Tag Archives: food

Tokyo, 2016: Miraikan

On our last day in Tokyo, it was our daughter’s choice of what to do. She decided on the robot museum, also known as Miraikan- the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Although definitely not my husband’s or my first choice of what to do in Tokyo, it actually ended up being one of the best days we had in the city.

It’s true that half the fun of Miraikan was getting there. After surviving the rush hour train and getting pushed on by a man in white gloves (why is everyone so polite and friendly, except when you are getting pushed onto the rush hour train?), we took the futuristic elevated driverless train to Odaiba- Tokyo Bay.

We passed tall office buildings, went over Rainbow Bridge, past a strange clock with feet and a replica Statue of Liberty, to a world of artificial islands where nobody seemed to live. Some buildings were square arches, some were round balls, but they were all glassily glinting in the sunlight.

The Miraikan museum itself was very interesting. My favourite thing was the enormous globe that hung from the ceiling. Visible from all levels, it changed colour as images were projected onto it.

As promised, they had many different kinds of robots, from small pet robots, to Asimo the walking talking robot who also used sign language and an android who I actually thought was a real person the first three times we walked by it.

At the end of the Asimo demonstration, they asked the kids what kind of robot do they want to live with? and encouraged them to find museum staff and tell them. What a great way to harness the imagination of children and get them involved.

There was also a large hands-on kids activity area where they could create, play and learn. Even here, the kids were all so quiet and well behaved. How are the kids so quiet in Japan?

They had interesting displays depicting what happens to infrastructure when a volcano erupts, a great demonstration showing how the Internet works using coloured balls and a short 3D planetarium movie about the universe.

There was a dance lighting area and my daughter’s favourite of course- a stamping activity- also incorporating a digital game this time. We ended up staying the whole day and were thoroughly entertained the whole time.

That night, we tested the theory of the best food being near the train stations and went near the local metro for karajuku gyoza and ramen. The ramen water was boiled in chip fryers and a thin crust attached the gyoza’s.

They were definitely the best of either item that we had ever eaten. An older lady, perhaps a regular, seemed to agree as she came in, ordered quickly and happily slurped her noodles in appreciation.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and Yanaka, Tokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and Shibuya, Tokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku, Japan, 2016

Tokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and Yanaka

When night came, we headed to Shinjuku where all the neon lights are. Outside of one of the many Sanrio Hello Kitty shops that they have in Japan, I found the biggest Hello Kitty statue I have ever seen.

We also found the infamous Robot Restaurant and climbed a stepladder for a photo with one of the robots. The area was lively and we stopped in a restaurant that served whale bacon and made soft serve ice cream instantly. We declined the former, but my daughter enjoyed the whole process of the later.

Most of the locals were playing a betting game where they betted on rolled dice for free beer. I think my husband wished he knew how to play.

The next day we woke later, exhausted from all the walking and almost overloaded with sight seeing.

We went to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, part of which is set to close in early 2017. There were enormous slabs of tuna everywhere prepared in any fashion you desired. My husband had raw fish and sea urchin for breakfast, followed by eel skewers for a snack. I couldn’t quite stomach it and had omelette instead.

I liked the huge mushrooms of many shapes, the paper-thin sheets of Nori seaweed and the lollies that were made to look like a tray of sushi. One question we never had answered was where is the inner market and how do you get there?

Next we went to Yanaka old city. It was small and hard to imagine that this was once the centre of Tokyo. The main street had tiny shops. My daughter enjoyed reading the Japanese manga fairy tale books and we liked looking at the houses, both small and grand.

We went back to Shinjuku in search of one of the Alice in Wonderland restaurants. Finding one of these themed places was a little bit of an obsession for me. After a lot of searching, I thought, why is an Alice restaurant so hard to find? But I suppose that’s the whole point.

Eventually we found it, down the rabbit hole elevator in the basement of a non-descript building. It was closed.

Instead, we went to Omide Yoko Cho memory lane for a tasty traditional lunch with Japanese beer and went shopping in one of the many Uniqlo’s- the Japanese brand that has now taken the world by storm.

Back in our neighbourhood, my daughter played in the block courtyard park before we went to dinner at one of my husband’s friends places. The local lady of the house served Daiwa Sushi (make your own) and the thinnest and tastiest slices of Kobe beef that we had ever eaten.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and Shibuya, Tokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku, Japan, 2016

Japan, 2016

I thought Japan would be more different, more like the other and difficult to converse in- a challenge.

