Day 2: Batu Caves, Central Market & Bandar Mahkota Cheras

We began our day around 10am which wasn’t exactly early but all the vendors near our Airbnb wasn’t open yet. We decided to start driving towards Batu Caves first and then find a spot for breakfast along the way. After an unsuccessful attempt at finding food, we decided to get McDonalds – super authentic lol.

I didn’t want to get anything that I could’ve gotten back in the states so I tried the Nasi Lemak Burger and got an Iced Latte.

Nasi Lemak Burger from McDonalds

The chicken in the burger was crispy, tender and juicy. The Nasi Lemak sauce was a bit too fishy for my taste, but overall it was really good. The iced latte was meh, couldn’t really taste the espresso as the milk was really overwhelming. The fries weren’t as good as the McDonald fries back in the states. Later on the day, my aunt told me that KFC was way better so that’s next on my fast food list.

Batu Cave

Lord Murugan Statue by Batu Caves

My first impression was being amazed at how big the Lord Murugan Statue was. Looking straight at it from the bottom made the statue look as tall as the hills behind it. Unfortunately there was so much construction going on that it made the overall experience less majestic.

Before trekking up the stairs, there was a pile of bricks and buckets that you could voluntarily carry up to help the workers. Of course, I had to bring at least one brick up.

Trekking the stairs up to Batu Cave

From the bottom the stairs look overwhelming, but trekking up wasn’t too bad. It was way easier than I expected it would be. The main challenge was avoiding getting your stuff stolen from all the monkeys running around. Lucky for me I had a small bag to hide my sunglasses and anything else that may look tempting to steal.

Monkeying around

These monkeys may look cute but quite mischievous. One of them threw a plastic bottle at these two girls and I ended up being in the middle of it.

My favorite picture I took at Batu Cave

We got to the top fairly quickly and you don’t notice how massive it really is until you’re inside the cave.

Inside Batu Cave
It’s crazy how they carry supplies on their head up

There was so much construction being done that it made the whole experience feel less magical than it should’ve been.

I wanted to explore the dark caves but no one wanted to do the excursion with me. I would’ve done it alone but I would’ve felt bad making everyone wait 45 minutes for me. Definitely on my list next time I’m back.

After trekking back down, we got some refreshing coconuts to reward ourselves. Next stop, Central Market!

Central Market

If you thought LA traffic is bad, you haven’t experienced traffic in Southeast Asia. I would never want to drive here, it seems like there’s no rules besides the traffic lights. Everyone is too busy getting to point A to point B and no one is really sharing the road.

Central Market

I love visiting markets in other countries. There’s so many things to browse, from clothes to trinkets to a whole lot of souvenirs. Don’t even get me started on all the food you can get! I ended up getting a whole bunch of postcards and we tried a bunch of snacks.

Love the tiles and color
Central Market outdoor vendors
All these coconuts

Chinatown

A couple of blocks away was Chinatown, so it was natural that it was next on our itinerary. To my surprise, either it was too early or it was because of the weekday it wasn’t too crowded when we walked throu

Chinatown
Chinatown market
The best Chinese styled BBQ jerky I ever had.

We did some light browsing and stopped by this place called Lost in Chinatown. It was a store with a tacky gallery with pictures of celebrities and movie characters. The best part of it was a section with Malaysian history, slang and authentic dishes. Since it was free admission, it’s definitely worth checking out just for that part of the gallery.

After Chinatown, we explored the area surrounding us before heading back to the car. I love seeing all the vibrant colors, architecture and food everywhere we go.

I wanted to buy all of them!!
Burger ayam!

Amazing street art

After stumbling upon a burger ayam (ayam=chicken) stand, we went back to Central Market to use the bathrooms before we head back to the car.

Right as we were going to leave, it started pouring so hard, we had no chance but to wait until the storm passed. After killing a hour, it was clear that it wasn’t going to stop raining. We waited until it was raining lightly before making the move to buy some umbrellas and make the trek. Rain, humidity and sweat is not a fun mix.

We were going to head to Merdeka Square and the River of Life, but we had to save that for next time because of the rain. It was also pretty late since we waited for the rain to pass and we had dinner plans with my grandpa and some relatives from my mom’s side of the family.

