Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Hokkaido in Winter 2018

Right before finals season I escaped to Hokkaido for three days because freezing in the northernmost part of the country sounded better than studying.

And it was beautiful! I admit I’d voted against Hokkaido at first because I didn’t feel like braving the harsh natural elements, but once I saw all that snow any reluctance I had went out the window. You can actually enjoy the cold, once you’re numb enough.

It helped that we didn’t take a plane there—we went by shinkansen and just zoomed straight to Hokkaido. By zoom I mean it took us 4 hours from Tokyo, but that’s still unprecedentedly fast.

Got my ekiben for the journeyNothing puts me in the mood for a long train ride better than a bento box. I used to bring the boxes back home, so I have an unnecessarily large collection of old bento boxes piled up over the years.

The shinkansen from Tokyo only takes you up to Hakodate (the bottom tip of Hokkaido or what they call the genkan), so that’s where we stayed for three days. I’ve never been in this part but I loved it. It was all brick and snow and the occasional flock of birds.

History nugget for you curious learners out there: the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse (literally named for what it is) dates back to the beginning of the 20th century when it was a trading port. This was one of my favourite places in Hakodate and I had a lot of fun trekking through the snow between all those brick walls.

Thawing out our frozen selves with miso ramenTypically I’m more of a tonkotsu ramen person, but when in Hokkaido…anyway, it was delicious. And hot food really is a blessing in extreme arctic conditions.

As I quickly found out everything in Hakodate is photogenic(I mean…what’s frostbite if you can get nice pictures out of it?)

Wouldn’t be Hokkaido without meeting a snowman standing in the middle of nowhere.

Somewhere along the road we decided to stop and get lunch, and because of the long one-way roads there was a whole ordeal backing in and out of different driveways while we tried to find a place to park and eat at. But thanks to my brilliant intuition (and prior research on the gram), I found a chain restaurant called Lucky Pierrot by chance. And—italicising for emphasis—I want to live there.

It’s hard to describe, but it was dressed like a carnival. The funny thing about this place is that when I read about it on social media no one said anything about the decor. The talk was all on their burger which, fair enough, is what they’re famous for. Except I don’t care enough for burgers to go all the way to a place just for one. Coincidentally though I spotted the Lucky Pierrot sign (with a pierrot on it, obviously) along the road and convinced everyone to go there instead of eating ramen for the second day in a row. And what a good decision it was.

Everything was huge in this place. I didn’t do a good job of capturing it in perspective, but believe me when I say this bowl was almost twice the size of my face. It was a katsudon of Brobdingnagian porportions, and not even ¥1000.

I had the omurice, which was not as scarily big as the katsudon but still an endeavour to eat my way through. Ironically the one thing I didn’t get a picture of was the famous burger, but we did try it. We were probably just too busy feeling guilty about eating a 14-cm tall burger with chunks of fried chicken wedged inside.

We also went to visit the monkeys, who were happily soaking in the onsen while the humans shivered on the other side of the railing. I see those pictures of monkeys bathing in a hot spring on some snowy mountain all the time, but I’d always wanted to see them up close. I’ve changed my mind now—those monkeys are vicious. It’s a much better idea to watch them from a safe distance away while they shriek and run around while pushing each other off the ledge. Check out Hakodateshi Nettai Botanical Gardens to meet some cool monkeysFor just ¥100 you can even get a big pack of snacks to throw their way and watch them fight over it.

I only spent two nights in Hakodate, but everything was worth the cold and slipping around in the snow. I still want to go to Hokkaido in the summer one day, so hopefully sometime soon I’ll be back with a change of season in my pictures.


Hong Kong Food Diary

I went to Hong Kong for the first time! And ate approximately six trips’ worth of food, clearly. You’d think we planned our entire itinerary around meals and snack times.

But food in Hong Kong is just that good and accessible—everywhere we went there was something that looked delicious and didn’t make a dent in our wallets.

I think breakfast is such a great way of seeing the every day life of people in the country you’re visiting. The things they eat, the way they order food like they’re talking to a friend, the time they take to sit there and eat. Some of them opened up their newspapers, some of them took a bite and were on their way out.

(We spent a good hour taking pictures while eating like the tourists we are.)

The old-fashioned places were my favourite. This one was called Mido Cafe and straight out of the 60s, timeless in its subdued green hues and patterned tiles.

When we weren’t sitting at cafe or cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style restaurant) eating we were roaming around and hitting all the food stalls on the street. Egg tarts for HK$45! I almost want to write a currency table so you could see how cheap it is in different currencies.

And they were freshly baked.

