Monday, July 15, 2019

Hokkaido Travel: Biei: Blue Pond, Shirahige Waterfall, Shikisai no Oka, Shinei-no-oka Observatory Park

Biei is a a small town in Central Hokkaido, and is known for its picturesque landscape. After doing some "homework", I realised that it is not convenient to explore this area by public transport. Many visitors either drive or cycle. But we decided not to drive, and not all of us can cycle, so I was thankful to find out that there are local bus sightseeing tours available.

We stayed at Asahikawa for 3 nights to explore Furano and Biei areas, as we thought that it would be quite time-consuming to depart from Sapporo by bus tours operated by Chuo Bus. Therefore our options of bus sightseeing tour at Biei would be either bus tour organised by Hikari Koutsu departing from Asahikawa, or Biei View Bus departing from Biei.

Finally we decided to join Biei View Bus tour. On the first day when we arrived at Sapporo, we visited JR Travel Service Centre (Twinkle Plaza) at Sapporo Station to book the tour. Alternatively, we could have booked online and paid by credit card.

We took 30 minutes ride on Japan Rail (JR) from Asahikawa to Biei.

The meeting venue is Biei Tourist Association, also known as Shikino Jouhoukan  四季の情報館. It is located next to Biei Station.

We were greeted by a friendly Japanese tour guide, an elderly gentleman, who shared with us about Biei in Japanese and English during the journey.

Our first stop was Blue Pond 青い池. The spectacular blue hues of water against the greenery make it look like a lovely painting! When there is no wind, the pond looks that a huge mirror, reflecting the plants and sky. In fact, Blue Pond has different appearance during different seasons! If you are visiting Blue Pond in winter, you will be stunned by the winter illumination.

Do you know that Blue Pond was created accidentally? It was created as a result of construction of an eorsion control system, which was designed to prevent mud flow from volcanic activity from nearby Mount Tokachi. The blue colour is a result of a mix of natural minerals such as colloidal aluminium hydroxide.

But, the area is actually quite small, it is L-shaped and fences are around for safety reason. It was super packed with visitors when we were there! And if you have a choice, please do not visit the washroom there, it is the dirtiest washroom that I have ever seen in Japan!

Just a few minutes on the bus then we arrived at Shirahege Waterfall 白ひげの滝, which literally means white beard. True enough, the waterfall really looks like white beard! It is a rare type of waterfall as underground water drops from the cracks of the rocks. We viewed the waterfall from the bridge above.

The scenery on the other side of the bridge is lovely too.

We then embarked our journey to Shikisai no Oka 四季彩の丘, panoramic flower gardens over the hills. Upon entering, we were welcomed by two characters made of grass rolls.

As we visited Farm Tomita on the day before (read our experience here), the area with flower bloom at Shikisai no Oka seemed to be smaller. Yet it was interesting that the photos turned out to be different at various locations around that same patch!

The supposed-to-be-the-most-spectacular rainbow flower field on the hill was still bare in mid-June!

Tokachi mountain range was just right in front of our eyes.

There was a lavender field. However, they were still at budding stage.

Other than walking, you can choose to take the tractor bus or drive the buggy at a fee. There is also a small alpaca farm that requires admission fee. By the way, the lavender on this small patch looked so beautiful!

After that, we continued our journey. The bus slowed down when it drove past Shinei-no-oka Observatory Park 新栄の丘展望台公園.

And then we headed back to Shikino Jouhoukan, and this marked the end of our first Biei View Bus tour. We had a quick lunch near Biei Station as we had to join the second tour to Patchwork Road after that!

Our Hokkaido Summer Itinerary
Day 1: New Chitose Airport, Sapporo Clock Tower, Odori Park, Hokkaido Government Office
Day 2: Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park, Susukino
Day 3: Hokkaido Shrine, Otaru
Day 4: Asahiyama Zoo
Day 5: Furano - Farm Tomita, Tomita Melon House
Day 6: Biei - Blue Pond, Shirahige Waterfall, Shikisai no Oka , Shinei-no-oka Observatory Park, Ken and Mary Tree, Seven Stars Tree, Parent and Child Trees, Hokusei-no-oka Observatory Park  
Day 7: similar to Day 2 haha!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Reading with Scholastic 1: The Mysterious World of Cosentino #3 The Lost Treasure, The Magic School Bus: Amazing Magnetism, Hero Dog

[Sponsored Review]

Our children love reading. Can you imagine that they can finish reading a few chapter books in one day? To share the joy of reading with you and your children, we are starting a series of book reviews. In each post, we will share with you the Scholastic books that our children are currently reading. 

