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?

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