Being tourists in Guangzhou for the day we hopped on the metro and APM to Canton Tower, the main landmark in the city. We went up Canton tower, although cannot remember how far we were actually up (will teach me to write my blog so long after it happened!) and it really helped get a grasp for how large the city is and how many different parts there are across the Pearl River too. You can go on a drop ride and bubble cars at the very top but this was not open due to the Chinese Spring Festival. I think this would be something we would do if we find ourselves there again as the views are spectacular. There are revolving restaurants on the floor above this viewing deck which would be great to experience too. The skyline is pretty impressive in Guangzhou and I thought it was better than Tokyo, although not sure the Baiyun Mountain is anything on Mt Fuji.
Due to the nature of the building's architecture it is not the best photo from the top!! But you can queue for a photo without the triangular bars and the view is still pretty cool.
We then popped across to Canton Place, probably my new favourite area for restaurants and a lovely deli. And went to a German restaurant called 1920,(recommended in your guide book Roff!) which did some good draft beer (Matt was happy!) fun decor and the food was tasty too.
We flew back early on Wednesday morning to Hong Kong and got a car transfer from the airport across the border back into China at Shenzhen. The car drops you on the HK border, you get out, go through immigration and you are now in China! To break up the journey home in style we stayed in The Langham, Shenzhen for the night. Enjoying all the drinks and food and facilities before heading back to GZ Thursday afternoon, well why not!
Well.. why not! It was really easy to get to on the metro and it was not even that busy, when we first arrived! By mid afternoon it was packed; even for a Tuesday. There were lots of different areas to go and explore and everything was done very well. It was great to be in the magic of disney for the day :-) The bizarre thing here was that friends and couples wore similar, if not the same, outfits!!! We thought we were getting involved by wearing Minnie and Mickey Mouse ears, well these people were another level. Enjoy the photos and our last day in Tokyo.
Set amongst the financial area of the city are these beautiful gardens - which in Spring/Summer are going to be even better. A lovely peaceful picnic for lunch and a stroll around here with a stop in the little teahouse on the lake was lovely in the sunshine. You do have to pay to get in (about £1!) but it was worth it. We saw the start of the renowned cherry blossoming starting which was so pretty as well.
Ginza Shopping District
Have you even been to a city if you haven't been shopping?!! Haha. Great to have a look at Japanese fashion and also more known shops as well. It was like the Japanese version of 5th Avenue in New York.
This area of Tokyo had SO much going on and was more a typical scene of how I imagined Japan. Bright lights, business, weird and wonderful Animae advertisements and lots to see and do. We went for dinner at a restaurant, Kamukura, where you ordered and paid for your food on a machine outside and then handed the tickets over to the chef inside and it was brought to your table. Novel again! And most importantly...tasty and around £7 again :-)
Then we found Mario Kart !!!
It could not have been a trip to Japan without playing our childhood favourite...and in an arcade it was there ready to play! Too much fun!!
The smallest entrance leading to a little cave bar
The Robot Restaurant - a must see.
I don't even think they could call it a restaurant, you can order a meal to have whilst you watch one of the most craziest shows I have ever seen! You are sit in 4 tiers, with the 'stage' in the middle of the other tiers facing you. And out comes lots go giant robots/machines with crazy lights and people dressed up on them drumming and dancing...then a random guy did a show with lasers...I cannot describe it well enough to do it justice!!! Here are some photos to show you, but if you go to Tokyo do this!
We made it over to the tower for a full view of the city from the observation deck as our first tourist 'to do'. On route we passed through Zojoji Temple and park which was very grand and there were people praying and having a Sunday service and meditation in the temple.
The tower itself was quite cheap to visit, about £6 per adult. It was a nice thing to do however if we had paid more I would have been disappointed. The skyline of Tokyo from here was nothing out of the ordinary BUT being able to see Mt. Fuji from up there was pretty cool and definitely the highlight. I wonder whether it would have been more inspiring at night? Or if the view from the Sky Tree would have been better? Something to consider if you are going there.