There was a famous stall called Hop Yik Tai in Sham Shui Po selling cheong fun—they ladled out mini rice rolls onto a plate, splashed it with sauces and gave it to you to eat in the alley next door. No-frills but delicious.

Another famous Hong Kong snack! Egg waffles that looked puffy but were actually crispy and airy inside.

And of course we had dim sum. Because that’s what you do when you go to Hong Kong—eat dim sum every day. It’s hard not to when it’s just! So! Cheap! And my stomach has a huge capacity for steamed buns.

We had the famous BBQ pork bun from Tim Ho Wan and it was a game-changer. No other pork bun comes this close for me. The chain’s got a lot of pressure with its one Michelin star and critics saying it’s overrated, but as far as I’m concerned it was the best I’ve had. I could dream about that crispy crust.

Dim sum was cheap on the whole, but it could get expensive in the swankier areas. I specifically wanted these piggy buns from Yum Cha, which was a proper restaurant in the city with waiters that actually paid attention to you (in fact ours was hovering right in front of us and refused to leave the entire time, but that’s another matter). Anyway, I got the buns and they were the cutest thing on the island I ate.

And if this isn’t the prettiest har gow I’ve ever seen! Certainly the best dressed shrimp dumpling you’ll find.

These were pineapple puffs! If I’m going to pay double the price for dim sum, they’d better come in a silver cage shaped as baby birds.

That was just a fraction of the food pictures I had from the entire trip, but we did actually do things other than eating! Like observing the billions of cats that seem to populate the streets of Hong Kong.

We also found ourselves crawling through a pirate’s cave on Cheung Chau island.

The travel bug is real. I finally got to check Hong Kong off my list of places to go! It was a gritty city cramped with old buildings and movement, but being in the middle of all that meant I got to see all the colours and neon lights and the towering double decker buses up close.

Back in Time at Nikko Edo Wonderland

Nikko Edo Wonderland

We travelled back in time to the Edo period of pre-modern Japan. What’s the secret?

Easy. Take a two hour train from Tokyo up north to Nikko, get on a bus, and pay ¥4000 to get inside. Haha.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

I’d known this place for a while and always wanted to go because it’s a historical themed village where everything and everyone is straight out of feudal Japan over two centuries ago. Doesn’t that sound fun? The only thing is it’s pricey and far from Tokyo, so it does take some effort to get here. But I finally did and it was great! We were immediately greeted by a ninja.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

The staff are all appropriately dressed as Edo people living in the village, whether they’re swordsmen or townsfolk or the local police. But the best part is that everyone else become part of the village too! Exhibit A: Three female ninjas in pink visiting for the day.

Nikko Edo Wonderland Costumes

We wanted to join in the fun too, so we went to dress up. Renting the outfit cost us another fortune, but we got to wear it till the end of the day and it is pretty much the real deal, so it’s money well spent. I’ve worn kimono and yukata, but I’ve never gotten to be an Edo swordswoman.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

A samurai needs to eat too. The streets were lined up with traditional stalls and I got a stick of hot dango (which was not a good idea to eat while wearing a ¥3000 rented costume).

Nikko Edo Wonderland

Nikko Edo Wonderland was having an anniversary campaign when we were there, so all the activities were free that month! Which was frankly amazing, because we must’ve saved at least a thousand yen painting our own daruma dolls and making strawberry daifuku.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

More things you can enjoy for free—picking a fight with random villagers in the street and practising your sword skills on them.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

They even had the cutest black shiba inu! I think I took about a few hundred pictures of Hachi. And then one with him, because I liked him so much.

Nikko Edo Wonderland

Definitely another place I’d recommend people to go to for a day trip out of Tokyo. It was one of the more unique attractions I’d visited in Japan, and the people at the village are so committed and good at their role that you really don’t feel like you’re in the 21st century at all (except when you’re taking selfies in your kimono with your iPhone). Go back in time and explore old Japan!

Nikko Edo Wonderland

Snowy Night at the Oldest Ryokan in Japan

Hello! As soon as vacation started I went off on a trip across the Kanto region in Japan, so I’m going to get straight it and start a mini travel series with the night we spent at Sekizenkan, the oldest hot spring inn in Japan.


If you’ve watched Spirited Away then this bridge probably looks a little familiar to you. Sekizenkan’s supposedly one of the inspirations behind the film’s onsen setting, and whether it’s true or not the place looks pretty legit.


It’s 326 years old, which is actually really amazing once you add up the centuries. We also realised that’s probably why the ryokan is kind of worn out and creaky, but that was all part of its charm.