The Mysterious World of Cosentino #3: The Lost Treasure

"Mum, look at this magic trick that Cosentino did!" my children eagerly showed me a page of The Mysterious World of Cosentino #3 The Lost Treasure. Now then I know how some of the magic tricks work!

Cosentino, the Grand Illusionist, is in danger! He’s trapped in a glass ball hanging over the ocean, where dangerous beasts lurk. He’ll have to undo shackles, a straightjacket, and padlocks to escape! The audience watching him from the pier is terrified, but not as much as when the evil two-headed King arrives on a mission to find his lost sunken treasure. Cos must stop the King from taking the treasure, but first he must avoid arrest AND escape from the glass ball... while underwater! But how long can he hold his breath? Can Cos pull off his greatest illusion ever?

Author: Cosentino
Age: 10 -12

The Magic School Bus: Amazing Magnetism

To encourage our children to enjoy the learning of science, we do hands-on experiments, visit Science Centre,  and read books like The Magic School Bus: Amazing Magnetism.

Currently, the children are learning about magnetism in school, so this book helps them to have a better understanding in the concepts.

Hi, I'm Carlos - one of the kids in Ms. Frizzle's class. I know Ms. Frizzle thinks of some weird ways to teach about science, but challenging Mr. O'Neatly's class to a science contest was her craziest idea to date. Mr. O'Neatly's class always wins everything!The contest topic was magnetism, and we hadn't even started our unit yet. The Friz said she thought we'd have a natural attraction to the topic, but nothing could have prepared us for what happened next. Wait til' you hear about this!

Author: John Speirs
Age: 10 -12

Hero Dog

Real-life super-sleuth and media sensation Hilde Lysiak's reporting skills are put to the test in this fun early chapter book mystery series! Our children are amazed that the author wrote this book at such a young age!

Nine-year-old crime reporter Hilde Lysiak is starring in her very own early chapter book series - inspired by news stories Hilde wrote in real life! In this first book, there's been a break-in on Orange Street! Cupcakes have been stolen, and soon a pie goes missing, too. Hilde and her sister/photographer, Izzy, must interview witnesses and follow the clues. Can Hilde crack the case in time to post her news story online? Joanne Lew-Vriethoff's personality-filled illustrations appear on every page, bringing Hilde's adventures to life for young readers!

Author: Hilde Lysiak and Matthew Lysiak
Age: 10 -12

Discount Code for Scholastic Books at Reader's House

All PeiPei.HaoHao readers can enjoy 20% off discount for Scholastic books on Reader's House website!
Discount code: PEIHAO20
How to use: At the cart checkout, type PEIHAO20 and then click Apply Coupon
Terms and Conditions: The discount code is applicable to only Scholastic books on Reader's House website, it is not applicable to the shipping fee.

Scholastic Asia

Disclaimer: We received the books for review purpose. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and photos are mine. 

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Monday, July 8, 2019

Hokkaido Travel: Furano: Farm Tomita, Tomita Melon House

When I told my friends that we would be visiting Hokkaido in mid-June to see flowers, their first reaction was usually "Huh? Ain't the flowers blooming only in July and August?" Yes, I know. But our children have school holidays only in June and December, I don't have such option of visiting Hokkaido in July and August for the time being. Even with the knowledge that the flowers have not fully bloomed in June, we have the positive mindset that half bloom is better than none! So we embarked on our journey to Furano, the central area in Hokkaido that is well-known for its lavender fields.

Initially, I thought of staying at a home stay in Furano or Biei area, but the cost for a family of 2 adults and 2 children would be at least S$200++! So we decided to stay at our usual budget accommodation Toyoko Inn at Asahikawa, at around S$100 per night.

We purchased Furano Biei Free Ticket when we arrived at Sapporo. Furano Biei Free Ticket consists of a one-way ticket from Sapporo to the free area between Takikawa, Asahikawa and Furano, unlimited use of JR in the free area, and a one-way ticket from the free area back to Sapporo. The ticket is valid for 4 days. The ticket is 6500 yen for adult and 3250 yen for child, and it is available in late April to October.

