Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Travel Goals: Explore little-known Tohoku in Japan

Between shrines and onsens, there’s a reason Tohoku in Japan has made it to Lonely Planet’s top 10 regions to visit in 2020. Aurelia Fernandes takes on this stunning region to discover just that. 


“Japan gets really hot in the summer…” my guide Umeko san trails off, looking at me sympathetically as I root about in my backpack in search of another wet wipe. “I am very sorry about the weather.” I smile at her, having lost track of how many times she’s apologised for the weather since we met earlier this morning. I assure her that Mumbai is just as hot and humid, so this weather doesn’t faze me at all. If anything, it makes me feel at home.In all honesty, though, the sweltering August heat is probably the only thing that Tokyo and Mumbai have in common, so, right then, the Japanese capital has my undivided attention. And, sadly, I have barely 12 hours here. While the rest of my itinerary looks immensely promising, I’m bummed out over my measly amount of time in Tokyo. Like most people who’ve been to Japan or find themselves planning a trip, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka (the golden trio) have always taken top spots on my bucket list. Tokyo, to me, is the ultimate metropolitan city, home to all things tech, anime and fashion. Kyoto, on the other hand, is steeped in history and culture, with art running through its veins. And, finally, there’s Osaka, Japan’s gastronomical capital and home to Toyo, the star of the Japan episode of Street Food on Netflix  (a show definitely worth checking out if you haven’t yet already).In a country that has these big league players, what does the Tohoku region have to offer? Other than Miyagi and Akita, two cities I am familiar with thanks to their food, the rest of the region is uncharted territory for me.

“We’ve arrived!” Saori san, one of our hosts, announces. As we make our way off the bus, I find myself in Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. Home to the Tokyo Big Sight, a popular convention centre, the rainbow bridge and a replica of Lady Liberty (it’s Japan, why wouldn’t there is a replica of the Statue of Liberty?), Odaiba has the reputation of being a high-tech entertainment hub of sorts. But imitation statues and Mario kart references aside, we are here to see one of Odaiba’s most-loved attractions – teamLabs Borderless. 

Opened in 2018 in the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM, teamLab Borderless is a digital art collective that views itself as a group of digital artists. In this dedicated space in Odaiba, teamLabs Borderless showcases its stunning visual work, creating terrifically complex and interactive digital installations. The envy on the faces of other visitors around us is evident – teamLab Borderless tickets are not easy to come by; it requires booking well in advance if you intend to see this stunning museum and, believe me, you should. Your instagram profile will thank you. After the visual delight that is teamLab Borderless, we make our way to Gonpachi, a restaurant located in AQUA CiTY, a waterfront mall. The first thing that catches my eye when we enter is a wall lined with celebrity photos. After a few minutes of squinting at the photos, I realise exactly where I am – this is the Gonpachi, where the infamous (and pretty epic) fight scene between Uma Thurman and Lucy Lui was shot in Kill Bill. Although that was shot at the Roppongi branch, the brand is still the same. And, if it was good enough for O-Ren Ishii and the Crazy 88s, it sure is good enough for me. 

After a relatively peaceful lunch, marked by the absence of assassins, we make our way to the Railway Museum. Having gotten off an eight-hour flight and then jumping straight into my itinerary, I can feel the tiredness kicking in. While I have a special love for museums and a notorious reputation for ending up with museum fatigue, I’m not quite sure what to expect from a “railway museum”. I figure a museum of this sort would only appeal to people who are really into locomotives, but I decide to keep an open mind, even though I can’t vouch for my sleepy eyes. 

As we make our way into the museum, I find myself doing a double take – it looks nothing like a museum, let alone one about trains. I expect to see a few dioramas, a couple of train models and a carriage or two at best. What I’m greeted by is full-scale coaches that were once in active service, all pristinely maintained. We walk around admiring these mammoth masterpieces before stepping outside. I noticed a group of excited people, a mix of children and adults, all holding onto flags, peering over the fence in anticipation. “We will now see the Shiki-shima pass by!” Umeko san announces. Are we seriously gathered around to see a train while in a train museum? “It’s the most expensive passenger train in Japan,” Umeko san continues, addressing the confusion clearly visible.on my face. “It goes on a 10-day journey that takes you to different parts of the country; tickets can cost up to 1 million yen!” One million yen for a train ride? For some wild reason, my mind goes to my “first-class” local train pass, sitting in my wallet. “The train passes by every Thursday at 4.40pm. It’s almost a tradition for people to wave at the train and for the passengers to wave back.” As if on cue, we see the sleek train pass us by, with the passengers inside holding a banner against its large glass windows, which says “Thank you”. We wave our flags back at them excitedly, before heading back inside, to the simulation room, to try our hand at driving a train. 

Japan has a history of minimum train accidents and I’m not ready to tarnish that, even if it is just a simulation. Sitting in the shinkansen (bullet train) simulator, I don’t do too badly – for someone who has to press a start and stop button.Our simulation session ends with me receiving a certificate of completion and, as far as I’m concerned, “driving a Japanese train” goes onto the list of things I’ve achieved so far – the simulation part makes up the fine print.

To know more about Japan and unearth the secrets of Tohoku region, check out LPMI’s  January 2020 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.

via Lonely Planet India

Travel Goals: Sail into the past in Kochi, Kerala

The ancient port of Muziris near Kochi, Kerala, might have been obliterated in a flood, but its spirit lives on in these five sites. 


In Kerala, stepping into a boat can transport you to another world. When you step gingerly into a wobbly vallam, the ubiquitous wooden canoe, you will be privy to the lives of the locals who live off the backwaters. If you are welcomed onto a kettuvallam (houseboat), you will be handed into hospitality – welcoming but never obsequious – that the state is famous for. And then, there is the hop-off, hop-on boat that works as a time machine into centuries gone by. Gliding down backwaters, flirting with the Arabian Sea, the boat takes you back to a time when an area close to Kochi was a bustling port city that brought traders from all over the world to this corner of the sub-continent. 

My interest is first piqued by a painting at Port Muziris a Tribute Portfolio Hotel near Cochin International Airport. A Roman and a Keralite gentleman stand in a boat carried by men across a swathe of land. The painting by Vishnu Nair is part of a series commissioned to bring the many moods of Kochi and Kerala to the property. There is modern Kerala, the hustle and bustle of its metro and malls, but there are also these throwbacks on canvas to a time gone by. 

Like the Kochi-Muziris Biennale that has grown to become one of India’s most significant contemporary art exhibitions, the property takes its name from Muziris, an ancient seaport and city dating back from at least 1 BCE. No one is really sure what the modern-day equivalent would be, but, based on Tamil poetry and classical sources (including the Ramayana), and evidenced by a number of excavations in the area, Pattanam on the Malabar Coast, 37km from Kochi, is probably where that once-flourishing gateway was sited. 

It was a place to which Arabs, Chinese, Persians, North Africans, Greeks and Romans came to buy spices, precious and semi-precious stones, Chinese silk and tortoise shells, and to sell gold coins, peridots, linens, raw glass and wine to the chiefs of the Chera kingdom. 

Arguably, it was a place abustle with trade industry. The Tamil poetic work, Purananuru (the name translates to the Four Hundred Songs of War and Wisdom), has a wonderful description of ‘Muciri’: “With its streets, its houses, its covered fishing boats, where they sell fish, where they pile up rice… With the shifting and mingling crowd of a boisterous river-bank where the sacks of pepper are heaped up… With its gold deliveries, carried by the ocean-going ships and brought to the river bank by local boats, the city of the gold-collared Kuttuvan (Chera chief), the city that bestows wealth to its visitors indiscriminately, and the merchants of the mountains, and the merchants of the sea, the city where liquor abounds, yes, this Muciri, where the rumbling ocean roars, is given to me like a marvel, a treasure.” 

