Cascade of side effects

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's been a while since I've put my culinary skills to use. Not that I'm supremely exhausted. Or perhaps I am? Afterall, it's been a month of early morning lessons and late World Cup nights. In fact, I find it an aesthetic and therapeutic experience to face with life's greatest joy -- FOOD. So here's a collection of tantalising delights which may leave you salivating:

Sunday: It was meant to be a meal for 5 but ultimately, the 4 of us finished them all! The Emperor's chicken tonight was definitely fit for a king! From left: Belachan French Beans, Mapo Tofu; Emperor's chicken & Lotus Peanut soup

Last wk's delicacies. Was craving for clams and thankfully they were available. From left: Cabbage fishball soup; Steam Fish ($3 only!); Sesame Oil Chicken; Manila Clams

Couple of wks back, sweetie and I went to Changi Village Hotel. Nope, not to check in, but to have dinner.

La Cantina in Venezia Restaurant in Changi Village Hotel
Thanks to Beatrice's recommendation, I found the love of my life! Look at those chunky crab bits!

The hubs had a slab of pork. My initial thought was that it'd be tough on the teeth. But I was wrong. Infused with herbs, this succulent pork was tender enough for even an old lady to consume!

Portobello Mushrooms. Not bad, but not worth the moolah.

Compliments from the chef.

Rewinding to the 2nd wkend in June:

The stay at Mahkota wasn't the fantastic but beggars can't be choosers. It's the hols and every hotel's fully booked! Mahkota was supposedly meant for residential purpose, however, due to lack of funds, the project was abandoned and after many change of hands, it turned into a hotel which is patronised by many families. So if you are hoping for some quiet time, forget it!

Favourite!! BA KUT TEH! Strangely, I only enjoy the Malaysian style. Over in Singapore, I'm not a fan of this wonderful dish!

Sweetie's favourite! Pig's Trotter. I had the lean ones while he ate the fats!

We walked to Jongko Walk in the evening. It was just a stone's throw away from the hotel.

Love the vintage style

Was suppose to have Laksa, but it was sold out at 630pm!

walked by a stall next door and realise there's LAKSA!

Nonya Laksa. Cannily similar to the Penang Laksa, except less sour. Strangely again, I've never had any inclination towards Singapore's laksa, not even the famous Katong Laksa, however, this Malaysian version is sure tickling my tastebuds.

Mango Chendol!! YUMS

Durian Chendol....Salivating already?

The next day, we decided to skip the hotel's breakfast and went for Macs. One reason for patronising Mac Donald's in a foreign land was this:

It was time for sweetie to havest his crops! URGH! He needed Wi-fi thus we visited Macs! Ever since he got himself this new toy, he hasnt been paying attention to his surroundings -- namely ME! Over-exaggeration? Perhaps. But picture this: we were shopping elatedly in a mall thronged with people and suddenly hubs pulled me aside and said that he needed to harvest his crops! You be the judge. The invention of the iphone's great but it certainly fueled his insensitivity! In such instance, I can pray for patience and tolerance!

Time is precious and should never be wasted. I find this superlative maxim so true in that time is priceless in value and definitely should never be atrophied, as one can never recover the time lost.


An indulgent week

The sky was most threatening, lightning flashed and thunder roared, but I was oblivious to it all. Slept like a baby from 430am till noon! Here's why:

AT 10PM: The excitement escalates as Uruguay Scores!

AT half time: the gamblers gather for a quickie

AT 3:30AM: Survival of the fittest? Looks like they aren't that fit.

FINALLY, after a whole lot of extra time @ 5AM, the verdict's out, USA is out of the game:

It's been a while since I've slept this long. Was reluctant to get out of my comfy sheets though flashes of lightning threatened to tear the sky. The trees bowed their crowns and stooped their branches as torrential rain poured upon them. I wonder if Orchard Road's flooded again? It's been raining incessantly the last couple of days. Was worried that the torrential rain would not halt and the tempestuous winds would keep us at home, but at 1130am +, the sun was filtering through the windows, lighting up my home with a cheerful brightness. A cool and gentle breeze caressed my cheeks and it brought with it an aromatherapy that filled the air with a soothing scent of blooming flowers and freshly cut grass. Finally, I got up and headed for a great Sunday brunch with the hubs @ Keppel Bay.

The milkshakes were a reminiscence of the States! 3 scoops of premium ice-cream! Holy Shit! however, it came with a price -- $15 per glass. hmmm

Starting the day off with Vanilla Bourbon from TWG. Nice :)

Loved the cookies so much I bought 500g home. $5.50 per pkt.

Prawn Bisque. It can never replace my all time favourite Lobster bisque but nevertheless, it was just as awesome.

Western Wanton?

This was our favourite: Aglio Olio! It came in varying levels of spiciness. We chose Medium hot, which wasn't even hot for us! Then again, Spaghetti isn't know for being spicy!

Fluffy pancakes...loved how the fruits complemented it.

Crab & Prawn wrap! I was expecting something along the lines of Delifrance's Seafood mayo, but I was wrong! This was wayyyyyy better!

