Sunday, 19 June 2016

new housemates

Since my sister wanted an update, here's the main one -

I have 2 new housemates.

I was very disorientated upon my return from my month-long trip to Malaysia, and I'm guessing it's partly because Christin and Asiri had moved out during my trip, replaced by Ben and Simon.

And partly because it takes a month to form a new habit, and I'd been re-adapting to the heat, humidity and crappy drivers of Malaysia, enjoying the wide array of food options and my family's company. (Mum was in USA and Canada for most of my trip, so we only had one major fight.)
If I had the freedom to clean the house as I please / hire gardeners / hourly maids / cook in the kitchen, I wouldn't mind moving to Malaysia. However, it's all wishful thinking.

Ahma's 卤肉
On the second day of my return to Sydney, I bought a second heater to help make winter less miserable. Already feeling the ROI - I don't dread showers anymore and my room temperature is always bordering on tropical. (Still trying to find the sweet spot in heating - an overheated room can make it hard to sleep.)

Ben has been described as a 'true blue Aussie', whatever that means. I find him very nice and health-conscious. He also surfs. (Is that the definition of a true blue Aussie?)

Simon is young, prolly still in uni, with an ABC Chinese-Thai girlfriend who makes sculptures. He smokes and works nights answering emergency phone calls for insurance companies. He's proactive at doing dishes ;p

The end.


Friday, 17 June 2016

日本京都||Day 8 白梅(早餐),锦市场,Tokyu Hands

早上一起来就跑阳台
虽然白梅的床铺(futon )很舒服,但我还是早上5点就醒来了。
忘了是卧室太热,还是担心未来,还是旅行快结束了太难过,还是套房太美了舍不得睡。

照片无法传达的美
清澈到见底的 Shirakawa 小溪
小小的日本花园

神社的神水

没错,就是喝了保平安的神水。
当然,我们在 check out 之前也来喝。

我在走廊飘来飘去时,遇到开工的老板娘与员工。
老板娘很惊讶,问:‘你都不用睡?’

过后我便不妨碍员工打扫,飘回房间洗头发,泡汤。
泡完汤,再次开房门时,门口放了英文报纸。


等表姐也梳洗完后,我们便去白梅的用餐区吃早餐。
昨晚吃晚餐时,服务员有与我们确认今早要吃日式还是西式早餐。
我们都选择日式,服务员也赞同,因为西式早餐就是面包与咖啡,比较普通。


但其实我们没坐这里
我们是坐面对 Shirakawa 小溪的吧台
早餐其实可以让旅馆送到房间,但我们没参观过白梅的用餐空间,怎么可以错过?
用餐区是一间小房间,位于 check in 区后面。

我们到达时,已有一对日本母女在吃早餐了。

热茶暖身
日本米饭配 seaweed,后有味增汤与鸡蛋卷
来日本前看了几十篇文章,大家都喊日本米很好吃!
(悉尼的 Yayoi Kitchen 也是主打日本米,朋友一直喊美味。)
但其实本人来日本吃了几餐日本米都没感觉。
但白梅的日本米好吃到我吃了两碗!(待会看到早餐到底多丰盛就会觉得我加饭是件疯狂的是了。)

精致的鸡蛋卷

煎鱼与小菜

腌制白萝卜
腌制梅子
听说日本二战时,为了表示爱国精神,国民们都吃🇯🇵国旗便当-就是白米饭中间放一颗腌制梅子。

上图梅子左边的海带与芝麻,表姐吃的无法自拔,也默默添了一碗饭,还问老板娘哪里可以买(锦市场)。
日本是有许多配白饭就很美味的小菜。

面条


水果结束
菜色很丰富,老板娘也得照顾别桌的客人,但还是很优雅地把食物都排好在桌上,而且还有闲情与我们说笑,告诉我们一些京都的趣事,也介绍食物。
虽然她不是艺妓,但我有点好奇,艺妓给人的感觉就是这样吗?
捧餐都捧得这么有气质,一点手忙脚乱的感觉也没有,感觉还很像在跳舞。
真心佩服。

吃饱后,我们便回房间收拾,然后 check out。

Reception
锁匙还没机会用就退了
我们吃早餐时,老板娘就已经替我们查好去关西空港(Kansai International Airport-KIX)的 Haruka 火车时间了。

我们也稍微与老板娘商量后,决定到锦市场(Nishiki Market)然后在衹园购物,下午白梅会替我们安排德士到京都车站。

在京都 check out,少不了纪念品-

香包与老板娘的名信片
一路上随手拍-
衹园邮政局
昨天表姐一直虎视的树,趁早上没游客,赶快拍!


