N9 In Straya Series: Walking Around MELBOURNE Part 1 – Parks, Gardens & Heritage Sites

Last August 2018, I went to Australia for a week-long trip with my N9 friends, Shane & Leng. We spent days around Sydney’s heritage sites & country icons, tried the extreme rides in Scenic World Blue Mountains, toured Hunter Valley & had a taste of the best wines in the region & walked along the beautiful Bondi & Coogee Beaches. I also had the chance to spend a few days with my relatives in Brisbane. It was the perfect dry winter trip, away from the humid & rainy Manila.

We all got multiple entry visas on our 1st application (find out here how we did it) & we agreed to fly to Australia again before our visas expire. Fast forward to April 2019, we all flew back to Australia for another week of adventure.. But this time, in Melbourne! Yes, we went around Melbourne & Victoria in general for 8 days & oh boy, we had a great time. I cannot wait to share everything in this platform. This trip to Melbourne also means I’ll be reviving the N9 In Straya Series which started last year.

We were joined by my good friend, Lord of LordAroundTheWorld, for the first 4 days in Melbourne. Lord was the one who invited me to go to Its The Ship 2018 last November. We had the best party nights on board a cruise ship – good times. Anyway, I will be dividing the trip write-ups into 6 or 7 sections & I’ll try to remember as much details as I can.

FLIGHTS

Last year, I paid around ₱11,500 all-in for a return ticket to Australia. Yes, that cheap! We flew with Cebu Pacific Air, a low-cost carrier, for 8-hour trips to & from Sydney. The experience was alright, though nothing beats flying with a full-service airline. Given our planned dates fall on the high (Holy Week) season, we decided to fly with the same airline in their Melbourne route.

This time, I paid around ₱15,000 for a round-trip ticket to Melbourne, Australia. The ticket only included shared baggage with my friends, no in-flight entertainment or food. Both flights were on time which were good. However, the experience was terrible. The flight was full, we had no space to change seats & have a row of seats to ourselves. The cabin was noisy in general & the service was a bit slow. The crew were fantastic, there were just around 400+ passengers on board.

This Melbourne ticket is amazingly cheap considering higher fuel prices & taxes. I’d still take the same flights but not during peak seasons.

ACCOMMODATION

My friends & I stayed in Flinders Backpackers in the center of Melbourne. We got a 3-bed dormitory room (perfect for us 3 – Lord got his own bed in another dormitory room) for 8 days & 7 nights. I will talk more about the hostel, its location & our experience in my upcoming hostel of the day feature. Watch out for that.

WALKING AROUND MELBOURNE

Last year, my friends & I joined the I’m Free Tours in Sydney & we had a nice experience. We opted not to take the I’m Free Tours Melbourne because we already know about the history of Australia. It would’ve been nice to know more about Melbourne in that walking tour but my friends didn’t want to take it again. Instead, we explored the city on our own. Trams are free within the central business district plus everything in the area can be reached by foot. Today, allow me to share with you the list of heritage & historical sites, parks & gardens we went to in the city.

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station is Melbourne’s main train station. It was built in the 1850s & then transform into what it is now in the early 1900s. It is Australia’s first railway station. The station serves the whole Victorian metropolitan network. Flinders Street Station also has one of the world’s longest train platform at 708 m long.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Located opposite Flinders Station & Federation Square, St Paul’s Cathedral is another heritage structure built in the late 1800’s. It is an Anglican cathedral in Melbourne, the cathedral church of the Diocese of Melbourne & the seat of the Anglican Primate of Australia.

Royal Exhibition Building

Royal Exhibition Building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Carlton Gardens, Victoria. It was built in the late 1800’s & has been used for events & exhibitions in the city. Up to now, the place is used for those types of functions. Note that this building is undergoing a multi-million renovation & is expected to be completed by 2020.

