MSG, sugars, fats – food traps we fell into in Japan

The recent instant noodle-buying frenzy and the ensuing jokes about hair loss made me think of the amount of MSG we ingested in Japan.

There are many who would defend MSG as harmless, or even beneficial, but I do know people who react to MSG and who would shout down all those positive points about it so it is probably best not to have too much of it.

For tourists, though, especially if you are rushing around, it is easy to keep falling back on the same type of food so you may end up like us, eating too much(?) ramen and udon.

kyoto2

one hungry night in Kyoto

famous

ramen in Tokyo

nagoya

udon in Nagoya

Not the best of menus if you want to keep your MSG intake minimal.

I have to say, though, that our meal at Ramen Sen No Kaze in Kyoto was well worth the (fairly short) wait.

sen no kaze

ramen 1

Not sure about the MSG load, though.

Besides MSG, and sodium itself, sweets, treats and crispies abound.

katsu

sweets

cheese tart

 

shiseido

when I learnt that Shiseido does more than face and hair products

Someone once told me of a folk ‘food theory’ about how we have two stomachs and one opens up at the end of the meal to make space for dessert! Well, to keep one’s stomach in shape, perhaps one could think of how these look lovelier when they are displayed than when they are in one’s tummy.

chocs

I’ve often wondered how the locals cope with these health concerns, as they don’t look like they are a particularly balding and overweight nation.  In fact, just randomly looking around us, it seems like they are generally trim and have a normal amount of hair (and pretty hair colour, too!).

street

street 2

and is that bubble tea?

It could be that their normal eating patterns are more balanced, or maybe drinking a lot of matcha helps.  We also often read about how the healthy Japanese way is to go low-fat and eat lots of tofu and fish.  We’ve never eaten all that much fish in Japan – a much more expensive option than a bowl of ramen – but I should keep that in mind and do better the next time we are there!

sushi

fruits

Well, at least we did enjoy a good amount of fresh fruit!

Peanuts while you travel!

Bumping into the Peanuts gang always makes my heart beat happier.  If yours does too and you’re smiling broadly while you look at these pictures, you probably know what I mean when I say that it becomes a trip highlight of its own.

Snoopy Cha-ya, Kyoto
I wasn’t prepared for it at all, not having researched about Nishiki Market before going there, so it was a huge surprise to see a Peanuts place,

entranceacross from this seafood shop.

seafood

Snoopy Cha-ya is a café (“tea shop”)

menu

snacks

snacks 2

which also carries lots of Peanuts merchandise.

bath

phone

tees

A welcome diversion!

brolly

Nearest stations for Nishiki Market:
Shijo Station on the Karasuma Line
Karasuma or Kawaramachi Stations on the Hankyu Line

 Snoopy Cha-ya is at:
480 Nakauoyacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8125

Snoopy’s World, Shatin, Hong Kong
Snoopy’s World is an outdoor playground located just outside New Town Plaza, with very urban surroundings.

urban

ticket

no tickets required!

front

gnag 2

Do note that New Town Plaza has seen disturbances a number of times so you’ll have to check about whether it is suitable for you to go there.  It would be a lot of fun for children but there are lots of photos of Snoopy’s World on the Internet so you can just enjoy the pictures till the time is right to visit.

playground

woodstock

patty

gang

Nearest station:
Shatin Station – take Exit A to New Town Plaza

Peanuts Global Artist Collective display, Bangkok
Another big surprise awaited us outside Siam Paragon when we were there last June —  we were greeted by a giant Snoopy and Woodstock!

big

outdoor

There was a Peanuts display in the mall!

sign

It was the first time I had heard of the Peanuts Global Artist Collective, made up of artists who render Peanuts characters in new ways.  Enjoy their works!!

sign 2

doc

goods

Bye and hi again, Peanuts gang! – looking back at Snoopy Museum Tokyo, Roppongi

Snoopy Museum Tokyo has re-opened!  Just over a year after the museum at the original Roppongi site closed, Peanuts fans in the land of cute things can go to the new location at Machida for more!

We were there when there were 106 days left at Roppongi, so I consider our visit as one of historical Peanuts significance.

