Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Autumn means Mooncakes


Remember Neopets? Well, I was obsessed with it as a tween, and my username was sophisticatedly called 'autumnwine' (never mind that I was underage and I thought wine was poetic and ~cool~) and my mother had to pull me away to take mandated breaks.

And that was pretty much my only link to autumn growing up, and 99% of the time I led a pretty privileged life in air-conditioned rooms listening to Avril Lavigne on my CD player...

Growing up in a country near the equator meant that we had one see-sawing season: hot, sweltering days with Paddle Pops or heavy torrential rain during the monsoon season which always smells like wet grass and stale dewdrops.



中秋节
MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL

But what my hot and humid autumns did mean were mooncakes. Round shaped, red bean-paste filled, sugary and savoury, (from the salted egg yolks if you had one!) and coated with tangy and thick-skinned pasty goodness. 

Matt had no clue what mooncakes were when we got together but found the name extremely cute, so I have a handy Google image link of what an actual mooncake is for you here! You may recoil at my description of it but think of it as an eccentric doughnut, but much more decadent and filling. My favourite is the one with a modern twist, and it's called the snow-skinned mooncake.

In school, much like the Western world, there was a lot of mythology in storytelling – the power to beguile and mystify young children with tales beyond imagination and excitement. And magic, always magic.

So I'm here to tell you that one story...



嫦娥奔月
CHANG'ER FLIES TO THE MOON

A chilling tale and so the story goes: of Chang'Er whose beauty was beyond ordinary and her husband Hou Yi, a skilled archer. They were mortals on earth, but one day the gods raged and 10 scorching suns appeared in the sky. Being the talented man he is, Hou Yi shot down 9 of the suns, and the crops soon returned to abundances, rivers started to flow once more and the earth kept giving. 

The emperor presented Hou Yi a pill of immortality as a reward for saving the people. But plot twist, Chang'Er was jealous of the possibility of her husband living forever without her and took the pill for her own. 

Unbeknownst to both, she began to drift towards the heavens, where she was destined to live forever as a moon goddess as punishment for her greed. Separated from his wife, the mortal Hou Yi was left behind on earth alone. 

The gods were slightly sympathetic, and let them meet once year, where they reunite on the fullest of moon, looking back at earth where their lives could have been. 


Moral of the story: sharing and caring is the way to go and don't try to take immortality on by yourself, I guess. As a child however, we were fascinated by these tales – they depicted surreal images that were far more interesting than our maths and proverbs homework (yes I had to memorise Chinese proverbs). It also symbolised an important turning point every year, that harvest, was here.

Gather, foray and harvest, and ultimately the final homecoming of loved ones under the brightest and roundest of moons. A season of familial and romantic love, where lovers stroll the street to wish for a good future and families come together to moongaze (赏月) and eat mooncakes. And that was my version of autumn between the ages of 5 and 15, greedily eyeing up the varieties of mooncakes that were on display and wanting them all.

And then I'd end up with a tummy ache because it was too sweet and I ate too much...

I hope you enjoyed this small capsule of my childhood and the exciting season that is mid-autumn festival, may you be round and happy because how else would you want to be?



GARSONS ESHER 

Here, so far away from home, we decided to do some harvesting of our own. I'd never been to a pick-your-own before and thanks to my last-minute Googling 'farms near London' we hopped on a train to to charming Esher where Garsons calls themselves the largest PYO farm in the UK with 150 acres of crops. They are, it seems, open all year round too. 

We were there at the end of season so most of the crops were gone by then, but the maize field were golden and marvellously ablaze and that's where we shot most of these wonderful photos as a little memento :-) 

I spent the rest of our time picking fresh veg: courgettes, French beans, some apples and corn of course! They were all delicious for the dinners we made for the week. 

Garsons
Winterdown Road
Esher KT10 8LS



There's something to be said about being in the fields and getting your own crops, and it was something that I treasured a lot. It was fun, but it was also meaningful - it was a closure of sleepy summer finally dozing off, and into the swing of sienna leaves and homemade squash soup.

I'm a big believer of things coming full circle and the inkling of rust on the trees is no clearer reminder. As these colder and wetter days keep knocking on our doors, I remember the hearty and handsome harvest; and most importantly, the warmth of those surrounding us who makes us feel immortal without the need of immortality.

