Last year (one month ago), I traveled to Osaka alone, a first solo trip in celebration of my 40th birthday. Yes, in the 40 years of my existence, I have ever traveled alone without a friend or family. I am independent but yet very dependent on friends for such things. Before this trip, I cannot understand why would anyone like to travel by themselves. No one to take photo with. No one to share a meal with. No one to give comment when trying out a shirt or tee. No one to talk to.
BUT... To my greatest surprise, many of my friends around me, have not done solo trips before too! I'm not alone on this. In fact, quite a few make friends were "envious" of me because my wife allows me to travel overseas alone. Talking of trust of wives on their husbands (a topic best left undisturbed). So for a while after I'm back, this overseas solo trip was a talking point among my friends whenever they meet me.
Honestly, the trip was not purely my idea. I thought of it before but never will I plan for it. But my dear wife decided that I should step out of my comfort zone and do something memorable for the 'big 40'. Hence, she chose the place for me (Osaka), she chose the period for me to travel (Autumn), she booked the flight for me, and recommended Airbnb for my accommodation. So she was the mastermind behind the entire episode. Not complaining but truly an amazing woman I have married.
So off I went for my solo trip (at times I felt like a 傻佬 (in Cantonese) trip). The feeling was exactly like a 傻佬, when I was seated alone at the boarding gate in Changi Airport, so lonely when everyone else has a friend or family to talk to, laugh together. At that moment, I thought the next 6 days will be a total miserable time. Boarded the plane, sat with a stranger (thankfully a quiet passenger). Took a connecting flight to Manila before reaching Osaka after 8 hours.
The weather was perfect at 13 Degree Celsius. Took the train and checked in to the apartment I booked via Airbnb. Part of this solo trip's objective was to stay in a place like a backpacker's inn. The place I booked was a small apartment unit with a living room, tiny kitchen and a bedroom with 6 double-decker beds. Which means I am sharing with 11 other occupants/strangers. Totally cool! I shared the space with a German student having a one year break in Japan, a Mexican guy working and learning Jap as a restaurant staff, a French lady who is super fluent in her Jap, a group of Australians on holiday, a pair of Hong Kong couple who has been staying for more than 2 years in this apartment, another group of Singaporeans who happened to be teachers in Singapore and having a 2 week holiday in Japan. Interesting right?
If you are traveling to Osaka, look out for this Osaka Amazing Pass. As of now, the pass is valid for use until 30 Apr 2015. Do read through the e-guidebook or just download in PDF for print. Basically you can choose either the 1-day pass (2300yen) or 2-days pass (3000yen). With the pass, you can visit 28 facilities for free, enjoy some discounts at certain eating areas and also travel on the Subway for free.
For iPhone users, you can download this app which helped me planned the entire 6 days’ traveling within Osaka and also to Nara. I believe it is also available on Android phones. Searching and fussing through the rather complicated Subway lines was actually quite fun for a lone traveler. Part and parcel of solo trip adventure.
My personal take for a solo trip, you do not need to have a detail itinerary. I also advise to just spend 5-6 days in Osaka, don’t rush and try to cover Kyoto & Kobe which will take at least one day each and it’s probably not enough too. Might as well just have a relaxed trip and have a fun time walking all around Osaka to have a feel of the city.
Having said that, you still need to know what is your preference. Are you a shopping person? Or are you more keen to observe the nature? This will at least help you to source out certain places to visit during Autumn. For me, one of my main aim was to see the Autumn leaves. So I planned a trip to Minoo Park (just about 25mins train ride from central Osaka) and also a trip to the iconic Osaka Castle. Both places will have the best Autumn leaves on display, Minoo gives the nature background whereas Osaka Castle presents the more city view.
A typical view along Minoo Park, walking towards the waterfall.
And this is the view from Osaka Castle.
Nara (an hour’s ride away from Osaka) is also a good option for the nature lovers. The wild deers are definitely a draw for many tourists.
Shopping is equally fantastic in Osaka. Since it was Autumn, the clothing tends to be a bit geared towards winter, which is not that suitable for a Singaporean tourist like me. But still I managed to get a few sweaters, jeans and bag for myself.
Dotonbori is the most obvious choice for shopping and food. In fact I went back there almost every night, just to take my time to walk through the long streets of shops and slowly savor some of the amazing Japanese food (eg. Udon, Teppanyaki, Yakitori, etc.)
Linking to Dotonbori is another must visit street for shopping-fans. Shinsaibashii street.
Amerikanura Street aka American Village is where you will find the more western fashion, and it’s just a few streets away Shinsaibashii.
For a true blue Singaporean, no vacation is complete without tasting the local food. And Jap food is one of my personal favorite! Just to show a few pics here.
So what can you expect in Osaka? I will introduce the different places and food I have tried in my next few posts.
Solo trip is a fun thing to do. And I would advise everyone to have a chance to do so when the time is right. For me, I would do it again if, and only if, Kless really cannot go together with me. In the 6 days I was in Osaka, I did felt lonely at times, especially during meal times and when I was trying out the clothing. Maybe I was too reliant on having my wife with me always to give me advise and comments. I feel that traveling with Kless is no different to traveling alone. Having married for 13 years now, we are so bonded in a way, the things we enjoy, the things we can accept, the type of vacation we like, the pace of traveling, are all the same. So solo or with Kless is no different.
If I have to choose another venue for solo trip, I would choose … ???
Thanks for reading, come back for more! If you want my planned itinerary, just leave me a comment. I am more than willing to share with you.
All my photos are taken with Canon 5D Mark III, courtesy of Canon Singapore to loan me the camera for this trip.