Renting a car in Hokkaido

The rental car business is a very competitive one in Hokkaido, because the majority of visitors to Hokkaido will rent a car. This means plenty of choices and relatively low prices. I booked a rental car for JPY 32120 (S$405) for 7 days, which is only S$58 per day. This is inclusive of a one way fee of JPY 1500 (S$19) for returning the car at a different location (pick up at Airport but return in Sapporo), but excluding CDW, which would have cost an additional S$100.

Here are some findings that may be of interest to you. I basically tried getting a quotation from all the rental companies that are listed that may offer the Hokkaido Expressway Pass. Not all of them worked. Some of them are aggregator sites for which i have no interest. Some of them don’t allow one way rental. Here is a summary of the quotation for a compact car: Continue reading Renting a car in Hokkaido

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Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

It took 3 days to work out this itinerary and book all the hotels, so you could say a trip to Hokkaido is actually not difficult to plan for. I do still need to work out details like where to go for meals, finding exact view points to see, as well as to book a rental car (that will be another blog post), but once the accomodation reservations are done, the rest are less worrying.

All my itineraries are planned with the same basic assumption – that i will never visit there again. This itinerary covers all attractions that are significant in Hokkaido, including places that seem less attractive, like Hakodate. I guess everyone has different preferences and pacing when it comes to how they do a trip, and few people will do it like i do. Nevertheless, i believe i have tips to share that may be useful for reference and consideration.

My trip happens in mid June, and unfortunately, the timeframe is in between the Pink Moss and the Lavendar bloom. Some people might be going to Hokkaido specifically for these. If so, to catch the Pink Moss, you need to be there mid to late May, and for Lavendar, mid to late July. Continue reading Hokkaido 9 days itinerary

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Klang Bak Kut Teh and Kopi, round 2

My better half was feeling “gian” (or yearning in the Hokkien dialect) for Klang Bak Kut Teh (BKT). Specifically Teck Teh’s BKT. Well, the ever curious me decided to check out the other popular BKT places in Klang instead. Anyway, I was guessing that most of the better known BKT restaurants would be closed on this day, the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year. I was right.

For the record, I found out that Seng Huat and Teck Teh were closed. The other BKT place I was planning to visit, Lai Choon, was also not open. I suspect this would be the standard practice, that these restaurants would remain closed at least up to the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year. So, if you’re wondering if you could visit any of these three, then you better have a back up plan. No worries though, because you will definitely be able to satisfy your craving for BKT during the Chinese New Year, as it is said that there more than 400 BKT restaurants in Klang, and some of them are bound to be open. Continue reading Klang Bak Kut Teh and Kopi, round 2

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Quick Meal – Sambal Stingray

Sambal Stingray is a popular dish in Singapore that is often thought to be only available from a hawker centre. Actually, you must have noticed that when you placed an order for Sambal Stingray, you got served within 15 minutes. That means it must be quite easy to prepare, and that is exactly the case.

If you did a search, you will find quite a few recipes posted online for Sambal Stingray. Some even tell you how to make the Sambal sauce. Well, i think it is not necessarily worth the time making your own Sambal sauce, unless you make a huge batch and plan on using it in other dishes. Sambal sauce is fairly easy to buy off the shelf, and it isn’t exactly very expensive. There are many types of Sambal sauce, and I noticed that the type used by hawker centre seafood stalls is the shrimp type (Belacan would work too), and that’s the one you should get.

Anyway, after a few not-so-successful attempts, this is how i would say is the quickest and easiest way to do it. Continue reading Quick Meal – Sambal Stingray

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Amazon product recommendation – GermGuardian AC4825 Air Cleaning System

I have had the GermGuardian AC4825 for a few months now, but have not written a review on it, because it’s really hard to assess the effectiveness of such a product. Well, i now have evidence that it really works.

One of my better half’s student has acute nasal allergy. She would be sneezy for 5 minutes when she enters the room, possibly due to dust. Yesterday, we tried turning on the GermGuardian, and within a few minutes, she was relieved of her runny nose. Her mum was so impressed that she wanted to get the GermGuardian too. Continue reading Amazon product recommendation – GermGuardian AC4825 Air Cleaning System

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No more free shipping with iHerb

I was trying to put together a new order on iHerb, and i was startled to find that the shipping is no longer a flat US$4 for orders below US$40, or free for orders above US$40, as it had been for the past 6 years during which i have been a loyal customer. I’ve only just placed an order on 25 Dec 2016, but, apparently, iHerb has overhauled the business from 2017.

There is, unfortunately, no clear explanation about the exact change in the shipping fee calculation on the website, which is a shame. The claim in their announcement about what’s new in 2017 is this: “significantly lower prices across the majority of our products, better shipping rates to your country–or both!”. Yeah, right. The supposedly lower prices (i checked, some items are around 10% cheaper, but others are the same price or even more than before!) may not offset the shipping fee. Continue reading No more free shipping with iHerb

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Annual Ubin Pilgrimage

This project began by accident. We first went to Ubin island on New Year’s day 2015. Prior to that, my last trip to Ubin was in 1995, almost 20 years ago. When New Year’s day 2016 came, we thought, why not go to Ubin as an annual routine on New Year’s day. When we set foot on the island, we were struck with the idea to have photos taken at exactly the same spot or in the same pose. And what do you know, i was wearing the same shirt by chance, and so it is decided that, henceforth, inasmuch as it is possible, we will be wearing the same clothes as well.

