pork dumpling

6 most delicious snacks in GLORIA ALLEY, JAKARTA CHINATOWN

https://goo.gl/maps/5RkAhUQwWmsX5S3T8

The largest Chinatown in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is Glodok area. Situated in the west side of Jakarta, to be exact, Glodok has been the silent witness of cultural diversity and long history of Chinese ethnics settlement since the 18th century. The name Glodok is derived from the sound of shower from a small building in the Townhall courtyard, whose sound is like “grojok… grojok”. Then, the locals pronounce it as “glodok” since they have a difficulty in pronouncing straight and sharp “r” sound.

Not only is Glodok a melting pot for Chinese descendants’ community, but also foodies’ favorite spot. Although culinary business is very competitive nowadays and Glodok is not as busy as it used to be back in the 80’s and 90’s (aka the year of my childhood), it doesn’t mean that the oldest Chinatown in Jakarta completely lose its vibe because it offers unique food varieties in a shoestring.

Therefore, I decided to join Glodok Food Tour organized by Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, a walking tour specifically for culinary experience in Glodok area. Although I live not very far from Glodok, it doesn’t mean I know everything about it. To be honest, I seldom explore the area by myself and I feel like being a total stranger in my own city. I’m not only bad at road directions in general, but also I become worse when I have to memorize a winding road with densely populated shophouses along the way. So there I was with 2 other participants and a licensed guide.

There are 2 main alleys to get mouthwatering Chinese street food: Gloria Alley (Gang Gloria) and Kalimati Alley (Gang Kalimati). At first, let’s take a closer look at Gloria Alley. When you walk around Gloria Alley, you need to be aware that most transactions are cash only and don’t accept credit cards. If you’re lucky, you can use a debit cards, though not always. Besides, you need to share the lane with workers bringing huge and loaded goods for the stores or stalls. It’s also a public secret that narrow and crowded streets are usually a place where pickpockets do their job as well.

In my opinion, these are culinary spots worth to try:

  • Pork Dumpling

The pork dumpling are sold on an old-fashioned bike so-called sepeda ontel without a permanent stall and brand. Using peanut sauce as a dressing, the dumpling is offered for Rp. 20.000 ($ 1.50) for 10 pieces, with the choice of dumpling, potato, egg, bitter gourd and pork skin. Since most buyers consume it on the go, there’s a satay stick so you can eat it easily without making your hands dirty. I love it for its balanced taste of the meat and flour altogether without draining my money.

pork dumpling
pork dumpling
  • Mi Pan

Literally meaning rice flour in Hakka dialect, Mi pan is a snack from Kalimantan (Borneo) made of rice flour, garlic oil, fried minced garlic and sweet black sauce for merely Rp. 7000 ($ 0.50) per piece. My fellow foodies advice me to ask for more fried minced garlic to make it more fragrant and savory. They’re completely right about this as fried minced garlic also harmonizes the sweetness of the black sauce. Just like the pork dumpling seller, he doesn’t have his own stall and just sitting in front the wall separator of shophouses.

glodok
mi pan
  • Kopi Es Tak Kie

Established in 1927 oleh Liong Kwie Tjong, Kopi Es Tak Kie (Tak Kie Iced Coffee) is nowadays managed by the third generation of his family. I tried the iced milk coffee, for Rp. 25.000 ($ 1.70) and I think it has an old-fashioned taste by only using a dark roast robusta coffee and condensed milk without creamer. It’s definitely a strong coffee to keep you awake.

kopi tak kie
iced coffee milk

Although it’s called kopi es (iced coffee), Kopi Es Tak Kie also has its signature mixed pork rice, consisting of cha sieuw (roast pork), crispy pork, lap chiong sausage and Javanese style braised egg. You’d better come in the morning, because the coffee house will run out of it instantly after lunch. For a Rp 55.000 ($ 4.50), it’s not very cheap but still worth it for a great taste.

Nowadays, Kopi Es Tak Kie has some branches at the food court in some shopping malls. It also participates in culinary bazaar events, yet unfortunately, the portion is not as big as that in Gloria Alley for the same price, most probably because it has to compensate with a quite large amount of revenue sharing or expensive rental cost.

  • Sek Ba 77 Bek Tim

There are several food stalls selling sekba and bektim, steamed pork innards immersed in soup made of Chinese herbs and sweet soy sauce, in Glodok. The difference between 2 of them is that sekba is served dry. On the other hand, bektim is served with the soup. Sek Ba 77 Bek Tim, situated in front of Kopi Es Tak Kie is one of the popular stalls. Despite selling in a modest cart, the business has been running for 2 generations and still counting. Sold for Rp 20.000 ($ 1.50), the herb soup tastes amazing although I don’t like most of the contents, except intestine, tongue and the meat attached in pork belly and skin.

sek ba
sekba and bektim
  • Pioh Tim Tauco

Suppose you are adventurous enough and feel lie trying something unique, pi oh could be perfect choice for you. Pioh is steamed turtle meat (so-called bulus in Indonesian, to be exact) served with soup made of turtle broth. Still situated in front of Kopi Es Tak Kie, there’s Pioh Tim Tauco, whose soup is mixed with tauco, fermented soybean, resulting with more savoury taste. This is the only food I haven’t tried since I’m usually not really a fan of soft and chewy meat. I feel so pity for the turtle, anyways.

pi poh tauco glodok
pi oh tim tauco
  • Snack Shop

Assorted sweets from chocolates to candies, snacks, dried fruits, sweetened fruits sold in giant glasses jar is the signature look of snack shops in Glodok, that I think they are instagrammable enough to capture. Besides, it has old-fashioned and less known candy and chocolate brands not provided in modern supermarkets. I can guarantee that binge eaters will have a lot of fun exploring this shop. You can purchase them in a small quantity since the price is per 100 grams.

snack shop

Apart from culinary experience, Gloria Alley also offers Chinese New Year attributes, Buddhist related prayer tools, accessories, convenient store, fruit market and butcher shop. Our tour didn’t just end there because we were about to visit 2nd alley: Kalimati Alley (Gang Kalimati).

It’s getting more excited, I promise you. So stay tuned for my next post on culinary adventure in Kalimati Alley!

ramen

Cup Noodles Museum, Revealing the Birth of Instant Noodle

https://goo.gl/maps/f59ZpqMi1RAcL1NAA

Instant noodle has been part of many people’s life, mostly Asians, in terms of practical and cheap solution when hunger strikes. In my hometown Indonesia, there are even warung Indomie, food stalls serving noodle menus using Indomie (Indonesia’s number 1 instant noodle brand) as the main ingredient (check more on my previous post about my visit to one of the warung indomies.)

But actually, instant noodle has a long history long before becoming worldly known like these days. It all began from the recession in Japan after World War II when everyone in the country was at the peak of poverty, and an entrepreneur like Momofuku Ando was not an exception. After he regained success from bankruptcy, the Ministry of Agriculture called him to help the government to maximize the wheat flour consumption for public. At that time, wheat flour was one of the main aids from the US.

ramen museum
ramen history in chronological order

Having witnessed workers who spent hours just for a cup of ramen (Japanese noodle), he had an idea to make the instant version of that staple food. In 1958, he created his first instant noodle, Chicken Ramen, by steaming the spiced noodle and dry it in hot oil. Then, he founded a food industry called Nissin Food Products.

chicken ramen
chicken ramen celebrates halloween

His invention was sensational since cooking a cup of noodle has never been easier, only by adding hot water and leave it for less than 2 minutes, then voila!

