Day 1: London to LA

So excited I can’t sleep!

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We have been planning this trip for the last year and a bit and the day has finally arrived for take off!

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Thankfully our flight is at a very civilised 1pm which gives us plenty of time to get to the airport and get some breakfast although Bae still got tetchy and picked up a speeding ticket on the Hangar Lane.  Note to self get him one of those speed camera detector for Christmas!

 

Arrived at Gatwick with time to take down a delicious Nando’s grilled chicken meal before braving the long haul airplane food.

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I love to get the wing roulette – living dangerously at lunch

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Mentally preparing for 11 hours 15 minutes sitting in a big flying tube crammed full of my fellow human being…Bae has his eyes open but he is already asleep

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I love these airplane maps…helps to know progress is being made even while I stare at the back of a seat inches from my face

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Possibly the longest flight I have ever been on (that I can remember)

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Benefit of a Samsung S7 camera – taking shots like these from a tiny airplane window

England’s green pastures and pleasant lands…Bae said I started humming Jerusalem

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Getting higher above the ether

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Food:

We were on a Norwegian Airline flight (It was £200 for our LON-LA trip) and as it is considered a lower cost airline,  I didn’t have very high expectations for our food.

The salad was an oriental salad with a bit too much vinegar, but still edible if you are hungry (we were not – in case you missed the Nandos pics),  a sweet and sour chicken with beans and mashed potatoes – hearty and bit on the sweet side but would eat again, and an apple cinnamon pie which I didn’t touch as cinnamon and I are sworn enemies.  Bae said the pastry was more bready and lots of cinnamon, but overall satisfying

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Bae opted for a Kosher meal, which we had heard were supposed to be tastier than the average airplane meal.  Salad was smoked salmon, then a pulses and veggie chilli (bit salty) followed by a piece of cake AND fruit salad.  I recommend doing this if you want more food – like what the planes USED to serve before portion sizes decreased.

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Must be going over Iceland at this point – I love the fact you can see a blue glow over the horizon – is that the ozone layer?

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Having some fun (or going a bit stir crazy)20170516_164339.jpg

Bae bought us an array of neck supports, being long necked humans he had to do some research. In this one we have the Trtl which was purchased for about £20 on Amazon which wraps round the neck and has a brace on one side to support the weight of your head. Bae liked the support but found it hot and not quite as helpful as the Travelrest pillow (red coloured to the left of the shot) which we both used a lot and which work on a different principle. Once you inflate it, you get support all up once side from the waist to your head kind of like when you hug a pillow in bed. Both cost about £20 but the Travelrest is much easier to fold away once it is deflated!

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The reason for the blue tint is because Norweigan has a very cool button on their windows instead of a shutter you close.  Simply press the button (there are 4 options) and it will shade the window from light to completely black – very cool!

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Some more gorgeous pictures of the mountains

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I think this range is maybe the Rockies?

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Approaching Los Angeles!

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Not sure – Is that Big Sur?  Let us know in the comment if you know!

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The one thing I really hate about LA – the traffic and the roads (dangerous – have never seen so many bad and distracted drivers).

Driving back to El Sorreno where my brother and fiancé live after they pick us up from the airport.

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I love these beautiful trees!  My brother said they are Jacaranda trees. Lucky we got to see them in season!

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As the sign says…

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Getting hungry!

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Everywhere in LA is a LONG drive away and traffic (we would realise) can be awful

After being picked up my brother and fiancé who saw how we debilitated we looked after our long haul flight, they took us to a Baby Blues BBQ for a pick me up American-style with massive portions of smoked meat.

Cool ladies bathroom

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Baby Blues BBQ Menu – prices aren’t bad, but food could have been a bit better

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My brother and his beautiful fiancé (now wife and sister to me)!

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A cool looking place to eat with typically large, salty portions, not matched in quality unfortunately. We also tried their mac and cheese which Bae thought was tasteless.  The sweet potato fries were good though.

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After a long day of travelling, we get an early night in preparation for our first real day of holiday!

