ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “cafe

NOSTALGIA OF AN EX-RESIDENT, Tai Hang (大坑), Hong Kong

After moving out of Tai Hang in 2019, Tai Hang has changed, Hong Kong has changed, and so do we. From time to time, we would return for visits, mainly for the French pastries and Japanese sushi, or a simple stroll in the tong lau area just to check out which shops have departed and who were the newcomers. Looking back on why we chose Tai Hang as our initial home in the city may well reveal the qualities that we appreciated its sense of place: the character, comfort, sociability, access, activities, image, etc. In fact, we were attracted by Tai Hang’s diverse mix of residents, quiet setting away from major roads, convenient location between Tin Hau (merely 200m) and Causeway Bay, absence of banks, chain stores, supermarkets, and MTR station, wide range of small shops and restaurants, and its embodied paradoxes between East and West, old and new, quiet and vibrant, traditional and bohemian, local and touristic, coolest and also the warmest. When we were still semi-strangers to Hong Kong after a two-decade absence, Tai Hang offered us a haven to settle down, and inspired us how to be part of the community, to have fun in the city, to cherish things that would soon disappear, to appreciate things that resist the changes of time, and to enjoy Hong Kong in our own way. But things have changed, shops have switched hands and people have gone, including us.

200m is the distance between Tai Hang and the tram and bus lines on Causeway Road, or the closest MTR Station in Tin Hau. 200m distance is all it takes to miraculously preserve century-old heritage and a strong sense of community that hardly exist anywhere else at the heart of Hong Kong. Despite its close proximity to Causeway Bay and North Point, this 200m distance put Tai Hang in the city’s backwaters for much of the 19th and 20th century, when squatter settlements filled the slope of Red Incense Burner Hill where Lai Tak Estate now stands, and over a hundred auto repair shops ruled the neighbourhood. Wun Sha Street (浣紗街), the main street of Tai Hang, was once an open water channel, which led to the name Tai Hang, literally means “big water channel”. Since the first coffee shop opened in 2004, Tai Hang has gone through rapid gentrification. Luxury apartments and cool shops sprang up one by one across the old neighbourhood. But it was the emergence of special little restaurants (due to relatively low rents compared to adjacent Causeway Bay) that truly captured the attention of the city, who didn’t realize that at the back of “Little Ginza” there was this secret garden of Causeway Bay. Though there is one thing every Hongkongers knows about Tai Hang, and that is the Fire Dragon Dance, a traditional ceremony at Mid-Autumn Festival since 1880. The dance is now a widely advertised cultural event that draws huge crowds into the neighbourhood every year.

For a tourist, Tai Hang is a foodie paradise, hotspot for the trendy and cool, and stage for the annual Fire Dragon Dance. But for a resident, it is the sense of place and community bonding that truly count. No matter one is a 80-year-old resident who spends his whole life in Tai Hang, or a foreign expatriate who just arrives at the doorstep and hardly speaks a word of Cantonese, as soon as one enters the community, one would soon be touched by the sense of community and gradually assimilate as Tai Hang people. As rents and real estate prices fluctuate, shops and residents may come and go. But as long as its strong sense of community remains, Tang Hang is always Tai Hang. It is the simple and pure village atmosphere at the heart of a highly commercialized metropolis that makes Tai Hang unique in Hong Kong, something that could only be appreciated if one spends more time in the neighbourhood than just a fancy omakase dinner or a cup of hand drip Gesha.

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REVISITING TAI HANG AS A TOURIST

After we moved out of Tai Hang, we would sometimes return for brief visits. More street art and new shops have emerged in recent years. [2022]
Lyrics of local singer songwriter Charmaine Fong (方皓玟)’s “All We Have is Now” is remnant from Tai Hang Festival, one of the many community events being held in the neighbourhood since our former district council representative Clarisse Yeung was elected. [2022]
New shops owned by the younger generations have emerged in recent years. [2022]
Stripping of latter additions, another old mansion in Tai Hang has returned to its former glory. The newly renovated mansion was turned into Shophouse, housing levels of exhibition and social concept space. [2021]
More old mansions were turned into cafes. [2020]
From specialty cafes to vintage shops, the bohemian air of Tai Hang remains as the main drive for the younger generation. [2020]
After vacant for years, another pre war mansion was renovated into Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre, the official venue that tells the story of the community and its famous dragon dance. [2022]

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MEMORIES OF TAI HANG AS A FORMER RESIDENT

