We arrived at Great Bear Lodge and after getting an initial briefing from owner Marg we checked out our rooms and the lodge interior. And in no time at all we were getting ready for our first outing. Pre-outing we had a bear safety briefing. No venturing off alone, stay on the floating lodge unless accompanied by a guide. No sudden moves, no loud noises. We were in not-quite-salmon-feeding season, so trips involve getting into tinnies and cruising the estuaries of Smith Inlet. This was both terrifying and exciting if you are an adventure wimp like me. There were only 10 guests during our stay, so it was two little boats heading out.
Bear spotting trips happen rain or shine, so it’s good to to have the right outfit. GBL has some serious gear for visitors – warm, camouflage onesie, oilskin pants and jacket, sou’wester (hat). Wear it all, if it’s raining you won’t feel a thing. So for the first trip out, after an early dinner, it was raining. We layered up, but decided not to take camera gear, not knowing what it might be like. Predictably, this was the only outing that we saw bear cubs. A magical experience and a great start to our bear lodge experience.
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.
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.
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.
Storm cloud at Buddha Footprint temple/ Wat Phra Phutthabat
Shrine at the end of 450 steps to the Buddha at the Peacock temple/ Wat Weyru Wan
View from the ‘Peacock Temple’
Sign at Ang Sub Lek
Use this entrance to make sure you see the whole museum