Carlton Gardens

Carlton Gardens is a 26-hectare site located a few streets from the main city. This massive open space has the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum & IMAX Cinema in it. Just like the Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine of Remembrance is a war memorial that is dedicated to all Victorians who served in the war, particularly during the World War 1. The shrine is located outside the Central Business District, but is only a few tram stops from Flinders Street Station.

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is a 36-hectare botanic garden located at the south of the Yarra River. This botanic garden is home to thousands of plant species located along slopes, garden beds, lakes & lawns. This botanic garden serves as a breakout space & a bonding place for people who wanted to take a break from the busy city life. Entry to the garden is free of charge.

Fitzroy Gardens

Fitzroy Gardens is another 26-hectare block of greens at the back of the Parliament Square. This massive parkland is another park that is located within the Melbourne CBD. The Cook’s Cottage can also be found in this park.

Parliament House of Victoria

The Parliament House of Victoria is the house or meeting building of the Victorian Parliament. This historical & heritage landmark is located along Spring Street, beside the Old Treasury Building. The building was under renovation during our visit last April.

Old Treasury Building

From the name itself, the Old Treasury Building used to house the Treasury Department of the Government of Victoria. This old but beautiful building has then been transformed into a museum of Melbourne History.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick’s Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. It is also the seat of the Archbishop of Melbourne. The church was built in the 1850s but took a while to be completed. The cathedral is located in Cathedral Place, right at the back of the Parliament Building.

Old Melbourne Gaol

The Old Melbourne Gaol used to be a prison that held the country’s notorious criminals. It also had records of people being executed & hanged. It stopped operating as a prison after the world war & has then become a museum. Entrance fee to the museum is at AUD 28 per person, quite expensive to be honest. My friends & I decided not to go inside because it was out of our budget.

Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market, locally known as the QVM, is one of Victoria’s famous landmarks. It is an open air market that serves as the main trading hall for Victorians & for visitors. We visited the QVM on a Wednesday night & it was also the 2nd night of the Europa Night Market. This night market showcased different food, delicacies & drinks from selected European countries.

State Library of Victoria

The State Library of Victoria is the state’s central library. Built in the 1850s, it is Australia’s oldest public library & at the same time world’s first free libraries in the world. The library has various reading & collections room where locals & visitors can have a look. I’ve been to this library twice last April, 1st one with Lord & the 2nd time with my N9 friends. This is by far one of my favorite places in Melbourne. The view from the topmost floor of The Dome is just stunning.


This ends the list of parks, gardens & heritage sites we’ve been to in Melbourne. I’m sure we’ve been to more but I can’t remember the other ones. Melbourne is such a nice city. Its buildings are combinations of heritage listed brick ones & modern & contemporary ones. Its one of those cities where you won’t get tired of walking around.

Have you been to Melbourne in the past? What is the most interesting building you’ve been to? How was your visit? Feel free to send your thoughts & experiences in the comments section below. Do you have any questions about the matters above? You can also send them via e-mail to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Don’t forget to follow me & please please please also help me in promoting my social media channels – FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

Watch out for more Melbourne content in the future! Thank you for reading.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC U11.

Tuesday Tip: 4 TRUSTED HOSTEL GROUPS To Check When Looking For AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATION in JAPAN

We can’t deny the fact that Japan accommodation prices are very high compared to those of our neighboring countries. From someone who’s been to a number of countries, I can vouch that it actually has one of the most expensive per night rates (both in hotels & hostels) in Asia.

I’ve been flying to Japan every year since 2015 & believe it or not, I’ve never stayed in a hotel. I always go for the cheaper & comfortable option of staying in hostels. I have the tendency to be very picky on which hostel to choose & what time of room or dormitory configuration to book but so far, I’ve never made a bad decision. All rooms & bed types I got in the past are decent, secured, comfortable, some are a little bit over the usual price but totally worth every yen.

In the last 5 years of flying to & travelling around Japan, I discovered 4 trusted hostel groups that offer affordable & over-the-top services to its guests. Note that I’ve stayed in at least one property of these hostel groups in the past. If you’ve been following my Hostel Of The Day posts in the past, you’ll see some of featured hostels coming from these hostel groups. These hostels are located in places or cities where most foreigners go or visit.

