Munching My Way Through Montreal

Munching My Way Through Montreal

This weekend I went to Montreal to visit my incredible friend, Tristan whom I met during my study abroad experience in Singapore. He resides in Montreal and has been here for approximately 3 years now. Tristan had just finished university so I thought I’d go visit him before the end of summer. Luckily, he had a guest room where I was able to stay at and he was my tour guide for the weekend. We did a number of things but the food within this city was by far the best part of the trip. This particular city has handfuls of independent cafes, vintage thrift stores, and every type of food you could dream of. We had Korean, Mexican, and French foods among other things.

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We did a number of things but the food within this city was by far the best part of the trip. This particular city has handfuls of independent cafes, vintage thrift stores, and every type of food you could dream of. We had Korean, Mexican, and French foods among other things.

IMG_6876.JPGThe first day we went to Mount Royal as soon as I landed and dropped off my bags. It’s a mountain within the city that is easy to access and requires a 20-30 minute walk. The end result is a gorgeous view of the entire downtown area of the city. It’s flooded with tourists and locals so be sure to go at a decent time because if not you will be fighting for a chance to see the view from the edge of the mountain.

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The next day can only be explained as a food tour of the entire city. There are an insane amount of choices to choose from so you would never be left craving a food that you cannot find. The French brunch place was called Le Passé Composé and it had such a great presentation when it came to the food. As instagrammable as it was, the actual taste of it made it even better. To give you an idea of what they have on their extensive menu, they have the omelets, poutine, sandwiches, and crepes. They also had Eggs Benedict which of course is a widely known brunch item. We came at a great time so we did not need to wait although it was prime time for brunch.

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Lunch was great as well because we went to a Mexican place called Lola Rosa. It was extremely packed but the service was pretty good and the food was even better. You could tell that the nachos was a hit cause almost every table had one to share but we didn’t end up trying that. For all my vegetarians out there– this one has an enormous amount of vegetarian options! I got some chili and rice that came with a side of their chips.

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An intriguing part of the day was when we went to see a cafe in a bank. The bank was no longer in use so a couple small businesses took it and utilized it for the beautiful architecture.  Some of it was refurbished but it was barely noticeable. It is a popular tourist attraction and it is called Crew Collective & Cafe. They have little rooms that allow individuals to become alienated in order to finish their work away from the crowds and they also have community tables where others can gather together. Other than the great coffee, they also had a number of beautiful pastries.

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We passed by the Notre Dame Basilica as well which was absolutely beautiful.

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The third day we went to see the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts which is their largest museum. We were able to get in for free since it was the last Sunday of the month which means there is free admission. There is a collection of contemporary, renaissance, baroque, and modern art. They also have a sculpture garden and special exhibits. At the time when we went, they had a unique exhibit called the Revolution and Love is Love but we were unable to view them since they required payment. I did manage to sneak a peek of Love is Love through the doors and it is best described as a magical collection of delicate wedding dresses that are almost too beautiful to wear. Revolution consists of the pop culture that occurred during the late 1960s and the events that led to the music, art, and fashion.

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imagasdfasdfe1A must-see cafe I would recommend is called Tommy. Plants fall from the ceilings and there is a collection of adorable antique looking furniture around. There are multiple levels which allows the space to look a lot larger than it really is. It’s a great place to catch up with friends and grab some coffee or to meet up with your peers to study. They have juices, sandwiches, acai bowls, and other pastries.

I’m glad I was able to see all the bits and pieces of this city. Every neighborhood is accessible with the subway or you could simply walk.

I would love to come back if I got the chance.

Brooklyn’s Finest in Two Weekends

Brooklyn’s Finest in Two Weekends

I’ve lived near New York the majority of my life but never did I once think about going to Brooklyn. Everyone knows New York City as the place that has it all and often times, people end up neglecting other incredible parts of NY. I attended Panorama Music Festival in July which was held at Randall’s Island Park but I decided to venture to Brooklyn to live in an

I attended Panorama Music Festival in July which was held at Randall’s Island Park but I decided to venture to Brooklyn to live in an airbnb with my good friend.

