Vlog 12: Two Days in LA
This trip to Bali was fairly spontaneous. We purchased our tickets and booked our hotel two months before leaving. When taking trips we usually we plan at least six months ahead. My recording set up hasn’t changed.
Camera: GoPro Hero 3
Stabilizer: Feiyutech G4 Gimbal
I would like to pick up a new Hero 5 or 6 with a gimbal but that’s a $300+ upgrade that I can’t afford at the moment. I’ll look into getting a used Hero 4 since it still fits my current gimbal. I’m happy with my GoPro so far but I know I can get better shots with an upgrade. Thanks for watching.
Lift Heavy and Level Up!
We went to a lot of places that I didn’t talk about in my TRIP RECAP but I did catch some of it on video. My recording setup is the same, GoPro Hero 3 and a Feiyu Tech G4 gimbal. I might get a Hero 4 to experiment with 4K or I might just pick up a newer model like the 6. Unfortunately, my gimbal only fits the models up to the 4.
Lift Heavy and Level Up!
We had so much fun in Manila and Boracay that we decided to take another trip together! We wanted to visit somewhere where it would be cold and we decided on Japan. Like the Philippines, this was going to be another first for one of our friends and we made sure it was memorable. This was not our (wife and I) first trip to Tokyo, visiting for the first time in 2014. It was awesome then and we were sure it was going to be a lot better with our friends.
Our AirBnB had portable WiFi units so we did not pick up SIM cards. SIM cards are available for purchase at the arrivals terminal however. Some of the options are a bit pricey which is why we just stuck with our portable WiFi. With our Osaka trip, we really didn’t need a SIM and the portable WiFi would have been sufficient. Also, our AirBnB came with two so our group was covered.
Our AirBnb host recommended we take the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori station and use the subway from there. Previously we used the Narita Express but the next train was departing in an hour and the next Keisei train was departing in 15 minutes. The desks are not hard to find. English signs are visible in the arrivals area of the airport and the staff at the ticket counters speak English. We picked up a round trip ticket bundle that came with a 24 hour subway ticket.
At Nippori station we picked up PASMO IC card for subway and rail travel. PASMO and SUICA are the two popular smart cards for the subway and rail systems in Tokyo. It eliminates the need to purchase separate tickets and it’s easy to purchase. The PASMO terminal has an English option which makes it a lot easier to understand. The deposit for the card is ¥500 which you can recover when you return it for a deposit. I believe every subway station, not JR station will be able to refund your yen and the remaining balance when you turn it in. I haven’t done this since I kept mine as a souvenir. I would highly recommend getting either a PASMO or SUICA card. They make taking trains a lot easier. Also, you can purchase items from vending machines that accept it as a form of payment.
We were able to book an AirBnB for our stay. It was located on the west side of Shinjuku, one stop away from Shinjuku station. The listing was two apartments side by side but was not as big as I expected. The listing was accurate but I was thinking it would be bigger. The five of us were able to sleep comfortably and the location and price were worth it.
I can’t mention everything we did in Tokyo but I will mention some of our favorite places.
Harajuku is the place for shopping. Clothing and food shops are everywhere. Global brands like Nike and Adidas can be found on the main street as well as popular coffee shops like Starbucks. Smaller brands can be found here too. Street wear is popular here with stores like Supreme, Bape and the Neighborhood. The food was great as well. Pastries, candy and crepes were delicious.
The Meiji shrine is located next to Harajuku station. We have been here before and is a great place to walk around. The path to the shrine leads through a forest and large Torii gates. The walk is not too long and it’s very peaceful. We spent some time touring the grounds but did not see a traditional Japanese wedding like last time.
The ROBOT RESTAURANT is one of the main attractions in Shinjuku. I watched a Parts Unknown episode with Anthony Bourdain and he called it the “greatest show on earth”. After that review, we decided to check it out. The ticket is about $68 on VOYAGIN. A friend booked all our tick comes with two drinks you can get at the bar. The lounge is very bright and colorful and two lounge acts performed while we were waiting. The seating in the basement was very tight and cramped, getting in and out of the seats to use the restroom was a hassle. The show itself was great, a lot of lasers, flashing lights and “robots”. The story they showed didn’t make a lot of sense but it didn’t matter. You’re not at this show for the story. The final performance was a finale set to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk. Overall, I enjoyed myself but probably wouldn’t watch it again unless they changed the acts.
