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  1. I love to indulge in a free-flow weekend brunch, but there comes a point where drinking glass after glass of champagne on a Sunday afternoon becomes a bit excessive (yup, even for me). I felt like I needed to give my liver a break, so I tried Divino’s new weekend Recovery Brunch and really loved it. Although typically a after work and late night hot spot, I would definitely recommend trying the brunch here. The food was healthy and very filling, and I didn’t feel like the rest of my day was a waste thanks to a food and drink induced coma. Divino Recovery Brunch Drinks Lemon, Ginger, and Chili Detox Water (HK$58)I started with a glass of refreshing Sweet Herbal Apple Detox Water (HK$58), unlike the glass of champagne that accompanied my brunch the day before. Divino serves up three different types of detox water and they’re all refillable, so you can try all three. The other two choices are a lemon, ginger, and chili water, and pomegranate infusion tea with mint. Food Oven-baked Beetroot and Cottage Cheese (HK$138)Chef’s “Healing Bowl” (HK$138)Greek Yogurt and Granola Parfait (HK$98)For our mains, we ordered the Oven-baked Beetroot and Cottage Cheese (HK$138) with 24 year balsamic and basil oil. The beetroot were delicious, and the subtle addition of cottage cheese added a nice contrasting, smooth texture. We also shared the Chef’s “Healing Bowl” (HK$138), comprised of quinoa, smoked salmon, avocado, capers, baby spinach, poached eggs, and pesto sauce. I loved everything about this dish – the poached eggs were perfect and there wasn’t too much sauce, which meant you could distinctly taste each ingredient. To finish up, we couldn’t resist the Greek Yogurt and Granola Parfait (HK$98) and were impressed right away with the beautiful, Instagram-worthy presentation. Layers of fat-free Greek yogurt, banana, berries, and granola, with fresh passion fruit and bee pollen sprinkles on top made this parfait utterly irresistible. Verdict The Divino Recovery Brunch is a fantastic alternative to the endless boozy brunches available in Hong Kong. Not only were the brunch dishes at Divino healthy, but they were incredibly satisfying. I didn’t expect to leave this brunch feeling stuffed, but we literally waddled our way out of the restaurant.. at least it was all healthy, right? Divino Wine Bar and Restaurant 73 Wyndham Street Central Tel: 2167 8883 View the full article
  2. As I was planning my trip to Tokyo, I was told numerous times that it was a ridiculously expensive city. I ended up bringing about ¥35,000 in cash for food, drink, and whatever else I wanted to throw some dollar bills at (not including my hotel), and only had about ¥2,000 left after five days. I’m a fairly money-conscious individual, but do like to indulge every once in awhile. While there were certainly things I didn’t do while in Tokyo given my time constraints (the Robot Restaurant, for example), I left feeling like I did everything I had originally wanted to and was able to really enjoy my time here. So, if you’re wondering “how much money should I bring to Tokyo?”, keep reading for the breakdown of all my expenses over five days. Day 1: Transportation, dinner, and drinks Our flight touched down at Narita International Airport Saturday night and we had a bit of a tough time sorting out transportation to our hotel in Shinjuku. If we had more time (and if there was actually information in English), I’m sure we could have found a much cheaper way to get to our hotel, but we were tired, frustrated, and just wanted to get out of the airport. After we checked into our hotel, we decided to wander over to Memory Lane for a late-night bite to eat. This is where we discovered a little shop selling the most delicious soba noodles (this was our cheapest meal of the trip). We then wandered over to the well-known area of Golden Gai for a glass of sake before passing out for the evening. Breakdown: ¥3128 – train ticket from airport to my hotel ¥400 – the most delicious soba noodles ¥900 – sake at a little bar in Golden Gai Total: ¥4,498 Day 2: Suica Card, the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had, Family Mart snacks and drink Despite the wet weather, we wandered over to Harajuku with a beer in hand (gotta love the liquor laws in these countries). We later stopped by for a very sweet milk tea shaved ice dessert at Ice Monster. After a bit more wandering around, we went to Kuumba du Falafel for the most incredible falafel sandwich I have had (and likely will ever have). Since the weather was absolute crap and we were exhausted, we decided to hit up a 7-Eleven for some drinks (read: wine and beer) and snacks (a mix of mochi, onigiri, and other odd things we wouldn’t fully know until opening the package) to take back to our hotel. Breakdown: ¥190 – breakfast danish ¥500 – money added onto my Suica Card (used for the metro) ¥500 – dessert at Ice Monster ¥135 – beer to-go from Family Mart ¥1200 – the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had at Kuumba du Falafel ¥636 – hotel late-night snacks (wine, mochi, onigiri, beer) Total: ¥3,161 Day 3 : Tsukemen, sake in a cup, cherry blossoms, ice cream We started our day with a tsukemen ramen meal at Fuunji. For those who haven’t tried tsukemen before – it’s life-changing. Plus, Fuunji is meant to serve some of the best tsukemen in Tokyo and, after trying it, I would have to agree. Since we were in Tokyo during sakura season, we went to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to surround ourselves with all of the beautiful cherry blossoms. On our way home, we decided to try one of the restaurants in the metro for dinner, as we had heard they’re all meant to be really good. Unfortunately, my miso katsu wasn’t fantastic (the only meal I didn’t love in Tokyo), but thankfully my triple-tiered ice cream afterwards hit the spot. Breakdown: ¥1200 – Tsukemen ramen at Fuunji ¥238 – cup sake from 7-Eleven (literally the best thing) ¥200 – entrance into Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (for the cherry blossoms) ¥1000 – recharge of my Suica Card ¥1100 – dinner (miso katsu in the metro) ¥470 – soft serve matcha, strawberry, and Hokkaido milk ice cream Total: ¥5,408 Day 4: Tsukiji Fish Market, omakase lunch, hilarious dinner We were cursed with yet another day of rain, but it was our last chance to head to the Tsukiji Fish Market since it was closed the following day. So off we went, umbrella in hand, to devour all of the snacks and sushi from the market. By 10:00 am, we had eaten our fair share of snacks as we wandered around, but saved just enough room to enjoy a