Kamikochi, Japan: Alpine Autumn Adventure

Although I am a winter child, autumn is my most favorite season and I am a big fan of autumn leaf viewing as well as hiking in this season. If I have to recommend only one autumn hike in Japan that could take anyone’s breath away and suit any level of fitness, my answer is Kamikochi in Chubu Sangaku National Park, Nagano Prefecture.

To be fair, there are more easily accessible places to hike in fall and if you don’t live in Chubu region, Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, going to your local spot will save more time and cost. That doesn’t mean Kamikochi is super expensive or difficult to reach though. Home to some of Japan’s most imposing mountains or Northern Japan Alps (including Japan’s third tallest peak or the 3,190-meter tall Mount Okuhotakadake), Kamikochi is also the country’s birthplace of recreational mountaineering. The valley remains as pristine as can be with tourism by forbidding private cars in the area except for authorities and those with special permission, so it offers some of the country’s ultimate waterscapes and is one of Japan’s Eight Most Scenic Landscapes (Nippon Hakkei) as well.

Kamikochi can be an easy weekend escape, a not-too-difficult-but-extremely-enjoyable adventure, or even a strenuous multi-day trek as you desire and design. I will categorize my Kamikochi trip as a not-too-difficult-but-extremely-enjoyable adventure that included walking the easy trail.

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Coming Home (Last Memories of Nagoya, Until the Day We Meet Again)

Though it has already been a month and a few days since I came home, writing this post from my very own bedroom still feels surreal.

I left Nagoya on March 30 and arrived in Bangkok on the same day. March was my last month in Japan before moving back to Thailand, so I knew it would be a very busy month, but it ended up more hectic than expected. Especially when comparing it to fun-filled February, with post-thesis defense indulgence like NCT 127 official cafe event along with my and Jaehyun’s birthday and Doyoung’s birthday; unforgettable day trips with friends and one last long solo trip before graduation, all of which I want to write full posts about one day; and the generally relaxing atmosphere. Not that March was 100% stressful. There were happy moments and heartfelt farewells too, but in the last few weeks, a lot of things just went wrong despite my efforts to finish the pre-departure procedures early on and these exhausted me. I wish I could have spent more time in March traveling and relaxing, but since everything already happened the way it did, I want to record personal reflections and some of the memorable moments (both the good and the bad) during my last week in Japan here.

I shared some photos and parts of the stories about the last week on my Instagram already, but due to word limit, I didn’t get to write everything I wanted. I also held myself back from talking about certain things because I don’t want to be too ranty or cringey there. As weird as this may sound, I am actually not comfortable sharing some thoughts and feelings with acquaintances and some friends who are following me on IG. It is easier to express myself more on this blog, where most readers are close friends and people I have never met.

With that, I am warning you that this is a long-winded post and some parts of this post are very ranty and cringey. Musings and photos from Nagoya to Bangkok aside, here go many stories, even the most ranty and random ones, that I want to immortalize in one place.

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Nagoya, Japan: Before the (G)old Rush

Time flies and before I knew it, I have less than eight months left as a student in Japan.

Let’s rewind to January in 2019. I just learned that the MEXT Scholarship committee has decided to send me to Nagoya University, so I wrote this post about my trip to Nagoya as a tourist in 2015 for reflection purposes. I thought Nagoya isn’t an impressive city, but it still has some nice attractions and is rich in samurai era history, despite not looking like it what with its strong industrialized image and mostly modern buildings. During my 2015 trip, I traveled in Nagoya for only one day and mainly used the city as a base while I explored the bigger draws nearby like Inuyama, Takayama, and Shirakawa-go, so I promised myself that after moving to Nagoya in April, 2019, I would take my three years as a student as the opportunity to get to know Nagoya better.

While I am still going to continue writing about Hokkaido, I want to throw in some posts about Nagoya and nearby from time to time since I haven’t been writing enough about where I live and my three years in Japan are almost over… It has also been so long since I last made a film photography post, so it is time for a Nagoya article with the first batch of film photos I took in Japan in October, 2020. I was back from Bangkok for about a month, the COVID-19 situation in Nagoya improved, and the autumn air was pleasant, so what better time to test the Kodak M35 reloadable film camera I bought when I went back to Thailand. It was also a good time to visit the uncrowded and underexplored places in Nagoya that I hadn’t been to for photography inspirations. The photography trip ended up being very interesting for me and I enjoyed the different vibes from the Nagoya attractions that I visited in 2015. More laid-back and more local overall and also historic. It was a lovely surprise that embodies “old is gold”. But unlike the gold rush, most of these old spots in Nagoya haven’t been discovered yet by the majority of international travelers. I hope these places won’t become too commercialized, but they do deserve more attention, so when the pandemic is over and you can come to Nagoya, do consider visiting these hidden gems before Nagoya experiences the (g)old rush. If that still doesn’t sound appealing enough, let me tell you that all these places are free to enter and conveniently located near subway stations.

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Phang Nga, Thailand: Sunshine and Sunset in Thai Muang and Khok Kloi

Once a year, my family and I travel to the southern coastal province of Phang Nga. Though times are tough this year, we happened to schedule our trip in early-March, a couple of weeks before COVID-19 got worse in Thailand, and managed to upkeep this annual tradition during my temporary homecoming that currently has to be extended with no end in sight.

Apart from taking my grandma to see her relatives and former neighbors, we always watch the sunset at Thai Muang Beach, which is the neighborhood where my dad grew up, and travel to at least one place we haven’t been to in Phang Nga. This year, we visited the peaceful Khao Pilai Beach in Khok Kloi Subdistrict and revisited (after almost 20 years) Lampi Waterfall in Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Muang National Park.

I also brought my disposable camera on this trip and we were blessed with nice weather and beautiful sky every day. Without further ado, let’s see how Phang Nga looks on 35mm.

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Bangkok, Thailand: Art Hunt at Old Town’s Hidden Temples

Few international travelers come to Bangkok Old Town area without visiting at least one or two temples and most travelers’ choices are probably the Grand Palace and Temple of Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), or Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). After all, these are considered the most iconic temples in Bangkok.

While I definitely find the three temples mentioned above stunning, they are undeniably very crowded and the admission fees are pricey for foreigners too. If you are fine with foregoing Bangkok’s most famous temples or are looking to add some off-the-beaten-track spots to your Bangkok Old Town walk, I have six alternatives, five of which are considered hidden gems even among Thai people. You pay nothing to enter most of these temples (and the admission fees for those that aren’t free are very cheap), but you will get to enjoy beautiful artistic details in a much more peaceful environment.

This art walk through under-the-radar temples happened only a few days after I flew home from Nagoya for the semester break in February, before the pandemic has become severe in Thailand. The plan is all thanks to my friend who works as a licensed tour guide (actually, she is the friend who planned our visit to the Museum of Floral Culture in Bangkok a few years back). My friend found this Thai article about the beautiful art at 11 royal temples in Bangkok and we thought it would be fun to choose some lesser known royal temples on the list to visit together. Also, there was something else I had been wanting to try for a while.

Let me introduce you to the #giftograph_film series, where I will be showing my film photography.

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