Wednesday, September 30, 2015

30 Days of Thanksgiving - 26/30

There are lots of restrictions on what you can eat when one is pregnant. No alcohol, raw meats or fish, soft boiled eggs or high mecury fish. One should also limit the amount of caffeine intake up to 200mg of caffeine a day, which is about a cup or two of coffee a day, depending on how strong the brew is.

I do try to cut down on sugary stuff and have obviously avoided alcohol, and only indulged in some sashimi in Japan (it's Japan!) because the restaurant we went to had good reviews on quality. 

The one thing I miss though, is coffee and tea. I did try to have some chai tea latte from Starbucks earlier on in ny pregnancy but I think the size I usually get (the grande) was too much and left me with a little bit of heart palpitations. 

Of course, it never occured to get smaller sizes until I saw that there were short sizes inthe Starbucks shops in Japan. Something smaller than the small (tall)? 

So the couple of matcha lattes I had in Tokyo were short, and when we came back we asked the Singapore Starbucks outlet if they had short sizes. They do! They just never advertised it, the sneaky buggers. So now I'm thankful for my little indulgence whenever I go to Starbucks. Hehehe.

Our Last Day In Japan

One of my ex colleagues sent a post about some straw that Japan Macdonald's use for their milkshake that supposedly mimic the speed of breastfeeding (or something random like that), which inspired us to have breakfast at Macdonald's on our last day in Japan. Alas, we were too early and their milkshakes were not ready, but we went ahead and had breakfast there anyway. 

Something about Japan that I like is how they make you sort your trash into glass, plastic, paper and trash. The food packaging is also all paper (unlike Singapore's styrofoam packaging pfft). 

Walked about after breakfast trying to do some last minute shopping for +3's sister, and then went back to the hotel to check out. 

It was a rainy day, and the plan was to take the subway to Shibuya station where we would check our luggage in one of the lockers and buy train tickets to Narita International Airport. We found a large sized locker that fit both our cabin luggage, for only 600yen. Two tickets on the Narita Express to NIA cost a little over 6000yen (I forget exactly). 

We had till 4pm to kill, so decided to go to the Tokyu Hands shop and look for wallets and a bag that we wanted to buy. Bought a foldable umbrella (1300yen and the umbrella opened to 65cm!) and made our way. Stopped at a Pronto cafe to try their kit kat croissant (another recommendation from my ex-colleague. It was ok, not something one MUST try). 

Also checked out the 7 storey Muji store. Saw some wooden toys that we were keen to buy but decided that keeping them in humid Singapore for a couple of years before they can be used wasn't such a good idea. 

I really liked Tokyu Hands. This one that we went to was way better and bigger than the one we went to earlier at Takashimaya. +3 managed to buy some dried moss that he was looking for, and we also bought the wallets and bag we originally planned to get. 

Managed to get a tax refund for our purchases (yay more spending money!) and by the time we were done, we had to head back to the train station. 

Fast forward and after a quick nap on the train, we were at the airport. Checked in, had dinner, bought Tokyo Banana (wait till you are past immigration to buy, don't be dumbasses like us and buy outside immigration cos you end paying taxes), boarded the plane. It was a smooth flight back and instead of sleeping, I watched Back to the Future 1, 2 and 3! SQ in flight entertainment rocks. 

So we are back in SG and missing Japan. Now I know why so many people love the country and I can't wait to go back. Interestingly, I thought people would offer me seats on the subway trains, but 1. the trains weren't that full and we managed to get seats most of the time anyway, 2. when we had to stand it wasn't for long, 3. mebbe my belly isn't so obvious yet and they think I'm just fat. 

Ah well. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Japan Day 5 (or 6?) - St Mark's Cathedral

We had breakfast at the basement of the Square Enix building (a mecca for Final Fantasy fans, according to +3)- a simple and not too tasty breakfast at Tully's Coffee. I think the public holiday was already over as we saw lots of office people heading to work. 

Didn't really have any where that we wanted to go, having covered most of the "popular" areas in the past few days. +3 mentioned a church that wasn't really a tourist attraction, but had nice architecture and since we like visiting churches, became our agenda for the day.

Did a bit of research on how to get there and found that we had to go to the Edogawabashi station, and walk through the Edogawa Park and through the gardens of Hotel Chizanso Tokyo to reach the St Mark's Cathedral.

I was getting rather adept at navigating the Tokyo subway, and soon we were on our way. The Edogawa Park was more of a little local park along the river, and wasn't as well manicured as some of the other parks we had been to. However, it had a nice character to it and we saw abandoned playgrounds, homeless people lying about and grandparents taking their grandchildren for a walk. One of the things I really liked about parks in Japan was how gorgeous they smelled, with lots of osmanthus trees planted around which let off a sweet floral scent.

The entrance to the Hotel Chizanso wasn't immediately apparent, and we had to backtrack when we realised that we were probably walking too far off. There was a small entrance with a guy standing there, and a tiny signboard which said Hotel Chizanso. 