fantastic omakase lunch at Sushi Katsura. For dinner, we went to well-known Narukiyo. There was penis paraphernalia everywhere, great music, a hilarious chef, and just all around super fun vibes. Although on the expensive side, I think the experience alone at Narukiyo is well worth it. Breakdown: ¥906 – snacks from the Tsukiji Fish Market (strawberry mochi, corn fritters, salmon onigiri, tomago) ¥280 – coffee at a local cafe ¥1340 – lunch at Sushi Katsura ¥596 – 7-Eleven snacks and drinks ¥10000 – dinner and drinks at Narukiyo Total: ¥13,122 Day 5: Cooking class, Sensoji Temple, Ippudo Ramen I began my day incredibly hungover (thanks to three flasks of sake at Narukiyo, followed by a night of dancing in Shibuya), but managed to make it to my wagyu kaiseki cooking class at Cooking Sun (the cost of this class would typically be ¥8,500 per person, but it was sponsored by Flight Centre). After a few cups of coffee and some food, we made our way over to the Sensoji Temple where we walked around the area and ate plenty of snacks. We found an Ippudo Ramen nearby, and while there is one in Hong Kong, we figured we’d try the “real deal” here in Tokyo. As expected, it did not disappoint. Breakdown: ¥538 – amazing instant coffee from our hotel, found at a grocery store ¥150 – coffee at 7-Eleven (which was surprisingly good) ¥560 – Suica Card recharge ¥960 – snacks from the Sensoji Temple ¥890 – Ippudo Ramen lunch ¥185 – pastry dessert Total: ¥3,283 Day 6: 7-Eleven haul, coffee, flight back to HK We had an early morning flight to make, so we were up at 4:30 am. After a quick 7-Eleven haul (including the most heavenly matcha choux cream puffs), we made our way to the Ginza line. We were headed to Ueno Station to catch the first train (Keisi Skyline) to the airport that departed at 5:58 am. The train is super fast, and we made it with a bit of time to spare (our flight was at 8:40 am). Breakdown: ¥660 – 7-Eleven haul before heading to the airport ¥200 – Suica Card ¥2200 – Keisei Skyline to the airport transfer ¥130 – vending machine coffee Total: ¥3,283 Hotel I chose to stay at the Washington Shinjuku Hotel Annex for a number of reasons. Namely, because it was in a central location and it was one of the more reasonably priced hotels (you could definitely find cheaper if you want to stay in a capsule hotel). You can read my full hotel review here. Total for five nights at the hotel: ¥48,925 (per person) Grand total for five nights in Tokyo: ¥81,877 View the full article
  3. One of the great things about Tokyo is that you’re guaranteed a good meal at just about any restaurant or little shop you walk into. Heck, even the Family Mart and 7-Eleven offer great options if you’re on the go. While you could certainly eat up a storm in Tokyo without doing any research ahead of time, I’m pretty damn glad I did because I managed to have an incredible meal each of my five days in the city (as well as some great ones that just didn’t make my ‘top 5 places to eat in Tokyo’ list). 5. Kuumba du Falafel I know what you’re thinking: why in the world would I get a falafel in Tokyo?! Simply because it will be the best falafel you’ve ever had. Kuumba du Falafel is a little shop in the outskirts of Shibuya with only one thing on the menu: falafel. I ordered the full portion of the falafel sandwich (¥1,200) with all the fixings and was honestly in vegetarian heaven (and I didn’t even really like falafel before coming here!). Read more about Kuumba du Falafel here. 4. Tsukemen at Fuunji I had heard a lot about tsukemen (the type of ramen where you dip the cold noodles into the lukewarm, slightly fishy broth) before, but had never tried it prior to arriving in Tokyo. Fuunji was recommended to me and after doing a bit of research, I quickly discovered this was one of the most popular spots in Tokyo for tsukemen. Arrive early (or late) to beat the queues, as there are only about 15 spots around the kitchen, and indulge in a massive bowl of unbeatable tsukemen for a very reasonable ‎¥‎1,000. Read more about Fuunji here. 3. Sushi Katsura A trip to Tokyo isn’t complete unless you visit the Tsukiji Fish Market and have an incredibly fresh omakase experience at a nearby sushi shop. While the more famous shops, like Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi, charge a pretty penny and have queues that start as early as 3:00 am, Sushi Katsura is a much more reasonable option. With no need to queue up at a ridiculous hour (it only opens for lunch and dinner) and an omakase menu that starts at only ¥950, Sushi Katsura is a perfect alternative for those who care more about the quality of sushi (and getting a decent night sleep) than the name of the restaurant. Read more about Sushi Katsura here. 2. Soba Noodles on Memory Lane I stumbled upon this little soba noodle shop along Memory Lane in Shinjuku on my first night in Tokyo at around 10:00 pm when we were scouring the streets for something to eat. There were about 10 seats crammed around the small one-man kitchen and five people queuing in front of us, which naturally led us to believe this place was a winner. For only ¥400 (the cheapest meal I had in Tokyo), I sat down to a delicious bowl of fresh soba noodles, a mountain of vegetable tempura, and a soft boiled egg. Read more about the soba noodles on Memory Lane here. 1. Narukiyo This was my one splurge during my time in Tokyo and I don’t regret a single yen spent. From the moment I stepped foot inside Narukiyo, I knew I was going to have a great time. The place is covered in penis paraphernalia (yes, you read that correctly) and I had the pleasure of sitting right in front of a massive black penis for my entire meal. As I’m sure you can guess, the vibe is incredibly fun (be sure to snag a seat around the kitchen) and we ended up spending over three hours in the restaurant. As for the food, you simply tell the waiter if there is anything you won’t eat and after a few minutes, your food starts arriving. We had three flasks of sake and 7 courses (three individual, four shared), and our bill came to ¥20,700. Read more about Narukiyo here. View the full article
