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!

Protected: Sydney photos – the baby shots

10 12 2012

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Sydney eats and travels

10 12 2012

Sydney 1st December – 9th December 2012

We fly into Sydney on Saturday, arriving in time for lunch. Our apartment in Chippendale was walking distance to Broadway Road, where we ate lunch at Vrndas. It had a very limited menu -one set lunch option only of a basic rice, curry, salad and paddadum. It also came with a very bizarre dessert with a grainy cold “custard”. The Broadway shopping centre was just up the road and we did some grocery shopping before heading back to the apartment for an afternoon nap. For dinner we walked into town and ate at Mother Chu’s on Pitt Street. We enjoyed the deep fried tempeh and a marinaded eggplant dish along with some tofu icecream and buns for dessert.

On Sunday we meet up with Andrew and Sayaka at the Chinese Gardens at the South end of Darling Harbour. It was about a 20 minute walk from our apartment, and a quiet oasis in the middle of the noisy city. There was a wedding being held in the water pavillion, and too many uneven stone steps to make pushing the pram a convenient option for carrying Hugo around. The limestone rocks in the middle of the lake were meant to resemble animals, and they had some lovely bamboo groves, some lizards sunning themselves on rocks and brightly painted pavillions on the hill. After attempting to board the monorail at Chinatown but failing (that particular station inside a store was shut) we walked to Westfield in the mall and ate lunch at Iku Wholefoods in the most upmarket shopping centre food court ever. The lasagna and quiche were quite delicious, as was the organic coconut water. We also had some cakes. It was fortunate that the chocate in HappyLab wasn’t vegan, otherwise I might have walked out with a suitcase full of test tubes and conical flasks filled with sweets. In the afternoon we caught the train to Newtown and met up with Jeremy and his sister at Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher where we ate burgers and hot dogs, bought some festive Christmas sausages and nibbled on kentucky style tofu nuggets with a cannelini bean based mayo.

Monday it poured with rain and while Hugo stayed warm and dry in his pram under the raincover, we got quite wet walking around. We caught the train to Circular Quay and took some dreary shots of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House covered in foggy rain. We had a quick walk through the Botanic Gardens, but the rain and an unhappy Hugo forced us out to an early lunch at Peace Harmony on Erksine Street. The sign on the door suggested that it was all vegan, but this Thai eatery served ‘Thai soymilk’ that contained dairy milk in it. Not very vegan. The pad thai was a little flavourless, but otherwise ok, while the stirfry dish had lots of spice. The festive sauages that we bought the day before from Spoon’s became our dinner.

There was much better weather on Tuesday, with the sun out and no more rain. We put Hugo in the sling and walked around The Rocks and up the steep steps to the Harbour Bridge pedestrian walkway. We walked over part of the bridge and had a lovely view of the harbour. There was a living Christmas tree made out of pipes and hundreds of succulent and grass plants by the station. From there we took the train to Newtown again and ate at Sadhana, a raw vegan eatery with a yoga studio attached. Some hippy mums and their babies became entertainment as we rolled our eyes at the conversation about how the babies being born now have really great energy. We had some raw tacos in lettuce leaves and a raw lasagna with salad, along with a warrior smoothie. Benno had his conference expo in the evening at The Rocks so I went out with Hugo to the Broadway Lounge (conveniently about 10 minutes walk from our apartment) and caught up with the Sydney Vegan Club crew. The pub puts on a special vegan menu on Tuesday nights. I had the lasanga with chips and salad, with the other options being tacos, pasta or tofu with rice.

Benno’s OSDC conference started officially on Wednesday. We walked together to the UTS broadway campus, then Hugo and I headed to the Powerhouse museum a little further up Harris Street. Apart from the Wiggles exhibit, there wasn’t actually much very interesting for Hugo so we didn’t spend long there. We ate lunch an Iku Wholefoods in Glebe. I had a burger while Hugo slept in the pram, then I got some takeaway chickpea, beetroot and liquid smoke salad for dinner that I had with the rest of the Spoon’s festive sausages and a takeaway pack and chocolate friand for my lunch tomorrow. Benno had his conference dinner near Redfern station, so Hugo and I had dinner at the apartment and walked around in the rooftop garden until it was kitchen-sink bathtime and bedtime.

Hugo and I had a big day on Thursday. We caught the train from Central to Circular Quay before boarding a Captain Cook scenic ferry to Taronga Zoo. Then I had to push the pram up steps to get to the cable car that took us all the way up the hill to the top entrance of the Zoo. We walked our way through the zoo during the morning, seeing dinosaurs, elephants, chimps giraffes and a magnificent view of the Harbour from the central lawns. We ate our Iku takeaway lunch while fending off birds, including several ibises with long beaks that kept trying to steal a bite, then kept wandering down to the empty red panda exhibit (they must have been sleeping or hiding because we didn’t see any) and out to the ferry again. It was the scenic route back to Circular Quay docks, taking 40 minutes to wind around the harbour passing Shark Island, Watsons Bay, Fort Denison, and going along the coast pointing out the expensive real estate (54 million dollar mansion anyone?). After an afternoon nap, we meet Benno at UTS and walked back to the apartment. While waiting for the conference to finish, we saw Goose from Good Game walk out of the ABC (next door to UTS). We checked out the coop bookstore and got some note paper in the shape of a 3D pear. We walked up Cleveland Street to Nourishing Quarter for dinner. It was a delicious meal – perhaps my favourite meal of our Sydney trip – but an ecclectic environment with the description on happycow summing up the decor well as “vintage great aunt dining room”. We had quinoa and chia rice paper rolls and a curry with quinoa and salad and a tofu lemongrass stirfry. Portraits of the queen and Roy Orbison music completed our dinner, along with a quick read of “The Wartime Kitchem Garden” that featured propaganda on the potato: feed without fattening and give you energy!

