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Chill-axing in Malaysia

Our trip to Kuala Lumpur

semi-overcast 31 °C

Located between 1 and 8 degrees latitude, Malaysia is about as close to the equator as you can get. The weather is constantly a balmy 33 degrees, with 80% + humidity, except at night when the temperature drops to a comfortable 25, after a rain shower and thunderstorm – every evening like clockwork!

View from the city centre - KL at night

View from the city centre - KL at night

The country is also known as one of the most megadiverse places on the planet – home to 20% of the world’s animals species including Indochinese Tiger and the clouded leopard.

We spent 4 nights in the Country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur (KL) – a city with a very diverse population totalling over 1.6 million. At the heart of the city centre are the famous Petronas Twin Towers. Once the world’s tallest building, at 451.9 m and 88 stories high, they still hold the record as the world’s tallest twin towers.

Jesse in front of the towers

Jesse in front of the towers

After spending a whirlwind week in Hong Kong visiting Jesse’s relatives and literally shopping till we dropped, we decided to kick back, relax and spend our 4 days in KL taking advantage of our amazing exchange rate and pampering ourselves at our 5-star hotel.

Living it up in KL!

Living it up in KL!

Perhaps one of the best decisions we made in KL was to join the “Traders’ club” at our hotel.

Jesse in the Trader's Club

Jesse in the Trader's Club

Basically for about $15 CDN a day, we got access to a special lounge on the 33rd floor that not only provided us with a spectacular view of the Petronas Towers but also included breakfast, refreshments, afternoon tea and coffee, an assortment of tasty snacks, cocktail hour between 5-7pm with an open bar and a “snack bar” which among many other things included sushi and dim sum (essentially dinner!)

Food at cocktail hour!

Food at cocktail hour!

Needless to say, we spent a lot of time up at that lounge!

We did however, manage to bring ourselves to leave the hotel and explore the City and surrounding area. Our first major excursion was to the Batu Cave.

Batu Cave

Located about a half an hour north of KL, the Batu Cave is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples. It is also one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India.

The Batu Caves

The Batu Caves

Jesse walking up the steps to the Batu Caves

Jesse walking up the steps to the Batu Caves

On the way up the 272 very steep steps to the top, we passed an enormous gold statue (the Murugan statue) and ran into a group of small monkeys.

Eating food

Eating food

Monkeys on the hike up to the caves

Monkeys on the hike up to the caves

Once at the top, we entered the vast caves, with high ceilings that opened up in the sky.

In the Batu Caves

In the Batu Caves

Sun peaking through Batu Caves

Sun peaking through Batu Caves

Inside the caves

Inside the caves

As we walked through, we saw locals worshipping and of course ran into more monkeys.

The monkeys

The monkeys

Yes – very cute, but get too close and these guys will show you their chompers!

Showing the choppers!

Showing the choppers!

China town and Central Market

No trip is ever complete without a visit to the local Market, and Malaysia was no different. On our second night, we headed out to explore the city.

Walking around the city at night

Walking around the city at night

We made the trip to central market - where there are hundreds of shopping stalls to browse through.

Shopping at Central Market

Shopping at Central Market

Then we headed to the famous night market in Chinatown (which has a fantastic selection of knock offs)

Heading to Chinatown

Heading to Chinatown

As one guy we talked to put it, these are genuine, imitations. One thing we’ve definitely learned about the markets in Asia, you have to go in mentally prepared for what you’re about to get yourself into.

Jesse in Chinatown

Jesse in Chinatown

The markets are busy, crowded and full of the most aggressive sales people you’ll ever come across. However, if you go in knowing what to expect and how to bargain it’s actually a pretty fun experience. Most importantly, any first offers you get should always be countered by an offer at least 75% off of the original offer!

Spa Day

For Valentine’s day, we decided we would pamper ourselves and book an appointment with the hotel spa. As Jesse had never been to a spa before, it was definitely an interesting experience. The package we selected was 2 hours and included a foot relaxation ritual, a herbal body scrub and our favourite part – a Hot Stone massage! By the end we were so relaxed, it was glorious!

Spa...ahhhh!

Spa...ahhhh!

The one thing we didn’t get to do was go up to the top of the Petronas towers. When we arrived at the towers on our second day, we were disappointed to learn that the tickets were all sold out for the entire week!

No tickets for all of the days we were in KL <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

No tickets for all of the days we were in KL :(

Disappointed that we can't go up the towers

Disappointed that we can't go up the towers

We did however visit the gift shop and exhibition centre downstairs where they had something called a Tesla Coil show!

Electricity show at the Towers

Electricity show at the Towers

During our stay we also made friends with two Aussies from Perth. On our last night we went up the hotel’s sky bar and shared a few drinks before packing our things and getting ready for our flight to Tokyo!

Ambiance at SkyBar

Ambiance at SkyBar

The view at SkyBar

The view at SkyBar

Malaysia was definitely a cool country to visit and we would definitely consider coming back. With so much more to explore, including some of the world’s best beaches, we have many reasons to come back!

Posted by jacqjesse 21:51 Archived in Malaysia Comments (3)

Konnichiwa Japan!

and hello to sushi, heated toilet seats and winter for 2 weeks!

overcast 8 °C

After leaving hot and humid Malaysia, we arrived in Japan – and good lord, it was freezing! OK... it was only about 8 degrees Celsius – but we were about to experience the only 2 weeks of winter we’d have on our travels and we weren’t used to it!

