New Blog!

Hey there! I've decided to continue blogging at a different blog. The MEXT archives and some of my travel posts will remain here, but I'll be moving some stuff over. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Nago Part 1: Busena Marine Park, Ritz Carlton

Click here for masterpost.

It turns out that I'm not very good with geography (not much of a shock, to be honest) and mixed up a lot of Nago and Onna attractions. I was going to title this "Onna Part 3", but then I googled the addresses and realised they were in Nago! So here goes the first part of the Nago section of the recap:

Busena Marine Park (English Site)
The thing to note about Busena Marine Park is that they're in Busena Terrace Resort. That means the beach over there isn't free to visitors, something I learnt when I went on to the beach. The Marine Park actually consists of two parts - the underwater observatory and the glass bottom boat. There is some distance between the two attractions (and between the attractions and the parking area), but there are shuttle buses and it's really very walkable.

You can buy tickets at the ticket counter near the car park. If you'll be passing by Kyoda rest area, then you can get discounted tickets there too! But, you can only buy the tickets on the day itself, so if you're like me and went the day before, you're out of luck.

It was a beautiful day, so I decided not to take the bus and walk to the underwater observatory. I think it took between ten to fifteen minutes.


And the view from the bridge:

When I arrived at the observatory, I handed the ticket to the woman on the right and headed down a narrow flight of stairs.

The observatory is about 4m below the surface.

You basically see out of the pot holes, so if you're able to go diving, you'll probably be able to see much better fish. But if you're like me and prefer staying dry, or if you have young kids who can't snorkel or dive, then this is a pretty good option.

I also saw diving facilities near the observatory so you can do both if you want.

After I left the observatory, I headed to the glass bottom boat. The boat isn't available during rough seas/stormy weather, so check the ocean conditions on the site before you go there (they won't see you the ticket if it's not available but you don't want to waste your time).

Walking past the boarding area:

The boat:

Boarding area:

Ocean conditions for the day. They mention visibility and whether the ocean is calm or stormy (which is more for the glass bottom boat than underwater observatory).

Time to board!

How the boat looks like. The glass bottom is at the rectangular area.

And the view of the bottom:

The view from the boat:

There was a guide who talked about the kinds of fish that appeared. This was all in Japanese, so if you want to be able to understand what you're looking at, you'll either need to know the language or travel with a friend who does.

Apart from the underwater observatory and glass bottom boat, there are many other activities that you can do. Most of the activities are run by the resort (if I'm not wrong), but you probably don't have to be a guest to use them.

Afternoon Tea @ Ritz Carlton

One of the things I wanted to do at Okinawa was to have afternoon tea. It's not an Okinawan activity, but I like tea so there you go. I did some googling and even though the afternoon tea set at the Ritz Carlton was the most expensive (3800 yen before service charges), it seemed to have the best reviews. Luckily for me, I wasn't disappointed.

This is my table and the lounge area. It's very bright and airy and I thought it was a really great place to relax.

There are two types of afternoon tea to choose from: traditional and Ryukyu-style. I chose traditional because I already had Bukubuku tea in Naha.

It made me happy to see that the tea was TWG, a Singapore brand. I chose Silver Moon, which was absolutely delicious. You can drink as many types of tea as you want, and you can get it hot or iced.

I thought the tea set was very pretty!

And the food was fantastic!

They gave me three types of jam and some honey for the scones. The jams were:

Okinawa Mikan
Some kind of citrus

My favourites were the honey and the blueberry.

The bottom layer were the savoury foods:

From left to right:

- Tomato soup (more like a jelly)
- Beef
- Egg sandwich
- Smoked salmon tart (this was my favourite because the salmon was very flavourful
- Some kind of fish (probably not a good idea to eat this after the smoked salmon because it tasted kind of bland, though there was a nice aftertaste of sorts? But my least favourite of the lot)
- Okinawa pork

In the middle section were the desserts. Also from left to right:

- Strawberry financier (the cake and the strawberries were very well balanced and so good!)
- Very soft cheesecake
- Chocolate mousse (my favourite of this layer because both the chocolate and the berry part had very rich flavours that complemented each other perfectly)
- Mango pudding topped with chocolate (kind of messy to eat)
- Matcha financier

And for the top layer, there was:

- Sweet potato pie (I couldn't really taste the potato per se but the sweetness of the filling does go very well to the pastry and overall I liked it)
- Cream for scones (obviously I liked this)
- Three types of scones: sweet potato, plain, and one with nuts. The sweet potato one tasted pretty good, but the plain one went best with the jams. I liked the scones too, they were crumbly without being too dry.

