All posts filed under: Must Do’s

Journey to the Bucolic Japanese Alps – Shirakawa-go and the Gifu Prefecture (Part 1)

Over the past year, I have been lusting for Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go, a Unesco village nestled in the Japanese Alps and where time has seemingly left the region untouched. This mountainous area is known for its historic A-frame houses, also known as gassho-zukuri, which were made with a traditional building method without utilizing any nails. These gassho houses have withstood the test of time and continue to attract new generations of admirers. The next destination of our trip was a visit to the Gifu region where these houses are located today. Our trip started early in the morning with the high-speed train ride from Tokyo to Toyama, where we then picked up the rental car for a 1-hour drive to Shirakawa-go. Once we entered the picturesque village and checked into Shiroyamakan Inn that was established in 1884, we knew we were in for a special visit. The inn keeper’s daughter, Nana, greeted us and took us to our room where we were served tea and snacks. We were also given 3 bikes to use while …

Best Souvenirs in Tokyo for Foodies and Chefs

Buying quality souvenirs can be a hit or miss experience. Tokyo has an amazing assortment of interesting trinkets to buy for loved ones. If you are sick of T-shirts and generic tchotchkes, I would recommend the following stores where I buy my souvenirs. A. Kappabashi-dori – For chefs and home cooking fanatics Kappabashi-dori is a 800-metre-long street lined with more than 170 shops that sell anything and everything cookware related. The shops here cater to both professional cooks and home chefs alike. Kama-asa Shoten – Japanese knives This  family-run business opened in 1908 and specializes in Japanese knives, or wabōcho, handmade by craftsmen in Japan. The business is currently run by Daisuke Kumazawa, who is the 4th generation proprietor. This is one of the most popular shops on the street. There are also very knowledgeable English-speaking staff who help you select the best knife for your cooking requirements. The best part is that they’ll engrave your name in Japanese onto each knife making it a special memento for you or for gifts. I did have to …

A Short Visit to Tokyo

Tokyo is a dizzying hub of sights and sounds and was also the first destination on this 2.5 week trip to Japan for my mom’s special birthday. While I have been exploring this city over the past 10 years, it was her first time in Tokyo,  I created this truncated itinerary to give her the best flavors of Tokyo in a relatively short duration and I’m excited to share it with you. Day 1: Arrival into Narita Terminal 2 and the Shibuya Scramble We arrived on Japan Airline at Narita Terminal 2 in the early afternoon and proceeded to procure a pocket Wifi. This was very important as we needed the data service for navigation throughout the country. I went to the J Wifi and JAL ABC counters located on the first floor and Softbank Global Rental and XCom Global counters located in the basement level near the train platform to search for the best data plan. (see Terminal 2 map) After getting my exercise running around the terminal, I concluded that J Wifi had …

Explore Marrakesh (Morocco) Like in Insider

Marrakesh, with its kaleidoscope architecture and chaotic souks, can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. I had an opportunity to visit Marrakesh for four days with my friends who have been there numerous times and had local recommendations from their friend, Zach Idrissi, the owner of Amani Hotel. Having local guidance to ease me into this overstimulating experience was a welcome blessing since I was flying solo for most of my stay in the city. I also lucked out by going around Ramadan as everything was calmer and more laid back. The markets and attractions will close a bit earlier around 5pm, but the aggressive behavior in the souks will generally be less prevalent. This makes for an overall pleasant and safe experience for solo travelers. Where to eat: Have an afternoon tea break on the terrace of La Mamounia and take a stroll in their manicured garden. You should check the availability for non-hotel guests as the hotel started to restrict non-hotel guests to certain hours for tea. Have dinner at Le Tanjia where there …

Essential Travel Tips for Marrakesh and Morocco

Traveling to Morocco for the first time can be intimidating and overwhelming for many travelers, even for the experienced folks. The mélange of sights, sounds, and cultural differences in this vibrant city can trip many up. These are tips that can help make your arrival smoother and less stressful. 1- Book a transfer from Marrakesh Airport to your hotel. Taxis in Marrakesh have a well-deserved awful reputation for ripping off tourists and also refusing to turn on their meters. After a long flight, the last thing you want to do is haggle for a reasonable fare. I highly recommend Marrakesh Airport Transfer. I booked online two days before my arrival with flight information. My driver was waiting for me after I exited baggage claim with my name on an easily identifiable sign and escorted me to a clean air-conditioned car. The cost was approximately $12 for a 15-minute ride to the Sofitel in the city center for one person. Prices will change depending on the number of people and the destination. I checked with my local …

Restaurants to Try in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon (Vietnam) for 2018

On my recent trip to Ho Chi Minh City (“HCMC” or “Saigon”), my local friends recommended a few of their favorite restaurants (a combination of classics that we highlighted in previous posts and current hot spots). I was able to try a few and loved their recommendations. As many of my friends and colleagues continue to ask me where to eat in Saigon for their upcoming trips, I decided to share this list. Phở Lệ Address: 303-305 Võ Văn Tần, Phường, District 5 / Tel: +84. 3834.4486 This is an oldie, but a goodie with all the locals. When I had a craving for a good bowl of southern phở, my god sister (a Saigon native) and I ventured to Phở Lệ in District 3 (the second location is in District 7). The restaurant is your quintessential phở restaurant with a short menu of the famous noodle soup with a variety of meat toppings. The broth is rich, sweet (from the herbs and fruits) and robust, which can only be achieved from hours of cooking …

5 Days in Cuba: Havana and Varadero

As soon as relations between Cuba and America were “normalized” and direct flights to Havana became available, I booked my ticket to this isolated island nation. I have always been fascinated by this isolated nation. The recent flood of Instagram photos of Havana only increased my desire to visit Cuba even more. Planning this trip was a bit difficult since there is limited information for Americans and requires a lot of research. My original plan was to explore Havana (Wednesday, Thursday and Monday afternoon), Viñales (Friday) and Varadero (Saturday through Monday morning). One thing I did not account for was the heat and humidity at the end of May, which according to Cubans is temperate for spring. The heat takes a toll on your body and I ended up not doing as much as I had planned, so I saved Viñales for another time. This is my 5 days in Havana and Varadero. Note: With President Trump’s reversal of the Obama Cuban policies, travel to Cuba may become restricted again. I recently searched for JetBlue …