Before you start rolling your eyes – keep in mind that we didn’t pack any winter clothes since 95% of the time we’d be in warm weather! So whenever we’d head out in Japan, we would have to wear at least 2 or 3 layers of the clothes we did bring!

We spent one week in Japan checking out Tokyo!

Jesse in busy Shibuya

Jesse in busy Shibuya

TOYKO

One of the hotels we stayed at in Tokyo was near the Ginza district, which is famous for its shopping – both traditional Japanese shops and some of the world’s leading brand shops.

Jacq and Jesse in Ginza

Jacq and Jesse in Ginza

Jesse in his yukata's (Japanase PJ's) and on our semi-double bed (YUP pretty tiny!)

Jesse in his yukata's (Japanase PJ's) and on our semi-double bed (YUP pretty tiny!)

Ginza!

Ginza!

Ginza is also near the Tsukijii Fish Market, the world’s largest fish market

Tsukiji Fish Market!

Tsukiji Fish Market!

– which we visited a few times, checking out the fresh seafood, jandals (Japanese sandals), and of course eating the freshest sushi ever!

Fresh seafood anyone?

Fresh seafood anyone?

Jesse and Emi at the Tsukijii Fish Market

Jesse and Emi at the Tsukijii Fish Market

Jandals!

Jandals!

There are dozens of restaurants and food stalls – so if you are unsure of where to eat, just check out the people that eat there. Look for those wearing rubber boots – these are the people that actually work at the fish market and as we’ve learned on our travels, the locals always know best!

A few days later, Jesse’s Grandpa (Ogeechan) took us for a behind-the-scenes tour of the fish market.

Touring Tokyo with Ogeechan

Touring Tokyo with Ogeechan

Ogeechan giving us a special tour of the Tsukijii Fish Market

Ogeechan giving us a special tour of the Tsukijii Fish Market

Tourists aren’t typically encouraged to do this, as it can be quite chaotic with the moving trucks and boxes of seafood being moved around the one million different stalls in the fish market. But given that Ogeechan used to work at the fish market, he wanted to take us around there – and no one questioned him about it!

Ogeechan turns 90 years old this year but still travels around Tokyo by foot and by bicycle every day!

Ogeechan!

Ogeechan!

At one point in the fish market, a shop owner that Ogeechan knew tried to sell him some O-toro Tuna – the most prized cut of tuna, for about $72 Canadian! A pretty good deal – but considering we were going to be spending the day sightseeing in Tokyo, it wasn’t a good idea to bring a huge piece of raw tuna with us!

Trying to sell Tuna!

Trying to sell Tuna!

Tuna for sale!

Tuna for sale!

We then headed to the Hama-rikyu gardens, a scenic park and special historic site in the middle of Tokyo. We walked around and checked out all of the different trees, plants and buildings there.

Blooming plum tree

Blooming plum tree

This is also where we boarded the water bus, a ferry service touring you through Tokyo via river and under the many bridges!

Jesse and Ogeechan on the waterbus

Jesse and Ogeechan on the waterbus

Viewing Tokyo via the waterbus

Viewing Tokyo via the waterbus

At the last stop, we could see the Tokyo Sky Tree, soon to be completed, the Tokyo Sky Tree will be the tallest tower in the world at 634 meters.

The Tokyo Sky Tree

The Tokyo Sky Tree

(Side note – the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai will still be taller, but it’s classified as a “man made structure”. The Tokyo sky tree will be the tallest TOWER – so yes, it’s just a matter of definition...)

We also took pictures of the Asahi Beer Hall – which looks like a giant foaming beer!

The Asahi Beer Hall

The Asahi Beer Hall

You may be wondering, like us, what the heck the swiggly looking gold structure is beside the beer shaped building. Well, after some research, we found out that it is the Asahi Flame, and is said to represent the 'burning heart of Asahi beer' and a frothy head. Apparently many Tokyo residents refer to it as "the golden turd"! You heard it here first folks...

After getting off the water bus, we were in Asakusa, another popular area of Tokyo to visit. It is home of the Sensoji Temple, which is visited by over 30 million worshippers ever year.

Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple

Jacq at Sensoji Temple

Jacq at Sensoji Temple

It also has many shops, restaurants and sweet shops – Walking around the shops in Asakura

Walking around the shops in Asakura

we stopped at one sweet shop and tried manju – which is a japanese sweet, made from flour and rice powder and has a filling – then is fried. It was delish! Jacq had ‘matcha’ flavour (green tea flavour) and Jesse had ‘goma’ (sesame) and Ogeechan had ‘kabocha’ (pumpkin).

Matcha manju

Matcha manju

Jesse eating his manju

Jesse eating his manju

Another area we visited in Toyko, was Akihabara, which is known as the electronic district in Tokyo. Here we shopped at Yodobashi Camera, one of Japan’s most popular electronics stores – with over 8 floors of electronics and other random gadgets.

Akihabara - the electronics district!

Akihabara - the electronics district!

Most noteably, they carry the largest selection of the newest cameras on the market and of course we couldn’t resist so we we both bought new cameras! Jacq bought a Canon IXY 30S and Jesse bought a Fujifilm Instax mini (Fuji Film’s equivalent of a mini Polaroid camera).... and we both haven’t stopped talking pictures!

Jesse’s mom liked Jacq’s camera so much she also bought the same one! The store also had neat accessories; including a tiny mirror that you place on your camera, so that if you are taking a self shot (think your arm out, trying to squish everyone’s face in the frame!!) – so now you can make sure everyone is in the shot without guessing! OF COURSE, only in Japan!

