bbmm mental health day

A rare bbmm day out on a weekday. Met mm for dinner because we hadn’t seen each other for a while, and we both needed cheering up.

I went there early to walk around and to scout for possible restaurants. There’s a sous-vide steak place I found online and the prices look okay. Reviews are not good though, a lot of service related issues. Even if the food is good, if the service is rude it’s a big no-no for a restaurant.

There was even time to explore the so-called bar street where a number of drinking holes have sprung up. Mostly the same prices and mostly beer focused–a bucket of beer for xxx or discount on tap and bottled beer. I found one near the station and had a pint of murphy’s. I don’t think I will go to those bars again, they charge for “nuts” which made the price of that pint way too high. I hadn’t expected it and didn’t read the fine print carefully enough so it’s a lesson learned.

In the end, we had an easy dinner of congee at a local place. Many other customers were there for full scale dinner but we were fine with something simple. Just give us a decent place to sit and chat without feeling rushed. Lots to update on her work, family and a mutual friend who is just admitted to hospital for a minor surgery. We debated whether to get in touch or visit the friend, who hadn’t told us. In the end, our conclusion is to pretend we didn’t know because that’s probably what our friend wanted.

worldmentalhealthday

It’s also world mental health day, so we talked a little about the importance of making sure we take care of our mental health. Sometimes it means other people will need to take a back seat because we have to take care of ourselves first. It’s not being selfish or inconsiderate. If we’re not in good health, there is no way we can take on the worries of other people.

This was a much needed few hours together. Nothing special in terms of location or cuisine but so essential to both our well-being.

bbmm outing

We went out for a drive to one of the far away suburbs. 45mins from where I live, which is a long way here. (Okay, we took the longer way that didn’t go through an expensive tunnel, which added around 10mins or so.)

The covered carparks in the town centre were expensive, so we found one of those unofficial carparks just outside the immediate centre. There are altogether around 30 spaces there and the poor guy who was at the entrance was in a booth but no air-con. We decided we’d always find these types of carparks going forward.

Just wandered around for an hour or so at the shops, mainly a furniture/home accessories shop. It’s a chain so the shoe rack mm saw and was interested in she could get elsewhere near where she lives. Went to the market and poked around the vegetable stalls that were having a late afternoon sale. Cheap veg but quality not so good. We both ended up buying some noodles.

Dinner was ayce hotpot. It came with a small selection of sashimi, a plate of A4 wagyu beef, and assorted seafood–mostly clams with some fish and a couple of oysters. We don’t go crazy with ayce menus anymore, carefully picking the food we like. The normal beef was good too, and we also ordered lamb slices and lots of prawns. Most hotpot restaurants also offer noodles and dumplings, cheap filling food so people will order less seafood and red meat, most like.

Non-alcoholic drinks were included, as was ice cream. We both had 2 small tubs; my sesame and red bean were okay, mm had red bean and mango which she said tasted exactly like the three-flavour ice cream we used to have when we were young. Tasted artificial to me, but there was a nostalgic factor.

An easygoing afternoon and evening, which suited us.

whk105penguinselfie

And just because I’m feeling random, here are some penguins taking a selfie. (Waiheke Island, Auckland, NZ)

a day of errands, and a great beer to end

A day full of errands and running around.

My tenant moved out. We exchanged emails around 2 weeks ago so I know he’s accepted a job offer in another country but I didn’t know that he’d be flying out so soon. He left the keys in the mailbox.

To his credit, he had professional cleaners come in and clean the flat. He also left his large coffee table, a dirt devil vacuum cleaner, a doorframe pull up bar and a modem which he should have returned to the internet provider. He also left lots of beer and vitamin water in the fridge–there must be 20 bottles of beer and 10 bottles of vitamin water. Now I have to figure out what to do with the flat next.

I didn’t have too much time to spend at the flat, I was rushing to a doctor’s appointment to clear my blocked ears. Yeah, I finally decided to get them sorted. It was nice to live at reduced volume but it’s not ideal. I’ve been to this ENT doc since I was young and he knows my ear health history. He poked and vacuumed the gunk out of my ears, pretty uncomfortable but effective. Expensive though, around USD80 and that was without medicine.

Took a bus back across the harbour to Sam’s. He out-did himself this time. Gave me an even better than normal haircut and within 40mins too. This time he cut it shorter than before and it feels so good to have so much of the thickness gone.

Went to the supermarket and bought a couple of bulbs of fennel. Seeing so many contestants use fennel on masterchef gave me a hankering after it. Organic and imported so very expensive. Almost USD10 for two small/medium bulbs. Ah well. Sis gave me a voucher for this supermarket and I still have quite a lot of balance left.

stbernadusabt12

By then it was around 5.30pm and I’d been running around since 1pm. Have over an hour till meeting mm for dinner. Decided on beer over wine so walked over to frites with their huge belgian beer selection. I wanted to see if they have St Bernadus abt 12, which I came across very often when I was googling Westvleteren 12. The story is shortly after WW2 the owners of St Bernadus brewery and the trappist monks from nearby St Sixtus monastery had an arrangement where they would share equipment and location. More importantly, the brewmaster from Westvleteren brought over the recipes, the know-how and the St. Sixtus yeast strain. The arrangement stopped in 1992 when the trappist monks decided that authentic trappist beer could only be brewed and sold within monastery walls. Nevertheless, St Bernadus continued with the recipe.

The long and short of it is, St Bernadus is the nearest alternative to the extremely rare Westvleteren 12.

I didn’t know enough when I was tasting the Westvleteren 12 to get a bottle of St Bernadus too. So I’m comparing a beer today with one I tasted a month ago. There are similarities and differences. Both are dark, creamy and complex. The Westvleteren was richer, smoother and had more dried fruit notes. The St Bernadus seemed more aerated and towards the end, I felt it tasted like any other dark ale whereas the Westvleteren was fruity and rich even at the end.

I still think the St Bernadus is a top-notch beer. Frites has happy hour monday to friday between 3-8pm and it was half price. With Westvleteren extremely difficult to get, I’ll be back again to taste the St Bernadus and I won’t feel like it’s a second choice.

bbmm at travel agent

okinawa

Met mm at the travel agent’s to get some information about cruises and resorts. Her mum’s doc says she can go on short breaks and it will likely be beneficial. But she can’t go too far away and preferably as little travel hassle as possible. It was the doc who suggested cruises. There are definitely advantages, mostly it’s the minimum amount of travelling and yet she can enjoy going away.

We’re limited by the total number of days, preferably under a week. There are only a few itineraries that fit the criteria. Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan. And the Japan one is only as far as Okinawa. I knew Okinawa is south of mainland Japan but I didn’t realise it’s that far south. It’s nearer to Taiwan. From brief research, it’s mainly a beach resort type of destination.

The Okinawa cruise is on the huge Ovation of the Seas. Over 4000 passengers, 167000 tons. One day at sea, then arriving at Okinawa at 1pm. Stay overnight then leave at 2pm the next day. Another day at sea. Truth be told, it’s an odd itinerary and doesn’t give a lot of time on the island.

We’ll see.

bbmm saturday

Went with mm to buy a new fridge. She’s needed to replace her existing one for a while, but the available dimensions in her kitchen really limited her options. In the end there were only 1 or 2 models that fit the space. Seems like fridges have become deeper and less wide than before.

hhbizou20170826

After getting the fridge we went to PP where we were supposed to have dinner with her family. It was only 4.30pm so there was time to walk around or find somewhere to sit. Surprised to see bizou had happy hour. On a saturday, that was unexpected. 2-for-1 plus a small snack selection. Salad, cheese, prosciutto, watermelon, pineapple. We were both careful not to eat too much because of dinner. I had a few plates of just salad after my first plate with cheese and prosciutto. She had a tempranillo from australia and I had a petit syrah from new zealand. Two unexpected origins for these two grapes. No complaints.

Dinner was in the usual restaurant. Excellent ordering by her mum, there was a perfect amount of food and very little leftovers. I left with an orange.

Typhoon coming again–we had T10 on wednesday already. By the time I was at the bus-stop it was T3 and the wind was definitely picking up when I got home.

mm family dinner

Dinner again at mm’s parents’ place. Her mum had a return visit to the doctor’s in the morning and it’s continuing good news, so we are all very glad. I met mm near the market to go shopping for some small stuff. I gave her a jar of her favourite peanut butter that I found in our cupboards so we went to get her favourite marmalade too. Got some medicines and toiletries from a small drugstore and two fish for dinner.

chengdinner20170819

Simple, healthy food again. Lots of veg, steamed fish, bbq pork from metropol. Even the lotus root that was used to make soup was tasty. Auntie was teaching us how to select the best food from the market, she really knows good quality.

Auntie’s doctor suggested that if they wanted to go on holiday for a few days that a resort or cruise will be most suitable because of the low stress. I was telling mm a little about cruises, cruise ships and how they work. Let’s see how it goes.

Dinner was early so that the elders could start getting ready for bed early. Instead of taking the train (meaning a long walk home) i took 2 buses. Probably around the same time but air-conditioning. I was home by 9.45pm.

mm family dinner

Went over to mm’s parents’ place for dinner. Her mum is looking better, more energy and alert and she’s up and walking around. They have 2 helpers now, one to take care of household chores and the other is a carer for auntie. The household helper apparently isn’t a very good cook so mm and auntie were supervising the cooking today.

Simple home cooked meal, limited by what auntie can eat. Steamed eggs, steamed pork, steamed fish, vegetables. Yes, mostly steamed but there was plenty for everyone, tasted good and everyone had a nice dinner. We opened a bottle of wine and shared with auntie’s friend. After dinner we played a game of checkers then it was time for them to get some rest.

Staying with mm tonight. Initially we thought we might chat but after showering we were too tired and went to bed.

bbmm social support day

saltedpigbeercrackling

Went to the hospital to visit mm’s mum, she found out she was ill mid-july when I was in chicago. I’ve been trying to support and cheer up mm. I feel guilty about being in chicago when it all happened and she was all on her own taking care of her parents. I feel much better that I’m close by and she can talk to me more.

