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What to Eat at Universal Studios Japan

So you’ve waited for hours in long queue, taken all that heart-stopping rides, played tag it with the street zombies, screamed your lungs out inside the horror maze, and now you are famished. So what do you eat amidst the sea of food options at Universal Studios Japan? Check out the following list:

Platter for Four at Three Broomsticks

Ever wonder what the wizards eat? Then head on to Three Broomsticks, a themed restaurant inspired by the pub of the same name from the Harry Potter movie. This can be found inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Apparently, wizards feast on corn on the cob, pork ribs, rotisserie smoked chicken, squash soup, and side vegetables. The Platter for Four (Jpy 7,600 – Usd 72.39 – Php 3,506.97) feast is served on a metal tray and it is big enough to be shared by 4 or 5 people.

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Notice how many food there is on this platter? Yes, if all the grease from the meat doesn’t kill you, the price probably will. 

For drinks they don’t just offer regular water, they serve Gilly water. But before you get too excited, nope this one doesn’t have a love potion; it’s just a regular bottled water with a Gilly water label.

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Booking.com

Butterbeer

Butterbeer  (Jpy 600 – Usd 5.71 – Php 276.62), that non-alcoholic foamy drink is so good, people inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are willing to wait in long queues just to get it.

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I was under an impression it’d taste like root beer so I wasn’t betting on it until I took a sip and got the biggest surprise. It tasted like caramel and it’s carbonated so it has that nice fizz to it.

Turkey Leg

I saw a child eating something, which I mistook for ice cream. When I got a closer look I was shocked to find the kid was eating a chicken leg. But then again it’s too big, it couldn’t be chicken. Turns out it’s turkey leg and you can buy it from a food cart called BBQ Garlic Turkey Leg for 950 Yen (Usd 9.05 – Php 438.43).

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This turkey leg is the ultimate (literally and figuratively) snack and it’s a favorite among USJ goers. Personally, I couldn’t finish an entire leg because of its size but I had fun munching on it for as long as I could.

Matcha Churros

I never thought I’d see the day when I would love food with matcha. Looks like I had to go to Japan to change mind. And one of the things that converted me is the matcha churros that we had. The churros is of chocolate flavor, long and covered in matcha powder and sugar. It doesn’t come with a chocolate dip but it was delicious even without it.

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Halloween Special at Finnegan’s Bar and Grille

Come dinner time we convened at the Finnegan’s Bar and Grille where we were treated to food specially made just for the Halloween.

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Here’s the list of what we had:

roast-beef-pumpkin-salad
pumpkin-shepherds-pie
halloween-rice-croquette-upumpkin-cheeseu
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  • Halloween Horror Night – Mix Berry (No Alcohol ) (Jpy 520 – Usd 4.95 – Php 240.09)
  • Halloween carnival Highball – Brad Orange (Jpy 650 – Usd 6.18 – Php 396.76)
  • Halloween Rice Croquette – Pumpkin & Cheese (Jpy 860 – Usd 8.18 – Php 396.76)
  • Roast Beef & Pumpkin Salad (Jpy 1,290 – Usd 12.27 – Php 595.14)
  • Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie (Jpy 820 – Usd 7.80 – Php 378.33)

Out of all these, my favorite, and I think everyone in our group would agree, is the Halloween Rice Croquette. The sale period for all Halloween special food is until 6th of November.


USJ Fast Facts

Universal Studios Japan or USJ as known by the locals, was established in 2001. It occupies over 108 acres of area in Sakurajima, Konohana Ward in the Osaka Prefecture of Japan. Its many attractions and a monthly visitor of over 600,000 makes it impossible to see it all in a day.

Regular ticket goes for Usd 71 (Php 3,422.17). But if you want a skip-the-line access, get the Express Pass; rate starts at Usd 63 (Php 3,036.57). For regular pass, book your ticket here. For express pass, book your ticket here.


