Orh Luak Follow-Up …… And A Foodi-licious Filled Birthday Week

Did a check in my blog archives and noted that the last time I had only one entry in an entire month was back in August 2012!

September flew by in a whizz, first with elections (which meant 1 long weekend as polling day was on Friday 11 September) in early September, followed by another public holiday (Hari Raya Haji on Thursday 24 September) …… which unfortunately co-coincided with prolonged haze in Singapore. Somehow I felt that I did not achieve much for September, routine (exercise, work) and mood/well being was rather disrupted by the haze …… and time definitely went by too quickly for my liking 😛

No matter what …… we are now in October, a brand new month and the start of the final quarter of the year! A couple of things to look forward to – My Birthday, A Much More Productive October Professionally and Personally …… and less than a month away – return trip to Japan!

As this week is my Birthday Week …… it is a foodie week as well 😛

image

Began the week with a delicious plate of orh luak!

As I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the previous plate …… and since I sort of had a craving for it, decided to take a walk down to Chinatown Food Street (around 10 to 15 min walk from office) to check out the fried oyster stall there – Katong Keah Kee Fried Oyster.  Katong Keah Kee is somewhat less reviewed compared to the more famous ones such as Simon Road, Bedok85, but having heard pretty good reviews …… there is no harm checking them out as it was within walking distance from office.

And disappoint it didn’t! Exceed my expectations it did! Not only were the oysters plentiful, juicy and flavourful …… the omelette portion was crispy and you can actually taste the eggy portion more than the starch itself. Very satisfied and very happy that I need not go too far anymore for a tasty plate of orh luak in the future.

image

Another sumptous meal followed soon after – birthday treat from J at Teppei. And coffee and dessert at Okada Coffee – a slightly under the radar Japanese cafe at 100AM.

More food to follow. Dinner @ the newly opened Mak’s Noodle outlet at Westgate (Jurong East) to eat …. porridge!! Was on a whim to try Mak’s porridge after reading great reviews of it in a food blog, and why not since I had already tried their classic Wanton noodles at their Central outlet. This is their Mak’s An Congee 招牌粥.

image

Not bad. Very nice and smooth HK style congee. Only minus was that it was a bit cold.

Then I had a ba chor mee craving ….. and so it was ba chor mee at the Hong Lim branch of Tai Hwa. Yum yum!

image

Then my now-once-a-week laksa prawn pasta fix @ Play Kitchen, Jurong Point (Kopitiam)!

image

Did tell J that I will abstain from Japanese food as much as possible, only to end up having Ramen dinner @ One Raffles Place foodcourt after spin class on Thursday night.

image

And another BD treat from D. Japanese food again …… this time from Tampopo!

image

Birthday is once a year, so its ok 😛

Advertisements

Hong Kong & Macau 2014: Day 3 New Adventures Part 2

DAY 3 (CON’T)

Got back to Hong Kong Island (Hong Kong Station) at around 1230 Hrs. Had thought of going to Sky100 @ ICC but a moment of hesitation meant that I missed getting off at Kowloon Station …… and so instead ended back at Hong Kong Station.

Used the pocket wifi to do some googling …… and decided on the spot that since I’m already back at Hong Kong Station, I’ll head to Stanley instead – as the bus terminal is right at Exchange Square (beside Hong Kong Station / IFC) itself. Hopped onto Bus 260 to begin my next journey to Stanley.

It was a nice, scenic bus ride to Stanley. Bus 260 is a faster express service (based on this website here) as it goes by the Aberdeen Tunnel before getting into Repulse Bay (where all the luxurous homes looking out to the beach are) …… and onward to Stanley. Didn’t manage to take any pictures despite sitting on the upper deck of the bus as I did not have a window seat + my side on the bus was not looking out onto the Repulse Bay beach view. Oh well ……

Given that 260 was a faster express service – reached Stanley around 1.30pm. A good fast 1/2 hour bus ride (versus the almost 1 hour if I took Bus 6 and 6X instead) ……

2014-10-14 12.25.56

In order to get to the other end of Stanley – where the iconic Murray House and Blake Pier is located, one would have to pass through the Stanley Market itself. So into the market I went to do a quick walkthrough before hunting for some lunch (stomach is rumbling). And ended up getting some rainbow calligraphy paintings (one for ZL, one for myself) before continuing on for lunch (as the paintings will take an hour to be ready).

