Memories of Siem Reap.....

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Penang & Yogyakarta A Photographic Journey
suran2007's Penang & Yogyakarta photoset suran2007's Penang & Yogyakarta photoset

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A double weekend in Penang, Malaysia & Yogyarkarta, Indonesia

My parents visited me in Singapore for a total of two weeks and rather than spend all that time in Singapore, we decided to visit Penang on one weekend and Yogyakarta on the other.  It was a fantastic experience visiting these two places, each unique and offering a lof in terms of sightseeing, food and culture. 

I'll start with Penang as that's where we went first.  We departed Singapore on a Friday around 7pm and landed in Penang at about 9.15 pm.  After a quick checkout we caught a shuttle bus to the centre of George Town  where we then rode a taxi costing 12 RMB to  Hotel Royal Penang which would serve as our accommodation for the next 3 nights. 

We quickly unpacked, freshened up and then hit the road in search of a place to eat. Most of the hawker places were closed and after stopping a couple to ask where we could eat at such a late hour, we were given directions to a  steamboat restaurant that was open till 5am.  It was just 5 mins away and upon arrival  I requested a table for three and we were given a menu to choose what we would like in the steamboat.  About half an hour later our food was on the table. We were served  a delicious combination of Tom Yam  in one half and Black chicken soup broth in the other.  Accompanied by with an assortment of various vegetables, fishcakes, fish slices, prawns, lobsters, chicken and pork, which we dipped into  the broth to cook. Minus the pork, everything else was scrumptious and filling.  Unfortunately, I didn't make a mental note of the restaurant's name.  But, it is well known and  almost anyone you ask on the street near the hotel would be able to tell you where it is.

The following morning, after a good night's sleep around 11am, we ventured out to Gurney Plaza by van, provided by the hotel. Gurney plaza is popular shopping mall located about 15-20mins from George Town bus station and about 25 mins from Hotel Royal Penang or is it less, I can't quite remember, in any case it's not that far.  As far as shopping malls go, well it's the same as any other place, frankly with the abundance of shopping malls in Singpore that are literally dotted everywhere, I wasn't too keen.  However, Mum thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the mall and I think Dad did so too.  After some time at Gurney we headed to the main streets of George Town, where we pretty much spent the whole day wondering through markets, bazaars, shops etc absorbing as much as we could about local life, watching people go about their business, bartering for clothes, merchandise etc. I think we must have walked for a good 2-3 hours and I must have taken close to several hundred photos.  With the evening approaching and feeling  very much hungry we decided to head back to Gurney as I wanted to visit the famous Gurney drive hawker centre. 

Located about 10 mins walk from Gurney Plaza,  Gurney drive hawker centre is a sprawling metropolis of food stalls, serving the finest assortment of south east asian cuisine you can hope to find anywhere. Myself being a foodie, decided to try as many of the dishes as I possibly could. First on the list was Assam Laksa, a fish based tamarind flavoured laksa, probably the best I've ever had, next on the list was Popiah a rice flour type spring roll filled with vegetable which I thought was ok, we then tried some Satay which was fantastic, a large plate of spicy Char Kway Teow and finally some spicy Rojak, which is a salad of fruits and vegetables garnished in a spicy, sweet shrimp based paste. Our stomachs now full and not able to ingest any more we decided to call it a day and make our way back to the hotel.  

The next morning, Sunday, we woke up at about 9am and after having breakfast at a hawker stall located behind the hotel, we caught a bus to the centre of George Town and then took another bus to Air Itam, our destination for the day was Kek Lok Si, the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.  Whilst the temple is a beautiful marriage of Chinese, Thai and Burmese architecture, I didn't feel transported back in time and I believe this is largely due to the temple being heavily commercialised with shops at every level. Would I go there again, probably not but do visit if you want to get a photo or two of its exterior that clearly shows the cultural assimilations I mentioned earlier.

After the Kok Lok Si tour, we headed towards Air Itam train station where we visited another temple, much to our dismay the temple was abandonded and it looked like it had not been visited for quite sometime. Feeling rather dissapointed we headed back towards the station and caught a bus back to George town. We spent some time here wondering the streets untill it was time to eat and what better place than Guerney drive hawker centre. This was our second vist and armed with a food guide and map I was determined to try as much I could. I'd already tried a few dishes on the previous visit, but there was more to try, this was our last night here we had to catch a late night flight to Indonesia.

