A Ryokan Experience in Kyoto

I have always wanted to visit Japan and after the Fukushima incident in 2011, I felt that my hopes of ever visiting the country was dashed and never really considered Japan on the list of places I could ever visit.

Travelling to Japan is a risk. You can call me kiasee all you want, but there is a lot of ignorance about the truth state of the country waterways or soil condition as a result of the Fukushima incident, we might never know until decades down the road, when we see a higher percentage of Japanese people who are living near the state suffering from illnesses from the result of it.

Despite the lack of coverage from the media about the aftermath of the Fukushima incident. I did not want to be irresponsible to bring my child along and expose him to the risks.

K shared the same interest for Japan and we both sought God separately in prayer to see if we could or should visit the country. Reading this, some of u might consider it ridiculous that even for leisure travel we are praying, but our family believe in committing all our plans to God, to ensure that we are walking in His will for us. 

K and I both had the confirmation to go ahead way back in January, and we were excited to confirm our travel plans to Japan all 6 months before we travelled in June.

One of the key highlights from this trip was the Ryokan (Japanese Inn) experience in Kyoto. After watching countless of Ryokan experiences on Japan Hour on Channel News Asia, I was very keen to experience staying in the Ryokan, experience a traditional Japanese meal and  soaking in the Onsen.

 

Our Experience in Arashimaya Benkei

The Ryokan was situated right at the riverside and is touted to be one of the best riverside Ryokan in Arashimaya. We choose this Ryokan as it is short walking distance away from the main street of Arashimaya, and near the Bamboo Forest.

Our first look at the Ryokan and our room;

Kyoto 1

The garden view from inside the room

 

Full board at this Ryokan includes free use of the public onsen (hot spring bath) and a Kaiseki meal, which is a traditional Japanese multicourse meal.

Before we had our first Kaiseki dinner, we went to check out the male and female onsen which was located just a few doors down our room. I made sure that the onsen was deserted to take the video (as video taking isn’t allowed, just don’t share that you saw it here on this blog :))

After the onsen, we got ready for our Kaiseki dinner…

In the Kaiseki dinner meal that we had for 2 dinners at the Ryokan, there were about 10-12 different dishes that included an appetiser, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish and a steamed course, finished off with rice, miso soup and preserved radish and dessert.

Kyoto 17

The first dish revealed; A Sesame seed bean curd with simmered plum, a vineyard quick boiled octopus, topped with plum pulp. Together with vinegar mozuku seaweed with cucumber. With a conger eel sushi. Served with Skewered prawn, Japanese pumpkin and red konjac with miso paste.  

Kyoto 2

The other dishes ensuing…

KyotoKaisenki1

Kyotokaisenki2

That ended off with steamed rice, miso soup, pickled radish and then dessert…

Kyotokaisenki3

It was such an aesthetically-pleasing meal, and the ingredients were not common to my regular palate. Hb was gamed to try everything, even though he usually does not eat anything raw or preserved in Japanese cuisine.

Our second Kaiseki the following night was just as interesting and tasty.

Kytkai4

Kytkai5

Overall we enjoyed our Ryokan stay in Arashiyama for the Kaiseki meals and Japanese breakfast, and I recommend it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience (simply because it falls in the ‘luxury’ travel experience category due to the price 😌) and I don’t think I will be giving it another try again as I didn’t really enjoy the Onsen nor the hard futons in the room that gave me a backache the next morning when I woke up!

Kyoto 16Japanese Breakfast for 2 mornings

 

Kyoto 18

Hb review of this Ryokan sums it quite nicely in Trip Advisor;

‘As a family of 3, we stayed 2 nights in the first week of June. The first thing you will notice is the impeccable service on the ryokan situated in a spot with a stunning view of the Arashiyama Mountains and lake. One also cannot help but notice the amount of detailed effort that went into the renovation and modernisation of the property while retaining a traditional facade. What results is a top class Ryokan that exudes traditional whilst offering the modern comforts welcomed by its guests. 

