How to make kopi

When i first started drinking kopi at Kopitiams, a cup of kopi costs 60 cents. Some time around 2005 or 2006, if my memory doesn’t fail me, there was a price hike to 80 cents. Well, nowadays, as you know, it typically costs S$1 or S$1.10. Have you ever wondered how much a cup kopi really costs (in terms of the raw material only)? I don’t have a definitive answer, but i would guesstimate that it’s around 30 cents.

I used to patronize coffee chains such as Ya Kun, but have since cut back (to almost zero) due to the ever increasing price. They have gone from S$1.40 to S$1.80 in a very short span of time (probably just 3 years or so), and i thought that was too much. I’m very sure the raw material cost for such a small cup of coffee is no more than 30 cents, especially when they buy in bulk. So i thought, why not make kopi myself?

Making kopi is really simple. If you drink kopi, you must have seen how it’s done. You simply need to soak ground coffee in hot water and mix it with sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk – that’s all there is to it, really! For brewing kopi at home, you don’t need any special tool, except a “sock”. I got my 2 Ringgit sock from a neighbourhood kitchenware shop in Malaysia. It’s not so good as it doesn’t filter fine coffee particles so well. It’s high time for me to find a upgraded replacement but I have been lazy to do so.

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My well used sock

The other tool that does help a lot is a French press. It keeps the ground coffee in place when pouring out the coffee, and this practically eliminates the occurrence of heavy ground coffee sediments in my coffee, which I get if I relied on my sock alone. Also, this way, you don’t get a lot of coffee ground poured into the sock, which would drastically slow down the flow of coffee through the sock. I suspect there is yet another advantage – you get better aroma if the coffee flowed through the sock quickly, since more of the oil in the coffee flows through rather than get absorbed by the sock.

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Ground coffee kept from flowing out of the French press

Here are the steps in making kopi:

1. Boil water. While boiling water, put ground coffee into the French press. I would estimate that the amount of ground coffee to use is about 1/6th of the volume of the kopi you’re making. You will need to do trial and error to find out the amount of coffee that works for you. I do like my coffee slightly stronger.

2. The recommended temperature to brew coffee is 90-95°C. If you used boiling water (100°C) on the ground coffee, it will not taste good (likely to turn sour). If you wanted to be precise, you could use a thermometer, but here’s what i found to be the most reliable method: pour a little room-temperature water onto the ground coffee until it is fully soaked, then pour the just-boiled water. This way, the coffee is guaranteed to be not treated to boiling water.

3. Stir (i like to use a chopstick to do this) and cover (without pushing down the plunger of course). Let it sit for a few minutes.

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Chopstick works well for stirring

4. In the meantime, you can get the milk ready. I use 2.5 spoons of evaporated milk and 1.5 spoons of sweetened condensed milk for my large mug of coffee (probably 330ml). Again it takes some experimentation to find the quantity that will suit your taste buds. I don’t add any sugar, but you might find that you need to. Since the milk is stored in the fridge, when you use it to make coffee, it needs to be warmed up, otherwise the coffee will end up being lukewarm. I do so using the microwave oven, very handy.  My preferred way of warming the milk is to heat the mug in a pot that is filled with inch-high water, for about a minute. This way, the mug itself also gets heated up, which ensures the Kopi will not cool down too much when poured into the mug. This is similar to pouring hot water into and around the cup like they do in a real kopitiams.

Warming the milk (and mug)

5. When you’re done preparing the milk, your coffee should also be about ready. Gently press the plunger down, then pour the coffee through the sock into the mug with the warm milk. If you’re making just a standard cup (250ml) of kopi, the volume of coffee from the French press is probably enough to fill the cup. In my case, where i make a big mug of kopi, the volume of coffee from the French press only fills 2/3 of the mug. Instead of just adding hot water to the kopi, i pour hot water into the french press. This way, you will have a more complete extraction of the coffee. You must have noticed that the way kopi is made in a Kopitiam is they add hot water. That is because use a super concentrated coffee. Adding hot water ensures that the coffee is served really hot. This does not apply at home when you’re just making one cup at a time. To make concentrated coffee, you’ll need to use a lot of ground coffee. It doesn’t make sense to, afterwards, dilute the coffee with hot water. What you want to do is to use just the right amount of ground coffee that can give you the strength of coffee that you want, and to extract as completely as possible from the ground coffee you have used.