2019.09.13_21:45
2019 Mid Autumn Festival was the last Fire Dragon Dance we watched in Tai Hang.
2017.10.05_20:58
A strong sense of comradeship would be built up among dancers, who were made up of volunteers from residents of Tai Hang. Volunteer dancers were busy inserting burning incense sticks into the dragon body.
2017.10.05_21.27
2017 was the 138th Tai Hang Fire Dragon Festival. As usually about 300 volunteers would participate for the three days festival.
2016.09.16_21:48
2016 was our third time watching the dance. We made a donation that year and picked up our Tai Hang Fire Dragon t-shirt.
2016.09.16_22.10
Apart from t-shirt, we also went to the community centre pick up a pack of “dragon cookies”.
2016.09.16_22:11
Everyone was still out on the streets participating in the festival when we picked up the cookies from the community centre.
2016.09.16_22:18
The community at Wun Sha Street was still overwhelmed by the energy of the festival after we exited the community centre.
2016.09.16_22:19
Despite exhausted, the dancers still went through the dance routine one more time before calling it a day.
2015.09.27_20:58
Hassun Japanese Restaurant (八寸料亭), one of our closest neighbours in Tai Hang, offered free sake for the community just before the fire dragon dance.
2015.09.27_21:03
After having a sip of sake in the stomach, our excitement for the night grew even stronger.
2015.09.28_21:38
Every year, volunteers would give their best in the dragon dance, which is a sweaty and pretty physical demanding task that lasts for three nights.
2015.09.27_22:35
After the dragon dance, children would gather on streets and the nearby Victoria Park to light candles and play with lanterns to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival.
2015.09.27_22:40
For adults, the best festival celebrations would always involve food, from BBQ on the streets to having traditional food at places like Hong Kee Congee (康記粥店)
2015.09.27_22.51
We wouldn’t want to call it a day yet after the dragon dance. We walked out of Tai Hang via Fire Dragon Path (火龍徑) to Victoria Park to check out the lantern displays.
2015.01.01_00:07
We still remember the excitement we had for the first fireworks outside our bedroom window.
2015.02.18_23:07
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, we braved the crowds to enter our neighbouring temple Lin Fa Temple.
2015.02.18_23:09
At Lin Fa Temple, we paid respect to Gwan Yin (觀音) for our smooth settling in Tai Hang. In 2019, we also visited the temple on our moving date just to bid farewell to our neighbouring deity.
2014.08.09_19:12
Opposite to our flat, I loved to watch people walk up the stairs at Lin Fa Kung Garden to Lai Tak Estate (勵德邨). Built in 1975, two of the blocks are the only bicyclindrical public housing in Hong Kong.
2016.08.01_21:46
As Severe Tropical Storm Nida approached Hong Kong, Typhoon Signal No. 8 was issued on 20:40. We took the opportunity to wander in the relatively deserted Tai Hang. The storm was nowhere near the anticipated force and every Hongkonger had a relatively quiet night at home.
2018.03.28_22:36
After overtime work, we used to have late dinner at one of our favorite Japanese skewer restaurants in Tai Hang, including Moto Yakitori & Sake Bar.
2015.07.24_09:32
Before Hong Kee Congee moved to their current new store and the two elderly owners were still around, their boiling hot congee, hand made rice noodle roll, fried dough, and raddish cakes were fantastic for a winter morning.
2019.08.17_09:37
Forgot since when, Bing Kee Cha Dong (炳記茶檔) has become the most popular tourist attractions in Tai Hang.Their pork chop noodles and causal atmosphere have become an Internet sensation for both local visitors and foreign tourists. Living in the neighbourhood meant we could usually beat the crowds on weekends, when the queue became unbelievably long for just a simple breakfast.
2018.05.19_09:49
Just around the corner from our apartment, BlissHIVE, a bakery cafe that no longer exists, was the takeout breakfast solution that we usually went to on any normal work day.
2018.05.19_09:52
Only occasionally during weekends, we would sit in at BlissHIVE for a full breakfast.
2019.11.24_10:31
Plumcot remains as our favorite pastry shop in town since it opened in summer 2017. Chefs Camille Moënne-Loccoz and Dominique Yau from Paris brought a taste of French to Tai Hang each morning.
2017.02.11_13:34
Shops and restaurants come and go in Tai Hang. Only “Wong Jai” (黃仔) taxi seat remains as if a permanent fixture in the neighbourhood. His shop is a reminder of the era when there were about a hundred auto repair shops in Tai Hang (now less than 20).
2018.09.25_17:28
With over 50 years of experience in Tai Hang, Mr. Wong is one of the last 3-4 craftsmen that still repair car seats by hand in Hong Kong. We often walked by his shop, and he was always busy with his work.
2017.07.28_07:57
When passing by Allure Hair Salon, we would sometimes hear the owner playing Mozart while the client was having a haircut in one of Tai Hang’s charming historical mansions.
2018.12.13_08:14
For 6 out of 10 chance we would bump into this Shiba Inu dog at Fire Dragon Path on our way to work. Among all dogs we have seen in Tai Hang, this is the only one that loves sit still and watch people playing tennis every morning.
2018.09.27_22:36
From small poodle to large husky, every night there would be a mass gathering of dogs and dog owners at Fire Dragon Path (火龍徑). Whenever we walked by, we would always slow down and see if any one dog would approach us.
2015.06.20_05:44
Victoria Harbour outside our former bedroom window in Tai Hang has an eerie beauty that seems so distant to us nowadays.

