Top 10 places Kim Jong Un should visit on his first visit to Singapore

image

Photo taken by me at the GB 5th anniversary celebrations: Gardens by the Bay supertree with the Marina Bay Sands at the back.

President Kim Jong Un wil be visiting Singapore next week, his first visit out of North Korea, as President, in a foreign land (except China).

Where do you think he should visit? I asked several of my Singapore  friends, and the popular votes go to:

1. Gardens by the Bay
2. Marina Bay Sands
3. National Gallery and the civic district
(Top 3 may be the reason why he chose to stay in Fullerton Hotel)
4. President Halimah’s HDB flat
5. Tiger Brewery
6. URA Gallery to look at Singapore’s city planning
7. Jurong bird park, Night Safari and plant a tree at Jurong Lake district.
8. Singapore Botanic Gardens (UNESCO)- likely an orchid be named after him. And the event.
9.
10.

He is afterall in Sentosa for the meeting so that is not listed as a separate destination. Our Foreign Minister is in North Korea this week to arrange the visit.

Ever the shrewd businessman, President Trump had his delegation comment that Singapore should foot the bill for organising the event and the N Korean President’s visit. Our Defense Minister, caught by surprise by the media, graciously accepted the responsibility.

Singapore may be the real reason why President Kim agreed to meet President Trump. Afrerall, Singapore was the nation Chairman Deng Xiaoping modelled China’s economic expansion.

Whether that is true or not? Let us indulge in this illusion of truth since the Singapore tax payers are paying millions in security cost to make this visit happen.

(If President Trump calls off this visit, we will be saving millions of US$. If the visit takes place, we are happy to do our bit for world peace. Singapore by the way, was the largest foreign investor in the USA in 2017.)

So, we hope the international media will be gracious guests.

So where do you suggest President Kim visit on this historic visit?

Our foodcourt and hawker centres? Your apartment?

Real reason Kim is meeting Trump

image

6th floor of the National Gallery Museum has the best view of the historic padang or Independence Square in SingaPore.

And the arrow points out the Fullerton Hotel, reportedly where North Korean President Kim Jong Un will be staying during the on-off June 12 meeting with US President Donald Trump.

The Fullerton was a post office when I was a kid, known as the General Post Office. As an avid stamp collector, I remember queuing up for stamps. I did not quite appreciate the architecture in its original dark gloomy/exciting reminder of colonial musty air past.

As for me, I will be avoiding all public spaces and doing all my staycation activities this week.

National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957
6271 7000
https://g.co/kgs/mgVrW5

Footnote
As of 10 June 2018, it was reported that President Kim will not be staying at the Fullerton but will be at the St Regis Hotel. President Trump will be at Shangrila Hotel, also in the Orchard Rd area.

Their meeting though, is in the scenic Capella Hotel in Sentosa, a distance from their hotels. Why travel so far for a brief meeting when they are staying so close?

Cream Cheese-Filled Banana Bread

https://www.averiecooks.com/cream-cheese-filled-banana-bread/

Recipe from Averie cooks which I followed closely.

INGREDIENTS:

Bread
1 egg
1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50g) fine sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
1/4 cup cup (70g) Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 mashed ripe bananas (ang ba jio)
1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda

Cream Cheese Filling
1 large egg
4 ounces (120g) softened brick-style cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar (50g)
3 tablespoons (25g) all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
To make Bread – In a large bowl, add the egg, (beat for 5 min) sugars, coconut oil, vogurt . Stir to combine.

2. Add the mashed bananas.

3. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and fold with spatula until just combined; don’t overmix; set aside.

4. Pour two-thirds of the batter into the prepared loaf pan; set aside.

5. For Cream Cheese Filling – In a large bowl, add all ingredients and whisk to combine.

6. Pour cream cheese filling over the bread. Smoothen the top lightly with a spatula.

7. Top with remaining batter, smoothening the top with a spatula.

8. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden. Leave in oven for another 10 min with heat turned off.

