ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “food

COVERED BAZAARS, Istanbul, Turkey

2006.05.01

On our way downhill from Suleymaniye Mosque, we passed by an area full of hardware and toy shops. Then we found ourselves arrived at the famous Grand Bazaar of Istanbul.  Since establishment in 1455, the Grand Bazaar has been the most popular shopping venue in Ottoman Constantinople.  With 91 million annual visitors in 2014, the Grand Bazaar remains as one of the most visited tourist attractions in Istanbul.  We spent over an hour in this gigantic covered market (over 50 covered shopping streets).  Most shops were selling tourist souvenirs, t-shirts, pottery, jewelries, etc.  It was interesting to wander around the maze-like bazaar, a shopping arcade that predates modern shopping centres for several centuries.  Similar to all tourist shopping areas in the world, it was impossible to find one-of-a-kind merchandise there. We left the bazaar empty handed.

Several blocks north the Grand Bazaar stands the equally vibrant Spice Bazaar.  Also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar was established in 1660 and has served as the main spice market of Istanbul ever since.  Today, the Spice Bazaar has become quite touristy, with souvenir shops mingled with shops selling spices, nuts, sweets and Turkish delights.

06ME04-17The Grand Bazaar is a huge maze of shopping arcade network where tourists may find joy to get lost in.

06ME04-19Today, most shops in the Grand Bazaar are catered for tourists.

06ME04-16Signage in the Grand Bazaar may help tourists to orient themselves if they are familiar with the street names of the neighborhood.

grand bazaar 3The warm lighting from the shops and the indirect sunlight from the celestial windows make visitors to easily lose track of time in the Grand Bazaar.

06ME02-16In the area near the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, all sort of street vendors and small shops can be found.  Gözleme flatbread is a common street food in Istanbul.  It is a traditional food made with Turkish yufka dough cooked over a round metal hot dome.

06ME02-17Gözleme is somewhat crispy outside and soft inside.  It is simple and delicious.

06ME02-24At the crossroads between Asia and Europe, Turkey has long been a trading hub in the midst of caravan routes.  In the past, spices were among the most important commodities in international trading.

Spices MarketSpices have played an important role in Turkish cuisine.

06ME03-26Built in 1660, the Spice Bazaar is one one of the most popular covered market in Istanbul.

06ME03-23Perhaps because of the aroma, colours, and vibrant interactions between vendors and customers, we found the Spice Bazaar much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar.

06ME03-24It is full of surprises in the Spice Bazaar.

06ME03-25Smoking shisha with a traditional hookah water pipe has become a must do activity for tourists in Istanbul.  In the Spice Bazaar or Grand Bazaar, it is easy to find a water pipe.

marketIn the area around the Spice Bazaar, streets are lined with shops selling different merchandises from hardware to toys.

Rüstem Paşa CamiiThere are several famous mosques worth noting near the Spice Bazaar.  Built in 1564 by the famous imperial architect Mimar Sinan, Rüstem Pasha Mosque is well known for its Iznik tiles in the interior.

06ME03-28Outside Rüstem Pasha Mosque, street vendors lined along the small lane.

06ME03-29We were attracted by the busy street scenes near Rüstem Pasha Mosque.

Yeni Camii 1Situated near Galata Bridge, the Yeni Camii, or New Mosque, is another iconic building in Fatih.

Yeni Camii 2Completed in 1665, the Yeni Camii is another great place to admire traditional Iznik tiles.


BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.21

Day 7 (3/5).

Driving north from Farm Tomita in Nakafurano (中富良野) brought us to Biei (美瑛町) in half an hour.  We followed the GPS to look for Bi.Ble, a French restaurant that caught our attention while we researched for the trip.  Recommended by a guidebook, we were attracted by Bi.Ble’s dishes made from local ingredients, its pleasant timber interiors, and its picturesque setting surrounded by wheat fields.  The entire compound is consisted of four buildings: a culinary school and a staff/student dormitory occupying two former school buildings, a new one-storey hotel and a new restaurant facing a wheat field.  With the aid from GPS and Google Map, we didn’t have trouble finding the place and arrived at Bi.Ble at around 11:30am.  We didn’t make a reservation, and were lucky to get the last table available.  Other than the seafood of Shiretoko, dining at Bi.Ble to sample some of the best ingredients from Furano and Biei turned out to be one of the most remarkable meals we had throughout the trip.

DSC_5972Occupying the former Hokuei Elementary School, the Ecole Hoteliere Etude is a culinary school affiliated with Bi.Ble Restaurant.

DSC_5966It is green everywhere in Biei, even the school building.

DSC_5956Across from the school building stands a minimalist building cladded with green metal panels.  This new addition to the school complex serves as a hotel with several guestrooms facing the wheat field.

DSC_5968Each hotel room has a decent window.

IMG_9924Each room enjoys the view of the picturesque wheat field below.

DSC_5961Bi.Ble Restaurant is located at the far end of the compound.

DSC_5963Biei is well known for its high quality wheat and flour.  In July, the wheat would turn yellow.  By August, the wheat would be ready for harvest.

IMG_7286The first things that greeted our arrival at Bi.Ble was the famous bakery and its fireplace.

IMG_9885Almost all tables in the restaurant had been reserved.  Came without booking, we arrived just in time to sit down at the last available table facing the wheat field.

IMG_9886Beyond the wheat field lies the distant volcanic mountain ranges of Daisetsuzan and Tokachi, whose ashes produce the highly fertile soil of the area.

IMG_9890Perhaps the easiest way to appreciate the taste of Biei is to sample the simplest and purest ingredient of all, freshly baked bread made from the wheat of Biei.

IMG_9894Appetizers made with local pork and produces decorated with a touch of nature.

IMG_9899The dining experience at Bi.Ble was a fusion of French culinary techniques and Japanese aesthetics with the palette of Hokkaido.

IMG_9900From the local volcanic soil, even the most ordinary ingredients like carrot and potato tasted better.

IMG_9903Each dish was like a minimalist painting to us.

IMG_9905Each dish came in small portions, but it ended up quite a filling meal after all the courses.

IMG_9907A fine dessert to ended a special meal.

IMG_9915After visiting the lavender farms and floral fields of Furano, Bi.ble has given us another brilliant way to appreciate what the unique landscape of Central Hokkaido has to offer.

* * *

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)


TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.20

Day 6 (2/3).

From Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to Nakafurano (中富良野) where we would stay two nights to explore the rolling hills and farmlands of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛), we drove by Tokachi (十勝), a subprefecture in Central Hokkaido best known for its dairy and agricultural products such as wheat and red beans.  Also known as the land of cheese, some say Tokachi produces about 60% of Japanese cheese.  We didn’t plan to stay in Tokachi, but did make a stop in the subprefecture’s only city, Obihiro (帯広).  There was only one reason: to sample the delicious food of the region.  We weren’t after any fancy kaiseki ryori or seafood feast, but simple local dishes that make use of the best local ingredients of Tokachi.

IMG_0034There is nothing simpler to experience the best of Tokachi (十勝) than have a cup of fresh local milk.

IMG_9711In Obihiro, we made a first stop to Amamuekie, a simple pastry shop housed in a cool container.  Originally worked in the music industry, the husband and wife of Iwamoto family (岩本夫妻) turned their interest in nature and healthy food and opened Amamuekie.

IMG_7127At Amamuekie, healthy pastry made with plant based ingredients without the use of white sugar and animal ingredients such as dairy and eggs are sold, including this cocoa pound cake made with rice flour.

IMG_7836We picked up several items from Amamuekie, including this hojicha (green tea) biscotti, a tasty fusion of east meets west.

IMG_9713On our way to Obihiro, we made our second stop at Sweet Factory Green, a delightful sweets shop in the small town of Otofuke (音更町).

IMG_9715The cakes, chocolate and ice-cream were all so tempting.

IMG_9721Causal seating were provided on the lawn next to the sweets shop.

IMG_9717_01Sun was high and sky was blue, what a perfect moment to enjoy local ice-cream, a piece of fruit cake and a cup of good coffee.

IMG_9722Finally we arrived in downtown Obihiro (帯広), and parked our car in one of the outdoor parking lot near the main train station.

IMG_7105It took us a little while to figure out the correct procedure to activate the parking sensor for our stall.

IMG_9728Our destination, Butadon Pancho (元祖豚丼), situates right across the street from Obihiro Railway Station.

IMG_9726Butadon Pancho (元祖豚丼) offers just one thing in the menu: Butadon (豚丼) or pork bowl.  After about 20 minutes in the queue, we finally got a small table in the small restaurant.  Founded in 1933, Butadon Pancho claims to be the pioneer restaurant that offered butadon.

IMG_9725Originated from Obihiro, butadon is basically a bowl of rice served with several pieces of local pork, topped with sweet soy sauce and green peas.  The bowl also comes with takuan (沢庵) or pickled daikon radish and miso soup.  Nothing fancy, just a simple local dish but made a perfect lunch for us.

IMG_9732After a little over an hour on the road, we arrived at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, a vast resort compound that offers a variety of activities for visitors, from skiing in winter to hiking in summer.