After brunch, a stroll with the hubs....wish everyday could be so carefree.
The azure sea scintillated in the noon sun, casting sparkling pinpoints of light upon its surface. It was really a welcome to be strolling with a warm zephyr blowing from behind. Needless to say, being with my loveone is definitely an indescribable feeling.

SATURDAY had been good too. Though things didn't go as planned, I managed to get a whole lot of work and chores done. The mountain's still tall but fortunately it has been leveled to a manageable molehill. Took a break and brought hubs to the newly opened Udders @ Siglap.
There was already quite a beeline @ 7pm -- dinner time wasn't even over yet!

Parking was a huge problem but it was definitely worth it! MAO SHAN WANG ( a type of premium durian) & BAILEY's Bourbon ICE CREAM! Totally Rockz!

My mini vacation is coming to an end. Tomorrow marks the start of the new term for many. So it is with glee that I see the setting sun sending pale streamers of purple and orange across the dull blue of heavens. In the vast shadow of the night, the coolness and the dews descend. I hope it rains again tonight!

world cup

PS: Gotto get my butt up and whip up a heartwarming meal for the hubs and friends

Life's a labyrinth

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's amazing that though I've been blogging for a while now, I've only managed a pathetic 319 post thus far. Probably constantly burntout from workload that's constantly piling up (which is a good thing in my case). Commitment to a blog for the long haul is high maintenance, and probably I haven't been all that committed. Discipline. That's what I probably need more of. Or, perhaps just Time.

Several things transpired recently that is making me sit down and think/ blog.

First. Was busy gift-giving after my Japan trip. During the entire vacation, I thought of others more than myself. "have i bought XX a present? What about her kids?" etc. Even till the last day, I was still buying stuff for others and mind u, things there aren't cheap. It's darn tiring! Yet, there's little appreciation, fm both kids and adults alike. Some kids just toss aside the gift without so much as a 2nd glance. ok, perhaps I'm exaggerating but there should at least be the grace to muster up a little appreciation right? Afterall, gifts don't drop down from the sky, it came from someone who thought of them specifically. We live in a culture of excess and this creates ingratitude or maybe more accurately, indifference. For the adults, the common excuse -- Busy. This is can identify with, yet their efficiency is so predominant in their work, but is strangely lacking in giving thanks. Bad upbringing for the kid I say.

Second. Had a talk with a parent few wks back and discovered that an ex didn't do too well on her JC path, thus may not be accepted into the top unis in Singapore. Heartache for both parents and kid as it's been such an ardous task towards achievement. The mum confided that the kid wanted to go overseas, quoting that Singapore's education's too stifled n competition's simply too tough. I don't blame her for such a thought. To a large extent, I do agree that the local education system is exam-centric. Anyway, tantrums were thrown, tears were shed and the kid was even willing to forsake the opportunity to get a place in a local uni, just to go overseas. Immature? I'm in no position to judge. Several wks passed and I was reading her blog, only to realise that the ONE reason she wanted to go overseas for further studies was => LOVE! Sigh. Manipulated into thinking that she is helpless and lost without this guy, she's been trying to fight her way to convince her ever-so-stringent parents. The battle's lost. Expected. Life's a labyrinth and parents often think that what they've planned out for their children, is what's best. Loads of emotions were evoked after reading her post. Perhaps if I were more adamant about my choices, things would have been different. Then again, we wouldn't know, would we? Growing up wasn't all a breeze. Like other like-minded moms, mine manipulated my every move. Thus, our relationship has never been good, let alone great. Dad on the other hand was an angel and I have utmost respect for him. But even in the battle between Dad and Mom (once over whether I should enrol and be reading ART), Dad lost. Yes, that's how domineering Empress Dowager is. I guess if you defy the traditional teachings, it's like going against societal agreement and hence resulting in being judged, face criticisms and being a reject. When I approached the kid today to ask how's she getting along? She gave a forceful smile and said it was fine. Didn't know so much was going on in her mind. It certainly doesn't help that she's the eldest of the 4 and that her mom's a cancer patient. Love can certainly screw one's mind.

hmmm.....So when did your first love happen? Do you know how he's doing? I know I do :) Am very glad I "found" him n rekindled our friendship after so many years. It wasn't easy to let go back then and we both chose to escape. Avoidance was how we played the game. Yet again, I really treasured the friendship we shared. Now, I finally could face him and hope I won't lose this old friend again.

devil in love

My Maiden trip to Nihon!

Monday, June 7, 2010

WARNING WARNING! This entry is photo and words heavy!!

DAY ONE (日1)

A million psychological miles away from work, but never really away from home. I was finally off to Nihon!