We walked in and was greeted by the most lush garden grounds ever. Apparently the hotel lies on 17 acres of land and is a 5 star hotel managed by the Four Seasons. I'm glad that we had the chance to explore the garden grounds and we spent a long time enjoying the garden and taking pictures. Made our way to the front of the hotel lobby and across the street was the St Mark's Cathedral. 

The Cathedral was beautiful in the way modern buildings are beautiful with very clean, sleek lines. We took a moment to step inside and pray (something we try to do when we encounter a new church) and walked around. 

Explored the neighbourhood afterward. Not sure what the area was called but it had a nice quiet atmosphere which reminded us of a Bukit Timah vibe. There weren't any eating places (only a Pizza Hut delivery and a Domino's.. do they like pizza in that 'hood?) so we went to a supermarket and bought some snacks- buns, mochi, crackers and some drinks. Sat on a bench and ate before making our way back.

I think all the walking we had done over the past few days was starting to take its toll on me and I was feeling rather pooped. Headed back to the hotelfor a nap and slept the afternoon away. Woke up and went to the steak place near our hotel (same chain as the steak place we saw in Ueno but the service and food quality wasn't as good) and shopped at Don Quijote. It had started raining as well. 

Passed by a curry house on our way backand popped in for round two of dinner (pork katsu curry for him, a salad for me) which made up for our ok steak dinner experience. Then it was back to the hotel to pack and settle down for the night. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Japan Day 4 (or 5?) - Shibuya, Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown

Headed straight to Shibuya in the morning to queue up at the restaurant that was recommended by Ching. Located on the 4th floor of the Mark City mall's East Wing, Midori sushi restaurant already had a queue forming even before the restaurant opened.

We arrived at about 10.45am (restaurant opened at 11am) and our queue number was 30. Joined the end of the line and waited as more people streamed in to get a ticket. As we were chatting, a guy suddenly comes up to us to ask if we were 2 pax, and gave us his ticket number 19! What a stroke of luck. Turns out his friend had already come earlier and gotten ticket number 3.

With our smaller queue number, we were able to be seated soon after the restaurant opened, and even managed to get a counter seat where we could see all the sushi being prepared. We ordered one ultimate sushi set and one tuna sushi set which cost 2000yen and 2800 yen respectively.

The sushi was super fresh and so good, and we ordered extra pieces of sea urchin, salmon roe and also inari sushi. Sosososo good.

Stomachs filled, we made our way to Roppongi Hills. From what I gather, Roppongi Hills was in a more atas part of Tokyo. There was a Belgium beer fest happening at one of the atriums, and there was a good crowd attending the event. I was surprised to see that each attendee was only issued with one plastic beer glass and some tokens, and that participants would have to wash their beer glasses at various rinsing points scattered around. What a brilliant way to minimise litter!

Lazed in one of the parks / open spaces and then made our way to Tokyo Midtown. There was a park next to Tokyo Midtown that had a chill vibe to it. Lots of people were sprawled across the grass, lying on picnic mats and reading books or chatting with friends. We bought our drinks from Starbucks and spent some time lazing around on the grass too.

It was such a beautiful day and we took a much slower pace compared to the few days before.

Ended the day by checking out the Tokyo Tower and heading back to the hotel area where we discovered a branch of that outlet that sold tempura and soba. Yay! Dinner was settled.

Wasn't as exhausted as previous days but was tired from all the walking nonetheless, so fell asleep pretty quickly after my shower. Time in Tokyo is passing so quickly!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

30 Days of Thanksgiving - 25/30

I'm thankful for holidays with the husband. I think we make a good team traveling together and we always have such a good time exploring places together. What I like is how we don't have have a fixed plan, and we're flexible in where to go and what to do and always manage to have a great time.

Japan - Day 3 (or 4?) - Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku

Saw a sign that said "Shibuya - 3km, Harajuku - 5km" so we decided to walk instead of taking the subway.

Had breakfast at one of the few joints in the area that was open in the morning, Freshness Burger. I had a chicken teriyaki burger and +3 had a hotdog and spme croissant-puff with cream. A yummy breakfast to start the day.

Walked to what we thought was Shibuya, but turns out we were still in the Shinjuku area. Japan is big! Lol. Popped into Takashimaya Times Square cos they had a sign advertising Tokyu Hands and +3 wanted to see what it was. Turns out Tokyu Hands is just a brand of a department store that sells all kinds of stuff like stationery, toys, household stuff etc.

Bought some toys there (Star Wars for him, Pose Skeleton for me) and walked around the various levels. Bought some food from the basement food market (tuna sushi, chicken yakitori, plum rice balls and sweet potato - which were all ok only) and ate at the rooftop garden, a nice space we discovered that gave a gorgeous view of the city.

Took the subway to the Harajuku station (it's got another name) and walked along the Otomesando Avenue. From Harajuku we walked to Shibuya, stopping at Tower Records and a couple of other shops. I took a break while +3 explored the area and took some pictures of the public spaces.

If you're in the Otomesando Avenue area, take a walk along the back alleys. It has a lot of interesting shops and lots more character.

Saw the famous Shibuya Crossing (crazy So. Many. People.). Originally thought of looking for this sushi joint that was highly recommended but we were too tired and decided to head back to the hotel instead.