However, it seems that Japanese culture is somewhat familiar and the locals are used to tourists, perhaps because so many Australians now go to Japan to ski. Even in the smaller places, everyone spoke enough English for us to get by.

Despite the lack of anticipated culture shock, it was still a wonderful trip with lots to see, do and experience. The people were polite, friendly and helpful and the place was incredibly safe. The thought of getting pick pocketed never crossed my mind.

Tokyo was a crazy mish-mash of so many different things in so many different areas that I could not say that I have a clear picture of the city. There were lots of people too of course.

The ‘smaller town’ of Kanazawa felt more traditional and there were some beautiful places and moments to be experienced there. From here, our day trip to Takeyama took us through lovely countryside.

Kyoto was full of temples and the top sights, but was also the place where we felt the most at home, perhaps due to our friendly daily coffee shop lady and the local supermarket close by. We also went to an onsen in nearby Nantan where there were no other tourists.

Osaka seemed like the most liveable city with a great atmosphere and our day trip to Nara from here was a surprising highlight.

Finally, the other world of Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea, transported us to the happiest place on earth and did it so well that we almost forgot we were in Japan.

Then of course, there is the culinary journey that is Japan. Rather than trying specific restaurants, we sampled the cuisine known in each area, as everywhere had good food. I discovered that it is true that the best food we found was near the train stations and I did get a bit rice and noodled out.

Through it all, many questions came to mind that made me want to read and learn more about Japanese culture. The mixture of tradition and modernity, Asian and Western, was intriguing. Even though Japan may not be the other, I think we still only scratched the surface and there is much more exploring needed to unlock the secrets of this interesting country.

Next time: we start the journey in Tokyo.

10 things to do in Sydney

Here are my favourite places to go in Sydney- a top ten list, if you will. Some of them may seem cliché, but there is a reason that certain places are deemed tourism worthy.

My number one place in Sydney is Taronga Zoo. I love animals and will go to any zoo at any given opportunity. Taronga Zoo is special because you can take a ferry to get there and it has the best views of the city from its grounds. You can even take a gondola from the ferry terminal to the zoo entrance and back again. I also like Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour for an animal fix. It has great shark tank viewing tunnels and they have beluga whales too!

The Botanic Gardens is the place to go for its iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I am lucky because I used to work close enough to the gardens to go for lunch time walks there. I always enjoyed seeing the tourists stopping to take pictures along the way as it reminds me what a lovely city I live in. In summer they have open air theatre shows for kids and they always seem to be setting up for a festival or opera on the harbour side.

The Opera House is the best place to catch a show- pretty much just because you are in the Opera House. My favourite bar, Opera Bar, is also here. It’s often crowded and hard to get a drink, but you can’t beat being under the Opera House looking at the Harbour Bridge while you sip your pre- show cocktail. For a more old skool pub, I also like The London in Balmain. Rustic and sturdy, they have a large selection of beer on tap and decent food. Plus, how can you not love a pub that welcomes dogs?!

One of my favourite restaurants is at The Deck at Luna Park. It has great Spanish style seafood share platters and is not too expensive. It’s also located in my favourite suburb- Kirribilli. I was fortunate enough to live here for a while and there is no place quite like it in Sydney. Lavender Bay is beautiful, the Harbour Bridge is above you and the city is just across the water. You also can’t beat walking to work over the Harbour Bridge.

The European clothing brands have finally landed in Australia! So my new favourite place to shop is the brand new H & M‘s that keep popping up all over Sydney. I must admit that I am a little addicted.

But the best way to see Sydney is to be on the harbour in a boat– preferable at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race. The harbour is what makes Sydney special, and it is beautiful, so if you ever come here make sure you get out on the water.

Related posts: Sydney vs Melbourne, Cocktail Hour is Sydneytown, Kid at Heart, Degustation Delights

Sigiriya and Dambulla, 2015

Sigiriya Rock was the next item on the agenda for our trip. My husband, daughter and I decided to give climbing the actual rock a miss in the midday heat and took a walk around the gardens instead.

The grounds were surrounded by a moat and contained many ramparts and water gardens with lily pads and lotus flowers. The view of Sigiriya Rock from the gardens was great and we bumped into the friendly Singaporean couple from Kandy again.

Dambulla Rock Temple turned out to be one of my favourite sites of the trip. The golden temple and golden Buddha at the foot of the mountain were large and shiny and there were lots of monkey families to keep us company on the walk up to the rock temple.

Dambulla is actually 5 caves built into the rock of a mountain with over 150 statues of Buddha. Overwhelming to say the least. The temple was whitewashed and quite striking on the outside. There was also a large sacred fig tree on the grounds with coloured flags twined in the branches.