After the hospital visit we went for a quick drink at the salted pig, one of those places along the shoreline 5mins’ walk from her place. She had a wine and I had a rather expensive craft beer. It being saturday 8pm everything was full price.

Ordered crackling which inexplicably came with guacamole. Guac from a jar, no taste of fresh avo at all, ugh. The crackling tasted like it was from a packet too, which was surprising because this was supposed to be a pig restaurant.

Staying over with her tonight, so we can talk till later and I don’t have to take a taxi home. We’re both pretty exhausted, early to rest.

the day before the flight

The day before the flight is usually extremely boring. I’ve checked in, I’ve packed my suitcases, I’ve saved the episodes of mkr and masterchef australia that I will watch in parallel so I’m up to date when I get back. I even roasted a whole chicken so mum can have leftovers tomorrow.

I was looking on google maps, checking the bus schedule when I realised the normal bus will take too long. Plan B is to take the airport express. So it involved going to the nearby travel agent and getting tickets. They only have 2 single instead of a return but still cheaper than to use the regular fare.

sliderdanryans

Met mm at dan ryan’s after dinner for a drink. Bless her, she came all the way over here so I didn’t have to travel. I was still extremely early so we could have met someplace more central. Ah well. They have all day happy hour so it was worth it. We had our usual glass of wine and ordered their daily bar snack, for mondays it’s philly cheesteak sliders. Very, very salty. We’re glad the sliders are small. It’s unlikely we will order these again. They have a hummous plate that we like, so next time that’s what we will stick to.

Instead of walking in the heat, I took the minibus home. Showered and now it’s a matter of tidying up and then going to bed.

bbmm tea, beer, dinner

Met mm after her appointment. Lots of catching up, just a couple of cups of tea. Then went walking for a bit, went to a gift shop so I can get some small presents then to a clothing store where she got a t-shirt. I was looking at some cargo pants and when I put it back my finger caught the metal hanger. At first it was an annoyance, then it started bleeding quite heavily. The staff reacted quickly and put 2 plasters over it. It’s like a paper cut but much deeper.

On the way to the restaurant for dinner we came across a small craft beer store with a blackboard outside that said free tasting. They were featuring beers by Singapore brewlander brewery and we got to chat with their brewer John Wei. He started as a home brewer and only started producing commercially a few months ago. The beer is actually brewed at premises he rented in Cambodia. The first beer we tried was a light, floral brew that is supposed to be perfect for the hot, humid tropical summer. We also tried their saison beer and liked both.

japbuffet201706

For dinner we went to a japanese ayce place. I think I was there with my parents a long time ago but haven’t been there with mm. The usual ordering method by ticking various pieces of paper of sashimi, sushi, grilled, deep fried etc. The sashimi selection was good, although not fantastic. They had a special offer of complimentary uni which was well received. Drinks including sake, beer, soft drinks were buffet style so we can fill our own sake jug. I tried half a glass of Orion beer and it wasn’t as good as the brewlander so I stuck to sake and tea.

saturday adventures

Meeting mm’s family for lunch. The weather is grotty and heavy rain and thunderstorms all day. She said 12.30pm. When I arrived at the restaurant around 10mins early, I couldn’t see anyone. No one by the correct name on the reservation list either. I sat on one of those plastic circular stools in the lift lobby to wait.

Around 12.50pm, mm called. They changed the restaurant without telling her, which had the knock-on effect of not telling me.

I was pissed. Jumped on a minibus to go to the new restaurant but at the back of my mind I was considering not going. Poor mm, I took it out on her because she’s the nearest. It’s not her fault and she was very angry too.

I’ll probably not go to a lunch or dinner with them for a while.

The main purpose of us meeting up was to go to sam’s. I needed a haircut and she wanted highlights. I waited till he got her started then he cut my hair then I waited till she finished. I could have gone out to walk around or pokemon but the weather was simply too bad.

passiondinner201706

Dinner was at passion, opposite sam’s. We got a whole bottle of house red and munched on a brie & onion palette (flat bread), braised pork rib with chickpeas and a 3 item salad of beetroot, quinoa & feta and orzo.

It was absolutely chucking down with rain when we left. I got a taxi and thought she would too, but she went to the sweet shop and took a bus.

emergency uber bag

emergencyuberbag

Met mm for drinks. She had a rollercoaster day of expectations and disappointment. We’re both in need of social support.

I told her I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own room. The atmosphere at home is miserable. I have no patience to listen to pointless talk or answer inane questions. I can’t deal with stupidity and ignorance and laziness from a lifetime of having other people taking care of everything. I don’t know how much longer I can stand this.

Bless her, mm said she’s only an uber away and I should pack an uber bag in case I need it. What got me depressed was I couldn’t think of where I could store my uber bag. There’s crap everywhere. Things that no longer work and we’ve bought replacements for. Empty boxes. The clear plastic bag toilet paper came in.

I then realised I don’t need a full bag, definitely not my emergency go bag or stuff recommended on quora like a knife or documents. So now I’ve packed a plastic bag of basic toiletries, medicine, t-shirt and shorts. Small enough to quickly stuff inside my regular backpack. Everything else mm will have. Unless the situation is very dire it’ll only be for a night or two. If the situation is dire, I’ll be packing a suitcase.

With only so few items, I don’t really need to pre-pack. But it made me feel marginally better. I also learned about ranger rolling and skivvy rolling clothing. The ranger roll is very neat and skivvy roll puts socks and underwear inside a larger item of clothing.

family & bbmm day

Met Uncle P for lunch at queen’s café. Old styled “western” food like borscht and skewers and beef strogonoff. He brought a copy of the photoessay book he’s been working on. Photographs from the 1970s to 2000s. I really like the theme and the photos are of course top-notch. Tried explaining the concept of crowdsourcing to him but I think he prefers the traditional publisher route.

Everyone had plans afterwards so I met up with mm. Hot day, walked a little then found a happy hour place. I was going to have beer but had a glass of wine instead. Korean bbq for dinner although we didn’t eat that much.

wordflowkeyboard

She was telling me about her supervisor who got her PhD in 2.5 years and is able to read 11 pages of academic journal in 2 minutes. Sounds really smart. So we were texting afterwards and we were both googly eyed. I was also trying to use the wordflow keyboard that I downloaded. I tend to type one-handed and thought the curved keyboard may help. Gave up after a short trial. I can’t figure out where to get stickers quickly. It wants to capitalise the first letter even though I turned it off. And I don’t like predictive keyboards. So three strikes and out.

chocolate truffle ice cream

Met mm and lily for lunch to share japan travel experience. At first we talked about going together but extensive communication with lily showed that we have different travel styles so best if we stuck to sharing experiences.

We went to toast box and had laksa. It’s a casual semi-fast food place so we could sit there as long as we liked; and we ended up having more drinks. Singapore place, so teh-o for me. It was a hot day but dry so we walked around for a bit after lunch.

Lily went home for dinner and we continued to look for a replacement fridge. My credit card points run out tomorrow so we were especially in a hurry. The problem was the available space, width and height were okay but not deep enough for most of the models we thought we okay. The smart shop assistant suggested we call up the bank to check if I can extend the points and, yay, success! Three months’ extension which solves the urgency issue.

We had wine and pizza at hmv café to celebrate and then went to find this ice cream stall. I had 2 vouchers for a free ice cream cone that expire tomorrow and no extension this time. This was from a chocolate place called dalloyau that we’d never heard of. Their shops are in the high-end shopping centres and they seem to peddle expensive chocolate, cake and coffee. The vouchers are for specifically, chocolate truffle ice cream.

choctruffleicecream

As soon as the assistant handed me the cone I knew it wasn’t quite the chocolate truffle we were thinking of. Instead of truffle made from hot cream/milk and chocolate, this is truffle the mushroom-fungus that grows in the ground and gets shaved over food like pasta and omelettes. The smell is distinctive. The problem for me, it overwhelmed the rich chocolate taste of the ice cream and left an unpleasant aftertaste.

Adding truffle to a dish instantly signals it’s something luxurious and exclusive. And like the gold leaf ice cream we didn’t try in Kanazawa, truffle in ice cream screams of pretentiousness, pointlessness and frankly, lack of palette. At least gold doesn’t taste of anything. I have come across truffle in dessert before and mushroom dessert is unusual, but can be tasty. Obviously no one in dalloyau watched the episode on MKR where truffled truffles with truffle ice cream got creamed by the judges.

The conclusion is, this shop added a luxurious ingredient for marketing purposes and we are clearly not shallow enough to be in their target market.

bbmm filler day

kor005hotel

Met mm to go fridge shopping. Alas she forgot to bring measurements so we ended up just looking. There are a couple of models that we like. The preference is to have the freezer compartment at the bottom. The supervisor at the store told us to make sure to measure: a) available space, not size of current fridge; b) available width of kitchen with door open to its maximum. Good advice.

Went to the supermarket and bought ready-to-eat stuff: pork knuckle, whelks, chicken wings. Opened a bottle of wine. It’s not like in Japan where we have too many choices of places to eat. We couldn’t think of a restaurant so home was best.

nagoya trip summary

ngo061car

Finished writing up trip and uploaded pics. This was a fantastic trip, and I’m very glad I insisted on going to a new destination rather than Hokkaido or Tokyo. It was a bit hectic, we tried to cram probably one or two stops too many, but we both agree it was worth the hassle. Having a car really, really helped. Some numbers:

  • duration: 8 days, 7 nights
  • hotels: 4 total
  • distance driven: 882km (548 miles)
  • pics taken: 976 original, trimmed to 696 in 6 sets

201705nagoyaexpenses

Total spend excluding personal shopping around USD2,200 per person. The package was decent value, notwithstanding the 4 nights that the agent incorrectly booked. They confirmed they will refund my credit card, so it’s all good. Transport was expensive, between car rental, tolls, and the alpine route ticket. Looking a past Japan expenses, transportation is always expensive.