106

entrance

It was then hosting “The Final” exhibition – “Friendship in Peanuts”, featuring, basically, everyone in the Peanuts gang!

screen

A Snoopy welcome as we entered the exhibition area,

ceiling

wouldn’t I love to have such a chandelier

enter

where we were greeted by this wall,

wall 2

and the wall!

wall

What was in the museum was simply a treat of comic strips, pictures and displays of all the Peanuts friends and relations.

first

first Peanuts comic strip, October 2, 1950

siblings

skating

pics

haha

kite

ears

posters

see you again

The shop, Brown’s Store(!), was like a Snoopy Museum #2 within Snoopy Museum.

mirrorIt housed every Peanuts dream and it took many times of asking myself hard questions such as, “You don’t actually need another (tote) bag, do you?”

baag

and, “And what are you going to do with them if you bought one of every Daisy Hill puppy?” (and one couldn’t possibly just buy one of them, right?)

daisy hill

to prevent my money flowing away right there, within minutes.

Well, I wasn’t the only one making difficult decisions.

toys

tins

stuff

Something so thoughtfully done by many stores in Japan – they wrap your Brown bag in plastic on rainy days!

brown baag

Then there was also Café Blanket!

cafe

cafe 2

Lots more surprises outside too !

beatles

snoopy house

food truck

Hopefully we’ll be able to go to the new museum at Machida sometime.  Just looking at that Fjallraven-Kanken Snoopy bag is making me wish I was there.  Wait for us, Peanuts gang!

snoons face

 

Splurging at The Spa with a View – Eranda Spa in Koh Samui

Many of us would be back in our work/school/regular schedules by now, but there’s no harm still dreaming about a relaxing few hours at the spa, is there?

steps

First, and very importantly, Eranda Spa provides free transport, so just book your appointment, arrange for the pick-up time, and you’re off for your luxurious spa experience.

entrance

entrance 2

Ours began at a cave-like sauna (which I couldn’t wait to escape – too hot for me!) followed by a dip in a little pool at a little waterfall.  We were then ushered to our sala, which was, of course, huge, and that just adds to the pampering.

sala

sala 2

oils

room 3room 2

What about the view?

view

Beautiful, of course.

What was even better for me was the peaceful, leafy, flowery surroundings.

flower

flower 2

flower 4

Just my kind of respite.

Check with Eranda Spa for their promotions.  When we were there, we enjoyed a 2-for-the-price-of-1 package.

Eranda Spa is at:
9/37 Moo 2 Chaweng North Road
[but just use their transport to and from]

 

Eating too much again – restaurants we enjoyed in Koh Samui

One of the things we most look forward to on our trips to Thailand is the food, so we tend to end up eating too much.  Best not to follow our example but we would like to feature a couple of restaurants we tried at Koh Samui!

Krua Chao Baan (something like “everyone’s kitchen” or “restaurant for all”) was recommended by locals and is frequented by locals as well.  Thus, you are assured of an acceptable level of authenticity.

sign 1

It is a spacious and airy restaurant along Lamai beach.

beach

view

Unfortunately, it was raining so we couldn’t take photos of the nice little garden near the entrance.

But here are our food pictures!

veg

mixed vegetables with beef

TY

tom yum soup, with an unexpected combination of vegetables

beating our tracks

fresh steamed fish

Spotted the English sign as we left:

sign 2

Krua Chao Baan is at:
438/18 Rob Koh Road, Moo 1

Krua Baan Khaow (“white kitchen”) is one of the many restaurants at Bo Phut beach, a tourist area, so probably you would not find too many locals eating here.

view 2

The service is friendly and personal, and the staff will “guarantee” that you will enjoy your meal!

view

Their top dishes:

tops

Here is the pad Thai:

ckt

and grilled duck curry:

duc

fish cake

fish cake

plah

deep-fried seabass with its dipping sauce — sorry about the peek at the insides of the fish but we were too eager to try it, hence the sliced off portion

Krua Baan Khaow is at:
Fisherman’s Village, 69 Moo 1

It is tourist season in Koh Samui now and I expect these restaurants are seeing brisk business.  Well, enjoy them if you’re there and do remember that eating healthily remains the wisest option!

Not yet bustling – restful Koh Samui

Koh Samui in the early 1990s was beautifully quiet.  There was nothing much to do apart from relaxing at the beach, which you almost had all to yourself.  I remember being kindly coerced into eating the somewhat expensive dinner buffet at the resort because there was nothing else near us.

