Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sydney: Second trip to the capital of NSW

Golden hour with rainbow out of an aircraft
Unexpectedly a month after my overnight visit to Sydney, I was back for another 4 days for training. So it meant more eating capacity and usually Japanese cuisine. On the day I landed, a Sunday evening, one of my work colleague invited me to have dinner at her place and she served up some Sri Lankan curries. There was another dish but I missed taking photo of that one as she brought it straight to the table and her kids were waiting to eat! Haha.

Breakfast the next morning was at Bourke Street Bakery. I went to the one in Barangaroo as that was the nearest store to where I was put up and to get to work. I read that the bakery is famous for its pies and sausage rolls so I ordered a beef beer bacon and potato pie. I've not been to their other stores but this one in Barangaroo is quite small and not one that you feel like you could stay and slowly savour your food. I guess Barangaroo is a business complex after all.

The training schedule didn't allow a long lunch break so I went for quick Ipoh hor fun at Ipoh Town again before hurried back for second half of lesson.

I visited an old friend on Monday night and dinner was nearby Thai restaurant. The dishes were really forgettable and I didn't even take any photos.

Breakfast on a Tuesday morning was definitely more exciting. I trekked to Ultimo to check out The Q on Harris. I had the City Buta Katsu Sandwich and a coffee, of course. Yum.

The Q on Harris is a family run cafe and they were from Pontianak, Indonesia. On my way out after paying, the young waiter recommended that I try their nasi kuning for breakfast next time. I was told that it is their local specialty. I said, "rice is probably too heavy for breakfast." To which, the boy answered, "but Malaysians eat nasi lemak for breakfast!" after he learned that I am a Malaysia. Haha. Ok, can. You are right. If I return and nasi kuning is still on menu for breakfast, I would order it.

I did, however, returned to Masuya Suisan again. I was delayed at work and by the time I rushed there, I was still late. My friend was a star and already placed orders for tempura, wagyu beef and sushi and they were perfect choice.

After that we went to a nearby Thai restaurant for dessert and continued chatting. I can't remember the restaurant but it was an odd one where they said they were not able to serve us our dessert choice unless we ordered something from the menu. We picked some desserts that were displayed on a decorative cart that was inside their shop. So we ended up ordering a serve of entree size fish cakes. We ate some but my friend packed the leftovers for me to have as breakfast and lunch the next day. There were a lot of food!

Dinner was back to Masuya again for some Sapporo hotpot (again!) plus the same usual suspects of karaage and sushi, this is why I am not a food blogger. Haha. It's amazing that I still take photos of (same) food every time I revisited.

Breakfast on the last day in Sydney was at another new place The Grounds of the City. The more famous sister restaurant is The Ground of Alexandria, so named as it is in the suburb of Alexandria.

I ordered a takeaway of Mediterranean Bowl which consisted of halloumi, cauliflower, chickpeas, sweet potato, houmous, herb pesto and a free-range egg. I can't see this on the dine in menu and eating in is more expensive. My takeaway breakfast definitely looked bashed by the time I got to the office so no photo of it.

I was put up at a different hotel this round - Meriton Suites Kent Street. It comes with a kitchenette and even a washing machine. The room felt a bit dated though and I wasn't too comfortable walking around barefooted like I usually do.

Side note: Got to find new eating joints to explore!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Japan: Itinerary for 8 days to Northern Kyushu

Here's the recap of travel (read: last post on Kyushu), or rather it serve as an index page for easier tracking.

Breakdown of travel days and links to accommodations.

Day 1 - Nagasaki
Getting around in Nagasaki and places visited.

Day 2 - Kumamoto
Getting around in Kumamoto and places visited.

Day 3 - Kumamoto - Takachiho
A day trip to Takachiho from Kumamoto

Day 4 - Kumamoto - Mt Aso - Kurokawa Onsen
A visit to the smoky Mt Aso before a relaxed evening in Kurokawa Onsen

Day 5 - Yufuin
Another night of onsen goodness at the colourful Yufuin.

Day 6 - Beppu
On board Yufuin no Mori to two hells in Beppu.

Day 7 - Kawachi Fujien, Fukuoka
Around Fukuoka and commuted to Kawachi Fujien to see some wisteria flowers.

Day 8 - Dazaifu, Fukuoka
A trip to Dazaifu

Side note: I look forward to visit Kyushu again!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Dazaifu 太宰府: Of shrines and umegae mochi

Dazaifu 太宰府 used to serve as the administrative center for Kyushu island in the late 7th century. Nowadays it is a small city on the outskirts of Fukuoka.