USJ’s Halloween special started on September 9 and ends on November 6, 2016. Experience this fun Halloween celebration by booking a flight to Osaka via Cebu Pacific, the largest airline in the Philippines. Cebu Pacific flies between Manila and Osaka five times weekly, with lowest year-round fares starting from PHP6,399. Cebu Pacific also flies from Manila to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya and Fukuoka, as well as from Cebu to Tokyo (Narita). Book its trademark lowest fares now through CEBsakaflights or (+632)7020888, or follow its Facebook or Twitter pages for the latest seat sales.

Disclaimer: This Osaka fam trip was courtesy of Cebu Pacific. Some of the photos were provided by USJ. Review and opinions are my own.

Itinerary Philippines Travel

Your Guide to Exploring the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan

The Hundred Islands, that part of the Philippine archipelago that shares the same prominent spot on textbooks alongside Mayon Volcano and Banaue Rice Terraces, can be found in Alaminos, Pangasinan. The name is a nod to over 124 islands dispersed over the Lingayen Gulf, covering a total area of 16.76 square kilometers. Sometime in June this year, I took the grueling 6-hour trip with 2 others to discover this well-known national park that is the pride of the Pangasinense. So here’s the itinerary guide to the Hundred Islands including information on getting to the area, finding a place to stay in Alaminos City, as well as the cost and expenses. Also, I will give you a quick glimpse of some of the islands that you might see during the island-hopping tour.

How to Get There

If you are not bringing your own car, get ready to experience the hassle of constant traveling. If we weren’t riding a bus, we were on a jeep, then we’d transfer to a tricycle. Never in my life have I experienced so much traveling on the road than on this trip.

From Manila there are two ways you can get to Alaminos.

Pasay > Dagupan > Alaminos

  1. From Pasay take the Five-Star bus that goes to Dagupan; fare is PHP 371 (USD 7.70).
  2. From Dagupan, take another bus that goes to Alaminos, fare is PHP 68 (USD 1.41).
  3. Take a tricycle to Lucap Wharf for PHP 15 (USD 0.31) per head.

Cubao > Alaminos

From Cubao, Five-Star’s rate is PHP 361 (USD 7.49) then follow steps 2-3 written above.

All in all, travel time takes 5 to 6 hours, with consideration to the traffic. Victory Liner also offers trips to Dagupan. Click here to see the fare matrix.

Where to Stay?

We didn’t have to rent an accommodation because one of my companions is from Pangasinan;  therefore, we stayed in the house of her family. But there are a number of accommodation in Alaminos and Lingayen to choose from, hotels, inns, and guesthouse, some even offer breakfast. If you are on a budget, I’m happy to report that you can find accommodation for as low as PHP 144 (USD 3).

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My friend’s house in Pangasinan

You may choose to stay in Dagupan, it’s only an hour away from Alaminos. But for this post let us focus on finding a place to stay in Alaminos. Depending on your budget, here are some accommodation to choose from:

Nautilus Islands’ View Lodge
Brgy. Lucap, Alaminos City
+63 (75) 551-4838

Islandia Hotel
Marcos Ave., Brgy. Palamis, Alaminos City
+63 (75) 205-0024
Rate: Starts at PHP 18,000 (USD 37.16)

Island Tropic Hotel
Boulevard St., Brgy. Lucap, Alaminos City
+63 (75) 551-4913
Rate: Starts at PHP 1,600 (USD 33.03)

Treasure Isle Guest House
+63 917-973-5981
Rate: Starts at PHP 200 (USD 4.13)

But if you are feeling adventurous, why not bring a tent and set up camp on one of the islands? You can do this specifically on the Governor’s Island, Quezon Island, and Scout Island. Camping rate is PHP 200 (USD 4.15). If you want to spend the night over on an island but you don’t want to camp, you can stay at the Big Brothers lodge on the Governor’s Island, rate is PHP 10,000 per night (USD 206.42).

How’s the Weather?

