Saturday, November 15, 2014

Summer Hokkaido - Around Lake Toya

When people talks about Hokkaido, usually the first thing that come in most people's mind is WINTER. Well, for once, this post has totally nothing to do with the white snowy scenery. Instead it's a hot summer Hokkaido.

According to our tour guide, he said that in Hokkaido, winter is for 6 months and the period that we were there was probably the hottest for the year. Yet it is a rainy days when we were there. I think they hardly see the sun. Hence, most people would go to Hokkaido for its winter, ski and of course the Onsen.

But I think the other seasons are pretty too. Just like this Summer when we were there. Although it's rainy but we managed to enjoy most of it. On the 2nd day, we go around Lake Toya for some sight seeing and cherry plucking experience before heading to Otaru, another small quiet town which I missed out a lot of photo opportunity due to the rain and storm.

Anyway, here's some of the places that you can consider to visit in Lake Toya.

1. Walk around Lake Toya (duh!!)

ME! outside of our hotel which is the Lake Toya. It's really a waste for not being able to enjoy the beautiful lake around our hotel :(

2. Take photos of flower farms at the road side illegally with permissions
On our way, we stopped by at this beautiful sunflower farm owned by someone to take some photos. It's illegal to step into people's farm without permission. So, yes, we did it quick like a flashlight yo.

 It would be prettier with blue sky .. What a shame of the weather

 Just Us :D


3. Cherry Plucking - Eat all You CAN!!
Then, our tour guide suggested to go for cherry plucking that is eat all you can with 800 yen per person. Seriously, where can you have all the cherries for this kind of price .. At least not in Malaysia lor. 

CHERRIESSSS !!!!! Just need to share all these photos cz they are pretty and yummy. HEHEHE. And of course you just got to post with them :D

I think each of us managed to have AT LEAST 20 - 30 of the yummy cherries in less than half an hour. AHH .. Can't get enough of them. You won't get them if you are here in Winter *wink*

4. Northern of Lake Toya
Moving on, we went to another side of Lake Toya which they have a small park with a small pagoda in the middle (not really) of the Lake. 

Along the way, we saw this symbolic creature-looking stone ..

It didn't really occur to me what does it represent .. Thought was just something random decoration they have it there .. LOL .. Until the tour guide asked us to look at the tree next to it and we saw this ..

Look like a cocoon right? Well, you are partially right but no, it's not a cocoon to a caterpillar/ butterfly.

It's a cocoon for other type of insects I would describe it. According to Xiao Huang, this will be formed on the leaves where i-dont-know-how-many-types of insects will live in it before they turned adult. (If I got my facts right).

This stone-arch thing is made out of purely stacking the stones itself. 20 of them, i think? Do your counting.

It was drizzling when we were here so we just did a quick walk and enjoy the breeze.

5. Lake Hill Farm

People say hokkaido's milk are just yummy and I got to admit that, coming from a person who totally loves milk. But again, we hardly see any cows wondering around. Wonder where are they hiding. Hrmmm ...

Lake Hill Farm

Here for their ice-cream!!!

I had the milk and blue salt .. It's yummy luuu .. They also had flavours like sesame (which is very very very nice!!), green tea, honey dew etc ...

Photo courtesy of Mr Hor .. Love this pikchur .. 

6. Spring Water at Fukidashi Park
After fruits and ice-cream, it's water time .. So, here we are for spring water ... After enjoying the water mountain during my Kashmir treks, I do miss those sweet cold water from the mountain. So glad that I can have it again here in Hokkaido ..

 Drink and fill all the spring water!!!!!

7. Coffee near Fukidashi Park
Imagine you make coffee/tea with these spring water .. Would be awesome right .. And u know what, they do have a small coffee shop making yummy coffee with these water .. OMG lor ..

Us with our coffeeeee ...

Without having to wait for our foods to digest, we then head just down the road for our lunch. We suddenly felt like we are having a food trip .. LOL .. Where's my flower yo !!!

Anyway, came to this small cosy hut ..

8. Soba Noodle near the Spring Water 

So small that it only fits probably 10 people at one time? This restaurant serves homemade soba noodles that you can choose to be cold or hot.

 Hot Soba

Cold Soba

Both are just awesome ...

9. Yamanaka Dairy Farm (on the way to Otaru)
We then continue our journey to Otaru but with another stop for milk (which I think this is already in the area of Otaru la) but still want to put in this post just cz it's food related xD..

Apparently this is one of the popular milk from la ... Yes, it's nice .. 

Le milk and ice-cream AGAIN .. hehehe

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Summer Hokkaido - The Onsen Experience @ Lake Toya

Somewhere earlier in April or May, I was yet again desperate for trips. Initially I tried to make plan to Myanmar in July but only after realising that it is a monsoon season hence decided to postponed the trip. And randomly, we decided to just go Hokkaido for the infamous Lavender at Furano. Thanks to dad's friends who arranged mostly and we engaged with a local tour agent whom actually is a Taiwanese but has been based in Japan mainly act as the driver cum tour guide.

As there were no direct flight from M'sia to Hokkaido, Japan hence the cheapest connecting flight that we could get is via China Eastern Airlines. It's a budget airline and we also do transit in Shanghai. Our transit at Shanghai Airport was about 5 hours and by the time we arrived there was like 8 something in the morning.

I was kinda expecting the airport in Shanghai to be very grand but i think this is not the main airport of Shanghai ...

But the airport is loooonnnggg as in when you walk from one end to another probably will take you more than 20 mins.