Posts:

flickr sets:

Some more interesting pics. Takayama traditional house:
tak033house

Saw a group of customised motorbikes in a car park at Takayama:
tak183bike tak185bike

Cannot get enough of the view from our onsen hotel room:
tak322roomview

Koi kites at Shirakawa-go:
shi032koikite

Tilt-shift Shirakawa-go village:
shi99viewtiltshift

Sake, sake, sake:
tak093sake tak174sake
tak112sake tak233sake

Trolley bus through Tateyama tunnel felt like something out of a sci-fi film:
alp013trolley

Waiting for the bus, and then two comes at the same time:
alp141snow alp142snow
alp143snow alp144snow

Kenrukuen panorama:
kan102garden

Lanterns:
kan236chaya kan238chaya

Manhole covers:
ngo008manhole shi187manhole

nagoya trip day 08: flight

Checked out at 10am. We had loads of time, slowly wheeled our luggage across the station to catch the train to the airport. In retrospect we should have left our bags with the hotel and gone looking for chicken wings, but ah well.

ngo059sushi

The counter wasn’t open so we took our luggage with us to the food court. Had a decent local fish chirashi, then some shopping at muji and the pokemon store.

Flight was full, but we’d strategically picked aisle seats in the middle section and the seat between us was vacant, so yay. Watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which was very enjoyable. Too tired to get the bus home, took a taxi.

nagoya trip day 07: suganuma, nagoya

sug021village

Sniff sniff, our last full day. It’d been a hectic trip, we probably tried to cram in too much. But all of the places we visited had been worth it.

Went to a bakery café at the station for breakfast, bought additional bread and doughnuts for the road too. Went to the supermarket to get apples, and bought a small bottle of sake.

sug032roofworkers

The drive to nagoya was just over 3hrs so we had plenty of time, setting off at 10.45am. Around half an hour in, we saw the signs for gokayama so we decided to take the detour. Gokayama is another world heritage gassho heritage village like Shirakawa-go. Somehow we ended up at Suganuma despite following the signs. No matter, what a revelation. Smaller than Shirakawa-go but so much more peaceful and with only a handful of tourists. All the houses were concentrated around a small area and there were even workers working to replace the roof of one of the houses.

sug114camp

Lunch was soba, fried tofu, hida beef buns and unfiltered sake. All the delicious food we have been trying on the trip. The other side of the main village, through a short tunnel, were more gassho houses. Completely empty, until we noticed a map that said it was a youth camp. Probably the off-season and it seemed like a great place to camp in the summer. Both Suganuma and Shirakawa-go offered ryokan accommodation; next time it’d be something we will consider. Tha facilities would be basic, no air-con and likely shared bathrooms, but the villages offered tranquility and the opportunity to get away into nature.

ngo044hotel2

Long drive back to nagoya and the GPS took us to some odd building, not our hotel. Google maps to the rescue, it was just a few blocks out. The hotel was a higher class business class hotel than the no-frills one we were supposed to be booked into. Double the price. Really nice room with large beds, a sofa and a large bathroom. Top floor with floor length windows offering views of the city. Just a few minutes’ walk from the station. We went to the petro station, returned our car (882km total, less than one tank of petrol and an eye-popping ¥18650 in tolls), walked to Jins to get our glasses and did some drugstrore shopping.

ngo053wings

Seemed like the Chūbu region is more famed for cooked food than sashimi so we walked around the station looking for chicken wings. This izakaya we came across was cozy and had a great Friday evening atmosphere. Our new favourite drink was umeshu soda and we ordered 10 chicken wings, plus an assortment of other small dishes. Another new favourite was cucumber with miso, this we could make at home easily.

Last minute shopping at lawson’s then back to hotel to pack and rest for the night.

nagoya trip day 06: kanazawa market, kenrukuen, higashi chaya

kan342grill

At last, a leisurely day with no huge pressure to wake up early. First stop was the fish market, which after more walking than we preferred, we found a place that served sushi. We both got the tuna, ikura and crabmeat chirashi. Some Korean tv crew came into the restaurant whilst we were eating and filmed some tv star eating the restaurant’s largest sushi dish at one of the outside tables. It attracted a crowd, but we were never sure who the star was so we focused on eating our meal. The sushi was okay, nothing special. Had grilled eel and fish at another nearby stall and then we left for our next destination.

kan106garden

The highlight of Kanazawa was Kenrukuen garden, one of Japan’s Three Great Gardens. It had all the elements of great garden design like tranquility, harmony, water feature. Although it was fairly crowded, we never felt bothered and we could always find a quiet spot. There was a beautiful lake, and the trees and flowers were in perfect harmony with each other. A great place to walk around, breathe in the fresh air and take in the features.

kan153kimono

Even the shops outside were nice, we bought even more folders and I got a salty soda which tasted like upmarket fizzy pocari. We saw a group of three women in kimonos, whether they were geishas or just women in traditional costumes we didn’t know.

kan231chaya

From the garden we drove to higashi chaya tea house district. Traditional wooden houses in a pedstrian district, the houses used to be inhabited by geishas, hence the tea house aspect. Lots of picture opportunities and we stopped at a teahouse–iced matcha for me, hot matcha latte for mm and we shared a tea-flavoured chiffon cake. One thing we did resist throughout the day was the gold leaf covered ice cream that seemd to be everywhere. Kanazawa produces the majority of Japan’s gold leaves and these ice cream are supposed to be unique. Problem was, gold leaves are tasteless and we didn’t see the point of trying plain vanilla soft serve. We had green tea and sesame ice cream near kenrukuen and it was much better.

A few minutes from higashi chaya across town was a shopping district. We hadn’t done much shopping on this trip so it was nice to stop by tokyu hands. Bought some stationery and mm bought more cosmetics. Looking at google maps we saw a nearby chicken restaurant. We were early so were the only customers. The chicken skewers and chicken wings were nice, but nothing to write home about, so we went back to the hotel for ramen, bath and dessert in our room.

Our travel agent had been in touch throughout the past two days, trying to find a hotel for us in nagoya. Not successful, so we’re keeping the one we reserved ourselves.

nagoya trip day 05: tateyama-kurobe alpine route

6.30am alarm, we set off before 7.30am. The destination was tateyama-kurobe alpine route 立山黒部, or alpenroute as they shortened it. This region of the japanese alps get huge amounts of snow every winter and the buildings at the top of tateyama are snowed in until they can get snow ploughs going in march. A narrow corridor gets opened along the road up to the hotel at the top and the snow can reach 20m. A few years ago they realised they could turn this into a tourist attraction, and in typical Japanese fashion, came up with a route that goes from Tateyama up the mountain, along the snow corridor, down via ropeway and cable car to Kurobe dam on the other side. Several different modes of transport on one ticket. There are also a couple of companies that lets people drop off their car and then pick it up on the other side. We opted for a return from Tateyama to Kurobe dam and I bought the ticket online earlier, with a specific start time of 10am.

The GPS guidance up to now had been stellar. The navi systems in Japan allows us to enter a phone number of the destination as well as name. There was a hiccup this time round to Tateyama, almost at the end it took us to a steep footpath with an abrupt dropoff on the driver’s side. I shouldn’t have followed it but I did. Luckily we got through and rejoined the road, but it was scary for a moment.

alp005cablecar

We had experience with a planned, organised route through a sightseeing area before when we did the Hakone loop, but that didn’t prepare us for the sheer mayhem that was the alpenroute. We joined the queue at 9.55am for the 10am cable car, which was completely full. It took us up a 24% incline to the next stop where we joined another queue for the bus, which was also full. So full that a few people had to sit on the additional tour guide seats that opened up between the regular seats. The bus trip was almost one hour, and it took us from temperate temperatures to snow. Then we drove through the snow corridor, literally a corridor opened up with walls of snow either side of the road.

alp043ropeway

We made an executive decision once we got to Murodo, the end of the bus leg and where the snow corridor attraction was. The place was pandemonium, people everywhere. The reason was it was around noon, and people who started their journey on both the east and west points on the route were converging at the same time on Murodo. Since we were going roundtrip as opposed to one way, we decided to get to our end point, Kurobe dam, then make our way back, to avoid the crush. So it was a matter of hopping on even more modes of transportation: a trolley bus that went through a tunnel in the mountain, the ropeway and another cable car.

alp064dam

It was a good decision. The dam was really peaceful and the weather was good. Took around 15mins to walk across to the other side and then it was time for lunch; I had katsu-don and mm had tempura udon. Probably the most disappointing food on the trip so far, definitely below par and tasting like fast food. Served its purpose, filled us up considering we didn’t have a proper breakfast.

alp153snow

Went through the clouds on the way back up and down the mountain, which was an interesting experience. By the time we arrived at the snow corridor it was around 3pm and the crowd had thinned out somewhat. The snow corridor was basically a stretch of road leading to the bus stop, with one side of the road roped off for pedestrians. A sign at the end of the roped area showed where the snow was highest, 16m this winter. People queued up for pictures and the gentleman who took our picture tried to get a bus in the background. As it was nearing the end of the tour day, there were plenty of buses along the road, which was the perfect way of showing how high the wall was. To be honest, at that point we were quite tired from all the travelling and found the snow wall a bit underwhelming. The light didn’t give pictures as good as postcards and the snow wall itself wasn’t pristine white. Still very nice and an interesting sight.

alp193snowroad

The map showed a trail to a small lake at the back of the building and we thought we might try going there. Problem was the path hadn’t been ploughed and it was slippery to negotiate. We needed boots and poles. Gave up after about 100m and took the bus and cable car back to the bottom of the mountain. I like this pic that shows a bus coming up through the corridor. When we got back down the mountain to Tateyama station we still had a 1.5hr drive back to Kanazawa but it was a good day out and we were back in our room by 7pm.

kan371wings

The hotel recommended a nearby izakaya, around 5mins’ walk. Unfortunately it was full and everyone was smoking so we left and went to one across the road. It was a good choice. I had a much needed beer and we ordered yakitori, chicken wings, chicken cartilege and a really yummy asparagus-mushroom dish. They were sold out of beef and gizzards, and chicken wings too when we tried to order a second portion. We went back to the hotel, went to the bath and had the hotel ramen. Did laundry too, the washers were free and the dryers ¥100 for 20mins.

