Tag Archives: Kids

Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016

From the Omi-cho Market, we walked to the Higashi-chaya geisha district. On the way we passed many interesting buildings and more temples. Why are there so many shrines and temples in one place? Perhaps so there is always somewhere to pay respects.

As we crossed the river, we were mesmerised by the sight of lots of eagles hovering, swirling and occasionally diving into the clear water for fish.

The geisha district had lots of pretty alleyways with wooden slat houses and a view to the mountains behind. My favourite were the red coloured structures and one famous street in particular which had the perfect angle for a classic photo. The only question was, where were all the geisha girls?

Inside the Higashi Chaya Krukeikan Rest house, we saw vast living areas, a strange contraption for making tea that was hung from the ceiling and a cute little Japanese garden. My daughter had fun trying on a pair of geisha style wooden block shoes and getting a big stamp of the rest house from the staff there.

Next we picked up some lunch as a local bakery and went to the vast Kanazawa Castle Park for lunch. Many school children were there, also eating. Here we saw our first beautiful orange autumn leaves on trees.

Inside the castle gates, we went into one of the guardhouses that had views over the park and to other parts of the castle. It was a room of golden floorboards and we got our second stamp of the day.

In the grounds of the castle we found two very friendly ladies dressed in kimonos who were more than happy to have their photo taken with our daughter at the castle and wanted a picture for themselves as well. We learnt the word for cute in Japanese- Kawai. It was one we were to hear more as we journeyed around Japan with our daughter.

The highlight of the day was the most beautiful gardens that we went to in Japan- the Kenrouk-en Gardens. It was easy to see why they were heritage listed. The gardens were spectacular with bridges, ponds and views over the town.

We saw the well-known Rainbow Bridge that is depicted on manholes around the town with the Kotojitoro Lantern. The Horaijima Island was in the middle of a pond surrounded by pine trees hanging over the water and the Flying Wild Geese Bridge, made of stones in a point, was aptly named.

Our favourite part of the gardens was when we slowed down and took a seat in a traditional teahouse over the water of Hisagoike Pond. We had green tea that was actually green and muddy and a sculpted Japanese sweet.

As the sunlight bounced off the roof making pretty patterns on the ceiling and we could hear a waterfall trickling in the background, I got a glimpse of the peace that a Japanese garden can bring and didn’t want to leave.

Related posts: Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Kanazawa, 2016

The next day, we caught the fast train to the ‘small town’ of Kanazawa, which had less than 500,000 people. How is that considered a small town? Small by Japanese standards I guess.

We whizzed past canola fields, mountainous forests and the sea. We were greeted at Kanazawa train station by a huge gate and a waterfall. There was also a robot that gave directions from an iPad and looked up at you when you spoke.

In Kanazawa, we stayed in a great traditional Japanese house in Katamachi that was made of dark wooden slats and paper windows- thankfully also with glass on the outside. It had a communal sleeping room and cushions to sit on the floor in the living room. Why do people sleep and sit on the floor in Japan?

The town had its own busy Shibuya-like crossing, albeit smaller and with more pushbikes than cars. We found the pretty Saigawa River that ran through the town and that every block had a temple. There were some cute little houses and creative signage adorning bars and buildings.

For our daugther, we found a small kids play park nearby, stone statue children outside one of the large shopping centres to pose with and a character dressed up promoting a restaurant roaming the streets to meet and greet.

The mascot of the Kanazawa looks like a fat Russian nest doll, but it has a moustache and the town is known for its Samurai and Geisha districts. We were told that the Japanese came here to relax and buy kimonos.

For dinner we went to an authentic restaurant that served pork cutlets and Oden- meat and vegetables served in soup broth. Our daughter liked the complimentary cabbage leaves that you could dip in special sauce.

Our first day exploring Kanazawa started with the Omi-Cho market. It was filled with seafood and delicious croquettes. We found an apple for our daughter to eat that was half the size of her head.

We were stopped by a group of school children on assignment to practice their English who asked a series of questions and then gave us a paper crane as a thank you. One of the questions was- where would we prefer to live: Kanazawa or Tokyo? It was only the start of our first day here, but we already knew that with its slower pace and smaller size, Kanazawa would be our choice.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

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

Tokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku

It was raining, so we decided to go to the Tokyo National Museum. A museum is always a good wet weather plan and this one was top of the list as it has a collection of samurai swords and armour, which I knew my husband, would be keen to see.

The metro system was fast, efficient and we figured it out fairly quickly. The only downside was we sometimes had to walk a long way to transfer between lines. I amused myself by looking at the manga style advertisement posters on the walls and the practiced power nappers in the trains.