From Asahikawa, we took Japan Rail (JR) to Nakafurano to visit Farm Tomita and Tomita Melon House. If you are visiting the area in July and August, you can alight at Lavender Farm Station instead. The train journey was about 1 hour, and the scenery along the way was lovely.

Upon arriving Nakafurano, my initial plan was to take a taxi to Farm Tomita. However, there was no taxi in sight! I asked a local who walked past, he directed us to cross the bridge on the right of Nakafurano Station, and shared that the walk would take around 15 minutes.

The bridge was a sheltered one, but the ventilation inside was quite bad, we felt like we were inside the sauna! After walking a while, we saw Choei Lavender Farm 中富良野町営ラベンダー園, but the lavender there was still at budding stage.

The manhole cover on the road is lovely!

It was a nice walk as the weather was fine and there were not many people. After 23 minutes walk, we finally reached Farm Tomita! I was really thankful to the local who advised on how to walk from Nakafurano Station to Farm Tomita, this saved us around 800 yen for a single trip!

And then we saw some tour coaches, and many many tourists! I guess the place would be even more crowded in July and August! The admission and parking at Farm Tomita is free! No wonder this place attracts so many visitors!

Even with the budding flower fields, we were happy enough to take many many photos.

It seems that taking photo of soft serve and the flower field is a compulsory thing-to-do at Farm Tomita! The lavender soft serve was actually melting as I took some time to take photos with it! The taste of lavender soft serve was quite alright to me, but my children did not really like it.

Then it was melon bun's turn to be photographed! The melon filling was delicious!

In fact, we stayed at the Hanabito Field next to the entrance for quite some time!

Finally we decided that we should move on. We went to Greenhouse, the lavender was abundant there!

After that, we moved on to Sakiwai Field to see the budding lavender.

Autumn Field and Spring Field did not disappoint us! They were spectacular!

We were hungry after all the walking, so we headed over to Tomita Melon House next to Farm Tomita to get some food.

We ordered half of melon at 1200 yen (~S$15), yes it was not cheap, but it was very sweet and juicy!

Other than the fruit, there were many other desserts made from melon.

The sky turned dark after we had the melon, so we walked back to Nakafurano Station, and took JR to Furano, which is just 10 minutes train ride away. Note that the train comes around every 2 hours! Alternatively, you can take Lavender Bus which comes about every 1 hour. If you are exploring Furano by public transport like us, remember to check the train or bus timetable (see Useful Information for Furano Travel at the end of this post).

We had our late lunch at Kumagera くまげら, which is listed on Michelin Guide Hokkaido 2017. I was aiming for Wagyu beef don, which costs 1980 yen (~S$25).

The beef was quite raw though it had char-grilled taste. Some of the slices were tender, but almost half of them had tendons that diminish the enjoyment of eating. How I wished I could have a few more slices of beef!

We also ordered stir-fried pork set (1100 yen) and sweet corn (400 yen), they saved the day! The sweet corn was the sweetest corn that I had ever tasted!

If I have a chance to visit Furano again, I would like to try out grilled pork on flame at Masaya まさ屋, or omelette rice with curry at Yuigadoxon 唯我独尊, which is the interesting building in this photo.

After the late lunch, we visited Furano Marche to take a look at the local produce. I bought a bottle of Furano milk, it was fresh and yummy!

Interesting, we hardly saw people walking along the streets in Furano town area! And there were not many vehicles on the road. We really enjoyed walking along the quiet streets!

We took JR from Furano back to Asahikawa. Yes, the itinerary for the day was very simple as we just wanted to relax!

Our Hokkaido Summer Itinerary
Day 1: New Chitose Airport, Sapporo Clock Tower, Odori Park, Hokkaido Government Office
Day 2: Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park, Susukino
Day 3: Hokkaido Shrine, Otaru
Day 4: Asahiyama Zoo
Day 5: Furano - Farm Tomita, Tomita Melon House
Day 6: Biei - Blue Pond, Shirahige Waterfall, Shikisai no Oka , Shinei-no-oka Observatory Park, Ken and Mary Tree, Seven Stars Tree, Parent and Child Trees, Hokusei-no-oka Observatory Park 
Day 7: similar to Day 2 haha!

Our Hokkaido Travelogue June 2019

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