By Lily Riani on August 15, 2019

 

I’ve been on a few cruises before this but all those did not prepare me for my first time onboard Costa neoRomantica by Costa Cruises, a nine-day cruise that dropped anchor at four beautiful port cities: Kobe, Kochi and Miyakojima in Japan; and Keelung in Taiwan. To experience Costa neoRomantica, I explored various urban destinations, ranging from metropolitan Tokyo to resort city Miyakojima and gold city Keelung. My exciting journey did not start during the cruise but extends before and after taking it. For this trip, I began my journey in Tokyo and concluded it in Yokohama.

Oi Terminal, Tokyo

Located around half an hour away from Oi Terminal is the Tsukiji Outer Market, a seafood lovers’ haven. It is strange how the human mind works the same regardless of ethnicity, status or interest when it comes to food: our curiosity and fascination over the market took the best of us as we explored it, thus reduced our walking speed. I finally understood why some say that an hour or two at this place is simply not enough.

  • Tsukiji Outer Market

Its lively and energetic atmosphere is highly contagious – I jump in excitement every time I see a dish that is interesting and refreshing, vegetables packaged cleverly and desserts presented beautifully. The torched scallops, fresh sea urchins, sashimi, barbecued tiger prawns and strawberry desserts wrapped inside a mochi ball are the must-trys here.

  • Tsukiji Honganji Temple
Tsukiji Honganji Temple

Tsukiji Honganji Temple

Located right next to Tsukiji Outer Market is the Tsukiji Honganji Temple, built in Asakusa in 1657 and later relocated to Tsukiji after it was leveled by the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923. It is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple known for its architectural design that takes cue from several South Asian temples.

#TravelTips

  • Savour street food at Tsukiji Outer Market – torched scallops, sashimi, tiger prawn BBQ and strawberry desserts are definite musts.
  • Allocate a minimum of three hours to explore both Tsukiji Outer Market and Tsukiji Honganji Temple, otherwise you might feel like you missed them in entirety.
  • Purchase the famous hand-made knife at Tsukiji Outer Market as a souvenir.

Information

  • Tsukiji Honganji Temple operating hours are from 6:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Temple admission is free.
  • The Tsukiji Market, also known as the ‘inner market’ famous for its tuna auctions, was closed on October 2018 and has since moved to a new site in Toyosu, reopened as Toyosu Market.
  • Tsukiji’s Outer Market is still open and remains in business.

Tsukiji Outer Market : http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/english/

Tsukiji Honganji Temple : https://tsukijihongwanji.jp/

Port of Kobe, Kobe

‘God’s Door’ or ‘Kanbe’ is Kobe’s original name. A spectacular spread of land from Mount Rokko towering above Kobe and Osaka Bay, offering yesteryear views of ijinkan homes, colourful skyline and serene seascape sceneries. It comes as no surprise how Kobe got its name, blessed with both mountain and sea, and the city a beautiful God’s lawn in between.

  • Weathercock House

Kobe holds an amazing treasure that not known by many: a seaside colonial town or ijinkan situated in the area of Kitano-cho. The majestic Weathercock House dates as far back as 1909 and was once owned by German trader G. Thomas. It is made popular by the weathercock ornament on the roof and its distinctive architectural style, with brown brick walls embellished with Art nouveau décor. It is now designated as an Important Cultural Property in Japan.

  • Kobe Port Tower

Glittering night scenes, 360° city panorama, a landscape view from Mount Rokko to Kobe Bay – you can experience all this from Kobe Port Tower Observation Deck. Reserve some time to visit the Kobe Maritime Museum, located at the Kobe Port Tower, and drink a cup of hot coffee at the tower’s revolving café – it will be the perfect way to end a wonderful day in Kobe.

#TravelTips

  • Wear good walking shoes and prepare for an uphill climb to Weathercock House at Kitano-cho area.
  • Walk from Mosaic Mall to Kobe Port Tower, the area looks beautiful from sunset onwards.
  • There is an Ultraman Shop in the Mosaic Mall, if you are looking for a ‘Japanese souvenir’ for kids.

Information

  • Weathercock House operating hours are from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Admission fee is ¥500.
  • Kobe Port Tower operating hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and the admission fee is ¥700.
  • Take the City Loop Bus to visit Kobe’s main attractions.

Weathercock House : https://www.kobeijinkan.com/en/ijinkan_list/kazamidori

Kobe Tower : http://www.kobe-port-tower.com/

City Loop Bus : https://kobecityloop.jp/

Port of Kochi, Kochi

Bestowed with vast unspoilt greenery, mountain views, sparkling rivers, castles and museums, Kochi is the perfect city for avid nature lovers to experience incredible historical landscape. Famed for its Kochi Castle and local delicacy Katsuo Tataki, I explored the said hilltop samurai castle and sampled the broiled bonito or skipjack tuna.

  • Kochi Castle
Kochi’s hilltop samurai castle

Kochi’s hilltop samurai castle

It is amazing how Kochi Castle managed to survive the fires, wars and other catastrophes of the post-feudal age. Constructed between 1601 and 1611, Kochi Castle used to be the seat of the Yamauchi lords, but now serves as a museum displaying palanquins, samurai warrior models and historical facts. The Kochi Castle grounds is also a popular location for hanami or cherry blossom viewing.

