Tag Archives: river

Osaka, 2016

My husband, daughter and I caught the Shinkasen very fast train from Kyoto to our next destination- Osaka. We spent a little time hanging around the train station in Osaka before we could check in.

There were many artful manga posters, a lot of samurai, art deco lights and some great earing shops. My daughter also got her fast food fix at Lotteria.

Upon arrival, we found our modern apartment and then headed out to the Minami area in the late afternoon. The atmosphere was electric and caused me to think that Osaka was the most liveable city in Japan that we had been to yet.

We strolled the Dotombori river walk, over bridges and beside the river. A tall duty free Ferris wheel rose above a lantern-lined promenade. I spotted a fancy establishment that just had a giraffe on it, framed by projected lines of light that changed colour periodically.

A stage was set up on the water where Japanese pop stars were singing, which my daughter loved; and there were stalls selling beer in plastic cups that you could drink on the river bank, which my husband loved; so everyone was happy.

As the light began to fade, the high-rise buildings lit up with neon and boats passed along the river hosting tourists and locals partying. The famous running man at the mouth of the Shinbashi-suji shopping district was flashing and crowded with people.

On Dotombori Street, the crowds grew thicker, jostling for a place in one of the many restaurants with various gimmicky signs. There were plastic puffer fish, crab, octopus and gyoza next to a market of local food stalls.

We ended up heading to a quieter back street for dinner on the way back to our apartment. Amongst cool funky bars and skewer stalls, we found an oyster bar that served wasabi oysters. It had been nice to head out at night and mix with the locals.

Related posts: Onsen in Nantan, 2016Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

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

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

Sydney vs Melbourne

It’s not as simple as the Harbour vs the River, because you can’t beat Sydney Harbour with its Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It’s not as easy as AFL vs Rugby League, because there’s a reason it’s called the Australian Football League.

Melbourne has the original Luna Park and a prettier central train station. Sydney has the better airport and a more predictable climate.

Both have world class fine dining and scrumptious popular Italian restaurants.

Sydney has the giraffes at Tarongo Zoo and Melbourne has the penguins at the Aquarium. Melbourne has the beachfront of St Kilda and Sydney has Balmoral.

Melbourne had the better casino until Star City renovated in Sydney, perhaps the same will also be said of the convention centres once Sydney finally completes theirs.

Sydney has the iconic Botanic Gardens and Melbourne has the historic Fitzroy Gardens. Melbourne has better shops, but Sydney has better markets.

In Melbourne, the people are nicer, the coffee shops are varied and the laneway bars are intriguing.

In Sydney, the water is more sparkly, yum cha is offered at all times of the day or night and the underground speak easies are atmospheric.

I had the pleasure of living in St Kilda for a week and near the convention centre many times for work and found Melbourne to be a very livable city. It has been known to have the lower property prices and I have often thought about moving there for a better deal in a city that has just as much to offer as Sydney.

However, with the way costs are rising at the moment, we may all be better off moving to Brisbane.

Related posts: Kid at Heart, Degustation Delights, Cocktail Hour in Sydneytown, Home is where you make it

Palenque, 2011

At the end of the longest bus trip I’ve ever been on, my husband and I arrived at Palenque. I was glad that we hadn’t decided to include Guatemala and Belize into our trip as originally planned, as we definitely wouldn’t have had enough time.

We were so tired after the overnight bus trip in temperatures that could only be described as fridge like, where I was still cold despite having two backpacks on top of me for warmth. If you did actually get warm enough to sleep, there was always the loud snoring local to disturb your sleep further, the speed bumps as we went through each small town and the fact that they had filmed us on when we got on the bus as this was a notorious kidnapping route.

When we got there in the morning, we discovered that it was too early to check in. And in typical Mexican- time- style, noon check in became 2pm check in, and I resorted to snoozing on the reception couch. When we were finally permitted to check in, we were happy to discover that we were in our own private house with the luxury of a TV with movies in English.

The hotel also had a swimming pool and a restaurant on the river overlooking now flooded river bars. We were in the middle of the jungle and the only reason most people come here is to to see the ruins.

The ruins of Palenque themselves were amazing. The towering Templo de las Inscripciones greeted you as soon as you entered the compound and was just as awe inspiring as expected.

The Palacio was the largest building with many structures, lots of steps and a big indoor courtyard with surrounding patios. We saw the Tomb of Red Queen inside one of the many temples and the Temple of the Sun with its stone panels.

I climbed up Temple of the Cross which had a fantastic view of all the ruins. After that we saw the large ball court in Group Norte and went for a walk into the jungle to see the Queens Bath of limestone waterfalls and the Bat Group of buried ruined houses.

Seeing ruins in the jungle was an amazing experience where I could really imagine what it must have been like back when the people lived here. I was so glad we had made the long trip to see it all.

Related posts: Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011