Singapore’s hawker food

Have you ever  wondered what you were eating was safe and did it come from a reputable stall. You may sometimes think that especially the first time you travel through Asia. Street food is cheap, often tastes better than what you eat at a restaurant  and most times safe.

Some things that you should look for is if the product is fresh, you want to eat something that hasn’t been sitting. You want to see it being made,make sure it’s hot. Locals don’t want to be sick either,so if the locals are lining up for it then you know that the food should be good and hygienic.

Singapore is generally known for its cleanliness and also known for its amazing array of food from Chinese, Malay, Indian and the Middle East. Singapore is a great country to be introduced to street food especially for people who may be a bit apprehensive at first. Unlike other countries Singapore food hawkers are all given a grade of A, B,C or D. These grades are issued by a Singaporean Ministry of Health official.

The hawkers in Singapore are required to display their signs for cleanliness”C” is average and “D” below average.”A” is exceptional cleanliness. Currently the majority of more than 5,600 stall holders in food centers are rated A and B, only seven are grade D and fourteen percent C.

Most travelers will choose to eat at either A or B but Singaporeans have no problems with eating at Hawkers with a C grade as often these stands are run by  a single person who has to cook, serve, collect payment, giving them little time to clean but of course the food will still have to taste good.

During our five day stay in Singapore we ate most of our meals from a hawker centre.At first it may be a little intimidating but basically you choose which stall you want to order from and grab a seat at any of the vacant tables. If you see something on a table like paper, a packet of tissues that means someone as reserved that seat so it would be better to look for a different table. If you cannot find a vacant table you can always approach a table that has someone sitting there  but don’t forget your manners,smile and ask before sitting.

Now the hardest thing is deciding on what to order and here we will help you with 5 of our favourite hawker food.

Laksa

Laksa which would be close to Singapore’s national dish is found at any hawker stall. Its long, thick noodles covered in a coconut flavoured curry soup with either chicken or prawns mixed with bean sprouts make the perfect condiments to go along with the broth.

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Hokkien Mee

A mixture of yellow noodles and thick rice vermicelli ,first fried with eggs until fragrant and braised in rich, flavourful prawn broth, the Singapore Fried Hokkien Mee is served semi-dry and garnished with prawns, squid, sliced pork belly, chives and eaten with Sambal chilli and a squirt of lime juice.

Mee Goreng

Mee Goreng which means  “fried noodles ” is a common dish in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It is made with thin yellow noodles fried in cooking oil with garlic, onion with prawn, chicken or beef sliced bakso (meatballs), chili, Chinese cabbage,cabbage, tomatoes, egg and  acar (pickles).

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Chicken rice

If Laksa isn’t Singapore’s national dish then it would have to be chicken rice. Steamed chicken is served with a bed of rice cooked in chicken stock.  This is normally eaten with chilli sauce, soy sauce and a ginger paste. This was our favourite meal.  The chicken is very tender and we loved the slight ginger flavour.

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Sugar cane juice

This may not be food but this was the most refreshing drink that I had while in Singapore. The juice is extracted from Sugar cane coming out a sweet green liquid. The drink is not uniquely Singaporean as it can easily be found in other countries in Asia as well as South and Central America but if you haven’t tried it then you should while your here.

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Macau’s old centre

Crossing the bridge from Cotai to the main island of Macau I looked out the window scanning the water for pirate ships that used to control the waters in and around Macau until China gave Portugal the right to settle  in Macau in exchange of cleaning the area of pirates. Macau was handed back to China on 20th December 1999, ending 400 years of Portuguese administration.

Once on the mainland, the flashy new casinos, Wynn and the Hyatt sit side by side along with Macau’s original casino the Lisboa, not to be outdone  the Lisboa has opened a new casino The Grand Lisboa. Today was not a day to be spent trying to win a fortune but to navigate the Historical centre of Macau which was listed in 2005 as a UNESCO world heritage site.

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The new Grand Lisboa

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The old Casino Lisboa

The historical centre of Macau starts from Senado square with its swirling waved pattern mosaic of coloured stones, leads to the church of St Dominic and extends to the ruins of St Paul. The Senado square is enclosed by buildings of the Leal Senado, the General Post Office and the St Dominc church. The Leal Senado was the seat of Macau’s government during its time as a Portuguese colony. The building was erected in 1784  after the handover in 1999 it became the headquarters of the Institute of Civic and Municipal Affairs.

