After observing Tokyo from above, we headed to Gotokuji. The area is known for its eponymous cat temple, which I’ve wanted to go to ever since seeing Sans Soleil. The temple was great, as was the main street of Gotokuji, which you had to walk down to get to said temple. If we’d been there earlier in the day I would have tried a beverage from Iron Coffee. There was also a sweet potato shop ( which smelt great), a wonderful shoe shop and lots of locals riding bikes and going about their lives. We had tasty spicy Chinese noodles for lunch in a strange little home restaurant on our way to the temple, which also sported the fetching beer flag above (although it seemed no beer was on offer. Maybe it’s iced tea?)
The temple grounds include a Buddhist cemetery, which has a number of old headstones. A wonderful location to visit.
On the way home we walked to the Meiji Shrine, one of the more famous religious sites in Tokyo. Maybe it was because it was towards the end of a long (and chilly) day, and we only had time for a short visit, but this place didn’t do a lot for me, although I’m glad I had the experience. It was very busy tourist wise, and the main shrine and a side entrance were tastefully scaffolded (which we had been warned about) as it’s being renovated. I bet the park would be great for a visit on a warm spring day.
Tuesday in Tokyo – the weather forecast was favourable, so we thought we’d take the opportunity afforded by clear skies and head to the Observation Decks in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings. We were early so went for a coffee (after realising that all the food places in the vicinity are tucked underground) and then joined the short queue for the north observation deck. We could see Mt Fuji!
We had plenty of time so thought we’d check out the South viewing deck to compare. On the southside, when the weather is clear you can probably get a better Mt Fuji/mountain range view – but by the time we got there the horizon had become hazy. There is also a very cool gift shop southside which has specialties from each of the Japanese prefectures. Also, once you get back down to the ground floor there is a stationery/book shop next to the Southside lift which has some cool souvenir gifts and some Japan related English language books.
Some pics from Sunday’s Shinjuku shoppping – it was wet but we still had a fab day.
too wet to stop and take a proper pic
Odakyu – my new favourite department store
To complete the day, beers at the Baird Beer Tap Room in Harajuku
Our last couple of days temperature-wise have been cold and wet. On Monday we spent the morning in catching up on some planning (aka staying warm and dry), and in the afternoon headed out to Shimokitazawa. It was six degrees and raining when we left – it didn’t warm up much after that, but at least the rain stopped. And the trains have good heating, as do the shops – and the toilet seats (love it!). This area is great for interesting vintage and new clothes/design shops. There was even a decent craft beer bar.
A week in Tokyo is going so fast! Over the last couple of days we’ve checked out Ueno Park and surrounds, Shinjuku shopping, and a few of the local craft brew bars.
Ueno Park was in full cherry blossom frenzy, even though there was not much blossom actually out yet. People were picnicking and taking photos and having a good time regardless. A wonderful atmosphere. We detoured to Benten Hall, and on the way there was a kind of flea market and various street food stalls which was interesting viewing. We also stopped in at the Toshogu Shrine and Daibatsu before picking up some street food lunch – on the way to the fabulous Tokyo Museum. So much to see at the park and Museum, but we gave it a good try and enjoyed everything we saw. On the way home, we tried out the Irish Pub ‘World End’ and it’s sister venue, Towa. Towa has Japanese craft beer and soba noodles. I liked both places. World End was a trip back in time – punk music playing and the venue smoky and dark. Towa was much more sophisticated – with the added Tokyo element of trains rumbling over head every 5 minutes or so. We finished off the evening with a walk around some of the Ueno sidestreets. Venturing into some pachinko and slot machine venues was an experience – the volume was incredibly loud with music and machine noise, and the venues were busy, with young/old/male/female playing.
The Cherry Bloss PR icon for Ueno Park
Picnics under the buds
Daibutsu – where students pray for exam success
Love those okonomiyaki pancakes
Amazing hairpin from the fabulous Tokyo Museum collection. Go there.