Tsukiji Fish Market
This was my first time here and I was a little disappointed. It was our fault since we didn’t check the times when it would be open. We didn’t get to walk through the seafood market but we did stop by a few stalls selling food. We ate some fresh scallops, calamari and fish. The mochi was also good. I wouldn’t mind stopping by to see the fish market when it’s open.
Harry Hedgehog Cafe
Japan is known for their animal cafes. We were not surprised when we walked by one for hedgehogs. None of us have seen a hedgehog before and we were excited to play with them. The wait for a seat can be long, 30 minutes – 1 hour, so you should plan for waiting. Reservations are accepted but you must pay for the 1 hour long visit. We visited the Harry Roppongi location but another one is also located in Harajuku.
Handling the hedgehogs is not difficult but you need to get over the fear of handling them. They will shake and curl up but it’s not hard to get them to wake up. They also sell hegehogs as pets and you can purchase a lot of supplies in the shop as well.
Tokyo Disney Sea
Tokyo Disney Sea was awesome. It’s not a typical Disneyland park but it does have a few Disney IPs. Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Finding Nemo. However, all the rides are in Japanese (like Universal Osaka). The Indiana Jones ride was not in service which was a bummer but the other rides were still fun even if we didn’t understand the story. We had a great time and tried a lot of great treats. If you’re a fan of Disney and want to see something other than Disneyland, you should stop here.
Trick Eye Museum
We love trick eye museums and we found one in Odaiba. They had a lot of scenes and it was fun going through one with friends.
We ate a lot! We tried a lot of great sushi, ramen, meat and dessert places. It’s hard to list everyone so I’ll just put our favorites.
Sushi – Genki Sushi
Ramen – Ichiran Ramen
Meat – Yamano
Dessert – Pie Holic
Like any big city, stores are everywhere, you just have to know where to look. Our primary neighborhood for shopping was the Harajuku. From shoe stores like Adidas and Nike, to “Hypebeast” clothing stores such as Bape and Supreme, you can find it in Harajuku. If you want to find a particular store, search it on Google maps.
This was my second time to this city and it was better than the first. Our friends made it a better experience since we got to share new adventures. We tried a lot of new food and went to a few new places. After visiting twice, their is still a few places I didn’t get to see but I’ll save it for the next trip. Visiting Japan is always a great time!
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*Full Disclosure – This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.
After traveling through Europe with my Venturesafe 150 GII and an old Oakley backpack. I decided to combine the two and pick up a Pacsafe backpack. Pick pocketing is a prevalent crime in large cities and I wanted a more secure backpack for an upcoming trip to Manila and Japan. The Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 looks good and doesn’t scream “anti-theft”.
Main Material: 210D Nylon Double Ripstop
Weight: 2.7 lb
* Specs taken from Pacsafe Website.
The appeal of any Pacsafe bag is their anti-theft features and this bag has a lot of them. The bag has four outside pockets with two side pockets to hold other items like water bottles.
This bag comes with two types of zippers designed to prevent theft, the zip clip and the secured zip tab. Both zipper types make it harder to pickpocket which is a plus when you’re on a crowded area. The zip tabs are easy to use but the zip clip is a bit harder. Trying to get both zippers to clip is a bit difficult and takes a minute. It’s a great system that could be improved upon in the next version of this bag. The main compartment zipper has holes for a travel lock as well for extra security.
Slash Guard and Straps
Another anti-theft feature is the eXomesh slash guard. The slash guard is a metal net that is between bag fabrics. The net doesn’t cover the whole bag, just the bottom half of the bag. This stops thieves from cutting your bag open and running off with what’s inside. The bag straps also have metal wires which prevent cut and run theft. The strap also comes with a turn and lock security hook which can be attached to a fixture. This helps prevent snatch and grabs.
