August 2013 Archives

in wheels in motion |


Met up with mm for church, dinner then parking space research. The landlord for her parking space has sold the space and even though the lease is till next year, she’s thinking of buying her own space. Such a weird concept, paying ridiculous prices for a car park space. Understandably, in many cities nowadays there is a price attached to parking space, but the sheer amount, wow. Even in the US, paying half a million dollars in Boston? Wow again.

There really needs to be more automated parking systems to squeeze more cars into limited parking space. That said, it’ll never work here, how could people’s maids get to the car to clean it? Oh yes, it’s almost impossible to find car washes, and most idiots who live in this city have slave labour maids to do their chores.

in outside interests |


One of sis’ i-school mom friends is involved in this case studies research centre where they hire people to write case studies for business schools. Pretty decent pay, about $3,500 per case if accepted. We met for drinks a few weeks ago, I sent in my CV and they asked me to go to their office for a writing test. Pick one of 2 articles and write a case study introduction, ie the paragraph or two that comes before the meat of the case. The obvious article would have been one about a bunch of bankers being sued for poaching clients but I didn’t see the teaching point for that. I worked on the other article, about “newer” (the article was dated 2008 so “new” is relative) sovereign wealth funds moving into riskier global markets and because of their size, potentially having an impact on the markets themselves.

Also had to list some teaching points. Um, okay. Difference between investment aims of different investor types. Discuss how global markets may potentially be influenced. Discuss the role of politics in government-managed funds.

The test was supposed to be 2.5hrs. I was done by 1hr; with checking and re-writing I was done by 1.5hrs.

in eating and drinking |


We saw someone make braised beef cheeks on an Australian cookery show recently, and wanted to try. It’s a cheaper cut but because there’s only 2 cheeks per animal, not as easy to get as we thought, Mum had to ask the butcher at the market to reserve them for her. They are HUGE when they came out of the packet, I didn’t weigh them but each felt at least 500g, more because there were lots of trimmings. Took me a good half an hour to trim the 2 cheeks, the trimmings were tough and the meat itself also quite tough. I cut them into large chunks.

Usual braising method. Browned the meat, remove from pan. Added mirepoix, tomato paste and returned the meat to the pan. Added 1/3rd bottle of red wine (picked a strong Melbec this time, it was on sale 2-for-1) and because we didn’t have stock, just water. Seasoned, brought back to the boil and braised in oven at 160°C for 3hrs.

By the end of the cooking, even the tough tendon and fat from the trimmings were soft and edible. I originally kept them in the pan for flavour, so it was a bonus to have more to serve. Two cheeks could easily serve 6-8 people. We had them with roast potatoes and salad. In terms of taste, the cheeks had a nice beefy flavour. In terms of texture, a bit like brisket.

in eating and drinking |


Mum came back from the market with bananas asking if I could make banana bread. Of course! We have sugar, flour, bp, eggs but not enough butter so I needed to be creative.

I don’t like walnuts so I never make the traditional banana walnut bread. I needed 4oz butter for the recipe: I ended up using 2oz butter, 1oz margarine (from a tub we found in one of the fridges) and the rest was made up using olive oil. Creamed with 4oz sugar, added 3 eggs (these were small eggs, normally it’s 2 large eggs), 3 bananas, 8oz plain flour and 1tsp bp. A splash of milk to loosen the dough. Baked at 180°C for 1hr.

Didn’t matter that it was the round tin again, it was another good bake. Light, fluffy and not too sweet with a crunchy crust. The butter-margarine-olive oil combination didn’t hurt the recipe at all. In fact, it was easier to cream, important because I was doing it by hand. Everyone’s pleased with the result.

in eating and drinking |


My recent baking efforts haven’t been terribly successful. The French apple tart suffered from soggy bottom when the puff pastry didn’t rise properly; the mango yogurt fake cheesecake was lumpy and looked like baby food; the cheesecake for my dad’s birthday was wobbly and almost collapsed. The only thing that worked was chocolate mousse.