Now, pass me the mooncake!



Needless to say, work is keeping me busy but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel soon. I've got some exciting weekends lined up with some of old friends, and new ones (!) so the change of season in a country other than my own doesn't seem so bad :-) how have you been? Have you tried mooncake? Talk to me!

PS - more Japan travel posts to come soon, and you can catch up on all the existing ones here.

(I wrote this post as part of this week's #TheBlogRace project brought to you by Laila and Vix and guest judge Helen; and I hope it filled you with good memories of autumn as it did with me. If you loved this, and all my genius storytelling so far (c'mon guys hehe), keep your eyes peeled on the weekend for Laila and Vix's twitter where you can vote for me, and share your love for the other equally lovely people taking part in it)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

3 days in Osaka: Our Leisurely Itinerary

what to do in osaka japan

Before Matt & I got together, I found out the only 'Japanese' food he's ever had in his life was a chicken ramen from Wagamama (big sigh). Call it sheer determination or true love, but the last three years have been spent well teaching him the wonders of Japanese cuisine. Now, he's a total (real) ramen convert and loves tonkatsu. Not a big fan of sushi or sashimi but that's just a seafood thing... Baby steps, my friends.

After a jam packed week and a half in Tokyo and Kyoto with pit stops to Arashiyama and the likes, I had planned for a leisurely three days in Osaka. I'd figure we would be tired from the traveling and eating through the remainder of our holiday seemed perfect for that – where better than the foodie capital of Japan?

Presenting to you our very lazy and leisurely itinerary in Osaka, filled with street-strolling and plenty of food.

初日 • THE FIRST DAY


We hopped on the inter-city train from Kyoto which took only 40 minutes, after the morning was spent watching the second wave of the Gion Matsuri (more on that in a later post but it's a yearly procession and considered one of Japan's largest and most celebrated festival!), we arrived in the evening just in time for some feasting.

what to do in osaka japan

見る• SEE

Namba & Dotonbori - you may have seen this on my Instagram already, the equivalent to Kyoto's Gion Matsuri was Osaka's 天神祭 / Tenjin Matsuri, famous for its river procession whereas Kyoto is known for the main land processions. We caught the very end of it while walking to dinner and it was really fun seeing the lights and the buzz along the river.

Namba and Dotonbori are made up of a web of streets lined with restaurants, shopping and nightlife. The atmosphere doesn't rival Tokyo, but is still amazing with some places open till 3am and walking through it smells amazing.

what to do in osaka japanwhat to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

食べる • EAT 

Home to takoyaki and okonomiyaki, we stopped by the nearest street food stall for some appetisers. These are affordable, coming at around ¥200-400 for 6 takoyaki and slightly more for a huge okonomiyaki. You can literally find these anywhere along the main roads and they're all equally good! 

Osaka is also close to Kobe, where of course Kobe beef is from. But we weren't making a day trip there, so I was searching for places in Osaka and found out about Matsusaka beef, alongside wagyu, kobe and hida, which is supposed to be one of the best cuts in the country. 

Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M - this had rave reviews on Google (lol), and some of our friends have been there so we decided to try it out. Admittedly it's more catered towards tourists but I was very impressed by the food, no compromise there! They have many different sets to choose from, including tasting platters, full cuts of meat etc. We chose a few bits (more affordable!) to sample along with their famous garlic rice, and found that sitting well with our takoyaki earlier. The beef had amazing marbling, and melted amazingly on the tongue... like meat candy. 

It's not the cheapest place but how often would you come to Japan, right? Our bill came up to around ¥10,000 which I thought wasn't too bad considering the tasting set was more than double that! 

Book online for a reservation as it fills up pretty quickly: 

2F, Inaka kaikan Bldg. 7-17 Soemoncho, Chuo-ku, Osaka-city

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

The Glico Running Man sign - a smaller version of NYC's Times Square, the heart of Namba and Dotonbori displays sky-high billboards with this one has lasted longest (over 70 years). My favourite one was the giant spinning beer cans adjacent to it... very fun to walk around at night, taking in the lights that seemed to illuminate endlessly.

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

2日目 • DAY TWO

what to do in osaka japan

Another famous shop-front with a giant crab - there's two on Namba and I just wanted a picture of it. It moves as well!

