Swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu

manila airport 1

This year, I took the kids again to the Philippines so they can spend the rest of their summer vacation (2 months!) after our 10 days vacation in Japan. We started to let them stay with my parents starting from last year because they’re better off there than being cooped up indoors in Dubai during the hottest time of the year.

benja airplane

approaching cdo 2
approaching cdo 1

My home town is an hour and a half airplane ride south of the capital Manila. Like I always, do, the kids always look forward to see the beautiful sight outside as the plane approaches Mindanao island.

I was to stay for only ten days before I needed to go back to Dubai so I wanted to take the kids for a small adventure: we go to Cebu island by sea transportation and see the whale sharks in Oslob!


The town of Oslob is located 120 kilometers south of Cebu City, in Cebu island, central Philippines. It is said that the residents of this coastal town started seeing whale sharks around 2012.

I have a long time friend who lives in Cebu so it was a perfect way to meet her again and for our kids to finally meet. This is my friend, through time and distance and weight fluctuations, we never lost touch and have been friends since we were 13!

with divina


Oslob can be reached via domestic flights to Cebu or Dumaguete (from Manila) and then from Cebu City, which was our base, Oslob is at least three hours by car.

TIP: Leave Cebu City as early as possible to avoid the rush of tourists at Oslob. Aim to leave at 4am so you can reach just before 8am.

We left past 5 am and reached Oslob before 9 am and it was already full of tourists and the moment we finished everything from payment to the brief seminar about the do’s and don’ts of swimming with the whale sharks (DON’T GET TOO NEAR, MAINTAIN AT LEAST 4 FEET DISTANCE FROM THE WHALE SHARKS + NO SUNSCREEN LOTIONS), the sun was already high up and getting hot.

From the internet: Dumaguete/Sibulan port is closer to Oslob than Cebu City. It only takes a 30 minute boat ride from Sibulan port and then a Ceres bus ride or motorcycle ride to get to the whale shark watching area in Tan-awan town in Oslob.


ship in port
The kids and I got to Cebu City from Cagayan de Oro by sea transport – with a passenger ship leaving at 11 am and arriving Cebu City at nearly 8pm. The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands so commercial ships are still a popular mode of transportation when crossing one island to another. I used to travel this way in the 90s, since there no budget airline that existed that time and airplane fares were really expensive.

Usually, trips from Cagayan de Oro to Cebu leave at night at 8pm and arrive in Cebu at just before sunrise. But I wanted the kids to see the sea and the islands we pass by as the ship cruises through so I picked a day trip.

aboard ship 1

This was on the deck of the ship, many people were outside just soaking in the warm sun and inhaling the lovely sea breeze.

aboard ship 2

aboard ship 3

More than the kids, I had so much fun on this boat ride because it brought back so many wonderful memories – like the time I went to Manila (it take 30 hours!) to take the scholarship examination for Japan. I remember looking out into the sea, alone in the deck early in the morning with these thoughts running through my mind, “Lord, your will be done. If you think I need to be in Japan, then be it. I’ll accept it with all my heart…in fact, let me go there, Lord!” 🙂


After a couple of days in Cebu, we set out to Oslob with my friend’s family. They have four kids and plus two of mine, their big car was full. I’m so happy her kids got along really well with my kids. Long car rides don’t matter much if you’re having fun.

After we paid the fees and finished listening to the briefing, we waited for more than one hour for our turn to get on the small, wooden boat. The boat left the shore and after just a few minutes, we were already in the deep end and finally near the whale sharks!

swimming with whale shark

Life vests are provided and mandatory while on the boat but you should remove it so you can dive with ease. Presenting: the overly enthusiastic kids who immediately removed their life vests without batting an eyelash and got in the water!


Pristine had been waiting for this moment for a long time! These photos were taken by our diver/guide using the action camera we rented (PHP500 and they transfer the files to your mobile afterwards).

swimming with whale sharks

swimming with whale shark

swimming with whale sharks

I am so proud of her!! I am so thankful the school she attended from Year 1 to 7 had a swimming pool because that’s where she learned how to swim and to be confident in the water.

Benjamin, though was in the water too, wasn’t able to swim underneath – I didn’t take off his arm floaters (there were no life vests small enough for him that was available). I felt he was too young to be submerged in the water long enough so the guide can take a photo of him. However, he was still able to see the whale sharks up close.

These pics were taken when they come up to feed.


whale shark in Oslob

whale shark in Oslob

Meanwhile, you can see that at this point, only the adults are left in the boat! LOL. Me, my friend Divina and her husband are all non-swimmers. It was nearly noon and getting really, really hot. I was so, so tempted to get in the water just to cool off!

swimming with whale shark

swimming with whale shark

I wasn’t able to bear the heat, I jumped in!! There was something wrong with the way I put on my life vest, it was trying to get into my head and I hated it but at least my body is cooler now.

Confession time. I am scared of the deep blue sea. Mostly, maybe because I don’t know how to tread when the water is too deep (shame). And next, I am scared of what lies beneath. I am cringing just by writing this post. Our diver/guide told me so many times that our limited time (30 minutes!) was running out and that I had to take off the life vest now so he can push me underwater and take a picture of me with the whale shark in the background. For, you know, BRAGGING RIGHTS.

Some pics of Pristine swimming around with my friend’s kids. These bunch earned some serious bragging rights at this young age.

After so much hard thinking about this very important life or death decision, I decided not to take off my life jacket because trust me, I know I’m going to sink faster than the Titanic to the bottom of the sea. The diver/guide who was with us assured me he will not allow me to drown and would save me, if ever but no, no, no!! My kids still need their mother so I was just there, floating and sighing, hearing my daughter shouting YOLO, mama! YOLO!! (YOLO = You Only Live Once)

Do I regret not removing my life jacket? Kind of. Don’t get me wrong, maybe 95% of me still say I did the right thing of choosing safe than sorry but 5% is whispering, what if.

The what if that I’m going to live with for the rest of my life.

That said, I am happy my kids are braver than me or rather, are able swimmers than me. Pristine had been wanting to do this since she was 8. And Benjamin, well, maybe next time when he is older.

swimming with whale shark

The whale sharks are beautiful and peaceful creatures and is an awe to watch and our experience watching them up close is definitely unforgettable.


