(A melodic or harmonic configuration that creates a sense of repose or resolution.)

"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever." - Psalms 52:8

Monday, June 08, 2009

Day 1: Singapore, Narita, (Tokyo) Nakano, Shinjuku

alvin's mom came over to get me in the wee hours of morning... i think it was 345am, can't really remember now.


excited was i, rolling my very light luggage around the airport with alvin, and upon spotting hanbin, i bounced over like a raving rabbit while alvin plodded along (he only had 3 hours of sleep) to group up. but where's chuuling?
we were supposed to meet at 4am... but only at 430am did she come strolling along with her tiny green luggage case and she was IN HEELS. yeah, she's not a very traditional traveller that's for sure! we had a bit of porridge at T1 after checking in and after all the parents had left:


Alvin: Don't ask me what he's checking out.


crap! i think it's time to board! we quickly walked through the departure gate but DANGGIT my boots had some metal bits so i couldn't get through the metal detector. gahhh. *panic* by the time i took my shoes off (5 min) and walked through the detector again plus wore my boots back on (another 5 min) it was really cutting close to boarding time. alvin was freaking out. haha!

Wasn't so much freaking out as, firstly, wondering if we'd catch the flight, and secondly, getting reminded of the times I used to travel with Caterpillar boots which had metal shielded toes. At least I don't suffer from too-many-buckles.

-_- bah!

even though time was really tight i just had to buy an espresso (HAVEN'T HAD MY MORNING CUPPA YET) before boarding (which really helped kick-start my first day), heh.




by the way, whoever said Northwest Airlines sucked are WRONG. our flight there was so pleasant; the air stewardesses were pretty, soft spoken, gentle and helpful. and the in-flight movies were not a huge range but satisfied me enough (i watched Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and The Notebook which made me cry buckets on the plane - chuu and i were sharing one packet of tissue. *paiseh* AND CAN I JUST GUSH ABOUT RYAN GOSLING HE'S SO DREAMY @_@)

I slept through most of Rock-n-rolla and Madagascar 2... and the flight. The flight there on NWA was pretty darn peaceful.

and the breakfast served in-flight was great! had some omelette thing with... er... loads of other stuff? OH YAR, THERE WAS GOOD YOGURT! yummy. but because i left my bread till last, it somehow hardened into a mini rock over 15 minutes (i was watching Madagascar plus trying to eat at the same time). the blankets and pillow were comfy too. but at one point we all got so uncomfy coz we were sitting straight for about 4 hours so alvin slept on me while i slept on chuuling which helped balanced her own sleeping position. hanbin, as usual, was all 'PLEASE DON'T TOUCH ME, THX.' hahahahaha.

here's the sunrise:




the pilot mentioned temperatures ranging from 13-20 degrees. eeps. time to wrap up.

Perfect temperature for berms, seriously.



once we got out of the plane there was a language barrier immediately. the staff were monitoring for H1N1, so we had to leave our details with them. it was kinda tough and made me totally nervous. but the lady was so sweet and she wrote my name in japanese characters that sounded like bi-bi-en, and then proceeded to try to ask for my staying location. i gave that to her. quite a breeze i thought. then she asked for my number... or at least i think so. after some gestures, i gave her my mobile number. she looked at it quizzically and i had to think hard for some hand signals HAHAHA. in the end i did the phone sign to my ear and i think she got it. OR she might have given up. i'm not sure. heheh.
oh and in japan they take your index finger print, not your thumb print! interesting. :)

the guy at customs really made us laugh because he figured out we were tourists (by our super light bags) by saying just one word: 'shopping?'.

yeah, the guy at customs just prodded my bag a bit, and realising that it was pretty empty, concluded that we were here to fill the bags up. Which we did, and more.

we finally managed to make our way out of the arrival gates, and promptly stopped in our tracks.
er, where to now?