Tune in tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat: Review of Dumplings Legend, Soho, London (and THAT Michelin-starred dumpling)

I must admit, I have become a bit of a dumpling snob in recent years.  In particular the Xiao Long Bao.

First introduced to me in Seoul, I fell in love with this beautiful soup dumpling after a visit to Los Angeles, and my brother took me to a place called Din Tai Fung.  I was warned there would be a long wait and while it moved relatively quickly, we finally got a table after about 30 minutes.

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Let me tell you, it was WELL worth the wait!  We sat down and placed our orders for a some rice, dumplings, and the famous Xiao Long Bao.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of Xiao Long Bao, for those of you new to the world of dumplings

My first mistake was being too eager…I literally burned my mouth and nearly spat the whole thing out!  To me that is the height of rudeness so i tried my best to keep it in and swished a bit of cold water to neutralise what felt like boiling liquid in my mouth.

Once the initial burn (and embarrassment) had worn off, I had another go.

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The taste was…sublime.  Soft light wrapping encasing a perfectly seasoned pork sup inside.  From that moment I was hooked.

Ever since, I have always been on the lookout for these types of dumplings.

The best one I have ever had was at the Singaporean branch of Din Tai Fung

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This Singaporean branch of the original Taiwanese restaurant is immensely popular and even though we went after the lunch rush, we still had to wait about 20 minutes.

When we returned to London I almost forgot about my dumpling love.  That is until I read a Timeout article that mentioned a “Michelin Star” dumpling in London- a cool collab between Dumplings Legend and Michelin starred restaurant Pied à Terre.

The Michelin star dumpling in question was none other than the Xiao Long Bao.

“Amazing!  Have you heard this Bae?”  I shoved my phone into his face so he could see why I had that crazy look in my eye again.

And so we went.  We called to make a reservation and was told they don’t take them so headed down there just after the lunch rush (about 2:30pm).

Dumplings Legend is based in China Town – right on the Gerrard street.

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It is not hard to miss – big lettering outside, and as you walk in you see the glass room enclosing all the dumpling makers we saw a similar site in Din Tai Fung in Singapore.

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We had about a 10 minute wait and then were sat and told to place our orders using the supplied sheet.

The ambiance is ok – quiet and not too clinky – which is rare for a restaurant in Chinatown.

Bae asked about THOSE dumplings and we were told they are not in the regular menu – so you do have to request them specially.

We ordered a few more things like Char Siu Buns, Prawn and Chive dumplings, Lotus leaf Rice wrap and some other items

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Above: Quail Egg and Pork Dumpling

20171022_144542Our spread

20171022_142539This is Cheung Fung with deep fried dough but basically are fried doughnut strips encased in dumpling skin that come with a sweet gravy – delicious

20171022_144617Prawn and Chive dumplings

I also had simply the best sesame prawn toast ever!20171022_142527

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The main event came after a short wait.  You get 3 Dumplings for £9 which is very steep.  However, it was Michelin starred right?

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I gingerly picked one up and put it on my spoon, then placed a couple of slivers of ginger and a splash of the supplied vinegar (essential when eating Xiao Long Bao)

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I have to say that it was such an anticlimax.  I got an overwhelming taste…of..bacon?  The smoked eel had an definite smokiness that overpowered the whole dumpling and the delicate flavour of the foie gras was totally lost.

The casing was a bit dry and I would have preferred a thinner skin.  I understand that there is a process of wrapping it numerous times, but I have seen it done with better finesse.

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Overall I would not recommend spending that much money for it.  Perhaps if you have never had a soup dumpling, you would enjoy it, but for those who know what the taste of Xiao Long Bao is SUPPOSED to be, there are plenty of better tasting dumplings on their menu worth trying.

Also £3 a dumpling! Gimme a break!

If you do want to see what the fuss is about, here is a link to the Timeout article.