经过这家茶店时,看见一位日本奶奶买了几包茶,便觉得这家店应该很不错,于是跟表姐各买一包玄米茶-我的茶有加抹茶,所以价格比较高,但泡出来的茶会是漂亮的浅青色(虽然味道和普通玄米茶一样 囧)


抹茶 warabi mochi
在锦市场买了一盒 warabi mochi,美味极了!

在这里买零食-海带/豆制的传统小吃
然后又沦陷药妆店了-
好吃的葡萄口味软糖-很酸
这都想不起到底有没有买(桂花上身)
洗颜泡买了但还没开张
蜂蜜口味的洗颜泡也买了。。
最近从大马回到悉尼,把房间收拾了一遍,发现满坑满谷的洗颜泡与防晒产品!!!
明明觉得自己没什么买(最好是没什么买会把行李箱的 handle 弄断!)
我现在砍手去。。
味道不怎么样的抹茶巧克力派
抹茶松饼也是味道普通
下一站去 Tokyu Hands,只能说日本人 pattern 也很多-
Simi hantu
买完东西我们冲回白梅,德士已经在白梅门口等我们了,行李白梅也很贴心地替我们放上德士了。

上德士时发现一件趣事,就是德士上有记录现在乘客为两位 zhabor-
(在 590 左下角有两位小女人)

其实我们到车站时时间很紧凑,我们行李又爆多,语言又不通,现在回想都捏一把冷汗。
于是表姐替我拿一些行李,我去找工作人员求救-因为要搭 Haruka 不是只买 Haruka 票,还得买月台票(什么鬼)。最后由工作人员替我买,我负责塞钱进机器。

到了月台先跑到火车的随便一个车厢,然后呐喊 chotto matte kudasai(请等待!)
工作人员看我们满头大汗便笑笑说 hai!
当时才安心。

到了我们的车厢,先整理行李,然后在搭火车去关西的路上吃豆制蛋糕与草莓,看看窗外风景,补眠一下。

到关系空港 check in 后,我们便享用在日本的 last supper((泪
大阪著名的 okonomiyaki 店在机场 food court 有分行。这次在大阪竟然没吃大阪烧,于是便选择这摊-
我点 yakisoba
表姐点的。。显然比我的美味
吃完晚餐,还不甘心,跑去 Lawson's 买甜点-
可口的巧克力蛋糕卷
久违的出国旅行,非常有趣。
有机会还会想去日本(秋天去东京看是否有枫叶看)。
现在了解为什么这么多人爱日本。
就是不错的地方!

在悉尼人不人,鬼不鬼的生活过久了,出国透气也是好事。
(虽然说问题不是离开一个地方就可以逃避的,还是会担心未来而睡不好,但还算疗愈)。
继续加油!晚安!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Japan Kyoto || Day 8 (Shiraume, Gion, Miyako Odori, Minnetonka, Ane Mone, Harbs)


Check in lounge at Shiraume
The end of our Japan trip was nearing ((sad face
But we had Shiraume to look forward to.
I'd read amazing things about ryokans, and wanted to stay in them all through my trip, then I saw the prices, and promptly decided one night with dinner and breakfast would be enough.

(If you're family, you probably already know the golden rule, but here's a reminder - don't la tell my parents anything you read here.)

My first choice was Seikoro Ryokan, but it was more expensive, so we decided to go for Shiraume.

The initial plan was to check in, explore Gion (where Shiraume was located) then return to the ryokan early to fully utilise all the facilities.

It was raining when we checked out from Capsule Ryokan, so I stood outside with an umbrella, flagging cabs while Eunice looked after our luggage in the lobby. This is why I prefer traveling with people!

Souvenir from Capsule Ryokan
We finally got a cab, who exclaimed about the weight of our luggage and then chattered away in Japanese although we had no idea what he was saying. (Japanese people tend to do that, and Japanese drivers can't seem to understand where we want to go.) So I Google Mapped Shiraume and showed my phone to the driver.

And when we pulled up at Shiraume, I can understand why he wouldn't have heard of Shiraume - the entrance was so discreet I would've walked past it myself, and I read Chinese characters!

