Great Ocean Road Travel Part 2

 

Travelling the Great Ocean Road is not all about cruising along the coast. Some inland roads have remarkable attractions as well. This one is taken on a misty morning at Lavers Hill, the day we return back to Melbourne. It was a peaceful quiet morning and since there’s hardly any incoming cars, I stopped and took this shot with my mobile phone.

Great Ocean Road Travel Part 1

I’ve had a long weekend road trip to the Great Ocean Road last week. It was a blast and there is so much to blog about. The experience at the break & breakfast accommodation, timelapses  I played around, scenic photography and the long coastal drive at Great Ocean Road itself. With so much other stuff going on for the next couple of weeks, I’ll have to find some time to break these travelogue posts apart in the upcoming future. Stay tuned!

 

Mt Buller trip

I’ve always wanted to have a go at the snow mountains and I’ve been pondering about it for years but I couldn’t find the opportunity nor the company to go with. Last month, my mate from Perth suggested that we should take a trip to Mt Buller when his wife and himself drop by to Melbourne for a  little R & R. And I thought, “why not”? On the eve of the trip, I went off to some ski shops near my home with my sister to rent the ski equipment and waterproof clothing. It ain’t cheap but it’s better than buying my own $500 ski jacket and pants.

Mt Buller is about 3 hours plus from the city of Melbourne. We started the journey at 4am and rode all the way through the country side, admiring the breathtaking morning dawn. We knew we’ve reached Mt Buller when we saw traces of snow along the elevated and winding road. Woohoo!

  

The weather was sunny and according to my mate, there was lesser people than the last time he came. That was a good, good day to enjoy ski-ing.

 

I’m a first timer (a la noob); I absolutely know nothing about the techniques nor the basic moves of ski-ing. Everyone suggested a ski lesson (at least an hour’s worth) and being a cheapskate, I’ve decided to rely on my mate and my beloved sister to guide me away from snowballing down the moutain. On the first two runs, I ski’d backward, crashed and burned froze while struggling to learn snowploughing and avoiding the people around me at the same time. On the third run, I’ve made it!  Time to go steeper and higher (and crash harder, faster)

When we returned to Melbourne, we had a nice, steamy spicy meal to warm back up our tired bodies. The next day, my mate and his lovely wife left for Perth.

Thanks to Alfred Low (My Thoughts Inexactly) for the photos via his brand new iPhone 4.

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Osaka drop by Part 2

After Umeda Sky Building, I headed off to Minami, at the south of Osaka. They said Minami is the Akihabara for Osaka.

 

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(The long stretch of shopping arcade underneath Namba)

 

 

 

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From left:
1. Another fav of mine. Taiyaki with cream and chocoloate fillings
2. Some dancing fountain in the Namba Station shopping hall. I was enjoying the taiyaki there
3. They put up something nice to read along the construction area
4. A glance at Minami

 

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From left:
1. Interrupted Elmo’s lunch.
2. Another arcade and pachinko outlet
3. Took this because I like the sculpture on the left. Reminds of the the African people in Doreamon
4. A shop that sells your favourite comedian/actors in a biscuit. :D

 

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From left:
1. Mmmm, takoyaki
2. Decided to visit one of the cybercafes. It is cheaper to stay in the cubicle at the cybercafe than spending the night at a capsule hotel (~3800 yen)
3. My dinner. A complete 3 combo: Rice with fried egg, ramen and cold soba plus some radishes.
 

It was a good a day trip in Osaka. I didn’t bother to go to Disney Japan since it’s a long was to the west so I went back to Kyoto with an evening train.

Kyoto (Day 3 to 7) : Osaka drop by Part 1

Sheesh, I actually forgot to post the short trip to Osaka. My bad, my bad.

Osaka is about 20 minutes away from Kyoto via Shinkansen so I decided to take a one day trip to visit the industrious Osaka. That day was a gloomy day unfortunately; it drizzled for the entire day, restricting my choices of place to go.

First stop: Umeda Sky Building. According to the guidebook (yes, I bought a Lonely Planet travel book), this building is a must to visit. It housed 39 floors of busines offices while the observatory at the top of the floor was opened for visitors to enjoy the view… for a price of course. Nothing’s free. 700 yen.

 

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(It’s not haze, it’s the mist)

 

 

 

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From left:
1. One of many angles you can observe the city of Osaka.
2. Not sure what it was but my first assumption was “Up yours!”.
3. On the way up to the observatory via the escalator.
4. Uh uh, see through eh?

