My Time Capsule: 2018


Japan: Magical Winter Illuminations

December 2017

Anyone going to Japan for Christmas holiday next month? Please, take me! Japan is a year round holiday destination with probably hanami or cherry blossom season is the most popular. Though I've been wanting to experience the beautiful hanami and autumn season in Japan, for some reasons I've always coming back during winter. Maybe I'm too smitten with the magical winter illuminations across the country or maybe I just love slurping piping hot ramen when it's freezing cold outside (I travel for food most of the time) or maybe I'm simply a lousy travel planner. 😂

Anyway on my previous trip to Japan last December, I tried to visit as many winter illuminations as possible in Tokyo and Osaka. All of them have different themes and equally pretty so don't ask me to pick which one I love the most. Not to mention that all of these venues are free so you can save your ¥ for a bowl of hearty ramen or a couple of Pucchin Purin later. Here's a photo essay of the events which of course don't do it justice. Go and experience it yourself! I'm sure you will be blown away by the enchanting ambiance like I've always have...

Shibuya Ao no Dokutsu 

the Blue Cave in Shibuya

The first few nights I was staying around the famous Shibuya Crossing, at Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu to be exact. When I found out it was merely 1 km to the 'Blue Cave' or Shibuya Ao no Dokutsu venue, my sister and I went for an early dinner then we walked towards the NHK headquarters. The street along the way was decorated with sapphire blue lights as a preview of the main venue. So it was an easy walk just like Hansel following the trail of breadcrumbs.

Welcome to Avatar world! I said it to myself. Well it did feel like that because my skin turned blue under the 600.000 blue LED lights along the avenue. It was crowded as expected but pretty nevertheless. This year Shibuya Ao no Dokotsu will be held from November 30 to December 31, 2018. Started at 17:00 until 22:00.



photoshoot in Harajuku

Next day I explored the stylish shopping street of Omotesando and Harajuku area which is just a couple station away from my hotel. I arrived a bit early so I waited at a nearby cafe before all the lights were lighted up. Omotesando was super packed with both tourists and locals that it was pretty difficult to get a seat at most cafes.  Finally around 5 pm, I got to see the colour of millions lights that decorated the trees along the street. Blue hour made those goldish LED lights pop out and looked more appealing. It reminded me of those sparkle bubbles after you pop a champagne cork.  It will start soon next from November 29 to December 25, 2018. Light up around sunset until 22:00

Shinjuku Minami Lumi

Takashimaya Shinjuku

Shinjuku Terrace

I checked on Google map and decided to keep walking towards Shinjuku station which is about 3km from Omotesando. Many people raved that the Shinjuku illumination is one of the prettiest. I was actually tired and famished but my curiosity won.

Last year marked the 12th year of the Shinjuku Illumination and the concept was 'making people smile'. The theme colour was baby pink of cherry blossom. It was indeed pretty and made me smile from ear to ear (and my eyes welled up with happy tears). It was so mesmerising and romantic that I almost grabbed a random guy and kiss him. Errrr...okay, maybe that's not a brilliant idea 😂
Shinjuku Minami Lumi starts from November 14, 2018 to February 14, 2019. From 17:00 until midnight.

Oh, hai! 😁

on the other side of the station
Shinjuku clock tower

After walked more than 8 hours since morning, it felt like my calves were going to explode anytime soon. With both arms full of shopping bags, I hailed and hopped on the infamous Tokyo taxi. It was expensive but I couldn't care less. My legs have given up and refused to move. Please just whisk me off to bed. Arigatou gozaimasu! 



Partire Tokyo Bay Wedding Village

Though in my opinion the illumination in Odaiba, the artificially created island in Tokyo Bay - not as grand as in downtown Tokyo, it was still enjoyable. Taken place in some major mall like Aqua City, Diver City, Venusfort and also the Decks Odaiba.