The best part? A 12 course Kaiseki dinner included in your stay that very competently showcases the many different Japanese culinary styles tempting even the most unadventurous (talking about himself likely 😜) visitor to indulge. 

The separate male and female indoor and outdoor onsen made accessible only to the Ryokan guests are also a definite and unique treat! All combined to offer a very memorable experience. A must stay.’

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Living Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Moments

Euphoria have taken over the country the last two weeks. It started with the relentless pursuit of virtual creatures and then went on through the victory of one man, who have become a hero and inspiration for many.

The media frenzy will eventually die down once another major world event happens, but in the meantime, I am suffering from social media fatigue from both news.

Sure we talked about the Champion at home. With K, we discussed how hardworking, determined and motivated he is, to have achieved what he has today. Positive traits that we can all learn from.

Then I posed this question to my hb yesterday morning, ‘Would you have done what the Champion’s parents did for their son, if you have discovered his talent at a young age?’ He answered with a resounding “Of course!” Then he came to a realisation, that hypothetically, this would be any parent would try to do for their child if they could. But realistically, our financial state was not in its best state 6 years ago. It became a challenge to even pay for monthly lessons, so it didn’t matter that K seemed to have showed promise for Tennis or Golf at a tender age of 2.

As for Pokemon Go, K and I discussed about the dangers of getting addicted the game and I showed his articles and photos of the masses who were gathering around a certain neighbour in their pursuit of the virtual monsters. While his school addressed the dangers of phone and game addiction during assembly this week.

The online mobile game does not seem to be not so positive with a group of players disturbing the peace in a neighbourhood and obstructing traffic in other places. And in comparison, there are much positiveness that can be garnered from the Olympic win, since it has provided inspiration for the many to aspire to possible greatness in their ordinary lives. It might have also awaken the latent ’Tiger-Parent’ in some who refuse to consider that their child will just be average.

It is always good to have ambitions, regardless whether it is an aspiration to be the Pokemon Master of Singapore where thousands of fellow Pokemon Trainers look up to, or be that person who have achieved accolades for his/her and become a country’s idol/hero overnight.

Upon retrospection, I realised that both events have a similarity. Both provided the masses emotion highs, although of a different kind, once is caused by instant gratification while the other, celebrates the victory and the glory of one man for the nation.

So what happens after these highs die down, most will be left with the dread of the empty feeling of having to deal with ordinary life. The Pokemon trainers will continue, being drawn to the feelings of instant gratification from the game, while the others will dive into their next goal or objective to reach for their child.

As for the rest of us, who have realised through the years that we are faced with this challenge of having ordinary lives and ordinary children? Pokemon Go is definitely not the answer, and neither do we need to catch them all to find entertainment or meaning from our otherwise mundane life.

There is magic in the mundane, although the world tells you that you need to become this, or have this or that to become happy. I believe we can make the most out of life by finding the joy in the ordinary. Things do not need to change, but our perception do.

Joy2

I used to think there was a list of things that my son needed to learn before he turned 6, one of them was reading and writing, then swimming, and the maybe riding a two-wheel bicycle. He got around doing most of the things in the list by 8 years old, but never got to learn to ride a 2 wheel bicycle. I didn’t feel that I needed to splurge on a trainer bike when he was a toddler and like all other milestones, like being toilet trained, or sleeping in his own room, I believe there will be a day he would be ready to learn how to do it.

Just this week, it took him two 30min sessions of learning to balance by going down on gentle slopes on a $90 BMX bicycle, without putting his legs on the pedal. And he can now ride a 2 wheel bicycle at the ripe age of 9 years old.

Some parents might exclaim, “So what, my child could ride a 2 wheel bicycle when he/she was 3/4/5 years old.” You can give your child all kinds of ambitions, or relish in the achievement that he/she could learn to read/write/cycle/swim before a certain age, or even sweep up all the awards in school. Not ensuring my child to swim or cycle before the age of 8 years old, or having a child who do not win any awards or accolades through their academic life will make me any less of a good parent.