One of our favourite experiences was heading out to Kamakura, which is just south of Tokyo past Yokohama. Jesse’s mom and his Aunt, Pico-chan were amazing tour guides!

Kamakura is a small and relaxed town, home to 65 temples and 19 shrines, some of which date back centuries.

Jacq in Kamakura

Jacq in Kamakura

Jesse hanging out in Kamakura

Jesse hanging out in Kamakura

We first went to the Hokokuji temple, known commonly as the bamboo temple, as you have to walk through a beautiful bamboo forest before getting to the temple.

Jesse heading into the bamboo temple

Jesse heading into the bamboo temple

Walking in the bamboo forest

Walking in the bamboo forest

View in the Bamboo forest

View in the Bamboo forest

It was breath taking! When we arrived, we participated in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Matcha and sweets for the Japanese Green Tea ceremony

Matcha and sweets for the Japanese Green Tea ceremony

Jacq drinking her matcha (green tea) in the Japanese tea ceremony

Jacq drinking her matcha (green tea) in the Japanese tea ceremony

Pico-chan, Jacq and Jesse after the Japanese tea ceremony

Pico-chan, Jacq and Jesse after the Japanese tea ceremony

Shopping....

Shopping in Tokyo!

Shopping in Tokyo!

Shopping in Japan, although not as affordable as Hong Kong, is an attraction all on its own. There are so many shopping districts including Ginza, Shinjiku, Shibuya, and Harajuku, and each has its own unique characteristics.

Take Harajuku for example, one of the fashion capitals of the world, it is renowned for its unique street fashion and is one of the largest shopping districts for young people in Japan.

Harajuku street

Harajuku street

Harajuku outfit!

Harajuku outfit!

Shibuya, just one station from Harajuku also has some of the latest and craziest fashion trends from young people. One of the most popular shopping centres in Japan for young girls known as 109 (Ichi-maru-kyū).

109 Shopping centre

109 Shopping centre

It is a 9 floors complex filled with stores for young girls that is designed in such a way that you actually have to circle each level before making it up the escalator to the next floor. Every floor was packed, each store was pumping out next level beats and girls were dressed in the craziest outfits - you would sooner think you were in one of Tokyo’s newest nightclubs. By the time we reached the very top – we were ready to take the stairs to avoid the insanely busy escalators back down.

Food.....

We could write an entire blog entry about food alone! Instead we’ll let you drool over these pictures of some of the food we tried in Tokyo!

Sushi!

Sushi!

RAMEN NOODLES!!

RAMEN NOODLES!!

Shabu Shabu

Shabu Shabu

WHY WE LOVE JAPAN!

After all of the eating, the shopping, and seeing sights such as Tokyo's temples and shrines - there are certain things about Japan that make it so unique and special.

Japan is ahead of the times! From heated toilet seats (which also play music or flushing noises) - to taxi cab doors which open and close when the driver presses of a button - to sushi you can order via touch screen!

Touch screen sushi!

Touch screen sushi!

We also couldn't leave Tokyo without visiting the Hachiko statue at Shibuya station. If you aren't sure who Hachiko is, do yourself a big favour and rent the movie! OR - read this (spoiler alert if you plan to watch the movie)! This is the type of dog that we would like to get - if we can get them in Canada!!

Hachiko!

Hachiko!

We had to check out Pachinko - a gambling machine only found in Japan.

Pachinko!

Pachinko!

While a pachinko machine closely resembles pinball machine - it is also much different! It has no flippers and uses a large number of small balls. While at the time, we had little idea what was going on (these things are SERIOUSLY loud!) we learned that the object of the game is to fire the ball up into the machine, controlling only its initial speed knob. The ball then cascades down through a dense forest of pins - where most of the time, the ball falls to the bottom and is lost, but if it goes into special pockets, more balls are released as a jackpot. Each ball is about 4 cents - so you want to win as many balls as possible!

Playing pachinko!

Playing pachinko!

Next up – our “rail” trip to Nara, Kyoto and Kobe!

Posted by jacqjesse 02:36 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

Road Trip!

Our journey to Nara, Kyoto, and Kobe

overcast 12 °C

After spending almost a week in Tokyo, Jacq, Jesse and Jesse’s mom decided to use their one week JR (Japan Rail) passes and hop on the Shinkansen (the bullet train) to head south and visit Nara, Kyoto and Kobe.

Waiting for our train!

Waiting for our train!

Train arriving in the station!

Train arriving in the station!

We left from Tokyo station in the morning and got on board one of the bullet trains called Hikari (which literally translates to “light” in Japanese). Once on board we hardly noticed as the train smoothly accelerated us to a top speed of 285 km/h.

View on the train

View on the train

Within 2 and half hours we had travelled approximately 500 km to Kyoto station, a trip that by car would easily take well over 6 and half hours!

View of Mt Fuji on the way to Kyoto

View of Mt Fuji on the way to Kyoto

Once in Kyoto, we decided to grab lunch at one of the many restaurants housed in the most architecturally impressive station we’ve ever been to. The JR Kyoto Station Building (aside from being an actual train station) also includes a luxury hotel, an 11 floor department store, museum, musical theater, and a vast underground shopping mall.

The Kyoto JR Station

The Kyoto JR Station

We couldn’t wait until we would be returning to this station to fully explore it and the amazing city of Kyoto, but for now we made our way up to the 11th floor and grabbed some lunch - ramen noodles and chicken karage. Placing our order was definitely unlike anything we’d ever done before – using what looked like a vending machine, we made our selections and then got in line for a table.