My maiden flight on ANA. (cost damage -- approximately SGD750+) Flight was at 815am and guess what? H and I were the last passengers! Probably groggy from the wedding the night b4, I wasn't quite aware that the announcement for us to board was blasting! The Japanese were sure punctual! My heart palpitated wildly and somersaulted in excitement as the plane soared to the sky. Onboard meal was served at 9am. The flight was scheduled to arrive at 420pm thus I thought there'd be another meal. Alas! I was wrong! Fortunately, the zzz monster was attacking me and I slept through the major part of the flight.Upon arrival, the precipitous rain descended without warning, drenching everywhere within seconds. However, that didn't dampen my mood. The humongous raindrops performed like a percussion group, each element a crucial part in the whole symphony. We headed to the ticketing office and purchased the SUICA & NEX card. There was a promotion going on and it cost us 3500Yen. The SUICA card, which has a 500Yen deposit, is similar to our local EZ link card, a prepaid card used for internal train rides. On board the NEX, I was pleasantly impressed by the spaciousness of the train. I ensconced myself in the comfortable chair and embarked on liberation. Looking out the window, I really wish I could stick out my tongue and catch the refreshing raindrops.

95minutes later......

Wooohoo! The whoosh of raw freezing air hit me bluntly in the face the moment I stepped onto the luxurious plush carpet of the hotel suite. THE HYATT REGENCY TOKYO! Located in the heart of the commercial district, this 5star hotel faces the city skyline. The multitude of windows in the office tower gleamed like eyes on the constant lookout. The distinctively high skyscrapers threw their lights heavenwards and illuminating the sky. Service was impeccable. Staff was eager to receive us and escort us to our rooms. Oh, did I mention, Japan's one of the only country in Asia where we don't have to tip! To them, it's an insult if they receive tips. I only learned about it after an episode of tipping. EMBARRASSING! Compared to the typical hotels in Tokyo, the Hyatt Regency doesn't compromise on space. I was at a loss for words as I entered the lavatory. Buttons galore! A meek adrenaline rush charged through my bum as I sat on the auto-warm seat cover. ahhhh Heavenly! The bidets and having water squirted at my ass wasn't really my cup of tea though.

There were regular shuttle services to the main Shinjuku train station. We hopped on and headed for the long awaited feast! The eclectic vibes amongst the shoppers could be felt the moment we set foot into the heart of the shopping mall's sale area. After a hair-raising experience of squeezing through the amazingly huge crowd, we found our dinner place. Weirdly, most passers-by we asked did not know how to get to the place we wanted to go. We were already at the right zone, so near yet so far.
Around the heart of Shinjuku

My Crab Feast which cost 5800Yen. Ecstasy screamed from every fibre in my body as I jumped up and down in elation. I was trying desperately to hide my overwhelming exhilaration when faced with my favourite dish! It was a meal well-deserved. An assortment of crab dishes covered every inch of our table as I groaned under the weight of the mountain of food. Every cooking style, from the mere steam, chawanmuchi, crab tempura, crab boiled rice with seaweed, crab sushi to the awesome Cheese crab, I was relishing every single part of the meal! Was completely sold! *rubbing my hands together in glee like an avaricious glutton* Every delectable bite was washed down with a sip of well-brewed green tea that was the perfect complement for our food.

Roused from my deep slumber. With the drowsy scent of slumber still enveloping me, I fumbled my way into the bathroom. Then, the picturesque scene woke me up. Daybreak's early at this time of the year. With its brilliant rays being cast across the land, an artist's masterpiece was created. The towering Tokyo Metropolitan Government building was just across. The centre tower rose formidably overlooking the rest of its charges. Peering down, I saw a group of immaculately dressed executives gathering at the parade square, possibly engaging in motivational cheers. The Tokyo Metropolitan Govt building is one of Tokyo's landmarks with an observatory on the 45th floor. As we were already on the 27th storey, it was a great scenery by itself.
This was breakfast. Bought the night before at a supermarket, for 398Yen.

As the morning sun rose higher and higher into the cerulean blue sky, H and I made our way to Nihon streets. First up, Tsukiji Market for some fresh sushi! It is the largest central wholesale market in Japan which has long supported the kitchens of the huge city of Tokyo. The journey wasn't all easy. With one of the world's most complex train network, H and I spent a good 5 - 10mins to figure out which entrance to enter by, another 5mins to figure which line to take and another 5mins to figure out if we needed to make a transfer somewhere along the way! As it was the peak-hour rush, the train was crowded with commuters, cramming themselves neatly into any possible standing space. Japan's culture is really something worth learning. Commuters queued up patiently and waited for people to come out before entering. If it were to be in Singapore, I'd probably be elbowed and squished into a roti prata! I managed to squirm through the jam-packed crowd and planted my feet into a corner. Everyone on board was spookily silent. Most were either reading books/ newspapers or engrossed in texting and surfing on their flip phones. This is so distinctly different. From the giggly teenagers sashaying about, or a sales executive in a business suit, barking into his handphone. The scene was a welcome. ahhh Peace.