Still, I wanted to bake something for my parents while I’m staying with them. They didn’t want anything sweet so I looked through my recipes and remembered this savoury ham and cheese bread that I enjoyed. The recipe is based on what the French call cake salé, or savoury cakes/loaf. Sugar-free, butter-free. Usually with cheese. I like Hugh F-W’s idea that it’s a perfect way of using up leftover roast meats and bits of cheese.

Eggs, milk, olive oil, flour, bp, diced ham, grated cheddar. Much easier than the traditional creaming and whipping for a sweet cake. Like making muffins, it was just simple folding being careful not to over-mix. In the oven at 180°C for 1hr. Mum doesn’t have a rectangular loaf tin so I improvised with a round cake tin. Aside from not looking like a loaf, it was really great. The saltiness of the ham and cheese went well with the olive oil-based base. In terms of texture, I thought it was somewhere between a scone and a muffin. We ate it straight out of the oven so the top was still crispy. A good bake.

in how the day went |

The visit to the apple store was successful. The charger that mum was using was a) for ipods not ipads and b) old. It’s my ipad, but I have no idea between sis and mum where my charger has disappeared off to. Anyway, we were lucky to catch the adaptor take back program so we got a new charger for $10, but had to buy a new USB cable.

Took the train up to SZ for lunch. Alright food, terrible atmosphere (smoking still allowed, yuck) in a local mall. The purpose was to take some clothes for alteration. I need a new lining for my beloved Timberland peacoat. The dry cleaners at London wanted to charge me £75 but at this place, it was less than £10. Even with the cost of travelling, it was worth it. No wonder most of the world’s manufacturing takes place there.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Escaping to parents’ aka holiday home again. Mum’s ipad isn’t charging so we went over to the Apple Store to get a new charger but the salesperson suggested that we came back tomorrow morning to see if we can get help at the genius bar first.

Headed over to the residental estate nearby and had dinner at a family restaurant. Ordered this beef curry that came in an extremely hot stone pot, a bit like Korean bibambap. The curry was good, it was still bubbling away when we finished eating and was packing it away to take home.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |


It wasn’t until 5.30pm that mm was able to come and pick me up. It would have been nice to go exploring, hiking or cycling but it was too late in the day. We drove over to the AYCE Japanese place where I had dinner with my parents on my dad’s birthday. The restaurant was opposite to where mm’s sis lived, it was a memory for us. It’s been years and years, I almost didn’t remember which direction the flat faced. Walked around the area a bit, then settled in for dinner. Not a lot was open when we finished, so we just went home.

in how the day went |


The feeling of despair and out-of-sortedness continues. A brief trip to the bank for a short errand turned out to be a long walking trip. Walked to the bank, then took the bus to a far west district called Kennedy Town. Then walked and walked and walked for about 2hrs until I found myself almost home; I was tired, hungry, thirsty and not wanting to go home. Ended up at an Irish pub. Had a couple of their signature ales and their burger of the month. The Denver burger is a regular burger with cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, red & yellow peppers, onions (which I picked out) and a fried egg. Served with fries and a pickle. Ate most of the burger but not the bread. About 5 pieces of french fry. As far as a burger goes, not too bad. Nothing special. Read a book, watched the cricket, didn’t start walking home till late to avoid the crowd outside my flat. Sigh, this is not how to live/

in eating and drinking |

ana006hambread ana003potato
ana005sardine ana004salad

All I had was one page to print and I made it an afternoon outing to sis’ place. Went to the gym, did treadmill intervals and we went to a tapas place called Viva Ana. The tapas was alright, expensive and not looking like tapas at all—more like starters. I don’t often see tapas served on a full sized dinner plate, I thought the idea is small plates. Anyway, we had potatoes with tomato sauce, with the potato looking more like fat chips although the sauce was good. Grilled sardines were fresh, goat’s cheese salad had barely any cheese and serrano ham on garlic bread had a tomato-ish spread we couldn’t identify. A glass of wine each. Like I said, expensive and we probably won’t go back.

in being healthy |

I haven’t been sleeping well. I wake up constantly during the night and get woken up at 7am by the slightest noise outside, and I can’t go back to sleep. Yes, yes I know some people have to wake up earlier than 7am to go to work and I shouldn’t be complaining. This is about quality of sleep.

