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
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
On our last day in Chiang Mai, we took things at a leisurely pace. We tried the Free Bird Cafe, which raises money for Burmese refugees, and visited the Warorot Market. We also took a red taxi ride to Nimmanhaemin Road for dinner. We found an Italian restaurant, which was great for a change of culinary style. Why Not?
After a few days here by ourselves, we met up with family and friends to make a party of 6. Thanks to our dear Thai friends we had two and a bit days of fascinating sightseeing and eating.
Prior to meeting up we headed to the train station to get tickets. We’d had advice that we could buy them in advance – which was true for the first leg of our journey, to Phitsanulok. All the other tickets we will need to buy on the day… Oh, and if you’re buying a ticket, you will need a passport for everyone who is travelling. No passport, no ticket issued.
M is becoming an expert at hailing long taxis – we did fit four of us into a tuktuk, but it was a squeeze. He has discovered the best trick is to know which Wat is near where you want to go – the driver may not recognise the street or the hotel, but he will likely know the Wat. A map sometimes helps too.
Our first night all together our friends took us to an amazing temple, unlike anything I’d ever seen before – Wat Muen San. There are a number of temples on the site but the one we looked at most closely was covered in detailed and sometime intricate silver metal work. We then headed to the Sunday walking street and tasted plenty of excellent street food. My favourite new taste sensation was mieng kham (betel leaf wrapped snack).
Getting from Bago to Nyaung Shwe (the main town for accessing Inle Lake, unless you want to pay big $$$ for a resort on the lake itself) was relatively easy. Taxi to Yangon $US35, flight to HeHo airport, taxi to Nyauang Shwe (25,000 kyat) plus US$10 for an Inle Zone entrance fee. We arrived at Zawgi Inn, settled in, then went for a look around town. We happened upon Ginki bar and restaurant, and had a good night drinking some local beer, enjoying dinner and listening to the live entertainment. ( We had asked the waiter what kind of music would be played – his response ‘ Foreign’. Which it was.) There was also the cutest pup hanging about…
In Bago we stayed at the Kanbawza Hinthar Hotel. More about that (and the wonders of Bago) a bit later. On our last night we were told that because there weren’t many guests that we could select our breakfast as a full buffet would not be available. From the list offered I chose an omelette which was part of the American breakfast set. Our waiter was a little disconcerted that I only wanted part of the set and checked ‘JUST the omlette? No toast?’ When I said yes, he muttered ‘strange’ – which I thought was hilarious. From a country that eats noodle soup for breakfast (Mohinga, which is a great dish), likely he would think my usual breakfast of yoghurt and fruit downright weird. The full American set was omelette, toast, jam, butter, sautéed potatoes, chicken sausage and sliced tomato. The following morning I received (as expected) the full set – which made for a good photo. I have to say though that the omelette had my requested ingredients. And was very tasty.
When does a holiday really start? We’re still in the country but no longer have ‘a home’ – so I’m counting this is as day one. The household goods and chattels were relocated into storage today – now with some extra dents and scratches – and so the rental accom has been vacated (now with some extra dents and scratches). The car has also been relocated, at great expense to our sense of well-being, as well as our hip pocket(s). More about that later when we can look back and laugh.
So we’re now in Canberra’s Hipsterville central (ie Braddon) having totally restored our humour, after a long and annoying day, with dinner at Zaab. You should definitely try it (especially the duck curry).