I was walking back from Aqua City to my hotel, Ariake when I saw a place that reminds me a lot of European cities. It has a chapel, a Romanesque fountain, restaurants, cobblestone streets and some shops in the complex. For a moment it felt like I was strolling around the Old City of Luzern, Switzerland. I asked Mr. Google and found out that the name of this place is Partire Tokyo Bay Wedding Village. Apparently this place is pretty popular amongst love birds who fantasise Western style wedding. It's kind of a one-stop-shopping wedding thingy. It provides everything from wedding gown, make up and all the stuff....including a (fake) Caucasian priest. Interesting place and pretty too!

Osaka Hikari Renaissance

Osaka winter illumination 

Osaka Central Public Hall


food vendors around the venue

Winter illumination is pretty big deal too in Osaka. One of the popular venue is at Osaka City Hall until to the Eastern tip of Nakanoshima Park. One of the programs is wall tapestry lighting show at Osaka City Central Public Hall. I loved it too much that I sat in freezing temperature for nearly 2 hours and watched 5 shows non stop. Each lighting show lasted about 10 minutes, every 15 minutes with a break in betwwen. I only decided to go back to my hotel when my hands turn blue and almost caught a hypothermia. Seriously it was just mesmerising (don't forget to turn the volume up when you watch the video below). Good thing there was food bazaar too in the venue so I could grab some food and drink to warm up my body. Don't miss this when you are in Osaka. Starts from December 14 to December 25, 2018. 17:00 until 22:00.

If you are heading to Japan for Christmas holiday or in Japan right now, please tag me on Instagram or Twitter. Make me jealous with your beautiful pictures of the winter illumination.
Happy holidays!😘

PS: For latest updates and more information about winter illumination in cities across Japan, please check the details in


Hong Kong: Ghosts & Myths of Wan Chai

Wan Chai, March 2018

Though I spent pretty much half my childhood in Hong Kong, I've never really explored Wan Chai area. It is merely one station apart from where my apartment was in Causeway Bay. So earlier this year when I visited my granny's sister, I decided to join a local walking tour that I've been eyeing for quite sometimes, Walk In Hong Kong. Nope, it's not a sponsored post. I write this simply because I love what they do and maybe you guys would enjoy some of their tours too. I booked two different walking tour through their website which were Ghost & Myths of Wan Chai Tour and Kowloon Walled City & Food Adventure Tour. Since we are in the Halloween mood now, let's talk about something spooky first and I'll write the latter on different post. Wan Chai is one of the oldest district in Hong Kong and has many untold stories in the dark corner of this concrete jungle.

Now, don't forget to pack those huge cross, holy water, silver bullet and garlic as your weapon before we walk through the most haunted alley in Wan Chai!....okay....I'm just kidding! It's more like packing an umbrella, mineral water, some coins to buy something and garlic bread as a snack actually. Fred not, this tour is completely safe even if you are a scaredy cat. We won't be doing some ghost hunter like the Ghostbusters 😂


I met my guide, Audrey at our assigned meeting point in One Pacific Place that afternoon. After a  brief introduction, we headed to our first stop just across the building. At one cul-de-sec off Wing Fung Street, lays this shrine blocking a door which apparently is an air raid tunnel. During the World War II, hundreds of people were killed on the spot before they managed to reach the bomb shelter. It happened one day when the alarm failed to warn them of an air raid. Since then the people who live in the neighbourhood often saw some ghost heads wailed in the street. The shrine was built to seal the entrance of an air raid shelter and suppress the restless spirits from within.

haunted bomb shelter

"You can actually take a peek inside the tunnel, but I'm not coming with you. I will just wait here." Audrey whispered to me.

"Do you think that would be okay?" I was a bit concerned because I saw the 'no unauthorised entry' sign on the door. Audrey looked around and nodded. I slowly climbed up the steps towards the black door with rusty slits and moved the wood bar. I looked back and saw Audrey nodded, once again. I pulled the door and suddenly a gust of wind pushed the door open from inside. I was stunned, not expecting that. A musty odour stung my nostrils. Staring at the dark grey tunnel, I felt uneasy. A voice in my head kept saying, "Don't go in! Close the door now!" As a person who is very sensitive to negative energy and have a claustrophobia issue, I didn't want to have the same experience as the one in the Catacombs of Paris. I decided to take a final glance at the shelter and shut the door. Maybe not today, I told myself.

saw this on the street, it's meant to keep the evil spirits away


Located at Hill Side Terrace street, this private English school started its operation from 1950 and ended around 1980. It became an empty abandoned building since then. A couple of real estate developers have been trying to reconstruct this building but for some weird reasons, their plan have always failed. Years before the college, this building used to be a private residence, owned by an old couple. They refused to surrender their house and the Japanese soldiers killed them and used the building as a military brothel. Stories of ghostly sightings have been circulate that people who live around this college would put a small shrine and burn incense to keep the evil spirits away.

Once again I climbed up the stairs to the entrance alone because Audrey insisted she wouldn't go nearer the building. I walked around the college hoping I would find any access to enter but it seems everything have been locked. I was actually curious to see the classes which have been said still have all the student wood desks and chairs. I couldn't stand the stinky odour  so I left immediately when I couldn't gain any access into the school.



It's considered one of the most haunted places in Hong Kong and the one I was looking forward to visit the most. Sadly there was a major construction in the area and it's prohibited to access the alley towards the historic building 😭.  What's so special about Nam Koo Terrace then? While most ghost stories in the area are based on urban myth or stories passed among the locals, one incidents at Nam Koo Terrace actually managed to be the headlines on newspapers and TV.

In 2003 a bunch of high school students broke into the house in order to have some 'supernatural adventure'. They stayed overnight inside one of the room and played Ouija board to communicate with the spirits. After a while, three of the girls started to act really strange, got really depressed and soon hysterical. The rest of the group were frightened, called the police and tried to drag the girls out the house.  The polices came to help but one of the most affected girls turned psychotic and refused to leave the house. She kept saying there's a man from upstairs calling her back so she fought the policeman. A couple hours later they finally managed to drag this girl out and sent her straight to a hospital for a psychiatric treatment. Later on the girl escaped from the hospital and was reported missing until today.

Nam Koo Terrace was built in 1915 and was originally owned by a tycoon from Shanghai who then was forced to flee the house by the Japanese soldiers around 1940. They turned it into a brothel house by kidnapping local girls, raped and tortured them for a 'recreational reason' before finally the soldiers beheaded the girls. Years passed by and the house became a suicide house where desperate people come to end their own life. Dozens of bodies had been discovered since. It's been said that people in the neighbourhood often hear women crying and screaming from inside the house until this day. Audrey also told me that the house is now in renovation progress and it will turned into a marriage registry office.


Interesting fact about this tempe, around 1847 it started out as an altar built on a rock that stood on what used to be the Wan Chai shoreline. From outside I couldn't see the huge boulder which is actually a part of the main altar. This temple is dedicated to Hung Hei, a god of southern seas and protector against disaster. There's also a shrine of the 3 Goddesses but I can't remember the name now. My bad! Gotta ask Google soon 😜


In the 80s, the 64-storey building was famously known as the tallest building in Hong Kong. But behind the impressive title, there's a tiny hiccups during the construction. A Feng Shui master was concerned about the tall cylindrical shape of this building which looks like a candle. It is believed to attract the fire element and might cause some problem to the building. Thus as the master requested, a round pool was added on the rooftop of Maxwell Centre. It was aimed to cool or tame down the fire element. As an Indonesian Chinese, I'm familiar with this superstitious and feng shui thingy. It's quite big deal for the Chinese. Does the pool addition really protect the whole building? Well I can't say much but there wasn't any fire related incidents up till now.


Built in 1923, the Blue House is the most iconic historic building of the district. The building was once used as a hospital then turned into a temple to a brewery, a shops, a martial arts school (one of the students of Wong Fei Hung!) and a chiropractic clinic. Nonetheless this building is loaded with captivating stories. It is nowadays the home for Wanchai Livelihood Museum. There's a rumour about a nearby eatery was being asked to send some food to the 4th floor and when the delivery boy arrived, he could hear the noise of people playing mahjong (Chinese tile-based games) from inside the room. He kept knocking on the door for a quite sometimes but no one responded. He then decided to open the door only to find that the room has been unoccupied for a very long time.


