since we were in the area. Personally I was not impressed at all after getting "baptised" by Kiama Blowhole. Here's a video of Bicheno taken in January 2015.

video

To be continued.. 

Click on the quick links to read about the other places we covered on our 3 day Tassie adventure: Day 1 - Part 1 & part 2Day 2 - Part 3 & part 4Day 3 - Part 5 & final

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tassie in 3 days - Part 4


Mount Wellington

After our Richmond tour, we headed straight for Mount Wellington since we had a couple of hours to kill before dinner. It was quite an uphill drive and I salute the lone cyclist who was cycling UPHILL to the top! 

The higher we drove, the foggier it got. When we finally got to the peak, there was not much of a view with all the fog and what not. However we still walked around the area since we were already there (we were not the only ones as 2 cars arrived after us and did the same).

I can't recall the structure behind us. I am sure if we were there earlier in the day, we would have had a fantastic view of Hobart.
It was 3 degrees, misty/foggy and you could hardly see anything. I don't think I was dressed warm enough for that temperature too!
20 minutes later, we decided to make our way down the mountain. It was getting colder, darker and you could not see anything anyways. If you are going to visit this mountain peak, I would suggest you go during the day - the weather could be better and there would be more to see.
The sky "cleared" up as we descended the mountain.
Amazing landscape - rocks, city and water.
We ended day 2 by catching up with Mr H's new found swim buddy, Sanjay. It's amazing how swimming can connect people together. Hahaha.
Me, Sanjay and Mr. H.

After two nights in Hobart, we made our way to Launceston the following day.

To be continued.. 

Click on the quick links to read about the other places we covered on our 3 day Tassie adventure: Day 1 - Part 1 & part 2Day 2 - Part 3 & part 4Day 3 - Part 5 & final


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tassie in 3 days - Part 3

On our first day in Tasmania, we spent most of the time in Port Arthur and reached the hotel only at 10:00pm. While the drive to and fro was longer than expected, we managed to visit Tessellated Pavement at Eagleneck Historic Site, embarked on a 3 hour eco-cruise and explored Port Arthur Convict SettlementSince we were heading to Launceston on our third day in Tasmania, we decided to abort our plan to drive to Freycinet (another long drive) and visit sites closer to Hobart instead.

p.s. If we could have done it differently, we would have spent the night at Port Arthur instead of heading back to Hobart on the same day.

That morning, we made our way to Hobart Travel Centre. You can get a lot of information from there - guide books, brochures, free consultation from helpful staff and also purchase tour tickets. After considering all options, we purchased tickets for Richmond Historic Village.

Pick up point was outside Hobart Travel Centre. There were 12 of us in total. Majority of us had signed up to visit Richmond Historic Village only. There were some who also coupled their tour with a visit to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. It took us 40 minutes to Richmond with a quick stop at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary along the way.


Clockwise: Richmond Bridge, Old Hobart Model
Town, 
dinner with Sanjay at Salamanca
Mt Wellington.
This tour was a free and easy tour. Richmond is not that big and you can get from one point to the other on foot. Our bus driver gave us suggestions on places to visit - Old Hobart Model Town, Richmond Gaol, Richmond Bridge, St John's Catholic Church and Richmond Maze & Tea Rooms. He then left us to fend for ourselves while he made his way to pick up the others who were at the wildlife sanctuary. He would be back for us within 2 hours or so (seems like he was driving back and forth between these two locations).

We decided not to do the maze. First, it would take at least an hour to complete. Second, it is best to do it at the beginning of your tour. This way if you took longer than usual, you will not be late for departure. After going reading reviews of this place from tripadvisor.com, we decided to give it a miss.

From the parking lot near Richmond Gaol, we walked to Richmond Bridge - oldest working bridge in Australia.

A short walk down hill from the parking lot will lead you to the bridge.
A nice quiet spot to relax or reflect. The yellow building on the right was on sale at the point of our visit.
Close of up view bridge. Originally named Bigge's Bridge.
A historic marker set into bridge.
St John's Catholic Church
From Richmond Bridge, we made our way to St John's Catholic Church. It was a nice 10-15 minute walk. 

St John's church is Australia's oldest Catholic church. Located on top of a small hill, it was empty when we arrived. Visitors were allowed to walk in and out as they pleased. The only rule was to make sure the door is closed shut to prevent birds from flying in. Merchandise were also available for sale at the front of the church. No one mans the counter and visitors just need to place their money inside a tin can provided. 
Looks like an abandoned church from this angle. Would not want to walk here alone at night. Imagination would run wild.
Not scary at all from the front.
I just love stain glass windows.

Old Hobart Town Model Village
From St John's church, we walked back to the parking lot at Richmond Gaol. Not sure what to do next, we walked around the village until we saw a sign Old Hobart Town Model Village (I do not know why we did not visit the gaol). Due to good reviews online, we decided to enter since it was another 70 minutes before our bus driver came for us.

This model village depicts life as it was in Hobart in the 1820s. To keep us engaged during our time there, we were given a task to spot 4 figurines hidden in various parts of the model. It was all in the name of fun as there are no prizes if you had successfully spotted them all.

Wandering through this village allows you to see for yourself what life could have been back then. As we entered, we were given a map that clearly illustrates the buildings that still remain today and those that are no longer standing. If you are into history, you would enjoy this place.


Our starting point.
See how small (or is it big) the model village is?
There are approximately 500 figurines used in the story telling of this place.I enjoyed looking out for jokes and funny stories told using figurines. Here you can see a couple in an amorous embrace.
It did not take us long to complete our tour of this model village. In fact in 40 minutes, we went round twice to make it our money's worth (costs us $15 each). They do have children's prices and also family packages, so it might be worth while to check out.