nagoya trip day 04: shirakawa-go

tak453view

We asked for a window seat at breakfast and were not disappointed. What a view! The server told us that we were looking at umbrella mountain, the #1 mountain in Gifu Prefecture (Fuji is #1 in Japan, he acknowledged). The breakfast was even more satisfying than yesterday’s, if that was possible. The tray was positively brimming with smal dishes and we got to grill our own fish too.

shi043house

We set off at 10am to head to Shirakawa-go 白川郷, around 1.5hrs. The village is a UNESCO World Heritage site of gassho thatched cottages, or steep high-sided thatched roofs intended to withstand the heavy snowfalls in winter. The name gassho meant prayer hands, because of the shape the roof made.

shi056sake

The entire site was quite crowded with many tour groups. There was the inevitable commercialisation of the village, with the main street full of souvenir shops and food stands. Didn’t detract from its natural beauty though; after the region attained world heritage status, the houses had to be maintained using thatched roofs but we could see a few that had been modernised before they got the status. We stopped at one of the shops that had a sake bar and ordered one sake and one unfiltered sake. The unfiltered one was absolutely delicious. The intense taste of the rice that was still present in the liquid, so sweet and so satisfying. We bought a jar to take home with us.

shi092view

We didn’t go inside the houses that were open to the public. At the top of the village was a steep path that led to a viewpoint up the hill. Good exercise and worth the walk. Stunning views of the village, surrounded by green mountains and there was still snow at the top of the mountains in the background. I played around with the tiltshift app on my phone, the small lego-like houses were perfect for this purpose.

shi145house

Despite the commercialisation, it was still a working village. Away from the main street, villagers were farming the land or in greenhouses. It wasn’t as remote as it seemed–there was no part of Japan that was truly remote–the villagers went about their business, there were plenty of cars around and we saw the post being delivered throughout the day. Lunch was soba with a small bowl of flavoured rice. The cold, refreshing soba dipped in sauce was the perfect lunch, not too heavy and no need for meat.

shi178teacoffee

Explored the lower end of the village and stopped at a café-shop. I had iced matcha latte and mm had coffee. The matcha latte was just like green tea milkshake and better than ice cream. The shop sold cute accessories and stationery; I bought a couple of notebooks for my niece. We’d been stocking up on folders along the way and I had a good selection already.

shi222museum

The last stop of the day was the open air heritage museum. By the time we got there we were the last people to enter and the place was completely empty. Didn’t think the tour groups went there anyway. There were around 20 thatched houses that we learned were transported from the village to the museum and faithfully reconstructed. The interiors were large and open plan. We ventured up to the first floor of one but didn’t go to any more because the stairs were pretty steep and precarious. A couple of houses were showing videos of the village’s history and there was one video of how the thatched roofs were made. Very manual and intensive. Takes a lot of skill and knowhow to add the thick layers in the right way to ensure support and protection. Thick ropes and needles secured the bundles to interior beams.

From Shirakawa-go we headed to Kanazawa for the next 3 nights. When we got to the hotel we discovered to our horror that our agent had booked us on the wrong dates (June instead of May). The hotel front desk staff were wonderful, they got the manager’s approval to let us have a vacant room they saved for emergencies even though they were officially full. Additional cost, but we would claim this from our agent. We discovered the next hotel was also booked for the wrong date and the staff called for us, even though it was a different chain. Unfortunately there were no rooms so first thing we did when we got to our room was hit up hotels.com. Pretty full but I was able to find a room near the station. It was nice to have a bigger room for 3 days, the room was probably saved for VIPs as it was on the top floor and larger than the usual rooms.

Pretty tired after the long day so we walked to the station, found a supermarket and bought sushi to eat back in our room. The hotel had a sento, aka public bath. A small indoor pool, an even smaller outdoor pool and a sauna. The water didn’t feel like onsen water, we could smell chlorine. The sauna was great and much needed after a long day’s walking and driving.

nagoya trip day 03: takayama

tak404miso

Breakfast at this hotel was served in the restaurant, which was a change. A nicely presented selection of small dishes, with fish as the protein. What was outstanding was the miso heated over shiso leaves: a combination of salty, sweet, smoky. Yum.

Drove out to Takayama, parked in town today. Typical efficient Japanese carpark, only a few spaces with automatic sensor. A ramp comes up underneath the car when it senses movement, when we leave we pay at the machine and it tells us how much. The ramp lowers and we have 3 mins to move the car. We had been noticing yesterday, so were on the lookout for cheaper hourly places.

tak221coffee

The destination this morning was miyagawa morning market by the river. Mainly stalls selling fruit, vegetables and some craft. A mix of local and tourists. We bought really huge juicy apples and sake from a sake shop. Stopped at a coffee stall run by an elderly lady. Two things on the menu-coffee and iced coffee–I was even okay with the coffee provided I added lots of cream. There was a sign that the stall had been in business since 1975. We felt proud to be part of its history.

tak253beeflunch

Lunch was at a butcher shop-restaurant. Weekday lunch special, A5 hida beef that we grilled at the table, this time cut in cubes. The best beef on the trip so far in my opinion. Polished off with a bottle of cold sake.

tak046street

There was more time to walk around Takayama old town, and by the end of the afternoon we had covered almost all of it. It being a monday, there were definitely fewer people than yesterday and we were able to spend more time exploring the souvenir shops, sake shops or take pictures of the traditional wooden houses.

tak023house

There was even a visit to a miso / soy sauce shop and they were serving samples of miso soup. Discovered the souvenir find of this trip–plastic folders! We’d gotten to the point of not wanting to buy too many souvenirs, and tired of always buying the same mochi or sweets. Folders are cheap, useful and make great souvenirs.

We saved enough time to drive to a drugstore we saw yesterday. Bought tea and mm bought some cosmetics.

tak292deck

Time for onsen before dinner, and a little time to sit at the rest area to have a cup of tea or coffee too. The rest area looked out onto the deck, if we had more time at the hotel it would be so peaceful to sit out there and absorb the mountain view.

Kaiseki dinner started with a really refreshing yogurt liquor. The starters, sashimi, sticky dumpling. Hida beef was cooked as a shabu shabu, and the soup was used to make udon at the end. We were both full by then but the udon was so good we managed to eat a bowl each.

Time to pack and sleep.

nagoya trip day 02: takayama, onsen

Our hotel included breakfast. It was pretty much a mad scramble with around a hundred people in a canteen-like dining room with long tables and everything self-serve. Curry, rice, scrambled eggs, sausages, heaps of salad, fruit. I made tea from hot water. Even though it was a mad scramble, everyone was well-mannered and organised. No shouting, no pushing, no cutting in line. There was even a queue to return dirty trays and people wiped the table after them using the cloth provided. This is what I love about the Japanese people.

We checked out and crossed the street to pick up our rental car from the toyota rent-a-car office. Spending time on research means picking the correct location. Our car was a blue Aqua, which is the local equivalent of a Prius C so basically we were renting Ryan for a week. Added ETC card rental because we knew there would be lots of tolls.

tak176sake

Attempted to go to the central market but it looked closed so we headed straight onto the motorway towards Takayama. Easy 1.5hr drive. We drove around the town, through the middle of the mass of tourists at the old town area and ended up at a shopping street 10-15mins’ walk from the station. Parking there was free, ostensibly for the shopping street only so we made sure to visit there first. Already we saw stuff we love: Japanese sweets and local sake. The nice lady gave us samples and we tried valiantly to communicate with each other using broken English and copious domo arigatou gozaimasu.

tak243hidabeef

We walked around the old town quickly to find lunch. We knew we wanted hida beef, the local speciality that has similar marbling to kobe and matsuzaka beef. We chose the grilled thin-sliced A5 grade hida beef rice set. It was served hitsumabushi style, with condiments and broth. Fantastic. Tender and juicy beef and everything so well balanced.

tak011river

We had around 2 hrs after lunch to explore around town. Saw part of the old town main street, bought cute ceramic ornaments, sampled more sake. Ate green tea ice cream that was disappointing (too icy). Bought fruit and tea at the supermarket. Walked back to the shopping street to buy souvenirs and a bottle of sake from the nice lady.

tak321room

We were on a schedule. It was around 1hr’s drive to the onsen hotel and we wanted to get there before 5pm. It’s a big sprawling hotel with several wings. Luxurious lobby and an entire shelf of yukatas so we could pick the pattern we liked. We found out our dinner slot was at 8pm so that meant we had time to rest. Our room was absolutely wonderful and totally exceeded our expectations. It was a suite! The bedroom was tatami, with low mattresses and more than enough room to lay our suitcases out. Then there was a sitting room with sink and fridge, and a massage chair. The view from the sitting room out to the garden was spectacular, there was a small stream and daffodils just beginning to appear. Best of all, we had our own onsen bathtub, wow. Everything was clean too, so it wasn’t a case of not wanting to touch or use the tub.

There was time before dinner to go to the onsen. There was a large indoor pool, a couple of tubs outside and an outdoor pool. Not too crowded and all very nice. Oh, a low temperature sauna too. We needed the relaxation of an onsen, it was great to just soak in the hot water. Fresh milk was available for free in the small sitting area outside the baths, we shared one bottle so as not to ruin our appetite.

tak377hidabeef

The restaurant was quite posh and as usual the kaiseki menu had lots of courses. Started off with an alcoholic aperitif, then starters, sashimi, sticky dumpling before the main course. It was the local attraction, hida beef, which we grilled ourselves at the table. Really yummy. Finished off with beef pot, rice and dessert.

tak343bath

Even though we’d already used the onsen, I wanted to wash my hair because of the grease and smell from dinner. So I used our private onsen tub. It was okay, took a long time to fill, by then I was bored so I only soaked for a few minutes.