Meiji Jingu Park and Temple
Meiji Jingu is a Shinto Shrine (Shinto is Japan's ancient original religion) and this shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji who passed away in 1912. When he died people wished to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever, so they donated 100,000 trees from across the world. This then established the forest and park that the Shrine resides in and it is beautiful to walk around to get to the temple itself. When we were there a wedding was taking place which was great to witness and also read all the wishes and hopes that people put around the ancient tree by the Meiji Jingu.
Asia and particularly Japan are renowned for their animal cafe's ranging from cats to owls! We enjoyed a cat cafe 'Mocha' overlooking the bustling area of Harajuku, which was at the end of the park. You did have to pay for every 10 minutes we were in there, so it was not a leisurely drink but an enjoyable one with so many cute cats around!!
On the same street hidden away is a little hedgehog cafe! I never thought I would enjoy a cuppa with a hedgehog in my hand - but when in Japan! You could actually buy them from here and the family next to us were taking one home!
A crazy busy street with lots of random sweet stores, candy floss stalls, crepe places and Japanese clothing and gift things. Just very busy and a place to experience the craziness of the little shops here there and everywhere. Lots of alleys and side streets with vintage shops and things along there so that's exciting too!
Supposedly this is one of the busiest and most chaotic crossings in the world! And I can confirm it is very busy and there are so many different crossings to go across in different directions it is all a bit crazy. We enjoyed it a lot though and probably crossed it 5 or 6 times haha!!
Shinbuya for Sushi: Uobei
Found in a little side street with hidden gems, you wait in a queue to get taken through to your seat which are in aisles, with your own personal iPad which you order your sushi from! It is the cheapest meal I have ever ordered and I love Sushi so I don't know how that happened!! But lots of dishes and sushi and 2 drinks was less than £7. And that is not even the best bit... once you have ordered your dish (up to 3 at a time), it whizzes along from the kitchen on an electric shute/runner and is delivered straight to where you are sat. I can't really do it justice talking about it and with photos, I do have some good boomerangs, but can't show them on here! Such a novelty and well worth the visit for tasty food and fun!
And a wine bar to finish...
After taking the bus from Hakuba to Nagano station we got the bullet train straight to Tokyo, which took an hour and a half! Navigating the metro in Tokyo wasn't too tricky considering the complexity of it's map!! And there were staff around the ticket machines who were really helpful - very unlike my experience of China. We met a man in the lift up to the street at our final destination who get chatting to us about where we were from and how long we were here for and then told us the way to go to our hotel; great first impressions of Tokyo. We stayed in an APA Hotel (popular in Japan) in Sengakuji which was a quieter suburb of Tokyo but still only 10mins to the more hustle and bustle which was great. Just explored our little area for some food and then an early night ready for more adventures in the morning.
We left straight from school Friday afternoon, headed to HK airport to fly to Tokyo (4 hours) and then a 4 hour transfer to the ski resort...I was so so excited!! I had heard a lot of amazing things about Japan skiing and I was NOT disappointed.
We stayed in the Hakuba Valley near Nagano where the 1998 Winter Olympics took place. The apartment was closest to Happo One resort and we could ski back home at the end of the day - which was dreamy as the hill was not ok to walk up in ski gear!! We stayed in Altitude apartments, in the upstairs one to start and then moved to the larger downstairs one with an Onsen part the way through the week (not by choice...but worth the move!) The people that own the 2 apartments were great at taking us down to the supermarket, booking restaurants, getting our luggage and ski hire to the apartment which was amazing to have. We managed to ski Saturday afternoon after arrival which was great to get out and test those ski legs after a year.
Sunday 11th Feb: Happo One
We bought a full day pass for Happo one and explored all over the mountain. It had snowed overnight so there was so much powder and we had such a great full day of ski! Matt had not skied since Y9 ski trip but you couldn't tell at all, he was picking it all up again amazingly well!
