16 January 2018

Gala Yuzawa Snow Town

Konbanwa From Tokyo, Again!!!

Another new place that we will visit today.  It is called Gala Yuzawa or the snow town resort, only 2 hours away from Tokyo by Shinkansen train.  We bought the JR Wide Pass that can be used for 3 consecutive days.  This pass covers unlimited rides in Tokyo and surrounding Kanto area.  And the best to use for Mt. Fuji, Izu, Karuizawa, and Gala Yuzawa.  It costs alot cheaper and suit for a short trip travelers compared to JR Pass (only 10,000 yen/adult).

After picking up our rental gears and keep the unused stuff in the locker, we can go directly to Gondola station and head to enjoy the snow experience.  It was mid of March, but up here is a totally different color from Tokyo city.  It is covered with white snow powder.  I had been to Perisher Blue in Australia before to play snow, it was an icy hard snow on the ground.  But here in Japan, it is as soft as cloud and the snow flake won't stick on your fingers when you touch it.  Try to lay your foot at the untouched snow on the side way and you will understand what I mean. 

Amazing view from up here

Taboggan for kids

There is the safe zone area for Taboggan

There is a huge restaurant/food court just next to the snow area.  Great place for hungry people and also made a nice place for taking some break. 

We only spent half day in this snow resort town, then we made a brief stop at Echigo-Yuzawa. 

Just one small tips from me if you go to snowy mountain, please bring or hire sunglasses as the reflection of the sun touch the white snow is so strong and hard for me to open my eye lid without sunglasses. 

A nice cafe located just a stone away from Echigo Yuzawa station.  With foot bath in front of the shop that we can dip our tired feet into.  They serve an aromatic coffee made from hot spring water from the Echigo mountain and a-must-try cake roll.  The cake was soft as pillow and not so sweet and I like the one with the strawberry better.  We also tried their no-bake cheesecake and it tastes equally good. 

The house is like a traditional merchant wood house similar with the one you can find in Takayama.  The interior is very nice too, Japanese style with a touch of modernity. 

Hot spring foot bath in front of Mizuya cafe

No-bake cheesecake and Japanese custard

Strawberry roll cake

Before going back to Tokyo, of course we won't missed this Sake museum just inside the Echigo-Yuzawa station.  Free entry, but for sake tasting we need to pay 500 yen for 5 tokens and one cup.  It is a self-service sake machine.  So what you need to do, first of all you need to decide which sake you gonna have out of 100 more different kind of sake to choose from.  Then just put your cup in the place provided and put in the token accordingly (some only need one token or the better sake will cost more tokens).  Then press the button and there the sake that you want will filled up your tiny cup and when it stopped, you can grab your cup and enjoy.  There is a little description in each box and also the ranks of some of the top sake. 

After a long day, at night we just grabbed some quickey dinner.  Opposite our hotel in Nippori, there is this self-picking dishes type of restaurant chain in Japan.  Mine is actually more like a Japanese breakfast dish.  But who cares, that perfectly fits with what I need at that time.  Light and delicious. So Octie Appetie guys and will see you soon in the next blog.  

Mizuya Cafe
Opposite Echigo Yuzawa station (West exit) and on the ground floor of Hatago Isen Ryokan

2427-3 Yuzawa, Yuzawa Town, Niigata (inside Echigo-Yuzawa station)
Ph: +81 25 784 3758
Opening hours: 09:00 - 18:00 (between January and March 09:00 - 20:00)
Admission fee: FREE, sake tasting 500 yen

19 December 2017

Konbanwa From Tokyo, Again!!

This is my third round in Japan.  I will explore a few new more places and food.  This trip is a short one only 6 days 5 nights with Hong Kong Airline and on the way back we make a long stop over at Hong Kong.  Hope you guys will enjoy my blog in Japan... 

We catched Skyliner instead of NEX from Narita Airport direct to Nippori.  My favourite place to stay in Tokyo, it would be Ikebukuro.  But this time we went with the whole big family and they arranged it in advance for us.  So we stayed together at Mystay Hotel Nippori.  It is less than 10 minutes walk from Nippori station, however the area is pretty quite and less shops and restaurants compared to Ikebukuro.

After dropped our luggages in the hotel, we then pre-booked our JR train schedule for the next 3 days at Ueno Station.  We bought JR Wide Pass that valid for three consecutive days.  Perfect for us that stay there for four days.  It costs us 10,000yen and need to be purchased outside Japan like any other JR Pass.

Then for dinner, we had some random ramen around Ueno.  The shop is a typical Japanese ramen shop packed with locals, squishy sitting area all facing the bar/kitchen and vending machine used to order the food but all in Japanese.  However, the lady was so nice and kindly help us in ordering the food.  There was a huge bowl full of ramen and toppings sat in front of me that abit too much for me to handle it alone.  But it was a great dish and the broth was so thick and flavoursome.