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Senado Square

St Dominico’s church was built in 1587 by three Spanish Dominican priests and was where the 1st Portuguese newspaper was published on Chinese soil in 1822. The square with its Neo classical architecture, European buildings painted in a mustardy, yellow and the fountain in the centre makes a picturesque, charming square

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St Dominico’s Church

Religion, Christianity plays a big part of Macau’s culture and the countries biggest attraction is the ruins of Saint Paul’s, a 16th century complex featuring the St Paul’s college and cathedral of St Paul, located on a small hill with mount fortress overlooking the ruins.

St Paul’s was built from 1582 to 1602 by the Jetsuits was the largest Catholic church in Asia unfortunately it was destroyed by fire during a typhoon in 1835. The only remains of the complex is the facade of the church, with intricate carvings of Jetsuit images with oriental themes, such as a woman stepping on the head of a seven headed serpent, Jetsuit Order, the conquest of Jesus and a dove with wings outstretched on top. The main attraction may leave people disappointed but for me with all the history and importance of religion being spread in unknown territory it was  an appeasing site.

Many people actually miss what I believe is the best attraction in Macau, the Crypt of St Paul’s just behind the ruins which wasn’t uncovered until the ruins were excavated in 1990-1995. The crypt holds relics of the Japanese Christian martyrs and the rather macabre vault with their remains full of skulls. The Japanese Christian’s were exiled to Macau and helped build the church. Even though very little of this is taught in Japanese schools it seems to be a major historical event in Japanese history.

At first , the missionaries had the support of the Shogunate which thought would help trade with Portugal but with the Japanese seeing what had happened with the Spanish in the Philipines and the christian religion spreading fast, they decided to outlaw Christianity and anyone practicing would be put to death. On February 5th , 1597 26 Christians were raised to the cross in Nagasaki and pierced with spears. The remains were sent to Macau and put in the church’s crypt. 250 years later missionaries returned to Japan to discover Japanese Christians survived underground.

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Facade of St Paul’s Cathedral

The Monte Fort overlooked all of this, sitting above with views out to sea, built to defend itself because the Jetsuit were concerned about invasion by its unchristened neighbours. The fort was designed to withstand a siege for over two years but the cannons were fired only once during an aborted attempt by the Dutch to invade Macau in 1622.

The Monte fort now houses the Museum of Macau. It has a vast collection of historical and social memorabilia, maps of the trade route, origins of tea, traditional fireworks and silk production plus the lives of boat people who were forced to live their lives on a boat as they were not allowed on shore.

Macau may not have its pirates anymore and may not be governed by the Portuguese but it still has its churches and its religion.

Visiting the Islamic mosque and museum in Kuala Lumpur

“Humm, Humm, Humm” the sounds could be heard puncturing the air. It must be prayer time at the National Mosque or otherwise known as Masjid Negara I was about to say before I was startled by the rustling sounds from the overgrowth over the footpath, most likely a rat or even worse a snake, so I wasn’t going to stay around to look. As we moved closer the sounds came louder until the pristine white building came into view

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National Mosque

I stood and watched as people made their way into the mosque, cars swarmed into the parking lot, women covered their heads with scarves while men wore casual loose fitting clothes. I looked up at the 73 metre high minaret towering over the mosque, the main roof was covered with an aqua blue colour shaped like a 16 pointed star umbrella, reflecting pools and fountains spread throughout the compound. A man dressed like a security guard approached “excuse me sir, would you like to enter the mosque” I’d love too”,I replied “Unfortunately now is prayer time sir, but if you like you can have a look around once its finished”. We thanked the man and crossed the street.

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National Mosque

Nearby was the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia, an architectural masterpiece, pure white, four domes could be seen from the outside with its fifth only to be seen inside the building. The museum opened in December of 1998 and is home to over 7000 artefacts, the largest islamic art museum in South East Asia.

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Islamic art museum of Malaysia

The elevator doors opened to display a room full of large scale model mosques including the colossal grandeur of the holiest mosque in Islam Mecca’s Masjid al Haram to the desolate beauty of Central Asian mausoleums dedicated to Timur and Amir Albukhari. Every corner of Islam is covered in miniature.

