Does the new year start in February? Well, close enough, I obviously was accounting for Lunar New Year as well. It seems that I’ve had some pretty lazy holiday period as I have not even set foot near this site since my last post about Japan.
Well, not much to say here, we’ve just been doing the regular old domestic thing, going to the beach on nice, sunny days, and painting a room over the xmas break, and having my birthday. And it just so happened that our semi-artisan finished pottery arrived just in time. So it turned into a birthday present for Emmy as well as myself.
I said in the post about the actual pottery class, that he may only have sent 3-4 items, but he managed to fit the whole set into the box, which was great. Unfortunately, once of the bowls (Emmy’s middle bowl) had a crack at the top and I had to super glue it back on (imperfectly) but that just added to the wabi sabi nature of the bowls.
We’ve put them in our room and it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll be using them for anything other than display, but you never know. The finish on Emmy’s big bowl (the rough one) is definitely my favourite, and of the remaining ones, my little tea/sake cup has a similar finish which is good, and Emmy’s third bowl (the glossy green bowl) are my other favourites.
The bowls themselves are pretty ordinary but they’re really nice to have and bring back good memories just looking at them. I mean apart from the shape being all wonky (mine are anyway), we can safely call these artisan pieces, since Shigeru Sensei finished the bottom as well as the coating (or maybe he outsourced it to a student?) and he’s definitely no novice. Here’s the complete set from a few different angles.
That’s all for now, hmm, this might be shaping up to be a slow year on the dtraCorp front, let’s try and get things moving a bit, although my neck/back is pretty crook at the moment so not sure anything’s going to be happening in the short term.
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Hello all, and we’re back, back from the wonderful land of Japan, which means that I’ve got a lot more content for the next couple months taking us into the new year, most likely, YAY! I got lots of pictures to sort through, not sure if I got anything that I’m really proud of but we’ll see, and we also spent some time doing some interesting not sight-seeing things which I’ll try to go through in more detail than my usual overview stuff.
So following the route, we arrived at Narita and jumped straight on the train headed for Hiroshima, in hindsight, this was a bad plan (as we only spent one night there) as we weren’t there long enough for the amount of travel to be worth it. I think next time we may visit Kyushu and go to Hiroshima/Miyajima from there spending a bit more time at Miyajima. From there we moved on to Kyoto for a big chunk (five nights) looking for Koyo (Autumn colours), we tried to vary our itinerary in Kyoto to avoid just visiting shrines and temples which I think we did pretty well.
On to Kawaguchi-Ko and Mount Fuji from there where some very clear weather treated us to some great views of the great volcano for our last two days (we stayed three). I don’t think we got 36 views of Mount Fuji, but we certainly covered quite a few angles from around Kawaguchi-Ko. After that it was on to Tokyo for some “relaxing” time, we usually just end up in Tokyo shopping and eating, that’s mostly what we did, I did actually manage to visit Shinjuku Gyoen for some chill out time (although even that was not too relaxing as I arrived late and had to rush around a bit). I don’t have many photos from Tokyo mostly because eating (mostly relatively boring stuff) and shopping aren’t the most photogenic of things. But we’ll get to all of that in the coming weeks with enough pictures to keep things interesting.
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Hi again, I stopped procrastinating and decided to post this otherwise it would be another two weeks at least before anything went up, so yes, we are visiting Japan again for our annual-ish holiday. This time, we are re-visiting a bunch of places from our first visit but at a slightly later time of year, hoping for that koyo (Autumn colours).
We’ll be stopping at Hiroshima (just for a very brief one night stopover), then Kyoto, Kawaguchi-ko, and finally Tokyo. I already sort of regret going to Hiroshima as it just doesn’t seem long enough to see Miyajima, Shukkeien Garden, and the peace memorial, among other things, but we booked the accommodation already so no going back. We’ll be doing some different things in Kyoto and Tokyo this time, less temples and more just taking in the culture, hopefully seeing Himeji which we missed last time due to renovations.