Long day travelling, picturesque traditional town and an outstanding hotel room. Totally worth it.

nagoya trip day 01: flight, nagoya

Early start, 5am alarm because mm was setting off before me and I wanted to make sure she got up. I was planning on catching the 6.30am bus, managed to catch the one before that. It was standing room only! Seemed like I was sharing the bus with airport workers going to work and a few travellers catching early flights. Since I was early I went to get the pocket wifi before meeting mm. Check-in was easy and we were inside quickly. Breakfast was eggs I made yesterday (perfectly soft boiled if I may say so myself) and sandwiches mm made. The alternative would have been Mcdonalds and we only got tea and coffee from them.

The flight was almost full. I got us adjoining aisle seats when I checked in, on purpose. Watched La la land which, for all the hype, was a little disappointing. Not the sort of film I watch on planes.

ngo001train

The plane was a litte early. We checked the transportation board and confirmed that the limited express train was the best way. The information centre had a helpful hand-drawn leaflet too, so cute. Only 30mins to Nagoya main station. Our hotel was around 10mins’ walk and the only difficulty was figuring which direction. Pocket wifi and google maps took care of that. We were only there for one night, so the no-frills business semi-double room suited our purpose.

ngo003tower

The area around the station was full of modern buildings and posh shops. Our first destination was Jins glasses shop. My research showed us it was at the station mall and we found it easily enough. Quite comical, trying to get my eyes tested and barely able to communicate with the optican there. I have the frame which I bought in Tokyo and it’s ¥5000 per feature–I needed graduated lenses and I added UV-sensitive coating. Economical price, and I’ll get the new glasses in 1 week.

ngo017hitsumabushi

More research told us foodwise we should be trying the unagi hitsumabushi. The eel in Nagoya are fatter and tastier river eels and they grill the entire fish instead of steaming then grilling in other locations. The idea is to add flavour and smokiness. Hitsumabushi means to sample three ways: plain, then with condiments, then dipped in a dashi broth. We found a restaurant in a mall next to the station and gave it a go. It was definitely tasty, as expected from well executed unagi. Plain, with wasabi and with broth were all great. I ended up mixing the eel and rice with wasabi then eating with the broth.

On the way back to the hotel, we visited drugstores we noticed earlier. Bought snacks and a 2l bottle of tea for travelling. We only started noticing drugstores last time in Tokyo, turns out they have an enormous selection of toiletries, cosmetics but also snacks, household goods, gadgets and interesting stuff.

trip errands, happy hour

Went to the bank, changed some yen for our trip. Then met mm at the transport department to get our international driver’s licences. I’m so used to using either my UK or US driver’s licence to rent cars that I almost forgot Japan didn’t accept them. They do accept, amongst others, Swiss driver’s licence but I’ll have to get a certified Japanese translation. Less trouble to get the international one. We tried making an appointment online but couldn’t get one so it was walk-in. Argh, there was a loooooong queue. As usual, it involved queuing up for ages to go to one counter to hand in our application and another queue to pay. At least we got the licence there and didn’t have to go to a third counter. Government bureaucracy. Took 1.5hrs.

tequila

Went to happy hour at the place sis and I went to in April. Two-for-one drinks plus a small cold buffet bar with proscuitto, cheese, bread, olives, fruit. Instead of wine or beer or even whisky (they only had Chivas and Jack Daniels) we ordered tequila, after our experience at frites. The drink came with salt and lemon.


There are right and not so right ways of drinking tequila. The clichéd method is salt on back of hand, shot in one then lemon wedge. Or neat, as zagat suggested in the video. We sipped it like whisky. Added a little salt and a drop of lemon juice, but mostly as a slow drink to enjoy the taste. We’re not yet at the point where we know what is good tequila, and I didn’t make a note of the brand. No wonder people get drunk off it, it’s so easy to drink. Good thing there was food. That was my dinner, I didn’t feel like eating anything else; mm had a meeting so I walked with her part ways until my bus stop. I was home by 7.30pm.

bbmm+dutch friend

kowlooncity2017

Our friend lily is visitng from amsterdam, we met for lunch today. The consensus was for thai so mm and I searched and decided on the area near the old airport that has a lot of thai restaurants. Google map tells me it’ll be 37min walk or 35mins by bus so I decided to leave earlier and walk there. I can cover the parks between home and there and do some pokehunting. I walked past what used to be the infamous walled city, which was bulldozed in the early 1990s and is now a park. The streets nearby haven’t all been developed, although patches now have tall apartment blocks. How much longer will these old houses last?

We went to a casual restaurant called mini bangkok that is #2 on the tripadvisor list (#1 is in the food court of the wet market and we disregarded it as we wanted somewhere we can sit longer). We were too busy eating to take pictures; plus casual food never look good. We had pomelo salad, greens with balachan, grilled squid and oyster pancakes. The two veg dishes were outstanding and the oyster pancakes (more like battered oyster omelettes) were filling.

We decamped to dan ryan’s to chat and take advantage of their happy hour. Mostly, mm and lily talked about cosmetics and occasionally our upcoming trips to Japan. I had a couple of beers and watched the football on the tv.

reypenaercheese

Lily brought tons of goodies for us. Last time she brought this brilliant dark bread, this time she brought herb & pepper flavoured foccacia. Smoked eel, calvé peanut butter (head and shoulders ahead of skippy), seasoning to make herb butter. And a huge block of reypenaer vsop cheese, a gouda using milk from grass-fed cows and matured for 24 months in 100 year old warehouses. It’s an artisanal cheese from a family business that has been making cheese the traditional way. We’re so blessed to have such a thoughtful friend.

tabletop bbq

bbq15

Met mm and her brother’s family for bbq. This is a style of bbq we’ve never tried before–table top bbq. We’re all sat around a wooden bench and they brought a rectangular charcoal grill which sat on top of some bricks. The charcoal was already lit and ready for grilling immediately.

All you can eat for 3 hours. The ingredients are in an indoor pantry area, the meat in a large fridge unit and vegetables on shelves. Most food was skewered so the grilling was super easy and efficient. Much safer than the traditional bbq pit and so much faster; there was no wait for the food to cook unlike the pit bbq. We had king prawns, clams that cooked in a claypot, steak, ribs, tongue, chicken wings, fish balls, courgettes, mushroom, pumpkin, enoki mushrooms in aluminium foil. I got a bucket of beer.

Liking this style of bbq a lot, would want to try again.

bbmm day out

Day out with mm, she brought Ryan (after jumpstarting) and drove out to saikung. It being a public holiday the area was crowded so after one turn around the streets we decided to park at the car park instead.

Nice short walk along the shore front. It was low tide so some people had ventured to the rocks opposite the promenade. There were boats, fishing people selling seafood from their boats, people with their annoying dogs, kite fliers, a small craft market–the usual stuff.

bbmmthai201704

We had dinner at a nice thai restaurant. Whole fish in tom yum soup, green curry lamb, gai lan. The first time either one of us had come across thai lamb curry, it was good. Very coconut-y, not spicy at all. If anything, a tad too sweet. The fish in tom yum was great, especially the tanginess and spice of the soup. Quite a popular restaurant, it was full and lots of families there too.

While walking around afterwards we spied a supermarket with a poster that says they sell Tesco goods. Immediately crossed the road. Wow, lots and lots of Tesco goodies. And extremely reasonably priced too, cheaper than the supermarket and almost 759 level of pricing. We ended up buying a lot, I got museli for mum, canned tomatoes, olive oil, grapeseed oil and halloumi. If we had space I would have bought some wine too. It’s a bit far away, but if we’re there for a day out next time, we are sure to revisit this special supermarket.

ex-colleagues dinner

bdaycake02

Yesterday we met up with the ex-office girls for dinner at a thai place. There was a slight panic when we were told we can only have the table for 1.5hrs, but in the end it was an empty threat–there was no one in the queue after 1.5hrs so no need to return the table. Nice food, the place has the same name as a dingy, crowded place I’ve been a few times, wonder if they are the same.

Satay, spicy chicken feet salad, green curry chicken, pad thai, pineapple fried rice. We had beer and the girls had lime soda. I’d actually gone out earlier to run errands and attempt to pokehunt. Errands took quicker than expected, coudln’t lot into pogo and it rained very hard so I spent more than an hour at a happy hour place nearby and had 2 beers already. Too much beer!

The girls brought a nice green tea cake for dessert. Perfect small size for 5 people. Great to catch up.

birthday

2017bday039lunch

Sis treated us to lunch at ON dining. It’s busy at lunchtime, good to see that business is good.

For starters I had pork knuckle carpaccio, which is pork terrine sliced very thin with an emulsion of egg and herbs topping. Mum and sis got an amuse bouche of soup since they didn’t order starters; gis had onsen egg with black truffle sauce.

Mains Sis and I had pigeon with foie gras. Perfectly cooked pigeon, delicious. Gis had beef and mum had hake.

I got a surprise birthday cake, their raspberry & yuzu that was on the menu. Mum got the same cake for dessert. Sis and I both ordered cheese so we got a large cheeseboard of comté plus six strong, oozy, yummy, cheese.

Met mm after lunch. We were going to have drinks but I thought we could get haircut since that was our original plan for saturday. Even better, because sam said he was pretty booked on saturday.

2017bday065shot

Early dinner at frites. It’s rugby sevens weekend and friday and we didn’t have a reservation. If we sat at a table we’d have to give it back by 7.30pm, but we were free to sit at the bar for as long as we wanted. So I picked the bar. We shared a plate of fried camembert and a pot of mussels. I had a beer and mm had a glass of red wine. Really lovely. The manager gave us each a complimentary shot of tequila for birthday, and I got a discount card too.

It was a nice birthday. Everybody made an effort and I felt blessed and loved. I just wish I felt better and more cheerful inside.

mm birthday

mmbdaycakes

It’s mm’s birthday. We were going to go have haircuts but it seemed our hairdresser is closed today for public holiday. She also seemed to be not answering my telepathic pleas to decide on when and where to meet.