At Shiraume's entrance (namesake plum tree in background)

We were served the most delicious cups of salty tea with mountain herbs and rice during check-in.


After checking in, the lovely kimono-clad proprietress Tomoko had provided maps of Gion and Kyoto (most accommodations will talk you through the maps briefly) and recommended less crowded routes to walk in the Hanamachi (geisha district) in Gion.

We arranged for dinner to be served at 7pm, then set out to explore Gion.

We walked by the most prominent ochaya in Gion, the Ichiriki-tei - also quite understated and quiet. (We actually slipped into the garden to have a look, but it was empty.)
In Memoirs of a Geisha, the Ichiriki was known as the most prestigious teahouse in Gion.

The most prominent ochaya in Gion - Ichiriki-tei

2nd class tickets to Miyako Odori


After buying tickets to watch the Miyako Odori at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre, we had a snack of (what else?) warabi mochi at a nearby teahouse.



And then walked around Gion, which retains its old-fashioned charms.

It was drizzling before, so Shiraume loaned us umbrellas
It is said that a rain on a sunny day means that somewhere, there is a fox wedding happening.

Snow on a sunny day means a possum (if I remember correctly) wedding is being held.



I'd wanted to watch the Miyako Odori and Eunice (who wasn't the least bit interested) had attended because she preferred not to be separated.

I was expecting some flying fan actions aka Memoirs of a Geisha but there was not a single fan flung about. It was all very proper with warbling singing. The drama scenes looked quite interesting but made no sense - it's traditional Japanese, even normal Japanese can't fully comprehend it.

The angmo beside us fell asleep, the Miyako Odori isn't for everybody.
I probably wouldn't attend again, unless if I was going with a first-class ticket so I can experience a tea ceremony. But still glad I tried it.


After the Miyako Odori, we had lunch at the food court in a department store (probably Daimaru).


551 Horai is famous for fried pork dumplings, so we bought a box of dumplings and meatballs.





We bought bits and bobs from the stalls then ate in a small area by the escalators.

Communicating via Google Translate
On the way up, a Japanese girl was handing out Minnetonka flyers - a new store had opened.
I'd always been keen on Minnetonka shoes so we had a look.. and ended up buying a pair each.

In fact, Eunice loved her purchase so much she's looking to buy another pair in Singapore.

They're not super comfortable for my wide feet, but they're okay to wear and cute.


We also bought accessories - I tried wearing titanium studs for the first time.
It's as comfortable to wear as gold or silver, and the design is super cute.


After shopping, we went to Harbs for cakes.


Hand-illustrated menu

Mille crepe, 780 yen


Japanese are quite detailed - OJ ice in OJ to retain the taste as the ice melts.
Strawberry cake, 800 yen
It was good, but Nadeje is pretty good as well, and at half the price.

By then it was nearly 7pm, and we walked back to Shiraume for dinner. (So much for fully utilising the amenities!)

Check in lounge

The decoration is quite sparse and minimal, but tasteful.

The hallways are narrow and winding, with low ceilings, and apparently it's because Gion is women's quarters and the lack of space makes it harder for assassins to swing samurai swords.

Stairs leading up to more suites.

'Fire extinguisher'
I see these everywhere, but I'm not sure if it's a real fire extinguisher.


Our suite is at the end of the hallway, opposite a public bath (on the right).

Umekoyomi
Umekoyomi means 'plum diary'.


Upon entry, there is a scroll on the left, and three sets of sliding doors.
The one on the left leads to our bedroom; the one in front leads to our dining room (below); and the one on the right leads to our private bathroom.

OMG
It was even bigger than our room in Osaka, and breathtakingly gorgeous.
Eunice loved the scent of the suite, which came from the wood.

She was full of questions, and we found out that there are only 5 suites in this ryokan. 
Shiraume used to be a geisha house (I think Tomoko meant teahouse instead of okiya), but the proprietress' grandmother had renovated 3 (or 2) adjoining properties to create a single ryokan. 


Our attendant Teru asked if we would like our welcome snack first?
Of course!!!
We want everything! (Typical first-time luxury customers.)


So Tomoko brought in orange mochi and chilled green tea, and arranged for our dinner to be served at 7:30pm.
Tomoko served the food so gracefully, I wondered if she'd had geisha training.
She explained the auspicious design of the orange paste - longevity - then left us to enjoy our snacks.


