Maxwell Food Centre, Toast Box, and Day 2 of Singapore Grand Prix Formula 1

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The next morning we headed to Chinatown for lunch before Day 2 of Formula 1. We had a great time at Maxwell Food Centre the last time we visited, so decided to check out what other stalls there are. The famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken stall had way too long of a line up this time so we decided to try Marina South Delicious Food 滨海南美食. They are famous for their Char Kway Teow here.

 

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Another dish they have is the Fried Carrot Cake. This is quite different from the ones we get at Dim Sum. The Singaporean style carrot cake is mixed with eggs and served almost like an omelette. The turnip is cut into diced pieces. Super smooth and full of wok hay and flavour. Quite enjoyed this!

 

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We also got the Char Kway Teow which was fantastic. Glistening in oil, but packed full of flavour and wok hay again. The noodles were evening coated and the Chinese sausage was pungent but tasty. We got large sizes for both of these dishes as we thought they wouldn’t be too big, but they were more than enough for two. I also decided to order a Deep Fried Fuzhou Oyster Cake from the nearby stall called Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake. It’s the one pictured above balancing between the two plates. I’ve never seen an oyster cake like this. Inside, it’s piping hot with a mixture of oyster and minced pork. Apparently this traditional snack is barely seen anymore so be sure to try it next time you’re at Maxwell!

 

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After our bellies were full, we headed off to Day 2 of the Formula 1 race. As the afternoon generally consists of practice or other non-Formula 1 races, we decided to check out some of the other entertainment offered during the day. One of our favourites and probably the coolest experience was changing the tires of an F1 car. Of course this is just a model, but it’s cool to see how the tires are removed and new ones placed on.

 

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We both got to take part in the challenge and raced against other competitors to change the tires as fast as we could. Of course, we needed a lot more practice!

 

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You can also choose to drive a F1 simulator car. I believe the race car size is supposed to be similar to the real car. So quite tight and you are almost lying down when you sit in it.

 

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Some other entertainment included flying the drones through an obstacle, but this seemed to be a bit faulty at times. Singapore Airlines is also a huge sponsor of the event, so be sure to check out many of their booths. Be sure to grab one of those plastic fans! You will thank me later!

 

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We also wandered the whole area including the Civilian War Memorial which is close to our entrance to our grandstands.

 

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This is the concert area. As you can see, you get a beautiful view of the city skyline as well. Really cool how the race is in the middle of the city!

 

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Then we watched another one of their practice rounds which happened in the afternoon. The qualifying race would happen in the evening on Day 2. As you can see, at our Stamford Grandstands, we can see the race cars coming at this turn. As expected, because of the high speed and sharp turn, we witnessed a few crashes on the actual race day. Luckily, everyone got out okay!

 

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The race cars go by so quickly it’s hard to get a picture! Shutter speed needs to be at max! I also highly suggest wearing ear plugs as the cars are extremely noisy and damaging to your ears. Even with the ear plugs, you can hear the noise.

 

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As it ended up drizzling that evening, we grabbed a quick bite at nearby Toast Box as we simply did not want to look for food. However, the food was quite average. The Kaya Toast is not as good as Ya Kun’s. The toast is not as crispy, and the portion size is way smaller. I decided to get the Laksa, and as expected, it was quite average. Think of it as fast food, so really can’t expect much.

We headed back to watch qualifying that evening, and stopped by to catch Ariana Grande’s concert after. As we had recently watched her concert in Vancouver, we decided to just call it a night and left early to get a good night’s sleep! Day 2 of the Singapore Grand Prix done!

 

 

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Sen Pad Thai

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I’ve heard many great things about Sen Pad Thai, which is part of the large group of restaurants Chef Angus An runs. The shop used to be inside The Loft at Granville Island, but recently moved to The Granville Island Public Market where the rest of the restaurants are. It is more of a food court set up to be honest, where you order and pay up front first and find your own seat in the area or take out. I liked how they give you a buzzer so you can wander around until it buzzes which means your food is ready.

 

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The shop offers a variety of noodles, curries, and a few appetizers. The prices are roughly all $12- $15 which is a bit pricey given you’re eating in a food court setting. However, we were pleasantly surprised that the portions were pretty reasonable given the price.

