And so our long awaited year-end holiday has come and gone, to our great disappointment. Once again I wonder why did I not book ourselves a longer holiday 😭 well because the airline system quoted a more expensive price for a later return…I really am quite clueless how this whole thing work.
Anyway, regrets and laments aside, this trip to Hokkaido and the last two days in Osaka was one that had quite a few ‘firsts’ for us:
- We travelled in our pack of 4 only (not with the village because snowy and icy grounds can be very slippery for the folks) for the first time.
- For the first time the girls got to carry their own back packs to manage their own stuffs. A commendable feat for our princesses
- We stayed at an Airbnb for the first time as a family and the girls had a wild time
- We took a domestic flight for the first time as a family as well and I got to give thumbs up to ANA.
- For the first time, my shopping loot did not fill up half of my suitcases. A major major strange happening as a good friend could testify…and I am talking about JAPAN! *crying my heart out and plotting my next ‘revenge’ trip*
There are other ‘firsts’ but they, to me, should be given more ‘credits’ so I shall categorised them as the TOP MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES (OR RATHER, INCIDENTS) in the next part of this entry, and here goes:
#1: WALKING IN HEAVY SNOW
Before the trip, I was very worried that there would be no snow during our stay in Hokkaido because the primary objective was to see snow (the girls chose this over Disneyland). And my idea of ‘see snow’ was to just see the snow that would be on the ground and on roof tops because my deepest impression of Hokkaido from the visit many years ago was the snow scenes I woke up to every morning. I did not understand why snow storm or heavy storm was not part of that impression. (On hindsight, I realized it’s because this time we self-travelled so we had to walk in the snow while previously, I was with a tour group so we were forever on the bus) So, to my horror and big K’s delight, we encountered heavy heavy snow not once but thrice during the trip. The first two was on the first day and second day in Otaru and the third one was on our last day in Sapporo. As a result of the snow storm that resulted in poor visibility, we took a wrong turn on the 2nd day and we did 3 hours of walking to reach our destination in Otaru that supposedly should only take 30 mins walk (of course also due to our need to take multiple stops). Misery and cold aside, these walks in the crazy snow were our top memorable experiences during the trip. The girls were amazing (maybe because they were warmly wrapped in two jackets) and really walked through the snow with minimal complaints, other than the occasional requests to carry from the younger one. Big K completely busked in the snowy weather. I think kids being kids, seeing snow for the first time is kind of like a big deal in life for I,too, remember my first time seeing snow very fondly. And because of the heavy snow, hot drinks, fries and chicken karaage in convenience stores tasted exceptionally well and my first Mister Donut for the trip was heavenly delicious. We even had snow fights half way through our walks, another daddy’s brilliant idea to alleviate our situation. More on our snowy encounters in subsequent posts on the trip.
Completely oblivion to the cold weather
The best tasting donut EVER!
#2: ‘THE ESCAPE’
We love Japan as a holiday destination due to its cleanliness, polite people and to a large extent, reasonably safe environment. But on this trip, we encountered a particular incident that left a very deep impression on me personally. Culturally, Japan has always been very unique but like all developed countries, many people would fall through the societal gaps. On my previous trips to Japan and even Hong Kong, I had seen such people commuting on public transport but I had never felt so threatened like this particular incident.
It was towards the end of our trip when we were in Osaka. We decided to make our way via train from Universal City to downtown Osaka for our dinner. On the platform, the hub had already noticed this young man talking to himself strangely and so, he told us to move further down the platform. To our horror, the man followed us and boarded the same cabin as us. We got seated down and unsure if it was deliberate, he chose to stand in front of us and kept staring at our girls and the mumbling never stopped. Not only that, he has white foam at corners of his mouth and even tried moving closer to us when the train started moving. I think maybe it’s with the girls, both the hub and I were on super high alert. Not helping is big K would look at him and I had a very tired small K on my lap who dozed off almost immediately. The hub and I toyed with a few ideas, to either change cabin, ignore or simply hop off at the next stop. But my worry was if we chose the last option and he actually followed, what would happen? I was also worrying if we chose to stay on, what might also happen. Hence, we decided to try to get rid of him asap. So, when the train stopped at the next station, we stood up (me with the sleeping small K and daddy with the pretend-to-be-sleepy big K) very very very slowly. And because that stop was like an interchange, many people alighted. We were so happy when he also showed signs that he was getting off the train. So, we decided to pretend to alight the train instead but purposely moved behind the exiting the crowd. The moment the door closed we were so indescribably relieved and went straight back to our seats.
This incident probably left the only negative mark on this holiday trip. It was the first time I felt very insecure and worried about the kids’ safety. It’s this horrible feeling that gives you the bumps when you start to wonder ‘what if the person has a knife in his pocket?’ I know we shouldn’t jump to conclusions frivolously but as parents, I think it is unavoidable to place your kids’ safety as utmost. It is definitely a lesson to be learnt and I think now when I travel with kids my senses would be even more heightened.
