Kaohsiung, Taiwan: What to see and do at Ruifeng Night Market (Including buying a whole box of Taiwanese Instant Noodles!!!)

Kaohsiung, Taiwan: What to see and do at Ruifeng Night Market (Including buying a whole box of Taiwanese Instant Noodles!!!)

If you read my earlier posts, you would have guessed that I visited Taiwan recently. As part of that trip, I visited yet another Taiwanese Night Market: Ruifeng Night Market. I previously wrote about my experience visiting Ziqiang Night Market and Liouhe Night Market here. Ruifeng presented a totally different ball game altogether.


Unlike Ziqiang and Liouhe, Ruifeng isn’t a night market that runs parallel and along the sides of a road. Instead, its a market squeezed into a large open space. The stalls are set out in rows with pathways cutting through that are no wider than 5 abreast. So it may be a squeeze walking through these paths as you browse the stalls. Do expect to face mini-jams when you are there as people tend to just stop abruptly to either to look at something or buy that delicious snack from one those bright eye catching stalls.




My personal favorite is the grilled beef cubes (and I strongly recommend you try this). The chef will blast a juicy chunk of  steak with a blow torch searing both sides with that beautiful brown crust before cutting it down into bite sizes:



There are also small eating areas managed by certain stalls that sell more substantive food instead of snacks. So if you want to have a proper meal, it is still possible:


While I had branded Liouhe Night Market as being touristy (and with that, touristy prices applying), Ruifeng brings that to a whole new level.  If you are trying to find a lively place to spend your evening Ruifeng is one such possible spot. The atmosphere was great but I would prefer a less crowded environment.


Th night market offers not only food and some shopping but also some friendly entertainment like archery or BB guns.


Try your hand at one of these games. An easy game to win at such night markets are the BB guns. Super easy if you know what you are doing. A few tips to be a marksman for the day (I managed to get a 30/30 that night before being shooed away to the prize gallery):

  • Know your “master” eye. Unlike in the movies, not all of us aim with our right eye. If you are aiming with your right eye when your master eye is your left, you are doing it all wrong!
  • Hold your breath. Yes, you should hold your breath before taking a shot.
  • Squeeze trigger lightly. You don’t want your gun going off target, do you?


Pro Tip (Where to buy carton boxes of Instant Noodles while in Kaohsiung, Taiwan):

For my Singaporean and Malaysian readers (actually, it applies to all my readers ><), if you are wondering where to get cheaper Taiwanese instant noodles to bring back home instead of buying from the many Family Marts and 7-11s around your hotel, Ruifeng offers a great opportunity as it is located close to a local supermarket. Supermarket = cheaper instant noodle prices!

The best part is that the supermarket has a packing area near the entrance where you can pick up carton boxes for free to pack your purchased products. Yes, it comes with carton boxes and also tape to seal those boxes with.

You can now check-in a whole box (or boxes) of instant noodles at the airport! Of course, there are many other supermarkets but if you are already at Ruifeng, why not just tick that off the list of things to do. You can then take a cab back to your hotel with your box of loot.

Address: Carrefour Nan-Ping Branch, 813, Taiwan, Kaohsiung City, Zuoying District, 南屏路369號


Kaohsiung, Taiwan: One day Cijin Island Guide

Kaohsiung, Taiwan: One day Cijin Island Guide

Hello, all! Just came back from my Taiwan trip.

One highlight of my trip was my tour of Cijin Island with my colleagues. Cijin Island is a small thin strip of land/ island lying at the entrance to Kaohsiung’s port. This island offers plenty for its visitors both in terms of things to see and do and also offer an opportunity to feast on seafood while in Kaohsiung.

Getting to Cijin Island

There are two main ways of getting to Cijin Island. Both involve taking a short 5 minutes ferry ride from Gushan Ferry Terminal. You can get to the ferry terminal either by the metro and alighting at Sizihwan station or the light rail at Hamasen station.

We took the light rail since there was a stop close to where we were staying. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, I typically stay at 85 Sky Tower Hotel while in Kaohsiung. My review of that hotel can be found here.


The ride was slow paced since its more of a light rail than a metro line. It, however, allowed us to have a good view of the sights along the shoreline including, the Pier 2 Art Centre, the Iron Bridge (crossing the Love River) and Hamasen Railway Cultural Park where you can find disused train tracks!



From Hamasen Station, the ferry terminal is a short walk away. There are a number of ice shaving shops along the way. While you can always grab yourself some ice shavings, there are other shops on Cijin Island as well.




The cost of the ferry is 40 per pax. The cost of the light rail is 30 per pax. This is assuming you pay in cash. If you have their local transport cards, discounted fares apply.

Things to do while in Cijin Island

The most important thing to do is, I think, to hire for yourself a mode of transport. Either grab a bicycle or a battery powered bicycles (either 2 seaters or 4 seaters) as they will allow you to cover great distances while on the Island and allow you to not only explore all of the sights but also feast on cheaper seafood outside of the main tourist belt. My suggestion is to get a battery powered vehicle as it may be too tiring to cycle for long.