 

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Crispy Wings with Thai Garlic

We started off sharing the Crispy Wings with Thai Garlic which were served with a tamarind sauce. The wings were rather small in size but they were very crispy with the inside moist. I enjoyed the flavours and especially when dipped in the tamarind sauce which was a bit acidic and sweet.

 

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Pad Thai

I heard great things about the Pad Thai so had to give this a try. The pad thai was served with tamarind, tofu and egg. The portion of this dish was huge! I kept eating and it didn’t end! This is great to be shared between two if you’re going to have an appetizer as well.

 

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The noodles were chewy and not overly dressed in sauce. It was quite flavourful but I would’ve liked it to have a bit of a kick. Seems like they do not add any spice unless you ask or you can add their homemade chili sauces which is on the side when you pick up your order.

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Pad Siew Beef

My favourite dish we tried was the Pad Siew Beef which featured fresh rice sheet noodles stir-fried with beef, gai lan and egg. This dish had so much “wok-hay” which is hard to find. The noodles were also a new type of noodles I’ve never tried before. They were translucent and wide and very chewy. The beef was tender and I loved the gai lan which added a bit of crunch. A must try if you’d like to try something new.

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Overall, we really enjoyed the dishes at Sen Pad Thai. They have great wok flavour and the portions are very generous for the price. You’ll have to scout around the market place for a seat during peak hours though!

Pros:
– Dishes have great flavour and “wok hay”

Cons:
– A bit pricey for food court setting

Price Range: $15-20 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: N/A Parking: Free and paid parking in Granville Island Overall: 4

 

Sen Pad Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Superbaba

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Superbaba is one of the newest food trucks in the downtown core. It opened up earlier this year and parks in front of the Bentall Towers on the weekdays. The food truck has a restaurant in Victoria so not a stranger to BC. It caught my attention after seeing so many people lining up.

 

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The food truck features Middle Eastern food and focusses on pita wraps and bowls. The dishes range from $10-$12 so fairly priced for the downtown lunch crowd. They have two vegetarian options including falafels and eggplants, but also two meat options including chicken and steak.

 

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Falafel Bowl

I decided to go for the Falafel Bowl which featured chickpea fritters, fried cauliflower, tomato & cucumber salad, hummus, pickled cabbage, tahini, and shug. All bowls have a base of dressed kale and arugula and chilled rice and lentils. Being a meat lover, this vegetarian dish was absolutely delicious. These are probably the best falafels I’ve had. The falafels were so crispy on the outside and moist and flavourful inside. The hummus was smooth and not too garlicky and the fried cauliflowers were again crispy and crunchy with a nice acidity. Even the pickled cabbage and salads tasted great. I thought I would be hungry given most of the dish were vegetables, but I was surprisingly full. Highly recommend this dish!

Based on the falafel bowl, I am already loving Superbaba. I can’t wait to come back to try their wraps and other dishes. There’s a bit of a wait during lunch hours, but they’re pretty quick after you place your order. Plus, the people are super nice. Will be back to try more soon!

Pros:
– One of the best falafels I’ve had
– Reasonably priced

Cons:
– Line up can get pretty long during peak hours

Price Range: $10-15 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4.5 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: N/A Parking: N/A Overall: 4.5

 

Superbaba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shipyards Night Market

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary as part of a media event, but all opinions are my own.

Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver is one of my favourite spots to visit every summer. S and I try to visit once a year and the best time to visit is when the Shipyards Nights Market is going on. If you are coming from downtown Vancouver, the easiest and quickest way is to hop on the seabus which operates roughly every 15 minutes in the evenings. It takes only 12 minutes to arrive in Lonsdale Quay and only a short 5 minute walk to the night market.

 

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The Shipyards Night Market happens every Friday from 5pm – 10pm until September 28, 2018.

 

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To find the start of the night market, look for the yellow crane next to Tap & Barrel. The best part about the night market is that there is no admission fee to enter. Your only cost is the food and beverages you’ll purchase. So feel free to come by to just walk around if you already ate. A great date night spot!

 

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If you come early around 5pm, you’ll avoid line ups and the crowds. By 7pm, the place is quite packed. There over 40+ food trucks from all over metro Vancouver parked at the night market. This is your one stop shop if you’ve been wanting to try a food truck but it’s too far for you!

