All posts filed under: Weekend Unexplored

Journey to the Bucolic Japanese Alps – Shirakawa-go and the Gifu Prefecture (Part 2)

Waking up to birds chirping in the garden from my Japanese futon somehow felt surreal. This was a strong contrast from the night before, where I slept in a small modern hotel room in the center of Tokyo. As I watched the sun streams in through the paper windows, a sense of serenity enveloped me. It was mostly due to the time difference that I was awake this early to enjoy this moment. It was joyful to listen and observe nature doing its morning song and dance. I could’ve stayed in bed much longer but another day of exploring the Gifu region beckoned me to get up and start my day. I still had 30 minutes before breakfast, so my sister and I took advantage of the quiet morning and rode our bikes around the village. As it was very early, and no one was out and about yet, we had the roads to ourselves to leisurely admire the mountain scenery around us. There was a sense of freedom and playfulness that we don’t often …

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 …

2 Days Chillaxing in Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira has to be Morocco’s most laid back beach town and luckily, only a short 2-hour drive from Marrakesh. When I asked my local friend to help me plan my Morocco vacation, she suggested this sleepy seaport town. At first I didn’t know what to make of it because it’s not a resort town dotted with luxury hotels that one would expect. However, the chill atmosphere there provided a much needed respite from the bustling city. It felt very much like a backpackers’ haven. I decided on a short 2-day trip to Essaouira, leaving Marrakesh at 9am and returning the next day at 3pm. This turned out to be just enough time to sample what the town had to offer in short period. Essaouira is known for ocean sports such as kite surfing, so if you are into that, then you’ll need a few more days. I booked my own private transfer through my friend’s recommendation with Hiba Tours, which cost 160 euros or approximately 190 dollars. The car ride was comfortable and Jamal, the …

3 “Days” of Gluttony in Osaka, Japan

Osaka has been a YouTube sensation over the past few years due to its reputation as a street food haven. The city has been overshadowed by Tokyo and Kyoto for the last decade and is now finally coming into its own. On my recent trip to Japan, I made it a point to include this foodie destination on my itinerary and the city did not disappoint. I had limited time since it was only three full days, so my trip was packed with eating and some sight-seeing. This is my foodie adventure in the kitchen of Japan. Day 1: Dotonbori I had underestimated how long it would take for me to travel from Bangkok, so by the time I arrived at my hotel, it was already 7pm. Since I only had three full “days” in Osaka, every minute counted. I quickly made my way to Dotonbori, the heart of Osaka’s entertainment district, which reminded me of New York’s Times Square with its bright neon signs and throngs of tourists. I quickly searched for Mizuno, the …

2 Day Temple Stay in Koyasan, Japan – the Birthplace of Shingon Buddhism

In order to take a break from modern Osaka, I ventured to a secluded village up in the holiest mount an of Japan for a spiritual rejuvenation. Mount Koya (or Koyasan) is the birthplace of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism in Japan that was founded by Kobo Daishi* over 1,200 years ago. Today, the UNESCO-designated World Heritage site has 52 shukubo open to visitors. Shukubo are temples that historically offered overnight lodgings to pilgrims, with the majority of them welcoming tourists today. The shukubo experience includes sleeping on a tatami mat floor in a 1,000-year-old temple, eating a vegan feast cooked by the resident monks and participating in certain Buddhist rituals. A trip to Koyasan is an authentic spiritual trip that refreshes the soul. For my recent trip to Osaka, I carved out two days to make my way up the mountain. Normally, this trip would take 90 minutes on an express train from Namba station on the Nankai Koya Line. Unfortunately, two weeks before I arrived in Japan, a typhoon disabled the cable car service between …

Weekend Unexplored: Gluttonous Adventures in Houston, Texas

I had a chance to visit Houston over a long weekend and took the opportunity to check out the city’s vibrant dining scene. For this trip, I focused on a combination of stalwarts and new additions to Houston’s downtown and surrounding area. Which establishments lived up to its hype and which restaurants failed to summit? Saturday After checking into the Hilton Americas in downtown the previous night, my friends and I were ready to start with brunch at Backstreet Café. This is a popular establishment in Houston and of course, we had to check it out. The exterior reminded me of a fancy French country home with a gorgeous patio beckoning us to waste the morning there; however, we could not compete with Houston’s heat and humidity. We were wimpy New Yorkers so we opted for an indoor table overlooking the brick patio. The menu at Backstreet Café focused on American dining. We ordered a few dishes such as Tuna Poke, Housemade Fresh Burrata, Skirt Steak and Eggs, Lamb with Pesto and Gulf Coast Beignets. …

Weekend Unexplored: Escape from Manhattan with Getaway (Catskills, New York)

Like many overworked and overstimulated New Yorkers, I was searching for a place to escape from the concrete jungle for a weekend. I stumbled onto Getaway, a glamping company, as I was researching tiny homes for the blog. Getaway was started by graduate students, John Staff and Pete Davis, in conjunction with Harvard Innovation Lab in 2015 with a mission to help millennials disconnect from city life. The company rents tiny stylish mobile homes, approximately 160 to 200 sqf., that are equipped with a comfortable queen bed, two-burner kitchen stove, mini-fridge, full size sink, hot running shower and an electric toilet for approximate $129-$149 a night. There are 12 tiny houses spread across a 20-acre site nestled in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Renters are notified of the location of their cabin within a week and the cabin name and door code within 24 hours of their arrival. This concept prevents renters from stressing out about the trip. The cabins are located within a two-hour drive from Boston or New York. So, how …