Another charm was definitely its cost. One night cost us ¥6,000 (US$53), which is already half the price of most ryokans. You could call it a no-frills deal—it doesn’t pamper you quite as much as other places and you have to set up your own futon, but all that were really minor comforts to sacrifice for such a great price.


I mean, we still got the usual gift of manju!


Another reason for the low price was because the meals are provided at an economy size instead of the usual kaiseki 1o-course shebang. But when we got this whole tray of food for dinner, there really wasn’t anything economy about it. Everything was beautifully laid out and still looked expensive, so I didn’t think we were missing out on anything.


Our dinner was served in the dining hall where our table was waiting for us. So homely.

Sekizenkan Breakfast

Breakfast was another grand affair! (Okay seriously, this is a steal at the price we paid) There was porridge in the morning so that was a nice change from the endless bowls of rice. They even let you get refills if you wanted them, which is always a plus point anywhere.


It wasn’t just the food, but the whole landscape of the place was worth every yen. It may be an old place, but they’ve kept it gorgeous. Every window we looked out of had a good view even it was a clump of trees in the dark.


Shady, but magical. Also I’m glad we came here when there was snow everywhere!


Even the interior was pretty, with old-fashioned corridors and furnishings all over the place. This one elevator in the ryokan opened up to a long dim hallway that looked very much like a creepy tunnel, so that was cool.

Sekizenkan Onsen

And of course the baths were amazing. They had an outdoor onsen! (I feel like all good ryokans need to have one anyway) It was snowing when we entered the hot spring, so needless to say that was the best bath I’ve ever had.


It’s not the fanciest or the most luxurious, but Sekizenkan has an old charm of its own that you can’t get anywhere else. And of course it’s nice to be able to say you’ve stayed at the night at the real life Spirited Away hot springneko


Happy new year! I’ve just come back from a short getaway to Okinawa so get ready for a long wall of photos from my four days in the southernmost bit of Japan.

Okinawa in Winter

Most people have an image of Okinawa as a sunny resort island to go to for a summer vacation—so did I, which is why I didn’t know what to expect going there in the winter. But just like the rest of Japan it must be beautiful in all seasons because Okinawa in winter was amazing.

Okinawa in Winter

There definitely aren’t any cliffs like this in Tokyo.

Okinawa in Winter

It was my first time discovering Okinawa for myself; they have their own traditional Ryukyu culture and it gave the place a whole different vibe from Tokyo. Still bustling, still bright—but in a very Okinawan style. Plus I get what people mean now when they say it’s like the Hawaii of Japan (I wouldn’t say it’s that heavily influenced by American culture, but there were a lot of steakhouses).

Okinawa in Winter

In any case, the streets and shops were full of weird and bizarre things and I loved it. What’s Tweety Bird even doing in the jaws of a shark?

Okinawa in Winter

No doubt Okinawa is a fruit paradise. I felt oddly at home seeing all the tropical fruits that appear in Southeast Asia too, but I’ve never seen a mini pineapple. They were smaller than the palm of my hand! How do people grow those?

Okinawa in Winter

And of course we ate as much Okinawan food as we could (over multiple meals and snacks every day). I stayed in the capital city Naha, and it was easy to find a good breakfast anywhere. I had yushi doufu twice, which is basically soft fluffy tofu in hot broth with the essential bowl of rice on the side.

Okinawa in Winter

They also have their own special tofu which is made with peanuts. Peanuts! I’m not sure how it works but it tasted good (if a bit too chewy).

Okinawa Soba

Getting that Okinawa soba in our stomach early in the morning. It’s called soba, but it’s really made of wheat and more like flat udon.

Okinawa in Winter Acai Bowl

And if you’re looking for a more Hawaiian breakfast (it’s Okinawa, after all), C&C Breakfast is a highly popular cafe that serves a good acai bowlkirakira

Okinawa in Winter

On our first night we fell into a tourist trap at Kokusai-dori and had dinner at a restaurant that had traditional Okinawan performances. The place had a great set-up and it was nice getting to listen to old-fashioned music—except you have to pay an extra cover charge so watch out for that! (It was fine trying it once but it gets pretty expensive)

Okinawa in Winter Goya Chanpuru

We had delicious local cuisine anywaygirl tongueI really liked goya chanpuru—bitter melon, egg, meat and tofu all stir-fried together into one hot dish. I don’t even like bitter melon usually, but somehow they made it taste good.

Okinawa in Winter

And desserts. Of courselove girlThis was zenzai, sweet red bean soup with mochi, but surprisingly in Okinawa they used kidney beans instead of red beans. No wonder they looked bigger and redder than usual. I honestly still prefer the red beans, but I already love anything with mochi in it anyway.