Where did I stay?

First of all, any one who decides to spend some time in Brooklyn MUST get a room within this funky loft. It was by far the most creatively decorated space I have ever seen. It’s called the funky loft for a reason and if you think the pictures are incredible, you should actually go see what it is like in person. The hosts are incredibly sweet and were willing to show my friend and I great places to eat around the area. Sprawled among each crevice of this place are whacky toys, old records, vintage goods, and a great variety of antique furniture you cannot find anywhere else. I stayed here for both of the weekends I stayed in Brooklyn.

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What did I see?

  • At Panorama I was lucky enough to see artists such as Honne, MGMT, Solange, Vance Joy, and Frank Ocean and it felt surreal

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  • A handful of unique and colorful art at the Bushwick Collective which is free and stretches across a number of streets (it was one of the highlights of the weekend)

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  • More fantastic art and photography at the Brooklyn Museum and the MoMA
  • Walked the entire Brooklyn Bridge and then got those iconic Instagram-worthy photos in DUMBO

 

Where did I hang out?

  • Boobie Trap Bar has a large variety of toys and vintage games all over the place, it was definitely a place that I have never seen before and the things among the walls are sure to make you chuckle
  • Prospect Park was a nice place to read during the day since there are benches scattered all over the place

What did I eat?

  • Fried Chicken at Boka, a cute little Korean place in the St. Mark’s area where I ate the most chicken I have ever eaten because it was hands down, the most incredible chicken I have ever had
  • I experienced incredible service and a mountain of breakfast food at Kellogg’s Diner 
  • Pizza at a popular joint called Roberto’s where even the aroma of it is sure to make your mouth waterimage1.JPG
  • The Wheelhouse has a variety of sandwiches to try out along with little sides and they are well known for their grilled cheese
  • Had a great lunch at Lincoln Station which is a place where you can grab a quick bite or hang out and work since they have a communal table for those specifically with laptops
  • Lots and lots of coffee from the Bushwick Public House which also offers a nice working space and the scene is even better at night when there is live music
  • If you’re looking for a place with great food, amazing service, AND a photo op, you need to try Pietro Nolita which is not in Brooklyn but it was worth the trip for that all-pink interior and retro vibe

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What did I buy?

  • One vintage windbreaker I have been on the hunt for at a well known and highly respected vintage store right in Brooklyn called the Urban Jungle
  • A used book from a secondhand bookstore/cafe called Molasses Books, the book is by James Franco and it is called Palo Alto which has a collection of fiction stories about kids rebelling, experiencing love, and facing consequences for their actions

Honestly, at some point during those trips, I thought about dropping my life as it was to move to Brooklyn to strictly run a used bookstore because I am sure that I would be perfectly content with that life. I guess if all else fails, it will be my plan B!

Madness in Myanmar

Madness in Myanmar

This is such a delayed post. Mainly due to the fact that after my last SE Asia trip, I had finals to worry about so I was studying away (also brunching away with friends!) And right after finals, my parents came to visit me for a few days in Singapore before they painstakingly helped me clean out my dorm room at NTU. I’ve been home for a little over a week now and it’s just been a constant shuffle between New York City, Philadelphia, and my hometown. I’ve been consumed with catching up with friends and adjusting to the new marketing internship at Yumi Kim. Nonetheless, I thought it was about time I posted about my last trip before I forget.

Here are the places that I stayed at: 

Little Yangon 

This was a cute little hostel that was located right in the center of Yangon. It was in a narrow alleyway that was filled with small businesses such as bakeries, convenience stores, and restaurants. The rooms were quite nice and the staff was extremely helpful. Breakfast every morning consisted of eggs, coffee, toast, bananas, and more! When we went, it was the beginning of the new year so it was filled with people our age who were constantly looking for the next event to go to. It was an easy way to figure out what we could do that day. That’s how we found out about the music festival that we ended up going to!