Since then, instant noodle has changed the diet of people around the world and it’s getting easier to find in other Asian countries, as well as Europe, America and Africa.

cupnoodles packaging around the world

Over time, instant noodle has experienced some developments, from additional taste enhancer, varieties of flavor until expiry date notification in the packaging. In 1971, Nissin launched Cupnoodles, whose cup was made of styrofoam, served with dried vegetables and fruits, such as prawn, beef, chicken and pork.

Nowadays, the documentation of the first instant noodle in the world is displayed in Cupnoodles Museum in Ikeda, Osaka. Besides Osaka, the museum also has another branch in Yokohama. The invention chronology of instant noodle is shown with modern and attractive visuals, including games, simple quizzes and a movie on theater. Visitors also can see the path of Momofuku Ando’s success story, for instance the awards he received, his quotes on his principles of success and the replica of the wooden warehouse where he did the one year experiment of instant noodle creation.

wooden warehouse replica

At a glance, the museum exterior looks banal and serious with red brick walls and Momofuku Ando’s statue standing on a giant Cupnoodles bowl. Nonetheless, I was pretty shock that most visitors are kids and toddlers accompanied by their parents and a bunch of teens. This is absolutely not a typical national history museum kind of thing run by government.

ramen tunnel
ramen tunnel

One of the main attractions in Cupnoodles Museum is the Instant Ramen Tunnel, exhibiting over 800 packaging designs, starting from the first Chicken Ramen in 1958, Cupnoodles in 1971 until the latest ones. The Doraemon packaging is undoubtedly my favourite!

cute, isn’t it?

On the other side of the wall, there are hundreds of Cupnoodles packaging designs from all over the world, followed by information on the amount of annual instant noodle consumption in each country. It comes to my surprise that Indonesia is the 2nd largest amount of consumption, reaching 130.1 million portion per year. It beats Japan as the birthplace of instant noodle, with 56.6 million, and the China is the only country who wins over Indonesia, with 385.2 million. Inhabitants in the US and Russia are in fact the most instant noodle eaters in western countries, with 41 million and 16.2 million.

Another unique experience no one should miss is to concoct your own Cupnoodles and design its packaging. At first, get a styrofoam cup from the provided vending machine for 400 Yen ($ 3.60) and use assorted colour markers in the drawing room to beautify the plain cup with your own creativity. This was fun, yet challenging at the same time since I’m not good at drawing.

ramen
ramen packaging process

Then, you can bring the cup you designed to be filled with a portion of instant noodle and choose the soup flavour and topping. You are free to choose 1 out of 4 soup flavours, either chicken broth, seafood, chili tomato or curry. For toppings, you can choose 4 of 12, such as crabstick, cheese, prawn, garlic, green onion, roast pork, egg, kimchi, green beans, chicken ramen mascot printed fish sausage, and a special topping available on certain occasion only, like pumpkin in October for Halloween during my visit. While waiting for my noodle to be ready, I watched the packaging process until my Cupnoodles arrived in my hand.

ramen
my ramen creation!

Additionally, you will receive a free bag made of a swimming tire material. This bag doesn’t instantly function, however. In short, all you have to do is to put the Cupnoodles inside the bag, then blow it like a balloon. The balloon-shaped bag is immediately locked and protect the styrofoam cup from breakage. What an idea, isn’t it?

For those who like cooking, Cupnoodles Museum provide Chicken Ramen Factory, where you can learn the process of making an instant noodle from the expert. The class costs 800 Yen ($ 7.03) for adults and 500 Yen ($ 4.50) for kids. Since it has a limited spot, it is recommended to have a reservation prior to the visit.. Too bad, I didn’t make it because if was fully booked.

Chicken Ramen Factory

Last but not least, don’t miss the cute chicken ramen mascot in towels, pins, aprons, dolls, t-shirts, bags and many more at the souvenir shop. Besides, instant noodle addicts can get limited edition Cupnoodles packaging and the first Chicken Ramen classic packaging design from 1958.

Although Indomie dominates Indonesian instant noodle market, I still can find Cupnoodles in supermarkets in small amount of varieties, such as Nissin seafood, chicken flavoured noodle and Cupnoodles UFO Japanese style fried noodles.

giant cupnoodles

The visit to the museum is free of charge, except participation in concocting and designing your own Cupnoodles packaging by getting the styrofoam cup and learning to fabricate instant noodle from Chicken Ramen Factory class.

Cupnoodles Museum proves that learning history doesn’t have too be boring and too serious. I like the way it educates people in interactive and entertaining way, that enable to attract children because it tends to look like a happy playground rather than a common ancient museum. I can understand if the colourful presentation dominated by Chicken Ramen cartoon mascot may seem too childish for some adults, but I love it anyways although I’m 40 something.

Personally, Cupnoodles Musuem doesn’t only broaden my horizon on the knowledge behind the mainsteam culture of eating instant noodle, but also reminds me of a happy childhood.

The original article has been published on https://telusuri.id/cupnoodles-museum/ (in Indonesian only)

upside down world bandung

Who and What is Galontrip?

upside down world bandung

My name is Nydia, the writer of Galontrip travel blog. I’m the proud citizen from Jakarta, the hectic Indonesia’s capital city with one of the worst traffic jams in the world. I’m a drop out design student, a fashion management graduate and an employee who happen to enjoy travelling.

Suppose you wonder what Galontrip means, here it is. Galontrip is derived from 3 words combined in one: Gal on Trip. The Gal, it’s me, who else? It simply means this blog is all about my journeys around my own city and the world.

Galontrip is a blog about travel, culinary destinations, and occasionally some hotel stay experience. Every post written in this blog is unbiased, as honest as it is without any pressure from the owner or the GM of the destinations.

Several articles in this blog are featured on gpsmycity.com, a self-guided app for travelers where you can convert an article into a map. So cool, huh? For more information, click here. My works are also featured on travel-oriented websites (written in Indonesian only), such as telusuri.id, idntimes.com, travel.detik.com, Sayang Perut Facebook Page and travelingyuk.com.

Perhaps you don’t always second with what I think, but I hope you enjoy what I write. If you do, feel free to follow my blog, so I’m getting more and more excited to post more great contents. Thank you!!

tpu petamburan

Petamburan Public Cemetery and the Overlook Cultural Legacy

Situated on Jalan KS Tubun, Central Jakarta, Indonesia, Petamburan Public Cemetery is not only the last resting place of Jakarta residents, but also houses the largest mausoleum in Southeast Asia and the silent witness of cultural diversity in Indonesia’s capital.