And when you are in Shanghai, you eat Shanghai food ...

Shanghai's dim sum which definitely is not great to eat in Airport... :X

Moving on .. our flight were delayed for almost an hour due to some air traffic closure earlier on. Reached Sapporo, Hokkaido quite late and we got about 2 hour journey on the road to Lake Toya where we will be staying for the night.

Many thanks to our driver/tour guide, Xiao Huang, we reached Lake Toya just in time for the Summer Fireworks which they actually will have it every night. But because we are staying there only just one night, so this is our only time to see it. I don't have the luxury to set up my tripod, which I mainly carried to Japan just for this though :( so this is the best shot that I could get of the fireworks.

The fireworks are actually from a boat (if you can see from the photos above) and the boat will be moving around the lake. And yes, in this case, the lake is big .. For more information, please read the following extract .. xD

About Lake Toya (from Japan National Tourism Organization):
Lake Toya, which is situated in the southwestern part of Hokkaido, belongs to Shikotsu-Toya National Park. This caldera lake lies 11km east and west, 9km south and north and measuring 43km around. The active volcano that stands proudly near the lake with white smoke rising above it is Mt.Usu. It is one of the most active volcanoes, with repeated eruptions on a cycle of between 30 and 50 years. Its most recent eruption was in 2000. Live craters and the remains produced by volcano eruption can be closely observed. It was registered in world Geopark for the first time in Japan in 2010. Lake Toya hot spring, which stretches out along the lake, is one of the best spa resorts in Hokkaido. Various events such as fireworks are held throughout the year. The G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit was held in 2008. Many people from around the world gathered at Lake Toya. Abundant in nature, it is an excellent place to exchange world view on the global environment and climate change. There are many places of interest around Lake Toya including the Volcano Science Museum where they show visual images of the eruption that occurred in 1977 and 2000, complete with a special sound system. 
Lake Toya is an ice-free lake. It never freezes, even in winter when the temperature falls quite drastically. The beauty of the ice-free lake can therefore be admired anytime during the year. There are big and small four islands called Nakajima in the middle of the lake, and on it is the Toyako Forest Museum, which is a part of the sightseeing boat route. Trout and smelt fishing are very popular sports in and around the lake. There are also fully facilitated camping sites.

After that, we checked into our hotel and had our late dinner which the restaurant was already closed but they managed to sort of packed it for us into le bento style.

It's so coroufulllll .... But the only downside is that it's cold already yet it's still yummy la .. And look at that sashimi ~! I didn't dare to have much of sashimi cause I have quite a sensitive tummy so I tried to avoid raw foods as much as I can when I'm travelling. But this is JAPAN! It's like how can you NOT have sashimi when you are here.

After dinner, decided to have a walk around the small town.

One thing I love about Japan is its cleanliness. It's so clean that you can just sleep and roll in the middle of that roads.

 Happy to have their cheap beers. :D

ME! with a tired face

Lobby of the hotel that we stayed in. Trying my best to recall the name of the hotel but I failed T_T

This hotel comes with public onsen (hot spring) and also the rooms comes in the traditional Japanese style known as Ryokan. But it's really a shame that we didn't get to enjoy much of the onsen due to the stupid flight delay. On the night itself, as we were so tired after the whole day flying, we just quickly went to have a dip before going to bed and decided to wake up early to have another dip.

If you haven't know about Japan's public onsen, it's basically you walked around NUDE in a confined area. You shower together with the rest in a small tool like this. Googled the image below as didn't want to take photos with there's people around in case they sued me for nudity yo.

So, yup, you basically sit on that small tool and clean yourself while talking to your friends or people sitting beside you .. xD Btw, the shampoo and soaps they provide are of really good brand like Shisheido etc. And it's really complete from head to toe including toothbrush, facial wash and everything la. Some more got foot scrubs ok...

After cleaning yourself here, you'll then start to dip around in the onsen. You'll just walk around with a small hand towel size. Don't worry, the onsen is separated between the men and ladies but there's also mixed one if you are keen to know.  For people like us who may not be used of showering together with other humans and walking without a single clothes on, it may looked awkward but trust me, after a while, you just don't care heck. At least for me la .. Hahaha .. I even enjoyed staring at other women's bodies .. LOLOL ... 

The one i went to they have indoor and outdoor which if you dip in the day you can actually enjoy the scenery of Lake Toya. Also, they will also swap the onsen between male and female so that you can enjoyed the scenery from both sides. The onsen itself is pretty much the same though.

By the way, for first timer like me, avoid dipping too long otherwise you'll get dizziness due to the sudden hot temperature of the onsen. And also, after dipping in the hot pool, look for the cold pool. When I say cold, it mean REALLY COLD or rather FREEZING COLD. Dip in for few seconds for that brain freeze experience.. It feels awesome after that lo .. Anyway, after all this, you DON'T shower again, alright? Just dry yourself up and ciaoz. Let the sulphur soaked into your skin and smoothen out your skin xD But one thing is that you'll have that sulphuric smell sticking with you. :X

Me with the just-wake-up face in the robe ready for Onsen!

And this is the look of our Ryokan. Super love it!!! It's the old school Japanese style yo!!

Didn't really use the tiny toilet cause Onsen has it all..

That pretty much sums up my Ryokan and Onsen experience in Japan. I think it would be great to have onsen during Winter. Imagine dipping in the outdoor hot steaming pool while enjoying the snow outside. 

Post is getting too long now so will save the "flowery" part for next post.. xD GEDDIT GEDDIT?