Emmy will be celebrating her birthday over there so hopefully it will be one that she can remember for a long, long time, if not, then I’ll probably be in hiding for a while. This time I will definitely be posting more content (not hard since I barely posted anything last time we did this trip) as I could barely find any references for this trip from my previous post. We’re also taking our parents, so this could very well be the greatest disaster ever known to man, wish us well!
You may wonder what the picture has to do with this trip, well, this is some kind of fern (in our garden, native I’m guessing), I think it has a very zen feel to it and is very Japanese in its simplicity and shape. But really, I took this picture a couple months ago and never bothered to upload it, so now that I have a chance, there it is ;).
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Another week, another foodie post, you get the idea, this has basically become a foodie blog over the past year, I guess that’s where the big bucks are. This cafe is pretty close to our place, like five minutes drive and we didn’t even know it existed. Fortunately for us our friends visiting from Adelaide had brunch here a couple weeks ago and recommended it to us. They also recommended another place to us which I’m sure we’ll visit in the future at some point as well.
Straight into the food, emmy ordered the sweet potato corn fritters which come with poached eggs, she didn’t offer me any so I can only presume that they were indeed very well done. I did have a little crumb from the corn fritters and it was very crunchy indeed, always a good thing. She had a hot chocolate with that, it was on the slightly bitter side which is our preference, so two thumbs up right there.
Having had breakfast not long before we left for brunch, I didn’t feel up for the burger and chips, so I took it easy and settled for the ruben sandwich, a nicely toasted sanga with all those nice salty cold cut meats, cheese, mustard and some pickles on top. I know what you’re thinking, that sounds bloody amazing, and yep, it seems like something that would be pretty hard to stuff up, one more thumb up from me. Look at it, this is obviously a very subdued version but that was perfect for how I was feeling. I also ordered the red rita juice there that had beetroot, ginger, apple, and some other fruity thing blended in, nice and sour, with a bit of sweetness too.
Oscar loved his mushrooms and bread, the scrambled eggs not so much, but I don’t think that was anything to do with the eggs, just his preference on the day. If we had a regular, this would probably be it, I’m sure when we’re feeling lazy this will probably be the place that I vote for. There are a bunch of other sandwiches I need to try (as well as the burger), and probably the eggs benedict too (although it’s ham not salmon).
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On Saturday, it finally happened, I drove to the city on CityLink, oh, and also I got married to my lovely Emmy, but this post isn’t about that (for the most part). I’m here to do another foodie blog, this time one of our favourite go-to Japanese restaurants, Komeyui in Port Melbourne. So without further ado let’s get into it, this was our wedding reception of sorts (just lunch after the simple ceremony at the Old Treasury Building), I was hoping that they would do omakase for lunch, but we had to settle for the Signature Lunch set. This set consisted of five courses:
The first course was a sashimi course consisting of scallops, prawns, tuna belly, salmon, squid (I think), and I can only guess the white fish (possibly kingfish as it is quite common). The winner here I would have to say were the scallops, they were so tender, tuna belly is always a winner, and the squid had a really nice texture. I’m not sure if the prawn was cooked at all, maybe cured a little bit, they were great, and the wasabi was a bit different too, not the normal green one but some kind of (looks like cooked tuna) tan/brown colour, quite mild. I love sashimi :D. Of course those that can’t or won’t eat raw fish got their sashimi replaced with some cooked dish, looked like crayfish and prawns (but I can’t remember), it looked really good too, actually, we had one that does not eat seafood, but I can’t remember what he got.
Follow that great selection with one of my favourite vegetarian dishes, agedashi tofu, the skin has such nice texture and the tofu inside was so soft and creamy, perfect agedashi tofu, no doubt. The sauce was rich and perfectly complimented the fluffy tofu.