OG KHOUW MAUSOLEUM

tpu petamburan
OG Khouw Mausoleum

OG Khouw, whose originally name was Khouw Oen Giok, was the landlord from Tambun, an entrepreneur who owned cane sugar plantation, Than Kie Bank and a philanthropist. He once donated his wealth to Jang Seng Ie Hospital, now Husada Hospital, and 40,000 Dutch Guilders for Dutch Red Cross. Therefore, he earned Dutch Citizenship from Queen Wilhelmina and his name was written in Western style, OG Khouw.

Besides, he was also the cousin of Khouw Kim An, the last Majoor der Chinezen (Major of the Chinese) of the Dutch East Indies and the owner of the mansion called Candra Naya on Jalan Gajah Mada in West Jakarta, which is now a museum.

OG Khouw and Lim Sha Nio’s graves

After OG Khouw’s passing in 1927 in Switzerland, his wife Lim Sha Nio built a 9-meter high-mausoleum made of imported black marble and statues from Italy to keep the ashes of her husband. Designed by G. Racina from Ai Marmi Italiani, an Italian architecture firm, the foundation cost extremely high, about 500,000 Dutch Guilders and finished in 1932.

The luxurious mausoleum even has a bunker below it to accommodate mourners and a room in the middle, which is permanently closed by the family. The last OG Khouw’s family visit to the mausoleum was in 1980’s.

tpu petamburan
inside the bunker
tpu petamburan
praying table with engraved images of OG Khous and his wife
additional metal door to the bunker

Nonetheless, the wealthy couple didn’t have any children. Therefore, after Lim Sha Nio passed away in 1957 and buried next to her husband, nobody took care of the mausoleum, whose luxury beats that of Rockefeller, the king of oil from the US at that time. Many years of neglection results in vandalism, theft and aging condition, e.g. broken nose on the angel statue in between the tombs, cracked marble inside the bunker and pillars.

an angel with broken nose

And that’s not it. A couple of high school students were also suspected of doing indecent acts inside the bunker. Since then, the mausoleum has an additional metal door in order to avoid similar incident.

Nowadays, Petamburan public cemetery management and Love Our Heritage community take care of the biggest mausoleum in Southeast Asia. However, both parties still need government support to finance the renovation expenses. If OG Khouw mausoleum is a cultural heritage, government will pay more attention to it, leading to an initiative of the renovation project. One of the reasons why it is not stated yet as the cultural heritage is probably because OG Khouw was a Dutch resident. Too bad.

OTHER KHOUW FAMILY MEMBERS BURIED IN PETAMBURAN

Those days, the land of Petamburan Public Cemetery was owned by Khouw family, who rented it for 80 years. But in fact, only 4 members of Khouw family were buried there, such as Khouw Kim An and his wife Phoa Tji Nio, WS Khouw and Khouw Kok Lie. Their graves are also mausoleums, although not as grandiose as that of OG Khouw.

tpu petamburan
Khouw Kim An and his wife’s mausoleum

PUBLIC FIGURES AND BLACK MARBLE INSPIRATION

Djojo Muljadi’s grave

Black marble used on OG Khouw mausoleum was a “fashion trend” for other tombs. For example, the tomb of notary Djojo Muljadi uses black marble on the entire surface. On the other hand, Ibu Aju Agung’s tomb, the wife of Gunung Agung bookshop owner, only applies it for the name plate.

Ibu Aju Agung’s grave
tpu petamburan
not a black marble, but this Asian Games athlete’s grave is kinda unique

FROM JAPANESE COLUMBARIUM TO JEWISH GRAVE

tpu petamburan
traditional Chinese tombstone

If you wander the old complex of Petamburan Public Cemetery, situated on the front side a few meters from the entrance gate, you’ll find more varieties of grave. Traditional Chinese tombstones and European style graves with angel statues are some of the proves of cultural diversity that still stand gracefully and beautifully among modern ones.

European style grave

There’s also a columbarium housing the ashes of Japanese government officials during Japanese occupation in Indonesia. It is forbidden to take pictures inside and not all visitors are allowed to enter. Each year, members of the staff from Japanese Embassy have a visit to pray for their souls.

tpu petamburan
Columbarium
tpu petamburan

From all the graves, Jewish graves are the most uncommon ones in Petamburan with a triangle shape and engraved in Hebrew letters. I don’t think the history lesson in my high school has ever mentioned about Jewish settlement in Indonesia. Those days, Jewish people came to Indonesia for trading. But the locals often wrongly identified them as Arabic people because of their look.

tpu petamburan
Jewish grave

Unfortunately, most of Jewish graves are not treated and and vandalized. Since families of the deceased don’t visit those graves any longer and don’t pay any maintenance fee, they are replaced by others graves. From 25 graves when found for the first time, now there are only 7 left, thanks to the renovation for the sake of cultural preservation. Otherwise, they will be completely gone forever.

I believe it’s time for government to see the potential of Petamburan Public Cemetery as a historical and cultural destination to boost tourism in Jakarta, starting from financially support the preservation of the luxurious OG Khouw mausoleum. Besides, it also diminishes the local’s stereotype about cemeteries as a dodgy and haunted place to visit.

upside down world bandung

Upside Down World Bandung: Photoshoot in the World without Gravity

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d3960.9523756716785!2d107.61481131477272!3d-6.896299995016838!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x2e68e65212a87041%3A0xcd6e130647905f56!2sUpside%20Down%20World%20Bandung!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1609848142654!5m2!1sen!2sid

Could upside down world on earth happen for real, or nothing more than just Hollywood movies? Actually, if you go to Upside Down World, you don’t have to be out of space to experience the world without gravity.

ABOUT UPSIDE DOWN WORLD

Upside Down World is a photoshoot destination, using a residential house as its main concept. Just like houses in general, it consists of rooms aka studios with various themes, such as bathroom, living room, bedroom, study room, dining room, pool room, kitchen, yard and warehouse in upside down position. In other words, all furniture and its attributes are hung on the ceiling.

ups
the original look of the studio without editing

Inspired by Upside Down World movie starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess in 2012, a Malaysian entrepreneur visualizes the idea into life. Finally, Upside Down World opened for the first time in 2016, having flagships in Bandung, Bali, Medan, Alam Sutera and Yogyakarta. At that time, it was a big hit following the emerging trend of posting selfies on social media and craving for more “likes”. Nowadays, unfortunately, most of them are already closed for good, except those in Bali and Bandung. In Malaysia itself, Upside Down World operates in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh.

To be honest, a photo studio is definitely not my first choice to be a travel destination no matter how instagrammable it is. Nonetheless, I decided to make it as a meeting point with an old friend of mine since its close to Dipati Ukur station, where the Jakarta-Bandung mini bus I took parked there. I was pretty sure that we would like to take pictures together after not seeing each other for years. Upside Down World seems like a unique location to do that.

I’d to ride my bicycle
shower time

The entrance fee to Upside Down World is Rp. 80.000 ($6) on weekdays and Rp. 100.000 ($8) on weekends for adults, and Rp. 50.000 ($3) for kids. For Indonesian standard, the rate is quite high, especially the building is not that big and has lack of lighting, in my opinion.

upside down world bandung
glued in the kitchen – my favourite pic!

