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Guide to Climbing Mt Fuji

Girl at the top of Mt Fuji

What to pack, how long, what’s the cost, and everything else you need to know before climbing Mt Fuji.

Girl at the top of Mt Fuji
On top of Mt Fuji

Standing at 3,776 metres tall (12,389ft), Mt Fuji is Japan’s tallest and most iconic mountain. Its beautiful symmetrical shape is revered by people from all over the globe, many of which set their eyes on summiting the mountain. To Shinto practitioners, Mt Fuji is a holy site and climbing the mountain is seen as a pilgrimage to purify themselves. In this post, we go through everything you need to know before embarking on your own pilgrimage so that you’re as prepared as possible for the challenge ahead.


Climbing Season
Mt Fuji
Climbing seasons is typically early July to early September

Mt Fuji is open to climbers all year round but it is highly recommended for people to do their climb during the climbing season (typically early July to early September). The reason is mainly due to weather conditions near the summit and the closure of the mountain huts which can provide emergency aid/supplies/evacuation. Only experienced mountain climbers should consider anytime outside of climbing season. You can check the official dates of the climbing season on fujisan-climb.jp


Which Trail?

Altogether there are 4 main trails which lead to Mt Fuji’s summit:

  • Yoshida
  • Fujinomiya
  • Subashiri
  • Gotenba

The Yoshida trail is by far the most popular trail – 172,657 people hiked the Yoshida trail in the summer of 2017, coming in second with less than half the numbers was Fujinomiya with 70,319 people (statistics from fujisan-climb.jp).

Yoshida’s popularity can be credited to its convenient access from Kawaguchiko station, many mountain huts selling supplies, more first aid centers along the trail and because it is the true pilgrimage route taken by Shinto practitioners. We have only climbed via Yoshida so the rest of the post will only go into detail for this trail. However, we spoke to an experienced Fuji climber who said he prefers climbing Fujinomiya due to the shorter distance, but he warns it is very steep and for recommends Yoshida for first-timers. More information on the trails can be found on fujisan-climb.jp.


Where to Start Your Climb

This all depends on where you decide to start your climb. Very few climbers start from the base of the mountain and instead opt to start at the 5th station halfway up the Yoshida trail. Why? Well, the main reason is that it’s the highest point reachable by vehicles which makes the climb easier. Also, before 5th station the trail runs below the treeline so there is little to see along the way. From the 5th station it is still around 6 hours to the summit.

To reach the 5th station you can hop on a 1-hour bus from Kawaguchiko station (2,200 yen return) which you buy on platform 7 before boarding. The return ticket is valid for multiple days so those looking to do a 2-day climb can rest assured. Expect long queues for the bus after 10am and even longer on weekends.


How Long is the Climb?

Hiking the Yoshida trail from the 5th station took us 6 hours to ascend and 3 hours to descend, this included time for photos, food and plenty of breaks along the way. You will also need to factor in around an hour prior to the climb to acclimatise to the altitude at 5th station – we can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to acclimatise.


Bullet Climb vs 2-Day
Mt Fuji sunrise
Mt Fuji sunrise

The next step in understanding how long your climb will be is to decide whether you’re going to split it into 2 days or do it in one shot (a.k.a bullet climb). Bullet climbing is rather challenging as you’re not giving your body much time to rest and acclimatise before reaching the summit, but it is the best method if you’re either tight on time or if you want to save money as you won’t need to book a night stay at one of the mountain huts. We don’t recommend bullet climbing if you’re not an experienced hiker or if you’re thinking of watching the sunrise from the top as this will mean hiking in the dark most of the way.

We decided to do a 2-day climb so that we could easily watch sunrise the next day. It’s also important to remember that summiting Mt Fuji is great but most of the enjoyment comes from the climb itself, so why rush it?


Accommodation on Mt Fuji
Fujisan Hotel
Fujisan Hotel

Most mountain huts along the Yoshida Trail provide accommodation but generally these need to be booked in advance due to high demand. We stayed at Fujisan Hotel as it was one of the closest mountain huts to the summit – this meant we had less of a hike the next morning. The mountain huts are expensive for what essentially is a sleeping bag alongside many others on a bunk, we paid 7,200 yen each plus 1,000 yen booking fee for a night stay including dinner. Dinner was a delicious hamburger and sausage curry with pickled radish, but the portions are fairly small. Additional food and drinks are available 24-hours at Fujisan Hotel but expect higher prices than normal (fair considering you’re 3,000 plus metres up a mountain).

After dinner, we were squeezed (we mean this literally) into a sleeping bag along a row of many others. Our tip would be to bring a pair of earplugs to block out snorers and an eye-mask or equivalent to block the lights which are on throughout the night. We’re fairly accustomed to both these problems from our travels but one we didn’t expect was how stuffy the room became. Because of the lack of ventilation, understandable as to keep the heat in, it made breathing difficult and this was on top of the thinner air from high altitude.

Despite this, we still recommend booking a night stay as the alternative is to rest outside where temperatures easily drop below zero when the sun sets. There were a few people who opted to do this but they honestly looked like they were really suffering. We’re all for saving money and budget travelling but this, for us personally, was a step too far. Please note you are not allowed to set up tents on the mountain.

To book Fujisan Hotel visit fujimountainguides.com. Payment is made upon your arrival and Fujisan Hotel do accept credit cards.


Do I need to be an Experienced Hiker?

In short no, we saw people of all fitness and ages challenging the climb and summiting. The availability of supplies and access to emergency aid form mountain huts also reduces the difficulty of climbing Mt Fuji. But there are a few challenges which you should know before you go:

Above the clouds on Mt Fuji
Above the clouds

High Altitude

The biggest challenge and the most common reason why people fail their climb is due to altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is the result of climbing in altitude too quickly. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and dizziness. Both Sarah and I experienced altitude sickness during our climb at different points and this was even with an hour of acclimatizing at 5th station and spending a night at the 8th station. Please note, your level of fitness does not necessarily correlate with your likelihood of altitude sickness.

The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to give yourself plenty of time to acclimatise, preferably at each station. Also drink plenty of water, take many breaks, climb at a slower pace or buy one of the oxygen cans available from the mountain huts.

Very Cold Temperatures

Night time on Mt Fuji
Watching the stars on top of Mt Fuji

It’s really difficult to imagine how cold it is at the summit of Fuji during the summer months, but temperatures are generally 0°C and below – it is often very windy at the top so temperatures may feel even colder than recorded. You might feel fine on the way up but remember your body would have been warmed up from the hiking. If you’re hoping to watch sunrise you might have to sit and wait several hours in freezing conditions.

Bring plenty of extra layers: thermal top and bottoms, down jacket, windbreakers, hats, and gloves. Don’t be the fool shivering in shorts and t-shirts, yes there were a few.