I am so excited that after many many years of wanting, I am finally here in Japan. We arrived at Narita Airport and easily caught the Shinjuku Limousine bus into Tokyo (an hour and a bit), then a taxi to our apartment. A quick exploration of the neighbourhood and dinner out at a local ohitzuen diner set us up well for our next day. We decided to take it relatively easy – so started with a late breakfast at a noodle joint (tix paid via machine), then checked out the Japanese Sword Museum. In the afternoon we ventured to Shinjuku Gyoen Park for a walk for our first experience of cherry blossom frenzy, finishing off the day with a craft beer or two at Watering Hole and then Japanese Italian at Buona Vita (established 2016) for dinner. A pretty good day 1.
A few of my favourite Singaporean things: yum cha at Tak Po (newly discovered); wandering around Chinatown; a visit to the Peranakan Museum; checking out some craft brews at Clarke Quay Brewerkz (where that afternoon torrential downpour doesn’t matter); dinner at The Blue Ginger Restaurant (Peranakan menu, good food and great service).
Tak Po in Chinatown – excellent yum cha start to the day
Love calling in to Singapore – this time we did some repeat visits to show family some favourite places, and we also tried some new things. If you had a really, really fabulously paying job it would be so easy to live here. One of our taxi drivers pointed out that Singapore is now number 1 for cost of living! Everything is ‘plus plus’ (add all those extra taxes before you convert into your own currency!) But the food is amazing and there is also such a diversity of things to do. We’ve been to Gardens by the Bay before but this time we had a longer walk in the gardens and included both domes, and made a return visit at night for the supertrees light show. Cloud Forest, and its sister, Flower Dome are worth every ‘plus plus’ cent. And the light show is free.
We had a fun-filled couple of days in Bangkok, staying in the Centrepoint Silom hotel in an apartment. Total luxury to have more room than just a hotel room, and a great pool and good location. During our visit we checked out the view from Lebua at State Tower, visited the Chatachuk markets, caught up with friends, and visited a new (for us) area of Bangkok at the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall and restaurants in a nearby street, Dinso Road. Which will definitely be worth further exploration.
If you’re going to the Skybar for sunset, just be aware that the lovely lift ladies now usher you to a side balcony unless you are very clear that you want to go to the actual bar. The view is still spectacular though, if you’re not too particular. Drinks prices uniformly overpriced – but what a location, location, location!
Food court behind Centrepoint Silom/Robinsons – great food and minimal price
It took discussion with hotel staff, 2 taxi rides, a short family argument and advice from a tuktuk driver and the military to get here, so maybe not so well known as yet – but a wonderful 2 hour tour about the history of Thailand/Bangkok, with some hilarious interactive moments. And some amazing temples nearby yet to be explored.
Performance mask at the Exhibition Hall
Non-verbal communication of Khon dancers at the Exhibition Hall
Excellent desserts at a bar on Dinso Road near the Hall
One last pad thai for breakfast before leaving Thailand
Our chosen hotel happened to be across the road from Phra Ram Park. Usually a peaceful place, according to the blogosphere, on our arrival it was alive with a large event crew setting up for a big event. Our BnB proprietor told us that a huge muay thai championship was being held on the Friday (we arrived Wednesday night), and was quite relieved when we said we would be checking out by 10.30 am on Friday – as he needed our room for the Mayor, who would be officiating at the ceremony.
As we were within walking distance of a number of historic sites (some of which M and I are lucky enough to have seen about six years ago) we headed off on Thursday morning to check out some places. After lunch we rested in the air conditioning – then did a late afternoon boat tour, ending with dinner at the fabulous night market. We enjoyed our two nights in Ayutthaya, but I have to say for ancient temples, Sukhothai and Si Satchanali were my preferred locations. And on Friday when we left for Bangkok (taxi door to door – 1400 baht) it pelted with rain about 30 minutes into the journey. I hope the mayor didn’t get wet.
And so we had to say goodbye to our home away from home, Noom Guesthouse, and take up our second class train tix (good seats, no aircon – but fans) to travel to Ayutthaya. We arrived late afternoon so our first temple viewing was great timing for some sunset shots.