Thursday, 31 March 2016

Travel: Hunter Valley, NSW; Stay: Block Eight Villa

1/2heart and I spent the Easter long weekend (Happy Easter everyone :D) in the Hunter Valley. The purpose of the trip was to avoid people (ha!) and relax as much as possible. We could have gone to Blue Mountains for bushwalking or the coastal areas for beaches and water activities, but that means effort! I simply wanted to do nothing, eat good food, and just enjoyed each other company.

Why not stay at home, you asked? Because then we would not have seen this:

Uninterrupted sky with wine in hand? yes, please!


We stayed at Block Eight Villa, a privately owned vineyard with a few quaint cabins to stay at. It is as quiet as we could ever wished for, and with beautiful backdrop of their small lake/dams, and the owners' vineyard. The rates are very reasonable considering it was public holiday long weekend when everywhere is dramatically much more expensive (I paid A$366 per night), and they also include two bottles of their own wine in the tariff (Beautiful locally produced wine :)).

The cabin - rustically styled - is big for two people and very comfortable. Every little touches have been well-thought of, from the aromatic candles, the toiletries (even styling iron for the ladies), the pictures and drawings of their pigs and chooks. Everything is delightful

The cabin faced towards 2 decently sized dam, where ducks & water birds constantly roam. They also contain silver perch (so if you wanted to stay here and wish to fish, you can!)
dam just in front of the cabins
There are several animals on the property. The hens provide the eggs that is included in the breakfast pack (also included in the tariff). While we were there, the female peacock was tending to her baby chicks inside gated enclosure (and the male peacock just roamed freely outside).

And of course, the non-gated free-to-roam kangaroos & wallabies are everywhere!

We had clear sky on our last night of stay, so star watching it was!

The hosts have several other cabins. Definitely worth checking out and a much more better alternative than your standard hotel stay.

65 Squire Close

Belford, NSW 2335

On our 2nd day of stay, I made a dire mistake: I thought of checking out the nearby Pokolbin (a Hunter Valley township about 15 minutes drive away) and to visit the Hunter Valley Gardens (A$28 per adult)

Throngs of people (T_T) Well I should have expected it, it was public holiday after all. 

Nevertheless, Hunter Valley Gardens provided some lovely backdrop for photos. 

The most crowded garden of all is probably the storybook section. Containing some figures/statues depicted from children stories/fairy tales, this section is a delight for children (and adults with young hearts alike).

Personally, I love the oriental garden. Beautiful koi fish in the lake, ducks, and stone lanterns amongst the velvet grass (if you're as interested as I am, the name is 'Korean velvet grass' / Zoysia Tenuifolia).


I want those grass!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Travel: Japan 2016 2016 Day 22 // Ogimachi in Shirakawa-Go // Stay: Shimizu // Eat: Shiraogi


We left early from Takayama to catch the morning bus to Ogimachi village in Shirakawa-Go. This was the 2nd time I went to the beautiful village, 1st time being last year in summer.
Bus departed from TakayamaHida Bus Center, next to JR Takayama station, schedule can be found on this website.

Whilst in summer this village was bustling with color and green fields, it was completely white in winter. Pity when we were there, there was actually not too much snow. *sigh*

looks like cotton tree <3

Not forgetting about snacks of course... .

Warabi Mochi (somewhat firmer than the ones we had at Kyoto), Baked Sweet Potato, Hida Beef Tsukune, Croquette, Gohei Mochi, and Mitarashi Dango

We had lunch at Shiraogi, which serves some set meals. Of course how could I pass on some of my last chances eating Hida beef!

Hida Beef Set (JPY2250) and Pork Cutlet (JPY 1000).
Both were great. I think it is pretty standard quality for the restaurants in the village as we have sampled a different restaurant last year during summer and I couldn't decide which one was more superior.

Ogimachi, Ono-gun, Shirakawa-mura 501-5627, Gifu Prefecture
世界遺産 白川郷合掌造り集落


We went to the lookout to catch the standard bird eye view picture of the village.

Although there was not too much snow enveloping the village, we still managed to play around with what we had :)

haphazardly made snowmen ... courtesy yours truly

This village has a different charm in winter than what it is in summer. I really want to go back here during autumn (when maple trees thrives) and spring (when the Sakura blooms). And perhaps in winter as well since I definitely hadn't had my snow craving fixed with the meager snow we had when we were there.

We also visited the outdoor museum as we received some discount vouchers from our host at Shimizu (where we stayed for the night). But as 1/2heart and I had been there as well in summer, we ended up having snowball fights inside with our friend... .

Anyhoo, more pictures of the lovely village in winter... .


For our stay at Shirakawa-Go, we stayed at Shimizu Ryokan, booked through Japanese Guest Houses. Fare was JPY9900 per person, inclusive of dinner and breakfast. There really was nothing to do after the village 'closes' at around 5 or so (when all the shops practically closes), but it's recommended to stay in the village to unwind.

Shimizu was the only place not fully booked when I tried to make a reservation back on October T.T It was located a bit further from the other clusters of thatched houses, still no less charming though.

Room was spacious for the three of us. The hosts did not really mingle with their guests (pretty non-existent conversations). Last summer, the hosts in Nodaniya - where we stayed in Ogimachi -, and the hosts at Yomoshiro - where we stayed in Ainokura, were quite bubbly (or at least attempted to, despite language barrier) and mingled with us.

We had our dinner in almost silence while trying to make silent jokes to each other:D

Meal was home-made tasty and we had a very good night sleep.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Travel: Japan 2016 Day 21 // Takayama

It has been about 3 weeks since I left wonderful Japan and went straight into the hustles of work T.T
Blog had to be abandoned for a while until today. So time to try to continue what's been left off...


Takayama is home to a number of sake breweries, mostly can be found along the old streets.

The day was crisp and cold, so what was the perfect thing to do? Sample as much sake as we could!

And then we entered this one shop and asked if we could sample their sake. The lady told us if we wanted to sample it free-of-charge, we could only sample one sake. However she proposed us to purchase their ceramic sake cup for 200 yen then we were allowed to sample all their sake on display (and we get to keep the cups.)


We did what any sane-sake-loving adult would do: paid 600 yen (for the 3 of us) and practically stood in front of their refrigerator for the next 2 hours sampling each and every bottle on display. 

Life's good, y'all (btw, our favourite was the top right bottle, which we also purchased to be consumed later on that night... :D)


Takayama is a beautiful little town to spend leisure time and relax. With lots of hidden small eateries, you could easily skip your main meals and just fill yourself in with filling snacks :)
We went to Fukutaro (福太郎) for some light snacks. Their gohei mochi is sooo good.

福太郎 (Fukutaro)
58 Shimosannomachi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan


Really nice Karaage chicken at Miyagawa Morning Market, and Hida Beef Burger at Hanamizuki

And at night we ate with our AirBnB host - Hiroto-san - to one of the small eateries which I wouldn't have known if he didn't show us. I also forgot to note the name *kicks self*

Tofu Steak, Keechan (a bit of like chicken stew hotpot), Kebab, and Tempura (and a few bottle of sake which I didn't post picture of :))

Definitely a memorable experience and a wonderful place to stay in Takayama

The next day we went to Shirakawa-Go and it's pretty picture loaded, so I'll make a separate blogpost for it.