Photos from Japan (mainland)

27 04 2013

Lands of wilderness and people

27 04 2013

We’re back from our travels through Japan and Hong Kong. It was quite tiring travelling with baby and dealing with the long flights at terrible times of the night, tiring to all get some sleep while lights were on and attendants were serving meals.

We started off in Cairns, after a short flight from Adelaide. It was good weather for the afternoon that we were there and we went for a little walk along the esplanade, into the Lagoon and Muddy’s playground. Hugo enjoyed playing in the water and getting totally wet. We found vegan food for dinner at Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant on Lake Street, which was just around the corner from our accommodation at the Holiday Inn. After dinner we walked back into town and got takeaway burgers and fries from Grill’d Burgers, who have vegan burgers, sauces and fries on their menu, so that we would have lunch for the next day.

Our business class flight to Osaka left in the early afternoon (unable to provide vegan meal, so not happy Jetstar…), but we didn’t clear immigration, customs etc at Osaka airport until 10pm or so, making it a late night for little Hugo. We stayed at the upmarket Hotel Monterey Grasmere near the Namba station and had a cot, spacious room and fancy lobby.

The next day we took a Shinkansen for Okayama (having a JR pass was amazing! So fast and easy to travel) where we met Benno’s friend Jun and toured the famous gardens, korakuen (one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan) and snacked at MOS burger where there no longer have a vegan kimpira burger.

Then we hopped back on another Shinkansen and headed for Kumamoto where we stayed the night on the 20th floor of Toyoko Inn, right by the station (great location) and with an incredible view of the city, including the castle.

Benno visited Kumamoto castle and Suzenji gardens for the third time (it was Hugo and my first time) and Hugo caused quite a stir with his cute samurai photo! We got around on the tram and ate lunch at a popular (for mums and their elementary aged children) but small Indian restaurant in the back streets near the gardens.

Another day of travel followed. We took the Shinkansen to it’s terminal at Kagoshima, taxi to the ferry terminal, ferry to Yakushima and an hour local bus ride to our accommodation near Anbo Port on Yakushima. We had a Japanese style room with tatami, futon, semi-outdoor bath and view of the mountains.

We booked a tour through Yakushima Experience for the next day and our guide Steve came with van, baby seat and baby hiking pack so Hugo was well catered for. They also provided vegan bento for lunch! We had a tour of the island, visiting little villages, waterfalls, rivers, giant cedars, yakusugiland and walking through the forest up in the mountains.

Another mammoth day of travel came next. We were up early at 5.30am, we driven in a van to Anbo Port, took the 7am ferry to Kagoshima, took a taxi to the station, took a Shinkansen to Hakata, ate lunch at TOS (touch of soup) which was about a 15 minute walk from the station, took another Shinkansen to Kyoto, transferred to the subway and went three stops then walked 5 minutes to our accommodation, Hotel Gimmond, arriving around 6pm after a full day of travel with Hugo. We ate dinner at Biotei, which was walking distance from the hotel, and had a lovely Japanese set dinner meal.

Serious shopping was on the agenda for our first day in Kyoto. We filled our bellies with vegan tofu cheesecake and tiramisu parfait from Cafe Mumokuteki before walking through the Nishiki markets, Teramachi dori arcades, Book Off and Daiso. We took the subway to Cafe Proverbs for late lunch before walking it off with a stroll to Ginkakuji along the Philosopher’s Path. Much sampling of yatsuhashi sweets was done, and Hugo walked up the hill most of the way on his own. We wandered back to our hotel in the drizzle and ate at another restaurant within walking distance to our hotel, Obanzai, which is a (almost all) vegan buffet.

On our next day in Kyoto we walked to the Imperial Palace gardens and Hugo played in the children’s playground. Then we ate lunch at Morpho Cafe. It was our last day of the JR pass but we were running out of energy so we just had an afternoon excursion to Kyoto station where we spent some more yens. We took the lift all the way up to the skywalk and admired the view of the city and Kyoto Tower. While we really wanted to eat at Sunny Place, they weren’t open at night on Sunday so we ate dinner at Cafe Mumokuteki.

Our last day in Kyoto was spent going to Nijojo in the morning and strolling around the gardens. Then we met up with Atsu at Cafe Matsuontoko and ate vegan fast food (burgers, fries, curry, pancakes, donuts). We also got takeaway burgers for our dinner that we ate in the airport while waiting for our Peach flight to Hong Kong. It was a terrible time to fly, and Hugo didn’t get to sleep until after 10pm after much tears. We took a taxi from Hong Kong airport and finally checked into our hotel, the T-hotel, around 2am. Our room was ultra-luxurious and yet very affordable with a lovely view of the ocean.

We realised that everyone needs an Octopus card in order to travel on any bus, train or subway in HK so that was our first purchase, then a sim card, then lunch at a very busy vegetarian lunch place that had a long queue of people and no English. We took the escalators from Central to Mid-levels along with the other 85,000 people that travel on the each year before catching a bus to the Peak, looking out at the view and taking the tram that was crowded and standing room only back down the hill. A brief walk through the botanic gardens revealed the sad fact that many children are brought up by Filipino nannies on HK while their parents work full time jobs. We ate dinner at a fancy, overpriced vegetarian restaurant. Hugo liked the deep fried lotus seeds, which was a welcome change to the standard fare of rice, rice, rice which he had been consuming.

Our next day we took the sMTR to Diamond Hill and looked around the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian gardens. We met Benno’s high school friend for lunch at the gardens where a vegetarian restaurant was hidden behind a waterfall. After lunch we took a bus to Stanley and wandered around the famous street markets for a little while before heading back on the bus and subway to Kowloon Bay MTR station and eating at Loving Hut (again, a very busy place with a long queue). Hugo and I took a taxi back to the hotel while Benno caught up with another high school friend for dinner.

We took a day trip to Macau via bus and one-hour ferry. We took a shuttle to the Wynn hotel but didn’t find any suitable or available vegan menus like we had hoped so we wandered to Senado square, to St Dominic’s church, then found (luckily) a vegetarian restaurant. Again, it was very busy and we shared a table with others. We walked to the ruins of St Pauls, up the Monte Fort, got lost wandering to the Guia Fort then got very lost finding our way back to the ferry. We wandered up the highway then back down again then along many streets trying to find a way across… many steps and sweat later we made it to the Fisherman’s wharf where we laughed at the Colosseum and other fakes before boarding our ferry back to Hong Kong. We ate at Mana Slow Fast Food (more burgers) and  took a taxi back to the hotel.

Our final day was spent mostly in airports. Taxi to HK airport, check in, lunch at Pizza Express before the rush, board, flight to KL, dinner at Satay house in the airport, board late plane, late meal on plane, limited sleep, finally arriving home at 7am, feeling incredibly sleep deprived!