Vending Machine used to order lunch

Vending Machine used to order lunch

Once seated, our meals were timed perfectly to arrive minutes after we’d sat down. Afterwards, we decided to grab a coffee and stumbled upon a place called the Kobe Coffee Club, where they can make you a cappuccino with almost any kind of design on it!

Latte Art!

Latte Art!

NARA

After lunch and coffee, we were finally off to Nara, just a short 30 mins from Kyoto station. This small city of about 370,000 people, was once the Capital City of Japan from the year 710 to 784. Today, 1300 years later, many temples, shrines and ruins still stand and together with the Kasugayama Primeval Forest they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site collectively known as "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara".

Walking along the streets in Nara

Walking along the streets in Nara

We arrived in Nara in the evening and made our way to the hotel, which didn’t take very long as it was directly connected to the Nara JR station. Once we checked in the first thing we did was head downstairs to the Onsen (Japanese Bath and Hot Tubs)! This was Jacqueline’s first time to a Japanese onsen, but she quickly fell in love with them! Conveniently the onsen is open from 5:30 pm until 7 am the next morning so you can go almost anytime you like!

The next morning, we woke up and set out to explore the city.

Jesse and his mom in front of a pond in Nara

Jesse and his mom in front of a pond in Nara

Walking around shrines in Nara

Walking around shrines in Nara

We visited many ancient shrines and temples including the famous Tōdai-ji temple which houses a giant Buddha inside.

Tōdai-ji temple

Tōdai-ji temple

Big Buddah inside the Tōdai-ji temple

Big Buddah inside the Tōdai-ji temple

High five Buddah!

High five Buddah!

During our walk through the temples we came across the famous Nara Deer.

Watch for Deer!

Watch for Deer!

Deer hanging out on a spring day

Deer hanging out on a spring day

These guys make their way down from the mountains when the weather is nice – fully aware that people will be there to feed them.

Petting a deer

Petting a deer

Needless to say these are the friendliest deer you’ll ever come across and if you’re holding the special rice crackers used to feed them – they will follow you wherever you go!

Deer hanging out at the rice cracker stand, ready to eat!

Deer hanging out at the rice cracker stand, ready to eat!

I'm out of rice crackers, I swear!!

I'm out of rice crackers, I swear!!

They are also the only deer in the world that will actually bow to you!

Mmm chain link fence

Mmm chain link fence

Besides the ancient temples and shrines, the city is full of small streets rich with history and culture and full of things to see and explore.

Japanese Pagaoda

Japanese Pagaoda

Jesse and his mom ready to go into the Tōdai-ji temple

Jesse and his mom ready to go into the Tōdai-ji temple

Among them we stumbled upon an ancient house constructed during the Edo period. During this time, houses were taxed based on the amount of space the front of the house took up. As a result, many houses built during this period appear small in the front but actually extend far back. Typical to the architecture of the time this house includes drawers underneath the staircase to maximize space and an enclosed zen garden.

Jesse and his mom sitting around the heat in a Japanese style house

Jesse and his mom sitting around the heat in a Japanese style house

At the Zen garden

At the Zen garden

We also came across a unique tea shop, which still used a tea grinder from the 1940’s. The entire shop smelled amazing – and we ended up going back twice to get tea from there!

Of course we couldn’t leave Nara without trying some of their food and sweets. One of our favourites was a cute tea shop where we tried their matcha cake and apple pie – delish!

Tea time in Nara

Tea time in Nara

KYOTO

We arrived at the beautiful Kyoto station once more and made our way to our hotel – which was conveniently located in the station! We stayed at the Hotel Granvia Kyoto, a beautiful and ordinarily very expensive hotel, but we were able to get a great deal with our JR passes!
Of course, we spent that entire day checking out all of the shopping around the station – from dessert and cookie shops, to clothing stores, to stationary – it’s all conveniently located within steps from our hotel (perhaps too conveniently!!)

For dinner that evening, we decided to get some take out for dinner. Head to a restaurant? Don’t need too – on the bottom level of every department store in Japan is a grocery store/food market, where you can find all kinds of delicious things to eat. Sushi it was and we brought it back up to our rooms!

The next day, we met Jesse’s cousin Aina and her husband Naogi - who took the day off to spend the day with us and show us around Kyoto! We first headed to a tofu restaurant located on the banks of the Kamo (Duck) river.

Waterway in Kyoto

Waterway in Kyoto

The restaurant was a typical Japanese style house, which was converted into a restaurant. We had lunch upstairs, in a room overlooking the river and of course sat on cushions for the meal! Given it was a tofu restaurant, almost everything was made out of tofu – including the tofu ice cream we had for dessert!

Lunch at the Tofu Restaurant on Komu River

Lunch at the Tofu Restaurant on Komu River

Next we headed to the Kiyomizu Temple. On our way, we strolled through a typical Kyoto street, checked out a few of the shops and tried Japanese cream puffs.

Walking through the old streets of Kyoto

Walking through the old streets of Kyoto

Japanese cabages

Japanese cabages

A store where you can pay to dress up like a Geisha

A store where you can pay to dress up like a Geisha

Once we arrived, we passed through the enormous red gates to the temple, where it contained some beautifully lit lanterns.

The gates to the Kiyomizu temple

The gates to the Kiyomizu temple

Lantern at Kiyomizu Temple

Lantern at Kiyomizu Temple

Jesse, Emi, Aina and Naogi at Kiyomizu

Jesse, Emi, Aina and Naogi at Kiyomizu

We also checked out this famous fountain at the Kiyomizu Temple, where it is said that it is a golden holy water, and if you drink the water you’ll have a longer life.