 

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As part of our media tour, our first stop was the famous JJ’s Hot Cobs. Perfect for children and the family!

 

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Corn on the Cob is $4 and includes butter and your choice of seasoning.

 

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There is a selection of seasonings at the truck and you can choose as many as you want as it’s self serve once you get your corn. We went with the garlic salt which added some saltiness to the corn. The corn itself is already good enough on its own though because it was sweet and piping hot!

 

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Moving on, we tried Disco Cheetah which I first came across 3 years ago at this same night market. It was a tiny truck back in the day, but this has become one of the most popular trucks at the event. The menu has also changed a lot since then, but it continues to serve Korean fusion dishes.

 

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The dishes at Disco Cheetah are so colourful and appetizing to the eye! S and I shared the K.F.C. Fries which translates to Korean Fried Chicken with French Fries. The boneless chicken is topped with a sweet chili glaze, pickled red radish, scallion and garlic mayo. The chicken was juicy and the sauce was not overpowering. Other dishes you can find at this truck include rice bowls or fries with various proteins and pulled pork sliders.

 

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Moving on to a different cuisine (because there are so many to choose from), we checked out The Reef Runner which features Caribbean street food.

 

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I had the Jamaican Beef Patty which was new to me. The flaky pastry shell was filled with ground beef and various spices. It reminded me of a curry pastry I had in Japan. Really enjoyed this and will be getting it again!

 

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Getting a bit thirsty, we tried Kics Lemonade for some homemade lemonade. There are various flavours to choose from and I chose the Mango Lemonade. If you’re looking for something sweet and sour, then this is perfect refreshment for you.

 

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Of course we had to end our meal with some dessert. This was actually my favourite food truck of the night. Chouchou Crepes features some delicious French crepes all run by one lady! She works on three crepes at a time to make sure the line moves as quickly as it can!

 

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S and I shared the Nutella Banana Crepe and it was the perfect way to end our night. The edges were crispy with the center having a nice chew. The food truck also has crepes that are served with a splash of rum and apparently they’re really good! You can find both sweet and savoury crepes at Chouchou Crepes.

 

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And if you’re 19+, then you can head over to the Beer Garden which serves local craft beer, ciders, wine, and highballs. The beers were literally on tap from the side of the truck, which I thought was a pretty cool concept. Drinks are affordable and they give you a generous pour.

 

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Entry in the beer garden is again free, so you just need to purchase your drinks and have a good time! There is live music every night featuring local bands.

 

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After you have filled your bellies with some food and drinks, head over to the pier which extends 700 feet over the Burrard Inlet. Turn back and check out the new developments by the Quay including a third hotel coming in 2019.

 

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Or get to the end of the pier and enjoy a stunning view of the Vancouver skyline. To be fair, we went on a smoggy day, but imagine what a view this would be on a bright sunny day!

 

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There have also been many new developments in the area, including the Polygon Gallery, cool new public amenities such as the 48-metre-long Megabench, a water feature for splashing in and cool off, and a brightly painted alleyway, appropriately titled ‘Fun Alley’. Each year, there is also an artisans market where you can shop locally made goods!

 

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Overall, the Shipyards Night Market is a fun Friday night activity whether it be with friends or family. With 40+ food trucks and vendors, a 19+ local craft beer garden,
artisans market and live music, you’ll be sure to have a good time!

 

[Japan Series] Day 15: Miyajima 宮島, Hiroshima 広島

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On the last two days of our Japan trip, we would be spending it in Hiroshima (広島). From Osaka station to Hiroshima station, it takes around 2.5 hours with the JR bullet train. A long train ride, but the JR shinkansens are so comfortable, so time really passes by quickly.

 

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Once we arrived at Hiroshima station, we needed to take a tram to our Airbnb. Hiroshima uses trams instead of trains to get around the city. There are a mix of new and older trams. This one is one of the newer trams and is quite nice!

 

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The trams are quite spacious and work similar to the buses. You can use the Paspy and Icoca IC cards to pay for your fare on the trams and buses in Hiroshima.

 

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The city streets in Hiroshima are definitely much more modest and quiet. You won’t really find the neon lights and electronic billboards like you would find in Tokyo. I do appreciate that the city is much more spacious and the likelihood of being in crowds like in Tokyo and Osaka is unlikely.

