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Hello965 Friends: Tokyo طوكيو

Tokyo by @Almallaks

 

Why we chose this city: I think this one is self-explanatory really. It’s TOKYO! This city is HUGE. Seriously enormous. The best way to describe it is that it’s a city made up of a smaller cities. There’s so much to see and do in each area, it’s ridiculous.

 

Duration: We stayed 4 nights at the start of the trip plus another 4 nights at the end of the trip. Totally worth it and would say that’s a good time to stay in Tokyo.

 

Where we stayed VS. where we think you should stay:We ended up staying at the E Hotel Higashi Shinjuku in the area of “Shinjuku.” More details on the area later. The hotel wasn’t that bad, but it was very small. What was nice was that there was a café downstairs (International) where we could have breakfast and coffee before heading out for the day. It was a 15min walk to the main area of Shinjuku which wasn’t bad but you can get hotels much closer to the “action.”

We recommend that you stay in the area of “Shibuya” though. We just loved that area. It’s very nice and has many hotels, plus loads of shopping, activities and cafes. From what we saw, there were a few hotel options close to the main Japan Rail Station, including: Cerulean Tower Hotel, Shibuya Excel Hotel, and Shibuya Tokyu Inn.(PS. We used booking.com for all our hotel bookings).

Let’s start with the details of each area in TOKYO:

Shibuya

  • Things to do/see in Shibuya:
    • Shibuya Crossing: This is a 6-way traffic light crossing. Yes. 6 ways and it’s the busiest you’ll ever see. It. Is. Amazing.
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    • Tsutaya: This is a shopping complex across from the main Japan Rail Station. There is a Starbucks there. Grab a coffee and go to the first floor. You’ll get an amazing outsider view of the crossing. So crazy to watch from above.
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    • Hachiko Dog Statue:right in front of the Japan Rail Station; smaller than you’d imagine, but the story is very cute: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachikō
    • If you like cats, there’s a cat café, yes seriously. We went. So quiet you get to play with the cats for 30 mins and they give you cookies and a cup of coffee. So if you like cats, it’s a nice place for a coffee break! http://wandertokyo.com/cat-cafe-hapineko/

       

    • Go check out the Pachinko slot area, crazy. We walked in and out. It was so loud and everyone was so into it. Like a casino.
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  • Shopping in Shibuya:
    • PARCO1: Japanese brands
    • Maraque 109: Japanese’s highstreet styles – top floor has a café with recommended bubble jasmine tea. If you like bubble tea, go try it.
    • Don Quixotos: There are lots of branches of this place around Tokyo, it’s kind of a cheap, fun gifts place. Girls, they sell black liquid eye liner there, so amazing. I got two of them with me and wish I got more.
    • Tokyu Hands: Best stationary and house stuff etc. It’s like the Japanese Ikea. There are branches in almost all areas, ask your hotel. You can and may want to spend a lot of time there.
  • Food in Shibuya:
    • Food was really a bit difficult for us in general while in Japan. We always tried to go to places with an English menu because we don’t eat a lot of seafood. Always ask your hotel for recommendations if you are the same. If you are more adventurous, then you have nothing to worry about!
    • For the adventurous: a place recommended to us(but we didn’t end up going) was a typical Japanese seafood place: http://www.uoshins.com/i/shibuya.html Ask for the chef mix.

Daikonyama

  • Things to see/do in Daikonyama:
    • This is a great residential area walking distance from Shibuya, it was one of our favorite places. So quiet and so so pretty.
    • Crossfitters: The only Crossfit box in Tokyo is in this area! We actually went for a few sessions there.

       

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  • Shopping in Daikonyama:
    • The area is filled with stores on every street and every corner. Really nice boutiques with cool stuff. Ladies will definitely enjoy.
  • Food in Daikonyama:
    • Hacienda: If you need a change from Japanese food, this is a great Mexican restaurant with a killer view.