Getting to Dazaifu from Fukuoka
There is a bus connection from Hakata bus center to Dazaifu but I took a train. Daizaifu is served b Nishitetsu's Tenjin Omuta Line, next to Tenjin subway station. So i took a subway from Hakata station to Tenjin station before connecting to Tenjin Omuta Line. Train fare from Nishitesu Fukuoka station to Dazaifu costs ¥400.

I only visited the few places near Dazaifu station so I only walked. This was the map I got from Dazaifu tourist info.

Daizafu Tenmangu Shrine (Dazaifu Tenmangū 大宰府天満宮)
Daizaifu Tenmangu Shrine was built on the site of Sugawara Michizane grave. Michizane was a scholar and politician in Heian Period, who was exile to Dazaifu following unfortunate rivalries. Michizane became the guardian deity of academics and believed and respected by many. Up to today, many students visited Dazaifu Tenmangu to pray for passing exams and for better grades.

It is a very busy shrine
On the grounds of Dazaifu, you'll see many statues of an ox. According to legend, when Michizane died, his disciple wanted to move his body using an ox carriage but the ox would not move and he was buried instead. The ox statue is meant to represent the sacred ox or goshingyu. You would also realised that certain parts of the ox is shinier as it is believed that you would be smarter if you pat the head of the ox.

Komyozenji (光明善寺, Kōmyōzenji)
This is a Zen temple just south of Dazaifu's Tenmangu Shrine. The door wasn't shut so I went through the gate but afterwards saw a sign that said it was closed. So I left, I like the look of the zen garden.

Tenkai-inari Shrine
This is a small-ish shrine accessible from Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. Along the route, the area nearer to the shrine were lined by tori.

Kyushu National Museum
This is the fourth national museum in the country. The other 3 are in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. I walked passed but didn't go in, though I went through the Rainbow Tunnel Travelator on my walkabout.

Umegae mochi
This crispy outer layer with red bean filling is served hot and it is quickly becoming my favourite type of mochi. The top of the mochi has an imprint of plum blossom.

Despite the word "ume" as part of the name, it is not actually plum flavoured. Legend has it that Sugawara no Michizane moved a plum tree that he loved from Kyoto to Dazaifu with him. Another version of the story was Sugawara no Michizane was given a mochi cake wrapped in a plum twig when was demoted to Dazaifu.

One of the famous shop selling this local delicacy is Kasa no Ya. There was a queue if you do a takeaway.

It was lunch time when I wanted to get one, so I ate inside. There is also option of matcha umegae mochi set served in the restaurant. I ordered a bowl of "saifu udon", ¥550 and a umegae mochi, ¥120.

Just before I walked back to Dazaifu station, I queued and got another one to munch.

Dazaifu's shopping street
This street leads all the way to Tenmangu Shrine and flanked with souvenir and food shops. There's also a modern Starbucks shop, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

The man in red shirt stood in the middle of the shop for a long time. It was quite a sight to see many people holding cameras on the other side waiting for him to walk away. Nobody said anything but stood there and waited. After awhile he walked to the side, not sure if he realised people were waiting for him to move away from the shop. I didn't want to wait any longer so this picture...

On the day of my visit, there was no direct train back to Fukuoka/Tenjin but it only took one train change so it wasn't hard.

Getting to Fukuoka International Airport from Fukuoka city
The easiest (no transfer) needed way is via bus. I got on from 4-chome and paid ¥270. There would be more options if you get on from Hakata bus center.

Side note: There are also other trip options from Fukuoka like Miyajidake Shrine with spectacular Path of Light, Nanzoin TempleNokonoshima for some flower event, Itoshima for oysters, Shikanoshima Island for some cycling for Daihonzan Naritasan Kurume Temple

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Fukuoka 福岡: A somewhat history and culture course plus Kawachi Fujien

The title is in reference the suggested route on the leaflet that came with the subway pass. This particular route is named as "Fukuoka's History and Culture course".

I didn't visit all of them but ended up in 2 shrines, 1 museum, yatai and shopping in Hakata and Tenjin. Here goes.

Kawachi Wisteria Garden (Kawachi Fujien 河内藤園)
Opening period: late April - beginning of May (subject to weather)
Opening hours: 08:00 - 18:00
Entrance fee: ¥500 (could be more depending on flowering situation)

I was there at the beginning of the season and luck wasn't on my side. The wisterias were still in buds so no magical low hanging wisterias on the famous tunnel. A couple of things to hopefully assist when and if you decide to give it a try in future.

