Food you should eat in Osaka

Osaka may not be able to hold your attention for very long if you only came for sightseeing but what the city misses in attractions it certainly makes up for in food. Cafes, restaurants, coffee shops are always crowded from opening hours till they close. A  Japanese friend who came to visit from Nagoya, was  surprised to see the amount of people eating or drinking throughout the day.”It’s not like that in Nagoya”, she told me.

What should one eat then when they visit Osaka.

The good thing about Osaka’s food is that it is relatively cheap as you don’t necessarily have to dine in a restaurant to experience the food except for Shabu Shabu which you will discover later.Most of the food can be eaten in cheap Tachi nomiya, a place which you don’t even have to sit down, you stand up order your food and drink and eat it at the counter.

Other food like Okonomiyaki or takoyaki are also sold at small street vendors where you can buy it and take it a way to eat. Of course if you want to sit down you can also choose to each the same meal at a restaurant

Takoyaki

One of the first questions you will be asked when you come to Osaka is “Have you eaten Takoyaki yet?”  Takoyaki is the most famous food in Osaka. It is a small octopus ball cooked in flour and water with a piece of boiled octopus, served with finely chopped spring onions and covered in a flavoursome sauce.  They are cooked on a hot plate filled with holes so they come out in a ball like shape.  Even though they are small, be warned don’t put a full one in your mouth. They are served scolding hot.

Takoyaki’s are usually served in 6 or 12 balls depending on the size and price. Expect to pay anywhere from 300-600 yen.

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Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki falls just behind  Takoyaki in the stakes as the most popular food in Osaka.  The battered flat pancake like Okonomiyaki is cooked to the style of your liking mixed with cabbage,  sliced pork or other meat of your preferance or shrimp or other seafood. It is grilled on a hotplate in the middle of the table, Everybody enjoys flipping the okonomiyaki over so it’s cooked perfectly on each side. It is then smeared with a special sauce,mayonnaise and topped with Katsuo-bushi(dried bonito flakes) and aonori(finely grated dried seaweed)

Okonomiyaki is especially enjoyed eating in a large group, so the okonomiyaki can be shared between a group of people. Expect to pay anywhere between 500-800 yen.

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Kitsune Udon

Udon may not of come from Osaka but shops owners started dropping in a thin piece of fried tofu called Kitsune to form this dish.  The sweet tofu blends in well with the taste of the udon. This has become a standard dish found in any Udon shop in Osaka

Expect to pay 400-600 yen for this dish.

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Kushi Katsu

If you are a beer drinker then you will love Kushi Katsu. The small deep fried battered meat and vegetables skewered on bamboo sticks make a great combination with a cold beer.

There are certain sauces, condiments such as spice, salt, tartar for the kushi katsu to be dipped in depending on what has just been skewered. These are to be shared so don’t go dipping your kushi katsu into them after you have taken a bite  as it is considered bad mannered.

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Shabu Shabu

Shabu Shabu is cooked in a nabe (hot pot) and the vegetables and tofu simmer in the boiling water, the meat either thinly sliced beef or pork is quickly dipped into the broth before being pulled out still rare or cooked to how the people prefer. The meat is then dipped in either a citron vinegar soy sauce or in a sesame sauce dip which I  prefer.

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What food did you eat when you were in Osaka?  We would love to hear from you about your dining experience in Osaka.

To find out more about Japanese food check out this blog

http://japanesecookingclasstokyo.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/suzuki-highly-recommended-japanese-traditional-restaurant/

Stanley a beachside suburb in Hong Kong

Stanley is situated on the Southern Peninsula of Hong Kong, a 30 minute scenic coastal ride from Central is a picturesque little village with a broad promenade that you might mistaken for a coastal town overlooking the Mediteranean. The restaurants, cafes, bars that line the promenade are filled with mainly tourists, kicking back having a couple of pints, watching people walk by or chatter with other fellow travelers.

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Stanley first served as the provisional administrative for Hong Kong before the settlement of Central and was named after Lord Stanley, a 19th Century British Secretary of State for war and colonies.

Stanley though has more to offer than just a place to have a couple of beers along the promenade and what most of the people actually come here to do is check out the market that caters to tourists. You won’t see many locals shopping here because it is cheaper in the other markets but things are still pretty cheap. Prices here seem to have more of  a fixed price or only a little discount is given.