6. In step 5, your kopi is actually done, but in case you were interrupted during the kopi making process, or you forgot to warm your milk, then you can still fix it by heating it up in the microwave oven pot. This is akin to adding hot water like it’s done in a Kopitiam. In fact, if you’ve taken too long to drink you kopi, you can always pop it into a microwave oven the pot to heat it up again. Lukewarm kopi should not be tolerated.

kopiHomemade kopi

Milk Storage
Regarding storage of the evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, well, after they have been de-canned, they both need to be stored in a fridge. For the sweetened condensed milk, you can just use any container, as it keeps very well in the fridge due to the high sugar content. Evaporated milk tends to spoil (curdling happens and the taste is altered) within a week even when kept in the fridge, using a normal container. To make it keep better, i store it in a mason jar under vacuum. This way, it lasts more 2 weeks without much noticeable change in taste.

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Mason jar for the evaporated milk and a porcelain container for the sweetened condensed milk

Sourcing for coffee powder
If you’ve read this article up to this point, you might be one of those who would get serious about making kopi at home. I suspect you do not have any idea, though, about where to get the most essential item needed for making kopi – coffee powder. Part of the reason i felt motivated to make kopi at home was someone (an ang moh in fact) mentioning in a Facebook comment that a particular coffee roaster in Singapore was “best in the world”. Renowned food blogger Leslie Tay recommends them as well – Ho Tit Coffee Powder Factory. Well, i am now their regular customer and i highly recommend that you check them out. They are a very friendly couple. Update: these days I get my coffee powder from the wet market where they cost $6 for halk kg. Ho Tit is too expensive. I like the coffee powder from Hougang Hainanese Village Centre, the ground floor shop at the very corner near the car park ramp.

kopintoastKopi with toasted homemade bread

Amazon product recommendation – barista tools and coffee beans

My coffee adventure started with the purchase of a Krups espresso machine, which became the subject of some of my first few blog entries. The purchase of the espresso machine was triggered by the gift of a pack of coffee powder from Ipoh. You must be wondering how a pack of coffee powder from Ipoh (the traditional Kopi type coffee powder) can be used in an espresso machine. You’re right, it couldn’t. I actually did try, and, well, you can imagine the result you get with very coarse ground coffee in an espresso machine. Sadly, not too long after i had the machine, it went back into the box and got stashed away for more than 5 years. I guess my taste buds were not yet ready to appreciate coffee for what it is.

I don’t remember what was the motivation, but out it came from the box and it sat on my kitchen table top again, a year and a half ago. I decided to do it right this time. Now that i have proper filtered water (the absence of which was noticeably affecting the taste of the coffee previously), i was sure i will arrive at a better result. I got serious – i decided to upgrade the tools. Back then (yes just a year and a half ago), the only logical place I thought I could source for the tools was Amazon. Now, well, you know, anything can be found on taobao, for a fraction of Amazon’s price. My recent one day transit in Beijing has revealed to me that China is now a serious coffee consuming nation, so it’s no surprise that taobao has a proliferation of coffee related products.

The tamper definitely had to be upgraded. I’ve read more than once people referring to the plastic tamper that normally comes with an espresso machine as “silly”. Now that i’ve had some experience with tamping the coffee powder, i concur. I got myself a stainless steel tamper, because the ones with a wooden handle cost more than I was willing to cough up. Now that you can buy from taobao, well, nothing is really out of reach. So, contrary to the title of this article, when it comes to buying a tamper, i would suggest looking it up on taobao. The search term is 咖啡压粉器. Quick check on price – CNY 35 to 200.