9. Bake until done; watch your bread.

I had success with this moist loaf and cant wait to try her other recipes.

image

Nabana no Sato, Winter Illuminations

Nabana no Sato
駒江漆畑-270 長島町 Kuwana, Mie Prefecture 511-1144
0594-41-0787
https://g.co/kgs/y26mvw

http://www.nagashima-onsen.co.jp:8010/page.jsp?id=13894

image

image

Cherry Blossoms
image

As we were spending two nights in Nagoya, we decided to visit the winter illuminations which cost 2,300¥ per pax, which includes 1000¥ vouchers to shop inside. Bus ticket was 890¥ for one way.

image

Reflections in the pond. A zen philosophy.

image

The park was really crowded and impossible to eat in a restaurant so we bought snacks instead.
image

We arrived at 530pm, it was still bright and we could admire the flowers.

image

The lighting only came on at 7pm when it was dark.

image

Really, Nagoya does not have much attractions except buying duty free toiletries.

image

So a visit to the winter illuminations is a nice way to spend the evening.

image

2018 show highlights Kumamoto which was hit by earthquake the year before.

image

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/nabana-no-sato-2018-japan/index.html

Hitsumabushi – grilled eel in Japan

Maruya Honten at Nagoya station with 3 ways to eat the grilled fish dish.

image

3 ways of eating grilled eel.
1. Dish into smaller bowl and eat as is.

image

2. Eat after seasoning with blue perilla, onion, seaweed and horseradish

image

3. Put remainder of seasoning, pour in soup and eat like porridge.

image

According to “gourmet class travellers”, this unagi dish originated from Shizuoka prefecture in the south. However, Nagoya added an interactive component to the dish with 3 different ways of eating dish, called “hitsumabushi.” O-hitsu means the wooden bowl holding the rice. Musubi is to cover, covering the rice with unagi pieces.

I must be the only one who gave the food an average rating on Tripadvisor. We waited more than a hour and the day before had passed by, seen the long queues, been to both Meitetsu and Nagoya Station outlets and witnessed the queues at 1130am, 1pm and at 6pm. Finally we succumbed and queued standing for 1.5hrs. No problems. We had books to entertain us. The staff were nice and friendly, busy and dont speak english.

You can order eel size in half, 2/3 or whole eel portions. We ordered the 2/3 eel set each, because we queued so long. They include shiso leaf strips which brings the dish to a different level of taste experience.

Quite disappointed. I much prefer the grilled eel in Sapporro, Kadoya opposite Mercure Hotel Sapporro. With extra sauce by the side if you want.

Maruya Honten has outlets on 9F of Meitetsu department store by the JR Station as well as at level 1 of JR Station. They gave us a lucky draw voucher for a free trip to Singapore which we gave away. Aha!
〒450-0002 Aichi Prefecture, 名古屋市中村区名駅1丁目2−1 名鉄百貨店本館9階レストラン街
052-585-7108
https://g.co/kgs/2gqACX

Nagoya city Nakamura-ku Nomiya 1 – chome No. 1 4 Nagoya Hamamono street 0525891208
http://www.maruya-honten.com/
https://gourmetbclass.travellerspoint.com/76/

Alpine tour Nagoya Day 4 Matsumoto

We checked out of hotel and took a hotel morning shuttle to the train station and left our luggages at the coin lockers. There are sizes ranging from 100¥ to 800¥.

image

We like Matsumoto town very much. It has a small town european feel with nice designs. Maybe because they have lovely gardens in the streets.

image

We walked 30 mins from the station to Matsumoto castle which has a pretty Japanese style garden with wisteria. (We later went to Nagoya castle and between the two, I like Matsumoto better. Kumamato castle is my other favourite).

image

Matsumoto castle also known as crow castle is one of 5 castles considered as national treasures of Japan.

image

It has square foundation and is a flatland castle with a moat for defense. A pleasant 18 min stroll from the train station. Combine the walk to Nawate street shops and to the shopping belt.

image

Do try the fish pancake, it is the best we have tried. Look at the long queue.

image

The batter is crispy and tasty.

image

They had a savoury sausage version which I like very much.

image

Another soba place which we didnt try because of the long queues. Matsumoto is famous for its buckwheat noodles or soba. Its golden week of holidays in Japan.

Matsumoto’s famous child is Kusama who was having an exhibition while we were there. Her pumpkin was on display at ground floor of Media Garden near the Timepiece museum.

image

Cafe noyie (Cafe Neue)

image

Fluffiest waffle ever.
image

Himself bought a nice green glass sake cup.

Very good soba and tempura at Kippo
image

image

Kippo (そば処) 吉邦
7-40 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture 390-0873
0263-36-270
https://g.co/kgs/Aj7Pwu
Soba-dokoro Kippo

Caught a train to Nagoya and arrived at 4pm. Checked into Daiwa Roynet Hotel Nagoya Taiko Dori side, about 5 min walk from the train station. I will gladly stay in this hotel again.

