Bangkok, Thailand: A Day as a Cafe Hopper in Yaowarat Chinatown and Soi Nana

Feel free to check out my other NCT location hunting trips as well as my other fangirl’s pilgrimages.

In all honesty, Bangkok Chinatown or Yaowarat’s new status as cafe hoppers’ favorite spot isn’t really a secret anymore. In addition to must-try Chinese restaurants and street food stalls, some travel blogs and websites already covered the chic and youthful cafes in historic Yaowarat Chinatown and its gentrifying neighbor called Soi Nana. In fact, I first heard of these cafes last year during my previous job when one of my former colleagues accompanied a Thai blogger and our Australian guests on their cafe hopping trip around Bangkok Chinatown and Soi Nana.

While I usually wouldn’t call myself a cafe hopper (except that time when I ate and drank my way around Mangwon-dong and Seongsu-dong in Seoul), I couldn’t not try cafe hopping in Yaowarat and Soi Nana after all this exposure. I couldn’t resist after seeing photos of the yummy-looking food and drink as well as the beautiful decor of each cafe.

Still, part of me was skeptical of the taste of food and drink at these “Instagram-worthy cafes” . After actually tasting them, though, I can honestly say that these cafes in Soi Nana and Bangkok Chinatown didn’t disappoint. Some of you might already know some of these places from other sources, but if my article can introduce you to a new one or show you what you didn’t know before, I will be very happy.

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Iya Valley, Japan: A Green Escape to Iya Kazurabashi Vine Bridge

45-meter long, two-meter wide, and suspended 14 meters above the emerald Iya River, Iya Kazurabashi Vine Bridge in Miyoshi is definitely a thrilling experience.

And surely, it isn’t every day you get to cross a vine bridge, so when I heard of this rare kind of bridge in the verdant Iya Valley, I had to put it on my Shikoku itinerary.

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Nagoro, Japan: Smiles of the Scarecrow Village

Almost four hours from Nagoya to Takamatsu and after a few nights in Takamatsu, it was about four more hours to Nagoro till I finally arrived at one of Japan’s strangest places.

Surrounded by the lush greenery of Iya Valley in Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture on Japan’s smallest main island of Shikoku, Nagoro seems at first glance not so different from other depopulating remote villages in this extremely aging country. Even though I visited Nagoro during Japan’s historic ten-day Golden Week holidays, I was still the only one getting off at Nagoro bus stop while the two other passengers continued to Oku Iya Kazurabashi Vine Bridge and the terminal station near Mount Tsurugi. The bleak sky foreshadowed the rain and on Nagoro’s silent main street that stretches through the shuttered houses, I didn’t see a single soul.

But I was not alone.

Standing in front of a small house not so far from where the bus dropped me off, a group of life-size scarecrows stared at me with their button eyes. A proof that I really was standing in Nagoro Scarecrow Village (Kakashi no Sato). A village with less than 30 human beings left and more than 300 scarecrows singlehandedly created by a 69-year-old local lady.

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Seoul, South Korea: The Trendy Gritty City of Seongsu

Feel free to check out my other NCT location hunting trips as well as my other fangirl’s pilgrimages.

Timeworn and gritty, Seongsu-dong or Seongsu District feels like a city of its own within South Korea’s modern and polished capital. Or maybe it was just me growing so used to the youthful and trendy image of Seoul that Seongsu felt like an irregularity in Seoul.

But that doesn’t mean Seongsu is outdated and unattractive. Once a go-to district for handmade shoes in the late 20th century until the mass-produced imports came along in the 2000s, Seongsu’s grit and grime remains in the facades of these old factories while the interior has been renovated into restaurants and cafes diverse in characters. Artists have also painted parts of the neighborhood anew, so street art enthusiasts will definitely have fun there. Thanks to the recent development, Seongsu-dong has now been dubbed the Brooklyn of Seoul and become one of the hottest spots among Koreans. However, it is still considered a hidden gem among international travelers. Without NCT’s many photoshoots and videos there, I wouldn’t have discovered Seongsu-dong.

I visited two cafes and one restaurant in Seongsu-dong, all of which visited by NCT members but not featured in that many Seongsu-related guides yet. (I traveled there alone, so my stomach could only take that much. If you are with family or friends, there are dozens of cafes and restaurants for you to choose from.) The rest of my time there was spent on wandering around and street art viewing.

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Nagoya, Japan: Riverside Hanami at Arakogawa Park

It is already April, but Nagoya has been unbelievably cold. Almost two weeks ago, I arrived in Nagoya for my studies and the combination of the lingering cold and the city’s seemingly constantly windy state has been a pain for a native of a tropical country like me.

However, the cold that lasts longer than usual is a curse and a blessing at the same time. Had it not been for the low temperature, I would have been too late to see the cherry blossons. In between going through the tedious post-arrival process, I managed to catch cherry blossoms at a few famous and under-the-radar spots in Nagoya.

Arakogawa Park is among the lesser known cherry blossom viewing places and while it wasn’t my first time seeing sakura in Japan, it was my first-ever “proper” hanami (cherry blossom viewing while picnicking). Even though I went to Arakogawa Park on Sunday, the riverside park was delightfully uncrowded.

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