Monday 12th Feb: Happo One
Again, stayed around Happo One mountain and went right to the top and explored it all a lot more. It was pretty cold as it snowed all day but the conditions were not too bad for skiing which was good.
Tuesday 13th Feb: Tsugaike Kogen
A short shuttle bus ride to this mountain, which had a lot more easier slopes but did mean you could pick up a lot more speed and do the slopes many times. We went in the snow park here, although the jumps do scare me a little, I did manage a few (with minimal air time haha)!! We went to a lovely little Japanese cafe for lunch and enjoyed a warming Ramen and the owner was the sweetest old man... who was still snowboarding!
Wednesday 14th Feb: Goryu/Hakuba 47
A larger mountain today and a lot of ski-ing! We found some great routes around this mountain and an amazing Corona bar which we had a few pitstops at whilst we were here! I also did my first double diamond black which was VERY mogul-ly (that is now a word) and it was pretty tough and when I didn't think about it too much and scare myself I kept a good rhythm! I was very proud of myself for doing this :-) After a big day ski-ing we celebrated by heading into town to a few of the bars, The Rabbit Hole and down to The Pub which had turned into a club for the evening and it was great to have a dance!
Thursday 15th Feb: Happo One
Nursing our sore heads and tiredness we made it out for lunch and an afternoon of skiing at the resort closest to us! We had a complete white out as we were trying to come home from the mountain, so we somehow navigated our way back to the apartment without any injuries or getting lost!! Then headed down to the Gondola Bar on route down the dreaded (and now icy!) hill to dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant.
Friday 16th Feb: Iwatake
For our last day of skiing we were recommended this mountain as it had some lovely views as well as a variety of runs that we could complete on our last day.
All in all the most incredible conditions for skiing and a vast array of runs and resort areas to choose from - and most importantly a fabulous bunch of friends to enjoy it all with on and off the slopes... Hakuba Valley, you have hooked us - see you next year!
On the last day of this half term to celebrate Chinese New Year, we had a group of performers in to display the traditional Dragon dance. These are held all over China as the Dragon is a symbol of China and it is said to bring Chinese people good luck going into the New Year.
The dance was fascinating and featured 2 people in the dragon costume performing different moves to the drumming beat. Pictures cannot do it justice and I can't upload the videos to here, so if you want to see them - just drop me a message! It was an amazing spectacle and one that I feel privileged to see to understand Chinese culture further. The students really enjoyed it too - especially when the teachers did their own renditions for Primary vs Secondary!!! A lovely way to round up this first half term.
After a lat minute trip to Decathlon for the rest of our Skiing needs, a group of us headed to a swanky new Turkish restaurant open in Town, Doors. With a lot of bars and restaurants having to close upstairs areas/closing altogether due to new Chinese regulations on stair case width and fire regs (yes, all happened over Christmas holiday!) a lot of our favourite places are not open anymore. So this was very exciting!! It looks very fancy from the outside, and the interior did not disappoint and most importantly neither did THE FOOD. YUM. We will certainly be going back, amazing salads, meat dishes, tuna steaks and HUMMUS mmmm mmmmmm.
After a lovely girls Friday night at a friends in town a group of us were on the 8am train to Hong Kong for a lovely night away at The Langham. As Hung Hom station is in the Kowloon part of Hong Kong, as is The Langham, we were there before 11am ready for some prosecco on arrival and heading off to brunch.
We tried a new place in Kennedy Town (on HK main Island) called Catch. It is based on a Melbourne style breakfast and vibe and it really did deliver!! Delicous drinks menu to choose from as well as incredible range of breakfasts. They don't take reservations and it was very popular but we were lucky and got a table straight away.
From there a quick trip around the shops including Marks and Spencer for lots of yummy goodies to take back to China and then back for High Tea at The Langham...and then the rest of the weekend was spent taking full advantage of Club benefits (eating and drinking!) and chilling out in our robes!! Wonderful weekend before the Chinese New Year two week break.