The man dressed in a white shirt and holding a briefcase hurriedly walked past when his phone rang, he reaches for the phone, the call only lasts for a brief moment before he starts to run. The people here are different to Kowloon, there it was the blue-collar worker, the man who works hard doing the dirty, mundane jobs while in Central, in the heart of Hong Kong is the business district where people sit in the office of large banking corporations perched in high rising skyscrapers that surround the area. People sip tea and eat yum cha in the most expensive restaurants of five-star hotels while having business meetings with their associates or clients all thanks to the company’s expense account. Continue reading “Soho and the world’s longest escalator.”
In our previous post Hakone Circuit: How to see Mount Fuji we wrote about taking the boat across Lake Ashi and riding the cable car to catch stunning views of Mount Fuji. If I were to go to Hakone on a day trip from Tokyo then that would be the first thing I would recommend but the area has a lot more and deserves more than just a day trip. Here are some other suggestions on what you can do in the area. Continue reading “Hakone more than just viewing Mount Fuji.”
Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone Izumi National Park, less than 100 kilometres from Tokyo. The scenic area is famous for its natural beauty, hot springs and its views of Mount Fuji. Hakone is made up of several towns which includes Moto Hakone and Hakone – Machi. Continue reading “Hakone Circuit: How to see Mount Fuji”
The millenium Biltmore Hotel brought a smile to my face as we entered the lobby, the interior of the gold and blue hued hall illuminated by the chandelier hanging from the ceiling brings your attention to the main galleria which were hand painted in 1922 by Italian artist Giovanni Smeraldi, known for his work in the Vatican and the White House.
The Biltmore is known for once being a home to the Oscars. Eight Oscar ceremonies were held in the Biltmore Bowl during the Academy’s early years of 1931, 1935-39, and 1941-42. With pictures of the ceremony adorning the walls you can’t help but wonder who has stayed in your room. Having settled in, it was time to set out and explore the streets of downtown LA.
Ceiling of millenium Biltmore Hotel
Downtown LA is not known for its hustle and bustle of other huge cities especially on weekends and after dark once all the business men have gone home but what’s lacking in people is definitely not lacking in culture, and it has that with a capital C. First we walked through the Jewelry district that boasts the second largest Jewelry District in the world with over 5,000 wholesale and retail jewelry shops unfortunately this area is home to a large number of homeless people, further on is LA’s Broadway.
Broadway was LA’s entertainment hub until the 1920’s when it was eclipsed by Hollywood, back then the streets of downtown Los Angeles were awash in neon thanks to a confluence of movie theaters the world had never seen before. Dozens of theaters screened Hollywood’s latest fare, played host to star-studded premieres and were filled nightly with thousands of moviegoers. In those days, before World War II, downtown L.A. was the movie capital of the world.
Stretching for six blocks the district includes 12 movie theatres built between 1910 and 1931. By 1931, the district had the highest concentration of cinemas in the world, with seating capacity for more than 15,000 patrons. The Million dollar theatre screened Ben Hur for six months in 1925, the Los Angeles theatre opened in 1931 for the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s City lights. The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1926 and is still being used for American Idol and So you think you can dance.The Orpheum theatre is the only remaining theatre used to show movies, most of the other theatres are now churches.
Hungry, and needing a rest, we started walking towards LA Live, which city planners had hoped would put downtown LA onto the map as a must go destination. The area got its first jolt when the Staples center opened, home to the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Kings as well as a place for musicians to perform their concerts. The Ritz Carlton and the Marriott have also opened in the same hotel tower. Nokia theatre with 7100 seats which hosts award shows and other spectacles is here as well as the ESPN recording studios and ESPN Zone, a sports bar restaurant and the Grammy museum are also located here.
Finding a place to eat was easy as we chose the first place we saw RockNfish, a seafood, steak restaurant with its reddish, brick interior and pink sofa’s with matching pink napkins it offered a warm, intimate place to eat, the freshly seared mahi tuna came out perfectly with garlic mashed potato and coleslaw from the side orders, the beer battered fish and fries were also nice.