So finally we fixed a time. I detoured to simplylife and bought 2 slices of cake: raspberry truffle and chestnut. They turned out to be very, very nice.

mmbdaysteak

Walked a little, then settled on dinner at the hotel near her. Semi-buffet. Salad bar was pretty good: salad, charcuterie, oysters, crab legs, mussels and a nice poached salmon that ran out way too quickly. For mains we shared the 400g rib-eye that came with shoestring fries and waldorf salad. The server tried to flambé the steak with a tiny shot glass of Jack Daniel’s and it was a pretty sorry sight. The steak was average, mm says I cook them better.

bbmm dinner drinks

nanliangarden2017

The plan was to meet mm late afternoon after her appointment. There’s a pokemongo water event going on and I was looking at appx trying to see if lapras was anywhere. There’s an area between 3 stations that showed promise so I left earlier and headed over there. Turned out to be part of a temple complex, the garden was pretty with lots of traditional plants, a pagoda, bridges and a waterfall. Good tourist spot, good photo ops and there’s a shop and restaurant. Good spawning selection too, got a few new gen 2. Then I saw lapras’ shadow and was so grateful for the footprints showing exactly where the stop was. It was an athletics track at a nearby school and I ran through another garden and jaywalked across the road to get there. Sign that not many people are still playing, there were only around a dozen people there.

Met with mm around 5pm and went to a hotpot restaurant. They have a 10% discount for the 5-7.30pm slot. Instead of going for tea then walking then dinner we thought we’d have dinner first. Great idea, the place gets very crowded at normal dinnertime but so early it was relatively quiet. Food was good, we liked the prawns and vegetables; tried fish soup this time which went well with our favourites.

Time enough to walk around and we ended up at the heritage house bar. No happy hour and fairly expensive but we had the place to ourselves for a good 2 hours before a few people came in for after dinner drinks.

bbmm wine at home

Just a few hours a week isn’t much, but we tried to make the best use of them. We wanted to go to the travel agent but mm wanted to meet for drinks beforehand. I checked that the german bierhalle had happy hour and we had a glass of house red each. Not very inspiring house red, it suited our purposes.

For the travel agent visit, we got one of the really knowledgeable agents there. He asked a few questions about where, when and what sort of things we liked doing and proceeded to plan our itinerary. Even looked up options for airports in/out and how we can add our friend lily to the trip. Whilst mm was asking him other questions, I asked my original agent about the NCL refund and she said still waiting. Not her fault, local NCL is being slow and useless. More about our possible trip later.

margaux201703

Instead of going to a restaurant, we went to the market, bought hainanese chicken and veg, and had dinner at her place. So much nicer, and watched Bones too. Finished about 2/3rd of the whole chicken, plus giblets. The wine was great! It’s so rarely that I get to try someone more expensive than the regular cheap zin or pinots I drink at home. What we both liked about this margaux was how fragrant it was, so fruity, so full of berry notes. We both swirled the wine (not overfilling the glass) and inhaled the rich blackcurrant aroma, it was enough sometimes, no need to drink it. When we did taste, it was sweet and smooth without being overly caramel-y and hardly any tannic aftertaste.

We polished off the entire bottle.

Good food, good wine, good company. Definitely have to do it again.

bbmm wine hotpot

Met up with mm in the afternoon. We had a couple of hours to kill so went to a hotel bar and ordered a bottle of wine. A whole bottle! It was nice to just sit there and chat. Now that she’s working full-time in the university research department we hardly get time to text, let alone meet up. We decided that she needs more play time. Dinner was simple hotpot, we were early so were done by 7.30pm. A little walking then home early.

trip write-up

Trip is written up.

day 01: tokyo, sake tasting
day 02: hakone, hotel onsen and massage
day 03: hakone sightseeing circuit to moto-hakone, hakone-machi, lake ashi (with fuji view), owakudani, gora, open air museum
day 04: tokyo, new hotel, new glasses, old whisky tasting, old conveyor belt place
day 05: tsukiji, toyota car city, odaiba
day 06: ikebukuru, pokemon mega centre, shopping
day 07: ueno shpping
day 08: flight

flickr sets: tokyo | hakone

tok380phonewifi

One thing I have to mention, that we are extremely grateful for, is the pocket wifi we rented. Worked out to be local$96, or around £10, for the entire trip. Pick up and return at the counter at the airport and good connection via the Softbank network throughout. We left it on all day, and on a full charge it lasted around 8hrs. Since we both have external batteries, it was simply a matter of recharging it for about an hour in the middle of the day to ensure it lasted till we got back to the hotel at night. At one point we had both iphones, my ipad, and both macbooks connected and it was fine.

japan trip day 08: flight home

4am alarm, ack. Checked out at 5am and the hotel had called a taxi for us. The short trip to Tokyo station was ¥1230, no wonder people rarely take taxis. I’d done research and found keisei bus that goes from Tokyo station to NRT for only ¥1000. This compared with ¥3000 for TCAT and NEX train. We saved the map of the bus station on my iphone and the taxi driver found it easily. We would have struggled. We had aimed for getting the 5.45am but were early enough to catch the 5.20am.

Check-in for the flight was fast, and we had to wait outside at the waiting area for security and immigration to open at 7.15am.

Breakfast was ramen at the self-service restaurant and all too soon it was time to board!

tok386fuji

Last view: Mount Fuji from the plane. Hazy but visible and with no cloud cover this time.

Slept through almost the entire flight. This was a rare airplane–no tv screen whatsoever, not even a main screen. That’s very rare nowadays. This meant a quiet flight though, everyone had gotten early for the flight and most people were sleeping.

The plane landed early at just after 1pm but there was a long delay waiting for our luggage to come out. Original estimate of getting home at 3pm revised to 3.30pm. I took a longer way home via the station to avoid traffic.

japan trip day 07: ueno shopping

Shopping day. Headed to Ueno, to the pedestrian shopping street we remember from last time. Breakfast was ramen, something warm to give us energy for the day.

First discovery was another ¥100 shop. Bought laundry and cleaning supplies. I’ve been looking for brillo pads, it’s on my UK shopping list, and I was happy to see them in the ¥100 shop. Then it was onto more drugstores and more cosmetics and toiletries shopping.

tok359icecream

A little reward for me was really nice green tea ice cream from a shop specialising in green tea. They let us sit inside the shop to finish the ice cream too. There was more shopping, and we also bought fish and ikura to take home. It’s cold enough and we asked the shop to wrap the items carefully.

tok362tuna

Good thing we bought fish at Ueno, when we got to Tsujiki the shops there were all closed. Lucikly the restaurants were still open so our last dinner in Tokyo was fatty tuna don with a side of ikura, uni and salmon. The uni was the best on the trip.

Back to the hotel for packing and finishing the bottle of sake. The fish we put outside on the balcony, it’s colder than inside the fridge.

japan trip day 06: ikebukuru, pokemon centre

tok105salmontuna tok108clam

Brunch at the 24hr seafood restaurant nearby. Salmon and tuna plus clam sashimi and flame-grilled clam. Everything was fresh and delicious.

tok277pokemon

Took the subway to Ikebukuru, such a contrast to our hotel area. Most shops were closed near us but Ikebukuru was jam-packed full of people. Eventually we made our way to the pokemon center at sunshine city. A huge store, with statues of pokemons inside. The most striking is pikachu riding on charizard near the entrance. There are also other gen 2, 3 pokemons we don’t know.

tok289pikachu tok292pokemon

Shelf upon shelf stuffed with soft toys, accessories, souvenirs, trading cards. I bought the 2 soft toys my niece wanted and a few small souvenirs for friends still playing pokemongo. Bought a gengar soft toy for myself and a charizard collectible figure. Oh, and splurged out on a go+. The store was lured but not many people playing. Hakone was okay in terms of pokehunting but Tokyo has been disappointing. Pidgeys and rattatas everywhere. Some eevees too but that’s it.

Time for tea. We found a traditional coffee house near the station. Tiny cheesecake and iced coffee. I’m finding the coffee in Japan drinkable if I add lots of milk and a little sugar. It’s not very strong. The negative of a traditional coffee house is they allow smoking, like at certain restaurants and in all izakayas. Ironic, that smoking isn’t allowed on the street but inside confined spaces like restaurants.

Walked back up the pedestrian shopping street for Tokyu Hands and drugstores. Toiletries and cosmetics are much, much cheaper and mm spent a lot of time looking at them. I bought some eye masks for mum and face masks for sis. Mostly I browsed around waiting for mm to finish. Kinda boring.

tok323beef

We wanted grilled beef for dinner. The first place we went to, at 5.30pm, was full. Do they eat early or what? A little further away we found a place that advertised 8 different cuts of IIRC wagyu beef for ¥6800. The different cuts included sirloin, filet, tri-tip, skirt and tongue. Very well marbled and melt-in-the-mouth. We also ordered a plate of vegetables for grilling and a salad, which turned out to be banchan. We wondered if it was a korean place. No matter, the beef was delicious.

Back on the pedestrian street for more drugstore shopping, found a ¥100 shop too. We ended up walking up and down that street 6 times today.

japan trip day 05: tsukiji, odaiba

First things first, breakfast at Tsujiki. By the time we got going and got there it was more like brunch. It being a saturday, the market was packed. We went to the outer market and easily found two spots at the sushi place. Ordered tuna-don with a side of miso. The tuna was okay, we thought the quality would be better for ¥1600 per bowl but still nice.

The plan today was to visit Odaiba, the artificial island at the SE corner of Tokyo. We visited there many years ago, and it’s changed a lot since then. Many more buildings and spots for visitors. We took the monorail from Shimbashi station all the way to the other side of the island. Our destination was the Toyota car city at megaweb. It’s truly a city, with 2 level of huge exhibition space. Current cars in production on one level, we liked the new Tank and Roomy, which is indeed roomy. Distinctive Japanese box-like cars, with small abrupt boot and sliding rear doors for easy access.

The upper floor is devoted to racing cars on one side and future cars on the other. We were immediately drawn to the kikai, a cute concept car with visible parts, like the car equivalent of Pompidou. Very cartoonish, and it’s may be hard to envision driving one on the road. This is the vision of the future. There are other futuristic cars too, all electric and aerodynamic.

tok205toyota

The other side of the upper level is a display of Toyota racing cars. A large screen gave a first person view of driving a racing car, and it’s the deep vroom of a powerful engine that is the draw. We queued up to play a playstation driving game in recaro seats. Haha, no wonder we don’t play games, we were dead last.