The first cave was completely filled with a reclining Buddha and there was barely room to get in and see the statue. The second cave housed the great king and many sitting Buddha’s. There were even paintings of Buddha on the roof.

The third and fourth caves had stupas and Buddha’s in various poses. The last cave was one of the smallest and most dilapidated, but also the one I like the most- there was just something about the atmosphere in there.

After the walk back down, we stopped for lunch at the luxurious Thilanka, Dambulla on the recommendation of an uncle. The resort was isolated with a beautiful long pool and tennis courts. The food was tasty and it would have been nice to stay a few days in this little oasis, but alas, it was back on the road for us.

Related posts: Kandy, 2015Upcountry, 2015Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Upcountry, 2015

While staying with my aunt Pauline and uncle Bernard at Ebony Springs, we explored the surrounding areas upcountry. One day, my parents, husband, daughter and I were taken to Mas Villa overlooking Kotamale Dam.

The old colonial dwelling once housed the prime minister and was now a luxury hotel. We went for lunch on the verandah, to nose around the indoor courtyard with koi filled fish ponds and for a swim in the pool. The house was almost as beautiful as the view from the garden and the signature desert.

On another day, we drove past tea pluckers to visit the factory at Norwood tea estate. My uncle Bernard had been managing this particular tea estate last time I had stayed in Sri Lanka.

The factory was obviously much bigger than Ebony Springs and it had many rooms of large machinery with no smoking and no betel chewing allowed. There were rollers, mixers, fermenting beds, drying areas, grading and packing rooms. Followed by a professional tea tasting of the finished product with aprons and spitting.

On the way back from the factory we saw Adam’s Peak, the Virgin Hills which was the site of a well-known plane crash and a colourful festival at a Hindu temple.

The next day, we decided to go into the closest town- Nawalapitiya- for some shopping. My daughter was delighted that we were taking a tuk tuk on this journey and one that she could pose in, being away from the busy city.

Nawalapitiya is a functional hill town for the locals. Most tourists would not stop here, except to catch a bus or a train to somewhere else. And I guess that’s what I liked about it- a little bit off the beaten path, and authentic.

Most shops held clothing or bags of produce- coconuts, betel leaves, chillies and rice. We stopped at a bakery for some dine in short eats that were very tasty.

And so ended our retreat at Ebony Springs. Good food, beautiful scenery, top notch tea and great company, as always.

Related posts: Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

New Caledonia, 2014

In the approaching winter of 2014, my husband’s family including assorted partners and children, flew to Noumea for a week. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel where our balcony overlooked the pool, Anse Vata beach and Canary Island.

The weather was not the beach weather we had hoped for, being rain with sunny periods. Definitely not swimming weather. Although that didn’t stop me trying, resulting in a very short lived dip in the cold pool, before it started raining again.

We made the most of it anyway and the holiday became all about eating instead. And what a great place for this to occur- in French food heaven. There were the decadent coffee shops, the fantastic French bakeries with sticks of bread and fancy cakes; and our favourite, the French supermarkets with Cote D Or, French wine and yummy carbonara chips. All delicious.

My husband and I also managed to escape for a date night in a French restaurant called Astrolabe in the next bay for a lovely traditional three course dinner. And I had the best Carbonara pasta with raw egg that I have ever had in an Italian restaurant in the hotel complex.

On our first day, we caught the bus to the city market. The bus trip was entertainment enough for our one a half-year-old daughter, but she was very excited by the local musicians playing when we got there too and danced up a storm.

The market overlooked the boats of Port Moselle and had lots of fruit and vegetables for the locals, plus colourful souvenirs for the tourists.

The following day, we caught the bus all the way into town to Coconut Trees square, which funnily enough had lots of coconut trees; and a gazebo. I found a Mango shop amongst all the expensive French clothing shops and we found some French children’s books for our daughter. We also saw the old coach house, Moselle Bay and many colourful murals.

We took a walk along Promenade Roger Laroque to Lemon beach- the beach next to ours. The promenade also had a train running along it that my daughter enjoyed along with the statue of Marilyn Monroe outside the Rock café once we go to the beach.

One day, we dragged the whole family to the Aquarium of the Lagoons to see the coral, fish and related sea creatures. My daughter liked the hands on kid’s section and I liked the porthole windows that you could see luminescent jellyfish through.