1. Go early. Whale shark watching starts at 6 am to 12 noon only. Cut off is 1130 am. The earlier you are, the less crowd plus the water is clearer early in the morning.

2. Though the “whale watching fee” includes gear (snorkeling), it’s best to bring your own goggles.

3. Wear long sleeve rash guard/UV clothing as it gets really hot before you notice it. Sunburns are no fun! Also, sunscreen lotions are strictly NOT allowed so protect your skin.

4. The “whale watching” time is just 30-minutes  so if you can, jump as soon as your boatmen signal or you will waste/miss the chance.

5. The charge for whale shark swimming is PHP1,000 ($23) for a half hour session. Fess can be paid in cash only before the tour at Barangay Tan-awan Beach, Oslob so prepare cash.


Swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob was an incredible experience. You might have read somewhere though, that some environmentalist groups are against this activity due to injuries to the whale sharks by boat propellers but this is outdated info as the boats that were used were all trimarans with no motor/engine, only oars. Another controversial thing is the guides feed the sharks; the animals expect this now so it affects their usual routine and behavior. The feeding sessions make the whale sharks overly dependent on the handouts. But, the boom of this tourism activity is helping the local economy. The whale sharks contribute tremendously to Oslob’s income, helping to create much needed infrastructure, jobs, and opportunities for growth with neighboring municipalities. Nearly 300 staff work at the feeding site, under local government management, to safeguard the sea creatures.

It’s a difficult balance.

But, personally, I find that the government is working hard to protect these creatures as much as they can by strictly regulating the time when to feed and see the whales and conduct clear briefing on the do’s and don’ts. I’ll leave the decision to you whether you’d go for this or not.

I would say go but be a responsible tourist and follow the rules.

Visiting the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka

Meeting totoro

Have you seen any Ghibli movies? You must have heard or watched some of it but never realized it’s a “Ghibli” (pronounced, “jiburi” in Japanese) – Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. The delightful animated films of Studio Ghibli are full of magic and fairytales.  They can be very simple, dark, fantastical, melancholy, ecstatic, endearing, and wondrous.  My then boyfriend (now husband) first introduced me to the Ghibli universe while we were in college and gave me a DVD of his favorite Ghibli movie, telling me, “watch it, I promise you will like it.”

I instantly became a Ghibli fan and from then, I set about absorbing every other Ghibli film I came across.

I first visited the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka in 2013 and was delighted. I know I had to go back!

The museum is relatively small and you can finish your “tour” in just a couple of hours and not miss anything. It’s more like a day theme park than a “museum” per se. We really enjoyed the interactive displays and the fun artwork as well as the sections in the museum that showcase how the artwork goes from concept to screen. The amount of work involved is tremendous. However, the important part is how magical Hayao Miyazaki has made it. It shows the development process of animation and the the thought process of Miyazaki and his team. The displays of original artwork from the films are truly stunning!

The park is really child friendly, and there are lots of nooks and crannies that children can explore.


Mitaka eki

ticket machine

There are two options to reach the museum from Mitaka station via JR East (20-30 minutes from Shinjuku station, depending on whether you get on a local or express train): on foot and by public transport (bus).

If you choose to go on foot, take the south exit of Mitaka station and turn left and walk along Tamagawa Josui. The museum can be reached in about 15 minutes.

I think the more popular option is to take the bus. The bus service is offered between the south exit of Mitaka Station and the museum. The ride takes about ten minutes. You should take either a loop bus which departs Mitaka Station, travels to the Ghibli museum and back to Mitaka station (yellow bus in the above pic) or a bus towards Myojogakuen via the Ghibli museum.

A one-way fare is 210 yen for adults and 110 yen for children. You can buy a round ticket with a ticket machine located near the bus terminal or at a bus information center; these cost 320 yen for adults and 160 yen for children.

** It is very important to come before your designated entrance time printed on the ticket. If you are late for more than 30 minutes, your tickets will be forfeited and you will not be admitted to the museum.


As much as the topmost photo looks like the main entrance, with a giant fluffy Totoro in the box, this is not the main entrance. This is the main entrance.

ghibli 1

ghibli 2

The kids are so happy to be here. I actually didn’t tell them we’d be going because I almost didn’t get the tickets, not for the reason that they’re expensive (they’re not!) but the tickets sell really fast. There’s a sale period and it is a challenge to buy the tickets from overseas, firstly, because of the time zone (Japan is 5 hours ahead).

Example, tickets for the month of June are sold from May 10 onwards only and they sell like hotcakes! I actually almost forgot it was already May 10th until a friend reminded me while I was at work! It was already May 10, 11 am in Dubai so it is already 4 pm in Japan! The sale link had been opened for 16 hours already. Result – most of the dates and times for June are already sold out, including our first preferred date and time. Thankfully, we have another day in Tokyo available but at the entrance time available is only for 4 pm, instead of the 10 am morning schedule we wanted.

Anyways, I got the tickets. The next two days when I checked again just out of curiousity, all the dates and times were sold out so if you are planning to go, do plan ahead and set your alarm!


The museum is a must visit for Ghibli fans but unfortunately, I can’t show you any photos of the inside of the museum, since it has a strict no-photos allowed policy. It’s sad as I would really like to have had a record of how it looked.  There are winding staircases, little nooks that only children can fit through, comfy wing-backed chairs and plenty of small touches here and there that make the museum a beautiful work of art.

Their reasoning for this is written in Japanese that translates,

The Ghibli Museum is a portal to a storybook world. As the main character in a story, we ask that you experience the Museum space with your own eyes and senses, instead of through a camera’s viewfinder. We ask that you make what you experienced in the Museum the special memory that you take home with you.

