Home again, home again . . .
Hokng Kong's humidity is worse than home--note to self, don't go to Hk or Macau in the summer.
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Felt a bit under the weather and went back for an hour's nap before heading out again. The thing about the city centre on HK island is that it is quite walkable. I almost got lost, but managed to find my way again.
Had dinner at Mak's Noodles (wanton and dumpling noodles) and She Wang Fun (claypot rice and seasonal snake dishes) with kit, who made some time in her schedule to entertain me. I did not touch the snake soup. Not that I am squeamish, but it's not even winter yet and the need for warming soups is not very high.
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Made it to Macau and took a free shuttle to the Lisboa--or rather the giant golden mutant offspring of a pineapple and a turnip next door to the Lisboa. It's casino-centre here in downtown Macau--not my kind of thing.
So I didn't get to go to Robuchon a Galera (due to a fully-booked lunch room), but my parents are going for lunch there tomorrow. I missed a Michelin Star restaurant by a hair--ah well.
We had pretty good dim sum at the Lisboa's restaurant instead.
*must remember that parents do not move very fast* *must remember that parents never moved very fast*
And Mum lost her handphone sometime after buying souvenir cookies. Blamed it on me as usual. *sigh*
A Filipina at the small park behind the church offered to walk around with me. She had just been laid off and had nothing to do. Nice of her to offer, but I was in a hurry and not in that great a mood. Limited time, limited patience . . .
I did most of the suggested route on my own, having lost the parents somewhere around the Leal Senado.
Made it for my ferry by catching a cab once I hit the main road down at the Leal Senado. Was so hungry that I ate at the Macdonald's at the ferry terminal building.
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Had dim sum for breakfast with kit at a restaurant near her place. They still push around the large metal carts with fried carrot cake and other dishes. According to kit, they don't do that in many restaurant back at home anymore as it is potentially painful and dangerous work.
As it turned out, my parents had not had breakfast and were a bit put out by the fact that I had good dim sum. (Communication, we all fail at it.) After breakfast at a nearby McDonald's--I know, I know--and a quick run to a Watson's to buy a brolly and some water for my mum we made our way through the rain to the church and sought sanctuary for a while. After a while, the rain slackened off and we went on to the Peak Tram terminal.
The sales person was trying to sell us combination tickets to Madam Tussuad's, but we were not interested in wax figures. ("No, Dad, a wax figure of Tiger Woods/Bruce Lee/Barrack Obama is still not the real thing . . . ") As it was a cloudy day, the view from the Peak could have been better.
Lunch at a dim sum place kit recommended us. Urp. That was a bit indulgent. Had to walk a bit after that so we went window shopping in Wan Chai.
Went up the Midlevels with the 'rents by escalator and on foot. Dad stopped for foot reflexology while Mum and I moved on to the Catholic church. It was a bit difficult to find, but we got there in the end.
After the excesses of lunch, we all were more than okay to eat pho at a Vietnamese place on the slope under the escalators.
Shuffled back to kit's place. I have dan tat!
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Finally made it to HK Airport and to the main Island to meet up with kit. Bunking over at kit's apartment--it's nice to have a place for yourself. *quashes thoughts of moving out*
Went out for food (which was an exercise in the evils of pork-and-beef-based products shoved between slices of white bread) before crashing for a while.
Met my parents later for dinner on the Kowloon side before heading back by train. Got to try the ferry next time.
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It's shopping time! Frankly, I'm not that kind of person who likes to spend more than 3 hours shopping, but the others are.
So we went to Harajuku in the morning. In Takashita Dori, it was very easy to feel old. My friends went into the stores selling the Korean-style cloths (fluffy layers are in) and the pharmacies (of course) before we hit H&M.
It was crowded in there. But not as bad as Forever-21 next door, which had a queue snaking out the front door. I went on walk-about along Omote-sando before rejoining them inside. To my surprise, at the end of it all, J's friend and I bought the most pieces. (I only bought 3 pieces--two tops and a dress.)
We walked up Omote-sando to look for a lunch venue. Found one in the side-lanes and had a good lunch before going back to Ikebukuro for a short rest before the evening.
J's friend has a friend whose family has a Vietnamese restaurant. So we went to Saigon in Ikebukuro after shopping at Loft for dinner. It was great--rice rolls, squid, pho and dessert.
The time has come for us to part ways. Woe is I. Parting is such sweet sorrow. It has been good--good food and good company. Great company in fact. T___T
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The pig-out continues. Then the waitress brought out a platter with three different types of tonkatsu on top of shredded lettuce and spaghetti bolognese. Cheese, miso and shiso--yikes. The second platter came out and there was even gyoza tonkatsu.
We tried our best to finish them, but there were two slices left. The staff bagged them in foil--they do not believe in wasting good tonkatsu, so good for them.
Still feeling the tonkatsu form lunch, we headed over to Le Maison for dinner and dessert--dessert being the thing girls have the auxiliary stomach for. (True fact--even the Japanese girls.)
Had the Mont Blanc cake. (I always have one when I'm in Japan.) And it was fabulous.
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Ginza in the afternoon. It's a bit out of our price range, but there was the 100% Chocolate Cafe (Kiyobashi Station, Exit 5) by Meiji. With 56 types of chocolate!
J had an unfortunate reaction to that one raw shrimp on the sushi--she's allergic to them, poor thing--and we retired back to Ikebukuro for her to rest and detox. It got much better after a lot of water and a short nap.
J's Japanese friend joined us at dinner and we had dessert at Denny's afterwards because it's the only place that opens late (24 hours a day). Pancakes at 10pm! Girl talk is something very different, when done in groups like this. I tried my best, but it's not really my thing.
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We went to Hakone with J's Japanese friend--who was not the one doing the guiding. It's onsen time!
The Hakone Freepass is a very useful thing. It covers all transport in Hakone (except for that bus up to the pension) and can give discounts at attractions. For once, we had the time to go visit one of those attractions.
We trained it to Hakone (after a slightly late start due to an "accident" on the Odakyu Line) and went to the Hakone Open Air Museum.
Lunch was at the Bella Foresta restaurant buffet. The chocolate mochi in the dessert section was fab. Then we remembered that we were there to see the museum. Eheheh . . .
It was a fabulous experience. "Man and Pegasus" was our favourite statue. And "Closer" was the gag favourite and will henceforce be known as the "passed out drunk position"/"ate too much and passed out position".
The lovely Hakone-no-mori Okada has been putting up with the likes of me since 2005 or so. I pop by with relatives and friends now and then and this was the second largest group I brought over.
I had asked for the "Japanese culture experience" advertised on the website and I thought it would be small individualised portions of sashimi and soba. The feast that awaited us was phenomenal assortment of dishes with sashimi on a small boat-like dish and massive fried shrimp that would give a guy penis envy. We forged forward bravely, no doubt regretting the large amount of lunch we had. I got unwarranted praise for organising the trip--dude, I only wrote an email to the pension and asked.
My travel-planning skills are apparently awesome. (You try travelling with people who leave all the planning to you for six or seven trips and you'd be good at this organising business too.) But I won't give up my day-job. Being a travel guide is almost as stressful as my real job.
The arrival of an unexpected complication has taught me to pay attention to the smaller details and not underestimate my body's ability to screw up. (I sound like a fortune cookie.)
The anti-clockwise route around Hakone was punctuated with rest stops and much food sampling--especially at Owakudani. Like wasabi ice-cream. And black nikku-man. Pluse egg ice-cream (custard-flavoured). On top of the black eggs cooked in the sulphur pits (seven years extra on your life bar).
Back in Tokyo, weshoved the bags into lockers and went out to Shinjuku to shop and have dinner. Shinjuku is a kind of sensory overload plus neon plus a lot of people thronging the streets around the busiest train station in the world. I was feeling it when they were in the pharmacy and I was wut? because my hormones were at an all time low.
Dinner--after a mad search of crowded yakitori joints--made everything better. That and the shochu with lemon.
I don't normally drink during a meal--after, yes. The thing is, this group of my friends are non-drinkers. Outside of that one time at a club, I don't think I've ever had a drink with them. (My job and my friends probably kept me from becoming an alcoholic.)
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This holiday is going to be the one where I might gain weight despite the walking. Went to the Yokohama Ramen Museum and had two bowls of ramen. Mini-bowls, they were labelled. Still filling though. The Sapporo ramen shop Eki was the best--with an inch of oil floating above the soup and springy, almost al dente noodles. (Slightly better than the bankara last night when the lard was floating on top of the stock. Delicious and warming.)
Yokohama's Chinatown is still a touristy tourist trap. We had to be the only tourists who were there and did not eat Chinese food or buy a large nikku-man. (Teh irony.)
PSA: The Curry Museum closed last year, but not all guidebooks are up to date--like my friend's guidebook. (Make your own--it's always better.) The walk was not wasted as we went to the nearest Uniqlo and Daiso to shop.
Got a bit damp today. It rained when we were going back to the hotel and I shared my brolly with my friend who forggot her own. This has been the rainiest season I have spent in Japan.
(I doubt I will find any tigers for my aunt. Those things are made for the new year.)
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Today was a leisurely Sunday with a lot of appointments and a lot of food. But at least I walked a lot. Shinjuku Park is very nice on weekends--everyone lolling around on the grass and me sitting on a bench reading BL manga I bought from Akihabara in the morning (half-way behind a bush because there were children running around). I'd have lolled on the grass too, but I didn't bring my poncho.
Met Ange for lunch, which was monjyu at an okonomiyaki place in Shinjuku. Smelling faintly of pork and cheese/seafood monjyu, we wandered off to Afternoon Tea for afternoon tea. For the price of the tea, we sat our butts down for two hours before heading for Nakano and the warren of shops that is Nakano Broadway (very misleading place name--it's a lot of narrow corridors), all filled with assorted goods and items of specialised interest.
Went back to Ikebukuro and the usual run-around Otome Dori--eheheh . . . An SMS from one of my friends brought me back to the station and the travel party was almost complete. Met J's Japanese friend a little later and we went out for dinner. The thing about going out with friends instead of family members is that you stay out very much later.
And I drank coffee for the first time in years. A very good macha latte.
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Now I remember why I don't like transits. Expensive airport food, boring lounges and arriving in Tokyo very late. *yawn*
Note to self and for anyone else doing late flights:
- Food at HK airport is expensive.
- Trains from the airport get fewer towards the end of the day.
- Counters for discount tourist transport passes close at 9pm.
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In my everlasting quest to be a jack of all trades (and thus eventually the master of none), I took up Japanese clay craft--another not-that-cheap hobby.
Made a dim sum set for a friend (left), which I will be carting over when I go overseas. (First efforts, ehhh . . . Could have been better.) Got spring rolls too--on the square plate, but that was before the pic was taken.
I'm going overseas. Just as the WHO declared a pandemic. Joy.
First time going on-board the plane with the full kit-and-caboodle of surgical masks, hand-sanitiser and disinfectant wet-wipes.
But it's with friends and not-my-aunt. Fingers and all limbs crossed now.
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