Based on directions given by the calligraphy store salesman …… walked out of the market and onto the waterfront promenade area, withe Murray House, Blake Pier and Stanley Plaza in the distance, while looking out towards the sea.

2014-10-14 12.29.54

Quaint shops / restaurants along the road ……

P1040501

After a short 5 min walk along the waterfront, manaaged to locate Stanley Plaza. And went up to level 3 where Chung’s Cuisine was located …… and which was also the restaurant that the rainbow calligraphy guy had recomemnded me for a late lunch.

The restaurant entrance (and decor) itself was more like a casual western bristo style (given the open entrance) rather than like a chinese restaurant. Whilst googling to write this entry – I realised later that Chung’s is actually another dining concept under the Tao Heung group umbrella. Tao Heung is not so well known globally – but their food standard is generally not bad based on past dining experiences.

Since I didn’t manage to get a window seat overlooking the bay (quite a busy lunch crowd even though it was already close to 2pm) …. no pictures of the restaurant interior other than the entrance 😛

2014-10-19 12.53.07

Their mainstays are mainly dim sum. But after having dim sum at Harbour City the day before, and also after my congee/porridge meal earlier – I decided I wanted to have noodles more. So ended up order a plate of fried noodles (with small pieces of squid) instead – as some of the main dishes (fried rice, noodles etc.) were on promotional price during lunch. Although HKD68 sounds expensive for a plate of noodles (as compared to char chan teng prices) …… it would turn out to be a steal as the plate itself was good for 2! Ah if only I had known – should have ordered dim sum instead for a lighter meal 😛

After taking my time trying to chow down as much of the noodles as possible, called for the bill and decided to walk around a bit (to digest off my heavy meal). Went up 1 floor to level 4 of the Plaza itself to walk around. And saw an nice open air area looking out to Murray House and Stanley Bay beyond it.

2014-10-19 12.51.12

At a corner there’s a Lover’s Terrace – where numerous love bubbles reside.

P1040505

Then went back down hunting for a place to have coffee. Passed by Cuppers Speciality Coffee which I was keen to check out since it was by an award winning barista (as per the notice on the glass wall) …… but it happened to be closed (lunch break perhaps). So decided to go back down and hunt for another cafe along the Main Street instead. As I got back to the ground level – chanced upon Classified and decided to check them out instead.

Prior to this visit – had read about Classified in some online reviews as they are one of the European style cafe chains that have popped up in Hong Kong in recent years. In fact just the day before, I actually walked past Classified’s very 1st original outlet along Hollywood Road (a few blocks before Man Mo Temple). So now its the perfect opportunity (unplanned) to check them out 🙂

2014-10-19 12.56.29

Loved the cosy interior – which makes use of mainly wooden furniture to give the cafe a comfortable/laid back vibe …… perfect atmosphere for a lazy afternoon coffee. Only slight minus is that the cafe is not located nearer to the bay area – for the bay view will make it even more perfect :P. Another unique feature that Classified has is the walk-in Cheese room selling a variety of cheeses – which I discovered while exploring around the restaurant/cafe. Of course, the main highlight – which is the americano that I have ordered, is strong, thick and fagrant ….. the exact way I like my coffee to be and made up for the mediocre morning cuppa 🙂

Japan 2013: Day 9 Odaiba + Venturing Out To Kamakura & Yokohama Part 3

DAY 9 (CON’T)

Leaving Odaiba on the Yurikamome Line back to Shinbashi. Managed to find a camera setting that works on moving trains (decrease shutter speed I think) and so the next couple of pictures turned out much clearer. The train does 1 rotation around the port area after leaving the Rainbow Bridge …… and so this should be the Hinode Pier.

