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Oh Japan, that happy place

It’s 2019, three years since my first trip to Japan. I never realized I had a happy place until I actually experienced separation anxiety when I flew back. I always thought that these “happy places” were abstract constructs. It didn’t matter where I was or what state I was in. The happy place was always a video game in some form. In my room. On my phone. But I never thought it to be a place.

And it’s weird, really. I enjoy the travel. The journey does excite me but the contrast of being in a place that is more foreign planet than country makes it so much interesting. In 2006 when I was writing for another tech publication, the editors would joke around to having “news” from “Planet Japan” because everything was just so over the top. I mean, the mere Japanese toilet that comes with background music to hide your farts were a pragmatic work of art.

Cheap bucket list thrills: see a snow man

So that was it. A foreign place with a language I cannot understand and yet I can easily make my way around town with these unlimited JR bus passes and order food without talking to anybody thanks to push button menus in almost every modern restaurant. I recommend Japan to anyone that wants something new. There’s wanderlust in the city where shops sleep at 7PM and the salarymen make their drunken shuffle to the karaoke. Where two-year-olds accompany each other to school without the help of grown ups because they know they can trust strangers. Where there are robots just because.

In 2016 I visited Tokyo for the first time. The streets of Ginza, Japanese whiskey, BIC Camera, Izakaya, Don Q. This opened my eyes to text book Japan.

Later than same year we went to Osaka and from there made our way to Kyoto (for the market), Narra (for the deer), and Kobe (for the beef). This trip expanded my perspective of how easy it is to get around a country. That you can cram 10 destinations in one day with efficient public transport.

snow is like dirt, but cleaner



Then early this month — first quarter of 2019 found me on an impromptu trip to Hokkaido for work. I was researching Hokkaido, as this tropical body has never felt snow when I got a call from a friend, “hey we’re sending you to Japan.” Speechless, my phone kept buzzing — it was a series of messages from another colleague, “Go to Japan.” Making sure that there were no hidden cameras around my office (as this may have been an elaborate prank by psychics), I said,

“OK but I should tell my boss.”

“Hi boss, I’m supposed to go to Ja —“

“We know. Enjoy! It’s minus 20 so suit up.”

And that was it.

I’ve written about my Hokkaido trip for the Manila Bulletin so you can read that. A huge thanks to Japan Airlines for sponsoring this trip. #FlyJAL #GetMoreJapan

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Whiskey galore and more — 3 tips for alcohol tourists in Scotland

If you’re rather fond of a drink at social occasions, with meals or even as a post-work relaxant, it’s possible that you’ve sampled some of the fine alcoholic beverages that originate in Scotland.

According to trade figures from the Scottish Government, Scotch whisky exports from the UK to the rest of the world in 2017 totaled £4.359 billion in 2017 — a £356 million increase on the year before.

But, although ‘the water of life’ is Scotland’s most famous alcoholic gift to the world, the nation also produces superb gin and craft beer.

If you visit, you’ll be able to break up time at the bar with cuisine treats at cafes and restaurants, golf at some of the best courses on Earth and strolls through stunning countryside and charming cities like Edinburgh.

If sipping these treats from the source while savoring one of the world’s most beautiful nations sounds sublime, here are three tips for alcohol tourists in Scotland.

  1. Getting there

Depending on your departure point, you can reach Scotland from major US airports or with itineraries with layovers in places like Hong Kong and Bangkok.

But one of the best ways to get in a carefree mood for a Caledonian trip is to travel to the airport in your own vehicle — it’s far less hassle than unreliable journeys on packed public transport.

Book airport parking from Looking4.com and drop your ride off in a secure space before boarding your flight. You’ll shimmy towards check-in without a worry in the world, perfectly prepped for your very own highland fling holiday.

  1. Dewar’s

There are whisky distilleries dotted all around mainland Scotland and the Highlands and Islands, but Dewar’s distillery tour in Aberfeldy near Perth is a promising first stop, thanks to its location in striking distance of the country’s busy central belt.

You’ll learn all about the way Dewar’s whisky has been cleverly marketed worldwide across several generations and taste some terrific blends right from the barrel — all in a stunning setting tucked between rolling hills in a verdant valley.

Be sure to travel with a designated driver or book a taxi if you’re sampling the whisky’s on offer — drink driving laws in Scotland are appropriately stringent.

  1. Innis & Gunn

With a wide range of craft beers that includes tasty IPAs and a refreshing small batch lager brewed with naked golden oats, Innis & Gunn is one of Scotland’s foremost brands for ale aficionados.

And their distinctive pint glasses featuring the iconic stag’s head logo is frequently ‘liberated’ from pubs across the land.

You can sample the full range of beers from Innis & Gunn with high-quality bar meals at their beer kitchens in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow — but remember that their most popular products are also available at local pubs where they’re priced slightly more reasonably.

These three tips for alcohol tourists in Scotland are only the tip of a drink-soaked iceberg — you’ll find more imbibing inspiration in practically every town and city you visit.

So do a little research, drink sensibly and have the time of your life in bonnie Scotland.

What’s your favorite Scottish drink? Share your thoughts in the comments section.