Konnichiwa minasan!!! 😀
Thank you all so much for your words of encouragement when I was sad, sick and stressed. I read every single one of them and with each one read, I slowly recovered! Knowing that I’m not the only one who has been through that tough period when photos get deleted, hard disks corrupted or computers crash, made me feel stronger, that I could survive it too, just like all of you!
I feel very sorry for those who also lost precious photos. I didn’t reply to any email or comments because I wanted to wait till I was really, finally ready to face it – the fact that the photos are gone forever. By the time you read this post, I should have replied you! 🙂
Three lessons I learnt from this episode:
1: Always check that you have transferred photos from your camera to your computer before deleting/reformatting the SD card
2: Cry over spilled milk - don’t ever forget - but forgive yourself
3: Take pictures with your camera AND phone
I'm glad I had the mind to take some pictures with my phone, with the intention to Instagram them for Life of a Bun. So at least I have some pictures of places I had completely deleted from my Panasaonic Lumix.
We were deciding between Hokkaido and Okinawa but chose the latter since it's less common. We joined a tour group that was so large (about 200 people!) they chartered a flight. Normally it would take longer and cost much more to fly from Singapore to Okinawa since there're no direct flights. You'd have to stop over at Taipei, I think.
Some people find group tours too stifling and prefer free and easy holidays, but I quite like group tours. Don't have to worry about transport, food, accommodation, getting lost. Just sit back, relax, when it's time to eat, eat. HAPPY! 😀 I don't mind, however, going free and easy if I'm returning to a place I've been to or there are local friends to bring me around.
If you're interested to travel to Okinawa, you can use this itinerary!
JANG JANG! The Boyfriend making a debut! This was us before checking in at Singapore Changi Airport. He messed up my hair right before we took the shot becoz my hat was annoying him. Lol.
And that's it for Day 1! Haha!
Ours was an afternoon flight so it was about 10pm by the time we reached Okinawa, Japan. The Okinawa airport is really small, almost like a bus interchange. Reminds me of Siem Reap airport.
This was the only picture I took of Cape Manza with my iPhone.
The main attraction of Cape Manza looks like this:
Spectacular view of the East China Sea at the top of the cliffs. The 'elephant trunk' is a result of extensive wave erosion. The air was so good, sky so clear, sound of crashing waves so soothing (I love the sound of waves), I could sit there all day and maybe, paint.
Next we went to Ocean Expo Park which is something like Hong Kong's Ocean Park, but minus all the rides. So we just saw turtles, fish, erm... you know, the sort.
In the park is Churaumi Aquarium, which is only the world's largest aquarium with a world class aquarium tank. WOW!!!
At least this shot taken with my iPhone turned out nice! There were sharks, stingrays, turtles, fresh creatures, beautiful coral reefs and many other amazing marine creatures, HUGE and little. We stood there admiring through the acrylic window for at least half an hour. A tank this grand deserves attention, yo!
There were a lot of marine life showcase but I can only tell you so much. Ah, you can come to Singapore Underwater World. Our oceanarium also showcases sharks, stingrays, turtles, fresh creatures, beautiful coral reefs and many other amazing marine creatures. Haha!
There was a dolphin show at the lagoon I wanted to catch but TOTALLY MISSED coz The Boyfriend didn't change the time on his phone and by the time we realized it, the show was over. =.=" Japan is one hour ahead of Singapore.
Also located in the park is the Native Okinawan Village, a re-creation of an early Okinawan village of the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Then we went to Nago Pineapple Park where we saw small pineapple fields and bought pineapple products. Very touristy. Lol.
This is umibudo, a kind of seaweed, but instead of leaves it has little bubbles growing on its stems, hence the literal translation 'Sea Grapes'. It is quite salty already but they eat it with soya sauce. It has an acquired taste, very low in cholesterol and rich in minerals though. Umibudo is harvested only in Okinawa.