#3: ‘TURN TURN TURN’ and Hot Chocolate
Our last trip to Japan left a deep impression on the girls. As predicted, they love the place as much as me. But what probably captivated them most were the machines found in almost every corner in Japan. This is probably the only place around that let you buy nice hot drinks from the vending machines everywhere. This is probably also the only place where you have buy a large selection of toys from machines aka the Capsule Machine aka ‘turn turn turn’ by the small K. During this trip, the line ‘later I let you turn turn turn’ probably popped up on a daily basis to motivate the girls, especially the recovering small K (more on that later), to walk the distances or to wake up from stubborn and wrongly-timed naps. For the big K, a can or a bottle of hot cocoa from the wonderful vending machine would be the great enjoyment for her. So, instead of making ourselves all flare up and frustrated, these ‘turn turn turn’ and vending machines became our life savers.
‘TURN TURN TURN’ started on day 1 in Hokkaido
This one probably 败 much of our travel money on these machines
Rows of Capsule machines at Esta Sapporo
Part of the turn turn turn loot
Her constant hunt for hot cocoa….she took at least 2-3 cans or bottles of hot cocoa on this trip. This Georgia version one is probably her favourite of all. She could even read the japanese katagana for cocoa LOL
#4: WE ALMOST DID NOT HOP ON THE PLANE
A few of my closed friends would know that we almost did not hop on that plane to Kansai. Small K was sick about 2-3 weeks before the trip. She had a one-week fever and a very pesky cough right up to the couple of days before the trip. The PD gave us antibiotics for us to stand by in case the fever did not subside or the cough persisted badly. However, after the PD visit, her fever went away and we were left with the cough that we thought we go away with lotsa water intake and the usual medicine. The day before the trip, she started to have fever again and that caught us completely off guard. Her energy dipped tremendously and we started panicking. Brought her our family GP as her PD was out of town and he saw her blood results and quickly asked us to start the antibiotics to see if the fever can be controlled by the next day. Definitely a nail-biting 12 hours and I even had to consult our insurance agent if we will get compensated if we cancel the trip, and yes, it would be a full compensation for all expenses incurred before cancellation. To be honest, I suppose we could just bring all medicine along and fly and give her paracetamol before we touch down in Japan so that the fever radar won’t detect anything, but that would be the most selfish thing to do. She could worsen due to the cold climate and she could just pass the fever around. It would definitely not be fun finding a doctor in a foreign country where English was not the native language. But I guess, small K must have wanted to go on the trip badly. Around 8pm that night, she threw up suddenly and the fever subsided very quickly after that. The whole night I followed a friend’s advice to do essential oil treatment to control the fever and not sure its that puke or the oils, there was no reoccurence of fever from then on. So, the next day we went on our afternoon flight out of Singapore with a huge relief. And I am so happy that she was very cooperative throughout the trip, obediently wore her mask most of the time (which was the reason why her tiny face was always covered in most of the photos LOL) and finish her horribly-tasting antibiotics withs zero complaint.
See the little girl in mask?
Haha in her mask again
#5: PRECIOUS FAMILY TIME
Our little family has always been close. The Ks adore both myself and the hub big time, although they seem to favour the daddy more and prefer to find me only when they need help, comfort or the toilet. Holiday trips are probably the only time we could have the daddy exclusively for that few days. However, holidaying with them is no joke. It is tiring beyond words. Since we started bringing them on trips, I always come back 1-2 kg lighter. This time round, I did not weigh but my pants are looser for sure. They are very energetic when they want to, and very NUA (or lazy) when their mood calls for it. They are of no help at all when it comes to packing and heavy suitcases. They love to run around once they see big space and you will see us screaming for them to return like some mad man and woman. Carrots and sticks have to be utilised very frequently and many times concurrently. But there is no doubt that travelling with them is very fun. We would discover new sides of them during every trip. For this trip, I realised big K can be counted on to take care of her own belongings while small K can’t, turned out she is the forgetful one like the mummy. Small K is the one whom you can count on to polish food off the plates while big K can just survive, on rice, potato and hot cocoa. Both Ks love the snow! Big K did not mind the wet boots and pants at all and would go near snow whenever she see it (video evidence below) while small K is the fussy one. We had to dry her socks and boots twice at Mt Tengu because she hated the wet feeling but still went out to play after all the fuss. Then it’s the little funny things they say and do during trips that make each of these trips unique. This is the reason why we will try our best to bring them out on at least one major trip every year, despite not so great finances. They love to travel and are angels on flights (but half angel and half devil on land). They would forgo toys for holiday, mainly the big K, how not to bring them along.
So, here it is…my top 5 memorable experiences in cold cold Hokkaido and Osaka. Shall be sharing more on our trip or rather how a wonderful itinerary was throw our of window and how to derive fun despite all the misses soon.