We managed to drop our bags and return to the bus terminal to catch the Meitetsu line to the Winter illuminations at Nabana No Sato.

http://www.daiwaroynethotelnagoyataikodoriside.com/

Kaiseki Dinner at Fukashiso

Absolutely love the bowls and plating done at Fukushiso. Glad I stayed here, if not for over-paying on accommodation. Will not get this level if service in big establishments in the city centre.

image
Tiny sushi portions but love the green lacquer bowl it was served on.

image

Lidded bowl of ferns with fried lotus root and prawn glutinous rice ball.

image

Beef cooked on Magnolia leaf.

image

One of the best tempura I have ever had, crispy mushroom head arranged to look like chrysanthenum flower arrangement. The tempura was light and crispy. You can tell fresh oil was used.

image

image
Handmade soba and miso which is local in Matsumoto.

image

Dessert, a yuzu jelly and fried soba balls.

image

What is this beautiful flower which I saw a staff do flower arrangement in the morning with fresh cut flowers.

民芸旅館 深志荘
〒390-0825 Nagano Prefecture, Matsumoto, 並柳2-11-21
0263-28-6500
https://g.co/kgs/hSKnC2

Nagoya Alpine Tour, Tateyama Day 2

On hindsight perhaps not include breakfast as we were trying to catch the 0740 train and their breakfast only starts at 0700hrs.

If you like Japanese breakfast, it has pretty decent spread with curry rice and miso soup. But it was quite a rush for us as we needed to get to the station by 0730hrs.

If you have more time, visit the morning market which opens at 6am.

Our journey to the Snow Wall
1) 0740hrs train from Takayama Station to Toyama Station. We took two connecting trains instead of JR. It was quite easy. Just hop off and cross over. 2 hr 30min

image

2) Arrived at Toyama station at 1005hrs. Get out and go next door to Dentetsu-Toyama Station.

image

Toyama is a much bigger city than Takayama and has a shopping centre. At the station, we chilled for coffee for 20 mins. This is a good place to load on your picnic bento for Murodo so you dont waste time queuing for food.

3) Showed my JR Alpine pass and got a Alpine route entry ticket for the Tateyama Cable car/ trolley.
Take the 1056hrs Chitetsu Line to Tateyama station.

image

4) Arrived at 1159hrs at Tateyama station, go to level 2 for the 1220hrs Cable Car (Tateyama Station to Bijodaira Station).

image

If you got the 5 days JR Alpine Pass, there is no need to buy or exchange tickets. Just show your pass to the station master.

image

5) At Bijodaira we took the bus to Murodo ( mid-April to late-June) to experience the snow wall @130pm. I could not get a room at Hotel Tateyama at Murodo, the highest point which was a blessing on hindsight because its quite crowded. Tateyama Highland Bus / 30 mins. There is a restaurant, cafe at Bijodaira 美人平. We brought our own bento and snacks with hot chocolate so did not buy anything.

image

Option 2 is to take another bus to Midagahara. In summer, you can probably take a stroll through the wetlands. But now in May, everything is covered in snow.

image

6) Left Murodo @ 3pm to take Tateyama Highland Bus 2 to Midahahara. The wait was quite long but the journey short. Press the overhead buzzer to inform the driver you are getting off.

The snow wall closes at 3pm while the last bus leaves Murodo at 5pm. So if there is a normal queue you may make it back to Toyama or even Matsumoto for the night.

But I cant bear the thought of travelling another 2hrs.

So its off to the onsen and nap before dinner at 6pm.

Initially I thought there were many activities such as trekking and star gazing at Midagahara. But in reality, for the non Japanese speaker, there is none. Even the slideshow at 815pm by nature enthusiasts. Although we dont understand Japanese, the talk was interesting as we could understand a few things about Mt Tateyama. It is one of 3 holy mountains in Japan. It has a hell valley of volcanic activity. There are mountain worshippers or climbers. It is beautiful in autumn, leaves of red, orange and gold with alpine wild flowers and little pools of water forming, gitaka.

Unfortunately it was raining when we were there, so no star gazing. I may return to Hotel Migadara in autumn one day. Cant believe all that snow will melt into this beautiful grassland on the website.
https://www.japan-guide.com/blog/koyo16/160927_tateyama.html

 
image

image

Alpine tour, Tateyama to Matsumoto Day 3

Early in the morning the fog covered the mountain in front of our hotel. What did it mean? Our sight seeing ruined?
image

After breakfast at 7am, we took the 930am bus to Murodo to continue our descent down to Ogizawa and Shinano Omachi.