Nearly 30 years later, Koh Samui is still beautiful and there are many stretches of quiet

beach

but it has become busier.  A boom came after the 2004 tsunami at Phuket.  Some people, businesses and tourists moved to the safer Koh Samui.  Now there are many hotels, with spas, eateries and shops within walking distance of many of them, as well as the sprawling Central Festival mall.

central 2

central

Just for tourists:

shop

shooting

chaweng street

night market 2

night market near Bo Phut beach

Of course, its beaches remain its most popular parts, the three most touristed ones being Chaweng, Lamai and Bo Phut beaches.

library

The Library, Chaweng beach

beach guy

lamai rain

Lamai beach, in the rain!

Hansar Koh Samui Hotel

Hansar Resort, Bo Phut beach

The peak tourist season was still weeks away so we enjoyed a fairly peaceful time.

We also managed to get away from the touristy areas for a bit, when our friendly transport guy took us on an inland route to get a glimpse of local life.  For a significant part of its modern history, life for the people of Koh Samui centred around fishing, coconuts (production, processing) and plantations (rubber, fruits) and today, these can still be found.

coconut

mangosteen

unripe mangosteen

banana

durian

look closely to spot the durian on the tree

As a tourist, sometimes you wish that a serene, rustic holiday destination would remain so indefinitely but this is probably not a wish shared by all the locals.  Life has to move, and Koh Samui certainly has grown.

drink

Just the airport for your resort stay – resort-style Samui Airport

Congratulations, Bangkok Airways, for the design of Samui Airport, where one arrives and leaves in a relaxed mood.

Riding the buggy from the tarmac to the arrival hall feels like you’re checking into your hotel!

take note of the golden stupa on the hill in the distance — we will go up there!

When leaving, you are invited to continue in holiday mode, 

a message taken seriously by some. 

There are not many flights each day so you probably wouldn’t need to rush to queue at the departure area.  If you arrive at the airport about two hours before your flight time, you can have a leisurely look at the shops or have a meal.

More food inside the departure area,

counter

complimentary snacks and drinks for all waiting passengers

while you wait for the buggy to your plane.

Lots of nice touches at this simple, fuss-free airport to keep passengers happy!

You can enjoy a view of the airport, as well as the beaches, from Khao Hua Jook Chedi, which you can spot from the airport as you land.

As there is no public transport up, you will need to get there by taxi or arrange for someone to drive you there.

 

 

Quick steps through history in Chengdu 成都

An outstanding economic success in today’s context, Chengdu has a long history as a commercial, social and political centre too.  Some of the physical evidence of this heritage has been preserved and unsurprisingly, these are popular sites.

Jinli ancient street 锦里古街 and Wuhou Temple 武侯祠
Wuhou Temple is also known as the Shrine Temple of Marquis, the marquis being Marquis Wu, Zhuge Liang.

peach garden

the big three in the peach garden

The space and the greenery here are a peaceful contrast to the busy Jinli street outside.

jinli shops

Jinli is an ancient street dating back to the time of the Shu Kingdom (221BC—AD263), when it was one of the liveliest business districts.

成都锦里

Today, the snacks, handicraft and cultural activities you can find here make it somewhat touristy but it did look like there were overwhelmingly more locals than foreigners milling about.

jinli snacks

jinli stamp

toys

Three Kingdoms character toys!

getting here by bus: stop at the Wuhouci Station 武侯祠

by subway: stop at Gaoshengqiao Station 高升桥 (on Line 3; walk along Wuhouci Avenue to the Temple)

admission charge for Wuhou Temple: 50RMB for adults, 25RMB for those aged 6 to 18 years

 Wenshu Monastery 文殊院
The monastery was built in the early 7th century and is the biggest Buddhist temple in Chengdu.  Its religious halls and collections have been carefully conserved,

temple

book

library

while its serene environment provides a quiet setting for a stroll or rest.

pond

pavilion

Outside the grounds are stalls and shops selling religious, traditional and cultural items.

alley

stall

getting here by bus or subway: stop at the Wenshuyuan Station 文殊 (on Line 1 for the subway)

Kuanzhai Alleys 宽窄巷子

alley pic

This area features 3 alleys and 45 courtyards that were originally built during the Qing era (1644—1911).

walls

wall story

walls have tales

They now house a mix of traditional and modern shops.

costume

mixing the traditional and modern

snacks

money

getting oneself into history at a display of the region’s past

dentist

dental clinic

成都宽窄巷子

If you’re not keen on getting your teeth done there, what about having your ears cleaned, the traditional way?

getting here by bus or subway: stop at the Kuanzhai Xiangzi Station 宽窄巷子 (on Line 4; take Exit B and walk to the Alleys)

 I don’t know how many people who walk over the footsteps of old think about the massive changes that have taken place here over the dynasties and historical eras but keeping these signs of the past is certainly meaningful.