Ostello Bello Nyaung Shwe 

By far the best hostel I’ve ever been in. It was insanely nice with the decor and it was clean as well. We had a bathroom within our room that was shared among four people. They had books and binders full of places nearby such as spas, ATMs, and wineries. They had events every night and a rooftop bar as well (hello Happy Hour!). This was located near Lake Inle so it was quiet and there wasn’t much a night life which I didn’t mind because the hostel made sure to keep the night going with games and what not. I met lots of people there from all over and it was incredibly fun. I wish I had stayed there longer.

Shwe Nadi Guest House (Bagan) 

This was a bit different from the other hostels I stayed at. It was a guest house after all so it was placed right near an extremely busy road. The bathrooms were outside which weren’t so great when it was freezing and raining but definitely manageable. They had e-bikes that they allowed us to rent for only 10 kyats a day! That was the best part of it.

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Here is what I did:

Thingyang Music Festival in Yangon

This was a pretty nice experience. I’ve been to handfuls of music festivals before but have never gone to an EDM one. We heard about this through people from our first hostel and decided to go since everything else in the city was closed due to the new year. It was fun but I wish there were more people that could have came! Water was sprayed everywhere of course so that was something I’ve REALLY never experienced before. The food was decent but later on it rained so we didn’t end up staying for the evening show at the major stage.

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Temples, Temples, and Temples (With a hint of Payas) 

Myanmar is definitely known for having a large amount of temples and payas. In Bangan, that’s all I really did. I e-biked around the place for the two days I was there and managed to see more places than I ever imagined. I recommend doing some research on those places before going so you have a bit of background knowledge of what you’re looking at. It was certainly overwhelming going inside of them and seeing the secret passages that would be held inside. Some led up to the room which overlooked Bagan. My favorite of course was the famous Shwedagon Paya (Pyramid of Gold). It was enormous and a day would not have been enough to explore it all.

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Made Friends

I met a couple of nice boys while I was touring one of the temples. They were eager to follow us and show us around the temple while their mom was nearby selling Myanmar gifts to tourists. Their english was incredible and they were so eager to learn about America. They asked about iPhones, Justin Bieber, pizza, and more. I took a polaroid of them both and later on gave each of them a copy so they could remember it. I forget the ages of them (they were around 7-10 years old) but I knew that one of them wanted to be a tour guide in the future. They were so adorable and I’m glad I got to learn about them as well.

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Saw Kayan People in Lake Inle 

These women came from Thailand, if I’m not wrong, but have migrated over to Myanmar due to the rise in tourism. They originated from Myanmar but moved to Thailand fled on. These groups of individuals wear brass coils around their necks and some have them around their knees as well. They start as early as five years old and keep increasing the amount of coils around their necks as they age. The reasoning for this mainly is due to cultural identity. Them wearing brass coils around their necks is equivalent to American teenage girls wearing chokers. It’s strange that I got to see them on my tour because my grandma back home always mentioned them and always showed me documentaries about them. She was so intrigued by their lifestyle and then I was given the opportunity to see them and meet them. The younger one spoke incredible English and was able to answer questions that we had regarding her life.

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Street Food, Floating Markets, and a War Museum in Vietnam

Street Food, Floating Markets, and a War Museum in Vietnam

This might have been my most impulsive trip yet. My friend Emily asked me to go to Vietnam for the weekend since she was pretty much done her classes and was itching to go somewhere new. At first I was hesitant but I’m easy to convince so within 15 seconds, I was sold and before I knew it, I had purchased flights and my visa for Vietnam.

What exactly did I want to see in Vietnam? Trust be told, I had never considered going there before. It wasn’t something that intrigued me but since I’m in the area, I thought why not?