  • Please check when the garden would be open for visiting. I was there on 20th April 2019, the first day when the shuttle bus starts running
  • The shuttle bus is said to run during peak season so I was hopeful but as you can see, it wasn't really peak. 
  • Tickets are not on sale at the garden itself, but you can buy them at convenience store or Japanican and this doubles as the ticket to get on the free shuttle bus. 
  • If shuttle bus isn't running, you can still get to Kawachi Fujien by public transport albeit a bit more difficult. In short - train to Yahata, transfer to bus and then walk. This site has good explanation of this.

Here are some links for Kawachi Fujien

Waiting for shuttle bus

Entrance to Kawachi Fujien
Here are some photos on how it looked like when I was there...

and this part was where the flowers were "most bloomed" which was nowhere like how the famous photos looked like. Wisterias smelled great though.

Even though Kawachi garden is more famous as a garden for wisterias, it is also open for autumn leaves viewing. I was there in spring, the green vivid colour was great so I would imagine it would be in amazing orange gold colour in autumn.

Lunch at Shin Shin
Of course the more famous ramen store is Ichiran and I have never been to Ichiran, but since I was in Fukuoka, I opted to go to one that I can't find outside of Fukuoka yet - Shin Shin. I went to the one at Hakata Station Ramen Street. There were many ramen shops to choose from and I joined in the line for Shin Shin. It didn't take long although I don't remember how long I waited. I was tempted to get the ramen + gyoza set but it could be too much and the ramen included in the set came without the eggs which I wanted.

Hakata Shin Shin ramen with eggs, ¥750

Fukuoka City Museum - The Ghibli Expo (From Nausicaä to Marnie)
Fukuoka City Museum

I stumbled upon a Ghibli expo in Fukuoka City Museum which ran on 15/3 to 23/6 (Oops, I took too long to blog that the expo has already finished). Likewise the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, photography is not permitted. There was one area that one could take pictures is at the cat bus area.

It was much more crowded as there was no time allocation but I finally had the chance to sit in the cat bus! Both adults and kids were allowed to be on the bus but there were so many people to get a good photo plus my selfie skill is negligible.

The exhibition contents were different and it was exciting to see models of ohmu model in one of the rooms.

Kushida Shrine (Kushida-jinja 櫛田神社)
Getting here: 10 minutes walk from Canal City Hakata or a few minutes walk from either Gion or Nakasu-kawabata stations of Fukuoka subway

Kushida Shrine was founded in 757 and is famous for hosting the biggest festival in Fukuoka during summer - the Yamakasa Gion Matsuri. One the last day of the matsuri, giant floats (kazari-yama) is brought out. These floats can go up to 10 meters tall and one of the floats are on displayed at Kushida Shrine even though the norm is said to be destroyed and re-built yearly.

Eto-eho-ban (eto: Oriental zodiac, eho: lucky direction, ban: board)
The arrow is revolved on the last day of every year and that it points to a lucky direction of the next year. You will see this board if you look up when you walk into Kushida Shrine.

Chikara-ishi (Stones to show power)
This is as obvious as the name - ability to lift the stone indicates strength. This started off in the past when a sumo wrestler demonstrated his strength by lifting a large stone and dedicated it to the god of Kushida Shrine. Not all the stones is to be lifted, only one that has the Japanese character of "shiseki" (試石).

Sumiyoshi Shrine
Getting here: 11 minutes walk from Hakata station

This shrine is bigger than how it looks from the outside. I visited it because I walked passed it daily on my commute between hostel and Hakata station. This shrine is dedicated to safe travel by sea and it is said that in the past people would come here for prayer before departing from Hakata Bay. I didn't take many photographs as there is a sign near the main shrine to indicate that it photography is not allowed. I didn't notice the sign till after I took this one on a sumo wrestler statue.

According to the introductory sign near the statue, said touch the body and palms to feel its energy and spirits.

Yatai 屋台
Yatai is small, roadside stall for food which is popular in Fukuoka. It is mostly found in Tenjin area or near Canal City. Some are really popular with a queue forming next to the yatai, others not.

I didn't want to queue so I settled for one without the crowd after reading their menu. I guess yatai meals aren't the cheapest but it was yummy. I paid ¥1,300 for all the below. I wasn't a big fan of mentaiko before this (I don't dislike it but I don't fancy it either) but after my trip to Kyushu I find mentaiko to be delicious.


Mentaiko tamago yaki


Side note:

Perth: Day trip to Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island or affectionately referred to as Rotto is a island off the coast of Western Australia (WA). It is easily (but not cheapl...