The next item I thought I should get was a coffee bean grinder. I initially thought i should get an electric grinder. After reading some reviews however, i learned that a blade grinder may not be a good idea, since the stainless steel blades may impart a metallic taste to the ground coffee, and it may be difficult to get the exact grind size you want. Someone recommended that a manual ceramic burr grinder is the best option. I took the advice and got the Hario Mini, from Amazon. This product is sold at departmental stores in Singapore, but Amazon’s was slightly cheaper, even after factoring in the shipping cost. Now, however, contrary to the title of this article again, i doubt Amazon is the best place to get a grinder. You can find the Hario Mini at a lower price on taobao. Search for Hario or the general term 咖啡磨豆机. Price check – CNY 115 to 170 for the Hario. By the way, at this point of time, i am actually waiting for a new grinder to arrive. I must say that manual grinding can be a little tiring, but that’s a compromise i’m willing to make to get fresher coffee. There are electric burr grinders in the market, but the reviews are not so positive, UNLESS you’re willing to spend an equal or higher amount of money on a grinder than you do on an espresso machine, in which case you might get something decent.

The final tool I got was a pitcher for frothing milk. Ok, I must have got the name of my article wrong, because taobao is again the place to get the pitcher now. The term to search for in taobao is 咖啡拉花杯. Quick check on price – CNY 13 to 150.

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A group photo for my tools. The weight of the tamper helps. I would imagine that a wooden handle will give a more comfortable grip.

With the tools in place, there is one final item needed to make coffee – the beans! This is one item that doesn’t make sense to get from taobao, because China has to import the beans as well. Amazon is a good place to buy the beans, but there are some things to note. Firstly, coffee is not eligible for the free AmazonGlobal Saver shipping. You will have to ship via a forwarding service. Also, the coffee sold on Amazon may be more expensive than if you bought directly from the seller’s own website, so you will have to do proper homework before you buy. I must have sampled no less than ten different varieties of coffee from Amazon. I think I could recommend this one – Dark Guatemalan, good taste and good value. Coffee beans sold in Singapore are generally quite expensive (and they tend to be already ground), so I think it’s worthwhile getting them from the US, from Amazon or other websites.

Tokyo in 2 days

Tokyo is the final stop of my 5 weeks trip. The attractions I have chosen to visit here are Tsukiji Market, the Metropolitan Government Building observatory, Shibuya, Akibahara and Ginza. The time required to take in the sights at these places are no more than 30 minutes each. What do i do with the remaining time? Eating and shopping of course! Unfortunately for us, jet lag was affecting our appetite. Furthermore, shopping made it difficult to stick to planned-for meals as one gets carried away. The thing about Japan is, though, food at shopping areas are all not too bad.

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Tsukiji Market was the first stop and we had sushi at Sushi Maru. It was good. Pictured above is the grilled sashimi set. It doesn’t come cheap (each set typically costs 2000 to 4000 Yen), but i think it’s worth the price.

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The crazy queue at Daiwa Sushi.

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Weather was overcast and no Fuji-san was to be seen from the Metropolitan Government Building observatory. We missed it while on the Shinkansen to Kyoto as well. No fret for us as we’re sure we’ll be back to Japan.

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A sea of umbrellas at the Shibuya crossing on a rainy day.

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We have originally planned to have lunch at Fuunji, but arrived there past 3pm and they were closed. Settled for a restaurant in the Lumine mall. Last wagyu beef dish for the trip.