The bag comes with an RFIDsafe pocket for credit cards and passports. This pocket prevents RFID skimming. Most passports have RFID chips as well as some credit cards. My cards do not have an RFID chip so my passport was the only one that needed to be safe.
This is very convenient and would have come in handy in recent trips. My camera bags have rain covers but I haven’t seen many regular back packs with them. I had to use this once while in the Philippines and it was easy to pull out and cover my bag.
This bag comes with an aluminum support which helps with load transport as well as a hip belt. The hip belt can be stowed away when not in use. Their is also an adjustable sternum strap. If you load up your bag with some heavy stuff this support can take the load from your shoulders and transfer to your hip, making long walks not too bad.
Like most bags on the market, this one comes with a organizer pocket, a laptop sleeve and side pockets for drink bottles. The laptop sleeve also doubles as a hydration pouch. Side compression straps are also available for when your pack is not full and you need to slim your bag a bit. The bag will work with the Travelsafe X15 Anti-Theft Portable Safe if you want another level of securtiy.
I love this bag. It’s a bit pricey with a MSRP around $170 but the peace of mind is worth it. Nothing beats being aware of your surroundings but this bag surely helps. The durability is great as well. I’ve used it on two trips and it’s holding up very well and looks brand new. I had a minor complaint when it came to the zippers but it’s not a huge issue. It’s also comfortable for long trips with a full pack. If the X30 is too big, they make a smaller model Venturesafe X22 (22 L). Overall, I would recommend this bag for people who want extra security when they travel.
Check out the Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 on Amazon if you’re interested.
Lift Heavy and Level Up!
We traveled to Boracay and Manila over the Thanksgiving holiday. This was our first trip with friends and it was a great one. My wife was the only one that spoke the main native language dialect (Tagalog) which helped us out immensely.
Getting a SIM card for your phone is easy and free. Globe Telecom and Smart are the two carriers that we found outside the airport terminal. If you travel with Philippine Airlines they give you a voucher for some free data and minutes. I have used Globe before so I went with them. We spent about ₱1000 for 8 gb of data and about 15 minutes of call time. We were going to be using WhatsApp as our main communication app and decided to go with more data instead of call time.
We had to take multiple airlines to get to Boracay. We flew into the Philippines on Philippine Air, purchased a one way from Manila to Boracay (Caticlan Airport) on Cebu Pacific Airlines and purchased another one way from Boracay (Caticlan Airport) to Manila on Air Asia. All airlines were great and we had no issues.
Getting to your hotel or villa in Boracay can be difficult especially if you do not speak the language. The company that we used to transport us was Southwest Tours. Cebu Pacific Airlines had a promo for ₱ 500 for drop off and another ₱ 500 for pick up. This covered your ferry ticket as well. The employees walked you through the whole process making this part of the trip easy. If you want to book with them, they have a small kiosk office outside of the Caticlan Airport. Travel time from airport to our villa was about two hours.
Getting around Boracay is not bad. Their are no taxi cars, instead they had tricycles. They were everywhere and not hard to hail one. It’s very inexpensive about ₱ 60 a trip. If you’re in a large group try to get one of the electrical tricycles. These seat six to seven fairly comfortably.
In Manila we used the Grab Car/Grab Taxi app to find rides. Uber is also available in Manila but it was a bit more expensive and didn’t use it.
|View from Mosaic Towers|
Our Boracay home was the Hayahay Villa on Diniwid Beach Road. It was a nice place with a lot of room for our group of seven. It was very quiet at all times of the day. It is not on the famous White Beach but it is a short commute to any of the stations. Also Diniwid Beach is a short walk away, about five minutes.
Our Manila home was a flat in Mosaic Towers. The location was great (Makati) and our host was very quick with responses to our questions. This area felt very safe and even had a small coffee shop on the first floor.
The downside of this beach are very few. Their are a lot of people trying to sell you something everywhere. You can’t walk 10 ft. without someone trying to sell you hats, sunglasses or a tour. The other downside is how crowded it can be.