Our place of stay in Yogyakarta was in the small towen of Pakualaman, where the streets are crowded with batik shops, markets, cyclists, horses and carts, cars and no smart phones in sight.

Renowned for its Javanese fine arts, music and batiks, our main purpose for visiting Yogyakarta was to go back in time to marvel at the architecture and engineering feats behind the world's largest buddhist monument at Borobudur. We booked a tour pacakge from the hotel and left rather early in the morning as we wanted to see the temple emerge from the mountains during sunrise, sadly it was monsoon season and the tour guides failed to inform us that it would be a waste of time and money. Feeling rather dissapointed and annoyed, we got back in to the van and continued the drive, we had already been on the road for 2 hours.

After purchasing ( or should be it enlisting ) a  tour guide, we enterd the grounds of Borobudur and what a marvel it was to gaze back in time at the largest Buddhist monument that had ever been built.   Though of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, it appeals to schools of Zen and Theravada buddhism, the whole complex is akin to a giant mural that tells the life story of the Buddha, most impressing though is i'ts complex architectural structure that uses an interlocking system to connect the pieces together, like a giant puzzle, the subject of which many books have been written about and is unfortunately beyond the scope of this post.   In total it took around 3 hours to explore the entire monument.

After Borobudur, we ventured a few kilometres away to visit the ancient pyramidesque temples of prambanan dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva each reprensenting Trimurti ( Creation, Preservation and Destruction).  Once again, the ruins serve as a testatament to the engineering marvels of ancient peoples. 

After 3 nights the holiday had to come to and end,  both Penang and Yogyakarta had offered us a  cultural, historic and  gastronomic holiday experience that has once again made me all the more appreciative of the world we live in.

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Japan - A Journey in pictures


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Osaka and the return to Tokyo

We caught the 206 bus from Kiyomizumichi around 5.30 pm, there were  lot of people waiting for the bus and we had to let a couple pass before we could get on one as they were quite full. Around 6pm we arrived in Kyoto station and we proceeded to the JR lines to inquire when the next train to Kyoto would be. It was 6.45pm.  We had a little time to ourselves so we stopped to have a coffee.  Around 6.30 we made our way to the platform and shortly we were on the prompt 6.45pm shinkansen for Osaka.

At approximately 7.15pm we arrived at Osaka station.  We were actually based in Universal City, without realising it my brother had booked a hotel right near Universal Studios.  There were restaurants, TGI Fridays, Shonen-Jumo shops, warner bros stores etc I suppose it was less Japan than what Kyoto was. Anyway we needed to find our hotel and so I called them. However, just as the phone was ringing I spotted the hotel opposite the road.  We checked into our rooms freshened up and then headed out for dinner. We figured we would dine at Universal City rather than going into Osaka as it was quite late now and we wanted to go early in the morning to visit the Ueno sky tower.   We had a somewhat dissapointing dinner at a ramen place in universal city, surprisingly the first bad meal of the holiday and then it was back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

Around 10am the next day we made our way from Universal City to Osaka station to visit the Umeda sky building, a massive skyscraper that looks somewhat like a giant lego piece with a cool tube-like escalator that connected  the two buildings together. It seemed to go on forever.  Total cost per person is  about 700JPY and at total of 173 and it's well worth it to get the spectacular panoramic views of Osaka. We spent a good couple of hours here before venturing back onto the road to Osaka station.  It was now around 2pm so we decided to have some lunch and head back to Universal City.

Back at Universal City we did some more explorations, had some lunch and then after colleciting your luggage it was back to Osaka station.  Our train wasn't for another hour, so we did some wandering around the station had a bite to eat to kill the time  and soon we were boarded on the shinkansen back to Tokyo.

At 8pm that evening we arrived at Tokyo station and made our  way to our hotel. After checking in and freshening up, we got ready and headed towards Akihabara where my brother's friend had arranged to meet us and take us out for a few drinks.  After quick introductions at the station  Colin, his partner, my brother and myself were sat outside a british pub enjoying a pint of beer and each others banter.  Our friends soon left but I wasn't ready to go home just yet, so me and my brother decided to head into Shibuya and see what was happening around there, we got there around 1am and unfortunately everything appeared shut. Apart from a few eateries and Izakayas, not many places seemed open. Thousands of people were on the streets roaming aroud, some drunk, some trying to fag down taxis.  After walking around for about half and hour we decided to just head back to the hotel. Unfortunately this cost us an expensive taxi ride since the train stations were not in operation at that hour.