If you just want some good dumplings in London, here are a few of my top picks

Hakkasan (££££) for those who want to splurge, this is Chinese cooking at it’s best.  Uplifted and elevated flavours combine with traditional ingredients to make for a wonderful and gourmet dumpling experience

Yauatcha (£££) light airy space, modern interior, fired dumplings were lovely and light, the Xiao Long Bao was better than average (though skins were a bit thick)

Pearl Liang (££) Bae’s family favourite is based within the Paddington Basin development in Sheldon Square. The restaurant is dark but smart decor, serves great dim sum and is reasonable prices

New World Chinese Restaurant (££) one of the only, if not THE only restaurant that still serves their dim sum by pushing a cart around and letting diners pick up what they want to eat.  My personal favourite and a London Chinatown institution. Experience the trolley before it’s gone

TRAVEL: Weekend in Dorset and the Jurassic Coast, UK

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After an epic holiday earlier this year, we were starting to get some itchy feet as our next holiday was not until Christmas time.

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Since work dictates holiday days taken (not all of us are digital nomads or have quit the rat race…yet) We have only weekends to get away.

Bae and I live in London and we knew that we didn’t want to have more than a 3 hours journey from home (especially for just a short 2 day trip). So we focused in on domestic options of which there are plenty to choose from.

I have never been to Dorset myself, frequenting the Devon coast more as a child, but Bae had very fond and lovely memories of his childhood summers spent on the Jurassic coast, with beautiful green rolling hills, thatched roof cottages and pastures that make the English countryside such a dreamy escape when the weather is good.

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I, of course, plan anything and everything, so the research started for a suitable abode. Withe rise of Airbnb and other similar hosting sites, finding holiday accomodation has never been so easy.

We love to stay in the middle of nowhere, must have a wood burning stove, off grid is ok providing there is a hot shower and running toilet (we are not going to camp, we are going to RELAX).  There is something so satisfying about getting out of your comfort zone (for s defined period of time!) and away from all the basic amenities we normally take for granted.

Luckily, the English Countryside has so many cool little places to choose from if you want all the above.

I found an amazing little place called Baba Yaga’s Boudoir – I cannot recommend this place enough.

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We drove by Stonehenge and got a good view this time!

We wanted to be close enough to the coast that it wasn’t a long drive, but for September on the South Coast of England, its going to be windy, so something right on the coast would be too cold.

As we drove through the tiny villages and finally came across the farm we had to turn into, the sun started valiantly shining through (although we wouldn’t see it thing again until our last day!)

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we parked up and walked through a big paddock on to the plot of land where we would be staying

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the paddock housed a lovely black horse called Temptress who came up to us and was so friendly.

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As we approached the deck we could see a lovely small lake and a lovely view of the countryside that provided a fantastic view from our boudoir

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Happy to be here!

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Enjoying the view while the stove gets going

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Right in the middle of the English countryside

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The inside of our cabin was so cool!  All natural materials. with a ladder going up to the lovely plush bed that had a sky light so you could stargaze from bed!

Before we got there, we stopped by a farm shop in Chideock for some supplies, then got the fires going to start cooking.

20170909_181521This is a very handy thing for camping – a hollowed out log with charcoal and wood.  It slows burns for a good 6 hours

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The view from inside the cabin towards the paddock (you can see Temptress in the background!)

We toasted some marshmallows while we gazed at the stars.

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Getting some light reading in before bed

 

Sunday morning and our fishing trip had unfortunately been rained out. (got a call the night before)

 

 

After a little breakfast cooked on the trivet

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Breakfast in front of the fire – lovely start to the day!

Products from the farm – fresh bread, butter, bacon and eggs

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Look at the colour of that yolk!  can’t beat farm food

After a lovely filling farm breakfast, we decided to make the most of the weather that seemed borderline ok

Lyme Regis was the nearest place to us and I found two places that offered fishing trips.   Prices were so much lower than I was expecting, just £10 an hour for mackerel fishing or £30-40 for a 3 hours deep sea fishing trip.

However, since we were rained out, we decided to drive to Char mouth and walk along the famed Jurassic coast

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The net was only a £1!

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Not having much luck though!

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I am reminded of the Napali coastline when I look at the shoreline here.  It has that same prehistoric feel to it.  I mean there were dinosaurs living in Kauai and here in Dorset once upon a time!