Minutes later, after travelling along the Oedo line and a short walk from Tsukiji Shijo Subway Station (E18), we arrived. Not knowing which direction to head, we followed our nose. Literally. The intoxicating mix of food, perspiration, fresh produce mingled in the air and challenged my senses. We arrived at approximately 930am and by then, the tuna auction, which was supposedly huge, was already over. We meandered through the market and I bought a whole bunch of authentic Japanese dried scallop (surprisingly, the boss allowed a discount!), pepper flavoured seaweed (with a kawaii salesgirl, who could resist?), green tea (which was not as aromatic as those drank locally) etc. My eyes were hungry for more, but I had to exercise discipline. Thus after an hour, we chugged into a sushi shop, hoping to get the freshest and best sushi. Disappointed. The rice was not compact enough and according to H, the fish weren't exactly sweet as in most fresh fish. I was no raw food guru, thus could only sit and listen. however, I've acquired a taste for raw sea urchin, thanks to C. It's really sweet though the initial bite may not be everyone's cup of tea.
One of the buys @ the market. Was deceived by its size and amazing colour. It's superbly SOUR!
After an unsuccessful attempt at savouring the best and freshest sushi, we headed for Sensoji temple @ Asakusa. After exiting the Asakusa Station, we took a 10min walk to Nakamise. It is a street leading to the temple. Both sides of teh 250m street from the Kaminari-mon Gate to the Hozomon Gate are lined with about 90 stores dating from the Edo Period. Yeepee! SHOPPING TIME! Couldn't resist the display of savory and sweet pastries, I bought a whole lot as souvenirs. We were bombarded with a galore of items before finally arriving at the main entrance of Sensoji. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo and said to have been built in 628. The Grand Kaminarimon Gate with a large lantern is a landmark.

The temple was awash in hues of red and gold with rosewood accents (or at least I think it's rosewood!). It was like a time machine that transported us back to the ancient times of Japan , the ambience was made more enthralling by the scent of slow burning incense. In fact, the smell of burning incense was hardly prevalent! There must have been some form of suction somewhere! Singapore should so learn! I came out not smelling like a joss stick! :)

hmm..100Yen for a lot? No thanks! Feel so blessed I'm living in Singapore where such things are free!
3pm. Local time. Time was running out, thus we decided to skip UENO and took a train to Ikebukuro. Randomly went into a ramen cafe (as seen above), thinking that since we are in Japan, even the ordinary ramen in the kopitiam wouldn't go wrong. BOY WERE WE WRONG! It was the most oily and disgusting tasting bowl of ramen I had ever eaten! See the fats below and u'd understand what I mean! A laderful of artery-clogging soup which some customers were slurping upon! Didn't get the logic! The bowl didn't exactly come cheap either. It cost approximately 890 Yen! I ate a few mouthfuls and gave up. Fortunately, the waitress was the perk. Her silky tresses cascaded down her shoulders framing her olive shaped face to perfection. In fact, most Japanese women have a sort of elegance exuded from their delicate fair features.

After an entire day of walkng, we headed back hotel for a quick rest. Had to wrap a hot towel round my sore feet! Too much walking! All this takes an incredible amount of discipline and perseverance. I really admire my own tenacity and dogged perseverance! Headed for Harajuku for a highly recommended cutlet place.

Along the way......
Chio right? This is actually a public toilet! Sigh....everything in Japan is just so nice! From the people to the architecture!

Finally after walking a whole lot and making a few wrong turns, we found our way to Maison Restaurant. It's nestled in one of the dark alleys. It's really odd that so many people knows about the place! The place was packed with people!

Hunger by then, was difficult to measure empirically, but liberation came when my beer was served! Ahhhhhhhhh......Life's good! *BURP* The fermented yeast is some serious mood-lifting genius! The calorie-laden meal was every penny well spent. Not as expensive as our dinner on the first day. Definitely value for money and I ate every morsel on my plate!


Today, I awoke, feeling exceptionally excited. I felt the endorphins and the adrenaline rush was at its all-time high. Because, today, I was gonna conquer GINZA akin to Singapore's Orchard Road. LIned up with old department stores full of history and tradition as well as prestigious boutiques, Ginza is a flmboyant district for sophisticated adults-- namely, ME!

Prior to conquering the streets, lunch @ Ippudo Tokyo!
Not sure if there is a difference from Singapore's Ippudo, but it's sure GOOD in Tokyo! Redemption from what i had at Ike yesterday! *URGH* Sigh...relishing the soup base right now.

After lunch, I struggled to arrive at Ginza 4-chome intersection. Somehow, my feet hurt from walking for two days! A meer two days and my bunion was killing me. Ginza wasn't exactly the best place to be hunting for cheap flip flops, but luck was smiling at me and I managed to get a pair of Adidas @ approximately SGD40. *PHEW*

This was really life as a tai tai (rich lady). Knowing that the pocket isn't all that deep to conquer GINZA, we decided to take a break at GUCCI cafe. Dessert and tea were good and the price, reasonable -- 2000Yen for a set. Everything was sooo GUCCI, including the menu cover! Ohh I wish I could bring it back! The panna cotta and decadent chocolate cake were ooh so good! Service was top notch. There was cushion seating in the lift-- real thoughtful; handsome waiter who rushed to my every need -- took my shopping bags and safe kept for us. What more could I ask for? If only every wkend could be like that.......I hasten to add, if only we had such moolah!

Recharged, we headed for Shibuya for a different kind of shopping experience at Shibuya 109. It is a fashion building (akin to Singapore's Far East Plaza), hugely popular among teenage girls. However, sadly, I wasn't impressed. Quality didn't justify the exorbitant price. Though more affordable than GINZA, I felt I could get better deals in Singapore. Bought some small trinkets though, but had major communication problem with the salesgirl who did not speak English. Talking about salesgirl, they should all be called sales-babe! All were dressed to KILL! Too bad no photography were allowed. I was practically swooning over their hourglass figure and their edgy fashion sense. There was a 109 tower for ladies and another 109 tower for the men. Talk about being thoughtful and equal!