IMG_7115The main reason coming to Tomamu was to check out the famous Chapel on the Water by architect Tadao Ando.

IMG_9730Unfortunately, the opening times of the chapel was quite limited.  Quite often, the chapel is occupied for private wedding ceremonies.  We had to leave it for another time, and moved on on our journey to Furano, where we would stay for the night.

* * *

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)

 


TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2019.06.15

Day 1 (1/2).

Our flight landed in Tokyo Haneda at around 6am.  Before our next flight to Hokkaido’s Memanbetsu Airport at noontime, we had a few hours to spare in the Japanese capital.  Tsuyu (梅雨), the rainy season in Japan, was in full force in mid June.  Given the proximity to the city centre, we wouldn’t want to miss the chance of revisiting Tokyo.  We took the monorail and then transferred to the metro heading for Tsukiji Market.  40 minutes was all it took to reach Tsukiji.  It was pouring when we came out the metro at the Kabuki-za Theatre (歌舞伎座) exit.  We followed Google Map to make our way into the quiet lanes near the outer market.

Opened in 1935, the 83-year-old market has officially moved to the new Toyosu Market (豊洲市場) in October 2018.  With no intention to watched a tuna auction behind glass or checked out seafood and produce stores in a brand new shopping centre like setting, we preferred to revisit the old market at Tsukiji, where the Outer Market remained open for business.  At the market, generations of social interactions have developed a strong sense of community.  The chaotic turret traffic at the inner market, desperate tourists cramped in long lines for an early sashimi breakfast, cafes serving simple coffee on dark wood counters, street food stalls along busy lanes and covered alleyways, the spirit and ambience of the old market have drawn us back to Tsukiji again and again.  This time around, our Tsukiji experience took us to a craft coffee shop, a back lane sushi eatery and a historical Shinto shrine.

IMG_8560Miraitowa (future and eternity) and Someity (calm and powerful), the two official mascot of 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, greeted all visitors at the arrival lobby of Haneda Airport.

IMG_8576Turret COFFEE, a popular hub for everyone in Tsukiji who love coffee, offered us a decent dose of caffeine to start the day.

IMG_E8579We came just in time to be the first few customers at Turret.

IMG_8586The cafe decor was simple and the coffee was aromatic and good.

IMG_8593Named after the 3-wheel cart that once roamed in the lanes of Tsukiji Market, a real “turret” was placed in the centre of the coffee shop as display and also seating.

IMG_8599Kitsuneya Beef Rice, one of the most popular eateries in the entire outer market, offers visitors a decent alternative to seafood.

IMG_8601For many, leaving Tsukiji Market without picking up several pieces of tuna toro sashimi would be a big regret.

IMG_8617We ended up sitting down at a small sushi eatery in a covered alleyway.

IMG_8621Despite relocation of the inner market, the sushi at Tsukiji Outer Market was equally fresh as before.

IMG_8620Today’s uni (sea urchin): Hamanaka (浜中), Uchiura Bay (噴火湾), Akkeshi (厚岸), Nemuro (根室), Rebun (礼文), and Nemuro (根室).  Even looking at the names of the five fishing villages in Hokkaido would wet our appetite.

IMG_8607Before returning to the airport, we made a stop at Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社), the unofficial guardian shrine of Tsukiji Market.

IMG_8609Built in 1659, the Shinto shrine dedicates to Inari (稲荷大神), the god of fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture.  The Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社) was specifically aimed to ward off disasters and diminish incoming waves.

IMG_8612The 1-ton Yakuyoke Tenjo Dai-Shishi male lion is one of the main features of the shrine. During Tsukiji Lion Festival on June 10th, the lion head would parade across the Tsukiji along with the red female lion head.

IMG_8613The 0.7 ton female lion head is slightly lighter than the male, but equally impressive.  After coffee, sushi, and Shinto shrine, we took our time to return to Haneda Airport for the flight to Memanbetsu in Hokkaido.

* * *

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)

 


HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, June 15-25, 2019

Tsuyu (梅雨), the rain season, begins to hit Okinawa in May and gradually makes its way north to the rest of Japan until the end of June.  During the wet season, rainy and cloudy weather affects the entire country except Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island north of the main Honshu Island.  The seismic active island is 3.6% smaller than Ireland, with a climate significantly cooler than the rest of Japan.  Seeking for a pleasant getaway from Hong Kong’s humid and hot summer, we picked Hokkaido as the destination for our 11-day vacation from 15th to 25th of June.  Traveling in the remote national parks and rural countryside of Hokkaido, hiring a car was a necessity.  The Hokkaido journey was our first road trip in Japan.

Known as Japan’s last true wilderness, Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園) is the natural haven where Brown Bears and Blakiston Fish Owls ruled the primeval forests and Orcas, Minke and Sperm Whales roamed the waters of Nemuro Strait.  With fantastic natural scenery, wildlife and seafood to offer, this easternmost part of Hokkaido topped our priority list in the travel itinerary.  Next in the journey took us to the spectacular volcanoes of Akan Mashu National Park (阿寒摩周国立公園), where we came close to Japan’s clearest water at caldera Lake Mashu (摩周湖) and the fantastic onsen and fly fishing hot spot of Lake Akan (阿寒湖).  While the lavender fields of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛) had yet reached the peak bloom moment, the ultra fertile soil below the Tokachi Volcanic Group (十勝火山群) treated us with some of the best bread, corn, potatoes, asparagus, melons and milk that we ever had in our lives.  Despite far away from Tokyo and Osaka, the architectural magic of Tadao Ando (安藤忠雄) in Hokkaido satisfied our thirst of contemporary design and aesthetics.  Back in Obihiro (帯広), Otaru (小樽) and Sapporo (札幌), historic traces of early pioneers and contemporary dessert shops and local eateries brought us back to delightful charm of urban Japan.  What’s more?  Day after day of mouthwatering seafood, fresh produces, good coffee, and lovely patisseries reminded us how wonderful our world could be, when the water is clean, soil is rich, forests are healthy and people are friendly.  Thank you Hokkaido.  You have truly touched our hearts.

maps 2Located north of Honshu Island, Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan.

maps 1Flying in from Tokyo Haneda, our Hokkaido journey began from Memanbetsu (女満別空港) near the Shiretoko Peninsula.  After more than 1,181km of driving, we arrived at Otaru and Sapporo at the western side of the island.

DSC_4258This black hatchback hybrid Toyota Prius c (Toyota Aqua in Japan) provided us the means of transport from east to west across Hokkaido.

DSC_4490After 2 days of rain and wind, we finally had a glimpse of the active volcano of Mount Rausu (羅臼岳), the tallest peak in Shiretoko Peninsula.

DSC_5154The greatest experience we took away from Shiretoko was the close encounter with a pod of orcas in the Nemuro Strait.

DSC_5307The Mashu Lake (摩周湖) offered us a peaceful sunrise at 3:30am.

DSC_5666Under the shadow of Mount Oakan (雄阿寒岳), dozens of fly fishermen stepped into the crystal water of Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to test their luck.

DSC_5751Farms and greenhouses were washed with heavy rain as we entered into Furano (富良野).

DSC_5893Still at least half a month to go before the peak season of lavender blossom, visitors were enjoying themselves at a relatively less crowded Farm Tomita in Nakafurano.

DSC_6040Compared with rainbow flower fields, we loved the wheat fields at Biei the most.

DSC_6183Tadao Ando’s Chapel on the Water has been famous in the designer’s world since the 1980s.

DSC_6282The Hill of Buddha is the latest addition in Hokkaido by Tadao Ando.

DSC_6466At Yoichi Distillery (余市蒸溜所), whiskey has been produced since 1934.

DSC_6538Saturdays Chocolate in Sapporo is one of the many excellent local eateries and cafes that we visited in the journey.

IMG_9267Last but not least, Hokkaido offered us the best seafood and dessert that we ever had as far as we could remember.  Let’s begin to tell the story of our journey!

 

* * *

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 1 (2/5): PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.24

Haveli in India refers to a large historical mansion built by a wealthy merchant over a century ago.  Designed to impress both the residents and outside spectators, these buildings usually come with ornate carvings, beautiful frescoes, intricate window screens, and an airy courtyard or lightwell.  While many have been fallen into disrepair over the years, some havelis have survived into modern times and become valuable heritage buildings.  Rajasthan has some of the most famous and well preserved havelis in India, and some of which have been converted into museums or hotels.  Situated in the old city near the Gulab Sagar Reservoir and Clock Tower Market, the beautiful Pal Haveli was our hotel in Jodhpur.  Owned by the Pal Family, the two-hundred-year-old haveli was the place where we first experienced the historical sense and beauty of the Medieval Jodhpur.  Antique housewares, paintings, textiles and furniture offered a charming ambience.  From the rooftop restaurant, views of the busy Clock Tower Market and the majestic Mehrangart Fort were breathtaking.  Outside the hotel, the market streets and square near the Clock Tower dominated the street scenes.