 The Next afternoon we explored the busy fashionista streets of Harajuku, which is a haven for teens who indulge in all sorts of extravagant fashions, hair styles etc. Harajuku street gets pretty packed, so be warned not to stay in one place for too long, you have to keep moving or you will end up crushed.  The main reason for going there was to meetup with my mate who showed us around the massive Yoyogi park. We spent a couple of hours here wondeirng the park, watching various peforrmances and then it was time to head back home as we had plans to see a movie later that evening.

In the evening around 7pm we headed to United Cinemas for a 10pm showing of Iron Man 3, seeing a film on holiday is not my usual MO but this was the first film I was seeing with by bro in a long time and it was good fun. We also enjoyes a rather delicious and filling Korean meal prior to the film.  After the moving, heading home back to Tokyo was a challenge since the usual route had been closed i.e since it was past midnight. Anyway in our attempts to find an alternate route home, I managed to befriend a young couple who were so kind as to take us all the way back to Tokyo. We exchanged contact details with the young couple and Im hoping to meet them again on my next visit.

The next morning, Sunday 28 April was a sad start to the day. I woke up at 8am to say goodbye to my brother who's holiday period had come to and end. You have all this fun and in one fleeting moment it all comes to an end. Anyway I said my goodbyes knowing that our next adventure was only a few months away.  I was still rather sleep at 8am so I went back to bed.

Around 10am I wokeup, checked out and then headed over to Ginza where I would be meeting my friend Jules one last time before my flight in the evening.  Jules met as planned around midday and the first thing he did at my request was help me find some traditional Japanese sweets. After that he took me to Tsukiji fish market. Though closed it was still busy with lots of people buying fresh fish, eating, trading etc. I cant quite remember the name of the little Sushi restaurant but the Sushi I had was probably the best I've had anywhere. Thank you Jules for your hospitality and generosity.

By now it was almost time for me collect my belongings from the hotel and make my way to Narita Airport. A few short hours later I would be on the flight back home to Singapore.

In Summary, I can honestly say that Japan has been one of the most fascinating and rewarding places I've been to. We covered a lot in 8 days but I do feel I've only just scratched the surface. A return trip is definitely due and with new found friends the next visit should be even more exciting.

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Double Trouble Tokyo and Kyoto - Let the real Japan adventure begin

The following morning on the 22nd, my alarm rang at 8 O'clock 'Oh crap' I said to myself. I was supposed to be picking my brother up from the airport. However I was too tired and so put the alarm forward another hour and went back to sleep. I figured my brother wouldn't mind waiting a little. I'm sure he would find a place to take a little nap.  Bzz bzzz'' The phone was going off, I checked and it was a text message from my brother asking me where I was.  I looked at the clock it was 9:30am! Damnit! I had slept an extra half hour. I quickly dashed to the bathroom got ready, got dressed and bolted out of the hotel and straight to the train station.  It took me about 90mins to reach the airport.

Once at the aiport I was faced with a little drama, in my haste to get here I had forgotten to take my passport and they would not let me in past the arrival gates. Anyway, after a little convincing that I was here to pickup my brother and that he was new here and didn't know where to go, they allowed me to enter.  At the arrival lounge I gave my brother a hug and we both headed down towards the train station. A short while later we were on the train to back to 'Asakusabashi' 

Back at our hotel, my brother decided to take a nap while I once again visited 'Akihabara'. My brother charged me with bringing home some takeaway.  But you see I got carried away at the 'Kotobukiya' store that had 5 levels of film, comic,manga statues, toys, t-shirts, dvds etc. I guess my 'geek mode' had kicked into high gear and 2 hours later I suddenly remembered, "Oh damn, Aiya needs food"  So I quickly left  the shop and started asking a few restaurants and other eateries around the area 'Omochikaeri' meaning "Take-away" but they all said no. I texted my brother and told them there was no take-away.  He had still been sleeping, so I guess it was all well and good forgetting to inquire about take away.  Also in my defense even if I had asked earlier the answer would still have been the same. 