Benno was again at his conference on Friday so Hugo and I took the ferry to Manly beach. It was a half hour ride, and once we got there Hugo fell asleep in the pram so I wandered along the beach esplanade, ate a felafel roll for lunch and looked at the shops. Once Hugo woke up we sat on the sand and he played on the beach for a little while before we packed up and headed back on the ferry and train to the apartment. We took the train to Newtown for a third time and ate at Green Palace Thai Kitchen.

On our final full day in Sydney we ate at 3 restaurants. In the morning we took the train to Newtown and had fruit smoothies and sweets for morning tea at Apt, a little cafe in a bookshop. They served gingerbread PEOPLE and a peanut butter gluten free brownie with coconut cream. From there we had yum cha lunch at Green Gourmet with Andrew and Koji. We ate plate after plate of chinese goodies until we were all full, and it only cost $50 for all of us. We got some sweets from Vegan’s Choice grocer next door – a chocolate macadamia nut brownie for me and a slice of cake and tofutti icecream for Benno. In the afternoon we walked to the Carriageways near Redfern station and wandered around the Finders Keepers markets that featured local, handmade crafts, clothing and goods. We got a starwars t-shirt for Hugo and ate at the very popular Veggie Patch van. They sold out of burgers about 3 people after us, but they were yummy so it was worth the wait in the line!

Sunday we packed up and headed off to the airport. After the taxi that we booked didn’t turn up, we hailed another (a very cheap $22 to get to the airport – cheaper that the three of us taking the train), only to make it to the airport to find massive queues for Jetstar. We waited in a line that snaked around the whole airport before being called into a closed lane as our flight was about to leave. Then we had to drop off our pram, only to have to conveyer belt full so we had to wait for it to clear. Then Benno got selected for extra security screening and we only just made it to the gate before the plane took off. It’s just as well Hugo doesn’t mind take off and landing otherwise it might have been an even less enjoyable morning!


Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour. Bamboo and lake.


Monday’s beautiful weather – can’t see past the bridge and everything was wet and grey. We felt sorry for the poor people climbing the bridge on that day.


Benno on the Harbour Bridge, walking along the pedestrian walkway.


The Sydney Harbour Bridge on a sunny day! Blue skies and water.


Chinese garden of friendship: the lake with limestone rocks shaped like animals.


Taronga Zoo Triceratops.


John Storey Memorial Depensary. Opposite the bus depot on our usual walking route from apartment to Central station.


Elephants at Taronga Zoo. The cable car went over the top.


Giant fig tree, Botanic Gardens, Sydney.


Room with a view: the giraffe enclosure at Taronga Zoo.


Happy Lab test tubes and conical flasks filled with chocolate sweets. Fortunately, with the sweets being non-vegan, I saved myself a lot of money.


View of the harbour from the Concert Lawns, Taronga Zoo.


T Rex, Taronga Zoo.


Hugo St. There’s also a Lang St in Sydney, but we didn’t get a photo of that one.


Himalayan Tahr. On a rock.


Anarchist chimp. I shake my fist.


Living Christmas Tree, Circular Quay. Made up of pipe, grasses and little succulents.


Lizard, Chinese Garden of Friendship.


Look (left and right before crossing).


Manly Beach.


Lifeguard keeping watch at Manly Beach.


Mortuary Station, being refurbished. On our walk from the apartment to Central Station.


The Opera House, taken from up on the Harbour Bridge walkway.


Opera House, again.


Potato propaganda, from the Wartime Kitchen and Garden book we found at Nourishing Quarter.


Pygmy Hippo, Taronga Zoo.

Cairns Vegan Eats

22 06 2012

We recently spent 10 days in Cairns on a family holiday. Here is our rundown of the Cairns Vegan Food.

It was great to escape from the winter cold in Adelaide to a constant mid-twenties temperature which was perfect for long walks along the esplanade, swimming in the pool and snorkeling on the reef. We also drove to some waterfalls, the Daintree National Park, around the Tablelands and took the skyrail up to Kuranda.

Uluru Adventures

24 04 2011

Term 1 School holidays: Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, Kings Canyon, West MacDonnell ranges, Alice Springs. Almost 5000km covered in a week.

