Cafe Habana is very tiny establishment with so much character. 3 people in total – We sat by the front window and ordered ourselves 2 orders of the Mexican Corn, a Cuban and a Chicken Diablo sandwich. The corn comes with 2 per order so I took one for the team and ate 2. All the food was fresh and flavourful and we ate every single morsel off the plates. The corn alone is enough to make you want to come back for more.
This restaurant is located within Bryant Park and hidden gem behind the New York Public Library. It is a great place to people watching. Bryant Park Grill is a American, European steakhouse. It is a little pricey but the food is delicious. I chose the clam chowder to start and for my main I chose the Kumquat Grand Marnier Duck breast with confit leg. it was absolutely mouth watering and ended off the meal with a sweet and savory crepe filled with apple and ricotta cheese.
Chinese cuisine made using fresh ingredients before your eyes where you can get a plate of BBQ Pork or a noodle in soup that is the most satisfying anytime of day. The wonton noodle soup hits the spot.
North Dumpling is literally a hole in the wall but they sure pump out some delicious and cheap dumplings. Whether you are craving fried or steamed – the filling options include pork & chives to vegetable. What’s even better is that you can get 10 dumplings for under $2USD! You heard right. You can see they are being freshly made over the counter as a team of ladies are making magic with their hands. The sesame and scallion pancakes are also delicious items to add to your meal and for all the food, you won’t break your wallet.
A staple ramen spot in the East Village that also offers a roster of dishes such as fried chicken meal. The Noodle Bar also serves slushies and soft serve. They have been quite successful that they have expanded into multiple locations such as Ssäm Bar, Ko, Ma Peche, Fuku and Nishi to name a few. They have even expanded up north to Toronto.
Brasserie Les Halles serves up classics using French techinques. They are known for their escargots and their steak frites for only $22USD. This restaurant is the origin of where Anthony Bourdain once started. Reservations are highly recommended.
East coast version of In-N-Out. Fast food chain that serves up burgers & frozen custard. Multiple locations around and yes there are lines. When it gets busy, they give you a buzzer to let you know when your order is ready. The Peanut butter shake is my GOTO and I have it every chance I get.
I found this treasure when I lived in Los Angeles. This is the best grocery store for anyone who wants good quality items for reasonable prices including organic and all natural ingredients. It is a College kids dream or anyone on a budget type of grocery store similar to Whole Foods.
Yaki Taisho is an Izakaya located in the heart of St Marks Place – Between 3 people, we ordered Takoyaki (this was just right), grilled squid, a set of skewers, Unagi roll and the Duck sashimi paired with a delicious plum sake.
I slept very well that night but awoke to the sound of a Canon DSLR shutter taking photos.
Our hotel being in Shinsaibashi area, the Glico man sign in Dotonbori district isn’t too far away and we found ourselves at Don Quijote again for last minute buys with the little money that we held. We decided we wanted cheap but decent food so we went back to Yoshinoya for food. This time I got curry with a softboiled egg for only 540¥. We made our way to Marinomiya station to visit Osaka Castle and meet up with Georgie’s cousin Alvin who we had previously met last week in Hong Kong at their family dinner. Alvin decided last minute he wanted to visit Japan and also see his girlfriend who is living there for a year. We had no way of contacting him since we didn’t have wifi at the Capsule hotel so we just waited for half an hour outside the main gate of the castle before we decided to head in. He told Georgie if we can’t find him, to go on without him as he was planning on walking there.
Once we walked in we noticed a stage with group of people dancing so we decided to take a closer look. I went to the front row for a better view and looked over to my left and found Alvin also watching these performances. Apparently he had arrived 3 hours earlier and anticipated that we would find him in that area which we did. The performances were really good but my favourite performance was the large group of 6-7 year olds in their little black and yellow outfits doing backflips with such ease and energy.
After the performances, we went into Osaka Castle – I personally don’t recommend it. 600¥ to get in, 6 floors but the inside has been renovated and does not look like a castle at all however the perks of this building is the view from the top floor, otherwise not worth it. When we left the castle, we somehow found ourselves inside a gym. It was a samurai/sword training dojo and there was a contest or exam going on so we decided to watch for a bit. We wandered along the rest of Osaka Castle park and since it was only 430-5PM, we walked back to our area in Shinsaibashi. We decided that we had time for a sit down dinner at an izakaya close by with 100¥ a piece menu. It wasn’t that great and I guess we weren’t keeping track of time too well that Alvin looked at his watch and it read 730PM and he abruptly said “you guys should leave now.” We had lost track of time.
Our flight was for 910PM with Peach Aviation and we needed to arrive 30 minutes ahead to check-in. We took the JR line to Kansai airport but didn’t realize how long it would take especially with all the stops. It was our most expensive train/bus ticket at 1030¥. We made it to the Peach check-in counter at 910PM. Needless to say, we missed our flight.
The info counter had told us the next flight back to to HKG was with Cathay Pacific for roughly 2000-2500CAD for a one way last minute. We were all frantic and looking for options.
Our options were:
1 – Buy the $2000+CAD 1 way ticket to HKG to connect to our existing flight home to Toronto
2 – Delay our home-bound flight a day and book Peach again for $385CAD the following night
3 – Fly home from Osaka and pay the equivalent of our roundtrip ticket on a one way.
Luckily we held off a few hours until we got a hold of the travel agent back home we booked our main flight with. Good thing HKG had good wifi connection and Georgina had her tablet and Skype. We got in contact with Josephine our travel agent and she altered our flight from HKG and got it pushed to 24 hours for an addition fee of $100. We then tried to book our flight with peach but at one point we couldn’t enter information in and we panicked. We found a fellow overnight guest who had a laptop and used it to book our flight. We took over a section of the seating area at the airport and stayed overnight since we decided not to leave the airport and spend more money. Good thing we had wifi and found a plug to charge everything. I felt so drowsy but couldn’t sleep so I would walk around. The best thing about waking up or being up at this time is catching the sunrise. Collectively we had 2022¥ left to spend on food for all of us for the day (trying not to spend any more money besides what whatever yen we had on us). We ended up sticking with Lawsons and grabbing cheap food – onigiri.
Since we missed our flight, I let Kayo know and she messaged back that she was on her way. Before she arrived, there was this African American man in monks clothing (jap style) with a baby strapped to his chest that approach and asked me if I spoke english as I pulled out my earbuds. I was thoroughly baffled but it turns out this man knows Georgina but hadn’t seen her since she was 5 or 10 years old. Jean louis with his 10 month old name Genevieve came to visit us at the Airport after Kayo called him. Jean Louis was Georgina’s neighbour back home. He has been living in Japan for 15 years. He went into the monastery and became a monk but then met his current partner and broke that monk seal however he is planning on going back thus he wears the attire to keep him focused. At this moment, he is a stay-at-home dad but is going to pursue his masters for Economics and continue practicing his samurai sword techniques.
Kayo arrived shortly after coming from her parents house about an hour and half away just to see us off again. She brought these scrumptuous waffles for us as well.
We spent 24 hours at Kansai airport and it finally ended with a somewhat quick flight to Hong Kong airport. We had 12 hours to wait at HKG airport before we could check in to connect to our flight back home to Toronto. We had tons of HKD money leftover so we felt like queens living in the airport and eating without worrying about money. We finally were able to check in at noon and we went for our final meal of the trip pre-14-15 hour flight. Wonton noodles from the food court (not the best broth but good wontons) to end the trip.
Since we stayed at J-Hoppers for 5 days, we got a free bike day. After packing our things, Georgie and myself went biking for about 2 hours and made sure to be back by noon as we had to go meet Kayo at 1PM for a day trip to Nara. When we returned, Daniel showed us his bike that he had purchased for roughly 300CAD. It was a foldable bike called Yeah. We said our goodbyes as he went on his way enroute to Tokyo while we waited for Shela’s return. She had taken the train to Nando station for a 100¥ shop and found Japanese peaches. She had to wait for the bus which made her late, luckily we called Kayo to let her know we would be late. We arrived at the station to meet with Kayo quickly and purchased our ticket to Nara which was 480¥ (our most expensive one just yet for a single ride). To get through the ticket gate from our station, you had to combine the tickets into the ticket slot and then it spat back out the Nara ticket. The train went around the mountain and gave us a nice scenic view.
We went directly for the deer park and grabbed the deer crackers 150¥ a pack. The deers have been in Nara for thousands of years so they roam free. If you bow to them, they will bow to you for food. But be aware, the deers swarm when they see food. They are suppose to be polite but occasionally they will headbutt you in the butt or pull on your shirt for food so when you don’t have any crackers left you are to show them your hands to show them there is nothing left. It was very cute to see the kids make them bow. The Sika deer are free roaming especially in the park but they do go into town. The deer have become symbols of luck and have a slight deity status which makes them sacred and protected so killing one could be punishable by death. Even if you don’t have food, it is great to see that if you bow to a deer they will bow back to you.
We also went to see the Big Buddha in the temple which cost 500¥. Nothing too special but the courtyard was beautiful and the grass was pristine.
We ate near the train station where we had udon noodles. For only 680¥, I grabbed the egg soup udon noodles which was the perfect size and so delicious. We also found the Daiso (which is Japan’s 100¥ shop) selling pretty much anything and everything you could need for a home. On the train heading home, there were these 2 gentlemen sitting across from us – you could clearly tell they had been drinking. At one point they stood up but wasn’t fast enough to get off at their stop so they stayed on. One of the guys then decided to approach Kayo to tell her that he thought we are all beautiful ladies and gave us a box of special sushi. Fruits and sushi are given as gifts for any occasion. We aren’t sure as to what kind of sushi at this point but Kayo tells us that it is good. However, that man didn’t want to get off the train but his friend got too embarrassed and made both of them get off. As the train pushed away, the man kept waving frantically.
When we returned to J-Hoppers, Shela cut open the peaches she bought earlier and we ate them before we left. At first, the first piece I had wasn’t anything special but then I took a piece from the second peach and it was so good! The skin has a softer texture to what I’m used to and it is just so juicy. Those peaches were incredibly tasty and unlike the regular peaches back home.
We have had an amazing high of 28, low of 15 degree weather since we arrived in Japan so a light shower came down as we grabbed our things from J-hoppers and departed for our new home for the night – Capsule Hotel Asahi Plaza in Shinsaibashi. We really wanted to experience what it would be like to sleep overnight in a capsule. We arrived and tried to get settled. The thing is a capsule hotel is very simple and bare. You take off your shoes immediately and put them into a designated shoe locker, grab the key and give it to front desk (you should remember your number). There are lockers for charging and maybe 1 plug inside the capsule areas. You get a capsule key holder with a big key and a small key – the big one opens the main corridor for the women’s only section (there are single gendered & co-ed dorms as well) and the small one is for your locker where you can store things. Mind you, it is tiny – 88CMx24CMx44CM so you can throw things in there like your personal bag and things you would need from your luggage. If it is too large, the luggage gets stored at reception for 200¥ a night but the good thing is that 200¥ gives you 24 hours of storage.
The bathing area is an open area with 1 stand up shower and 5 sitting with a tub to soak in – very traditional Japanese style bathhouse arrangement. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body sponge and facial wash are provided for you. So the proper etiquette for taking a shower in this onsen is you go into the main room of the shower room where there are little lockers to store your clothes and lock it up. You strip down then go into the bath room and choose your spot. You want to rinse yourself first then go abouts with your personal hygienic business. There are mirrors but I would say try to avoid looking at them since the mirrors are placed in angles that you could potentially lock eyes with someone else in the room. After people wash and clean themselves, some opt to soak in the tub (I did not) and then you get out, dry off and dress. I’m not the biggest fan of communal shower but at least I can say I’ve stayed at a capsule hotel and I’ve also done the whole communal bath house that is part of Japanese culture.
The capsule is for sleeping. It’s not too small but I hit my head 3 times on the built-in television. If you are sitting straight up in your pod, there is still space around for those who feel claustrophobic. There are capsules where you need to crawl straight in and then there are some that you go sideways in. You also have either someone on top or under you as well. You have a bamboo type curtain that separates you from the rest of the pods with a light and air constantly being blown into your space.
We met with Kayo at 10AM at Kyobashi station for a day trip to Kyoto.
From Kyobashi station, we took the Keihan train line (about 30 minutes) to Inari station where our main destination started – Fushimi Inari shrine. This was also Kayo’s first time to Fushimi Inari too so we didn’t really know what to expect. Kayo was a trooper for walking in wedges. We didn’t know before coming that Fushimi Inari is actually a temple built on a mountain. This temple made a huge appearance in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha with the orange tori gates. The main tori gates that appear in the film aren’t too long and are actually 2 paths that end before opening up into another set of gates that take you up the mountain. I decided to wear pants that day and although it was hot, it was a good decision – my eyebrow, chest and feet got attacked by bugs. When you finally make it to the top of the mountain, the sight is gorgeous as you can see the skyline of Kyoto from above before heading back down. Kyoto is also known for it’s mochi unfortunately we didn’t buy any however we did sample the triangle mochi dessert. Kayo also treated us to taiyaki (waffles made in fish shapes filled with red bean or other fillings) as well as takoyaki (squid balls).
After that long journey through Fushimi Inari, we journeyed on by train to Gion-Shinjo station to venture Yasaka Jinja Shrine, another temple with multiple temples inside. But first, we had ramen for lunch at a small local ramen shop. We all order the standard and added gyoza dumplings. The broth was a little different from what I’ve had – more soy sauce-y/ salty but nonetheless it tasted really good. The noodles were perfect but I feel like the best I’ve ever had still is hands down Daikokuya in Little Tokyo in LA. Our walk to the ramen place was really nice because the area had old buildings mixed with new but still so quaint.
We walked over to Yasaka-Jinja Shrine towards Maruyama Park. It was a cute park with a large settlement of ravens. Made our way to Sorin-ji temple and wanted to go see the big head temple but it was closed. We walked over to Chion-In temple but by the time we reached it, the temple was closed. NOTE: temples close early in Kyoto (5PM or slightly earlier).
Since temples were closing, we walked back to the station walked through an old street with old houses which had been turned into restaurants. We took the train back to Kyobashi and decided to have dinner in the area. The restaurant we went to for dinner we ordered from a machine that was all in Japanese. This restaurant required us to goto the second floor and order through the machine with no pictures which would in return give you a ticket stub after you paid. Luckily we had Kayo with us to read and translate for us. We treated Kayo to pizza, Shela and Georgie opted for curry rice and I got the omurice (rice in an omelet) with ketchup.
We got back to the hostel and Kyohei handed each of us 1 free drink ticket – it was Friday already. It was international party drinking night. Georgie grabbed herself a Peachtree and orange, Shela grabbed the plum wine and I grabbed the cassis and orange. Sebastian who was making drinks for us, volunteers at the hostel lives about a 5 minute bike ride away. He is originally from Portland, OR but has since been living in Japan for 8 years – He even has a Japanese drivers license. He was telling us his apartment costs roughly $900CAD. As we introduced ourselves to Sebastian, we met another guy named Daniel who is from Alberta who is part aboriginal. He’s been in Japan for about a week and a half so far and leaves tomorrow for Tokyo. His birthday was at the end of September so he celebrated in Roppungi in Tokyo as he turned 28. We also met a few Germans, Brits and also a group of people from Thailand – 2 girls named Patch and Pam and a group of 6 guys who were all medical students who only get 10 days off from school.
Did you know that you are never suppose to pour your own drink in Japan. If someone sees that your cup is empty, you are to pour for them and vice versa. Also, if you give someone your business card, you are to put it into your dress shirt pocket and not into your wallet (which you sit on) because you are sitting on their business.
With a late start, we did laundry at the hostel and grabbed some onigiri from 7-Eleven before making our way to the Ramen Museum by Ikeda Station. We needed to take the train to Osaka Station to switch over to the Hankyu line. The Ramen museum is free and showcases the origins of cup noodle and the design and packaging methods throughout the years. We made our own customized cup noodle for 300¥. To make your own personalized cup, you put money into a vending machine to receive a blank cup noodle cup. You then proceed to an area where you are free to design and colour your cup any which way you want before getting in line to choose your soup base and 4 ingredients before they vacuum seal it then placing it in an inflatable bag to take it away and protect it.
We were to meet Kayo for dinner at 6PM near Osaka station however we got distracted by Yodobashi Camera Store (so bright and so many signs) that we were late to meet Kayo. We met at Tennoji station and walked over to Tsuruhashi Fugetsu Yodobashiumeda for Okonomiyaki (cabbage and egg pancakes with meat). We chose to share 4 – shrimp, potato & cheese, squid with noodle, and beef. Kayo also ordered something that had meat and mochi which was really good. They bring your order to your table where they have a flat top where they cook it right in front of you.
After dinner, Kayo took us into another building called Abeno Q’s Mall. There are tons of 100¥ shops as well as one of our favourite stores – Uniqlo (much larger than the one at Daimura Mall). Very strange to see the lack of security they had in the malls to “lock-up” their stores using only netting.
The moment I met Mr Yano, I knew it was a good choice to stay at this hostel. He is about 60 years old and runs J-Hoppers – Osaka. He is quite the character and his laugh is mesmerizing.
He has a few english phrases he likes to say:
-Very cheap, get drunk.
-Oh my gawd!
-Oh it’s a happy time
J-Hopper offers local city walks or adventures with Mr Yano and other staff each day of the week. The event in particular for that day was a citywalk and dressing in a traditional kimono led by Mr Yano. There was a group of 13 and we took the train to Temma station (120¥) where Tenjinbashisuji – the longest street of stores is hold. It takes about an hour to just walk through but beware of people riding their bikes along pedestrians. We had people from Washington, Australia, Holland, Korea and people teaching in Korea with us on this walkabout. Mr Yano stopped by a few places that have cheap drinks as well as the brick wall that still is standing after 100 years. The little shops are family owned and showed us a store with a mother and her daughter selling sweets and other confections in which they live above the store.
Mr Yano took us to Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (600¥) where they have a replica of the 1830’s samurai house / village that we are able to walk through and also try on kimonos. There are staff members who get you dressed in traditional kimonos and give you accessories like a purse and you trade in your footwear for wooden sandals. You get tucked in real tight then they take a rope-like cloth and strap it around you like a corset before taking another long red cloth and end it off with a bow. After you are fully dressed, you are allowed to wander the perimeters the replica village (for about 30 minutes) to get a feel for what life was like back then. To add to the realism, you are also walking in wooden sandals so your steps are small and slower. It was a great experience and the kimonos were beautiful.
When we returned into our regular clothing, Mr Yano took us for conveyor belt sushi 130¥ a plate (very cheap). It was so good! Each plate that comes around are categorized by a colour which let you know how much each plate costs. When you sit down, you can grab a tea cup and then to your left, there are 2 little bottles with matcha green tea powder and another tea powder. You need to open the bottle of tea powder and shake twice into your cup and add water from the tap in front of you. We separated from the group after lunch and walked the rest of Tenjinbashisuji before coming upon a temple called Osaka Tenmangu. It is the most famous of all the many tenjin shrines located throughout Japan. There is a fountain at the front of every temple that we watched the locals use. It is proper etiquette to use the water fountain to purify oneself before entering. First you start by filling the cup/ladle with water, pour some on your left hand then your right before pouring a little bit in your left hand taking a sip and spit it out.
After the temple we returned to Umeda & Osaka station to shop at Daimaru Umeda where on the 10th to 12th floor held Tokyu Hands which sells pretty much everything. Jack of all trades type of store with some products only the Japanese can think of. Also on the 13th floor was Uniqlo and a visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Pokemon Center. We continued onto Hankyu Street to find my favourite store – Don Quixote which sells cheap and comical things as well as an assortment of Japanese candies and snacks. To say the least, I left with a bag full of candies to last me a lifetime. Every Wednesday at J-Hoppers, Mr Yano runs a walking day tour and offers to take whomeever for a Izakaya dinner at night. Every Friday is international drinking night. We just made it back in time to join the group for dinner. It was a group of 6 guys and Mr Yano. Max was originally from Rochester, New York but works for a bank in China for the past 5 years. Chris is from Scotland who will continue onward to Cairns, Australia after Japan. Felix and Philip are from Quebec – one is a Sound Technician and the other is a Social Worker and finally Dominic and David from the UK who are lawyers but working for a bank. It was a great night with good company and good food. We had sukiyaki, pork cutlet, dumplings and of course beer and sake! Sake can be served multiples ways – served cold or served hot. Ended the night off stargazing on our hostels rooftop.
The weather is amazing but the sun is strong. The girls wanted to sleep so I strolled around the streets and noticed that our hostel was actually situated beside a elementary school. It was undōkai (Sports day) and I asked the PTA if I could watch and take some photos which they had allowed.
We were confused about what ticket to purchase us to get to the Osaka Aquarium. Luckily we saw a caucasian man there. Our theory is if we get lost here, we look for a caucasian to help us out. We asked the man and he said his wife (Japanese) could ask for us. They apparently live a prefecture or 2 away and so the area isn’t that familiar to them either. From Fukushima station we connected to Bentencho then to Osakako. Once we arrived, we walked into the 7-Eleven and grabbed us some onigiri (triangle rice balls with seaweed on the outside and assorted filling) for lunch. We purchased our ticket at the Tempozan Ferris Wheel which gave us a deal for the aquarium and ferris wheel for 2600¥ (admission for aquarium is 2000¥). We decided to go aquarium first as it was around 1-130PM and the sun was roasting us.
My favourite part of the aquarium was the great barrier reef section as it reminded me of my great barrier reef experience in Australia but this time I had a camera that didn’t fail. The ferris wheel has 2 see through bottom carts but the wait was 30 minutes so we opted for the standard and up we went. It was nice to see Osaka from that angle. It’s outer limits are lined with mountains and then a few tall building but not too many and opposite of Hong Kong skyline.
Back to Osaka station then we walked to Umeda station to meet Georgina’s friend Kayo (kai-oh) in front of Kinokuniya (a bookstore) and 2 big screen tv named Big man. Kayo came over to Toronto on exchange to learn english and lived with Georgina’s neighbour. She worked for a magazine answering phones (in english). We told her we wanted to try grilling meat on a wire grill top. She told us its called Yakiniku (jap version of korean bbq but much better and on a wire grill top) and we ate at Aburiya Plus Grand on the 7th floor in the Umeda area. We ordered so much meat but the calbi beef and another thin one were the best of the meats. Kayo did all the ordering for us and it was the quietest thing ever. Both the server and Kayo spoke in hush tones. Kayo also ordered sides for us like salad and also huge lettuce leaves to wrap out cooked meat in. She also got us egg in a bowl to dunk our cooked meat into. 2 similar things that Chinese do for hot pot – crack the egg and duck meat wrap. We also ordered Calpis which is a Japanese soft drink that looks milky but tastes a little like lemonaid. We ended off with dessert and I had the tofu dessert with blueberry sauce and sago as well as the dough ball and black sesame mochi ball.
Since we landed in Osaka, we have been getting weird looks from people and we noticed no one around us was wearing tank tops. I asked Kayo and she said that it’s autumn so everyone’s shift to autumn attire although it’s still about max 27 degrees and low of 15. She also told us that the men we see only wearing plain white dress shirts with black dress pants are uniforms for the companies they work for. For women, its usually anything they want but business-y. There is no talking on the train/subways (unless hush tones), you can go on your phone and use it but talking is a no-no as part of etiquette.
After dinner we walked through E street which has gambling, arcades, and food. The controller hand pick game that you would play for toys could also be used for food. Kayo took us into the arcade and we got our photo taken in the photobooth japan style. Over here they use real DSLR cameras (Canon with 18-55mm lense) and the photos are enhanced so the eyes are larger and skin complexion is fixed. WOW is all I said. Our eyes were huge! But nonetheless what a fun time! I highly recommend getting photobooth photos done when you are out in Japan. There are also Photo studios available where you can dress up in cosplay to take photos.
We flew with Peach Aviation and the flight took 3-4 hours and a bit to arrive in Osaka. It cost less than $1300CAD for 3 people. Osaka recently had a typhoon so flights had been delayed days before but luckily it had passed over. The weather was nice with an average of 24 degrees unlike Hong Kong’s 28 degrees + humidity. Coming through customs we had to get our index fingers scanned and a photo taken. Since we arrived so early and were so close to Rinku Outlets, we decided to kill a few hours and head from Kansai Airport to Rinku Outlets. We arrived to Rinku town and put our luggage into the lockers (500¥). Once we walked out of the station towards Rinku, we saw a few broken umbrellas and bicycles/Vespa’s knocked down due to the recent typhoon which we missed by a day or two. We arrived really early (8AM) and nothing was open so we took over their benches waiting for Mcdonalds to open. Once again we had Mcdonalds but this time in Japan. They had a breakfast burger but fries instead of hashbrowns. They have a nifty hand wash station and they separate their garbage and liquids. We were all so hungry and tired since the flight was in the middle of the night not making for a comfortable sleep. The subway lines are extensive here but I think we’ll get the hang of it. It cost us 350¥ to get from Kansai to Rinku and cost us 970¥ to get from Tennoji to Fukushima station where our hostel J-Hoppers is located.
Rinku outlet didn’t really have great deals I must say especially against the Canadian conversion rate. It was the perfect temperature however the fluctuating weather patterns of raining, cold to hot weather were caused by the typhoon that just hit. High of 27 low of 15 for the days we were here. They don’t rely on AC very much and if there is, it’s very low. The seats on the train can flip, as in the back piece can get moved so u can have them facing one another so its a bunch of 4 or switch it so its 2 and 2. For some stops, you have a button to press to open the door. At Tennoji, the voice over the PA system told us to get off to transfer however we shouldn’t have gotten off. We needed to stick to a line that went the Osaka loop so we had to wait for the next bus which took 10-15 minutes. Once we finally arrived at Fukushima station, we just followed the instructions to get to J-Hoppers by following a coloured brick road which also connects in Shotan mall. This is a pedestrians only street (including bicycles).
Arriving at J-hoppers, we were greeted by Mr Yano, Kyohei and Keiko. Our room was on the 5th floor (top floor with rooftop access up one level) but no elevator and narrow stairs but we got here in one peace. We booked a triple bed room so a bunk bed and a single bed. The rooftop is a nice place to relax but I wish it was higher. This culture and environment is much more to my liking. It’s a busy city but calm at the same time especially compared to Hong Kong. The street our hostel was on had loads of little shops for food but we don’t know how to read Japanese so I guess we missed out on some good eats. We went to Yoshinoya for dinner but first we had to get in. To get in you press the little red square on the door and they will slide open – a good note to know if you don’t see any handles on the doors. The currency here has tons of coins and its weird to pay for our meal in only coins. After dinner, we walked through Fukushima street which was so pretty and tons of locals biking home from work. We went to the local grocery store to grab some drinks and cereal for breakfast. Spent some time on the rooftop before sleeping.
Georgina went to attend her cousin’s wedding while Shela and myself were to fend for ourselves. My father’s best friend Ronald and his wife Maisie who reside in Sydney, Australia (whom I visited back in 2010) were in Hong Kong visiting their son so we met for lunch. We met them at Lam Tin station which a suburb on the island. We thought it would take about an hour to get to Lam Tin from Aberdeen but their subway system is so efficient that we got there in under 45 minutes. Strolled the local mall that was filled with children and their Filipino nannies. I guess we looked really out of place since Shela is Filipino and I was quite dark complexion in a suburban area without any kids in tow that the nannies gave us looks. Uncle and auntie wanted to take us for some Chiu Chow styled Chinese food and it was so delicious. We went to Laguna Plaza Club. We had: cold crab, clear dumplings with bean or green onion inside, spring rolls with wasabi, chicken with fried pepper leaves, porkchops (amazing! Not the typical fried crunchy thing you find at home), flat rice noodle with gai lan and beef. For dessert we had fried noodle pancake with vinegar and sugar and my favourite was by far the fried yam with a sugar crust. We ate like kings and queens and of course I had to have a beer with Uncle Ronald as my father is his best drinking buddy. Such an amazing lunch and great conversation.
After lunch, Shela and myself parted ways with uncle and auntie and took the subway line to Lantau for the Gateway Outlets by the airport. It was so quick and easy. We leisurely went around and ended up back at Causeway Bay and had wonton noodle soup as auntie Maisie recommended us to eat as it tastes so good here no matter where you get it. I ordered in Cantonese (I tried) but the server looked at me and smiled. The wonton noodle soup was so tasty. The shrimp wontons were just so flavourful. The best part – it was 60hkd for 2!
Woke up at 630AM; Georgina and Shela slept in until 11AM. We ended up meeting up with our friends Shawn and Louisa at Tsim Sha Tsui and went shopping. Shawn and Lulu just had returned from Beijing the night before.
We went through the main mall – One Plaza then made our way to the outlets on Carlton Rd. Georgina suggested we cut through the park which seemed like the Central park of Hong Kong. Since It’s a Civic holiday and mid-autumn festival, there were tons of people out and about. At the outlets we ate at Mcdonalds and I tried the Ebi burger (shrimp patty) with sesame sauce.
It’s tradition usually for mid-autumn festival to have dinner with your family so in this case, we got to celebrate with Georgina’s extended family. After dinner, Georgina’s family brought us to the bus stop. We took the A10 to the airport and arrived quite early and checked into Terminal 2 then off to terminal 1 for boarding. HKG airport is enormous. It is in the shape of a cross and splits off into 3 wings where were all so long. We only went down 2 wings and the reward at the end was the food courts. Flight departed at 1250AM and was set to arrive 530AM in Osaka. Osaka is one hour ahead.
Georgina was born in Hong Kong and had to goto the Post Office to collect her Hong Kong Citizenship cheque. After she collected her cheque, we headed to Victoria Peak. Took the 7A bus then the subway to Admiralty then took a taxi (20HKD) to the peak tram. It cost 40HKD with return to go up the peak. We met our first Canadians on the tram going up. They have been travelling since the beginning of the month and they were in Tibet and China previously before coming to Hong Kong. The tram travels at 45 degrees and takes about 10 minutes and at the very top there is a whole new little town. The people who live up on the peak pretty much are the rich people. Hong Kong runs on escalators galore. The mall at the top has a 5 floors plus another galleria across from it. We decided to walk around the peak and take the main path about 2800M.
It was such a beautiful day to walk the path and luckily there was no smog (barely any) so we could see everything. My goal today was to recreate a photo of my mother on the peak as a teen. The heat kept the bugs away but there was no breeze so the the humidity was strong. Since the land tax is so high, there were multiple properties that have been abandoned. After our walk of the peak we were famished and decided to eat at the top floor of the Peak Plaza at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Fish n chips – can’t go wrong!
We decided to taxi and subway over to Tsim Sha Tsui (zeem sha chuy). The subway station is so long that you can much walk 3-4 blocks underground where you have sections with the moovators that the airports. Tsim Sha Tsui has a large community of South Asians. Our original plan was to take the Star ferry night ride but once we past the HK Museum of art it opened up into the pier/boardwalk and I have to tell you, it was breath-taking. It was one of those moments you just stood and had to take it all in. It’s as beautiful as the postcards. We found a street of food and grabbed food at a curry house. I had the Karikake soba noodle combo – light and nice with a hokkaido pudding to end it off. The bus line for the 72 was enormous but surprisingly that line moved quickly. For each bus, there is a queue where you line up behind and for the most part, it’s organized.
We dropped off our laundry at Jackson – 38HKD for our load which is priced by weight. They returned it all ironed and folded in a plastic bag.
I wanted to go to Shek-O as that was my father’s old hangout as a teen however it was too far out and unfortunately I wasn’t abel to recreate a photo there. We made our way to Stanley instead.
The 73 bus took us all the way to Stanley Centre Rd where Stanley Market is located. The area is slopy and has a windy one-laned roads. It took a decent amount of time to travel the distance. There are a few country clubs and beach houses roadside but also some shack-like residences. The terrain and environment in this area has lush greenery and they also have grass (which is sparse or for the wealthy who can afford it). Stanley is the european area of the island and has a rich history apparently.
Stanley Market is a very constricted area with little shops lined up one by one. There are tons of expats that live in this area. We ended up walking to the Stanley Pier and it was once again one of those breathtaking moments. You get the market in the background with local residence intertwined then a boardwalk with tiny shops and a soccer field. We never made it to the beaches because we were too busy climbing rocks. Unfortunately the sunset was cut short as the cloud coverage rolled in quickly.
We ate at Stanley Restaurant and had Pineapple fried rice with chicken, cashews and veggies. Hopped on the 67 bus and to Times Square. Times square is like Toronto’s Eatons centre but is 7 floors tall.
I am a Chinese born Canadian (CBC) however if someone speaks to me in Cantonese, I for the most part understand but will respond in English because my canto is really bad and very Canadian-ized. Being in Hong Kong however has improved my listening and understanding skills however conversing-wise, nothing. Luckily Georgina is fluent. It is ridiculously expensive to live in Hong Kong especially for the size of the property. There was a story in particular that showed a family of 4 living in a 100 square meter apartment and they make 2100HKD/month which isn’t even that much to live off of. That’s 300CAD/month.