The aim of these hostel groups is to provide the best quality of hospitality in the most affordable price or rate. I can assure you that all hostels under these hostel groups provide the best comfort they can at such low prices. Allow me to share with you which hostel groups you should check for your next Japan trip.

Have you read the article I posted about the pattern in getting the best travel accommodation deals online? If not, better check out this post.

Oak Hotel Group

Oak Hotel Group is a hostel group owned & managed by Oakhouse Co Ltd. The group started in 1992 as living spaces for foreigners in Japan. It has transformed into share houses for both foreigners & locals. A few years after, the hostel is operating in 6 locations in Tokyo & 1 in Nara. The hostel group’s concept is ‘enjoyable living.’ True enough, all their properties are equipped with facilities that provide comfortable & enjoyable experience.

Here are the current Oak Hotel properties: Oak Hostel Sakura in Oshiage, Oak Hotel Edo in Morishita, Oak Hostel Fuji in Asakusa, Oak Hostel Zen in Ueno, Oak Hostel Cabin in Tokyo, Oak Hotel Ikebukuro in Ikebukuro & Oak Hostel Nara in Nara.

Check out these photos of Oak Hostel Zen’s common lounge, wash, kitchen & dining areas. Neat!

My favorite Tokyo hostel is under this hostel group – Oak Hostel Zen. In fact, I already stayed in this property for 3 times (2015, 2017 & 2018) & I am planning to go back in the future. Check out the hostel of the day feature of Oak Hostel Zen.

J-Hoppers & Hana Hostels Group

J-Hoppers & Hana Hostels Group is a combination of 2 smaller hostel groups – J-Hoppers & Hana Hostels. J-Hoppers started in 2002 in Kyoto, Japan in a small building near Kyoto Station. Different branches have been added since then. The owner’s vision in creating this hostel group is to give foreigners a ‘home’ during their ‘Japan-hopping’ trips.

This hostel group also operates J-Stay, a shared-house business for those who want to stay in Kyoto for a longer time, J-Hop Tour, a bus-tour that runs from Osaka or Kyoto to Shirkawa-go & Hida Takayama & hana SAKE bar, a sake bar located on the ground floor of the Osaka property.

The hostel group currently has 12 properties across different locations: J-Hoppers Kyoto, J-Hoppers Hida Takayama, J-Hoppers Lake Biwa, J-Hoppers Kumano Yunomine, J-Hoppers Osaka, J-Hoppers Osaka Universal, J-Hoppers Hiroshima, Kyoto Hana Hostel, Osaka Hana Hostel, Hiroshima Hana Hostel, Fukuoka Hana Hostel & Gion Ryokan Q-Beh.

This is how a bed in a Hana Hostel dormitory bed looks like. It’s spacious, clean & comfortable. 🙂

One of my recent hostel of the day features is that of Fukuoka Hana Hostel where I came back for the second time. I stayed in the same property (& same room) last November 2016 when I went hopping around different cities. I also stayed in Osaka Hana Hostel & Hiroshima Hana Hostel in November 2016.

K’s House Quality Hostels

K’s House Quality Hostels is a multi-awarded hostel chain that started business in 2003 in Kyoto. As per the company’s website, their group’s concept is to provide ‘inexpensive, convenient & comfortable accommodation for travelers.’ They aim to be true to this concept by providing all guests with quality service, spacious communal areas & comfortable bedding be it in private or dormitory rooms. The group currently operates 12 properties & plans to expand to more locations in the coming years.

The hostel group also operates an affordable Mount Fuji One Day Tour & another accommodation branch, K’s Villa which offers affordable vacation rentals in various locations.

The operating hostels of K’s House are the following: K’s House Kyoto, K’s House Tokyo, K’s House Tokyo Oasis, K’s House Hiroshima, K’s House Mt Fuji, K’s House Fuji View, K’s House Hakone, K’s House Ito Onsen, K’s House Takayama, K’s House Takayama Oasis, K’s House Kanazawa & K’s House Hakuba Alps.

