Cuenca Places

Cuenca is a lovely town to walk around. One of our guides told us there are 52 churches – one for every week of the year. They wanted to build one for each of the saints and then realised it would be impossible – so they build one called Todos Santos (All Saints) to make sure everyone not already honoured was covered. This is one of my favourite churches that we’ve been to – for $1 you can take a tour up to the tower for great views of the city.

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Todos Santos
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Views from Todos Santos Bell Tower

There are also many, many museums, only a few of which we’ve visited. Some I’d recommend. The Municipal Museum of Modern Art is a fantastic old building, with changing exhibitions and some Ecuadorian sculpture. On the day we were there, we met very friendly staff who will happily converse with you even if your Spanish is terrible.

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Pumapago is one of the largest, but sadly when we visited most of it was closed for renovations. However, the architectural ‘ruins’ out the back is a great place to walk around, and there’s information on plants. There is also a park next door with a small menagerie of birds.

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The Museum of Aboriginal Cultures has an incredible number of pieces, with some information available in English. Nothing about the skull with the gold studs though.

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I think my favourite was the Remigio Crespo Toral House Museum.  There was an exhibition of historical clothing (reimagined by the textile students of Azuy University), as well as some information about the famous poet who lived there, and other important Cuencans. For example, politician and all round renaissance man Honorato Vasquez, who we thought bore an uncanny resemblance to Bill Bailey. On the bottom floor there is a cafe with a great deck looking out to historic buildings and the river.

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Top hat box
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Honorato Vasquez (Surely Bill Bailey must be related)
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Dining room
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View from the Museo cafe deck

 

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).

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!

Chiang Mai touring – warm up

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.

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A long taxi – tell the driver your destination and negotiate a fare. Most of the time it has been 20 to 30 THB per ride (around $1 or so)

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).

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In the Inle Zone

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…

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Yandana Man Aung Paya in the afternoon light
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Early in the night at Ginki
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Trust me, I’m too cute to have rabies

People are strange, when you’re a stranger

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.

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The full American set – not strange at all
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Seen earlier while sightseeing – the gorgeous feet of the Shwe Tha Lyaung Buddha in Bago