Shops closed early. By 9pm, we had to leave the building. By then, we were hungry and decided to search for our dinner venue. Thinking that we were already in the district, looking for the place shouldn't be all that difficult. Furthermore, it's a restaurant recommended by Discovery Channel. But ALAS! everyone we asked, didn't seem to know where we were talking! Finally a group of teens seemed to know and directed us in the opposite direction from where we were initially walking. GOSH! After walking for 15mins, they told me I was in the wrong direction? Too much to swallow. It didnt help that it was raining. The persistent rain was all out to drown the earth as it showed no signs of weakening to a soft drizzle. In fact, the slight drizzle escalated to a heavy downpour; the previously needle-like raindrops became engorged tears in mere seconds. We treaded on and were on the verge of giving up. Cold, hungry and lost just didn't seem to be the right combination. It also didn't help that the shops were not displaying their unit numbers. Asked several shop assistants, one of whom turned out to be from HK! I ended up communicating in Cantonese with him! What a feat! haha....He wasn't too sure which direction we should be heading for, but gave sound advice. We consulted two other shop assistants, who promptly whipped up a street directory and helped us search. It was apparently just round the corner and NO ONE KNEW! I guess Tokyo's simply too big! 12 million people!!
FINALLY! Alcatraz at 10pm (after happy hour), we arrived. H and I chugged into the restaurant breathlessly with our hands full of shopping bags. We were welcomed with warm greetings from the waiter who shown us to our table after much struggle with communication. The welcoming warm towel that was offered by the restaurant before our meals added a nice touch to the whole service. By then, we were both dog-tired. Food was not fantastic but this was redeemed by its decor. I read there should be some form of entertainment but there were none. Perhaps we were late. The fusion of Asian and Western cultures were clearly depicted in the food which were a tad too salty and honestly I've tasted better. There was also a cover charge of 600 Yen for each cell. We were locked up and to call for the waiter, we had to bang on the bars with a baton-like stick. Each drink was at 500 Yen. I must say their drinks had interesting ie kinky presentation. Each dish was also wittily named eg cow's tongue on a head...hmm I wonder if it's really cow's tongue I'd be eating. Not feeling adventurous, I decided to go safe with a giant croquette. Overall rating: 2.5/5.

We cabbed back as we tired was an understatement. Taking a cab in Tokyo is a no no as the fare is a killer! Starting price was 710 Yen. It didn't really jump till 5mins later. Once it jumped, it was hopping every second -- 90 Yen every second! My heart palpitated and I swore it almost popped out of my chest!
My loot of the day!


This post is getting all too long! After 1.5hours, I'm still at DAY 4! OMG!
We signed up for a 1-day tour with Grayline. Pick up was at the Hyatt at 815am (*groan*...waking up early again was certainly not my idea of a holiday!..but no choice). Brought along breakfast which I bought a few days ago. Kawaii!

Wearing my new flip flops. I'd rather the cold than the pain.
Fellow tourists must be thinking "what's this crazy Asian monkey doing in shorts when it's at lower than 14 degrees up on the mountain!" Well, trust me, if I had anything longer, I'd wear em! Unfortunately, the weather forecast screwed up somehow and my thickest jacket was my 3/4 sleeved cardigan! I could really feel them scrutinizing my outrageous outfit! I didn't want to part with SGD50 for a Uniqlo jacket which I have at home (similar stuff).

Trying to be unfazed by the cold, I dashed around, in an attempt to get more heat. I was certainly not radiating any! Thankfully, at the (went up by cable car), it was warmer. However, it wasn't all too pleasant as it was sulphur filled. The pungent smell wasn't too overwhelming. At the volcano, we bought the famous black eggs (basically they were just hard boiled eggs) which has a saying that will extend one's life by 7 yrs (per egg). I ate two, so does that mean I'll get 14 yrs extension? hehe

After the one day tour which included going up to the 5th station of Mt Fuji to catch the breathtaking view amidst the fog; taking a cable car up the Volcano and cruising Lake Ashi in a pirate boat which looked more like a Chinese junk to me, we disbanded at Odawara station @ Hakone and made our way to our Hot Spring resort -- Senkei Yamagaso.

Yamagaso is an upscale, luxurious Ryokan, or Japanese style inn, located next to the Senkei Plaza Inn in Hakone-yumoto, Japan. Once you crossed through the tiny thatched gateway in front of the Ryokan, you have now entered a hidden garden filled with seasonal flowers and the gentle sounds of birds moving through the trees. This attractive Ryokan was built in the traditional Sukiya Architectural style. The harmony created by the exquisite Japanese garden and traditional architecture enriched by the fresh air of Hakone will create a lasting memorable Japanese Ryokan experience for you.