After the model village, we walked about the shops for a bit before making our way back to the bus.

While we enjoyed our day in Richmond, I felt it the tour was not value for money. We initially thought it would be a guided tour. Instead we were left to our own devices other than the recommendation from our bus driver. In fact, the only reason why I would only recommend anyone to sign up for this tour is because you do not have your own set of wheels. Otherwise, save some money and drive yourself there (or perhaps look out for guided tours).

Our second day in Tassie did not end here. Stay tuned for the next installment of Tassie in 3 days.

To be continued.. 

Click on the quick links to read about the other places we covered on our 3 day Tassie adventure: Day 1 - Part 1 & part 2Day 2 - Part 3 & part 4Day 3 - Part 5 & final

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tassie in 3 days - Part 2

Port Arthur Convict Settlement
Mr. H surprised me with his announcement that we were going to Port Arthur Convict Settlement. After our 3 hour eco-cruise (read about it here), I was ready to call it a day and wanted to start our 90 minute drive back to Hobart. Before I could protest, we had arrived at Port Arthur Convict Settlement site. Turns out it was only 100m away from the cruise operator's office.

It was about 6:15pm when we arrived. Fortunately for us, it does not close at 5:00pm during summer months. We purchased our entry tickets (it was cheaper since some of the services and tours were done for the day). The lady at the counter was most helpful - she marked our map for sites that close by 7:00pm and advised us to head there first. These are house museums. Other buildings are open until closing time.



We began our tour from Visitor Centre itself. As you enter the exhibit, you are given a "convict card". From then on, you need to follow the trail of your convict to find out what happens to him/her. Once done, we headed straight to Commandment's House because this was one of the 4 house museums that close by 7:00pm. Our strategy was to head to the house museums first and then visit the other buildings at leisure. Anyway to get there, we had to walk towards The Penitentiary. The view was just mesmerizing. One could just sit there and watch the world go by.
Such a perfect picture: Mason Cove on the left, The Penitentiary on the right and green grass in the middle. The weather was awesome too as you can see, blue skies and white clouds.
The Penitentiary is an "open" building today. The building has no roof. While most parts of the building are not accessible, there is a viewing platform that allows you view inside.
Another view of Mason Cove - probably zoomed in from Law Courts building.
Looking down from Senior Military Officer's Quarters.
Wooden bridge that connects one area to another.
It's quite a walk to get from one building to the other - better wear your most comfortable footwear as you will be walking uphill, downhill, on grass and gravel path. I suppose the place would be crowded during the day. We knew we were not the only ones as we bumped into an elderly couple and a family of 4 during our visit.
What's left of the Hospital - only two walls. The other parts of the building were damaged in two bush fires that took place in 1895 and 1897. Guess it was never rebuilt.
Hospital in the background.
We then made our way to Trentham, another house museum that close at 7:00pm. It is a house that belonged to the Trenthams. The house and garden has been restored and the public are allowed to wander through and have a glimpse of how life was back then.
Soldiers' Memorial Avenue - these trees are close to a 100 years old. Planted in 1918 to commemorate the men from this area who fought in the Great War, some of the trees were felled as part of the renewal project. Other trees although healthy, will be removed and replanted over the next 10 years.
The Separate Prison is located beside Soldiers' Memorial Avenue. Be sure to stop there. I do not have pictures of it, yet I can still remember the structure and layout of this building. Separate Prison was built to introduce a new method of punishment - through isolation and contemplation (as oppose to physical punishment). Those days, prisoners were placed in their cell for 23 hours a day. 1 hour was for exercise and even then within confines of a wall.They are not allowed to speak to anyone, even the guards. Today when visitors enter the building, we are asked to do the same - no talking, no communicating even in sign language to one another.

Walking through the building or walking by others to read materials on display in silence certainly brings your experience to another level. It was quite a challenge! At one point,it got too eerie as even the littlest of sound was echoed through the empty halls (it did not help that it was 7:00pm and getting dark inside). 

We then walked to The Church. Along the way, we made quick stops at Visiting Magistrate's House, Roman Catholic Chaplain's House, Junior Medical Officer's House, Accountant's House and Parsonage. We briefly entered Junior Medical Officer's house as it was still open when we arrived. Parsonage however was closed to visitors by the time we arrived.
Convict Church was destroyed in a fire and has undergone repeated conservation work. This is how it looks today. Inside part of the building are 7 bells. There is suppose to be an 8th bell that is still missing and have not been found.
Time capsule buried here on 2/10/1977. To open on 2/10/2077.
Making our way back to Visitor Centre, we walked through Government Gardens. This area was meant to be a place to go to be away from the unwanted presence of convicts (at that time of course). Today is it a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the view.

Water fountain in Government Gardens.
If you are looking for added adventure, sign up for the nightly Ghost Tour. Places are limited and you need to book early. 

Visitors would need to leave the grounds by 8:30pm. It might be possible to cover every area one day if you breeze your way through. It is quite impossible to do so in 2 hours. We did not cover at least 8 attractions which included Memorial Garden, The Isle of Dead and Point Puer Boys' Prison. So it is great to know that the day passes are valid for 2 days. This means you can spend the night in Port Arthur or even Eagleneck's Historic site which is 30 minutes away and come back the next day to carry on from where you left off. In our case, after a quick dinner at Port Cafe, we made the 90 minute drive back to Hobart.

To be continued.. 

Click on the quick links to read about the other places we covered on our 3 day Tassie adventure: Day 1 - Part 1 & part 2Day 2 - Part 3 & part 4Day 3 - Part 5 & final