Aruba – Where to stay?

Aruba is a rather small island, comparable to the German island Fehmarn. And yet, Aruba can be roughly divided into three regions where hotels and activities are concentrated or you can find a beautiful landscape with almost no hotels at all. All three holiday regions have their own advantages and disadvantages.


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Where should you stay?

If you are planning your dream vacation in Aruba, you should first consider whether you would rather spend your vacation in a quieter or livelier area. Also the question of whether it should be a hotel, a holiday apartment in a large hotel or holiday apartment complex, a smaller condo or maybe even a holiday home must be considered before choosing where you will stay.

Ingeneral, the individual regions are also assigned to different beaches and some of them are very different. Some are rather quiet, others offer not only a great beach but also a lively nightlife. In addition to a short introduction of the individual holiday regions, I will also introduce you to some hotels on Aruba.

Palm Beach and High Rise Area - beach at day, party and shopping at night

The region around Palm Beach is commonly known as the “High Rise Area”. Many of the first-class and high-priced hotels on Aruba rise high into the sky and promise the greatest of luxury. In the High Rise Area are many different restaurants, from fast food to the most exquisite restaurants. Along the more than 700m long main street you will find a variety of entertainment: In the evening you can go shopping in Palm Beach Plaza or enjoy the Waltzing Water Show. Or you can enjoy a game of roulette in the Copacabana Casino.

Walzing Water Show

Probably the most luxurious hotels in Aruba includind the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino* or the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino* are located here. Not directly at the beach, but therefore a bit cheaper, is the Brickell Bay Beach Club Boutique Hotel & Spa* (adults only). The Playa Linda Beach Resort* is also very beautiful with its ingenious pool landscape.

Playa Linda Beach Resort

Eagle Beach and Low Rise Area - the quieter beach region

Eagle Beach and the Low Rise Area, which is actually located south of Eagle Beach, are way quieter than the High Rise Area. Also, the hotels not build as high.

The Eagle Beach, Manchebo Beach and Divi Beach are more than 2 kilometres long. You can walk from one end to the other in pure white sand.Hotels are mostly on the other side of the beach road and not as big as in High Rise.

We were so happy with “our” beach at the end of Eagle Beach where it becomes Manchebo Beach, that we did not visit Palm Beach except for dinner. In Low Rise, you also find a small mall, the Alhambra Casino and some good restaurants, although there are less than in High Rise. On the other hand it is much quieter here in the evening and not so crowded at the beach. We came to Aruba in June and even when there was a cruise ship in Oranjestad, the beach was still quite empty.

Palapas are free of charge, you pay only for sun loungers
There are some hotels near Alhambra

There is a WiFi spot at the upper end of Eagle Beach. So you can share your adventures on Aruba with your loved ones live. But near Manchebo Beach, there was not any WiFi. Perfect for a social media detox!

We have lived in a beautiful holiday apartment in the Sunset Residence for our holidays on Aruba near Eagle Beach. Two bedrooms, an open kitchen, balcony and a beautiful pool area. It was maybe a 5-7 minuters walk to the beach. We paid only about 3200€ for 15 nights four adults in June (no catering as we decided to buy our own breakfast and eat out every day).  The apartment complex was very clean, green and quiet. Restaurants, the Alhambra Mall, medical care and bus stops were all within 10 minutes at most. The Superfood supermarket was 20-25 minutes walk away (or you go by taxi which would cost around 11$).

Our apartment in Sunset Residence Aruba
Pool of Sunset Residence
Iguana living in Sunset Reisdence

Sixt Car Rental

The Bucuti & Tara Boutique Beach Resort* is located directly on the beach and for adults only. You can also find cheaper studios in the Divi Studios*. The entire Divi complex is located at Divi Beach. However, a shuttle will take you from the Alhambra through the complex and directly to the beach, past the All Inclusive – Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort*. At the northern end and almost in the High Rise Area there is the the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort*, a great, large resort directly at the beach.