I was glad we spent the night in the mountains as we were in high spirits to appreciate the mountain view. The fog had cleared.

Surprisingly no queue despite golden week.

image

While it looks complicated, the signages are clearly marked. If you have the 5 day JR Alpine pass, just wave it when you join the queue. You do not need to exchange for any ticket.

We took the Tateyama Tunnel Trolley Bus (10 mins) to Daikanbo (the observation deck atop the station). Majestic.
 
image

Tateyama Ropeway / 7 mins to Kurobedaira. We took 3 times.

Kurobe Cable Car / 5 mins through the mountain.

image

Kurobeko 15 mins on foot to Kurobe Dam Station.

image

Largest hydro dam in Japan. A movie starring famous actors were in it and it has star status like the Hoover Dam. Come in June to see water gushing out.

Kanden Tunnel Trolley Bus / 16 mins to Ogizawa Sta and bus to Shinano Omachi station to catch the JR to Matsumoto.

At Shinano Omachi train station we saw bags being dropped by TQBin, the luggage delivery but we had arranged for ours to be sent to our ryokan in Matsumoto, which coincidentally had a TQBin right in front too.

So you can arrange to pick up your luggage and board the train at 1413hrs. The train left the station only at 1423hrs and arrived later at 1518hrs which would be a problem for the connecting train.

As our pick up was only at 1730hrs we walked Matsumoto town which is small and quaint. So go to Nawate Street.

image
These flags are near Nawate shopping street. The fish flags are flown to celebrate “boys day”.

Spent night of Day 3 in Matsumoto where international artist Kusama was born

Review of accomodation
Fukushiso inn provides shuttle pick up from the JR Matsumoto station. About 10 min drive or 40 min walk away.

Will I ever stay? I didnt realise how far it was. If I were driving through and rates were low enough, I would, with expectation that it is a 2 star accommodation in terms of facilities but 5 star in service.

A mismatch in price I paid and the facilities. But the service level was good.
I attribute much of the miscomm to Agoda site with no information on website or email.

I would book direct from Fukushiso website in future. When I contacted them through Agoda website, no response and didnt realise that there was free shuttle.

Only when I found the ryokan’s site (through search engine), and their email on actual day, I emailed and got a prompt response on the free shuttle from Matsumoto Station (West side) at 3.30pm or 5.30pm.

Staff spoke decent English and food was good, not as luxurious as what the photos show.

image

image

Breakfast was surprisingly good if you like Japanese style breakfast. There was curry rice and decent coffee with yogurt, juice etc. Rooms are tiny with futon mats and no attached bathrooms.

Excellent 5 star hospitality from staff, very attentive. Real flowers all over the house. Its like a nice motel not a typical ryokan with tiny gardens and good onsen. Although it uses natural spring water.

10 min walk away there is a supermarket if you want to take a walk after dinner. Or choose to eat at the various food places including MOS Burger at surburban outlet.

image

Catch the morning shuttle to Matsumoto station at 9am.

Inn Fukashiso
2-11-21, Namiyanagi, Matsumoto city, Nagano 390-0825, Japan, Matsumoto, Matsumoto, Japan 390-0825
http://www.fukashiso.com/
民芸旅館 深志荘
0263-28-6500
https://g.co/kgs/hSKnC2
mail@fukashiso.com

Dinner at Hotel Midagahara

Japanese meals are presented with seasonal vegetables, minimal meat. I always look forward to a nice Kaiseki. There is a formula and order to this.

image

A totally vegetable option as above. Did I spot a fern in my soup?

Gokayama tofu sandwiched between sheets of kelp with canola flower and Chinese wolfberry. Pretty red from the goji wolfberry. The black kelp had a pickle rose with white cabbage. Marinated seaweed with okura

image

Smoked white shrimp + marinated trout salmon + cheese + marinated wild vegetables

image
Sold in Takashima Nagoya. Anyone can decorate their own dishes.
image

Chrysanthenum and padi.

Sashimi, with tiny chrysanthenum

image

Hot pot of wagyu beef. Dip the beef in egg and dip in hot pot for sukiyaki.

image

Finally spaghetti with tiny flower.

Grilled red snapper + seasonal vegetables + bamboo shoots