LEGACY OF TRIANGULAR PIER: Hoi On Cafe (海安咖啡室), Sheung Wan (上環), Hong Kong

On 30th October 2021, Hoi On Cafe (海安咖啡室) opened its doors one last time to serve the Sheung Wan community. “Hoi On”, literally means “safe at sea”, was a traditional cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) or Hong Kong style cafe established by Wong Kiu (黃橋) in 1952. Known as the “Coffee King” and founder of Tsit Wing Coffee Company (捷榮咖啡), Wong was a well known figure in the coffee trading industry. His decadents still control a whopping 80% of coffee bean wholesale in the city. Began as a small cafe offering simple meals and refreshments for seamen and dockworkers from the Triangular Pier area, Hoi On had eventually outlasted all the surrounding piers. As time goes by, Hoi On became a sole survivor from a bygone era on Connaught Road West. Its retro shopfront and four-storey building stood out from the adjacent buildings. In the past few years, it was a common sight to see customers queuing up outside their glass door during breakfast hours and weekends. In the cafe, young visitors and tourists often took photos of their dishes before moving their forks, while loyal customers chit-chatted with the staff about everyday matters. It was hard to imagine that just over a decade ago, Hoi On was battling for its survival. Its change of fortune in recent years was largely due to efforts from the Au Yeung siblings, whose father was the second owner and former staff of Wong Kiu. From an aging establishment serving mainly elderly customers, the Au Yeung siblings successfully rejuvenated the cafe into a hub for nostalgic tourists, celebrating its community history, friendly ambience, and vintage decor. While preserving the old, the siblings also introduced a more diverse and innovative menu, and higher hygiene standards. Their efforts triumphantly turned Hoi On into an Internet sensation, and a mecca for the search of collective memories from a lost Hong Kong.

Despite knowing their name for quite a while, it wasn’t until we moved to Central/ Sheung Wan in 2019 that we paid our first visit to Hoi On. Maybe it was the nostalgic ambience, or the convincing quality of food, or the relatively tidy interiors given its age, we immediately fell in love with the cafe. Hoi On was not the closest cha chaan teng from our home, but it was one of our favorites. It even made us getting up earlier to make a breakfast detour before going to work. Given their busy scenes, affirmative online comments and media coverage, few would have predicted that Hoi On could suddenly close for good. Many netizens expressed sadness to the news. Some old customers (including ones from Taiwan and Malaysia) even offered to take over the business. Many thought it was due to an unreasonable rent increase, but according to some online sources, that wasn’t the case here. It was a personal decision from the owners. Bidding farewell to an community icon is always difficult, but we respect the owners’ decision, and admire their heartfelt efforts for writing a brilliant finale for the age-old business. Hong Kong is never a place known for permanence. Seizing the moment to enjoy while it lasts is always the key for living in an ever-changing place. As customers and members of the Central/ Sheung Wan community, we are grateful that Hoi On has left us some fond memories, no matter how brief our encounter was.

