Osaka: Endo Sushi Kyobashi

This has got to be the highlight of my Osaka trip 2017. Endo Sushi is better known for its Osaka Central Fish Market outlet, tourists are known to throng the famed outlet even before the sun rises.

Instead, try Endo’s Kyobashi outlet which is right by Kyobashi subway.

It is exactly the same as its more famous counterpart, sans the queue and the early timing.

Each plate consist of five pieces of sushi:

  • You can switch 1 piece of sushi but the number must correspond.  For e.g. You can switch Third Plate’s Tamago with Fourth Plate’s Saka
  • For the unavailable sushi, the chef will replace the piece with something of similar value, omakase (the chef’s choice) style
  • Each plate will include Ootoro (the fattiest tuna).

Top: Fourth plate Bottom: First plate

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Penang Hostel: Container Hostel

I stayed a night in Penang as part of my overland journey to Bangkok. I was looking for a simple stay near the ferry as the night was meant to break up the monotony of the overland trip.

Container Hotel was more of a hostel than a hotel and it was situated right by the ferry. It’s a great no-frills stay if you’re not too picky.

Container Hotel group operates multiple hotels in Malaysia, including Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. The concept is similar, a budget hotel option housed in containers. You can’t see it from the exterior but inside, the rooms are made in refurbished containers.

We stayed in the female private pod which was super affordable. Your privacy is accorded with the black out blinds.

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Osaka / Kyoto / Nara bucketlist

Food chains to try

  1. Ichiran ramen
  2. Gyukatsu Motomura
  3. Torikizoku

Kyoto food

  1. Katsukura
  2. Donguri (Okonomiyaki)
  3. Nishiki market – Kobe beef, Uni
  4. Ichiba Coji 
  5. Gram pancakes

Kyoto sights

  1. Neko Cafe Time (at Fushimi Inari)
  2. Fushimi Inari
  3. Kyoto Manga Museum (if you’re a geek)
  4. Kiyomizu
  5. Temples with flea markets (Tenmagu has one every 25th)

Nara

  1. Tofu-an Kondou (which I didn’t get to visit, so bummed.)
  2. Nara park
  3. Todaiji temple

Osaka food

  1. Endo Sushi Kyobashi – MUST TRY!
  2. Kuromon – cheap sashimi!
  3. Calbee Shinsaibashi
  4. Mizuno Okonomiyaki
  5. Isetan food hall
  6. Gourmet Food Museum at Umeda
  7. Cheese Craftworks
  8. Dashi Gura  Hankyu Sanbangai 

Osaka visits

  1. Spa World
  2. Cat Tail Cafe at Amerika Muya
  3. Shopping at Umeda + Osaka Station
  4. Yodabashi Camera
  5. Ando Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum
  6. Thrift shopping at Amerikamura

Overland journey to Bangkok: trains, bus and ferry

I have no idea what on earth possessed us to do the long route to Bangkok. In total, we spent about 11 hours + 20 hours = 32 hours (inclusive of transfers) taking a long road trip up to Bangkok.

Yes, I know there is a shorter route. Hey, where is your sense of adventure? We travelled in late Dec, spent New Year’s Eve in Bangkok and flew back to Singapore via Scoot.

One way road trip to Bangkok

No. Route Type Price Time  Link
1 Singapore to Butterworth Sleeper bus 45SGD 10hours Starmart Express via RedBus
2 Butterworth to Georgetown Ferry RM1.20 15 mins Penang Port
3 Georgetown to Butterworth Ferry 0 15 mins Penang Port
4 Butterworth to Padang Besar Train
#9500 /9208
RM29 2h 25 mins 12go.Asia
5 Padang Besar to Hua Lumphong Sleeper train #46 1225THB 17h 10mins 12go.Asia

Total costs in SGD: $103.69
Time spent (not including land transfers): Approx 32 hours

We booked all train rides and bus rides about 1 month ahead. There is no need to book ferry rides. The booking was really simple once you figured out how you are going to reach Bangkok.

Why did we do it?

My roomie and I always enjoyed road trips and we were inspired by this Tripzilla article that travelled to Bangkok by train entirely. Instead of doing the entire trip by train, I decided to break it up to include all forms of overland public transport – bus, ferry and train.

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Japan 2016: EkoNeko

I seemed to be naturally drawn to cat cafes when I am overseas. Perhaps it’s the attachment I have to my cat, being away from my cat makes me feel a little… empty and void of furry-loving.

While my travel mates went mildly hysterical at Pokemon Centre at Ikebukuro, I took a short train ride out to EkoNeko.