On to the main dish, if you can call it that, it was almost like four mains and a dessert. Perfectly cooked wagyu steak (sirloin is Scotch fillet right?) with some crunchy edamame on the side, the edamame was actually really good, it had a really nice fragrance, perhaps grilled with the steak. Keep in mind I had just had steak the previous Wednesday so it was still fresh on my mind, I certainly wouldn’t have minded if the Komeyui chef was cooking my steak at Stefans either :D. I guess I needed to savour it, I probably won’t have steak again for six months as is my tendency.
On to the sushi course which everyone got (except for our non-seafood lover, he got tempura veggies which looked good too!), and the hits just kept coming, I really can’t say enough about this place, they know what they’re doing. I was the lone black sheep, I chose the chirashi which is pretty much the same thing, but instead of bite-sized portions it is one long line of rice with the fish on top. Unfortunately, I’m no fish connoiseur so I can’t tell you what was on it, sea urchin at least, there was salmon roe in the sushi as well as a separate piece of salmon, the chirashi and the cooked sushi (for the non-raw fish lovers) had clam, but as for the rest of the fish, I wouldn’t bother guessing, they were either white or pink fish as you can see for yourself. No complaints from me, but I think I’d go with the sushi instead of chirashi next time, just a bit easier to eat and generally looks more appetising.
Finally, dessert, this picture is actually of Emmy and my special dessert, it had a sparkler in it which I wasn’t able to capture because it fizzled out while I was busy moving glasses out of the way to take my picture :p. Still, you can see that they’ve gone out of their way to spurce up the regular dessert for us (not that we mentioned what the occasion was), it was basically the same as everyone elses except that we got some extra fruit, and our iced cream was on the side rather than in the pastry. I’m not sure if we were the only ones that got some green tea coated chocolate, which went great with the salted caramel iced cream. What a great way to end the meal, I was definitely full after that and I’m pretty sure everyone else was and if there was anybody unhappy with their meal I sure didn’t notice.
I certainly didn’t hear my dad saying that they were Chinese people running the restaurant this time! SMH
Of course it was our special day and I had to have a nice drink to celebrate, and that I did, some black lager from Saitama, which is near Tokyo I believe, Coedo Shikkoku it’s called, and well, as with everything else on the table this was a pleasure to down, it wasn’t cheap that’s for sure, but that was a big reason why we didn’t want a big wedding, so that we could enjoy (perhaps) a higher quality meal with loved ones rather than something that could be mediocre due to stretching a kitchen.
Yeah, we did do that too, a small affair in the Thomas Hyde Room at the Old Treasury Building on Spring St in the CBD. Originally we were thinking of not inviting our parents and just taking a couple of witnesses, but we thought it would be better to take them despite the added hassle of transport. The morning was a little stressful with Emmy DIY-ing her hair and makeup it seemed that we were running late, so we jumped on the Monash Freeway (toll road) and cruised into town, only to realise halfway in that we’d left our passports (required for identification purposes apparently) at home. So there we were, sitting in the car on the freeway fretting about whether to turn around or carry on.
We were on time but if I had to turn around, we would definitely be way late, so in the end I dropped Emmy off to check with the office and they said it was not an issue, so no problems, and a lot of unnecessary stress. Everything went pretty well, I managed to hold myself together (I had to let out a little chuckle at one point to keep myself from losing it all together) and got through all the lines and signing of papers without shedding a single tear. We managed to wrangle our photographer into coming to lunch at Komeyui and taking some photos for us at the beach afterwards. We got a bunch of very nice photos, the weather held up despite the forecast all week predicting showers on Saturday, and maybe some of us ended up getting sunburnt even.
So now I’m a member of the exclusive Tran Pham Clan and life goes on pretty much as it was, but with a bit more debt than before :O. And we also have another anniversary date to remember, my suggestion of going to Komeyui to celebrate annually got shot down pretty fast, so maybe not until we kill some more debt. See you again in a few months after I visit another restaurant (;*^_^*;). Finally, apologies to all the single ladies out there, but this chicken has met his tiger!
I’ve replaced some of my crummy pictures (taken with my phone) with some much nicer ones (probably hard to tell which ones I know :D) taken by our photographer for the day, Chealse.