Anyway, I did some research into colour noises and how pink noise helps sleep. The low hum of static noise such as coming from a fan or on an unused radio frequency appears to pacify busy parts of the brain. It’s summer so the aircon is on at night, but I thought I should supplement it since obviously it’s not sufficient.

There are white noise machines, 10 hour youtube videos, downloadable mp3s, and free streaming services. Lots of choices.

At the end, I downloaded the app from simplynoise, and placed my old iphone on my pillow so the noise was close to my ear all night. I used the brown noise option, and had it on low oscillation. Brown noise has lower frequencies and with the oscillation it sounded like gentle waves. (One minute example above.) Did it help? I managed to sleep a little later than usual, so perhaps. The iphone battery lasted all night, so it was good. Time will tell.

in about me , esoteric meditations |


It’s almost one year since I left London. I haven’t done a whole lot in a year, mostly sit around at home feeling sorry for myself. Not because I have nothing to do, but…I can’t quite put a finger on why I’ve been out of sorts.

It’s not financial. I’m still living comfortably on savings and if need be, my financial adviser and I have a plan to generate regular income. Financial worries are the biggest source of stress for a lot of people, and I’m blessed that I’ve not had that worry.

Definitely not because I’m not working. I’ve never liked going to work. I think most people don’t like it, so I’m no different in that respect. I have been lucky in work, that I’ve had significant achievements and assignments all over the world. I’ve been sort of looking, and there are a couple of opportunities that are gradually warming up. Not sure if I really want to go back to work though.

It’s not family. I get to spend time with them, and it’s the highlight of my day/week/month. I stay over at my parents’ and I don’t want to leave. I live a short bus ride from my sis and i find excuses to go over there all the time.

It’s a little bit relationship, but the relationship with mm has always been odd since we’ve had to deal with our circumstances and the choices we made. We are not the same two people 21 years ago, although I wish we could go back to that closeness. I have to remind myself that I was the one who went globetrotting, and she never had to wait. So I’m grateful that even though she has a lot on her plate she finds time to spend with me.

What mm did, when we talked last night, was accurately came up with why I’m so negative and uncertain recently:

you moved physically, but you didn’t moved mentally

Which hit the nail right on the head. I miss London. I miss Chicago too. I reference moving last September as leaving London and not moving to here. I can barely acknowledge where I am. Whenever I think about here, it’s all negative thoughts: I hate this place; the pollution, the weather, the overcrowding, the awful people. I can’t stand the sight of disgusting mainland tourists, let alone having to listen to them or come near them. I don’t watch local tv or follow local news. I don’t like my flat, it doesn’t feel like home even though I have my furniture with me and I’ve always said home is where my furniture is. I don’t feel comfortable living in the only property I own—perhaps that’s the reason, that I feel like I don’t have a choice but live here.

I can’t sleep. I haven’t been running. I haven’t been cooking at home. The solution, according to mm, is a mindset shift from reluctantly tolerating to accepting. It sounds simple, but I cannot find one good thing about HK that I want to accept. What to do, what to do.

in eating and drinking |

tsuiheng001duck tsuiheng002dishes

Dinner with mm, RM and our friend W. RM has a 30% discount for certain restaurants and we went to one of those, newly opened quite posh. Peking duck two ways, lotus root cake, stuffed bitter melon, roast pork. Good service, good food, good value with the discount.

The Peking duck in particular, normally people go to Peking Gardens. My family goes to the more traditional Spring Deer. If I have guests I want to impress, I’d think about taking them to this new place. Two ways mean first the normal wrapped in pancake with vegetables and hoi sin sauce and then the meat is sautéed with vegetables and served with a lettuce wrap.

I was even persuaded to try the stuffed bitter melon. I don’t like bitter melon, I find it too…bitter. But this was okay. Not too bitter. And the stuffing was prawns, all prawns. High standards.