That marvellous city vanished from the maps of the world in the 14th century. The flood of Periyar in 1341 was cataclysmic – to the extent that it changed forever the geography of the region, opening up the current harbour at Kochi and a network of backwaters, and forming Vypeen Island near Kochi. In time, the mouth of the Periyar River was so silted up that Muziris could no longer function as a port. 

Since then, it has lingered only in the minds of antiquarians, archaeologists and festival curators. Seven seasons of excavation by the Kerala Council for Historical Research have uncovered artefacts at Pattanam. Roman coins, as well as other ceramics, gold ornaments, semi-precious stone beads, items related to lapidary, architectural ruins and botanical remains reveal contact with countries around the Mediterranean and Red Sea. The Chinese presence is seen in porcelain shards with typical blue-on-white patterns. In 2007, a brick wharf complex with bollards to harbour nine boats, and a canoe mummified in mud were found. The heritage site stretches across the municipality of North Paravur in Ernakulam District to the municipality of Kodungallur in Thrissur district. Time, then, to step into a boat and sail into the past. 

Initiated by the government of Kerala, the Muziris Heritage Project is an initiative to conserve and showcase an ancient culture that the tourism department avers is as significant as that of the Indus Valley. For visitors like me, it translates to a day spent out on the water, riding the backwaters to explore old temples, churches and forts set amid modern coastal life. As we set off in the very comfortable – and, importantly, air-conditioned – boat down the backwaters of the Periyar, Neethu, our guide for the day, points out the Chinese fishing nets that are so much a Kerala signature. The banks are close to us as we motor along, past coconut trees and banana plantations, people walking or cycling on the paths alongside, ducks holding an impromptu conference about whether it’s a good day for swimming. The blue netted fish farms set into the water breed kalanji (Asian sea bass), and vallams carry locals down the river. Overhanging greenery atmospherically obscures the banks at some places, revealing a boat tied up under it here, a set of steps coming down to the water there. We float past a massive river island, and pass a Shri Krishna temple which, Neethu tells us, cocoons a five-foot statue of Shri Krishna in his Narasimha avatar. Echoes of the past seem to mirror the present; Neethu’s own home in this very area was inundated in the 2018 flood; she spent eight days in a camp, she tells me, matter-of-factly. Her guests include locals and visitors from across the world who want to cast themselves back into a time gone by.

To know more about the glorious past at Fort Muziris in Kochi, Kerala, check out LPMI’s January 2020 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.

via Lonely Planet India

Weekend Getaways in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu; Jaipur, Rajasthan & Balasinor, Gujarat

Go on a temple run across Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Out of Chennai (72km)
While most people know this busy little town for saris and idlis, the temple architecture here is fascinating. Most of the places of worship were constructed during the Pallava dynasty, from 6th – 8th century BC, so, even if you’re not religious, you’ll get a magical glimpse into the rich history of the region.
Start your day early, before hordes of the faithful overrun the temple complexes. Make your first stop Kailasanatha Temple, the oldest in town, dating back to the 8th century BC. You will spot half-animal deities, characteristic of early Dravidian architecture, along with the 108 dance poses of Shiva in stone, and this is still a functional temple, so you can offer prayers here. Head next to the Vaikunta Perimal Temple for a glimpse of the historic and mythological scenes carved onto the walls. Finish up the day’s run with the Varadaraja Perumal Temple, famed for its marriage hall.
There are a hundred pillars here, all etched with extravagant carvings. Three temples might not seem like much for an entire day’s itinerary but, given the exquisite details, you’re bound to take your time taking it all in. And there will still be more left to see next time. 

Fill up on delicious local fare in Jaipur, Rajasthan
Out of Delhi (282km)
The most obvious things to do in Jaipur might be to gawk at the stunning architecture or to shop your heart out, but we encourage you to look beyond the usual. Try the local cuisine; it’s delectable and caters to a wide variety of tastes. Rawat Misthan Bhandar might not have space to sit, but you won’t mind standing while you wolf down pyaaz kachori (deep-fried pastry stuffed with onion, potato and masala) and piping-hot jalebis. Follow up with the lassi at Lassiwala. If you thought the local fare would only include vegetarian options, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Dispel your doubts with the mouthwatering mutton nihari at Islami Kallu Hotel. The meat, cooked for six to 10 hours, simply slides off the bone. If more variety is your thing, head on down to Saba Haveli.  The haveli itself is awe-inspiring, and the meal, served on silver thalis in a multitude of katoris, is superbly elaborate. Expect the unexpected in Jaipur; the food is not just delicious, it’s an experience to remember. 

Marvel at the past in Balasinor, Gujarat
Out of Ahmedabad (88km)
Royalty and dinosaurs might usually only be associated together in sarcastic jokes, but in Balasinor, a two-hour drive from Ahmedabad, there’s a far more interesting connect. Balasinor hosts the 72-acre Dinosaur Fossil Park. For millions of years, the fossils here lay ignored until they were discovered as recently as in 1981. Even after that, it’s been difficult getting the recognition they deserve. You could explore the park by yourself, but it’s difficult for the inexperienced to differentiate between a regular rock and a fossil (despite the fences around some of the fossils). The best guide to have is the custodian of the park, Aaliya Sultana Babi, princess from the royal family of Balasinor. Not only does she have in-depth knowledge of the ancient secrets buried here but she’ll also discuss dino extinction theories and the research that went into the fossil sites here. One highlight is the pit in which fossils from the Rajasaurus Narmadensis, a predatory species from the late Cretaceous period, were found. It’s not all prehistoric though, the attractions here – you can also experience living with royalty at the Garden Palace Heritage Homestay, home of Balasinor’s royal family. A trip to Balasinor is a journey into the past unlike any other.

Go on a temple run across Kanchipuram, enjoy the local delicacies of Jaipur, and marvel at the past in Balasinor with LPMI’s January 2020 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.

via Lonely Planet India

Weekend Planner: Hark back to colonial times in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh


Reputed the world over for its mouthwatering Awadhi cuisine, the ancient city of Lucknow is also a treasure trove of architecture. As much as the nawabs held sway over the city, the British, who came later, had quite an influence on it too, and it’s evident in the many structures built by and for them that stand to this day. 

The revolt in 1857 by the Indian sepoys of the East India Company’s forces left its mark on the city. The damp and dark cellars of The Residency were used as a refuge by around 3,000 Britons in those war-torn times. Months were spent in despair there, as the attacks continued (holes left by cannonballs are visible) and almost 2,000 of them ended up dead. It’s not easy to picture these grim events today, in the serene green gardens amid the ruins. To get more insight into the siege of Lucknow, make a stop at the 1857 Memorial Museum. It’s not all grave here though; there’s Begum’s Kothi, the residence of Begum of Nasir-ud-Din Haidar, and a mosque and imambara (shrine) as well. 

The revolt had quite the effect on the city, and you’ll hear of the siege at other spots in the city too. There is La Martiniere College; students of this institution famously helped defend the Residency. The institution’s campus is built around Constantia, a structure built as the residence of Major-General Claude Martin. 

There are several legends surrounding Martin, who is known to have been eccentric. Although he didn’t live to see the building finished, he had two conditions for it. First, he wanted his home to be converted into a school for young men, and, second, he wanted to be buried underneath it, which is where he lies to this day. Even the story about his death is a rather odd one. Rumour has it he fancied himself a surgeon and decided to operate on himself to remove kidney stones. Of course, the attempt was a failure and resulted in his demise. 