 

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From left:
1. Long way down
2. Some showcase at the base of the observatory.
3. The big dude’s eyes moved!
4. Ah, the famous Glico brand.
 

 

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From left:
1. Seats provided if you are interested to observe the sun set in the evening.
2. Funniest menu I’ve read so far.
3. The miniature model of the Umeda Sky Building.
4. There is always a mascot for every building, district, etc. It has personal details of um, itself.

 

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From left:
1. Solely meant for children, but I can’t help myself stamping the mascot and bring it home
2. Some fortune telling corner. I took a paper slip and didn’t know I have to pay to bless with good luck. Mua ha ha, free fortune telling.
3. Now I regret for not paying a dime for a blessing.
4. The telescope was free of charge. There are many things you can do when you are too free, like perving spying unsuspecting locals. Unfortunely, the locals who stayed around Umeda Sky Building knew about this and kept their doors/windows shut. Bah.

 

There was a staircase that led me to the top of the top of the building when I could freely roam around a small section of the area out in the open. It was raining pretty hard by the time we got there, and obviously no one would bother to venture outside. Me and my mate were arrogant enough to do so. We walked the four corners of the rooftop, pushing against the spitting rain along with the raging wind and we came back with a couple of silly shots.

The security guards there had a good time watching the two gaijins making a fool of themselves.

 

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(Extreme wind + spitting rain + roof top of a tall building = A real dumb shot)

 

 

Aftermath of The Japan Trip

A Japan trip will never be complete without some anime shopping. While weight was not an issue when I brought these goodies back, the available space on the baggage was total exhausted. With so much stuff to bring home, I was so desperate to seek every single inch I could salvage from any hand carry or main luggage.

 

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(The infamous klutz in the Windows family, Me-tan)

 

 

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From left:
1. Nendoroid Binchou-tan
2. Nendoroid Haruhi
3. Revy from Black Lagoon
4. Saber from Fate/stay Night

 

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From left:
1. Netrunmon’s Firefox-ko with little Thunderbird-ko plushie
2. Aries (or Aerith) of Final Fantasy: Advent Children
3. The annoying Kon from Bleach. A better plushie than the ones sold at Manifest.
4. The forever-hungry-Windows-OS, XP-tan

 

 

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(Some Maneki Nekofor my laptop and PCs)

 

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Studio Ghibli Museum

On the last day in Japan, I concluded the trip with a visit to Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. It’s a must trip for any fans of Hayao Miyazaki where you can see all his works in real life.

 

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(Studio Ghibli Museum main entrance)

 

Getting there from the hotel was a little far off. I had to switch two trains and the journey took about an hour and a half. At Mitaka station, I had to board a special bus (Neko bus, as they described it) that ferried us the visitors to the museum which was about 5-8 minutes away for a small fee. 

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(The Neko bus)

 

Once again, photography within the museum is a no no. Here’s a link for you to catch a glimpse of how it looks like.

For a short period of time, the museum offers different short films (about 15 minutes), screened in the theatre room. I get to watch a small ‘sequel’ of Totoro.

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From left:
1. Some huge door in the museum compound.
2. Totoro was being stared at by many
3. Some old fashion water pump that works
4. Some cats staring from the window

 

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From left:
1. The soot creatures from Spirited Away
2. Top view of the Museum
3. An over-priced cafe that I didnt bother visit
4. A star walk? ;D

 

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From left:
1. The logo emblem of Studio Ghbli
2. Some sort of garden and a shed
3. A logo emblem on a brick

 

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From left:
1. Some weird language written on a big cube.
2. The giant robot from Laputa.

 

And hence, marks the endth of yer two-week break away from Australia. I departed for Melbourne a few hours later (loved the rush from Mitaka back to hotel and then an hour ride to Narita Airport) and two days after that, I was right behind the working desk once more. T.T

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : I eat therefore I am

My mate and I decided to treat his cousin a good dinner as a gesture of gratitude for taking us around Tokyo. We let him to decide the restaurant and we had yakiniku for that night. A wonderful, appetising experience of BBQ-ing expensive beef slices.

 

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(Thin slices of juicy sizzling beef)

 

 

 

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From left:
1. Kimchi. A good way to open up your appetite
2. Beef tataki
3. Raw beef anyone?
4. Four different parts of the beef and a total of 8 slices on each plate. This cost us 3,200 yen each. We had a few.

 

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(The hand that couldn’t wait for me to finish my snap shot)

 

And of course we left the restaurant with another new experience, for me that is. For the first time in my life, I’ve tasted the state of being a drunkard. Usually I controlled the intake of alcoholic beverages but during that estatic night, I crossed the sanity line. All thanks to the mugs of Asahi beers and sochu that made me puked at every train station stop. All the good beef wasted. Grrr.