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Islamic pieces on display

The other exhibits are equally as impressive from the holiest of Quar’ans, jewelry,textiles , arms and armour to countries like India, China and Malaysia, all nationalities that live in harmony in Malaysia are covered but before you go take one last look at the sheer beauty of this building.

We wandered back over to the mosque that by now had finished prayer in our quest to learn even more about the Muslim world. The men and women have separate prayer rooms, the rooms are bare with carpeted floors and stain glass windows. The pillars beautifully decorated, chandeliers hang from the ceiling.

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Inside the National Mosque prayer room

The prayer rooms have the capacity to hold 15,000 people. We stood in silence taking this place in no words were needed. We may have a different religion, we may have a different name for our God but one thing whether it be a mosque or a church there is nothing more sacred than a place of prayer

Islamic Art Museum Malaysia

Opening Times 

Monday- Sunday  10am-6pm

Admission 

Adults RM 12

Students RM 6

Children Under 6 free

National Mosque of Malaysia

The mosque is tour friendly.

Women are required to wear a scarf.

mens proper attire is loose fitting clean clothes.

Shoes must be taken off.

You can not enter during prayer time.

There are volunteers in the prayer room to answer any questions you have.

Inspirational interview with Sonoko Nakaya

Sonoko  Nakaya is one of the first Japanese people that I made friends with in Japan Through her stories of her travel adventures she inspired me to see the world. I will always be grateful for introducing me to what this world has to offer. I hope you all enjoy this inspiring interview.

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

I was 23 years old when I first went to India by myself. This was the third time for me to go there but I had previously gone with other people.
 
Who or what inspired you to travel?
 
I can’t tell exactly what inspired me to travel but it might have been because of my childhood experience in Taiwan. I lived in Taiwan for 5 years when I was a child and had the opportunity to get to know a different culture, different food, a different language, different people…..I guess that experience made me interested in exploring the world.
 
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Sonoko in Turkey
 
India has a reputation of being a place you either love or hate. You are one of  the ones who love it. Why?
 
I have been to India 12 times but I haven’t found the best answer for this question yet. Usually when people ask me “Why do you like the country?” about other countries, I can easily answer“People were very nice!!” “I loved the food!” “The world heritage was great!!”etc…..
 
But when it comes to India, it is very difficult to answer. Of course I love Indian food, Indian movies, Indian people,there is a lot of beautiful nature and places to see, it is a very unique and interesting country with the mixture of different religions and cultures….But none of them seems to be the best answer for me.
 
I feel like I’m freed from all of the bondage and I can be myself when I am in India. I don’t need to think about what people think about me or what I look like. I can stay very natural there.Maybe this is the reason why I keep going back ????
 
How long were you in India? Tell us about your daily life there.
 
My shortest stay was one week, the longest one was about a year. Maybe 2 years and several months in total?
 
When I was there long term, I didn’t go sight seeing very much and just enjoyed staying at the place. I ate at cheap local restaurants,walked around the market and town, talked with local people….I also worked as a volunteer in Kolkata.
 
Have you volunteered in a country,If yes tell us about your experience?
 
I volunteered at Mother Teresa’s organization in India for one year.(in total. I went back there over again.)I quit my job when I was 23 years old (I was working at a life insurance company as a sales person) and went to India to volunteer there.
 
I worked at the orphanage for physically and mentally challenged children. I hadn’t had any experience of taking care of children before and it was also quite shocking to see these children who had serious problems. I was also shocked to see how Indian workers treated children.
 
Gradually I started to understand it’s because of the cultural difference and lack of education(The organization hires very poor people to give them a job I found myself enjoying the work so much. After this experience, I decided to work with children in Japan and studied again. Now I’m a nursery school teacher and I really, really enjoy my job.
 
If I hadn’t volunteered with Mother Teresa’s organization, I wouldn’t have been able to realize how much I love children, so I am grateful for the organization.
 
I also worked at the hospice for 2 months. It is the most popular place for foreign volunteers but I felt like I was useless because I didn’t understand their language and sometimes I made them angry or cry because of that.
 