There was a highly organised stand outside the museum for all the umbrellas. Inside, I was drawn to the beautiful kimonos, room divider screens that told a story with pictures and the unusual tea sets. My daughter loved the kids stamping section and couldn’t get enough of it.

Outside the museum, we discovered that it was set in Ueno-Koen Park with the famous Ueno craft market that had been recommended to us. There were teapots of all shapes and sizes, colourful wooden chopsticks and other cooking pots and implements.

Next we went to Harajuku as I thought my daughter would enjoy the teenage haven. Takeshita-dori was packed and had lots of cute shops with novelty items for kids like the Paris Kids shop where my daughter got an umbrella with a rabbit head, some hairclips of fruit and sunglasses with rabbit ears.

Locals come to Harajuku for crepes and rainbow fairy floss, but we came to see the teenagers dressed up. However, not many were, just a few girls dressed in short skirts and high shoes. Which led to the question- where have all the Harajuku girls gone? Probably elsewhere to escape the tourists. The store staff at the lolly shop were dressed up the most with their cat ears for Halloween.

We had lunch at a local restaurant and then went over Harajuku Bridge to Meiji-jingu- Tokyo’s grandest shrine. The old wooden gate popped out of the oasis of green trees. It got a wow out of me- this was what I had come to Japan to see. The walk to the shrine was one of welcoming cool in the busy city.

There were lots of families in kimonos and their Sunday best, clapping when they pray. There was the massive wishing tree and the marriage trees tied together by a rope with lightning bolts. We also stumbled upon a wedding procession. The bride was still in white, but had a strangely shaped hat.

For dinner we went to the closest neighbourhood restaurant for Hantei skewers of pork. The chef of the restaurant was also our waiter. He thought we tipped too much, but it was so delicious, that it made me wonder, why is it bad manners to tip in Japan?

Related posts: Japan, 2016

10 things to do in the Gold Coast

Like Las Vegas, I never thought I would like the Gold Coast. But then my bestie moved there, we started making annual trips to visit and now I love it!

My favorite place in the Gold Coast is Sea World. The dolphin show, the seal show and the Jet Ski show for the boys. Dolphins, polar bears, penguins and more. My bestie and I even went on a swimming with dolphins experience there and I highly recommend it if you love dolphins as much as I do.

My daughter’s favorite place is Movie World. Last time we were there we met Daffy Duck, danced in the Looney Toons dance party, bought a superman cape and even went on the Wild West Falls (she got a bit scared on that one).

And if you haven’t had enough of theme parks by then, there is also Wet and Wild where you can get caught in a Tornado or drift round a river and Dream World where you can see the tigers and be dropped from the highest vertical drop ride in the Southern Hemisphere- I still haven’t recovered.

My next favorite place is Dracula’s– a comedy cabaret show that is to die for. I love vampires, so this is of course the best show ever. All highly themed with dressed up waiters, entertaining and the cocktails are pretty cool too.

Another good place to catch a show is Jupiter’s Casino. My bestie and I have seen a couple of musicals here and it’s always been lots of fun.

When we go to the Gold Coast, we usually stay at my bestie’s holiday apartment on Main Beach– the quieter end of the Gold Coast- conveniently located near Sea World. It’s a great apartment overlooking the Southport Life Saving Club and the beach with some funky bars and restaurants behind in Tedder Ave.

The beachfront on Main Beach also provides an excellent track for walking along the beach front in the morning, there’s a park for kids during the day and it’s always lovely to fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore at night.

My bestie now lives at the other end of the Gold Coast, also a nice quiet area, near the beautiful Currumbin Beach. It also has a great Surf Life Saving Club opposite elephant rock. Dining at surf life saving clubs is a cheap option in Queensland and they usually have the best beach real estate too.

My top pick for shopping is Robina Shopping Centre where you can get anything from manicures to Myer, not just the usual bikinis and summer dresses. In fact, shopping in the Gold Coast is pretty good all around. They used to have the largest Mango and I even bought my wedding dress here.

So whether it is for a Disneyland-like theme park adventure, a relaxing week by the beach or a night out on the town- the Gold Coast has a lot to offer.

Related posts: 10 things to do in Melbourne, 10 things to do in Sydney

Singapore, 2015

On the way back from Sri Lanka, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore. We stayed at the luxurious Swissotel at Clarke Quay where my daughter loved the big bed, the free cow soft toy and kids toiletry pack. We all had great fun at the water slides on the roof too.