Alight at Ekoda and walk through this alley

You can read more about EkoNeko on Rocket News. The concept is quite simple: All of the cats are rescued and up for adoption. The cat cafe serves as a temporary foster home for potential adopters to spend time with the cats. However, you can’t just pick up a cat and head home, there is a stringent interview process to ensure your commitment and responsibility.

The entrance fee for an hour is 1100Y with proceeds going into the upkeep of these strays. The staff doesn’t speak much English but enough to understand your request.

The cat cafe is about an apartment size big with plenty of cat toys, climbing posts and cages all around. No nasty smells.

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Taipei: Ping Xi line timetable and map, sky lantern tips

Prior to my trip, I searched high and low on the net for a map and timetable of Ping Xi line and I could not find them anywhere.

To get to Ping Xi

Taipei Main Railway –> Rui Fang

From Taipei Railway Main Station, purchase a ticket to Rui Fang to switch trains.  While you can purchase tickets on the day of, the recommendation is to purchase a day ahead so as to get reserved seats. The train ride takes about 30 minutes or so and costs approximately SGD3-5 maybe?

At Rui Fang, you will switch to Ping Xi line.

Ping Xi Line Map

The tricky thing about Ping Xi line is that the trains run infrequently. There is only one train that comes every hour. If you miss that train, you’d be stuck at that station for another hour. Try to be there at least 5 – 10 mins early.

The entire Ping Xi line map:

The typical stops are:

  • Hou Tong (aka Cat Village)
  • Shi Fen – where shops are beside the train tracks and a popular spot for releasing sky lanterns. Also a transit to Jiu Fen (another tourist hot spot)
  • Jing Tong – an old mining village
  • Ping Xi – alternate spot for sky lanterns and also a transit for Jiu Fen

Ping Xi Line Timetable

No idea how to read the Chinese characters and want the Ping Xi line timetable?

The timetable is quite self-explanatory. Look at the timing at the station, that is what time the train will depart. The trains are punctual, you can start boarding usually 5-10 minutes prior.

P.S. Click the image to download.

Direction: From Rui Fang to Jing Tong

As of October 2016, subject to changes

Direction: From Jing Tong to Rui Fang

As of October 2016, subject to changes

Continue reading “Taipei: Ping Xi line timetable and map, sky lantern tips”

Almost 12 months worth of Vinyasas

Isn’t it cliche to say time flies? It’s been a year of practising yoga for me since I started my journey last Christmas eve, 24 Dec 2015. I purchased my first membership on KFit.

My first class was a Hot Flow class at Space & Light which has sadly closed down and moved into Como Shambhala.

Then in Feb, KFit implemented a 10-class limit per month which saw me hopping over to GuavaPass in March 2016.

Making it a routine

It’s easy to start something new but the challenge comes when you try to keep it going. My method was to incorporate class into my daily routine.

I would normally book a class on the day of or the previous day when my plans for the day firm up. The first cycle of your membership is probably going to be the most exciting and research intensive. There are so many classes to choose from, the large variety can be overwhelming.

It takes a couple of months to settle into the groove. Once you know your favourite studios, it’s a matter of building up a routine that you’re comfortable with.

I like to schedule my classes for the early evenings mostly so that there is still leeway for dinner appointments.

Yoga is not easy

I thought, hey, I’m used to dance training, yoga can’t be that tough.

No.

I was surprised at how hard yoga is. Even now, every class is still a challenge for me. Initially, I had difficulties just sitting through the simplest breathing exercise. My nose was itchy, I needed to fidget and my mind wandered.

Then it was about the stamina of lasting through the class and not giving up on myself. My favourite classes are flow and power classes for the smooth transitions and dynamic holds.

Learning from different masters

This is probably my favourite aspect about GuavaPass: the ability to studio hop at ease without the financial strain needing to purchase multiple packages.

At this point, I can’t imagine needing to commit to a single studio because I enjoy many different instructors’ classes: flowing with breath at Strala, toning it down with Stretch Flow at YoCo Loft and stretching it out on the Yoga Wheel at Level.

Keeping the mind calm and body going

Amidst all the worries, yoga was probably the thing that kept my mind calm and at ease. When I step on the mat, it is an hour of solitude and absolute presence I am dedicating to myself – something I need to balance out the chaos.

I try to hit 3-5 classes a week so as to maximise my membership and also that, I felt this was the most optimum number for me. Any lesser and I’d feel like I can’t keep up with the flow.