I have photos however, taken outside the building, in the gardens. Do you recognize this character from the movie, A Castle in the Sky?
robot 2

robot 3
robot 1

(It’s such a pity we have a very blurred picture taken by a stranger…)

There is a small cafe and ice cream shop outside of the main building. From the robot area, we went to the cafe. It was allowed to take photos there so here’s some.

p and b 2
p 1

p and b 1

The kids are overwhelmed by the abundance of nature around – the museum is located within a park, after all.

pristine 1

ghibli 6

ghibli 4
ghibli 7

Another area where you can take photos…this square from one of the scenes in the anime.

ghibli 8


  1. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance. >How to buy tickets outside Japan >How to buy tickets in Japan (CAUTION: I’ve read that some sites sell tickets with a ridiculous “service fee”, beware of them. It’s pretty straightforward to buy the tickets even if you’re outside of Japan – just follow the links from the main website and remember, on the 10th of the month before you go! Example, you want to go in June, buy on 10th May.)
  2. You must not come later than the designated time printed in the ticket.
  3. No cameras allowed inside.
  4. There are no English translations (but don’t worry, the pictures are still worth seeing)
  5. Bring a print out of the confirmation plus your passport in order to enter the museum.


p and b 3

Website: Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
Address:  Tokyo, Mitaka, Shimorenjaku 1-1-83 (located at the west garden of Inokashira Park)
Hours: Museum 10:00 – 18:00, Café Mugiwaraboshi 11:00 – 19:00 (last entry: 18:00)
Closed: Tuesday and may be closed for periodic maintenance work
Wi-Fi: Unavailable
Nearest Station: Mitaka Station of the JR Chuo Line
Access: 15 minute walk from the South Exit of Mitaka Station; Community bus service from the Mitaka station (charged)
Ticket Prices: Adults/university students 1000 yen, Middle/high school students 700 yen, Children aged 4 and up 100 yen *Tickets must be obtained in advance

Should I go?

Is the Ghibli Museum worth a visit? If you are a Ghibli fan, absolutely! Though I think even if you’re not specifically a Ghibli fan, the creative process of animation will amaze and entertain you. If you have children, I think this museum is a must too. Our visit to Ghibli Museum was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Tokyo.

Our trip to Japan, summer 2017

in ikebukuro 2

It’s currently summer vacation for all of the kids in the UAE.  It’s actually over a month already since most of the schools have closed for the school year 2017. Since classes will start on September 10, that’s about 12 weeks long of holidays!

Japan 2013

When I planned where to take the kids in summer and though our family budget is tight, I couldn’t let them just stay at home for 12 long weeks and wait for the weekends for me to take them outside. I work full time so yeah, I can only take them out on weekends because this mom is lazy to take out people and drive after work, except maybe for groceries.

The peak of UAE’s summer is these months of June-September so playing outside isn’t really an option. This is actually the challenge for families staying in the country during these months. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of entertainment options, indoors usually inside a mall but if given a choice, I would love the kids to be outside than in the malls.

Anyway, I managed to find fairly inexpensive airfare for the three of us from Dubai-Narita via Singapore on Singapore Airlines last March. It’s been four years since our last visit to Japan and it got me really excited!

The last time we traveled to Japan, Benjamin was less than two years old. Pristine was nine. This was them when we landed in Narita in 2013.

And this was them in the same spot in 2017!

p and b in japan again

I couldn’t remember their original pose but know that Pristine was carrying her little brother so we tried to replicate the shot. What difference four years make!

We took Singapore Airways and I don’t know, I felt our flight was really long this time. Seven hours from Dubai to Singapore, a couple of hours layover at the wonderful Changi Airport (probably my favorite airport in the whole world, after Dubai International) and again another seven hours from Singapore to Narita.

stormy narita

The kids were really great during the flight, as they’ve always been. No fuss even with the disturbing turbulence as we approached Narita. The captain announced bad weather and we’d have a bumpy ride. There were many kids on the flight and I heard a few vomiting sounds…I was scared Benjamin, who is prone to motion sickness would follow too but thankfully, he didn’t!


The first thing we did when we got out security? Go attack the first convenience store (kombini in Japanese colloquial) inside the airport! It was a small store but it already got our spirits high!

combini 2
combini 3

combini 1

Who buys 2,000/3,000 yen worth of stuff from convenience stores?! Us, obviously. We have a love affair with with Japan’s kombini. Located on every block in urban areas, the Japanese convenience store is much more than a ubiquitous repository of junk food. Konbini food, believe it or not, is actually pretty decent. They’re more than the microwavable chimichangas you’ll find in other country’s convenience stores, konbini food is delicious and always kept fresh.

It sells the ever handy cure for mild hunger: onigiri, bento, seasonal dishes and sweets, sushi and soba, manga and medicine, alcohol and many, many more you can think of!

It was late when we arrived at the station near our Airbnb so we bought food stuff in case the kids (and I!) get hungry later in the night. Nah, we were just really excited to buy the stuffs we missed!


in ikebukuro


We arrived around 10 pm after a long flight from Dubai and Singapore and I learned a valuable lesson: our morning after itinerary should have been: SLEEP ALL DAY.

Because anyway, we had our kombini food already in case we get hungry, we don’t need to go out really. The kids were heavily jet lagged or just plain tired and showed no signs of rousing from their sleep even if it was already 10 or 11 am or even 12 noon!

(It might be because our modest Airbnb was so nice and comfy – it deserves a special blog post soon!)

Our time in Japan is very limited and I didn’t want to waste it so I had to wake them up just before 1 pm. Fair enough, no? They were fully rested and ready to tackle the day.

We were in Tokyo on the last week of June and OMG, the weather was really nice!

Japan is still in that tsuyu season (rainy season just before summer). The temps were already warm enough for the locals but coming from a place with 45C temperature in Dubai, 27C in Tokyo was HEAVEN. We were walking and would stop on the side of the road to just close our eyes and feel the cool breeze whenever it comes.

Our first order of the day? LUNCH!

I have listed the restaurants to go and food to eat while in Tokyo months back before our trip. Our every meal has been planned already, well, except for the random kombini visits where we buy snacks while we are on the move. We went to Coco Ichibanya because we missed the Japanese curry!



If you think eating out in Japan is expensive (Tokyo has this notorious reputation of being expensive generally), take note that there are several food shops where you can have a great inexpensive meal. Some of our favorite go to’s are: Coco Ichibanya and also C & C Curry (located at most train stations), and on most streets in Tokyo: Sukiya, Matsuya and Yoshinoya.


When we finished our hearty lunch, the weather was really warming up. It’s supposed to be rainy season but we were lucky enough not to get wet – it was sunny and nice in Tokyo (although we were ok to get rained on or perhaps buy the transparent umbrella from the kombini!).

