To Fall in Love With New York City, Do This …

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New York City always seemed to fill me with inspiration and hope. Perhaps it was because of all of the TV shows; Sex and the City, magazines, and the fact that it seemed to be the capital of novel and unique experiences, but I had to go there – and so I did.

Union Square

It was day one of my NYC adventure and needless to say, I was really excited! After reading about all of the things you can do in New York, I decided to start my adventure with a visit to Union Square Greenmarket (Farmer’s market) where travelers and citizens could support the local agriculture. I knew the day ahead of me would be a long one, so I made sure to buy some of the local produce to keep me energized throughout the day. I tasted wine, fresh apple cider and organic fruits that had been locally grown; I spoke happily to the vendors who were all very pleasant and helpful despite the reputation the Big Apple has for its busybodies. I sat down with my bounty from the market on a bench in Union Square Garden. I enjoyed watching all the beautiful people walk past me as I ate the goodies. It was a great moment and a day that I’ll never forget!

Madison Square Park

My first impressions of New York City were really starting to form a picture in my mind when I visited Madison Square Park. I stopped in at Shake Shack and fell in love with the “Shack Stack” so delicious! I stayed there for a while, watching a showcase performance by The Studio Series. And you won’t believe what happened next! I got the chance to see Kate Davis perform live! Her music was beautiful and touching – a great end to the day.

High Line Park/ Chelsea

I decided to relax a bit by simply enjoying the breeze and the views. I had brought along my “Part B” examination materials (It’s a qualifying exam to get called to the Singapore Bar in order to be a Solicitor and Advocate in Singapore) and I was supposed to find a quiet place reading it. High Line Park was the perfect place!  After a bit of reading,  I decided to go to Chelsea Market to find some boiled lobsters.  And, of course, I had to have dessert. The best cookies in town are to be found at Fat Witch. I took the food with me to High Line Park where I looked down upon the passersby with food in my hand and a smile on my face. This was the experience I’d always been dreaming about and I was going to enjoy it as best I could.

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George Washington Park/ Greenwich

It was a fun day spent at Washington Park: Chatted with few strangers, watched a few street performers play the guitar and another play a grand piano.

I also went to Time Square and just sat by the TKTS booth on those famous red steps people seem to marvel at and watched the world pass by me. I love that feeling of detachment you get in a new city. Though I have to say… Here, amongst the millions of other people that were walking these beautiful streets, I felt at ease.

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Rooftop Movie Club

My fifth day in New York was epic thanks to Rooftop Cinema Club. A 2008 movie called “Milk”, on a roof top and a magnificent sunset view over Manhattan. Imagine, being on a roof, with a view of Manhattan, wrapped with a warm blanket, the movie was great and the people I met friendly. It was one of the best days I’ve ever had.

Central Park

I started the Sunday morning with a jog in Central Park and headed over to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir where I did a few laps. After that, I got myself a very nice salad plus a healthy drink from Wholefoods that was nearby the park. I watched a friendly neighbourhood baseball game which kept me entertained. There are lots of activities that you can do while you are near Central Park. You can rent a boat or have a picnic (i did). If you are creative, you can have a really interesting time.

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Soho

Shopping is what the next day is all about! I went to Soho, a famous neighbourhood in Manhattan, and browsed through some of its stores. It is impossible to get bored in Soho. There are many beautiful things to buy and I tried hard not to spend all of my money.

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East River State Park, Williamsburg

 I decided to be spontaneous. I looked at a map of the city and randomly picked a place to visit. The East River State Park caught my eye, and that is where I headed. I don’t regret the decision to visit East River – the skyline view was absolutely breathtaking. East River State Park should be a must-visit item on your list when visiting New York

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Top of the Rock

Forget about Empire state building. I flagged down a cab and made my way over to the GE Building – the tallest skyscraper in the Rockefeller Centre. I went to Top of the Rock, an observation deck situated on the 70th floor of the building. The views from here were absolutely amazing! It was very informative too – I watched three films depicting all the history of the building and its surrounds.

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Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a sight to behold. If you are planning to visit Brooklyn Bridge, make sure you arrive before 10 AM as it gets crowded after that.

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I have figured out what my first impression of New York City is. It comes down to this: the city gives you a taste of freedom and energy from the moment you arrive. I simply fell in love with New York City. All of the things I did and places I saw created memories I will never forget and eager to create more and more. If I could do it all over again, I would do exactly the same!