What you see now as a luxury apartment building was once a traditional market built in 1937. During the war, there were way too many bodies scattered around this area. So the basement storeroom of the market used as a makeshift mortuary. Many sightings have been reported here. And there's a story that has been passed down through the generations about the Cha Siu Bao (barbecue-pork-filled bun) seller in the market. During the war it was expectantly difficult to get food and most people were not well feed. Though at that time the meat supplies was almost non existent, this seller was still producing piping hot bun with fresh meat filling every single day. There was some scepticism about where he managed to get the daily meat supplies from. Errrr....I think there are some things that are better left unknown 🙈


We walked uphill on the Stone Nullah Lane and reached our final stop, the Pak Tai Temple. It is one of the oldest and the most important temples in Hong Kong. Entering the temple, Audrey explained to me that the main area used to be an open courtyard but now is the home to the statue of Pak Tai, the God of the north. On the right wing, there's a room filled up with incense smokes and a shrine for the Dragon God Mother. Women from around the world come here to pray for fertility and to be able to conceive a baby.

Don't fear the ghosts, fear the human...that's what I've been telling my friends who asked me why I'm so fascinated by myths and horror stories. I, myself never intend to meet any ghosts if they were really existed. But I seriously think that even the scariest ghosts I've seen on the movie are pale to comparison with some cruelest black-hearted people I had encountered in real life. I'm a very curious person and most of the time I wonder what's the history behind old buildings. What happened there? How did the ghost story start to spread among the locals? And the question goes on. 

Time really does seem to fly by when you are having fun. I couldn't believe it had been 2,5 hours strolling around the area and it was time to bid Audrey goodbye. I certainly had a blast listening to her stories. To me this ghost tour is not only about those hair-rising stories but more about appreciating the historical buildings that keep decreasing throughout these years. And of course there's still plenty of spots that I haven't explored which have equally interesting stories. But I shall keep it for my next visit to Hong Kong 😉

Have you ever joined any ghost tours before? Which city would you recommend me to join?


Armenia: Rock-Cut Church At Geghard Monastery

Kotayk, October 2017

Armenia is truly a home of otherworldly churches and monasteries. As I've said it before, I was blown away by the fact that Armenian are advanced in choosing the most dramatic and extravagant location to build their churches. Previously I've posted about the gorgeous Noravank Monastery which is perched halfway up the mountain. Today I'm going to take you for another journey to my most favourite amongst all...*drum rolls*...the Geghard Monastery!

Geghard Monastery

"The monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the living rock, which illustrate Armenian medieval architecture at its highest point. The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, at the entrance to the Azat Valley. High cliffs from the northern side surround the complex while the defence wall encircles the rest."

I peeked the brief introduction on UNESCO website before the trip and it already tickled my adventurous soul. I mean a rock-cut monastery complex? It can't be something as common as pancake with maple syrup, right?

It was originally called Ayrivank, means monastery of the cave.  The monastery was founded, according to tradition by St. Gregory the Illuminator, and was built following the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia (beginning of the 4th century AD).

Geghard Monastery complex

After a drive through winding roads into the heart of the mountain, Arman parked our sprinter van under the shade of a tree. I looked up as I jumped out the car but couldn't really see the monastery complex. From the parking lot, with anticipation high I made my walk up towards the entrance gate passing some Sujukh sellers (candle shaped candy made from fruits or nuts). As I get closer and the view of the monastery became clearer, my heart skip a bit. The greyish stone colour church stand tall ahead me encircled by tall cliffs with the first rock-cut church was built back in 1250. The setting is so dramatic, I could easily see it as a scene in some adventure movies like Indiana Jones or else. The autumn foliage made it look even prettier. Also I think I've made the best decision to explore the Caucasus countries in autumn. Not only the scenery was more beautiful, I also didn't meet any hordes of tourists at most places I visited. Moderately cool temperature was a plus too for a polar bear like me.