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BONUS FIND:  Apparently there is a place where you can camp out, or have dinner on the face of a cliff!  Yes that’s right!

Here is the link for those interested CLIFF CAMPING  I’ve added it to my UK bucketlist though i am not sure if dinner is ample or if staying overnight would be better. (It’s quite expensive but probably because it is so unique!)

If any of you have ever done this let me know how you found it in the comments section!

Since we didn’t book the cliff camping, we saw a big hill and climbed that instead – it was pretty challenging with the recent rain turning it into a big mudslide! This is a photo of Bae imploring the weather to settle down – such a confident man!

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Nevertheless we made it to the top!

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Me being the (much) more unfit one, I was ecstatic that I made it!

20170910_113636It is colder and windier than it looks

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The rocks around here were made of a weird clay type material – we saw a lot of people with hammers cracking open these rocks in the hope to find some Jurassic fossils

Disappointed with the current weather situation, we cut our long walk a bit short and head back along the beach towards Lyme Regis, and took in the quaintness of this lovely seaside town.

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There is a great formal restaurant called Hix that does a mean cocktail – at the top of the hill.

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We spied a fish shop, and thought hey, since we couldn’t go out fishing ourselves lets pick up some fresh fish and cook it on the BBQ at our cabin. We got some mackerel and a few big prawns and headed back.

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Instead of going back on ourselves, we were encouraged by a local to walk up the stairs through the gardens which made for a blustery but beautiful walk back

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A lovely view of the coastline – with typical English weather!

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Since there were so many blackberries I actually picked some and made a pretty nice (tangy) coulis for the mackerel

Literally everything that evening we cooked over our outdoor trivet fire

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0669.JPGSunset and time for a romantic walk

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Monday Morning and still full from the night before, we do a little light yoga on the deck before going on a long walk around the cabin and grounds.

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If you have never been to Dorset or the South Coast, I recommend a trip down there!  So much to see!  We went for a relaxing, unplugged type holiday, but you can do family, romantic, adventurous, relaxing, foodie – whatever break you like!

Explore the countryside!

 

Let us know what you think in the comments section!

Travel Pillow Review

I just completed a round the world trip with my partner and all within about 4 weeks. What ensued was an uncomfortable amount of time spent cooped up in Economy class on various budget airlines. Well aware of this inevitable discomfort, I decided to spend a bit of time looking in to travel pillows to alleviate the upcoming discomfort.

While most people do not bother with travel pillows but for those that do, it can dramatically change your enjoyment of travelling long haul. That bit of extra support in the right place or a soft welcoming pillow for your heavy head takes on new meaning in this age of increasingly smaller air plane seats and diminished legroom.

In my experience there are two main types of travel pillow, inflatable or foam filled. The inflatable travel pillows I have tried to date fit atop your shoulders for you head to rest on but never seem to be quite long enough for my neck or they deflate making them quite frustrating. The foam pillows hold their shape much better but are usually bulky which is a big turn off for me and I assume others that are repelled by the idea of adding more weight and dimensions to their luggage. Thus, I did not bother with looking at any more foam pillows.

 

Instead I purchased several alternatives and all three are very different to each other. I purchased them from a combination of Amazon and Kickstarter.

 

The Trtl cost be just under £25 on Amazon and came with free delivery which was rapid. The premise is a bit of cloth you wrap around your neck with solid structure within it that acts as a scaffolding around your neck, thereby taking the weight of your head. This folded in to nothing and despite having a long neck, it did provide me with a decent level of support but nowhere near enough to put help me relax and go to sleep.

Picture1After a few minutes of use, I noticed I had to relax with a straight back to receive the head support advertised and when I slumped to the side (which always happens before I fall asleep in a seat) the support was not there which was disappointing. I also felt that the stuffiness that accompanies long haul flights meant that this type of product quickly became too stifling to wear for too long.

 

The second product I purchased was the Travel Rest from Amazon which cost me £19.98. This is a cross body inflatable that gives me support for my upper body, neck and head. It also comes with a string that you can tie round your shoulder or waist to hold it in place. While simple, this pillow was much more effective at providing support to me in the plane seat than the Trtl, particularly over the 10 hour flight to Hawaii!