We also enjoyed exploring more of the Clarke Quay area. The art gallery with the colourful shutters, the street art and the view of Marina Bay Sands. Clarke Quay at night was also a pretty sight with all the lights.

One of the things on my hit list for this trip to Singapore was the largest fountain in the southern hemisphere- the Fountain of Wealth. And so to the fountain we went, located conveniently next to a large shopping centre with a huge Uniqlo and the best H&M I have been to so far.

The fountain was so big that you could walk into it so was definitely worth the trip. We also met my friend Cynthia and her new baby son for lunch. Dinner was with the other half of the couple, her partner Tony, and my husband’s friend Drew at Café Iguana back at Clarke Quay.

The next day, we went to Fort Canning Park, which was more of a sprawling park of walkways than an entertaining park for kids. We went to Cynthia and Tony’s for dinner at a local restaurant and reacquainted our daughters who enjoyed posing together for photos and holding hands on the walk back to the apartment.

With not enough time as always, the holiday came to an end once again, and it was time to bid farewell to our friends and fly back to Sydney.

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Pinnawala and Negombo, 2015

My parents, husband, daughter and I drove past Bible Rock, stopped in Kadurata for lunch and continued on to Pinnawala to see the elephants.

I had been here before, had loved it and couldn’t wait to show our daughter who I was sure would enjoy it too.

When we arrived, the elephant herd was on the plain, waiting to be walked for meal time. Some of the baby elephants were having shower time, which they seemed to be revelling in.

Afterwards they were all put together in a pen and our daughter was able to reach out and touch a trunk or two. And then it was time for bottle feeding- and boy did they suck it down!

I paid a little extra to feed a basket of fruit to one of the older elephants and it was worth every penny. They really are such gentle giants and our daughter thought it was hysterical when the elephant tried to suck my knee in the search for more goodies.

And then it was time for the daily trek to the river for bath time. I think the herd relished bathing as much as we marvelled in the spectacle. They flopped their big bodies into the water and stayed submerged for long lengths of time with just their trunks emerging for breathing.

Mothers and calves, younger ones tussling with each other and one who only left their ears above the water to show that they were there.

On the drive out we stopped at a Tambuli stand for some fresh coconut water, before heading to our final Sri Lankan destination, Negombo.

We stayed at an aging hotel with a pool, went for a walk along the beach and discovered part of a fishing village. My husband bought a handmade leather bag at Akram Leather Factory. The machinery in the factory was ancient, but it still did the job.

All our daughter wanted to do was swim in the hotel pool, so most of the day was spent doing that. And in the evening, we enjoyed drinks and I had a luscious seafood platter for my final meal.

After saying our fond farewells to our driver and my parents after they dropped us at the airport, it was time to leave Sri Lanka and our road trip behind. It had been nice to show my husband a country that I had always liked visiting and I am sure he now appreciated it and the people as much as I do.

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

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

Disney on Ice

I recently had the pleasure of going to Disney on Ice with my daughter and it was fabulous!

The last time I saw the show I went with my grandmother when was 5. Mickey Mouse was the main attraction then, along with Snow White.

Disney on Ice has changed since my day. There is still Mickey Mouse of course, but the main drawcard are the new princesses- Rapunzel and Frozen. But they still had Belle and my favourite- The Little Mermaid- perhaps a clever marketing move to hook the parents in too?

And so, I got to relive being five, 30 odd years later. A time when life was simpler, happiness was easy and stresses were few.

Clever Disney, transporting us all back to fun times with some entertainment, light and music. Even some of the adults were dressed up as Elsa. And why not take a break from the everyday job that you are going to be at for the next 30 years and let the fantasy take over instead?

I mean, in what reality are horses on ice skates, flashes of light come out of the hands of princesses and it snows inside?

And of course, everyone knows all the songs from having watched the movies a millions times at home- so why not sing along?

Sure, you could be cynical and say Disney is a moneymaking organisation that wants go charge you $35 for a plastic cup when you leave, but perhaps that’s ok with all the joy they have brought into the world for our little ones?

My daughter loved it too of course. Having 4 stories in one kept her interested, she enjoyed an Olaf ice cream and all she wanted to know was when is Elsa and Anna were coming on.

The one thing that did get me thinking though, was the fact that princesses have to change for perfect prince, like Ariel having to change for her prince. But on the flipside, the prince has to change for his perfect princess, like Flynn having to change for Rapunzel.

Personally, I don’t think anyone should ever have to change for anyone, but perhaps it’s more a message about the right person bringing out the best in us all. I like to think so anyway.

Related posts: All things Disney, Kid at Heart, Disneyland, 2007