You can check Mt Fuji summit weather reports using tenkura.n-kishou.co.jp. Note the website is in Japanese so you will need to use Google Translate. We recommend this site because of its forecast accuracy and a handy grading system to determine whether it is safe to climb Mt Fuji.

Mt Fuji's terrain
Mt Fuji’s terrain

Uneven/Slippery Rocky Terrain

The majority of Yoshida Trail is along very uneven rocky terrain so you will need to wear shoes with good grip, preferably hiking shoes. There are some steeper sections which will also require you to clamber using all fours but nothing too strenuous nor too difficult. The way down is especially slippery and dusty so you might want to consider bringing along hiking poles for balance and a bandana or buff to cover your mouth and nose.


What to Bring/Pack
Couple geared up to climb Mt Fuji
Ready for this climb!

Here’s a packing list of gear and items we wore/brought along (excluding camera gear):

Clothes

  • Short sleeve top – it’s hot hiking most of the way up
  • Shorts – same as above
  • Long sleeve thermal top – cold when you reach the summit
  • Thermal trousers – same as above
  • 2x Pairs of socks – in case it rained, hiking in wet socks sucks
  • Hiking shoes – or shoes with good grip
  • Gloves – your hands will be freezing in the morning
  • Down jacket – lightweight and warm. Sarah brought a hoodie which was fine too
  • Rain jacket – rain protection and windbreaker

Optional items

  • Cap – as you reach above the clouds the sun will be very strong
  • Sunglasses – so you’re not squinting the whole climb and helps prevent dust getting in your eyes
  • Sunscreen – UV rays are stronger at higher altitudes
  • Bandana – shield mouth and nose from the dust on descent
  • Portable charger – there are no charging points anywhere along the hike
  • Hiking poles – makes the climb easier
  • Head torch – a torch would also be fine but it’s nice to have your hands free
  • Compass – getting lost will be very difficult but this was useful to tell where the sun was rising from
  • Rain cover for bag – protects everything inside your bag
  • Plenty of 100 yen coins – for toilets

Food & drinks (optional as you can always buy at mountain huts)

  • 2 litres of water – if this is too heavy bring 1 litre and restock when needed
  • A bunch of bananas
  • 4 onigiris
  • Chocolate bread rolls
  • Calorie Mate
  • Sweets – Sarah refuses to hike without them

We recommend bringing a 30L backpack which will easily fit all these items.


Can I Rent Gear?

If you forgot to pack your hiking gear and just don’t want to pack the extra weight, you can rent equipment ranging from hiking boots, hiking poles to head torches and extra warm layers. Rental shops can be found at both Kawaguchiko or at the 5th station.


What about my luggage?

If you’re travelling Japan with a suitcase you’re obviously not going to want to bring it with you to the summit. There are lockers available at the 5th station but we don’t recommend counting on using these as they are generally full during climbing season. There’s nothing worse than turning up with your suitcase and luggage only to realise there’s nowhere to put them.

Alternatively, you could use the lockers at Kawaguhiko Station. These are also typically full during the climbing season but you can speak to a member of staff who will be able to keep it in a secure office if all lockers are taken.

Another option is to contact hotels and hostels in Kawaguchiko and see if they have luggage storage facilities available. Even if you’re not a guest it is worthwhile contacting a hotel as often they will charge less than the rates of the lockers and locker room at Kawaguchiko Station.

We ended up contacting the accommodation we were staying at after our climb and they were happy to keep our luggage for free, it never hurts to ask 😉


How Much Does it Cost to Climb Mt Fuji?

This will vary depending on the trail you choose, how you decide to get there and what you decide to buy while on your climb. We’ve summarised our cost for 2 people below but please note prices were from climbing in 2018 and are subject to change:

Item Cost (¥)
Fujisan Hotel + dinner 15,400
Bus: Kawaguchiko to 5th station 4,400
Voluntary donation 2,000
2L water before hike 100
Extra food supplies before hike 2,500
Mini Mt Fuji walking stick 700
Stick stamps (4 times) 1,200
Toilet (4 times) 800
Coffee at mountain hut 500
Hot Chocolate at mountain hut 400
Total for 2 28,000

Mt Fuji Walking Stick
Mini Mt Fuji Walking Stick
Mini Mt Fuji Walking Stick

You might be wondering what a Mt Fuji Walking Stick is exactly, well it’s arguably one of the best souvenirs you can get to remember your climb and proof of your accomplishment. The sticks themselves aren’t anything special, in fact they’re literally just an octagonal wooden stick with either a bell or a flag tied on. But as you ascend Mt Fuji you will notice most mountain huts offer a stamp service (200-300 yen) to brand your walking stick – each one unique to others.

You can purchase the walking sticks from combinis at Kawaguchiko, 5th station (where it’s cheapest) and at several other mountain huts along the trail. The sticks come in various sizes but if you are looking to get every stamp along the way you will need the largest size – note the walking sticks are huge and will need to be checked in as luggage when flying home. We decided to go for the smallest size (as we still have over half a year left backpacking Japan) which cost us 700 yen. You can only get about 4-8 stamps on the smallest stick but we felt there were only 4 stamp designs worth getting anyway. The choice is obviously up to you.


Voluntary Donation
Hiking through the night
Hiking through the night

This is an optional donation of 1,000 yen which you pay right before departing the 5th station. Donators will be given a small wooded charm with Mt Fuji carved into it (pretty neat souvenir too). We do recommend donating as this goes towards environmental conservation plans and safety measures. You can find out more on fujisan-climb.jp.


Was it Worth it?

Summiting Mt Fuji was a goal we set ourselves around 3 years prior to our climb, so was it worth the wait (and effort)? Our answer is a resounding yes. There is definitely a sense of achievement having summited Japan’s tallest mountain, one I’m sure hikers and climbers of all backgrounds can understand. Sure, there are more challenging, scenic and fun hikes you can do around the world – but few are as symbolic as Mt Fuji.

We hope you enjoyed our Guide to Climbing Mt Fuji. If you have any additional questions please do drop us a comment or send us an email on hello@chopsticksontheloose.com and we’d be more than happy to answer!

Happy climbing! 😀

 

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HOTEL THE FLAG: comfort in the heart of Osaka

HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi entrance
HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi

We flew into Osaka tired, weary and exhausted after our 12-day road trip around Hokkaido; luckily HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi was just the accommodation we needed to rest up before setting out to explore the city. Read on to find out about our stay…

Disclaimer: Our time at HOTEL THE FLAG was sponsored but all words and comments in this post are our own.

Location
HOTEL THE FLAG reception
Reception

What initially drew us to stay with HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi was its fantastic location. Based in Shinsaibashi, this hotel is right at the heart of Osaka and just a few minutes walk to the vibrant streets of Dotonbori. Despite its close proximity to the shopping and entertainment district, the hotel is sat along a quiet side street which means it does not suffer from traffic nor tourist noise. If like us, you intend to explore other areas of Kansai (e.g. Kyoto, Wakayama, Kobe, Nara etc.) you will be able to walk to one of Osaka’s main train stations Namba station in no longer than 10 minutes. A perfect 10/10 for location.

