Sights and sounds of Japan

After amazing day-long adventures in Beijing and Shanghai, I had no idea what to expect going to Japan. Beijing set such a high bar with the visit to The Great Wall, and the Yu Yuan street market in Shanghai was full of some of the yummiest food I’ve ever had! Even with these adventures in China under my belt, nothing could’ve prepared me for the few hours of free time I had in Japan.

First stop was to Shinjuku, home to the busiest subway station in the world! It was incredible (and a little overwhelming) to see huge crowds of people in every direction, while also being screamed at by brights signs, lights, and blaring music from outdoor speakers at every corner.

Japan visitng Shinjuku
My go-to blanket scarf of all time (similar from LuLu*s)

Truthfully, I couldn’t quite focus on anything that was happening around me while walking around in Shinjuku. With all the lights and sounds and colours screaming from every wall – while trying to dodge people on the sidewalk – I am shocked that I noticed this Neko Atsume claw game in the doorway of an arcade. After being obsessed with the Neko Atsume game on my iPhone for almost all of 2015 (cut the “addiction” in November of last year), it was so cute to see how the game has blown up with its own merchandise!

japan neko atsume cat claw game
It’s “Tubs” in hat form! hehe

Before heading out of Shinjuku, a stop off at Squall Cafe was a must! I had never heard of Squall Cafe before getting out on the street, but the beautiful brick toast in their signage drew me in. As someone who grew up snacking on the Taiwanese version of the condensed milk on brick toast dessert, this cafe’s take on the dessert took it to a whole new level. Look at the size of this thing! It’s as big as my face (and it was absolutely delicious)!

japan squall cafe honey toast
The next stop was Harajuku, the city known for its trend setting and great shopping. We went to Takeshita St, which is the shopping district littered with boutiques, yummy snacks, and the most incredible people watching.

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to take many photos of anything while here. As you can probably tell from the frame above, it was so crowded! Takeshita St is a pedestrian-only, where the huge amounts of people in every direction felt like being squished in a can of sardines, and we were the sardines. It was hard to veer off to get to shops, or even stop to tie a shoe lace, when it felt like any pace that went against the rest of the crowd would get you trampled on! Never have I experienced anything remotely similar to this.

I hope to someday come back to Japan to explore all that it has to offer. Until then, I will relish in the memories from the few hours of getting to explore freely!

japan packing lightly
If there’s anything that I regret from the two weeks spent in Asia this year, it would be traveling so lightly. Even though the single backpack and small carry-on roller was perfect for running around airports and not having to ever wait at a baggage carousel, it wasn’t very souvenir-friendly. I didn’t have much space to bring home as many goodies as I would’ve liked to, but hoping this is a good excuse for going back to Japan again in the near future!

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Asia Trip: That’s a Wrap!

I just wanted to take the time to thank you all for coming along for the ride of recapping my backpacking trip around Asia. I had a ton of fun going through all my photos and being able to put words to pictorial moments that were captured along the way.

cameras
I’ll try my best to get back into the grove of regular outfit posts, craft projects, and daily shenanigans very soon… as in starting tomorrow. ; )

Until then, if you’ve missed any of the posts or want to revisit any of the Asia trip posts, I’ve been tagging all of them by country. You can read up on Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand at any time!

Bonus: Even the special stop offs at McDonald’s got tagged! (haha are you surprised?)

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A Traveler’s Best Friend

What do you do when you have anaphylactic peanut allergies and visiting Thailand (aka crushed peanuts and satay sauce in almost every food dish!) with a group of friends who do not speak the local language? Befriend someone who does and ask for a translated card! Oh my gosh, you have no idea how awesome it was to have this little card handy in my wallet every time we went out to eat. Despite the fact that many people in Thailand do speak English (most likely due to the high tourism rate), many hole-in-the-wall restaurants that we visited did not.

This card saved me from hours of quality time that would’ve been spent kneeling over a toilet bowl.
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McThai: home of the McDonald’s slushie floats!

No country recap would be complete without a post dedicated to McDonald’s, am I right? (aka This is how I make myself feel better about visiting McDonald’s a million times in Thailand because I “forgot” to take a photo of some article of food on the last visit…)

Fun Fact #1: McDonald’s is known as McThai in Thailand!

McThai: Samurai Pork Burger

McThai: Samurai Pork Burger Meal

Fun Fact #2: There are ketchup and “American ketchup” dispensers. The American ketchup was a lot darker and viscous than the regular kind.

McThai: In the burger

Fun Fact #3: The Samurai Pork Burger is probably my all-time favourite burger in Asia. It trumped the Bulgogi Burger from Korea and the Big ‘N Tasty from Hong Kong. It’s smothered in some delicious teriyaki-like sauce that I am drooling just thinking about…

McThai: floats + ice cream

Fun Fact #4: McThai has the best dessert menu! Slushie float, anyone? For just a little over $1 CAD, you can get a Fanta or Coke slushie float.

Fun Fact #5: You see that vanilla soft serve up there? It cost me a whoppin’ $0.33 CAD. I am forever ruined from paying $2.19 for a vanilla cone from Canadian McDonald’s.

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Learning to Cook: Thai Style!

There are a few pros and cons about visiting Phuket. Although this city is tourist central and almost everyone here speaks English (unlike Bangkok where it was sometimes difficult to ask for help), the downfall is the fact that all the locals know tourists flock to Phuket so prices of food, accommodations, and fun activities are a bit pricier compared to other cities in Thailand.

cooking school!
That being said, one of the more expensive activities we took part in was a cooking class held by the Sous Chef at Mom Tri’s Boathouse. We learned how to make a 5 course meal which included papaya salad, tom yum soup, seafood curry, pad thai, and a pumpkin custard dessert.

fruit salad

For every dish, 4 people (out of 6 in the class) were asked to go to the kitchen to cook. Each person had a variation of the dish so that we could all sample various levels of spiciness or tangy flavours when changing a small part of the recipe. For example, my friend got to make a fruit salad with apples, pears, jackfruit and pomelo (pictured above) instead of using green papaya like I did (pictured below).

papaya salad

curry ingredients

I seem to have zero photos of the tom yum soup, so we’ll skip this dish and move on to the curry. Above is a plate of shrimp, eggplant seeds, pineapples, fresh red curry paste (made in house!), grape tomatoes, and various spices for one full serving of curry. We were told to heat oil in the wok and then throw the curry paste in first. The aroma from the burning curry paste made all of us choke from the spiciness! I look like I’m laughing in the photo below, but trust me, I felt like I was about to cry! (I’m such a wimp when it comes to spicy foods…)

heavy wok?

finished curry!

I decided to only try one of the shrimps from the curry. I may or may not have teared up from ONE SHRIMP. Moving on to the pad thai!

pad thai
Here’s my sad excuse of an entree. I had a tough time trying to pick out the crushed peanuts before I could try the dish (yay for anaphylactic food allergies!). Don’t even get me started on how horrible the plating of the noodles look. I know to never quit my day job because I will receive a guaranteed 0/10 gold stars for this presentation!

pumpkin custard

interesting texture...

The pumpkin custard dessert was delicious! We didn’t have a big hand in making this dish, as our instructor simply hand whisked the custard ingredients together just to walk us through how to make it. Check out the texture of this stuff! The coconut milk gives a bubbly, super textured consistency to the custard! I was not expecting this when I cut into this with my spoon, but it was yummy nonetheless!

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