Sunday, February 28, 2016

Japan Travel Part 3: Japan Rail Pass #Shinkansen

Ohayo! ;-D

JR Pass allows you to travel all over Japan to your heart's desire. Note that you have to get the JR Pass Voucher before going to Japan. In Manila, you can only get the Japan Rail Pass, it's the unlimited pass (either good for 7 or 14 days) that allows you access to most Shinkansens (except for the Nozomi and Mizuho), and JR Lines within the city. You can also get the pass online, but I got our JR Pass vouchers in Universal Holidays, Inc.
JR Pass Vouchers in Manila and Prepaid LTE Sim (I will try to do another post, but best to get your LTE Sim in Japan)
Japan Rail Pass is about Php 10000 per person. It's advisable to get it if you plan to cross-country, like for our case, we're coming from Osaka, then to Tokyo, then to Kanazawa, then back to Tokyo, and back to Osaka for our outbound flight. Then it will be truly worth it. Otherwise, regional passes will do. I will talk about Amazing Osaka Pass and a Subway Day Pass. We had total of 10 days in Japan, 2 Days, we used the Amazing Osaka Pass, then 1 Day Subway Pass in Osaka, and 7 Days via JR Pass. Anyhow, once you get to the airport. you have to change the voucher to the JR Counter, and advise them when you will activate it. Tricky part for us was we arrived late in KIX Airport, we were running after the Haruka Express, this is an express train from Kix Airport that stops directly in Shin Osaka station, where we we were staying. Without a pass of any sorts yet except for the Amazing Osaka Pass, the Haruka Express costed about 2470 JPY per person. Learning here is to get a pass or get an earlier flight such that you have more options.

In Shin Osaka Station, there is a JR Pass Counter.

Where to exchange JR Pass Vouchers to JR Pass and where to reserve Seats for Shinkansen and Haruka 
With the JR Pass, reserve seats for free at the JR Ticket Office. 
The vouchers should be exchanged with the JR Pass. Bring your passport along. Here you can plan your trips and reserve seats. For us, we book our Shinkansen Trips roundtrip Osaka to Tokyo, roundtrip Tokyo to Kanazawa, roundtrip Shin Osaka to Kyoto, and our Haruka Express Trip to the airport. Reserving your seats and getting the tickets will serve as your guide on what time, and which train and platform to take. But if you happen to be early or be late, you can always take the next available train. Don't worry about the Shinkansen that are not allowed, the differences on the acceptable Shinkansen Trains are  barely noticeable, you arrive earlier for just a few minutes. Although, not all Shinkansen are the same. Some have more room, has nicer bathrooms, and has chargers. But relatively, legroom and comfort are okay. 
If you have your JR Pass, you just show it and they will let you in all JR Stations.

Shin Osaka to Tokyo Station 
Big bonus is from Shin Osaka to Tokyo, you pass by Shin-Fuji Station. Here, if your are lucky, like yours truly, you get to see Mt. Fuji without an extra trip unless you want to be really up close and personal with it. Behold, we saw Mt. Fuji here!

Chaseyboy in Kanazawa. We love Kanazawa! Kanazawa post here
Shinkansen all to ourselves. 
JR Pass will also allow you city access within Tokyo. Same in Osaka. Lesser steps than taking the subway too. Hah. Via Shinkansen, Shin Osaka to Tokyo is mere 30 minutes train ride.

You can more or less compute if it will be worth to get a JR Pass or just a Regional Pass via Google. Type in the Google Browser your location and your destination, choose the train for your mode of transport (there are three, private car, train, and walk), then you will see the possible train to take and the fare. For Tokyo to Shin Osaka Station, one way is already 14250 JPY. So hai, if your length of stay in Japan allows you, get a JR Pass if you want to go all over Japan. Kanpai! ;-D

For more of our Japan soirees, visit Japan Travel Part 1 and Part 2

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Unboxing: Althea Korea #OnlineShopping #Innisfree

Annyeong! ;-D

Here's another online site that I hope you will love as much as I do...Althea Korea. Althea Korea is a Korea-based shopping site that ships to the Philippines. It features several Korean brands that I can't wait to try and to splurge on. It has Innisfree, so I'm sold! You ought to know how much I love Innisfree. (Search Innisfree on my site, and you will know.)

Unlike last time's online shopping hullabaloo, this site, is tried and tested. It's on grand opening. Free Shipping for only Php 999, sign up credit worth P300, and free giveaway. Yay! It's the Korean store tradition of gifting shoppers. With all of these goodies, I shopped!

What's in an Althea Box?
Beauty meets Korea. 
Althea promises, and delivers. Free shopping of authentic Korean Beauty Care products at Best Price. 
I love, love, love Innisfree Korea (Innisfree Korea Website links here). Oh I said that, right? Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum is my skincare staple. I buy, and buy, from Seoul or in Hong Kong. I'm happy they have it here. It's sold for 22000 KRW, in Althea, it's about the same price, in fact a bit cheaper with the additional promo discount. The Green Tea Cleansing Foam sells for 8000 KRW, and yes, sells about the same price. No Sebum is the featured gift with purchase. I love. 
I ordered February 19. Payment is via Paypal/Credit Card. Feb 22, I received a notification that my order was shipped. Delivered to me last Feb 25. TGIF! Not bad. Way to go.

For their grand opening, they lowered the free shipping threshold, I applied the Php 300 credits, and added the gift with purchase, that's about Php 500 savings....Daebak! 

To date, they are on the Round 4 of giveaway, first round was for an Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder, which I got. Second round was for a Nature Republic Aloe Vera Soothing Gel, third was for a Tony Moly Tint, now they are on their fourth round, and counting. I lost track. Check it out, visit the Althea Korea Philippines shopping site.

Althea Philippines. Sign up, and earn  Php 50 + Php 300 Sign Up Credits from me. Click the 
Shop Korean Beauty Products from Seoul to Manila with love. Cheers! ;-D

This post goes out especially to my sister, who pulled an all-nighter browsing and window shopping in Althea as soon as the site opens, but I advised her to keep her horses down, relax, let's try it first. Now, ready, get set, shop! ;-D

Monday, February 22, 2016

Japan Travel Part 2: AirBnB Review and Tips

Konnichiwa! Life goes on...I miss Japan.

Here is a belated review of AirBnB. We used AirBnB for Japan. Wiki tells that Airbnb is a website for people to list, find, and rent lodging. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries.
Be kind, click on my referral link here or the image for free AirBnB travel credits for you and me. 
For our Japan trip last time (read Part 1 Japan Highlights), we required 3 accommodations. First part is Osaka, then Tokyo, and then Osaka. We were able to cross area because of Japan Rail Pass (I love it! Review soon!). Via Agoda, accommodations for anywhere in Osaka was relatively costly for December. Naturally, we wanted to be at the center of Osaka, near Dotonbori, Namba or ShinSaibashi. So I gave AirBnB a try. It's like online shopping, you have several room choices at various location. What is important is to Google Map it, and benchmark its location from Dotonbori area or Kix Airport. Major consideration is its accessibility either via JR train routes or subway. When we narrowed down the area choices, we came across several listing within Shin-Osaka, walking distance from Shin-Osaka train and subway station, plus it's the gateway to the Shinkansens. I love Shin Osaka!

After the location, you have to consider the following:

  • Read the reviews. Discern. 
  • Does not charge per head or only has minimal per head charges, because it will add up more expensive than a hotel stay. For our case, I kindly asked the host if it's okay that I will only declare two adults, and my son is free of charge, they both said okay. Why do you have to declare it? Because some host will meet you up for the key or directions, and at the end of every transaction, like eBay, review will be provided as a host and as a guest. 
  • No deposits required. You have to look it up in the listing details.
  • Cleaning Cost should be minimal
  • Has a mobile wifi router for free
  • Has kitchen for cooking or reheating
  • Has washer, a dryer will be a nicer addition though, as it takes a while to dry clothes considering the weather
Here's what came up. 

Our Shin Osaka Room 1: Comes with a veranda where I air dry our clothes, and for a breath of Japan nice air. 
Packed Toilet and Bath plus Toiletries and Tsubaki Shampoo and Conditioner as added amenities
Complete kitchen utensils, cookware, ref and microwave (not in photo), coffee and tea
This room is adjacent to Shin-Osaka Station Hotel (which we spent an overnight too). Walking distance from the station, a lovely restaurant (our favorite, review soon!), and Lawson Convenience store. Perfection.

Quick review of Shin-Osaka. It has a direct stop from the Haruka from the airport. I mentioned it's the main hub for the Shinkansen so it's easy peasy 30 mins trip from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto via Shinkansen.It's a quiet area. If you love peace and quiet after a long day of touring the city, this is for you. I mentioned that there is a Matsuya restaurant, that easily afforded us 5 pounds at very friendly price. Sweet.

When we went to Tokyo, AirBnB listings were a bit off the main train station stops. So we had to get a hotel via Agoda. Though it took a while to decide a hotel for us, affordability and accessibility both in consideration, we went for Smile Hotel Asagaya. It's one of the very few hotel rooms that still allows 12 year old children to share rooms at no extra cost, or worse, no extra room. So after our four days adventure in Tokyo, we went back to Osaka. To stay in another AirBnB room below.

AirBnB Room 2 in Shin-Osaka
Room 2 is way nearer to the station. Definitely more spacious, even the toilet and bath is bigger. This is a no frills room. No flowery decors. But you have the basic, ref and microwave.  This is basically cheaper. I made the same arrangement with the host, our son was free of charge.

So basically, a pleasant AirBnB accommodation comes with a lot of planning and research. Though, in Japan, it is safe to say that the listing details and provisions are trust worthy.

If given a choice, Room 1 or Room 2 round 2, Room 1 will be our choice, just because of the washer provision, though a dryer will be a nicer addition. I like the veranda as well.