Bandar Mahkota Cheras

Next stop was Bandar Mahkota Cheras which was southeast of Kuala Lumpur. It was roughly 30 to 45 minutes away and it was where my relatives live. Outside their house they had two cute guard dogs and one house poodle that was really excited when they saw us. I haven’t seen my grandpa in years and it was my first time meeting everyone.

We ate at a place called Legend Seafood Restaurant and got a bunch of different dishes. The only picture I took was a tofu dish since I didn’t bring my camera out to dinner.

A really good tofu dish

After dinner we went durian shopping at a spot that my grandpa likes. Durian is pretty big in Malaysia and it’s considered a luxury. Most people can’t stand the smell of the fruit and it’s banned in a lot of places. My grandpa ended up selecting a musang durian and another popular one.

Durian for sale

Afterwards they ate it back at my grandpa’s house along with some satay. We had one more stop before heading back to the Airbnb and it was seeing the Petronas Twin Towers at night.

KLCC

Suria KLCC and the Petronas Twin Towers was breathtaking at night. There was a water show by the Suria shopping mall and the Petronas Twin Towers were so tall that you had to look so far up and you can feel it in your neck.

Suria KLCC with the Petronas Twin Towers behind it
Petronas Twin Towers

There’s so much more in Kuala Lumpur to see, but we’ll save it when we’re back. Tomorrow we’re heading to Penang!

Goodbye 2017

I feel like I should do a quick recap of all my trips this year since I started this blog so late.

Started 2017 by snowboarding in Vermont right after January 1st.

Snowboarding in Vermont at Mount Snow

Back to back snowboarding trips – a weekend in Poconos.

Deer right outside our house.

Spent President’s Day weekend in Boston.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Knocked off a couple of National Parks off my bucket list on a trip to Arizona & Utah.

First stop was the Grand Canyon.

These curves were amazing – Antelope Canyon.

Horseshoe Bend – pictures can’t do it justice.

The Amphitheater at Bryce Canyon.

Kayaking between canyons at Lake Powell. We even cliff jumped!

Zion National Park is definitely one of my favorite parks.

Angel’s Landing, my favorite hike in Zion.

Breathtaking views at Monument Valley.

Literally a week after this trip, I was back on a plane to Iceland! Iceland has been on my bucket list since senior year of high school. Fun fact: we drove around Iceland in 5 days. It was a crazy but beautiful road trip.

One of my favorite pictures – Viti Crater

Svartifoss. I love waterfalls and Iceland is full of them.

I love just stopping the car in the middle of the road to take in our surroundings.

Whale watching in Husavik.

One of the most dangerous beaches in the world – Black sand beach.

Fjadrárgljúfur – one of the most beautiful spots I ever seen.

Skógafoss. Last picture on my phone from Iceland before the heavy rain destroyed my phone.

Since I had two big trips in May, the rest of my trips during the rest of the year were small getaways. (Besides Japan, of course).

Sipping on my gin and tonic in Atlantic City.

A day hike at Mohonk Labyrinth And Lemon Squeeze. One of my favorite hikes but a hefty entrance fee..

Stonecrop Gardens. Had to visit a couple of gardens this summer .

Camping at Bear Spring Mountain.

Spent Labor Day in D.C.

Exploring another garden – Old Westbury Gardens.

Hiking Mount Beacon. My new favorite day hiking spot.

And my last trip of 2017 – Japan! How this whole blogging thing started. Don’t want to share all the pictures I have since it’s all over my other posts!

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Japan was a great trip to end 2017. I’m excited for 2018 and all the adventures to come (and to share here).

Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year!

Day 13 – [The End Of] Tokyo

I can’t believe our trip is already coming to an end. Two weeks flew by so quickly. We are now on the Narita Express heading to the airport to catch our flight. The feeling of leaving this wonderful country isn’t going to sink in until we are 39,000+ feet up in the air.

Like many others who fell in love with the country after visiting, I know for a fact that I will be coming back. There’s so many things I haven’t been able to do just in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto alone. I can’t even imagine how much more there is to see in other parts of the country. I’m grateful I was able to spend 2 weeks here. It’s a wonderful end to the year as this was the last big trip for 2017.

I wish I have blogged my trips earlier. Especially since I been traveling so much over the past 2 years! Big trips like Peru and Iceland. Adventurous domestic trips like driving down California from San Francisco to LA and loads of hiking in Arizona and Utah. Even smaller trips like exploring Seattle, Vancouver, Boston and D.C would have been fun to blog.