Harajuku

  • Things to see/do in Harajuku:
    • This is the place where you’ll see the crazy anime dressed people. So fun. Don’t be shy to ask them for pictures, they don’t mind at all!
    • Meiji Jingu Shrine is a must.
    • Yoyogi Park: Beautiful park. We watched the cherry blossoms there. It was sublime. One of the best experiences of our lives. If you go around the same time and get lucky, this is where you should go to spend an afternoon. You get your food and drinks and there are plastics mats already set up on the floor. People go there and spend the day just hanging out.IMG_0615
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  • Shopping in Harajuku:
    • The area has many nice shops. The busiest street in Harajuku is called takeshita-doriand it is lined with cafes and stores and is VERY busy. There is a store that we liked called “Monki” and it is a Japanese version of Breshka/H&M.
    • They have a Nike store and a Hello Kitty store. Ask for directions.
    • Recommended to us (but we didn’t go): Condomania, Kiddieland, Laforet and the main walking street are all shopping musts.20140322_112011
  • Food in Harajuku:
    • Recommended to us: Uoshin.web for Okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes!) for the adventurous and the not so adventurous eaters because you can choose what your toppings are J We didn’t try this place in particular, but we tried these pancakes in Osaka. Really special and highly recommended!

Shinjuku

  • Things to see/do in Shinjuku:
    • You’ll really enjoy this place at night. It’s kind of like Times Square with the lights and action on the streets.

       

    • Kareoke! They have many karaoke places, ask your hotel for a good one and book a session. They take it very seriously over there.
  • Shopping in Shinjuku:
    • There are random stores as well as department stores. Walk around and explore. Especially the area in and around the Japan Rail Station. (Yes the JR Station has shopping too! More than one floor even.)
  • Food in Shinjuku:
    • Robot Restaurant: ask your hotel to make a reservation. SO MUCH FUN. This is a must! DO NOT GOOGLE THIS. Just book, go and be surprised!
    • Rokassen: All you can eat for 90 minutes! You grill your own food, very fun and delicious. http://www.rokkasen.co.jp/map.html tel: 0120-666-528 Building name: O-Gard building. Ask for directions.
       

       

    • Check out the stuff they have at their 7-Elevens. Very interesting. We liked the Sakura flavored Hagen Daz ice cream and Kit Kat. Their Green Tea Kit Kat is famous as well!
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 Asakusa

  • Things to see/do in Shinjuku:
    • This is just for a quick trip so you can see the Asakusa Shrine.
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  • Shopping in Asakusa:
    • Make sure to ask your hotel if the market around the shrine is open. And only go when the market is open. It is super! BUY ALL YOUR SOUVENIRS AND GIFTS THERE!
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Next stop: OSAKA. [JR Train:  (Tokyo to Osaka) – 3h 14m – 1 transfer]

Coming up, stay tuned 😉

@Almallaks

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Japan 101

by @Almallaks

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@Almallaks

We started planning our trip way in advance because we wanted to get the most out of it. We decided to go for 3 weeks and cover as many cities as possible. How did we decide on the cities? After loads and loads, and LOADS of research. There are so many beautiful places in Japan and so many things to see and experience. It is impossible to cover it all, unfortunately. So, it all comes down to preference and what you want to see and do.

Our route:

Tokyo -> Osaka -> Nara -> Kyoto -> Kanazawa -> Matsumoto ->Yamanouchi ->Tokyo

Japan Route

When to go: You can choose to go in any time of year, there are cities for every season: beaches and mountain climbing for summer, ski resorts for winter, and the spring for none other than the beautiful cherry blossoms. That was our choice – the cherry blossoms. So, we chose to go Mid-March to beginning April. But even with meticulous planning, the cherry blossoms bloom according to the weather that year, so it’s risky.  We kept our fingers crossed.

What to do before you go:

  1. If you’re planning on being in Japan for a while and traveling to different cities, the easiest and most economical way to travel is by train. Taking a cab everywhere will get very expensive, very quickly.
  2. We recommend purchasing the Japan Rail Pass, which gives you unlimited access to the Japan Rail (JR) Lines. We took the train everywhere even within the cities whenever we could. You can purchase one of their packages on their website: jrpass.com Here’s the thing, you can only purchase this pass BEFORE you go to Japan and once you land at the airport you activate it.

