Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Preparing for Istanbul, Turkey


Ah, just a few more days...

Do you have any tips for me for Istanbul? Do let me know in Facebook!

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Monday, April 27, 2015

England: The 18th Century Bath Guildhall Market


I am always looking for food markets when I am travelling and in Bath I found two food markets. The 18th century Bath Guildhall Market is one of them and is the oldest market in the city.

Here is an excerpt from their website:

‘The Market is one of the longest running shopping venues in Bath, serving the community for around 800 years and operating from its current venue in one form or another from at least the 16th century. As the Guildhall Market, it came into existence in the 1770’s and acquired its famous dome in 1863.’

The market now is smaller than it used to and is trying its best to adapt to the 21st century. It’s a nice place to stop by to grab some food items. There is a bakery and a convenience store. There are also cafes in the market which are great venues for a quick chat and a cup of coffee.

The market is just across the beautiful Pulteney Bridge.


There are some cool shops selling gourmet food items such as specialty beer, liquor and cider, as well as cheeses.


A nice bar in the middle point of the market hall.


This is the dome of the market. The cast iron columns with their floral mouldings and high iron framed windows decorate the dome.


The local specialty, the Bath Bun. It is a sweet roll, like a brioche, made from a milk-based yeast dough. It has a lump of sugar baked in the bottom and more crushed sugar sprinkled on top after baking. Variations in ingredients include candied fruit peel, currants or larger raisins or sultanas.


These cupcakes were for a charity fund-raising event in England. I found out about it after reading a poster in different shop and watching the the said charity show on TV.


And a mini convenience store.

Travel Period: March 2015
Destination: Bath, Somerset (South West – England), United Kingdom

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King’s Night (2015) in Utrecht, Netherlands

It is King’s Day in the Netherlands which means everyone is out there partying and selling their junk on the streets. It’s a yearly event in the country and because I have been living in the Netherlands for more than a decade now, the thrill of celebrating this royalty event has totally faded away.


Partying and drinking doesn’t sound too attractive when you are already in your mid-forty’s. It gets old. Selling all the stuff we want to get rid of is a good idea, but I am too lazy to even lift a finger, let alone rummage through my stuff and haul them into the city and sit on the streets.

So today I just stayed at home whilst the whole country is out gone gaga on the streets. Yesterday evening though, which was King’s Night, Dutchman and I went out for a walk in the city centre. It was the Dutchman’s idea, not mine really. I didn’t mind it because I like to walk. A little bit of activity is always a good thing for your body.

Thus I’m here to report that the centre of Utrecht last night was a chaos of music, beer and children running amok not even half our age. After an hour and a half of walking around I begged off. I could not wait to go home and retire in bed. I am an old woman.


There were podiums with bands playing at every corner in Utrecht.


We have lost count of the number of outdoor music venues in Utrecht during King's Night. Literally every few hundred metres there is a podium with a band or DJ playing.


 It was past midnight when we passed by the Dom Square.


A very full bar on the Oudegracht.


The garbage people have a lot of work tomorrow.

April 2015
Utrecht, The Netherlands

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Japanese Street Food Tripping: Nakamise-Dori Street in Asakusa


Those striking red-orange and yellow (they look like maple?) leaves hoisted on top of the shops had me wondering if they were real or not?

Nakamise-Dori Street is one of the oldest streets in Asakusa situated between two important gates leading to the Senso-ji Temple, the Kaminarimon Gate and the Hozomon Gate. It is said that through the centuries many pilgrims come here to shop, perhaps for food, offerings and whatnots before proceeding to the temple.

Nowadays, the street offers a vareity of food stalls and craft and souvenir shops. The side alleys are also lined with roadside hole-in-the-wall eateries, as well as traditional local restaurants. The street is approximately 250 metres long and is always teeming with people.

I have to say that I really love this street. It may be too touristy but the high energy, the variety of food stalls and the bright autumn leaves hanging from the roof of the shops, which left me wondering by the way if they were real or not, made me truly love this street.

If you are looking at sampling some Japanese street food, then this is one of the best places to get some.