Processed with Moldiv

Was able to take the JR Yokosuka Line direct from Shimbashi Station (thanks to prior hyperdia research) ….. and another 50 min journey to Kamakura (while passing through Yokohama). Upon reaching JR Kamakura station, did some verification at the tourist information counter and confirmed the directions to Daibutsu / Great Buddha of Kamakura.

Walked over to the other side of the station to wait for the Enoden. The Enoden – also known as the Enoshima Electric Railway is an eletric streetcar that connects Kamakura all the way till Fujisawa. From what I have read prior to trip (online and guidebooks), the Enoden passes through the coastline of Enoshima. Keeping my fingers crossed that I will have enough time to hop onto the Enoden afterwards to pass through the Enoshima coastline to catch the beautiful sunset.

P1040024

3 stops later at Hase Station, alighted and began to the walk to the Great Buddha. No scenery noteworthy during the short 3 stop Enoden ride so no pictures.

Kotokuin Temple – the buddhist temple that houses the giant statue.

P1040025

Giant Buddha of Kamakura. It was 420pm when I took this picture and the sky colour made a nice contrast with the statue itself. More photos in my weekly photo challenge entry ……

P1040028

You can actually enter inside the Buddha, for 20 JPY. Opted not to ……

P1040033

P1040035

Walked further in and saw some buildings (which should be the temple buildings I suppose). The autumn colours were not very nice here, IMO.

Kamakura 1

So this turned out to be a pretty short visit (10 to 15 mins) just to view the Giant Buddha up close being walking back to Hase Station. On my walk back, the sun is beginning to set (430pm) and the sky is a beautiful orange.

P1040047

Back at Hase station and it was a 5-10 min (closer to 7min I think) for the next Enoden to arrive. Started to study the Enoden map closely. As much as I would have loved to head down to Enoshima to view the sunset along the coastline, the journey would have taken a good 1/2 hour to reach Fujisawa …… and another 1/2 hour to get back to Yokohama. Plus I would probably liked to spend more time in Enoshima itself, so looks like this will have to be carried foward to my to-do list for my future return trip ……

P1040049

Enoshima Aquarium has a light up event ….. but wouldn’t have been able to make it as the aquarium closes at 430pm. Would have definitely loved to go there, especially after watching (and re-watching) Nagareboshi. Another item for my future to-do list once again 😛

P1040048

Given that the Enoden is a small electric train, it moves much slower than a normal JR train (or subway). Even it was just 3 stops back to Kamakura station, it was already 5pm when I reached Kamakura. And the sky is rapidly darkening …… in a nice dark blue hue.

P1040051

Since it was already dark, and impossible to make it to Yokohama by sunset (on hindsight I should have left the hotel much earlier), decided to find a place to get a much needed coffee. Earlier while heading to the Enoden station at Kamakura, saw this quaint little cafe-house called Cafe Rondino. And decided why not pop in there for a cuppa just as I needed one ……

20140417-012713.jpg

Decided to order a german roasted blend instead of my usual long black as the lady explained to me that it is one of their specialities and its a stronger blend than normal. Definitely needed a stronger one after going without any coffee forthe entire day (this reminds me, no coffee means a cranky Wendy, which explains all the weird decisions I have mean making throughout the day) …… and it was fantastic! Not only that, it was also a nice and quaint place to be relaxing in and read a book. Best of all, prices here are pretty reasonable as well.

Ended up staying a while enjoying my coffee, and taking in the quiet atmosphere. Really happy to discover this gem of a cafe entirely by chance in an unexpected manner, especially when I had expected Kamakura to be more of a small and historic city.