Just a stone throw away stood a simple omelette shop that has been frequented by foreign tourists ever since Lonely Planet named the local eatery as the famous “Omelette Shop” in 1999.  Since then, this simple eatery has been elevated into legendary status among foreign tourists.  The life of Ramkishan Gawlani the owner has been completely transformed ever since.  According to an interview with Reuters, Ramkishan Gawlani was used to be poor and drank all day.   For 24 years he cooked meat, rice, lentils and sometimes omelette.  After Lonely Planet’s listing however, his business boomed dramatically with tourists all over the world come to him for omelettes.  He gave up the other options in his menu and became an omelette specialist.  Just a decade after the listing, he was cracking 1000 eggs a day and earned much respect in the city of Jodhpur.  Interestingly, the famous omelette man is in fact a vegan and has not eaten an egg for years.  His story reflects an interesting phenomenon about the tourist and guidebook industry.   According to Reuters, Lonely Planet has sold over a million guidebooks on India from 1981 to 2007, and has inevitably bringing tourists to the same hotels and restaurants throughout the years, and has created tension and jealousy among businesses, such as the hostile feelings of the other omelette shop owners towards Ramkishan Gawlani.  For us, we did visit the famous Omelette Shop for our first meal in Rajasthan because of its convenient location.  While not as legendary one might imagine, Ramkishan Gawlani ‘s omelettes were indeed delightful and convenient for us.

dsc_9991We arrived at Pal Haveli hotel straight from the airport in early afternoon.

dsc_9990Through the grand entrance, we entered into the main arrival courtyard of the hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the roof, Indique Restaurant is a well known establishment with good food and great views of the old Jodhpur.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hotel reception lobby is situated right at the courtyard.

dsc_9977Despite its modest size, the reception lobby of Pal Haveli is decently decorated with traditional furniture and antiques.

dsc_9978Even the light switches reflect the long history of the building.

dsc_9980Our room was located right by the courtyard.

dsc_9984Inside the room, walls were decorated with traditional miniature paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust a stone throw away, the legendary Omelette Shop was busy serving foreign tourists.

dsc_9994Stacks of eggs and signs of “Lonely Planet” and “Tripadvisor” suggested we had come to the “right” place, but not one of the imitated ones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARamkishan Gawlaniwas busy making omelettes at the stove.

img_8605Made with several eggs, mayo, cheese, spices and bread, we tried the tasty Alibaba Omelette.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Omelette Shop was the entrance into the Sardar Market or the Clock Tower Market.

dsc_9997_01Across the street from the Omelette Shop, we could see the side facade of our hotel Pal Haveli.

dsc_9998Dozens of tuk tuks or auto rickshaws await for tourists at the heart of the old city across the street from the Omelette Shop.

dsc_0003After a few rounds of bargaining, we hired one of the passing auto rickshaw for Mehrangarh Fort, the single most iconic sight of the city of Jodhpur.

***
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 10 (2/2): FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山), Tokyo (東京), Japan, 2018.06.03

While Oedo Market offers customers things that are meant to be kept for a long long time, the Farmer’s Market at United Nations University (UNU) is all about enjoying the moment with fresh local produces and food products.  Held every Saturday and Sunday at the convenient location between Shibuya and Omotesando metro station, the UNU Farmer’s Market offered us an opportunity to sample the freshest local ingredients and snacks right at the trendy fashion district of Tokyo.  Good coffee, refreshing apple juice, tasty roast pork, beef stew, juicy tomatoes, and fresh vegetables left a lovely final remark in the memories of our Japan trip 2018, a journey that brought us onto the Alpine trails of Kamikochi, into milky onsens of Shirahone, fairy-tale villages of Gokayama and Shirakawa-go, lovely cities of Matsumoto, Takayama and Kanazawa, and then back to the lively metropolis of Tokyo.

DSC_9301We arrived at the Farmer’s Market at UNU at around 11:30.

DSC_9302Local honey, fruit jam, and apple juice were sold at the first few market stalls that we encountered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt one end of the market, a small seating area was set up for customers who bought the snacks or drinks from the vendors or fast food vans.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADepending on the season, Japan is one of the best places in the world to sample high quality fruits.

DSC_9303The fresh green peppercorns reminded us of the peppercorn fields we visited years ago in Cambodia.

DSC_9304Lavender is widely available in Japan in the summer.

DSC_9305The roast pork of Kome Shiru Na is a must-try at the market.

DSC_9306The high quality roasted pork definitely worth the waiting time.

DSC_9311The roasted pork became the first dish of our lunch at the market.

DSC_9310Local apple juice and fresh ice coffee, perfect for the sunny afternoon.

DSC_9319Too bad we couldn’t bring any flowers back to Hong Kong.

DSC_9321On the other side of the market, clothing and handcrafts could also be found.

DSC_9323The van of books was a cute feature at the market.  We sat down at a table for some beef stew.  The air was relaxing but we knew it was about time for us to call it a day and return to our hotel to pick up our backpacks for the airport.  Our amazing ten-day journey in Central Honshu was coming to an end.

* * *

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 (5/7): LIGHTHOUSE, CHOCOLATE & SAMURAI HOMES, Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

Branded as Little Kyoto, Kanazawa is famed for its century old neighborhoods and buildings.  With only a fraction of Kyoto’s tourists, Kanazawa is a great place to appreciate the machiya, or the old Japanese timber townhouses from the Edo Period, and neighborhoods of geisha and samurai.  Close to the castle hill, Nagamachi (長町) is the most famous samurai neighborhood in the city with well preserved samurai residences.  From Kenroku-en and Kanazawa castle park, It is about 15-20 minutes of walk to Nagamachi.  On our way, we made a detour to Oyama Shrine (尾山神社).  Moved to its present location in 1872, the shrine is the most prominent shrine complex in Kanazawa, especially the iconic west facing gate structure standing proudly with a mixed style of Japanese, European and Chinese influences.  As soon as we stepped in the shrine complex, we saw groups of people setting up art installations in the temple garden.  Perhaps the artworks were set up for the upcoming Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり).  We strolled around the complex and finally came to the unique front gate.  Designed by a Dutch architect, the gate is consisted of three levels. The first level presents design features from Japanese and Chinese influences, and the upper levels are inspired by European styles, including the famous stained glass window at the top tier which was once served as a lighthouse.

Exited Oyama Shrine from its front gate, we continued to walk west into the Nagamachi (長町), the tranquil neighborhood famous for its samurai residences.  Sitting just a stone throw away from Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi had a high concentration of samurai residences in the Edo Period.  Today, the water canals, narrow lanes, earthen walls, old trees, and traditional gateways still exist.  Some houses are still occupied by families of former samurai.  Before visiting one of the former samurai residence, the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we couldn’t resist the temptation and stopped by a chocolate patisserie shop called Saint Nicolas.

4The Oyama Shrine is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the Kaga Domain.

5While we were there, local communities were busy setting up art installations in the temple ground.

6Some of the art installations were made of materials that we could hardly imagine.  This piece set up laser disks (LD) in an arrangement that resembled a lily pond.

7A glassy pavilion seemed like a brand new addition to the shrine complex.  It might well become an information centre soon.

2We exited the Oyama Shrine through its main gate.  Once served as a lighthouse, the top level of the gate features a colourful stained glass window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring daytime, it is difficult to see the real colours of the stained glass window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of the gate, a small procession route led us west towards Nagamachi, the neighborhood famous for its samurai residences.

8Before going into the lanes of samurai residences, we reached a small street flanked by a small water channel and stopped by Saint Nicolas, a delightful patisserie and chocolate shop.

9Saint Nicolas offers a wide range of chocolate, ice-cream and patisserie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe decided to sit down for a tea break before ending our day with a visit of the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家).

11Finding our way to Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we wandered around the small lanes of Nagamachi.

12Unlike the historical districts in Kyoto, Nagamachi of Kanazawa to us was much more peaceful and saw far less tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor 280 years, many top and middle class samurais lived in Nagamachi near the Kanazawa Castle.  Although most mud walls were reconstructed in modern days, the charm of the old samurai era remained.

14The Onosho Canal is the oldest waterway in Kanazawa.  In the old days, it was a means to carry goods from the harbour to the castle town.

 

* * *

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 6 (1/6): MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

Before leaving Takayama we made a brief visit to the Miyagawa Morning Market.  Everyday from 6:30am to noon, market stalls selling farm produces, local crafts, snacks, and souvenirs will be set up at the Jinya-mae Market in front of Takayama Jinya and Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River.  These two morning markets have become popular tourist attractions.  We arrived at Miyagawa River at around 6:15am, while a number of vendors were setting up their stalls.  We took our time strolling along the river, and were delighted to see a few rows of koinobori (鯉のぼり), the colourful carp windsocks, over the water to celebrate the Children’s Day (子供の日) on 5th of May.  They were meant to bring good health and bright future for children.  As more vendors got their stalls ready, we turned to the delicious snacks for breakfast.  Steady rain began soon after we had our first snacks.  We hastily finished them and got ourselves a few local products (miso, dried mushrooms, spices, etc).  After returning to our guesthouse to pick up our backpacks, we made it just in time to catch the 8:25am bus for Shirakawa-go, our destination of the day before moving on to stay the night at Ainokura of Gokayama.