Okinawa in Winter

Okinawa is also famous for their purple sweet potatoes! Beni imo is such a quintessential Okinawa food that I almost feel bad burying it in the middle of my post. There was so much sweet potato everywhere—in the streets, in the food, even in soaps.

Okinawa in Winter Ryukyumura

We did occasionally take a break to go sightseeinghurhurThe Ryukyu villages are heritage spots with lots to see if you’re interested in the old Okinawan culture, with all the preserved houses and artifacts right there in one place.

Okinawa in Winter

They have this lion-dog creature called Shisa, which appears in pretty much every corner of Okinawa as a traditional decoration. Except sometimes it also comes in slightly modern forms like this Doraemon one.

Okinawa in Winter

Okinawan snacks! Sata andagi (fried donuts) and chinbin (brown sugar pancakes).

Okinawa in Winter

And Okinawa soba again, just because.

Okinawa in Winter

We moved on from the villages to the natural wonders of OkinawakirakiraThe ocean was SO BLUE. Capitals can’t express my excitement enough over how blue it was.

Okinawa in Winter

We ate a seaside cafe called Cafe Curcuma in the south and sat there for a long time just looking out at the scenery over the cliff.


And then we drove up to Cape Manzamo, one of the most popular tourist spots with a view of the elephant trunk-shaped cliff hanging over the sea. How does the sea even have two tones of blues?! The wind was so strong it could’ve blown me right off but I would’ve stayed there as long as I could to look at this scenery straight out of a postcard. And since a still photo can’t do it justice I turned into a (very shaky) gif so you can see how strong the waves were.

Okinawa in Winter

Basically anywhere in Okinawa is a photo-worthy location.

Okinawa in Winter

There’re beaches everywhere (I mean, the whole island is like a giant beach) but my favourite was Azama Sun Sun Beach just because they had this cute heart-shaped bell stand for me to use as a huge prop.

Okinawa in Winter

Umikaji Terrace is also another exquisite landmark that looks a little like a seaside town in Greece, thanks to the pure white terrace overlooking the blue sea. How very photogenic.

Okinawa in Winter

We went below the surface for a bit too, to see the caves. This was Gyokusendo Cave at Okinawa World, and we basically walked underground for half an hour looking at stalactites and deer fossils. It’s also apparently the second biggest cave in Japan (I actually read those pamphlets).

Okinawa in Winter

Is there anywhere else in the world that has a postbox in the cave?

Okinawa Cape Manzamo

It was just four days, but I left Okinawa incredibly satisfied and impressed (and a few kilos heavier too, probably). It’s not the typical destination in winter since people usually go in the summer, but it looks like I just have to go again. Go to Okinawa, everybody! Eat some fried donuts at the beach!

Okinawa in Winter

Seoul Travel Diary!

Hello! University’s officially back in session for the new school year and once again I’m running along trying to keep up with all my classes. But before I pitch myself back into the pit of schoolwork I need to share the last of my summer travels.

Seoul Bingsu

Seoul!kirakiraWe spent a number of days there exploring unfamiliar streets and eating lots of barbecue and shaved ice in the summer here. This is only the second time I’ve ever been to South Korea, but it felt like I really got to know it more this time.

Seoul Gyeongbokgung Palace

I have a soft spot for culture and tradition and basically everything that isn’t modern in foreign countries (which is why I’m always running off to the countryside here in Japan on holidays). Seoul is a buzzing city surrounded by mountains—that juxtaposition!—with huge palaces that’ve stood for centuries. I’m not a history buff, but I still very much appreciate some ancient architecture when I see it.

Seoul Food

And you know most of the memories I bring back home involve foodhurhurI’m familiar with a pretty standard set of Korean dishes, but the actual country had so much more than everything I’d known. I mean, I didn’t even know I’d like eating blood sausage that much.

Seoul Kimbap

Kimbap more like kimmmmbap.

Seoul Bungeoppang

A lot of food was so cheap too. Like this bungeoppang (taiyaki’s Korean relative), which was only a thousand won or a dollar for five. So! Cheap! I definitely ate way too much.

Seoul Ramyeon

Because it’s hard not to when food portions in Korea are intense. Some of my favourites were those giant pots with ramen, kimchi, cheese and everything—you just threw it all in and had a feast with your friends.

Seoul Dakgalbi

I’m sorry for making this picture overly dramatic, but you should’ve seen the amount of cheese. It justifies everything.

Seoul Rose Gelato

Moving on to something more delicatelove girlI went to Myeongdong specifically with this rose gelato in mind. It was packed with tourists as I’d thought, but at least I got to see them carving a huge lump of gelato into this work of art so that was cool.