Before land reclamation of the 1970’s, the waterfront of Sheung Wan was always busy with dockworkers. [Street food stalls selling sweetmeats, Praya, Hong Kong, around 1910. Photograph by Henry Rue. Image courtesy of SOAS, Historical Photographs of China HR01-077, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net), (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0)]
A poster in Hoi On Cafe reminded customers of its history and the old Sheung Wan waterfront. [2020]
As most shop signage are made with computer fonts nowadays, even the Chinese calligraphy of “Hoi On Cafe” at the cafe door have become precious remnant from the past. [2020]
Nothing fancy, the cakes, tarts and buns of Hoi On were good representatives of the traditional taste. [2020]
The wooden banquette seating and furniture articulated a certain vintage ambience. [2020]
For a 70 year old cha chaan teng, tidiness at Hoi On was very well maintained, especially if compared to other decades old cafes in the city. [2020]
Diversification and evolution of the traditional cha chaan teng dishes greatly contributed to the renaissance of Hoi On in its final decade. [2020]
Neat presentation and fresh ingredients of Hoi On’s dishes captured the attention of foreign tourists and young foodies. [2020]
Turning a traditional Hong Kong style French toast into mini toast and topping instant noodles with BBQ pork and beef were some of their lovely twists to an old menu. [2021]
The BBQ pork and beef noodles often sold out quickly. [2021]
Many furniture pieces at Hoi On had become antiques. [2020]
Old telephone and signage that says “spitting is prohibited” became parts of the vintage decor of the cafe. [2020]
A metal fan belonged to the age before air conditioning. [2020]
In its last decade, Hoi On had become popular among the younger generation. Apart from smartphone snapshots, some of them had used their own ways to document the lovely cafe. [2020]
Without the nostalgic shutter and eye catching signage of Hoi On, this stretch of Connaught Road West would never be the same again. [2020]
After the closure of Hoi On, their iconic red signage has been taken off the building canopy. [2022]
Despite the closure of Hoi On Cafe, the four storey building silently remains on Connaught Road West, awaiting for the next tenant. [2022]

MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.24

Day 10 (2/6).

Not far from the Maruyama Park, we arrived at an old wooden house with white sidings and red shingles.  This is the original Morihico Coffee established in 1996.  Now, Morihico has become one of the most successful coffee shop brand in Sapporo.  Despite all the new and sleek shops in other areas of the city, we preferred to visit the original Morihico Coffee: home made pastries and home roasted coffee in a mellow timber house covered with lush green ivy in the old Maruyama neighborhood.

DSC_6530Timber signage of Morihico Coffee mingles with the lush green ivy.

DSC_6531Located in an old timber house in Maruyama, the origin shop of Morihico Coffee has been around since 1996.

IMG_0758The coffee shop seems like a small barn house in the countryside somewhere in the North America.

DSC_6534The signage, ivy and fire wood go well together.

IMG_0789The shop is two storey high with most seating on the upper floor.

IMG_0785The lower floor is dominated by the cafe counter.

IMG_0763Though small, the upper floor is well lit with natural light through the lush green ivy.

IMG_0767Everything in the cafe look vintage.

IMG_0781Interesting artwork on the wall.

IMG_0780Interior decorations at Cafe Morihico.

IMG_7921Signs on the wall remind tourists of the cafe etiquette.

IMG_7922The homemade pastries were delicious and fresh.

IMG_7920The coffee was good as expected.

IMG_0770We had an enjoyable breakfast at Cafe Morihico.  We were quite impressed and purchased a pack of coffee when we left.

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Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


DAY 6 (1/3): SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.29

At 6:30 in the morning, we returned to the ghats of Pushkar Lake.  The eastern horizon was about to turn yellow.  We came to have a final stroll along the sacred water.  We regret that we couldn’t spend more time in Pushkar, a place that is meant for slow indulgence for its spiritual qualities.  We, however, were making a brief loop of Rajasthan in a rather limited time.  Situated between Jaisalmer and Jaipur, Pushkar was a convenient stop in our itinerary.  We didn’t come in time to attend the famous camel fair, nor did we hike up the nearby hills or visit the Brahma Temple (no cameras, shoes, leather).  Just spending several hours strolling on the ghats turned out to be more than worthwhile for us.  Among cities and sites that we visited in Rajasthan, Pushkar stood out as a charming and peaceful destination that truly touched our hearts.

IMG_0282At 6:30, some locals were already lingering at the ghats.

DSC_1653It was interesting to see how a local interacted with a cow.

IMG_0309The forever presence of pigeons at Pushkar Lake.

IMG_0333The sun rose beyond the hills while a dog rested on a ghat with marked 2018.