Later that evening around 7.30pm we both headed out  towards Shibuya where we were going to have dinner at a seafood restaurant by the name of 'Kaikaya -By the sea' This place had been recommended to me by a friend.  Before we could eat however, we had to find the place and it took of a lot of hunting around, asking for directions before we could find it. The funny thing is that it  was right under our noses the entire time. i.e just 2 mins away from the station. 

Kaikaya has a pub like decor and the staff all speak English. They are also very helpful when it comes to choosing what to eat.  We enjoyed a delicious plate of assorted sashimi, Ebi tempura, two  whole 'red-snapper 'and 'Yellow Tail (Buri)' and a big plate of Tuna rib steak. The food was absolutely amazing. Coupled with a nice bottle of Sake it was perfect. To top it off we also had a delicious serving each of 'Matcha" cheesecake. 

After taking some photos and thanking the chefs and the waiters,  we went back onto  the road where we walked around taking photographs before deciding it was time to get back. The next morning the real holiday would begin .  We were set for Kyoto, the historical capital of Japan and to many the real personification of what Japan truly is. Before going to bed though I jumped onto Hyperdia and took a look at the train times. I wanted to get there early morning around 10am but when I told my brother we would have  to catch the 7am, he said can you check for mid-day arrivals. Haha he really isn't a morning person, unless ofcourse there is no choice. So the next best option without leaving it too late was to arrive at 11.30am in Kyoto.

The next morning we headed to 'Asakusabashi' station where we caught the train at 8.30am to 'Akihabara' and from there the the 'Yamanote' line to Tokyo.  At Tokyo station we headed towards the JR (Japan Railway) trains to get to the platform where the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) would be departing for Osaka, with Kyoto being a stop on route. 

The train looked magnificiently cool, I had seen them in photos before and in films and as kid I would always get excited seeing them, I cant deny that as an adult they still bring out the kid in me.   We had the ordinary passes which meant we could only get in carriages 1-5 as this was unreserved seating, but there were plenty of seats so we had nothing to fear.  For standard class but the leg room we had was incredible far more so than the trains back home in blighty.  A short while later the train was on the move. It was quiet, It was fast but most of all you could not feel it, you knew it was fast due to the surroundings wizzing past. Coffee, snacks etc were served, my brother slept for most of the journey whereas I spent most of it watching the scenery and then watching my favourite episodes of "Cowboy Bebop" 

At 11:30am the train arrived at Kyoto station. It was exactly the time specified in Hyperdia. Our hotel was located at Gojo, so we took the escalators down following the signs to the subway and caught the train to Gojo station.  Our hotel was just 2 mins from the station. It was a beautiful hotel with wooden decor and really friendly staff. The room was also failry large and comfortable with an impressive bathroom. Now I must digress a little here to tell you about the toilets. If you have never been to Japan before it can come across as quite a mouth opener. Seriously the Japanese toilets are cool. They are equipped with automatic seats that are heated, have inbuilt shower, bidet functions, a dryer and also odorizing spray.  It's just incredible and I was totally fascinated by it.   The Japanese have spared no expense to make the Number 2 job a little bit more exciting.

Anyway, we unloaded our luggage and headed back out, we were really hungry now as we hadn't had any breakfast.  

The streets of Kyoto, Gojo where we were based though not as vibrant as the likes of Tokyo still had an alluring sense about it, wide roads, shops, restaurants, intersections etc.  We took a good walk around absorbing the sights and sounds and also smells before we settled at a little restaurant to have our first meal of the day. We settled for a small joint that served us a platter of sushi and sashimi. After that we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and decided to visit the Kyoto imperial palace.

When we arrived at the Kyoto imperial palace we walked around the gardens for a while but noticed there weren't many people to our dismay we found that the place was shut. We took a few photos anmd walked back to the main road. It was around 4.30 pm now and there wasn't much we could do as most of the other major sites were appraoching closing time too. So instead we headed back to the hotel where we rested a bit and then headed out to dinner.