Moi of course, my souvenir picture of Nakamise-Dori.


Rice crackers wrapped in seaweed. I love this kind of Japanese snack.


These are Kibi-Dango, a local sweet pastry made from millet flour. They however look like fishballs wrapped in sauce to me.


Daifuku or mochi are glutinous rice balls. They are usually stuffed with sweet filling, mostly red bean paste. They come in different flavours.


Stand selling lots of Senbei rice cracker varieties.


You can also watch how they make traditional dessert and snack pastries here.


Japanese pastry craftmanship. These are Ningyo-Yaki which are fried sponge cakes stuffed with sweet red bean paste.


These are Age-Manju, they are deep fried cakes with red bean paste filling. Red bean paste is very popularly used in Japan as filling for pasty snacks and cakes.


A hole-in-the-wall eatery on Nakamise-Dori.


Whilst this one is a more posh traditional Japanese restaurant, also located on the same alley of Nakamise-Dori.


Travel Period: November 2014
Destination: Asakusa, Taito (Tokyo), Japan

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ginza, Tokyo: Taxi Cabs and Luxury Shopping

Ginza in Chuo City is all about high-end luxury shopping. You can compare the atmosphere of the district to Gangnam in Seoul. It’s a combination of business and shopping opulence, a very good mix of course when you have the will and the means.


I have not seen something similar like this yet in other countries or perhaps I need to travel more, but in other major (shopping), especially western cities in the world, they have a more tamer approach when it comes to luxury shopping. Flagship stores of expensive signature brands are usually spread out in the city. Some take retail store lease contracts at large exclusive department stores, whilst others tend to group together in a specific street such as Bond Street in London, PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam, Champs Elysees in Paris and 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue in New York City. Moreover, they do not have massive flagship stores such as the likes here in Ginza, Tokyo or in Asia in general.

Perhaps it is to say that the Japanese have a much pressing need to possess luxury items? Mostly European signature brands if I may add. Although I think that this type of expensive material slash brand preoccupation is not just a Japanese thing but very Asian-centric. I have noticed as well that in middle and lower economies of scale in developing countries there is an unhealthy need, er rather, desire to covet such luxurious items.

Nevertheless, during the weekend on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 to 17:00 the main shopping street of Ginza is closed off to vehicle traffic, allowing pedestrians to walk freely on the road. No wonder locals and visitors call Ginza a shopping paradise.


Shopping does not appeal much to me really. I like to look good, have nice stuff every now and then which means I do shop, but mostly they are carried out randomly - not planned shopping activities. If I were to choose between going to a food market and fashion shopping in a similar Ginza-like place, I will not, even for a split of a second, think of  going to shop for fashion/material things.


Neon sign boards are popular in Tokyo, Japan. It reminds me of a few districts in Hongkong and Seoul. I made an entry about this, here it is: Neon Signs in Samil Daero, Seoul and When Dusk Falls in Kowloon: My Fascination for Neon Signboard Lights (and Mong Kok Ladies Market)


Now taxi cabs are all over Japan and they can be freely hailed on the street, however here in Ginza, Tokyo taxis have a different rule. One can only get one by queuing up at the official taxi stands.

I also noticed that the taxi cabs are from a different make and older car model. I did a little bit of research and found out that this is the—Toyota Comfort model which debuted in 1995. The taxi emporium in Japan is managed by different taxi cab companies and they can decide on which model of car they want to run on the streets, but it seems that the Toyota Comfort is the model of choice by most companies.

You might have also been reading the news about the Uber controversy and scandals. I am all for new technology and new ways of doing business but capitalism can be harmful as well when there are no regulations in place.

Uber offices raided in Paris over ‘car-pooling’ controversy
Uber tries to mend fences with Europe

Because humans are humans. We are weak and we make mistakes and we all have the tendency to be self-serving. That is why we have laws, police enforcement and a government.


Here is a funny experience I had with a cab driver in Trinidad, Cuba: Cheeky Taxi Driver in Trinidad, Cuba

Travel Period: November 2014
Destination: Ginza, Chuo City (Tokyo), Japan

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