 

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Our Airbnb was a short walk from the tram and also walking distance from the A-Bomb Dome. The room was definitely very cozy and one of the smaller Airbnbs we stayed in. However, it had everything we needed and was extremely clean. There was even a huge bottle of sake for us to enjoy!

 

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After settling in, it was already mid afternoon, so we decided to head to Miyajima Island. Our initial plan was to visit the island the following day after visiting the Peace Memorial Museum as we thought it would be more uplifting, but due to the time we arrived, it didn’t make sense to visit the museum near closing.

 

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To get to Miyajima Island, we first had to take a tram to Yokogawa station. From there, we took the JR Sanyo line to Miyajimaguchi Station. You can also get to Miyajimaguchi Station from Hiroshima Station and that would take roughly 25 minutes.

 

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When you get to Miyajimaguchi Station, follow the signs and you will find the ferry pier.

 

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The ferries depart quite frequently to Miyajima Island and only takes 10 minutes. This is covered under the JR rail pass if you have it.

 

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The ferry is quite large and you can even stand outside to take pictures. I think you can also bring your car on the ferry. As we were departing quite late in the day, there were not that many people on the ferry, making it easy for us to get a good spot for sightseeing.

 

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The ferry ride seriously goes by in no time. As we reached Miyajima Island (宮島), we saw the famous red torii gate which floats on water.

 

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Once we got off the ferry, we realized that there are lots of deer on this island! Very similar to Nara, but of course not as many. I really wonder how they got to this island! If you don’t get a chance to visit Nara, then this will do!

 

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Along the way, there are some shops that sell souvenirs and snacks.

 

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After a short walk, we reached the floating red torii gate. This is the view you get if you choose not to pay to enter the shrine. It’s pretty good but more on an angle. Unfortunately, there was a bit of construction going on, so the gate was slightly blocked. As we reached the island in the late afternoon, this was high tide and therefore the gate appears to be floating. If you arrive earlier in the day, the tide will be low and therefore you can actually walk all the way out to the gate! You should check out this website to time when you visit the island so you can hopefully visit at both low and high tide!

 

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This is the Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社) which is also built over the water. Entry fee into the shrine is 300 yen and consists of multiple buildings, including a prayer hall, a main hall and theater stage. You will also get a view of the torii gate straight on instead of at an angle. We didn’t end up going inside the shrine, but would imagine this is a great attraction especially during low tide so you can wakl straight up to the gate.

 

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Not far from the shrine, a small hike will get you to the Senjokaku (千畳閣), which translates to the pavilion of 1,000 mats because the size of the pavilion can literally fit 1,000 tatami mats. This old building dates back to the 1587 and this costs 100 yen to enter. It is the largest structure on Miyajima Island.

 

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The Five-storied Pagoda is adjacent to the Senjokaku and was originally built in the 1400s but restored in 1533. It enshrines the Buddha of Medicine and is quite beautiful to see up close. I don’t think you can enter inside, so the attraction is free to view.

 

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As the sun set, we decided to head back to the souvenir streets. Many of them had already closed as it was rather late. I imagine there isn’t much to do around the island at night if you stay overnight here.

 

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There was one shop that was bustling with crowds. This was the grilled oyster stall! There are actually many grilled oyster stalls along the Miyajima Omotesando shopping street. However, as we went pretty late, most of them were closed. This stall itself closed shortly after we placed our order as well.

 

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Here, you can get a variety of ways the oysters are cooked. Of course, the most famous is to get them grilled with charcoal. The grilled oysters here are a pretty good deal at 2 for 400 yen. However, the downside is this is just a stall, so there are no seating areas. There are a few stools around but more of a quick eat and go stop.

 

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The oysters take a while to grill, so we walked around the streets before heading back to grab our order. Here, we have two grilled oysters. A nice char and the oysters themselves are plump and fresh. Highly recommend if you’re an oyster lover!

 

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We also got the deep fried oysters. These are smaller oysters which they have skewered onto a stick. Really good as well! If you are looking for a sit down restaurant for oysters, then Kakiya and Yakigaki are among the most famous on Miyajima Island. Oysters are a must eat in Hiroshima and Miyajima!

 

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Another well known food item is the Momiji Manjyu, which are maple leaf shaped pastries filled with a variety of filings including red bean, custard, chocolate, etc. There are many souvenir shops selling this pastry.

 

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Luckily, we were able to find a shop that sold single Momiji Manjyus since I just wanted to give it a try. We got one filled with custard and it was very tasty! Worth giving a try! After having some snacks, we decided to head back to Hiroshima by ferry as it was getting late.

 

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We did some research and learned that the 2nd floor of Hiroshima Station is the ASSE restaurant floor and filled with okonomiyaki shops. Okonomiyaki is very famous in Hiroshima and a must try. The okomiyaki here is very different than Osaka style as the ingredients are layered rather than mixed. Honestly, I don’t remember which restaurant we visited since they all look the same. Just head into one that has a decent amount of locals! This one had yakisoba noodles.

 

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We also got another one which had yakiudon noodles. My favourite was the yakisoba as it is much lighter than the udon. These okonomiyaki’s are huge and is more than enough for one!

Overall, a nice day trip to Miyajima Island to relax and the next day we would visit the major attractions in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Station Asse – 2nd Floor (Okonomiyaki floor)
Address: 2-37 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku

 

[Japan Series] Day 12: Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion 金閣寺, Nishiki Market 錦市場, Gion 祇園, and Chao Chao Gyoza 餃々 三条木屋町店 in Kyoto 京都

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On day 12, we took the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto again. Our first stop was to see the famous Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji (金閣寺). The downside of many temples in Kyoto is that you can’t reach them by train and require a transfer to a bus. After a 30 minute ride to Kyoto Station, we switched to the Karasuma Subway Line and got off at Kitaoji Station. From here, you can take a bus (bus numbers 101, 102, 204 or 205) which takes around 10 minutes. Get off at Kinkakujimichi Bus Stop and you will see many other tourists walking towards the pavilion. Be warned that the buses get really crowded with tourists because many temples are only accessible by bus! Admission is 400 yen, but most temples require admission. You will receive this cute admission ticket!

 

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Kyoto was once Japan’s capital city and therefore has many historic value and has preserved many famous temples. S and I both love the city life, so we personally aren’t too intrigued by temples. However, I suggested we visit at least one, and Kinkakuji was the one I decided on. This beautiful golden zen temple definitely did not disappoint. Even on a gloomy day, the beautiful gold against lush green trees reflected on the pond surrounding the temple. It was seriously like a painting!

 

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The top two floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf and really shines. The temple is formerly the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu but became a zen temple after his death based on his will. We were surprised to learn that we were actually not allowed to enter the temple. Instead, we had to crowd around the walkway path among all the tourists to snap a picture from afar. This attraction is extremely touristy but I did really enjoy it. It makes a nice light walk in the garden. However, other than the temple itself, there are not that many attractions in the garden. Near the end, you will find the Sekkatei Teahouse as well as some souvenir shops near the exit.

 

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After visiting the temple, we decided to bus back to the Kyoto station area. If you are interested in temples, then the Ginkakuji and Kiyomizudera are also very popular. near the Kyoto station, you will find a bridge over the Kamogawa River. Many tourists and locals will take leisurely walks along the river and you can catch people fishing here as well.

 

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Getting hungry, I suggested we walk to the Nishiki Market (錦市場). This is a 5 block alleyway filled with hundreds of shops. You can find tons of local goods, like pickled vegetables, dried seafood, fresh seafood, produce, dessert, and cooking ware.

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We decided to get some Honey Soft Serve! At Sugi Bee Garden, they specialize in honey and you can sample many flavours here. We ended up leaving with a soft serve and this was really smooth and creamy!

 

 

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After grabbing some food at the market, we headed to the Gion (祇園) district. This is the famous area for geishas as you will find restaurants and teahouses where the geishas entertain here. You will also find wooden machiya merchant houses which make a great backdrop for photos!

 

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We had no interest in attending one of the performances by the geishas, but I did want to see a geisha in real life. I did some Googling and found that the best time to spot them is around 6pm-7pm because this is when they are making their way to their engagement. Luckily, we did spot one and we subtly got a picture of her. We read online that we should be respectful of them and avoid acting like a paparazzi as many tourists have gone too far and I can imagine how uncomfortable it would be for these ladies. They even have police in this area to control the amount of tourists! Another tip we learned during our hour here is to look into the taxis that drive in this area. Many of the geishas now take taxis to their engagement, so chances of seeing them walking around is slim.

 

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After our hunt for geishas, we headed to Pontocho (先斗町). This is a narrow alleyway filled with restaurants. Prices range from affordable to high end fine dining which require reservations. A good spot to drop by if you are looking for dinner.

 

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Our destination was Chao Chao Gyoza (餃々 三条木屋町店). The restaurant is basically at the end of Pontocho alley and is a huge tourist spot. When we arrived, there was already a long line that had formed. And to be honest, I was a bit skeptical because everyone lining up looked like a tourist. We ended up waiting for almost an hour but this was well worth it. The restaurant has actually won the countrywide gyoza competition twice!

 

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What are they famous for? Well gyozas of course. The gyozas here are actually all strung together in a row. The wrapper is thin and each gyoza is quite small, but filled with juicy meat. The most popular is the Chao Chao Gyoza which is filled with pork. 600 yen will get you 16 pieces, but as you can see, 16 pieces is quite small. We ended up getting another order of this after because they were so good!

 

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We also tried the Shrimp Gyoza which is 480 yen for 5 pieces. Really good as well, but the pork was still my favourite. They also have some unique fillings like cheese, curry, and even ginger. They also have a large option of drinks so we did enjoy some beer and plum wine. Beer and gyozas definitely make a perfect pairing! Not the cheapest meal you can get in Kyoto, but quite affordable and we had a great time sitting at the bar watching our gyozas being made. Plus, the restaurant is English friendly!

That wrapped up our last day trip to Kyoto as we trained back to Osaka after dinner!

Chao Chao Gyoza
Address: 117 Ishiyacho Kiya-Machi Sanjo Kudaru Nakagyo-Ku, Kyoto

[Japan Series] Day 9: Kuromon Market 黒門市場 and Umeda Sky Building 梅田スカイビル

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The next morning, I suggested we check out the Kuromon Ichiba Market (黒門市場). The covered market stretches over 500 meters and is a 2 minute walk from Nippombashi Station. Turns out this was only a 5 minute walk for us so we got here relatively early so we could brunch.

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The market is famous for its fresh seafood and meats. Many locals and restaurant chefs come here to purchase their ingredients. However, it has become a tourist spot so can get very crowded during lunch hours. What’s great is that the stalls can prepare the food for you right at the market.

 

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You will find stalls grilling seafood like crab, prawns, scallops, and oysters.

 

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Any many stalls with fresh sea urchin!

 

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One of the famous stalls is this tuna stall at the corner inside the market. They have all things tuna and you will find delicious fat chunks of tuna sashimi.

 

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Watching the chef cut the tuna is already quite fascinating. They have around 4 spots at this stall where you can sit. However, they have these ready made take out boxes as well. Turns out, they have some seating area around the corner, so when you purchase the take out box, just let them know you want a seat, and they will direct you to this other seating area.

 

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Look for this big fish head and you find this stall!

 

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There are many chirashi bowls, but also sashimi only plates available.  The price is quite good at around 2,000 – 2,500 yen for many of these take away boxes. Some are higher priced depending on the cut.

 

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I enjoyed tuna sashimi take away box which featured three cuts. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what type of tuna I got, but it was very delicious! The tuna is cut much thicker than restaurants though so some may find that it is not as appealing. Some of the cuts are also more of the “scraps” but they are pretty good for this price!

 

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Moving on, I found a small oden shop run by a granny. I got some daikon radish, fish cake stuffed with burdock and beef skewer. The radish was the sweetest I have had. The broth itself was light but sweet from the radish. Very homey and warming.

 

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Last but not least, we were told that we had to try the kobe beef at the market. Yes, kobe beef is famous in Kobe, but Kuromon market also sells it and at a relatively cheap price. There were quite a few stalls selling it and some were very fancy looking catering to tourists. My sister told me to try this stall though as they are not as decked out but still good. Prices are lower possibly because of less advertising.

 

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As you can see, there are a variety of kobe beef. Honestly, we didn’t really know how to choose them. My sister said to get the middle range and it would be pretty good. I think the ones we got were around 1,800 yen per 100 gram. They ask that you purchase a minimum of 200 gram. Many of the other shops will ask for more so this was also a plus.

 

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Look at that marble! They grill it for you right away. Because the meat is so fresh, they really don’t need much seasoning.

 

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They give you the plate of kobe beef and add some light soy and tell you to add the steak salt to your liking. At this shop, you will have to stand on the side to eat, but who cares because the kobe beef is much cheaper than at a restaurant. The beef was absolutely delicious and melted in our mouth. No regrets in spoiling ourselves for brunch!

I highly recommend coming to Kuromon Market if you are a food lover. Be prepared to spend much more here as the types of food found here are pricier but are considered a good deal for the quality you get.

 

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Up next, I wanted to check out the Umeda Sky Building (梅田スカイビル). It is not the tallest building in Osaka, but it has a very unique design. The closest station is Umeda station and even then you still have to walk at least 10 minutes to arrive here. But check out the architecture of the building! Pretty cool!

 

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Admission for adults is 1,000 yen but the 360 views at the top are amazing. The escalator to go up is also really cool. As you go up, look to your right and left as you can see views of the city as well.

 

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The escalator we were in are in these two bridges. The building has two towers and is connected by the Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor.

 

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Isn’t this cool? This is the middle of the dome and you can also go to the top for the outdoor observation deck.

 

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As you can see, there are seating area surrounding the observatory so you can get a 360 view of Osaka. Enjoy a cup of coffee here and you can literally sit here forever.

 

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The views are pretty amazing!

 

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I can imagine this being perfect at night time too.

 

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After taking in the views, we headed to Daimaru at Umeda station, which is a department store. Of course we had to check out the basement floor which is full of food. There, I found Rikuro りくろーおじさんの店 大丸梅田店 which is famous for their fluffy cheesecakes. The whole cake is only 675 yen! They bake them fresh and make batches at a time so sometimes you may have to wait a while once the batch is sold out. If you hear the bell ring, be sure to get in line because that means a new batch is ready!

 

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I bought the whole cake for myself…since S does not really like cheesecake, but for under 700 yen for a whole cake, I could not resist. A slice of cake here is already $7! You get the cute chef stamp on the cake and the bottom is filled with raisins. The cake was light and fluffy and melts in your mouth. Highly recommend trying it!

Kuromon Market
Address: 2-4-1 Nippombashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0073, Osaka Prefecture

Umeda Sky Building
Address: 1-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, Osaka 531-6023, Osaka Prefecture

Rikuro Cheesecake at Daimaru
Address: 3-1-1 Umeda, Kita Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-8202, Japan

[Japan Series] Day 8: Dotonbori 道頓堀 in Osaka 大阪市

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On day 8, we headed to Tokyo Station so we could catch our shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Osaka station. We had purchased the JR pass since it was a better deal given we were going to visit Hiroshima as our last stop. I only recommend using the JR pass if you are visiting over 3 cities and doing some calculations on whether the individual tickets are cheaper. For example, if you are visiting Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto only, then I don’t think the JR pass is that worth it. Anyways, because we had the JR pass, we were able to reserve our seats in advance at the Narita airport (or you can even do so on the day of or just take the non-reserved seats). The Tokyo station is huge and was a bit overwhelming at first, but we arrived early to give ourselves enough time and were able to find our platform. Then we headed back inside the station to see if we could grab some lunch. There are lots of bento boxes available, but to be honest, the items in the boxes didn’t really appeal to me. Instead, I got a quick sushi box that was already prepared ahead of time. Not the most amazing, but this was still fairly good for the price (around $15).

 

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We took the Hikari which is included in the JR pass and it took roughly 3 hours. The Nozumi is another bullet train which only takes around 2.5 hours but is not included in the JR pass. Finally we arrived in Osaka (大阪市) and we had booked an Airbnb in the Namba area. I highly recommend booking accommodation in the Namba/Umeda area as this is the central station for your trains, especially if you are planning on visiting Kyoto or Nara. Plus, there is so much to see around this area. Our accommodation was unfortunately a 10 minute walk from the station, and the streets in Osaka are not as luggage friendly, so it took a bit of effort to lug our huge luggage to our Airbnb. Finally, we arrived and this was the view from our apartment. Not the most amazing view, but we weren’t expecting much.