20171014_113940It is easy to inflate, deflate and packs in to much less than the Trtl when fully deflated. Overall, I was very impressed with this product.

 

The third product I purchased was the Power Siesta, made in Puerto Rico and funded on Indiegogo. It is available to buy on Kickstarter and Indiegogo still but not sure where else. The cost is circa $25 and this item and as it is shipping from North America, the shipping is high at $15. That said, I expect this to be available on Amazon in the not so distant future where I expect the shipping costs to be reduced.

 

I am a fan of this travel product as it folds flat in to nothing and helps me sleep much easier than the other two products. When lying in bed, I hardly ever fall asleep on my back but find it much easier on my side or front.

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This product provides a structured (when unfolded) that you place on the stow away table and rest on it directly or one can place a pillow or jumper at the top for a softer landing. This was the only product that helped me sleep relatively comfortably on the plane and while I am adamant that the comfort or support one can get from these products is subjective and individual, this product felt like a real step forward from the traditional travel pillows I have tried.

 

Overall I would have to say that my favourite was the Travel Rest.  It is surprisingly supportive, for being something that packs so flat, and is useful for any seat on the plane!

 

Bookmark this page as we review and add more travel pillows!

 

 

 

What to do in 48 hours in Tokyo

To be fair, this is not even enough time to explore one of the districts in Tokyo, like Shinjuku or Roppongi, let alone the whole city.  But as our trip dictated a short stay, we wanted to make the most of our time there.

Cue many months of researching and trying to fit as much as possible into our 48 hours (I have a spreadsheet that is separated by day, then each day is separated by, AM, Lunch, PM, Dinner and Evening.

You can see a quick screenshot of my work in progress below

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FINDING A PLACE TO STAY

I started by thinking about the best place to stay in Tokyo that would be closest to what we wanted to visit.

Shinjuku and Shibuya were the two places shortlisted, I ended up deciding on Shinjuku because there really is so much going around there, plus it is easy for transfers to and from airport, and the area itself has so much to explore!  Also, it is on the JR line which is the most important line for touring around Tokyo (I was recommended that any station on a JR line would be ideal)

Shinjuku it was then.  I looked for a few hotels in the area, but the average price for a 3* was over £100 per night.  We almost booked the APA hotel for its reasonable price and close proximity to the station, but then Bae suggested Airbnb.

We had a quick look and though the sizes of the rooms were a bit smaller, the prices were very cheap and almost all the places offered free pocket Wi-Fi – which is a must, and for no additional cost this is attractive.  Also since we were living out of our backpacks, we wanted a washing machine to wash our clothes without either incurring large bills through a hotel or attempting to find and use a local dry cleaner as the language barrier was a real issue.

After much searching, we found a cute little studio apartment in Shin Okubo – one stop north of Shinjuku on the JR Yamanote line and at less than £80 per night it was a really good place to head back to after a long day.  Despite being just a 5 minute walk from the station it was so quiet!

I found out later that Shin Okubo is considered Koreatown – bonus! (I am half Korean) prices are slightly cheaper for goods, plus you can get some amazing and cheap skincare from the local shops.  I was not disappointed and I have never seen so many KFC (Korean fried chicken) or Korean BBQ restaurant in one street!

Tips for booking Airbnb in Tokyo

  • Remember that almost every Airbnb listing is strict cancellation so only 50% refund if cancelled at any time.
  • I have also noticed some guests mentioning Anti Airbnb posters in the apartment blocks they stayed. If you do book one of these places try not to act like a loud tourist!
  • I prefer Airbnb over a hotel as you will pay over £100 a night for a halfway decent (3*) hotel if you want to stay in busy and popular areas like Shinjuku
  • Get a place with a washing machine! especially if you are staying longer than a few days, this proved to be a lifesaver for us! (No expensive hotel laundry or hard to understand launderette services)
  • Make sure the place has pocket Wifi – Tokyo has some great wifi spots but on the whole it helps to have your own wifi when travelling around the city to prevent high data usage and charges.