The college campus itself resembles something out of a film set, with green lawns, a stable full of horses, and some monuments and crypts. One particular tomb and memorial, known as “Gori Bibi ka Maqbara”, was constructed in honour of Martin’s close friend Boulone Lise. Do bear in mind that you’ll need to get prior permission to visit the school. Tornos organises a specialised tour Tornos House with pick-up and drop, tea and refreshments at the school canteen and access to special areas. 

Head next to Christ Church, the third church built by the British in India, and one that functions as a college today. This was yet another building that was attacked during the revolution, and there are memorials to the fallen. 

We’d also recommend gems such as the All Saints Garrison church, where the pews have space to hold guns and Church of the Epiphany with its striking red brick facade, but there are also other churches in the city worth a visit. Lucknow, with its colourful past, presents a wonderful blend of the nawabi and British cultures. It’s a true representation of the melting pot of cultures that is India. 

To travel this trip NOW, check out LPMI’s  January 2020 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.

via Lonely Planet India

Travel Goals: Be pampered on the rails in India

Experience India like you’ve never done before from the comfort of a luxurious cabin on wheels. All aboard! 


 Arriving in style. That’s what luxury trains promise. Certainly, this has got to be one of the most exciting ways to travel and experience India. These high-end hotels on the rails have just the right blend of charm from a bygone era with extravagant touches of luxury and everything modern to match your taste and style. 

Back with a bang, The Palace on Wheels was recently voted the fourth most luxurious train in the world. True to its name, its coaches come with everything you would expect in a palace – great service, spacious cabins, grand interiors dressed up in elegant wallpaper, and a well-stocked bar. The train sets off for Rajasthan from New Delhi and takes you on a scenic route through Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, and Agra before finishing its journey back in New Delhi. 

Considered by many to be the best among the luxury trains in India, the Maharajas’ Express was introduced by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation. The train only offers services between the busy months of October to April. You can pick from four routes, which include experiences such as a visit to the Taj Mahal, an exciting safari drive through Ranthambore National Park, and a boat ride on Lake Pichola followed by a visit to the City Palace and Crystal Gallery in Udaipur. 

Inspired by the Palace on Wheels model, the Deccan Odyssey was launched to boost tourism in Maharashtra. From World Heritage sites and forts and palaces to an array of cultural experiences, you can select one of six great rail journeys crafted for you. 

Launched way back in 2008, The Golden Chariot still remains a favourite when it comes to experiencing offbeat locales in South India. The two unique itineraries (Pride of South and Southern Splendour offer a glimpse into the culture of the southern states Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Your itinerary takes you past beautiful temples and palaces, little-known beaches, teeming wildlife sanctuaries and the calming backwaters of South India.

To know more about these majestic rides, check out LPMI’s January 2020 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.

via Lonely Planet India

From our Editor: Let travel transform your life…

Can it? It can. Because, when you travel right, it changes the way you’ve lived thus far, and changes the perspective with which you will approach your days to come.

Our 50+ travel goals this issue are all very different. Some of them gently challenge our physical limits, others tease the boundaries of our comfort zones. A few are sure to make serious demands on our bank balances. As you read through them, you will find goals that are easily achievable, others that will take a bit of planning, some you might be doing already. All of them are meant to invite us to look again at the experiences we would like to add to our lives. 

Perhaps you’d like to look polar bears in the eye from within a massive buggy in Churchill, Canada. Witness the migration of the wildebeest (with zebra and crocs as co-travellers) in Africa. Choose to visit a little-explored part of Japan – Tohoku is, incidentally, one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 regions for 2020. Seek out the ancient port of Muziris near Kochi, Kerala. Or, so exciting, actually plan 10 days in Brazil with Kaushal Karkhanis, who has spent much of his recent life immersing himself in South America. 

It could be simpler aspirations too – to eat unusual foods in India or forage for your supper across the world, find your dancing feet in a different part of the world, look down from great heights, or spend the night in the jungle – or on a luxury train right here in the sub-continent. Whatever your threshold of adventure, these travel goals will spark off a thirst to add a new dimension to your travel calendar. These suggestions are just the beginning! Write in and tell us what we’ve inspired!

– Primrose Monteiro-D’Souza

via Lonely Planet India

The Photo Story: Shiny, Happy Faces in Bhutan

Bhutan, Asia’s happiest country, has a lot of stories to tell. And we mean that literally


“Is Bhutan really a happy country?” Krishna asked, breaking the brief moment of silence in the car as we drove from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. “Are people really happy, or is that just something everyone says?” he pressed on, looking expectantly at Bheem, our driver and guide of sorts, who kept his eyes glued to the road, but had a wide grin on his face. 

A mere spectator to their budding friendship,I continued to stare out of the window while eavesdropping. “Sir, it’s simple,” Bheem said.“What are the main things people worry about in life? Jobs, education, health – things that cost money. The government here helps you with everything. Medical bills are taken care of, education is also free. If you want to study further or go abroad for further education, it helps you with that too. I don’t know about happiness and all, but there is definitely less reason to worry.” Krishna seemed content with this answer (for then) and, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. 

Sir, tension lene ka nahi, dene ka!” Bheem quipped out of nowhere, cackling at his own joke and what proved to be his go-to catch phrase throughout the trip. Although we couldn’t guarantee the happiness quotient, we soon learned that the Bhutanese were definitely a lively and chatty lot. From orchard owners who urged us to take apples, provided we scaled a high fence, to locals leading us down a straight path that Krishna managed to get lost on, and store owners who trusted us to babysit during rush-hour (my official introduction to Baby shark...doo doo doo), our 10-day trip was a rather eventful one, and I’d like to think a lot of the credit goes to Bhutan’s shiny, happy people.

via Lonely Planet India

Current Issue: January 2020


Lonely Planet Magazine India inspires travellers to sample different cultures first-hand, discover new people, and learn fascinating stories about every place.


Here’s a sneak peek:

From looking down from the heights to spending a night in a jungle, get ready to achieve some of your most unusual travel goals this year! Set your travel goals with our Lonely Planet Magazine India TRAVEL GOALS issue! Grab your copy of the January 2020 issue today!

This month, let BRAZIL seduce you with its smorgasbord of marvellous experiences. Witness beauty on a grand scale with SWARMS across the planet. Challenge your taste buds with

UNUSUAL FOODS across India. Marvel at how humans live alongside an apex predator in CHURCHILL, CANADA. Follow in the pioneering footsteps of our ancestors and EMBRACE THE JOY OF DISCOVERY. RIDE IN MAJESTIC LUXURY across the dramatic landscapes of the subcontinent. SOAK UP SOLITUDE by travelling when most others don’t. Discover sweeping VIEWS FROM UP HIGH. Unearth the secrets of the TOHOKU region in JAPAN. Set off on a journey to rediscover the primal fascination with DARKNESS. Get out and GATHER YOUR OWN FOOD. Set out on your own to discover MALLORCA, SPAIN. Let the raw POWER OF NATURE teach you vital life lessons. Feel an absolute CONNECT WITH NATURE in the heart of a jungle. MAKE YOUR MOVES without a care in the world; follow your own tune. Seek out gorgeous SHOOT LOCATIONS across our country. And, finally, journey into the glorious past at Port Muziris, in KOCHI, KERALA. 

Stumble onto a whole new world of discoveries with our EXPLORE section. Make the most of your weekends with our weekend planners: Sample mouthwatering treats in JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN, discover an unusual side to OOTY, TAMIL NADU, and delve into the colonial past in LUCKNOW, UTTAR PRADESH. Discover quirky sports at their best with A YEAR OF UNUSUAL SPORTS, plan a trip to the RIO CARNIVAL. Update yourself with the latest news, views and wonderful ways to discover our planet with MORE REASONS TO GET OUT THERE. 