  4. The Tsukiji Fish Market is on just about everyone’s must-do when traveling to Tokyo, and for good reason! Earlier in the year, it was rumored that the fish market would be shutting down and relocating to another area of Tokyo. Thankfully, for those that have yet to visit the market, that plan has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. Until it does close, head on over to the Tsukiji Fish Market to try an array of street snacks, eat some ridiculously fresh sushi, and explore the wholesale market. How to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market The Tsukiji Fish Market is surprisingly easy to get to. The market is about 25 minutes from Shinjuku Station and only a few minutes’ walk from Tsukiji Station (just follow the direction of all the other white people :P). Street snacks found at the Tsukiji Fish Market Mochi with fresh strawberry (¥300)OnigiriTonkatsuTomago (¥100)Corn Fritter (¥320)We arrived at around 9:00 am and stopped at just about every other stall to grab something to eat. We first tried the mochi with fresh strawberry (¥300). The massive mochi is filled with various flavors: red bean, matcha, chocolate, etc. and was an odd but satisfying morning snack. There were a few shops selling onigiri and tonkatsu, though everything was in Japanese, so it was a bit of a guessing game when choosing. I loved the simple and fluffy tomago (¥100), especially since it was served hot on the very cold and rainy day we decided to go to the market. The corn fritter (¥320) was definitely a highlight for me – the ones served at the market are made with a mild fish paste that was surprisingly delicious. Where to go for a sit-down sushi meal Sushi KatsuraYou’ve likely heard of some of the popular sushi shops by the Tsukiji Fish Market, like Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai, that people begin queuing up for at 4:00 am (or earlier!). Since there was no way I would be waking up that early just to stand in line for 3+ hours, I managed to find an alternate sushi restaurant only a few minutes’ walk from the Tsukiji Fish Market. Sushi Katsura (すしかつら) is a fantastic alternative with an omakase menu that starts at only ¥950 (compared with the above mentioned restaurants where it’ll likely cost triple). Sushi Katsura also doesn’t open until lunchtime, so you don’t need to wake up at a ridiculous hour to enjoy high quality sushi. Read more about my experience at Sushi Katsura here. Places to explore around the Tsukiji Fish Market Wholesale areaWholesale areaIndoor marketWasabiAlong the streetsYou can head into the wholesale warehouse to explore after the auctions have taken place, however, it’s a bit chaotic and they ask you to put away your camera before going inside (I clearly didn’t listen to the rules). Things were winding down when I went in, but I did come across some of the largest scallops I’ve ever laid eyes on. There are also two indoor market areas you can walk through with little stalls throughout selling fresh sushi, sashimi, uni, and plenty more. Things to know Hours: The outer area of the market is open from 5:00 am – 3:00 pm (hours may vary slightly depending on the shops). The wholesale area opens to visitors as of 9:00 am. Days of Operation: The Tsukiji Fish Market is closed on Sundays, holidays, and most Wednesdays. Be sure to check the calendar before you plan your visit. View the full article
  5. Figuring out which area of Tokyo to stay in and then finding a hotel that doesn’t cost a fortune can be a logistical nightmare (especially when traveling over the popular sakura/cherry blossom season). After plenty of research on where to stay, I opted to pay a bit more for accommodation in a central area, as opposed to staying a bit out of the way to save some money. Shinjuku was on just about every travel guide and blog I read, so once I settled on that location it was time to choose a hotel. I narrowed it down based on price, distance from the metro, and facilities. The only hotel I found at the time to be within reason was the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex. First Impressions of the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex Main lobbyTo start, this is not a fancy hotel by any means. The hotel is located right next to the Shinjuku Washington Hotel (which we initially confused for our hotel) and you walk through a building full of restaurants and a convenient store (which ended up being very convenient) to get there. The lobby area is basic, but the staff do speak English fairly well and were able to help us with any questions we had. Check-in was painless and they offered a buffet breakfast (at an additional, but reasonable, cost) at a variety of different restaurants, depending on your cuisine preference. My Room Room with two single bedsRoom facilitiesPJ timeThough the room wasn’t large by any means, it still had ample space to move around and throw our luggage down (sorry – photos were clearly not taken when the room was clean!) without feeling like we were in each other’s way. The amenities were simple, but much appreciated – daily bottles of water and coffee/tea (side note: the pour-over coffee was insanely good. So good, in fact, we went on a mission to find a grocery store that sold this type of fancy instant coffee), freshly pressed pyjamas, a mini-fridge, and a hair-dryer. The bathroom was also equipped with shampoo, body wash, complimentary toiletries, and an amazing toilet. A flushing noise would come on once you sat down so no one would have to hear you do your business and it had a built-in bidet that would clean both ends. Originally I was skeptical about the bidet, but soon after became obsessed (TMI?) and am still wondering why these toilets aren’t used everywhere around the world. Overall Thoughts I would definitely recommend the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex if you’re looking to stay in one of Tokyo’s central areas without paying a fortune. The hotel has a decent sized room, basic amenities, and is close to the metro. I stayed at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex for five nights during cherry blossom season at ¥19,570 per night including tax (of which I paid half since I was sharing the room with a friend – so around HK$700 per night). Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex 2-9, Nishishinjuku, 3 chome Shinjuku-ku Tokyo Japan My stay at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel Annex was paid for entirely by myself. As always, all views and opinions expressed are my own. View the full article
  6. These are snippets of what I’ve experienced living in Hong Kong over the past years: from the funny to the weird, and everything in between. I’ll continue to update this post as I come across more strange and wonderful things around the city. 70. Where this anti-smoking ad is more likely to make you laugh than to quit smoking. 69. Where honesty is key. 68. Where you’ll find “Monkey Head” on a menu. 67. When monks wear “spicy” shoes on the MTR. 66. When people have too much money and too little sense, and decide to cover their Porsche in black velvet. 65. When restaurants need to specify that liquor is intoxicating, as opposed to it being..? 64. When these are the things I see on my commute to work in the morning. 63. When the Hong Kong Observatory issues a T8 (strong typhoon warning) without it even raining, and the whole city literally shuts down.. 62. When precautions are taken very seriously around a work site.. 61. Where people need to be reminded of proper hygiene practices. 60. When it’s 30°C outside and people are wearing a down jacket and Hawaiian shorts. 59. Where this outdoor display is meant to entice you to eat here. 58. Where the elderly take their exercising seriously. 57. Where the world’s most insane beauty products exist. 56. Where people are badass. 55. Where seeing this becomes normal. 54. Where clothes can be incredibly ironic. 53. Where you can purchase a “Mini Portable Toilet”. 52. Where you can find people sleeping at the bottom of stairwells. 51. Where soup exists for your hands. 50. Where department stores display Halloween and Christmas decorations side by side. 49. Where fashion is taken seriously. 48. Where products like this actually exist and famous soccer players actually promote them. 47. When you’re not sure what the marketing strategy is. 46. Where people own incredibly large cellphones. 45. Where you always get a good laugh out of locals wearing English shirts. 44. Where you can find a truckload of bamboo just lying on the street. 43. When fancy port-a-potty’s equipped with carpeted floors, a full length mirror, and a framed picture are rented for the Rugby Sevens. 42. Where drying your entire wardrobe along a public walkway is a thing. 41. When a notice regarding “throwing animal discharge from height” is posted in your apartment building. 40. Where the love of egg tarts is real. 39. Where you’re just not quite sure what to do in some situations (so you just take a photo instead) 38. Where you can wait for the bus in style. 37. Where you have announcements like this in the MTR: “Please hold onto the handrails and not just look at your mobile phone.” 36. When businesses run out of the back of a van. 35. Where you can get some exercise on the side of the road. 34. Where the food safety and hygiene guidelines are questionable. 33. Where people will queue for hours on end. 32. When a water pipe bursts, construction workers are more concerned with taking a picture of the flooding street than fixing it. 31. Where advertisements sure know how to catch your attention. 30. Where DIY projects consist of sticking oven mitts to the handle bars of motorcycles. 29. Where you can buy wine by the plastic glass in the grocery store. 28. Where this is considered entertainment at a nightclub. 27. Where your choice of local grocery store is based solely upon how much its name makes you laugh. 26. Where public stretching in short shorts and no shirt is serious business. 25. When candy wrappers warn consumers that “children and elderly people should not eat absolutely.” 24. Where you can’t walk more than two blocks without seeing one of these “litter cum recyclables” bins. 23. Where you can find horse figurines, among other oddities, randomly stuck into large rocks. 22. When these are a few words of wisdom imparted on you by a local restaurant owner: “Don’t go back to Canada. So many animal. So few people. Don’t waste your life.” *Mr. Wong from Mr. Wong’s, Mong Kok 21. When eating pig skin is considered a delicacy. 20. When your concept of what dessert is completely flipped around. 19. When signs like this are posted outside of the washrooms at a bar. 18. Where people are really serious about Hello Kitty. 17. Where this is on display at an amusement park. 16. When this becomes a regular sight on a night out. 15. Where adults dressing the same is a thing. 14. When the smog is so thick you can no longer see half of the tallest building in your area. 13. Where embarrassment does not exist. 12. When the weather is more indecisive than I am. 11. When owning an oven is the epitome of wealth and the envy of all your friends. 10. When you can take the escalator up to the gym. Bonus: having a McDonald’s right underneath. 9. When you can find preserved whole baby crabs in a snack bag. 8. When Groupon sells stuff like this. 7. When you climb up a mountain and have this as your view (just ignore the smog). 6. When the only way to get hot water in your flat is by turning this on. 5. Where people either fear or are obsessed with dogs. 4. When families and couples coordinate their outfits so they all match. 3. When it is 20° out and people are wearing winter jackets and boots. 2. When you’re on the MTR and see a man plucking out his facial hair with tweezers. 1. When you’re at the gym and a) Men are wearing shorter shorts than women b) People are wearing their work clothes c) One in five people are talking on their cellphone View the full article
  7. The Discovery Bay to Mui Wo hike is perfect if you’re wanting to get off Hong Kong Island without wasting much time getting to and back from your hike. This hike is very straight forward and offers fantastic views of Discovery Bay and the surrounding islands (if the weather is cooperating). The first half of this hike can be challenging, with a lot of uphill stairs and a fairly steep climb up to Tiger’s Head. However, the rest of the trail is flat and downhill. The hike ends at Silvermine Bay Beach, so bring your bathing suit and take a quick dip in the water before catching the ferry back to Central. Starting point of the Discovery Bay to Mui Wo hike Head to Central Pier 3 and hop on the Discovery Bay ferry (view the timetable here). The journey takes about 25 minutes and the hike begins 5 minutes from the pier. Discovery Bay to Tiger’s Head (Lo Fu Tau) Take the first right along this beach-side walkwayOnce you’re off the ferry and at Discovery Bay Plaza, head right towards the beach. Depending on what time you start this hike, you could grab breakfast at one of the cafes (there’s also a Pacific Coffee there) beforehand. Otherwise, keep following the path towards the beach. Once on the walkway along the beach, you’re going to take the first left (where you see the people in the photo above) up the path between the housing complexes. Go rightCross the street and go up the stairs where you see the green and white signWalk past the housing complex and make a right after the houses at the intersection (see first photo above). Walk down the path where you’ll have houses on your right and trees on your left across the road. At the first crosswalk, turn left and cross the street. You’ll see a green sign and a white sign (can see them in the middle-left of the second photo above) with stairs leading up. This