We could feel the early pangs of summer heat as we got out of the basement restaurant.

japan summer
japan summer 2
 Our very important itinerary for that day was a visit to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka at 4pm. I’ll write a separate blog post about that but do any of you reading this post know about Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful animes? If you haven’t, I encourage you to start watching them. You can start with Spirited Away or Totoro or even Howl’s Moving Castle.

p and b in ikebukuro

shinjuku at night 1
shinjuku at night 2

We had yakiniku dinner with friends on our first night at Shinjuku. Some of you might have seen my Instastories on Instagram and asked, “you make your own dinner at the restaurant table?”

Yes, yakiniku – from Wikipedia: yakiniku refers to a Japanese style of cooking bite-size meat and vegetables on gridirons or griddles over flame of wood charcoals carbonized by dry distillation or gas/electric grill. At yakiniku restaurants, the meat grillers are on your table and yes, you cook your own meal (which is fun). We had 90 minutes of yakiniku tabehodai (eat all you can, including rice, salads) for 1,980 yen (US$18) per person.

It’s eat all you can for 90 minutes. Can you still say Japan is expensive?


We went home late tired but very satisfied with our first full day in Japan. I am so happy to be able to roam around Tokyo with my kids, now both of them walking really well (no more baby carriers! no more strollers and diaper bags to lug around!). They are also both aware now which is really nice because I get to tell them stories of the time I was a student in Japan roaming in these familiar streets. And they actually listen AND ask questions which throws me back to memory lane time and time again. Ah, those were the days!

Never in my imagination that years after that point in my life that I’d walk around Tokyo with my own kids!

It seems that our travel to Japan is following a pattern: every 4 years. The last time we flew to Japan was 4 years ago in 2013 and before that was also 4 years ago in 2009. I hope it won’t take another 4 years before we go there again.

Japanese shrine

Things to do in Japan: Visiting shrines and temples

Japanese shrine

Thinking about it, I’m frequently asked: “What are the top things to do in Japan?”

I’ve lived there for more than ten years so people expect me to blurt out answers faster than Google. But actually, I always get stumped when asked that question.

I tend to over-think things. So I ask back, so many questions.

What part of Japan do you wish to visit? Tokyo?

Are you going to Japan with children?

When will you go? Summer? Winter? Spring? Autumn?

Do you prefer the modern, high tech face of Japan or the subtle laid back countryside?

Do you like sushi?

There are many, many things to do in Japan that it simply deserve another (long) post. Today, I’m going to go with: temples and shrines because this easily goes into my top ten list of things to do while in Japan. And it should be in your list, too.

First, it’s something cultural and historical. Maybe something you wouldn’t even find in your home country so it’s an adventure, a discovery. Then there’s something about these places that calms me, makes me sit in one corner and put things in perspective. I find quiet and solace and get out feeling better.


Japanese shrine

Looks dramatic, no?

When we were in Japan in the summer of 2013, Benjamin and I frequented shrines and temples while Pristine was at school. It has a great open space he can run around and as I have said, I really like the stillness of the place.

Japanese shrine

Summer in Japan is tough (coming from someone who live in Dubai, I know that sounds really weird!) so we sought refuge in the shrine premises. It’s cooler inside the shrines (called “jinja” in Japanese) because of the lush trees. You can hear the rustle of the leaves on a windy day which is kind of soothing. This particular shrine is very close to where we lived and I always took Pristine here when she was small.

Japanese shrine

In my ten years of stay in Japan, I’ve visited a lot of shrines and temples and friends and family would ask, what is the difference? To a foreigner,  yes, they can look all the same.

But they are different.

Japanese shrines (“jinja”) are generally based in Shintoism which is a set of Japanese spiritual beliefs. So many of these shrines have features and designs that are unique to Japan. For example, you’ll find torii archways at shrines.

Torii in shrine

The torii symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. I’ve seen Japan’s most photographed torii some years back – this is in Miyajima, Hiroshima.

torii itsukushima

Photo credit

Looking from the sea, this torii serves as the gateway to Itsukushima Shrine.


Photo credit

Itsukushima jinja is a UNESCO world heritage site on Hiroshima prefecture’s Miyajima island. The shrine and its gate are regarded as one of Japan’s great views because of its large torii which stands over 16 meters tall.

Japanese temples (“otera”) on the other hand, are based in the facets Buddhism rather than Shintoism. Because of this, you can find similar temples in countries that practice Buddhism (i.e. China, Japan, and Korea). In the same fashion as the shrine, the name can be a dead giveaway as to whether you’re in a temple or a shrine. Simply listen for the ji sound at the end of the name.

One of the most popular temples I have visited are Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizudera) in Kyoto…


Photo credit

…and Todaiji in Nara.


Photo credit

Instead of finding tori archways, you have pagoda, the cool-looking multi-tiered towers that are often associated with Asian architecture. A small temple near our place (big temples have more lavish entrances):

Japanese temple

It’s very quiet in here.

Japanese temple

This one’s in Niigata, my husband’s home town when we last visited in the summer of 2013.

Niigata otera

These statues? They have their story.

Japanese temple

These statues are called “Jizo” or more endearingly “Ojizo-san”. It was believed that “Ojizo-san” would guide dead soul to heaven or the kingdom of Buddha and not to hell.

Statue in Japanese shrine

Now, this photo above intrigued me for years when I was new there (the time when there was no Google or Wikipedia!) – so I had to ask around. Why do the Ojizo-san wear a red bib and with children at his feet?

Japanese temple

The Ojizo-san is seen as the guardian of children, and in particular, children who died before their parents. He has been worshiped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted fetuses.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that the souls of children who die before their parents are unable to cross the mythical Sanzu River on their way to the afterlife because they have not had the chance to accumulate enough good deeds and because they have made the parents suffer. It is believed that the Ojizo-san saves these souls from having to pile stones eternally on the bank of the river as penance, by hiding them from demons in his robe.

You often encounter Ojizo-san in temples and graveyards and it is not unusual to see the idol adorned with a red bib and a red baby hat. The reason for this, is parents put it there to either thank him for saving a child from illness or to ask him to protect a child in the after-life.

So folks, so much about Japan’s temples and shrines. Sorry, I got carried away! Nevertheless, if you happen to visit Japan, a country in my opinion, that you should visit at least once in your lifetime, be sure to stop by those little temples and shrines. They are always worth your time.

