Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dinner at Isekura (いせくら) in Noboribetsu [Hokkaido, Japan]

Following lunch, we were once again hit with a dilemma on where to have dinner and eventually chose Isekura for two reasons; the aroma of grilled meat and the customers seated outside (latter of which gave us the presumption it should be popular).


Essentially a charcoal grill restaurant, it also offered normal donburi (rice bowls) and ramen (specialty was milk ramen)! Surprisingly, none of us was in the correct mood for bbq (and ramen); I was in fact craving for white rice! 


Free-range Chicken Bowl - i think i am quite lucky with food throughout this Hokkaido trip whereas Alex had his misses. The chicken bowl for Alex wasn't bad; just didn't taste extraordinary enough to differentiate itself from those sold in Japanese chains in Singapore like Sakae Sushi. 

Ginger Pork Set - Mine with pork that hailed from noboribetsu itself; there's nothing fresher than that unless i stayed in a pig farm and with just 100 yen more, i thought this was more worth it compared to what Alex had. 

The meat had that distinctive ginger flavour that didn't strike me as overwhelming. In fact, it featured just the right amount to bring out the taste and complement perfectly with the tenderised pork which wasn't as sinfully fat as i expected it to be. 

Good enough for me to leave one piece as the grand finale. I almost wanted to forgo the tomatoes since i don't particularly fancy them. However, i decided not to waste my food and popped one slice into my mouth; mmmm, crunchy with a dash of sweetness! Needless to say, nothing was left on the plate at the end. 

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Location Map

As above.

Menu
As above.

Pricing
Free-range Chicken Bowl - 800 yen
Ginger Pork Set - 900 yen


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Gigantic Musical Cudgel (大金棒) @ Dai-ichi Takimotokan in Noboribetsu [Hokkaido, Japan]

Among the many places we visited in Hokkaido, noboribetsu ranked as the most relaxing and i absolutely adore the use of Japanese demons as the key selling point for the famous onsen village.

The demons were everywhere and their iconic weapon (i.e. cudgels / clubs) was regularly featured. There's even a gigantic cudgel located right within the biggest hotel in the area; Dai-ichi Takimotokan!

It's maybe about 6-8 meters tall and i initially brushed it off as a decorative item as it didn't appear to serve any other purpose other than being big, thick and golden. 

I only noticed there's more to the cudgel on the second day i walked past it; there's a loud melody being played and while i was checking out to see what it us, the cudgel started 'opening'! Wah! I didn't know there were secret compartments! 

Like cuckoo clocks, the figures (known as automatons) in the top compartment moved according to the melody as they were the designated monster musicians.  

I don't know what's the storyline like but i am imagining it's in relation to Momotarō (桃太郎); a legendary hero in Japanese folklore. It kind of reminds me of a Taiwanese movie called 新桃太郎; anyone (born before 1982) remembers it? To jolt your memory, a low-resolution version of the movie can be found here

Anyway, the free musical 'performance' happens hourly and takes less than 10 minutes; do check it out if you happen to be in noboribetsu! The hotel is literally next to hell valley; hence, it's not hard to find.

For those who would not be going to Hokkaido any time soon can catch the performance above. The video is courtesy from another visitor who has uploaded it to YouTube! 

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Location
Within Dai-ichi Takimotokan,
Noboribetsu, Hokkaido, Japan


Monday, February 26, 2018

An unplanned lunch in a Izakaya (たこ焼き 永森) along the main onsen street in Noboribetsu @ Hokkaido [Japan]

According to my itinerary, the plan was to have ramen in the onsen village of noboribetsu but we just had it the night before at Lake Toya's Ramen Ippontei (一本亭)

Hence, it took us a while before we settled with this small, little eatery that seemed to be manned by a mother, along the main street. Heck, i didn't even know it's a izakaya (an informal Japanese pub) until i researched more about it when i am back in Singapore.

I kid you not; that's like all the seating in the izakaya, except for 3 more counter seats near the cashier. With only one communal table, we eventually had to share with another group of customers; very cozy. 

The three counter seats made from empty beer bottle crates with a cushion pad tied to it; novel no doubt and my sharp ass didn't suffer from sitting on it for extended period of time. 

Menu with badly translated English that also happened to be missing words; thankfully the Chinese translation was much better and with the appended pictures, we roughly understood what's available for ordering. 

Alex had a hard time deciding what to have but he recalled the amazing okonomiyaki at Masaya in Furano and when he saw the younger lady making okonomiyaki, it was decided he must have one too! 

Tempura Scallops - Batter was thin and the scallops, though pretty small in size, were lightly salted and tasted fresh! 