K’s House Kyoto’s spacious common area. This area is the best place to meet people traveling Japan.
K’s House Mt Fuji’s 8-bed dormitory room. Stayed in this dormitory room last November 2017.

I’ve always been a fan of K’s House. I stayed in K’s House Kyoto in 2015 when I flew to Japan with my high school friends. I went back to K’s House Kyoto following year with another friend from work. In 2017, I stayed in K’s House Mt Fuji & K’s House Takayama Oasis when I visited Kawaguchiko & Hida Takayama for a few days.

Khaosan Hostel Group

The last of my 4 trusted hostel groups is Japan is Khaosan Hostel Group. The group is owned by Manryo Co Ltd which started business in January 2004. The owners of the group have transformed old buildings, love hotels & restaurants into shared accommodation & now have 9 operating properties in Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka. The company’s goal is to create a community of travelers having a great time together regardless of nationality, background & companions.

Khaosan Group currently operates & maintains the following 9 properties: Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel, Khaosan Tokyo Samurai, Khaosan World Ryogoku Hostel, Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory, Khaosan Tokyo Origami, Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki in Tokyo, Khaosan Kyoto Guesthouse in Kyoto & Khaosan World Tennoji Hostel & Khaosan World Namba Hostel in Osaka.

The family deluxe room with tatami-style beds we got at Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel.

I stayed in one of their love hotel turned accommodation in Asakusa – Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel – last February with my family. We enjoyed our stay in a Japanese (tatami) style spacious room. My high school friends also had nice reviews about their stay at the Namba property last November 2018.


The hostels may be operating under different hostel groups but bear in mind that their goals are one & the same – to provide comfortable, affordable & quality accommodation when travelling around Japan. I’ve stayed in at least one property of each hostel group & I recommend all of them to you my readers. It will now depend on your room choice, price difference & preferences on which hostel group or property you’ll book your next stay. Good luck in making those decisions.

Look how super spacious & clean this dormitory room. Took this when I stayed with Oak Hostel Zen

Have you stayed in one of the properties mentioned above? How was your stay? Are you planning to go back in one of those accommodations? Are there other Japanese hostel groups that I need to know & try in the future? Feel free to mention those properties or groups in the comments below. You can also send the details to me via e-mail to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Don’t forget to follow me & please please please also help me in promoting my social media channels – FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11.

Japan Highlights 2019: MATSUMOTO & FUKUOKA Stopovers

Now, I’ve shared much detail about my recent Japan trip – from spending 36 hours in Tokyo, exploring Nagano in 48 hours to going around Kyoto for a day, riding thrill rides at Universal Studios Japan & playing with the sacred deer of Nara Deer Park. I’ve also talked about the hostels I’ve stayed with – Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel, Dot Hostel Nagano, New World Inn Osaka & Fukuoka Hana Hostel.

It was a beautiful, clear & sunny day in Fukuoka during my 22-hour stopover last February 2019.

There’s one more part I’d like to share with you to complete the details of this Japan 2019 trip. In between the places & hostels I mentioned above are 2 cities where I stopped for a few hours – Matsumoto & Fukuoka. Allow me to share with you the details of my stopovers in these cities.

Matsumoto

Matsumoto is a mountain city in central Japan; it is the second largest city in Nagano Prefecture. This very small & simple city is known for its beautiful castle & the view of the Japan Alps. I had about 3 hours of stopover in between trips from Nagano to Osaka.

I took the local JR train from Nagano Station to Matsumoto Station. The trip took about 2 hours.

I took about an hour trip from Nagano to Matsumoto via the local JR line. We passed by the snowy mountains & smaller towns of central Japan. Upon arrival at the station, I was welcomed by the beautiful view of the alps. I had a 3-hour stopover so I decided to walk around the city.