I stopped sharing K’s milestones or success in this blog or in social media the last few years, as I reflected on what the motivation behind that. I can be proud of my son doing some things, and hope to have friends in Facebook share my joy and pride, or it might make me look like a good and capable mother, or have a very smart/handsome/capable child but I found all of that pointless.

I rather find joy in the ordinary things and in overcoming ordinary life. And really, the biggest challenge in life comes with finding joy and contentment through our everyday.

Joy

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BibiTheChi Reviews : 7 Dog Friendly Cafes and Restaurants in Singapore May 2016

My family and other dog pawrents need to eat good food during their weekends. Visiting Dog cafes can get rather tiresome after a while, for my Mom especially (not me for sure), when she has to watch me like a hawk to make sure that I don’t get mauled by being over-friendly to a bigger dog, and mark (pee) around the tables or chairs.

We haven’t visited all the Dog cafes in Singapore, e.g. Happenstance Cafe or Roboeyes Cafe but from what we have experienced with most places, they focus on finger food and there really much to talk about when it comes to their food. Since I don’t get to eat what I like most of the time, as Mom is so particular about me putting on extra weight, I hardly get to try any of their selections from the Dog menu *whine*

Sunray Cafe is just about the only Dog Cafe that we have tried so far that has rather decent food, good portions and good coffee. The last time we were at Sunray Cafe, Mom was chasing after me with the mop each time I felt the urgency to mark on someone’s table or chair. Since then, we don’t frequent Dog cafes as much as I would like to :(

Screen Shot 2016 05 07 at 11 04 25 amObviously this will never be for me :( from 3 Barks Cafe in 327 Joo Chiat Road. 

Since beginning of April, my family started to scout around for Dog Friendly cafes that they can visit on the weekends, where they can get to eat good food, while I can only watch. Sadly, this is a dog’s life!

I might not be able to try the food most of the time, but sometimes, I still get some morsels of food with no salt, spices or sauces. But after hearing my Mom vocally expressing her insights of the place and my boy’s review of the food from each place, I am able to compile this post for you with a review of each of the cafe/restaurant we have visited the past 2 months.

 

West

39 Jalan Mas Puteh Singapore 128637

Tel : 96465372

Screen Shot 2016 05 07 at 11 03 16 amThat’s Seared Tuna in the foreground, looked interesting, but fish will never be my top choice, Mom loved it though.

We have been here twice and the experiences have all been very pleasant. The ambience is good seated outside, and there are ample seats outdoors on a weekend evening.

W39 have good cakes and they have a small section of baked bread that patrons can buy home, but a limited selection of food from their menu. However having a small selection is alright when u do it well, and we have not been disappointed with their Seared Tuna, Steak, Wagyu Burger, Chicken wings and their good selection of non alcoholic drinks, beers and ciders. We have yet to try their brunch selections and their weekday lunch selections, as we have been there for dinner the both times we visited, but the cakes are good. Must try favourites are Warm Chocolate Cake and Sea Salt Caramel Cake. One of each isn’t enough for Mom. *snigger*

When u visit W39, do say Hi to Mimi the neighbourhood cat if you see her. She isn’t friendly with dogs and there was quite a bit of staring exchange going on when I was there the both times, but she is not hostile as long as you don’t go too near to her.

Seating Outdoors but sheltered.

Food : 8/10 Mostly Western Food Selections, with a good variety of cakes. 

Service : 7/10

Ambience : 10/10

Price : About $40 per head (with non-alcoholic drinks), with 2 slices of cake to share 

Overall Experience : 8/10

 

East

55 Lorong L Telok Kurau, Singapore 425500
 
Tel : 6346 0504

Screen Shot 2016 05 07 at 11 05 21 am

The Garden Slug was one of the first few Dog Friendly cafes we scouted in the East and we weren’t disappointed with the food each time we visited. The pastas are generally consistent, except for the tomato-based one that we order during our last visit that was a tad bit salty, Mom and my boy loved the Salmon Carbonara though.