DSC_1667The adjacent temples had yet come to life.  Scattered temple staff and pilgrims arrived at the ghats.

DSC_1675Once again the ghats were covered with a coat of orange glow.

DSC_1688The setting looked magnificent with the morning reflections.

DSC_1696Following the sunlight, we walked over to the west side of the lake.

IMG_0360Every moment could be captured as a peaceful painting of the old India.

DSC_1709Some worshipers were listening to the priest’s teaching at one of the ghats.

IMG_0372At the northwest corner of Pushkar Lake we bid farewell to the sacred water.

IMG_0382We stopped by a tiny cafe called Honey Dew for morning coffee.

IMG_0385Brahma Temple in Pushkar is one of the very few Hindu temple in the world dedicated to Brahma, the creator god in Hinduism.

IMG_2588Robin Jewels is a nice jewellery shop we found online.  Before leaving Pushkar, we dropped by the shop and picked up a few pieces.  Robin is specialized in silver, brass, gold and gemstones, with their own manufacturing workshop in town.

IMG_0388We took us a while to narrow down to a few pieces to bring home.

IMG_0396After Robin, we followed the main market street along the north side of Pushkar Lake back to Inn Seventh Heaven.

IMG_0402For a little less than 24 hours, we had a taste of the spiritual side of India in the sacred town of Pushkar.

IMG_2591We checked out the lovely Inn Seventh Heaven and get on a hired car to Ajmer Junction Railway Station.

IMG_0423In an hour or so we would arrived at the bustling city of Jaipur, the capital and largest city of Rajasthan.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 

 


DAY 8 (1/6): CHIRASHI & COFFEE, Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01

Kanazawa is a foodie’s paradise if fresh seafood is your cup of tea.  Staying near Omicho allowed us to sample daily catches from the Sea of Japan as soon as we stepped out the hotel door in early morning.  There are a number of seafood restaurants in the market, both on the ground and upper floors.  For a special seafood breakfast, we chose Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭), a tiny and popular sushi restaurant near one of the market entrances.

01We arrived at the door of Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) right at 7am when it opened.

02Fugu (河豚), a kind of puffer fish, is an exotic Japanese dish not everyone is dare to try because of the toxins in the fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Japanese à la carte menu is displayed on the side wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor most tourists, a chirashi (assorted local sashimi on sushi rice) don is the most popular option.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverything we needed for a tasty sashimi meal were available on the two tiered counter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABehind the stack of dishes stood the sushi chef busy preparing the dishes and don bowls for each customer around the counter.

07Thank you and appreciation notes from customers were displayed allover the restaurant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chirashi don was a tasty sashimi collection of local catches.

09Below the dish of sashimi was a bowl of sushi rice with seaweed and pickled vegetables.

11The chirashi don also came with a bowl of fish miso soup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from chirashi don, we also ordered sushi and sashimi from the à la carte menu.

12Out of the snow crab season, other crabs from the Ishikawa Prefecture also worth trying.

13After our sushi dinner, we walked to the nearby Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店) for a cup of aromatic coffee to officially start the day.

14The roasting machine and coffee aroma from Higashide Coffee made us impossible to resist.

15Higashide Coffee offers professional filtered coffee with beans from all over the world.  Their delicious cheese cake is also a must try.

16The decor of Higashide Coffee was warm and homey, with touches of Western influences and colourful stained glasses.

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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 7 (2/7): A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

Since the old days in the Edo Period, the Omicho Market (近江町市場) has been the biggest market in Kanazawa (金沢) for over 280 years.  With 170 shops, Omicho Market is very popular among both the locals and tourists.  Anyone who is interested to get a taste of the fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan will never be disappointed with the market.  Depending on the season, Omicho Market is always a seafood paradise: snow crabs, shrimps, oysters, squids, sea urchins, and all kinds of fish from the Sea of Japan near Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), with Noto beef (能登牛) and Kaga vegetables (加賀野菜) from the region as delightful bonus.  In fact, the Sea of Japan just off the Ishikawa Prefecture is where the warm Tsushima current and the cold Liman current intersect, resulted in an abundance of nutrients and large concentrations of fishing ground for a diversity of fish and shellfish.  Being the largest market in the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture, it is obvious why Omicho Market is one of the best places to sample seafood in Japan.  Most tourists will either sample fresh seafood or seafood snacks from the market stall directly, or walk into (often after certain amount of queuing time) one of the small seafood eateries near the market entrances or on the 2nd floor.  After dropping off our backpacks at Pacific Hotel, we quickly walked over to the market for a short stroll.  It soon turned out such a stroll in the market would happen at least twice per day during our stay in Kanazawa.