Thank you everyone who followed my Japan adventure. I really appreciate that there are people out there reading my posts even though I’m not the best writer! Cheers to the next trip!

For my everyday adventures – follow me on Instagram! @KennethChong_

Cheers to highball!

I will not be totally inactive after I get back to the States. A lot of updates need to be made that I haven’t had the chance to since everything was done on my phone.

Day 12 – Tokyo

Tsukiji Market:

It’s our last day in Tokyo and we couldn’t leave without going to Tsukiji Fish Market. The market will be moving after the end of this year so we had to go to the fish market.

Tsukiji Fish Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. It’s famous for the live tuna auction, which draws many tourists to visit the market during predawn hours at 5am.

We were at the point of our trip where we were getting exhausted so we didn’t get the chance to wake up super early to attend the auction nor line up for the famous Sushidai. Saving this for the next time I come back to Japan!

It was around 9am and the market was already full of tourists. There were so many food options and we started our day off with some fresh raw oysters.

Delicious raw oyster to start the day.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying some fresh tuna!

Tuna bowl with sesame rice underneath.

You can taste the freshness of the tuna. It was unlike anything we had back in New York.

Shinjuku:

We went back to Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley) because I had to try the soba from Kameya. We saw a huge line during lunch time during our first day in Tokyo and I knew I need to come back to try it. I got lucky since there was no wait and I ordered the most popular dish, Ten-Tama Soba.

Ten-Tama Soba: Soba with vegetable tempura and soft boiled egg.

I couldn’t stop raving about how good the soba was. Especially for ¥420, it’s beyond worth it. The soba was delicious and there was a good balance between tempura and vegetables. Compared to the soba we had in Kyoto from the restaurant that has been around for 550 years, I would give Kameya the gold medal. I wish I had the chance to try Kameya earlier just so I can eat it a couple more times before we leave Japan.

Sendagaya Station:

We took a long walk from the station to Milk Crafe Cream. Apparently they had icecream that was better than Cremia. I personally enjoy long walks through different neighborhoods of Japan since they are just so different from each other. I love seeing how unique each area is and how you feel a certain way while walking down the street.

Icecream parfait from Milk Crafe Cream.

Okay, the icecream is comparable to Cremia; rich, creamy and delicious. On the bottom there was custard and tapioca, which I’m not a big fan of. Cremia icecream is better in my book.

We walked all the way back to Omede-Sando. Believe it, another day and we end up back in this neighborhood. A beauty brand had a pop up store which we happened to come across and got free totes, samples, macarons and coffee!

We were pretty exhausted after a long morning so we took a break at our hotel.

Hikifune Station:

We wanted Kura Sushi and since we were going to the Tokyo Skytree, the closest one was near Hikifune. This was probably the most residential area we have been to. Walking around the area, we pretty much stood out like sore thumbs since we were probably the only tourists.

I love these buildings.

I couldn’t help by admiring the different buildings we passed by.

We finally got Kura Sushi and fulfilled our cravings. I also tried the Dan Dan noodles and udon and to my surprise they were decent! Quite cheap too, around ¥200-¥300. This time we didn’t win a prize despite devouring 20 plates.

Oshiage Station:

We got to the Sky Tree building and to our luck there were plenty of stores for us to check out. I had to do more souvenir shopping since I was still missing gifts for people. We ended up not even going up the tower because of time and monetary constraints. Maybe next time we’re back in Japan!

We called it an early night since we have to pack and prepare for our flight tomorrow. I’m going to miss Japan.

Day 11 – Tokyo

It’s Thanksgiving in Japan and I’m feeling a little homesick. This is probably the first time I’m not home with my family for the holidays. At least I have good company!

Omote-Sando Station:

We wanted to eat at A Happy Pancake for breakfast since we heard they had the best fluffy pancakes! I seen videos of people jiggling them too which is pretty funny. Turned out we weren’t the only ones that wanted pancakes for breakfast. There was a long queue and we just didn’t feel waiting. We went next door to Franze & Evans, which I think is from London. We had a funny moment when we walked in and our waitress thought we were Japanese.

After breakfast we did a little window shopping around the neighborhood. Next stop was Naka-Meguro Station.