Now that you’re in Pangasinan, what should you expect when it comes to the weather? Pangasinan has an average monthly temperature of 27.91ºC. It is dry from November to April and wet from May to October. Just like in most parts of the Philippines, maximum rainfall can be expected in August. In our case, we went in June and experienced the province in arid conditions. It was so hot and dry that it hurts the skin. So be sure to bring sunscreen, shades, and maybe a hat.

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This is not even a matter of vanity (I know some of you are afraid to grow a shade darker or two) but a matter of health. You want to enjoy the province and the island hopping, but you shouldn’t get sunburned in the process.

How much is the Island-hopping Tours?

When you reach Lucap Wharf, go straight to the Tourism Office. This is where you can arrange the boat tours to the islands. The boat rental is steep, so unless you have lots of money to spare, I recommend you go with a group. You may opt to share a boat with other tourists just like what we did. There were 4 of us in our group then we met 4 other tourists and agreed to share one medium-sized boat with them. 

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For a one-day tour, that’s PHP 1,800 (USD 37.36) or PHP 225 (USD 4.67) per head. See the snippet below for the complete list of rates.

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And that’s not the only thing you have to pay. There’s also the environmental fee PHP 30 (USD 0.62) and entrance fee PHP 40 (USD 0.83) for day tour and PHP 80 (USD 1.66) for overnight rate. 

Estimated budget for the entire trip is around 2,000 to 3,000 pesos (USD 41.46 – 62.19) including accommodation and food.  


What are the Islands to See?

There are 124 islands (123 when it’s high-tide) so do not expect to see them all in a day. Some of them are so small (more like giant rocks protruding from the water) you wouldn’t mistake them for an island. I remember joking that these “rocks” are included in the hundred islands count, which made someone from our boat snicker. Turns out it wasn’t a joke, those giant rocks are in fact islets according to our boatman.

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It’s interesting to note that some of the islands are named after the former presidents of the Philippines; Romulo Island, Marcos Island, Macapagal Island, and Quezon Island. Some islands were also named based on how they are shaped. So what islands are you most likely to see and visit? Check the following list:

Cathedral Island

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Not all islands are accessible to the public and can only be appreciated from afar. One such island is Cathedral Island. It has a huge triangle-shaped crack right in the middle. This hollow space has a grotto inside where you can find a figure of the Virgin Mary.

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I wanted us to have a closer look, I think our boat could fit inside the cave but according to the boatman, it is forbidden to enter it. Not sure if he was telling the truth because I’d seen some photos of people going inside the cave on the Internet.

Crocodile Island and Turtle Island

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Some islands were named based on how they appear like the Crocodile Island and the Turtle Islands, which from afar looked like the reptiles they were named after.

Bat Island

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As the name implies, is home to millions of fruit bats. The bats, which were unusually big, can be seen hanging from the rocks and trees. This is one of those islands where people are not allowed to dock. No problem with me because as much as I was fascinated looking at the bats, I was also a little bit crept out at the sight of them.

Quezon Island

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People usually stop by Quezon Island for lunch because it has a restaurant, cottages, and picnic tables. Food here is pricey so it’s recommended to bring your own meal and utensils. Quezon Island is crowded so I do not recommend staying here for long if you are not too keen on dealing with so many people. But this island has a zip line so if you are looking to do some interesting activity, you might want to give it a try.

Governor’s Island and Virgin Island

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I have never watched Pinoy Big Brothers (PBB), but based on my research, the Governor’s Island became well-known because of the said TV show. The yellow house used by the housemates remains and is turned into a lodge that people can rent for PHP10,000 a night (USD 207.31).

Governor’s has a view deck that offers a spectacular view of the other islands. It requires going up the hill, which in itself was not taxing, but the heat of the midday sun sure made it challenging. Just push through with it because this is where you can find a perfect spot for those Instagram-worthy pictures.

Another unique feature of this island is the floating bridge that connects to the Virgin Island. We did cross the bridge but upon reaching the other side, I realized that it wasn’t even half of the trek to get to the Virgin Island.