There is a premium Onsen hot springs (open air) available till midnight. however, on certain days, it's for men only and the women had to come after 10am. Private bathing is available in each room and there was a bit of a hoo ha as we tried to figure out the reason for not having hot water. The conclusion? We had to wait! This wasn't Tokyo, thus technology's a little lagging. The spring water is delivered directly from an underground geyser.

Dining is a special highlight of our Ryokan and we were served your breakfast and dinner, in our guestroom. I was bowled over by the spread of food. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of raw stuff thus didn't truly embrace the culture and didn't enjoy the dinner. Friend H however had a whale of a time!
During dinner, the obasan came in n made our beds for us. We were gonna sleep on Tatamis tonight! woohoo! Since young, I've always imagined myself to be a Japanese. Mopping the floor up and down the corridor with a rag (mum was so delighted that I found joy in chores), wearing a kimono to sleep and rolling off my two beds to sleep on the floor instead of the comfortable mattress! I knew I had a streak of Japanese in me. After chillaxing a bit after dinner, we went to the open-air hot spring. It wasn't that hot as I'm pretty used to hot baths. However friend H was shrieking all the way! haha. We were indulging in natural waters which harness the richness of the region's botanical n other underground extracts in a truly healing environment of lush nature and water. It really invigorated my body, mind and spirit! (not to mention the aches and pains from my shoulders and feet!) My whole body felt momentarily relaxed and I hit the tatami before midnight! A feat as I've been going to bed at 1/2am for the last few nights! Slept like a baby till the next morning! Certainly paid off all my sleep debt!

The above was breakfast. How in the world can anyone eat such things for breakfast? It's either raw, tasteless, too salty or too sweet! The only thing I dared eat -- the fried fish which has the most intoxicating fishy smell! Thankfully I had my black eggs!

Checked out time-- 11am. Before that I took a last soak in the hot spring. It's truly amazing how the hot spring's able to relieve all stress! My shoulders were initially aching and crying out for a massage, but after soaking the night before, all aches were gone!

Headed for Gotemba outlets by bus! Proud of ourselves! We had to make a transfer halfway too. Was so afraid we made the wrong stop and would be stranded! Added to the anxiety, our SUICA card ran out of $$ and we were afraid we didn't have change! Gotemba was disappointingly expensive and range of goods were equally unexciting. Made an impulse buy though, which blew a small hole in my wallet. Service once again bowled me over. Seeing that it was prolly gonna rain, the sales assistant wrapped my big paper bag with plastic! So meticulous!

We popped 400Yen and left our day bag in the lockers. There are 300Yen ones for smaller lockers. They are soo thoughtful! Shopping became a breeze.

We left Gotemba at around 6pm and rushed to take a bus back to Shinjuku. Could have caught the direct bus to Shinjuku from Gotemba itself, but silly us, forgotten to make a reservation. Begged the bus conductor to let us board but it was full house, thus he could make no concession. No time to waste, we had to think of alternatives. Fortunately, there was another bus due to leave Gotemba station @ 7pm. We took a complimentary shuttle from the outlet and left Hakone at exactly 7pm. Cost us 1540 Yen. Knowing that the Japanese are very punctual, we didn't dare be late! almost 2hours later, we were back in bustling Shinjuku. Slept along the wayWe had to check out from Hyatt and check in a cheaper hotel. We found -- Sunroute Plaza. located just next to one of the many entrances of Shinjuku station. It's amazing how we got lost everyday despite trying to remember which entrance we came from! Sunroute's a no-fuss hotel with amenities available in a buffet style at the front desk. The only service it had was housekeeping. Ohh I miss Hyatt!! The room was typically small but decent. At least we managed to find a place for our luggage. The bathroom was really big too, with a bathtub. However, there were no seat warmers or bidets as in the HYATT :(. Well, beggars can't be choosers I guess. it was certainly value for money. Clean, modern and most importantly conveniently located. It's just a stone's throw away from Lumine mall, Odayku, 0101, Flags, My Lords, Takashimaya, Isetan and many more. You get the idea, it's a shopper's paradise if you have the moolah.

@ Sunroute's lobby. Stylish lamps really add a touch of mod to the whole place. It was bustling with heaps of tourists.
By the time we settled down, it was already 10pm. Frantic that there would be no food at that hour except for cup noodles @ 7-11, we dashed out in the cold to find a decent restaurant to dine.

After lookin at the pictures on the menu, we decided to settle down at a little restaurant by the street. It was jam packed with office workers unwinding on a Friday night. Most had their booze in one hand and a cig in the other. Puffing in restaurants should be banned! Strangely, they are so cultured out in the streets, with designated smoking places which has a proper ventilation system to suck away all the smoke, yet @ restaurants, I'm made to take in 2nd hand smoke! URGHAhhhh I finally ate my favourite dish! Marinated squid stuffed with glutinous rice! It was awesome!!!
Black pepper chicken with a whole lot of veg. A refreshing combination except that I don't eat raw veg. In fact, it's pretty difficult to find cut fruits and cooked veggies, which put me into a state of constipation for days! haha As we walked back to the hotel, i noticed several gaming arcades choked with the working class. I guess its their way of unwinding on a Friday night. There was no way to lower the volume or subdue the exuberance amongst the avid gamers in the arcade who were slamming hard at all the game machines.