Naka-Meguro Station:

We did some more souvenir shopping and exploring of this area since we haven’t had the chance to head this far southwest. Besides getting coffee at Onibus Coffee Nakameguro, the only thing notable was picking up my first item in Japan from Blue Blue Japan. We also stumbled upon & Style Store where we got a couple of souvenirs from.

We did a lot of walking since we wanted to explore and see as much of the neighborhoods as we could as our trip is coming to an end. After dropping our stuff at the hotel, we took the train all the way to Toshima because we were craving Kura Sushi. Unfortunately the queue was so long that we would have to wait at least 3 hours. We even checked two different locations but the wait was just too long for Kura Sushi. It was just a bad day for us as this was the second time as the wait was not in our favor. We settled for Go Go Curry instead. Nothing too special about it since it almost tasted exactly the same as the one in New York. I expected to be wowed since so many people said it was better in Japan.

After dinner we spent quite some time buying snacks and souvenirs from Don Quijote. Shopping in the store was a hellish experience. It was unbelievably hot, extremely crowded and everyone is just pushing each other to get what they want. I never want to go back in another Don Quijote again.

Akihabara:

We ended our night picking up Pablo cheesecake/ cheese tart in Akihabara. We wanted to try these cheese tarts since we arrived to Tokyo Station. We were seduced by how delicious they smelled every time we passed by. We were either on the move or too full every time we passed by one.

Original and Matcha mini cheese tarts.

Okay, so usually I’m not a big fan of cheesecake but these are SO DAMN DELICIOUS! The original cheese tart wasn’t too heavy and I didn’t get bored of the taste after the first bite. The matcha one was a bit too creamy and heavy for me. I definitely like the original more. I highly recommend trying Pablo at least once.

Not my usual picture heavy post since we were too busy shopping for souvenirs.

Day 10 – Tokyo

Omote-Sando:

After breakfast, we took the train to Omote-Sando Station for the Nezu Museum. The walk from the station to the museum felt like walking through Beverly Hills (minus the palm trees). One luxury store after the other. Everyone was well dressed as well.

I heard of Nezu Museum from an Instagrammer I followed. He was actually in Japan two weeks before our trip. The entrance of the museum was very instagramable.

Entrance to Nezu Museum.

Nezu Museum houses a collection of pre-modern Japanese and East Asian art. My favorite exhibit was the “Pinnacle of Elegance: Sword Fittings of the Mitsumura Collection”. The exhibit consisted of swords that were made in the 1700-1800s and they were beautiful. It’s crazy how detailed the swords were. Imagine how much skill and labor it took to make these swords. Unfortunately the museum doesn’t allow photographs inside their exhibits or else I would’ve shared it here. Aside from the exhibits where I couldn’t get a nice picture, the lobby and garden was enough for me.

One of the areas in the museum.

A stroll in the garden

We were immersed in nature; the sounds of running water, birds chirping and all sorts of trees and plants around you. We missed out on a lot of gardens in Japan due to bad weather. I’m glad we were able to experience this one.

It was time for a coffee break and there was an abundance of cafes around us. I had to stop by Cafe Kitsune, since I’m a big fan of the brand AND I also wore my shirt for this occasion.

Drinking an espresso at Cafe Kitsune.

The next spot was Aoyama Flower Market Tea House. We couldn’t leave the neighborhood without trying this. My sister told us about a tea house behind a flower shop and we pretty hyped to try a “speakeasy” tea house. It was more apparent than I thought it was. They had signs and there was quite a long line.

Jacqueline ordered hot lemonade and I got rose soda. We shared French toast which was kinda mediocre.

Hot lemonade and rose soda.

French toast with vanilla icecream and nuts.

The overall ambiance was nice, it felt like we were eating in a greenhouse.

Akihabara:

We went to Akihabara afterwards to do some souvenir shopping. It was a good spot since there were tons of shops that sold anime stuff and almost every store had gachapon machines too. We both have friends that are into anime so it was a perfect area. The best spot we went to was the Akihabara Gachapon Hall. This one store had the most machines out of all the places we been to and they had the ones we were looking for.

Tokyo Station:

After a few hours of souvenir shopping it was time for an early dinner reservation I made at Manten Sushi. Unfortunately There was some logistic error and my reservation wasn’t in their system. They let us eat anyway since I had the confirmation email. The only exception was that we only had half a hour to eat instead of a hour and a half. That was fine by me as long as we got to eat there.