Diniwid Beach is a small beach north of White Beach. It’s the closest beach to our villa so we decided to check it out. This beach is a bit more secluded and less crowded than white beach. A few restaurants are in the area as well as a few bars. This is a great beach if you want to get away from the crowd.
The Boracay PubCrawl introduced us to the the Boracay night life. The tour costs ₱ 1000 and consists of five stops at five bars and five shots on the beach. You also get a shirt, a rubber bracelet and a shot glass attached to a necklace. The group of participants are separated into teams and go through some bonding games. The tour lasts from 7:30 pm to 1:30 am so bring your energy, it’s going to be a long night!
The great part about food in the Philippines is that it’s very inexpensive when compared to the US. We tried a bunch of stuff but my favorite restaurant in Boracay was Gerry’s Grill. It’s a Filipino restaurant with others spread throughout the Philippines. We tried a variety of dishes. My favorite dish was the crispy pata.
|Our spread at Gerry’s Grill|
We also tried a few other places like Wokeria and McDonald’s. We would get small snacks and desserts that are along the beach. My wife and friends would stop by Starbucks every day to get some coffee and we stopped by a fruit shake stand called Jonah’s. The fruit shakes were awesome and they have a huge variety of fruit drinks available.
|Mango shake from Jonah’s|
If you’re looking for alcohol, just pop into a bar or a local market. Most drinks are very cheap about ₱ 50 for a bottle of San Miguel or Red Horse. Some bars even offer happy hour specials. We drank a lot during this trip.
Their is no shortage of shopping malls in Manila. We were only able to visit a few. We stayed across Greenbelt Mall and Glorietta Mall in Makti. These malls would take a few days to walk through with each being three to four stories each. Other malls fairly close by were Uptown Mall, Mall of Asia and the Venice Grand Canal Mall. All these malls have the same stores and are quite large. The Venice Grand Canal Mall also has an Italian gondola ride!
|Main entrance to Mall of Asia|
Their was so much food on this trip, I’m pretty sure I gained 10 lb. We drank a lot of Starbucks and ate plenty of doughnuts from Krispy Kreme and J. CO. Manila also has a lot of choices if you’re willing to brave the crazy traffic.
Tim Ho Wan
We stayed near Glorietta and had to try out Tim Ho Wan, a famous Dim Sum restaurant from Hong Kong. It has been called “the cheapest Michelin-starred” restaurant in the world and it did not disappoint. The menu is printed on paper that also acts as your place mat. Most items have a picture and you order by writing down the menu numbers on a pad next to your table. We tried a bunch of items on the menu and loved everything. We would have ordered more but we were stuffed. There are five other restaurants in the city if you’re not near Glorietta.
Wildflour cafe and bakery was a top suggestion by friends who frequently go to Manila. They recommended their pastries, especially the Cronuts. I’m not a huge pastry person but I was interested in their other breakfast options. Everything tasted great. The bacon steak, fried potatoes and eggs were tasty. The pastries were delicious as well.
CrossFit and Games Stores
CrossFit 1229 was around the corner from our AirBnB. They were out of t-shirts in my size but I was able to pick up a shirt for my wife. It’s a small box but it looks like it had everything you would need to train. Next time I’m in Makati, I’ll do a workout.
|Neutral Grounds window display|
Neutral Grounds was also near our AirBnB in Makati. Located in Glorietta 4, this was a hard place to find. The mall is huge and we had to ask a few people where it was exactly. They had a few board games, some wargaming supplies and Games Workshop times. They had a good supply of MTG stuff as well.
I finished the video for Osaka a few months ago and forgot to post it on the blog! I’m using my trusted GoPro Hero 3 with a Feiyutech G4 Gimbal. This was my first video after our European Honeymoon. I tried to incorporate some transitions during filming which didn’t come out too bad. I did mess up the recording format for the video. I didn’t choose the correct recording format which is why it might look different from my other videos. Osaka was a great place to visit and I hope we go back in the future. Let me know what you think in the comments below or leave one in video comment section.
Lift Heavy and Level Up!