Loot of the day! Woohhooo! Still like what the Americans have to offer. The lacy fashion and cutesy items in Japan didn't really appeal to me.


FINALLY! I'm blogging about Day 6. I'm sure most of you have switched off by now. I know I did, after 2 gruelling hours of updates! Today, we were suppose to visit Yokohama, thinking that we could take the Shinkansen and experience what's called SPEED. However, upon asking the reception, we then realise that it's too near to render a bullet train service! In fact, by normal train, it's just half an hour away! Thus, we decided to give it a miss and shopped around Shinjuku instead. Things were really expensive! A tad more expensive than Singapore's price I feel. I'm comparing to what I can get online and at Far East Plaza of coz. A brandless pair of jeans would cost me around $60? If it were of a certain brand, I'd probably pay more than $100 but $60 for an ordinary pair, NAH. everything item I picked up was $50 or more. Didn't have the heart to buy. Things at FLAGS were a little overpriced. Isetan was a great place to shop if you are focus. I went straight to Agnes B, Paul Smith and Burberry Black and Blue labels. The black and blue label series were extremely disappointing, but I whacked 2 bags, a pouch and a card holder (for sweetie) from Agnes B! Yeah!

Experiencing taitai-ness at Isetan. The mega mall stood like a proud father in the middle of the shopping district puffing out his chest by throwing its doors wide open.

Am impressed with even their fitting rooms. The meticulous Japanese even had a pair of heels in each room for you to try on together with your item! Also, they'd all provide disposable face covers to avoid having your makeup dirty the clothes. Very thoughtful!

A tai tai needs to take her tea break. Tea we had. Expensive it was! H was desperately trying to clear her coins, thus she paid the bill with all her coins! The cashier had a hard time counting and we were holding up the line! Embarrassing!

This awesome Green Tea Latte was soooooo nice! Faced with a plethora of cafes, we chose this little takeout tea place. All their teas were really nice. at least the aroma tells me so. Hmm wonder if it'd do well here?
Random. Another thoughtful thing I found in the toilet!

It was almost 9pm when we arrived at our destination -- Tokyo Tower. Last entry was at 9pm! It's a 5-min walk from Akabanebashi Exit of Akabanebashi Subway Station on Oedo Line. It says 5min but it took us a good 10-15mins! They must think I m a sprinter! Built in 1958, the broadcasting tower is 333m tall (they were very proud of it and said it's a tad taller than the Eiffel tower...COME On! Copycats!). You can look across the entire city of Tokyo at a glance from the two observatories. Felt kindof cheated to have to pay 820Yen to go that high up when I can get the exact same view at the viewing gallery a few levels down. Nevertheless, the night scene was certainly breathtaking. A jazzy tune oozed out from the speakers at the tower, making it an idyllic retreat from the hustle and bustle of the throbbing shopping centres.

Thinking that it's just so near to the train station, we attempted to walk once again. Following a group of Japanese, we thought we won't go wrong this time! But ALAS! after 15mins, we couldn't see a station in sight and the surroundings didn't look familiar! Thus, it was cab to the rescue! As reluctant as I was, we hopped on. Fortunately, our next destination was nearby -- ROPPONGI HILLS It is a cultural complex consisting of 230 shops and restaurants, a multiple-theater cinema complex, residences, hotels, a TV broadcasting station, an observatory and art museums. Unfortunately, it was pretty late when we arrived, thus almost everything was closed except the restaurants. It's an upmarket place with lots of nice fine dining. We searched high and low for a Japanese restaurant but was utterly disappointed to be faced with a plethora of western cuisines! I didn't come Japan to dine western! But, with a growling stomach, we couldn't be too fussy. So Pizza and pasta at Kitchen @ Salvatore it was. It was, however, very well prepared! Tantalizing!
The damage -- 6080 Yen

See what I spotted at Roppongi? haha


Pocket check -- I'm left with approximately 21000 Yen. Sounds a lot? Well not quite! It's only approximately SGD328! Ahhh N i've yet to buy snacks and Sake for big bro L! Panic alert. Luckily, there's always the trusty plastic card -- Master/ Visa/ Amex :)

Have long heard of Japan's huge 2nd hand market. Went to Kohmeyo, one of Japan's largest 2nd hand store. Impressive. The place was like any other normal shopping mall, with all the branded bags in showcases. The cheaper ones are displayed on shelves for you to browse and feel. Every item is ranked A, AB, B etc. Also, they indicated the retailing price and their discounted price. The higher the ranking, the lower the discount. I was tempted to purchase a bottega veneta handbag in a gorgeous azure blue. It was retailing at 4 times the discounted price! Attractive much? However it was ranked B which meant that it was pretty well used previously. There's no damage whatsoever, but I just didn't want to pay a few hundred for something that's so well-used. There were altogether 7 levels of merchandise ranging from clothes and bags to watches and jewellery! Didn't manage to get anything there, but bought a pretty black dress from RagTag. Another popular 2ndhand shop. H wasn't big on 2nd hand stuff for fear of hygiene, but under my influence, she bought something too! The Japanese value hygiene. In fact, every piece had been painstakingly conditioned before it's placed on sale, thus I had a peace of mind.