Overall, this afternoon tea was very delicious and filling. It's a bit expensive, but if like tea and you want some quiet time in a bright, breezy surrounding, then this is a pretty good spot.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Onna Part 2: Ryukyu Village and Diamond Blue Cafe

Apart from Castle ruins and amazing views of the coast, Onna also has something called the Ryukyu Village (English Site). The Ryukyu Mura is a theme park about Okinawan culture. In a way, it's like the cultural village of Okinawa world, but if we're just comparing the culture part, I prefer the Ryukyu village more (unfortunately it does not have any caves or snakes). 

Location-wise, they're near the Zakimi castle ruins. I know I blogged about it in a different order, but I actually went to Zakimi, then to Ryukyu Village, and after that to Manzamo Cape, stopping at the Blue Diamond Cafe before I went back to the hostel.

Tickets are 1200 yen for adults (16 years old and above) and 600 yen for children (age 5 to 15). I think they were trying to keep track of where their foreign visitors are coming from too, because the ticket machine had options for "Korea", "Taiwan", etc (Singapore comes under "Other"). Prices stay the same no matter which country you choose.

There are actually two sections to this place. The first is Champuru, which is free to enter. It has a food court and lots of things to do, such as painting stone lions:

Customising your own beach slippers:

And trying on a Kimono!

The experience starts from 1200 yen for a simple try-on photo session (comes with one free photo and the soft copy). If, however, you want a more complete experience, you can opt for packages like the 4000 yen one, which includes one hour of walkabout time and a photo. In the end, I opted for the cheapest package because if I did the walkabout, I knew that I would pay extra for hair + makeup (which costs more) and that would make me exceed my budget. 

Personally, I'm quite happy with how things turned out: 

I got one big photo, one smaller photo, and a soft copy! The whole process was a big too fast, though, because it was over in five minutes.

After trying on the Kimono, I decided to go into the village.

The village itself is very big and there are loads of things to do! I actually liked just wandering around because all the houses were really beautiful.

I saw a weaving house and you can try it out for an additional fee too.

There were also free samples of tea (blended and exclusively sold here):

There was also a trying on Kimono experience. If you just want a photo, taken with your own camera, it's 1000 yen. If you'd like to walk around the village for 45 minutes in the kimono, it's 2000 yen. So this is slightly cheaper than the Kimono experience outside, but I don't think you get a printed photo (which I wanted too).

There are also many performances. When I looked at the schedule, it was about one every hour, so do check and plan your visit accordingly.

This was the pottery area:

And the water buffalo for the sugar cane mill.

The gift shop has a large variety of items and I picked up three types/packets of brown sugar for 1000 yen. If you're looking for a dose of Okinawan culture, this is definitely the place to go. 

The last thing I did on my drive around Onna was to go to a cafe. I really, really wanted to go to a cafe with a view of the ocean, and one name I saw repeatedly was the Diamond Blue Cafe. To be honest, I wasn't really sure where it was, but when I realised that it was on the way back to the hostel, I made the impulse decision to visit. 

The cafe is right next (literally on the right) of Okashigoten Onna.

You have to descend down two flights of steps - just follow the sign and you'll see the cafe.

The beach in front is small, but the waters are such a lovely blue!

There are seats on the inside and outside, but for the best views, you should sit outside.

I ordered a mocktail and some garlic bread and they were both really good (despite the fact that I took a long time taking photos).

I would definitely recommend that you come here if you're looking for a place to sit back and relax in Onna. It's got beautiful views and the food is good (and if you want more snacks or souvenirs, you can buy some at the Okashigoten next door).