We have been waiting to try good sushi in Japan. Most of the popular spots needed a reservation months in advance. I got lucky with Manten Sushi since I made my reservations two weeks before the trip.

It was an Omakase restaurant which means that you don’t order and the chef basically has a menu that he/she is preparing for the night.

Omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting the chef choose your order. The word means “I will leave it to you”. It’s a tradition that gives the chef creative freedom and the customer a memorable dining experience.

Dish after dish, they were all amazing. I was able to take a couple of pictures, but ultimately we tried to take in the experience as much as we can.

(Uni sea urchin).

There were a couple of unique pieces we ate like octopus with yuzu and sardines with soy sauce(?). We were also served Miso Soup with baby clams which made it a very heavy soup. I normally love miso soup, but this was just too much for me.

The Spanish mackerel and the uni were my favorite pieces aside from the salmon, salmon belly and tuna but those are common.

It was a great way to end our day. I highly recommend Manten Sushi (まんてん鮨). For around ~$60 per person, you get quality omakase which can easily be $150 per person in New York. Next time I’m back in Japan I need to try Jiro or Saito.

Day 9 – Kyoto to Tokyo

Kyoto Station:

Unfortunately we did not get to cross off everything on my to-do list for Kyoto. I’ll be back, that’s for sure.

It was time to head back to Tokyo, where we will spend the rest of our remaining days for this trip. We boarded the Hikiri bullet train with bento boxes we picked up at that station.

My bento box.

Jacqueline’s bento box.

These bento boxes were perfect for the train ride since they were convenient, easy to eat and light. We pretty much devoured our food since it was our late breakfast and we were starving.

Tokyo Station:

2 and a half hours later, we arrived to Tokyo. We had some time to kill so we stopped by a Doutor Coffee cafe in the station. Mainly because Jackie wanted to try a piece of cake that we saw every time we passed by one. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture but it was actually better than I expected!

Toshima:

After we dropped our luggage off, we took the train to Toshima. I really wanted to go to another Pokémon Center since I was amazed at the one we stumbled upon in Osaka.

We ended up getting lunch at Kura Sushi first since it was along the way and since we were getting hungry. We were pretty excited to finally get sushi in Tokyo and also because it’s a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Kura Sushi was even more unique because every 5 dishes you eat, you get a chance to win a prize from a gachapon machine. (It’s all luck by the way.)Our table and you can see the gachapon machine above the touch screen.

Sushi from the belt!

My favorites were the salmon with onion, salmon with cheese and pork with cheese. We were pretty disappointed after finding out that it was all luck for the gachapon prizes. We finally won something after 20 plates.

In total, we finished 25 plates of sushi and 1 special plate that didn’t count towards the gachapon. In total, that only came out to around ¥2800, which is around $26-8. Not bad considering that the sushi was actually pretty good. Way better than any non-high end sushi restaurants in New York.

We spent quite some time at the Pokémon Center and even got ourselves some souvenirs to bring back home. I grew up watching and playing Pokémon so nostalgia hit me hard. Now I’m serious about getting a 3DS and the new Pokémon game. Too bad I couldn’t find a U.S 3DS or else I would be playing it right now and on my flight back.

Toshima Station was surrounded with stores and department stores. We couldn’t help but walk around and window shop. Afterwards we headed to Tokyo Tower, our last destination for the day.

Akabanebashi Station:

Tokyo Tower kind of resembles the Eiffel Tower. I think it’s mainly because of the tip and the legs of the tower.

Tokyo Tower

On the lobby of the tower, there were so many Christmas decorations. It seems like Japan takes Christmas very seriously since we saw something similar in Osaka and Kyoto.

Unfortunately for us, the special observatory portion of the tower was closed for renovations but we were still able to go up 150 meters to see the view.

The view from 150 meters above.

I’m pretty disappointed at the view. I’m not sure if the view would be any better if we were higher either. There wasn’t really much of a main focal point to look at, unless I’m looking incorrectly… We didn’t get to see the Osaka tower or the Kyoto Tower and I don’t think the Tokyo Tower did any justice. Now we have to go check out the Tokyo Skytree. Hopefully that doesn’t disappoint us.