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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

Myanmar – Balloons over Bagan

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Balloons over Bagan

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Japan – Deer oh Deers! Nara’s Most Famous Residents at Nara Park

Nara DeersNo visit to Nara will be complete without meeting its most famous resident, the free roaming wild deers (シカ ‘shika‘ or 鹿) at Nara Park 奈良公園, which is also the location of many Nara’s attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum.

Nara DeersNara Park is just a leisurely five-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or a a 20-minute walk from JR Nara Station. The park can also be reached by bus. If you are ever in doubt, just follow the deers which are literally EVERYWHERE you can think of, like in the shrubs or even inside a drain.

Nara DeersConsidered to be holy messengers of the gods, Nara’s 1,200 deer have become a symbol of the city and designated as a natural treasure under the Cultural Properties Protection Law. According to local folklore, deers in Nara were considered sacred due to a visit from Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine, who appeared on Mt. Mikasa riding a white deer. Killing one of these deers was a capital offense punishable by death up until 1637.

Nara DeersSo these deers literally do whatever they feel like. Including stopping traffic.

Nara DeersNara’s wild deer are super chill with people, although they can get a little pushy when you start feeding them. They can be quite a handful at times as well…

Nara DeersLike this one who happily trotted into the pond just outside the Nara National Museum for a dip.

Nara DeersAnd came to ask to be fed after its skinny dipping. Shika biscuits, which smelt just like the wafers we eat (I had to resist trying them myself), were sold at kiosks along the park at 150yen for a stack. Our hotel kindly prepared a little bag of biscuits and bottle of water for our little adventure.

Nara DeersWhile the deers are generally tame, just be cautious as they can get aggressive. Afterall, they are wild animals.

The deers are pretty intelligent, and have learnt to bow to ask for food.

Nara DeersOnce the deers see the biscuits, be prepared to be surrounded and nudged around like a superstar. They butt you with their heads when you don’t feed them quickly enough, and the one behind lightly bit my arse to get my attention.

Nara DeersSee the affection they show just to get their treats.

Nara DeersThis clever one went for the shortcut and simply stood in front of the deer biscuit stall :D

Nara DeersGreedy little fellas. They are also very practical – they leave you as soon as you run out of biscuits to feed them.

Nara Deers“No biscuits for me? Bleahhhhh.”

Nara DeersOnce they are well-fed, they pick a spot and start snoozing. Nothing you do will move them, not even putting a biscuit right under their noses. So come early in the day when they are still hungry.

Nara DeersWe caught some hotties in traditional costumes playing ball at the park too. There was a festival nearby as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with the locals, both human and animal.

Nara DeersOne for the wefie album ;) It was quite an experience getting upclose with the deers after hearing so much about them. It was totally worth the trip, not to mention there’s so much cultural sights to visit in Nara. I will be back to visit my furry friends…with thicker pants.

 

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Yilan, Taiwan – Yoshino Cherry: A Minsu which feels like Home

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿A homely and comfortable minsu I stayed at while in Yilan was at Yoshino Cherry Minsu 吉野櫻民宿. The spacious two-storey house is the home of Chen-jie 陳姐, who stays with her family at a smaller house just behind this main building. The minsu is named Yoshino Cherry as Chen Jie’s husband likes cherry blossoms, and the minsu is also home to some cherry trees.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I like the feeling of being welcomed into a real home as opposed to checking into an unfeeling hotel room when I travel. The airy living room made me want to sink right into the inviting couch (which I did at night, chatting with my friends, Chen Jie and her husband before heading to bed).

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿There are only 4 rooms at the minsu, with one of them having 2 rooms (that’s why there are 5 keys here). Each room has a different theme, and opening each room door brings a gust of anticipation.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The Eiffel Tower room is the only room located on the first floor. It would be good for elderly who cannot climb up the stairs or couples who want more privacy (which was taken by the only pair of lovebirds in our group).

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I stayed at the Royal Earl Room. Something tells me it will be my kind of room from the crown painted on the room sign.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Woohoo! Grand-looking Victorian bed, red chandeliers and a silver couch – #like. It comes with a balcony too.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I was lusting after the Rose Garden Room too – just look at the gorgeous rose headboard with matching rose cushions!