Rooms
HOTEL THE FLAG bedroom
Deluxe Double, clean and simple design

For our stay, we slept in the Deluxe Double room which offered plenty of space for two. HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi is architecturally stunning, choosing a simple yet modern and sleek design throughout the property including their bedrooms. The bed was one of the comfiest we’ve slept in on our travels which was perfect considering we had been roughing it up in a small car in the previous 12 days.

HOTEL THE FLAG bathroom
Bathroom

The bathroom included a bathtub, powerful shower, and a ceiling shower head. Nice extras included free bottles of mineral water, tea and coffee set, and a smartphone with its own SIM plus data for you to use while exploring the city, handy!

Facilities
HOTEL THE FLAG breakfast
Lovely breakfast to start the day

On the first floor, you will find all HOTEL THE FLAG’s facilities including a restaurant, library, laundry room, coffee machine and a lounge with a beautifully modern fireplace. We recommend going for their buffet breakfast which has a wide choice of food including Western and Japanese dishes. Vegans and vegetarians will generally find Japan a little difficult considering how much meat they consume here. Having said this, HOTEL THE FLAG do a great job with their breakfast which includes a wide selection of salads and vegetable.

Things to do

Just one minute walk from the hotel is Shinsaibashi shopping street which has countless shops and cafes. We recommend checking out Rikuro Ojisan no Mise if you’re a cake lover (tip: queue up for the ‘straight out of the oven’ cakes). HOTEL THE FLAG’s location is also within walking distance (3.5km) to Osaka castle, one of our favourite photography spots.

Final thoughts


Osaka can be a very overwhelming city, especially for first-time visitors. That’s why we feel it is so important to be located somewhere very centralised like HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi. The staff were fantastic throughout our stay and we thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast which provided a good start to the day. All-in-all, we couldn’t recommend HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi enough.

Book HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi with booking.com

On The Marks Kawasaki: Hostel and Hotel

On The Marks Kawasaki entrance

On The Marks Kawasaki offers everything we look for in a hotel: clean, comfort, security and location – while providing the social experience of a hostel. This lodging is blurring the lines between a hostel and hotel – and we like it. Read on to find out more about our stay.

Disclaimer: Our time at On The Marks Kawasaki was sponsored but all words and comments in this post are our own.

Location
On The Marks Kawasaki cafe and music lounge
On The Marks Kawasaki cafe and music lounge

We should make something clear right off the bat, On The Marks Kawasaki is not located inside Tokyo but is in Kawasaki which is within the Greater Tokyo Area. So what does this mean? Well, it might be true that geographically it isn’t as close as some other hostels located inside Tokyo, but this comes with its own benefits – the price is much more affordable and you have great access to Japan’s second-biggest city Yokohama. Plus, thanks to Tokyo’s incredible public transport system, you’ll be at popular areas such as Shibuya and Shinjuku in no time.

On The Marks Kawasaki is centered in a fantastic area of Kawasaki with plenty of food offerings, bars, shops and Kawasaki station nearby.

Rooms

One of the things we loved most about On The Marks Kawasaki was the different types of rooms they offered: Bunk Bed, Compact Room, and Standard Room. I’ll go through each one so you know which one will suit you. Male and Female Bunk Beds and Compact Rooms are located on separate floors with separate toilet and showers.

Bunk Bed
On The Marks Kawasaki Bunk beds
Bunk beds

These were hands down the best bunk beds we’ve stayed in so far. The beds were soft and comfortable, curtains were thick enough to block light, there is enough room inside each bunk to place a couple of large bags at the end of your bed, there are several hangers to use, a personal security box big enough to fit a laptop, and the room was a lovely cool temperature perfect for sleeping. There are separate large lockers nearby if you’re looking to safely stow your luggage away. Toilets and showers are shared. We think these rooms are perfect for backpacker/budget travellers.

Compact Room
On The Marks Kawasaki Compact room
Compact Room

If you’re looking for a little more privacy but still want something affordable then compact rooms are the ones for you. These private rooms feature a very comfortable low Japanese style bed with it’s own TV. Toilets and showers are shared with other guests. Please note these rooms are single only.

Standard Room

The top lodging offered by On The Marks Kawasaki, these come in both single and double sizes. These rooms are more spacious, have a bigger TV and its own bathroom. Standard Rooms are great if you’re looking for the hotel experience or travelling as a couple.

Facilities

Where you’ll likely spend most of your time at the accommodation is on the first floor in the cafe/music lounge. On The Marks Kawasaki are proud of the city’s vibrant music scene and show it with their nice selection of tunes and beautiful display of vinyl covers – the vibe makes for a great place to meet fellow travellers. You’ll also find your basic facilities such as free Wi-FI, laundry and a communal room.

Things to do

On The Marks Kawasaki is located close to Tokyo and Yokohama. But, if you’re looking for something a little closer we recommend checking out Anata No Warehouse which is a crazy themed arcade designed after the infamous walled city of Hong Kong. Also, the nearby temple Kawasaki Daishi is well worth a visit. On typical days it is much quieter than temples found around Tokyo.

Places to eat

Dotted around Kawasaki are many Tsukemen ramen shops. Unlike typical ramen, Tsukemen separates the noodles from the broth and is eaten by dipping the noodles one mouthful at a time.

Final thoughts
On The Marks Kawasaki communal area
Communal area

We’ve stayed in our fair share of hostels over the past several years, and few have been as comfortable stay in as On The Marks Kawasaki. Sure, it’s not as conveniently located as other offerings in main Tokyo but as we were looking to explore Yokohama too, On the Marks Kawasaki was the perfect choice.

Top 10 Hong Kong photography spots

Hong Kong photography spots

Hong Kong photography spots

Hong Kong is truly a photographers playground, from soaring skyscrapers to wild country parks, the Far East city has it all. Over the course of two years, we explored the city inside out with our cameras in hand; and after these two years we’ve come up with our top 10 Hong Kong photography spots including how to get there and when you’d want to go…

1. Shing Mun Reservoir (城門水塘) –  Location

How to get there: Minibus 82 from Tsuen Wan, alight at Shing Mun Reservoir

Best time to visit: A few days after plenty of rainfall to allow the reservoir to fill up

It’s not often you find Shing Mun Reservoir on a Hong Kong visitor’s must-see list – but we think it should be. Located in the New Territories, Shing Mun Reservoir is a far cry from the bustling city typically associated with Hong Kong. Instead, Shing Mun Reservoir offers an oasis of greenery home to numerous wildlife including lush Fung Shui woods and wild monkeys. For the best photography spots head down to the banks of the reservoir, but please note it will be very muddy in certain areas.