 

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Our Airbnb was actually closer to the Nipponbashi area also known as Den Den Town. Here, there are lots of electronic shops, similar to Akihabara in Tokyo. It was actually a pretty safe and quiet area and only a 10 minute walk to Namba station which we often took. Our flat was simple with a double bed, small kitchen, and a comfortable sized bathroom. Nothing really to complain although we wished we had lived slightly closer to the station as walking home can be tiring after a long day.

 

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By the time we settled in, it was getting dark and we were hungry for dinner. I suggested we take it chill and check out the nearby famous Dotonbori (道頓堀).

 

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Dotonbori is probably one of Osaka’s most visited tourist spots. It is best visited during the evenings as the neon lights are a sight to see and reminds me of a night market. It seems that the evening is focused on food, whereas the afternoon is more for shopping, although I believe both restaurants and retail stores are open day and night.

 

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I mean, look at the restaurants signs? Aren’t there already a sight to see?

 

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Love the 3-D type of signage they use here, which I felt like Tokyo didn’t really have much of.

 

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Pufferfish (fugu 河豚) sashimi is famous to eat here. This is a delicacy because it takes skills of a highly trained chef to prepare this fish. It has a toxin that if not correctly prepared can kill you! If you are going to try this fish, then Osaka is likely the place for you as they are rather famous for it. As S does not eat much sashimi, I didn’t want to eat this on my own, so skipped this.

 

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After wandering the streets for a while, I decided to try the grilled scallop. They prepare this to order and it involves some large flames!

 

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This was actually quite average as the scallops was slightly too chewy and it also had some sand in it. I guess it was not washed well.

 

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Continuing on, we tried Osaka Ohsho (大阪王将 道頓堀本店). They claim themselves as the king of gyozas and you will not miss this shop as there is a huge gyozo signage (a sight to see itself!).

 

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They seem to cater to tourists as there is English on the menu, but at 6 pieces of gyoza for only 240 yen, it is a deal of itself. As you can see, the shop is a standing gyoza bar though, and you must stand on the left where there is a bar table with some condiments to eat. The good thing is people eat this quickly, so you will find a spot easily.

 

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I wasn’t expecting much of these gyozas, but we actually found these to be really good. They are made fresh and there is a generous amount of filling. The bottom was fried crispy and along with the gyoza sauce, it was a perfect snack.

 

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Given Dotonbori has more street food, we had to give the Takoyaki a try. There are quite a few stalls but we settled on Kukuru (たこ家道頓堀くくる 本店) just because we saw a huge line up. Turns out, this is a spot that has been featured on TV. The line actualyl was quite long and we waited probably almost 30 minutes. They make batches at once but there are so many people, so we still had to wait a while. You can also sit in where you can try other flavours of takoyaki, but I believe the take out box is cheaper.

 

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We got the minimum order of 8 takoyakis which cost around 600 yen. Not super cheap, but I like how they make them fresh. It is topped with some japanese mayo, bonito flakes and seaweed powder. There was octopus in every ball and the inside was a nice gooey chewy texture. My only complaint is that I wish they were more crispy on the outside as I found they sort of stuck together. Would I line up for it again? Probably not. But if the line is short, then these are not bad.

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A must see in Dotonbori is the Glico running man sign! Head towards the center of the Dotonbori streets where you will find a bridge above Dotonobori river and you will find all these advertisements. The Glico man ad has actually been around for 70 years (longest standing ad, although there have been many versions of it).

 

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There are seriously so many eateries in this area. Even if you stray further away from the crowds, you will find many stores and restaurants.

 

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As we headed back to our Airbnb, we saw a fried chicken stall, and of course S wanted this. It wasn’t very busy but S craved it.

 

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We got a bag of Chicken Karaage which was piping hot. Chicken was moist and batter was crispy. Not bad.

 

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Heading back, we actually wandered into the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade. It is a covered area with boutiques, retail stores and restaurants. A less quiet area during the evenings, but very busy during the day time. With our tummies full, we headed back to rest and prepare for our next day!

Dotonbori
Address: Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0071, Japan

 

Osaka Ohsho (Gyozas)
Address: 1-6-13 Dotombori, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0071, Osaka Prefecture

Kukuru (Takoyaki)
Address: 1-10-5 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture