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Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 4

Published by on July 30, 2017

Day 4 is our final day in Melaka. We have to be back in PJ to pick up our kids.

So as usual we had breakfast at hotel. After that we wanted to walk to this dim sum place called Low Yong Moh.
On the way there on Jalan Hang Kasturi, we found a flea market. This is a side road between Heeren and Jonker street. There weren’t many stalls open, but the stuff on sale were pretty interesting.

So this is Low Yong Moh. The tai pau (big pork dumpling) is supposed to be pretty good. Since we just had breakfast, we bought one to go. Low Yong Moh is a pretty small place, so do go early if you are planning to have breakfast or brunch there.

So this the pau. very flavourful and old-school.

After the tai pau, we were walking back to the hotel and we passed by Jonker 88. This is the most popular eatery in the whole area. Each time we passed by there was always a long line of people (most probably Singapore tourists) outside this place. Today, though, since it was before 10am, there was no line. So we decided to drop in to try the Nyonya cendol.

Well, have to admit their version is very good, better (and cheaper) than Christina Ee’s version. Since it was too early in the day we didn’t try any of their famous dishes like curry mee or laksa.

Anyway, we packed up and checked out from the hotel. Just before leaving Melaka, we dropped by Baba Charlie again to buy more goodies for our friends. And we bought some freshly made pulut tekan from them.

So ends our little long weekend in Melaka. Must come back to my own second hometown more often.

Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 3

Published by on July 29, 2017

Day 3 in Melaka. Breakfast at the hotel as usual. Today we decided to go to a mall to walk about. Before that, we decided to visit 2 places near our hotel first.

The first one was the goldsmith once owned by my family. The name of the shop is still on Google even though it has been closed for many years. My grandparents’ generation lost ownership of the shop after someone broke into and stole everything. One of my uncles tried to open another small shop but it didn’t succeed.

I’m surprised after so many years, the shop is still here and the name is still engraved on the pillars.

yoong teck hin

I’m glad a piece of my family name still survives somewhere in historical Melaka.

Second place we went to visit was Titi’s Art Gallery, but he wasn’t open today. Titi is Aunty Rosemary’s friend, he even did a large art piece commissioned by her.

From Temple street, we took uber to a mall in Melaka Raya. While waiting for Uber, I noticed this Cheng Ho museum. Should visit it one day.

When we reached the mall, we found out Elements mall wasn’t completed yet (I thought the website indicated they were already open for business!). So we walked the length of Melaka Raya to go to Mahkota Parade instead. on the way, we passed by this restaurant, recommended by my uncle.

After spending 2 hours or so in (the air-conditioned) Mahkota Parade, it was lunch time. we took another uber to Pin Pin Hiong to try their chicken chop. Pin Pin Hiong is an old-school Hainanese restaurant located in a small wooded shoplot. their specialty is the mee shua (a kind of rice vermicelli noodles or bihun) very limited tables, and be prepared to wait for more than 1 hour if you’re here during peak hour. We arrived at the end of lunch time, so we found a sharing table (with two other couples). we didn’t have to wait long, maybe about 45 minutes, for the food to arrive. we ordered the chicken chop and pork chop.

Verdict? The food isn’t much to shout about, there are lots of other places in PJ that serve better traditional style chops. But it is nice to see a old school style restaurant surviving for so long. So anyway, what do you do after a lunch on a hot day? You get your caffeine fix! There are many new gourmet coffee places in Malacca now, which is a good sign. We wanted to try Ola Lavanderia Café, which supposedly had a great tasting gula Melaka cheese cake. But unfortunately, it was closed!

Next choice was The Mods Café, further down the road. This place didn’t disappoint. This place, run by a young couple with a kid, serves ‘for serious coffee drinkers only’.

coffee at mods

So what do you do after getting your caffeine fix? You eat nyonya cendol!

This time we tried Christina Ee, a well known shop here. The cendol was quite good.

My wife also tried the durian puff from the same shop we went yesterday.

Then it was back to hotel for a nap.

For an early dinner, we decided to try wan tan mee. Melaka is known for their white sauced mee, different from elsewhere. Instead of going to the famous one in Bunga Raya, I went for this locals-only coffeeshop in Jalan Kampung Lapan. When we after after 6pm, the wan tan mee stall was just setting up. the owner told us to wait 15 minutes. So we sat down in the empty coffeeshop and order drinks and or chien (fried oysters).


(this photo was taken after we finished our meal about 7pm. you can see the place is full of people)

or chien

By the time the stall was ready to send out the first order (which was ours) the coffeeshop was FULL of patrons. And there was at least 10 people lining up to tarpau. Well, it was just as well we were early! We can surmise that this place is REALLY popular with locals.

Since it was just 7pm, I decided to go for a walk in Bunga Raya. It’s been a long, long time since I went to this street in the heart of Chinatown (that one time we went to have wan tan mee notwithstanding). The the old days, Jalan Bunga Raya was THE place for family shopping. There were two department stores there, Madam King’s and Lian Fatt. The entire street is lined with old-style businesses selling shoes, bags, sundry goods, clothes, accessories etc. Then came huge shopping centres (it started with Jusco in Ayer Keroh in 1991, then followed by Mahkota Parade in 1994) and Jalan Bunga Raya slowly and surely died out and became the quiet street it is today. Well, Madam King’s is still surviving, though.

Even the famous wan tan mee stall in Bunga Raya is rather quiet on a Saturday night.

Night was still young, we went back to Jonker Walk for more coffee. After trying to get a place here twice in the past 2 days, we managed to catch this place without the crowds today.

daily fix

After dinner we walked through the night market again (for like the 37th time) to reach our hotel. Saturday has the biggest crowd.

To be concluded.

Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 2

Published by on July 29, 2017

Day 2 of Being a Tourist in my second hometown, Melaka – breakfast at our hotel. Since my hotel is very narrow and compact, the breakfast is served in another lot across the street, located inside a nyonya kebaya boutique. Breakfast here is a very low key affair, but serves good food. On the last day here, the chicken rice served for breakfast was excellent.

breakfast

Today, we’re going around out of the city. First stop is to visit my grandmother’s house in Ujong Pasir. My father was born in an old wooden house in Kubu Road, near where the stadium is now. Over the years, they moved around a few times, including a house in Tranquerah (Tengkera). A few years before I was born, they moved to this house in the pic. This is where all the memories of my grandmother and Chinese New Year reside. Back then Ujong Pasir a nice residential area, walking distance to the beach and mangrove swamp. Today the area still retains the quiet suburbia charm, although the swamp has long been converted to more homes. And the beach… well, I don’t think I want to see how it looks like now.

Last year we sold the old house after both my uncle and aunt (my father’s siblings) passed on. I guess the new owners still haven’t decided to do anything with the place yet. Jimmy’s house on the left is not visible.

Melaka house

From Ujong Pasir, we drove right across town to Ayer Keroh to Aunty Rosemary’s house. Aunty Rosemary is my mother’s best from her nursing school days. She married a successful plantation manager but he passed on in the mid-80’s. Her 3 children have all grown up and she lives by herself in a huge (by Malacca standards, anyway) house in Taman Sentosa.

We’re here to have lunch with my mom, Aunty Rosemary and my uncle & auntie who stay nearby in Bukit Beruang. But the REAL reason I’m is to see my old friend Maya!

maya
(maya is very tired)

Haven’t seen Maya for 7 years. She used to be extremely active and noisy, but now she’s old and overweight, suffering from some growth. But still happy to see me. Aunty Rosemary has had many dogs in the past. There was Hazel, the Rottweiler mix, Frisco, the smaller version of Hazel, that cocker spaniel (can’t remember name). And when Dinesh the son comes back, he brings the imposing golden retriever Caesar.

Lunch is at Huang Chang chicken ball rice in nearby Batu Berendam.

huang chang

huang chang chicken rice

Eh, the food here wasn’t good at all. The rice was still tasty (although much smaller balls), but the chicken didn’t taste good. That’s it, I’m never coming back here again. Time to find another chicken ball rice (please don’t ask me to line up 2 hours at that coffeeshop near the Stadhuys).

After lunch it was time to go back to the hotel. On the way, we stopped by Baba Charlie for get some nyonya snacks. I’ve never heard of this place, Google told me it is THE place to shop, so I obeyed Google. It is located at the end of a (very) narrow side street just after Tengkera.

baba Charlie 1

baba Charlie 2

Turns out it is really awesome. The pineapple tarts were delicious and cheaper than in town. It was so good we came back on Sunday to buy snacks for our friends. Do go early in the day, as the kueh tend to sell out fast especially on weekends.

Back to hotel for a nap.

koi

After that we went round Jonker Street for a walkabout.

jonker walk

There’s a shop at the northern end of Jonker street that serves nice durian ice cream.

durian ice cream

We also dropped by the Mamee shop. Not sure if the Mamee snack is as popular as it was back in the day, but now they’ve diversified into making biscuits and instant cup noodles. Back then we each Mamee packed contained a sticker (in addition to the pack of unhealthy MSG flavouring), that you’re supposed to collect a whole set and stick them in a sticker book. Something like Figurine Panini collectibles.

mamee

We also stopped by the famous satay shop for some nyonya cendol to cool down in the heat.

cendol

Of course we tried that special satay babi. Nothing really special about it, though, but I guess its a Malacca thing.

sate

In the late afternoon, when it wasn’t so crazy hot, we went out to the Jonker Street night market. The famous market is open from Friday to Sunday. I have to say the market is pretty vibrant, selling a different variety of stuff, not jus the touristy trinkets and standard street food. The latest thing now is this quail’s eggs on a stick. I can feel my cholesterol shooting up by just looking at it.

quails eggs

We tried some egg waffles. Of course it is never as good as in Hong Kong.

egg tarts

Finally for dinner, we wanted some place with good coffee, so we decided to try Calanthe Art Café. They claim to see different variants of coffee from every state in Malaysia, wanna guess which two flavours did we order?

coffee at calanthe art cafe

Food was so-so, but slightly better than yesterday’s riverside dinner. in terms of Western cuisine, I guess Malacca doesn’t have the quality compared to PJ & KL.

calanthe food

Walking back through the market to our hotel. Really lots of people now.

night market

To be continued.

Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 1

Published by on July 28, 2017

Melaka, or Malacca to some of us, is my father’s hometown. All the relatives from his side of the family are from there, most of them still stay there. When I was little, every weekend we’d drive up from Muar to spend the day in Malacca. During the long school holidays, my parents would leave all three of us (me, my brother and sister) to stay in Malacca, together with my grandmother and my cousin (she is the same age as my brother). Those were great times with many wonderful memories. We’d play card games and children games. Sometimes I’d hang out with the neighbor Jimmy. Sometime’s all 4 of us would take the bus into town to catch a movie or walk around Bunga Raya. So, really, Malacca can be considered my second hometown.

Malacca to me was a bigger town than my own hometown, but it was still a sleepy and quiet town. We hardly ever went out to eat anywhere in town (except if one of my cousins had a wedding dinner). On Fridays I’d follow my dad to HSBC in Banda Hilir (now turned into a museum) for his banking (kids, this was long before the days of internet banking. Heck, the ATM wasn’t even invented yet). Nothing much ever happened in sleepy Malacca, except sometimes we’d see foreign tourists talking pictures at the Stadhuys. Whenever we passed by them in the car, my dad would always say ‘Click-click-click-click!’ (mimicking the camera sound).

After my grandmother passed away in 1990, we kinda stopped going to Malacca anymore.

In the intervening 27 years, I’ve been back to Malacca a handful of times, a few times due to work, and a few times with friends. I’ve seen it grow from the sleepy hollow into the tourist destination it is now. But of late, though, I haven’t really gone back there for many years. The last time we stayed more than a day there was 2010, probably.

Anyway, recently we decided to take a few days holiday there, to really be a tourist in own hometown. Our own kids were away for camp, so husband and wife packed up the car and drove down the PLUS Highway.

But first stop, though, was to Seremban to eat our favourite beef noodles for brunch. We wanted to try another shop, but unfortunately it wasn’t open. So we went back to our usual joint, in the wet market. After that, we couldn’t resist buying siew pau and curry puffs.

Anyway, back on the road. Nearing Melaka, we made another last minute decision to drop by Freeport A’Famosa Outlet. This newly opened premium outlet is about 4km off the Simpang Ampat highway exit. It’s rather small compared to JPO or Mitsui, and the range of shops are in the more affordable range.

Upstairs, though, there’s a huge hall where a jumble sale was ongoing. Prices here are cheaper. Got a cool fidget spinner for RM10.

After the 2-hour detour, we drove onward to Klebang to try the original coconut shake. I used to associate Klebang with the nice beach and my grand-aunt’s house, which we visited every year during Chinese New Year. Now it is famous for this coconut shake. Its basically ice blended fresh coconut water mixed with vanilla ice cream. This stall beside the main road is for takeaway. Inside there’s a huge restaurant for dining in, with ample parking.

After many detours, we finally made it to the city. Our hotel is Courtyard @ Heeren, a boutique hotel in a refurbished traditional home on Heeren Street (now called Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock). One of my cousins still stay somewhere here, although I really can’t remember which one.

My father used to tell me in the old tradition, the main hall at the front is for the master of the house and for entertaining guests. This is the second hall, for concubines and servants.

This was our room, very spacious and impressive.

After checking in, time for a walkabout around town. we wanted to try the Melaka River cruise. If you’re going to be a tourist in Malacca, might as well go all the way and do the most tourist-y thing, right?

Walking en route to the river dock, we passed by this Hard Rock Café. This has been here awhile, but man, if you were to tell my when I was a kid that HRC would open in Malacca… the poshest thing I ever had back then was a burger in Ramada Renaissance which cost my parent about RM4. It was a big, big sum back then.

That famous clock tower and church.

We got our tickets from the booth outside the tourist centre. You can get tickets at the docks, it is the same price. Make sure you have your MyKad ready.

boat tickets

This is the river cruise. Don’t worry about not getting a place, they have many, many boats and they run continuously whenever there are enough passengers. On a related note, they have a Sid’s Pub in Melaka now?!

The cruise itself takes about 45 minutes. Was it worth it? I suppose if you haven’t tried it, it is a cheap and enjoyable to see Melaka. Try going in the evening at sunset, so you can still see it daytime and enjoy the night lights on the way back. The bilingual commentary will come on during the return trip.

On the way I saw this building, used to be Cathay cinema. I watched a lot of movies here back in the day.

Cathay cinema

After the cruise, we took a walk along the river. St Francis Xavier church looks beautiful in the evening light.

Someone trapped a giant monitor lizard in their backyard.

We decided to have dinner right beside the river. There wasn’t much choice in terms of restaurants, so we ended in this place that was rather pricey and so-so food.

On the way back to the hotel, we dropped by San Su Gong.

To be continued.

My 2016 in 9 Points

Published by on February 2, 2017

This year’s edition is late again, for most of December and January, I was doing my Japan itinerary, so this had to wait for that to end. Can’t believe I’ve been doing this annually for 9 years now, next year will be a decade of this. You can view the previous years’ editions here:

2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008

Anyway, let’s get started. (if you are wondering why 9 and not 10, read one of the earlier posts)

1. Bernie Sanders

Most people will remember 2016 as annus horribilis, with Brexit, Donald Trump, and the celebrity deaths. The US presidential election was an especially hard pill to swallow, more so as I was rooting for Senator Bernie Sanders. Sure, nobody (other than his hardcore supporters) really believed that Bernie could win, but I sincerely believed that the he was cheated out of the DNC nomination. And he would have stood a better chance in defeating Trump. But all in all, I felt he was refreshing change in US politics, and definitely more relatable to me than any other candidate.

2. New Job (again…!)

On the personal front, in 2016, I changed jobs. Again. Hah, yes. My ex-boss made the call, I said yes. So in April, I moved to the new company just down the road. Higher post, better pay package and benefits, but tougher job and environment. Hopefully this one will last longer than the last one.

3. New Car

Let me put this on record – my previous car was already TWELVE years old. Although it was still okay with no major problems, it was getting old and costlier to maintain. I was holding out for the new Camry, but after so long they did not launch it yet (as of today, they still haven’t released it yet). When the Honda Accord was launched, I went down to the showroom to take a look. It looked good, the price was very competitive. So I bought it. Been driving for more than 3 months now.

4. Land of the Rising Sun

On the family side of things, this past year was one marked with holidays. in the 13 months from November 2015 to December 2016, we managed to squeeze in 4 international holidays, starting with Seoul & Jeju (read the itinerary here). For 2016, it was the last holiday that was the biggest and most ambitious – our 9 day trip to Japan, covering Kyoto, Nara and Osaka. The trip was one year in the making, and was thoroughly enjoyable. You can read the itinerary starting here.

5. Hua Hin & Bangkok

This was a last minute organized trip, mainly because of the desire to escape some stress at work. Hua Hin is a royal beach resort some 3 hours drive away from Bangkok. It is a perfect holiday away from the commercialization and crowds associated with other beach resorts like Koh Samui and Phuket. After a few days in Hua Hin, we also returned to Bangkok for the weekend to visit Chatuchak and Platinum Mall. Our itinerary can be found here.

6. Macau & Hong Kong

And the other holiday we did was Macau and Hong Kong during the chilly spring. Macau was a much postposed destination since 2007, and we visited HK as a day trip to savour some awesome food. You can follow our itinerary here.

7. LRT & MRT

Now back to the year on a national level. Too many events happened in Malaysia that affected our day to day lives, most of it subject of an immense amount of criticism and complaining (mostly on FB). But on a more micro level, the LRT extension was finally opened in my area of Puchong, and towards the end of the year, the first phase of MRT was also completed. Although I don’t frequent the LRT or the MRT, I feel this is a small yet significant accomplishment in making Greater KL a better city. Most people will say ‘oh its expensive and I won’t use it’ or ‘why can’t it be better planned like Singapore or Bangkok’ but being in the industry I can understand the problems and limitations the planners faced. And I am already looking forward to MRT Line 3 soon.

8. LeBron Brings the and the Cavaliers

Let’s talk about sports. Most will remember 2016 for the Euros (which Portugal won), or the fairytale story of Leicester capturing the EPL trophy. But for me personally, this past year I started to follow basketball closely once again after an absence of more than 20 years. And all through the year I’ve been drawn to LeBron James, and how he came back to Cleveland to right his wrong. And on his second season after returning, he won the championship against the Golden State Warriors, coming from behind 3-1 to win the series 4-3 (it had been a long time since that happened, I don’t really follow the stats). I remember for Game 7 I was in the office working, so I could only watched delayed highlights online. And yes, I do believe LeBron is one of the greatest of all time.

9. And Yet Still Reading!

Yup, I’m still doing it. This year I read 105 books (according my Goodreads app) and I’m surprised myself how I found that many books to read. Through it all, I read some really good ones, that rank as my favourites – like Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.

Japan 2016 : Part 21 – Wrap Up

Published by on January 14, 2017

This is the concluding post in an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.

On the final day of our stay here, we had to get up early for our flight. The journey back to Kansai Airport consist of a subway ride, and some walking to transit to a lengthy train journey.


(so we had to go downstairs for breakfast right when the restaurant opened)


(the modern and sleek bullet train. too bad we didn’t get to try it this trip)

Once you get to Kansai, make sure you get your money and deposit refunded for your ICOCA card. You can only get your refund from the counter, not from the reload machines outside. The problem with the counter is the line is very long and moves slowly, so if you are rushing for your flight, it may be troublesome. I guess the thing is that a lot of the people at the counter here are taking their own sweet time asking numerous questions about the ticket packages (which personally I feel can be researched online beforehand). But anyway.

Anyway, we boarded our AirAsia flight home.


(AirAsia crew doing their holiday spirit cheer)

So in summary, Japan was our best (and probably longest?) holiday abroad. And it was the most challenging to plan, especially initially. But once you get the hang of it, and get advice from the right people, it was okay.

So we left Japan with a lifetime of memories of all the beautiful places and food. Will we come back again? I would say definitely. Maybe a trip to Tokyo to see the cherry blossoms, and Sapporo to see the winter. When would that be, I wonder? Not too many years from now, hopefully.

Goodbye for now, until the next trip!

Japan 2016 : Part 21 – Our Last Dinner in Japan

Published by on January 9, 2017

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.

So it has been a long final day for us. Walking the length and breadth of the central district of Osaka, and visiting Kuromon Ichiba Market twice. Before leaving the market in the late afternoon, we stopped for a caffeine break in this place. As with all the coffee shops here (with the exception of Starbucks), there’s a one-person-one-order policy.

I did not know that UCC is actually a Japanese brand until just before my trip. No wonder the brand is used by a lot of the coffee places here. There’s even a UCC Coffee Museum in Kobe.

This place has a unique way of brewing their coffee.


(our selection of 4 different brews)

By the time we reached back to hotel, it was sunset already.

After a short rest, it was time to venture out for food again. For our final dinner, we decided to walk around our hotel and try a restaurant near here.


(there’s a mahjong club two doors down my hotel)

My hotel is right smack in a central business district, so in the evenings it is rather quiet. There are a few BBQ restaurants filled with Japanese men wearing suits, having sake and dinner after work. But these restaurants are catered to locals, with no English menu nor do they speak it.

After circling our block, we finally decided to try this sukiyaki restaurant. Its a popular chain here, I’ve seen other branches across the city. Since I’ve not tried sukiyaki in Japan, I thought why not give it a try.

The place had neighbourhood restaurant feel to it. The guy to took our order was an Indian, believe it or not. So we had the luxury of ordering in proper English, not merely pointing to the menu.

in the end I didn’t order the sukiyaki, ended up trying the curry rice set.


(my curry rice set)

On the way back to hotel, we stopped for my daughter to buy a can of coffee from the vending machine.

And so ends our 8 days in Japan, tomorrow we’ll be flying back to Malaysia…

Next – Wrap up.

Japan 2016 : Part 20 – Den Den Town, Shinsaibashi & Shinsekai

Published by on January 8, 2017

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.

After our morning walk through Kuromon Ichiba Market, we headed to the south towards Den Den Town. Today, the whole itinerary is located around the same area, but at different ends. So there’s quite a fair bit of walking involved. From the market, Den Den Town is about 3 blocks.

Den Den Town, or formally known as Nipponbashi, is a large commercial district specializing in electronic equipment, PC and gaming stuff, manga and anime. I was specifically looking for some anime figurines, which are not available in Malaysia. I reckon I would be able to find it in Den Den Town, even though the shops here aren’t as big as the ones in Tokyo.

When we reached Den Den Town, is was rather quiet, since it was still quite early in the day. Most of the shops were open, but the crowds would open come later in the day. The main streets were lined with PC and big name stores, the side streets are filled with smaller shops selling games and other specialized stuff.

Its hard not to miss Namco’s flagship store. Not sure what they actually sell inside, though.


(Namco’s flagship store. Takes up the whole building)


(The only Namco brand that comes to my mind is Tekken)


(the middle of Den Den Town)

Further in I also found this shop selling old consoles and games like PSOne, Super Famicom, Game & Watch, etc. But prices are not cheap, since they only sell originals.


(Japan is where old PSOne games are still actively sold)

Still walking and looking for anime figurines. Finally found this small shop, with a helpful owner. Each store sells A LOT of figurines, not like the small selection you find in stores we have here.


(Totoro! Still very popular in Japan after all these years)


(I think this is Bleach? Not sure)


(assorted stuff)

I was looking for figurines from Fullmetal Alchemist, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Final Fantasy 7. It helps that I know how to pronounce these names in Japanese 🙂 There was a whole shelf on FF7, but the prices…. whoah. I can eat a lot of ramen at those prices…


(The one I was looking for Fullmetal Alchemist!)


(more Fullmetal!)

As for Neon Genesis Evangelion, the choices were limited, some very nice pieces of Asuka that were ‘not for sale’ (Why? WHY??) Anyway after some deliberation, I settled on these three… That’s Alphonse and Edward Elric, and Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion.


(my purchases)

So we were done with Den Den Town. We walked on a bit and decided to take a subway to Shinsaibashi, which we passed by yesterday evening.


(Can you spot Homer Simpson?)


(an unidentified shopping street filled with shops selling knives)

Shinsaibashi was much less crowded compared to last night. It is a long shopping street, but we only walked a small portion of it.


(a shop specializing in Kit Kat and other brands of chocolates.)


(a sushi restaurant)

After buying some chocolate and snacks as souvenirs, were decided to skip the rest and go to Shinsekai by subway. Shinsekai is a small commercial area targeted at tourists, built around Osaka Tower.


(lots of stuff to see in Shinsekai)


(the imposing Osaka Tower)

Frankly the place seemed rather tacky to me, and most of the shops are selling trendy clothes for teenagers and yakitori / steamboat restaurants. We were looking for kobe beef restaurants, so in the end we decided to take a cab back to Kuromon Ichiba Market.

Next – Our last dinner in Japan.

Japan 2016 : Part 19 – Kuromon Ichiba Market

Published by on January 7, 2017

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.

Day 8 and our final day in Japan! And also our third day in Osaka. Today was supposed to be a day trip to Himeji Castle and Kobe, but was dropped in favour of spending another day in Osaka. So for today’s itinerary, first is to visit Kuromon Ichiba market, then walk on down to Den Den Town (Nipponbashi), then visit Shinsaibashi Shopping Street, then if we’re feeling up to it, drop by Amemura and finish off in Shinsekai. Well, we’re probably not going do everything in the itinerary, seeing that we’re coming to the end of the long week and we’re fast running out of stamina…

But first off, we’re going to Kuromon Ichiba Market. This is a food market, similar to Nishiki Market in Kyoto, but more on food, and less of retail shops. As usual, we took a subway there from our hotel.

Early to mid morning is the best time to visit this market, as it is buzzing with people and fresh seafood. And they really have lots of variety of food to try – scallops, oysters, sushi, kobe beef and fruits.


(Kobe beef! In many different cuts, but all very expensive)


(fresh soybean milk)

There was really a lot of enticing food, we tried some fried chicken, green tea ice cream and the soybean milk. But since we just had breakfast in the hotel, we didn’t really try a lot of food.

We finished walking most of the market, and left to go on with our itinerary. But later in the evening, when we were in Shinsekai, we were looking for wagyu beef (or commonly known as Kobe beef), we decided to come back to Kuromon Ichiba as there wasn’t any in Shinsekai.

So we actually came here twice in a day. Here there are many stalls selling different kinds of expensive beef, but we were looking for wagyu and matsuzaka. Most of them were rather pricey, in the end we decided on this stall.


(that’s true)

Considering the price, we only bought thee two skewers – one wagyu, one matsuzaka. Both were juicy and tender, but really, it was nothing really special to justify the price.


(our measly two skewers for 4 of us)

So not much of a meal, we were still not full yet.

Finally, we decided to try okonomiyaki, a pancake that is an Osaka delicacy.


(okonomiyaki)

The okonomiyaki was heavy on the soy sauce, else it taste pretty good. We also ordered the fried noodles. It was a little oily but tasted okay.

At mid afternoon, we decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel for a rest.

Next – Den Den Town, Shinsaibashi and Shinsekai.

Japan 2016 : Part 18 – Dotonbori & Ichiran Ramen

Published by on January 7, 2017

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.

As of today, we’ve been here in Japan for a week, and we seem to be getting easily tired from all the walking and shopping. So today we had to take a short nap at the hotel after the morning’s long itinerary. It was evening when we went out again to for dinner and more walking. Our destination? The most popular place in Osaka – Dotonbori!

Dotonbori is a long shopping and foodie street in the centre of the city. It is situated next along a river and is surrounded by many shopping streets and landmarks.

First, we took the subway to get there, and we walked quite a distance to get to Dotonbori. Along the way you can see all the big department stores like Takashiyama and Namba Parks. We had to ask directions a few times from the many people just getting off work.

We finally found the right direction, walking through Ebisubashi Shopping Street to reach Dotonbori. The shopping streets here are super-packed and have many interesting things to see.


(Ebisubashi Shopping Street)

Ebisubashi is quite long, about 3 blocks in length. At the end it joins to Dotonbori, and across the river there’s another even more popular shopping street called Shinsaibashi.

But anyway, before that, time to eat dinner first. For dinner, we were looking for Ichiran Ramen somewhere along here.


(Dotonbori!)

It is located in another shopping street parallel to Ebisubashi (sorry, not sure what it is called), just off Dotonbori. Luckily for us, the queue was quite short.


(Ichiran Ramen)

To eat here, you line up to order at the vending machine, take your order chit and go upstairs. There are 3 floors of seating, so find one with empty seats. Then go upstairs, and look for the seating diagrams with lights at the entrance of the floor, denoting the available seats. All seats are booth seats, so you can’t have table to eat with your friends together like in a normal restaurant.


(first, order and pay at the vending machine)


(then find your own booth seat)

Once seated, put your order chit in front of you, and someone will open the hatch and take your order. If you ordered extras, like extra noodles or desserts, they will give you a small tray like the ones you use for condiments. For water, there are cups at your table and you fill water from a dispenser. Soon your ramen will arrive!


(the hatch will open…)


(and your ramen is served!)

So what’s the verdict? BEST. RAMEN. EVER. Seriously. I know some bloggers say that this branch is not as good as the one in Tokyo, but personally, it is so good. Too bad I didn’t get to try it more than once. The broth is thick and creamy, the meat is tasty and not too thick or thin. My daughter and I order the extra noodles and desserts, but we didn’t know we had to place the small trays in the designated spot. So we didn’t get our extras, which was a good thing, cos I was really full after the ramen. They refunded the difference in price for us, that was really nice of them.

After that, we took a little stroll along Dotonbori to take in the sights. This is really the foodie central in Osaka, all the delicacies are represented here. The competition is quite stiff, so they go all out of the way to attract customers by having fancy moving signs and young guys / girls promoters outside their shops.

This takoyaki is always featured in blogs, so its very popular. There wasn’t a queue so we ordered a plate. Watching them prepare the dish is half the fun – it takes a lot of time and attention to make it, so they need to be quick to fill the tray and flip the balls before they burn.


(a famous takoyaki stall)


(fun to watch them cook this)

Takoyaki is octopus balls topped with sauce, cheese and dried bonito flakes. The balls taste great, but I think they sauce was a little too thick for me. Next time will ask for less sauce.


(the finished product…)

My kids were still hungry (plastic stomach) so they bought gyoza from another shop. This one had a queue so I guess it should be good? (that’s a good yardstick of popularity).


(Still hungry? Try Gyoza!)

We soon made our way back and walked across the bridge over the river. From here you can see the famous Glico Man sign.


(the famous Glico man billboard)

Across from Ebisubashi you can see Shinsaibashi shopping street. Can you see the massive crowd??? All the way to the end!!! We had planned to check it out but… maybe tomorrow, during the day, when there are less people…


(Shinsaibashi shopping street. Can you see the crowds??)

But enough for today. Need to go back and sleep for our last day in Osaka tomorrow.


(Christmas lights in the streets of Osaka)

Next – Kuromon Ichiba Market.

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