However, hiring an experienced interior designer for a challenging project and the difficulty in executing the project to ensure the safety of its visitors contribute higher construction costs. Heavy furniture, a bed for instance, requires an additional thick and very strong rope to attach properly on the ceiling.

hello kitty bedroom. cute huh?
upside down world bandung
doraemon inspired study room

LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD

Situated on H. Wasid No. 31, Lebak Gede, Coblong District, our visit started with doubts when we arrived at 10.30 am and no one was around. Well, there were a couple of foreigner entering the studio before us, but moments later they left. Fortunately, the ticket counter staff managed to convince us that the best visiting time is when it’s still quiet because there’s no need to be in line to move from one studio to another. Also, there will be plenty of time to improve our poses to get good results without being distracted by other visitors, who may impatiently wait for their turn.

It took some creativity to create poses that match various scenes. We could have used the same pose for different spots, yet it wouldn’t turn out as dramatic as we expected. And honestly, we started running out of ideas after the 4th scene. Fortunately, the reference from previous visitor’s pictures placed on wall helped us finding suitable poses. We also asked for an advice from the staff to orchestrate more poses other than what they normally do.

thrown to trash

I was happy with the final results of the photoshoot, as they look unconventional and surreal! To achieve such results, you only need to do some simple editing before posting them on social media by using basic features, such as rotate, crop, brightness, contrast and saturation as a finishing touch. No worries about my remark that the studio has lack of lighting because you can make a few adjustments as easy as one, two, three into perfection.

FACILITIES

Upside Down World provides photo printing service, mirrorless camera and costume rental, e.g. a kimono to match with the Japanese style dining room as a background, with additional price apart from entrance fee. I personally don’t think you need a specific costume to get good pictures. On the other hand, you really need the studio’s camera if you have a pretty bad (smartphone) camera.

upside down world bandung
printing center and snacks
Japanese style dining room

It’s recommended to keep all your personal belongings inside the locker provided during the visit, which is free of charge, so you don’t have to watch them all the time. It’s also can safe you from theft when it’s crowded inside. FYI, you need to take off your shoes prior to entering the studio and put them in a designated shoe rack.

lunch time

THE MORE THE MERRIER

Although posing in front of camera is not really my thing, I had a great time during the photoshoot. It gave me freedom to be as playful as I can, using my imagination of what I could do if I lived in the house without gravity. With a little help from the staff, who served us sincerely, and a close friend, who lighted up my day with laughter, anything’s possible.

All I can say is that Upside Down World is one of the destinations which is not so fun and memorable to visit without friends and family. And there’s no need to fly to the moon to experience zero gravity, at least in pictures.

Warung D’Bishe and Fantastic View of Rice Fields

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d65332253.26636864!2d78.18305220225601!3d-1.9260242728351253!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x2dd220ebccafea0b%3A0x9545988e1e41c5a1!2sWarung%20D-bishe!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1607630544278!5m2!1sen!2sid

On the way to Ubud, we took shortcuts passing some villages and rice fields in Petang Village. Unexpectedly, we saw a food stall on the side of the street that managed to drive our attention called “Warung D’Bishe”. I love how the warung transforms used materials, such as slabs of wood and containers, into seating.

Honestly, I don’t wanna brag that I know everything about this warung. In fact, what came first to my mind when I got there was that I only wanted to chill out, enjoy the view, do some small talk and no intention to dig some more information about this place. I didn’t even think to share about it in this post. However, it would be kinda selfish if I know a great place but not telling you guys. So, I did.

Basically, Warung D’Bishe offers typical warung style light bites, such as Kacang Garuda (Garuda peanuts), Beng Beng chocolate snack, Taro Snack, as well as traditional coffee so-called kopi tubruk (unfiltered coffee) and tea. Not to mention Indomie, the nation’s best selling instant noodle, served hot on the table. From this point of view, Warung D’Bishe is like any other warungs.

Nonetheless, the picturesque view of rice fields is something you should not miss, as it is very refreshing for your mind and soul. I instantly could forget about hustling and bustling life in a big city like Jakarta with its concrete jungles. Besides, the warung has a swing, a sky tree and a cute hut with an attic you can climb on, that are instagrammable. I haven’t tried, but I hope the safety’s good.

If the warung is so instagrammable, how much does it cost?? Fear not, Warung D’Bishe is not the kind of so-called warung only by its name that charges you like an upscale restaurant. A cup of coffee is about Rp. 4000 ($ 0.30) for locals and Rp. 10,000 per cup ($ 0.80) for foreigners. But still, it’s less that $1 for great Balinese coffee, magnificent landscape right before your eyes and a small playground where you can have more fun with.

By the way, I recently check their Facebook Page and they actually have chicken feet soup served with rice noodle for heavier dish. Even there was a couple doing a pre-wedding shot in this warung and the result was incredible!

Last but not least, my advice is spend more time with friends and family, don’t stare too much at your phone screen. Enjoy the nature as long as you can, that’s for sure. Anyways, great view doesn’t have to be pricey.

fun quotes
snacks
outdoor seating
a cup of coffee
seating made of slabs of wood
do more social interaction instead

Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall: Hidden Paradise in Wanagiri

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d3948.8998221414954!2d115.12003841478094!3d-8.21282899408958!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x2dd18f0a0b36a42f%3A0xf64c6ae42a96c645!2sBanyu%20Wana%20Amertha%20Waterfall!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1603743998005!5m2!1sen!2sid

Wanagiri may not be the first place popping up in your mind when you’re talking about Bali. Especially, it’s merely a small village in the mountainous area of north Bali, situated 2 hours from all-time tourist destinations on the island, such as Kuta, Seminyak and many more, where all of them are located in the south.

Yet believe it or not, the news about the picturesque view of Wanagiri village has widely spread overseas. There are even more foreign tourists than local ones. Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall is one of the must-to-see destinations in the village.

4 WATERFALLS IN ONE PLACE

The best part of visiting Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall is that by paying merely Rp. 10,000 ($ 0.80) for locals and Rp. 20,000 ($ 1.50) for foreigners, you automatically have an access to 4 waterfalls since all of them are located close to each other.

NON-TOURISTY, PRESERVED NATURE

If you embrace tranquility and purity, Banyu Wana Amerta Waterfall is the right place for you. You won’t feel any touristy atmosphere, from overcrowded traffic to loud chit-chats, shouting and all that. Another advantage for not being a touristy place is that there aren’t too many trashes and less chances for nature destruction.

Moreover, there’s no such thing as burning heat in Wanagiri. If hot and sun is the first impression about the weather in Bali, it’s time to broaden that perception. Generally speaking, the afternoon temperature in Wanagiri is approximately 25 degrees with the real feel of 22 degrees because of the breeze.

I personally love the mild weather in Wanagiri, that affects me for not being too sweaty and too exhausted during the hiking activity, thanks to the refreshing mountain breeze.

PERFECT FOR DEBUTANT HIKERS

The way to the waterfall is quite steep and narrow, but still safe for cars and motorcycles to pass by. The asphalt street has a very good condition with an even surface. What you need to do is to control the speed while driving.

If you love to explore the beauty of nature but afraid of falling, getting slipped, getting lost and ending up in the middle of nowhere? Fear not! The trails are suitable for all-level hikers. The safety is pretty good, too.