Time to explore some more this time we had quite a walk all the way back past our hotel to some architectural masterpieces ,the nearest one to our hotel was the Richard Riordan Central Library designed by Bertram Goodhue in 1922 in Quasi Egyptian style that was very popular at that time as some of the old theatres were also designed in this manner. With 6 million volumes it is one of the largest public library systems in the world.
The undisputed centerpiece along Grand Avenue is the sparkling Walt Disney concert hall. It is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and has the capacity to seat 2,265 people. Lillian Disney made an initial gift in 1987 to build a performance venue as a gift to the people of Los Angeles and a tribute to Walt Disney’s devotion to the arts and the city. The Frank Gehry designed building opened in 2003. The Concert hall is a curving stainless steel walled building that reflects the sun in the day, meanwhile the auditorium feels like the insides of a finely crafted instrument.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
The last place to see for today was the Los Angeles City Hall designed by John Parkinson, John C.Austin, and Albert C Martin,Sr and was completed in 1928. It has 32 floors and, at 454 feet (138 m) high, is the tallest base isolated structure in the world, that will allow the building to sustain minimal damage and remain functional after a magnitude 8.2 earthquake. The Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels is also worth checking out for its architecture but we are not at all religious so we did not venture there.
Los Angeles city hall
As I l lay in bed I couldn’t help but think of who had spent time in this room and what downtown LA would have been like in the early 20’s.
Have you been to downtown LA? Tell us what you thought of the downtown area
Choosing a ryokan in Japan is a difficult task as they come in all different shapes and sizes some are small operations ran by an elderly couple while others are large with over 100 rooms. We suggest you choose a ryokan that has its own hot springs and provide meals that are included in the price. Ryokans are often located in isolated places and they serve the best meals known as Kaiseki Ryori which is a course meal using local ingredients.
Recently we stayed at Kosenkaku, a ryokan located in Arima Hot springs. We stayed for one night which included dinner and breakfast so without further ado, this is our review.
Kosenkaku is located in the charming traditional village of Arima, one of the oldest hot spring towns in Japan. Arima is conveniently located near Kobe which can be reached in 20 minutes by train. Osaka is only a short bus ride away and only takes around an hour to get there. To get to Kosenkaku cross the bridge in the heart of town and access is up the hill.
We were greeted by a man at the archways of the property who took our bags and directed us to the lobby to be checked in. Japanese service at ryokans are always of high standards and here was no exceptions. We waited in the lobby with hot towels and an ice cold drink before being driven to our room in a golf cart. Kosenkaku is one of those big properties that I mentioned above. The cart stopped at the hot springs and restaurant showing us around the property before taking us to the room.
Kosenkaku actually has two kinds of rooms, the traditional rooms with tatami floors and where the futon gets layed out on the floor and you sleep there unfortunately for first time travellers to Japan this is probably the kind of experience you are looking for but we stayed in the log cabins which were spacious sleep I think up to six people upstairs and had a spacious living room as well wait for it…….It’s very own spa.
We loved the room spending a lazy day in the spa or on our veranda where we played cards, sat around talking and generally just relaxing. The WIFI worked fine in the room at good speeds but we hardly used it as we really just wanted to get away from it all. Hot springs can do that to you
Food for me is usually the make or break part of any trip to a ryokan. What I liked about the meal here was that the volume wasn’t too much, usually after eating at a ryokan you are so full that you really start to feel uncomfortable but at Kosenkaku you were first served a plate with four dishes, a salad, some sashimi, pork that is usually used for ramen and a green brocoli tasting jelly like dish. Next there was the chicken soup followed up by the tender Kobe beef grilled perfectly served with paprika and garlic chips. Still feeling hungry dessert was green tea ice cream, banana cake and pudding.
Arima is located in a rural area so not much fish like you would find at a ryokan that was located by the sea which I prefer but the food was still of a good standard. Staying here also gives you the chance to try Kobe beef.
What you have all been waiting for, what were the hot springs like.