2. Ma Tso Lung (馬草壟) –  Location

How to get there: Minibus 51K from Sheung Shui, alight at the Police Post. It’s a 10-minute walk from there

Best time to visit: Arrive before the sun sets to watch Shenzhen’s lights turn on

Up until 2013, Ma Tso Lung was part of a restricted area used as a buffer zone to help prevent illegal immigrants crossing into Hong Kong from mainland China. Now that the entry restrictions have been lifted, visitors can head to the border and find one Hong Kong’s most beautiful photography spots. What we love most about Ma Tso Lung is the contrast between the wetlands and fishponds to the towering skyscrapers of Shenzhen. As it is fairly remote, do check conditions before you go, in particular, visibility as the area commonly suffers from haze coming in from Shenzhen. Also, please note the last minibus times or have a taxi number saved as it’ll be very difficult to get back otherwise.


3. Temple Street Night Market (廟街) –  Location

How to get there: Alight at Jordan MTR station

Best time to visit: After 4 pm when most of the market stalls are open

Temple Street Night Market is one of our favourite night markets in Hong Kong. Here you’ll find stalls packed with trinkets, fortune tellers and street karaoke all in one place, and the best way to capture the vibrant energy of Temple Street Night Market is to get a birds-eye view. Head over to Kansu Street to find the multi-story car park. Any floor will work here, but we liked the lower ones for the better angle. Please keep in mind that tripods are not allowed here and this is a car park so be aware of moving vehicles. Also, we’ve caught wind that the car park may be torn down later so go soon!


4. Choi Hung Estate (彩虹邨) –  Location

How to get there: Alight at Chung Hung MTR station

Best time to visit: Early in the morning and on a weekday

If you’re looking for a splash of colours in your photos then you’ll want to visit Choi Hung (Rainbow) Estate. As its name suggests, this photo spot is an estate that has been painted in the colours of the rainbow. To get the best view of all the colours you will need to visit the playground above the car park located in the middle of the entire estate. This has become an immensely popular spot thanks to Instagram but if you get there early in the morning on a weekday you’ll be able to get a few photos in without anyone else in the frame.


5. Tung Ping Chau (東平洲) –  Location

How to get there: Board a ferry from Ma Liu Shui Ferry Pier

Best time to visit: Anytime

Looking for something most visitors don’t see when they come to Hong Kong? Jump on a boat and visit the city’s most remote location, Tung Ping Chau. The crescent-shaped island is home to many unique sedimentary rock formations which also makes the island a great spot for photographers. Reaching the island is a little difficult, you’ll need to take a ferry from Ma Liu Shui Ferry Pier which takes around an hour and a half. Please check ferry times (to and fro) before going – if you miss your ferry back you’re going to have to camp overnight.


6. Lugard Road (盧吉道) –  Location

How to get there: Either take the tram or bus 15C to the Peak and it’s a 5-10 minute walk from there

Best time to visit: Before sunrise or after sunset

Hong Kong’s city skyline is arguably the most iconic photo you can take of the city but the standard view from the Avenue of Stars (Tsim Sha Tsui) or The Peak (Central) is getting old for many. Instead, take a walk down Lugard Road just 5-10 minutes away from the Peak to find an unobstructed close-up view of Victoria Harbour. This Hong Kong photography spot looks its best during sunrise but if you’re not an early morning person then come in the evening when the lights come on for an equally impressive scene.


7. Suicide Cliff (自殺崖) –  Location

How to get there: Minibus 1 and alight a Fei Ngo Shan

Best time to visit: Sunset

Suicide Cliff isn’t for the faint hearted so if you’re afraid of heights you might want to skip this one. This spot is located on Kowloon Peak just behind the weather station. Suicide Cliff got its nickname thanks to its extremely sharp and steep cliff edge. From the top, you will have an incredible view of Kowloon on one side and Sai Kung on the other. We recommend not taking the short route up as this is much steeper, instead walk 30 minutes along Fei Ngo Shan Road to get to the trailhead with stairs – it might take a little longer but it is so much easier and safer. Those going need to be aware of the potential danger and must understand the risks of walking near a cliff edge.


8. Ha Pak Nai (下白泥) –  Location

How to get there: Minibus 33 from Yuen Long

Best time to visit: Sunset

This is one of our favourite places to watch a Hong Kong sunset thanks to the unobstructed view from the beach. Although not widely known to tourists, Ha Pak Nai is popular among locals. On our visit, we also found plenty of fiddler crabs poking their heads out of the sand. The only public transport which serves this location is minibus 33 from Yuen Long. Foodie tip: check out Kei Kee Dessert’s famous “B Jai Leung Fun (B仔涼粉)” – you can thank us later.


9. Sai Wan Swimming Shed (西環泳棚) –  Location

How to get there: Alight at Kennedy Town MTR station and walk 20 minutes

Best time to visit: Evening

The Sai Wan Swimming Shed is the only one of its kind still open to the public in Hong Kong, but more recently it has become a popular spot for photos. Due to the location it faces, Sai Wan Swimming Shed is a great spot for sunset – the only problem is that everyone else in Hong Kong knows this too. On a weekend you can expect long queues lining up to walk out onto the wooden pier. We recommend skipping sunset altogether and instead wait until later in the evening when the crowds disperse. You can reach the spot by alighting at Kennedy Town MTR station and walking around 20 minutes down the road.


10. Sunset Peak (大東山) –  Location

How to get there: Bus 3M, 11 or 23 and alight at Pak Kung Au

Best time to visit: Sunset in autumn

Rounding off our list of top Hong Kong photography spots is the city’s third tallest peak – Sunset Peak. To reach this spot you will need to embark on a two-hour hike, but trust us the views are worth it. From the name alone you would have probably already guessed that the best time to visit is at sunset, we recommend bringing along some camping gear so you can watch the sun go down without having to worry about another 2 hours of hiking in the dark.  If you happen to go during autumn you will also be able to marvel at thousands and thousands of silver grass plants spread all along the hillsides. To start the hike take bus 3M, 11 or 23 from Tung Chung and alight at Pak Kung Au.


And there you go, these are our top 10 Hong Kong photography spots. Let us know if you guys head out to any of these places and we’d love to see what you create!

If you’re looking to up your travel photo game, read 9 tips to improve your travel photos.

9 tips to improve your travel photos

improve your travel photos

Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or just picking up the camera for the first time, you might find some of these tips useful in helping you improve your travel photos.

improve your travel photos

We’ve been shooting travel photos for the past 3 years, originally starting off as a hobby before it transformed into a way for us to make a living. As we’re self-taught photographers we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but it’s from these mistakes that we’ve been able to improve our craft. Here are the 9 most important points we’ve learnt which have helped us improve our travel photos and we hope they’ll help you too.