To the west of the promenade is the Tin Hau temple. The building is very simple, a plain grey tiled, concrete brick building. The temple was built in 1767 as the goddess of the sea, most fisherman make wishes to protect them from dangerous seas. Inside the altars were rather small, each altar had a Buddha sitting in front of it with a gold face, draped in red traditional cloth, in front of each Buddha were  bowls of fruit as offerings made to the God.

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Hong Kong once had many Victorian Era buildings but if they were located on prime land they were often demolished. The Murray House which is located next to Tin Hau temple was actually dismantled in 1982 to make way for the Bank of China Tower in Central.

Murray House was finally reassembled during 1998/1999. To make it even more interesting when they finished reassembling the building there were five left over pillars that are now used as an art display. Murray House, now  houses restaurants and the maritime museum.

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Stanley also has two beaches that are well known for windsurfing and its dragonboat racing, so we spent a few lazy hours on the main beach, relaxing in the mild weather watching the windsurfers.

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Stanley does not feel like Hong Kong but for me it was a wonderful place to spend a day and to my surprise was one of the highlights for me. Having said that I’m an Australian who has been living in Japan for 14 years so that western side of Hong Kong, might not be that great for everyone.

How to get there

bus 6, 6A, 6X, 260 from Exchange bus terminus in Central

Stanley market operating hours

open 10.30am -18.30pm

Have  you been to Stanley?  We would love to hear all about it.

Things to do in Milan that is not the Duomo

Many cities in the world are easily recognisable by their iconic landmarks. Paris has the Eiffel tower, New York has the Statue of Liberty, Sydney has the opera house and to a lesser extent Milan has its Duomo.

For some the Duomo is the only place a tourist might visit before catching the next train out of the city. The Duomo rightfully so should be the number one attraction of the city with its pure white marbled facade and Gothic architecture taking over 600 years to complete. The extravagant spires and sculptures that line the rooftop of the third largest cathedral in the world would be a highlight in any city.

There are other attractions that are worth your time in Milan.

1. Art Lovers

For the art lovers there is the unique opportunity of viewing Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper in the monastery of the Santa Maria Grazie’s church. You will have 15 minutes to view the painting with 25 others, giving you a chance to appreciate the work and ask any questions you have to the guide. It is expensive but well worth it. You need to book at least a month in advance as tickets sell quickly. You can’t buy tickets at the church but some day tours do include the Last Supper on their itinerary.

 - Santa Marie Grazie's church which holds the Last Supper

Santa Maria Grazie’s church

 - Sforza's castle

Sforzesco Castle

The Castello Sforzesco, an immense red castle formerly a Visconti fortress before becoming the home of the Sforza dynasty who ruled Renaissance Milan. The castles defenses were designed by Da Vinci. It is free to walk around the grounds but the castle now holds two museums containing art and another one for musical instruments.

The other gallery worth a look if you still haven’t had your fix is the Pinacoteca di Brea which houses Milan’s most impressive collection of masters. These museums may not measure up to the museums of Florence and Rome, they are however world class museums in their own rights.

2 Football

Milan is the home of two teams AC Milan and Inter Milan. The two teams are amongst the most popular teams in the world. They share the same stadium San Siro.The season starts in August and ends in late May. Games are played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and if you are in Milan during the off season or not over the weekend, you can still take tours of the stadium that includes entrance to the team club rooms.

3. Opera

Milan is notorious with opera and there is probably no better place in the world to see it than at Teatro Alla Scala. Seasons usually run from October to April, with other performances held outdoors in the Summer. Dress appropriately and enjoy the cultural experience amongst the Milanese people or if you don’t want to splash out on expensive tickets you could always purchase tickets for standing room only.

4. Fashion/ Shopping

What is probably more well known to Milan than the Duomo and even the opera may just be the high end fashion boutiques of the countries leading designers. Places to see the high end fashion strips are the arcade of the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II to the high fashion alleys of the Quadrilaterio D Oro. Fashion weeks are held in January and February as well as June and September.

5. Food

When on holiday you have to eat and in Milan there are many great dining experiences . Two places not to be missed are the restaurants and bars that line the canal area of Navigli for as little as 9 euro you can enjoy happy hour from 6-9 pm which will get you a drink and all the food you can eat from the counter of anti pasti, bruschetta, cured meats, salads and even seafood, pasta and Milanese cutlets.

The second place and not to be missed is the Peck Emporium which originally opened its doors as a deli in 1883. It has now expanded to a food hall stocked with variations of cheese and cured meats for starters. Other treats include an inquisite array of chocolates, pastries, freshly made gelato, seafood, pate, fruit and vegetables, truffle products, olive oil and balsamic oil.

Most cities usually offer more than their iconic landmarks if given a chance, so before racing through the Duomo and darting to the train station to catch the train. Why not stop for awhile and see what the city has to offer. You might be pleasantly surprised

Walking through Hong Kong’s Museum of History

Hong Kong, a metropolis of 7 million people is one of the most densely populated places in the world but it wasn’t always like this 400 million years ago when the lands were formed Hong Kong lay under a cover of shallow water. The earth’s crust rose when the volcanoes erupted forming the hilly, mountainous terrain that is now Hong Kong. In fact only 25% of the land is built on due to the terrain. As the land formed rocks and other small specimens fossilized, that were once covered by water hk Emerging from a narrow tunnel we moved into a forest with trees rising 18 metres high, the place was dark, birds chirping, the roar of a tiger could be heard, the growl of a bear.  Did these animals really excist in Hong Kong?  I thought putting people’s lives in Jeopardy from these dangerous animals.

Well of course they did but not now ,they have been killed or died hundreds of  years ago. I just happen to be standing in the second gallery of Hong Kong’s Museum of History, established in 1975. A great museum that only gets better as you progress through its history from the formation of its land to the handover of Hong Kong back to China.
When you visit the museum make sure you give yourself plenty of time to cover the 17,500 sqm to take in Hong Kong’s broad and dynamic history. Culture plays a big part in the museum with a life size replica of a fishing junk, showing the lifestyle of the fisherman in Hong Kong.  The wedding ceremony where the bride is carried around in a cart pulled by people to the huge opera masks and then the housings of Hakka peasants family dwelling, with its sparseness of furniture reflecting the Hakka people’s frugal lifestyle.
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The next few galleries are the most important historically to Hong Kong covering the Opium wars where Hong Kong and England went to war ending  with the signing of the lease to England. The Japanese occupation during the second world war with the gallery designed as an air raid shelter in order to conjure up the  atmosphere of war. It took Japan only 18 days of fighting before Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas day in 1941.
The last gallery covers the rapid advances in housing industry, finance and trade reconstruction of Hong Kong’s  post war and bringing the story to a close with the handover ceremony marking the return of sovereignty to China. The museum is a must see worthy of at least 2 hours. You should visit early in your vacation to Hong Kong to get a better understanding of the country.
Opening hours Monday, Wednesday-Saturday 10am-6pm Sunday and holidays 10am-7pm
Admission HK $10 Adults HK $5 Children Free Admission Wednesday
Location The museum is opposite the Science Museum, a 10 minute walk from Tsim Tsui

Melbourne’s Street Art

Art comes in all different forms, shapes and sizes.  What one person thinks is beautiful or great another person thinks is awful, that is the beauty of art in itself. Over the years there have been different forms of art, some have been easily accepted by the public but other forms have been quite controversal.

Street art has been  one of those controversial forms and it has come along way since it was first being tagged on the walls of New York in the late 1970’s early 80’s.  Street art swept across the globe appealing to the youth’s  street subcultures. Melbourne’s inner suburbs, trains and tram lines were covered with, back then what was known as graffiti.

Melbourne though was the first to embrace street art, with an enclave of alleys and lanes, the city council set aside for street artists to spray. Hosier Lane is the cities most famous laneway for street art. The lane is wall to wall covered in art. Each day tourists and locals of the city come to see the artists at work spraying their visual creations.

girl by Veronique Robin
Photo taken by Robin Veronique

Dream photo by Brad Smith

squid photo by Michelle

Girl photo by Rob Masefield

Stencil artists needs the skills of a screen painter and the artistic flare of design. There is nobody better in the field of stencil art  than Banksy, an artist from the UK.

The lanes in Melbourne were lucky to have two pieces of his work, unfortunately one was destroyed due to vandals even though it was covered by a perspex screen to prevent it from being destroyed. Vandals poured silver paint over it, then tagged it with words “Banksy wos ere”. The other one was  when city cleaners accidentally destroyed it when they were removing tagging graffiti.

Street art though is still only tolerated in places which the council allocated and if caught in other alleys or with spray cans, the offenders will be issued a fine of over $20,000 or up to two years in prison.

Melbourne goes by a few names

The sports capital of Australia

The cafe capital of Australia

The most livable city in the world

The city can now add another title to its impressive list as the street art capital of the world.

Lanes found in Melbourne where street art can be seen.

Hosier Lane

Union Lane

Caledonian Lane

Rutledge Lane

The corner of Flinders Lane and Colter Alley

Centre place, between Collins Street and Flinders Lane

Have you seen the street art in Melbourne. We would love to hear what you thought of it.

Inspirational Interview with Sarah B Klingseid

We all travel together is a blog that hopes to inspire other people to travel.  Through traveling we meet so many inspirational people. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Klingseid. She is such an inspiring person who has travelled to over 120 countries. After meeting her I wanted to know more about her travels and thought she would be a great person to have in our first interview segment.  All photos are credited to Sarah B Klingseid.

When you were a child did you travel much with your parents?

 
No, I didn’t,  my parents had a cottage on the south coast of Norway, so we went there every weekend!
 

 Where did you first travel by yourself and how old were you?

 
I was 17 years old the first time I traveled with 8 friends to the French Alps. I celebrated my 18th birthday while on the trip.
 
When I was 19 I went to the US for a year.
 
At 23 I went on my own to Thailand, to visit a Thai friend who I had become friends with in England two years earlier.
 

Who or what inspired you to travel?

 
That´s a tricky one, I really don´t remember how it started. I visited a few places, got badly infected by the travel bug and the rest is history. There is so much to see and learn out there, I just can´t stop.
 

Many people say they want to travel but they are hesitant to travel by themselves. What would you say to these people?

 
It´s much better to travel on your own, than not to travel at all. Pack your bag and get out there. There is so much to explore,you are never alone. When you are on your own it´s so easy to meet other travelers.
 
 

What is your favorite country that you have been to? 

 
It is impossible to pick just one country.
My trip to Peru was amazing, the country is so diverse. It has the  Coast, ocean, mountains, lakes, ruins, history, culture and above all, Machu Pichu.  Magical
 
Sri Lanka is another beautiful country. Wonderful people, interesting history ,culture and lovely food.
 
Southern Africa is one of my favorites too. There are no other places with wildlife like this region. There is nothing better than to sit on the savanna watching the sunset while lion cubs are playing in front of you.
 

Is there a country you keep returning to ?

 
Yes, I keep returning to Japan. It´s magical!  Fascinating culture and great food. Japan is a very easy country to travel in. There are buses, trains and boats going to every corner of the country. And it´s very safe. It´s the country I have felt safest in, while traveling as a single woman.
 
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Is there a place that you have been to that needs more recognition as a tourist destination?

 
I found Djibouti to be a wonderful place, but it is for people who are particularly interested in diving or snorkeling. If you are not into these activities, then it´s not worth going, but if you are, it´s an underwater heaven for snorkeling.
 
Djibouti is located at the end of the Red Sea and has all it offers in underwater diversity. With hardly any tourists visiting the country it´s still very untouched.
 
Another amazing place is Bhutan, very interesting. It’s been isolated for centuries. It’s so full of culture, history and old traditions. Stunning mountains and fantastic scenery, such a Beautiful place!
 
Djibouti
 
 

You’re on holidays do you go to a city, the beach or the mountains?

 
A city I would only visit on a weekend trip, but not a longer holiday during the heat of summer. A mix of a relaxing beach and a good hike in the mountains is the best.
 

What do you like to do on your holiday?

 
I like a mix, but I love sun and warm climate. Being on a boat is a favorite pastime and snorkeling a great activity. I also love safaris. Staying on the savannahs of Africa is magical.
 
 

You have had some amazing experiences, climbed Kilimanjaro, dived with whale sharks, been gorilla trekking in Uganda and lots more share a brief experience with us

 

The travel experience that has made the deepest impression, on me was my latest stay in Koya-san. Staying with the monks in a temple and being accepted into Buddhism in a ceremony was very special.
 

Where do you plan to go next?

I hope that my next big trip will be to Rwanda. A few years ago I went on a gorilla trekking trip in Uganda. Now I would like to do the same in Rwanda.

 What’s the best meal that you have had while travelling?

 
Grilled lobster on the beach in one of the Marquesas islands. We picked it up straight from the BBQ and ate it with our fingers.
 

Recently there has been some controversy over a tiger mauling a tourist at the tiger temple in Kachanabari in Thailand. Tell us about your experience and would you return now?

 
I visited the Tiger temple in 2002, before it had been advertised on the TV channel Animal Planet. Back then it was very simple. There were a few cages where the tigers lived. They were fed in the morning and then taken for a walk in the afternoon. I visited at both times. We walked the tigers to an area where they could play and sniff the flowers and grass.. The tigers seemed healthy , they had a shiny coat.
 
Unfortunately, the publicity has made the monks think more about the money they can make rather than on the well being of the tigers. When I read about drugged tigers, it makes me both sad and very angry. So, no I would not return today! I will not support that kind of animal treatment.
 
 

You support Lion ALERT tell us a bit about the organization and the amazing experience you had with them?

One of my most memorable moments was the Lion Encounter with ALERT  you can do the lion walk safari as well as  interact with these wonderful big cats. I met two 18 month old brothers, quite a couple of  rascals.

The African Lion & Environmental Reaserch Trust (ALERT) was founded in 2005 to support the four-stage African Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program and is a non-profit organization. ALERT promotes community action by raising awareness, motivating and empovering people to protect and restore their environment and improve livelihoods.

In 1975, there were  200,000 lions roaming around on the African savanna. In 2002, the population was estimated to be somewhere between 23,000 and 39,000 animals. It is believed that the decline in the lion population is doing so in an even faster rate. This makes ALERTS program so important.

The African Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program consists of 4 stages. For more information about ALERT www.lionalert.org

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1000 arms,1000 legs entwined in Sanjugendo temple

The smell of incense wafts through the air in the dimly lit hall, as an elderly women with long hair, pulled back in a purple ribbon, bends  over to insert the incense stick into the bowl, she rises, stands upright with her eyes closed and prays for her loved ones in front of the golden, cypress, leafed kannon (the Buddhist goddess of mercy.)

The Kannon rises above us, sitting on a lotus leaf with its legs crossed,  its arms, not one, not two but 40 arms entwine around one another, holding a variety of tools to remove pain from people and to bring joy to them. The Kannon is flanked on either side by 500 smaller Kannons lined neatly in a row.

An elderly Japanese couple blurt out “dekai” (gigantic) on their first sighting,the Kannon stands at  11 ft tall   The kannons are housed in the Sanjusan gendo temple, the largest wooden building in japan, that stretches 118 metres in length.

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The original temple was built in 1164 at the request of the retired Emperor Go-shirakawa, after it was burnt to the ground in 1249, it was rebuilt in 1266. The temples name refers to the  33 (sanjusan) bays between the pillars of this long, narrow building.

A famous Japanese sculptor, Taro, who was 82 at the time carved the Kannons along with his trusty apprentices who carved the smaller ones. “Mama,Mamma, look,look it’s papa,it’s pappa”shrieked a little girl, pointing to a round, faced golden statue, causing her mother to laugh,  Japanese like to point out the kannons that   resemble family members or friends, you often can hear the laughter of when someone can spot a resemblance.

The temple is also famous for the Toshiya festival, held on January 15th, when archers shoot arrows the length of the hall.

The ceremony dates back to the Edo period when an annual contest was held to see how many arrows could be shot from the southern end to the northern end in 24 hours. The all time record was set in 1686, when an archer successfully landed over 8000 arrows . The participates now are girls dressed elegantly in kimono celebrating their coming of age day.

The temple also comes to life  in January for the event known as the Rite of Willow, worshippers are touched on the head with a willow that contains the pain-killer salicin,  as well as  holy water which has been prayed over for seven days and then is poured over pilgrims, drawing out evil and curing illness.

One important event happened nearby this temple, the great samurai warrior Musahshi and Yoshioka Denshichiro leader of the Yoshioaka-ryo dueled outside the grounds in 1604, Musashi arrived late, which angered Denshichiro but that day would be Denshichiro’s last

HIs brother was then appointed leader and he too challenged Musashi for a revenge match, again Musashi arrived late and again the same result for the Yoshioka clan. Yoshioka clan were then led by the yougest son, a 12 year old boy this time Musashi did not arrive late, he arrived early and killed the entire clan including the 12 year old boy.

Sanjugendo temple information

The temple is open from 8am to 5pm (1st April-15th November) and 9am-4pm (16th November -31st March)

The temple is a 15 minute walk along shiokoji dori, which is the street outside JR Kyoto station. You can also take bus NO 206 or 208 and get off at Sanjusangendo mae stop.

Kyoto National museum is also opposite the temple and the Kawaii Kanjiro memorial Hall is just up the road