One thing that I dislike…it’s the subway! Don’t get me started…

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The Big Island Adventure- Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii

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If this is not your first visit to Hawaii, then you have probably seen most of the common stuff around this magical island and without a doubt, you must have enjoyed it. Then it’s definite that this time you want something new, something fascinating and above all a uniquely new experience. Where are you going to get this new experience?

The place is Hilo, Big Island in Hawaii, have you ever been there? If you are trying to recall if you have been there or not, then you haven’t there. This is one of the few places that if you visit, its charming memories will always be on your mind. What you will experience at this place can just not allow you to forget. This is the largest island of Hawaii and it is full of wonders. The volcanoes found in this place shape your experience on this island. Let me touch just a few places out of the many you should visit in Big Island.

1. Lava Tree Trail

Welcome to Lava Tree State Park. A lava flow that occurred in 1790 made the place a must-visit for any traveler. By visiting this park, you will get the rare opportunity of going for a hike into the over 200 years old lava trees. As a newbie to this park, you should know that the hiking trail does not favor wheelchairs. Hiking at this magnificent trail usually takes between 20 minutes and an hour. How long the hike will take for you totally depends on how mesmerized you will be during the hike.

2. Ahalanui Hot Pond

What do you think of spending some time in a natural hot tub? If you think this will be a dream come true for you, then the Ahalanui Hot Pond is there for you. This hot pond is found in proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The hot tub as it is commonly referred to us is fed by a natural fresh water spring and the Pacific Ocean.

The volcanoes of Big Island are responsible for heating the water on this hot tub. It is said that there are times that the temperature of the water here hits 90 degrees Celsius. What makes bathing in this hot tub even more exciting is the excellent view of the Pacific you get from there. The surrounding environment is also amazing. You can enjoy some grilled meat as you relax here.

3. Black Sand Beach – Home of green turtles

What’s your beach experience? If you have been in other beaches around the world, then you may have noticed something. Nearly all of them have white sand or something close to that. Here in Big Island, you will find something very rare and very unique. This beach is also home to the rare green turtles. That’s the Black sand beach. Trust me when I tell you this, just looking at the beach from a distance is fascinating. You can’t even begin to imagine how it feels like to walk on it. What about lying on it? I can say, you got to visit Hawaii to find out about that.

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4. Green Sand Beach

Just when you thought you had seen it all with the Black sand beach in Big Island, there comes another shocker. The Green sand beach. The sand on this beach is not literally green. So don’t get disappointed. Some components of this beach’s sand are slightly green. They give this beach some greenish sense.

The Green sand beach is one of the most exotic places on this island. The huge cliff-like rocks on this beach actually seem much a result of Midas touch. Take my word for it; there are huge rocks on this beach. So if you plan to go hiking around this place make sure that you prepare yourself well. It was tough one for me. Apart from that swimsuit, carry some rock climbing stuff and you will have a really great time around this place. You also have an option of renting some local cars for around $20 to facilitate your hike if you too tired to walk or jog.

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5. Akaka Fall

Waterfalls are amazing. That’s a fact no one can contradict. If you are a newbie to this whole tourism thing, then you haven’t gotten a chance to see anything like the Akaka fall. Looking at it, you will actually think that water is coming out of Mother Earth’s small mouth. The fall gives water falling off a milky white color. Who said water was colorless? Maybe they haven’t been to a water fall like Akaka fall. Here you camera will come in handy. Also make sure your other hand has a well-packed picnic basket.

6. Rainbow Falls

If the name hasn’t gotten you curious, then you should be curious. This is a name with a meaning. As water falls off the rocks, there is always a rainbow at the water surface on the lower end of the falls. Just do you know, the said rainbow is a really large rainbow? The Rainbow falls is one place in Hawaii that you can see the rainbow anytime any day. Besides that, the environment here is very serene. This is a place that you will want to stay little longer than you had planned if you visited.

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7. The Special Treat – National Volcano Park

If you visit the National Volcano Park with a US army friend you will get a chance to stay at their camp. Here you will be able to see the amazing volcano steam vents. Can you imagine there is a live volcano down that vent?

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You can also visit the Jagger Museum for another breathtaking experience. At the museum, you can see the opening to Halema ‘uma’ u volcano. Get this time correct – 4.30 AM; be at the opening to see this volcano’s Lava glow. At 5.30 AM, you will be graced by an amazing sunrise view at this volcano.

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The Kilaukea Iki Trail will give you a hiking experience you will always live for.

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Be sure not to miss the lava tunnel.

IMPORTANT TIP: It is also important that you come with your car to this place. If you don’t own one you can go for the rental. This will help you avoid the mishaps of public transportation in this area. These mishaps happen quite often and may spoil your trip.