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Another thing you should look into is getting a MIFI: mobile wireless internet. That way, you can use your phone while you’re there without actually having to get a Japanese line. Cheap and easy. They actually can have it delivered to your hotel and then before you leave Japan, just place it in the cardboard envelope they provide and drop into any mailbox close by and  you’re done.  We got ours from japan-wireless.com

  1. ASK– anyone and everyone that you know who has been to Japan. Everyone has a different experience when they go– the more things you know, the more choices you’ll have on what to do when you get there. And even then, you’ll end up doing only a fraction of that stuff and find your own activities that you happened to come across. It’s just that kind of place.

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Packing:

If you’re planning on doing what we did (3 weeks, multiple cities via train), we highly recommend taking MINIMAL luggage. You will need to be mobile. Their trains run like clockwork, by the minute, literally. There will be a train at 5:17 pm and it will leave exactly at 5:17 pm – no joke. And there will be lots of walking (and getting lost) and stairs.  So, we only took a total of 4 pieces: two carry-ons (small, compact, 4 wheels for easy maneuvering) and two backpacks. And that’s it.

No, we are not kidding. You have to pack extremely well. Things you can layer, things you can re-wear and match with ease. Do not take anything you don’t really “need.”

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OK, Although it’s been a while since we went, we will try to be as thorough as possible. We want to give this beautiful place justice. Stay tuned and read the details of our experience in future posts on hello965.com!!

@Almallaks

Almallaks is all about family health and fitness. Saad and Noor – fitness enthusiasts at heart – with their little girl, Faye, post about their daily life, workouts, food and parenthood in hopes that they can grow as a family, stay active, have fun, and inspire others to do the same.
Instagram: @almallaks – Snapchat: almallaks

Top 10 experiences for food lovers

I really enjoyed reading this article, so I’m re-sharing it here!

by Tom Marchant

Food and travel are the two loves of our lives, and there’s nothing quite like the appetite to ignite that spark of wanderlust, from the incredible street food in Mexico’s bustling capital to uncovering the hidden local hotspots in Vietnam. So we’ve scoured the globe searching for our favorite culinary experiences, from truffle hunting in Italy to tasting the freshest ceviche in Peru. Bon Apetit.

Vespa food tour, Saigon, Vietnam

We all know there are 9 million bicycles in Beijing, but what about the motorbike capital of the world, Saigon? Rumor has it that there are 4 million motorbikes whizzing round the city, meaning over half the population owns one, so what better way to see it than by joining them on a vintage Vespa. Saigon showcases an exceptional mix of ancient Vietnamese and French colonial culture as you zip through the streets where you can’t help but notice the delicious aromas wafting through the streets. Add in a couple of expert tour guides who know the roads and foodie hotspots like the back of their hand – and you’ve got yourself an unforgettable private food tour of Vietnam’s most enchanting city.

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Fish market, Tokyo, Japan

It’s no surprise that Tokyo is home to the world’s largest and biggest fish market with such a love for sushi and sashimi. To make the visit worthwhile you simply must go in time to catch the 5 am live tuna auctions, where one of these rock-solid frozen fish, looking like steel torpedoes can sell for £6000. Master the arts of sushi-making and test your culinary creations in time for breakfast. The market is split into Inner and Outer markets, those willing to brave the extra fishiness will find themselves dodging fish laden trucks in the inner market whilst the rest might stick to the Outer where you’ll find every type of sea-food imaginable as well as the Real Wasabi.

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Pasta making, Tuscany, Italy

Italy’s 20 provinces undoubtedly offer a rich and diverse selection of scrumptious food, so learn how to cook like an Italian and be the talk of the town. Tuscany is famous for its extraordinarily beautiful rolling hills as well as its mouth-watering pasta dishes. Getting the know-how from a chef that learnt from their mother and grandmother is certainly the way to master Nonna’s touch. You’ll learn how to make dough from scratch using a traditional pasta maker to stretch out the dough. Then it’s time to get creative and make your own shapes, either carefully by hand or through the pasta machine. And as a reward for all your hard work, sit back and relax with a glass of wine and a delicious dish as you take in the lush countryside around you.