Bacon and Cheese Okonomiyaki - appearance wise, i thought it looked legit delicious and as usual, Alex would always kindly allow me a bite so that i can share the review on my blog. 

Turned out the sauce was a bit too heavy for my liking and even though there was a healthy amount of shredded vegetables in the middle, their cut was a tad too thick; resulting in them being under-cooked. The flour used also tasted more like the kind used for Korean pancake. As you could probably have guessed, Alex was disappointed with his order. 

Gyu Don - when Japanese cuisine started gaining popularity in Singapore, my favourite dish was gyu don and i would always visit this casual Japanese restaurant on the basement of Junction 8 whenever the craving hit. 

It's a pity that the eatery had since closed down but well, i am in Japan and i obviously would have to check out their gyu don! It must be better compared to what i have in Singapore right?! Okay, the aforementioned have succinctly explained why i opted for gyu don.

Good and simple with the marination that's the sweeter kind i have always enjoyed and the meat featuring that tender fattiness i like; it wasn't over the heaven kind of gyu don yet i do appreciate the simplicity of what appeared to be a home cooked dish from a mother. 

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Location Map
As above

Pricing
Tempura Scallops - 550 yen for two sticks
Bacon and Cheese Okonomiyaki - 850 yen
Gyu Don - 800 yen
(Accepts cash only)


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Patong Beach - Filled with People! @ Phuket [Thailand]

I have been to Patong Beach even though the more correct description was that i passed by it on a company trip over ten years ago and that was at night which means i can't really see much anyway!

Hence, i deliberately made it a point to check out Patong Beach in my recent journey to Phuket and to make sure i get to see it in bright daylight, i even arranged for a nearby accommodation; i.e. Swissotel Resort Phuket Patong Beach.

To be reasonable, i know Patong Beach is a touristy enclave and i shouldn't expect pristine clean beaches with white, powdery sand. And i didn't.

It's exactly what you expect from the most popular beach in Phuket


People, people and more people! Yes, not exactly my kind of beach but if you have been following my blog, you would know i am hardly a suntan person and prefer to explore the underwater world! 


And if i want to chit chat, i would definitely opt for an air-conditioned cafe. Nevertheless, everyone is different and those who have likely gone through winter in their home country might appreciate summer more than we do. 

Rows of beach lounger chairs; i bet you would have to pay or buy some drinks / snack in order to use them but since i would choose a bed rather than a chair anytime, it's not appealing to me. 

Knowing there are boring persons like me who can't sit and lie still under a hot sun, operators have offered other activities like parasailing, banana boat, strom and jetski! 

Like any other places in Asia, negotiation is a must although countless information online have warned about their danger and lack of safety; in fact, the last accident was in July 2017 when an Australian tourist plunged to his death while parasailing.

I have done parasailing twice (once in Kota Kinabalu and another time in Bali) and don't think i want to spend so much to do it again. 

Those with kids can purchase the beach balls and / or sandcastle moulds. The sandcastle moulds were something i would love to have when i was a kid but as they were pricey, my dad would not buy them. Hence, us kids would improvise by using empty bottles, bottle caps etc.

Massage by the beach! 

Honestly, i do find it a bit too stuffy to have so many people under one tent! Contrast that to the massage i had in Krabi 7 years ago which was unforgettable for all the good reasons! 

Many people would attempt to sell you things or offer you a service (like braiding your hair). Nothing bad about it as they are just earning a livelihood; if you don't want, just reject politely. 

There were a lot of people suntanning on the beach and it's not uncommon to have the ladies without their bikinis! Parents with young kids might have to be prepared for some answers if they chance upon one. :P

Other random photo - some trivia about Patong beach; it's 3.5 kilometer long and gained popularity in the late 1980s among the Western tourists. 

It's badly affected in the 2004 tsunami largely due to its higher tourist density compared to the rest of Phuket even though the situation wasn't as bad as Khao Lak in the north. 

A Star Cruise ship; think it's a Superstar Libra.

Dogs do roam freely in Phuket and while that's no issue for me since i do adore dogs, what i am more worried about is their 'bombs' that might be littered all over the beach! From far, a pile of wet sand doesn't look any different from a pile of dog poop. 

Warning about jellyfish.... 

We didn't waste our time by staying on the beach until sunset. This was taken after our early dinner at Ruen Thai Restaurant which is pretty near the beach.

Here's a shot of my dad with the setting sun! 

Another one that's taken with flash; nicer but make his skin looks so much darker! In actual fact, my dad is known among relatives for his dark skin and it's a pity i didn't inherit his genes. 

A parting shot! 

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Location
Patong Beach,
Phuket, Thailand

Patong Map

As above.



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