I’m not a huge Chinese food fan. Chinese food in the US is crap; in London it’s better, but the dishes are different from the ones in Asia. Most people in HK do eat it of course and I will go if it’s with friends. It’s good to have a place to go to.

in how the day went |


Really hot day, but Mum was going to the market so i went with her to help carry stuff. Before shopping we stopped at this hole-in-the-wall place that sold 2 products: soy milk and sweetened tofu. There was a 20-deep queue, although it was very quick. Even though it was a hot day, we opted for the hot sweet tofu because it’s way way smoother than the cold version. I was dripping at the end, heehee.

We each took a shopping trolley and we filled them. Fish, prawns, meat, vegetables, fruit, noodles, milk, dumpling. Nice.

in going places |


flickr set

We drove out to a place near the wetlands park called Nam Sang Wai 南生圍. Just over an hour’s drive from my parents’ place, where mm picked me up. Could have saved 20-25mins by going through a tunnel, but the toll was too expensive and we weren’t in a hurry.

Turned into the side road once there and soon we came across a farm. They sell vegetables they grow themselves, not sure if it’s for commercial or tourists. They serve lunch and dinner at the outdoor space too. The nicest part of the farm was the lotus pond, with a rickety bridge made from planks, plastic crates and empty jerry cans. Apparently the flowers were out in the morning but like sunflowers they disappear in the afternoon. It was a nice enough day, not excessively hot and overcast, it made being outdoors more tolerable.

Drove down the single lane road to the end, where there were a few free spots for parking. Nice peaceful area full of hikers, runners and cyclists. There was a tree-lined path along a river that is apparently the favourite of magazine and wedding picture photographers. It’s been raining so the path was really muddy and we only managed about 100m before having to turn back. Walked a little along the asphalt road and stopped for a wee dram that mm brought along with her. Heehee.

Stayed in the district, found a church 15mins away for Saturday mass. Not hungry so we found the busy dessert place and had a little snack before heading back into the city.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Papa’s birthday lunch with sis and my niece was supposed to have been Wednesday at the Yacht Club when they have their Indian buffet, but we postponed it because of bad weather. Went to a Malaysian restaurant instead today. Good value set lunch, most of us had chicken rice, sis had lamb satay and papa had seafood laksa.

We took the cheesecake all the way to sis’ place. Little one and I decorated with strawberries and blueberries. A tablespoon of jam diluted with water provided the glaze. The cheesecake tasted great, adding the canned passion fruit purée was a great idea. But it was a bit too wobbly and was very hard to cut. I guess I didn’t add enough gelatin.

in eating and drinking , family first |

papa2013bday001sushi papa2013bday005sake

It’s my dad’s birthday. I went over for lunch, then in the afternoon made a chilled cheesecake. It used to be a signature dish of mine, I need to make it more.

Dinner was at an all-you-can-eat Japanese place that my parents came across. They eat half price, so it’s a good deal. Quite a bit of a trek, long bus ride followed by more walking. To order, there is a huge stack of different coloured order slips, each with a different type of food like sashimi, tempura, yakitori, noodles. We ordered lots of sashimi and Japanese salad: crab roe, seaweed, whelks. Skewers, vegetables and a little tempura. Drinks are included, not only soft drinks but beer and sake. We polished off a couple of servings of warm sake.

in eating and drinking |


I can’t resist Highland Park. RM likes Caol Ila and Scapa, mm is still refining her taste. All things being equal, if I had to have any 12 year, I’d pick HP in a second. If I were rich, I’d stock up with the super HP 30, 40 and, gasp, 50. Our visit to Orkney was one of the highlights last year, and the HP distillery visit was out of this world.

Like many of the distilleries, they have far too many different expressions and exclusives. One of those is the Valhalla collection to celebrate Orkney’s Norse connection. It began last year with the introduction of Thor. The most recent release, this year, was Loki. No surprise, it’s another well received release from a fantastic distillery. Of course it’s commercial. Of course it’s yet another means to get our money. Of course I have to have it, to complete my collection.