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Piedmont truffle experience, Italy

Step into the heart of the truffle county to learn about and sample the most expensive ingredient in cooking. First you’ll want to submerge yourself in la dolce vita and wander through endless stalls laden with the freshest produce in Acqui Terme market. The ‘Alba Madonna’ truffle is the holy grail of fungi so get ready to be introduced to one of Italy’s oldest traditions; truffle hunting. Not only is it a great way of discovering the surrounding countryside but with an expert guide (and his loyal dog) in tow, you will gain a unique insight into how these amiable villagers help fuel the global obsession with these little white fungi. After becoming a master in truffle hunting, become an expert in cooking the fungi with a personalized cookery lesson in La Villa.

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Oysters and whiskey in Hobart, Tasmania

After nothing but biltong and bush food to feed your hungry stomachs, head to Hobart for world-class oyster and mouth-watering whiskey. The island produces 4 million dozen oysters each year and each oyster growing region, like wine, has a distinct flavour, colour and appearance.  An education in Barilla Bay will give you a knowledgeable introduction to oyster farming in Tasmania in an exceptional setting, which has certainly come a long way since its humble tin-shed beginnings.  Take the whiskey trail to the Coal River Valley to learn about the history of single malt whiskey and be taken through the brewing process in this sumptuous sojourn. You’ll be rewarded along the way with a selection of creamy oysters and oaky whiskey to satisfy your taste buds.

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Street food in Mexico City, Mexico

In a nutshell, Mexico City is a must visit gastro-jungle. Learn how to tell your tacos from your tlacoyos in a tour of Mexixo City’s best street food hotspots. We just love the names rolling off the tongue of the Chicharrones, flautas, camotes, and tlacoyos. And they taste even better in the mouth. Especially the Pambazo, a Mexican sandwich made from hard white bread rolls soaked in guajillo chilli sauce, filled with generous portion of diced potatoes, chorizo, lettuce, sour cream and sprinkled queso fresco. You’ll be left scooping the remains with your fingers as it’s just too good to waste. Spot the masters of the tortillas flipping the corn treats straight from the tortilla press. Try everything, but don’t blame us if your diet feels somewhat mundane upon arriving home.

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Sample succulent steak in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina is home to the most talked about steak in the world, so you’ll just have to hop on over to form your own opinion. Head out late for dinner as the party doesn’t get started in BA until well past midnight so you’ll need to stay awake somehow. Steak and Malbec really does the job.  There are plenty of other foodie experiences to enjoy. A cooking lesson with local chef Ezequiel Gallardo will get you whipping up tasty empanadas after choosing the ingredients in the fresh food market down the road.

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Napa Valley food and wine tour

Enter the sun-kissed wine valleys of Napa for an ultimate food and wine jaunt. In a private tour it’ll just be you and the winemaker himself knocking back a glass or two whilst learning lots of very important things about wine. Food and wine is definitely a winning combination at the award winning Kendall Jackson Vineyard with the food and wine pairing menu. Ever wondered what goes hand in hand with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc? Fresh oysters of course. And that hearty Pinot Noir? It has to be the rich crème brûlée with white chocolate.

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Gourmet tour of Lima

Lima is fast becoming one of the most cosmopolitan and sophisticated cities in South America and is experiencing a gastronomic boom to match.  An evening food tour will see you learning to prepare the refreshing national dish of ceviche under the watchful eye of an award winning chef, and shaking pisco sours on the beachfront – definitely a dinner party staple for when you get home. Experience a flavour explosion with dinner at Ámaz which is a traditional Amazonian restaurant, before being whisked off for a Peruvian dessert in the bohemian Barranco district. It’s a hard life.

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Eat like a local in Georgetown, Penang

Earning the title of being the street food capital of Asia is surely a good enough reason to go and check it out for yourself, right? Navigate the bustling streets of the UNESCO world heritage site and ‘hawker’ food heaven, Georgetown, for a culinary extravaganza. Your expert guide will take you where the locals go for the best ‘Char Koay Teow’ a delicious Malay rice noodle dish, which will leave you scrambling for more. After really adopting that grazing mentality (trust us you will need to), have a break from eating and visit a heritage coffee shop.  Sample the delights of the evening hawker food and all that Malay, Chinese and Indian fusion cuisine is in full force until the small hours – who knows, you may even make breakfast.

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Tom Marchant is Co-founder of Black Tomato.

 

Cheers,

Hello965