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I know, I know, it’s been a long time, well, Oscar was sick for about a month from Anzac Day until his birthday, and we’ve spent the past month recovering from that really. Plus, it’s been really, really cold lately, so getting this post in the darkest, coldest period of Winter, you should consider yourselves very, very lucky. I decided to take a day off and head to this state park northeast of Melbourne, just past the Yarra Ranges National Park, I’d read about it on a bushwalking blog that I occasionally visit, and it looked good, but because this was a “spur of the moment” type deal, I didn’t really check what it was going to be like and just hoped that it was going to be clear and beautiful. Well, it wasn’t, it was misty at the top, and the view was a white-out, when I was up there anyway. It might have cleared up later, but I doubt it. The terrain reminds me a bit of the Grampians, but it’s a bit closer to where I live, but also, the good views here seem probably a bit more challenging to get to.
Driving there takes about two hours from my place, and then it’s ten kilometres (past a lot of curious kangaroos) up to Sugarloaf Saddle Carpark where you can do a number of pretty hairy trails. Considering my lack of experience and preparation, I went with the shortest, yet still quite challenging Canyon Track which is basically from the carpark to the peak of Sugarloaf Peak, 40 minutes one way, and involves some scrambling/climbing (or I just went the wrong way!). I was planning on climbing up to the peak and then walking along the Razorback track for a bit, but the view was completely obscured by cloud/mist so I decided just to head back down and look for a track that might give me some running water shots. Also, the rocks were a bit wet, and considering how dangerous climbing up and down that one little bit seemed, I thought better not risk any more in those conditions.
So I made my way back down to the car and then drove back down to Cooks Mill, where there is a Little River Track, which you would think, would meander along a river side. You can certainly hear the river, as you start the trail, but after only about 50m or so, it veers onto a track that just looks like unsealed road, there is a clearing to the left, and basically a muddy walk for about a kilometre or so before the road joins back to the track. This is a nice track with greenery everywhere and the sound of water running, as well as the occasional kookaburra sighting and constant kookaburra calls.
This track was also meant to be 40 minutes to it’s end point, Ned’s Gully, but after about 50 minutes I didn’t seem to be getting any closer, so I decided to head back, I didn’t have any food or water, it was probably only about five more minutes, as the walk back only took about 35-40 minutes with a brief stop for pictures by the river. I then stopped just past the bridge leading in and out of Cooks Mill to take a couple more pictures of the river before heading home. All in all, it was a worthwhile trip, if for nothing more than scouting, also got to drive through the Yarra Ranges National Park which is a treat in itself (no pictures though unfortunately), but I’m not sure I’ll be taking the little one there for a while, just seems a bit too challenging for him, but maybe I’m being over protective. So maybe I will head back out there in Spring time or something, at least the tracks seem easy to follow, even for me!
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We went to the Dandenongs on the weekend – it’s a part of my new year’s resolution to go on more day trips, you might not have noticed yet, but it is slowly starting to happen – looking to visit an Autumn Garden show. But, apparently emmy got the dates wrong, even though I did mention to her that the Autumn show had a date set for 23rd/24th April and that it was not open on the weekend, she told me that she had some kind of pass, so I accepted that she would definitely not be out of her mind. Anyway, come Saturday and we drove up the mountain to Sassafras for this show, we stopped to have lunch beforehand at Ripe Cafe, which is in the same area as Cafe de Beaumarchais and Miss Marples Tea Room.
Looking at the ridiculous queue for Miss Marples, I definitely did not want to go there, and emmy didn’t want to visit Cafe de Beaumarchais again, so we went with Ripe Cafe. I ordered eggs benedict this time, while emmy went with chilli tomatoes on toast, I also had a hot chocolate. To be honest, the eggs benedict were a bit underwhelming, served with ham for starters (I much prefer salmon), and one of the poached eggs was overcooked (not runny at all!), the muffins underneath also seemed to be a little under toasted, lacking crunch. It’s quite a nice place, too bad that the kitchen didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
After lunch, we had a quick look through a couple shops before heading on our way to the Autumn Garden show, which of course was closed, due to it being the 16th of April, and not the 23rd or 24th when the garden was meant to be open. So emmy, in all of her wisdom managed to persuade me to take us up to the Sky High Mount Dandenong Observatory to save a wasted day (it was just close enough that our low petrol tank would not drain away before we found a petrol station). Turned out that even despite cloud and mist blowing over the view, we did manage to have a good time up there (also the Secret Garden was closed as well) visiting the maze and the other small garden in the area.
