Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Time for Me to Go Home

Hey everyone,

I've got a fairly big announcement but I think everyone that read the title already knows what it is.

After five and a half years in Japan, it's finally time for me to go home. It's not because of Japanese society or my job or anything — I've got some family stuff going on (plus homesickness) that made me decide that it's time to go back.

I feel like posts like these are supposed to be long heartfelt announcements, but this is all I've got to say for now. I will be focusing on finishing my job well and preparing to move back to Singapore (and travel a little, in the meantime) and of course, I'll be sharing as much as I can in case it's helpful to anyone. Beyond that, I haven't really thought about it, though I suppose there's no need for this blog to exist once I'm back in Singapore (it's on blogger so I won't take it down, but I probably won't update it much/anymore).

And with that done, let's go back to regular programming - next post is a long-delayed one on fruit picking! (Or am I the only one interested in things like that :p)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Nagasaki Bio Park

Every week when I make my way to Church, I pass by a display about the Nagasaki Bio Park. There are lots of nice photos of animals and more importantly, capybara plush toys which made me want to visit. And with my mom and brother in Japan, I finally had an excuse to go.

Nagasaki Bio Park was about a 40 minute drive from my place and if you want my conclusions first: it's like a bigger, slightly more run down version of the Singapore Zoo. Obviously this is my favourite zoo that I've visisted in Japan because most of the animals were not in cages.

I also have over 40 photos that I want to share so YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

When we reached the zoo, we were immediately greeted by a lama

And a couple of beautiful parrots!

They totally made me really excited about all the animals!

The Nagasaki Bio Park also has this area called PAW (Pet Animal World) which is a petting zoo consisting of domestic pets. We decided to just visit the bio park area but you can get tickets for both areas too. You can find the ticket prices here (English link).

The first area is a "free area" but it's really where the gift shop, a few food stalls and I think a couple of birds are (although I didn't see any birds in the pond).

 Of course, there were cute capybara plush toys!

This is the proper entrance where they take the tickets from you.

I really liked this sign because it felt like the park was the animal's home and we were just visiting.

As soon as we were inside, we saw a swan swimming around a ledge where monkeys lived.

I don't know why but I thought of the Lion King when I saw this. Although it's missing the lion cub and I'm pretty sure Rafiki was a different species so I guess my brain just had The Lion King on its mind that day.

The first petting/feeding area we saw (and there were quiet a few of them) was for the Patagonian Cavy.

My brother looks calm here but these creatures were seriously aggressive!

I think they've learnt to associate humans with food so as soon as they see someone holding something in their hands (like my camera) they come bounding up.

It was pretty cool to be able to get so close to them!

Until they decided my camera was food and then I headed straight for the exit.

The next stop was the Flower Dome which instantly reminded me of Gardens by the Bay.

It is, however, a lot wilder than the Gardens by the Bay. There were tons of orchids and basically plants growing everywhere!

It was really beautiful!

We also saw a bat, which very pointedly had its back towards us. But when I was talking to my colleague, she mentioned that the bat waved to her and her family when they visited so I suppose this was an off day.

The next dome was the Amazon dome, which was a bit disappointing. I did like how the sun looked as it shone through the roof.

But it was generally rather run down. The glass was extremely cloudy and I couldn't see the animals clearly.

There was also (and here I am translating literally) a black fox squirrel but I couldn't really get a look at it, even though someone else was holding out the feed. But my colleague mentions that it generally responds to food, so I guess it was just full.

This ball of fur was the best shot of it I could get.

Next up (after we passed by a few other animals) was the flamingo lake! You could go in and get real close to the flamingos, but I did see a couple head towards the humans and I much prefer to appreciate animals from a distance. This is why my camera can zoom. (And why I will never be a nature photographer)

My mom "take a picture while it's flapping its wings! Quick!!!!"

By this time, my brother was getting a bit tired and so we decided to take a lunch break. I got the kakuni don which was really good! They also had homemade blueberry gelato (which we were sadly too full to eat) so I'd recommend checking the menu for seasonal items/stuff made from the plants grown in the biopark!

After lunch, we went fishing for crawfish! We had to give them back but it was a pretty interesting experience.

Turns out that my brother and I aren't very good at fishing. My mom, on the other hand, managed to catch a few.

Here's a random shot of the park.

We continued on the way and saw more monkeys

AND THE CAPYBARAS!! Doesn't this one look like a model?

The capybaras actually get their own onsen in the winter, so you might want to consider visiting around that time (then again, the park is mostly out in the open so you might be very cold if you're anything like me).

While the capybaras are also very friendly and mistook my camera for food, they were generally a lot more chill than the Patagonian Cavies.

And for my Malaysian friends - they have a Malaysian information hall! Apparently, Malaysia helped by providing a lot of animals. The posters are a few years old, though, so if you know any one in the tourism center you might want them to send updated stuff.