You wouldn’t go wrong with ordering any of their selections from their all day breakfast, however, we are going to go back for their steaks the next time when Dad joins us for dinner. The meat portions are rather large so it will be helpful if you have a family member/friend who love meat to share the platter.

Friendly and attentive service staff overall who will provide your dog with an icy bowl of water.

The cafe is located in the quiet neighbour with a Dog Therapy indoor swimming pool, Pet shop and Pet Groomer along the same stretch of shops.

Seating Outdoors but sheltered.

Food : 8/10 Mostly Western Food Selections

Service : 8/10

Ambience : 7/10

Price : About $35 per head (with non-alcoholic drinks), with no dessert

Overall Experience : 7/10

 

200 Netheravon Road Singapore 508529

Tel : 6475 0200

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 11.04.44 amCoastal Settlement with my friends, Sweetheart and Mao Mao

This place can be quite far to get to especially if you live in the West like I do, and if you don’t drive. The first time we visited was after visit to Pet Expo, and a few days after, we returned again when we were in that vicinity.

So far we have only tried their Fish and chips, Chicken Wings and Fried Calamari that are cooked rather competently. It will be a nice place to drop by for lunch if you reside in the Tampines/Pasir Ris/Changi neighbourhood. The outdoor area is spacious but most tables are under big umbrellas, so it will not be a good place to go to if it rains. I would also avoid going to the place in the evenings or nights, as it is surrounded by a small forested area, so there will be likely swamps of mosquitos lingering around the place at night.

Do make sure to go through your bill very carefully, especially on the weekends when they get crowded with pawrents and their dogs seated outdoors. The first time we visited, they overcharged Mom by more than $50 as Mom was busy chatting with friends and didn’t do through the bill carefully. She ended up paying for another table and didn’t realise it until she saw the bill again when we got home. *tsk tsk so careless, got too much money is it?* Also their service isn’t attentive at all, especially if you are seated outside.

But I guess we will still go back to try their other selections in the menu if we are in that vicinity.

Seating Outdoors, limited seats are sheltered. 

Food : 6 to 7/10 Mostly Western Food Selections but we haven’t tried much variety from their menu yet

Service : 5/10

Ambience : 7/10

Price : About $30 per head (with non-alcoholic drinks), with no dessert

Overall Experience : 6/10

 

North 

205 Upper Thomson Road SIngapore 574345

Tel : 90041800

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 11.04.01 amSeated on one of the indoor bench chairs in Pasta J

The pastas are really of good quality and very tasty, our favourite is the Salmon Carbonara, the best we have even tasted. It’s one of the rare non Dog cafe that allows dogs in their indoor seating. Service is attentive and personalised as the owner himself greets the patrons and often is the one who takes the orders, all 3x we have been here. The owner of Pasta J has 2 Schnauzers and a dog lover, so I always get extra hugs and smooches by him each time I visit, which I don’t mind.

Tables indoors are limited, as the cafe is quite small but comfortable seating as they are not too close to one another.

Parking is limited alongside the cafe, but many lots available at Sin Ming Plaza across the road. I think it’s perfectly alright walk a little to find your way to good food.

Seating Indoors or Sheltered Outdoor Area

Food : 8/10 Mostly Pastas selections with some Grilled Meats 

Service : 9/10

Ambience : 8/10

Price : About $35 per head (with non-alcoholic drinks), with no dessert

Overall Experience : 8/10

**Our top choice when we are in Upper Thomson

 

1382 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, Bishan Park 2, Singapore 569931

Tel : 65561533

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 12.41.03 pm

This is the only place, that no photo was taken of me in the cafe. So I can only share this one above. I was decked out in my black/white bow tie that evening, dressed well to be ready to be stepped on 😛 You will understand why when you read further on the review of this place.