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The sun was beating on us, quickly depleting my energy let alone my patience, so I decided to just go back.

Cuenco Tunnel

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Another island made famous by a TV show (Marina) is Cuenco Tunnel also known as Dugong Island. You enter a cave that opens to an area perched on stilts. From the looks of it, it seems to have a restaurant, or maybe it used to have one, I’m not too sure.

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When we saw this place, we felt sorry that we didn’t eat our lunch there. It had a few people, the view of the sea is beautiful, and the wind was cool. It would have been a perfect place to go on a picnic.

Old Scout Island

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We were supposed to spend the rest of our free time on Old Scout Island, but the bright skies turned to gray and we didn’t want to risk sailing under the pouring rain, not especially on a boat as small as ours. Our tour began at around 10:00 in the morning and officially ended at around 4:00 p.m. By the way, we didn’t go to Alaminos on the same day that we traveled to Pangasinan. Our tour was scheduled the next day.


Final Thoughts

The Hundred Islands reminded me of the islands and the surrounding islets in Coron, Palawan. If you haven’t been to both, I recommend that you begin with the Hundred Islands. Having been to Coron, where the islands and the sea are a thing of sweet dreams, I was not as amazed by the view of the Hundred Islands. But this opinion is of my own and may not necessarily reflect those who have also been to these two provinces. [Travel Guide to Coron, Palawan].

But I am not going to deny that Hundred Islands hold a certain charm. There is something fascinating about seeing a place in the flesh that was once upon a time was just an image on a book.


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You may download the PDF version of this guide here.


What about you? Have you been to the Hundred Islands? Which island is your favorite?

Japan Travel

Step into a Nightmare – Universal Studios Japan Halloween Horror Nights




You know that feeling when you have been talking with someone for quite some time and already you’ve mapped out your entire life together, and then now finally, you guys are going on a date for the first time? That marriage of inexplicable excitement and utter sense of dread (because what if the person doesn’t think you’re cute in person), that makes you wanna pee, and makes you not want to eat? That’s the kind of feeling that I had when I found out that we would be entering two horror mazes at the Universal Studios Japan. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. This year, USJ has prepared the most amazing Halloween experience for their guests and today I will walk you through some of the best scary attractions that they have. Are you ready to step into a nightmare?

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Japan Travel

You Must Try These 3 Heart-Stopping Rides at Universal Studios Japan




When I was young, amusement park is the seasonal peryahan that suddenly sprouts somewhere in our neighborhood. Thrill ride is the soul-ripping ferris wheel; worse than a rollercoaster for its continuous cycle of dropsies. Souvenir is a teddy bear, if you were ever successful popping balloons with a dart, or shooting rings on empty soda bottles. Gamble is throwing coins on a board emblazoned with numbers, hoping it would stay within the square to win. Cheap, temporary, colorful and unglamorous; that’s how the Filipino carnival is. But to me and the people of my generation, it instigated one of our earliest memories of fascination and wonder, easily experienced in youth and rarely felt in adulthood. So rare I could no longer remember the last time I’d been blown away, until I stepped foot at Universal Studios Japan. A place so magical I bade adulthood adieu; at least for one whole day.  

Because our trip to USJ is so epic, I decided to write this in 3 parts. Let us begin with the 3 attractions that will surely make your heart stop.

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Japan Travel

Not Permitted to go to Indonesia – No Worries, I’m Going to Japan!

Beautiful but expensive are two words that could kill a dream. The wanting of a copious bank account, constantly depleted by responsibilities, lattes, fatty food, and other things born out of a whim, did not make me hopeful that I would ever get to Japan, at least not anytime soon. But if there is one thing I know for certain, it’s that life is full of surprises. And surprise of epic proportion is what I received wrapped in a metaphorical bow of awesomeness. It is so awesome I moved on with ease over a lost opportunity to fly to Indonesia. Last September, I found myself taking that 4-hour flight with 12 others to Osaka, Japan.




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