At first, you will pass residential houses after passing the ticket counter. This confused me in the beginning, thinking that I took the wrong way to the villagers’ house complex. Nonetheless, a wooden board saying “waterfall” with an arrow sign implied that I was on the right track.

You will step on paving blocks along the way to the main destination, surrounded with greenery and some flower. It’s completely an easy and save trail for everyone.

on the way to the waterfall

Within 20 minutes walk, you’ll find an intersection with a big board mentioning the direction and duration spent to all 4 waterfalls. Each waterfall are simply named “BWA Waterfall”, “One Waterfall”, “Two Waterfall” (without “s”, probably because of grammatical error) and “Spray Waterfall”.

an intersection

Starting from here, the trail starts to be “closer to nature”, aka a bit challenging, and no pavements like the previous one. But still, it is suitable for those who are not used to hiking. There are some slippery paths you need to pay attention, though not too many. The risk of being slipped is lessened by used tires implanted on the soil. Steep surfaces are modified into stairs in accordance with the contour of the soil, completed with handrails made of bamboo, wood or twigs to support safety, while maintaining the original landscape as it should be.

BWA WATERFALL AND ONE WATERFALL

banyu wana amerta waterfall
one waterfall

If you don’t have all the time in the world, just visit One Waterfall and BWA (abbreviation of Banyu Wana Amertha) Waterfall. Both waterfalls are on the same location that takes only a minute walking distance from the intersection, separated by a wooden bridge. The difference between them is that One Waterfall only has 1 spring water, whereas BWA Waterfall has several sources of spring water in one place.

banyu wana amertha waterfall
the bridge to BWA waterfall

The view is not only magnificent for taking pictures, selfie or wefie, but also great for swimming and bathing. So don’t forget to bring a swimsuit to enjoy the fresh and unpolluted water. It will re-energize your body and mind to continue your journey. Not far from the waterfall, there’s a changing room that looks like a hut at a glance.

BWA Waterfall

TWO WATERFALL AND SPRAY WATERFALL

These waterfalls are also spots you should not miss during the visit. Starting from the same intersection, it takes 5 minutes to Two Waterfall and 7 minutes to Spray Waterfall. Bear in mind that these waterfalls are in the opposite direction of BWA and One Waterfall.

Two Waterfall and favorite photo spot

Most visitors love capturing themselves standing on the wooden bridge with a waterfall background in Two Waterfall. On the other hand, there’s no bridge in Spray Waterfall and the water stream tends to be heavy. You also can bathe and swim in both waterfalls, however they are more popular for photo spots and no changing room provided.

banyu wana amertha waterfall
spray waterfall

TIPS FOR VISITORS

The best time to visit is in the morning because it often rains in Wanagiri in the afternoon, and the paths are getting more slippery as well. Bringing a raincoat to anticipate the weather is highly recommended. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and non-slip shoes or sandals. To maximize the experience at the waterfall, bring a swimsuit if you wish.

There’s only one traditional food stall or so-called warung inside the area with limited options, such as Indomie instant noodle, coffee and snacks. It’s completely a traditional warung, nothing commercial and very cheap. Just $ 0.30 for a cup of coffee, who can’t afford that?

The other warung is outside the waterfall complex, facing the street. Selling more or less the same thing, they have an $ 0.80 rice noodle with meatballs, that unfortunately the meatballs are not good and too floury. So, I suggest you to get an Indomie instant noodle instead, since it already has a sort of “standard” taste regardless who cooks it. Though still, some say that eating Indomie at any warung tastes better than you cook it at home.

this looks good, but the taste isn’t

If they don’t suit your taste, bring your own food and don’t litter. I advise you to bring a paper or a plastic bag to collect trashes and throw them away after returning to the hotel.

Bali has so much more than just beaches and sun. To feel the new sensation of Bali with waterfalls and colder weather, that could be 10 or even 6 degrees at night, it’s time for you to visit north Bali that includes Banyu Wana Amertha waterfall on your bucket list.

gps

Turning a Travel Article into a Personal Guide with GPSmyCity – 2020

Indeed, it’s possible! But, what is GPSmyCity and what are the benefits for travelers?

GPSmyCity is an app providing articles covering over 1,000 cities worldwide. Once you install the app either on iOS or Android through www.gpsmycity.com , you can download each article for free and read it in the future without internet connection.

All articles are embedded with GPS map that will function after upgrading with a small amount of fee. There’s no need to ask anyone for a direction or read a conventional map on your own any longer to find a place you want to go, that will save a lot of time and cut the hassle during your journey. The best thing about it is that the GPS works even when you’re offline. Isn’t it great?

gps

After traveling for many years, I realize that wi-fi connection is one of the essentials you don’t always get easily when you’re abroad, except depending on hotels and cafes or data roaming packages that may break your bank account. So, I believe that GPSmyCity is a breakthrough app for travelers like us.

Therefore, I’m happy to announce that my articles:

Gokayama and Two UNESCO Heritage Villages – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6657, Ereveld Menteng Pulo, Historical Cemetery in a Jungle – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6655, 6 Attractions in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6579

are ready to launch on GPSmyCity.

During the first week of the launch, GPSmyCity will give away one of my articles, Gokayama and Two UNESCO Heritage Villages – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6657, and users will be able to upgrade the app for free.

So, get the app now to access both iOS and Android versions on www.gpsmycity.com !

Kishigawa Railway Line Tourism: Saved by the Cat!

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d105555.86087462404!2d135.1921175!3d34.2327033!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x6000b326870071c1%3A0xa6a12e77bd32e4c6!2sWakayama%20Station!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1599305113575!5m2!1sen!2sid

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/wakayama-6480.html

Kishigawa Line is a railway line under Wakayama Electric Railway in Wakayama, Japan. Departing from platform 9 in Wakayama Station, the train serves trips to 14 stations, that ends up in Kishi Station, Kinokawa, in 30 minutes.

By the way, what does a cat have to do with a railway line?

ALMOST BANKRUPT

strawberry themed train

The lack of passengers and financial problems in mid 2000 threatened Kishigawa Line to its permanent closure due to bankcruptcy. The locals urged Mitsunobu Kojima, the president of Wakayama Electric Railway at that time, to revive the railway line.

One day, a grocery store owner near Kishi Station begged the railway company to take care of a cat called Tama. Okay, that may sounded odd, but Tama wasn’t just any other cat.

He’s a calico cat that the store owner took care of. Tama often waited in the neighbourhood of Kishi Station and had paid attention many train passengers and inhabitants in town since the end of 90’s because of its tameness and cute-looking for pictures. He was later nicknamed “Kishi station master”.

After meeting Tama in his own eyes, Kojima was touched and finally agreed to adopt him.

TAMA, KISHIGAWA LINE ICON

To boost an image, Kojima created a branding for Kishigawa Line by making Tama as an icon. Accessorized with a conductor’s hat, he officially turned his beloved cat into “Kishi Station Master” in 2007. It was the first time in Japanese history to have a cat as a station master.

Tama illustrated

Apart from that, Tama appeared in multiple publications, social media, greeted passengers and became a model. Tama even had his own office in the form of a modified ticket counter.

