layover: 24 hours in tokyo

From Australia, it’s a long way to Europe (or anywhere, really) so each time I travel I try to incorporate a stopover in a different city. Japan Airlines flies from Melbourne, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Cairns to Tokyo and passengers can then connect through to Europe. It’s not the most common connection from Australia to Europe (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong or Dubai would probably be the most popular) but it’s a really interesting option for something different. Flights don’t connect efficiently though which usually means a mandatory stopover, but the plus side to this is that, if you book the quickest connection, JAL will usually provide you with accommodation for the night. If you’re up for an adventure though, bypass the airport accommodation and head into the city for a 24-hour Tokyo jaunt.

shinjuku at night

shinjuku at night

night life

Tokyo possesses some wonderful night life, whether it be hole in the wall bars, karaoke clubs or Ministry of Sound-style super clubs. Shinjuku is where I based myself since that’s where our hotel was, but Roppongi and Shibuya have a great atmosphere as well.

a view from the top

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku provides a wonderful view over the whole city. It’s worth it to gain an appreciation for Tokyo’s mix of old and new – this concrete jungle has beautiful green gardens scattered throughout. Unless you happen to be in Tokyo on a super clear day though, don’t expect amazing views of Mt Fuji – smog usually makes it pretty hard to see.

something fishy

Stay out late enough and you can head straight to the fish markets before dawn. “The Fish Markets?” you ask. Yes, the fish markets. I guarantee you will never see anything else like it. You need to be there early enough (say, about 4am) but it’s worth it to see the major players of the sushi world bidding tens of thousands of dollars for the best fish (especially tuna). It’s madness… like watching the finale of The Block, only better (and stinkier). So these are the three things I would do on a one-night layover. There’s so much to do in Tokyo if you have the time (Studio Ghibli, Disney, shrines galore, Harajuku etc etc) but for one night, immerse yourself in the crazy. Also, check out my friend’s page over at kittenishgirl, she’s a Tokyo fiend!

fridays with hubby: an osaka wrestling match

Sometimes I struggle to find inspiration, particularly after a long day. Sometimes I think, “what is it that makes my life so interesting? Why bother writing?” then I realised… I live with one of the most interesting and inspirational people I know – my husband! He’s not much of a writer so I thought, in between coats of paint on the house, shed-building, landscaping and the million hours of work he does per week I would hassle him for some of his stories (over a beer) and attempt to dedicate a few posts to him. Here goes!

This adventure starts on the way to find “some local market or something”. Fly-man and his intrepid traveller friends wander past a brightly coloured building aptly titled “Osaka Pro Wrestling” with two clowns painted on the front. The wrestling wasn’t on at that point but somehow they managed to find their way back later in the evening to take in the show.

 

Osaka Pro Wrestling, Logan Winter

Osaka Pro Wrestling, Logan Winter

 

When seated (in the front row!) it becomes apparent they’re the only Westerners there. As a result, hubby says they were treated like (sort of) celebrities/a bit of a novelty. At this point, hubby says he really doesn’t know what he should tell me, so I try to ask more questions.

“Was the wrestling good?” I prompt.

“Nah, it was shit-house” is the reply I get. Then he adds that it was a super-fun experience but that I shouldn’t expect WWE-style wrestling. Okay then. (Trying to talk to me about wrestling is like trying to talk to him about nail polish).

“Was there music?” I try again (because clearly I know nothing about wrestling).

“No of course not.”

“Was there yelling?”

“Yeah but it was all in Japanese so I have no idea what they said, but I can only assume there was some form of banter.”

He does go on to say that after the show, the organisers made them try some local lemonade and the wrestlers wanted to have their photo taken with these curious Australians and ask them about various Australian wrestlers. (At this point I ask hubby: “are there any Australian wrestlers?” to which I get a slightly annoyed “YES! Duh.” Ummm… Okay.)

So there you have it. My first attempt at trying to dictate some of my darling hubby’s travel stories. Probably shouldn’t expect that Walkley anytime soon…

Aussie tourists and Japanese Wrestlers, Logan Winter

Aussie tourists and Japanese Wrestlers, Logan Winter

review: centara grand at central world, bangkok

We were off to a slow start when our driver (after negotiating an hour’s worth of Bangkok traffic) dropped us at the wrong Centara. We were booked into the Centara Grand at Central World and not the Centara Grand Central Plaza. After a long flight we were weary and didn’t notice we were at the wrong hotel until well after the driver had gone, leaving us to schlepp across town to find the right hotel. When we reached our hotel, it’s fair to say we were glad we were booked at the Central World Centara and not the Central Plaza – the Central World just nails the wow factor as soon as you walk in. The check in staff were friendly and helpful.