1. Wake up early…very early

Unless you’re looking to take photos of crowded streets and hoards of tourists, waking up early is the very best tip we could possibly give you. How early is early? Well, this depends on where you’re going, but generally the earlier the better. If you’re visiting the location for the first time, you can do a Google search of the place and along the right side it will usually show the popular times (based on the number of visitors) throughout the week – obviously, you are going to want to avoid periods of high traffic. We typically arrive on location at least an hour before sunrise as this gives us plenty of time to work out where we want to shoot, decide on a composition and set up before other people start to show up.

2. Light is everything

Did you know the word photography derives from the Greek words for “drawing with light”? This indicates just how important light is and why you need to understand light when creating a photo. When shooting do you consider whether you’re working with soft light or hard light? Backlit or frontlit? Mid-day or sunset? Golden hour or blue hour? These are all factors which can hugely affect the final outcome of your travel photos. Unlike photographers who shoot in studios, travel photographers often have to work with what they’re given and it’ll be your understanding of working with the given light which will help you make the most of any situation.

Here are two examples of how understanding light helped us create better photos:

We arrive on location early in the morning but unfortunately it’s cloudy. In light terms, what this means is that we have weak diffused light spread evenly across the scene – in more simpler terms it means flat, desaturated and very little contrast. Things sound bad but you could use this creatively. We look for bold colours which typically stand out more now that the scene has been desaturated, and if you can’t find colours just wear a bold coloured coat. Also, due to the low contrast, you’ll find small details will become much more apparent in your photo, use this wisely as it can create complex images with plenty of visual interests for people looking at your photo.

 

This time we’re faced with strong sunlight in the middle of the day. Strong light casting directly onto your scene will be very harsh with a lot of strong shadows and highlights – great right? Not always, shooting people in harsh midday light can be highly unflattering as it produces big dark circles around the eyes while emphasizing wrinkles. A quick solution is to just turn the person around and shoot them from behind, pretty much all your problems will be solved.

Itachi Seaside Park

3. Plan ahead

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin. There’s nothing worse than scrambling to find a place to shoot while you’re experiencing the most incredible sunset or sunrise. This doesn’t mean you have to plan your day to the tee (although we often find ourselves doing just that) but have an idea of where you want to shoot and at what time of day. Once you’ve made this decision, other activities such as where to eat and what else to do usually fall nicely into place.

4. Patience is key

A wise uncle once told me that there is one trait inherent to all who choose to take up photography…patience. Often when looking at photos shot by others, we view it as if they just stumbled onto the scene, pressed the shutter before continuing on their way. This probably happens 0.000001% of the time. Travel photographers devoted to capturing the best or even just better photos will often wait minutes, hours, days, weeks and even sometimes years before they capture the one they’re happy with. A question we often get is how we are able to capture photos without anyone else in them, there are a number of techniques you can use to achieve this but the one we fall back on time and time again is to just be patient. Keep waiting until there is no one else in the frame. It might happen for just a split second and you just have to be ready for that moment.

5. Try another angle

Probably the quickest and easiest way to improve your travel photos is to try a different angle. Try getting low to the ground or raise your camera up above your head for different perspectives – you’ll be surprised how vastly different your images will turn out. If you’re not sure which angle is best, then try them all – you can always just pick one when you’re back at home.

Singapore

6. Learn the rules and then break them

If you’re just getting started with photography then you’ll want to familiarise yourself with photography compositional rules like the rule of thirds, leading lines, framing and fill the frame – these are all great techniques which will help you get started in understanding what is visually appealing.

Those that already understand the rules and already apply the techniques, we want you to break them but don’t forget them. Sounds counterproductive, but by intentionally breaking the rules you will create something different and unique to the majority of photographers. If you’re not enjoying the result of breaking the rules then go back to them but allow yourself creative freedom to produce the images you imagine even if it goes against the grain.

7. Post-processing

This is such a touchy subject for many photographers but we honestly don’t understand why. Photography is a form of art and post-processing is just a way of expressing an image the way you want it to be. Those who oppose post processing often say that it skews reality. This is true if you push it too far but often post-processing is required to amend a photo back to how you really saw and experienced personally. Camera technology just isn’t there yet when it comes to replicating the dynamic range, sharpness and colours of our own eyes. Here’s something to ponder, if you’re taking photos in JPEG, you are essentially post-processing your images as your camera automatically applies sharpening, saturation and other fine adjustments before you view the image. So why not take control of the post-processing yourself and adjust it exactly to your own liking?

Sapporo

8. Shoot, learn, shoot, learn, shoot, learn, shoot, learn…

We were recently asked by a close friend what we would have done differently if we started our photography journey again. Our answer, nothing. This is not to say we did things perfectly, but each mistake and terrible photo was a learning experience which has crafted our photography skills and style.

If you’re finding your photos have made little improvement over time – don’t be disheartened. It takes a lot of time. We’ve only started being happy with our own work and that’s after three years of continuously shooting – and we still think we have a long way to go.

Also, it’s common for people to compare the thousands of photos they’ve taken (good and bad, but typically the bad) to someone else’s Instagram feed – please don’t. What you need to understand is that most people only post their very best work, you don’t see the thousands of photos they’ve taken to achieve that one shot.

9. Enjoy it!

We left this last because it was the most important step for us in becoming better travel photographers. Despite how much we sucked at the start (scroll to the bottom of our Instagram feed and you’ll see), we still loved the process of going out, exploring and taking photos. It didn’t matter how many likes we got on Instagram, nor did it matter whether it was just our mums following our journey – it was so much fun just doing it. This was the fuel to our progress.

We hope these 9 tips will be useful for your next trip. Make sure to follow us on Instagram as we continue to provide more tips on there!

Emblem Hostel Nishiarai: a hostel for travellers to meet travellers

Emblem Hostel exterior

Emblem Hostel exterior

We take a step out of central Tokyo to stay in Emblem Hostel Nishiarai, a hostel we believe to be perfect for travellers to meet like-minded travellers.

Disclaimer: we were invited to stay at Emblem Hostel Nishiarai during our visit to Tokyo but all words and comments in this post are our own.

Location

Emblem Hostel Nishiarai is located in the northern part of Tokyo city with its closest train station being Nishiarai station just one minute walk away. Never heard of Nishiarai? Don’t worry, neither did we and nor do many who live in the city, but we believe it’s an area well worth choosing for your next stay in Tokyo. Those travelling from the airport can take the Skyliner to Ueno station before taking the Hibiya Line straight up, it should take just over an hour to reach Emblem Hostel Nishiarai.

As soon as we stepped out of the Nishiarai station we noticed a completely different pace in the locals. It provided us with a comforting respite from the crowded streets of central Tokyo which we so welcomed after a long day of exploring. Despite the stark contrast in atmosphere, Emblem Hostel Nishiarai is less than 30 minutes by train to main attractions such as Senso-ji temple, Ueno Park and Tokyo Skytree.