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The Mediterranean Room comes with 2 bedrooms, so it would be suitable for a family or 2 couples.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿I felt like singing “Under the Sea”…kids would like this room.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Welcome to Greece…well even for just a wall mural. I like the four-poster bed and cosy ambience.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Yoshino Cherry is surrounded by farmland so it would be lovely to have a leisurely high tea at your room balcony and basking in the serenity of Yilan’s naturescape.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Are those hearts I see in the garden?

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿High tea is served every afternoon, and Chen Jie prepares everything herself. One unique thing about this minsu is that it offers one free DIY activity for its guests daily – it can be baking pastries with Chen Jie, or a pottery class with your little ones.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Guests are welcome to use the kitchen. I can almost film a cooking show in this huge space!

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The big kid in me was pretty happy with the swing I discovered at the back of the garden.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿There is also a children’s play pool. I lost no time in getting pally with the resident Willy the whale. In addition, the minsu has some electric mini cars which are a big hit with kids so parents won’t need to worry much about kids getting bored. The minsu can also arrange for BBQ for you.

Places you can visit near the minsu include Luodong Night Market 羅東夜市 and Dongmen Night Market 東門夜市 which are about 15 minutes away by car, and Sophisca 菓風小舖 a popular DIY candy store is only 5 minutes drive. Kavalan Whisky Factory 金車威士忌酒廠 and several parks are also nearby (see their website under ‘Scenic Spots‘).

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿We checked out the field opposite the minsu after high tea. Look at those papayas! If only they were ripe…

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Most of the areas around were rice fields.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿There were small patches of vegetables grown as well, such as spring onion. They must be one of the plumpest spring onions I have seen.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Brinjals

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Time seems to slow down here where life is simple.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The highlight of this minsu for me is definitely their breakfast. It is one of the most delicious and nutritious meals I have had. Chen Jie serves Chinese or Western-style breakfast, and both are just as good. Chen Jie epitomizes the spirit of minsu owners very well – we feel her warm hospitality and passion to make her guests feel at home from every little detail at the minsu.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿Yoshino Cherry presents their guests with a souvenir before they leave. Chen Jie used to be a special needs teacher before starting the minsu, and these handmade soaps are made by her former students.

Yoshino Cherry Minsu吉野櫻民宿The road ahead is long, and I know not what awaits. So just smile and enjoy the present moment :)

Yoshino Cherry Minsu 吉野櫻民宿
Address:
宜蘭縣員山鄉惠好村賢德路二段91巷10號
Tel: +886 3 922 7900; Mobile: +886 939 930 116 (Chen Jie 陳姐)
Email:yeafua@yahoo.com.tw.
Website: www.sakurabnb.com.tw
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/YilanYoshinoCherryBedandBreakfast
Room rates start from TWD2,400 to TWD11,000 to book out the entire minsu (good for 12 pax)
Nearest Public Transport: Yilan Train Station宜蘭火車站or Yilan Bus Station宜蘭轉運站; followed by a short taxi ride (about TWD220 – abt USD6.80/SGD9.90)

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Tokyo – Get up close with Japan’s Cutest Hooters at Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウWe have seen our fair share of pet cafes with dogs and cats, but it is in the land of the strange and wonderful that you will find owl cafes. Located on a little street off Tokyo’s Akihabara district (also known as the land of the otaku/geeks), you will find Japan’s first owl cafe featuring over 30 feathered hooters.

