Courtesy of T.Kambayashi (Wikimedia Commons). See the original page.
After a brief stay in Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen bullet train to Osaka (大阪) located in the Kansai region of Japan; the journey took about 3 hours westward. We had the First Class Japan Rail tickets but had forgotten to reserve our seats in the First Class section of the train. We were lucky that one of the train conductors allowed us to sit in the reserved First Class section, as there were not many people and we were carrying a lot of luggage. The seats were quite comfortable, clean, and spacious. An attendant provided us with some refreshments, snacks, and a wet towellette. The time passed quickly as we made our way to Shin-Osaka station– one of the central Japan Rail (JR) stations.
With luggage in hand, we transferred to the local train line to the newer Bay Area, facing Osaka Bay. The overall train ride took about 45 minutes from the main city center. The hotel we stayed at was Hotel La Raison (now called Quintessa Hotel Osaka Bay as of 2019), a fairly new luxurious, Western-style hotel located in Cosmo Square (train station). The room was quite spacious and comfortable.
The Bay Area of Osaka has many nearby attractions, including Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and Cosmo Tower. We were lucky that Hotel La Raison offered a complimentary shuttle service to these attractions (except for Cosmo Tower, which is within walking distance) and to the JR Osaka Station. See the main website for the shuttle bus schedule.
Tip: If you have the Pasmo card, you can use it to travel on the local train or bus transportation system in Osaka. Just remember to add more money to the card as needed.
Shitennoji Temple (Tennoji district)
September 30, 2017
- Shitennoji Temple (Tennoji district)
- Shinsekai (Tennoji district)
- Nipponbashi district
- Namba district
Once we settled down and relaxed for awhile in the hotel, we headed out to the Tennoji district, the older part of Osaka. We first visited the Shitennoji Temple (photo above), one of the oldest Zen Buddhist temples in Japan from 593. Although the buildings were renovated, they still have its spiritual charm. Just beware of the mosquitoes that surround the pond near the side of the temple. Continue reading
Sunset at the Monterey Tides Hotel, Monterey, CA (11-3-18)
Between lapses between working and daily life, I reflected on what I learned from 2017 and 2018, and what I can do to make 2019 more fulfilling and better. Since 2017 and early 2018, I dealt with health issues related to work stress and work environment. I also participated in my local pharmacy association activities and eventually was elected as a board member in 2018. In the summer of 2018, I took on a new role at work and was challenged due to having to balance administrative duties, managerial duties, and workflow. Throughout all of this, I co-wrote a web serial with Taki called Gathering of Heroes series: Anhu and tried to find time for hobbies and relaxation. I supported quite a few artists (thanks to sleepyriceball‘s influence) and indie game developers, such as Zeiva Inc and roseVerte. I visited Shandong province, Henan province, Nanjing, and Beijing in September 2018.
Ultimately, I realized that my health is important and reducing stress is the key to improving my health. In 2019, I hope to continue to improve my health and continue growing as an individual.
- Exercise 3-4 times weekly (running, walking, hiking).
- Read regularly and complete Popsugar 2019 challenge. [50% on the 2018 challenge]
- Do 1 continuing education assignment every 2 weeks minimum.
- Write something this year.
Complete writing piece for Legacies Anthology (due in February 2019). Near completion, March 13, 2019 due [COMPLETE!]
- Complete travel journals for
Japan, Korea, and China (2018).
- Write a new story(?).
- Participate in Inktober 2019 or an art challenge. [canceled]
- Learn Mandarin Chinese.
Just a friendly announcement, the photos on this blog are not showing up due to Flickr’s change in policy. Beginning January 1st 2019, the free photo accounts will be limited to 1,000 photos. I plan on updating each of my posts to either remove the photos or reupload them to another photo site, such as Google photos.
Thank you for understanding if some photos do not show up any longer.
The happy crowd at the Museum of Ice Cream (2018)
Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) debuted in 2016 not as a traditional museum describing the history of ice cream but as a place to “inspire the world through imagination and connection.” Touted as being Instagram-worthy, many social media sites depict photos of joyous faces playing, laughing, and posing in glamourous clothes amidst life-sized gummy bears, unicorns, and cherries. According to the official website, each exhibition is meant to appeal to the five senses and allow one to indulge and connect to one another. From the signature sprinkle pool to the mysterious mint jungle, there are team members who set the stage and try to encourage one to be creative and “let loose.”
The entrance to the Museum of Ice Cream at the old bank building near Union Square, San Francisco (2018)
During my visit with a few geeky friends, we went to the special Pinkmas event (November 23, 2018 to January 6, 2019). We were greeted by a forest of pink and white Christmas trees and urged to take part in a Pinkmas carol (basically, an altered version of the traditional Christmas song). Afterwards, we were invited to explore, try the Cherrylicious ice cream, and take photos of the exhibits and props that were set up. Continue reading
I visited Japan with my family for about 7 days (September 29 to October 4, 2017 and October 14-15, 2017). Exploration of the following cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Himeji were self-planned and organized based on district (since the cities were too large to explore on our own).