Our JOURNAL section features stories from the road. Face off in mysterious BHUTAN. In YOUR PHOTOS, see a farmer with his produce at a grain market in Chandigarh, and other snapshots from you, our readers, and check out the stunning entries for our INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE this month. 

PLUS: We’ve got easy-to-tear-fold-and-carry Mini Guides – enjoy an unusual summer in   CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA; fill up on local delicacies and earn some karma in MADURAI, TAMIL NADU, and delve into the mythology of magical KRAKOW, POLAND. 

via Lonely Planet India

Festivals of the month: January 2020

Many visitors in north India love the downward spiral that the icy winds and biting cold bring in their wake. And why not, that’s what adds to the colour and romance that the festivals lined up at this time of the year bring along. Take a look at some of the most interesting ones we’ve lined up for you.

Sunsplash Music Festival

Goa, Jan 10 – 12

Music lovers from across the world get together not just for the country’s biggest celebration of reggae music but also to enjoy the sun, sea and sand. The line-up this year includes Macka B, OBF + Charlie P, Naaman and Jah Sun + The Rising Ride, Housewife’s Choice, Kimochi Youkai, Bombay Bassment, among many others.

Bikaner Camel Festival
Bikaner, Jan 11 – 12

No visitor to Bikaner can remain unmoved by the colours of this vibrant two-day festival that begins with a fun filled parade against the backdrop of the beautiful Junagarh Fort. The events that follow include folk music and dance shows, camel races and competitions, village fair, puppet shows, etc. A spectacular firework display brings the curtains down on the festivities.

Also Read: Going local, for the locals

Also Read: A walking tour of Mumbai’s architectural wonders

Ernakulathappan Uthsavom
Kochi, Jan 12 – 19

via Lonely Planet India

Where to stroll, shop and eat in Oman’s capital Muscat

Muscat, the capital city of Oman has a subdued kind of beauty. Nothing is over the top or garish here. Orderliness and discipline, simplicity and elegance reflect in its people and the land. The city offers its visitors, aesthetic architecture to see and appreciate; scrumptious food to indulge in, and the friendly Omani hospitality to enjoy and cherish.

Also Read: Hiking, canyoning, climbing and more: finding adventure in the Middle East

Also Read: Seven ways travel can benefit your mental health

Oman’s much loved and respected Sultan created the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a structure so grand that it leaves a large number of visitors awestruck with its splendour.


via Lonely Planet India

与大自然共生: 安通海洋国家公园

Ang Thong Marine National Park
安通海洋国家公园岛上有绿意葱郁的丛林和白沙滩 Photo credit: Huw Penson/shutterstock.com








Lo Go-Xa Mat National Park
罗戈车麦国家森林公园 Photo credit: Joel Whalton/shutterstock.com





Indochinese tiger
塔曼底野生动物保护区可以看到老虎 Photo credit: tomava/shutterstock



To book a flight to these destinations, visit singaporeair.com

SEE ALSO: 仲夏野游: 基督城

The post 与大自然共生: 安通海洋国家公园 appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Monday, 30 December 2019

Going local, for the locals

Travelling in a responsible way doesn’t need to be difficult; simply being careful about where you spend your money makes all the difference in the world. Choosing accommodation, guides, tours and souvenirs that are sustainable for the local community may require more research and forward planning, but you’ll be helping your hosts while having a truly priceless travel experience for yourself.

Tourism accounts for about one in ten jobs globally and, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, can disproportionately benefit those less well-off in society. With those powerful statistics in mind, there are many ways to ensure you make a positive contribution while immersing yourself in local culture and making incredible memories.

Opting for homestays over hotels puts money directly into the pocket of the community. And if you’re concerned about overtourism, organisations such as fairbnb.coop (operating in Europe) will help ensure your holiday rental has a positive influence. If you need someone to show you around, choose a guide who lives in the area for unbeatable local expertise.

Also Read: Beach bum-bai: the 7 best beaches near Mumbai

Also Read: Seven most beautiful stepwells in India and how to visit them

via Lonely Planet India

Here’s where you can try a different take on mapo tofu

Mapo tofu
A typical mapo tofu dish is made up of tofu and minced pork cooked with chili bean paste, fermented black beans, chilli oil and Szechuan peppers. Photo credit: Paul_Brighton/shutterstock.com

1. Mao Chow, London

The humble Sichuan dish, where tofu and minced meat – usually beef – are coated in a bright red spicy sauce, is getting a makeover. Many restaurants now favour pork, but you can also enjoy fiery new vegan iterations using soy protein, like those found at East London’s Mao Chow.

2. Ming Ting, Chengdu

At the other end of the spectrum, Ming Ting in Chengdu uses both pig’s brain and tofu together; the two having textural parallels.

3. Mr Wong, Sydney

In Sydney, chef Dan Hong of Mr Wong created his mapo egg tofu dish using egg custard, reminiscent of a Japanese chawanmushi. Diners get to spoon through the sauce to be surprised with a quivering egg – a reveal to remember. “I use unsweetened fresh soy milk, [instead of] water, to still get the tofu flavour,” says Hong.

4. Chen Mapo Doufu, Chengdu

For purists, Fuchsia Dunlop, author of The Food of Sichuan, suggests Chengdu’s Chen Mapo Doufu, the custodian of the original recipe. 

SEE ALSO: Gaggan Anand is set to make tofu the next big food trend

The post Here’s where you can try a different take on mapo tofu appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris


Of course I love dining with friends in Paris, the more the merrier, but lunch, glass of wine,  or a special cup of tea or chocolat chaud alone is always lovely. Ladurée on Bonaparte is a place I seem to always go back to. My favorite is rose petal ice cream and violet tea. 

via Paris Through My Lens

Sunday, 29 December 2019

American Express and Singapore Airlines to continue supporting SMEs in Singapore

SIA American Express Business Credit Card
Photo credit: AMEX

American Express and Singapore Airlines (SIA) are extending their 20-year partnership with the launch of the American Express Singapore Airlines Business Credit Card, helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) better manage their businesses and fund their expansion efforts, all while enjoying a number of premium travel benefits.

Rewards include earning up to 8.5 HighFlyer points for every S$1 spent on all eligible Singapore Airlines Group flights and 1.8 HighFlyer points per S$1 for other eligible spending, as well as 0% interest on instalments over six months on Singapore Airlines flights (beginning in October 2019) and up to 51 interest-free days.

Travel benefits include complimentary travel insurance and complimentary airport lounge access, as well as accelerated upgrades to KrisFlyer Elite Gold and Accor Plus membership.

For the full list of benefits, and to apply for the American Express Singapore Airlines Business Credit Card, visit business.americanexpress.com/sg/cobrand.

SEE ALSO: Singapore Airlines broadens solutions for pharmaceutical cargo

This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine

The post American Express and Singapore Airlines to continue supporting SMEs in Singapore appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Review: United Places Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

United Place Hotel
United Places’ sports a sleek exterior

1. Easy on the eyes

Located along Domain Road in the heart of Melbourne’s South Yarra district, this cosy hotel is situated right across the street from the lush and vivacious Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Unsurprisingly, the hotel prides itself on offering unparalleled views of these large swathes of green for most rooms, while maintaining a gentle distance from both the metropolis and the vigour of Melbourne’s inner south.