  •  Katsuo Tataki

I was told this is a must-try Kochi delicacy: a straw fire-broiled bonito that is also known as skipjack tuna, garnished with ginger, garlic and onions. It is lightly broiled so that the bonito’s outer layer is grilled a little. What I find entertaining and cool is that you can watch the cooking process, from straw fire-broiling to bonito-slicing and garnishing at Obiyamachi Shopping Arcade.

#TravelTips

  • Kochi Castle is a five- to 10-minute walk to Obiyamachi Shopping Arcade.
  • Drop by Obiyamachi Shopping Arcade if you wish to sample the delicious Katsuo Tataki.
  • Allocate three hours or more if you are planning to cover both Kochi Castle and Obiyamachi Shopping Arcade.

Information

  • Kochi Castle operating hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission fee is ¥420.
  • Obiyamachi Shopping Arcade is the perfect place to sample local delicacies and souvenir shopping.
  • Yosakoi Gururin Bus circles the downtown area at ¥100 per journey. And the MY Yu Bus card is at ¥1,000 for one day, allowing you to hop on and hop off. However, it is available only on weekends and national holidays.

Kochi Castle : http://visitkochijapan.com/things_to_do/history/kochi_castle.html

Hirara Port, Miyako

Miyako is the fourth largest island in the Okinawa Prefecture. It is largely covered by sugar cane fields, small towns and beaches. Its main attraction is the salt factory, watersports and sea turtle-spotting. This quaint little island is perfect for those who wish to escape city noise and light pollution, ideal for honeymooners and watersports junkies.

  • Miyakojima Marine Park

Miyakojima Marine Park is an underwater observation facility built around the sea. With its 24 acrylic windows and four-metre depth, you will get to see tropical fishes, sea snakes and coral reefs. You can also request for a guide to explain and enlighten you about the fishes and their ecology.

  • Yukisio Salt Factory

Yukisio’s snow salt is admired and renowned for being ‘silky smooth that is moist rather than dry, soft rather than grainy, and powdered to perfection’. Yukisio salt also contains the highest number of minerals (18 to be exact) and helps in lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Yukisio also produces a number of delicious snacks made from snow salt that truly melts in your mouth, leaving you craving for more.

#TravelTips

  • Rent a car as it is a small island with limited public transportation available.
  • Plan your day well since the attractions are easily accessible but relatively far from each other.
  • Best time to visit is during summer with plenty of water activities for you to indulge.

Information

  • Miyakojima Marine Park operating hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission fee is ¥1,000.
  • Miyako Airport is accessible via Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, which takes three hours flight time. From Osaka’s Kansai Airport, it takes two hours flight to get to Miyako Airport, and 45 minutes from Naha Airport on Okinawa Main Island.
  • Miyako is a small island that spans 25 kilometres from south to north and 15 kilometres from east to west.

Miyakojima Marine Park : http://miyakojima-kaichukoen.com/

Yukisio Salt Factory : https://www.yukisio.com/

Port of Keelung, Taipei

Located in northern Taiwan and just 30 kilometres away from Taipei City, Keelung is the centre of Taiwan fishing industry. It is also the seventh largest container harbour in the world. Conveniently accessible via bus and train, you can head to the nearby popular attractions such as Jiufen, Shifen and Yehliu Geopark. For heritage and architecture enthusiasts, Jiufen is not to be missed as it is rich in history.

  • Jiufen

Jiufen was born from the gold rush during Japanese occupation in 1893, resulting in many Japanese architectural buildings. However, the mining activities declined when World War II ended. Jiufen became a popular tourist destination as they are able to preserve and conserve the Chinese-Japanese architecture until today.

The must-try street food options here include taro snacks, brown sugar ginger tea, mushroom BBQ and bubble tea. Souvenir shops are abundant too, ranging from postcards to fridge magnets, stationary sets to bags, and more. I can spend hours here without getting bored.

#TravelTips

  • Jiufen is a street food haven, so be sure to try the taro desserts and brown sugar ginger tea.
  • Allocate one full day to cover Jiufen, include Shengping Theatre and Gold Museum in your must-cover places.
  • Plan your trip well because it takes approximately an hour’s bus ride from Taipei City to Jiufen.

Information

  • Jiufen is filled with cafés, tea houses, and souvenir shops.
  • If language is a problem, book a Walking Tour as you will be well guided along the crowded old street and house crossing lanes.

Cruise holidays can be a lot of fun both onboard and at their ports of call, whereby each port city gives a different experience whenever the cruise ship stops, different from the typically popular and ‘expected’ overland city experiences. You get to venture into new coastal cities that are rarely frequented by travellers, introducing them to new friends and family, perhaps creating a new traveling trend and experience.

To find out more about Costa Asia and Costa neoRomantica, check out www.costaasia.com for fleet in Asia and www.costaasia.com/fleets/neoRomantica for Costa neoRomantica.

Gaya Travel Magazine extends its heartfelt gratitude to Costa Cruises for making the writer’s cruise experience on Costa neoRomantica possible.

 

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