My mate had the best night, enjoying my agony and drunkenness state as we I tried to get back to the hotel in one piece.

Lesson learned: If you want to get drunk, do it at home.

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Akihabara

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(With shops like these, I’ll be visiting every one of them)

 

The buildings and the decorations in Akihabara outmatched any other districts that I went. A very busy district filled with electronic and anime/mange otakus. Just the kind of place that I’ll dwell. I came here twice and twice I went back to hotel with bags of goodies. After two such visits, it was enough for me to decide that I will definitely return here again on the next trip (if there’s one).

Reasons:
#1: There were chicks scattered around Akihabara
#2: There were chicks behind the shop counters attending the customers (me!)
#3: There were chicks dressed up as cosplays
#4: Meido cafes to visit!

 
Okay okay, I admit I didn’t achieve reason #4 above. No guts to step into that unholy domain without a solid knowledge of Japanese.

 

Around Akihabara

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The shops

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From left:
1. Melon Books, a doujinshi shop. It was small and crampy but that didn’t stop a horde of hard core otakus. It opened my eyes on the extremes too: Plenty of overweight, sweaty and smelly lechers (sad to say, no females in that shop) patronising this shop. A lot of H-doujins sold. *wink* *wink*
2. The popular Gamers. They already queued outside on an early weekday morning waiting for it to open, 1 hour later.
3. Anime figurines on display.
4. Cosplay costumes (strictly no photography, but that doesn’t apply to me)

 

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From left:
1. An anime figurines shop. Every different genre was divided into different floors such as fantasy, sci-fi, school, maid etc
2. You can guess which floor would be my favourite.
3. Old skool consoles for sale!
4. Used games for sale!

 

Anime food(?)

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Even the sale of food contains anime elements. Who wouldn’t want to have a bite of cookies that a maid eats? ;D 

 

Life size Haruhi 

Somwhere along the streets of Akihabara, I discovered a huge, awesome Haruhi Suzumiya statue outside a game shop.

 

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(Ze life-size Haruhi)

 

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(I must thank my mate for such a “professional” shot. Marvelous indeed)

 

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Zojoji Temple

Again, this was an unexpected discovery. Zojoji Temple was only 10 minutes away from the Tokyo Tower after I followed some crowd. This was where  I found out that the New Year was going to be celebrated here, 7 hours later.

 

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(Zojoji Temple)

There was nothing to see during the day as the locals were busy preparing the stalls and set ups for the New Year celebration so we left for Shinjuku and returned back to the temple around 9.00pm. In Shinjuku, we finished the Silent Hill arcade game for the second time.

 

Around Zojiji Temple (Day)

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From left:
1. Jizo statues next to the cemetary
2. More Jizo statues
3. It was empty during the day.

 

Around Zojiji Temple (Night)

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From left:
1. Entrance of Zojoji Temple, 3 hours prior to New Year
2. The crowd was swelling and my camera is bad at night shots to capture the people.
3. Some ritual prosession. The blurring thing behind the drummers IS NOT a ghost. My camera sucks, that’s all.
4. I tried to take a shot at the Tokyo Tower at night. I only got the 2008 sign. :(

I couldn’t penetrate deeper into the Temple. There was too many people trying to enter into the temple to pray for luck and practically, I was like trying to squeeze through multiple human walls to get there so I retreated for good. Food comes first, pray later.
 

Food, food, food

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From left:
1. Yaki soba. This guy was going cheap on soy sauce, meat and veggies. All we had was coloured noodles.
2. Takoyaki. This is one of the best takoyakis I’ve tried so far.
3. Ingredients
4. Takoyaki was stuffed with a whole octopus, the most generous one of all.
5. Manjuu again. Queue was too long to buy and he’s too slow.

Yaki soba was a rip off and it cost us 500 yen each. Each stall’s queue was so long that it took us 30-40 minutes to buy our food. We abandoned the yakitori and ice cream stalls. Too popular.

 

Mochi

There was a mochitsuki ceremony at the Zojoji Temple that night. Any one can join in and pound the mochi.

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From left:
1. Dough was mixed and ready to be cooked
2. The dough was soaked and steamed
3. The steamed dough was placed into a mortar (usu) and pounded with a mallet.
4. Whack, whack, whack.