Hot springs in Arima became famous for the medicinal value. The waters have been known to help heal ailments so many people come each year to soak in the hot springs and hopefully improve their health.
The hot springs in Arima come in two colours either a redish brown colour that is known in Japanese as Kinsen which gets its colouring from the rich content of iron and sodium. The other is ginsen which is colourless and contains radium and carbonate. These hot springs are next to each other but both are located inside a room I and didn’t have an amazing view of the sea or nature that you find in some hot springs where there baths are located outside. What we did like was that the bath wasn’t scorching hot like you find at some hot springs.
After coming home I did some research to find out that there are no outdoor hot springs in Arima.
If you are looking for a place to relax and haven’t been to a hot spring or stayed at a ryokan by the time you are in Kansai then I definitely recommend for you to stay here because of its rich history and its medicinal value. They are one of the most famous hot springs in Japan however I love an outdoor hot spring and there is nothing better from jumping between indoor and outdoor springs.
The food is good but have had much better from other ryokans plus we really love seafood. The food here doesn’t blow your minds like you get at other ryokans but the Kobe steak is really good.
The log cabins are great but this might not be for everyone especially first time visitors to Japan. They do though have more traditional rooms.
Something I haven’t mentioned is this ryokan also has an indoor swimming pool that not many ryokans have. It is only opened during the Summer months though.
Would we stay here again. I think we would. It’s close to where we live and we really did love the log cabin with the spa in its room. We will leave it up to you to decide if you would stay here.
What do you think, would you stay at this ryokan? Let us know in the comment section below.
As we walked through the cobbled stone pavement, traditional wooden buildings flanked both sides selling souvenirs to the people who wandered the street, exhausted we slumped down on the bench and put our feet into the warm waters of the foot hot spring to help soothe our aching muscles, relieved that we had finally made it to the tranquil village of Arima one of the oldest hot spring towns in Japan.
Earlier we had scrambled up rocks, pulled on chains and climbed ladders as well as explored terrain that you are more likely to see on Mars with its red grainy sand that form the rock gardens as we hiked Mount Rokko, the mountain that separates Kobe and Arima. We did all this just to reach the town that we could very easily have taken a train or bus but what would be the fun in that
Arima came to prominence because of the myth surrounding the hot springs. Two gods descended to earth one day and saw three injured crows bathing in a puddle. Some days passed when the gods happened to come upon the three crows again. To their amazement the crows had been cured. Thinking this was remarkable they took a closer look at the puddle to discover a hot spring with a miraculous healing effect. From this day forward, the crows and two gods have been worshipped as guardian deities of Arima hot springs.
Now 1.6 million people visit annually to soak their bodies in the hot springs to help heal ailments. The water either a reddish-brown colour known in Japanese as Kinsen gets its colouring from the rich content of iron and sodium. The other is ginsen which is colourless and contains radium and carbonate.
In Arima there are a few options to take a bath either in a public hot spring or in a japanese hotel or ryokan. After a long hike we first took a bath in the public hotsprings soaking in scorching hot water of around 45 degrees. These baths are both indoors and very simple but it felt like heaven as we bathed in them. relaxing, eyes closed and the hike that we had just completed a distant memory.
Arima also has accommodation which has its own hot springs and even though very expensive we highly recommend to stay the night to not only experience the hot springs, a ryokan but also a traditional town.
We stayed at Kosenkaku, a large ryokan that also has log cabins which we stayed in. Together we relaxed played card games on the veranda, read books and soaked in the spa that was in our room.
Arima hot springs is where Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous samurai who unified Japan came to soak his body to heal after a long battle so if it was good enough for him, then its good enough for us and it’s definitely good enough for you. If you get a chance when you’re in the Kansai area to try a hot spring then get yourself to Arima whether you get there by train, bus or foot.
How to get there
There are three ways to get to Arima Onsen from Kobe or Osaka the cheapest way, the practical way, or the fun but expensive way.
The practical way is to take the Hanshin, Hankyu or Sanyo Line to Shinkaichi (新開地) just west of Kobe, then transfer to the Kobe Railway Arima Line to terminus Arima Onsen. (Note that express services terminate at Arimaguchi, so you’ll need to switch to a local train.) Alternatively, if you’re coming in on JR, get off at Kobe’s Sannomiya station, take the Kobe Subway to Tanigami (谷上), and connect there to the Kobe Arima Line. In either case, make sure to transfer at the Arimaguchi station onto the (one stop only) Arima Onsen line. The whole trip will cost around ¥900-1000 and take about half an hour.
The fun way is to take the Hankyu line to Rokko station and continue up Mt. Rokko on the cablecar (10 min, ¥570/1000 one-way/return). Connect with the bus loop line (10 min, ¥250) to the Rokko Arima Ropeway, then take the ropeway down to Arima Onsen (12 min, ¥980/1770 one-way/return). The Rokko Arima Katamichi Jōshaken (六甲有馬片道乗車券) combination ticket (¥1700 one way) works out marginally cheaper, and also lets you ride around the top of Mt. Rokko. This route is more scenic, but best avoided with heavy luggage.
The cheapest way is to take a bus from Sannomiya bus terminal that leaves several times a day (50 min, ¥720). The final destination of the bus is Arima Onsen, so it’s easy to find the bus in the timetable and no chance to skip the stop accidentally. You should pay the driver upon exiting, no need to get the ticket at the booth. The bus is rather small with no place for heavy luggage.
The pandas laid in the sun, not moving, not even twitching a leg, a whisker, nothing, we stood watching and talking amongst one another waiting for any signs of movement but alas in the end we gave up. The pandas had most likely chewed its way through a bundle of bamboo before settling on a nice, long morning nap.
I had seen pandas before in a safari park in Japan but to be so close to mainland China, the real home of the panda to only see An An and Jia Jia, the famous pandas of Ocean Park in Hong Kong bask in the sun snoozing was a little bit disappointing. Next door to the panda enclosure though were the mischievous otters splashing around in the water, scrambling over rocks and catching the odd fish or two that the keeper would occasionally throw out to them.
Ocean Park is the oldest theme park in Hong Kong
It was first established in 1977 and now has over 5 million people visit annually, nearly 500,000 more people than Disneyland. Ocean Park is a large, extensive park, with two lands the Waterfront and the Highland, which are separated by Hong Kong’s mountainous terrain. There are three different ways to move between the lands, a shuttle bus, a train or by far the best way to travel the 1.5 kilometre long cable car, which offers great views of Hong Kong.
Waterlands attractions mainly deals with animals. Ocean Park overall has eleven animal exhibits and caters more for the younger children while the Highlands have the ocean attractions including the four story Atoll reef, which has over 2,000 fish swimming in and around the waters including a couple of sharks and rays. While the ocean attractions are located here, the rides for older children and young at heart adults are also here including two roller coasters.
“Rei why don’t you try this” encouraging him to ride the mine train, a steal mine train roller coaster, perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking Aberdeen harbour. The encouraging words must have worked, Rei notoriously famous for being a chicken decided to queue in line, as we got closer though “mummy, daddy let’s go I don’t want to ride it”, tugging on our shirts. In the end Rei backed out but it didn’t stop mum and dad from having a good time. I hadn’t rode a roller coaster in at least ten years probably more but this ride gave me a scare I wasn’t expecting, it looked kind of short, nearly a young child’s first step towards teenage hood ( if that’s even a word) but it wasn’t like that at all, with its twist and turns, covering 678 metres of track and at a height of 85 metres tall.
I think I’ll stick with the local train next time.
Ocean Park may lack the magic of Disneyland but if your into rides and thrills you’ll more than enjoy Ocean Park.
Ocean Park Hours
10am -18.00pm longer in Summer
adults 250 HK$
Children 3-11 125 HK$
under 3 free
How to get there
Central bus 6A, 6X, 70, 75, 90, 97,260, M590
Causeway Bay bus 72, 72A, 92, 96, 596
Enjoy the day at Ocean Park before having dinner at JUMBO a famous floating restaurant in Aberdeen which you can walk to from the park.