DSC_7374.JPGThe sky was grey and Miyagawa River (宮川) was calm as always.  We thought the market stalls wouldn’t be up and running right at 6am so we took our time to stroll along the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was delightful to start the day with a close encounter with a wooden Daikokuten or the God of Luck near the Kaji Bashi Bridge.

DSC_7390Colourful koinobori (鯉のぼり) or carp windsocks were set up (probably for a few weeks around the Children’s Day on 5th of May) over the Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7396Originally the windsocks were used by samurai warriors during battles. In modern times, koinobori or the carp windsocks are meant to bring strength, good health and courage to children.

DSC_7433It was a pleasant scene to have a few rows of colourful koinobori over the calm water of Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7398Some signs said the market opened at 6am and some said 6:30am.  Even at 6:30am, not all stalls were set up and visitors were scarce.  The grey weather and rainy forecast just made things worse.

DSC_7389Time was still quite early and there weren’t that many visitors around.

DSC_7397We would have to imagine if it was a little later in the day and with finer weather, the market would be much busier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe would love to get some local produces but we just couldn’t bring them along with us for the rest of the trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn old man let us try the samples of the dried shiitake mushrooms.  The sample tasted gorgeous and led us to buy a bag of the dried shiitake mushrooms.  This bag of dried shiitake turned out to become the best dried shiitake we had ever had at home.

DSC_7435Seven-favored spices is a famous local product.  We got a mini bag of spices from the old lady.

DSC_7436After 7am, more stalls were opened as well as the souvenir shops along the opposite side of the pedestrian walkway.

DSC_7438A few stalls were selling beautiful flowers and plants.  We would soon found out that flowers were inseparable with village homes in the Japanese Alps area.

DSC_7440An old lady was selling all kinds of miso (味噌).  We picked up a pack of Hoba Miso, a regional sweet miso wrapped in a dried hoba leaf (magnolia).   Traditionally, the leaf was meant for wrapping the miso and cooking it over the fire.

DSC_7441Local honey vendor was about to open his stall.

DSC_7447Our first snack at the market was the takoyaki or octopus dumplings.

IMG_8461Watching how the takoyaki was made by the vendor was an interesting event in itself.

DSC_7454After takoyaki, we moved to the next stall for fish-shaped mini cakes with various sweet paste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe takoyaki vendor recommended us to try the award-winning custard pudding at NOIX de COCO (ノアドココ).  It was a fabulous suggestion.  The vendor was friendly, the pudding delicious, and we got a chance to take a photo of the cute pikachu wearing a pudding hat!

DSC_7464Steady light rain continued and more visitors arrived at the market, but it was time for us to take the bus and move on to our next destination: the traditional gassho-zukuri village ares of Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山).

 


DAY 5 (2/5): HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Unless you are a vegetarian, almost all visitors who come to Takayama would sample the Hida beef (飛騨牛), the renowned wagyu beef (和牛) famous for its fine marbling, soft texture, juicy quality and rich aroma.  Since winning the “Wagyu Olympics” in 2002, the reputation of Hida beef has risen on par with the legendary Kobe beef (神戸牛).  First introduced in the 2nd century AD from China, Japanese cattle were raised mainly as working animals until Meiji Restoration in 1868, when foreign cattle were imported into Japan and cross-bred with the local cattle to produce the four main breeds of wagyu: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn and Japanese Polled.  Out of the three strands of Japanese Black, the Tajima bloodline is probably the most well known.  Only pure Tajima bred, raised and slaughtered in Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県) will be certified as the famous Kobe beef.  In the 1980s and 1990s, Kobe beef was introduced to the world and made a huge impact for its exceptionally high quality.  Yasufuku, a bull from Hyogo Prefecture was considered to be genetically ideal for creating offspring with high quality meat.  It was introduced to the Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県) in the 1980s, and produced 39,000 offspring during its lifetime.  Yasufuku is also known as the father of Hida beef (飛騨牛).  Today, all cattle of the Hida beef are bred and raised in Gifu Prefecture.  In Takayama, there are multiple ways to appreciate the Hida beef, from high-end steakhouse to takeaway beef sashimi.

DSC_7046Opened in 2001, French Restaurant Le Midi is one of the most elegant restaurant in the city to sample Hida beef.

DSC_7048A side store of Le Midi offers takeaway snacks.

DSC_7051Custard pudding topped with local honey is one of the shop’s signature dish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther than pudding, Le Midi’s Hida beef burger is also highly popular among tourists.  The Hida beef hamburger and custard pudding were the first two snacks we tried in Takayama, and already we were quite impressed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcross the street from Midi, we also picked up a Hida beef skewer from Kyoushi (梗絲), one of the restaurants in Takayama specialized in Hida beef sushi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the imitation display of the Hida beef snacks looked mouth-watering.

DSC_7070In the historic Kamisannomachi Street, the Hida beef sushi from Hida Kotte ushi (飛驒牛壽司) is perhaps the most anticipated street snacks in Takayama.  Visitors can choose to enjoy the sushi at the seating area in the souvenir shop behind the sushi counter.

DSC_7075Hida beef sushi combo on rice crackers were truly amazing.  We finally got a taste of beef that would “melt” in the mouth.

DSC_7336Near the railway station, there are butcher shops such as Yamatake Shoten (山武商店) offering a comprehensive Hida beef experience from picking the meat to devouring the grilled meat all under one roof.

DSC_7359For dinner, we chose Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明) to have Hida beef yakiniku (焼肉).

DSC_7358At 7:15pm, we put down our names on the waiting list at Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明).  In less than ten minutes a staff came out and removed the waiting list and put a sign at the front door to stop any newcomer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter an half-hour wait, a staff led us into the yakiniku dining hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered a highest grade Hida beef (最とび飛騨牛) and a A5 Hida beef sirloin.  The yakiniku dinner was basically a DIY barbecue experience.

DSC_7355The highest grade Hida beef (最とび飛騨牛) was full of marbling.

DSC_7354A5 Hida beef sirloin.

DSC_7357At the restaurant entrance, photos of Hida beef breeders were displayed on the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABar codes of the Hida beef for the night were also on display.

DSC_7360Certifications and newspaper articles about Hida beef breeders were displayed at the shopfront of Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明).

* * *

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 5 (1/5): CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Surrounded by mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山) or simply Takayama (高山) is a delightful destination for all tourists who have make the effort coming to the central mountainous region of Honshu.  Takayama serves well as the base for travelers to visit the surrounding attractions, from Kamikochi and the Japanese Alps to the east, to the gassho-zukuri villages of Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) to the north. Takayama is best known for its morning market at Miyagawa River (宮川), high quality sake and world famous Hida beef, but the most remarkable thing for most visitors is how well the historic Sanmachi Suji District (三町筋) has been preserved.  Wandering in the historic heart of Takayama makes us felt like going back in time to the Edo Period (1600-1868, 江戸時代), when the city was a wealthy and prosperous merchant city.   On the other hand, a visit to the castle ruins at Shiroyama Park (城山公園) on the mountain next to the historical centre reminded us the city’s shogunate past in the Sengoku Period (1467-1568, 戦国時代).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at Takayama from Shirahone Onsen at around 12:30pm.  Our hotel J-Hoppers Guesthouse was just a few minutes away from the railway station.

DSC_7044Our tatami room was simple and clean, with a window overlooking the city’s post office across the street.

DSC_7056Just a short walk from J-Hoppers brought us to Sanmachi Suji (三町筋), the historic district that most tourists linger when they come to Takayama.  Most tourists wandered around Sannomachi Street, the atmospheric street flanked by old timber houses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the charming historic district, even the street gutter can provide a lovely picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the most enjoyable activities to wander around Sanmachi Suji District is to sample the diverse local snacks, from beef croquettes to mochi.  The rice cracker of Senbeidou (手焼煎餅堂) on Sannomachi Street is also popular with tourists.

DSC_7058At Sanmachi Suji, one of the most popular shop we encountered was Ohnoya Paste Shop (大のや醸造).  Ohnoya had been around in Takayama for the past 250 years selling soy sauce (醤油) and miso paste (味噌).

DSC_7213At Ohnoya, we bought a bag of aka miso (red miso 赤味噌), a bottle of yonen (4 years) shoyu, a soy sauce made from aka miso, and a bottle of kibiki shoyu, a special soy sauce made with a traditional recipe.

DSC_7068A poster on a shopfront reminded us the famous Takayama Matsuri or Takayama Festival.  Held annually in spring and autumn, Takayama Festival (高山祭) is often considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the Takayama Festival, the city’s splendid festival floats (yatai) would be paraded throughout the historic streets.  Throughout the year, the floats are stored in special storehouses scattered across the old town.

DSC_7080On Sannomachi Street, we walked by the beautiful gate of Fujii Folk Museum, a small museum with exhibits of artefacts and local art pieces.

DSC_7208Before heading up to the Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we stopped by a sweet bun shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sweet buns looked pretty and tasted delicious.

DSC_7085While wandering the historic centre, we passed by the interesting Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館).  Named as one of Takayama’s top attractions in Lonely Planet, the museum showcased objects dated back from the mid 1950’s to 1960’s Japan.