Kojima’s efforts finally paid off. The amount of passengers increased about 55,000 people, who were mostly very enthusiastic to meet the cute and cuddly Tama. The ticket sales was not only enough to finance Tama’s food all year long, but also to boost the economic growth in Wakayama.

After Tama’s passing in 2015 in the age of 16, his position is replaced by another calico cat named Nitama or Tama 2, who is in charge in Kishi Station. There’s also Yontama or Tama 4 in Idakiso Station.

THE FOUR-THEMED TRAIN

inside strawberry themed train (ichigo densa)

The trains operating in Kishigawa Line are very easy to recognize because of their attractive design created by Eiji Mitooka. Basically, they have 4 different themes, such as strawberry (Ichigo Densa), toys (Omoden), plum pickles (Umeboshi Densha) and last but not least, Tama Den, which is no other than Tama cat theme. This train even has “ears” too in its front look.

You’ll never know what day and time the particular theme will appear right before your eyes. You may get Tama theme if you are lucky.

tama den, or cat themed train

IDAKISO STATION: YONTAMA’S OFFICE AND TEMPLE

super station master room or Yontama’s office

Idakiso station is one of the busiest station because it’s where super station master room aka Yontama’s “office” is located. Yontama’s room is a modified ticket counter, completed with a bed, litter tray and cat ladder.

Yontama is in service from 10 am to 4 pm, except Monday and Friday. Suppose you don’t see Yontama, perhaps he’s in deep sleep. I found him under the ladder, curling his body while sleeping. He didn’t notice me watching him.

Visitors are not allowed to knock the glass and take pictures without permission or carelessly while the cat is resting to avoid disturbance and stress.

Itakiso Temple
Itakiso Temple

Don’t come the station just to see the feline stationmaster. Leave the station and visit beautiful Shinto temples, such as Itakiso, Ashigami and Kimiidera, which are reachable on foot. Nonetheless, suppose you don’t want to walk too far, the closest temple is Itakiso Temple that takes 7 minutes walking distance.

empty street along the way

Trust me, walking to Itakiso temple is a fun and relaxing activity since trees, gardens, classic Japanese houses will greet you along the way. Moreover, the street is wide with less cars passing by and its surroundings is very quiet.

KISHI STATION: TAMA MUSEUM AND CAFE

Tama Museum and Cafe

The final stop of Kishigawa Line is Kishi Station. The station houses Tama Museum and Tama Cafe. Also designed by Eiji Mitooka, pay attention to some unique details of the building, from a cat head-shaped roof with ears in both edges to 2 oval-shaped windows resembling cat’s eyes.

And that’s not all, folks. You will also find cat-themed chairs inside the cafe, accentuated with the silhouette of a cat’s head, ears, cat whiskers illustration and a bell, associated with a pet’s (cat) accessories. Tama Cafe offers light bites, such as cakes, crepes, ice cream, french fries and drinks, from coffee, matcha latte to hot chocolate.

Tama Museum is where you can see memorabilia of Tama and get some lovely Tama merchandise in the souvenir shop. Mugs, t-shirts, notebooks, towels, key chains, posters and fridge magnets are among others.

Tama souvenir shop

One thing for sure. You are able to meet the station master Yontama every day, except on his day offs on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

TICKET INFORMATION

Kishigawa Line ticket is available in Wakayama Station. I recommended you to take a day ticket as a tourist since it’s valid for unlimited return trips and you can stop in any station you like within 24 hours. It costs 800 Yen ($ 7.50) for adults, 400 yen ($ 3.80) for kids.

Wakayama Station

Please note that Kishigawa Line is not part of JR Pass you’ve already bought in your country of origin. So, you have to get it separately. Just to be clear, all JR passes are only sold overseas, destined for foreign tourists to explore Japan in more affordable rate. However, Kishigawa Railway Line tickets are only obtainable in Wakayama, Japan.

I have to admit that Japanese people are great at developing a tourist destination in inspiring and unthinkable way. The story behind Kishigawa Line proves that a cat doesn’t only have 9 lives, but also able to save people from bankruptcy and revive tourism in unconventional way.

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/wakayama-6480.html

7 Mouthwatering Food You Need to Try in Kuroshio Ichiba Market

Now you can download through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/wakayama-6480.html

Wakayama Prefecture, whose capital city is Wakayama City, is situated in the southern part of Osaka. One of the most popular destinations is Kuroshio Ichiba Market in Wakayama City Marina, a 49-acre man-made island that you can reach within 30 minutes from Wakayama City center by bus. It’s a heaven on earth for foodies, where they are able to eat till they drop, especially the best selling seafood delicacies.

Somehow, Kuroshio Ichiba Market reminds you of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, yet Kuroshio is an indoor market.

Without further much ado, here are 7 kinds of food you should not miss in Kuroshio Ichiba Market.

  1. TUNA FISH AND CUTTING SHOW
tuna cutting show

Kuroshio Ichiba Market earns its nickname Tuna Land for one particular reason: it’s the center of tuna trading center. Moreover, Wakayama is famous for being the source of the best quality tuna fish in entire Japan, especially pacific bluefin tuna.

Apart from getting Japan’s best tuna fish, don’t forget to watch Tuna Cutting Show that runs 3 times a day for 15 minutes. The show times are 11 am, 12.30 am and 3 pm.

An experienced fisherman shows his skill in slashing a nearly 100 kg giant fish in such an agility, that only can be achieved after tons of practicing, while explaining about the cutting process and tuna grading. Unfortunately, the interesting basic knowledge is only presented in Japanese without any translation. But still, it doesn’t diminish the excitement of the show.

After the show, the fisherman instantly have the fresh cut meat offered to future customers in the form of sushi and sashimi, starting from 500 Yen ($ 4.70) for about 8 to 10 slices per pack. To be honest, it’s my first time ever to be addicted to tuna sashimi. The meat was so fresh and juicy that I couldn’t stop eating it!

2. FRESH SEAFOOD

seafood in package

Apart form tuna, you can also get scallop, eel, crab, squid, octopus, sea urchin, prawn, fish egg (tobiko), clams, salmon and many more at Kuroshio Ichiba Market. The lowest price is about 500 Yen ($ 4.70) per pack, depending the type and weight of the seafood.

When the rest of the seafood is allowed to dine in and to go, octopus has its exception. You only can get it for dining in and it’s not advisable to keep it overnight to maintain its freshness. So, no “to go” for octopus, okay? All sellers at the market will remind it to all consumers every time they are about to buy octopus-based products to avoid misunderstanding.

3. DRIED SEAFOOD

yep. the more you buy, the cheaper the price

Suppose you’re not really into raw food, fear not. The market also offers smoked, marinated and fried seafood products. Wakayama orange-flavoured fried fish is probably something unique to try, among others, for adventurous foodies. I was expecting either savoury or salty taste for this one, yet surprisingly it tends to be sweet. Having tried the tester (thank God there’s one!), I would describe it as sweet and fishy crunchy orange and I’m not into it. But again, that’s my verdict. I don’t know about you. The minimum price is 550 Yen ($4.70) per pack.