On our last day, we took a walk up the hill to Rte Due Ouen Toro for a view over the island and all the beaches we had visited. On the way back we found a large park with lots of swings and dolphin bins. It was heaven for the kids and I’m sure they wished we had found it earlier.

Related posts: Fiji 2008, It’s a South Pacific Thing

It’s not how good the music is, it’s who you’re dancing with

I heard this saying the other day and it made me think.

The dance floor could be the coolest one in the country with the hippest people and the best beats. But if you are there by yourself, with people you don’t really know and don’t really like, then its really not that much fun.

The funkiest cocktail bar with the best drinks can end up being a dive in the basement if you go with the wrong people and the music is too loud. The best restaurant in the trendiest suburb can be lack lustre if you go with people who aren’t that fussed with fine food.

Of late I have been catching up with a few friends from various parts of my life and it made me remember that these people are in my life for a reason. No matter what we are going through in our lives, even if it means we can’t catch up as often as we would like, when we do see each other life seems better when shared with these people.

There are the old work friends who I’ve kept in touch with because it’s not just about the job we did together, but I actually really like them as people as well. Their lives are diverse and interesting and they offer different perspectives on life.

There’s the wives of my husbands friends who have been around for over a decade or more and are now my friends in their own right. They make restaurants more fun and Saturday nights a family bonding experience for everyone.

And there are the special friends from near and far who and know my history and me better than I do myself. It is for these friends that I am truly grateful as they have the ability to pull me out of a dark place for a reality check and make me smile no matter how bad life can seem at the time.

Friends remind you that you are not alone, you are not crazy and it’s actually the rest of the planet that has gone mad.

So whether your daily soundtrack is Portishead or Ministry of Sound, it’s the people you are listening with that can make all the difference in the world.

Related posts: Real Friends vs Digital Friends, Friendship: Great Expectations?, People vs Place, By special request 

Singapore, 2013: Part 3

On the way back home from Europe, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore for a couple of nights mainly to see friends, and to shop of course.

We went shopping on Orchard Rd and saw the colourful statues on the steps of ION Orchard. The usual suspects were visited- H&M, Uniqlo, New Look, Marks and Spencers, Mango and Zara. And as usual, our bags required much repacking to fit in the purchases. I’m not sure it would be very healthy for my bank balance to live in Singapore.

After our day of shopping, we caught up with Cynthia and Tony plus my husband’s friend Drew for dinner at Din Tai Fung. The matching kids cutlery was very cute and the food was good as always. Cynthia and Tony had left their daughter at home with their helper Rosie so they came back to our hotel on Orchard Rd for an after dinner drink before it was bedtime for my little one.

The next day we went to visit Cynthia and Tony and meet up with their daughter. Our daughters seemed to like playing together and were more curious about each other this time. It was nice to see them everyone here again six months after my solo trip here with my daughter.

We went to the local roti house for lunch, which was ridiculously cheap and packed with school kids. The little ones had to sit next to each other of course and it was amusing to watch them copying each other.

After lunch, we went back to Cynthia and Tony’s place for a nap and a swim in the lovely pool in their apartment complex courtyard. The little ones enjoyed splashing around with a novelty turtle pool toy and it was a great place to rest while we waited for our evening flight back to Sydney.

As always, the visit was not long enough, and there was barely time for a quick after swim shower before heading to the airport. Until next time…

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 2, Singapore, 2013: Part 1, Javea, 2013, Barcelona, 2013, Versailles, 2013, Paris, 2013, Belgium, 2013: The Place, Belgium, 2013: The People, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, Fiji, 2013

Holidays are…

Preparing and researching

Booking and planning

Packing

Excitement

Waiting impatiently

Airports and QANTAS club

Arriving in your new temporary home

Unpacking

New places and new things to see

First experiences

Navigating a new city

Temples and churches

Old towns

Landmarks and lookout points

Road trips

Landscapes

Having fun

Swimming

Walking

Enjoying the sunshine

Not letting the rain stop you

Watching shows

New food to try

Markets

Bars and restaurants

Having the time to enjoy a meal

Not cooking or washing up

Meeting new people

Sitting and people watching

Quality time with the little one

Catching up with friends

Cocktail hour

Uninterrupted conversations

Laughing

Pampering

Having the time to shop

New clothes from your new favorite shop

Souvenirs to take home

Photos and memories to keep

Not worrying

Thinking

Having the time to notice rainbows

Watching old movies

Card games

Finishing a book

Sitting and doing nothing

Napping

Drifting

Not wanting it to end

Booking the next holiday.

Related posts: Happy Holidays, Random Public Holiday Ramblings,  Kid at Heart