Tuesday, May 23, 2017

[Sponsored] Get Stylish With Gaston Luga Backpack + Special Discount Code

Photo By: Elin Chow
Official Website: Gaston Luga

Backpacks are great work-travel companion that will allow you to carry your day to day essentials in style and comfort. Whether it is far, near, urban or outdoors, you will need a backpack that is comfortable and lightweight to carry around all day without breaking your back. Besides being comfortable and lightweight,  a backpack should also be stylish enough to make you feel attractive and confident at every occasion.

About a month ago, Gaston Luga contacted me to offer me a backpack of my choice so that I can introduce their products to my readers. For anyone who have not heard of the brand, Gaston Luga is a Swedish backpack retailer from Stockholm, Sweden and has recently entered the Singapore and Malaysia market. The company was founded by Carl Sundqvist with a vision to create a backpack that is different from the regular school style. He wanted a elegant minimalist backpack that is perfect for all different occasions.

Gaston Luga offers 3 different designs for both men and women to choose from: Classic, Praper and Classy. All 3 designs comes in a variety of colors, as well as more office appropriate black and navy. I have an extremely hard time choosing which one to get because the designs and colors are all so damn gorgeous.

After browsing through its website, I finally decided to choose the Praper bag in pink and black design. Pink and black are just the perfect color combination. The vibrant color and design would be just perfect for a plain outfit and makes you stand out from the crowds.

Bold, elegant, minimalist and stylish, the backpack will fits every outfit perfectly and is suitable for most outdoor activities. The color pink is soft and ultra feminine while the color black is dark and sophisticated. When the two are put together, it create a great contrast and style.

Shipping was extremely fast. I received the backpack from DHL Express in just 3 days after I placed my order. The backpack comes with a dust bag for storage and protection, keeping it clean and dust-free.

Great in style and looks, it is made from a combination of high quality leather, metal and thick canvas. The backpack features a full leather flap with expendable metal hook closure that will ensure the safety of your valuables. There are a total of four hook closures, which will provide the backpack extra height whenever needed.

On the front of the backpack, there is a metal key ring holder for you to hook a keychain or leather address tag, which has to be purchased separately. The leather address tag is available in 10 different colors, so you can mix and match to complete your own unique backpack.

The backpack has one large main compartment, which will provide ample space inside that will hold your essentials safe. Within the main compartment, there is a padded slot that is big enough for a 13-15 inch laptop. Other than that, it also comes with two smaller pockets for your phone and other small accessories.

Made from thick cotton canvas fabric, the backpack is highly durable, versatile and long-lasting. It comes with adjustable shoulder straps, so it can be altered to your desired fit.

On the back of the backpack, there is a special pocket where you can keep your passport, flight and train ticket. The pocket allows you to access to your passport and tickets easily. Besides passport and tickets, the pocket fits my Samsung Note 4 phone perfectly as well, keeping it safe from pick pockets.

At the bottom of the backpack, there are four metallic feet, providing extra protection and a cooler look.

However, one downside of the backpack is the weight. The thickness and quality of the canvas and leather makes the backpack much more heavier than many other backpack, which makes it not so ideal for travelling or everyday use.

The Praper bag currently retails at SGD 319. It is a little pricey but the material is excellent. For all my readers, you can use my code 'elinchow15' to get 15% off your order on Gaston Luga website. Apart from the 15% discount, you will also enjoy free shipping with DHL Express and 20% off tax rebate (from non-EU country only).

No monetary compensation was received for this review and all opinions expressed were my own. Thank you Guston Luga for sending me this gorgeous backpack!

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for any latest updates on my blog. So stay tuned!

Monday, May 22, 2017

[Japan 2016] Osaka: Baggage Storage At OCAT + Minoo Park

Photo By: Elin Chow

Good morning! We started our sixth day of our 7D6N Japan trip in Osaka. After packing up, we checked out of our Airbnb Apartment located in the Namba area. Our plan for the day was to visit Minoo (also spelled as Minoh or Mino) Park, one of the oldest National park located in the northern outskirts of Osaka before we checked in our hotel at Itami Airport (also known as Osaka International Airport) where we will spend our last night in Japan. The reason why we were spending a night at Itami Airport was because we have a 8 am flight to catch the next morning.

We all know that getting to the airport for an early morning flight can be extremely stressful and tiring. So the best way to ensure that we will not miss our morning flight was to stay at an airport hotel the night before.