 

Still thriving – second-tier city Chengdu 成都 spirals upwards

Chengdu was one of the earliest settlements in southwest China, with evidence showing that people were living there from as long as 4,000 years ago.  It was the capital of Shu during the time of the Three Kingdoms and during the Later Han (AD22—220), was a bustling Silk Road terminus as well as a well-known silk brocade weaving centre.

wenshu

Wenshu Monastery, originally built during the Tang Dynasty

Today’s Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province and leading second-tier Chinese city, hosts more than half of the Fortune 500 companies.  It is a hub for start-ups, a favourite, for example, in the gaming and e-sports segment, and a huge tourist draw, with reportedly about 100 million visitors each year.

airport pandas

airport pandas reminding all about behaviour befitting a cultured city

SYS

Would he have dreamt of this? [Sun Yat-sen statue at Chunxi Road]

You know you are in a second-tier Chinese city when the brands you know

FILA

lancome

and the brands you can’t afford all turn up.

TKL1

TKL dior

square

 A little aside — seeing KFC makes me think of the catchy 我在人民广场吃炸鸡 (Eating fried chicken at the People’s Square).  The lyrics go something like:  I was eating fried chicken at the People’s Square, and where were you at that time?

Except that in Chengdu, perhaps the lyrics need to be changed to eating fried rabbit… deep fried rabbit head is a local delicacy…

yup…

rabbit

I guess some of us would prefer  KFC.

kfc

You know you are eating and drinking in a second-tier Chinese city when you see a mushrooming café scene

TKL elle

Elle Cafe at IFS

monde

Monde at Kuanzhai Alley

and you can find familiar food when you need it.

ippudo

Ippudo is here!

HK ifs

Hong Kong cafe!

You might not have known previously of the technological capabilities of a second-tier Chinese city but there you are –
an efficient and reliable train system,

train

electric cars,

electric car

smart security patrol, probably snapping pictures of me.

security

When people queue outside the LV capsule

TKL LV

and the upmarket kiddy salon has a healthy patronage,

hair

you might wonder about the accumulated wealth of this second-tier Chinese city.  Well, we no longer need to guess.  We now know Chengdu has outdone even the first-tier.

Affluence has definitely arrived, Chengdu.

panda building

Mega toy shop experience at the SGMAGLEV and Railway Park, Nagoya 名古屋

What is the charm of toy shops?  For me, the magic of a toy shop is in looking at the items on display and this same magic made visiting the SGMAGLEV and Railway Park feel like wandering around a giant train toy shop.

feature

The JR Central museum features a number of “retired” trains, including the older steam engines,

carriages

carriage

dr yellow

as well as the train that many (most? all?) tourists know — the shinkansen, now in its respectable 50s,

shinkansen info

shinkansen info 3

shinkansen

and the ultra-modern Maglev trains, including a look at the development of the ones that are being readied for their Tokyo-Osaka route to be launched in 2027.

maglev info

maglev record

maglev simulator

Try the Maglev simulator!

Visitors can explore the insides of some train carriages

inside

inside 2

and also learn about the insides of the engines.

overview

Apart from the Maglev simulator, there are the more popular simulators where you try driving the trains. (You have to pay to try them.)

simulator

simulator 2

The most fascinating part in my eyes is this massive train diorama

diorama morn 2

with trains running from sunrise to nightfall.

diorama morn

diorama day

diorama evening

diorama night

I was glued to it!

Don’t leave without visiting the toilet, looking like the interior of a train,

toilet

and the shop, of course…

shop

There are a few carriages outdoors  – this being a park – but it was blazing hot (although it doesn’t quite look it in the photo) and nobody seemed keen on them.  There’s one, near the end of the corridor.

entrance

To get there, take the Aonami Line from Nagoya Station to Kinjo-futo Station, riding on the Lego train!

lego train

train drivers

train inside

station

At Kinjo-futo Station, Legoland is on one side

legoland

while the Railway museum is on the side of the port.

museum

Ticketing, fee information and schedule conveniently available at Kinjo-futo Station:

museum info

You can find details and information on the SGMAGLEV and Railway Park here.