Getting around the islands: Domestic flights in the Philippines

approaching laguindingan

It may not look like it but the Philippines is composed of thousands of islands big and small, inhabited and uninhabited. There are 7,107 islands to be exact (though so many claim that number could change, depending on the tide). The main point of entry to the country from abroad is mainly from the capital city of Manila, Cebu in the Visayas region and Davao City in the south. There are international flights landing at Clark in Olongapo City, Iloilo, Laoig and Kalibo too.

Philippine map

Our plane landed in Manila and from there, we need to get on another flight to my hometown down south. It’s an hour and a half flight. However, depending on the time of arrival of our international flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, we may need to stay for a night in Manila and board the flight the next day as there are no night flights going to my hometown.

Domestic flights around the Philippines is operated by 2 main carriers namely, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. There are other small fleet of airlines like Air Philippines, Sky Jet, Tiger Air, Air Asia Zest. Cebu Pacific regularly offers sale on flights, in fact I bought one to fly from my hometown to my father’s relatives in Davao that’s about 30% of the normal price! However, the cheap flights comes with an inconvenience of delays, sudden rescheduling or worse cancellation of flights sometimes without logical explanation. Philippine Airlines is the national carrier and is so much better in my opinion.

We stayed in Manila for one night. Do you have any idea how it feels to finally land in the bed after more than 15 hours of travel?

at hotel in makati

We went out for dinner and then back to the hotel, brushed our teeth and ready ourselves for bed. I went to the washroom for a quick shower and saw this.


We were early at the airport the next day – this is Manila when traffic can be unpredictable, from heavy to heavier to a standstill. I cannot risk missing our flights.

TIP: If you have to stay in Manila and need to catch a flight the next day, it’s best to stay close. We stayed in a hotel in Makati which was less than 30 minutes to the airport, even with traffic.

We had some time to look around the domestic airport before boarding our flight. I asked the kids if they wanted to eat something and they weren’t interested in food (saved me mega calories from Cinnabon because they declined…weird kids…who says no to Cinnabon?!).

Pristine found National Bookstore and both went inside. “We need books to read on the plane since there is no entertainment system on domestic flights, right mama?” YES.

boarding gate 1

Benjamin’s book didn’t make it to the plane unopened.

boarding gate 2

And finally, boarding time! Our Philippine Airlines flight was on time! Great because we did not want grandpa and grandma to wait for us for too long at the airport.


My little travelers tired and sleeping. I finally found the meaning and purpose of my huge lap…

onboard PAL to CDO 2

Our flight was short and sweet and we finally landed at Laguindingan airport. The weather which I had been worrying about was wonderful! It did not rain, only blue skies with fluffy clouds.

We can’t wait to make the best summer memories.

NOTE: As much as I would like to write full blog posts like this about our travel to the Philippines, I may not be able to but follow our adventure in Instagram, Twitter and I do post snippets on my blog’s Facebook page. See you there!

It’s been 7 years


Even the airport in my home town has changed. The kids and I are in the Philippines right now. It’s been seven long years since I was here. More than the fact that I’d be travelling with two children, the youngest being just 3, alone, I was anxious of the unstable Philippine weather in July. Just a few days before we flew, typhoon after typhoon made landfall in the capital of Manila where we’d we landing, staying for one night before flying out to the province down south.

Surely, it rained when we got out of the airport in Manila (after a short bout of turbulence above Thailand). The children were screaming with glee, “rain, rain!” like they have not seen rain for months – which is literally true. The last time it rained in Dubai was maybe back in March. It’s July now.

When we arrived at the airport in my hometown, the skies were clear, the weather, wonderful!

arrival to cagayan de oro 1

I can’t believe we are already home. I was able to finally take a deep breath of relief. I was able to bring these kids from our home in Dubai, to the airport in Abu Dhabi, to Manila and then now, to Cagayan de Oro!

arrival to cagayan de oro 2

I look forward for the kids to have lots of outdoor fun, get to know and bond with my parents (their grandparents) and make lots of great memories with them. (I’m also looking forward to eating some of the foods I missed…oh it’s been really too long!)

Benjamin at the entrance of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

Benjamin at the entrance of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Showing the kids animals in the wild whenever possible has always been my plan in our trips, whether they’re small birds or butterflies – it doesn’t matter. They don’t get to experience it in Dubai.  Our trip to Sri Lanka was a perfect chance to see one of the magnificent animals – the elephants in the wild. I have only been able to see elephants in a zoo type environment so I was also looking forward to this trip.

The very helpful agent from Jetwing Travels suggested we go to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village, 13 km northwest of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka on our way from hill county of Nuwara Eliya back to the capital city.

Related read: Road trip from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy

Today’s photo essay takes you with us to the elephant orphanage we visited where elephants roamed chain-less.  Visitors from all over the world come to see this sanctuary for over 80 retired, abused or orphaned elephants.

I have not seen this many elephants in one place ever in my whole life. And this close? It’s overwhelming.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

You can find all types of elephants at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage – male, female, old , young and even calves, abandoned or lost in jungle living free and breeding in this 25 acre land. A project launched by the Wildlife Department about four decades back is now managed by the National Zoological Gardens.

It’s an understatement to say that our kids Pristine and Benjamin had a lovely time. Pristine was very eager to get close to the elephant at the fruit feeding station. Benjamin stepped back and wouldn’t go near just yet. Here you can see Pristine touching one elephant.

P with elephant

At some parts of the orphanage, I have read over at Trip Advisor that mahouts (elephant caretakers) ask for money in exchange for touching the elephants of taking photos of them up close. At this particular feeding station, we weren’t charged for anything. There were trays of fruits for sale to feed the elephant. I took these photos without being charged or anything.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The elephant caretakers at the feeding hut were fascinated by Benjamin and kept calling him “little white elephant”.

P and B with elephant

There’s a milk feeding station too but we didn’t have any photos of any of us bottle feeding the baby elephants because, we didn’t. First, there is a separate fee for that. Next, we didn’t like how it became so touristy with so many people hovering around the poor baby elephant. The animal must be too overwhelmed or even stressed. We left and went to see the elephants who were roaming freely in the field instead.