 

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From left:
1. Massaging the mochi, oohhh…ahhh.
2. The pounded mochi was then sold with a few different paste: Red bean, in soup (salty not sweet) and peanut powder.
3. Peanet powder mochi, yumz and they pounded well.

 

 

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(It was worth it celebrating New Year in Japan)

 

My mate wasn’t too happy with the New Year. He claimed that it wasn’t celebrated as grand as anywhere else. Of course he needed to gripe a little since he was conned by the disgusting 500 yen yaki soba.

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower is around Roppongi, so I took a stroll to Tokyo Tower. It was New Year’s eve that day so I thought we go and celebrate year 2008 there. Turned out the stroll became a 45 minutes walk. Ugh.

 

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(The famous Paris Tower look-a-like)

 

 

I didn’t go to top of the Tokyo Tower. Initially I planned to but after observing the long snaky queues and fleets of buses coming in with tourists, I abandoned the idea and enjoyed the view at the foot of the Tower instead. 

Tokyo Tower

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Tokyo Tower surroundings

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Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Roppongi

I didn’t explore much around Roppongi. It was pretty dull around so I only hanged around at a shopping mall.

 

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(A shopping mall in Roppongi)

 

 

The outside

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Inside the ‘food court’

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From left:
1. Biscuits/Pastries for 3900yen
2. Steamed rice with different flavours.
3. Cakes, cakes, cakes
4. More cakes!

 

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From left:
1. These are real spring roll. I thought it was for display only.
2. More confectionaries. They really know how to decorate a shop.
3. Fruits are luxuries items. A small watermelon is at least 2500yen
4. Liquor store

 

For lunch we had Australian food at the Outback Steakhouse. This is ridiculous, some would say. Of all types of food that I can enjoy, I ironically ended up eating food that is easily accessible back home. Not sure why we chose this, it was pretty random. Oh yes, now I remembered. I promised myself once to try out western meal at least once.

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From left:
1. Bloomin’ onions
2. Aussie cheese fries

Once again, I screwed up the Japanese’s drone-like, clockwork mind. Typically for a western meal, they always expect one to order an appetiser and a main course for each. We decided 3 appetisers to be shared between the two of us. The waitress blinked for a while when I gave that order and took her 5 seconds to recollect her thoughts. Then she asked if one of these was to be my main course and I said no. She stoned for a moment again. Then I said, “I waaaaant (stressed) these three to be shared. No main course please”. Finally she understood.

The food was good. Too good and we ordered too much: we miscalculated the portions of the appetisers again.

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Sugeeeehhh…

 

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(The missing corner credit card)

 

I used my credit card a couple of times when I travelled to Japan but this ordinary credit card returned back to me with unexpected yet an interesting feedback. This is what happened. 

After some long thoughts, I have decided to purchase the Nikon DSLR at one of the biggest electronic store, Sofmap. When I showed my credit card, they were so astounded and surprised that they never seen a curved cornered credit card, let it be a young or an old sales person that attended me. Twice I used it, twice I heard “sugeeehh” which roughly translated as awesome. They held up the card, stared for a moment and showed it to his colleague before finally he realised the customer (me!) was still standing right in front of him, waiting for the bugger to complete the transaction. After the processing, they took a final look before handing the famous credit card back to me.

I wonder what happens if I use the National Bank Mini Visa card the next time I travel there again.

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(Source)
 

Tokyo (Day 8 to 13) : Shinjuku

Another trip during the evening and this time it’s Shinjuku. It was livelier than in the day, the buildings there were dressed up to blind you with a rainbow rays of colourful neon lights and huge LCD TVs.

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(The city that never sleeps)

 

 

The facets of Shinjuku:

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From left:
1. A random shot using my new DSLR
2. Illumination ‘circus’ as they call it
3. Bunch of happy penguins

  

 

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From left:
1. Krispy Kreme. As usual, the queue is long and to avoid a stampede from the hordes of customers, they only allowed a handful of doughnuts lovers at a time to enter into the shop.
2. Fancy ice-cream with a half loaf of bread?
3. Hell yeah I gonna try one of these. I did. The Mega Tamago.

 

 

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(Their Maccas here put the Australia’s counterparts into shame)

 

Usually when I’m done with my meal, I will be nice enough to dispose the trash into a bin and return the tray but Japan’s Maccas gave me more work.

I have to:
1. Dispose the trash (fries boxes, serviettes, etc) into bin A
2. Discard the cap of the drink and the straw into bin B
3. Empty the cup and dispose the ice into bin C
4. Dispose the cup into bin D

 
I chucked everything into bin A. Mua ha ha.