The second she slid the door close, we started running around taking photos.
Our suite faces the Shirakawa Stream, and we opened the sliding doors to let the cool night air in.

The breeze was refreshing, and the sounds of the trickling stream soothing, but after awhile we noticed tourists stopping on the other side of the stream and taking photos of us! With flash! So when Teru came in, she helped us lower the bamboo blinds.








So many snacks, so little time.


Standalone arm rest

Our luggage had been stowed away in a wardrobe



You know you're staying in an expensive hotel when all the drinks in the fridge are complimentary.



A bamboo clothes rack on the balcony

TV

Traditional abodes in Japan have a little shrine (tokonoma) in rooms, and the person seated closest to it is usually the most senior or most important.

Upon learning this, I'd offered to swap seats with Eunice (who was a year older) but she'd declined.

Bedroom
Traditional standing mirror

Everything was so intricate, I could die.


After our snacks had been cleared away, Teru set our table.

The napkin can be brought home as a souvenir
Candlelight
Whenever I mention to people that I stayed in a ryokan in Gion with my cousin, I get eye rolls.
They're right, this place is perfect for honeymoons.

House-made umeshu
The umeshu is charged to our bill, and isn't included in dinner.


And so it begins.

Dishes are placed in front of us, covered, then Teru would place a food description on the table and describe the food. Sometimes Tomoko would serve and talk instead of Teru.



The food was superb.



Especially impressed with the pretty radish flower petals - it had just the right amount of crunch to complement the juicy chewiness of the shrimp ball.




Tomoko had a cute story about bamboo shoots - apparently bamboos grow around an inch (if not more) overnight, which is why they are popular in ninja jumping training.

'Thank you for helping us eat the bamboos,' Tomoko had her story ended charmingly as she finished serving us bamboo shoots from a charcoal grill.

She also told us that geisha is still considered a glamorous profession, and thousands of girls come to Kyoto annually to interview with the okiyas, but only a few get selected to undergo training.
The okiyas are highly selective because they pay for the apprentice's expenses, and a trainee who cannot take the strict training and give up will have wasted the okiya's resources.
The #1 criteria for a geisha is to be outgoing and happy to talk to strangers. (Personally, I would love to talk to a geisha and see what they're like.)

Maiko (apprentice geisha) go to geisha school in full hair and outfit, but no makeup. (Sounds like a private Chinese high school to me!)

And geisha are still not allowed to be married on paper.
Apparently there is a very charming and popular 80-year-old geisha in Gion who is still always being invited to parties. She has a lover, children and grandchildren, but because she isn't officially married, she can still work as a geisha.





Eunice had been hankering for Kobe beef, so I had gotten in touch with Tomoko a couple of nights before to order Kobe beef for dinner - the standard dinner is kaiseki (traditional Japanese) with seafood, but you can change it at no extra cost.




Kobe cows listen to music and receive massages to relax their muscles, so the meat will be tender.

It was good, but I'm not sure if it's because I have unrealistic expectations, but I wasn't moved to tears or blown away.


By the time we finished our beef, it was almost 9pm, so we hastened to the library to make what we can of Happy Hour, when alcohol is served foc.

Only vulgar people like us will leave a table (and our room!) during a multi-course meal to throw free alcohol down our throats.


Souvenirs for sale in the library.
Blankets are supplied in case guests feel chilly.

During the last 2 courses, Teru had arranged the food cards and held everything together with a little origami triangle. At the end of the meal, she'd arranged everything in a red envelope to be brought home.


Much more delicious than Ganko's
Soy ice cream
Another souvenir - food cards

After dinner, water was brought into the room, with a handwritten weather forecast. Very sweet.



Our futons were also set up as we ate.

Yukata and tabi socks
The tabi socks were yet another souvenir.


Modern toilet with all the bells and whistles
Our private bathtub
Body scrub
We decided to use the 'aromatic cypress wood' public bath after dinner.

Entrance to the public bath

Old-fashioned fan in the public dressing area
Public shower
Shiraume staff had prepared the bathwater for us

We were initially confused by the wooden boards we saw leaning against the walls, until we realised its use - for keeping bathwater warm and clean.

A bird sleeping in the Shirakawa Stream
After showering together and soaking in the bath, we'd returned to our suite to see a bird sleeping under our balcony.

So serene.

It was the most expensive stay of Eunice's life and one of the priciest of mine, but I highly recommend staying in a real ryokan with dinner and breakfast at least for a night.