The following morning after breakfast we took the train to the Northern Higashiyama region where to we visited the Nanzen-ji temple a beautiful 13th century Zen Buddhist temple that was built by emperor Kameyama, first as a retirement villa but  later converted to a Zen temple upon the emperor's death.   The temple is free to all except the sub temples and gardens. We visited one of the gardens which carried a cover charge of 600 yen (5.94 USD at the time of writing).  rich greenery, a beautiful waterfall, bamboo , this is all the stuff you expect to see in a typical Japanese garden. 

Splash Splash! It was starting to rain lightly.  We braved it but very soon within ten to fifteen minutes it was pouring down rather heavy.  Our next destination was the "Kinkakuji" - Golden Pavilion temple, but it turns out it was around 45 mins walk from Nanzen-Ji. We pulled out our trusted lonely planet guides and looked for what was closer, the station was onlly 2 mins walk away and it was still raining so we had to make quick decisions.  We decided to head to Kyoto, grab a bite to eat, get ourselves and umbrella and then head to the "Ginkaku -ji" - Silver Pavillion temple.

With our newly purchased umbrellas we caught the bus from Kyoto station arriving shortly afterwards (around 15-20mins) at Ginkaku-ji.  For your information the bus number you need to take is  No.5 and it is located at bus stop A. The fair for an adult is 220 yen (2.18 USD).  Anyway so back to where we were, there was a long road with signs leading upto the temple, we followed it up for about 10 mins before we reached the big gate of the temple complex. We had to pay around 600 Yen each to enter. The main attraction here of course is the silver roofed temple, o fcourse due to natural erosion and oxidisation the roof doesnt really look silver anymore, but I can imagine it must have shone brightly in its heyday. There is also meticoulously raked cones of white sand in the gardens, said to represent a mountain and river and a beautiful pathway leading further up the moutains that provides a scenic view of the pavilion from above. I can only imagine that the scenery would have been a lot more picturesque had the skies been blue, due to rain it was pretty grey but nonetheless we still enjoyed walking around here, and taking in the beauty in all its stride.

We had spent about a couple of hours wondering the gardens and temple complex and now it was time to head back to Kyoto. Most of the other temples would be closing and it was still raining. Unfortunately the bad weather on that particular day meant that we had to cut out a few places from our list.

Around 5.30pm we arrived back  at our hotel and did some research on where we could have dinner. I then remembered that a friend of mine had given me a list of places to eat in particular Ramen in Kyoto and so we headed to an area called Pontocho one of Kyoto's most atmospheric dining areas. Certain restaurants here are pretty exclusve and require the right connections and fat wallets. It is also the place where Maiko are seen. We were able to see a couple but they didnt stay inthe vicinity long enough to take photos.  We were quite hungry so I started asking people where I could eat ramen. Eventually the directions given led us to a small ramen bar tucked away in a little corner. It was your typical ramen complete with the smells  and slurping sounds making it the complete authentic experience.  I must say the ramen was so good! It was,  as they say in Japan "Oishii!!!"

It was now  close to 10pm, we had another early start tomorow as we wanted to cover the Southern Higashiyama region and Arashiyama as we were headed to Osaka in the evening.

The  next morning we took the train the Kyoto station to Arashiyama. Located in the western regions of Kyoto is famous for its natural beaut, particularly popular during the cherry blossom and autumn colour seasons. Ther are also many temples to be seen here but  what I was most interested in is the famed bamboo groves. If you have seen the movie House of flying daggers, you will know exactly what I describe.  Acres of lush bamboo trees  towering all the way up creating a breahtaking canopy. The bamboo groves are just five minutes walk from Arashiyama station. The road along the bamboo groves leads towards a few shinto shrines, a few quiet roads with small cafes and beautiful green fields. By around 1pm we had made our way back to the main streets of Arashiyama and we stopped at a restaurant where we had the most amazing lunch that I've ever had. It was a dish called Chazuke a simple dish consisting of rice and fish where green tea is poured onto the rice and eaten along with the fish. It is simple yet delicious and as always presented like a work of art.  In fact I would go so far as to say that no one presents food quite like the Japanese.

Around 2pm we returned to Kyoto station and from there caught bus number 206, around 20 mins later we stopped at Kiyomizu-michi which was about a15 min walk away from our final  destination in Kyoto. The Kiyomizudera temple - litterally Pure water temple. So named because it was built on the site of the Ottowa water fall's pure waters. I believe the temple dates back to around 780AD. Anyway it  is a magnificient temple complex that attracts thousands of visitors from all over Japan as well as from other countries. In total it takes around 2-3 hours to visit the entire complex. The main attraction is the large wooden deck and also the water well where hundreds flock to get a taste of the pure water.