It’s no problem me using my UK credit card, but I need an address in the UK, a place to deliver it to and someone kind enough to store it for me until mm and/or I manage a trip back to the UK. I already have a couple of bottles with CC, and another bottle at my niece’s grandparents’ and I didn’t want to trouble them further. So after some deliberation (heh, it was all of 2 minutes) I bit the bullet and ordered it to deliver straight to me. £108 ex VAT, but a whopping £50 for overseas delivery. That said, £150 to me is still worth it. Even with whatever customs duty I have to pay when it arrives, driving the cost up even more. Yes, it’s bloody well worth it.

And no, I dare not tell mm about this.

in eating and drinking |


Told RM that I created a monster in mm, that she’s now incredibly into whisky too. So we created a whatsapp group for socialising, whisky monkeys. Our logo is a photo of the Caol Ila 18 that RM and I enjoyed at the Scottish pub yesterday.

in eating and drinking |


Haven’t seen RM in months and months and months. Finally managed to find time to meet up. Went to my favourite Scottish pub. Had munchies (sliders, chorizo, nachos) and started with cider. How we miss going to pubs and having cider.

Tons to catch up in term of work and recent interests and stuff. I don’t have many friends, I’m glad I get in touch with a good friend.

in eating and drinking |

bluebutcher026prosecco bluebutcher032foie
bluebutcher035ribeye bluebutcher041dessert

flickr set: here

Went to brunch with Sis and niece to a new restaurant, Blue Butcher. They describe themselves as a meat specialist; the dark concrete & wood décor and the ageing room with its blackboard pronouncement of where the meat comes from all goes towards projecting that specialism. Brunch was a semi-buffet and included a salad bar, oyster station, unlimited foie gras(!!). We chose roast rib-eye-on-the-bone for main course and since there were 3 desserts, had all three to share. Paid extra for the rib-eye, and to add free flow prosecco too. Ended up drinking more than one bottle, so it was worth the extra. (The question is, did we drink more to justify the additional course or would we have polished off a bottle anyway? Hmm.)

The salad bar was nicely done: beef salad, tomato & mozzarella, proscuitto with watermelon, smoked salmon salad. Lots of leaves, not heavy on the dressing. The oysters were fresh, Coffin Bay from Australia I think. The surprise was the unlimited foie gras station — we just told the chef how many pieces and he cooked them to order. Served with toast and jams. Quite rich, but I still got a plate with 6 pieces.

By the time the roast rib-eye appeared we were pretty full. Big steak, big bone. Tasted pretty good. The carrots were under done and I didn’t eat the potato. Next time I may skip it and go for one of the simpler mains. Took the beef home.

Dessert was waffle (part of the buffet). The menu desserts were chocolate bread & butter pudding, strawberry shortbread and mango sorbet. The bread pudding was a disappointment, no taste, even a bit sour. The mango sorbet was the best. Would we go again? Yes, definitely. Not cheap, but in this town to get food of this quality we have to be prepared to pay a bit more.

in eating and drinking , on the relationship front |

lambrack03 lambwhisky02

The lamb racks turned out pretty well. I had two batches. The first batch roasted in mm’s oven at 200°C, but hers is a small countertop oven and I didn’t notice that we had it on grill only. Once we turned both top and bottom elements on, it only took 10mins more to get to rare, by that time they’ve been cooking for about 30mins. The second batch I seared first then put in my oven at 180°C for 20mins. I can control it better with my own equipment. Then again, I also burned my palm on the handle of the pan.

We had a leisurely lunch with the lamb, and mm made a couple of nice salads — chili marinaded cucumber and sesame oil flavoured bean sprouts. And then we got started with our whisky flight. Mainly Japanese whisky and mostly pure malt blends:

  • Nikka from the barrel — Mr Murray described it as an unspecified malt; came in a cute perfume bottle like bottle; clean and sweet
  • Nikka Pure Malt Red — fruity and quite light
  • NIkka Pure Malt Black — sweet and big, quite like a Speyside
  • Nikka Pure Malt White — slightly smoky, with its Yoichi content, need to drink this very slowly
  • Yamazaki 12 — pleasant, typical Yamazaki
  • Macallan 12 — as a contrast to the Yamazaki, very typical, bigger than Japanese
  • Yoichi — I think this was either 10 or 12, slightly peaty
  • Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 — great value for money, easy daily drinking
  • Kavalan Bourbon cask (from Taiwan) — I remembered it as bering really good, but it tasted a bit rough compared with the others