So I decided to focus on background work like washing dishes, bed sheets and diapers. I didn’t like this place very much because working with children gave me a lot of good vibes but working with dying people  zapped my energy
 
In Nairobi,Kenya, there is a Japanese man who runs a small school in the slum. I went to help make the school yard with some other Japanese travelers. I was told to collect cow’s dung from outside and was picking up a lot of dried dung on my birthday!!
 
I also volunteered in the day-care center for Tibetan refugees children in Dharamsala, India. There was always a water shortage problem and it was very difficult to take care of children when we needed to clean them.
 
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Sonoko in Ethiopia
 
How do you afford to travel?
 
I just work, work, work, work, work, and give up many things while in Japan and save money. I’ve made three long-term trips in my life and every time I quit my job after saving enough money and traveled until my savings almost ran out.
 
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Sonoko in Namibia
 
Being a female what was it like to travel through the Middle East?
 
In most of the countries people were very honest, kind and trustworthy so I really enjoyed traveling there. But I got teased a lot in some countries while walking on the street alone, this didn’t happen at all while walking with a man.
 
 In Iran, even foreigners have to wear a scarf on their head and have to cover the bottom with a long shirt or coat all the time. This is the law and it will also avoid problems with men. But even when I dressed appropriately, one guy touched my bottom at the sandwich shop!!
I elbowed him in  the stomach very hard twice and made him apologize though…..
 
When I went to the countryside in Yemen, I had to wear a “niqab”to cover my whole face and a black long coat to cover my whole body. My face became so sweaty and very uncomfortable and it was also very difficult to eat or drink something under the niqab. I really appreciated that I was born in Japan and could wear whatever I like.
 
The funny thing was that I felt shy to show my face to people once I got used to wearing a niqab even though I had been exposing my face to everyone my whole life.
 
 
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Sonoko in Yemen
 
Do you have any tips or recommendations on how to travel through the Middle East?
 
Because of the media, you might think that the Middle East is dangerous but actually it’s quite safe and Muslim people’s hospitality is great. As long as you respect local culture and religion and dress appropriately, you will have a great time there. 
 
You are a very independent traveler.Do you sometimes take tours,this includes day tours if yes tell us briefly one. If no tell us why?
 
Basically I don’t like to take tours but sometimes I take day tours when it’s difficult to go to a place by myself (for example when there is no public transportation or when I can’t go there without a guide). I took day tours in Cappadocia in Turkey, glacier trekking in Patagonia,Masai Mara National Reserve, Kakku in Myanmar, Tibet
 
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Sonoko in Patagonia
 
You have traveled long term and now you only travel on short trips which do you prefer? Will you ever travel long term again?
 
I think both of them have good and bad points. Once I traveled for 2 years and 6 months with the budget of 2 million yen(about 20,000 USD). I wanted to see as many places as possible so I always had to stay at the cheapest dirtiest hostels, I had to give up eating at restaurants and I cooked by myself almost everyday in expensive countries. It was quite stressful that I always had to mind my budget but I always had enough TIME at each place instead and it was great.
 
Recently I travel only for a short time. I stay at more comfortable hostels, I can eat whatever I like, I don’t have to spend a lot of time for bargaining. I have much less stress in regard with budget but I have to rush all the time.
 
I prefer long term travel but I don’t think I will ever do it again. Because the situation doesn’t allow me to do it any more. When I was younger it was easy to find a job again after the long trip but it’s becoming more difficult as I get older. I also didn’t want to settle down at all and traveling always used to be my first priority but recently I would rather settle down and have my own children rather than traveling. I never expected that I would become like this but I think I’m getting old!!!
 
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Sonoko in India
 
What has travel taught you about the world and about yourself?
 
Travel has taught me to see how ignorant I am!! While traveling I came across a lot of new knowledge. I also learned that we should not believe all of the things which media shows us. To see is to believe!!
 
After spending one year in India when I was 23 years old, I realized how lucky I am to be born in a rich country I had a house to live, food to eat, clothes to wear,had a chance to go to school and had freedom to make my own choices for many things.
 
Since then I am able to appreciate many things. I became happier than before because I have become less materialistic and know  I have enough. Having a good status, having a “good” job, becoming rich and having a nice big house and an expensive car mean nothing to me.
 
I live in a very small apartment and don’t have much money (I mean  for Japanese standard) but my mind is always happy because I’m satisfied with what I have now.
 
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Sonoko in Cuba
 
You have traveled through Asia, Africa, the Middle East,South and Central America but you have never been to Europe and only New York in America. Tell us why you haven’t traveled to these places and do you plan to in the future?
 
I was interested in only developing countries because I love the places where I can see something very different from my own country and their original deep culture. But I think everywhere has been modernized and westernized rapidly so I wanted to visit these places before they change.
 
To the contrary, I can guess what I can see in Europe easily. African naked tribal people who have lip plates attract me more than beautiful cities in Europe. Another reason why I haven’t visited Europe is of course budget.
 
Traveling in Europe costs a lot more than traveling in other areas. If I had visited Europe during my poor long term backpacking trip, I must have been eating only bread and cheese everyday and given up entering many good museums and sightseeing spots. It’s a pity if I had to travel like that …..
 
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Sonoko in Kenya
 
Recently I am starting to be interested in Europe too so I would like to visit there in the future I was not planning of going to New York at all. To be honest I was not the least bit interested in US. I actually wanted to fly from Mexico to India but the flight was very expensive. Flying from New York to India cost  about one-third so I just went to New York for the flight. But as a result, I was amazed with New York and had a great time there for one week!!!
 
You haven’t traveled much in Japan either but recently I heard that you want to travel more in your own country. Why do you want to do this and where do you want to go?
 
The main reason is that I know I don’t  have enough time to travel abroad anymore. Now that I have only  7~9 days holiday so I would rather stay in Japan. I would like to go trekking in the mountains in Japan.
 
Recently I saw many beautiful pictures of Japanese mountains which my friends posted on facebook and I was surprised to know that I can see such beautiful mountains in Japan too.
I also want to visit Hokkaido ,Okinawa and  Yakushima.
 
Christmas/New Years is just around the corner. Will you spend it in another county if so where and what will you do?
 
I will stay in Japan. I will go back to my parents’ place and spend New Years with them.  Over the years I have been away from Japan at this time of year, so I will try to spend time with my parents.
 
This is a link to Sonoko’s blog. It is written in Japanese but you can see some great photos if you can’t read Japanese.
http://ameblo.jp/hola-el-mundo/
 
If you have a question for Sonoko feel free to ask she would be happy to answer any questions.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Japan its wild, natural side

Many people who come to Japan visit the metropolis of Tokyo, then on their way to Osaka they stop for a few days to explore the temples and shrines of Kyoto before moving on to Hiroshima to see the city that was destroyed by the nuclear bomb in World War 2. These cities are all great places to visit but today I want to show you that there is more to Japan than those mentioned.

Japan outside of the cities is very beautiful with its natural landscape of mountains, waterfalls, natural hot springs and forests thousands of years old. These places give you a chance to escape the crowds and to be in the peaceful serenity of nature.

Mountains

Mount Fuji the symbol of Japan is the highest mountain in the country standing 3776 metres high. Mount Fuji is a dormant volcano and stands by itself. people can climb Mount Fuji during the middle of July through to the end of August  At this time of year the mountain is very crowded.

Japan also has some amazing hiking around the mountain ranges of Nagano as well as skiing and snowboarding during the Winter. Nagano has held the Winter Olympics. Mount Tateyama is also another inspiring mountain located in the south east area of Toyama. It is part of the Hida mountain ranges.Its peak is 3,015 metres and is one of Japan’s three holy mountains. It can be climbed from April until November.

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Mount Fuji  from Hakone

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Mount Fuji from the lake in Hakone

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Mount Fuji from an airplane flying between Tokyo and Osaka

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Mount Tateyama

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Mount Tateyama in Autumn

Waterfalls

Japan has some powerful flowing waterfalls and some seem to be located in some surreal places like the Nachi waterfall located in Wakayama prefecture. The water drops from a staggering 133 metres but what makes it surreal is the waterfall is directly behind the brightly painted red, Nachi Taisha shrine.

Other impressive waterfalls in Japan is the Kegon waterfall in Nikko. Many people come to Nikko on a day trip from Tokyo to see the temples and shrines but you should really stay for two days so you can view the waterfalls as well.

Yakushima,  a rugged island in the south of Japan also has some beautiful waterfalls set amongst a thick forest.

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Nachi Falls 133 metres high

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Kegon waterfalls in Nikko

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Senpiro waterfalls in Yakushima (credit Yasuyo’s photo)

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Senpiro waterfalls in Yakushima (credit Yasuyo’s photo)

Hot springs

Japan is famous for its hot springs and any trip to Japan should include a trip to a natural hot spring but did you know that there are various hot springs some for bathing in, some for soaking your tired feet in and some that are way too hot to even put your body in. These natural springs are great for viewing. There are even hot springs for the local monkeys.

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Hot springs in Beppu too hot to bathe in

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Hot springs in Beppu too hot to bathe in

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Hot springs in Beppu too hot to bathe in

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Kurama Hot springs

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Foot hot springs

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Hot springs for the monkeys to enjoy

Whirlpools

In a small town of Naruto on the island of Shikoku, whirl pools are formed when it moves a large volume of water into the inland sea. Naruto and Awaji island are separated by a width of 1.3 kilometres. Due to the narrowness of the strait, the water rushes through the Naruto Channel forming the whirlpools.  These whirlpools are the fourth strongest in the world. They can reach up to 20 metres in diametre.

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Beaches

Japan is not really known for its beaches but being made up of a group of islands they do have a few impressive beaches. The beaches surrounding Okinawa are covered in white pristine sand.

While the secluded beaches on Yakushima also have some fine beaches. The best beaches on the main island of Honshu are found on the Izu Peninsula and in Shirahama in Wakayama prefecture. If the sand reminds you of another place it is because its been shipped in from Australia.

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Shirahama Beach in Wakayama

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Shirahama Beach in Wakayama

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Beach in Okinawa

 Sand dunes of Tottori

The Tottori dunes is the only desert in Japan, an arid land where very little vegetation grows. The dunes stretch for ten kilometres and can be two kilometres in width in places. The dunes are very beautiful first thing in the morning when the sands still have ripples and marks left by the whipping wind over night.

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The forest of Yakushima

Yakushima is located in the south of Japan.  It is surrounded by secluded beaches. The interior has flowing waterfalls but the highlight of this rugged island  are the Cryptomeria trees.  Some of the trees on the island age between 2000-5000 years old.

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Cryptomeria trees photo taken by yasuyo

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Cryptomeria trees photo taken by yasuyo

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Cryptomeria trees photo taken by yasuyo

Next time you come to Japan or even if it is your first time I recommend you to spend some of your time exploring the natural wonders of this country. You won’t be disappointed.

Have you been to Japan? Have you explored the natural side of Japan? We would love to hear all about it.

To read more about Yakushima check out Yasuyo’s blog

http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/105206/met-Jomon-Sugi-ancient-times-8

The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation

On the first Tuesday in November at 3pm everyone is tuned into the television to watch one of the biggest horse races in the world, the Melbourne Cup. The race is so popular that it is a state holiday in Victoria.  What other race or sports event has a holiday belonging to it, not one that’s how big it is.

The race was first held in 1861 with the winner being Archer. The remarkable story of Archer is that the horse walked over 800 kilometres to compete in the race. Not only did Archer win the first year, the horse also won the following.

Archer won $710 and a gold watch, the prize money has come a long way since then with the purse now being $6,175,000 making it one of the richest horse races in the world. The race is ran over 3200 metres by horses that are three years and older.

Melbourne Cup Parade

Join 100,000 people in a carnival like parade on the Monday when jockeys, trainers, owners and former cup winners as well as the impressive gold cup that the horses are racing for move through downtown along Swanston Street.

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 Race Day Fashion

What to wear on race day, this is a big question. Race day fashion is not to be taken lightly. Men wear suits while women wear brand name dresses and don’t forget the most important apparel of all, the hat.

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 The Parade Ring

The parade ring gives you the chance to get up close to these exquisite horses as they are walked around a ring before being led out to race. There is nothing better though than to have a decent vantage point to watch the horses race by along the 320 metre straight towards the finishing line.

 2013 Winner

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This years winner was…………….Fiorente. It paid $7, the win and $2.60 for the place.

 How to get there?

Don’t even think about driving to the races or taking a taxi. It would feel like a nightmare, the simple way take the train to Flemington station. It is opposite the course.

Tickets

You won’t be able to buy tickets on the day at the track unless you buy over the price tickets from a scalper which is also illegal. To get tickets you need to buy them through ticketek.

Have you been to the Melbourne Cup? We would love to hear about it.

Bologna, the Italian leader of food.

The quadrilateral is an area in Bologna where cured meats, salami, mortadella, prosciutto, Bolognan sausages hang in the window along with various sizes of cheese. Round , plump tomatoes and other fresh produce were being sold by the local shops. This is what  Bologna is all about the food, if you asked an Italian where the best food is they would proudly say their own region but if you really pushed them they would confess ‘Bologna’.

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Pasta and cheese from Quadrilateral

What’s not to love about Bologna’s food, a city which goes by the nickname La Grassa or The Fat one. The city has invented , tortellini, lasagna and their most infamous dish al ragu otherwise known as bolognaise sauce but here it is not eaten with spaghetti but with tagliatelle, flat long ribbons similar to fettucine.

Bolognan’s are proud of their cuisine so when checking into your hotel, in our case the Metropolitan,take advantage of their hospitality by telling them that this visit is purely for the pleasure of food, food and more food. However don’t you dare make the mistake that I happened to do by using the words spaghetti Bolognaise. The lady at the front desk playfully scorned me for using such words before telling us about the exquisite restaurants of Da Bertino and Da Nello.

Da Nello has been serving delicious traditional Bolognan food since 1948. You can find it located on Via Montegrappa which is the first little alley off the main street before entering the magnificent Piazza Maggliore which is flanked by the worlds fifth largest Bascilica. Adjacent  to the Basilica is the small square Piazza Del Nettuno which gets its name from the explicit bronze statue sculptured by Giambologna in 1566. Beneath the muscled sea-god, four cherubs represent the winds and four buxom sirens, water sprouting from every nipple, symbolise the four known continents of the pre Oceania world.

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Statue of Neptune

Da Nello’s from the outside looked like a small mom and pops establishment with products hanging in the  front window. It gave the impression that it would be a small restaurant, upon opening the door I was surprised to see two expansive rooms separated by wood panelled arch ways, white table cloths covered the table while pictures of famous celebrities adorned the walls. Da Nello definitely lived up to expectations filling our table with orders of lasagna, tagliatelle al ragu and tortellini. We were all happy to share between us the taste of Bologna cooking.

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Tagliatelle al ragu  and lasagna

This was what the city was about for us food, sure you could always visit the churches, climb the tower of Le Due Torre, the city’s symbols. The taller of the Torre Degli Asinallii is 97.6 metres high and leans 1.3 metres off vertical. Its 498 steps is not for any vertigo sufferers. Once up on top of the tower you can see why the city is also known as La Rossa, the Big Red , the panorama views of sunburnt red and pale orange terracotta tiles on the medieval buildings.

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Le Due Torre

Of course there’s also Bologna’s University, the world’s oldest founded in 1088. Another moniker La Dotta(The Learned One) refers to this. Bologna a mixture of old and new, a city strewn in graffiti, left-wing political posters,news pinned along the streets. A city that few foreigners visit but Italian tourists gather in the streets. A city that Italians believe to be one of the most beautiful in all of Italy only behind Venice.

image imageBologna university, the oldest in the world and Bologna’s portico, covered arcades

It is the food though that has my focus, my full attention. The one meal that we have been wanting to eat since first wandering the streets under some of the cities unique covered arcades (Portici) is Bolliti Misto. Bollito Misto,  a classic Northern Italian stew is gently simmered for 2-3 hours in an aromatic vegetable broth. The receptionist of the hotel had recommended Da Bertino to enjoy this experience. Da Bertino was far from the tourist area, clearly located in an area of town where only locals would be.

The waiter came to us wearing a white long sleeved shirt, grey vest with a fork in one hand and a carving knife in the other, the Bolliti Misto sat on a silver tray. The waiter sliced the meat, juice flowed from the pink tenderised beef. It was served with a dollop of creamy mashed potato and salsa verde, a green sauce of olive oil, vinegar flavoured with parsley, garlic and mustard. My taste buds were on full alert, the meat tasting like silverside was delicious but once dipped into the smooth salsa verde it was fantastic, truly a meal I will remember.

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Bolliti Misto

There are many reasons for people to travel and if your someone who travels for food then Bologna should be high on your list. What is not to like about a city that goes by the moniker ‘the Fat One.’