The easiest and cheapest way to get from Namba to Itami Airport is by the Osaka Airport Limousine bus. Before we set off to visit Minoo Park, we decided to head to the Osaka City Air Terminal (OCAT) first to get our bus tickets for the Osaka Airport Limousine bus.

The OCAT is known to be the largest bus terminal in western Japan. Despite its name, the OCAT is actually not an air terminal. It is part of the major transportation hub in Osaka. On the 2nd floor of OCAT, you will find Airport Limousine buses arriving from and departing to Kansai International Airport and Itami Airport, as well as intercity express buses connecting Namba and cities across the country.

The one way fare from OCAT to Itami Airport is 640 Yen and the bus journey takes about 30 minutes depending on traffic conditions. You can purchase the bus ticket at the ticket vending machine at the bus stop located on the 2nd floor of OCAT. Please note that only cash will be accepted and ticket is valid only on the date of purchase. This means that you are not allowed to purchase your ticket in advance. For more information, please refer to the Osaka Airport Limousine bus website.

Other than getting our bus tickets to Itami Airport, we wanted to find a temporary storage for our luggage as well since we do not want to drag them around while we are doing our sightseeing. Just like most other major train stations in Japan, you will also find plenty of coin lockers throughout Osaka-Namba Station. The coin lockers comes in various sizes and are available at a fee of 300 Yen, 500 Yen and 700 Yen.

However, just like in Kyoto, we decided to make use of baggage storage service to store our luggage because we find it much more convenient and cheaper than coin lockers. Located on the 2nd floor of OCAT, just beside the bus stop, there is a Yamato Transport service center where you can store your luggage. The fee is 500 Yen per luggage for one day storage.

After leaving our luggage at Yamato Transport service counter, we made our way back to Osaka-Namba Station, heading off to Minoo city.

Minoo? So how do you get to Minoo? Minoo is a small laid back tourist town located  in the outskirts of Osaka. To many people, Minoo may sound distant and difficult to get to, but it is actually not. The city is located just half an hour by train from central Osaka, making it a perfect day trip destination.

The fastest and cheapest way to get from Osaka to Minoo is to take the Hankyu Takarazuka Line train, which departs from Hankyu Umeda Station and arrives at Hankyu Minoo Station.

We boarded a Midosuji Subway Line train to Umeda Station. At Hankyu Umeda Station, we boarded the Hankyu Takarazuka Line train to Ishibashi Station. Transfer to Hankyu Minoo Line at Ishibashi Station to Minoo Station. The entire train journey takes about 50 minutes. Please note that the Hankyu Takarazuka Line is not covered the JR Pass. The one way fare from Osaka Namba Station to Hankyu Minoo Station cost 500 Yen (From Osaka Namba Station to Umeda Station - 230 Yen, from Hankyu Umeda Station to Hankyu Minoo Station - 270 Yen).

After a 50 minutes train ride, we arrived at Hankyu Minoo Station. Minoo is a perfect little city with a laid back vibe. Surrounded by lush green hills and forest, the city is a great place for people to get away from the metropolis but did not want to get too far away.

The main attraction of Minoo city is Minoo Park and the biggest attraction of the park is the 33 metres tall Minoo waterfall. All the sights in Minoo Park can be easily reached on foot via a trail that starts from Hankyu Minoo Station. Home to 900 different species of plants and 3,000 different species of insects, the park is known to be one of the best place in Osaka to see the autumn colors in a natural setting.

Surprisingly, Minoo is off the foreign tourist beaten track. The city is often overlooked by foreign tourists as Osaka is not well known for its natural scenery. Thus, Minoo Park is usually very quiet and empty, visited mostly by the locals .

Upon exiting from the station, there are signages around that will direct you to the park. Simply follow the crowds if you are unsure which way to go, or you can also ask for directions.

The approach to Minoo Park is lined with old shops selling interesting souvenirs, food products and traditional wares. Most of the shops will close before dark, so if you come late, you might want to do your shopping first before heading to the waterfall.

About 10 minutes walk later, we arrived at the entrance of Minoo Park where a long hike is required to reach the waterfall. The main hiking trail of Minoo Park is about 3 kilometres long and should be easily accomplished in a few hours time.