Our agenda was to see Ho Chi Minh and that’s all that was planned to be honest. We didn’t have expectations nor did we know much about the country. I had reached out to some people who had gone to take a look at their itineraries but other than that, we went with an open mind.

On April 7th, we left Singapore for the airport for our flight in the afternoon.

The hostel we stayed at was called Town House 50 which was hidden in a narrow alleyway and it was in the middle of all the shops and restaurants which was definitely convenient.

It was one of the cutest places I’ve ever stayed at! It had some serious bohemian vibes to it which was something I had not seen in past hostels. I would recommend it and the staff was extremely helpful when we had questions about tours and what was nearby.

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The free breakfast was also quite nice since it consisted of a variety of fruits and included coffee, tea, etc.

We were keen on seeing other parts of Vietnam as well so we booked a two day tour in Can Tho which is where the Mekong River is located. This tour included a boat tour to show us the well-known floating market among other things.18056742_1845518475771175_1575865106943457136_n

We stayed at the hotel that was included in the price of the tour and it was called the Hauguang 2 Star Hotel. It was much better than I had expected and it was close to to a number of things as well such as an array of street food carts.

The floating market was interesting because you could actually see the locals buying/trading their fruits and what not. A few of the people in my tour group and I even bought some fresh pineapples from one of the businesses!

The tour also included a look at a family who creates rice noodles.

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Back in Ho Chi Minh, we decided to see a number of the tourist attractions such as the war museum, the post office, the basilica, and independence palace. Luckily for us, all of it was within the same area as our hostel so it was easy to walk around to find these places.

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I highly recommend seeing the war museum because it has a large collection of photographs that are absolutely stunning and it will open up your eyes to what exactly they had gone through during that time. Agent Orange was the exhibit that shocked me the most and was the one that left the biggest impact on me.

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Another thing I’d recommend is the Ben Thanh Street Food area. It’s right next to the street markets and it’s filled with tourists from all over.The walls are covered in colorful graffiti and it’s insane what kinds of food you’ll be able to find. You’ll be able to find local vietnamese foods as well as desserts such as crepes. I opted for dessert from this stall that served mango everything and it was definitely worth it.

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Personally, I don’t think the actual street market is worth it since it’s filled with cheap knock-offs of Nike shorts, Burberry scarves, and other name brand items but if you have time to kill, it doesn’t hurt to go there. Most of the businesses have the same repetitive items so make sure you attempt to bargain if you do end up wanting to buy something.

Other place I went to that are worth checking out:

  • Legend in Ho Chi Minh (Filled with lots of expats and can be found all over the city since it’s a chain)
  • Milkbar in Ho Chi Minh (Get the blueberry latte because it’s adorable and has ice cream in it but it doesn’t really have anything in it that would make it a latte)
  • The New Playground in Ho Chi Minh (Really cool underground shopping area in Ho Chi Minh where you can get some cool graphic tees or bohemian shirt dresses)
  • Urban Station Coffee in Ho Chi Minh (Interesting interior design and tasty drinks!)
  • In general, eat lots of Pho!

Raffles Grill and Singapore Art Museum

Raffles Grill and Singapore Art Museum

My friend Stef and I spent a day acting like princesses at the Raffles Hotel this past week. We planned to go to the Raffles Grill located inside this hotel to try out their lunch menu since they had set courses to choose from. The prices were reasonable and we’ve heard such great things about the place so on a rainy Friday afternoon, we set out with high expectations to the hotel.

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The interior is gorgeous. The bright lights and the white structured walls and pillars and the marble floors just pulled the whole place together. I was gushing over the design of it all even before I stepped foot into the hotel. I think I even let out a gasp and muttered a short ‘shut the fuck up!’ when I was fully inside of the building. You could tell Stef and I did not belong in a place like this.

Nonetheless, we had reservations for the restaurant so we turned right and we were presented by a nice, quiet room and we were taken to our table.

We decided to both do the 3 course $58 meal plan. And boy, was it a great choice.