Only a small sip of each, the total we each had was probably just a double. The Pure Malts were quite good, and each had its own character. The Nikka from the barrel was the real surprise. With a higher alcohol content of 58.6% it was sweet and smooth and very easy to drink. No wonder I tend to prefer cask strength whiskies.

p.s. There are different types of whisky blends. What is referred here as pure malt is a blended malt, ie a blend made from single malts only. It’s also known as vatted or sometimes all malt. Not to be confused with generic blends which includes whiskies made with other type of grains; or even grain alcohol itself.

in eating and drinking |


Going to mm’s place tomorrow. After some discussion, she requested lamb. I went to the frozen meat supplier and got a rack of lamb, 7-8 ribs. The supplier cut them in half at my request but otherwise the rack was not prepared. This is an interesting shop, they supply hotels and restaurants; the shop is lined on all sides by huge freezers with ominous looking steel doors like giant cadaver lockers. Good prices though, almost wholesale.

I wanted to french trim them, like I see on tv. Not 100% clean off the bone at the ends, but not too bad for a first effort. They will marinade in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, pepper and a bit of worcester sauce overnight before roasting in the oven. I generally don’t add salt in marinades but I do add a few drops of worcester sauce especially to meat.

in being healthy |

Between doing TRX yesterday and intervals on the treadmill today, there are certain muscles I haven’t used for a long time that are hurting. Hip flexors, back and abs mainly. Those are the places I need working out most. Need to keep at it, otherwise that last 10 pounds will never shift and I’ll lose all my marathon fitness.

in eating and drinking |

old pulteney

There’s a Scottish pub hidden in the basement of an unassuming hotel in the nightlife district. It has haggis, Scottish breakfast and staples like roast lamb, shepherd’s pie and bangers & mash. It also has one of the largest whisky selections around town, so much so that they have a separate whisky menu.

They also do flights of a few whiskies. Unfortunately they didn’t have Laphoraig or Talikser 18 so they couldn’t serve those flights. I opted for the Old Pulteney: 12, 17 and 21 year. The 12 was already pretty good, not sharp, a little vanilla and a little citrus. The 17 was smooth and the 21 was perfect. Yes, perfect. It won World Whisky of the Year, Scotch Whisky of the Year, Multiple Cask 16-21 year old of the Year; 97.5 points in the Whisky Bible Awards 2012.

in eating and drinking |

crepehamcheeseegg02 crepechoc02

Had lunch with mm at a crêperie near the office. Two crêpes, one savoury one sweet plus coffee and tea for HK$98. The savoury one was ham, emmental and egg buckwheat or chicken curry; we both had the ham & cheese. The sweet was chocolate & caramel or butter and sugar; I had the chocolate caramel and mm changed from butter and sugar to lemon and sugar. The crêpes themselves were average, we both preferred the chewy traditional sweet batter to the rather tough savoury buckwheat batter. Not bad value, the place was packed and it’s near the office so another option.

in being healthy |

Way too hot to run outside, so I went to Sis’ place and used the gym there. Ran intervals on the treadmill for 30mins. Got up to 8mph, should be going faster than that, like 10mph. Practice, practice, practice.

in eating and drinking |

mango03 mango02

Looks like giant mangos are in season, mum bought a few which we ate over the weekend. One is enough for 4-6 people. I cut one up and filled an entire takeaway container. We bought a few more, wonder if they can be frozen. The flesh is brilliant orange, sweet, soft, not fibrous and the pit is quite small. Cheap too. I can just eat it on its own for a meal.

in being healthy |


7.02km 57.35min 8.12min/km (13.12min/mi) running
500m 25min swimming

After weeks of rain and heat, an overcast day meant I could venture out running. Except it was deceptive. Still extremely hot and muggy and humid. Yuck. Ran to the second water fountain and back via the supermarket. Very slow still. Not planning on doing 9 min/mile yet. Wait till it’s cooler.