Day two was all about food and I made it my mission to eat as much udon as I could stomach (I am the #1 udon fan amongst family and friends and eat udon for breakfast.)...

what to do in osaka japan

食べる • EAT 

We got up pretty early which meant not a lot of eateries weren't open just yet, and I need more than a cup of coffee to sustain me. There were also 24h restaurants to choose from but mornings don't feel particularly great when you're starting with a huge bowl of rice and fried chicken, ya know?

Hanamaru Udon - This was actually a fast food chain udon restaurant. How amazing is that? Pick your basic udon bowl (plain) and add any toppings you like for extra... I had a very basic udon with a simple soup, and tempura at the side. Fills the tummy for about ¥600, which is amazing value considering everything else in Japan is pretty pricey. 

what to do in osaka japan

I loved walking through the side streets to get to the city centre. This was an area with lots of love hotels, which was.... interesting.

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

遊ぶ • VISIT 

It was a very relaxing day because we booked tickets to Universal Studios (!) the next day so I knew I wanted to do something that wasn't physically taxing because I ain't fit, y'all. Matt is an animal lover (he truly is) so off to the Osaka Aquarium we went!

Located near Osaka bay, the aquarium houses 15 tanks within an 8-storey building, and you spiral down each floor around the central tank with two whale sharks!

(Osakaku Station on Chuo Line) 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka

what to do in osaka japanwhat to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

The highlight of the aquarium is the lookout window in the café, and it was golden hour when we were there:

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

Nearby is the Osaka ferris wheel, which was such a sight to behold when we emerged from the aquarium.

An early night as we needed to be up for the big day...

3日目 • DAY THREE

what to do in osaka japan

I made it to Hogwarts! Basically the main reason I needed wanted to visit Universal Studios Japan. We bought Express Pass tickets too, which lets you jump the queue for certain rides: Harry Potter, Spider-Man... they have different options available on the site but it definitely is a pricey day - our tickets came out to around ¥12000 per person so choose wisely, I suppose? You'll have to buy tickets either through the official website or an authorised reseller, and apparently they got very strict about it recently.

I would say skip USJ if you're not a big fan of theme parks or rides, and you could be off to a nearby city for a day trip. But being the Potterhead I am, I really enjoyed it.

I won't spoil the rides but I loved all of the ones in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - I'll save this day for another post if anyone wants to read all about how I was The Chosen One at Ollivanders too ;-)

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

Slytherin reppin', according to Pottermore. I wanted to get robes but nearly fainted at the merch prices. They were insane! I left with a very cool mug of the Maurauder's Map though...

The rest of the time was spent hopping on rides: avoid Backdraft and Terminator (lol honestly) though. I went on a rollercoaster alone because Matt isn't a fan of coasters, and I sat next to a 7 year old kid who loved life and had her hands up the whole life. She knows YOLO like no other.

The park opens at 10am (times usually vary between 9-10 for crowd control), and the best days to go are apparently Wednesday and Thursdays! We went on a Thursday and I think the crowd was bearable. The heat was crazy though...

Universal Studios Japan
Universal City Station on JR Yumesaki Line 

what to do in osaka japan

食べる • EAT 

Universal Studios was not the greatest in terms of food choices, as you can imagine. In search for a good curry rice, we found one right near our AirBnB and holy moly it was amazing. Like most small eateries, you purchase your food from the vending machines and pass over the ticket stubs at the counter, and you'll be served with a piping hot plate of flavoursome curry. 

It wasn't too spicy or salty, which seemed the case in a lot of restaurants so I would highly recommend this place. The tonkatsu batter was light and crisp, and the meat was tender to taste and came in bite-sized pieces. Mmmmm. Simple but so wholesome to the tummy. 

A typical diner with only 10 counter seats and is also cash only, we were lucky it was pretty empty and they gave me extra curry because I finished it all (told you it was good). This was one of our cheaper forays too, at about ¥700 including meat. 