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The appetiser I chose was the seared scallops with white asparagus and chutney. The main course was a delicate US Prime Omaha Beef Tenderloin with a side of mashed potatoes and broccoli. Lastly, the dessert option I opted for was the Chesnut Chiboust with tuile and cherry sorbet. All of it was great. Would highly recommend 10/10. I initially thought that the portions were too small for what we were paying but it was worth it and completley filling.

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Next place we went to was the Singapore Art Museum because it was close by and they had a few interesting things going on there. It is free admission as well.

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The Hidden Dimensions II by Sarah Choo Jing
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Untitled from the series ‘Singapore’ by Nguan

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It’s three floors but when we went they only had a few rooms opened to the public. Most of what we encountered was interactive art which made it fun and different from other museums I’ve seen. I am also pretty sure that each of the works we saw were inspired by the condition that Singpore is in with all its developmental construction going on and the lonliness that comes with being in a fast-paced large city. Much of the art referenced to the pool of ethnicities that can be found in Singapore. They even had works from student teachers that were unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

A few of my favorite pieces include the video on loop called The Hidden Dimension II by Sarah Choo Jing which takes a closer look at a family inside of a home and how they’re all disregarding each other. Another one I particularly liked was the Strange Fruit photo collection by Lee Wen which followed a man around Singapore who was painted yellow and was always carrying a cluster of red lanterns which would shield his body from being seen in the photos. That one takes a hit at the stereotypes that accompany Chinese people and how they are viewed by others.

I highly suggest going to both of these places because it was money and time well spent.

PS Cafe and Project Acai in Singapore

Quiet and rainy Sundays in Singapore certainly call for good food with some good company. My friends and I headed to Dempsey Hill to grab some grub and to explore the unfamiliar area a bit more.

I remembered seeing PS Cafe as a place that was listed online whenever I looked up brunch spots in Singapore and I’m glad I remembered it because it was such an incredible place.

This restaurant was lined with glass windows that opened up some light in the room which made it seem more spacious than it really was. The place was filled with young first dates, families, and friends who were catching up on this nice afternoon. My friends and I were convinced that we had made the right choice coming here.  It’s a bit hard to find it at first since it’s surrounded by trees and it’s not on the main path but it is such a sight to see when you first walk in.

We got there just as they were about to close the brunch menu so we scanned the menus quickly and got our food within a few minutes. I ordered the crab tart with a glass of Rose & Berries Sangria. I definitely recommend those two because the drink felt like it was never ending and they had little flowers in them and the crab tart was wonderful. I’m a seafood gal so I knew it wouldn’t disappoint. My friends got the Green Goddess Pesto Penne and the PS Gado Gado Salad. Later on, we gave in and got the truffle fries because every single table around us had one. We barely finished it but it was pretty good and definitely worth the hype.

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Overall, I definitely enjoyed the food and the ambiance of the place. I will be sure to return here before I leave for America!

After this, we encountered a nice little market that resembled Dean and Deluca in Dempsey Hill that even had a cheese room. Now that is impressive. They had posters everywhere regarding cheesy cheese jokes (ha ha) and how this was the first place to have a cheese room. It was called Jones the Grocer and I could have easily spent an entire day there going through their little snacks and what not but I was pulled away to meet up with other friends in Holland Village.

Project Acai was also a place I wanted to seek out before I left for Singapore and I finally got a chance to try it!

I got the original acai bowl in their handy size since I was feeling full from PS Cafe. The presentation was pretty adorable and it tasted just as good as I thought it would! My other friends got the original one as well and some branched out to try the one that included nuts in it. They also have smoothies too so I think I will venture to them next time I’m in the area.

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Pug Cafes, Bamboo Forests, and Hot Springs in Kyoto and Hakone

Since we had that train pass for the bullet train during out entire stay in Japan, we decided to take advantage of it and use it for a couple trips outside of Tokyo.