Lunch was beef hotpot with udon noodles and wild vegetable tempura at one of the restaurants in the outlet next doors. We were quietly enjoying our lunch when the lights dimmed, shutters between the balcony (where we were sitting) and the main restaurant came down and we heard screaming coming from downstairs. A young pop singer came on stage and started singing. No idea who she is, but it seems like she has a lot of fans who were singing along, cheering and clapping. Bonus free entertainment.

tok251gundam tok265bridgestatue

It was almost sunset when we made our way around the outdoor areas of Odaiba. It was cold and very windy, we had to struggle to walk part of the way. Nice sights though–a Ferris wheel, a gundam statue, sculptures, the fuji tv building and a replica of the statue of liberty against the backdrop of the rainbow bridge that looks like Brooklyn bridge. A little NYC in the middle of Tokyo.

The subway back towards our hotel brought us to Mitsukoshi, so we walked around the food, stationery and kitchenware sections. My feet were hurting by then so I took a seat while mm did more shopping. Didn’t go out for dinner, bought oden ingredients, tuna sashimi and crab meat at the supermarket for dinner in our room. Great to put our feet up and enjoy some sake too.

Took advantage of the washer-dryer in our room to do laundry too.

japan trip day 04: hakone to tokyo

We had planned to go to the outlet at Gotemba but the transportation timings didn’t work out so we decided to check-out and go back to Tokyo early. We were selective with breakfast, it was salmon today but it was overcooked and I found too many bones for my liking. I liked the natto though, I should get it more often at home.

hak391beer

There was a little time between the shuttlebus dropping us off and train departure so we walked around the area around the station and mm looked after our suitcases whilst I did some pokemon hunting to hatch a few eggs. I caught a farfetch’d at the hotel a couple of nights ago but haven’t played during the day. Bought a souvenir can of Hakone beer for the train ride.

The train was faster than the outbound journey. We refilled our pasmo and took the subway to Kanda, around 6mins walk from the Tokyu Stay serviced hotel. We were too early so we left our luggage and went off to Tokyo station. It’s as huge as we remembered and with construction, it took us a few wrong turns and a lot of google mapping to get to the Yaesu end. Now we were in more familiar territory. Popped into the pokemon shop to find soft toys for my niece, visited the whisky shop to check out their collection and headed to our first Tokyo destination–Jins for glasses. The service at the shop was spectacular, and the prices were really good too. The optician helped us pick frames and checked our eyes. Normally glasses are ready in 30mins but with my prescription it’ll take a week so I wasn’t able to get new glasses. I did buy a frame for ¥5900 though, a bargain. Waiting for mm to get her eyes thoroughly checked and she can get new glasses. Ah well.

tok082whisky tok085whisky

As compensation (for me), we went to Hasegawa and tasted a few whiskies. No more aged whiskies in Japan nowadays, everything’s been bought up. The Yoichi, Miyagikyo and Taketsuru NAS samples were a poor substitute, but pretty decent. Also tried a Yamazaki umeshu which tasted like sweet plum juice. Saw some compass box bottles so I tried Asyla and Spice Tree, not bad.

tok072congereel
tok066ikura tok064fattytuna

Dinner was at Hanamaru conveyor belt sushi restaurant. We got there shortly after 5pm and there was already a queue! Waited around 15mins, and the food was as great as we remember. Everything was our favourite: fatty tuna, ikura, uni, scallop, prawn. There as a special white fish a chef brought out that was really good but we don’t know what fish it was.

Picked up mm’s glasses and took the JR to Shin-Nihombashi station, literally around the corner from the hotel. Saw a supermarket at the opposite corner which got us really excited. Stocked up on tea and fruit.

japan trip day 03: hakone sightseeing loop

Breakfast at the hotel is buffet-style. Again, traditional japanese food–grilled fish, pickles, egg, rice, congee, miso soup, tofu, natto. Average in taste, but lots of food so we were stuffed.

hak070loop

The plan today is to do the Hakone sightseeing circuit. Most guides say take the anti-clockwise route: train to Gora, cablecar then ropeway to Owakudani then Togendai, pirate ship cruise to either Moto-Hakone or Hakone-machi, walk the cedar path then bus back to Hakone-yumato. I was reading another leaflet last night which described the opposite routing. We decided on the clockwise routing, getting to the furthest point then making our way back. That turned out to be an excellent decision.

hak078lake

We walked to the station and caught a bus to Hakone-machi. It was a different bus than we wanted to catch, but it got us to where we wanted to go, so no complaints. It was cold when we got off the bus, and windy too so we estimated it was near or just below freezing. Hakone-machi is a small tranquil village on the south shore of lake Ashi. The sun came out just as we were walking along the lake and blessed us with a perfect view of Hakone shrine and Mount Fuji in the background. Fuji was partially covered by clouds but enough of it was visible. Peaceful and beautiful.

hak123checkpoint

The next stop was Hakone-machi, about 1.5km away. The guides say either take the bus or walk along an ancient cedar-lined path. So we took the path. The trees shielded us from most of the wind so it was less cold. It was a nice walk that took us to the Hakone checkpoint. We didn’t go inside, just poked around the shops nearby.

hak136ekiden

I was most interested in a statue of a runner at the pier in front of the ekiden café. I’m sort of familiar with the concept of university and corporate running teams in Japan and have heard of the Hakone ekiden, one of the most prestigious ekiden with a course between Tokyo and Hakone run by university teams. I didn’t have time to go inside the café but it was still nice to see something running related.

hak164fujiropeway

We caught the next sailing of the pirate cruise ship towards Togendai. Here was when we had a first inkling that we made the right decision to take the clockwise route. The ship was quite crowded, but we were able to still find seats. This was in contrast to the large crowd that got off the ship doing the loop in the opposite direction. Definitely when we reached Togendai and got on the ropeway, we were one of very few passengers, with all the other gondolas going the other direction full of people. We could vaguely see Mount Fuji whilst on the ropeway; it was hidden behind more clouds, we were very lucky we saw it at the lake.

hak183snowman

The ropeway stopped at Owakudani, a geothermal valley with steam and sulphur emissions. I remember being able to walk around last time we visited but the paths were all closed. The view of the valley wasn’t great, but we saw something cuter: someone made a mini-snowman on the fence facing one of the steam vents.

hak195tempurasoba

Part of the ropeway was closed for repairs so we took the replacement bus to catch the cablecar downhill towards Gora. It was past 2pm already and we were getting hungry. A stop at a small restaurant for tempura soba was just the right ticket. After lunch we caught the train for one stop, we had the freepass so why not take full advantage.

hak246museum hak282museum

The last destination on our loop was the Hakone open air museum. We’re both not huge art fans but we were so glad we took the time to visit. The museum has mostly sculptures, curated at spots inside the grounds. Extremely interesting pieces by artists from around the world.

hak221picasso

One of the attractions of the museum is the Picasso collection. No photography allowed inside unfortunately. There were a number of paintings, a series of bull-fighting sketches and numerous sculptures and clay work by the master. The collection showed us his progression from a more traditional style to cubism to his very distinctive style. Well worth the visit.

hak305diamond

Another piece in the museum is called the curved space — diamond structure. It’s a large jungle gym plastic installation designed along the lines of the covalent bonds in a diamond. The inside is hollow and they allow kids to play inside. The space is too small for adults otherwise I would have tried to climb inside for a bit.

We stayed in the museum until closing and caught the train back to Hakone-yumato. Missed the shuttlebus so decided to walk. Just as well, the sake shop was still open and we bought a small bottle to enjoy in our room.

hak364tarofish hak369beefstew

Dinner was actually worse than yesterday’s. The presentation was lovely but we didn’t find any of the courses tasty: appetisers were bland, sashimi was tasteless, simmered mushrooms were good, taro and fish were okay, the beef stew was gluggy and we struggled to finish it. The nicest thing of the meal was the sweet kiwi fruit we got for dessert.

Time for onsen, relaxation and bed.

japan trip day 02: hakone

For some reason my alarm didn’t ring, but I was only 10mins late, getting up at 8.10am. Made tea, packed up, checked out and caught the shuttlebus to the station. It was rush hour at Shinjuku, so imaging the sheer volume of people rushing about.

We found the Odakyu line counter and bought a 3-day Hakone freepass. Of course not free, ¥5640 that enables us to travel to and from Tokyo and Hakone and all the transportation within the Hakone sightseeing area. We didn’t catch the next train, opting for one half an hour later so we could get breakfast. After wandering around for about 10mins we decided on the place nearest the platform, curry rice. Sounds strange, having curried hamburger or egg with curry sauce with rice for breakfast. It was exactly the hot, filling breakfast we needed. The place was also full, so it’s not such a strange idea after all. There was a little time before boarding the train, we went to the food area of the department store and used our newfounded knowledge to buy a seasonal special new sake.

hak002romancecar

For ¥890 we took the romancecar limited express. Not much of an express, the advertised journey time of 1.5hrs was more like 2hrs, but the train was comfortable compared with the regular commuter trains. An enjoyable train ride on a sunny blue sky day.

hak036river

A ryokan shuttlebus (¥100) took us to our hotel, Hakone PAX Yoshino. Very traditional large Japanese spa resort hotel. It was only around 1pm so we couldn’t check in yet. They stored our luggage and we walked back to Hakone Yumato village to explore. The hotel is along the local river and it was nice to stroll with the sounds of flowing water next to us. Not a lot of traffic although there were more visitors that we expected.

hak045fish

First interesting sight was a shop selling dried flat fish. They set up a couple of small charcoal grills outside and encouraged people to grill pieces of sample fish. It was fun! The fish tasted really nice, there were different varieties and different flavourings. I found there to be too many bones, but mm was interested in buying some home. The shop also had fishballs, dried fish snacks and all sorts of pickled seafood. Love the pickles, but the glass jars are too heavy.

hak058soba

Lunch was delicious soba. I had wild vegetables (beans, mushrooms, bamboo shoots) and mm had the local specialty, yam that was grated and made into a paste.