The Kiyomizu Temple

The Kiyomizu Temple

Holy water at the Kiyomizu Temple

Holy water at the Kiyomizu Temple

After all of the walking and shopping we were famished – so we were on a hunt to find ramen for dinner!

Kyoto at night

Kyoto at night

The Komu river at night

The Komu river at night

Unfortunately, the restaurant we had in mind was closed that day, but we didn’t realize it until we got there! On our mission to find a different ramen shop, we bumped into a real live Geisha and asked if we could take her picture! She agreed – only because she was crossing the street and had to wait for the light.

Real Japanese Geisha

Real Japanese Geisha

Amazing – we saw a real Maiko ( A young Geisha in training) in Kyoto!

The next morning we made our way to the famous Golden Temple, which is literally a temple that is painted with real gold!

Jacq and Emi at the entrance of the Golden Temple

Jacq and Emi at the entrance of the Golden Temple

The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple

On our route to our next temple, we stopped in at a Japanese wood block art gallery – where Jesse was able to actually do an art print!

Jesse at the Japanese Wood Block Art Gallery

Jesse at the Japanese Wood Block Art Gallery

We also stopped at the Ryoanji Temple, which is famous for the rock garden. This zen garden consists of only 15 rocks and white gravel. The longer you stare at the rock garden, the more your mind will come up with ideas on what it signifies. It was a very interesting experience and very peaceful.

Rock Garden

Rock Garden

That afternoon, we headed to a food market in Kyoto.

Jacq and Emi in the food market

Jacq and Emi in the food market

This place was amazing – from sauces, to fresh seafood (including these weird looking octopuses) to pickled Japanese vegetables.

Octopus at the food market... a quail egg is inside the head

Octopus at the food market... a quail egg is inside the head

Japanese Lanterns

Japanese Lanterns

The next day we headed to Kobe, but we couldn’t resist buying Bento Box lunches from Kyoto station for our lunch!

Bento Box lunch on the train

Bento Box lunch on the train

KOBE

The final stop on our Japan rail trip was Kobe - a port city which, much like Vancouver, is surrounded by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.

Waiting in the Kobe JR station

Waiting in the Kobe JR station

After arriving at our hotel, we set out to explore the downtown including Chinatown and a 1.5 km long shopping arcade!

Jesse in front of Chinatown in Kobe

Jesse in front of Chinatown in Kobe

While doing so, we also managed to stumble upon some awesome bakeries. Kobe is famous for many of their pastry shops including Japanese roll cakes which are made of a light fluffy cake and have a spiral of icing in the centre. Here’s a picture to give you a better idea.

Mmm roll cake!

Mmm roll cake!

After spending a couple hours walking around we began to work up an appetite and Jesse had already come up with a plan for dinner – we would trying Kobe beef!

Kobe at night

Kobe at night

Thanks to an awesome foodie magazine, Jesse’s mom purchased in Kyoto, we had an opportunity to scout out what looked like a good restaurant. To our surprise, the restaurant turned out to be even cooler than we had expected. The place was located on the 9th floor over-looking the city and it was actually Tepanyaki style - which means they cook all the food right in front of you over a large grill and they also do a bit of a show at the same time.

At the Tepanyaki restaurant

At the Tepanyaki restaurant

The Kobe steak dinner which includes a 10 oz Kobe steak, soup, appetizers, and dessert starts at approx $150 CDN. Although it was the most expensive steak Jesse’s ever ordered, he claims it is the best steak he’s ever had.

Japanese beef on the left, Kobe beef on the left - almost ready for the grill!

Japanese beef on the left, Kobe beef on the left - almost ready for the grill!

Meanwhile, Jacq and Jesse’s mom less-expensive, Japanese beef steak dinners, were also incredible and we all enjoyed the show they put on which included lighting our steaks on fire and flipping things into their chef hats.

HOT kobe beef!

HOT kobe beef!

Jesse loving Kobe Beef!

Jesse loving Kobe Beef!

Sitting right besides us were 4 girls out celebrating one of their friend’s birthdays. The playful chefs decided to give them some fun costumes to put on while the birthday girl blew out the candles on her cake!

Japanese girls at the Tepanyaki restaurant, celebrating a birthday!

Japanese girls at the Tepanyaki restaurant, celebrating a birthday!

By the end of the dinner we were stuffed and so we decided to try and walk some of the food by walking back to our hotel. On the way back, we passed by the Kobe tower which was illuminated and the beautiful view across the harbour!

The Kobe Tower

The Kobe Tower

Our hotel in Kobe

Our hotel in Kobe

Skyline of Kobe at nigth

Skyline of Kobe at nigth

The next morning, before heading back to Tokyo we spent the morning at the harbourfront which is called Mosaic – full of more shopping and food stores.

Jesse on the patio at our hotel in Kobe

Jesse on the patio at our hotel in Kobe

Jacq and Emi, sunny day in Kobe!

Jacq and Emi, sunny day in Kobe!

Jesse shopping at Mosaic

Jesse shopping at Mosaic

Here we picked up a few last items including matcha latte mix, 20 layer cake and stopped back at a pastry shop to have the famous roll cake!

Overall our trip to Japan was amazing! We had such an incredible time travelling and learning about the history and culture of some Japan’s oldest cities and visiting with Jesse’s family. We also thoroughly enjoyed the shopping and eating (which we did plenty of)!