 After returning from the temple grounds along the side streets were we greeted by a group of school childen around 8-10 years old who wanted us to take part in a little survey, so we obliged. They spoke to us in English telling us their names, where they were from and then asked us a few questions. I was totally amazed at how well mannered and well disciplined they were.  They thanked us with smiles for our time and soon they left our company. 

Kyoto - Japan's ancient capital rich in history, culture and food had provided us with an enriching experience that would last in our memories for a long time,  but now it was time for us to head back to Kyoto as we had a train to catch to Osaka.

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Tokyo and Me.

Japan is a country I have been fascinated with since my teens. I guess exposure to Anime and Japanese movies from a young age had peaked my interest.  For many years I had been planning a visit to the land of the rising sun, however work and other commitments got in the way.

This year however,  I finally did and as I write this blog it has been just over  week and a half  since I returned to Singapore . I am still feeling the holiday blues. I had been touring  Japan for 8 days, visiting  Tokyo (3 nights) Kyoto ( 2 nights ) and Osaka. (1 night) It has been one of the most amazing holiday experiences I've ever had.

Let me take you back to the 20th of April where it all began. I arrived at Narita Aiport terminal 1 around 8am local time, and spent around 35-40 minutes going through immigration and customs, queues were pretty big but they more or less moved rather efficiently. 

After  clearing immigrations, the first thing I needed to know  was which train I needed to take to get to my hotel. I had decided against taxis as they were known to be very expensive over long distances, so I popped down to the train station and spoke to the staff: "Sumimasen Asakusabashi ni doyatte ikeba iidesu ka ( excuse me , how do i get to Asakuksabashi)  They gave me a number of routes, all of which seemed complicated at the time, but in reality couldn't be more simpler. I decided to take the longer of the routes as I figured I'd get to see a bit of Japan by train. The train arrived promptly without any delay and I enjoyed seeing the country whilst on the move for about 90 minutes. There were 2 changes in total.

Once I arrived in Asakusabashi, I contacted the hotel to ask them whether I could walk from the station. Turns out the hotel was just 5 minutes away. Anyway, at the hotel I dropped off my luggage as check-in was not till 3pm and decided I'd spend a couple of hours getting lost and taking photographs. The latter part however proved futile as my camera battery had died. Turns out I had left it on in the bag during the entire flight. So, instead I decide to use my iphone which was better than nothing I guess.

Asakusabashi is  a quiet area with a few busy streets, I was rather keen on finding some good food so spent a good hour or more walking around till I found this little gem tucked away ( I wish I remembered the name) I went inside and they welcomed me with the usual 'irashai masen' literally meaning 'welcome' and was asked to take a seat. I was given the menu but it was all in Japanese. Whilst I can read hiragana, my Kanji is all but non-existent so I spoke, 'suminasen, eigo no menyuu wa imasuka ?( excuse me, do you have an English menu?) the reply was 'sumimasen' which I understood to mean that they didn't.   Hmm what to do now, I don't eat red meat and the menu had no photos, so I told the waiter to recommend me something. I told him I didn't eat pork or red meat , but fish and chicken were good. He told me to wait and then suggested a few selections from the menu that he described as being delicious. OMG he was right, it was absolutely delicious, It was a serving of cold soba noodles, a plate of assorted sashimi and a side of yakitori. Simply, mouthwateringly delicious. I was very satisfied,  thanked the chef for the meal and then made my way out onto the road. It had started to rain, not heavy but enough to get wet, so I popped into a convenience store to buy and umbrella. Just as I came out of the store, the rain stopped, 'sod's law' I thought to myself and decided it was now time to make my way back to the hotel where I would take a little nap for a few hours before deciding to head out again.