In 2017…

I hope to keep my Vinyasas going and start to challenge myself by going for more intermediate and inversion classes. It’s been almost a year of going to classes solo, I also want to try to make a few yoga friends in the new year – how nice it’d be to have someone to grab dinner (or help me snap pictures).

GuavaPass / KFit Review and Promo codes

For a full review dissecting the subscription passes, read my Fitness Subscription Pass – KFit vs GuavaPass. I am not sponsored nor endorsed by either, I have tried both subscriptions and I am currently on GuavaPass.

GuavaPass: Each new member gets $40 off their first month with a referral code.

My GuavaPass referral link / promo codehttps://goo.gl/Zo3tpd

KFit: Every new member gets $10 off first purchase. Please key in the promo code if the referral link does not work, there have been technical issues before but keying in the promo code will work.

My KFit promo code / referral link is: JVBGZ

P.S. Drop me a note at hello (at) meowsyy.c0m if you’ll like to find out more about the exact discount as referrals tend to change very frequently.

Midori Sushi: familiar contemporary sushi

As compared to Iwasa Sushi, Midori Sushi veers onto the more commercial side. In fact, Midori has been rated to be one of the better sushi chains with higher quality dishes that do not break the bank.

Let me put this up front, I am no connoisseur in food. In my world, I rank it by:

  • Good: I would eat this 1-2x a week
  • Meh: I would eat this 1-2x a month
  • Bad: I would eat this 1-2x a year

Midori falls in the good category of course.  The sushi is familiar to me, I have seen most of them before and most importantly: The chef asked me if I wanted wasabi!

There are multiple Midori outlets throughout Tokyo. Venture into the more popular outlets and you’re probably going to wait 45 minutes or more. We were at the Kichijoji outlet at 7pm or so and waited about 20 minutes.

There was a more expensive option at 2,800Y but we were so full and satisfied with the 2,000Y option.

Continue reading “Midori Sushi: familiar contemporary sushi”

Traditional Sushi: Iwasa at Tsukiji Market

We were all geared up ready to get up at the crack of dawn to queue for Sushi Daiwa (the shop operated by legendary Sushi Dai’s son) but alas, holiday sleep got better of us.

We reached Tsukiji Market at 10am or so on a Saturday.. and we didn’t even qualify to queue which was snaking a few bends complete with a burly chef at the end of the line to stop potential tourists.

Oh well, we trooped off to Iwasa for our Omakase experience.

We went with the Omakase set although, on hindsight, I might have enjoyed the dons more.

I think we were there about 10+ am on a Saturday and the queue was manageable, about 30-45 mins before we got a seat. Most people seemed to eat very quickly and leave.

Continue reading “Traditional Sushi: Iwasa at Tsukiji Market”

Taipei: Starbucks 101

Here’s a cheap way to hack Taipei 101: Instead of going up to the observatory on the 89th floor, book yourself a slot at Starbucks on the 35th floor.

There is a minimum spending of 200NTD per person (approx 1 drink + 1 snack) at Starbucks but that is still cheaper than the 600NTD observatory fee. You still get a pretty kickass view and best of all, you enjoy your favourite Starbucks drink! Each appointment is 1.5 hours long.

How to book

  1. Call Starbucks at +886 2 8101 0701 at least 24 hours before your preferred appointment. The staff speaks mostly Mandarin only
  2. Turn up at least 10 minutes before your appointment timing.

Do: Call from a Taiwan number. I tried using Skype to call but could not connect.

Where to wait

Enter via Xin Yi Road, Section.5, Door 7 for the lobby.

This is the lobby you’re looking for.

How to get that window seat

Each batch will head up in two separate lifts. The trick is to ensure that you are the last few to enter in the first batch of lift so that you are first to exit the elevator to grab the window counter seats.

  1. Arrive early enough so that you can count off the persons queueing. Time yourself such that you’re about the 16-18 person to be safe so that you’re at the last of the first batch.
  2. It is best to go in pairs – one person to grab the seat, the second person to queue up for drinks and snacks.

There is no way of avoiding the minimum charge. In the queue, a Starbucks staff will verify your appointment and hand you a Post-It note which will indicate the pax in your party. Hand this Post-It to the cashier when you purchase your food and drinks.

Pro Tip: Most drinks cost about 120NTD so the 80NTD snacks tend to go first. If you like a particular snack, try asking the staff if they have any left.

Attraction Starbucks Taipei 101
Address 10, Taiwan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Section 5, Xinyi Rd, 7號
Opening hours 0730 – 2000 (Call +886 2 8101 8126 for an appointment)
How to get there Stop at Taipei 101 / World Trade Center metro station
Google Map Starbucks Taipei 101