Thursday, August 13, 2015

50th National Day Singapore

We were at the Merlion Park to catch the aerial display and fireworks during the National Day Parade (NDP) NE (Nation Education) Show on 25 July 2015.  We were glad that we made a trip down to Merlion Park for the little man. To bring my boy to watch the NDP was something close to my heart especially this year marks our Nation's 50th birthday.  Unfortunately, we were not successful in balloting the NDP tickets.   We stood and waited patiently at the end of the Jubilee bridge at Merlion Park. A pity we missed the Red Lions.  Nevertheless, the Black Knights were awesome!  We soaked up the atmosphere as we watched the Black Knights thundered past with their stunts.

The night ended with electrifying fireworks right in front of us.  It was an unforgettable and memorable day.

We love Singapore! 

P.S. It was a late and short post though. But I seriously need to write here because firstly, it was Singapore's 50th Birthday, the Jubilee year.  Secondly, it was rare opportunity that Papa agreed to bring us to watch it without complaining the heat and crowd.  Thirdly, I would not be able to out live another 50 years for the next 100th National Day.

LKY 5 Star Salute

State Flag flypast
Salute to our Nation

Black Knights salute to the Nation

Black Knights Criss Cross formation

Left: Lego cable car, Singapore flag,
a lion and an origami sampan craft made by my boy
as part of Nation Education in his school

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Japan trip during June 2015 holidays - Arrive in Kyoto/Day trip to Nara Park (Part 2)

This is the second part of our Japan trip during June 2015 holidays. I wrote the first part of the trip in Tokyo here.  

8 June 2015 JR Kyoto Station/Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto

We bid farewell to Tokyo in the morning after a hearty Japanese breakfast.  Check out at the Shinjuku Washington Hotel was a breeze because we did it over their self-checkout machines in minutes!  To get to Kyoto station, we first has to take a subway (Chuo line) from Shinjuku to Tokyo station.  From there, we had to get to Tokaido Shinkasen; the route for Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka.  Then, find our car number and locate our reserved seat when onboard.  So we did lots of walking and climbing up/down short flights of stairs in the underground passages that lead to Shinjuku station.  Luckily, we only have one large luggage and one small luggage plus each of us carried a sling bag/backpack. 

At Tokyo station, it was nerve racking when we got quite confused and lost there especially we have to catch the bullet train. Nevertheless, we asked for directions from JR information counter and with help of signage, we managed to get to Tokaido shinkasen, still with some time to spare and wait comfortably at car number 11.  We bought ekiben (Railway station lunch box) from the platform and ate our lunch onboard. We were sitting on the left side of the train and thus, unable to get a glimpse of Mount Fuji (which could be viewed from the right side of the train from what I read on other's travel blog). Our first experience taking a bullet train was exceptionally smooth and quiet ride!  Really marvel at Japanese transport system!!  To be exact, the journey took about 2 hours and 17 minutes to reach JR Kyoto station. 

Eating ekiben

From JR Kyoto station,  a futuristic looking building, we walked on foot to Rihga Royal Hotel which, from the map, appeared to be close in proximity. But it was quite a distance though.  The planner, our Papa, did not know that the hotel provides free shutter bus to/from the station until much later when we stayed there.  Luckily, it was not raining. In fact, it was such a nice weather that we enjoyed the walk (with two luggage).

Accommodation we booked was a twin bedroom.  The hotel was kind enough to add another extra sofa bed for the three of us.  The room was so spacious and double the size of Shinjuku Washington hotel in Tokyo.  We would be staying at Rihga for 8 nights.  Yippee!  I would be able to have better and restful nights with no snoring (from the two boys) right next to my face ;P

Rihga Royal Kyoto Hotel

JR Kyoto Station

We headed back to JR Kyoto station where we bought a 4 days JR Kansai Area Pass from 8 to 12 June 2015 at the Tourist Information center.  And then, another 4 days pass from 13 to 16 June 2015 separately at the end of the validity of the earlier pass.  The pass was particularly flexible and ease for us making day trips from Kyoto to/from Nara and Osaka at our own leisure time and pace.  And it also covered Haruka limited express train to Kansai International airport which we needed on our last day of Japan trip.   It might not be the most economical means to travel.  So do you own calculations!  Papa used Kyoto as our 'base camp' where we returned for every day trips.  Reason being, he did not want to move places to places carrying the luggage. 