After that, we headed to Shibuya for my favourite sushi bar.  I don't know the exact name of the shop but from the busy Shibuya crossing, you just need to keep walking straight and the sushi bar is on your right side.  This is a standing sushi bar.  The chef make-to-order fresh according to your order.  The price is reasonable and good quality ingredients used to satisfy customers.  This was the third time we were here and they always serve equally good sushi.  Happy tummy....

Sushi was just our light midnight snack.  Next, we tried the grilled Kobe beef on skewers.  I only tried the 500yen beef, because I don't want to spend all of my money on the first day.  Because there are plenty more other goodies around Tokyo.  The charred oily part of the beef was the best part from all.  I would have ten more stick if it is free.  It is that delicious and melting-in-my-mouth.

For the next five nights, we stayed at Hotel Mystays Nippori.  It is far from the word luxury but the price is quite cheap and friendly service too.  The room is just a standard ordinary Tokyo-hotel room.  The bed was too tiny for the three of us.  However, the room is completed with small pantry.

Hotel Mystays Nippori
5 Chome-43-7 Higashinippori, Tokyo
Ph: +81 3 3891 2710

Stay tuned for the next blog still in Japan:
Gala Yuzawa Snow Town

08 December 2017

Vientiane, Laos


We back to Vientiane again.  To fit all the things that I done in Vientiane and all the yummy food that I tried in one post is very hard.  So, I will only name a few.  

Tha Ngon

Heua Phae Tha Ngon Lao Derm Restaurant
We had lunch at one of the famous restaurant located in the middle between Vang Vieng to Vientiane.  You have the choice to just sit in dining area of the restaurant overlooking the calm flowing water or get onto the big bamboo-rafting like house and floating around the river while having you delicious meals and completed with karaoke to perfection the entire journey with friends and family.  However, there is a little extra cost for the boat.  As we came with a little boy, we thought it would be a little hard to handle him on the boat.  The food was pretty good but quite pricey compared to any other restaurant in Vientiane. 

Wat Pha That Luang Vientiane


Wat Phra Kaew Vientiane

Wat Si Muang
This is what the local belief that any unmarried couple should avoid this temple.  Because they believe, people will break up if you visit this temple together with your partner.  The story begin with long time ago when they built this temple, (old time belief) that they need one people to sacrifice his/her life to be thrown inside the the pole to guard the temple.  In the mean time, there was this women while pregnant and broken heart, she decided to end her life and sacrifice herself to be buried underneath the pole.  That's why she died with heart broken and disbelieve of any couple life. 

Stir fry squid with salted egg

Deep fried morning glory with salad

Larb ped (duck larb)

Mushroom soup (Gaeng hed)

Vientiane night market on the riverside promanade

A must try French-style baguette, very crunchy on the outside and soft inside.  The filling of lao-style baguette is far different from the one we get in Western world.  It is closer to Vietnamese pork roll with home made pate', some fresh vegetables and pork (ham and shredded pork).  Very very delicious.

Khao Jee Pate (Lao-style baguette)

My own style Lao baguette

Heua Phae Tha Ngon Lao Derm Restaurant
Hay Village (Tha Ngon), Saythany District, Vientiane
Ph: +856 (020) 5550 3108, (020) 5525 7018

Inter City Hotel
24-25 Fa Ngum Road
Ph: +856 21 242 842

06 December 2017

Vang Vieng, Laos


From Nong Khai, we headed toward the border area and crossed the Friendship Bridge that connected Thai and Laos.  Very easy process through the immigration, however visa is needed for Australian and you can do Visa On Arrival that cost roughly around AUD40.

The capital city of Laos is Vientiane where the Friendship Bridge is.  However, on that day we drove further north to the small town called Vang Vieng.  The city where serene and nature view is their charms and adventurous activities is their selling point.  It was another 3-4 journey from Vientiane.

Tham Chang Cave bridge

The water in Tham Chang Cave is very turquoise and clear.  But the best place to play water is in Blue Lagoon, which we didn't have a chance to go there.  This place is highly recommended by alot of reviews from Tripadvisor.

From kayaking, tubing to riding the long tail boat are some of the popular water activities that reachable from most resorts.  The water is pretty shallow, so you will be able to cross to the other side, but it is quite cold though.

Picturesque view from our resort

At night, we wandered around the town and found lots of street food everywhere.  These some local delicacies that we can manage to take back to the resort and relaxly enjoyed it.  Such as grilled pork, Lao-style baguette and roti (sweet).

Stay tuned for the next blog of new year end trip:
Vientiane, Laos