Next stop -- HARAJUKU for some cosplay action! The heart of Harajuku was Takeshita Dori, which had stores containing miscellaneous character and idol goods popular among teens. The pricing there were more affordable as compared to Shinjuku. Thankfully, the fashion wasn't quite my zone. The place was bustling with people. Packed like sardines would have been an understatement. It made shopping quite a pain but fortunately for the weather, I did not complain. There was a 4-5 storey high DAISO where I managed to purchase heaps of gifts!

Lunch was at kyushu jangara ramen harajuku. If you thought Ippudo was good, Khyshu's ramen was beyond description! The fats of the char siew was melting in my mouth! I'm not a fan of fats, but this time, I made an exception and loved it! The soup base was also exploding my tastebuds!

Picture credits to Peggy.
Who could resist desserts? The little crepe store called SWEETBOX was lined with teens! Sinfully delicious!
Headed to Odaiba to wind-down. It's a huge zone where u can enjoy the view of Tokyo Bay. It's a different feeling altogether. Glaring noons, blank white dawns, azure skies with smears of pink-blue hue, whatever the weather may be, Odaiba is always a great place to be. One thing I like about entering this zone is the sudden sting of fresh air upon the nose. Reminded me of Hakone. The rainbow bridge was one of the highlights. It is a suspended bridge connecting Odaiba and Shibaura. 918m long. It'd be nice to walk the bridge if it weren't that cold! FUJI TV headquarters was yet another landmark. It's globe-shaped observatory was opened to public. Tried looking for a Japanese restaurant once again, but was disappointed as the place was filled with western cuisines. 2 restaurants were closed for weddings. Nice place to be having a wedding, facing the Tokyo Bay. Finally, as we didn't want anymore ramen, we had to settle for fine dining, Japanese Style. THe fish cake was really good and so was the Hotate boiled rice which I had to wait for almost 40mins. Worth the wait. Other than that, the place would really be nice and romantic for couples.

Inside Aqua City Odaiba mall. Deck chairs! How kewl!


It's with great regret that I've come to the last day of my trip. Time seems to fly when u are having fun! We didnt' really have much time as check out was at 11am and we had to catch a bus (3000 Yen) to the airport at 1pm. Thus, we woke up early and charged to Takashimaya for some last minute food shopping!

I was spoilt for choice! Faced with a large array of snacks, I really didn't know what to choose! However, the pocket wasn't very deep and we had to find a money exchange. Went to the info counter to seek help and she instantly whipped up a map showing us all the nearest money exchange counters and ATMS! PROFESSIONAL! Thoughtful! I'm impressed once again. Thinking that SGD50 should be more than enough for a bottle of sakae, some snacks from the supermarket and some snacks as lunch, I made the change. ALAS! 50 was not enough!! I had so little money left for lunch, H had to loan me some! Pathetic!

That was how much I was left with when I arrived at the airport! Pathetic much? One should learn to leave some money for shopping at Narita. Friends have pre-warned me but I didn't heed their advice or rather, I over-estimated myself! The snacks and stuff to buy at Narita airport was all too enticing. So out came the plastic card!

Determined not to be the last passengers this time, H and I raced against time to shop and chilled at a cafe overlooking the runway. A feeling a serenity overcame me. The trip was coming to an end. Despite it being rather hectic, it was a pretty good trip bombarded with new knowledge. Communication wasn't as bad as what many have told me. Most Japanese could speak English these days and the signages are all in Japanese, English, Mandarin and even Korean! The transport system was really beyond what we have locally n it's a big challenge though not impossible to conquer. Shopping wise has been over-rated in my humble opinion. Seriously think i can get better deals elsewhere, except for their health and beauty products! It was an eye-opener in terms of culture. I hold them in high respect for that. Singapore pale in comparison eg having to put up fines for things like littering. The Japanese didn't even need that! It was tough finding a bin, yet I didn't find any litter on the floors. They were big on recycling too! even at food malls, they had recycling bins for food and drinks! We should really learn. But the greatest reward of the trip was to be able to ogle at pretty things, namely the gals! WOoo Hooo! Salivating! Thoughts cascaded my mind as I reminisce. However, this feeling of tranquility was soon overpowered by a terrible pain on my left arm!

My poor arm was badly injured on the last day. I guess all the walking and carrying took the toil on me finally. Thankfully it was on the last day! I tore my tendons and it was so painful, i couldn't lift my arm on my return trip. Sitting on the plane in pain was agonising. Sleeping wasn't in the books too as it was just too pain! Imagine, 7.5hrs of pure agony! URGH!! what a way to end right? Had to visit to Chinese Physician to do "Ba guan" and "tui Na". It helped ease the pain a little but i was still handicap for a wk!

Anyway, have FINALLY come to the end of my amazingly long post which I've painstakingly put together over 2 frigging days, so whoever's reading this, PLEASE APPRECIATE! n thanks for reading! どうもありがとう

I leave you with some random pictures of my shopping!

I know what u are thinking....A lot? Nah..this really pales in comparison to my other shopping trips in Asia!