Matsumoto Castle

The city’s landmark is the country-famous Matsumoto Castle. Know locally as Matsumotojo, this is one of country’s original & most beautiful castles. It is a castle that is built on a flat ground rather than a hill or a mountain. This castle dates back to the ancient 1600’s & still has the majority of the original structure. Entrance to the castle grounds is free while a fee of ¥600 needs to be paid if guests want to go inside the castle buildings. I didn’t have enough time to inside the buildings; I explored the nearby streets instead.

One of the streets near the castle is Nakamachi Street. This street is full of ancient & preserved wooden houses that have been converted into commercial spaces & souvenir shops. There wasn’t much going on when I walked along the street.

Matsumoto Station

The city’s main hub is Matsumoto Station. Everyone that travels to the city by land drops by this station. This station is also an inevitable place to see when visiting the city because of its modern & clean facilities.

Japan Alps

One of the most beautiful views that welcomed me in Matsumoto is the view of the Japan Alps. I’ve seen the same alps in 2017 from Mount Fuji’s 4th Station but seeing them a bit closer was different. These alps run along the mountains of Central Japan, mostly in Nagano Prefecture. Most of the areas in Matsumoto provide a nice sight of the alps.

After walking around Matsumoto for a few hours, I headed to the Alpico Bus Terminal in front of Matsumoto Station & took the afternoon bus to Osaka where I met with my sisters.

Fukuoka

The second stopover I made & the last city I visited on my recent Japan trip is Fukuoka. As mentioned in my previous posts, I had to go to Fukuoka because it was from this city where I got my cheap flight back to Manila. Believe it or not, my Fukuoka to Manila ticket cost me less than ₱700 not including check in baggage. Cheap right? I got this on way ticket from one of GetGo‘s points sale last August 2018.

Found a lovely small park while walking around somewhere near Canal City Hakata in Fukuoka.

I’ve been to Fukuoka in 2016 so I decided to just walk around the city in this 22-hour stopover. I booked a night stay in Fukuoka Hana Hostel (again) & explored the nearby area by foot right before my flight. I went around the following areas.

Kawabata Shopping Arcade

My hostel was located along Kawabata Shopping Arcade. I took this chance to check on the local shops, restaurants & cafes in the arcade. The area is tourist-friendly though I find it catering more to the local crowd than the tourists. I still had a nice stroll anyway.

Tenjin

Tenjin is Fukuoka’s downtown area. Located about 15 minutes walk from my hostel, this area is full of shops, fancy restaurants & night clubs & bars. It is also where you will find most of the locals & tourists; also the place to see a lot of Hakata ramen places.

Canal City Hakata

Canal City Hakata is Fukuoka’s largest & most unique shopping complex. This 5-storey commercial complex has about 200 shops & restaurants & 2 hotels with canals running through the building.

One of the unique areas you’ll see in this shopping mall is the Ramen Stadium in the fifth floor. It is an area of 8 restaurants serving different flavors of ramen from various Japan cities & areas.

Kushida Shrine

Kushida Shrine is the Shinto shrine a few meters away from my hostel in Hakata. The famous local festival called Hakata Gion Yamakasa is being held in this shrine every July. I was there on a weekend so there were a lot of people in the shrine.

I only decided to walk around the area near my hostel because I was a bit tired. It was the last of 9 days in Japan & I’ve been out & about for the past days. That laid back last day was the one I wished for before flying back to Manila the same night.


So there you go.. This post sums up my stopovers in Matsumoto & Fukuoka & my February 2019 Japan trip in general. Thank you for taking time in reading my posts & sharing them in the online world. I appreciate all the comments, emails & messages I receive. They keep me going!

Do you have any question about Matsumoto, Fukuoka or the whole trip in general? Feel free to post them in the comments below or send them via email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Can you do me a favor? I hope you can help me promote my social media pages to your friends & families – FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

The end of a trip series means a start of another series. That’s right – watch out for my upcoming posts about my recently-concluded Melbourne trip with my N9 friends.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC U11.