 

PLANNING THINGS TO DO

I have a bucket list the length of my entire body and there were more than a few places I want to tick off the list. In no particular order…

  1. Tsukuji Fish Market
  2. Kobe Beef Steak somewhere
  3. Visit a Japanese Onsen
  4. Get some kawaii pictures taken in a photobooth
  5. Get some real Ramen noodles
  6. Order food from a vending machine
  7. Kawaii Monster Café
  8. Maybe an animal café
  9. See Harajuku Fashion
  10. Imperial Palace
  11. Meiji Shrine
  12. Have some great Sake
  13. Visit an Isetan (Japanese department Store)
  14. Visit Golden Gai
  15. Visit Piss Alley
  16. Cross the Shibuya crossing
  17. Matcha Green Tea Ceremony
  18. Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

These are most of the Tokyo bucket list items.  We didn’t get to go through all of them (but will finish the list when we are head back there summer 2018!)

I will be publishing some awesome bucketlists (not just Japan) in the coming several months – they will be live lists – so regular updates will be added as new info is found.

The bucketlist items we actually managed to complete this trip are below, along with a short summary of how it was

Tsukuji Fish Market

20170529_095252We got a bit scared as we were told it was going to move location (according to a local source they have real problems with asbestos in the old market)and then found out that move had been postponed due to issue at the new location…many of the people speculate that it will lose its charm when in the new site.

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If you love tuna and waking up early and standing in freezing cold then go for the tuna auction. It wasn’t a big deal for us as I have seen it enough times on TV to know I would not be mad if I didn’t see it.  The food was more important, but didn’t figure on the great shopping in the Outer Market and the sheer variety of seafood at all the stalls.

20170529_102407Careful as photography is not allowed and I saw a couple of tourists getting told off for trying to take photos in the Inner Market.  I took a few surreptitiously but they didn’t come out well.

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If you want cool photos of the Inner Market I recommend you take a tour.

Also, be prepared to wait over 1 hour, sometime more than 2 for the most popular sushi restaurants.

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Some people in the line above had been waiting 90 minutes already!

We had sushi at a restaurant that was empty and next to one with a two hour line (see above)

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The sushi was sublime, any place around it would be so don’t bother waiting and look for a place with spaces and a friendly owner.

 

Kobe Beef Steak somewhere 

This was the top of my list.  Ever since I tried a wagyu steak at STK in Atlanta I knew that I wanted to try the real thing (and not a cut like skirt steak, even though it was still the most flavoursome steak I had ever had)

I mean, check out that marbling!

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The perfect bite!

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There are a number of places to get this experience, some offer the wagyu as shabu shabu, or steak, or both ways.  We wanted to go for a good one, but knew we didn’t want to pay £500 pp (or even for both of us really!)  Some of the famous places like Satsuma Ushi no Kura, Kagurazaka-shinsenSATO Burian, and Nihonbashi Iseju are the best but over £200 pp.  We found a place called Hakushu in Shibuya, booked it thorough Voyagin (though in hindsight, we would call the restaurant direct next time to book to avoid the Voyagin £36 pp fee.  Booking at Hakushu is essential – we did it about 3 months in advance – it is only a 20 seat restaurant so space is extremely limited.  )

20170529_181613I think the difference here is that it is still family owned and run with the grandmother still at the helm cooking the steaks (although she gets help from her son (or grandson?)

 

Visit a Japanese Onsen 

If your aim is to explore Japanese culture then you need to check out an onsen during your trip. The word derives from the word in Japanese for hot springs.  These bathhouses bring together the people of Japan to bathe, relax and eat.

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Two things to bear in mind when visiting an onsen is that tattoos are not permitted and you will be asked to cover them if you have one or two and not permitted to bathe if you are unable to do so. Furthermore, upon entering the Onsen you realise that everyone is in their birthday suits and it is considered strange to wear clothes/ swimwear in such a place.

 

Get a kawaii photo at a photobooth

There are thousands of these all over Tokyo, in shops, onsens and on the street too!

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The ridiculous photo below shows you why you should do this – you get to customize your photo and make it as kawaii and totally Japanese as possible!