DSC_7087What looked like an antique shop across from Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館) was in fact a hairdresser (バーバー文助) decorated in a vintage look.

DSC_7221On our way to Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we passed by another old miso shop (丸五味噌(醤油)屋).

DSC_7335After our walk up the Shiroyama Park and Higashiyama Walking Course (東山遊歩道), we finally reached the beautiful Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7338The hotel staff at J-Hoppers recommended us to check out the 1200-year-old ginkgo tree (銀杏) at Kokubunji Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 37m tree is a designated natural treasure.

DSC_7349Hida Kokubunji Temple (飛騨国分寺) was originally built in 764 AD by Emperor Shoumu. Over the years, the structures had been reconstructed. The three-storey pagoda was rebuilt in 1821 to replace the earlier five-storey pagoda that was itself a replacement of the original seven-storey pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATogether with the pagoda, the bell tower at Kokubunji Temple is also a fascinating old timber structure.

 

 

 


DAY 2 (4/5): FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.26

With a population of less than 250,000, peaceful Matsumoto (松本市) is renowned for its beautiful mountain views, in particular the Hida Mountains to the west.  Coming from Tokyo, we could immediately sense the relaxing air of the mountain city as we stepped out the train station.  We spent 5 hours in Matsumoto, visiting the castle, art museum, and performing arts centre.  All three sites were within walking distance from the train station, and we were able to cover everything on foot.  Near the castle, we passed by small weekend markets where vendors were selling snacks, handicrafts, straw hats, accessories, local produces, artworks, etc.  Our brief stay in Matsumoto provided us a moment of transition between busy Tokyo and tranquil Kamikochi (上高地) in the Japanese Alps.

DSC_5957At 09:40 we arrived at Matsumoto Station (松本駅) by JR East’s Super Azusa.

DSC_5958It was Saturday morning.  Most shops near the station had yet open their doors except this sake store.  Sake, the popular Japanese rice wine, is in fact quite famous in Nagano Prefecture, where clean water, good sake rice and cool weather can be found.

DSC_6062With red polka dots all over, the Town Sneaker bus is undoubtedly designed by Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生), the world renowned artist from Matsumoto.  This inner city loop service is a convenient way for tourists to get around the city.

DSC_5962In front of the newly opened Shinmai Media Garden, a lively street market captured our attention.  Designed by Toyo Ito, Shinmai Media Garden is a shopping centre with an interesting trade mix, including a local beer restaurant, cultural workshops, rooftop cafe, restaurants, apple cider shop, lifestyle store, small exhibition spaces, etc.

DSC_6066At the street market, we could find different local products from handicrafts to snacks.

DSC_6064Even doughnuts were made with local ingredients.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStraw broom (houki) of Matsumoto (松本箒) is a famous traditional handicraft of the city since the late Edo Period 150 years ago.

DSC_5964This minimalist building right by the Metoba River is a small retail complex with a barber shop, restaurants, and fashion boutiques.

DSC_5966Behind the retail complex stands the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, which hosts a collection of timepieces donated by Chikazo Honda and other local citizens.

DSC_5967Nawate Dori, also called Kaeru Machi or “Frog Street”, is a small street near the castle famous for its traditional shops.  Frog sculptures can be found along Nawate Dori.  Made by students of Tokyo University for Arts, this sculpture of frog samurai is one the most impressive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome say the abundance of frog sculptures at Nawate Dori is a result from the typhoon incident in 1959, which flooded the area and forced the original Kajika frogs of the Metoba River leaving for higher ground and never returned.  The frog sculptures have since become replacements to retain the original spirit of the place.

DSC_6061The streets of Matsumoto were full of surprises.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe abundance of nice boutiques and delightful cafes at downtown Matsumoto reveals the youthful energy and desire for a cozy lifestyle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMatsumoto has a decent student population with its universities, junior colleges, secondary and elementary schools.

DSC_6214At 14:45, we hopped on the Alpico Kotsu’s Kamikochi Line at platform No. 7 at the station.  The 14.4km train ride took us as far as Shin Shimashima (新島々駅) in half an hour, from where we switched to the Kamikochi bound bus for the final leg of the journey.

IMG_6011At Matsumoto Station, we picked up two bento boxes from a convenient store.  They were tasty and decent looking, perfect for a relaxing train ride.

DSC_6227As soon as we stepped out of Shin Shimashima Station (新島々駅), we could see the bus parked outside.  It was a smooth transfer as we boarded the direct bus for Kamikochi.

DSC_6230On the way to Kamikochi, we often passed by picturesque rice paddies.

DSC_6233_01The bus ride took about 60 minutes through mountain valleys and small villages.  All we could hope for was pleasant weather in Kamikochi, where we would make day hikes to explore the mountains.

* * *

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 1 (2/3): TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場), Tokyo, Japan, 2018.05.25

Due to the fact that this world-largest fish market is running out of space for future development, and that the site of the existing Inner Wholesale Market is sitting on prime real estate land, the Tsukiji Inner Market or Jonai Shijo (築地中央卸売市場) is scheduled to be relocated to Toyosu (豊洲) in this October.  Handling over 2000 tons of seafood per day and employed over 60,000 staff, relocating the Tsukiji Inner Market is no small feat.  Not catered for public visitors and tourists, the wholesale area is not an ideal place to wander around.  No tourists are allowed before 11am according to the rules, and there is a limited number of quota for watching the famous tuna auction before dawn.  Outside of the wholesale area, a few small lanes of restaurants are extremely popular with tourists.  There are about two dozens of small sushi restaurants serving fresh fish just a stone throw away from the wholesale area.  No wonder the most popular restaurants such as Sushi Dai (寿司大) and Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司) are infamously known for the long queues, with some bloggers mentioning in the range of one to three hours of wait.

DSC_5813This time, we didn’t enter the wholesale area of the Inner Market.  We didn’t want to stand in the way of the busy staff.

DSC_5815We walked to the lanes of eateries and sushi bars to hunt for a place for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJapanese grilled omelette or tamagoyaki (玉子焼き) could also be found in the Inner Market area.

DSC_5826In 2014, we came to the Inner Market in early morning and had a bowl of chirashi for breakfast.

DSC_5827Other than chirashi and sushi, there were also other options such as curry and tempura.

DSC_5822The line for Sushi Dai went all the way to the other side of the building out onto the adjacent lane.  It seemed like a two hour wait at least.

DSC_5847This time, we picked Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司).  Daiwa Sushi occupies two stores so we thought the queue wouldn’t be too long.  We wouldn’t mind queuing for a while to have a chance to taste the fresh nigirizushi or hand pressed sushi (握り寿司) from Tsukiji Market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the door of Daiwa Sushi, a staff was responsible to monitor the queue and direct the entering customers when seats became available in the restaurant.

DSC_5845Through the window, we could see a senior itamae (chef) and his apprentices busy preparing nigirizushi for customers.

DSC_5860We ended up queuing for a little over an hour before finding ourselves sitting at the bar seats of Daiwa Sushi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior was down to earth.  We sat by the corner right by a photo depicting the catch of a huge tuna.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was only one nigirizushi (握り寿司) set option to order.  Nothing fancy about the sushi, but the freshness of the fish and the vibrant market atmosphere made all the wait worthwhile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the sushi breakfast, we hopped to Aiyo Cafe next door for a cup of coffee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior of Aiyo revealed a strong vintage atmosphere.

DSC_5864The entire shop seemed frozen in time since mid 20th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe staff were very friendly and spoke some English.

IMG_5898We had a good time exchange a few words with them while taking a short coffee break. After all, we were a little sleepy after the red-eye flight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt another lane there were restaurants that offered Western cuisine.  We thought of trying but were too full after the sushi breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked by an interesting sliding door panel leaning against a low wall outside the row of restaurants that offered Western food.  Was the move to Toyosu already underway for some restaurant owners we did not know.

DSC_5873Judging from the mini figure that actually moved continuously as if devouring a bowl of delicious noodles, the door might belong to a ramen restaurant.  After the sushi and coffee, we decided to move on to Roppongi for a dose of design culture.

* * *

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 1 (1/3): TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場), Tokyo, Japan, 2018.05.25

Walking out of Tsukiji Metro Station, our attention immediately fell to the monumental Tsukiji Honganji Temple (築地本願寺) across the street.  Design in mixed styles including Indian Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu, as well as Western Neoclassical influences, architect and Tokyo University professor Chuta Ito intended to steer away from the traditional East Asian timber architectural traditions.  Instead, he traveled to India numerous times to visit temples, and brought home design touches from the birthplace of Buddhism.  The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed the temple’s predecessor.  The current Honganji Temple was built in the 1930s, and soon became a prominent Jodo Shinshu (浄土真宗) temple in Tokyo.  We climbed the main stair and entered the main hall through an elegant doorway with beautiful stain-glass transom windows overhead.  We were surprised to see a full house of audience in the cathedral-like main hall (even with an organ).  Apparently there was a concert going on.  A female vocalist was performing some kind of Western opera inside the temple.

DSC_5878The unique facade of Tsukiji Honganji Temple hardly revealed its true identity of to us.