The first place we went to was Kyoto and we stayed there for a total of about two days because the train ride there shaved a couple hours off a day for us. The winsome hostel we stayed at was actually a traditional wooden Japanese home that was about 100 years old and it was in great shape. It was called the Hostel Haruya Kyoto. It was the perfect location since it was quite close to the train station and it was in the middle of a narrow alleyway that consisted of many food shops. The front desk people were some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered. They were sure to give us a grand tour of the place and they were helpful in every way. They often sat down with us to ask us about our plans and would even help map out everything to ensure that we had time to see all the things we wanted to. The bathrooms were outside which was hard since it was painfully cold outside in the mornings but we powered through. It was in a quiet area too which was good because I was always exhausted after our days in Kyoto.  Here is some more information on the hostel in case anyone was interested. image1image2image3

I was determined to see the unique pug cafe in Kyoto and thankfully I was able to reserve it for an hour or so at the Dog Salon Living Room Cafe. Although I’m someone who is allergic to all kinds of dogs, I wanted to live life on the edge and see those cuties anyways (I did later break out on my arm and ended up sneezing for the rest of the day but it was worth it) because I wasn’t too keen on seeing owl cafes or cat cafes. I heard great reviews about it from friends and from online blogs so I wanted to see it for myself. It was quite adorable and there were 11 of them in total. The owners of the pugs were really sweet and offered us some sweets along with tea. In addition to this, we were given a family tree that showed us the ages and genders of these dogs. We even got a pug calendar for free at the end of our visit! Be sure to make reservations for it if you’re interested.

The red towered shrine was an attraction that I had heard so much about so we went to find it during our first day in Kyoto. It’s also known as the Fushimi Inari Shrine and it was incredible. It was in enthralling to walk through the paths but it was a bit hard capture it all at once because numerous tourists surrounded us with their phones and cameras. I wished I could have decoded all the characters on the poles since they all had something written on them. The bold red color of the entire shrine was stunning and it was my favorite part of Kyoto.

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Another precious attraction that we could not miss was the golden pavilion that is known as Kinkaku-Ji. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and the reflection of it in the pond water was stunning. There was an obnoxious amount of tourists everywhere but it certainly didn’t take away from the beauty of it all. It’s opened everyday from 9am to 5pm and there is a small admission fee of 400 yen.

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Other things we did in Kyoto consisted of the Nishiki Market that had an endless array of foods and Gion which is known to have wandering geishas if you’re lucky enough to catch them late at night. The market has everything you need from souvenirs to local street food to local sake. It’s worth it to get lost there for an hour or so because you may eventually wander into an area that has clothing shops. My friend and I wandered around Gion to search for dessert and we stumbled upon the Kamo River along with countless restaurants and teahouses. This area is known for geishas but we didn’t see any while we were there walking about. Another thing that became my one of my favorites (other than the Fushimi Inari Shrine) was the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. 

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After Kyoto, we decided to go to Hakone for a quick day trip but we didn’t realize how much time it would take for the train and what not. We ended up getting there around 1-2 pm but by that time, many of the tour guides told us that businesses closed around 5 pm so we’d need to go somewhere that was quite close and easy to get to. It was disappointing to hear because had we known that shops closed at 5, we would have started the day much earlier. The only thing we had time to do was go to this naked hot spring that was located in a fancy hotel. This was unknown to me, but Hakone is actually known for onsens which are hot springs. This was called the Tenzen Tohji-kyo Hot Springs and it cost about 1300 yen to get in. It’s more popular among the locals than it is for tourists but that makes the experience even better in my opinion. I wasn’t able to take my smartphone anywhere so I didn’t get quality photos of the experience but it was a great way to unwind for a few hours. They had various pools of water that varied in temperature and they had a sauna room. A shower was provided which allowed you to clean yourself up a bit before getting in the pools. They had lockers and areas where you could reapply your makeup afterwards. Hairdryers and towels were also present which made this place seem insanely professional and sanitary. Not to mention it felt great to finally feel warm in Japan!

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