So while waiting for the river bathing time, we explored the back side of the orphanage and we’re pleased to see that the animals generally seemed very well cared for with large expanses to roam.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Here, the elephants are roaming free but they are closely watched. We never felt unsafe standing this close to these animals.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage

When it was 2 pm, we heard the signal – it was time to take the herd for their daily bath at the nearby Maha Oya river. We followed the herd after a while – not too close as it is dusty to be following them behind closely!

bath 4

The Maha Oya river is about 500 meters away from the orphanage.  It was a lovely sight to see! The elephants had a lovely time in the river, with some lying in the deeper water and others just hanging about.

Maha Oya river

A few elephants were still lingering in the river when we left.

Maha Oya river


1. Prepare cash as they don’t accept credit cards for the entrance fees, at least when we went there in July 2014.

We have ran out of cash and had to withdraw from an ATM machine outside the premises. Sometimes, depending too much on plastic money can be an inconvenience.

2. Bring food, especially if you’re taking kids along. The shops inside selling food are limited.


Benjamin was very hungry when we arrived there and I forgot the small bag with food inside the car, parked outside. My husband went to get the bag and for the meantime, the caretakers at the fruit feeding station gave us pieces of watermelon and bananas. These food were meant for feeding the elephants for a small amount of money per tray but they were kind and said “for your little white elephant madame!” (they didn’t ask us to pay for the fruits)

3. Be careful of the lure to get close to the elephants to touch them or take photos of them up close as this is not free, especially at the river!

maha Oya river

4. When the elephants head to the river for bathing, secure a table at a restaurant at the Elephant Bay Hotel. The hotel is located at the left side when you’re facing the river from the road.

I didn’t know this but my every resourceful husband found us a good vantage point while we enjoyed a late lunch on the balcony, overlooking the river while watching the elephants enjoying their water time.

View from the balcony of the hotel

5.  Aim to arrive at the orphanage before the scheduled bathing time at the river scheduled at 10am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 4 pm.

Maha Oya river

We had a fantastic time at this place and glad we took this side trip with the children. Benjamin still remember this trip when we look at the photos and say, “we go there again, mama”. I was a bit worried reading some reviews that some mahouts beat the elephants and don’t treat them right. I didn’t want my children to see such maltreatment. The handler’s did have sticks, but they were only used to coax the elephants. I told the children that elephants, even the babies are heavy and need to be kept controlled for the safety of all.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is situated between Kandy and Colombo, accessible via Kegalle-Rambukkana road. Entrance is 2,500 Sri Lankan Rupees or about ($20).

Train ride in Sri Lanka, to the mountains!

Sri Lanka airport

After our glorious five days at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort in the paradise that is the Maldives, we were ready to go back to reality (I mean we really have to, at some point). You know, see people around who aren’t tourists in a small, secluded island, probably have some street food, get on a local bus and explore a city in the real world type of activities.

We landed in Sri Lanka with a renewed sense of adventure.

It is a totally different world. Not necessarily better or worse but different. And we love exploring and experiencing something different in our travels. Sri Lanka has always been on my travel bucket list because of its proximity to the UAE, cheaper airplane fares compared to say when we go to Japan or the Philippines and I heard the food is amazing and the people are friendly.

And it is very green. And even rains in July.

We’ve lived in the desert for almost 8 years now and the words “green” and “rain” always excites us.

(I will skip mentioning our first days in Colombo and jump to the part where we were crazy enough to take the challenge of taking Sri Lanka’s train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (210 km south of Colombo) because I’ve read that this must be the most scenic train ride in whole of Sri Lanka.)

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is located in the hill county south of the capital city of Colombo and accessible by public transport, by train for about 6 hours (approximately) from Colombo Fort Station to Nanu Oya Station in Nuwara Eliya.

VERY IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP (and you will thank me for this!): Don’t eat or drink too much during this train ride if you are in the 2nd class or 3rd class carriage. I know it’s a looong journey but the toilets are dirty. And while I know many will not mind in case of emergency (I know I wouldn’t too), I personally did not want to use it, as much as possible. Ever. Until we reach our destination. (Thank me for not posting a photo!)

Anyway, there were a bunch of high school (?) kids in our carriage and instead of taking photos of what’s ahead, I turned my camera towards the back of the train and saw this young student taking photos with his iPhone (as most passengers did). When I blinked, he almost lost grip of the phone and it nearly fell off from the moving train!

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

TRAVEL TIP: it might be very helpful to put something to strap your phone to your wrist during these kind of train rides. (I wonder how many phones/cameras have fallen in this route?)

Also what makes it dangerous for phones and cameras is that the train is really SHAKY. If you live in the Dubai and curse the Metro for the crowd during rush hours, I want you to stop complaining and think of the tracks. How smooth and perfect it is compared to the train in Sri Lanka. See for yourself and be thankful!


We opted to sit in the 2nd class seat because 1st class is too touristy and 3rd class is too local (not that we didn’t like that but with two young kids, we felt 2nd class was the safer and more comfortable choice).

What I’ve read is that you get better views in the 2nd class and it’s true. The views were breath-taking as was the very fresh and cool mountain air!

Note on the train classifications: 3rd class is very basic and gets very crowded, and it is not generally recommended for visitors. 2nd class seats are the recommended option on trains with no 1st class. A 1st class observation car is available on one or two of the daytime trains on the amazingly scenic route from Colombo to Kandy and Badulla. The observation car is normally at the rear of the train or occasionally behind the locomotive and has comfortable though slightly grubby armchairs facing a large window looking back along the track.

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

Travel tip: You may actually prefer 2nd class as the opening windows in the non-A/C 2nd class cars are much better for photography and sightseeing. Plus, we wanted a break from the aircon environment in Dubai!

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

The first few hours was fun. We loved the scenery as it was totally different from Dubai, most especially. Man, look at those trees and plants! And it’s different from Maldives as well. I’d like to think of it as something out of a scene from rural Philippines.

Train from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

I suddenly missed my home town. The kids enjoyed the ride …well at least for a few hours!

kids in the train

Benjamin is into trains. No surprise, he is after all a boy.

Benjamin and dad

kids in the train

After a while, the little humans got bored, switching activities from drinking juices and Milo (you don’t know how hard I prayed he wouldn’t poo!!), to sleeping to swinging in my legs like a zonked out Koala bear.

in the train 1

I feel very lucky to be traveling with these kids. They love the simple joys on our travels. They don’t fuss or throw tantrums and patiently wait for each of our journey to end. And Benjamin didn’t poo!!