DSC_5883The elegant stain glass transom over the doorway depict the Buddhist icon of lotus flowers.

DSC_5882There was a concert inside the main hall of Tsukiji Honganji Temple.

DSC_5885The architecture of Tsukiji Honganji Temple presents the trend of cultural fusion back in early 20th century.

Across the street adjacent to the Tsukiji Honganji Temple, we picked a small lane leading into Tsukiji Jogai Shijo (築地場外市場) or the Outer Market.  Encompassing a few blocks adjacent to the Tsukiji Jonai Shijo or the Inner Market, the Outer Market is a popular tourism attraction.  Catered for the public, small shops selling all kinds of culinary-related goods from dried seafood to kitchen knives and food stalls offering a wide range of snacks such as sushi and grilled egg, the pedestrianized lanes of the Outer Market is truly a foodie’s paradise.  On this piece of reclaimed land (Tsukiji literally means reclaimed land), the eateries and shops of the Outer Market had long been providing a diverse range of food to the people of Tokyo since the Showa Era (1926-1989).  The entire Tsukiji Market was in fact a consequence of the Great Kanto Earthquake, which devastated Central Tokyo in 1923 including the Nihonbashi Fish Market.  The fish market was relocated to Tsukiji and began to operate in 1935 as one of the three major markets in the city.  Already the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, the Tsukiji Market is running out of space for further development.  Work of relocating the market has been undergoing for sometime.  After several delays, it seems that the market is really moving to its new home in Toyosu (豊洲) this October.  But that didn’t affect the bustling Outer Market as these few blocks of shops and eateries (and the loads of tourists) would likely to stay even after the move.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStreet vendors appeared blocks away from the Tsukiji Market just outside the Metro Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA large fish painted on the building facade probably reminds tourists the direction of the market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA relatively new market called “Tsuki Waza” will remain at Tsukiji even after the relocation of Tsukiji Inner Market.

DSC_5791The Tsukiji Outer Market is consisted of a few pedestrianized streets of shops and restaurants.

DSC_5793Katsuobushi (鰹節) is the dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna or bonito flakes commonly seen in Japanese cuisine.

DSC_5796Akiyama Shouten (秋山商店) specializes in katsuobushi.  We couldn’t resist but got ourselves 500g of the flakes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are many small shops with all kinds of dried seafood and seaweed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile it only occupies a few blocks, one can easily get disoriented in Tsukiji Outer Market.

DSC_5810Apart from the small shops, there are also indoor shopping arcades of food stalls.

DSC_5803We ended up get our first snacks from a street BBQ vendor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from seafood, spices can also be found in the Outer Market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATamagoyaki (玉子焼き) or grilled omelette is another popular snacks available at Tsukiji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw about four to five stalls specialized in tamagoyaki.  We tried two of them and they both tasted good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter free tasting of black beans from Kyoto region we ended up get a pack home.

DSC_5812After all, tuna is still the king in Tsukiji.  Quite a long queue of people were waiting for fresh tuna sashimi in front of this shop.

DSC_5875New indoor shopping arcades have been established in recent years at the Outer Market, perhaps as a gesture of confidence for the future of Tsukiji after the relocation of the wholesale Inner Market later this year.

* * *

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 3 (2/8): NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U, Myanmar, 2017.12.25

After watching the sunrise over Old Bagan, we returned to Oasis Hotel for breakfast.  Soon, our guide Win Thu came to join us and we headed off once again to explore the Bagan area.  Before another series of pagoda hopping, our day’s first destination was the local market of Nyaung-U.  As the main transportation and commercial hub of Bagan, the market of the river town Nyaung-U is a gathering point for the locals.  Many locals from the surrounding villages would come for grocery and daily needs.  Nyaung-U market offers travelers a great spot to learn about the daily lives of the locals.

DSC_4263We started our market stroll at the open wet market section.

DSC_4265It was great to see all the fresh produces from the area, as well as the smiles and laughter of the vendors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from produces, colourful flowers were also available.

DSC_4271Our eyes were overwhelmed by all shades of green.

DSC_4285Several kids were enjoying themselves behind the vendor stalls.

DSC_4292There were several vendors selling thanaka powder, a yellowish-white paste made from ground tree bark of thanaka trees.  Thanaka powder is a very popular cosmetic paste which the local Burmese women put on their faces.

DSC_4304Moving away from the open area, we walked into the covered aisles.

DSC_4307The aisles were narrow and busy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlso for sale included betel leaves, which the locals used to make paan shots with Areca nut and/or tobacco.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABamboo shoots is a common ingredients for local cuisine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA quiet corner of the covered market.

DSC_4316.JPGSome vendors had to attend to their stall and baby at the same time.

DSC_4322Many vendors were also having their meals at the stalls.

DSC_4326This shop had all kinds of dried fish.

DSC_4331In the dry goods area, merchandise such as clothing and slippers were sold along with spices.

DSC_4345In the covered area, there was also a small eatery.

DSC_4348Heading out to the open area where we arrived, we passed by more stalls selling local produces and spices.

DSC_4351Apart from temple and pagoda hopping, the Nyaung-U market certainly added an unique experience to our visit of Bagan.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 2 (5/5): SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

Tourists and guidebooks often compare the ancient ruins of Myanmar’s Bagan with Cambodia’s Angkor, and so as their base towns: Nyaung-U of Bagan and Siem Reap of Angkor.  Tourists arriving in Bagan may discover that Nyaung-U is nothing like Siem Reap.  There is no designated Pub Street, massage parlours or fish spa for the tired feet.  Several years ago we spent the night of New Year’s Eve in the Pub Street of Siem Reap, where bars and restaurants were packed with half drunk tourists.  This time, we had an opportunity to spend Christmas Eve in Bagan.  Unlike Siem Reap, Nyaung-U was much more peaceful.  To celebrate Christmas Eve, we chose Sanon Restaurant, a social enterprise offering great food and non-profit training for the disadvantaged youth.  After a satisfying meal, we walked around Nyaung-U to take in the peaceful atmosphere of the silent night.

DSC_3911On our way to Sanon Restaurant, we passed by a number of convenient stores catered for tourists.  Most shops also offered e-bike rentals to tourists.  Renting E-bikes is one of the most popular ways for tourists to do their pagoda hopping.

DSC_3916We were lucky to find a table after a bit of waiting at Sanon Restaurant.

DSC_3940The dining area was a pleasant open terrace.

DSC_3927We started our Christmas Eve dinner with a delicious cocktail.

DSC_3938We had a local dish: deep fried morning glory for appetizer.

DSC_3936One of our main dishes was also a local dish: Giant Irrawaddy Prawn and Catfish Curry.  Flowing north to south, Irrawaddy River is the largest river in Myanmar.

DSC_3944After dinner, we walked past a book vendor in front of a restaurant.  All books were non-fiction and half of them were in English.

DSC_3945It was a 15-minute walk from Sanon Restaurant back to Oasis Hotel.  The street was peaceful and quiet.  All actions seemed to be limited inside the restaurants and hotels.

DSC_3949Some of the local eateries were particularly busy, with customers gathered to watch football games on large televisions.

DSC_3953Located at a road junction, Sapada Paya stood quietly over Nyaung-U.

DSC_3963We stopped by a small playground at the base of Sapada Paya.

DSC_3970Despite there was no one around, up at the terrace of Sapada Paya we found a small altar with fresh floral offerings.

DSC_3978Finally we were back at Oasis Hotel, our comfortable base for our stay in Bagan.

DSC_3988No one was around in the garden of Oasis Hotel, though Christmas music was on.

DSC_3915We enjoyed a peaceful Christmas Eve and retired to our room early.  The next morning we would get up before dawn.  Our driver would pick us up to watch the magical sunrise over Old Bagan, probably the most well known and gorgeous scenery in Myanmar.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 2 (2/5): HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

Considered as the first empire in Myanmar, the legacy of the ancient Bagan Kingdom is what drawn all visitors coming to the dry plains at the eastern bank of the Ayeyawaddy River today.  With over 2000 ruined pagodas concentrated around a few villages, Bagan is truly one of the most wonderful place to visit in Southeast Asia.  After seeing Shwezigon, probably the most active temple still popular with pilgrims today, we moved on to check out some of the less intact pagodas nearby.

The first was Htilominlo Temple.  Built on the spot where King Htilominlo was chosen as the next king, Htilominlo was eventually named after the king himself.  Topped with a sikhara, an ornamental tower originated from Hindu architecture in Northern India, the 46m pagoda is a majestic brick structure plastered with stucco carvings.

DSC_3546Built in the 13th century, the Htilominlo is about 46m tall.  The temple was damaged by earthquake in 1975.

DSC_3547Among all the tourist souvenirs on display at Htilominlo, local puppets seemed to be the most eye-catching.

DSC_3553Well known for its detailed plaster work, Htilominlo is a popular temple among the 2000+ pagodas in the area.  The sikhara at the top was under scaffolding during our visit.

DSC_3566There is one gilded Buddha figure at each of the four worship halls facing the four directions.