exquisite wooden door 

the Gavit

My favourite part of this complex is the main church or called Katoghike and the Gavit, built completely against the mountain in 1215. Natural lights from outside were the only source of light beside the candles. I was there around noon, just in time to see the sunlight passed through the room from the windows. Highlighting the huge blackish grey columns and floors. Creating a very dramatic and Gothic ambiance inside the church. The carving on the wall, ceiling and cupola filled me with a sense of awe. I don't think I've seen any church interior as mind-blowing as this before. Mysterious yet captivating. 

inside Katoghike

the carving of two lions in the rock-cut chamber symbolising Armenian royal family

cupola on arches

wall carvings

Since the 13th century, the name was changed to Gedhardavank means Monastery of The Spear. It was believed the spear used by a Roman soldier to pierce the crucified Christ was brought here by St. Jude (Thaddeus) the Apostle and was keep in this monastery for 500 years. Currently the spear is exhibited at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral which is known as the oldest cathedral in the world. The Monastery of Geghard with its remarkable rock-cut churches and tombs is exceptionally well preserved and complete example of medieval Armenian monastic architecture and decorative art, with many innovatory features which had a profound influence on subsequent developments in the region.

the Gavit

the altar

some carved khachars 

engrave crosses

the upper Gavit

The Upper Gavit's acoustics are remarkable, perfect for Sharakan (Armenian religious chant), which sonorous notes drift across the room and seep into the adjoining areas of the monastery. Geghard was renowned as a musical school and was unique in having among its famous composers a woman, Sahakadukht, who composed and taught at the monastery in the 8th century. In those days women were forbidden to be seen by monks but Sahakadukht was so famous for her compositions that the Church allowed her to teach students at the monastery, hidden behind a curtain.

Gayane my lovely local friend stood in the middle of the room and started to sing an Armenian song. I didn't understand what's the song about but her voice echoed really really beautifully that I got chills all over my body. She also told me that local choirs frequently come to Geghard Monastery to sing at the Gavit. Pilgrimages come here to drink the healing water from the holy spring that comes out from the rock under the north wall of the church.

one of the columns with carved cross and hewn out inscriptions 

towering cliffs at the Avat Valley

According to the locals, there was a legend about a sister and a brother from a noble family who decided to build a temple higher up the gorge of Azat River and live there. But, they couldn't figure out where's the exact place to build it. So they prayed everyday asking God to show them the way. They had been waiting for a sign until one morning they saw their scuffle hoe was stuck on top of the mountain. They thought it was the sign from God. The siblings then built the temple inside the rock with the help of a saint virgin and lived here till the end of their lives.

Besides all the facts that's written in history, I always love to dig another twist of the story or the urban legend about a place. It makes me wondering, how did they get into the idea? Or is it actually what happened back then? Perhaps because I grew up listening to tons of Indonesian urban legends as my bedtime story. As I get older I realised most of them are just a myth but it still fascinates me.

How about you? Do you also love to seek some urban legends when you travel ?

Sujukh sellers

it was hard to bid good bye


* Geghard Monastery is about 40 km away from Yerevan. You can do it as a day tour and combine it with a visit to Temple of Garni which is only 10 km away, like I did.

* I can't say much about taking public transportation but I think you can take marshrutkas or local minibus from Yerevan. The easiest way to reach Geghard is either by hiring a private car or taxi like I did, or join a day tour which can be organised by most travel agents in Yerevan.

* Thankfully I loaded up my backpack with some snacks and water that I bought from Yerevan. Because I've seen only a few shops along the way.

* Always bring some cash (Armenian Dram that is) with you. Only major supermarket in the city accept payment by credit card

* Don't forget to bring some extra battery for your camera or a power bank for your phone. You will definitely need it if you are a shutterbug like me 😁

* I explored Armenia in October 2017 and there was no entrance fee at Geghard Monastery and all other churches or monasteries that I visited. 


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