Rooms

Emblem Hostel Nishiarai offers three different types of room: Dormitory, Group Dormitory and Private. For all four nights we stayed in the Dormitory room, although we didn’t stay in the others we will give a rundown on their differences.

Emblem Hostel Nishiarai room
Modern pods in the dormitory room

Dormitory

Dormitory rooms come in various sizes which can accommodate 4, 6 or 8 guests. These are shared rooms. The beds are all pod styled bunks, each with its own single electrical and single USB socket. There is a rack to hang your towels and a narrow shelf perfect for your wallet and other small miscellaneous items.

Each bed will also have its own separate locker which is big enough to fit a large backpack. Toilets and showers are located outside of the room and are shared with other dormitory rooms.

Group Dormitory

These are also shared rooms and are very similar to the Dormitory except they can accommodate 8 or 12 guests. The only other difference is that the toilets and showers are located inside the room and is shared only between the 8 or 12 guests. These rooms can be booked as a private room but are subject to availability.

Private Room

Fairly self-explanatory from the name. The private room accommodates up to three guests and is only available for private bookings. These rooms can either come with a large double bed or a twin bunk. There is room for an extra bed if three guests are staying. Toilets and showers are private.

Facilities

You’ll find all your hostel necessities such as laundry and storage, but Emblem Hostel Nishirai goes the extra mile by offering a daily voucher (one for each night you stay) which allows guests to pick from a complimentary bike rental, gym pass or breakfast. The breakfast on offer may vary as time goes by but we had scrambled eggs, sausages, toast and soup. You also get a complimentary drink with the breakfast.

Emblem Hostel Nishiarai cafe and lounge
Cafe/bar area for guests and locals

On the second floor is a communal area for guests to hang out and chat. Computers are also available should you need them. Just outside of the communal area is a large patio where Emblem Hostel Nishiarai hold barbecues when the weather gets warmer.

Emblem Hostel Nishiarai communal room
Communal area
Outside patio
Things to do

We highly recommend spending at least half a day exploring Nishiarai. Walk around the local area and experience a quieter side of Tokyo. Nearby you can find Nishiarai Daishi or you can go exploring the many picturesque streets and alleyways.

What we especially loved about Emblem Hostel Nishiarai was the effort they made to bring together guests. On most days you will find activities such as meet and greets, film night and sushi making which help travellers meet one another. We booked ourselves in for the Sumo Tour which lets you sit in on a Sumo practice session. Unlike regular sumo matches which are over in a few seconds, the practice session allows you to watch multiple bouts between the wrestlers and at a much more affordable price. A full list of activities can be found on their website.

sumo wrestlers trying to push each other out
Sumo wrestlers going head to head in a practice session
Places to eat

Around Emblem Hostel Nishiarai we found a large selection of food offerings from small ramen shops to a very budget friendly yakitori corner shop. If you’re looking for something more western, there’s a McDonalds and a KFC at Nishiarai station.

Our thoughts on Emblem Hostel Nishiarai

Emblem Hostel Nishiarai graffiti

Having stayed at multiple hostels throughout Asia and Europe, Emblem Hostel Nishiarai gets full marks when it comes to cleanliness, comfort and cost. Where we thought it might drop points was in its location, but this turned out fine too. What really differentiates Emblem Hostel Nishiarai from the other offerings is its activities and socials. Whether you’re travelling solo or in a group, one of the best parts of travelling is making new like-minded friends and Emblem Hostel Nishiarai does a great job of fostering a great environment for this.

If you’re interested in booking a stay with Emblem Hostel Nishiarai, we are happy to announce they are offering you guys a 10% discount on your bookings when you use our promo code.

10% promo code: ChopsticksTokyo18 

Visit emblem-group.com to make your booking today.

Living abroad: the good and the bad

couple walking in a forest with a lake

Not sure whether you’re ready to live abroad? This post may help you come to a decision. After nearly three years living abroad, we explain the good and the bad about life overseas.

Before we jump into this post I want to give you guys a little back story to provide some context on why our thoughts on living abroad might matter to you. If you know our story already you can skip ahead a couple of paragraphs.

The backstory

Back in 2015, both Sarah and I had been living in London for around 3 years. At the time we worked full-time jobs which, frankly, neither of us particularly enjoyed (that is putting it lightly). We eventually decided we were letting our dreams slip away and so refocused our attention on the thing we loved the most, travel.

But having not saved up money prior, we were stumped as to how we were going to make it happen. Then came our idea of simply relocating abroad as this meant we could still find a job if we needed the income but at the same time could still enjoy exploring a different place. We eventually decided on living in Hong Kong where we stayed from late 2015 to 2018 and are now currently based in Japan. You can find a more thorough background story over on our about us page.

With that out of the way, let’s get started on the good and the bad about living abroad. Note that these points are based on our own personal experiences and thoughts and your experience and someone else’s may differ.

Living abroad: the good

The ability to travel deeper

When I say travel deeper, I’m referring to exploring and experiencing a destination more than just ticking off the tourist and Instagram spots. It’s about understanding what the local culture is, finding the off-beaten-path and creating impactful memories you can treasure.

Living abroad gives you the opportunity to travel deeper because you are typically spending an extended amount of time in the location. Everyone tends to start with the most touristy activities e.g. visiting the landmarks, going to the museum, eating the famous food etc., but as time goes on, you’ll start to scratch deeper and deeper, and begin to find more meaningful experiences. This is not to say taking that selfie at an iconic landmark won’t give you a similar satisfaction, but it likely won’t be the thing you remember when it comes to telling stories of your travels many years later down the line.

man hiking in huangshan with the sunrising behind
Challenge yourself

I know, it’s so cliche. But there’s a reason why everyone that lives abroad or goes travelling says challenging yourself is one of the biggest reasons to do it; because it’s absolutely true. Throwing yourself into any new environment forces you to embrace uncertainty – why the hell would you want that? Well, it’s because you can grow as a person. A challenge is what facilitates growth as it allows someone to test where they’re currently at and if they’re not good enough, well that’s a clear indication to be better.

My own example was challenging myself to grow my confidence. I’m very much an introvert and grew up most of my life with a shy personality afraid of what others thought of me. Anyone who has experienced Hong Kong would know that being shy and quiet are two personality traits which don’t get you very far. The new environment challenged me to be confident in my choices and not to be afraid to take action because if I don’t do it, someone else will.

You don’t have to be rich

The two points above aren’t strictly related to living abroad. In fact, long-term travelling will also give you the same opportunities. But with long-term travelling you tend to need a substantial amount of money to do it. Now, we know not all travel has to be expensive (we’re advocates of budget travelling ourselves), but you still need money saved up if you’re going to live with no income and are going to spend on things such as accommodation, transport and food. By living abroad, meaning based in a new place, it gives you an option to go out and look for a job if you need it. This practically means you don’t need any money saved up to make the leap, you just need to find a job before you set off.