we needed to get the N'Ex-SUICA card (N'Ex is the Narita Express pass and they have a link up with SUICA which is the EZ-link card equivalent in Japan) but we had no idea where it was. seeing a sign that pointed downstairs for 'Trains', we left our trolleys behind (in the middle of nowhere coz there was no place for us leave them! bizarre. and so not like sg man... but that's what makes things fun!) and dragged our luggages along...
only to realize that the trolleys are specialized for use on their escalators. DUH. anyway, thank goodness the N'Ex-SUICA counter was right downstairs so we didn't have to walk far. here's the ticket booth:

and this was my first real chance to use nihongo too! Managed to get some words out, I think it might have helped a little. Counter staff were really friendly - but that wasn't going to be always the case for counter staff at train stations.


while the guys queued, chuuling and i went on a search for our first bidet encounter... but alas, we were disappointed. the airport toilet bowls are normal bowls. cheh.
when we got back to the guys they were frantically waving for us to come quickly!

'we need your passport to buy the tickets and the train's coming soon; HURRY!'

yeah. I thought they went shopping.

once we had our tickets we got unto our platform feeling uncertain and excited. haha. hopefully it's the right platform and train.
here's hanbin passing us our tickets (and that's the N'Ex behind us):


me: 'hey chuu check out the card it's damn pretty!!'


and here is our SUICA card:


yeah we all kept it coz it's chio. :)

I kept cos maybe I go back japan again.

also!! just before we boarded the train, hanbin was so thirsty he decided to buy a drink from the vending machine.

'eh hanbin what flavour is that?'
'is it nice?'
'dunno? *takes a gulp* >.< ... it's really just TEA. no... sugar...'

well, I did warn him that the teas there were unsweetened, but he wanted to try his luck. I did finish his tea for him in a thirsty fit a few days later. yes, the bottle stood in the room... just... mocking him.

we boarded the train and heaved our luggage onto the specific luggage areas at the train doors, then settled into our seats. the train left the platform and it was tunnels all the way when suddenly




'wow look at this/that!' we're both excited as you can tell. :)

this photo still makes me feel pleased, heh heh

darn you.







'? taking picture of me?'


'come so close for what...'


'hehe. come closer.'


bahahahaha!! i love that!!

here's a picture of another train running parallel to our N'Ex (we're getting closer to Tokyo central by now):


... reaching tokyo.


ugh it was crappy having to transfer at shinjuku because we had to drag our luggages out, avoid people and getting our luggages stuck in the gap between the trains and the platforms. i was also afraid my luggage wheels would fall off like nel's in hongkong. *shudder* AND THERE'RE SO MANY STEPS IN THE UNDERGROUND WALKWAYS!! GAH!!! *heave* ARGHHHHH *heave*

also, when you go on an escalator, people in tokyo stand on the left, like in singapore! it's so... orderly. i love it. thanks to the empty space on the right (NOBODY JUST STANDS ON THE RIGHT. EVER.) we managed to run and catch quite a number of trains later in our trip (especially to and from disneyland, which is so very far away T_T).

we took awhile to orientate ourselves and find the exit for the Chuo line. Shinjuku is like City Hall, except there're about 10 exits (or more!) for different lines. and it doesn't mean if you're travelling in the opposite direction you go to the opposite platform which really hoodwinked us.

but it's pretty ok, coz at least they're all JR lines and you don't have to exit and walk outdoors to get to another subway line. we found the Chuo line, thanks to Hanbin's self-made travel map and things didn't look so complicated the next day after we wandered underground for abit. anyways, the real trouble came when we reached Nakano.

nakano from the platform:


ok, we exit through the North exit... then go where? we promptly got lost NOT BECAUSE WE HAD NO SENSE OF DIRECTION, but because the map provided by Sonehouse was pretty lacking of useful/large landmarks. once we stepped out of the subway station i started shivering as the darkness was falling, temperatures were steadily dropping and the winds were whipping our hair back. we walked and stopped, and walked and stopped, until we finally gave up and alvin ran all the way back to the subway station to read the map again.