It was so late by the time we reached our room that the restaurants were closed so room service it was; we promised ourselves this would be the one and only time we ordered pad thai on this trip (we wanted to sample more quirky local foods) but alas – the dish was disappointing and set in motion a ten-day quest for an authentic version.

As is often the case in Asia, the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable for my Aussie bottom and the room did have a couple of quirks; for example one of the lights in the room wouldn’t turn off which made for some restless nights but the room itself was lovely and spacious, very clean and the bathroom was excellent. What you want is a massive tub to soak in after a gruelling day shopping at one of Bangkok’s mega malls or markets and that’s exactly what this bathroom had.

There are some things you don’t really expect at a five-star hotel: the restaurant running out of spoons at breakfast, paying through the nose for internet, having to call up at 5pm because your room hasn’t been made up etc… but hey, it’s not like any of these things ruined our stay.

The hotel itself is in a decent location – in the high-end Western district of Pathumwan so it was nice and close to MBK and the Paragon mall but harder to get to Patpong night markets, Chatuchak etc. One night taxis and tuk tuks flat-out refused to take us to Patpong because of the traffic which was pretty disappointing.

The Red Sky bar on the 55th floor really was the highlight (and actually what drew me to this hotel in the first place) – amazing food (we had the squid), delicious cocktails and breathtaking views over the whole of Bangkok.

Overall would I stay there again? Absolutely, although I’d consider an alternative like the Banyan Tree which is a little closer to all the action.

P1020418

P1020419

thailand’s proposed tourist ID bracelets

Just over two weeks ago, two British tourists were murdered on Koh Tao, a picturesque island in the Gulf of Thailand. The (grisly) circumstances still remain something of a mystery which isn’t helped by accusations of local police bungling the investigation.

Coupled with ongoing protests throughout the country (but mainly centred in the capital, Bangkok), tourism numbers appear to be down. I’m waiting for cold, hard statistics to come through on this before I leap out of my chair and blame a particular issue for the decline but the Thai Government is obviously worried because they’ve come up with an idea:

ID bracelets for tourists.

That’s right: Thailand’s Minister for Tourism has proposed the use of ID bracelets with a traveller’s accommodation details and, eventually, some sort of electronic tracking device.

Granted, this isn’t his only idea – curfews and local “buddies” were also suggested – but I want to hear people’s thoughts on heading to an island like Koh Tao or Koh Phangan and being issued with an electronic ID bracelet to avoid getting into trouble. An extension of the type of paper bracelet one wears for admission to music festivals or a nod to Big Brother?

Share your opinions below!

a novice attempt at chinese chicken and corn soup

I’m a MASSIVE sucker for chicken and sweetcorn soup. When it’s on the menu at a chinese restaurant I find it so hard not to order… and I usually end up full before the main course!

I’ve always been curious as to how it’s actually made. To me it seemed impossible – how do they get it so thick? Now I know the secret, I actually feel quite dumb for going so long in life without figuring it out. (It’s cornflour by the way)

I used a recipe from food.com although I’m hopeless as following recipes in general, so here’s how my first real Chinese experiment turned out:

 

Servings:
4-6

Ingredients:
6 cups chicken stock
1 large chicken breast fillet (boneless)
300 g canned corn kernels
300 g canned creamed corn
1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 eggs (beaten)
2 spring onions (finely sliced) or 2 scallions (finely sliced) or 2 green onions (finely sliced)

 

Directions:

Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan(depending on your taste or needs you may wish to substitute some of the stock for water). I misread 6 cups and added 8 cups, not that it mattered because I used so much stock powder.

Add chicken breast fillet to the stock, turn the heat off and cover the pain with a lid for 15 minutes. I think next time I’ll keep it in for twenty as it was still a bit raw in the middle and therefore nearly impossible to shred. 

Remove chicken breast from the stock and leave to cool for a few minutes then shred. I did the shredding with two forks… not sure if there’s a better way but I’m sure I looked bizarre doing it.

Add corn to stock and bring to the boil over a medium heat.

Combine soy sauce and cornflour into a paste then stir into the soup to thicken slightly. Went overboard on the soy sauce I think, so it was both quite salty and quite dark in colour. Because I used so much stock, I had to add extra cornflour as it didn’t thicken as much as I would have liked.

Add shredded chicken to soup. Success! This bit went fine!

Slowly pour beaten eggs into the soup in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a fork. I’m a freaking genius for getting this right (with hubby’s help). Very impressed with myself and will not enter into any discussion re: not being an amazing master chef.

Serve topped with the sliced spring onions and enjoy! Umm… forgot this at the store. Oops!

funny how my food pictures never look as appetising as proper food websites???

funny how my food pictures never look as appetising as proper food websites???