The maze is quite nice for young families, as long as you’re not after a real challenge as it’s not very difficult and you can pretty much see over the top of the maze to find the stamp points that you’re looking for, and then there aren’t that many dead-ends to complete it. Some good fun had by all, and weather permitting, we’ll be back this weekend to visit the Autumn garden show, while it’s open.
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The final leg of our journey through Vietnam, well, it was broken into two legs as we hit Saigon first, then Phu Quoc, then went back to Saigon, but for the purposes of this recap here we are. To be honest, I didn’t take many pictures in Saigon, but that doesn’t mean that we were super lazy, just a little bit. We did venture out to eat some good things, as well as do some shopping (or at least I stood around while emmy perused the shops). I did manage to drive emmy’s uncle’s BMW through a few blocks of District 2, which was quite funny. But mostly, for me, I got to eat a bunch of nice dishes, we ventured out to District 1 most of the time, and wandered up some pretty old buildings, where all the cool, trendy fashion stores (and coffee shops) seem to be nowadays.
I got to enjoy a bunch of new dishes like Bun Cha Ca (fish cake noodle soup) which was awesome! As well as all the regular favourites, so good, no complaints from me that’s for sure, as you can see from the number of food pictures compared to the number of tourist shots. Saigon is definitely a foodie paradise, just so much variety, and very good quality, and the prices, so, so cheap. Popeyes Chicken is basically everywhere and like what KFC should be, spicy deep fried chicken (the chickens must be quite big, cos the pieces weren’t small like KFC). A lot of trendy coffee shops selling all sorts of cakes and desserts, as well as restaurants with foreign themes like the American BBQ place we went to. I love Vietnamese food so the fact that around every corner there is something good and cheap to eat is definitely my idea of paradise.
You probably couldn’t tell but my last picture is from Boxing Day, which is five days before we were supposed to leave for Singapore. Turned out that I had contracted Dengue Fever (probably in Phu Quoc) and was incapacitated for a week or so. So I can comment on the medical system of a foreign country for the first time! I stayed at an international clinic (spent a total of three nights over the course of five days in the clinic) on a drip, taking painkillers to keep my temperature at a manageable level. That wasn’t fun, but at least I had a private room and my insurance (eventually) covered the costs, and once I started feeling better and got some appetite, I got a skin rash which was really irritating! At least I got to eat pho ga the last couple days as that was pretty much all I wanted (could) to eat :D.
We were staying with family so nothing to report on accommodation, but in terms of transport, I can safely say that the way to go (if you can speak Vietnamese) is uber, it’s much cheaper than taxis and seems to be pretty available and on time in most places. Probably the only time it might be an issue is late at night and if you’re not in the central city area. The cars we rode in were all quite new and in good condition (and clean), at least as good as taxis, usually better.
So we ended up staying a few nights extra in Vietnam, didn’t go to SIngapore, and went straight back to Australia where I had a few more days to recover before heading back to work, and settling our new house! Very hectic period for us, but it’s mostly settled down now, and I can (hopefully) get back to posting some more stuff on here, and not just foodie posts too, although I hope to be able to keep that up to some degree. We went to Sorrento last week, but I don’t have much to report (I might do a short restaurant review), this week we’ve gone up to Mount Dandenong (Sky High Observatory) for a bit, so I will post some pictures (and laughs) from that later this week.