2015 – 2017

This year, because New Year’s day fell on a Sunday, and we were busy in church, we did our pilgrimage on the 2nd. To keep to this tradition, we must. Who knows, someday i will be doing this with my grandchildren in tow.

I love the nature and the kampung feel of Ubin. There are a lot of photo opportunities for photography enthusiasts. Here’s what i snagged during the short 3 hours visit.

Smiling all the way to the bank. Brisk business on a public holiday.
Here’s proof that you need to slow down if you want to cultivate an appreciation for art. The centipede’s feet are made of sickle, something you don’t expect to find in Singapore. Anyway, to us urban dwellers, a sickle is more associated with horror movies than agriculture, don’t you think?
Reflections at Pekan quarry
An abundance of Flora awaiting your discovery on Pulau Ubin

Saying this always sounds cheesy to me, but Happy New Year!

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Deciphering 86OF’s website

Owing to Ming’s comments about having to decipher 86OF’s website, I felt I could help some readers out there who may be confused 86OF’s workflow and website. As of now, 86OF’s website is still a mix of English and Chinese, and the terminology they have adopted can be incomprehensible to even novice users of ezbuy.

Customer service and business development contact numbers listed on the website in Chinese

Continue reading Deciphering 86OF’s website

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North-south highway lunch stop – Ayer Hitam

Today i drove a little faster (okay way above the speed limit actually) and got to Ayer Hitam at 1230pm (in just 2.5 hours from KL), just the right time for lunch. Ayer Hitam is just off the highway, making it a convenient lunch stop.

If you Googled for Ayer Hitam food, you’ll invariably find Tang Chuan among the top search results. Tang Chuan sells Pau and other Dim Sum, not quite the staple people will usually choose for a lunch meal. We certainly did not feel like having Pau for lunch. After doing a quick survey, i settled for Meng Heng, located at the corner unit of the row of shops across the road.

For completeness sake, let me quickly mention that the Kopitiam next to Tang Chuan, called New Mui Thye, had two stalls open at lunch time, selling chicken rice and noodles. The corner unit at the other end of the same row of shops as Tang Chuan sold Wanton noodles. The two shops directly across the road from Tang Chuan sold mixed economy rice (什菜饭), and these two took in the lion’s share of the local lunch crowd. None of these eateries looked appealing, honestly speaking, and from intuition, i felt there was something about Meng Heng that seem just slightly more convincing.

Screen capture of Restoran Meng Heng from Google Street View.

Meng Heng sells various types of noodles, as well as mixed economy rice. I just found out they have been around for more than 60 years. Okay. Wow.

We ordered three types of noodles, and they did not disappoint.

Curry pork ribs. The curry has an obvious Tumeric taste, and overall, it was rather tangy, which i think is characteristic of Johorean curry. The pork ribs were very tender.
Laksa. Came with pretty good (stiff rather than soggy) fish cake.
Minced pork noodles. This was very fragrant and tasty.

The noodles used was chewy flat yellow noodles, a welcome change from the more common soggy round yellow noodles. There was a lot of (too much) oil in the noodles but no obvious taste of lard, which sat well with me as i do not like a lot of lard in my food.

I don’t have a photo of the coffee which we did order, but as mentioned in the news article, it was pretty good. Yes, despite the coffee being a little milky, as is typical of the coffee around this region (from Batu Pahat to Pontian in the south), there was enough of aromatic coffee taste to convince me i was drinking coffee instead of milk.

Just so that i can check Ayer Hitam off my list of food to try along the North-south highway in Johor, we went to sample the Pau at Tang Chuan after finishing our meal at Meng Heng.

Unfortunately, they don’t sell the glutinous chicken rice anymore

I would say the Pau were indeed nice. We sampled the big Pau and the Char Siew Pau. Both were more savoury than sweet, which suits my preference just nice. The filling were juicy and tender. The coffee from here, however, was no match to Meng Heng’s.

There was a steady stream of customers, and i think the internet lent a huge helping hand

To conclude, i would say Yong Peng is still the best place to do lunch along the North-south highway if you’re not in a hurry.

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Krabi and Phuket trip report card

Probably the only thing that didn’t go as smoothly as planned during the entire trip was the immigration clearance at Krabi airport. I was among the last to disembark from the plane, and it took 40 minutes of queuing before it was our turn to get through immigration. Anyway, not a single hitch thereafter.

Day 1

After picking up the rental car, we headed towards the Emerald hot spring pool, and upon enquiry about entrance fee, i decided to only visit the hot spring waterfalls, which was also around the vicinity. It cost 200 Baht (S$8) to visit the Emerald pool, but only 90 Baht ($3.60) for the hot spring waterfalls. We had time only for one, and i had originally planned to only take a dip at the hot spring waterfall anyway. To me, there’s more novelty in a hot spring waterfall than a hot spring pool.

Take in the view of the river while dipping in the naturally formed pool from mineral deposits . Almost like a Japanese Onsen, except that the pools here are not man-made but natural. How cool is that.
At around 5pm, there will be intervals when you can have the pool to yourself.

Continue reading Krabi and Phuket trip report card

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