4. BARBECUE

seafood bbq
meat and sausage bbq

Still inside the market, there are several restaurants serving seafood and meat, from chicken, beef to pork, served in skewers. Bear in mind that they’re not meant to be eaten raw, as you can grill it yourself in outdoor seating areas. Starting from 150 Yen ($ 1.50), all restaurants are equipped with barbecue grill dining table, tongs, bottled barbecue and soy sauce. Yes, it’s indeed a self-service type of restaurant.

5. FRESH AND PROCESSED FRUITS

Wakayama orange

The most well-known fruit product in Wakayama is Wakayama orange with its refreshingly sweet taste for direct consumption, juice, ice cream flavour and even for fried fish flavouring (check my no. 3 explanation above). In Kuroshio Ichiba Market, you also have the opportunity to try the signature orange in the region, as well as grape and persimmon, that cost you from 400 Yen ($ 3.80) to 600 Yen ($ 5.70) per pack. Fresh juices, dried and processed fruits, including jam, are also available.

6. REFRESHING PICKLES

plum pickles in jars

Japanese people are pickle lovers. You can find several kinds of veggie, from bamboo shoots, cucumber to radish processed into pickles. Some of them are even mixed with clams as part of flavoring varieties.

If you like to get something particular from Wakayama, try plum pickles. Unlike other pickles that usually have sour taste, plum pickles is salty. You can choose the saltiness percentage from 4, 9 to 13 percent. Packed in a big jar, the pickles cost you 1490 Yen ($ 14) for 400 grams. Of course, smaller packages are available as well.

7. DESSERTS AND SWEETS

sweets, sweets, sweets!

I believe that you can’t leave Japan, especially sweet tooth people, without having mochi.

Kuroshio Ichiba Market offers this popular Japanese chewy rice cake in varieties of filling, such as pear, black sesame, chocolate, sakura (cherry blossom), matcha (green tea) and last but not least, Wakayama orange. Besides mochi, you can also get the famous Wakayama orange filling in sponge cakes and pies. They all cost starting from 390 Yen ($ 3.70) in a small package.

TESTER: AVOIDING WRONG BUYING DECISION!

Operating from 10 am to 5 pm, Kuroshio Ichiba Market provides a comfortable place to shop with great hospitality. The best part is that almost every counter offers product tester. As you know, nearly all Japanese products, including food, have such a fantastic packaging design that sometimes we instantly forget that what’s inside may not suit our taste buds.

Testers definitely helped me to omit wrong purchasing decisions. It turns out that Wakayama orange flavoured fried fish and salty plum pickles are not my things at all.

There’s no doubt that Kuroshio Ichiba Market is the right place to get varieties of souvenirs not only seafood) for friends, family and yourself under one roof.

Make sure you bring enough money when you travel to this market. From seafood, fruits to sweets, they all look so tantalizing that you may end up with buying things you don’t need. Forget shopping list (it wont work!) as tester is the only way to control overspending. You won’t buy food you hate the taste regardless of how cute they look, do you?

What You Need to Know before Staying at a UNESCO Heritage House in Shirakawa-go

Listed on UNESCO Heritage Site since 1995, the popularity of Shirakawa-go has been increasing ever since. The special characteristics of the heritage village in Gifu Prefecture is the thatched-roof farmhouse, gassho-zukuri. Its unique shape that looks like hands in prayer position whose length almost touches the ground has caught attention visitors worldwide.

Your visit to Shirakawa-go could be much more memorable if you have a chance to go local by staying in one of these houses. Indeed, some of them are not only transformed into restaurants, souvenir shops or museums, but also guest houses where you can stay overnight.

Interested? To make your holiday plan runs smoothly, here’s what you need to know before staying in a gassho-style guesthouse.

gassho-zukuri farmhouse

ONLY AVAILABLE ON CERTAIN SITES

I recommend you to order any gassho-style guest house on specialized websites focusing on traditional Japanese accommodations, such as https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-search-results/Shirakawa-go/ and https://shirakawa-go.gr.jp/en/stay/?index.

In fact, larger-scale accommodation sites you’re familiar with, booking.com and agoda.com for instance, hardly have gassho-zukuri guest houses on their list.

ROOM RATES: NOT A SHOESTRING, YET RELATIVELY AFFORDABLE

futon bed

The average rate per night for staying at gassho-style guesthouses is between 9000 Yen and 13,000 Yen ($84 to $122), including breakfast and dinner. There’s an option for dinner or breakfast only as well, or none.

Historical houses requires old-fashioned maintenance, that usually takes a lot of money and time. Therefore, the rate won’t beat budget hotels in a million years. Bear in mind that some guest houses only receive cash payment, so please double check this to the agent.

Like all traditional Japanese inns, or ryokan, all gassho-zukuri rooms have neither private toilet nor private bathrooms. So yeah, you have to share those facilities with others. You will sleep on futon bed on tatami floor, Japanese carpet made of straw or styrofoam.

OLD-FASHIONED DINING EXPERIENCE

shirakawago
irori

Since all restaurants in Shirakawa-go don’t open until late at night, it is recommended to take the dinner package at the guest house. The streets are dark after 7 pm and night life equals to staying at home.

At the same time, it’a a great opportunity to reach the experience of going local to the fullest by enjoying home cooking. You will seat on the floor, with a pillow that takes place of a chair, with a table surrounding irori, an ancient Japanese sunken hearth to heat to heat the room and cooking.

Suppose you have certain allergies, vegetarian or pescatarian, you should inform the owner or the agent prior to your arrival, so they can adjust your preference.

UNUSUAL Check-in AND Check-out TIME

Only starting from 3 pm can you actually check in at the guesthouse and surprisingly, the check out time is considered very early, at 9 am.

What you can do to maximize your stay at the guest house is that you come earlier to keep your luggage, then continue exploring Shirakawa-go as relax as you can. Between 5 pm to 6 pm when places of interests gradually close down, you return to the guest house to spend the rest of the evening and take a rest, as you need to leave early.

If you take the complete dining package, make sure you don’t check in too late, otherwise the host will wait for too long and finally won’t be able to cook your dinner.

FAMILY-OWNED

Generally speaking, gassho-zukuri guesthouses are family business and and inherited from their predecessors, as many of the houses are older than 200 years old. The host who serve you during your stay is the owner, not employees, from cleaning, mending the room until preparing your breakfast and dinner. They even stay under one roof with you.

Therefore, it would be better to show some gratitude for their services and manage your manner. For example, keep the silence during night time when they and other guests are sleeping.

NO BIG SUITCASES

Although it’s still possible to accommodate a large suitcase in the guest house, it could be exhausting to drag it on streets for a long time. Moreover, Japanese buses have narrow corridors that only fit up to medium-sized suitcases and no extra space for large ones. Thus, learn to travel light will be very handy for you.

NOT FOR LARGE GROUPS

crowds

Usually, a gassho farmhouse has 4 to 5 rooms, with maximum capacity of 12 people. If you travel with a group of friends or family, make sure that the rooms at the guest house where you’re staying are still vacant to keep everyone together under one roof. Moreover, you’re allowed to stay there just for one day, not more.