is the start of the hike. Views of Discovery BayAlthough not long, the stairs leading up to the Discovery Bay lookout are quite steep, and can be relentless on a hot and humid day. That being said, the views are fantastic once you reach the top. Go rightTake the first right and head up the dirt pathAfter you’re done taking a few photos, head down from the lookout point (just keep following the path) and turn right after you finish going down the stairs (if you head left you’ll see a helicopter pad followed by a gazebo with another lookout point). Only a few steps down that paved path is where you’ll make the first right and head up. From here, you’ll be going up a dirt path to get to Tiger’s Head (Lo Fu Tau Country Trail). View from the (almost) topAt this point, you’re almost at the top – the dirt path you see in the photo above is the same one you’ll be climbing up to get to this point. Tiger’s Head (Lo Fu Tau) to Mui Wo View from Tiger Head (if you could actually see past the haze/smog)If the skies are bright and blue, the view from the top would be stunning. Unfortunately, I had no such luck when I went and couldn’t see anything more than a few feet ahead of me (but at least there was a photo to show me what I was missing out on, right?..). From this point, the rest of the hike is all flat and downhill – just keep following the path. Turn left (follow the signs for Mui Wo)Heading into Mui WoAfter about 20 minutes, you’ll come to a fork in the path with a little pavilion. Go left towards Mui Wo, which you’ll be able to see in the distance as you descend. Go left (down the stairs) to get to Silvermine Bay Beach and the ferry pierOnce in Mui Wo, you’ll walk past a small waterfall, a few temples, and the Silvermine Cave. Shortly after the cave, you’ll have a point where you could continue to walk straight, but you’ll also see stairs looping down and going back in the direction you came just to the left beside the tree with all the signs on it (see photo above). To get to Silvermine Bay Beach and the ferry pier, turn around and head down the stairs and continue along the path. After a 10 minute walk through the little local villages, you’ll reach the beach. From here, you can take a dip in the water, grab a snack, or head back to the ferry pier if you’re eager to get home. On your way to the ferry pier, there’s a cooked food center with tables looking out onto the water that I would recommend eating at if you’re hungry. Journey Length: about 10 km Total Time: about 2.5 – 3.5 hours View the full article
  8. If you want to visit temples in Japan, most people will direct you to Kyoto where you’ll find plenty. However, if you’re only staying in Tokyo, you’d be missing out if you didn’t make the trip to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Although a very popular tourist spot, I loved walking around the Sensoji Temple and the surrounding Asakusa area. You’ll see plenty of locals partaking in various Buddhist practices, try a range of snacks at one of the numerous shops, and grab a souvenir or two before you leave. How to get to the Sensoji Temple in Asukusa The Sensoji Temple is incredibly easy to get to via subway, as it’s only a few minutes’ walk from Asakusa Station. Since Tokyo’s subway system is an actual mess (at least to those [like me] looking at the dozens of subway lines for the first time), I’d recommend just asking someone at the service counter for directions if you’re feeling a little lost. Or if you’re quite good at reading subway maps, just make your way towards the light red/pink Asakusa Line. Once there, take Exit 1. From here, it’s only a 5 minute walk to the Sensoji Temple. What you’ll see There’s much more than just seeing a temple and then leaving when you visit the Sensoji Temple. As Tokyo’s oldest temple, the Sensoji Temple is beautiful and you can find a few other smaller temples nearby if you wander around. When I was there, I saw plenty of locals who were partaking in a variety of worshiping rituals: a water fountain where people would take a cup of water and “wash their hands”, tying little notes onto a display rack, and opening and closing little drawers filled with items I couldn’t see (but I could certainly hear). Aside from the religious aspects, you’ll find a range of little food stalls and souvenir shops (surprisingly, the only ones I saw during my time in Tokyo) lined up along the cherry blossom-covered main walkway. What you should eat The main walkway to the Sensoji TempleMelonpanMatcha and Hokkaido Milk soft serve ice creamRed bean taiyakiOne piece of advice: come to the Sensoji Temple hungry. There are dozens of little food stalls around the temple and though I didn’t know what a lot of the snacks were, they were so cheap that I just tried whatever I thought looked good. Melonpan (¥250) is a very simple, but oddly delicious street snack that’s basically a slightly sweet bread with a crunchy outside. The matcha and Hokkaido milk soft serve ice cream (¥350) was good, but admittedly I’ve had better. Finally, the red bean taiyaki (¥160) was probably my favorite snack of the day. I found this little stall just outside the main area in one of the shopping tunnels. You get to watch the taiyaki being made before, so you know they’re hot and fresh. Since I had my eyes on a bowl of ramen from Ippudo for dinner afterwards, I didn’t go too crazy on the snacks, but there were plenty more to choose from. Sensoji Temple Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo Opening days: Everyday Hours: 6:00 am – 5:00 pm (though the main hall is always open) Entrance fee: Free View the full article
  9. Hong Kong is a city where weekends are filled with boozy brunches. If you’re looking to take your standard champagne brunch one step further, head to Ozone at The Ritz Carlton for their Ultimate Dom Perignon Brunch. Indulge in a buffet spread the size of a soccer field, eat copious amounts of Joselito ham, take in the sweeping views of the Hong Kong harbor from the 118th floor, and drink all the Dom Perignon 2006 you can handle. Held every Sunday, the Ozone brunch has #treatyoself written all over it. Buffet Spread at Ozone brunch All-you-can-eat Joselito HamSushi /raw seafood startersSalad barRound 1DessertsIf you’ve only been to Ozone at night for cocktails, you’re missing out. The space is beautiful during the day, with massive floor-to-ceiling windows that offer an abundance of natural light and breathtaking views of the Hong Kong harbor. What can you expect in terms of food? One of the unique offerings is the Joselito ham (which is meant to be the best in the world), which is carved off the leg for you. The ham was incredible and I couldn’t help but go back for a second plate. The other stations throughout Ozone were typical of a grande hotel buffet: appetizers, sushi, raw seafood, salad bar, selection from the grill, eggs benedict, live waffle station, and a massive dessert selection. Some of my favorites were the Joselito ham, deviled truffle eggs, the grilled lamb, and the tiramisu. Verdict Views from the 118th floorIf you love Dom Perignon and are able to get your money’s worth by drinking a bottle of it during brunch, it’s definitely worth it. However, if you’re not much of a champagne drinker (or can’t fully appreciate the difference between brands), then it might be hard to justify spending HK$1,298 on brunch. Don’t get me wrong, the food was great and the views (after the haze cleared up) were fantastic, but there are also plenty of other restaurants in the city that put on a lovely champagne brunch for half the price. Details “The Ultimate Dom Perignon Brunch” is available every Sunday at Ozone from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Price: HK$1,298 including free-flow Dom Perignon 2006 OR HK$2,198 including Dom Perignon Rose 2004 Ozone 118/F, The Ritz Carlton International Commerce Centre (ICC) 1 Austin Road West West Kowloon Tel: 2263 2270 View the full article
  10. I was told to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market early (like, 5:00 am early), so that we could queue up for one of the sushi bars for breakfast. The two restaurants that were recommended to me were Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. After doing a bit more research and reading nightmare reviews of people queuing for up to four hours for an overly priced, mediocre omakase sushi breakfast, there was no way I was going to get caught in that tourist trap. Instead, I stumbled upon a fantastic alternative, Sushi Katsura (すしかつら), just a few blocks away from the Tsukiji Fish Market. You can expect an incredibly good-valued omakase lunch at Sushi Katsura with zero queues and no 4:00 am wake-up call. Vibe at Sushi Katsura Sushi Katsura exteriorThe main sushi counterWe were the first ones in Sushi Katsura (it opens at 11:30 am for lunch) and there was a slow trickle of customers who came in shortly after, but it was nowhere near as busy as I thought it was going to be. The two sushi chefs behind the counter were all smiles while making our sushi. Sushi Katsura is simple, fuss-free, and serves up some fantastic sushi at insanely reasonable prices considering the area. Omakase menu English menuPart 1 of my “Sushi for 1.5 persons” omakase setPart 2 of my “Sushi for 1.5 persons” omakase setI had read that Sushi Katsura didn’t have an English menu, however, they must have been getting enough business from tourists to create one because they handed us an English menu after we sat down. I ordered the “Sushi for 1.5 persons” which was ¥1,050 and came with 11 pieces of nigiri sushi, a maki roll, and a bowl of miso soup. The sushi is served on a bamboo leaf in front of you and comes out as the chef prepares it. My friend ordered the “Jo-sushi” for ¥1,900, which was meant to be a “high class” sushi set with a few more pieces of different nigiri. Though she did like it, the difference between my set and hers wasn’t worth the price difference. Verdict I would highly recommend Sushi Katsura as a solid alternative to the over-hyped sushi restaurants in the Tsukiji Fish Market. There’s no need to wake up at the crack of dawn to queue for a sushi breakfast, the prices at Sushi Katsura are incredibly reasonable (expect to pay three to four times the price at Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi), and the food is incredibly fresh and delicious. Sushi Katsura (すしかつら) 2-15-4 Tsukiji Tokyo Tel: +81 3 3543 1800 View the full article
  11. If you ask for suggestions on where to go for a fun night out in Tokyo, it’s likely that many people will tell you to head to Golden Gai in Shinjuku. This well-known area of Tokyo is famous for its nightlife. You’ll find 6 parallel alleyways with tiny bars crammed everywhere (there’s said to be over 200 bars). Many tourists come here for a bit of bar hopping (if you manage to find a seat), though there are a handful of bars that cater to a “Japanese-speaking only” crowd. While I can’t say I loved Golden Gai, I thought it was a unique experience that is worth checking out. Vibe around Golden Gai We went to Golden Gai on a Saturday and, at first, it seemed pretty quiet. There weren’t as many people milling about the alleyways as I had imagined. However, just about every single bar that I walked by was completely packed. The bars in Golden Gai can only comfortably seat about 8 – 10 people, so it’s best to get there early if you wanted to go to a specific bar or if you’re with a group of 3 or more people. The majority of people in Golden Gai appeared to be tourists looking for a fun night of drinking far too much sake while having good conversations with friends and strangers, and taking in a bit of Tokyo’s past. How to know which bar to go into I found walking through Golden Gai to be a bit overwhelming, since it can be difficult to decide which bar to go into. Many bars have a cover charge of around ¥600 – ¥1000, just keep your eyes peeled for the signs outside that usually say if there is a cover charge or not. Any bar that has English signage is a safe bet to go into, but there were a few bars that had signs saying they only wanted Japanese-speaking people to enter their bar. Since we were there quite late, most of the bars were already packed, but we managed to find one that only had three other people in it and didn’t have a cover charge. Drink prices vary, but I ordered sake (the glass was massive) for ¥900. Just don’t expect any menu with prices at the bars. You simply order and hope that it doesn’t cost a fortune when you ask for the bill. Overall thoughts on Golden Gai My feelings on Golden Gai are mixed. On one hand, I would recommend visiting the area because it’s a unique and historical part of Tokyo with plenty of character. On the other hand, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I was going to be. I didn’t like how most bars had a cover charge, that certain bars wouldn’t admit non-Japanese speakers, and how smoking was allowed inside the bars. Regardless, I still think it’s worthwhile to check out Golden Gai for yourself if you haven’t already! View the full article
  12. The Shinjuku district of Tokyo is a bustling, hectic, and very modern part of the city, however, there are a few spots only steps away from the busy main streets that offer visitors a glimpse into the old Tokyo. One such place is Memory Lane (translated from Omoide Yokocho, but also known as “Piss Alley”). Here you’ll find an assortment of tiny shops that serve up yakitori, soba noodles, and (of course) plenty of drinks. Aside from just being really cool to walk through thanks to its narrow alleyways, cramped bars with people laughing, eating, and drinking, and Japanese decor strung throughout, this is where I found the best bowl of soba noodles. What to expect down Memory Lane (“Piss Alley”). Entrance into Memory LaneWalking along Memory Lane at nightAround 10:30 pm on Memory LaneMemory Lane TokyoMemory Lane brings back feelings of Japan’s post-war era. While I was initially expecting to walk through a dirty, decrepit alleyway, I was pleasantly surprised that the name “Piss Alley” (the name originally came from the alley’s 1940’s black market bars and lack of toilet) was not directly related to the physical state of the area. In fact, I found Memory Lane to be incredibly charming and full of character. I would recommend having a walk through the whole thing (it’s really not that big) before choosing a place to sit down and eat. Just go with whatever jumps out at you and looks appealing (and actually has an empty seat!). This is how we found a cute noodle shop and ended up having one of the best bowls of soba. Where to eat in Memory Lane Tokyo You’ll find the best bowl of soba at this joint down Memory LaneThe main (and only) chef working his magicThe best bowl of soba noodles with vegetable tempura and a soft boiled eggSince we were walking around quite late at night (at this point, it must have been between 10:00 – 11:00 pm), there weren’t as many restaurants opened as we had expected. Most of the little hole-in-the-walls, which could only comfortable sit a maximum of 10 or so people, were completely full. Thankfully, just as we came around a corner, this brightly lit open-concept soba shop caught our eye. There was a small queue of people waiting, which told us the food was good. So, we waited about 10 minutes for a seat, sat down, ordered their best seller (there are only three options), and began slurping away. The dish consisted of fresh soba noodles, crispy vegetable tempura, and a soft boiled egg. All for only ¥400. This was one of my favourite dishes I had in Tokyo, not to mention one of the cheapest. Omoide Yokocho; Memory Lane (Piss Alley) 1 Chome-2-8 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo View the full article
  13. Fuunji Tokyo was said to serve up some of the best tsukemen in the city, and since I had never tried that type of ramen before (I know, I know) I was looking forward to trying it. The shop is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, so be sure to arrive early or go late, otherwise you should expect a queue (we went just after it opened and we still didn’t get a seat right away). There are only two things on the menu: ramen or dipping noodles (tsukemen), but the vast majority come for the latter. And trust me, it doesn’t disappoint. Vibe at Fuunji Tokyo Outside the ramen shopInside – looking to the back of the restaurantInside – at the front of the queue, looking to the entrance of the restaurantFuunji Tokyo is not somewhere you go to have a casual bowl of ramen and catch up with your friends. It’s definitely more of a get in, stuff your face with noodles, and get out kind of place. When we arrived, there wasn’t a queue outside the restaurant like I had read about (apparently the queues can be huge if you go during peak hours), but there was one inside. People actually queue up behind people eating, which certainly adds a bit of pressure to finish your meal quickly. Thankfully, we were able to get seats by the entrance, which meant no one was breathing down our back. There were a handful of other tourists there, which made me believe this place was more popular than I had originally thought. The main chef (perhaps owner?) had longer, light brown hair, was incredibly friendly, and could speak a bit of English. Tsukemen Ramen Order and pay for your ramen through this machine firstTsukemen ramen (large noodles)Tsukemen ramenRight as you enter the door, you’ll see a big machine on your right. This is where you order your noodles. The choices are ramen (‎¥‎750), special ramen (‎¥‎950), dipping noodle (‎¥‎800), and special dipping noodle (‎¥‎1,000). I’ll be honest: I have no clue what the difference is between the “special” version and the regular version, but we knew we wanted the dipping noodle and everyone ahead of us ordered the special dipping noodle, so we just followed suit and did the same. The noodles come in either small or large (no extra charge for the large), so I obviously ordered the large. Shortly after we sat down, an actual mountain of noodles arrived alongside the soup and I actually struggled to finish the whole thing. The tsukemen broth is a mixture of rich chicken with hints of fish. The fishy taste is heightened by the spoonful of fish powder on top. Not realizing the tsukemen came with an egg and seaweed, I ordered an extra serving of both (oops!) at ¥‎100 each. The tsukemen also came with a good amount of tender chunks of pork, hidden at the bottom of the bowl. One thing I was surprised about was that the ramen actually wasn’t hot; the noodles were cold and the soup was mild in temperature, but I really didn’t mind. It was pretty much love at first slurp with this tsukemen. Verdict The intense and rich flavored broth completely won me over and I would absolutely return to Fuunji Tokyo the next time I visit the city. If you’re looking for good quality tsukemen in an authentic Japanese ramen shop, head to Fuunji. Just be sure to arrive right when it opens or go late at night, otherwise you’ll likely be queuing for at least an hour or so. Fuunji 2-14-3, Yoyogi Shinjuku Tokyo Tel: +81 3 6413 8480 View the full article
  14. There are so many fantastic restaurants in Tokyo that planning where to eat during your stay can be a bit overwhelming. Many well-established restaurants begin taking reservations upwards of a month in advance, so if you’re not in the know, you’ll likely miss out on an opportunity to have a fantastic meal. While many of these restaurants tend to be quite fancy, I discovered a hidden gem that I want to share with you: Narukiyo Tokyo. This restaurant only serves an omakase menu (meaning there is no menu), has insanely fun vibes (sit around the kitchen counter for added entertainment while enjoying the chef’s playlist and the awkward yet hilarious phallic objects scattered about the restaurant), and is basically guaranteed to be one of the best nights you’ll have in Tokyo. Vibe at Narukiyo Tokyo Entrance into Narukiyo (can be a bit difficult to find!)My lovely view at the kitchen counterAround the kitchen barThe hilarious head chefThe restaurant has a large open kitchen with about 10 seats around it. If at all possible, make sure you sit there. There’s also seating in a separate dining area if you’re with a larger group, but I promise that your experience will be much better if you can see all the action in the kitchen. I had a fantastic seat at the kitchen counter where a massive black flying penis was hanging down from the ceiling, practically in front of my face (no, seriously.. check out the photos above). Aside from phallic references (and by references, I mean straight up penises) everywhere you turn, the restaurant may seem a bit underwhelming when you first walk in. A few minutes after we were seated, we really got into the vibe of the whole place. Expect funky music (they had on a bit of rock while we were there) compliments of whatever the chef (who was hilarious and was wearing a pin that read “I love sex”) is feeling like that evening, a view into what’s going on in the kitchen, and lots of laughter and smiles among the other diners. Omakase Menu Here’s the thing about dining at Narukiyo. There’s no menu. We literally sat down, asked for sake, and then our food slowly began to arrive. Prior to making our reservation, we had heard that the chef actually determines what he’s going to serve you based on your appearance. So, my understanding is, if you show up looking all fancy and whatnot, you can expect many delicious courses, but be prepared to spend a pretty penny on your meal. Bowl of cold local vegetables to start (individual dish)Wagyu beef (shared dish)Cold seafood box (individual dish)Raw bonito fish (shared dish)Sashimi bowl (shared dish)Asparagus with tomato (individual dish)Artichoke (shared dish)Strawberries and CreamWe began with a bowl of cold local vegetables that were simple, but delicious. A plate of medium rare wagyu beef came next that we shared. The wagyu was oddly chewy, but the flavor was great. I’m not a massive seafood fan, so I was slightly skeptical when a box of cold fish was put in front of us. Thankfully, the fish was quite good (bones and all!), albeit messy to eat. One of my favorite dishes was the raw bonito fish with a light peanut sauce, which was incredibly fresh. We then shared a large plate of fresh sashimi, including octopus, salmon, tuna, and some other fish that I honestly can’t remember (sorry; we were two bottles of sake in at this point!) aside from the fact that everything was insanely good. The chef makes fresh wasabi by grating the wasabi root. If you’ve never had fresh wasabi, you should definitely try it – the taste is much different (read: much better) than what you’re likely used to. Next up, we each had an individual plate of asparagus and tomato. This must have been the largest asparagus I have ever seen, though I’ll admit I felt the dish was random. We finished up our meal with a sharing plate of artichoke with salt. During our meal, we began chatting with a couple of fun guys who sat beside us and they ended up ordering a giant vase (with a penis handle, of course) of strawberries and cream. Aside from the hilarity that ensued from the condensed milk drizzled everywhere, these were some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had. Verdict All together, we had 7 courses (excluding the strawberries), three of which were individual and four of which we shared. When we were done our meal (we did have to tell our waiter to stop bringing the food out, otherwise I think dishes would have kept coming), a little piece of paper with the total came out. There was no individualized pricing for each dish, so I honestly have no clue how much each cost (though, if I do remember correctly, each flask of sake we had was ¥1,600 and we had three flasks over the course of our 3.5~ hour meal). In the end, our entire bill was ¥20,700. You’ll be guaranteed an evening of fun and great food at Narukiyo Tokyo. I would definitely recommend checking it out on your next visit to Tokyo, just be sure to make reservations ahead of time and ask for a seat around the kitchen. Narukiyo Tokyo B/F, 2-7-14 Shibuya Tokyo Tel: +81 3 5485 2223 View the full article
  15. When I was planning my trip to Tokyo, there was no thought in my mind that I would be eating anything other than all the delicious Japanese food my greedy stomach could handle. That was until the friend I was travelling with told me she had read about a shop called Kuumba du Falafel in Shibuya and how their sandwiches were insanely good. I’ve never been a big fan of falafels, so I was slightly hesitant at first. However, after doing a quick Google search and reading only positive reviews, I was quickly persuaded. Conclusion: the falafel sandwich I had at Kuumba du Falafel Tokyo was hands-down the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had. Vibe at Kuumba du Falafel Kuumba du Falafel – outsideKuumba du Falafel – insideI’m going to be honest – you’re going to walk into Kuumba du Falafel and think, “Uhh, am I in the right place?”. The exterior of the small restaurant is unassuming and it’s very easy to walk right by as there is practically no signage. The inside isn’t much better. It’s small, relatively bare, and has only a few seats. As for the service, don’t expect much. You’re probably wondering why on earth I’m recommending this place if the vibe is a bit cold (unlike most Japanese establishments). You only come to Kuumba du Falafel for one thing: the falafel sandwich. The Falafel Full size falafel sandwichThe only thing on the menu is the falafel sandwich in either half or full size. Obviously, I ordered the full size (¥1,200), which was so massive I basically got an arm workout just holding the thing for photos. The menu doesn’t tell you what other ingredients come with your sandwich aside from the falafel, but I promise you that they are all delicious. The pita wrap was packed with veggies and two or three (can’t even remember as I was too busy devouring it) falafel balls. The light orange sauce (some kind of kewpie mayo) was also fantastic. Add a bit of their homemade chili sauce on top for divine perfection. Verdict If you like falafels (and, apparently, even if you’re like me and don’t) you need to try Kuumba du Falafel. The little shop is not really near anything and the service is far from great, but I promise, it’s well worth a trip over there to experience their heavenly falafel sandwich. Kuumba du Falafel Me Building 23-1 Shinsencho Shibuya-ku Tokyo Tel: +81 3 6416 8396 View the full article