Hotels at Manchebo Beach Aruba
Sunset at Manchebo Beach near Bucuti & Tara Boutique Beach* Resort

Oranjestad and Renaissance Island

Even though Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba, it’s not exactly what you would expect of a capital. Except when there’s a cruise ship in the harbour. The Royal Plaza Mall, jewelerys and souvenir shops and also some clothing stores are basically all there is to see here.

Additionally, there are some restaurants and bars. Then there is also the Renaissance Mall that contains designer shops as Burberry and Louis Vuitton. But then, you reach Aruba’s beaches from Oranjestad very well by bus or taxi.

Oranjestad

Oranjestad is home to the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino*, which also includes the famous private “Renaissance Island”. By the way, there are several flamingos living on the island, which you can watch and feed. The island is also said to have the most beautiful snorkelling spot of all Aruba. But since the entrance fee for non-guests is 99$, we did not visit the island.

You can live in Oranjestad for a really cheap price, compared to the beach areas. Relatively close to the city and really cheap are for example the Aruba Paseo Apartments.

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino in Oranjestad, Aruba

While you’re in town, you must definitely take one of the Downtown Trolleys. The open double-decker trams are free of charge and will take you  through the city centre to the harbour. The trams are available in blue, red and orange.

South of Oranjestad - small beaches

Most hotels are located between Oranjestad and Palm Beach. The south is  quieter than the northern beach areas. But there are less beaches which are usually also smaller than the ones in the north.

At the most beautiful beach in the south, the Baby Beach, there are no hotels (apparently it is planned to build one nearby by the end of 2022). But there is an accommodation at Mangel Halto, a small beach between the mangroves, where you can snorkel very well. If you are looking for peace and quiet and want to enjoy your holiday away from all the tourists, then the Anaté Beach Apartments* might be just what you are looking for.

Have you already been to Aruba? Which region would you recommend? Which one would be your favourite, if you haven’t been there yet? Tell me in a comment! Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter so that you will always get the latest blogposts.

New Year in Japan

Today I want to tell you about my New Year in Japan. 2006, I went to Japan to study. Since you don’t even go home over the holidays, I also spent Christmas and New Year in Japan. My tandem partner invited me to go to the country with her family over New Year’s Eve. So we drove to Gifu by train.

At the train station

As at the end of the year the half of Tokyo’s population felt the family on the land, the trains were also full accordingly. Already at the station there were crowds, as I had never seen before. But unlike I know it from Germany there were no crowds and Geschupse at the platforms. No, you put yourself in the back and wait. and wait. and wait. The trains go differently depending on where you want to go.

and similar to ours, there are faster and slower trains that cost different things and can be used or not. If you have not reserved like us, then you stand until there is space in a train. That took us about two hours. If the train is full, you wait for the next one. From Germany I know only that you still get squeezed in.

New Year’s Eve in Japan

So after we arrived at the 31.12.2016 in Gifu, I was totally happy on New Year’s Eve. Finally see how it is celebrated in Japan. The parents of the girlfriend live in an old house in the countryside, which was still mostly quite classic, with wood and sliding doors. In the pictures you can see how the houses in the village looked from the outside. With the kimono photos you can see your house a little from the inside.

In this place my friend’s family lives

After the greeting I was allowed to look at the family heirloom, an old samurai. Look, do not touch, this was supposedly already many hundred years old (but looked like just recently made). Unfortunately I did not do this on any photo.

At about 5pm The father said goodbye, he’s going to sleep now. Yes, he always stands at 3 o’clock (he has his own company and has to go there early), so he always goes to bed early. Uh, on New Year’s? Yes, even on New Year’s Eve. But tomorrow we have a lot to do! Ok. What to say SA yet… At 8pm at one time the mother disappeared and at 10pm my girlfriend was asleep too! So I decided to sleep on the turn of the year too, and at 11pm the light was also made out.  So much then to the Japanese New Year’s traditions…

New Year in Japan

On the day of the year we drove to various temples and shrines. Somehow I can hardly remember, I was still so tired and so overwhelmed by the many impressions, that I could not remember the names where we were actually. Stop somewhere in Gifu.

