Nagoya by bike

Nagoya is not only a good location for day trips to surrounding areas, but a cool town that has a lot to offer. We were able to hire bikes from a drugstore near Nagoya station (just ask at the wonderful info desk inside the railway terminal for details – around $6 for a day’s hire, no bond) which was a great way to see more of the city. By bike we checked out Nagoya Castle, Central Park, Tsurumai Koen Park, the amazing covered shopping streets of Osu, the park behind the Science Museum (Shirakawa) and then back to near Nagoya station to return the bikes and find somewhere for dinner.

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Food trucks at Nagoya Castle
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Sakura at Nagoya Castle
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Yes, Nagoya Castle. Burnt to the ground (almost) in an air raid in 1945, lovingly rebuilt
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Tsurama Park – picnic time
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Window shopping by bike in Osu
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Back of the Science Museum/ Shirakawa Park
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Drugstore to look for for bike rental
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Cycle friendly Nagoya

Tokyo time

Some pics from Sunday’s Shinjuku shoppping – it was wet but we still had a fab day.

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.

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New fav opshop – I got some 300 yen ($3.50AU) bargains!
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Street art in Shimokitazawa
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Bside design – very cool sticker shop
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staircase
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Ushitora Beer Bar
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We think a Queenslander owns this pub
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Amazing lamb chops for dinner at Es Restaurant, Shimokitazawa

So much to see in Tokyo

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.

 

Pinch me, I’m inTokyo

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.

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Choose your food before you buy your ticket at Fujisoba
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The Sword Museum was a wonderful insight into the importance of these artworks for Japanese culture
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A taste of cherry blossom madness at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
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The greenhouse at the park is well worth a visit
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Cherry blossom with bird
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Strike a cherry blossom pose
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Everything blooming and when

 

 

 

Singapore over easy

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).

Singapore under glass

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.

 

 

 

Big city Bangkok

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.

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View from Lebua Skybar

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!

Sweating in Ayutthaya

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.

 

 

To Ayutthaya

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.

 

 

Won’t you take me to/ Monkey Town (Lopburi)

So we did get a little closer to the monkeys by walking certain streets of the old town, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to enter Pha Prang Sam Yot – where the monkeys know they can jump all over you. In our Lopburi experience, the monkeys were mainly centred around the aforementioned temple, and the railway crossing nearby – and surrounding streets. Not running rampant everywhere.

But Lopburi has so much more to offer than monkey encounters, with a number of really wonderful temple sites (ancient and current). And we did a Noom Guesthouse tour which included Ang Sub Lak (the local lake) and the out of town ‘Peacock Temple’ (Wat Weyru Wan) – so wonderful to see some surrounding countryside. The biggest surprise was the really fabulous museum, housed in the old palace. The info panels were informative, in English as well as Thai. Downstairs housed a most impressive collection of ancient jewellery/jewelry. And the information about surrounding historical sites makes us want to return to see more around Lopburi.