Have visas, will travel

14 03 2010

Benno had a busy week last week, going into Tokyo to get our visas and eat some vegan doughnuts. Unfortunately, he is always too hungry to stop and take photos of his food so there is no evidence that he went to Pita the Great and had 2 felafel rolls, or that he went with a friend to Korea-town and ate vegan korean food then went to karaoke.

However, now we have a Chinese tourist visa and a Vietnamese tourist visa and a ticket out of the country.

Here’s the plans so far:

Thanks to the google for the map.

From Tokyo, go to Kyoto and farewell our friends before heading by Shinkansen to Hakata, jetfoil ferry to Busan and KTX train to Seoul.
After Seoul, take an overnight ferry to Qingdao and train to Beijing. After Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Lhasa, Guilin, Nanning via train.
Train to Hanoi, down through Vietnam via Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, HCMC/Saigon via bus/train.
Overland to Phnom Pehn, maybe via Pastor Chang’s mission to Angkor Wat then overland to Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok up to Chiang Mai, down to Koh Samui and avoiding the south-eastern trouble spots on to KL. A spot in Malaka, seeing if I can recall any Bahasa Malay then back to KL for a flight to Melbourne. Driving back to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road with mum and dad and home again!

Only 5 more days of school – J3 have already had there final exams and their graduation ceremony. J1, J2 and H1 have 2 days of lessons then final exams, finishing on Friday 19th March. Hopefully, if I’m diligent, I can get the marking done quickly and write their grades by the end of the 19th. Then I won’t have to come in the week after and can focus on cleaning our apartment and posting stuff home. Isogashii desu ne!

Long day of travel

4 08 2009

Woke up super early at Kyle and Lacey’s place in Asahi, Mie. Took the 7.15am train to Nagoya central, then the Tokaido line to the West. It was our second longest day of travel – 10 hours on the train making transfers at Ogaki, Maibara, Aioi and Okayama. We were able to follow the train schedule perfectly and make all our transfers as planned. We had lunch in Okayama where we found a supermarket by the station and bought ume (pickled plum) onigiri (rice balls covered in nori), cooked edamame (soybeans), blueberries and ritz crackers. Then we were back on the train for another 2 and a half hours to Hiroshima. We arrived a bit after 5pm, checked into Ks Backpackers which was only a 5 minute walk from the station, then went for a walk to find a supermarket. We found Jupiters, an International store which had coconut chai and refried beans. We had difficulty finding a fruit and veg section, and then when we did, they had no S&B curry cubes or soymilk that we could eat. So we caught the tram/streetcar to the station again and found another store. They also had no curry cubes so we settled on pasta sauce. Hiroshima does not seem the most veg* friendly of places. It was after 9pm by the time we had made dinner. But we enjoyed a lovely cup of chai in the evening before bed.

Japan Travel Itinerary

24 07 2009

Only one week until we head off to travel around Kansai for 20 days. Here’s where we plan to go:

From Kisarazu to Nagoya (with an overnight in Takayama)

Nagoya to Hiroshima (in time for the 6th August A-bomb festival)

Hiroshima to Kyoto

Kyoto to Nara

Nara to Osaka

Osaka to Kobe

Kyoto (with Himeji day trip)

Return home to Kisarazu (one day before Benno’s parents come visit)

Our travel route around Kansai.

Our travel route around Kansai.

We’ll be covering a far bit of ground, but only using local trains on our Seishun 18 Kippu (unlimited daily travel on local trains for Y2300).

We’ll keep you posted on our travel adventures!

Only 2 hurdles and we will be in Japan!

27 03 2009

Hurdle 1: Getting out of the country.

We weren’t sure initially if we’d even be allowed on the plane as we only had one way flights. The check-in staff asked where was our return flight and we showed them the letter in Japanese saying I was going for a job interview. Then she asked us for visas, and we had none. So her manager was called over, he stared at the computer screen for a while, then decided that we were ok to go.

The plane didn’t want to take off the first time. The plane had a false start take off and had to turn around and go back to the start of the runway to attempt a second take off… and then we were off!

At least we had decent airplane food, a row of seats all to ourselves (the plane had about 10 free rows and wasn’t very busy at all) and on demand entertainment (Lara watched Twilight, Happy-Go-Lucky and Madagasca 2 while Benno played Zelda).

We arrived in Singapore and realised that we had about 7 hours in transit. While all of the official 2 hour tours had finished for the day we were able to clear immigration, get a stamp in our passport, register for a transit pass, catch a free shuttle bus into the city and wander around – we saw the F1 night racing track, the tallest “London Eye” in the world called the Singapore Flyer, the Fountain of Wealth (a fountain with a water/lights display at meal times), Suntec City shopping centre and Raffles Hotel.

Hurdle 2: Getting into Japan.

In one day we went from 25 degrees and sunny in Adelaide, 30 degrees and humid in Singapore to 1 degree and windy in Tokyo.

The plane landed at 7am and we knew we only had one more hurdle before we could relax – Japanese immigration. We went up to immigration, he took our immigration cards and passports, we had a photo and fingerprints taken and we went through with no questions! After collecting our luggage we went through customs, again with no questions. We couldn’t believe that it was harder leaving Australia than entering Japan…