Thereafter, we had a soba dinner at its porta area.  With so many variety of food, we were spoiled for choice definitely.  The sheer size of the building amazingly housed Hotel Graniva, Kyoto Theatre, museums, an eleven-storey high Isetan department store, restaurants, café and many more shops.  Impressive!  On the way back to our hotel, we passed by a café which we thought would be nice for our coffee fix for tomorrow's breakfast before leaving for our next destination, Nara the next morning. 

Although we walked a lot, our little man was too excited to sleep early.  Back in the hotel room, he put on the adult yukata and played for a while till he tired out. 

It was a long day spent most of the time travelling, errant and familiarising the new place. 

9 June 2015 Nara Park - Kofukuji/Todaiji Buddhist Temples

We woke up fresh and energetic early in the morning.  After a light breakfast with some pastries and coffee at Caffé Veloce, we took a train (Miyakoji Rapid Service ) to JR Nara station which was a 45-50 minutes ride.  From JR Nara station, it was 15 to 20 minutes walk. This also kicked start our journey of multiple visits to temples and shrines in Japan starting with Nara.  The latter, formerly, was the first capital of Japan, established in 710.

On the way leading up to Kofuku-ji  (興福寺) Temple,  Nara Park's  (奈良公園) free roaming deers residing around the temples and parks were spoted everywhere. The deers was said to be the messager of god.  Deer cookies were sold in the park for feeding. Expect to be swarmed, stalked and followed by the deers if you have the crackers in your hand.  Papa experienced a little aggression because the deers licked his shirt, chewed his bag and some even nudged with his antlers demanding the cookies.  My little boy, however, enjoyed every moments from feeding, and touching the deers' (velvety antlers).  Needless to say, this day trip was specially planned for my boy who was an animal lover.   Although the deers were used to people and crowds, they were still wild animals.  Exercise with cautions when approaching these animals because we had witnessed a child being kicked by a deer.

Kofuku-ji  (興福 寺) Temple, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Flanked by a five-story pagoda, the second tallest pagoda in Japan. Its history dated back as early as in 710.  It was an eye opener for us and totally in awe with the first temple we stepped into.  We also checked out Kofukuji's National Treasure Museum where some Buddhist art and statues exhibits before we stopped to have lunch.  
Kofuku-ji  (興福寺) Temple and Pagoda
There were plenty of rest places and restaurants around.  Check out his cute kid's meal at Yume Kaze Plaza - Kurokawa Honke 吉野本葛 黒川本家 !


Next was Todai-ji temple (東大寺), another UNESCO World Heritage site.  It's hall of great Buddha housed the world largest bronze statue of Buddha.  School children queued up to get a chance to squeeze through pillar with the hole in the middle for enlightenment. We gave it a miss as it was too crowded.  

Nandaimon Gate

Todai-ji temple (東大寺)
Daibutsu (Great Buddha)

With a map on hand, we made our way out and pretty enjoyed the serene surrounding.  The  deers were tamed and quiet in the afternoon as most of them were resting in the lush green forest.  We passed the Great Bell which was still in use,  climbed the steep stairs up to Nigatsu-do Hall (二月堂) for a good view of Nara city and covered the Sangatsu-do Hall (三月堂). .

Great Bell
Steep steps leading to Nigatsu-do Hall (二月堂)

City view from the top

Sangatsu-do Hall (三月堂)

We were quite tired from walking when we came to the base of Wakakusayama Hill.  But our mood was immediately brightened up as soon as we saw more deer munching the crackers at the foot of the hill.    My son was fortunate to meet an elderly Japanese couple who had a bag of fresh leaves they prepared for feeding the deers.  They offered the leaves for him to feed the deers.   (Papa rejected my boys' request for more deer crackers to feed earlier.  Thanks to this kind couple that made his day).  Ahead was Kasuga Taisha Shrine (春日大社) which we briefly stopped as our legs could not ventured any further.

Base of Wakakusayama Hill

Exhausted, we walked to the main road and waited at a bus stop.  Unknowingly we waited on the wrong side of the road!  Yet Nara bus stopped and waved at us to hop in (without a pass/ticket.  Oops!).  It was a blessing to experience such kindness although we could not understand a single Japanese words the passenger/bus driver was trying to tell us.  We simply nodded, bowed and said thank you :P 

Back in Kyoto, we had Kyoto style ramen at Honke Daiichi-asahi 本家 第一旭 that cost us 800 yen for a regular bowl and a mini bowl 450 yen. We queued and waited at least 30 minutes along the roadside.  It was soya based ramen with char siu and plentiful of green onions (mind you, it was like a mountain of it).  Tasty and yummy but too much noodles for the size of regular bowl.  It was rude not to finish it so I gobbled all of it.  My boy, however, polished off a mini bowl of noodles! Burp!!

It was 7.25pm when we walked back to our hotel.  The iconic Kyoto Tower was all lighted up.

Kyoto Tower
Nara's rich cultural legacy seemingly transported us back to history.  It was awesome to view some of the best preserved temples and shrines. And, we truly enjoyed every bits of it.  The sights of so many deer certainly a child's delight as well as adult.  Great weather amid a little drizzle in the evening when we queued for the ramen. 

Coming up next will be my favourite post about Kyoto. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Corn flakes chicken nuggets

# 345

Lately, my son seems to miss Mummy's bento and has asked me to pack for him to bring to school on alternate days.  Out of the blue, he told me that the food sold in his school's canteen was not nice.  He preferred Mummy's bento.  I was overjoyed to hear from him :)) 

I realised I could not make a charaben (aka character bento) early in the morning unless I planned it properly the day before.  Corn flakes chicken nuggets was pretty easy to prepare.  I woke up at 5.30am and targeted to finish before 6.30am which I did!  Leaving me ample time to get the breakfast ready on the table and pulled the little one out from his bed if he still in his sweet dream. 

I minced chicken breast prior day. This morning, I marinated it with pinch of pepper, coated with Japanese mayonnaise and crushed corn flakes.  Pan-fried to golden brown.  Blanched the sugar beans at the same time.  I have a couple of muffin papers left in the pantry and hence, I used it to hold the cheese bun and chicken nuggets.  Put in the vegetables/fruits; sugar beans, Japanese cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, raspberries and a dried prune.  Plonked two cute foodpicks and then left it to cool off before covering and packing the bento box into his schoolbag.

There's quite a lot of food for his half hour recess time.  Boy is growing up and his appetite is huge nowadays.  Hope he enjoys his bento.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

My boy's favourite playtime in the airport!
 Changi Airport Terminal 3
Arrival Hall, Level 1, Public Area

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Japan trip during June 2015 holidays - Tokyo (Part 1)

I have been blogging about making bento since 2010 when my boy started his playgroup in a Preschool which does not prepare meals for the children.  Throughout the bento-ing journey, I learnt to cook Japanese dishes and meals which has also became my son's favourite.  Todate,  I have acquired quite a number of bento books/accessories/boxes mostly from Daiso - the $2 store, some from online shops and others from my hubby who travelled to Tokyo for work previously.  When my hubby popped the question of planning a family vacation in overseas during the June school holidays.  Naturally, Japan came into my mind! The birth place of bento and onigiri!  Of course,  I grabbed the opportunity to include Kyoto in our itinerary where the infamous Bento & Co located.  Kyoto is a beautiful place to visit and stay.  Less congested than Tokyo and Osaka. Beside Kyoto, our trip briefly covered Tokyo, Nara and Osaka prefectures.

5 June 2015  Haneda International Airport, Tokyo

On arrival at Haneda airport in Tokyo approximately around 4 pm, we took an airport transfer which has been paid for back in Singapore.  We just need to exchange the voucher with the bus tickets at the designated ticket and hotel reservation counter. We also bought 2 adults and 1 child suica card ((IC card  Afterwhich, we headed for the bus terminal 3 where we waited for the bus to bring us to Shinjuku Washington Hotel. 

Suica Card
Waiting for bus

It was a raining day and more than an hour bus ride with traffic jam on the way.  Unexpectedly, Shinjuku Washington Hotel does not has a bus unloading bay within the building like most hotels do.  Luckily, we brought only 2 luggages (1 large and 1 small) which Papa alone could managed it. Unprepared and armed with no umbrella, we dashed across a zebra crossing to the entrance of the hotel.  Another peculiar encounter was it took us a while to locate the hotel lobby/front desk at the 3rd level of the building.  There was a 7 Eleven store which sold variety of hot and cold meals and was very popular with locals and foreigners.  Microwaves also were provided outside the store too. Besides, most 7 Elevens have ATM machines.  (We only knew it much later when we ran out of cash.  Ironically, I took a picture of it at the airport not realising).   The buildings also housed several restaurants and eateries.  Since it was cold raining, we decided to have our dinner at a soba noodle shop where we tried our first experience of ordered and paid at the food vending machine.  Fascinating!

The night was still young after dinner.  We took a stroll around Shinjuku station which was connected to our hotel before we called it for a day.

Important to note

Food vending machine

6 June 2015 Shinjuku/Akihabara

The hotel room was small and with a low ceiling.  Nonetheless, we stayed comfortably enough for the three of us.  Except how I wish the double bed could be bigger to accommodate the three of us (my son was big for his age - 7 years).    This was the only hotel I knew using bean pillow instead of the soft fluffy ones.  Not too bad I thought.  We slept and woke up pretty late in the morning.  We had a Japanese style breakfast at the hotel.  It was a meal itself that consisted of a big bowl of rice, grilled salmon, onsen egg, fish cake, fermented bean, seaweed, pickles, vegetables, miso soup.  It was nice but we were not used to have such heavy meal in the morning. 

Japanese breakfast
To burn the calories, we explored the street level since it was a sunny day before heading to Uniqlo Shinjuku.  The discoveries of so many drink vending machines along the way got the man and boy so excited.  We spent about 10,000 yen to qualify for tax free purpose at Uniqlo.  Lugging a big bag of clothing (bad idea), we settled for a late lunch inside Shinjuku station.  It started to drizzle then.


Next stop was Akihabara, the central district that specialised in electronics.  That was where suica card came in handy at Shinjuku station. Walking around the already crowded Shinjuku station heightened our stress level.  With so many lines and exists (I read) certainly live up to its claim for the most busiest station.  Luckily, we have our navigator Papa to lead us.  I certainly would be lost there. It was at Akihabara that both father and son went hunting for Gacha Po (capsule toys) and could not stop.  The hunt began in Yodobashi electronic store.  Yodobashi was like a mega store that have everything under one roof from cameras, watches, electronics to cosmetics, toys...etc.  Surprisingly, they have quite a sizable capsule toys.  Adult and child alike, would all love to try their hands and luck for a Gacha Po.  The quest for gacha po was unbelievable so strong that we walked streets after streets for the little capsule toys. 

Dead tired and famished, we ended our day eating hot and cold food bought from 7 Eleven and it was really good!

At Yodoshiba Gacha Po section

Pokémon Gacha Po
Hot & cold food from 7 Eleven

7 June 2015 National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)/Shibuya

As usual, we had our Japanese breakfast in the hotel.  The highlight of today was a visit to National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) to check out Asimo, a Humanoid Robot.  Papa's must visit and see place!   First, we went to the Ticket Office to buy Nozomi Shinkasen, a faster train that took only 2 hours to reach Kyoto tomorrow afternoon.  We would be leaving Tokyo tomorrow and yet there was still a lot more about Tokyo we have not discovered. That would give us more reason to come back to Tokyo again!

At Miraikan, - 日本科学未来館 (translated as Hall of Future), we were blown away by Japanese technologies from the invention of humanoid robot 'Asimo' to therapeutic robot 'Paro''.  Ever thought of communicating with almost life like talking human androids! How these human androids would shape the future?  I could not imagine when that happens.  But children could first experience the lifestyle of Itookashi City, an imaginary city in 2050.  The star, of course, was none other than The Honda humanoid robot 'Asimo' which was a 10 minutes demonstration. We could easily spend the whole day at Miraikan.  Unfortunately, we had to move on to our destination.  After lunch at the museum, we left for Shibuya station.

Therapeutic robot - 'Paro'

At the Shibuya station, we stood at the subway exit watching the famous and most busiest pedestrian Shibuya crossing behind the glass panel. Gosh! All we can see was a sea of people moving slowly towards the intersection. Later, we braved the crowd and hastily walked across.  Oblivious of the people, we walked the streets, peeked into every display windows and shops for interesting finds.  And we noticed French establishments and eateries have gained a foot hold in Shibuya too. Apparently some of the best French patisseries were there too.  A pity we did not try any.

View from Shibuya Station
Shibuya crossing

Away from the jostling crowd, we somehow ended up at NHK studio but did not go in.  We felt at peace at Yoyoki Park where young and old gathered for a picnic, a game of Frisbee or kendama.  Passed  Harujuku station and quite disappointed that we did not spot any cosplay. As the dusk fell, we headed back to Shinjuku for dinner.  We had char siu ramen - cheap and good!

Harujuku station
Neon lights at Shinjuku

Since it was the last day in Tokyo, we went for more shopping at Tokyu hands Shinjuku.  Yeah, we all bought more things!

Stay tune for our one day Nara trip.........