2. Beneath the surface

What awaits within is a minimalist’s retreat, with dark, reflective surfaces across the rooms that are cushioned by plush materials throughout, including traditional shuttle-loom pestamals and blankets from Loom Towels. Past the hotel’s unassuming entrance, guests proceed along a linear walkway and on to the elevator lobby, where one would be hard-pressed not to marvel skywards at a specially commissioned kinetic sculpture by local artist Laura Woodward – one that connects the skylight and the elevator lobby, sunlight filtering through water in a conglomeration of glass globes. Crafted meticulously to the Carr Design Group’s philosophy of creating visual stories that engage, immerse and surprise, the hotel’s suites feature playful compartmentalisation – some include a sumptuous sunken bath built right into the bedroom with a full view of the gardens and the city, while some of the metallic surfaces reveal themselves to be sliding or even hidden doors.

United Place Hotel bedroom
The hotel prides itself on its elegant rooms and round-the-clock, personalised service

3. Knock, knock

Who’s there? Your own private butler, most likely carrying a tray of welcome bubbles. Expect them to provide seamless, round-the-clock and personalised service from your arrival and through to the end of your stay, offering a human element that is sure to help you feel at home in a foreign city. Remember to ask for tea before bedtime – you don’t want to miss out on the accompanying gingerbread biscuits, specially baked for the hotel by local outfit vicki’s bickies.

4. Of coal and fire

Nestled within the hotel is Matilda, chef Scott Pickett’s (of Saint Crispin, Estelle and ESP fame) foray into flame cooking – seasonal modern Australian fare in deep intimacy with the element of fire. Cosy up in Pickett’s den of dark timber with dishes such as their smoked gnocchi with wild garlic and butternut or their flathead with red grape and karkalla before an ending of pineapple tarte Tatin. Wake up each morning to a tailor-made complimentary breakfast in bed, and also consider the luxury of spending the evening in the sanctuary of your suite, your butler at the ready with food and wine from the Matilda team.

United Place Hotel
A view of the garden suite balcony

5. A spirit of collaboration

At the core of the hotel’s hospitality is a distinct understanding that no tree survives alone in the forest, a philosophy that’s embodied through perfect partnerships with stellar artisans. Cult perfumery Le Labo’s signature scent, Santal 33, stands alone as the essence of every toiletry item in the hotel from shampoo to body lotion; while exclusive ceramic-ware by artist Shari Lowndes fills an entire cupboard in the kitchenette. And tucked away in a corner, atop the kitchen counter in your room, you’ll find a selection of distinguished single malts available for purchase, courtesy of Sullivans Cove.


Singapore Airlines flies to Melbourne four to five times daily. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com

SEE ALSO: The top 7 meat-free restaurants in Melbourne

This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine

The post Review: United Places Botanic Gardens, Melbourne appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

L'heure bleue

via Paris Through My Lens

Saturday, 28 December 2019

8 trendy spots to find fashionistas in Beijing

1. Da Xiao

Arguably one of the most popular, this hip hutong (alley) café, adjacent to a boutique bike shop no less, is perennially populated with cool, vintage-loving youths. 12 Qianfuxiang, Gulou, Dongcheng

Taikoo Li Beijing fashionista
Taikoo Li in Beijing is a fashion landmark. Photo credit: testing/Shutterstock.com

2. Taikoo Li

This striking, open-air shopping complex in Beijing’s vibrant Sanlitun area is home to high-end international and local designers. Dress to impress and be ready to fight your way through the bloggers and influencers staking out their territory among the street-style photographers.

3. Opus Bar

Come here for a fancy cocktail and to gawk at the capital’s glitterati. The absurdly luxe, ultra-chic bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Beijing is a magnet for the young, beautiful and glamorous.

4. Soloist Coffee Co

Housed in a space that was previously a public bathhouse, the look here is industrial chic, the furnishings are vintage, the coffee, roasted in-house, is oh-so-good, and the gourmand’s selection of coffee-based cocktails like cold brew gin tonic is second to none. Just a few reasons why coffee-loving fashionistas head here.

Joy City Beijing fashionista
Joy City is a glitzy shopping centre housing 13 floors of fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. Photo credit: testing/Shutterstock.com

5. Joy City

Trendies with budgets for mid-range to high-end purchases flock to this glitzy and biggest mall in the Xidan area of Beijing to get their fashion fix from a wide range of local as well as foreign fashion brands. 131 Xidan North Street, Xi Dan, Xicheng

6. Mei

A trendy bar for house-made infused cocktails with an Asian twist by award-winning mixologists and tapas, the crowd is the height of sophistication and the outdoor lounge is where the young socialites congregate. Special features include a private outdoor elevator that brings fashion-conscious guests to the fifth level bar, live musicians and DJs.

7. AnyShopStyle

China’s first omni-channel fashion show platform dedicated to designer brands was founded in 2011 and carries more than 200 new domestic and international designer brands. The brand gives independent designers in China an uncomplicated space through which they can reach the fashion-hungry Generation Z.

798 Art District Beijing fashionista
With outdoor sculpture installations sitting alongside quirky boutiques, 798 Art District is one of the coolest places to be. Photo credit: JaniceKuan/Shutterstock.com

8. 798 Art District

Located in an old, decommissioned complex of state-owned factories in the Dashanzi area, the factory spaces now house galleries, artists’ studios, design companies, cafes, bars and trendy stores. While it’s a good spot for art shopping, there are also stores that showcase Chinese designers. The former Bauhaus-style military complex is also a great backdrop for the fashionable to take a photo or two for their IG posts.

Singapore Airlines flies to Beijing three times daily. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com

SEE ALSO: Beijing’s independent fashion designers are making a bold statement

The post 8 trendy spots to find fashionistas in Beijing appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

4 distilleries to tour and even DIY your own spirit

Artisanal Distilleries
Learn how to create your own spirit at Brass Lion Distillery

1. Brass Lion Distillery, Singapore

Create your own flavoursome spirit at Singapore’s first gin school. While the professionals are busy manufacturing the company’s Brass Lion line on the ground floor of this heritage shophouse, you can concoct an original flavour in the school upstairs. Surrounded by apothecary-style cabinets, you can imagine yourself a master distiller as you pour your spirit and water into a mini copper still, then add your infusion of juniper berries and botanicals. Add a personalised label to your bottle and leave with the perfect souvenir from the Lion City. S$198 per person.

Artisanal Distilleries
A cocktail with a twist. Photo credit: Chalong Bay

2. Chalong Bay Distillery, Thailand

While 90% of rum makers use molasses as their base, this French-owned distillery in Phuket uses sugarcane juice from locally grown crops, resulting in a punchy rhum agricole. Sample the award-winning rum with a distillery tour and learn to make cocktails using local ingredients such as lemongrass and Thai sweet basil. THB1,700 per person.

Artisanal Distilleries
The courtyard of Distillerie d’Indochine

3. Distillerie d’Indochine, Vietnam

Set by a beach south of Hoi An, this distillery creates its own label of rum made with sugarcane juice and aged in cognac barrels. Join a behind-the-scenes tour before putting your new-found knowledge to good use by creating your own bespoke rum with ingredients such as white pepper, ginger, chilli and almond. VND1,500,000 per person.

Artisanal Distilleries
A huge copper still

4. John Distilleries, India

This single-malt whisky manufacturer is now inviting visitors to its tropical distillery in Goa to find out more about the award-winning Paul John Whisky. Not only will you get to see the copper stills and take a walk through an underground oak barrel-filled cellar, you will get to sample five of their whiskies – two of which are only sold locally. US$14 per person.

To book a flight, visit singaporeairlines.com.