Talk to the salesperson who you are renting the bikes from. They will normally offer a short introduction of the things to see along the route and also they own personal suggestions of where to eat.

We covered the many sights along the way in our 4 seater:


One possible itinerary is to go along the coast and hit all of the main sights like the Rainbow Church, the huge ass clam and the Wind Power display before heading for lunch. After lunch you can then turn back towards the other half of the cycling route and finishing off at Cijin Star Tunnel, Fort and Lighthouse.













For lunch, we had it at “Wan Er”. It appears to be a more of a no frills restaurant where their chefs prepare dishes and place them on a counter. You take the dishes that you want and pay for them at the designated counter using vouchers which you can purchase from their main counter for cash (third pic below). Don’t worry, any excess vouchers can be swapped back for cash. You can park your bicycle nearby. The battery powered bikes come with a key so you can just remove it while you feast away. Our little feast here was only a 1000 Taiwan Dollars and we had scallops, abalone, a huge fish, some kind of mock abalone and some broth:








We finished off the day at the main street on Cijin island after returning our bikes. There were plenty of stores there selling both touristy items and also local eats. We decided to pop into a ice shavings shop for our well deserved ice shavings having burnt large amounts of calories climbing up to both the Fort and also the Lighthouse:


For those who still have some time left, you can also consider popping over to the other side and visiting the British Consular Residence which lies on top of a hill also overlooking the small gap leading into the harbour. It is a short walk away from Gushan Ferry Terminal and offers pretty decent scenic views of both the Lighthouse and also the harbour itself.

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My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

My (not so) near death experience – Fugu dining

I always dreamed of trying and experiencing something unique. Sort of like marking significant milestones in my life. One such milestone is cheating death by eating Fugu or what is commonly known as pufferfish or blowfish.

Fugu? What is Fugu (Pufferfish aka Blowfish)?

For those wondering what Fugu is, National Geographic nicely describes this deadly fish as:


Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.


A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

I was about to put something 1200 times deadlier than cyanide on my plate and hope to almighty God that I don’t die from it.

Well sort of.

Pufferfish, if prepared correctly is not toxic. Only certain parts of the fish will cause death if ingested. The emphasis here is “if prepared correctly”.

If done wrongly, I would be 6 feet under.

Evidently, I didn’t die. If not, you will be the first person reading a blog entry from the other world.

How does Pufferfish Taste Like?

I had it in Tokyo, Japan after my whirlwind tour of Hokkaido with my girlfriend where we visited Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru. It was our last meal in Tokyo and we wanted to try something unique.

We went for Fugu at Torafugu-tei near the famous Shibuya Crossing. You can’t miss it since it has a huge ass Fugu right above the store front!


This restaurant serves a variety of Fugu called “Tiger Blowfish”.



Great to know that the restaurant serves “Only the safest product”

There’s a la carte and also meal courses on offer. When we were there, there were two courses on offer. One going for 4,980 yen before taxes. The other going for 6,480 yen before taxes. While we were a little puzzled by the menu, there appears to be only minor differences with the menu (the more expensive comes with “Deep Fried Blowfish” while the cheaper menu instead comes with “Blowfish under-skin”), we decided to go big (if it’s going to be our last meal after all) and ordered the 6,480 yen set.


First up, came the Blowfish Skin. If you had jellyfish before, it has a similar chewy texture. It was very refreshing due to the sauce it was served in. It was citrusy like a mix of soy sauce and some kind citrus fruit. The grated ginger (that reddish thing) was not overpowering and helped balance out any fishiness (although I didn’t feel that the dish was at all fishy in taste). I would have loved it even more if it had been a hot summer day as the dish was served chilled.


Blowfish Sashimi was up next. Surprisingly, unlike our typical experience with Japanese Sashimi, it was not served with wasabi. Instead, again you find a small portion of ginger on the side to go with your soy sauce. There was also a slice of lime, if required. This was, I think, the key point in the meal as you get to experience the actual taste of fugu. Its surprisingly neutral tasting and very “clean” tasting. It doesn’t have a taste per se unlike Salmon and/or Tuna. Or it’s just me not having grown up with fugu and not recognising a “fugu” taste. The flesh is very firm and slightly chewy. Likely from all that muscle gained from puffing away? I actually felt something while having the sashimi. My lips felt slightly numb. Was it just my brain working overtime or was it really true that a master fugu chef will just leave a slight amount of toxin on the flesh to tease diners?


Blowfish hotpot. Yep, we graduated from the raw food portion of the meal. So, what happened was the restaurant staff had laid out a sort of paper bowl in the middle of the table that is above an induction heater. The bowl had a metal piece in it that heats up the broth. The broth was very simple (essentially a piece of seaweed to give some flavour). I guess the idea was to not overwhelm the delicate taste of the blowfish. Any heavier and/or stronger tasting broth would have covered the little taste of the fugu. We were told to cook between 6-7 minutes per piece (longer for bigger pieces and shorter for smaller pieces). The flesh, when boiled, was tender. There was no fishy smell at all. For those who are used to having fish soup of some kind, you will normally assume to soup to have some kind of fishy taste/smell to it. Oddly, there was none. It really goes towards showing how neutral tasting the fish actually is. I did try drinking of the broth towards the end. It was a pleasant tasting soup with a slight sweetness from all those vegetables that came with the hotpot. But not much taste attributable to the fugu itself. HINT: Don’t drink too much of the broth. One or two spoonsful is/are good enough as the broth has one more task to perform.