Koji Labo 俺たちのカレー家×ラーメン
14-13 Nanbasennichimae 542-0075 Ōsaka-fu

what to do in osaka japan


Other great places we visited:

Don Quixote - A mega-storey all purpose store selling souvenirs, snacks, household goods and everything you can think of with a ferris wheel on the top of the roof (!?! I know) where I got most of my matcha snacks
Kasuya Hozenji - Another small udon diner famous for kitsune udon
Pokémon Center in Daimaru department store - Matt loved it and so did a crowd of people
Kuromon Ichiba market - This was 5 mins away from where we stayed, lots of restaurants, seafood stalls, eateries

what to do in osaka japan

A lot of our time was spent walking, so bring your comfiest shoes and stomp around the ground. I gave Osaka Castle a miss because we had seen so many temples and shrines in Tokyo and Kyoto already and found it less time-pressured this way. We also enjoyed the food more because we didn't have to rush off to the next place on our list...

Shopping in the pharmacies was something else too, if you were following me on Instagram stories, you would've seen the photo where these girls piled their shopping trolley like they were curing famine, except with face masks, foot masks, all sorts of potions and lotions... Japan is great for skincare and I did do my share of looting too but I'll save that for a rainy day :-)

what to do in osaka japan

Work has kept me busy for the past two weeks and I have oodles of to catch up on, so let me know how y'all been? It's gradually getting colder and I'm scared already! Don't leave me, summer...

PS I'm part of a cool project Laila & Vix (I'll call them the dynamic duo) are doing called #TheBlogRace which Laila wrote about here if you want to read about it, so stay tune for some cool content - I'm hoping this will bring some respite on my busy work days! 

Monday, August 28, 2017

A New Home


LIKE MY NEW DIGS?

Welcome to a new and furnished digital home for my unusual thoughts and self-deprecating jokes! I've been thinking about it for a while – unifying my Instagram coolness of actually owning delicately (despite being an early adopter for it why am I not an influencer yet? Psh) and what has become a fun and creative space for me the last couple of years, not including meeting some cool peeps on here. Hello regular friends!

You probably didn't know but: when I started sinonym, it was a play on words (it always was) which translated to sin on him, as some sort of metaphysical revenge of my heartbreak (of love, of life etc.) through words. Those were dark years, my friends. Maybe I'll talk about it one day, maybe I won't, who knows?

I setlled on .xyz because everything else was taken and this was the cheapest. You guys know the drill.


But equally important, and I accept flattery in the comments, is that we have also physically moved houses - hence a new home... Digitally and physically. Ha ha ha. No real photos of where I am because it ain't pretty, boxes of stuff (I swear I am not a hoarder...) are everywhere and not enough storage space. On the flip side, we have a pretty awesome communal rooftoop with the city view, a 24 hour McDonalds down the road (you never know) and some nice roads for leisurely weekend cycling. 


I have to of course say thank you for all the thoughtful comments and experiences you shared in my last post about finding the right balance in life. It's made me feel like I'm not alone fighting off exhaustion when I'm screaming inside at 10pm when my work laptop refuses to do its job. This bank holiday weekend is a real treat, I've already gone to John Lewis for ~boring house stuff~ and an hour-long bike ride in our neighbourhood and found a gem of a café!



I thought this would also be an opportune moment to show off my new favourite striped top (y'all know I love me my stripes) - it's embroidered with my name and it was definitely whispering 'take me home' so I did. I picked this up from a charming lil' store called Maison Labiche in Le Marais - an epitome of the effortless Frencherie (yes I said 'Frencherie') style, with many timeless and quirky pieces. You can also customise your own embroidery on the website, and they have some very tempting gingham and flowy tops....


Other noteworthy things this weekend:  
  • This morning I had a decaf coffee from our Nespresso machine and it was great because I don't usually drink coffee as it gives me heart palpitations but I can now enjoy dat coffee taste without feeling like I'm going into overdrive
  • Getting new Harry Potter themed (!) PJs. Soft and cute, it's wonderful. 
  • Warm breakfasts and not needing to rush out of the door soon afterwards. 
  • Writing my FinTech newsletter - my completely non-fashion and travel related life, if you're curious + love my humour you can sign up here (please?)


PS, despite the trenchcoat, this isn't part of the Jack Wills trench coat styling series that's going around ;-) I jest, I actually really like JW but my coat is an oldie (but a goodie!) from Zara - which I've had to sewn up a few times because the seams didn't have great stitching. But hey, it still works right? I threw on my fave Subdued jeans and called it a day.

Striped top - Maison Labiche / Jeans - Subdued / Coat - Zara (similar)




How was your weekend? Hope you guys like the new header + the name! And enjoy your stay! *hands over a metaphorical hotel key* (am I weird?) 
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