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Omelette rice

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At 9pm, we finally regained some appetite and went to the famed Ichiran Ramen. There was a queue even at this hour. Many in the queue were Taiwanese, some of whom had just arrived from the airport. The Ichiran Ramen branch at Ueno is especially convenient for foreign visitors since the Keisei Skyliner terminates at Ueno. About the Ramen: I fail to see what the hype was about. I chose the slightly less fatty broth, slightly harder noodles and half portion of the ‘secret recipe’ chilli powder. The chilli powder was quite hot, so much so that it spoils the taste of the broth, even when I have chosen to have just half portion of it. The noodles was a bit mushy and sticks to your teeth. The pork char siew felt like it was just cooked and was not seared at all. The broth was decent enough even if a little thin and I still finished it. The bowl of Ramen with extra noodle portion was 980 yen. The egg cost an extra 120 yen. Pardon the colour of the photo – the interior was rather dim. I suppose you could say this was part of the scheme employed by Ichiran to entice the customer.

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You have to de-shell the soft boiled egg yourself, which was too much hassle, especially when you’re not given a spoon to scoop it out if you’ve halved the egg the way i did it. It is also served cold. Obviously it wasn’t marinated at all. I very much prefer the egg to be already dipped inside the noodles.

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My second day in Tokyo happened to be a Saturday. The chuo-dori in Ginza becomes pedestrianized at noon.

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After i had a haircut at QB House in Ginza (just for fun), we went into a random Ramen place (Hokkaido style). Other than having a little too much vege in the bowl, everything was done right. Rich broth, egg de-shelled and in bowl, seared tasty pork belly, and chewy but not sticky noodles. It was cheaper than Ichiran Ramen, at 950 yen, egg included.

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Asahi draught beer along with the Ramen. So thirst quenching. 390 yen.

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Since this was our last day, I really wanted to have another round of Japanese dessert. Nana’s green tea was a random choice and it was good.

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One hour before departing for our hotel near Narita Airport. Craving for more beer. Chanced upon Yebisu Bar. Gratified.

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The cafe in Narita Airport near the departure gate had Sapporo draft beer. Went for a cup without hesitation.

Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec

These are most significant cities on the eastern side of Canada. Other than Quebec City, unfortunately, they don’t offer much in terms of tourism. Nevertheless, i had to go just so that i can say i have been to Canada. I had originally planned to skip Toronto altogether, but eventually visited Toronto Chinatown for food. This was after a tripadvisor recommended restaurant turned out to be a huge disappointment. There was simply too much fried food, which does not sit well with our taste buds. There is an abundance of Chinese restaurants in Toronto, mostly run by ex-Hong Kongers, and they cater Cantonese (can’t go too wrong) and Sze Chuan style food.

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The beef brisket Hor Fun was cheap and good.

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Stopped by a neighbourhood in the Thousand Island area on the way to Ottawa. There are little cottages on the little islands, how fun is that.

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A pier for every home.

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The Canadian parliament building in Ottawa. A free tour is available.

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View from the Peace tower of the Parliament building.

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The library of the Parliament building.

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The Rideau canal is good for strolling around.

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If you’re there at the right time, you might be able to catch the Rideau canal locks in operation.

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Montreal is under 3 hours from Ottawa (which is considered a short distance for this very vast land). View of Montreal from Mont Royal.

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Schwartz’s, famous for smoked meat. I found out about them when reading up on how the Montreal steak seasoning came about. Was greedy to try everything, so ordered the combo which includes a steak. Should have gone with the smoked meat sandwich which everyone orders (the steak was good too, but turned cold too quickly).

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The Cherry Coke is also one of their specialties and it was indeed quite nice.

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Display of smoked meat.

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A queue forms outside Schwartz’s. Be there early.

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Notre Dame, one of the few things to see in Montreal.

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The fact that Quebecans are artificially inclined is evident not just in the large number of art galleries but also in their flower deco.

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Chemin du Roy is a recommended tourist route to take on the way to Quebec City. It is lined with pretty houses, each with a unique design and colour combination. Not to be missed!

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Old Quebec is old indeed. The city walls are partly intact.

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Place Royale.

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Le Petit Champlain.

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More flower deco can be seen here.

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Le Chateau Frontenac (on the left) dominates the skyline.

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Chemin Royal on Ile d’Orleans is also lined with pretty houses. You will also find sugar shacks (where maple syrup is produced), wineries, delicatessen and restaurants.