We were there on a Friday evening, about 8.30pm. An hour before, Mom called to make a reservation, and the Cafe Manager who picked up the call told us we could just walk in.

When we arrived, there were hardly any tables at all, and we were given a seat in a dark and cramped walk-way, where the only light was streaming from the indoor area and a tealight candle on the table. Such low lighting that my Mom didn’t want to waste any of her time snapping a photo of me there. We were shown a leaflet of sorts with the house-rules for patrons who brought along their dogs, like keeping us leashed within their premises and listed out obvious no-no-s like pawrents sharing the utensils with us dogs *duh*.

Somehow having that list of house-rules started off our experience in this food establishment on a wrong footing, especially since Mom is the fastidious sort. We really frowned on the rule that dogs were not allowed on chairs, even tiny ones like me, who will only sit in my pet tote bag or on the cloth that Mom usually brings along to line the chairs, to make sure that I don’t dirty the chairs in the cafes or restaurants.

So the only option I had was on the floor and risked having my tiny foot or tail being stepped on.

So with me on the ground, in a cramped walk-way, I was nervous and Mom even more stressed that I would get stepped on by the service staff walking up and down hastily or by other patrons, so she ended gobbling up her food quickly and watching me most of the time and pulling back my leash each time someone walked past. Obviously with that, I couldn’t enjoy any of my dinner that Mom brought along for me, and I decided to go hungry for the evening.

The grilled Salmon that my boy order was simple but tasty, while the Teriyaki Cod Mom ordered was good as well but we don’t have much to say about the ambience and the seating overall.

Generally the food or service isn’t that fantastic for Mom to consider buying a foldable chair for me to sit on, to patronise this place. So we will be hard-pressed to consider this place again when we are back to Bishan Park on a weekend, instead we will be heading next door to Cornerstone Cafe instead.

Review of Cornerstone Cafe coming soon.

Tip to Save : Considering that Mom got the Entertainer App which gives us a free main course for any main course order, there were some savings of $20+ from our meal there.

Seating Outdoors, but limited seating that are sheltered. If you need your dog to sit on chairs (especially with the small toy breeds) please bring our own foldable chair. 

Food : 6/10

Service : 5/10

Ambience : 4/10

Price : About $45 per head (with non-alcoholic drinks), but without dessert

Overall Experience : 3/10  (A place that markets itself as being Dog friendly, but really isn’t that friendly)

 

Central 

11 Dempsey Road, Singapore 249673

Tel : 64768748

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 11.02.34 am

Mom used to visit their first Dome outlet at Park Mall and loved their sandwiches and Citron Presse drink when she was a young adult and visiting this chain of cafes brought back memories for her. In recent years, they have expanded the selections on their menu and there are many different non-alcoholic beverages to choose from apart from Coffee and Tea.

We went for the Club Sandwich and Steak the first time. The Club sandwich was good as usual, but quality of meat for the Steak can be improved. My boy, having ‘gourmet’ tastebuds, rejected the whole dish after a few bites and Mom being thirfty, ended up finishing what’s left. I didn’t mind to help too, but Mom refuse to let me have any bite of the beef, the only thing I got to eat were bits of fried egg from the Club Sandwich *cheh*

The second time we visited like 2 days after our first visit, we ordered Seafood Pasta and Grilled Salmon in Brown Rice. The Seafood Pasta portions were generous, with fresh seafood and it was delicious (according to my boy). While Grilled Salmon was a healthier choice for Mom, and with a healthier choice, you can expect that it isn’t impressive in the taste department. Forgot healthy choices Mom! You know you want something rich and sinful.

The service can be rather slow while seated outdoors as the service staff are usually indoors but all you will need is to get the attention of the staff near the entrance each time u need service. But they have no problems at all with me seating on their chairs, best if you can bring a cloth like how Mom does to line the chairs before letting your dog sit on it (and the service staff serving us was a Malay guy some more!).