I was so hot when I got home, literally dripping sweat. Went outside to the pool for a dip. Swam 50 leisurely laps, it was pretty good. Muscles felt like they had a proper workout. If only I still had my bike, could have done my version of a mini triathlon, hee.

in going places |

Trip planning moves onto finding hotel accommodation. We will split our trip into 3 centres, and hopefully stay in 3 different types of accommodation.

In Osaka we will go for a regular hotel, as it is part of the package. Two nights at a Nikko, Best Western or the popular Hearton. Hotel rooms in Japan are small, very small. A lot of hotels offer a room type called semi-double where the bed is somewhere in between a single and a double. This is for a single person or a couple who, in the words of a commenter on tripadvisor, still enjoy close contact with each other. While I’d like to say we will go for this for romantic reasons, the actual reason is that this is the cheapest room rate.


In Shirahama we will stay in an onsen, or hot spring, hotel. The one we are looking at is the Shiraraso Grand. They offer Japanese style rooms with tatami mats. A table and chairs occupy the room space during the day and at night it’s converted to a sleeping area. Technically it’s sleeping on the floor, in reality it’s sleeping on a comfortable futon mattress on a clean bamboo mat. This hotel doesn’t have in-room spa, rather there are 2 large communal spa areas with features like massage waterfall, mist sauna and bubble bath. Imagine soaking in this huge spa overlooking the beach. Meals are included. Japanese breakfast (we hope!) and either traditional kaiseki style of many small dishes, or shabu shabu for dinner.

In Kyoto we are looking at staying at a converted machiya, or traditional wooden townhouse. In Kyoto in particular, there has been a movement to restore and convert some of the houses to holiday rentals. Though both are traditional holiday accommodation, there seems to be a subtle difference between a machiya and a ryokan, the general name for traditional Japanese inns (machiya isn’t listed as one of the ryokan types). The best western analogy is a ryokan is a b&b while a machiya is a self-catering apartment — much cleaner and better quality of course.


We managed to narrow down to 2-3 possibilities. Our favourite is the Arashiyama Hanare. This house was built in 1935, restored to very high standards and is certified as one of the Important Cultural Properties of Kyoto. I know we need to take online reviews with a grain of salt, but this one has consistently gained high scores everywhere we looked. Beautiful rooms, hot tub bathroom overlooking a zen garden shared with the main house where the owners live. Look at the white goose down duvet, so soft even on the picture. Since it is a standalone apartment, there is a kitchen which means we don’t need to eat out all the time, and can definitely have breakfast at “home.” It’s not located in the centre, about 20mins by train to Kyoto train station. We’ll likely have a car, and it’d be nice to stay in a more peaceful area to experience more local flavours.

in going places |

Our long trip this year will be to Japan. Originally planned for November, we’ll now go in September because of work. Been doing research and planning. We’ll go to the Kansai region to include Osaka, Kyoto and Shirahama onsen. Lots to do, lots to see, have to loosely plan but not get too structured.

Osaka is Japan’s third largest city and so has all the expectations of a typical Japanese metropolis. Things to do include shopping, going to the fish market, and finding some quiet time at the castle park. There’s also Universal studios and the 24 hr Spa World.

Kyoto is more cultural, as befits the former capital and where there are something like 17 or 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Temples and shrines galore. A lovely Philosopher’s Walk along the canal. Further out, the bamboo forest and moon crossing bridge at Arashiyama will be worth a visit.

Shirahama Beach
photo by flickr user foilman

Shirahama is about 3hrs from Osaka and the name translates to white beach, so one of its attractions is the beach and seaside. We’ll be there for its other attraction, the onsen or hot springs. Will stay at an onsen hotel, and plan on visiting the public ones.

We also plan to visit the Yamazaki whisky distillery, which has a museum and tasting. In one of the shopping malls in Osaka there is a newly opened Whisky House comprising of a small exhibit, restaurant and a bar. Not forgetting sake, since Kyoto is one of the bigger sake producing areas, the Gekkeikan sake museum is hopefully a good destination.


This page is an archive of entries from August 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2013 is the previous archive.

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