Seoul Rilakkuma

I went to the CU convenience mart and practically bought out their Rilakkuma bread stock to collect them all. Just because they have cute packaging and stickers inside. Why does this happen to me even outside Japan?!

Seoul Myeongdong

Seoul’s street food outdoes itself. Just look at this one stall in Myeondong, they really love watermelon.

Petite France Korea

Went all the way out of the main city to visit Petite FrancenekoIt was a bit of a chore walking up and down those hills and steps but all those quaint houses and beautiful colours made up for it.

Seoul Live Octopus

Not forgetting our wiggly friend here—we went to the massive Gwangjang Market for traditional Korean food and a lot of stalls had little fish tanks where they kept their octopuses. Except they weren’t pets but the customers’ food. The shopkeeper fished this one out and served it to us right there and then, and it was definitely a dining experience of a strange kind.

Seoul Travel

Seoul was an amazing place to end summer vacation with, and it was the company I had that made me love it so much. Things are just better enjoyed with friends (like when there’s too much food to finish) and I couldn’t have had a better time without themgirl love

I actually have a whole bunch of photos from when we wore traditional hanbok dresses at the palace but I think I’ll reserve that post for another time in between the usual Japan updates. Or when I need to relive vacation memories while procrastinating on homework (as I am now). See you again!

My Taiwan Travel Diary

Taiwan Milk Tea

I’m back in Japan! I can finally catch up with my bloghappyIt’s been a month since I returned, but I wanted to share pictures from my trip to Taiwan while it’s still summer. It was a four day trip but we saw and ate enough to fill several gb of pictures and videos.

Taiwan Hello Kitty Plane

Our airplane surprised us by being decked out in Hello Kitty. I mean everything was Hello Kitty—the plane meal, the seat cushions, the safety pamphlets and even the barf bag. I’m not a big fan of Hello Kitty, but I fully appreciate how much effort the EVA Air put in to looking cute.

Taiwan Castella

Taiwan in general is full of cute things like this bear castella I ate on a day trip to Shifen.

Taiwan Lightbulb Milk Tea

And sometimes they’re borderline hipster too, when they put their milk tea in a lightbulb.

Aside from all that there were also lots of traditional food and desserts which I lovedlove girlI lost count of how many bowls of douhua I had—bean curd with taro balls and tapioca and shaved ice. (I liked the taro balls so much I brought a pack home, but then forgot to eat them before they expired)

Taiwan Peanut Ice Cream Roll

We went all out at the night markets and spent whole nights eating any street food we liked the look of. So. Much. Food! Before I went I’d always wanted to try the ice cream roll with coriander and peanut shavings—it was even stranger but nicer than expected. Honestly whoever thought of this was a genius for making so many curious people want to try it.

Taiwan Breakfast

Local breakfast every daygirlSometimes it was egg rolls, sometimes it was noodles, sometimes it was 50-cent buns from a street vendor. And I always had cold soy milk just to treat myself in the morning.

Taiwan Jiufen

A break from the food pictures! Taiwan is beautiful. My favourite parts were the traditional buildings and streets (which was most of it anyway). On one day we took a day trip to a small town outside the city, and it was literally called Jiufen Old Street. Kind of like going back in time, with red lanterns and old shops everywhere.

Taiwan Jiufen

It seems to be pretty well-known, but apparently this place was the inspiration for the Ghibli movie Spirited Away. I never thought I’d find a place outside Japan that reminded me of Ghibli (just how many times have I referenced it on this blog now?), but this might’ve been the most impressive of all. Just look at that mountain!

Taiwan Jiufen

At night everything lit up and I got my postcard shot.

Taiwan Jiufen

It really was like getting cut and pasted into Spirited Away, completed with dark tunnels.


After appreciating nature for a day we went back to the city and did our shoppinghurhurAnd met this puppy in one of the shops. There were dogs everywhere in Taiwan.

Taiwan Liquid Nitrogen

And we carried on eating our way through the night marketseatThis was the craziest—some sort of liquid nitrogen ice chips that absolutely made you smoke like a dragon when you popped it into your mouth. (It didn’t actually have any taste, we just ate it for the photos)

Taiwan Mango Juice

When I remember Taiwan I think of street food and old towns and mango juice—we might have averaged two cups a day just because they were so cheap and big and exactly what we needed during the hot summer. It wasn’t just the heat, but Taiwan reminded me of Singapore in some ways and I did kind of feel at home while I was therenekoWe were only there for four days, but Taiwan didn’t need long to charm the socks right off me.

▷ . Cheryl

A university student in Tokyo who takes pictures and puts them on the Internet

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