Perhaps the next time, I will show you what Mom lugs along in my Pet Tote each time we go out.

Tip to Save : Sign up for the Dome ‘Circle of Friends’ dining priviledges at $80 entitles you to a chockfull of benefits. A $20 dining voucher to offset your first bill, 10 cups of complimentary non-alcoholic beverages (we have been having free drinks for both times we were there), 1 complimentary main course, 1 complimentary welcome drink, 1 complimentary soup of the day, 50% off 1 slice of cake, 10% off regular menu price for 2 years and 20% regular menu during your Birthday month.

Seating Outdoors but sheltered. 

Food : 6/10

Service : 6/10

Ambience : 8/10

Price : About $30 per head (with drinks, but without dessert)

Overall Experience : 7/10

**Our top choice right now whenever we are in Dempsey, as we like the quiet and breezy area where we are seated. 

 

Central 

20 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village Singapore 277679

Tel : 6464 5238

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 11.02.55 am

We haven’t tried the Korean BBQ both times we visited this place but tried their Bulgogi Beef and Japanese Cuisine, which is quite good. There is another outlet in Novena Square 2 but only this one in Holland Village is Dog-Friendly as there is outdoor seating. We were here for lunch the first time and was initially concerned that it might get hot seating outdoors, but we were pleasantly surprise that it was quite cool seated outdoors with their ceiling fans turned on. The second time we visited was for dinner and it was even more pleasant seated outside in the evening.

Interestingly, Hansang Korean is one of the few restaurants in Holland Village that is Dog Friendly, despite being in a place where there are many cafes and restaurants that have outdoor dining areas. There are 2 more cafes that are dog friendly along Lorong Mambong but are only open for lunch, which we have yet to visit. While there is another place known as Park which is Dog-friendly, but have extremely limited seats.

Generally the availability of Dog friendly cafe/restaurants in Holland Village is disappointing, so we only visit Hansang Korean when my family goes to Holland Village for their meals.

Seating Outdoors but sheltered. 

Food : 7/10

Service : 7/10

Ambience : 7/10

Price : About $30 per head (if you don’t order the Korean BBQ meats), at least $50 per head if you are having Korean BBQ

Overall Experience : 7/10

**Our top choice right now whenever we are in Holland Village

 

I really hope that there will be more Dog Friendly places sprouting from all over the Island, so that I can get to go out with my family everytime for their meals.

However, we do need the help of fellow dog owners too, to be considerate of others and think for the service and cleaning staff in these places. The more we are considerate for others, fewer places will slap us with details of their house rules which leave a bad taste in our pawrent’s mouth even before they can eat anything from the food establishment.

Also there will be a chance that more food establishments will go that additional lengths to apply for a license for Dogs to accompany their Pawrents during their visits to these places. Often cafes/restaurants with outdoor seating do not want to allow Dogs in their premises, due to negative encounters of patrons who bring their dogs to these places that are NOT civic minded (too common in Singapore).

 

Some tips when bringing your dog along with you dining in these Dog friendly (but not Dog cafes) :

  • Keep your dog leashed at all times, to ensure that they do not disturb other patrons in the cafe / restaurant
  • If your dog is not friendly and have a tendency to bite if they are touched by strangers, do let the other patron sitting near you know, especially if they seem keen to pet your dog.
  • If you have a toy-sized dog who prefers to sit on chairs, do bring your own cloth or mat to line the chairs to ensure that they do not dirty the chairs for other patrons. Or if the food establishment is very particular about dogs sitting on their chairs, bring a foldable canvas chair along with you (can be purchased at $9.90 from Giant Supermarkets).
  • Get your dog to wear a belly-band if your dog is male and leashed on the ground, and have this habit of marking places where they are scent of other dogs. Make sure your dog have done his/her toileting before settling down in any food establishment.
  • This might be common sense for most pawrents or dog owners, but please do not allow your dog to eat from their plates or eat from their utensils. Or put them on the tables.

bibipaw

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