At 6pm that evening I headed out to "Shinjuku"  which is about two or three stops from Tokyo on the Yamanote line. The first thing that struck me was how busy it was, restaurants, shops, the street littered with neon lights, people going to and fro and traffic flowing in every direction. I got my camera out and began snapping away, in awe of the colorful neon signs, the huge manga posters, the plethora of restaurants and the sheer vibrancy of it all. Very soon however, it started to get cold to the point where my ears felt like they were being sliced off , so I decided I really needed to cover up. After wondering around for a bit I stumbled across a little shop where I was able to buy a cap to warm my ears. Feeling rather peckish now it was time to find some food and it didn't take me very long. The streets of Shinjuku are littered with places to eat, mostly on different levels with each floor offering a different dining experience. It's a mixture of fine and casual dining. That night I was so hungry I had two dinners. The first was 'ebi tenpura' with steamed rice and an assortment of fish along with a nice bottle or I should say flask of warm sake l can still taste the food in my mouth, it was so good. The next meal I had was at a little izakaya, where I enjoyed chicken katsu with rice and another serving of sake. Back out on the streets once again snapping away, I quickly decide to whatsapp my sister to see if my brother had boarded his flight as I was expecting early next morning. The news that I received was not great, due to an accident at heathrow there had been a huge traffic jam which unfortunately resulted in my brother missing his flight. So now instead of arriving on Sunday 21st, he would be arriving on the 22nd Morning. 

Early next morning around 9 O'clock  I headed out to Akihibara AKA electric town where the whole place  is bustling with amusement centres, electronics and all manner of gadgets and equipment you can think of.  There are also cosplay style cafe's where girls dress up as maids etc. I would describe Akhibara as a mix of weird, geeky and cool all rolled into one.  You simply have to be there to believe  I spent a few hours there looking for a Naruto Statue - Gaara of the sand but could not find the model I was after. ( I never did)  and  by noon I decided to head towards Tokyo station where I would be meeting a friend.  

Jules my friend, who is actually a Japanese gentleman living in the UK and my younger sister's work colleague took me to a fantastic restaurant at the Shin-Marunouchi where they served "Oden" It's one of my favourite types of Japanese cuisine, simple but flavorful.  The closest thing to compare it to would be "Hot Pot" I guess.  After our delicious meal we headed out onto the streets of Tokyo where we walked to the Imperial Palace and took a walk through the scenic palace gardens, admiring the smell and sight of colourful flowers, lush green  trees and imperial archiecture. We also stopped by  a small museum  that gave a little insight into the history of the Imperial Palace. After we had toured the gardens, we headed towards Ginza.

Ginza, easily accessible from Tokyo via the "Ginza-Marounochi" line, is best described as an upscale area of tokyo complete with high-end department stores, restaurants, cafes etc that cater to all people local and foreign. It is said that Ginza has the highest concentration of "Western" shops in Tokyo.  We wondered through a few shops before heading into a cafe for a nice cup of coffee and some desert. After the desert I headed towards the Uniqlo store as I wanted to get a jacket and Jules headed home. 

At around 7pm after getting a jacket and taking several photographs on the streets of Ginza, I returned to Tokyo station and then caught the "Yamanote" line to "Shibuya. 

Shibuya, is best described as Tokyo's most vibrant, chaotic, and colourful  shopping and entertainment district in one of the 23 city wards of Tokyo.  It is the home of Japan's youth and fashion culture consisting of over a dozen major department stores catering to all sorts of customers. 

 The most popular exit from Shibuya station where people meet is the Hachiko  exit. Once you exit the station you are faced with one of the most spectacular city sights you are likely to ever see in Asia. It is a five-way intersection that is heavily decorated with neon signs and giant video screens. The streets get flooded with people every time the traffic light shows the green man. If you have seen the movie  "Lost In Translation" then you will know exactly what I am referring to.

 It was approaching 10 pm and  I was getting fiercely hungry, so I began approaching fellow pedestrians. "Doko ni ramen ga taberu dekimasu ka" (Where can I eat ramen?) I asked.  Most of the time the one's who would stop and talk were Japanese ladies. they gave me a few choices and I decided to go to the nearest one they pointed out to me in relation to where I was.  At the Ramen bar the menu was both in English and in Japanese. This made it rather easier to select what I wanted and soon I was gobbling up a delicious hot bowl of Ramen.  

It had been a long day of sightseeing, enjoying the sights and sounds of two of Tokyo's most popular city wards and by now I really needed to sleep, so off I went back to the hotel. My brother would be arriving the next morning and I had offered to collect him from the airport. 

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