Due to limited room capacity, staying overnight at gassho-zukuri guest houses will never be the part of tour operators’ itinerary for Japan tour packages. In other words, you need to plan and book your own trip if you really want to experience a unique stay at the heritage farmhouse.

So, are you physically and mentally ready to adapt with the local culture?

gokayama

Gokayama and Two UNESCO Heritage Villages

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LESS POPULAR THAN SHIRAKAWA-GO

Bombarded by tons of marketing from many tour operators worldwide, Shirakawa-go has been one of the most visited villages in Japan. Yet Gokayama, the village next door, doesn’t really have that kind of exposure.

gokayama
Suganuma Village in pouring rain

Moreover, the assumption that Gokayama is part of Shirakawa-go since both have a traditional house called gassho-zukuri and Shirakawa-go is easier to reach than Gokayama makes Gokayama is even less-known. Let me tell you what, they are just terribly wrong!

HOW TO GET TO GOKAYAMA

Gokayama, literally meaning 5 mountains, is situated in the southwest of Toyama Prefecture in Nanto city. The use of the name Gokayama has begun since 1513 to generalize a group of villages spreading in 5 different areas.

From 5 mountains that consist of 40 villages, Ainokura and Suganuma village are the most beautiful ones, that have been listed on UNESCO Heritage Site since 1995 together with Ogimachi village in Shirakawa-go.

To Gokayama, you can either start your journey from Takayama City, Toyama City or Kanazawa. In my experience, the closest way to get there is to take a bus from Takayama Station in Takayama City. Please note that the only public transportation to Gokayama is a bus. No bullet trains, no trams. You can rent a car, too, if you like.

shirakawago
Ogimachi Station

At first, all buses will stop in Ogimachi Station, where Shirakawa-go is located, that takes an hour from Takayama Station. Then, you need to transfer to another bus going to both pretty villages in Gokayama. It takes 30 minutes to Suganuma and Ainokura for another 15 minutes.

The best way to explore Gokayama is to get a 3-day-pass for Shirakawa-go and Gokayama World Heritage Bus at Takayama Nohi Bus Terminal (next to JR Takayama Station). It will stop in all heritage sites, from Shirakawa-go (Ogimachi village) to all villages in Gokayama, including Suganuma and Ainokura village. The ticket price is about ¥3700 per person (please check the updates at the station or check the following sites: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/ , http://www.kaetsunou.co.jp/ (Japanese only))

So, going to Gokayama is not as hard as you think.

Nonetheless, I came to Gokayama twice. First in spring 2016 to visit Suganuma Village, which was accidental (check further in my previous post to know why) and second in autumn 2017 to visit Ainokura Village. Bad planning was the key problem here, that should not happen to you as both villages in Gokayama is more than easy to visit all at once, as I explained before.

Another misconception I heard is that Gokayama is situated in the same area as Shirakawa-go. All right, let me get this straight. Gokayama is in Toyama Prefecture, whereas Shirakawa-go is in Gifu Prefecture.

GASSHO ZUKURI

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Suganuma and Ainokura Village lies on the farm houses with thatched-roof almost touching the ground called gassho-zukuri. Gassho means to join one hand’s in prayer, referring to the construction shape of the roof. These unique farmhouses have been existing since Edo Period (1603-1867) when Lord Maeda was in reign.

shirakawago
gassho-zukuri house in Shirakawa-go, not as steep as that in Gokayama

The gassho-zukuri’s steep roof having 60 degrees angle, steeper than that in Shirakawa-go, is created that way to accelerate the snow to fall down from the roof quickly. Excessive snow creates burden and potentially collapse the roof. Apart from that, the roof is made of straw to maintain the warmth inside the house in winter time.

Surprisingly, they don’t use nails and metals to assemble all materials, that are only straw and wood from forests around the village, to build the farm house. The straw is replaced every 15 to 20 years manually by Gokayama Forest Owner’s Cooperative Association. This is indeed a time consuming kind of work. Yet, if it involves over 100 people, the process would take just a day.

SUGANUMA VILLAGE

The total amount of gassho-zukuri houses in Suganuma is not as many as that in Ainokura, which is only 9 left and nearly all are uninhabited.

gokayama
Gokayama Folklore Museum

One of the oldest farmhouses in Suganuma is already transformed into Gokayama Folklore Museum, where you can see the exhibits of indigenous people’s way of life in the past and how they produced potassium nitrate or ensho as the main ingredient of gunpowder, silk and handmade paper called washi.

gokayama

Suppose you spot the one and only gassho-zukuri having a pond surrounded by fences, it’s a sign that you have arrived safely in Suganuma.

gokayama
non gassho style cafe

Besides, there are 3 non gassho-zukuri houses and some earthen wall and wooden wall storehouses protected by the government. The cafe I visited to shelter myself from pouring rain is one of the examples of a non gassho style house.

japan
konbu tea

Traditional warm drink you should try is konbu tea, whose main ingredient is seaweed, served with rice crackers. The umami or savoury taste will somehow remind you of refreshing chicken soup, though not per se.

souvenir shop
souvenir shop

AINOKURA VILLAGE

Ms. Shimizu, a guest house owner in Shirakawa-go, where I stayed back in 2016, admitted that Ainokura is her favourite village because of its breathtaking scenery and serenity. Having seen in my own naked eyes, it awakened my sense of sight and simultaneously I felt peace in my heart.

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Ainokura is the largest village in Gokayama, yet not as busy as Suganuma. From 23 gassho zukuri farmhouses aged 100, 200 and the oldest 400 years, many of them are still in use.

As a visitor, you should respect the local’s privacy privacy by not trespassing their farm or backyard, picking plants or flowers and maintaining the silence. No worries, though. The good news is that you still can satisfy your curiosity about what’s inside by visiting some of the transformed heritage houses into cafes, restaurants and minshuku (family-owned traditional Japanese guest house)

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Please beware that smoking is prohibited in the neighbourhood, as well as in Suganuma (and Shirakawa-go), and a very dangerous thing to do as the farmhouse straw roof is combustible!

Just like in Suganuma, inhabitants in Ainokura produced ensho, washi and silk for a living, where you can learn more in Ainokura Folk Village. Learning to craft washi, traditional Japanese handmade, could be a fun activity to do in Washi Workshop. To participate in the workshop, you need to register first and make sure to attend before 3.30 pm as it is the last admission.

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souvenir shop at the entrance

SERENITY AND ORIGINALITY AT ITS BEST

Everything you see in Gokayama, from gassho style houses to surrounding crops, rice fields and shrine groves are still very-well preserved as it is until today because they are unaffected by World War II. Moreover, Gokayama is a perfect destination for those who embrace silence and dislike hustling and bustling crowds like Shirakawa-go.

THE PRICE FAVOURITE’S DESTINATION

In a nutshell, it deserves to be part of your itinerary to Japan once in a life time. To be honest, I didn’t regret to return to Gokayama after the screwed up plan I had made the year before.

Prince Akishino, who stayed in Ainokura twice in 1983 and 1992, once said that he has 3 favourite destinations in the world, and Gokayama is one of it.

If a Japanese prince left his heart in Gokayama, why shouldn’t you?