Took the wrong train to the outskirts, but discovered it soon enough and managed to find the right one after. Dinner was at the same Tamoya-like place. Heh.

Japan Day 2 (or 3?) - Ueno & Asakusa

On Monday, we went to Ueno and Asakusa. We headed to the Ueno Park which was crazy crowded (the Imperial Palace Park was waaaay nicer and less people). Also visited the National Museum of Western Art (admissions at 430yen each - according to +3, I didn't want to go in but he decided I needed some culture lol). This museum was designed by Le Corbusier, apparently the grand master of modern architecture.

Hilariously, +3 thought another building (the Symphony Orchestra building) was the one by designed Le Corbusier. (I guessed correctly hahahaha).

The collection used to be owned by a rich guy called Matsukata, who lost his paintings during the war, and then the Japanese governmnetasked the French government to give them back after the war as part of the peace treaty. Or something like that.

Bought some ice cream from an ice cream truck after, then walked around the area before heading to Asakusa.

Asakusa is like Old Tokyo, and we originally had plans to see the Senso-Ji temple but OMG there were So. Many. People. Decided to just have lunch at a nearby steakhouse (The Very Steak!) which was delicious, despite being a  standing only place. We had 300gm of ribeye steak each. Yum. Popped over to Starbucks where I discovered that they had a short size drink (smaller than the small size, tall). Matcha tea latte = love.

Walked past a building designed by Philip Starck (not sure how to spell), which looked like a black square building with a golden turd (or carrot if you're polite) on the top. Lol. This guy also designed +3's lemon juicer. Hehehe. Sat by the river for a bit then headed back to the hotel.

Explored the area around our hotel in the evening. Booked the wrong Hotel Sunroute - instead of the Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku that everyone was recommending, I booked the Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku instead. Thankfully it was also near a sunway station.

The hotel is located near Korea Town and also near the Square Enix building (some office building of some game company- +3 says he feels like he is having an umrah by visiting that building. Lololol). We were also within walking distance (about 8 min walk?) to the Don Quijote shop- the Japanese version of Mustafa. Dinner was at a local Tamoya-like joint opposite the hotel which is open 24 hours. We picked items off the shelf and paid for it before sitting down to eat.

It was a tiring day but fun exploring the city. Passed out when I got back to the hotel. Lol.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Japan - Day 1 (Or Is It 2?)

We got in to Tokyo yesterday, after a pleasantly comfortable 7 hour flight on SQ. Knowing that Baby Chung is now using my bladdar as a kicking bag, +3 let me have the aisle seat so I could make my frequent trips to the toilet.

An uneventful flight, thankfully, the highlights being my multiple toilet runs and watching Unlucky Plaza on the in-flight entertainment system. Thumbs up for Unlucky Plaza.

There was some initial confusion upon arriving at Narita Airport on which train to take to get to our hotel, but I'm blessed with an amazing husband who managed to figure it out. We bought tickets for the Narita Express (about 3020 yen each) and waited for the train. We also bought Pasmo cards to use on the subway.

Got to Tokyo station, got out and explored a little while looking for the stations where we couldchange to another line. Again, I have to say how amazing +3 is. I don't know how I would have navigated this alone.

By the time we checked in to our hotel (Hotel Villa Fountaine Kudanshita), we were starving. Put our bags in our room and explored the neighbourhood. Found a little joint that said "Tendon Soba Udon" and went inside. I was wondering what "Vegetable Tendon" was, and turns out a tendon is a tempura rice bowl. Ahsohneh!

Ate first meal in Tokyo, then walked around for about an hour or so. The weather at night is nice and cool, and there were lots of small restaurants and minimarts (7-11, Lawson's etc) around. Not a bad place to be for our first two nights in Japan!

Today, we woke up and skipped the hotel breakfast (looked like toast and scrambled eggs) and decided to have breakfast at a cafe we spotted the night before that had charcoal roasted coffee. +3 had pancakes with azuki and a scoop of ice cream, and I had a sandwich (roasted chicken and egg mayo).

Walked down to the Nippon Budokan and then down the Imperial Palace Park and explored the Imperial Palace. The park had gorgeous open spaces and we spent some time lying on the grass, in the shade of the trees.

Had curry for lunch at some place called Hot Spoon near the subway station, and then took the train to Akihabara aka the place with all the electronics.

Went inside a book store that had 9 stories, 3 of which were dedicated to all things comic-related. Beware if the sign on the 9th floor says it is for "portfolio" cos what it really is are the pornos. Lol. Imagine being the only female on that floor.

Walked to another building and explored Muji and wow, the selection of stuff is so much larger than what we have in Singapore!

Was feeling tired so we stopped at a cafe, and I ended up dozing off for about 10-15 minutes. Finally woke up and headed to some mall (can't remember what it was called) where we spent the rest of the afternoon. 7 floors of stationery (we bought some pens) and electronics and household appliances and toys (bought some bandai too, +3 was a happy camper).

Made our way back and ate at the same place we had dinner last night. Tomorrow, we check out and head to our hotel in Shunjuku.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Land of the Rising Sun

We're in Japan! Too tired to write much but this babymoon looks promising.