Check out the trip to Oahu, Hawaii Part 1 and Part 2

Part 02: Natural Wonders and Breathtaking Views of Oahu, Hawaii

For a long time now, Hawaii has been known to be a dream destination for travellers all over the world because of sandy, sunny beaches and beautiful islands. Oahu is the third largest island and is the most populated by locals. It is a great destination for a Hawaii-newbie, like myself as you are about to find out from my experience. I stayed in Oahu for 3 weeks (#YOLO) and went to 15 places in total, with one side trip to another island – Big Island, Hawaii on a weekend. I have divided my Oahu travel blog into 2 parts (Part 01 and Part 02). You can read Part 01 of Oahu’s Natural Wonders and Breathtaking view here.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

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Once in Oahu, I heard a lot about Makapuu Lighthouse Trail and so I made a point to visit the area. I planned my travel and true to the rumors, the natural hiking area was beautiful. The trail was repaved recently and some areas are still under construction but in the final phase. The trail offers an outstanding view of the southeastern coastline. It is an easy trail suitable for all family members and is a satisfaction guaranteed destination on your visit to Hawaii.

Hanauma Bay

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I went to Hanauma bay which is located along the south-east coast of Oahu. It is formed within a volcanic cone and was declared a protected marine life conservation underwater park in 1967. It is very popular with visitors who come to Hawaii and locals as well. The park is closed to the public every Tuesday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. This is necessary to ensure that the fish have a day of feeding without interruptions.

Lanai Lookout

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Drive up to Lanai Lookout, Approximately 200-300 meter from Hanauma Bay. This lookout offers you a terrific view of the islands of Lanai and Molokai as well as panoramic views of the wave-battered rocky coastline. A small parking lot has been carved onto the sea cliff itself off of Highway 72 (a.k.a. Kalanianaole Hwy), but it’s best to arrive early to ensure you get a spot. Besides, I heard that sunrises from this lookout point are particularly spectacular. By the way, I did not put any filter on my Lanai Lookout pictures! The colour of the ocean is THAT blue! #nofilter

Halona blowhole

Halona Blowhole is a rock formation and a blowhole you can get to see when you travel to Oahu. As a newbie, it is interesting to know that Halona means lookout in Hawaiian as it overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Useful information is that the blowhole is a natural occurrence formed by molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions. It was fun and exciting to watch.

Diamond Head

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Diamond Head comes from a volcanic tuff cone on Oahu. In my travel, I found the place ideal for hiking and moderate climb. It is the world’s most recognised volcanic crater with many visitors streaming in to catch a glimpse of the crater, a major attraction in Hawaii. It is also important to note that if you don’t like crowds it is advisable to go early in the morning or late afternoon because traffic is less.

Ko`Olina Beach Park

I definitely had to travel to Ko`Olina beach Park located on the west side of the island of Oahu within the Ko`Olina Resort Community. Many travellers have nicknamed it hidden treasure due to its magnificence. Important information to visit is that Ko`olina was a sacred place used to relax and was part of the royal land division originally . Today there are four manmade lagoons named Koloa, Honu, Nai`a and Ulua. Children can also swim safely in the lagoons as rock barriers protect them from the open.

Nu`uanu State Park

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Nu`uanu State park was worth my time as it offers a panoramic view of the windward side of the Oahu Island. The park is a perennial favourite for visitors in Hawaii. It is important to know that the park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. if the weather is good.

Jurassic Park

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I had watched it in the movies and had to see it in real life now. If you are planning to travel to Hawaii anytime soon, specifically Oahu this is a must go place. I crossed out the destination on my bucket list by experiencing the Jurassic Park Waterfall Adventure. The area has waterfalls, lush rainforests and unique species of animals. I love the rock formations!

You can read Part 01 of Oahu’s Natural Wonders and Breathtaking view here.

Part 01: Natural Wonders and Breathtaking Views of Oahu, Hawaii

For a long time now, Hawaii has been known to be a dream destination for travelers all over the world because of sandy, sunny beaches and beautiful islands. Oahu is the third largest island and is the most populated by locals. It is a great destination for a Hawaii-newbie, like myself as you are about to find out from my experience. I stayed in Oahu for 3 weeks (#YOLO) and went to 14 places in total, with one side trip to another island – Big Island, Hawaii on a weekend. I have divided my Oahu travel blog into 2 parts (Part 01 and Part 02).

You can read Part 02 of Oahu’s Natural Wonders and Breathtaking view here.

Waikiki Beach

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I landed around 7.05 AM and went straight to my rented apartment and by the time I finished unpacking, it was just about sunset. I still had so much energy from being cooped up in the plane and decided to head down to the famous touristy Waikiki Beach. The water was warm and the sunset was perfect.

Waikiki Beach is where surfing was popularized and the waves in Waikiki Beach are typically beginner friendly. If you are not a fan of surfing, a walk along the beach is great too. There are lots of bars and restaurants along the beach.

Puu Ualakaa State Park

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To get a bird’s eye view of Oahu,  visit Puu Ualakaa State Park. It is a forested zone on a cinder cone near Honolulu in Hawaii. I loved its close location to the city and the breathtaking view. I visited there to get a panoramic view of the city, Diamond Head and the ocean. It was undoubtedly a great experience. When you travel to this park, you are advised to remain on the trail at all times and take note of the visiting hours which are between 7.00am to 6.45pm.

 Sunset Beach

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I enjoyed my travel in Oahu especially after visiting Sunset Beach. From there I could get a clear and beautiful view of the Ocean. The sunset Beach has wide stretches of sand and is good for a picnic and sunbathing. Stay there until around 5.30-6.30 PM and you can watch the beautiful sunset.

The Sunset Beach was home to the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational surfing competition until 1985. It is also important to note that Sunset Beach, Oahu is one of the three surf breaks where the popular Triple Crown surfing Contest happens. This is another place to add to your bucket list while in Hawaii.

While you there, drop by Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck and try the Garlic Shrimp Rice. Amazeball!

 

Waimea Bay

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On my travel to Oahu I learnt that The Waemea Bay was an influential surf spot in the early 1950s. It is located on the legendary North Shore in Hawaii. Big Wave season happens from November through February. This event attracts surfers who travel from all over the world. Locals like swimming during the summer and there is a big rock in the bay which swimmers climb and jump off of. It is dangerous and only if you are a pro can you try, and take note of the warnings and postings.

Waimea Valley

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Waemea Valley is just a stone throw away distance from Waemea Bay. The base of the Valley which is 2000 feet below is not for the faint hearted. I remember the thrill and fun I had hiking through the nature trail and beautiful scenery it was an experience like no other, irreplaceable. The valley is a historical nature garden including botanical garden which is open daily except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. The garden has thirty five distinct collections. The waterfall in the valley can be used for swimming when divers are not performing. It was a really a day to remember in Hawaii as the place offers an overall memorable experience for people of all walks and ages.

Pineapple Farm and Coffee Garden in North Shore

I always enjoy visiting farms and so my experience was one amazing one when I got to visit the Pineapple Farm and Coffee Farm in Oahu. There are many enjoyable activities for the whole family. The Dole Plantation originally started as a fruit stand in the 1950s and opened to the public in 1989. Today it has turned out to be one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii and hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Part 02 continues here ...

Awaken to a Different World- Kyoto, Japan

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If you are looking for an enlightning getaway, Kyoto is the place to be. When you hear of Kyoto, think of the temples, the tea-shops and the breath taking geisha among other secrets of the city that only wanderlust can help you uncover.

When you first arrive at the station, you will experience the shinkansen bullet train that will take you to the wide streets. With the huge number of places to visit, you are definitely spoilt for choices and you will have a hard time deciding on where to visit. Whatever your choice, make sure you do not miss these places:

Staying at a Ryokan 

When you are visiting Kyoto, you need to stay in a place which will give you memories and good rest. A Japanese Ryokan is a good place to be. However, you should choose a Ryokan strategically placed in relation to the places you wish to visit.

It is important to note that when traveling in groups of 2 to 4, you stand a better chance of having a Ryokan reserved for you. It is very hard to find one if you are traveling alone. The Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn which is full of fun activities. While residing here, make sure you do a onsen and you will create moments that you will live to remember.

Nishiki Market

The famous Nishiki Market is a five block long shopping street that is lined with several shops and restaurants. Here, you can find all food related items and you can find the Kyoto specialities as well as the Japanese delicacies.

Everything sold in this market is locally produced; it is time to forget the over-chilled stuff you take from your local market and eat food as it is. Food is in plenty here and all ranges of foods are present. You get a chance to marvel at the world’s finest and most expensive mushrooms. The green matcha tea is also present and snacks are in plenty. While you are here, do not forget to buy yourself the Grade A5 Wagyu beef BBQ for 1000 Yen a stick.