Before we started our trip, we used Japan Guide and Japan Experience to plan out the attractions and order the Japan Rail Pass— a must-need for transportation in Japan. Also, it is recommended that you purchase a Pasmo Card, an IC card, for paying public train transportation fares. The IC card can be recharged at any subway or public train station in Japan. For navigation and convenience, I highly recommend the Pocket Wi-Fi so that you can have access to Google Maps to get to your destination.
Note: The hotels that are mentioned in this Japan travel log series are Western-style hotels with four twin beds.
View of the Tokyo Skytree from the hotel window
September 29, 2017 Tokyo Skytree (Oshiage), Asakusa and Ueno
- Tokyo Skytree (Oshiage district)
- Sensoji Temple (Asakusa district)
- Ueno Station
Tokyo Skytree at night
We took an overnight flight on September 28th to Hong Kong and then connected to a flight to Tokyo (東京). We arrived in the afternoon on September 29th at Tokyo Haneda airport. At the airport, we immediately went to pick up the Japan Rail passes and the pocket wi-fi that we rented. Afterwards we purchased the Pasmo card and loaded each card with 2,000 yen.
Tip: Make sure you have enough currency on hand to load the IC card. I guarantee that you will have to recharge the card often. Public transportation is a must when you travel Japan.
We took the train to our hotel, Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo, in the Sumida district of Tokyo and dropped off our luggage before exploring the area. It was about 4PM when we set out to look at our surroundings to get orientated. The Sumida district is regarded as a peaceful district with traditional bath houses, small shops, and high-rise apartments hide under the presence of the Tokyo Skytree. The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in Tokyo, rising to 634 meters, and often hosts special events as noted on the official website. Continue reading
I came back from a 3-week adventure in Shandong and Henan provinces; Nanjing, and Beijing. Then, I launched a web novel collaboration with Taki tentatively titled, Gathering of Heroes series: Anhu. Whew! It’s been busy but great things are in the works. Here’s a snippet of the story to tide you over:
The illusion of peace is shattered for the residents of Dong Ying on one fateful night, when the cogs of a near-forgotten legend begin to turn. Two young women whose paths were never meant to cross find their stories slowly begin to intertwine as they are challenged by assassins and demons in this new world. Can Zhang Huizhong, a noble with a stubborn streak, and Li Chunfeng, a bandit with a penchant for erupting, unravel this centuries old legend before it consumes the lives of their loved ones – and that of Weiguang Kingdom?
Check it out and let us know what you think! In the meantime, I am earnestly compiling my journals, including my 2017 trip to Japan and South Korea.
Gathering of Heroes Series: Anhu
During the week of March 31 to April 8, 2018, my family and I visited Toronto, Ontario. It was simply a homecoming for all of us. The primary reason for our visit was to celebrate my aunt’s 80th birthday and to gather with family and family friends. The majority of the time was spent in Markham and Richmond Hill; both cities are located in the suburbs and centers of the Chinese community in Toronto. Once again, we enjoyed the delicious Chinese food and noted changes since 2013 (our last visit).
For the remaining days that we spent in Toronto, we tried various types of Chinese cuisine.
Elegance Chinese Cuisine & Banquet 雅景豪苑
On my aunt’s actual birthday, together with our extended family, we went to this Chinese restaurant and tried their set meal, consisting of winter melon soup, mustard steak, Peking duck with thin pancake slices, lettuce and crispy rice wraps with a mixed duck meat and nut filling; soy sauce chicken, stir-fried vegetables with bean curb and goji berries; and eggplant with meat claypot.
The food came elaborately decorated, especially the winter melon soup. The taste was mediocre and the food was saltier than expected (especially the eggplant with meat claypot). We did feel that we were not given the entire Peking duck when they finished cutting the crispy skin from it, judging by the size of the dish that we were given. The best dishes were the winter melon soup and the mustard steak for its flavor. Overall, the food was average at best despite the ornate atmosphere of the restaurant.
Winter melon soup
Lettuce wraps, soy sauce chicken, and vegetables
Spicy eggplant claypot
Hong Kong-style cafes typically have a variety of dishes on their menus but the most prominent are the following:
- Congee (rice porridge) with different toppings, such as preserved vegetables, and meats (beef, chicken, fish)
- Chow mein
- Fried breadsticks
- Dim sum
- Soup noodles (e.g. won ton noodles)
- Barbecue foods (e.g. roast duck, roast pork, char siu)
We tried two places: Congee Queen and Congee Wong (which translates to Congee King).
This is a restaurant franchise that has multiple locations throughout the Toronto suburbs. It is a great place to go for every meal of the day, if you fancy something simple. My family and I have eaten at this restaurant a couple of times but at different locations. This time we ordered fried Singapore-style rice vermicelli, wonton noodle soup with shrimp dumplings, ride noodle breadsticks, roast pork rice, Chinese donuts, house special congee, and stir-fried snow pea leaves.
Fried rice, BBQ pork, and Wonton Noodle Soup
Stir-fried vegetables, congee and Chinese donut