We personally brought £1,000 each when we moved to Hong Kong as we thought it would be easier to find a job once we arrived (which was true), the money served as a safety net in case it took longer for us to find a job. How much you need depends on a number of factors such as what country you’re going to, what your living circumstances will be, how employable you are and your personal spending habits.

It goes without saying that we’re excluding those whose work is location independent and can work anywhere as long as they have an internet connection.

Become part of the community

This has been hands down the greatest part about living abroad. We may be a little biased as one of the reasons we chose to live in Hong Kong was because we wanted to discover our family roots and experience the community they grew up in. Having said this, we firmly believe being part of a local community with a completely different culture to your own can bring so much value and joy. Living abroad has given us the opportunity to make many new friends from different walks of life – more so than we would have done staying in the UK. As a result, we have become more empathetic and understanding of differences between cultures – something we believe will help tackle prejudice and racism across the world.

Living abroad: the bad

red sail junk boat in Hong Kong
Saying goodbye

Living abroad has meant we have had to leave behind many of our loved ones and miss many important events back in the UK – weddings and births of new family members are the first which come to mind. Obviously, you can fly back for these special occasions but how many can you go to, do you go to one and not the other? And does your budget even permit you flying back and forth so much? These are questions you will need to answer yourself.

What has made things easier for us is that we now live in an era where it’s possible to connect to the internet and see your loved ones through the phone. Here’s a fun fact, the last two weddings I attended were both over a video Skype call. Yes, it’s not quite the same as being in the same room but it’s much better than no connection.

Also, having walked a similar path when he immigrated to the UK, I looked towards my dad for guidance and learnt a very valuable lesson. What I saw was that although he hardly had any face to face time with his own parents (two weeks altogether in three years), he made each minute of those two weeks count. He was present and connected. His two weeks were more valuable than some people’s relationship with their parents even though they live together. It’s not about the quantity, it’s the quality of time you spend together.

Language barrier

If you’ve travelled to a country which doesn’t speak your native language, it’s likely you’ve experienced difficulties communicating due to a language barrier, well think about what that would be like if you had to go through it every day of your life.

There’s no denying that native English speakers (like me) tend to take the skill of language for granted. Many countries which don’t have English as an official language still have residents who can speak English fluently but if you venture out of the capital or tourist destinations then you’re going to be in for a shock.

There’s really no two ways about it, you’re going to have to learn the language. Sure, you can choose a country where English is widely spoken such as Hong Kong or Singapore, but you’re never really going to be able to become part of the community – this can feel alienating at times.

Life will be harder

A very general statement but for most this will be true, why? Because you’re going to be in a new environment with new challenges and unlikely to have any friends or family to rely on. This doesn’t mean your life won’t get easier, but you have to be willing to tough it out for a while before you can reap the benefits, this is true with anything in life.

As I said earlier, new challenges can be great, the problem only arises when we don’t rise up to the challenge. Anyone looking for a safe and easy path is looking in the wrong place.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed this post and if you want to see more of our photography work go check out our Instagram

Life updates for 2018

Sunrise over Hong Kong Victoria Harbour

We’ve made some huge changes over the last few months and now that the dust has begun to settle, we’re ready to tell you guys all about our life updates for 2018.

Sunrise over Hong Kong Victoria Harbour
View over Victoria Harbour
Bye bye Hong Kong

As some of you may already know, we’ve departed from Hong Kong – a city we’ve called home for the past two and a half years. We originally only planned to stay for a year but ended up loving it so much we extended it for another 18 months. Honestly if it wasn’t for our next adventure (more on this below) we wouldn’t have left.

Hong Kong has been very special to us in a number of ways. It was here that we learned about our family roots, made many new friends, further developed our skills in photography and writing, and connected with so many of you. It’s thanks to you that we were able to start making a living through travelling and photographing the world. We want to give you all a heartfelt thank you for following our adventure so far and we hope you enjoy what’s coming up next.

Full-time travellers

So what is next? Well, we’ve decided to go all in and pursue the dream of continuous travelling. This meant we had to quit our day jobs (yet again). Doing so will allow us to focus on creating more travel content on this blog and provide as much value to you as we possibly can.

Next destination: Japan

With the flexibility to be anywhere in the world, we decided to head straight for Japan. We fell in love with the country back when we travelled here in 2016 and knew this was a country we wanted to spend an extensive amount of time in. With that said, we’re happy to announce that we’ll be based in Japan for an entire year! This will give us the opportunity to explore the multiple regions, multiple seasons and get to know the country and its locals on a much deeper level.

We’ll have a rough itinerary of where we’ll be up on the blog soon as well as how we managed to plan and organise this trip.

In the meantime, if you guys have any questions or know of a particular area we should visit in Japan please drop a comment below, email us or slide into our DM on Instagram.

Happy travels!

Best free travel apps of 2018

Before you set off on your next adventure make sure you have these 6 free travel apps installed on your phone. Out of the millions of apps available, we’ve found these 6 travel apps to be the most helpful in booking, planning, managing and allowing us to enjoy our trip stress-free. All travel apps listed are available for both IOS and Android.


Best for finding cheap flights: Kayak
  • Find cheap fares
  • Discover new destinations
  • Price alert

Kayak is a flight search site which scans the web pulling information on flights, hotels, rental cars and holiday packages – all from just a few simple clicks. There are other apps which do something similar but we recommend Kayak as it has consistently found us cheaper flights (personal experience).

We also love the Explore page which creates a map full of flights and prices based on your departure airport and a month you’re interested in travelling. This is a great way to discover new destinations that you might not have considered before – many of our spontaneous trips were booked this way!

Once you’ve set your eyes on a particular flight, you can save it to your watchlist (saving you time from searching again) and even set an alert when prices are estimated to be at their lowest. Remember to check out their Travel Hacker blog before you set off on your travels.

Download: kayak.com/mobile


Best for organising your trip: Google Trips
  • All-in-one travel planner
  • Save information offline
  • Travel itinerary recommendations

We only discovered this travel app recently but it has been game-changing to the way we now organise our travels. Google Trips is the travel secretary you never thought you needed until you gave it a try. Its core function is to dig through your Gmail inbox for booking confirmations to create a list of your upcoming and past trips.

Google Trips gathers all your booking information such as references, contact numbers, and addresses into one manageable place. Better yet, you’re able to make all the information available offline – this feature has saved us a couple of times.

There are a few other features bundled into this travel app but one which deserves a special mention is “Day plan” which suggests a travel itinerary based on the things to do nearby and the time available.

Download: get.google.com/trips


Best for managing travel funds: Revolut
  • Simple way to exchange currencies
  • Avoid international ATM fees
  • Go cashless or carry less cash

For budget-conscious travellers, Revolut is a travel app you’ll definitely want to install on your phone. Revolut is a digital banking alternative that offers real-time currency exchange rates straight off your phone.