 

As you can see, the weather was not so great. It has unfortunately rained often and much.  But anyway, it was very nice. All over the cranes were hung with paper-folded cranes.

And also otherwise everything was nicely decorated and set on visitors. There were also food stalls with dishes for us like Oktopusbällchen. or French dogs. If you try Google, you will find a lot of cute dog pictures in the image search. But don’t worry, no dogs were grilled!! I mean to remember that it was rather hot dogs, so buns with sausages. Correct me if I am mistaken…

Kimono, small car, no matter, everything expensive!

The next day we went to the family. My girlfriend and I should wear kimonos. She had her still from school graduation, I got one from her mother. 30 years old and hand painted. My girlfriend was also hand painted and at that time it cost around €15,000. Yes, the zeros are correct! In words “fifteen thousand”. I thought others would spend less on cars… I’m not supposed to worry, it’s all good, nothing can happen. And if I put in a spot, it only costs about 10,000 yen to remove it again (at that time that was around €70 at the current exchange rate). You can probably think how I felt, with the kimono of a strange woman to go to strange people and drink coffee and eat cakes… But luckily everything went well!

The dressing is a real art, by the way. You draw an almost transparent shirt over your own underwear (therefore no photo!), there is a kind of undershirt that is already tightly laced (forgive if I do not now all the names of all garments Google) before the actual kimono is tightened. And this is then tied with a very artfully knotted belt. Only the shoes were a little too small for me.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”14″ gal_title=”Kimono”]

Well, so much for my change of year in Japan. I hope you had some fun reading! And if you missed my previous posts, then look here: click

If you want, then tell me about your Japan experiences too! Maybe you’ve even spent New Year’s Eve in Japan or with Japanese friends? What did you do?

Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo Asakusa

In my last post I showed you Asakusa in Tokyo, and I showed you the temples, but also some interesting streets. But what I didn’t tell you was that the famous “Sanja Matsuri” was taking place! A matsuri is a type of festival….

Festival goers dressed in summery clothing, yukata, Asakusa, Tokyo, Sanja Matsuri
Festival goers dressed in summery clothing (yukata)

Your trust in me is very important this article contains recommended links (affiliate-Links). If you book a hotel or buy a product via one of these links, I get a small commission. You aren’t charged extra, and at the same time you support this blog. Thank you! Tanja


The historic Sanja Matsuri (三社祭)

The Sanja Matsuri (literal meaning: Three-Temple-Festival) in Asakusa takes place every third weekend in May. During the Matsuri, respects are paid to the three founders of the Sensō-ji. If you want to read more about the founding of this temple, then you should first read the blog about Asakusa. The is also one of the three largest festivals in Tokyo. About 2 million festival goers take part from Friday to Sunday.

It was unbelievably full, but to realize that it could be so many people was really hard to believe. Maybe it eas hard to realize because it ran so smoothly and we never had the feeling of being mashed in a crowd.

Mikoshi, sanjs matsui, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
Mikoshi
Mikoshi, sanjs matsui, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan



Booking.com

The festival goes back into the seventh century. In that time, it was also known as „Kannon Matsuri“ or „Asakusa Matsuri“. The current style of the Sanja Matsuris is still happening per tradition since the Edo Period. The construction of the Asakusa temple began in 1649 and as such laid the foundatin for the festival. Today almost 100 Mikoshi (miniature portable temples) are carried by the union of the local residents through the streets, being lifted and dropped in a rhythmic fashion. In the temples little Shinto-God figures, which are supposed to bring the residents and attendants good luck and good business. The Asakusa temple is the largest of the three Mikohi. These are displayed on Sunday.

The Sanja Matsuri Today

The festival begins on Friday with the Big Parade (Daigyōretsu, 大行列). Priests, city officials, musicians, geishas and dancers all participate, wearing costumes from the Edo-period. The parade ends at the Sensō-ji and Asakusa temple with a Shinto ceremony. After the ceremony a traditional dance is done, that is supposed to bring a bountiful harvest.  In the evening the first six Mikoshi are carried through the street.One such shrine weighs several hundred kilograms and is always carried by many men and sometimes women. Each group of the carriers wears the festival costume, called a Happi. But there are also differences within the groups, so newcomers to the group are wearing distinct jackets compared to the seasoned participants.