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All 3 houses on this much photographed stretch are for sale. Maybe they’re tired of the lack of privacy from the attention they attract?

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La Boulange makes wonderful cakes and pastries, don’t miss it!

 

Strategy for visiting attractions in Washington DC

The main attractions in DC are all clustered around the National Mall. Perhaps there are buses that allow you to hop on and off the attractions, I’m not sure, but otherwise, you’re in for an exhausting workout on foot. While we were there, the scorching sun made things infinitely worse. It takes more than 45 minutes to walk from the museums to the White House and to the Lincoln memorial, which is pretty much one end to the other end. Furthermore, you’ll be walking about in some of the museums and that adds a lot of walking distance. If you’re planning on spending time in the museums, it makes sense to allocate an entire day just for the museums. Otherwise, with very young kids like we did who cannot appreciate museum exhibits, it is sufficient to just take a quick look at two museums, and complete the rest of the tour of the National Mall within half a day. Though tiring, it is better to get it over with quickly than having to return to see more of less the same sights.

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The Air and Space museum has many exhibits of historical importance. The size alone makes them appealing to anyone.

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The eagle moon lander.

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The Natural History museum is famous for its collection of gem stones including the hope diamond.

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An event was being held at the White House.

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The Lincoln memorial.

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The reflection pool.

If you still have any energy left after walking to the Lincoln Memorial, you can venture another half an hour to the fish market to get some seafood. This is where locals go for seafood. There is only one stall that offers seating though.

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This was my first time trying freshly shucked oysters. It came with a little seawater and sand and maybe mud, but it was delicious! You can also find crab legs, mini lobsters, clam chowder etc. They were good.

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The Arlington National Cemetery is also near the National Mall. Unlike the National Mall for which car parking could be a hassle, you can park inside the Arlington National Cemetery. Two hours is about enough for walking about and visiting the sights.

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There are two main sights at the Arlington National Cemetery – the JFK gravesite, where there is an eternal flame, and the Tomb of the Unknown.

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JFK gravesite

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The half hourly, very elaborate change of guard ceremony at the Tomb to the Unknown. The Tomb is guarded at all times.

USA West Coast

Probably all tours to the west coast of the USA will include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon in the itinerary. The typical must-sees are found in these places and they are within reasonable reach of each other by car. My trip starts with San Francisco.

wpid-wp-1433600551307.jpgThe Golden Gate Bridge is the main attraction.

wpid-wp-1433600544943.jpgLocated along the way to the Golden Gate Bridge is the Palace of Fine Arts.

wpid-wp-1433600538007.jpgPier 39 is good for watching sea lions.

Most people should know about outlet shopping in the US. Gilroy is an outlet along the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It has one of the very few Abercrombie and Fitch outlet stores. There are plenty of outlets in the west coast. In Los Angeles, Citadel Outlets is the one to visit.

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A queue forms outside the Kate Spade shop.

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Coach offers 50% discount. The same discount was also offered at their Las Vegas outlet store. Could be a permanent marketing strategy and it works.

wpid-wp-1433600517162.jpgThe Grove is a shopping mall in Los Angeles with a nice ambiance, worth a visit if you have the time.

wpid-wp-1433598252017.jpgHollywood is famous for its walk of fame. Visit at night to see the glitzy lighting.

wpid-wp-1433598079078.jpgDisneyland is one of the few theme parks in Los Angeles worth visiting even if you are not traveling with kids. The night time parade, fireworks and lights show is bound to leave you wowed.

wpid-wp-1433598135031.jpgA jubilant mood on the main street after the show.

wpid-wp-1433600491196.jpgNow that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, they have added a Star Wars attraction – the Jedi Training Academy. Kids love it.

wpid-wp-1433566679419.jpgLas Vegas is the next logical stop after LA. Las Vegas is famous for gambling (of course), shows and food (specifically buffets). The fountain in front of Bellagio is not to be missed.