DSC_3578Each of the four Buddha figures is unique in appearance.  Pilgrims usually visit all of them for the worship.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe four main worship halls are connected by vaulted corridors running around the core of the main structure.

DSC_3579The interior of the architecture is full of archways and vaulted corridors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of the fading fresco can still be seen inside Htilominlo.

DSC_3584After an interior loop, we walked around the temple to check out its exterior decorations.  Some of the beautiful plaster work and glazed terracotta plaques were still visible.

DSC_3604Across the road from Htilominlo, we reached a smaller building called Upali Thein.  Built in the 13th century, this building houses some fine frescoes from the 17th century.  The interesting roof battlements attempted to mimic a type of historical Burmese wooden architecture that can no longer be found today.

DSC_3594We were fortunate that the usually locked Upali Thein was open while we were there.

DSC_3621We wandered around a cluster of stupas nearby.  These stupas varied in size and form, and were constructed in different eras.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the past, constructing stupas in Bagan was considered a religious good deed of the donor.  Stupa donors in Bagan ranged from businessmen to officials and even kings.  Names and addresses of the donor were often presented at the entrance gate.

DSC_3631Constructing stupas was a competitive business in the old days among the wealthy class.

DSC_3656Today, most of the 2000+ surviving stupas and pagodas stand in partial ruins, except the most prominent ones that are still serving as places of worship for Buddhist pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACenturies of competitive stupa constructions put Bagan at the top of the list of attractions for Myanmar.

DSC_3658Looking back at Htilominlo from afar, we could truly sense that our two-day feast of temple and stupa hopping would be a really special experience.  Unlike Angkor in Cambodia where majestic temples are overtaken by the powerful rainforest, Bagan is a romantic landscape picture consisted of layers of pagodas scattered across the horizon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor lunch, Win Thu took us to a local restaurant nearby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was no menu as all customers were given the same dozen or so small plates of local dishes and a large plate of rice.

DSC_3669Housed in a simple shed, the restaurant kitchen was filled with the scent of charcoal.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 2 (1/5): SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

After a full day in Yangon, the second part of our trip would take us north to Bagan.  In the 9th to 13th centuries, Bagan was the ancient capital of the Pagan Kingdom, the first kingdom that united Myanmar.  Near the former royal capital Mandalay, Bagan is over 600km north of Yangon.  We chose flying to save time.  There are several local airlines that offer the service.  We picked Air KBZ, one of the guidebook recommended private airlines, and bought our tickets online two months prior to the trip.  To maximize the time in Bagan, we chose the 7:15 flight and left Yangon’s Loft Hotel before dawn.  We arrived at Yangon Airport in no time.  After checking in, we had a noodle breakfast at a cafe in the boarding area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmong several eateries we ended up sitting down at Gloria Jean’s Coffee in the boarding area for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack coffee and Shan noodles represented a set breakfast with a local twist.

DSC_3459Approaching Bagan, we could occasionally see Buddhist stupas in the landscape down below.  We were pretty excited as we approached the ancient capital of the Bagan Kingdom, where thousands of pagodas and stupas once stood on the dry plains near the Irrawaddy River.

DSC_3471After a little over an hour, our plane touched down at Nyaung U, the main town in the Bagan area.  Nyaung U was also where we would base ourselves in the next two days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nyaung-U Airport is a small airport that served only domestic flights.  Upon arrival, all passengers gathered at a room to wait for their luggage to be carried in by airport staff.  After picking up our luggage, we walked out to the arrival hall and was greeted by our local guide Win Thu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWin Thu took us back to our hotel Oasis Hotel to drop off our bags, and immediately began our Bagan tour by visiting Shwezigon Pagoda, the largest Buddhist temple in Nyaung-U.  All visitors of the pagoda are greeted by the chinthes, the traditional leogryph guardians of temples in Southeast Asia.

DSC_3539We took off our shoes and entered one of the two remaining entrance halls.  The entrance hall was crowded with pilgrims, tourists and vendors selling all kinds of religious offerings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance hall is a stone-paved covered walkway leading to the central pagoda compound and the gold gilded central pagoda.

DSC_3492Before approaching the golden stupa, we stopped by a pavilion with statues depicting the Buddhist story of the Four Sights: when the 29-year-old Siddhārtha left his royal palace for the first time and first met an elderly man, sick man, dead man and an ascetic.  The four sights led Siddhartha to realize the real sufferings in life, and inspired his decision to embark on an ascetic journey towards enlightenment.

DSC_3499In Shwezigon, there are shrines dedicated to local deities such as the Nat God.  Like many local deities, Nat predated the arrival of Buddhism in Myanmar and still remained popular today.

DSC_3477Completed in 1102 AD, the golden pagoda of Shwezigon Pagoda is believed to house a bone and tooth of Gautama Buddha.  The bell-shaped stupa represents the architectural tradition of the Mon people of ancient Myanmar.

DSC_3514Many visitors gathered around a tiny pool of water to check out the reflection of the golden pagoda.  According to our guide Win Thu, the king also used the pool of water to inspect the construction of the stupa.

DSC_3520The pagoda has a central solid core, with steps at the four cardinal directions rising from the base up the terraces for pilgrim’s worship.

DSC_3516Shwezigon Pagoda is the largest and most popular Buddhist temple in the Bagan area today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWin Thu led us to the back of the pagoda to check out the famous Chayar Tree.  The tree is famed for its year-round blossom, unlike other trees of its kind which would only flower at a certain period of a year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the back of the pagoda, we also found a small building housing local deities that predated Buddhism in Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore leaving Shwezigon Pagoda, we passed by a number of small prayer halls that surrounded the golden pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found our way back to where we came.  It was time to move on to the next designations in Bagan.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (9/9): A FESTIVE NIGHT, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

After Shwedagon Pagoda, we took a taxi back to Downtown Yangon.  Despite the taxi driver got lost on the way, we did eventually find our way on foot to LinkAge, a social development restaurant and art gallery that offers delicious food to customers and cooking training to local street kids.

DSC_3354Established by NGO Forever Humanitarian and Development Projects, LinkAge is situated on the upper level of an old apartment block on Mahabandoola Garden Street.

DSC_3349The time was a bit late but there were still several tables of customers in the restaurant.

DSC_3346The ambience was causal and relaxing, a perfect venue to have a local beer and chill out after a long day of sightseeing in Yangon.

DSC_3352We ordered lentil soup and curry shrimps.  The food was decent and reasonably priced.

DSC_3356After the meal, we wandered around Downtown Yangon where streets and shops were still quite busy.

DSC_3358We walked past some of the street vendors who had spent the entire day on the streets.

DSC_3360We also passed by some of the city’s spectacular colonial architecture.  Standing beside the High Court since 1917, the Myanma Post and Telecommunications (Central Telegraph Office) is another piece of fine architectural gem.  Today, the former communication hub still offers counters for sending telegrams and emails.

DSC_3362Soon, we arrived at the Ayeyarwady Bank building (former Rowe & Co. Department Store) again.  The former Rowe & Co. Department Store was covered with splendid Christmas lights.

DSC_3364Across the street from Ayeyarwady Bank, the street market along the east side of Maha Bandula Park was still running.

DSC_3374The north side of Maha Bandula Park across the street from Sule Pagada and City Hall was much more crowded than the morning.

DSC_3380A large crowd gathered for the live music performances on the stage where we passed by in the morning.

DSC_3390When we arrived, the performer was playing the guitar and singing in Burmese.  For some reason, the Burmese songs did sound a little like Japanese to us.

DSC_3402Where there were people gathering in Yangon we would always find street food vendors.

DSC_3403Many cars just stopped by the roadside to absorb the atmosphere of the performances, even public buses.

DSC_3412A little further from the main stage, other vendors were selling festive stuff like illuminated wands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course there were also helium balloons for the festival crowds.

DSC_3418Just a stone throw away from the crowds at Maha Bandula Park, Sule Pagoda continued to bathe in its peaceful spirituality.

DSC_3426On our way back to Loft Hotel, we climbed onto the pedestrian overpass north of Sule Pagoda.  The overpass was originally constructed by the junta government where soldiers could shoot at an out-of-control political demonstration in front of the Sule Pagoda, an iconic and popular venue for massive protests.

DSC_3443The Christmas tree in front of Sakura Tower reminded us that Christmas 2017 was just around the corner.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (5/9): BUSTLING STREET LIFE, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

Like many Southeast Asian cities, the streets of Yangon are chaotic and energetic.  While we checked out the colonial architecture in Downtown Yangon, we also encountered the vibrant Burmese street life that included mobile street vendors, roadside eateries, and wandering Buddhist monks dressed in pink robes seeking for donations.  As a city of about 5.5 million, Yangon has the most diverse population in Myanmar, with Bamar the main ethnic group, along with Indians, Chinese, Rakhine, Karen people, etc.  Such diversity is reflected by the distinct cuisines available in restaurants.  With 135 ethnic groups, and bordering nations including India, China, Thailand, Bangladesh and Laos, the vigorous cultural fusion of distinct influences is strongly evident in the street food of Yangon.

DSC_2597Buddhist monks, including groups of young monks, could be seen throughout Downtown Yangon.  They came out mainly to seek for food donations.