Actually I ran one junction down... about 50m away.

the wrong way we went:


oh wait, there's a policeman! let's show him the directions by Sonehouse and maybe he can help. the policeman took it, read it, and squinted. then he spoke in rapid Japanese to us and we shrugged apologetically. he tried, stuttered... then framing his arms in a huge X across his body he said gravely, 'GOMENASAI.' i couldn't stop laughing! he was so damn cute! who on earth does that X thing??!?!?! aww mr policeman thanks anyway! he went along his way after smiling sheepishly.


just then alvin ran back to us and said 'hey we're going the right direction! we just can't see the landmarks coz we're on the wrong road!' so we followed his lead, which brought us to a labyrinth of small alleys and after this whole agonizing 45 minutes of being lost (it really sucks!!!) we found sonehouse. thank goodness i remembered its chinese name (dongyang house) because there was only a small sign saying dongyang house instead of Sonehouse. T_T

Yeah, and the japanese name was like... Toyo house or something.

haha check out the teeny lift. chuu hyperventilated for awhile when she saw it coz she's a little claustrophobic:




after finding the uncle and paying him for the next 7 days, he showed us to our room (second floor) and gave us a brief orientation. MAN THE BATHROOM WAS TINY!!! there's a toilet bowl, a basin and a bathtub which u're supposed to squat in (if you stand up and shower you'll get the ENTIRE toilet wet. plus your clothes because they're hanging not far from you.)

we were all like, WOW OKAY THIS MIGHT NOT WORK. but it was alright. we just pretty much laughed at how absurd we're going to look squatting while bathing BUT having a private toilet is better than a shared one at tama ryokan man! (but i guess after you onsen together you're not paiseh about this kinda thing anymore. haha.)

look at the boys just nuaing. IN THE SAME POSITION TOO- FACING THE TV!


after we freshened up, IT'S TIME TO EXPLORE!!! *wriggles*

our first meal: qing ye ramen, which was just downstairs. SO EXCITING MAN IT'S MY FIRST EVER TSUKEMEN (dipping noodles... like soba? except this is ramen and ramen soup). we chose our meal, paid through the vending machine, and collected our receipt. it was unnerving because we couldn't speak a lick of japanese and we didn't want to seem rude because everytime someone went in, the staff will say something (i guess it's 'welcome'?) AND THE GUEST WILL SAY SOMETHING IN RETURN! O_O

but i think i was just scaring myself. it was ok, coz it's pretty obvious we're just 4 nervous and hungry gaijins, so the waitress was pretty patient with us. AND SMILEY! :D so we found our seats and just watched the chef potter around. :D


here's binbin's (normal ramen):


the tsukemen soup:


the entire meal:


THE RAMEN IS SO GOOD. THERE'S NO HUANG MIAN TASTE AT ALL!! but upon realizing that, i was crushed knowing (thinking) i cannot find this in singapore. FOR SURE! T_T the qing ye tsukemen soup was rather salty though. yechhh. chuuling was all, 'WAH SO SALTY AH' but finished everything up. i don't understand her at all, man!

I loved the chasu that came with the noodles - too bad the noodles were cold, which made the dip cold, then much sadness abounded. Still, a very good meal, and I guess I prefer my ramen hot.

after this we headed down to shinjuku! YAY!! swimmer, here we come! :D:D:D


i had previously mapped out our route so once i saw the landmarks i knew my direction and was ready to go. so chuu and i walked ahead of the guys who were busy taking pictures... and promptly got attacked by a bunch of very polite tissue givers. THEY'RE ALL MEN. YOUNG MEN. somehow that was the demographic they chose for giving out tissues.

here's us getting attacked (alvin was laughing while taking pictures):


stupid chuuling took so many (8 packets!!!) that i had to put them in my bag. i bet that's what caused the demise of my mango bag (more about it later. *sob*) the city view was fantastic.


the handsome suit!





i only wanted to go to studio alta, but there was a nearby store where alvin wanted some dessert, so we looked for that first. thank goodness it was found easily enough. it was a fruit palour which sold very very expensive rock melon. and apparently, many such shops exist in japan! crazy expensive la!