wpid-wp-1433597050124.jpgBased on reviews I went to the Bacchanal buffet at Caesars Palace. It was the best buffet I have been to (granted I don’t normally go to expensive buffets). At USD57 per pax it was very good value. Service was impeccable. The food was almost made to order. The Alaskan King Crab legs are a favourite item among diners. I was most impressed that the Chinese section tasted authentic Hong Kong style (I’m sure they hired a Hong Kong chef).

wpid-wp-1433598059265.jpgDo get there early (6pm) if you intend to dine at Bacchanal. Once the tables are fully occupied, you will have to queue. As you can imagine, people take their time to enjoy a buffet, so it will be a long wait.

wpid-wp-1433600509680.jpgAfter the filling dinner it helps to do a bit of strolling along the strip. You might want to check out the original Venetian Canal Shoppes.

wpid-wp-1433600459302.jpgLas Vegas offers a chance to catch up on outlet shopping if you have not been fully satiated on previous attempts. Pictured above is the Las Vegas Premium Outlets North.

wpid-wp-1433566668096.jpgOn the way to the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam is a popular stop. Not very interesting in my opinion.

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Degadillo’s Snow Cap is a much more interesting stop, and the food is actually not bad. They close at 6pm, so it would be a nice tea break or early dinner stop.

wpid-wp-1433600482923.jpgThe Grand Canyon. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. I took on the recommendation to hike some way down the canyon and it truly offers a nicer perspective on the canyons.

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wpid-wp-1433566633646.jpgIf you’re fortunate you might see an Elk.

Matsumoto

Matsumoto is not typically in the itinerary of most people. I went there due to Matsumoto Castle being recommended as the other best castle to visit other than Himeji. The castle was pretty indeed, was quite small and bare inside but nevertheless pleasant. In fact, Matsumoto town itself was more pleasant than Himeji.

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Apparently they have the frog as their mascot.

There are two specialty food in Matsumoto – soba and horse meat. That’s right, horse meat. Specifically, horse meat sashimi. The soba was the best I’ve had. This was at Sasaki Soba.

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Unfortunately they didn’t offer the horse meat on the day I visited. Was feeling relieved I didn’t have to try it.

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This was beer from a nearby town. Awesome.
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Simply cannot skip sake for every meal

There are a few scenic towns and sights in the Japanese Alps. You can visit them along with Matsumoto. I will certainly come to this region again.

Hiroshima and Miyajima

Hiroshima and Miyajima are about an hour from each other, so if one of them is in your itinererary, the other should be too. If you have the JR Pass, it costs you nothing additional to travel between them. Half a day is about enough to cover the main sights in Hiroshima and Miyajima, i.e. the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima and the Itsukushima Shrine with its great Torii gate, in Miyajima. These are UNESCO heritage sights.
wpid-wp-1432676883225.jpgThe Atomic Bomb Dome as viewed from the monument in the Memorial Park.

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The Torii Gate at Miyajima.
wpid-wp-1432676895379.jpgItsukushima Shrine.

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Okonomiyaki is the specialty food you will find all over Hiroshima. It does take quite a bit of effort to assemble and tastes good too. Not to be missed while in Hiroshima.

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The specialty food in Miyajima are oysters. The oysters have very thick flesh, very different from what is typically available in Singapore. Cbeck out the restaurant 牡蠣屋.

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I read about recommendations (from tabelog.com) on the restaurant specializing in eels in Miyajima – うえの. This restaurant is very near the train station. In order to satisfy my craving for both the oyster and the eel, i bought the eel bento (which was not cheap, at more than 1700 yen). The bento was fantastic. The eel was like nothing i have tasted before. The textue is not the typical mushy type, and the taste was not the typical “drowned in teriyaki sauce” kind. If you want to taste eel like you have never before, go here. At least grab the bento.