The ride seemed ENDLESS. I was also very tired already – I thought I’d be ok because I have internet data on my phone (life is good as long as you have internet, right?). I updated my social media channels whenever I had the chance (you follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, yes?) but there were places where there is no signal at all. I took a lot of photos through my phone and my SLR to while away the time but FIVE hours into the train ride, I think I stopped taking photos. And just wrote on my journal. But the train was really shaky I stopped doing that too.

Then we reached the peak of the mountain!

Nuwara Eliya

We were 1,464 meters above sea level. The world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa in Dubai stands at 828 meters so imagine THAT. We were higher than the top of Burj Khalifa!

The wind was getting colder as well. I never thought I’d say, “it’s cold” while in the tropical island of Sri Lanka! The view was magnificent from up there. Nuwara Eliya is the tea capital of Sri Lanka and sure enough, tea plantation fields are all around.

tea plantation

tea plantation

When the train pulled into one of the stations near our destination, we can see a group of passengers in warm clothing.

Nuwara Eliya

Fleece jacket.

Leather jacket.

Knitted caps.


Ladies in long, thick skirts.

We were in shorts. Flip flops and t-shirt. Thankfully, I always bring jackets for the children when we travel because the plane can get really cold so they used their jackets while my husband and I froze. It as about 10C when we arrive. In July! In Sri Lanka!!

That long stretch of train ride that lasted for SEVEN hours was a very unforgettable experience for all of us. I would highly recommend you do it if you have the chance to be in Sri Lanka although honestly, I don’t think I’d do it again! Maybe because my legs were just tired of Benjamin lying on it like that one in the video or maybe because I was really scared to use the washroom so I didn’t eat or drink much (DON’T JUDGE until you see the toilet, ok?).  Or maybe because I was really cold when we got off the train, haha! I am glad I took a lot of photos to remember that very beautiful place atop the mountain! I wanted to bottle up the fresh air and take back with me to Dubai.

How about you, where was your most unforgettable train ride?

Next up: A review of where we stayed in Nuwara Eliya, Jetwing St. Andrews Hotel.

School in Japan

Taiken nyuugaku: Experiencing local school in Japan

School in Japan

This has been a long overdue post but I really wanted to share this with you and most especially for families like ours, with mixed-race children.

Pristine was born in Japan and she was only 3 years old when we moved to Dubai in 2007. She only spoke Japanese then but as our stay in the UAE became longer and longer (7 years in a few weeks!) and with Pristine attending British curriculum international school, she has lost her grip not just on the language but also being away from Japan too long, been detached from the Japanese culture and tradition aspect.

When we went for vacation to Japan this summer, we enrolled Pristine in the local Japanese public school – something we’ve always wanted to do for years now. She has spent more of her years here than in Japan and we didn’t want her to forget half of what she is.

More specifically, we want her to experience both worlds.

Taiken nyuugaku: a special program for Japanese kids who lived overseas. They come home for the summer, and experience life in a Japanese school. We knew lots of children who did it. We thought it was a great way to reconnect with her roots, not mention hone her Japanese language skills and most importantly, to be with Japanese children her age, in Japan.

Pristine in Japanese school in Japan


A family or friend in Japan needs to visit the local school where you want your child to attend school and ask about the possibility of taiken nyuugaku. Most local public schools will say yes. Your child can attend the local school for up to a month. The procedures will vary from school to school so be sure to check. You will need to speak to the school principal before you go back to Japan and when you arrive, you might need to visit the school personally to pay the fees (tuition fee is very low as elementary education is compulsory in Japan – we only paid for the meals served in school during lunch and books). And if your child has specific food allergies, like our daughter is allergic to eggs and shell fish, you will need to speak to the health administrator beforehand.

Luckily for us, our former neighbor took all the trouble with the paper works so Pristine was ready when we arrived in Matsumoto.

So, what’s it like going to school in Japan?

First, there are no school buses like in Dubai! Children in Japan walk to school every day, for the whole duration of the school year. Be it in the hot summer or cold winter, in sunny weather and even during rain or snow.

During the first few days when Pristine wasn’t familiar with the other kids walking to school and the route so her father had to take her there – in a bicycle! We were traveling on a budget and had no car nor wanted to rent one for this purpose. Our lovely neighbor friend however, lent us their good, old sturdy bicycle we used.

bike to school in Japan

After a couple of days when Pristine found friends who attend the same school and live nearby, she and her dad would still bike off every morning but only until the meeting place where kids gather and walk in groups.

walking to school in Japan

School starts at 8:00 am and since it is located about 2 kilometers away (no kidding!!), everyone has to wake up early, have a full breakfast (very important – reason later!), meet up with friends and start their journey to school.

walking to school in Japan

A long walk is easier when with a friend…

crossing the road

Here they are crossing the pedestrian. The children are trained to raise their hands when crossing the street so they are more visible to the drivers. Japan, up to this day still remains as one of the safest places in the world. Sure, there are crimes reported but today, children in Japan still walk to and from school everyday.

walking to school in Japan

~ the girls stop by to pose for mommy paparazzi ~

This below photo is taken from the school after school hours. The children go home together in groups too. Outside of the school, I saw a group of elderly people with arm bands that read “safety guardians” or something. They guide the children at checkpoints ensuring they go home safely. And the volunteers (retirees, I presume) do this on volunteer basis, unpaid of course.

going home

This is the school policy that enumerates the school’s objective for the children.

School Policy

From right to left (because that’s how you read Japanese – trivia for you!)…the school aims to ‘produce’…

1. Karada wo kitaeru kodomo – Physically strong children

2. Minna wo daiji ni suru kodomo – Children who makes everyone feel important

3.  Yoku kangaeyarinuku kodomo – Children who think and persevere

True enough, as part of their aim to produce physically strong children, they have swimming classes everyday since it was summer and the weather was just perfect for water play. The school also have a rigorous physical education program all throughout the year.

swimming in Japan school

See those mountains? We used to live in Nagano Prefecture in Japan and our city is 800 meters above sea level. It’s beautiful.

swimming in Japan school

Children in Japan learn swimming from when they start going to school which amazed me because in the Philippines, we had no swimming lessons, not until I was in college!