SEE ALSO: 11 whisky distilleries around the world that are worth a visit

This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine

The post 4 distilleries to tour and even DIY your own spirit appeared first on SilverKris.

from SilverKris

Friday, 27 December 2019

Beach bum-bai: the 7 best beaches near Mumbai

For serious beach bums, Mumbai is nothing more than a stepping stone en route to the turquoise shores, delicious seafood and tropical vibe of Goa. However, you don’t have to travel so far south to enjoy serene sunsets and a day lounging on the sand. The coast surrounding India’s largest city boasts some of the best beaches around, serving up a dose of Goa-lite for day trippers and weekend-breakers seeking relief from the urban sprawl.

Whether you want to work on your tan, scuba-dive the Arabian Sea or explore historical ruins and cultural life on the shore, there’s an alternative beach stop with your name on it. Goa can wait; here is our pick of the best beach escapes near Mumbai.

Also Read: A walking tour of Mumbai’s architectural wonders

Also Read: Top 10 places to spend New Year’s Eve in India

Promenade with the stars at Juhu Beach

via Lonely Planet India

The best free things to do in Delhi

If there’s one thing you can guarantee when travelling somewhere new, it’s an unexpected cost you didn’t budget for – an irresistible detour, a magical momento you just have to have, a few extra days in somewhere amazing. Take heart though; in Delhi, you can stretch your budget by exploring a string of free sights and attractions, leaving more left over for those little indulgences.

When visiting India’s historic capital, it’s worth paying out for big-hitting sights such as the Red Fort and Qutub Minar, but don’t overlook the abundant free sights and experiences in this fascinating city. Take your pick from verdant parkland, centuries-old monuments, mysticism and faith, colonial pomp and circumstance and exploring contemporary Indian culture and the arts.

Calm green spaces and crumbling mausoleums

The Lodi Gardens, formerly Lady Willingdon Park, are one of the city’s favourite green spaces, visited by neighbourhood residents for daily constitutionals, and a favourite spot for canoodling couples and picnicking families. Sitting pretty in the heart of New Delhi, these sprawling but well-tended acres are criss-crossed with tree-lined walking and jogging paths. Between the flowerbeds are crumbling medieval monuments – mosques, tombs, and ceremonial bridges harking back to vanished Afghan dynasties – lending the park a romantic demeanour; unsurprisingly, it’s a favourite spot for romantic selfies.

Keeping the faith at the Bahai House of Worship


via Lonely Planet India

Top 10 New Year escapes near Delhi

Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, national parks and historical wonders, Delhi spoils you for choice when you want to escape the city. We understand your dilemma when the options are endless, and the hardest decision is choosing the right destination. Well, here are a few suggestions that might help you make that crucial decision of your last holiday this year and first one for 2020.


North India’s favourite hill station goes a little berserk when it snows on New Year’s Eve. Waking up to a white New Year is quite delightful, that’s why Shimla is alive with the cheerful buzz of holidaymakers, restaurants, cafes and splendid Raj architecture at this time. Even when it’s snowing Shimla makes you want to walk around with a cup of hot tea, and no matter how much its slopes may make you puff, you’ll find that the view at the end is always worth it.
Distance: 373km



via Lonely Planet India

20 fun things to do in Shibuya, Tokyo

Montage of things to do in Shibuya, Japan. Kawaii monster cafe show, Takeshita Street and the serenity of Nezu Museum garden

Shibuya is a fun and diverse area of Tokyo. It’s centrally located, a great base for your travels and an essential part of the city to spend some time in. We highlight the best things to do in Shibuya together with our top picks on where to eat, play and stay.

Montage of things to do in Shibuya, Japan. Kawaii monster cafe show, Takeshita Street and the serenity of Nezu Museum garden

Shibuya is one of the 23 special wards that make up Tokyo city.  It’s around 15 square kilometres in size and one of the most popular places for locals to spend their spare time and for tourists to visit.  It includes some fun and fabulous destinations including Harajuku, Omotesando, Aoyama and the immediate area around Shibuya station often also referred to as Shibuya just to make things a little more confusing. 

We are often asked where to stay in Tokyo and this series of articles is intended to help you make the best choice for your personal preferences and requirements. We look at the attractions, foodie highlights and advantages of each to help you make the most of your time in the area and decide whether to base yourself here or just include it as a stop in your Tokyo itinerary.

Read More: Tokyo district guides for Asakusa and Odaiba

Just exploring the highlights would take many days, possibly months but we’ve created a pick list of some of the best things to do in Shibuya, these will help you put together your own itinerary for the area focusing in on what interests you most.  To help you use it in creating your own cohesive and efficient plan to see as much as possible in the available time I’ve grouped the suggestions broadly by area including, Shinjuku, Omotesando, Aoyama and Shibuya Station. 

The best things to do in Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing

While Shibuya station isn’t Tokyo’s busiest railway station, this multi-directional crossing located right outside it is so intensely busy it’s become an experience you need to have when visiting the city. For someone like me who really isn’t a big city person, it really is quite crazy but I have to admit I enjoyed watching it swarm more from an upstairs window seat at Starbucks in Tsutaya or Hoshino Coffee in Shibuya 109 than being in the heart of it.

Shibuya scramble

There are a variety of lookout points in the surrounding shopping centres and the new Shibuya Sky that opened in late 2019 is now possibly the best view with an outdoor viewing deck at 229 metres above although you have to buy an entry ticket, some of the other options are free, or the price of a coffee.

Yoyogi park

It all happens in Yoyogi Park. From Elvis impersonating rock and roll dancers to rabbits out walking on leads in their Sunday best, skateboarding dogs, live music and massive Hanami parties in cherry blossom season.

Rock and Roll dancers at Yoyogi park in Tokyo
Rock and Roll dancers at Yogogi park

It is one of Tokyo’s biggest parks with expansive lawn areas, huge old shade trees, ponds and forested areas. Although it doesn’t have massive plantings of cherry trees or the autumn colour it does have a dramatic display of both in the right season and is a popular place to visit.

A visit to Harajuku isn’t complete without a stroll through the parks many walking paths enjoying the people watching or relaxing for a while under the trees.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is a massive shrine here in central Tokyo. It is named for and honours Emperor Meiji who unified Japan, ended the period of feudal rule and brought Japan into the modern world.

Meiji Shrine | 2 Aussie Travellers

It’s scale and beauty reflect the way the Japanese feel about the Emperor and his consort, Empress Shoken. If you are only going to visit one shrine in Tokyo this is a great choice. It’s a haven in the midst of a chaotic city, the forest of

Read More: Take a look at Meiji Shrine in more detail and we explain some of the customs and etiquette for visiting a shrine.


If the kawaii (cute) culture is something you associate with Japan then you will find it’s home and many of its followers in Harajuku. Although associated strongly with Japan internationally you really only see cosplay to any degree in a small section of Tokyo most notably here in Shibuya.

Cos Players in Harajuku

It was where we went on our very first day in Tokyo, almost 10 years ago. Back then the cuteness (kawaii), Decora and Lolita culture was even more prevalent but there is still plenty of colour, unique fashion and arty colourful food.

The overpass headed towards Meiji Shrine and the station is a popular gathering point if you need to meet anyone but it is also a top spot for Lolita and Goth fashion as is Yoyogi Park a little further on.

Kawaii Monster Cafe

My own style might be minimalist and monochromatic but that doesn’t stop me loving the fun kawaii (cute) culture. The Kawaii Monster Cafe wraps it all up in a dose of energy, sound, colour and lights that must make it impossible for anyone not to have a good time.

There are various sections to sit decorated in fabulous fun colours and designs. We had a booth in front of the stage so had a great view of the show from our table but at other times the ‘monsters’ wander around entertaining and engaging with the audience.