Osaka, Nara, Himeji

This post is more than one week overdue. So I found out that in practice it’s difficult to blog while traveling. Anyway, if Osaka is in your travel itinerary, you might want to visit Nara and Himeji as well since they are only about an hour away from Osaka.

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The Osaka castle is a popular attraction. You will probably see bus loads of tourists there like I did. I took some photos and went off.

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If you go to the Nanba area (I stayed there), then you should make it a point to try the Rikuro cheesecake, which was awesome moist and fluffy. They always sell it fresh off the oven and it sets you back by only 648 yen which is unbelievable value for money.

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Many travelers from Singapore visit Taiwan and Hong Kong for their night markets, but have you wondered where the Taiwanese and Hong Kongers go? That’s right, it’s Japan. The Dotonbori is simply the best night shopping district I have been, with never ending lit covered streets, each with a different design. It is bound to impress.

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Various cuts of the Matsusaka beer are labeled in English when served

The food i was most keen on trying in Japan is beef, and the best beef in Japan is none other than the Matsusaka. Through Tripadvisor i found this restaurant in Osaka that offers a decent price for sampling Matsusaka beef – Yakiniku M. You do have to make advance reservations, make sure you do that way before your trip to avoid disappointment. I can say this was an eye (or rather tongue) opening experience.

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Grilling in progress
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The main attraction in Nara is the close encounter with deers
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Nara Park is quite nice – probably man-made, yet looks so natural
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Deer chewing on a map from the back pocket of a visitor
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The Himeji Castle is quite a sight to behold

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Japanese castles are not large in size and do not have intricate details, both for the exterior and interior, as compared to European castles. Still, the architecture is nothing short of beautiful.

Kyoto in 1.5 days

Many itineraries are possible in Kyoto. Here’s what i have chosen to do in 1.5 days. This itinerary is a scaled down version of japan-guide’s Eastern Kyoto Full Day itinerary, and i had to skip a few stops, as my original itinerary was still overly ambitious. There were a lot of slopes to tackle, which turned out to be quite challenging for us as we were carrying 2 kids.

Day 1 – Arrival at Narita in the morning. Take Shinkansen to Kyoto. Check in to guesthouse. Head to Fushimi Inari. Dessert at 中村藤吉 which is at Kyoto Station. Check out the shopping mall at Kyoto Station (Isetan). Dinner at 太郎屋.

Day 2 – Get the one day bus pass. Most of the tourist attractions are actually accessible only by bus. Take bus to Ginkakuji. Walk along Philosopher’s path. Take bus to get lunch at Gion Doraemon (祇園えもん). Take bus down to Kiyomizudera (requires some climbing). Tea break. Take bus back to Gion Hanamikoji. Gion Shirakawa is a short walking distance away. Walk to the Pontocho area for dinner, at Hiro‘s. Bus to Shijidori, the main shopping street.

Fushimi Inari is famous for its Torii gates.

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Nice photographic opportunities here, easy access via the JR Nara line.

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Glimpse into the driver’s seat on the vintage train that still serves Kyoto – Nara.

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中村藤吉 offers nice green tea flavoured desserts. Its location at Kyoto station makes it an easy tea time stop. Expect to queue for a while.

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Sample Kyoto style Obanzai at 太郎屋.

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Ginkakuji has a nice zen style garden.

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The philosopher’s path is just beside the Ginkakuji, making them a compelling combo attraction in Kyoto.
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Kiyomizudera is packed with tourists, but it is still worth a look despite having to jostle a bit.

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I learned that the Japanese love to have a tree sticking out from the front facade of their homes, and it really does look pretty. Here’s an example from the Gion Hanamikoji area.

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The Gion Shirakawa area is like the Japanese version of Venice.

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Locals and foreigners alike love basking on the sidewalk of the Kamo river, and it is very pleasant indeed.

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Patio dining at the Pontocho area overlooking the Kamo river is popular and probably requires advanced reservations.

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Not to be missed in Japan.. Wagyu beef.

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The main shopping street is along Shijidori.

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The Japanese are so polite.