Lunch was good! Okinawa is well-known for its black pork (aguh pork) and it is found only in Okinawa. Its meat is rich in intramuscular fat with flavour and tenderness, and is highly regarded by Japanese consumers as better quality than commercial meat. We had aguh pork quite often throughout the 4 days.
If you ever visit Okinawa, you MUST have a meal at a SAM's restaurant. We had our dinner at the Kokusai Street one. I think there a couple or more on Kokusai Street itself. Super good teppanyaki - fish, scallops, prawns, potato wedges, etc. The BEST I've ever had. And what cute chefs too! Made the food even more appealing. 😀
I loved the breakfast at our hotel. There were the usual American breakfast food like sausages, eggs, pancakes, hash browns, etc, and I did eat them for the first 2 mornings, but I LOVED the Japanese section. So healthy!!!
I love hotel breakfasts! Usually 2 or 3 servings is just right for me. I eat A LOT when on vacay. In Bali Hard Rock cafe, I took about 6 servings of white rice and this super-delicious-best-I've-ever-had-in-my-life-fish-curry for breakfast. And that was on top of other stuff I'd eaten.
This picture does not do justice to the options available. It was a picture I took on one morning, of one of the servings.
Super LOVE the Japanese pasta salad! I saw the express version at a 7-11 but did not buy it. It wouldn't have survived the plane ride home. =(
Day 3 was extremely memorable. It was the first time I was so seasick I told The Boyfriend I'd give up shopping (at Ashibina Mall) just so that I can feel better immediately.
We took a ferry to Nagannu Island, a tiny, uninhabited island where people go to snorkel, dive and to enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery. I didn't see any sea sports or any kind of activity that would disturb the waters. We had the entire island to ourselves. Even though less than half of the tour group joined this part of the tour, with the rest opting for cave and village sightseeing, there were enough of us to make the little shelter area rather crowded already.
Before that, let me tell you what happened during the journey to the island. One of the most fascinating activities of the island trip is whale watching. That morning, the sea was SOOOOO choppy and it was raining and the wind so strong that I was in the toilet a good part of the journey, hugging the toilet bowl, vomiting my splendid breakfast out. While people were screaming excitedly when a tiny part of the humpback whale was spotted, I was in agony wishing it'd be all over quickly.
From all that wild cheering and whistling, you'd think they had seen this:
But they told me later they only saw this:
I didn't feel better even when we reached the island, until much later. A row of new wooden huts dotted the coast. I think they're built for expected increased tourism in the near future. I went to lie in one of the huts for a while.
I almost recovered completely after a little snorkelling. The water at Nagannu Island is said to be one of the most transparent in the world. Well, I haven't been to many places to snorkel, but it's definitely much clearer than Phuket and Bali. And not as salty!
The ocean underwater walk was supposed to be the highlight for this part of the itinerary. We had this super heavy 10kg helmet placed on our shoulders and walked on the ocean bed. Hmmmmm, well, snorkelling was more fun!
Lunch was great again! Grilled prawns, squid, scallops, beef............. but all those escaped from my body on the way back to mainland Okinawa. TERRIBLE!
Thinking back, all that headache and vomiting was sort of worth it. To get to Nagannu Island you have to endure hardship. Hahaha.
Then finally, we approached my most anticipated part of the trip - shopping at Ashibina Outlet Mall! It is something like the Johor Premium Outlet Mall, but with different brands and cooler weather. It was probably the aftereffects of vomiting too much that despite all my excitement for shopping, I bought only one polka dot shirt. I regret not buying more! If you ever get to go to Ashibina Outlet Mall, MUST BUY MORE!!!
At night we took a cab to SAN-A Naha Main Place Shopping Mall where I spent 2 hours just buying makeup. What fun!!! I took sooooooooo many photos of the products available with the intention to share it on Bun Bun Makeup Tips, but as you now know, sh*t happened. Sigh. Anyway, just down the street there's Toys 'R' Us, you can check it out for Japanese toys. There's also DFS Galleria Okinawa on the other side of the street but it was already closed by the time we got there.
Okie! This is the day I have more photos to remember by!