With so many cities and islands to explore, we are already discussing plans for a return trip back including a ski trip to Hokkaido, but will have to save more money first!

Posted by jacqjesse 17:12 Archived in Japan Comments (4)

Hanging out in Hawaii

How we spent 6 weeks in the Hawaiian Islands!

sunny 29 °C

OK... so we’ve been slacking with writing the blog, we know! But we were busy having a great time in Hawaii – can you blame us?!

So what exactly did we do for the 6 weeks in Hawaii? WHAT DIDN’T WE DO?

On the island of Maui, with the Pacific Ocean in our backyard, we spent many of our days:

Kayaking

Bringing the kayak home from costco! It also happened to rain that day....

Bringing the kayak home from costco! It also happened to rain that day....

Kayak in the backyard

Kayak in the backyard

Jessse kayaking

Jessse kayaking

Jacq kayaking

Jacq kayaking

Turtle by our kayak

Turtle by our kayak

Stand Up Paddleboarding

(tons of fun and a bit harder than it looks!)

Jesse paddleboarding

Jesse paddleboarding

Snorkelling and hanging out at the beach

Our favourite beach to snorkel at

Our favourite beach to snorkel at

Searching for turtles in the backyard

Searching for turtles

Searching for turtles

Jacq searching for turtles

Jacq searching for turtles

Turtles in the backyard!

Turtles in the backyard!

Hiking

The west Maui mountains

The west Maui mountains

Jacq hiking

Jacq hiking

Jesse hiking

Jesse hiking

Hiking in the Iao Valley

Hiking in the Iao Valley

Going to Luau’s

– a traditional Hawaiian dinner and dance

Jesse enjoying the luau

Jesse enjoying the luau

The gang at the luau

The gang at the luau

Where the pig is cooking in the ground

Where the pig is cooking in the ground

Desserts at the luau

Desserts at the luau

Jacq at the luau

Jacq at the luau

The boys posing with the Hula girls

The boys posing with the Hula girls

Shopping and cruising the streets of Lahaina

Cruising in the convertible

Cruising in the convertible

Cruising down Front Street, Lahaina

Cruising down Front Street, Lahaina

Checked out a nearby Japanese pagoda and Buddha

Japanese Pagoda and Buddha

Japanese Pagoda and Buddha

Pagoda

Pagoda

Buddha

Buddha

Whale watching

Humpback whales

Humpback whales

Whale watching

Whale watching

Jacq on the whale watching

Jacq on the whale watching

Went on a submarine ride

The urge to submerge!

The urge to submerge!

school of fish as seen through the submarine windows

school of fish as seen through the submarine windows

In the submarine

In the submarine

View of a sunken ship in the sub

View of a sunken ship in the sub

Golfing

Ka'anapali Golf Course

Ka'anapali Golf Course

GPS golf cart

GPS golf cart

Golfing at Ka'anapali

Golfing at Ka'anapali

The sugarcane train going through the golfcourse

The sugarcane train going through the golfcourse

Jesse golfing

Jesse golfing

Jacq teeing off

Jacq teeing off

Checking out Maui Ocean Aquarium

Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa fish

Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa fish

HUGE pufferfish aka Puff Daddy

HUGE pufferfish aka Puff Daddy

Jellies

Jellies

Hammerheads

Hammerheads

Toured a tropical plantation

The plantation

The plantation

Mangoes

Mangoes

Bananas

Bananas

5 year old coconut

5 year old coconut

Tiny pineapples

Tiny pineapples

View of the maui mountains

View of the maui mountains

Check out our next posting for the highlights of the trip to Hawaii!

Posted by jacqjesse 12:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Highlights of Hawaii

Our favourites stories and adventures of Hawaii

sunny 29 °C

We also have to share some of our favourite highlights from Hawaii:

Avoiding the Tsunami on March 11

We spent the evening of March 10 on a lovely sunset dinner cruise.

Jacq and Jesse on the dinner cruise

Jacq and Jesse on the dinner cruise

view of the sunset from the dinner

view of the sunset from the dinner

The sunset was beautiful and we had a great time aboard the boat as it cruised around Maui. After the cruise, we drove through the streets of Lahaina with the roof down on the convertible, rocking out to some tunes on the radio.

Suddenly the music was interrupted by a service announcement which told us that there had been a massive earthquake in Japan and there was a Tsunami warning for the Hawaiian Islands, expected to hit at 3 am! The mood of the evening quickly changed, as we got home and turned on the news and went online to find out what was happening. Soon after Jesse called his parents, to make sure they knew what was happening and to start making calls to his relatives back home in Japan, who are all living around the Tokyo area.

The house we were staying in backed right onto the ocean, so there was no question that we needed to evacuate.

Fortunately we had several hours before the tsunami was expected to arrive so we made sure to fill up with gas (the line ups were crazy) and everyone packed up a few important personal items. We took some water, fruit and granola bars and headed to Wailea, which is another town on the south-western coast of Maui, higher up from the ocean. Friends of the family, Kevin and Angela were with us at the time, and Kevin’s parents had a condo in Wailea, so we spent the night there. We eagerly watched the news until about 1 am and then woke up again around 3 am to find out what was happening.

Thankfully, the waves in Lahaina were only about 7 ft high so most of the damage was to the harbour. Damage was minimal to other areas of the islands as well. We headed home as soon as the roads re-opened that morning. We expected to find the kayak in our backyard gone and washed away at sea – but somehow it still managed to stay!

the kayaks are safe!

the kayaks are safe!