Kawaii Monster Cafe Shibuya
Colourful meals at Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku

There are a variety of shows and ticket types. In the daytime it’s very family-friendly and operates as a cafe and show, I think maybe it’s more usual for families and groups of friends to go in the daytime but we went as a couple and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then in the evening, it’s dinner and a show and these sessions are adult-themed.

While I would have loved to go to the Oiran night or cabaret on balance I was happy with our decision to go in the day time. The food and drinks are as colourful and pretty as you imagine they would be. You definitely want to try them and although they must be full of colouring they tasted pretty good as a snack but I wouldn’t choose it for a full meal.

Check ticket options and prices for Kawaii Monster Cafe

Nezu museum

For a complete change of pace head out to Nezu Museum, it’s one of our favourite places in Tokyo and one I could return to over and over again. There are 3 attractions to visiting here and it’s hard to pick which I enjoy most.

The curation of the art gallery is next level, it’s absolutely amazing and the exhibitions change regularly. When we were there the special exhibition rooms had Japanese screens painted in intricate detail from the book, The Tale of Genji, the worlds oldest novel. it was particularly timely as we headed to Uji in Kyoto later in that trip, a destination with strong ties to the book.

The second part is the garden. The lush urban garden is created on land purchased by Nezu Kaichirō in 1906, he loved its undulating contours and saw the potential for creating the many natural scenes that exist in it today and unfold with the seasons. Scattered through the garden are some impressive art pieces, many are Buddhist art from across Asia dating back through the centuries. We visited in May when the blue irises were in flower around the ponds which is stunning but this garden has something for every season.

Nezu cafe overlooking the gardens at Nezu Museum in Tokyo

The third highlight is the teahouse, Nezu cafe stands above the garden with glass on three sides allowing great garden views. Their own brand organic coffee is very popular but I love their tea. There is also a selection of lite meals, cakes and desserts on the menu, it gets especially busy at lunchtime and we had to queue for about 20-minutes for a table but the outlook and service is hard to beat.

Make sure to check the calendar on the official Nezu Museum site when planning as they have irregular days when they don’t open and they close for a week about once a month to switch out major exhibitions.

You’ll find Nezu Museum at 6 Chome-5-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo

Takeshita Street

This popular shopping street in Harajuku tends to be crazy busy at any time of day now but it is one of those experiences in Tokyo that most people will want to include. You can get an idea of an average crowd in the photo below, this wasn’t a holiday or anything special.

Takeshita Street

You might feel that this is a crowd that you’ll only tackle the once so you’ve had the experience. I do say ‘never again’ after each visit when we’ve been washed along on the wave of shoppers but I invariably return next time I’m in Harajuku.

The shopping street is best known for pretty colourful food like the giant rainbow candyfloss, sweet fully loaded waffles and crepes, the Totti candy factory and unicorn gelato.

Not as worthy of the gram but a personal favourite is Zaku Zaku with their elongated choux pastry, it has a crispy texture which is itself unusual but they attribute their difference to the smooth as silk custard filling made of milk from free-range Hokkaido cattle.

A fabulous little sushi bar

Not far from Harajuku station is one of my favourite little modern sushi bars. Gonpachi Nori Temaki. It’s all clean lines, wood and moody lighting. The ingredients are excellent quality, deliciously balanced flavour combinations. It’s particularly hard to make your choice but it’s equally difficult to make a bad one.

As the name implies they specialise here in hand-rolled (temaki) sushi. The counter seating faces in towards the chefs in the centre who compile and present your order piece by piece.

The nori (seaweed sheet) is an excellent quality from Maruyama and toasted extra crispy. I love sushi but was surprised how much of a difference you can taste. Ingredients are then placed on top strategically to prevent softening the seaweed, for visual impact and flavour balance.

This is the only sushi bar I have seen that offers options in the rice used including cauliflower ‘rice’. Together with the ingredients of each being fully detailed on the menu, it makes it ideal for anyone who has dietary limitations.

The menu features traditional flavours, modern adaptations and more western styles but levelled up. For example, the salmon and avocado, something you’ll rarely see in a sushi bar in Japan, was an immaculately cut rectangle of fatty salmon that melted in the mouth paired with creamy smooth avocado.

Read customer reviews of Gonpachi Shibuya on Trip Advisor

Hachiko statue

“I’ll meet you by Hachiko” is something you’ll hear a lot from people heading out in the Shibuya area. They are referring to a small statue outside exit 8 from Shibuya subway station near Shibuya 109. The statue has more recently been joined by a Hachiko wall that is also pretty cute and a popular selfie spot.

Hachiko's mosaic wall near statue at Shibuya Station in Tokyo

The story of Hachiko is one of loyalty and love. He was an Akita dog and almost 100 years ago now he would walk to the station each day with his owner, a professor, and would be waiting outside when he returned in the afternoon.

In 1925 the professor died while at work and didn’t return to collect Hachiko. Each day Hachiko would return to the station exit to see if his owner was there, he continued to do it every day for almost 10 years until his own death.

Get up above the city

The newest observation deck in the city is Shibuya Sky which opened in November 2019. The skyscraper has an open-air observation deck at the top and a fabulous perspective on the famous crossing below.

From the top you’ll also spot landmarks such as Tokyo Tower, the SkyTree and even Mt Fuji if you are really lucky with a clear day.

It’s open from 9 am until 11 pm on the 46th floor of the Shibuya Sky Building. Entry is via level 14 and tickets cost Y2000 when purchased at the venue or they can be purchased slightly cheaper online.

The happy pancake

Pancakes became popular in Tokyo a few years ago and Japan has created a unique twist on them with the jiggly pancake. These fluffy souffle-like versions are light and airy, they are usually sweet and served with fruit, chocolate sauce and cream but savoury options are available to.

Souffle pancakes with chocolate sauce, granola and cream with backdrop of vines outside the window at A Happy Pancake in Shibuya, Tokyo

The best ones we found are at a restaurant called The Happy Pancake in Omotesando. Watch out for the sign as it’s located downstairs below street level making it a bit more difficult to spot. We choose to arrive at opening time to fuel us for a day of exploring in Shibuya and they have a sign-up sheet on a stand to write your name. When they open they call people in order down the narrow stairs and to their seat, there is no waiting space inside and it’s very popular so they have a ‘one table out – one table in’ policy from there.

We had a nice table by the window looking out on the greenery, not what we had expected as we headed down below street level. It’s light and bright inside, very comfortable and nice sized tables. As you are shown to your table you can see the thick jiggly pancakes cooking on the grill behind the glass window.

Winter illuminations

During winter, and particularly around the Christmas and New Year holidays, Tokyo has many illumination events around the city that make exploring the city streets in the evening even more fun.

In Shibuya the light-ups focus on the Zelkova trees that line the city streets. Near the NHK Headquarters (Japan Broadcasting) adjacent to Yoyogi Park is known as Shibuya Ao no Dokutsu or ‘the blue cave’ where the 250-metre long pedestrian street is lit by so many blue LED lights above a reflective path and it gives the impression of being immersed in the lights.

Along the Omotesando shopping street between Omotesando station and Harajuku, there are more Zelkova trees and (literally) a million more blue LED lights. This is where many of the prestige branded shops are located and the lights set off the impeccably curated shop windows beautifully.

Food tour

We love foodie tours in Tokyo especially those run by Arigato Japan. We had so much fun on the ones we did in both Asakusa and Ginza this year but I have a very special Shibuya one next one my wish list.

The Arigato Japan Kawaii Food Tour is an immersion in the back streets of Omotesando and Harajuku with someone that knows every detail of them and their cute culinary treats.

The tour includes plenty of cultural highlights, great information, tastings of the cutest sweet treats along the way and lunch at a very special okonomiyaki restaurant.