People carry a mikoshi, sanja matsuri, asakusa, tokyo, japan
Carrying a Mikoshi is hard work
People carry a mikoshi, sanja matsuri, asakusa, tokyo, japan
A Mikoshi on the streets of Asakusas

On Saturday the nearly 100 Mikoshi from the 44 neighborhoods in the area are carried through the districts. The carriers bring to the Sensō-ji and Asakusa-Temple, where they are blessed, before they are then carried back into their places of residence. That is where they are supposed to harbor their luck and good fortunes.

As mentioned the three most important Mikoshi are carried through the cities on Sunday. Sunday activities begin at 6 am. Hundreds of celebrating participants, joined as neighborhood groups, compete to have the honor of carrying one of the three important Mikoshi. Visitors are not allowed to visit the temple during these festivals during this time. The three main temples are carried through the streets starting at about 8 am and through all 44 neighborhoods, before returning to Sensō-ji.


Qatar AirwaysAround the Sanja Matsuri

During the Sanja Festival relatives also take an important place. As you saw in the blog about Asakusa, you can buy a lot to eat at the Nakamise Dori. In addition there are more stands around the temple grounds. We ate a good breakfast, but I still wanted to try a portion of Takoyaki at all costs! The squid balls tasted really good, but other things weren’t as delicious by comparison. Some of the drink stands try to sell really odd drinks to the customers, like „Blood conserver“ (Tenteki Juice) or colorful drinks in lightbulbs.

Colorful juice in lightbulbs
Takoyaki
Takoyaki
Takoyaki – octopus balls

 While meandering around we saw a small stage, where musicians were seated and playing music using traditional instruments. Geishas also made appearances, but we somehow missed this. It would have cost money to see them anyway.

Musicians of the Sanja Matsuri

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In one of the shopping strips there was a Mikoshi that I could look at closely. They are really extremely detailed and decorated with wonerdful embellishments. Often there are pictures, like of cranes on them.

Details on a Mikoshi
Details on a Mikoshi

Even when the three days had nearly 2 million visitors, i somehow never felt like it was uncomfortable or full. The Düsseldorf carneval at  is definitely far worse in this respect! If you ever have the chance, you should definitely view these three Matsuri! In 2019 it takes place again on 17-19th of May.

Do you know the Sanja Matsuri, or were you already at a Matsuri festival in Japan? Leave me a note about it. And if you liked this post, don’t forget to share it!

My ultimate Must-Sees list of Asakua, Tokyo

Asakusa (jap. 浅草, pronounced Asak’sa, flat grass) lies just east of the center of the Taitō region. This area is known above all for being home to the oldest buddhist temple in Tokyo, Sensō-ji (浅草寺).

In the neighboring Asakusa-shrine (jap. 浅草神社, Asakusa-jinja) the three men who are credited with building of the Sensō-ji are remembered.

Map of Asakusa
Over the Rooftops of Asakusa

Your trust in me is very important! This article contains recommended links (Affiliate-Links). If you book a hotel or buy a product via one of these links, I get a small commission. You arent charged extra, and at the same time you support this blog. Thank you! Tanja


History of Asakusas

Legend has it, that in the year 628, 2 fishermen brother fished out a small statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon in the Sumida river.  After they repeatedly threw it back into the river, but continued to re-catch it in their net, the village head realized the statue must be holy. As a result, a temple was made for the statue, the Sensō-ji, where the statue is still revered to this day. Over the years the temple was repeatedly destroyed, and re-built. It served as the main temple for various sects, but is today the house of its own display.

In 1649 Tokugawa Iemitsu created the Asakusa Shrine, to honor the three men who built the Sensō-ji. Today the shrine is the stage for many Matsuris, and the Sanja-Matsuri is one of the three largest in Tokyo.