Water did hit the entire backyard, but did not make it to the house. Besides soaking the grass and the plants, no damage was done to our property. The only odd thing was that the ocean would either be really low (the lowest we’ve ever seen it) or really high (the highest we’ve ever seen it, with water hitting the stone wall and splashing up with great force) – and it would change from one state to the other in a matter of a few minutes. Good thing the guys got out of there quickly!

Really low tide after the tsunami

Really low tide after the tsunami

Really high tide after the tsunami

Really high tide after the tsunami

hight tide quickly coming in

hight tide quickly coming in

Survived the tsnumami t-shirt

Survived the tsnumami t-shirt

Thankfully we soon heard from all of Jesse’s relatives, who were safe, but did feel the massive earthquake and who still continue to feel aftershocks. There are 150 miles away from the nuclear reactors – which is a good distance away, but we still hope that they are able to rectify that situation as soon as possible.

Helicopter tour over Maui and Molokai

One afternoon, we decided to check out Maui from another angle – the air! We headed up in a 7 person helicopter with Aunty Laura and Jim (Jacq’s Dad).

The Helicopter Gang

The Helicopter Gang

The views were breathtaking!

We checked out the coastline of Maui

Maui beach

Maui beach

Maui north coastline

Maui north coastline

Blowhole

Blowhole

Then headed over the ocean to Molokai, another nearby island, which have the steepest sea cliffs in the world!

Molokai coastline

Molokai coastline

Steep sea cliffs on Molokai

Steep sea cliffs on Molokai

Along with flying through the clouds we also saw some waterfalls as well.

Flying through the clouds

Flying through the clouds

Waterfalls on Molokai

Waterfalls on Molokai

We also checked out the island of Lanai before heading back to Maui.

Inside the chopper

Inside the chopper

Flying over Maui

Flying over Maui

Trip to Honolulu, Oahu

We took a short flight aboard Hawaiian airlines – less than 30 minutes! Along the way there, we had a beautiful view flying over the islands while we drank our complimentary “POG.”

POG on the plane

POG on the plane

View from the plane

View from the plane

In Honolulu, we stayed at the Ala Moana Hotel, which is steps away from the Ala Moana Shopping Centre, the worlds’ largest open mall. As you’d expect – we did a bit of shopping there!

Taking a coffee break from shopping

Taking a coffee break from shopping

As well as checking out Waikiki Beach...

The famous Waikiki Beach

The famous Waikiki Beach

Jacq at Waikiki

Jacq at Waikiki

Relaxing on the beach

Relaxing on the beach

We also took the scenic hike up to Diamond Head, which is a large crater that was used as a Military Base.

View of Diamond Head

View of Diamond Head

It’s a steep hike that takes about 2 hours round trip – and we found out that about 100 people a year don’t make it due to dehydration or exhaustion, in which case, they need to be rescued by helicopter.

Steep climb at Diamond Head

Steep climb at Diamond Head

But we made it up and saw the beautiful views of Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu.

Jacq hiking up Diamond Head

Jacq hiking up Diamond Head

Jesse at the top

Jesse at the top

View of Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu

View of Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu

We also spent one day checking out Pearl Harbour, which was a humbling experience.

Jesse walking around Pearl Harbor

Jesse walking around Pearl Harbor

Crossroads at Pearl Harbor

Crossroads at Pearl Harbor

Missles at Pearl Harbor

Missles at Pearl Harbor

After touring the facilities, we caught a boat over to see the Arizona Memorial. Built over the sunken battleship, the USS Arizona, it pays respect to the 900 men who are entombed within the sunken ship.

The Memorial

The Memorial

Remanents from the ship

Remanents from the ship

Inside the memorial

Inside the memorial

To this day, over 60 years later, the boat continues to drip oil into the harbour, which Hawaiian’s believe to symbolize teardrops coming from the ship.

Oil drops from the ship

Oil drops from the ship

In Honolulu, we also checked out some delicious restaurants, including California Pizza Kitchen, and we couldn’t miss hitting up Zippy’s – one of Hawaii’s oldest restaurant chains, to grab a zip pac.

California Pizza Kitchen

California Pizza Kitchen

Dessert ... mmm

Dessert ... mmm

Zippy's

Zippy's

Jesse enjoying his Zippack

Jesse enjoying his Zippack

After our trip to Honolulu, we headed back to the island of Maui.

Deep sea fishing

In Maui, we had the opportunity to do some deep sea fishing. You may recall when we were back in Fiji, that WOMEN were not allowed to go fishing... well in Hawaii, women’s fishing rights made leaps and bounds!! Jacq was invited on the fishing trip along with 5 of the guys! Mark this day down in history!!

Fishing girl

Fishing girl

The fishing boys

The fishing boys

Deep Sea Fishing

Deep Sea Fishing

The lures

The lures

Aboard the fishing boat, everyone was excited to start catching some large fish! Blue Marlin was the ultimate goal, but we’d be happy with Ono, Yellowfin Tuna or any other type of Marlin!

Heading up to the second deck

Heading up to the second deck

We soon learned that fishing was a lot about waiting, and for some of us.... NAPPING.

Starting the trend

Starting the trend

Following suit...

Following suit...

What does it take to “start” these guys up?!

After a few hours, when we began feeling like we should just about give up, we got a bite on the line! Jim gets ready in the chair and starts reeling in our big catch!

Jim in the action seat

Jim in the action seat

Jim reeling in a big one!

Jim reeling in a big one!

The captain and his skip aren’t sure what kind of fish it may be – is it behaving like an Ono? OH NO... it’s not behaving like a fish at all! Jim’s fighting it and finally reels it in to find.....

