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.
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.
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.
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.
Tsukiji Outer Market : http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/english/
Tsukiji Honganji Temple : https://tsukijihongwanji.jp/
‘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.
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.
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.
Weathercock House : https://www.kobeijinkan.com/en/ijinkan_list/kazamidori
Kobe Tower : http://www.kobe-port-tower.com/
City Loop Bus : https://kobecityloop.jp/
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.
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.
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.
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 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’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.
Miyakojima Marine Park : http://miyakojima-kaichukoen.com/
Yukisio Salt Factory : https://www.yukisio.com/
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 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.
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.
Gaya Travel Magazine extends its heartfelt gratitude to Costa Cruises for making the writer’s cruise experience on Costa neoRomantica possible.