What a funny story behind the gloves! I thought they were car seat belt cushions and asked The Boyfriend to buy them. Turned out they were actually gloves! He said I must've planned it all along. Lol. At least he has a cute girlfriend to wear them! 😛
We went to Kadena Air Base, the hub of airpower in the Pacific, home to the US Air Force's largest combat wing.
Some dude playing some tunes on a flute-broom and charming the socks off girls.
This is the ferris wheel landmark at Mihama American Village.
Most of the time my legs looked like this:
The temperature was usually about 13 degrees, but the frequent breeze gave me lotsa goosebumps!
It was at some American-themed double-storey store that The Boyfriend bought a JPY20,000 jeans. OMG.
Oh this crossroad reminds me of something. Throughout the trip, I never heard a single car horn. Everyone's so polite and the cars actually stop to give way to people jaywalking. I tell you, we were quite taken aback, coming from a culture of horning and not giving way to anybody. Tsk tsk. Much to learn, Singapore.
Had lunch at one of the huge malls, the only meal not provided for. Surprisingly, the beef bowl was quite blah. The only blah food I had for the entire trip. Singapore Yoshinoya beef bowl tastes way better!
We returned to Kokusai Street to buy souvenirs, snacks, etc.
What I love about Okinawa, or maybe it's like that for all of Japan, is that there is no bargaining. Tourists pay the same price as the locals, just like in Singapore. When we were in Bali, we paid, say, $1x for some BBQ sweet corn. Our taxi driver said we had paid slightly higher than the locals. When a Caucasian tourist wanted to buy, the vendor charged her $4x. The lady went "OH COME ON!!!", but still had to pay anyways coz the corn's that awesome and the vendor's attitude was take-it-or-leave-it.
Such cute mascots on the streets!
We made our way to Makishi Public Market. BIG SHOUTOUT TO ALL SASHIMI LOVERS: COME HERE FOR FRESH AND CHEAP SASHIMI!!!
So you choose the seafood you want, from the many stalls, and get them to cut and serve it to you upstairs.
For the quantity and quality, this would easily cost SGD100. We paid about JPY2,000.
Freshest sashimi I've ever tasted! Too bad The Boyfriend does not fancy sashimi so even though I was at first elated to have it all to myself, too much of it made me a little nauseous.
We returned to the hotel to freshen up for Ryukyu Night. This was the state of perpetual mess our room was in. I don't know how we're gonna live together.
This is traditional Ryukyu cuisine, fit only for kings and noblemen of the past.
Okinawa is known as the Land of Longevity as the inhabitants live up to an average of 99 years old. How cool is that! A large part of their longevity is attributed by their very healthy diet and soothing pace of life. They use quality ingredients and rarely do you see anything deep-fried or floating in oil.
The massive tour group was entertained by a DJ and Okinawan cultural performances.
This is the DJ from Radio 100.3. My family has been on several trips with various DJs from this radio station - Cambodia, China, Ipoh, Desaru, Taiwan, Japan... We've been listening to this station for many years. I like joining trips headed by DJs becoz somehow we get better treatment and get to go to places otherwise not accessible or open to the public at all. Like for both Taiwan and Japan trips, the local guides told us it was their first time visiting some places on our itinerary.
When we returned to the hotel, I thought I should take a picture of all our purchases. I'm glad I did!
We bought the bowl noodles and most of the snacks at a 7-11 store some 15 minutes away from the hotel. Even though the night streets of Okinawa are not as well-lit as Singapore and there were very few people on the streets, we felt very safe walking along the street at 11pm.
You don't get to see people roaming the streets at all, and almost none at night.
Okinawa possesses a quiet beauty, quite different from what we expect of Tokyo and its colorful, neon lights, cosplay culture. It feels and looks more like Taiwan than main Japan, and the local guide also mentioned that Okinawa is geographically closer to Taiwan than the rest of Japan.
If there is ever an opportunity, do visit Okinawa! Quick! Before it gets flooded by more tourists!
See you again soon! Next up: My Okinawa makeup haul! 😀