More feedings going on.

We also went into this monkey forest place and promptly left as soon as we got pictures because of all the poop warning signs.

I didn't really take photos of the rest of the animals but I did want to capture this. A few exhibits are separated by fairly long treks and I like that they put a series of quizzes to help break the monotony.

We ended the treat by having a drink. I had this matcha cola which looked really pretty but basically tasted like coca cola/pepsi. There wasn't really a matcha taste to me.

If you love animals, you'll probably enjoy the Nagasaki Bio Park. It's a good way to spend the day and I really did enjoy seeing the animals (somewhat) up close and personal.

Link to the English website: http://www.biopark.co.jp/en/ 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

I stayed at Henn na Hotel (the robot hotel)

Last week, my mom and bro came and we stayed at Henn na Hotel! It's basically the robot hotel at Huis ten Bosch and is actually recognised by Guinness as the world's first robot staffed hotel. I was super excited to stay there because I've been there are few times as part of my work and have always been itching to take photos but couldn't.

Until now.

As a guest, I could take as many pictures as I want and I probably went a little overboard.

I mean, I didn't have to take a picture of the entrance but I could so I did. 
Greeted by a huge robot at the front door:

And of course, Tully-chan, the mascot of Huis ten Bosch. Tully is a tulip, but quite a lot of people don't seem to see it for some reason. This Tully can only give a specific welcome, but she is activated by motion sensors so that's kind of fun.

This is the robot porter which costs 500 yen to use. There are cheaper coin lockers outside but the robot porter looks really cool and you can be sure that no one will ever be able to get your luggage since there's no way to enter the room.

Since I was going immediately to the room once I checked in, I didn't have to use this.

This is the robot orchestra, all made out of Robohons! The Robohon was released as a robot handphone but now they're musicians.

Right now (2017) they perform 3 times a day - 3pm, 4pm, 9pm.

This is a view of the two blocks that currently exist! They have different designs (and were built by different companies) but the layout and size are basically the same.

And the check-in area, which my brother was SO EXCITED about.

Obviously, I wanted to check in with the dinosaur.

Luckily my brother and I think the same.

There are two dinosaurs and one lady robot. All robots can speak Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese.

Our check-ins went pretty smoothly. My brother had a minor problem because the name on his passport is too long, but I had absolutely no problems. I checked in using Japanese and used the speech-to-text function and it got my name right on the first try!

My mom managed to take a video so here's what it's like:

I actually tried to enter my name at first and then I realised I could just say it so that's the tapping that stops in the first part.

These are the robot porters which can hold your luggage and guide you to your room. They're currently only available for guests of deluxe rooms in Block A.

These are some of the robots on display at the lobby (and they're all for sale).

There's also a tiny robot pianist (he doesn't actually play though). My mom recognised him as the robot that cleans our house haha.

And this is where we stayed!

This block features more wood-elements because Huis ten Bosch means "house in the woods" and they wanted it to have a more natural vibe. The other block was inspired by the fact this is a robot hotel so it looks a lot whiter.

And the door! What I really liked about the door is that you can register your face the first time you open the door (tap the card at the bottom, hit scan in the middle and look at the camera. Make sure the green "accepted" light flashes) and then you don't have to use the room key anymore!

It actually worked realy well for me. I had no problems using it. I have heard, however, that if you register while wearing a face full of make up and then take it off, there can be problems recognising your face.

And inside the room! This is a deluxe room so it's the biggest room available!

And a look from a different angle:

There's a cute little area for you to sit, although I basically just sat on the bed because there was a reading lamp.

By the way, the deluxe room can sleep up to four people but two of the beds will be extra beds.

And this Tully-chan controls the room! You can ask her to sing a song, tell you the weather forecast, turn off and on the lights, etc. My brother LOVED talked to her and she actually understood him (I had huge problems talking to her at first but everything worked well on this stay).

Currently, Tully can understand English and Japanese. There is a little instruction manual at the bottom too, because she responds to set phrases.

And this is the vanity area:

Yay for lots of hangers!

The view from the window - the gate is Aura gate and it's basically for hotel guests to use. Because it's a pretty long walk if you backtrack to the main gate.

And you can see the start of the shooting star zip line! Plus Dom Toren!

Another view from my room.

And the robot that cuts the grass:

And this was the view when I walked into Huis ten Bosch from the hotel.

This was a really fun stay for my family and me. The hotel is pretty comfortable and we had absolutely no problems with Tully-chan in the room or the facial recognition software. It's a bit far from the park compared to the 3 hotels (Hotel Amsterdam, Hotel Europe, and Forest Villa) which are all either in the park or right next to it but it's basically the same as Hotel Nikko or Hotel Okura so you might as well stay in somewhere a little different if you're planning to come to Huis ten Bosch.

Plus there is a gate that leads right to Adventure Park so when I say "far" I mean "located near the entrance rather than the heart of the park".