DSC_2637Fruits and snacks were sold everywhere on the sidewalk, including the pavement in front of the City Hall.

DSC_2751Despite of recent controversy, Ang San Suu Kyi is still to a great extent the symbol of human rights in Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a street market along the east side of Maha Bandula Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome vendors were selling dry goods but most were actually street food vendors.

DSC_2770Snacks and more food at the east entrance of Maha Bandula Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pink robes of the Buddhist monks stood out against the old building facades of Yangon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlastic chairs, makeshift tents, and temporary tables of street food vendors were set up at side streets.

DSC_2803With the happy customers at the street food vendors, the city was filled with a somewhat laid-back atmosphere.  Even dogs were having a relaxing time in the early afternoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw an abundance of fruit vendors at street corners in Yangon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALime, oranges, mandarin oranges, pineapples, bananas, dragon fruits, and grapes are the most popular fruit on the street.

DSC_2857Traditional longyi (a 2m long cloth sewn in cylindrical shape) is widely worn in Myanmar for both men and women.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALongyi comes in all kinds of patterns and colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAng San Suu Kyi remains as the face of Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACold drink shops are popular in Yangon, offering soda, juices, and snacks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACanopies of historical buildings provide desirable weather protection for street vendors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the downtown area is full of a sense of community, with happy vendors and customers seem to know each other well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis traditional bakery shop sells all kinds of cookies, sandwiches and bread.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere the sidewalk was not wide enough, vendors spread their merchandise out to the street.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (2/9): WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, was the capital city of Myanmar (Burma) until 2006.  With 7 million inhabitants, Yangon remains as the largest city in Myanmar.  Because of our tight schedule, we only had a day to explore the downtown where decaying colonial buildings from the British era mingled with bustling daily activities of the locals, and the Shwedagon Pagoda, the religious heart and biggest tourist draw of the city.  Before that, we decided to first get a taste of the Burmese culture through sampling the local cuisine.  We weren’t particularly hungry, but would want to try out a well known noodle shop: 999 Shan Noodle House.  It was a half-hour walk to the noodle shop.  What’s better to get a quick Yangon impression than wandering its lively streets?

DSC_2547Venturing out of the Loft Hotel, we headed east towards the north-south thoroughfare Alan Pya Pagoda Street.  Local shops lined along one side of the street, while the opposite side was dominated by the large Park Royal Hotel.

DSC_2552One of the first building we encountered on Alan Pya Pagoda Street was Thamada (President) Cinema and Hotel.  Opened its door in 1958, Thamada was Rangoon’s most prominent cinema with a fully air-conditioned hall and a great example of the cuty’s Modernist architecture.

DSC_2555A number of snack vending carts were stationed in front of Thamada Cinema.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther than skewers or salad, fruit is also common snacks in Yangon.

DSC_2559Renovated a few years ago, Thamada Cinema remains as a popular cinema in the present, drawing sell out shows from time to time.

DSC_2564Further down the road we reached the intersection of Sakura Tower.  Built in 1999, Sakura is a 20 storey building built by Japanese investors and architects.  It offers office spaces up to international standards, with a restaurant at the top floor.  While the top floors struggled to find tenants in the first several years, Sakura is now totally full as Myanmar opens up in recent years.

DSC_2569Next to Sakura Tower, the 1910 Bible Society of Myanmar (British and Foreign Bible Society) was the heart of Christian evangelical society in the early 20th century.  In the 1960s, the foreign missionaries were expelled from the country, and was restructured in 1964 under national organization.

DSC_2572The strip of Bogyoke Road at Sakura Tower was known as Rangoon’s “Cinema Row” in the past, a designated entertainment district.  The Nay Pyi Taw Theatre with its iconic patterned facade was built in 1961.  Movie was and still remains big in Yangon (formerly Rangoon).  The modernist patterned facade was popular back in late 1950s and early 1960s in Southeast Asia.

DSC_2577Further down we reached a busy intersection of Sule Road and Anawratha Road where a network of pedestrian overpass allowed us to gain a raised overview of this part of Downtown Yangon.

DSC_2578The overpass was occupied with vendors.  Pedestrians loved to stop by the railing for a look at the changing surrounding skyline.  Looking north, the top of Sakura Tower perched over the tree crown in the middle, and the Sule Shangri-La (Trader Hotel) dominates the the left side with its 500 rooms.  Built by Japanese and Singaporean architects, the hotel never really fulfilled its tourist potentials due to the West’s boycott on the junta government.  Rooms were sold at discounted prices. interestingly, it did attract a number of NGOs and UN agencies to set ups their offices here, and so as foreign journalists and some tourists.

DSC_2583At the southwest corner of the pedestrian overpass, a new 20 storey office building was under construction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFurther south we could see one of the city’s most important monument, the Sule Pagoda.  It is known to be one of the oldest monument site in Yangon, some said around 2600 years old.  Sule Pagoda has been and still is considered to be the heart of Downtown Yangon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a moment above the streets, it was time for us to return to the busy street scenes.

DSC_2599.JPGAs we approached 999 Shan Noodle House, we began to explore the network of small side streets behind Yangon City Hall.

DSC_2605.JPGAll side streets were flanked by buildings dated back to British Rangoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt took us several minutes to reach the right side street of the noodle house.  It was fortunate that we had portable wifi device and mobile phone which we could get on Google Map.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFood vendors could be seen on many of these side streets.  Groups of children monks were also a common sight.

DSC_2612After a little over half an hour of walk, we finally reached our destination – 999 Shan Noodle House.  999 is a famous restaurant in Yangon specialized in dishes from the Shan and Kachin States at Northern Myanmar.  These states border with Yunnan Province of China, which is also popular with rice noodle dishes.

DSC_2618The pig knuckle noodle soup was tasty, and the pork texture was just right.

DSC_2619Stir fry rice noodle with local spices was also a popular dish at 999 Shan Noodle House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter lunch, we continued to walk down the side street towards Yangon City Hall.

DSC_2626At the end of the street we again passed by a food vendor.  They seemed to be everywhere in Downtown Yangon, especially at the end of side streets.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 10 (2/2): LAST DAY IN LHASA (ལྷ་ས་ 拉薩), Tibet (བོད་ 西藏), 2017.09.25

Our driver Sangzhu dropped us near our hotel Trichang Labrang (赤江拉讓藏式賓館) in Barkhor Old Town.  After dropping off our bags, we stopped by the eatery beside the hotel for a quick bite.  The friendly eatery owners, a talkative young couple, were excited to welcome us and chatted with us.  We ordered a Nepali platter, fried momo and two cans of local beer to celebrate the completion of our road trip.  The momos were quite delicious, and went well with the beer made with Highland Barley.  It was the last full day of the trip.  After filling our stomach, we didn’t want to visit any attractions, but spent time wandering in Barkhor Old Town, checking out souvenirs, watching people, and photographing anything that interested us, until the dinner time.  For dinner, we decided to try the Tibetan hotpot at “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱们的藏餐馆).

01After returning to Lhasa, we stopped by the small local eatery next door from Trichang Labrang Hotel.  The young owners were friendly and talkative.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo celebrate the completion of our 6-day road trip, we ordered some local beer and highland barley wine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most delicious snack we ordered was the fried momo (Tibetan dumplings).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor dinner, we revisited the “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱们的藏餐馆), the atmospheric courtyard restaurant nearby.

03Again we ordered the highland barley wine (青稞酒).  The wine came in an interesting bird-like pottery jar.

04The main dish of the meal was the Tibetan hotpot.  It came with vegetables, melons, beef, ham and yak meat.

05We wanted to linger around Barkhor Old Town for a little longer after dinner.

09In front of Jokhang Monastery (གཙུག་ལག་ཁང༌། 大昭寺), pilgrims, worshiped on the stone pavers as usual. 

08Other than pilgrims, tourists also gathered at the Jokhang forecourt.

10In front of Jokhang main entrance, more pilgrims gathered to worship, including some Buddhist monks.

11The sky was getting dark but the Jokhang forecourt was getting even more crowded.

12Some pilgrims preferred to stay near the large flag pole in front of the Jokhang.

13Around Jokhang, groups after groups of pilgrims and tourists walked the kora in clockwise direction around Lhasa’s most sacred site.

14The kora route was flanked one side by souvenir shops and the other by the majestic facade of the Jokhang.

17Along the kora route, many pilgrims were performing prostration the entire way.

16Some tourists treated the pilgrimage forecourt as a public plaza and sat on the pavers to chill out among the pilgrims.

18Among pilgrims and tourists, chilling out in the Jokhang forecourt included this large and gorgeous husky.

15We would certainly miss the spiritual atmosphere of the Jokhang forecourt.

20On our way back to Trichang Labrang Hotel, we passed by one last time the store where we bought our bottled water everyday of our Lhasa stay.  The next morning, we would take the airport shuttle bus near the Potala and fly back to Hong Kong via Chengdu.  Although short, it was a delightful experience for the three of us on the unique Tibetan culture and magnificent Himalayan landscape.  Hopefully next time we could have more time and travel further to the western corner of Tibet.

* * *

More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet