Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Marvel Studios' Black Panther

Synopsis: Marvel Studios' Black Panther follows T'Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T'Challa's mettle as king -and Black Panther- is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life. [Source: Golden Village]

Essentially a continuation of event from Captain America: Civil War, the movie follows the rise of Prince T'Challa who will succeed his father after he was killed in a terrorist bomb in the Captain America movie. Though not as flashy as most other Marvel's heroes, the director tries to paint the main character as a humanly king who simply loves his people. Catch this movie as the Black Panther gabble with issues from his ancestors past who may have made wrong decisions. In any way, post ending credits shows that the Panther will be back in Avengers: Infinity War. There was also a scene from Guardians of the Galaxy... now... how do these guys fit in Avengers...?

Rate: 8/10

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Japan Day 5 - Miyajima (Hiroshima)

23 Feb - Our second last day in Japan. For today, we decided to spend the whole day visiting Miyajima, a small island in Hiroshima Bay, known for its forests and ancient temples. Just offshore, the giant, orange Great Torii Gate is partially submerged at high tide. For the trip to Miyajima, we decided to use the local tram transport to have a view of the countryside. After an hour ride, we finally arrived at the ferry station.

Miyajima Ferry Station

A panoramic view of the ferry and sea

Our ferry to Miyajima

Pretty surprise there are wild deers walking around at Miyajima

A big rice spoon on exhibition on the island

The iconic Great Torri Gate

Toyokuni Shrine five-story pagoda

Near view of the five-story pagoda

A collection of shrines in buildings

The Great Torri Gate - Sunset view

Ended the day with a quiet stroll near Hiroshima Castle

A great relaxing trip spent in Japan =)

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Japan Day 4 - Hiroshima

22 Feb - Having finished with our agenda in Osaka, we checked out of our Air BnB accommodation at 11am and began our journey back to Hiroshima via Shinkansen.

Relatively empty station at Osaka

Finally arrived at our Ark Hotel 5 hours later

With 1+ hours left before the sun sets, we decided to visit the iconic A-bomb Dome to take some photos of it to free up some of our itinerary for tomorrow. Some interesting facts about Hiroshima is that most of the city is connected by trams instead of the usual bus.

A typical tram station

Hiroshima A-bomb Dome

Beautiful sunset by the Ota River

View of the dome from the other side

Departing shot with the sun setting in the background - Hope we will not be witnessing the horror of nuclear weapon ever again

On our way back, we chanced upon the Hiroshima Pokemon center and off we to visit it for photo taking session again. 

Red Gyarados with Pikachu

Ended the day walking back to our hotel and finding dinner along the way

Friday, March 02, 2018

Japan Day 3 - Universal Studio Japan, Osaka

21 Feb - For today, we will be solely dedicated to enjoying ourselves at Universal Studio Japan (USJ). In order to spend the maximum time allowed in the park (As we know we definitely will not be able to cover the whole park), we woke up early and left the house in order to be at the gate when the theme park opens. We got ourselves to transfer at Nishikujō Station to board the train which will bring us to Universal City Station.

I am not sure if it is the culture of Japan not to be late (or wake up early), but when we arrived at the entrance, there are already hoards of people at the gate. Well, we will now need to squeeze with the crowd.

One thing I like about Japan is that the people here do spend the efforts to enjoy themselves and soak in the fantasy environment. We saw people doing cosplay and sitting by themselves on the road or lawn to take pictures. Most of the girls will buy themselves a cartoon character head band and wear throughout the time they are in the park. For us, we have no time to loose as we have several places to cover in order not to waste the express pass* we have paid. 

*The Express Pass is well worth the money paid to skip the long long queue, which can be a 120 mins wait.

The usual Universal City Entrance

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man - The Ride 4K3D

As quoted from USJ website: "The world's best attraction and the first to win world's best ride award 7 consecutive years has been transformed into a whole new ride by gaining the world's best technology "4K3D"! Unbelievable impact that confuses the imaginary with the reality, and series of special effects over 100, will give you an incredible, immersive experience. You'll encounter an all-new kind of excitement!" My review - Mind blowing awesome ride!

Hollywood Dream - The Ride

Initially, we wanted to ride the "Back Drop" version, which has the ride going backwards, but too bad, it was down for maintenance. Anyway, here are the description from USJ website: "This precisely designed ultimate ride experience is like flying through the sky. Cut through the wind with your chosen soundtrack as background music. An unbelievable thrill and exhilaration will shoot through your entire body, in this new sensational roller coaster."

Walking through the main street to our next destination

The Flying Dinosaur

As quoted from USJ website: "Our new state-of-the-art coaster has arrived, featuring the world’s longest track*, and farthest initial drop*. An out-of-control Pteranodon will seize you from behind and pull you high into the sky, with nothing but air space between you and the ground! This over-the-top, thrilling experience will swing you 360 degrees through the world of Jurassic Park."

* Based on company research of 22 flying roller coasters in operation worldwide. Total course length is 1,124 m, and the height of the first drop is 37.8 m.

Well, I do remember experiencing a lot of G-force as I zoom through the air like superman doing loops and turns. Not a bad experience overall.

Aren't we glad to have the express pass to skip the queue....

Interesting notice

Final Fantasy XR Ride

This is a special event hosted by USJ for half a year called "Universal Cool Japan 2018" which will feature Final Fantasy XR Ride, Detective Conan: The World (Escape Game) and Monster Hunter: The Real. In order not to miss it, we have paid for the pass to enter these 3 attractions.

As quoted from USJ website: "This new type of roller coaster draws guests into the Final Fantasy universe, exceeding the excitement of virtual reality! The XR experience features a panoramic view of Final Fantasy in all its splendor, perfectly synchronized with the gravitational power that only a ride can offer. The incredible sensory experience goes beyond virtual reality, allowing guests to rush through the beautiful, enchanting world of Final Fantasy!" My review - So real that it seems like a reality! Amazing technology!

Next, we went for our Detective Conan: The World (Escape Game). In order not to give out spoilers, I can't write anything in detail here. The checks are pretty stringent before we enter the building and the staffs keep reminding guests that photography are not allowed. The puzzles in the game are pretty tough and there is absolutely no way we can complete solving everything given only 60 mins. What was unique was that they provide real live actors to act out the opening and closing scene. It was a pretty interesting experience.

Dropping by Minions park on the way to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™

Hogwarts™ Express

Hogsmeade™ - a village where wizards reside, there is an array of shops frequented by students of Hogwarts™ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Hogwarts™ Castle

Evening Light Show

We saw on the reviews that the Butterbeer is a must try at USJ. We did order the hot version as the weather is pretty chilling but I must say the drink is too sweet for my liking.

Last view of USJ Main Street before departing

We have a fun time at USJ

Jump Shop did caused us some distraction as we went in to look at the merchandise on our way to the Universal City Station

One Piece and Naruto

The iconic tower of Shinsekai

Ended our day with an awesome Kushikatsu dinner

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Japan Day 2 - Kyoto

20 Feb - Today is the day we will be going to Kyoto on our own as YB stayed behind in Osaka to do his shopping. Since we have never visited Kyoto tourist attractions before, we targeted 2 sites for the day - Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari-taisha, two very well known places in Kyoto.

To beat the crowd, we decided to set off early from Osaka and rely on Google map to tell us which train to take to Saga-Arashiyama JR Station from Osaka. The folks at Google must be a genius to integrate all these information and make them available to people at their fingertips on demand. I can't imagine how can I survive the trip without Google map as taking trains in Japan can be very very challenging. Just imagine there are 25+ platforms in a typical station and you are wondering which platform to go to for your train.....

Arriving at Saga-Arashiyama JR Station 90 mins later

Entering Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Bamboo Canopy

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove starting point

After we had enough of photo taking, we took a leisurely walk through the Arashiyama Park to enjoy the nature scenery and peace before making our way slowly to Togetsukyō bridge.

At peace with nature

*mds* mentioned the river water is glittering in the sunlight and I decided to capture it with my camera lens with shocking effects.

Scenic shops in the park closed during off seasons

Togetsukyō bridge in the background

Togetsukyō bridge

After we are done with the bridge, it was closed to noon time and our stomachs are hinting to us it is time for lunch. We tried walking around the area hoping to find a ramen restaurant that serves decent food but all we got are soba noodles or udon. In the end, we settled for soba noodles at a shop next to the Saga-Arashiyama JR Station. Thank God that we did ate there as the shop gave us 2 raffle tickets to participate in spinning the wheel game at the JR Station.

Look familiar? Reminds you of the lottery in the Tabikaeru game didn't it?

After we finished the game (we got 2 white balls), we depart for our next destination - Fushimi Inari-taisha. The highlight of this attraction is the rows of torii gates called Senbon torii as they lined the path snaking its way up and down the mountain. It is estimated there are about 10,000 torii gates along the paths.

Fushimi Inari-taisha entrance

Front view of the torii gates

Back view of the torii gates

Torii gates making in process - applying the finishing touches.

Initially, we wanted to walk up the paths available in the mountain, but after the exhausting climb halfway through, we gave up and decided to return back to base. By the time we reached the entrance, it was close to 6pm and we decided to head back to Osaka, dropping by Kyoto to have our ramen dinner.