Night out at Tokyo Sky Tree

As Sensoji Temple and Tokyo Sky Tree are in the same area (at least according to the train line), I had planned to check out both on the same day. But nearer the end of my trip because I wanted to get the Tokyo Banana Tree – Choco Banana flavour only available at Tokyo Sky Tree! But I changed my plan (the beauty of solo, free & easy travel) upon arrival and decided to visit Senjoji Temple – read more about my first day in Tokyo.

I got lost trying to get from the former to the latter. Did I tell you that this trip was planned in a week – flight bought 7 days ahead, accommodation booked 3 days before and itinerary put together over 1 weekend?

Being my first trip to Tokyo, I didn’t know that the Asakusa train station nearer Sensoji Temple did not have a train to Tokyo Sky Tree (note to fellow first-time traveller to Tokyo). I had to walk to another station by the same name and I could not find it. In the end I landed in another station where I was advised to take a bus instead. Well, on the positive side, I maximised my Tokyo travel 2 day pass (highly recommended too).

The tower was beckoning at me throughout the day – I could see it while exploring Sensoji Temple. And it did not disappoint. The night view was one of the best I have seen in my life  – Tokyo is so beautiful from the top! I was feeling on top of the world up there in the tower!

Would have been nice to spend more time in the shopping precinct – I enjoyed browsing the shops, having dinner at Rokurinsha and deciding what to buy at the Tokyo Banana shop! 🙂 Another reason to return to Tokyo.

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Spot Tokyo Sky Tree Tower in the background? Took this picture of an alley from Sensoji Temple. Kind of like the composition in this picture – selfie, photo bombers, sign-boards, girls in kimonos. man on bike, shop houses, tower – they combined to form a real moment in time.

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It was good to spot the all-surrond Tokyo Sky Tree on my way to it. Although I was lost, I did not feel lost. The kind of lost-but-not-lost feeling if you know what I mean.

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Up-close and personal with Tokyo Sky Tree Tower at sunset. So bright and light before the night fall.

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Decide to go for an early dinner and tried Rokurinsha. This is the first time I ate ramen dipped in thick soup. I like the strong flavours. For those who prefer ramen in light broth, this might not be to your liking.  It was a good decision – the queue was not as long as I thought it would be because this ramen is quite popular, and I did not have to go hungry in the almost 1-hour queue to go up the tower.

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I was wowed by the gorgeous night view of the city from the tower. This picture does not do it justice at all. Spot the other famous tower?

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Selfie while sharing the view with many others 🙂 Looking a bit sheepish towards the end of Day 1 in Tokyo.

#ilovelongvacationjp #travel #tokyoskytree #Rokurinsha #japan #tokyo

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Sensoji aka Asakusa Temple – First stop of first trip to Tokyo

It has been a few years since my last solo trip to Scandinavia and definitely glad to have done it again in March. This time, it was to Tokyo, also my very first trip to this part of Japan – like finally. Wished I had spent more time exploring this vibrant city and experienced the full blooms of the cherry blossoms. But well, the short-but-not-too-short trip gave me a reason to return to the land of the rising sun some day – in late March, early April again.

Back to reality for over 2 months and finally pressing about this trip. The wait (and well, better late than never) was partly due to procrastination and partly due to the hassle of selecting photos from both my iPhone and camera. Gave up in the end and chose the latter for press. I guess the former is more suited for the world of more instant social media like Instagram (by the way, mine is @ilovelongvacation).

So my first stop of this first trip to Tokyo was to the Sensoji Temple. Initially wanted to check out the sakuras in one of the gardens near Shinjuku after checking into the hotel. Was advised by the tourist centre to give them some time to bloom – good advice. That’s why the tourist centre is one of the first places I try to visit in a foreign land.

For me, snacking, shopping, people-watching my way to Sensoji Temple was really more memorable than visiting Tokyo’s oldest temple. Guess many touch points make up the Asakusa experience. Check out some of my favorite below. What’s yours?

#ilovelongvacation #ilovelongvacationjp #travel #japan #tokyo #sensojitemple #asakusatemple

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Hoi An, Wuxi and Suzhou l Old Towns

I love old towns. I love the idea of how these quaint towns have stayed alive, evolved with times and yet stayed charming and touched hearts over the centuries. Gamla Stan ( #throwback to Old Town Again), Tallin (#throwback to Tallin on coach and Tallin on foot) and Old Uppsala (#throwback to I can still see the sky of Old Uppsala) are some of my favorite old towns – you guess right, Scandinavia was where this romance started. And #throwback on Christmas Day brings back fond memories of white old towns.

Lately, I have started to appreciate old towns nearer home. When I visit Asia, I have always gone right into the heart of the cities – gigantic architecture/museums, dazzling promenade, shopping districts, theme parks, Michelin restaurants are  flashing in my head as I press – and overlooked the old towns.

So it was quite cool to chill in the ancient town in Hoi An when we visited Danang, Central Vietnam in April in spite of the hot weather! One can easily spend a day getting lost in the streets lined with shop houses with Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese influences. Today, most are restaurants and shops with a few key landmarks that tell the Hoi An story.

Hoi An

Hoi An Bridge was one of the first sights that greeted us when we entered the old town. Spot any Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese influences? On it is a temple. Crossing it brought us to a street that sells art work, mainly paintings, in shops that feel like galleries – spacious, neat, quiet till you decide to get one. That’s when the chatter and bargaining start.

Had a good time in Hoi An – beyond the old town, we went on a food tour and visited My Son Sanctuary. Shall live to press about these another day. Now off to the old towns in Wuxi and Suzhou!

Travelling with the family to China in June was memorable – it has been years since we traveled so long, so far together. For me, it has also been like a decade since my last guided tour. While I still prefer to travel free & easy, it feels good to follow an itinerary  for a change.

Heard about water towns in China liken to Venice in the east? I took it with a pinch of salt but having seen them for myself , the old towns in Wuxi (Nanchang Street) and Suzhou (Shantang Street) are quite charming. While Venice is more blue, chic (#throwback to Italy – Venice – D10 – Grand Canal), Nanchang Street and Shantang Street are more green, rustic.

We spotted Haagen Dazs and Starbucks along the canal on Nanchang Street. You would find restaurants and shops on Shantang Street too. It’s surreal. Because they fitted right in – a sign of old towns moving with changing times. Wish I had more time to explore them but well, had to leave on the dot of an hour whilst on a guided tour 😛

Glad I chose to press on Christmas Day this year, reminiscing about my travels. Cannot remember what I did last year! But I remember that all I want for Christmas last year was a white Christmas – that didn’t come true this year. It’s been a sunny-turned-raining day in Singapore today. This year, all I want for Christmas is to travel more and make more presses on them. What is your wish? Hope it comes true. Merry Christmas! 🙂

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Phuket and Danang l A Common Thread

Have not pressed for a while (a long while of 13 months!). A recent interview nudged me to press again. I believe things always happen for a reason. Whatever is the final outcome, I am glad this press happened.

One of the reasons (or excuses) for my lack of presses is that I have not traveled much and far in 2016. I summed up my vacations in the first half of the year. Counted a few enjoyable day trips to Johor Bahru, albeit the horrid traffic at times. Was looking forward to a US trip in the second half – that didn’t happened.

This happens in life sometimes  – plans just cannot keep up with changes. I am filled with thanks though –  I visited some of these cities (Phuket, Danang, Hoi-an, Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou) for the first time and I am glad to have gone on the China trip with the family. Discovered a common thread between Phuket and Danang – the beautiful beaches.

A beach vacation always makes one happy. At least it’s a happy quotient for me.

Believe it or not, this was my first trip to Phuket, a popular beach destination in Thailand. Have visited Krabi (check out my post on Krabi in 2007) and the Phi Phi Islands in-between but for some reasons, never Phuket. So so hard not to have fun in Thailand – glad it was my first trip in 2016 in Jan after a somehow hectic Dec in 2015…

20160201_065600Phuket Beach in the eye of my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone which doubled as my camera on this trip. Do you love the bubble-gum-pink-orange-hue post-sunrise like I do?

Didn’t expected My Khe Beach to be so pretty. It wowed us at first sight from our room that faced the beach! Just across the hotel we called home in Danang for 2 nights, it was so so good to have a beach view from dawn to dusk. Holiday Beach Danang Hotel & Resort wowed me too – loved the roof-top swimming pool and complimentary daily massage!

cimg0584 My Khe Beach reminded me of the Gold Coast beaches.Woke  up to catch the sunrise and many locals were already up and about – jogging and swimming at the beach. Happy to discover a side of Vietnam and her people I never knew about! Picture taken with my new Casio EX-FR10 on its very first overseas trip 🙂

There’s also a common thread between Hoi-an and China which I visited with my family in June. Know what is it? Make a guess or stay tuned for the next press.

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Kyoto l Gion Festival

My thoughts as I pressed today.

While change is the only constant, some remain the same. Like Gion Matsuri (祇園祭), the festival of Yasaka Shrine, which dates back to 869.

Was happy to be at the most famous festival in Japan when in Kyoto in July. In spite of the torrid rain, no thanks to the passing typhoon.

There will always be a silver lining. If you see change as positive, it is and will be.

Note to self: Did not managed to press weekly in the past 2 weeks. Got to try harder!

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Kyoto l Zen

I think I now have a better idea of what zen feels like.

For me, it’s that feeling of being at peace with everything – people, things and activities – in spite of what is happening around you.  No expectations from anything, anyone (even yourself or rather your super ego).

For me, it all started with a visit to Ginkakuji…

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) IMG_5765 (1024x768)

Was a joy to walk around the Silver Pavilion which was not a huge compound, just breathing in the fresh air and taking in the scenery.

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion)

Then a walk down Philosopher’s Path under a drizzle. Spotted temples, residential and some shops along the way – popped in at times to  hide from the getting-heavy drizzle.

Philosopher's Path (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi)

And finally Yudofu at Junsei Restaurant. Never imagined that the tofu menu can be so varied, creative and delicious, especially under wet circumstances (like walking in the rain prior).

Yudofu Yudofu, Junsei Restaurant Yudofu, Junsei Restaurant Yudofu, Junsei Restaurant

And it was zen despite the on-off drizzle before the typhoon started to descend in the next two days.

Come to think of it, holidays are probably times when we come close to zen. In an unfamiliar place where there are more strangers than acquaintances, we immerse in a new culture and see new sights, away from digital disruptions (or should I say less? Impossible to have zero technology these days) and from people/matters that demand our attention in life.

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Kyoto l Streets

Happy Sunday! Was looking through the photos taken on Day One in Kyoto last night. Looks like there will be a few more presses on them. Here’s the second one.

From Kiyomizudera Temple (read Kyoto l I wish I may, I wish I might) to Kodaji Temple (won’t be pressing about it – didn’t leave much of an impression on me), we walked through some of the prettiest streets in the Higashiyama District.

From Kiyomizudera Temple, we hit the street of Kiyomizu-Zaka first, then Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka towards Nene-no-Michi Lane. Didn’t planned to spend too much time here but time flies when you go in and out of the varied shops to check out the Kyoto food, confectionery, souvenir. Doesn’t help when Japanese stuff are such pretty sights.

Definitely a joy to explore. See them for yourself!

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