As I write this now, I really should have ate either a dessert or ordered some proper food at this cafe, especially given how late I ended up having dinner later on. You can find more reviews of Cafe Rondino here:

http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Restaurant_Review-g303156-d1691830-Reviews-CAFE_RONDINO-Kamakura_Kanagawa_Prefecture_Kanto.html

http://thesoulofjapan.blogspot.sg/2010/10/great-cafe-and-eateries-in-kamakura.html

Japan 2013: Day 6 Next Up – Kyoto! Part 2

DAY 6 (CON’T)

Did not manage to find a nice place anywhere for a post lunch drink/dessert. Popped my head out of level 10/11 of the building (The Cube) and saw that there was an outdoor area with escalators leading right back down to the train station ……

P1030221

Decided to head up to the observation deck right on top of the building 1st, before coming back down again. Views of Kyoto City (Hachijo side south of the station) ……

Kyoto Station 4

Enjoyed the cooling walk down the escalators back into the train station (temperature was around 12 to 15 degrees). Still feeling slightly dis-orientated as I tried to locate the bus terminal just right outside the station (north side) …… followed by another 10 to 15 minutes spent looking for the correct bus number (and berth) in order to take Bus 100 to my next location – Ginkakuji Temple!

Located the berth and hopped onto Bus 100. 40 min later, finally reached Ginkakuji, or rather the bus-stop near Ginkakuji! It was only 210pm, and already feeling the lethargy (a combination of an early start + the long and winding bus ride) – and my brain was calling out to me for coffee! No cafes along the road except for this small little restaurant right beside the bus-stop.

P1030232

Went through the menu (at the door) and saw that they do serve coffee, thus went in.

Ginkakuji 1

20140202-191037.jpg

My 400 JPY coffee. Believe it was instant coffee at best. Looked around and saw a few patrons having lunch. Despite the cheapest lunch set being at 1800 JPY, however the food seem pretty exquisite (from the picture that I managed to snap of the table next to me), and it would have been a great experience to have enjoyed a local Kyoto style lunch here …… but since I have already taken my lunch earlier at Kyoto Station, no chance to check out the local Kyoto cuisine here. What a pity indeed!

After the quick coffee, proceeded to quickly walk towards Ginkakuji.

Street lined with autumn trees and a row of taxis waiting in line ……

P1030242

Small street leading to Ginkakuji ……

P1030248

Shops along the street selling various streetfood and even postcards to send back home (like the olden times when there was no internet). Saw a cafe selling UCC coffee also. Damn! Could have had a nice coffee here ……

Ginkakuji 2

Finally reached after a short 5 min walk ……

P1030255

P1030256

20140203-165756.jpg

Ginkakuji, also known as Silver Pavilion is a Zen temple along Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashiyama). Apart from the main building (silver pavilion itself), Ginakkuji is also well known for its beautiful moss garden and unique dry sand garden. Ginkakuji is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site – under Historical Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji & Otsu Cities). You can read more about Ginkakuji from Japan Guide and from wikipedia as well, on how it started as a retirement villa (as a sort of cousin to the famous Golden Pavillion), become it became converted to a Zen Temple.

Unique dry sand garden on the temple compounds, also known as ‘Sea of The Silver Sand’ ……

Ginkakuji 3

Sand patterns close up ……

Ginkakuji 4

The Silver Pavilion surrounded by the moss garden and pond. And finally, autumn leaves coming nicely into bloom ……

P1030270

P1030281

Ginkakuji 5

Walking path leading to the hill behind the temple buildings. Saw some nice shades of red and yellow leaves ……

P1030287

Some interesting sightings on the walk …… first, a 500 year old tree.

Ginkakuji 6

A small waterfall, followed by a wishing pond ……

2014-02-03 18.28.12

More steps to climb ……

P1030303

P1030304

Bamboo groves ……

P1030306

View of the temple grounds from the hill (where the walking path is) ……

P1030308

P1030311

More beautiful autumn foliage ……

P1030316

P1030317

Last look at the Silver Pavilion ……

Ginkakuji 7

At the end of the tour of the temple and its surroundings which took around 45 min in total, I realised that there was no silver at all on the pavilion. The buildings probably form a very small part of the entire surrounding, and the main highlight is definitely the dry sand and moss gardens, and the autumn leaves/koyo surrounding it ……

Came across a matcha ice-cream & cream puff stall when walking out of the temple and back to the street I came from …… Would be nice having an ice-cream while taking a walk down my next destination – Philosopher’s Path. But ended up not getting it 😛

P1030325

Japan 2013: Day 5 Leaving Osaka & Onto Kobe Part 1

DAY 5: MONDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2013

As per my tweet, am really looking foward moving on to a new city – Kobe after 3 days of Osaka (together with a mix of Hiroshima and Nara)!