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Get some real Ramen noodles

Oh we certainly did, but one shop is barely scratching the surface – still , if you only have 48 hours, make one of your meals a ramen (I like Tsukumen myself – see below)

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Order food from a vending machine

Speaking of which, we killed two birds with one stone at the ramen restaurant as you had to order your food and beverages at a vending machine before they seat you. There was no English on our one so i took a stab and ended up with a delicious Green Tea Sake beer drink

 

Kawaii Monster Café

Your Instagram will thank you later…

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Visit an animal café

We found a twofer – cats and owls!  Did the whole thing in less than an hour

I don’t recommend the cat cafe we went to though, the one below was in Harajuku, but only had bengal cats that were thoroughly bored of humans.  We will try Calico Cafe in Shinjuku next time

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Harajuku Fashion

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Real life models

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Meiji Shrine

This is actually half on our list still, the park is so vast and there is so much to see, we ended up completely missing the main shrine!  We did come across an Edo Period well though – catch you next time Meiji

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Visit Japanese Isetan

For those of you who are not familiar with the term Isetan, it mean department stores.  Asia are top of their game when it comes to dept stores and Tokyo really excels in it’s offerings.  Where most would frequent a department store for the clothes and designer goods, the only thing we had on our minds was food food FOOD!

20170528_170227Do yourself a favour and head straight to the basement for a vast array of deliciousness at every turn!

 

Visit Japanese 100JPY Store

This THE place to get souvenirs – forget souvenir shops, especially around tourist spots like Tokyo Tower etc.  You can get cute chopstick sets, tea sets, stationary and many things you have probably never seen before.

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Visit Golden Gai

A network of narrow streets in Shinuku with lots of bars, some only with 6 or 8 seats.

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Each place has it’s own character and charm

TIP: go for a place that doesn’t charge cover or your barhopping could get expensive really fast.

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Cross the Shibuya crossing

An iconic crosswalk which has about seven walkways, all crossing eachother to forma a huge grid of pedestrian crossing that is descended upon bu a huge mass of people every 5 minutes or so.  It is truly amazing to see how quickly people can amass between green lights

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And the ones that didn’t make it….

Imperial Palace – didn’t get to this part of Tokyo, but TBHwe were not about to pay for an inside tour, and although the outside is very nice, it wasn’t worth going all the way to that area for this trip

Have some great Sake – I had heard of a sake tasting bar that I was keen to try, but as we didn’t get to Roppongi for this trip, it will have to wait until our next visit!

Visit Piss Alley – this place I actually tried to find, only then to confuse myself as for a little while I thought Golden Gia and Piss Alley were the same place. Not so, while Golden Gai is in Shinjuku and is a network of narrow alleys that have loads of bars, Piss alley, though also a narrow alley, is just the one alley and is under a set of rail

Matcha Green Tea Ceremony / Shinjuku Gyoen Garden                                                    I’ve combined these two as I found out you can do a tea ceremony in the Gyoen Garden! It costs 700 JPY per person (not including the 200 JPY entrance fee to the garden and the tea house closes at 16:30

Keep following our blog as we plan to visit the ones we missed on our trip back to Tokyo next year, plus we will add a few more!

Did we miss anything?  Let us know in the comments section!

Trip of a Lifetime: Day 25 – All good things have to come to an end

Wow what a whirlwind this trip has been! I’m sad that it’s our last day and we want to make the most of it, but unfortunately I am feeling under the weather. So after Bae kindly goes and gets breakfast in bed for me in the pouring rain (I know! he’s definitely a keeper!) we wait for the rain to stop (that would definitely make it more tolerable) and say a quick goodbye to our Airbnb hosts before setting off to Centraal station so we can unburden ourselves of our luggage and explore the city some more.  Our flight is not until 9pm, so we have lots of time to relax before getting to the airport.

We finally get back to the flat around 10:30pm, feeling satisfied, exhausted, relieved to be home and sad that it’s over. Well…until the next time!

Total cost for flights for this entire trip was £1200 per person – not bad for 9 flights!  Watch this blog for a later article detailing how I did it!