Pet cafes gained popularity due to the impracticality of pet ownership in Tokyo’s tiny apartments, as a place where one could still enjoy having a pet to play with. Owls are especially popular in Japan as not they are only adorable, owls are also a symbol of good fortune.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ
While there are a number of owl cafes in Tokyo, I chose this particular one as customers are allowed a high level of interaction with its owls. Reservation is also mandatory, which meant I could avoid wasting time queuing. The cafe allows up to 12 guests per session (1 hour), and guests are requested to arrive 15 minutes ahead of the reserved time slot for a short briefing on dos and dont’s. Payment is also collected upfront, so get ready the cash. The place is also not huge, so do make this the first stop of your day to avoid carrying your entire shopping there.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウPick your favourite Hooter from the Akiba Fukrou family. Apparently, these owls have a pretty good life. They go home to rest with the owner after a day’s of work, where they are rewarded with a feast of, erm, frozen white mice. I guess none of the customers would want to witness feeding at the cafe. I would freak out.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウYou seem to have stepped into another world once you enter the café – one where you have to speak in low voices and not move in sudden movements to avoid startling your new feathered friends – which is a direct opposite from the busy streets just outside. No flash photography is allowed, unless you want to risk being pecked by a whole gang of angry owls.

I was very fascinated with the variety of owls perched in this little room – I never knew there were that many! The well-behaved bunch consisted of a mix of native and imported species in widely-differing sizes, bred and domesticated from birth. You are allowed to touch the owls, and the correct way would be to gently stroke them with just one finger. While it may be tempting to cuddle them like a Pokemon soft toy, it would be best to keep them at an arm’s length. Afterall, they are still wild at heart.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウThe owls are named after their personalities, and their names are indicated in the green sign above them. This huge fella named Takoyaki was almost half my body length. I wondered if it got its name – and size – from eating too many takoyaki. If I saw it in the wild, I would probably have shrieked and fainted.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウJust look at its claws!

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウThey have their respective rest times too, which is indicated with a pink signage (ZZZ…) above its name.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウThis fella was probably feeling a little anti-social that day, perching itself near the ceiling.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウSome others were trying to catch forty winks.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウWhile another pair looks to be in a domestic quarrel.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ“I am not talking to you.”

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウThis little feather ball almost had me exploding in laughter – SO CUTE!

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウWhat beautiful animals they are.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウMeet Mr President. I bet it would make a better president than the recent ones we have.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウMr President is also a very curious creature. Don’t you adore his big round eyes?

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウI found myself trying to match the size of their eyes.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウAnd this one threw me a dirty look, hermp.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウEach customer is invited to choose to an owl and sit at one of the small tables with it. This one named Gorilla caught my fancy with its ‘shocked’ look.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウUnfortunately, Gorilla was rather camera-shy – no matter how I turned it, its head remained right in the same position – away from the camera and away from me. My hand was also getting tired from holding the sizable bird.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウOthers got into mischief and climbed on top of a customer’s head. Another one pooped on the pants of the customer, to which the staff cooed “He likes you.” Wow, what a way to show love.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウBy then I was getting a little restless as I searched for my second owl to hold. I was drawn to these two docile barn owls who watched me as I moved aimlessly around the place looking for THE one.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウI love its heart-shaped face! This little sweetie is called Whitebait, or しらす (shi ra su) in Japanese.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウThis time, the staff put Whitebait right on my shoulder instead of perching it on my arm. I was initially a little apprehensive that it would poop on me or peck my eyeballs.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウThis little sweetie quickly won me over. It was so tame and sweet. Its feathers felt so soft too. I had so much fun with it, I really wanted to bring Whitebait home.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウThis was my first encounter upclose with this creature of the night. Apart from being menacing prey hunters that we usually see in photographs, they are also affectionate, soft to the touch and so adorable.

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ*Heart melts again*

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロウ

Owl be back for more. (Couldn’t resist the corny pun :p)

 

Akiba Fukurou Owl Café アキバフクロ
Address:
67 Kanda Neribeichō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to, 101-0022, Japan
神田練塀町67 アキバフクロウビル1F
Opening Hours: 12:00PM – 6:00PM
Website: http://akiba2960.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/akibafukurou
Email:  akiba2960@gmail.com
Price: 1,500 yen an hour, cash only. Reservation mandatory, book online up to 3 days in advance.
Getting there: Take the train to Akihabara station, followed by a 5-min walk. Directions here.
Note there is no phone at the cafe, so communication is via email only.

Here’s a list of animal cafes in Tokyo as well, from owls, dogs, cats, lizards and even snakes. Only in the Land of the strange & wonderful! :)