However one last thing to do in Osaka – sushi breakfast at Endo Sushi (located at Osaka’s Central Wholesale market). Had wanted to go on Sunday (Day 4) and then proceed to Nara from there, but did some googling on Saturday evening and found out that Sunday is actually their rest day. Hence pushed foward to Monday instead.

No more dily-dalying in bed.  Woke up early, packed up, checked out my room (for real this time!) and left my luggage at the reception before heading out a little after 8. Did the ‘smarter’ thing this time by getting a cup of solid black coffee at Doutor at Osaka Station basement to set the ‘correct’ tone for the day 😛

20140111-014040.jpg

2 Stops to JR Noda Station (covered by the JR Pass), so it was not that far from Umeda (where I was) despite being off the tourist spots. Asked for directions from the train station master,and also from passer-bys on the street. There were also some detailed directions based on this review …… but somehow ended up following what the station master told me – which is to walk straight until I see the market beside the river,which I managed to locate after a good 10 to 15 min walk ……

Osaka Central Wholesale Market. Managed to locate the row of restaurants right at the other corner of the market (near the bridge) ……

Osaka Endo Market 1

Detailed review of Endo Sushi in a separate food entry rather than drag out this entry ……

Shop was pretty empty when I reached around 9, finished my breakfast around 930 and left. Saw that the market is pretty empty, since I went only at 9 – no tuna auction to see, shops barely open as well so only took some pictures and left ……

Osaka Endo Mkt 2

More interesting pictures as I was leaving the market. As the market is located next to a river, you can see ships/boats being docked, together with some walkways. Spotted a lady feeding her dog alongside the riverfront and snapped a few pictures ……

Osaka Endo Mkt 3

Whilst walking back to JR Noda Station to head back to Umeda, saw that it was a clear and bright morning, and the sky was clear blue, with beautiful fluffy clouds …… And so slowed down my walk and got inspired to take pictures of the clear blue sky. You will also notice that the street is completely empty, with no cars! Amazing!

20140111-204448.jpg

While I was waiting at the traffic light right opposite the station …..,

20140111-204614.jpg

Wasn’t really intending to get any food-related souvenirs as I still have 7 days to go before flying back to Singapore, and expiry dates of the foodstuff will be an issue. However passed by Entree Marche at Osaka Station (a all-in-one supermarket cum convenience store in many JR West stations) and decided to get a pack of Takoyaki biscuits (which was advertised on SmaSTATION – a SMAP related variety show in Japan) – as a souvenir to bring back from Osaka 😛

Entree Marche Osaka

Finally spotted ikemen Fukuyama Masaharu and his Asahi billboards in Osaka Station. Masa has been a long-time endorser of Asahi. Wonder why I didn’t see it earlier, nevermind ……

Osaka Station Asahi

The last time I will be crossing this traffic junction across to Hankyu Building, on route back to Hotel Kinki ……

P1020871

As I was walking through Hankyu, I realised that the christmas decoration panels actually have moving creatures on top. Did not notice that for the past 3 days of walking through the same path until my last morning in Osaka ……

Hankyu Umeda 2

Then back to Hotel Kinki to pick up my luggage. Rested at the lobby for a while and used the wireless before leaving for good at around 1050 Hrs ……

Back at the train station platform at Osaka Station. It is roughly about 20 to 25 min train ride to Kobe. The station master advised me to take the Special Rapid Service which is faster (as it skips a couple of stops along the route) as compared to the usual route ……

P1020877

And I am off to Kobe!

P1020884

Japan 2013: Day 3 Hiroshima & Miyajima Part 5

DAY 3 (CON’T)

Interesting sight of another ‘wild’ deer ‘chasing’ after a lady whilst walking back to the pier ……

P1020515

Bought a stick of fried oysters to try from one of the roadside stalls. Fried food tastes so good in cold weather …… lol

20131226-025221.jpg

Note: The original picture was too dark, so did some touch-up/editing via Snapseed.