Keep Tuned in for our future adventures and other travel hacks, tips and scoring the best deals so you can encircle the world without breaking the bank or quitting your job!

 

Trip of a Lifetime: Day 24 – Amsterdam

Waking up to a grey day is not something we have been used to the past few weeks! Still we want to make the most of the days we have here. 

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We have both been to Amsterdam a few times, but never as a couple – it is quite a romantic city!  Lots of places to steal a quick kiss on a pretty bridge, overlooking the cool canals.  We wake up really hungry and after a short stroll through the flower market (and a quick stop in a café – when in Dam…) We find a little place called Gartine – a very fitting name as they make all their jams in their back garden, as well as their butter and herbs for all their meals – it was delicious, healthy and perfectly portioned.   A lovely little neighbourhood gem.

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Even though I have been to Amsterdam a few times, I have never been to the Vondelpark. What a lovely park.  It is the epitome of all that I love about European city parks.  Landscaped but still natural, beautiful ponds and paths and people all around smiling and enjoying the lovely weather and good vibes.

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We walk and sit for a while, taking in the natural beauty and then head into Der Vier Pilaren. We are sat right by the kitchen so can see them making the pancakes.

Usually they come drenched in butter and icing sugar, although I am quite partial to them just plain.

After elevenses, we start walking back up to the centre, along some amazing canal paths, watch some old men play chess on a giant chessboard for a while, take a stroll through the red light district (which comes up as a bit of a surprise), got invited to a sex show (at 1pm!), politely declined, bought some terrible Holland souvenirs like clog slippers and loads of cheese, bae gets THISCLOSE to getting an amazing leather jacket that I still think about lol, and generally just take the city in

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Another food we just had to try was Poffertjies. These are mini Dutch pancakes that are best eaten fresh.  I find a place near the Vondelpark called Der Vier Pilaren that is supposed to be very good.

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Watch out for the trams! They really do sneak up on you!

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Locks of love…a common sight now on European bridges

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Trip of a Lifetime: Day 23 – Bangkok to Cologne to Amsterdam

Our original plan was to fly from Bangkok to Cologne on a 08:05 plane, arrive into Cologne at 15:25 and take a 17:00 train to Amsterdam.

Bae not happy about leaving Asia

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Since Eurowings changed our flight time, to depart at 12:05, arriving at 19:25, we realised that we had about 1 hour 20 minutes to get from the plane to the train station – it was going to be tight. I was stressing about it the whole time.  BKK Airport is pretty efficient, although make sure you have a paper boarding pass – they won’t let you through without one.  I managed to see a nice Thai dance performance in the airport before we boarded our 12 hour flight.

Not this – this is just a cool sculpture as you go through security at BKK

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Eurowings is a low cost airline, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food and the size of the seats. Considering we paid £164 per person for this flight I was very happy.  You can order food and data and movies from your screen and the pilot got us there about 30 minutes early (love German efficiency!)

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We arrived in Cologne airport and since it is such a small airport, it took us about 20 minutes to get out of the plane, get through immigration and pick up our bags – amazing!

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We hailed a taxi and it took about 15 minutes to get to the Cologne station – enough time to grab a coffee and take a rest break.

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The train journey was not great for me, but only because I was supremely tired. Luckily I got an hour or so, and even though I was like a zombie when we got to Centraal station – the brisk cold of the Amsterdam evening was enough to shock me into a pleasant state – ahhh how I missed the essence of a cool breeze!

We booked a really pretty little apartment in Jordaan and very trendy and arty neighbourhood (although most of Amsterdam can be described as such!)

We took a 7 minute tram ride then a 5 minute walk to our apartment – getting in at just past midnight.

We were also ravenous. Decided to leave our stuff and go for a quick walk.  Found a little coffee shop and they guy there recommended a Turkish kebab shop nearby.

OMG I thought I had nice kebabs before, maybe it was the long journey, or the lack of sleep, or weird meal times, but this was the most delicious kebab I have ever had.

Happy and full, we hit the sack early.

 

Tune in Tomorrow!