Indulge in a cup of latte art at Reissue

Watch for the small doorway and head up the stairs to the cafe. The relaxed mismatched fit-out is a great spot to chill for a while and the coffee is great but it’s their cute latte art that they are known for.

You choose your coffee and then your art design from their books of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional designs. If you have a particular favourite, whether that’s Pikachu or Betty Boop they can do it. In fact if you have a photo of your favourite pet they’ll even recreate that on your drink, I just couldn’t cope with

Cute 3D latte foam art at Reissue Cafe in Shibuya, Tokyo

Also want to fit in Reissue for the latte art, both 2D and 3D.  They are at Address: 3 Chome-25-7 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001 and it is a small doorway and you go upstairs.  Reviews say coffee is good, a bit pricey and longer wait than usual coffee of course but run – open 10 am until 6 pm (could do one evening then on to dinner)

3 Chome-25-7 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001

Explore cat street

Ok a bit of a spoiler here, there were no cats. Well, there was one adorable and slightly pampered one in a quilted silver-grey purpose-designed backpack pod but no wanderers as you might be expecting from the name.

It’s a pedestrian street that runs from Harajuku to Shibuya. It’s less busy and intense than the more familiar Takeshita street. Trendy, often expensive boutique stores and some international name brands line the street. You’ll also find plenty of interesting bars, cafes and food stalls along the way.

The shoppers in the family might spend the day here, for others it’s a good alternative walking route from Harajuku through to the Shibuya station area without walking along the main roads.

If you’re trying to find it on the map try “Kyu-Shibuya-gawa Yuhodoro”. It translates to something like ‘the old Shibuya River Pedestrian lane’ as it was created before the 1964 Olympics when the creek was diverted below ground. If you watch out the Ralph Lauren flagship store on the Omotesando it starts virtually opposite there.

Shibuya Kagoshima Ohara Matsuri Parade

Local festivals or matsuri are so much fun in Japan and while this isn’t a small community event like the ones we’ve enjoyed in Nagahama and Kyoto I would always recommend adding a festival to your list if you are in the right place at the right time.

The Shibuya Kagoshima Ohara Matsuri takes place May and is inspired by the event in Kagoshima that attracts 20,000 dancers into the streets. The parade is a type of folk dancing with some skilled Taiko drumming involved. The Shibuya event involves around 60 dance troupes with several of them making the trip from Kagoshima to join in.

Young women play the taiko drums at Yushima Tenjin Shrine

These young Taiko drummers were at the Ume festival at Yoshino Tenjin Shrine (near Ueno) not in Shibuya.

The festival base is at Shibuya Square near the Hachiko statue and travels through local streets in the afternoon.

Blooming good morning tea

You’ll pass the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House as you make your way from Harajuku / Omotesando to the Nezu Museum, the area is called Aoyama or blue mountain.

From the outside, the shop is a beautiful flower shop with bunches and arrangements crowding the entrance and luring you in with their heady bouquet. It’s a popular franchised flower shop in Japan but at this one and 2 others in Tokyo it’s photogenic entry and shop is matched by an equally Insta-worthy tea shop.

The one in Aoyama is upstairs and is built to relax and stay for a while so at times it can be difficult to get a seat. The wooden tables and surrounding of cut flowers make it feel as if you are in a greenhouse in the peak of the season.

They have a variety of specialty teas that are attractively presented, many loaded with fresh herbs and florals. There’s a small and appealing menu of light dishes and sweets. Some seem to be targeted directly to the Instagram crowd such as the French Toast with seasonal edible fresh flowers.

From Omotesando station, it’s less than a 5-minute walk from exit A4. The address is 5 Chome-1-2 Minamiaoyama, Minato City.

Where better to celebrate Halloween

The streets of Shibuya around the station have become the hub of Halloween in Tokyo since 2014. Hoards of costumed revellers pour through the station and across the Shibuya scramble turning out for the open-air festival.

The celebrations ramp up during the week with the biggest night taking place on Halloween itself between the hours of 6 pm and 11 pm. The standard is high with some really impressive outfits and makeup. Want to join in? Don Quixote stores have some great options but if you just want a few accessories to fit in on the night a Daiso (dollar store) and a bit of creativity will get you sorted.

Shop Shibuya 109

A popular shopping complex located near the Shibuya Scramble. Featuring Japanese fashion, beauty products and accessories it’s especially popular with teenagers and 20-somethings.

It’s clean, bright and modern and if you’re after kawaii Japanese outfits then it could be your one-stop-shop. For others, just stop by for a look, the overall vibe is worth a few minutes invested.

Grab your fave Starbucks drink and relax on the roof garden

In Tokyu Plaza in Omotesando head up to the Starbucks and you’ll get far more than you expect. While there is the usual array of comfortable seating and share tables indoors, you can also head out onto the roof garden.

Amid the fairy lights and plants, there are lots of spaces to sit and quiet corners plus a look down from above on all the activity below.

The Starbucks roof garden at Tokyu Plaza in Shibuya, Tokyo

Even if you aren’t a big Starbucks fan it’s a great place to take a break in the unexpected oasis above the city or stop by for a quiet cuppa after dinner.

Where to stay in Shibuya

There’s a fabulous range of restaurants, bars and coffee shops across the Shibuya area making it ideal to walk out for a meal or drink in the evening. Take a slow start over breakfast, or shop until you drop and drag it back to the hotel.

Our picks in this area are the Shibuya Hotel En and Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyu.

The Shibuya Hotel En is located about 7 minutes on foot from the station, 5 minutes from Shibuya Crossing and Shibuya 109 and about 15 minutes from Yoyogi Park. The location really is excellent for bars, restaurants and getting around.

The hotel is clean and the rooms are all slightly different and have a bit of character in their design. Rooms at the entry price-point are on the smaller side although this isn’t really unusual in Tokyo.

Find pricing and availability for Shibuya Hotel En or read TripAdvisor reviews.

Our other pick is the Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyu which is also an excellent location for access to the station, central locations like Shibuya Square and Shibuya 109. There are also many bars and restaurants nearby.

This one is a little more expensive but the rooms are a good size, clean, comfortable and modern. There is free wifi and a coin laundry which can be a good saving over laundry services if you travelling light or away for a longer trip.

Find prices and availability for the Shibuya Stream Excel or read TripAdvisor reviews.

Map of our top Shibuya attractions

We’ve put together this interactive map to help you find your way around Shibuya and plan out which activities and sights to group together. Click on the map to zoom and explore the functionality.

Final thoughts on things to do in Shibuya

Whether you have a day or a week to spend in the city, Shibuya is likely to make your list of must-see attractions in Tokyo.

If you are including it on your itinerary it’s really easy to access by JR train on the Yamanote loop line through Harajuku or Shinjuku stations. The subway offers even more options with stations at Shibuya, Omotesando, Meiji Jingu Mae, Yoyogi Koen and Aoyama Itchome.

With so much to see and do, and so many great options to try for food and drink Shibuya is a great place to stay. When based in other parts of Tokyo we also like it’s a short trip on the subway to come in the evening for dinner after a day out exploring the city or further afield.

More essential Tokyo information

If you found this useful please consider saving it to Pinterest. It helps us and other travellers to find the information they need.

Things to do in Shibuya Japan Pinterest pin showing Kawaii Monster Cafe show
Things to do in Shibuya Japan Pinterest pin showing Nezu Museum garden
Things to do in Shibuya Japan Pinterest pin showing Takeshita Street

The post 20 fun things to do in Shibuya, Tokyo appeared first on 2 Aussie Travellers.

from 2 Aussie Travellers