Wandered off into one of Miyajima’s main shopping streets – which is called Omotesando as according to this source …… It couldn’t be more different than the bright lights of Tokyo’s Omotesando!

The sky is quickly turning dark (this is around 525pm) ……

P1020525

Various shops along the shopping street – including a Miyajima Coffee (cafe), Momiji Manju (a maple shaped cake with filling such as red bean paste, green tea, custard cream), deer crackers (which I ended up getting 2 packs since it can’t be found anywhere else other than Miyajima :P) …… Did not manage to see the Oshakushi 大杓子 a.k.a the biggest scoop in the world!

20131226-024915.jpg

Finally spotted a grilled oyster stall to savour Miyajima’s famous grilled oysters – which costs 400 JPY (for 2 oysters). Stall seemed to be popular as there was a ‘slight’ quene, but ended up to be a close to 20 min wait despite getting a number 5 (the numbers are recycled in rounds of 25 twice!) …… But it was definitely worth the wait as the oysters were really fresh and juicy, yum yum!

20131226-030245.jpg

20131226-030300.jpg

Note: Same as the above, the original was too dark. Touched-up using Snapseed to make the oysters look more ‘delicious’, hee ……

After eating up the oysters, walked back to the pier. It was 1 min to 6 when I reached the pier. The sky was already this dark (had to turn up the ISO a bit more to properly capture some shots) ……

P1020536

Approaching the Hiroshima mainland (on the ferry back) ……

P1020544

On the walk back to the train station, passed by this chic cafe again (1st spotted it earlier on the way to the pier) …… Bluebird Coffee!

P1020547

P1020548

20131226-033534.jpg

Due to the long waiting time for the grilled oysters earlier at Miyajima, plus having to catch the train back to Hiroshima to get onto the 1917 Hrs Shinkansen (reserved seat on the Sakura 549) back to Osaka, was not able to sit down, relax, sip a cuppa as originally intended. Very small ground floor space leading to level 2, but the cafe creatively used old car protypes to store the various food items and knick-knacks available for sale. Check out my tripadvisor review here …… same as Miyajima, will make it a point to come back again in the future!

Ended up packing a hazelnut latte which I finished up at the train station. The warm drink was timely after being stuffed with oysters at Miyajima 😛 …… The hazelnut latte is definitely cheap at 390 JPY only as compared to some of the cafes in Osaka and Tokyo so far.

20131226-035459.jpg

Another 1 1/2 hour shinkansen back to Shin-Osaka. Had to change trains at Shin-Osaka to take 1 stop back to Osaka station itself. On the walk to the platform to change train, spotted more take-away counters and a sounvenir shop selling omiyage (gifts) of the Osaka region. There is now Osaka versions of the Shiroi Kobito biscuits and ‘Osaka Bannana’, heh ……

Shin-Osaka

More cool men on the train ride back to Osaka – Ken Watanabe & Takuya Kimura!

P1020573

P1020576

Reached Osaka Station close to 9pm! Since the food halls are closed around this time, plus was still feeling pretty full from the oysters and latte, decided to do some window-shopping around the train station before getting a late dinner/supper ……

P1020577

Huge array of magazines ……

P1020579

More restaurants at the top of the building (under Daimaru) ……

P1020580

Huge Bookstore at the corner of the building. Spotted the dramatized version novel of the recent Summer hit drama Hanazawa Naozi ……

Osaka Station City 2

Crazy choice of takeaway food for dinner at Entree Marche, and cheap too! Lost for choice 😛

P1020593

Decided against it in the end as hotel room has no microwave to heat up the food. After getting some stuff at the drugstore (Shisedo stuff + conditioner – needed one as I packed by mistake the smaller bottle that is almost finished) …… settled for a very late dinner at the 24-hour gyudon place along the main street (the Ippudo beside it still has long quenes even beyond 10pm!). Finally tried the gyudon that I did not manage to do so in my last trip – beef donburi that cost 280 JPY yen (really cheap!) piping hot & delicious, and filling!