Overall, the AirBnB with kitchen access allows you to save  your breakfast, and/or dinner. If you budget $10 per meal per person for a basic meal, fancy meals occasionally, that's at least $20 savings if you spend on microwaveable rice on Lawson, milk, eggs, and Spams or Sausage for breakfast instead of dining out. ;-D That savings, and a relatively cheaper than hotel stay, again that is if you consider my tips above, is a major consideration in going for AirBnB. More savings, means more shopping money! The only downside of AirBnB is you have to pay way ahead of your trip, a month or more. Plus there is little or no room at all for changes. Unlike a hotel booking via Agoda, which allows you more flexibility in cancellation and changes. The key to get my must-haves checked on my shortlisting and eventually making a booking is to negotiate, to ask for discounts from the host, and just be nice and be patient. Kindness is universal, so with language barrier and the what have you, all will actually be sorted out for a happy Japan stay. I love Japan! Kanpai! ;-D

Scammed: Never Shall You Pay Online Shopping with LBC #OLXReview #Rant (Updated)

Oh my!!! This is such a sad post, considering I was terribly missing in action, only to be compelled to inform the public how disappointed we are with LBC and OLX. LBC foremost, because OLX has this big disclaimer. Hah.

Anyhow, LBC is asking us to file a report, it means we have to relive this horrendous experience, oh well. Aissh! I am beyond furious!

Here goes...So my hubby, who just started online shopping, I guess he sort of has developing confidence with online shopping considering Lazada does deliver, and the return policy is easy peasy as well. He found a Canon Camera in OLX. He said this is a steal! A bit too good to be true but possible considering how buy and sell works in Green Hills, that should alarm us, so we make sure we were covered! When he asked supposed Ian and Micah Jane Cortez and cousin JIODIE/JOIDIE C. BALDOMAR of Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, the reason for selling is because of medical emergency. They linked us to their FB account (Micah Jane-Ian Cortez), befriended,  showing the actual photos of the product, more B**S*** on how this was a gift, and they are uber religious lalalala. Anyhow, to cut to the hullabaloo, they asked my husband to show proof of payment,we went to two LBC branches, first in Marquee Mall, and second in Green Hills, we got the assurance on two most important factors. First, we (the sender) can get the deposit or remittance less service charge, fair enough, and most importantly, the intended recipient (possible scammer) will only get it when he has the tracking number. We were assured at both branches. In fact, staff at LBC nicely showed us how to document the photo, sending it to the scammer, without the tracking number. Fool us, scammer Jiodie sent us same tracking number that shows that the package was shipped out. I'm naturally a skeptic, so I told my husband, we can receive all kinds of stuff, but we are relying on LBC's assurance, no tracking number, no remittance payout. So we cautiously obliged. They were super insistent, suspiciously nice folks, all the more we thought we will hold on to the tracking number until we get the package.

I mentioned that they similarly sent us a tracking number of the shipment, at least a portion it, I was initially suspicious because they could have easily sent the whole thing that details the shipment and insurance cost, but again we are under the assurance of No LBC Tracking Number, No payout...the f***. They also sent a screenshot of LBC tracking site that details the content, only to realize now that this was photoshopped big time, because in fact, the declared content is a ... I questioned LBC because I know how strict they are in accepting items for shipping. Only yes, I mentioned the screenshot was photoshopped.

Voila! Goodness the CD are Religious Songs! Please!!!

Sad. Sad. Sad. Disappointed big time. 
We were ready to rush to LBC to cash out. But we tracked it. Lo and behold. Tadaa!

Hmmm, scammers should not get away with it if LBC has its measures in place. We called the customer service, it was validated that for transaction over a certain amount, definitely over Php 5000, tracking number is a must. Except that both were paid via Palawan Express, which is LBC's remittance partner. Apparently, they have no safety measures in place. I don't care!!! I wonder if Palawan Express got a valid ID. For a P30K plus transaction, we assumed that LBC and its partners have stricter measures in place, think of a credit card that validates unusual transactions and requires validation (thank you, Union Bank!), but I guess they don't have it. LBC should be liable for their remittance partners' mishaps. Either the people in Palawan Express were swayed by the scammer/s, or somebody from that specific branch, which cannot be identified as of yet, is in connivance and part of the vicious modus.

Don't get me wrong, I am beyond repair hating the scammers, but what can we do?! We made sure we were protected, we took LBC's word for the tracking number guarantee. Is it even a valid name, or a real personality that claimed the money, we don't know. But I sure hope LBC required valid IDs. Hence, we can actually pursue a case against that person.

We know the risk in OLX, of course, but we made sure we mitigated it. With COD and meet up not an option, the LBC payment guarantee sort of is a good arrangement both for the seller and buyer. Well sort of, assuming that you are buying and/or selling in good faith. How sad, scammers will try, and hah, it seems, it's that easy.

Dear LBC, you do not want to miss out on the booming e-commerce as a reliable online shopping partner. Make the tracking numbers count! Sadly, I would hate for you to be one of the institution that harbors scammers and criminals. Please, please, LBC, do not fail us!

I shall keep you posted. Please learn from this mishap. We plan to file a police report and perhaps to NBI (?) too.  Please pray for us. This is a money that we worked so very hard.

February 23:

Look, how un-repenting, they are seriously fraudulent professional scammers. They are back! I found time to report them to OLX today.

#OLXScammers beware of Ian and MJ Cortez

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