Up until the second world war the Asakusa region was known as a cultural center, with lots of Kabuki- and Rakugo theaters. After the Meiji-Restoration, though, more and more western theaters appeared here and also later cinemas. After the end of WW2 other regions like Shinjuku have since taken over the claim to be eastern cultural centers.

The temple layout of Asakusa

Maybe it has occurred to those who looked at the japanese writing more closely that the symbols for Sensō-ji and Asakusa appear very similar. This is not coincidence, because senso is an alternative reading of the symbol for Asakusa. „Ji“ means temple.

In front of the temple is a 250m long street, that is surrounded by many little shops, called Nakamise Shopping Street (仲見世商店街). The little shops contain souvenirs, food, instruments, porcelain, chopsticks and much more. When you stop at the Asakusa station, you automatically enter this tourist spot. Just follow the masses of people toward the Kaminarimon (雷門). The tourist street is just behind this.

Kaminarimon, Thunder Gate, Asakusa, Japan
Kaminarimon, the Thunder Gate
Nakamise Shopping Street, Asakusa, Japan
Nakamise Shopping Street
Nakamise Shopping Street, Asakusa, Japan
Nakamise Shopping Street

The actual temple territory starts at Hōzōmon (宝蔵門). West of the (from the right) of the gate is the 53m tall Five Storey Pagoda (五重塔), Hondo (main hall, 本堂) of the Sensō-ji. The Hōzōmon is somewhat smaller than the thunder gate, but still just as impressive. East of this is the actual Asakusa-Temple. We skipped this on our tour so there aren’t any special pictures of it here.

Hōzōmon, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
Hōzōmon
Five Storey Pagode, Asakusa, Japan, Tokyo
Five Storey Pagoda
Hondo (Main hall) of the Sensō-ji, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
View of the Hondo (Main hall) of the Sensō-ji


The temple als has a small park area, where many smaller buddhist temples and statues can be found. Of course there are also many small ponds and lakes, where you can see colorful koi carps – so don’t miss the park while you’re there!

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Creek in the Park of Sensō-ji, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
Creek in the Park of Sensō-ji in Asakusa

Hours of operation:
Main hall: 6:00-17:00 (April-Sept.) and 6:30 -17.00 (Okt.-März)
Temple: Always open

Entrance:
Free

What else is in Asakusa?

I’m not a fan of rushing from one tourist attraction to the next. Usually you find nice things around the corner of each attraction. Asakusa offers more than just the temple grounds; many little streets are inviting to explore. If you are hungry, you can find many restaurants.

In the Hanayashiki (花やしき) recreatinal park you can ride a carousel or rollercoaster. The Hanayashiki amusement park is the oldest amusement park in Japan. Entrance is 1000 yen, but each attraction needs to be paid separately for (additional 100 yen) – however you can get a Free Ride Pass and then you don’t have to pay for the carousel.  Since I’m not a particular fan of amusement parks, my boyfriend either – we didn’t visit this one. We instead looked at many Manga and Anime shops.

Many small and covered shopping streets welcome you to relax and spend your money. Here are many shops and restaurants again. Well regardless of anything, you’ll never go hungry in Japan.

Getting to Askusa

Using Tokyo Metro: Stop Asakusa Station (Route: Ginza oder Asakusa Tram) Careful: The Tokyo 24 ticket does not include the Asakusa stop!
With Skytree Line: Stop Asakusa
With Tsukuba Express: Stop Asakusa Station (not the same as Metro Station)

Metro Map of Tokyo, on the top right there is Asakusa

Hotel-Tips Asakusa

Up to 50€: Hostels with a common sleeping area
Bunka Hostel Tokyo
K’s House Tokyo – Backpackers Hostel

Up to 150€
Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International
Wired Hotel

Above 150€
B:CONTE Asakusa
The Gate Hotel Asakusa Kaminarimon by Hulic
Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu



Booking.com

Have you ever been to Asakusa or other places in Tokyo? What are your must sees in Asakusa? Please leave a comment and don’t forget to share this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest or Flipboard.