20131228-171501.jpg

My ‘shopping loot’ for the day ……

20131228-171608.jpg

20131228-171625.jpg

Got the Kose tablets for the lotion mask earlier at Hondori, and also the deer crackers in Miyajima. Somehow the pictures taken using my iPad had a weird coloring, never mind …….

Not that many attractions covered as compared to Day 2, but it was more ‘quality over quantity’ approach, and a long but very satisfying Day 3!

Japan 2012: Day 2 Hakone Part 1

Resuming my travel entries after a 3 month hiatus. Thrashed 1 draft that was dated 31st May & starting all over again with this ……

Originally drafted a food highlights for Part 1 and even prepared the collages last week but decided to rewrite this in chronological order instead, feels more authentic this way 😛

Day 2: 18 December 2012

Set off for Hakone from Yokohama.

Original wish was to have breakfast at Bills Yokohama (Red Brick Warehouse) but they open quite late at 1000 hrs – which will conflict with my itinerary as the plan is to set off at 1000 hrs post breakfast …. Thus decided to check out this cafe instead which I spotted outside the hotel (along the route to Yokohama Station) ….

20130709-135705.jpg

Turns out that this is actually the cafe arm of UCC Coffee. The interior looks very comfortable and cosy, in a very Japanese kind of way – the kind of cafe where you can sit down and have a cuppa, together with newspaper/book. Nice array of cakes as well – where the mili crepe caught my attention. But cakes are more of a staple for tea, rather than for breakfast, thus gave it a miss. The outside area (which is actually the smoking zone) is spacious and a great spot for people watching as well.

20130709-235209.jpg

My breakfast set – coffee with thick cheese toast.

Then it was off to Hakone. Took the JR Tokaido Line from Yokohama Station to Odawara – 1 straight line journey with no change of stations mid-way, and will take 1 hour approximately. Based on my research of transport routes on Hyperdia, this is the most straightforward option and the cheapest (950 JPY) as versus to changing the shinkasen at Shin-Yokohama (or) taking a train to Shinjuku (35 min journey) in order to change train to Odawara (covered by the Hakone Free Pass) – which will take 2 hours + in total. Worked it out and decided it is not time effective in the end, furthermore due to early sunset in winter (4+pm), almost half the day is gone should I take this route ……

Managed to take a cat nap on the train and nearing Odawara, spotted Mount Fuji!!

20130710-001933.jpg

Reached Odawara – a major transit point to head into Hakone. Odawara is also a small city with the Odawara Castle as its main attraction. Made a mental note to possibly visit the Castle if time permits (on the journey back to Tokyo the next day).

20130710-004649.jpg

Purchased the 2 Day Hakone Free Pass (3500 JPY) at the Odawara Station that will bring me into Hakone and cover majority of the transport (train, ropeway, buses) within Hakone itself. Then proceeded on the Hakone Tozan Line to my next stop – Hakone Yumoto Station.

20130710-011655.jpg

Immediate thing to do at Hakone-Yumoto – head to the Baggage Delivery Service (last order is at 1230pm) to drop off my luggage to deliver to the hotel. Cost me 700 JPY (100 JPY as a discount from the Hakone Free Pass). Figured that it would be better spending this $$ (SGD $10.28 equivalent based on my exchange rate of 14.68) as versus to taking a 50 min to 1 hour bus journey to drop off luggage at hotel (located at the other end of Hakone). Will have an 1 hour extra to plough through the major attractions without the hassle of carrying a heavy luggage (esp. on the ropeway which is impossible) ….. this will turn out to be an excellent decision 😛

20130710-013132.jpg

The buildings outside of Hakone-Yumoto station. Yumoto town itself is the entrance to Hakone – and one of the major hot spring areas in Hakone itself.

20130710-013232.jpg

Some of the famous Hakone produce sold in the shops. Found this small ice-cream shop as well ……

Original intention was to have an early lunch in Hakone-Yumoto but after walking 1 round around the shops, found nothing interesting for lunch ….. so decided to proceed on to touring Hakone proper. Am using the recommended Hakone Round Course as a guide – With Hakone Yumoto as the start of the journey …… To be covered in Part 2!