The walk to the end of the shopping street and back didn’t take long, even though we lingered at any shop that grabbed our interest. Bought a couple of bags of snacks.

Went to the onsen before dinner. There are two baths, one inside and a rock bath in an outside area. We had the onsen mostly to ourselves as the other guests opted for early dinner at 6pm. Our choice of dinnertime at 7pm proved to be a wise one.

hak343sashimi hak344udon
hak347beef hak349dessert

Dinner was the typical multiple course menu at an onsen hotel. A selection of appetisers–eel sushi, taro, prawn with uni, chicken with radish, herring roe–started the meal. Sashimi, udon and vegetables cooked at the table, grilled cod, fish dumpling, baked beef, pickles followed. Rice was from a pot cooked at the table. Dessert was almond pudding, caramel tart and grapefruit. The food was decent, not spectacular. The presentation the usual Japanese high standard.

We spotted a poster for massage, so after resting for a bit after dinner we took turns getting a full body massage. Couldn’t do it together as there was only one lady in charge of the massage station. The massage area was in a really nice relaxation room so we stayed there keeping each other company.

Another relaxing day. Tried to relax and not hurry.

japan trip day 01: tokyo, sake tasting

5am wake up, leave home 6am. Taxi to airport express, very quick, got there around 6.30am. Went to pick up the pocket wifi from the counter and waited for mm at the check in desks. Everything was straightforward and we boarded the plane at 8.30am. Flight was around 4hrs, and it was also straightforward at the Tokyo end, we landed around 2pm.

tok011ramen

The airport limousine bus was ¥3,100 per person, took 1.5hrs and we checked into the Shinjuku New City hotel just before 5pm. Quickly dumped our bags and went downstairs but we missed the shuttlebus by a few minutes. Instead of waiting 20mins for the next one, we walked towards Shinjuku station in search of dinner. There was a maze of side streets around the station that had shops and plenty of restaurants. We spotted one that had a sign out front that said last day. Upon investigation, they were having a sale and it was the last day. The special on sale was dipping ramen, for ¥500. For an additional ¥200 we got a plate of roast pork slices, bamboo shoots and an onsen egg. The serving of noodles was very generous and the entire meal extremely tasty.

tok037sake

We google mapped to our evening destination, Kurand sake market. They have an all-you-can-drink sake deal, a large selection of around 100 sakes in a large wall fridge. In addition, another floor was plum and other fruit liquors, and yet another floor was sochu. The very reasonable price is ¥3240 for the entire evening session. For ¥5950, we reserved spots at a sake lesson. The instructor, Chris, is from the UK and a certified sake sommelier and sake educator. We were tired, from waking up early and the flight, but were interested enough to stay alert during the 2hr lesson. We learned about the history of sake (first brewed 2000 years ago for religious offering purposes), what it’s made from (rice, water, yeast, koji), the different types of sake, the specialness of the rice (denser with a bigger white inside), the process of making sake (rather like whisky), how to classify dryness / acidity, and much more. We learned that there are different types of cups and which one to use for which type. We can read a label better now, a negative number means sweeter and a positive number means dryer; with acidity is also a factor. And of course, we got expert tasting of more than 10 samples.

tok031sake

After the lesson finished, we stayed and tasted even more. They don’t sell sake on premises, although they have a shop. We took pictures of the labels of our favourites so we can look for them. The purpose of the sake market is to introduce sake made by smaller independent breweries. Many breweries are now operated by younger tojis (sake masters), similar to how craft breweries have taken over much of the beer landscape.

Even with the large bowl of noodles, we’d consumed a fair amount of sake so we tipsily wended our way, with the aid of google maps, back to our hotel. Showered and crashed into bed immediately.

mm darth vader

mmdarthvader

I was asked to comment on mm’s application where she had to write a personality sketch. There was one paragraph where I knew what she wanted to say, but she didn’t articulate it as well. She was writing about how meditation enabled her to expand her self-view and to acknowledge that she has flaws like everyone else. I commented that talking about her “dark” side made her sound like Darth Vader and since it’s a school application, may be rewrite using more positive wording.

vaderchamber

She called me and we had a good laugh about it. I mean, say dark side and I immediately think about Anakin. Plus the association with meditation put the image of Vader in his meditation chamber immediately in my head.

Now I have to go and find a lego vader keychain to give to her.

22-dec

Met mm for lunch with mum at the nice jap ayce place. Her appointment ran late so she didn’t come till 1.30pm. We were still eating at 3pm but the restaurant was clearing up already. Unlike the other place, this one needed us out. Disappointing.

Went to the brands expo to walk around. Bought dried mushroom, honey, cordial and various home stuff like shower head, smelly wood and shampoo.

So full that I wasn’t even interested in the frozen yogurt stall.

home stuff, bbmm with mum

Homeowners’ meeting this morning, to go through the work needed after our mandatory building inspection. External walls need to be patched, cracks on common area walls, broken windows, roof waterproofing, sewage pipes and all that. Quite a lot. The contractor went through the tender items and we will need to invite for tender. There are only 16 units and one company owns 5 so it’s not a big group. Couple of things I learned. First, charge an admin fee for contractors interested in submitting a tender, to filter out riff-raffs. Second, it’s so easy to get everyone’s agreement on common sense stuff. There isn’t enough funds so the management fee goes up. Other places will need a formal quorum, vote etc. We just all said, yeah, we’ll have to increase. It’s all for the building anyway.

wafflechoc

Lunch at home then met mm for tea with mum. Went to the pokka café so mum can try their hot chocolate. Fancy thick chocolate in a jug that she could pour over cream, and a container of marshmallows on the side. Less rich than the iced chocolate I tried at the other café.

With mum’s card, mm was able to get her shredder, coffee grinder, alarm clock and stationery. We bought a basket-full of snacks, toiletries and miscellaneous stuff.

It was already quite late. After looking on the restaurant app and calling a few places, we ended up at another ayce japanese place. This is for shabu shabu. Extremely cramped tables but we liked it because: a) the food was good and b) the service was fast and pro-active. The usual beef, pork, seafood, vegetables. We also had sashimi. Good value, especially for dinner. Apparently the place only opened a couple of weeks ago, so kudos to them for getting it right so quickly.

bbmm day together

dimsum20161214

Met mm and our ex-colleague opera for lunch. Nice dim sum restaurant. Modern and looks quite new. Fancy looking dim sums with cute designs and some gimmicks like serving bird-shaped pineapple pastries inside s miniature birdcage. The buns were made using different coloured pastry and we could see a chef putting on the eyes and ears by hand. Luckily it’s not a matter of style over substance and the food itself tasted good too. They advertise no msg, have a substantial vegetarian menu and even happy hour. Definitely not a traditional dim sum place.

Long lunch. Afterwards mm and I went to the computer / electronics street to poke around. I wanted to get a universal remote for mum’s tv and found several stalls that actually repair remotes. Next time I’ll bring the broken one to see if they can repair it. We spent something like an hour at a shop because mm wanted to buy lightbulbs. Normal people like me would just get lightbulbs whenever and wherever, but she wanted to ask a million questions, compare prices, bargain and have all the bulbs checked. We shop so differently. She also bought a new iphone cover but couldn’t find her other target purchase, a shredder.

Dinner was at our favourite ayce japanese place. Very crowded, and even though I had 3 sakes, it didn’t have any effect on me, I think they over-warmed it and evaporated the alcohol. Sashimi, sushi, tempura, yakitori, our table was full of food.

Took her to the teacher’s union shop and we did see a shredder that fit her requirement. She had her eye on a coffee grinder and lots of stationery too. Will need to get mum to come along to use her card.

washer, library, happyhour

vedettsalami

The tenant emailed to say there is something wrong with the washing machine, a puddle of brown water in the drum. It’s time to replace rather than try to get it fixed. In the long run, it’s better for my wallet and time. I went to the electronics shop and bought one that was fairly cheap with good functionalities and the longest warranty they had. Not a bad price $3600. Siemens.

Had time to wander around. Ran some bank errands, went to the library to look at travel NZ books and to make notes.

Was meeting mm and her brother for happy hour. We said between 5-5.30, I got there quite early at 4.40. But they didn’t show up till around 6, I was pretty annoyed. But nothing I can do. I can’t change her, she’ll always be late. I would have been sitting at another hh place myself anyway.

Dinner with her family. Sat with the nieces and nephew and they told us lots of jokes. Useful day.

flat maintenance, bbmm drive

Had to go to my flat in the morning to meet the handyman to sort out a couple of things. Apparently the aircon switch doesn’t work and there’s sewage smell in the bathroom and kitchen. The aircon didn’t work because the tenant had the unit in the off position!! I wonder if he’s ever seen a window aircon unit before, I bet in LA he has central aircon.

The sewage smell was due to stagnant drain. It’s the floor drain next to the bathroom that I never bother with. I’m supposed to pour water down it occasionally. So when the handyman did that, it solved the problem. I went out to the supermarket and bought a large bottle of disinfectant and now the bathroom smells nicer. The kitchen smell was due to the washing machine drain and the handyman told me to get some electrical tape and seal it off.

Met mm for lunch. Went to the DVD place and got The Fall s1 and 3, have to order s2. I wanted The Librarians but they don’t have it. Mum and I were watching over the weekend and looked interesting.

Grotty weather, drizzle and rain. We collected mm’s car that was at the dealer’s and drove out to the beach. Normally at the weekends it’s bustling. Today we were hard pressed to find a store that was open. Had ice cream and a beer. Walked around the village but retreated to the car when the rain got heavier.

Home for dinner.

21-nov

Met mm to pick up our home return permit, then tea at toast box. She’s been feeling down and pretty emotional so I had to prop her up. Walked through the park with the flamingos and then to the shopping centre. Just walking and talking. She has dinner with her charity group so I had fast food dinner then went home.