It is a relatively easy hike to the waterfall. Built along the stream, the trail is nicely paved, well-maintained and not steep, making it wheelchair friendly. The trail can be divided into two parts. The first half of the trail passes through several shops, temples and other facilities, while the second half is a little steeper and more heavily wooded.

Please be prepared that there will be quite a lot of walking to do at the park. It takes about an hour to walk from Hankyu Minoo Station to the waterfall at a leisurely pace. So it will be best to equip yourself with comfortable walking shoes to enjoy your hike in comfort.

In the park, you will find rows of traditional wooden houses, tea houses and shops selling souvenirs where you can stop, take a rest and have a bite.

Although Minoo Park is great to visit at any time of the year, the best time to visit will still be late November. Lined with hundreds and thousands of maple trees, the Park is especially well known for its fall foliage.  

Minoo park attracts visitors all year round, and can get a little crowded during spring and autumn. During autumn season, the leaves of maple trees turn brilliant shades of orange and red, covering the park in a rainbow of colors.

Located about 20 minutes up the path, you will find Minoo Insect Museum, one of the biggest insect museum in Japan. At Minoo Insect Museum, visitors will get see over 10,000 sample of insects and 200 live butterflies of about 30 species. The museum is opens from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm daily but is closed on Tuesday. Admission fee is 270 Yen for adults and free for children under 12 years old. However, we did not enter the museum because we were not interested to see insects.

Locals and tourists visit the park to enjoy walking on the main paved trail. The park offers some of the best nature scenery in Osaka, providing plenty of photo opportunities.

Passing the insect museum, about halfway up the trail, is the famous Ryuanji Temple, a Buddhist temple established in 658 AD. You will know that you have reached the temple once you see a red bridge across the trail. Among the few temple buildings that are found along the hiking trail, Ryuanji Temple is the most impressive.

Most of the park remained untouched, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I enjoy walking through the hiking trail of Minoo Park, surrounded by lush greenery and colorful autumn leaves at the every turn. The park provides a tranquil surroundings to slow down, unwind and appreciate the beauty of the nature. This is where you will get enjoy a breath of fresh air in Japan's second busiest city, Osaka and forget everything for a moment.

Along the way, there are also some restaurants, vending machine, shops and restrooms for you to grab some bite and take a rest.

The second half of the trail brings you deeper into the forest, surrounded by trees. We enjoyed walking through the heavily wooden trail while listening to the chirping sound of birds. The weather was cooling, which was just perfect for a leisurely stroll.

Occasionally, you will pass by tunnels that seem to be abandoned and forgotten. Other than the main hiking trail, the park also offers a number of other hiking trails for serious hikers, which lead into the hills beyond the waterfall.

At the end of the trail you will find the biggest attraction in the park - the 33 metres tall and 5 metres wide Minoo waterfall surrounded by colorful maple trees.

You can dip your feet into the cooling waters at the base of the waterfall. This is also a great spot for picnic.

The trail ends at a viewing platform at the base of the waterfall, which was surprisingly crowded with tourists. The waterfall itself is stunning but not impressive if you compare to many other famous waterfalls in the world. 

There are plenty of benches in front of the waterfall for you to sit and watch and listen to the sound of the water fall. Beside the waterfall, you will find a number of food stalls and restaurants where you can grab some food or a drink and just enjoy your time with the nature.

During the fall season, Minoo city is also famous for its Momiji Tempura. Momiji Tempura is a local specialty of Minoo city and is made by frying maples leaves in sweet batter with sesame seeds. Sounds strange? But this is definitely worth a try.

Although Momiji Tempura can be eaten all year long with a 1,000 year long tradition, it is unlikely that you will be able to taste this treat just anywhere in Japan. Maple leaves? Are you serious? Well, I know what you are thinking. But do not worry. The leaves are not simply gathered off the ground, fried and served. Instead, they are first preserved in salt for a year before frying them in a secret tempura batter recipe.

Momiji Tempura is sweet, crunchy and surprisingly delicious. It is a great snack to munch on while walking through the park. There are a number of shops in Minoo park that sell Momiji Tempura.

After seeing the waterfall, we retraced our footsteps back to Hankyu Minoo Station and took a train back to Osaka.

I love the peace and tranquility that the city offers. Minoo is a perfect place to relax and unwind without the rush and crowds. It is a place filled with natural beauty, making it a nature lover's paradise. I would recommend anyone who want to escape from the busy city life but have limited time to visit Minoo.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 7 days adventures in Japan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.