It's called Takano, and takai it is. That means expensive. or big. It's kinda both. A few floors, either selling their HAAA-NIII-DIUUUUU or sweets, if not it's the cakes buffet. And then the a la carte stuff which we went for.

the fruit palour's service was impeccable. actually almost everywhere we went in japan, the service is tops. I LOVE THAT ABOUT JAPAN. and i really hate that about singapore. in japan they bow and welcome you, ask you what you need, table for how many, and pretty much shower a bunch of gentleness and professionalism on you. which is so great! in singapore it's even hard to find someone who's POLITE. sigh.

here's the fruit palour place:














my free coffee:


alvin gave us bits of his rock melon (which tried escaping twice) because it was so good. then we all laughed at hanbin because he sucked on the piece of juicy rock melon (alvin offered him some) so hard that he kept making 'jiap jiap' sounds. damn funny hahahaha. and my mango was so fresh BUT... it was not cheap. my dessert cost me more than 1500Y i think. we were so stuffed after that.

too bad we already had our ramen, if not we'd probably go for the sweets buffet. well, next time i guess. once we were done, we headed towards studio alta which was across the road, and went straight to swimmer (basement 1).

ON THE WAY DOWN THE ESCALATOR, MY BAG GAVE WAY AND FLOPPED ONTO THE ESCALATOR STEPS. WHAT THE.... AH CRAP MY STRAP BROKE!!! GAH!!! i just stood there and looked awful for a minute, then braced myself and told myself i'll get a bag at swimmer.

AWW EVERYTHING WAS SO BRIGHT AND CUTE! but i didn't get anything. don't know why. i guess i was afraid to start spending money on the first day. or i could just be really affected and upset that my navy bag is no more. oh well, i told myself i could come back if i wanted to before we leave tokyo.

we moved on to the adjacent shop:


we also checked out lumine for the 3 coins store, but there wasn't much there so we strolled along. wow everything was pretty... expensive. we window shopped until it was time for the shops to close (9pm) and moved on to kabuki-cho which was really nearby too. it was just behind studio alta.


they have durians??!!!?!?!


dunno is it because it's early or what, but there was nothing racy about the street at all! sigh. got all my hopes up for nothing. -_-

early lah. at least got pimps.

i do love how elaborate their shop fronts are though:


AND CHECK OUT THEIR RED BEAN KUEH! alvin took one bite and it burst because it was so full of red bean. awesomes!!

this is the definition of bursting at the seams.


there were quite a number of pimps though the street had nothing much to see. they avoided us because we purposely paired up (just so they knew we're not here for 'sexy time') and we were not their kinda demographic anyway. their target is the japanese salarymen!! or random male teens. yikes. as we tried to get back to shinjuku station, we got lost in their labyrinth of underground tunnels... and saw this!


chuu's favorite:


my fav:


we were pooped when we got back to Sonehouse. and we also realized that Nakano has some iffy pubs coz we saw a whole row of pimps (they have funky hair, wore earpieces and suits). very recognisable.

by the time we got back i was nursing a pretty bad stomachache, and after i used the toilet chuu went in. HEH HEH. she did not last long. we wanted to open the toilet door to ventilate the toilet but the pong will permeate the room in no time, so chuuling just gave me her best pekcek face and went right in.

then i bathed.

then alvin bathed, who was like a giant enclosed in a tiny room because he kept banging into the toilet/bathtub walls. i was actually really concerned he might crash through the thin bathroom walls like the incredible hulk, HAHAHA!!

and here's hanbin wrapping himself up like a burrito (which apparently is his standard sleeping position... like a corpse):


good night and till day 2!



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