Big catch!

Big catch!

A BIG BLUE FISHING NET!

Catch of the day!

Catch of the day!


Not really the catch we were hoping for, but it sure was exciting!

Now ladies, if you’re curious about what goes on in a fishing trip, here’s what you’ll learn:
-most of the time you are either sleeping or snacking
- more “fishing” goes on in the cooler... that’s right “fishing” for beer

I’ve come to the conclusion that fishing is similar to Sunday night football – where the guys are just watching the game, drinking beer, snacking and taking the occasional nap!! Are we surprised?!!

Joking aside – thanks Pops for inviting me on the trip!

==Heading up to the dormant volcano Haleakala==

On the island of Maui, the highest elevation on the island belongs to the dormant volcano, Haleakala. It is 10,300 ft above sea level and it takes about an hour and a half to drive up to the summit. Many people come to check it out at sunrise, driving up the winding road very early in the morning in the dark. We decided that it would be fun to check it out at sunset as well as sunrise, and camp out overnight half way down.

The road up was an amazing drive! We drove away from the beach and hot and humid weather, to soon feel a cooler climate, with lush vegetation. As we climbed higher in altitude, we begin driving through thick fog and a beautiful eucalyptus forests which smelled delicious!

Scenic drive to Haleakala

Scenic drive to Haleakala

Driving through a foggy patch

Driving through a foggy patch

Foggy forest

Foggy forest

Once inside the park, we headed towards Homner Grove, our campsite for the evening.

The campground

The campground

We set up camp, in our $40 K-Mart tent, which worked like a charm! Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Setting our beds upon lounge cushions, we were soon ready to head up to the summit in order to check out sunset.

Along the way, we saw some Nene birds, Hawaii’s state bird, including a mother and her baby chicks crossing the road!

Nene Crossing

Nene Crossing

Nene chicks crossing the road

Nene chicks crossing the road

Part way up, there were some scenic viewpoints to check out. This also was a good time for us to put some more clothes on! The temperature would drop about 5 degrees F for each 100 ft you would drive up!

Putting extra clothes on

Putting extra clothes on

Driving up the summit

Driving up the summit

After driving up a few more hundred feet, we were soon at the summit, taking in the beautiful view of the crater and peak of Mt. Haleakala.

Jesse at the summit

Jesse at the summit

The Crater

The Crater

It felt as if you were in an airplane, as you were high above the clouds.

Jesse before sunset

Jesse before sunset

There was also interesting plants up there – some which grow nowhere else in the world.

Plants at the summit

Plants at the summit

Silver flower plant

Silver flower plant

The car thermometer said it was about 50 degrees F (10 degrees C), but the wind made it even colder! We huddled up in our beach chairs to watch the sunset!

Jesse in the beach chairs waiting for sunset

Jesse in the beach chairs waiting for sunset

Jacq and Jesse trying to keep warm!

Jacq and Jesse trying to keep warm!

Sun starting to set

Sun starting to set

Sunset on the clouds

Sunset on the clouds

After sunset, we headed down to our campsite. For dinner, we had a fancy dinner consisting of hot dogs and instant noodle soup! Of course, we had to make s’mores before calling it a night! Since the temperature was still chilly here, we wore three pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, and sweatshirts – as well as heating some waterbottles to put in our blankets! It worked and we were nice and toasty warm the entire night!

The alarm woke us up at 5 am and soon we were up and in the car – travelling the same winding road the day before, except this time in the dark!

When we arrived to the top, the scene was very different than the day before. It was PACKED with people!

Crowds waiting for the sunrise

Crowds waiting for the sunrise

We found a spot to stand and along with about an hundred others, waited for the sun to rise.

Waiting for the sun to come up

Waiting for the sun to come up

Sunrise over Haleakala

Sunrise over Haleakala

It was beautiful! At one point, a cloud was pouring into the crater, making it look like a waterfall.

Clouds entering the crater like a waterfall

Clouds entering the crater like a waterfall

The sky became brighter as time went on – at some points there were pink clouds in the sky.

Pink clouds sunrise

Pink clouds sunrise

When the sun finally rose, looking behind us, you could see the shadow of the peak. It was unbelievable!

Shadow of Mt Haleakala

Shadow of Mt Haleakala

==Taking the ferry over to Lanai’i==

One morning we decided to take the Ferry over to Lanai, to check out another one of Hawaii’s island.

On the Lanai Ferry

On the Lanai Ferry

We were told by some locals that it has one of the nicest naturally made beaches there, with great snorkelling – so decided to spend the day at the beach!

It was a scenic 45 minute ride over to Lanai.

Heading to Lanai

Heading to Lanai

View of Lanai from the ferry

View of Lanai from the ferry

Once we arrived we headed to the beach, which was amazing!

The Beach at Lanai

The Beach at Lanai

Before we know it, there are spinner dolphins swimming in the bay near the beach.

Spinner dolphins

Spinner dolphins

Dolphins near the beach

Dolphins near the beach

We took a few pictures before heading into the water. Unfortunately we were too slow and the dolphins were gone before we could swim out to them!

We had an amazing time in Hawaii – and will be back again for sure, hopefully sooner than later! It was a perfect place to have as our last stop in our travel adventures.

Corona commercial!

Corona commercial!

Thanks to our readers for taking the time to read about our travels over the past several months. Our advice to anyone who is thinking about travelling.... DO IT! It was an amazing experience – one that we’ll never forget.

Posted by jacqjesse 12:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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