1Spanning across several covered lanes, Omicho Market is one of the largest markets in Japan.

2Noto beef (能登牛) refers to the high qualify strain of Japanese black cattle with their longest and final breeding process held in Ishikawa Prefecture.  Every year, there is only about 700 cattle shipped, making this rare wagyu beef almost exclusive to the region.

3Many shops in the market specialize in regional fruits, produces or snacks.

7Traditional Japanese sweets are also available in a number of shops, including this one that sell traditional sweet rice cakes made with sticky rice and red bean paste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThought of course the main draw for visitors to the Omicho is always the seafood.

5For seafood, a winter visit would have an advantage with snow crab season.

6Oysters from the region are also popular among tourists.

8Outside of winter, crabs from the Ishikawa Prefecture are still available.

9The crabs are sold in a range of prices depending on size.

10Crustaceans remain the most eye-catching items in the market.

11Without tasting them, even looking at the crabs was a feast for our eyes.

14At last we couldn’t resist but ordered some oysters and a prawn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoth the local oysters and prawns were super fresh and sweet.

16Before taking a bus a few blocks south of Omicho Market where the city’s main tourist attractions could be found, we stopped by Curio Espresso and Vintage Design Cafe for a quick lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith fantastic reviews on the Internet, our coffee didn’t disappoint us.

18The hummus, bread and soup were also more than satisfying.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 7 (1/7): DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢), Japan, 2018.05.31

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up to another misty and rainy morning in Ainokura.  It was time for us to move on.  In order to catch a direct bus to Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅), we had to catch the 7:45 bus from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop.  Before breakfast, we took a final stroll around the village.  Walking around the tranquil rice paddies and fields of drying reed, and breathing in the moist mountain air fixed with the fragrance of the woods and soil gave us a peaceful finale of our sojourn in the Japanese Alps.  The breakfast at the minshuku was once again a hearty feast of small dishes in the traditional dining hall.  After breakfast, the minshuku owner gave us a ride out to the Ainokuraguchi bus stop, sparing us for braving the elements with our backpacks.

The hour long bus journey north to Shin-Takaoka was as peaceful as our stay at Ainokura.  Only four passengers including us were on the bus.  The bus took us past the villages and towns in Toyama, including Johana Station (城端駅) where most buses throughout the day would end the journey for tourists to transfer for a local train.  Soon our bus went up the expressway over to the city of Takaoka.

From Shin-Takaoka, it was just a 15 minute train ride on the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) to Kanazawa (金沢), our final stop of this Japan trip before heading back to Tokyo. We felt a bit strange stepping out of the modern Kanazawa Train Station after staying several days in the mountains and countryside.  Designed by architect Ryuzo Shirae in 2005, the century old train station of Kanazawa received a modern makeover, including a wooden gate inspired by a traditional Japanese torii.  We took one of the many buses leaving the station for Omicho Market (近江町市場) at the city centre.  Our hotel was just a block away from the famous market.  With a small ground floor cafe, the sleek and modern Pacific Hotel was like a world away from the Gassho-style thatched roof minshuku of Ainokura.

DSC_8079We woke up to another wet day in the mountain village of Ainokura in Gokayama.

DSC_8104Before breakfast, we made a final stroll around the tranquil rice paddies of Ainokura.

Passing by the fields of drying reed reminded us the traditional way of living in Ainokura is still going strong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABreakfast at Gassho Minshuku Nakaya (合掌民宿なかや) was again a delightful feast for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was very kind for the owner of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya to drive us out to Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop in the rain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bus ride to Shin-Takaoka took a little over an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpened in 2015, the Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅) in Takaoka (高岡) is a modern  interchange station for the Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed railway.

DSC_8132There are Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed trains coming from Tokyo stopping at Shin-Takaoka on the way to Kanazawa.

DSC_8134In less than 15 minutes, we arrived at Kanazawa Station.

DSC_8138The wooden torii gate at Kanazawa welcome every visitors entering the city by train.

IMG_6753The modern and clean Pacific Hotel near Omicho Market offered us a comfortable resting place for our stay in Kanazawa.

IMG_6751A small reception counter of Pacific Hotel also doubles as a coffee bar.

 

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)