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Wow, have I been neglecting this place, it’s been a busy couple months, we got back from holidays (I contracted dengue fever ewww), then we moved house, and now we’re settling in. So the only progress that I’ve made on anything is upgrading my heroes on clash of clans lol. I haven’t even looked through my photos from the trip yet, which is usually the first thing I do when I get home.
I’m still setting up my workstation a bit, this will happen soon, we’re almost fully settled in our nest. Once that’s done, I can resume posting here with photos from the trip as well as photos from my new place. Hey, I turned 34, things go more slowly the older you get, or we just procrastinate more. I’ll leave it at for now, and hopefully come back with some better organised content in the near future.
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And so the final days of our trip would be spent in Tokyo, the metropolis to end all metropolises, a shopping heaven, and an hectic place of noise, lights, and people. We didn’t do much sight-seeing considering we only had two and a half days there, we were pretty pooped from all the sight-seeing that we’d already done, we considered Asakusa and Meiji shrine/Harajuku, but after visiting Asakusa on our first full day, decided that our time would be better spent shopping :D, we’d already visited Meiji Shrine and Harajuku last time any way.
Staying at City Hotel Lonestar in Shinjuju (near Shunjuku sanchome station) we were very close to the Shinjuku shopping district which was very handy. The hotel itself was pretty so-so, the continental breakfast consisted of croissants, herb bread, toast, and some other rolls, all of which needed to be toasted in the old fashioned small grill type oven, which if you leave the croissant in there for one second too long, it’s charcoal. The air conditioner in the room was weird, but did the job, sort of, it was a pretty small hotel with stairs at the front, so you have to carry your luggage in, it’s not too bad (about ten steps) but something to be aware of.
On to Asakusa, at least we did one touristy thing in Tokyo, although we will all admit that it was a bit of a letdown, the gate is nice, and the shopping street has some nice shops selling some cool stuff like prints, and yukatas, delicious red bean cakes, etc. The temple of Senso-ji is not what you expect from a Japanese temple, it’s loud, busy, and full of incense, it’s very busy and very un-zen, it’s much more like a Chinese temple. And so, we cut our visit to Asakusa shorter than we planned and headed back to Shinjuku for some more shopping, which is probably what we really wanted to do :D. But not before we saw a caricature drawing business, and got a picture drawn of little Oscar to go with our Kyoto picture we had drawn last time at Nishiki Market.
With only one and a half days of actual usable time, we spent all of our shopping time in Shinjuku so as to minimise travel time, and it still wasn’t enough, I hardly got anything :`(. This is a note for emmy for next time, don’t bother with Odakyu, Lumine 1 or 2, or any other shopping malls, just stick with Lumine EST and be done with. I was a bit disappointed with the range of shoes they had at ABC Mart, we went to all of them (at least all the ones we could find) and not one of them had a decent pair of Adidas Superstars for a reasonable price (I ended up getting a pair from Eastbay which I may or may not post about late, hopefully I do). We even found the sushi train restaurant that we went to last time, with it’s super cheap reasonable but not great sushi (something like 108 yen for the cheap plate, and 250 yen for the expensive plate), we’ll take that. We also went to Tokyu Hands which is like an upper class Daiso and spent a bunch of money there (probably my favourite shop along with Uniqlo/BIC Camera), although I didn’t get my umbrella despite it being one of the four things that I listed as must-buys :(.
And that was it for our latest sojourn to Japan, we got a return ticket on the NEX train when we arrived so we just needed to reserve our seats and wait for the train to take us to Narita, all very easy, not quite as good as going to Haneda but beggars can’t be choosers. Not sure if I mentioned it in the original Japan post, but Jetstar uses terminal 3 at Narita which has only a small selection of shops which have a very limited selection of goods, there’s a good book/magazine shop though, which is one of the negatives of flying direct with Jetstar. ANA and Japan Airlines both have direct flights from Sydney to Tokyo and possibly even arriving in Haneda, so that may be the option to go with next time. So with that, we say good bye to Japan again, and now we sit at home and wait until December when we next head to Vietnam, but don’t fret, I’ll try to keep this blog updated with great content :D.
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