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How do you live in…? Melanie from Iver

Welcome to my new series “How do you live in…?”. So many of us would like to live abroad and get an insight into everyday life in other countries. There’s not much to see on holiday of the daily live. The idea for this series came to me when I read on Spiegel.de a report about German idiosyncrasies and how this affects non-Germans living with us. I was wondering what of the things that are so natural to us might be different anywhere else.

That’s why I’ve been looking for volunteers in various Facebook groups to tell us about their everyday lives. We get an insight into different countries, professions and customs. Melanie from Iver in Great Britain is the the first who wrote me about her life. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do!

Melanie from Iver

My name is Melanie and I live in Iver, Buckinghamshire, England. Iver is a small village located 17 miles/30km to the east of London. It is a green, leafy sleepy village perfect for those looking for a quiet life.

I work in London and also study part time via distance learning. I work with adults with learning disabilities and I am training to become an educational psychologist- that is a psychologist who works to diagnose those with learning disabilities. I am studying for my MSc in Psychology, and then I will complete my PhD to be fully qualified.

Getting to London takes a long time from the village. Luckily, the bus which takes me to the tube (subway) station stops right outside my house so I don’t have far to go. Sadly it only runs every half an hour so I have to be sure I am ready on time or else I will be late! It takes around twenty minutes to get to the tube station, then another hour to get to my place of work- which also means another bus! I currently live with family as this is the only way I could afford to study toward my dream, so the commute is a necessary one.

I have lived in many different towns and cities in England including London and Manchester. I have also lived in the USA- In Wisconsin whilst I was studying for my first degree. It was interesting to note that a lot of people thought the US and the UK are similar- but I would have to disagree! The UK is a very unique place to live- a blend of many customs and cultures from our rich history.

 

Daily Life

A typical week for me is a mixture of work, home life and blogging. I work Monday to Friday and blog three times a week. On the weekends I see my boyfriend, who lives in London, and spend time with family. We usually go out for a meal together. On occasion I also see friends but not that often as they live far from the village. In the UK it is customary to meet friends at their home, but sometimes we will meet in a public place such as a coffee shop or restaurant. I always try to arrive early, but my friends are usually late!

I have always wanted to visit Germany and am hoping to visit Berlin later in the year for a few days. Germany fascinates me with its rich history. In particular I am intrigued by its history of engineering- the best cars are German! I imagine German people to be very organised and methodical because of this, but fun too! I am excited to meet some when I visit to see if this is true or not.

Contrary to popular belief, the most common dish in the UK is Curry- not fish and chips. There is no curry house in the village so if I want a curry I have to go to another local village. My step mum is friends with the owner so we are guaranteed amazing food every time! That being said I am a fan of fish and chips.

As I mentioned, I live with my family. That is my dad, step mum and our dog- Duke. He is an English bulldog and very silly. There are lots of different types of family in the UK- Single parents, those with many siblings and those who live with extended family such as grandparents and aunts/uncles. I would say there is no longer a typical family such as two adults and two children in the UK. It is common for grown up children to live at home due to escalating house prices. The south east of England is the most expensive place in the country to live.

What else is there in Iver?

The most famous place here is Pinewood Studios. This is where they film Harry Potter and James Bond- even parts of The Avengers! Many people from the village work at the studio. There are many beautiful places to visit here. We live next door to three big parks- Black Park, Langley Park and Richings Park. All are incredibly beautiful and worth a visit. There is also a charming English Pub called The Red Lion which has a Michelin starred chef. The perfect place to relax after a long country walk. Its one of the only places in the village to offer Free WI-FI, everywhere else you are reliant on your own data. The internet is pretty fast here even though we are a small village, which is just as well given I am a blogger!

I blog over at christiancareergirl.com. It’s a lifestyle blog aimed at single Christian women covering everything from fashion to beauty to bible study. Faith is an important part of my life and I love being able to share it with the world via my blog. I only started it two months ago but its growing quickly- I would love for you to come and check it out!