This year began with an unusual amount of workload in the office (and it’s a good thing, I’m just not so used to it). I’ve started planning this trip since October of last year—that month when Scoot had a promotion and I was still high from my Borobudur experience. But until now, I haven’t finished my itinerary.

My initial plan was just to visit South Korea. I’m working in a Korean company so I thought it’s only wise to visit the country, learn the culture, observe the lifestyle and taste some real authentic Korean food. The Scoot promotion was good only for a ticket from Seoul to Singapore. I bought a pass from Korea but not to Korea. Around December of last year, when I was about to buy the to Korea ticket, I told my friend that I’m backpacking in May. I’m going to Busan, Jeju then Seoul. He then told me to drop by Japan since it’s very near. It never occurred to me, so I quickly checked the LCCs (low cost carriers) how “cheap” the ticket could be. It’s less than $100…and a wide grin followed.

To get the most out of this trip, I made sure that I cover any holidays around May. Luckily, there’s Labor day. Unfortunately, it’s also the Golden Week in Japan. When I told my Japanese friends that I’ll be in Japan during that period, they all said that I chose the worst week for a tourist. All the famous places will be crowded. Streets, parks and shrines will be busy. I persisted and started to believe them only when I was booking for hostels in Kyoto and Kobe.

Aside from going to Japan during the Golden Week, I’m also arriving there when all the cherry blossoms have fallen. My two friends in the office, Joey and Valerie, were more fortunate because they were able to experience Hanami last month. I’ll be experiencing  tulip blooms though (nah, I’m not really being competitive) and hopefully will capture a photo much better than their Sakura pictures. Otherwise, I’ll just borrow their photos and overlay my face (thanks Photoshop!).

My journey will cover the following cities:
1. Tokyo
2. Kyoto
3. Nagoya
4. Kobe
5. Osaka
6. Busan
7. Jeju
8. Seoul

Right after office work, I’ll dash straight to my house, pick up my bags and zoom to the airport. My friend Gigot helped me get a complementary pass in the elite lounge of Jetquay, so I’ll be continuing my work there until my flight at 11:55 PM. This is going to be a work-backpacking trip because my Indonesia project will be launching at the time when I’m in Jeju (and probably hiking Mt. Hallasan, it’s going to be fun!).

Aside from going to the touristy places (I can hear Yoshi saying, “Stop being a tourist!!”), I have a very short list of things that I’d really want to experience in this trip–the lesser, the better. These are:

1. Being pushed by the “Pusher” (sounds like a Marvel comics hero) in the Tokyo subway during rush hour.
    I heard that this only happens in the morning during working days.
2. To sleep on a stranger’s couch (that thing called couchsurfing).
    I’ll be doing this in Osaka! One French expat is nice enough to let me sleep at the couch!
3. Stay and live with a Japanese family (talk about immersion!)
    This is what I always look forward to in every trip, to learn more about the local lifestyle, cultures and values.
4. Eat sushi straight from Tsukiji fish market (the real thing!)
    It’s expensive but I heard once you’ve tried it, you’ll forget all the sushi you’ve tasted in your entire life.
5. Saying arigatou gozaimasu and sumimasen without sounding weird
    I asked a friend to teach me some Japanese survival phrases and he redirected me to a youtube channel–very supportive. 🙂
6. Clean my nose with a white tissue
    My colleague Valerie said that when she wiped her nose in Tokyo, the dirt was black (compared to Singapore where it’s almost clear), so my aim is to wipe my nose in every city and document it (and prove her wrong!)
7. Visit my company’s headquarters in Korea–I’m dead serious!
8. Eat bibimbap and kimchi from Korea.
    In most of my business trips, I always had a chance to have dinner in a Korean restaurant, but I want to know how different (or similar) they are from the real authentic one.
9. Gain new friends and create real connections (oh what a cliche!)
9.b. Try the local beer (and I’ll be getting a free beer tour in a beer plant with free flow of beer, right Yoshi?)

10. To sleep in a park. I’ve done this in Nyaungshwe, but I slept near a shrine on top of a hill. The feeling is very liberating!

Oh, this trip is definitely going to be a test of how thrifty (stingy!) I can be. I heard that these cities are quite expensive.

Ok time to go. Japan and Korea, surprise me please! 🙂

Follow me in my instagram account: aldrin002. I’ll be posting most of my photos there. 🙂