Indoor and outdoors shoes

Removing shoes in school

One of the distinct things about going to a school in Japan is that while children are not required to wear uniforms (in public schools), they need to wear a different shoes when they are inside the building. The pair of shoes is the same for everyone. They change shoes at the school entrance before entering the school halls.

Last walk home

And change to their usual shoes at the end of the day. The indoor shoes will be left at the school.

No school uniform but that bag…

Children in public schools in Japan are not required to wear school uniforms however, there is a prescribed school bag for all. The randoseru is a sturdy, functional backpack that has become a hallmark of Japanese elementary school. The randoseru dates as far back as the end of the 19th century, when Western military structure was first adopted in Japan. Soldiers carried square bags called ransel, a Dutch word, which changed into randoseru in Japanese. Lately, there had been variety of colors sold but it used to come only in two colors: red for girls and black for boys. (Our neighbor lent us Pristine’s red randoseru from one of their daughters who finished elementary school)

The randoseru bags are not cheap ranging from 9,800 yen to 30,000 yen but the intricacies of these backpacks are incredibly well designed with long-lasting sturdiness in mind that they usually last beyond the child’s elementary years in immaculate condition.

Jugyou sankan

Jugyo sankan

We were lucky that during the time Pristine attended the school there, there was a jugyou sankan – Class open day. These are opportunities for parents to view classes so that they can get to know how their children are doing in school and exchange opinions and information with their children’s teacher(s).

Pristine speech

After two weeks, Pristine’s last day of taiken nyuugaku came. She was so sad to have to leave her new found friends. She gave a farewell speech in front of the class. Aimed with her renewed, refreshed Nihongo skills, she faced them with her practiced speech. Not perfect but she powered through it from beginning till end.

farewell gifts

We bought little trinkets from Dubai to give to the kids. I hope they remember Pristine when they see that little camel paper weight.

farewell gift for boy classmates

We prepared a different set of gift for boys and for girls.

After the tearful exchange of goodbyes, we met the school principal to say thanks.

thank you Ms. Principal

Pristine loved the short ten days she spent at the local school in Japan. From new friends to the greener environment to the very enthusiastic teacher, the everyday swimming lessons and most importantly, the kyuushoku – school lunches!



We got this menu list for the whole month of July with detailed information of the dish that varies everyday. From Monday through Friday, schoolchildren attending elementary and middle schools in Japan have lunches prepared for them at school. The students take turns serving portions. The meals are healthy and well-balanced, containing all the nutrients and calories required for the healthy growth of youngsters.

kyuushoku 1

Lunches are planned by dieticians (you can hardly see any obese children in Japan) and are usually made from scratch, using local, unfrozen, seasonal ingredients. Portions are modestly sized, and the menus are carefully planned throughout the week to emphasize variety and nutrition. Every couple of days, kids might get to try Italian style pasta or Korean food or something a bit more exotic.

One more thing about kyuushoku is that you have to eat everything. For my husband who was born and raised in Japan, that is atarimae – just natural. The Japanese hate to waste food.

And the reason why it’s actually EASY to finish all of the food at lunch? There is no snack time! Classes start at 8 am and lunch is four hours later at 12 noon. Teachers expect the children to have that filling breakfast to last them till lunch time!


Also one thing I really want to share about our Japanese school experience is that – there are no cleaners in school. The children tidy up the things around the classroom and are required to bring a 2 pieces of cloth with their names on it. This first piece of cloth is used to wipe the desks and the other one? for the floors. They wash it and hang it to dry in school.


Japanese schools teach children to become independent in an organized, careful way, including explicit instruction on how to walk to school on their own safely, how to pack for themselves for field trips, and how to care for their things.


When Pristine left the school one last time, it wasn’t only her shoe box that became empty, her heart too. She wished she’d stay longer. Maybe next time. Surely, next time.

How does the Japanese school differ from the school in your country?

At Narita Airport

Week four in Japan

* We’re back to Dubai, this is just a recap of our trip to Japan. *

On our last week in Japan, the older child asked, “why do we have to go back (to Dubai)”? I understand her plight – it’s hard to say goodbye to days like this.

week 4 - 1

She has a point. If we were there, they can be at the park, even have water fun outside all throughout the summer. Every freakin’ day.

week 4 - 2

week 4 - 3

And then they can have this after playing. Green tea ice cream with ogura (sweet red beans) on kakigori (shaved ice). Mmmm.

green tea kakigori

Or watermelons! Japanese watermelons are not cheap (this one is US$20 per piece) but they’re totally worth it.

watermelons in Japan

We will miss the nights when we had hanabi (fire crackers).

week 4 - 4

And that strange Italian restaurant that has buffet menu not only for pizza and pasta but also Japanese osouzai (appetizers)!

Italian restaurant

On our way to Narita airport, we pass by Suwa Lake. My first job was near this lake and during our training, we were made to walk around this lake to “refresh” and “start our working life fit and healthy. I was like, they’ve got to be kidding, this lake is 13.3 square kilometers in area!

Suwa Lake

Family portrait at Suwa service area in the expressway to Tokyo, with Suwa Lake on the background. Sorry the kids look like they just got out of bed…because they just did.

week 4 - 5

Pristine in front of Tokyo station, must be one of the most photographed train stations in Japan.

week 4 - 6

I love this photo of my kids. I love how Ben is clinging to his big sister as she confidently feeds the bird off her hands. He is super curious at the bird but a little scared and big sister got his back on this.

week 4 - 7

M had an errand at Okura Shukokan, an art museum in front of Hotel Okura in Tokyo. Sitting with the big statue of the museum founder, Kihachiro Okura.

week 4 - 8

You can almost tell what she’s praying for.

week 4 - 9

We arrive in Narita Airport.Ben is fascinated by anything moving – trains, buses, cars, planes. We’re lucky this little guy is such a trooper during our long flight to Japan and back.

week 4 - 10

And then, bam! Just like that, we’re back to Dubai.

week 4 - 11

That wraps up our 4 weeks in Japan, in photos. The kids are missing Japan already. Right now, we only have pictures, videos and lot of memories.

See here for other photos of Week OneWeek Two and Week Three.

* Want to read more stories like this? Read up on my past posts about Japan!