Once set up, users will be able to bank transfer and exchange currencies (over 120 currencies) from their “home” bank account which will become available via a prepaid debit card (MasterCard or VISA) given to you by Revolut.

Besides convenience, some of the benefits include great exchange rates, no transfer fees, and no international ATM fees for up to £200 withdrawals a month.

Download: revolut.com


Best for booking attractions: Klook
  • Save money booking events and attractions
  • No need to queue
  • Immediate confirmation

Who doesn’t like saving money? Through Klook, you’ll be able to book attractions, events and things to do with discounts of up to 60% off. The travel app has many of the popular tourist attractions available while also offering exclusive activities for those looking for something more unique.

Booking through Klook also means you’ll be able to avoid queuing up to purchase tickets in the first place. And if you forgot to buy tickets beforehand, no worries – Klook confirms bookings immediately and sends e-vouchers via the app.

Download: IOS and Android


Best for translations: Google Translate
  • Instant translation
  • Voice functions
  • Camera functions

Google Translate needs no introduction. Unless you’re multilingual, you’ll definitely have used this travel app when travelling to a country with a foreign language. Although we like to learn phrases and words in the local language, Google Translate is useful for when you might find yourself in a pinch.

Be sure to try out the camera function which translates real-world text live on your screen – perfect for ordering food off menus with no English.

Download: IOS and Android


Best for tracking where you’ve been: been
  • Visual way to keep track of travels
  • Shows percentage of world and continents travelled
  • Small app size and ad free

Frequent travellers who find it difficult to recall all the destinations they’ve visited over their lifetime should check out been. This app uses a very basic interface which lets users simply tick off the countries they’ve been to. We prefer been to other similar apps because of its small app size (around 6MB). It also has no ads in the app.

Download: IOS and Android


We hope these travel apps will help make your life of travel just that little bit easier. Let us know if these have travel apps have been helpful for you or tell us what your favourite travel apps are in the comments below.

Credits: main image graphics by Freepik and Natanaelginting

Three days in Singapore

Three days in Singapore

When we heard some of our UK friends were travelling around South East Asia, we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fly out and meet them in Singapore. We only had three days in the city but that was plenty to have us wanting to come back again soon. Here’s our three-day itinerary for what we got up to in Singapore.


Day 1

Check in + pool

We spent our first morning enjoying our hotel’s outdoor pool – a much-needed refresh after our red-eye flight. Park Hotel Alexandra very generously sponsored our accommodation and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay. The hotel is situated amongst the lush greenery of The Southern Ridges and is located a short distance away from Downtown Core and Sentosa Island – both places we went on to visit (more on this later).

Park Hotel Alexandra also provides each room with a smartphone loaded with calls, texts and data during your stay. This meant we saved money and the hassle of buying a local SIM upon arrival.

Old Hill Street Police Station

After grabbing some breakfast at Park Alexandra Hotel, our first stop was to see the Old Hill Street Police Station. This building was once home to Singapore’s first police station and jail – hard to imagine with its new colourful lick of paint. The building was renamed MICA Building in 2000 and is currently being used as an atrium for art activities.

We didn’t quite have time to explore inside but were able to take a few shots of the colourful exterior (tip: stand on the opposite side of the road for a better view of the building).

Old Hill Police Station Singapore
MICA Building/Old Hill Police Station
ArtScience Museum

This museum combines technology and art to create visual marvels. Anyone who uses Instagram will likely have seen the museum’s LED light installation, Crystal Universe. Although beautiful, it surprised us how small the light installation actually was, luckily we visited on a fairly quiet day and didn’t have to jostle with many others.

The light installation can be found at the end of the museum but visitors can enjoy many of the interactive games along the way, although most are suited more towards children.

For up to date prices and to book tickets, visit Marina Bay Sands.

ArtScience Museum Singapore
Crystal Universe light installation
Gardens By The Bay

We spent the remainder of our first day at the Gardens By The Bay. This was our most anticipated part of the trip, we spent a good few hours exploring the Supertree Grove, Cloud Forest, Flower Dome and many of the other attractions (full attraction list). As nature and outdoor lovers, it was interesting to see the potential for nature and urban to intertwine. We highly recommend staying for the light show in the evening (check times here). Travel tip: If you’re thinking of going up to the Skyway, do it just before the light show starts for the best views in the park.

On our way back to catch a taxi to our hotel, we also managed to catch the Marina Bay Sands light show from the Helix Bridge but we would recommend you make your way over to the Merlion Park if you want the best view of the show. Note, to watch the fountain water show you will need to head to the Event Plaza at Marina Bay Sands.


Day 2

Palawan Beach

We spent the entire second day on Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore’s southern coast. Fun fact: Sentosa is a man-made island for the sole purpose of letting visitors have fun.

Sentosa offers a number activities for visitors to choose from, we ended up deciding to spend our morning relaxing down by Palawan Beach. The beach itself is clean and well maintained with perfect water temperatures all year round. The beach also connects to the smaller Palawan island via a long suspension bridge. The relaxed tropical vibes at Palawan Beach was a lovely contrast to the bustling activity going on in the city centre.

Universal Studios

This theme park needs no introduction. You can expect great fun for all ages with roller coasters and rides to shows and parades. Singapore’s Universal is the smallest in the world but this is actually a good thing as it means you’ll be able to cover everything in just one day. Book your tickets in advance to save queuing up.


Day 3

Masjid Sultan

We started our final day with a visit to Masjid Sultan, Singapore’s most famous mosque. Ever since our visit to Malaysia, we’ve loved visiting and photographing mosques as each one tends to have its own unique and beautiful design – Masjid Sultan was no different, it looks like something straight out of Aladin. Arriving first thing in the morning meant there were very few people around which was great for photos, but note that the mosque itself doesn’t open until 10am.

Before entering the mosque, remember there is a dress code to abide. Males should wear long trousers and a top which covers the shoulders. Females will need to cover legs, arms and their hair. Robes are provided on location if clothing is deemed unsuitable.

Just round the corner from Masjid Sultan is Singapore Zam Zam, a great little Indian restaurant where we had a delicious yet economical breakfast – a must-try is their selection of roti.

Masjid Sultan
Masjid Sultan
Masjid Abdul Gaffoor

With our tummies full, we walked toMasjid Abdul Gaffoor, our second mosque of the day. Both mosques are beautiful and definitely worth visiting. Robes available on location.

Masjid Abdul Gaffoor
Masjid Abdul Gaffoor
Katong

We managed to squeeze this last activity on our way towards the airport. Katong is residential neighbourhood filled with colourful shophouses. This was one of the prettiest streets we’ve ever seen and well worth the slightly awkward trip out.

Katong shophouses
Katong shophouses
Back to Changi (Singapore) airport

And just like that our three day trip in Singapore came to an end. We hope you found this post useful in your own planning and if you have any questions just comment below or email us and we’ll be more than happy to answer. Happy travels!