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Arashimaya Bamboo Groove

Arashimaya Bamboo Groove is probably one of the most photographed areas in the city. Walking into this vast bamboo groove feels like entering a whole new world. The thick green stalks of bamboo hover above you in every direction like an eagle ready to attack.

You cannot resist the moment and you will definitely take more pictures than you can imagine. The place is open 24 hours and you can access it anytime you like. Tenryu-ji temple is not far away from here and you can double your fun by visiting it afterwards.

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Okochi Sanso

Have you ever heard of the legendary movie actor Denjiro Okochi from the 1920’s? Well, his legend is well served by the spectacular Okochi Sanso villa in which he invested a lot of his time and money. When you enter in the villa, you are welcomed with a tasty free cup of matcha tea.

Once inside, you can view the Momoyama-style Shoin, the tea hut and a Kamakura-style Jibutsudo (temple). Additionally, you get to see stone Buddhas and a well laid out observation platform. You will also get a first-hand history of Denjiro Okochi in the open air museum which highlights his life.

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Kiyomizudera Temple

Of all the Temples in Japan, this is one you cannot afford to miss in your visits. Also known as the Pure Water Temple, it is among the most celebrated temples in Japan. While you are here, you will get to see the wooden stage jutting out of the main hall. You will see the Jishu Shrine which is a shrine dedicated to the god of love and matchmaking.

At the base of the main hall is the Otowa Waterfall whose waters are divided into three. The visitors use long poles to drink from the streams and it is believed that each of the streams has its own benefit. The benefits are a fortunate love life, longevity in life and success in school, do not make the mistake of drinking from all the three streams or you will be considered greedy.

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Kinkakuji Temple

Also known as the golden pavilion, Kinkakuji Temple has its two top floors covered in gold leaf completely. It is a stunning structure that is built overlooking a large pond. Each of the floors is made using a different architectural style. The temple gardens have interesting spots such as the Anmitaku pond that never dries up. Outside the gardens, there are souvenir shops and a small tea shop from where you can have the famous matcha tea.

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Fushimi Inari-Taisha Temple

This is an important Shinto shrine in Southern Kyoto. It is renowned due to its numerous torii gates which are a must see. While you are here, you will enjoy exploring the mountain trails, the shrine buildings, the Romon gate and the various auxiliary buildings.

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Awesome Side Trips from Tokyo!

Like I said in my previous post titled “The Ultimate Tokyo Travel Itinerary Guide for Newbies“, Tokyo is a very exciting place, especially for first-time visitors, but it is exciting to get out and see other parts of Japan as well. If you cannot afford to go all the way to Kyoto, Hiroshima or Fukuoka, then at least plan a few day trips from Tokyo. I’m sure you won’t regret it. In fact, there are million of options so it might be hard to choose. Here are my recommendations for free and easy day trips from Tokyo if you only have 2 days to spare.

Suggested Day Trips Outside Tokyo (reachable approximately less than 2 hours by Train/ Bus:

Yokohama

Yokohama (横浜) is probably one of the most popular day trips from Tokyo. There are so many things to do and see there, it won’t get boring. It is the second most populated city in Japan and is only 30 minutes south of Tokyo. In my own experience, it makes a good one day trip from Tokyo and there are several museums for you to see.

Though, better start pumping your adrenaline at Cosmo Clock 21 Theme Park, then take a stroll alongside the river to the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse where you can ice-skate during winter, continue towards the Cup noodle museum, then stop at Zou-No-Hana Terrace to see a panoramic view of Yokohama City. You can have dinner at Chinatown too!

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Fuji Mountain: Kawaguchiko

If you love nature tripping, then you can take a full-day excursion from Tokyo to the Mt. Fuji Area, and here are some of the things I did upon visiting this magnificent place:

Kawaguchiko Lake

This is the most easily accessible of the five Fuji lakes and there’s a direct bus connection to Tokyo– which I find convenient. Strolling along the Kawaguchiko lake is something I definitely enjoyed and I think it would be perfect for couples because this place has a very romantic ambience.

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Do you enjoy visiting shrines? Then you should definitely include this on your Fuji trip. This shrine is most famous for Chingono mai (Children dance) during the Magomi Matsuri festival) and is near Kawaguchiko.

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Chureito Pagoda

It’s a five-storey pagoda located on the mountainside, overlooking Mount Fuji and Fujiyoshida. It’s also part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built as a peace memorial. Don’t forget to bring your camera with you and make sure that you still have some battery to take the money shot of the Mt. Fuji, because this would be your perfect souvenir from visiting this place!

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