Midway into our hotpot came the fried blowfish. Make a guess what did it taste like. Like fried chicken, of course. Honestly, I believe you can actually pass off fried fugu as a nice piece of fried chicken. The entire thing was crispy and tender. Absolutely delightful.


Blowfish Porridge. Well, there is no blowfish involved here. Instead, the staff will prepare the porridge at your table using the broth leftover from the hotpot. They will add in a bowl of rice to soak in all that goodness before pouring in an egg for flavour before topping it off with some spring onions and some soy sauce. It was more than plenty for the two of us. We found that the waitress was a bit light on the soy sauce and we decided to add it a bit more. The porridge evolves with time. At first, its watery before turning thick after absorbing in all that broth. I found it to be very filling and my advice is that if you think you are already about full, you might want to ask the waitress to cut back on the rice so that you won’t have too much porridge.



We ended our meal with a small dessert – a mini ice cream sandwich.


Post fugu meal – I didn’t die!!!

As time ticked by, I knew I was safe. I cheated death.

Would I recommend Fugu? Yes! Definitely. I do think most should at least try it once during their lifetime. But do remember to have it at proper establishments with proper fugu chefs. While deaths do occur, they can be attributed to amateurs who had no idea what they were actually doing.

Have you tried fugu? Let me know in the comments.

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Hotel Review: Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

Hotel Review: Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

Half board, Yukata, and Japanese baths at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel – Review

If you read my last post for my one day itinerary of Noboribetsu, you will remember that I mentioned staying at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel. This is my review of my stay and also my experience with the different facilities in the hotel. I hope you find this helpful in deciding where to stay while in Noboribetsu Onsen.

Booking Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

I did my reservation on Expedia. For those joining us for the first time, I have always been an advocate of Expedia more than that of Agoda. The reason here being that I tend to get the best rates from Expedia thanks to their highly generous price guarantee programme. Unlike Agoda, Expedia appears to normally not only match the lower price but refund you the difference. So for example you booked a room for USD125 on Expedia and discover a similar room going for USD100. Expedia will refund you USD50 (USD25 to match and another USD25). If you would like to know more, you can read about it here. That said, Agoda sometimes offer pretty good rates especially through their secret deal programme. I covered some Agoda travel hacks in my other post where I teach you how to “cheat” when using their secret deal feature.

Interestingly, the hotel offers something called “half board”. Noboribetsu Grand Hotel offers a dinner package on top of the usual morning breakfast. This I believe is for the benefit of the hotel’s guests as Noboribetsu Onsen is really out of the way and there are not many restaurants able to cater to the large number of tourists visiting the area. When I booked, I had no idea what this “half board” will be like. Fortunately for you, I documented by dinner (with loads of photos) and will be sharing them with you below.    

Good Location for Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

The hotel is ideally located being about 200m from the bus stop where you will be dropped off when coming in from Noboribetsu Station. The hotel is prominently located and is easy to spot once you get off the bus. There is therefore no need to worry of getting out your maps/phone to find your way and/or the hassle of dragging your luggage around the small town.


While walking over to the hotel, try to see if you can make out the slight smell of sulphur in the air!

Checking-in at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

Check-in time is 3pm. The hotel staff at Noboribestu Grand Hotel appears to be very particular with this. Unlike other hotels that will process your check-in and then inform you to return at a later time to collect your keys, staff here appear to not entertain any such check-ins. Instead, they will politely inform you of the check-in time and ask if you would like to deposit your luggage with them. We just dropped our luggage with them before heading out for our lunch and visiting Hell Valley, Oyunuma Pond and also the Oyunuma River Foot Bath.





By the time we were done with our foot baths at Oyunuma River Foot Bath and having walked back to the hotel, it was already 4.20pm. We proceeded to the reception for our check-in. The staff spoke good English and it check-in was quick. We were asked to select our dining slot. Apparently, this hotel splits its dinner timing into two blocks: 5.30pm to 7pm and 7.30pm to 9pm. This may be to help facilitate with crowd control and ensure that the restaurant isn’t too pack.



We decided to go for the earlier slot as this would free up the rest of the evening for us to enjoy the Japanese Baths provided at the hotel.

Rooms at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

Wow! This room was much larger than the one we had stayed at while in Hakodate. Although a bit dated, the room was spacious. We did not get the feeling that we had to squeeze past each other and/or get around our luggage to move about the room. The sheets were clean and the beds soft. The room also had the expected writing desk, beverage area and an in-room safe.







One interesting observation I had would be how the toilets/bathroom are done up in the rooms. Having travelled quite a bit, I have not seen a prefabricated toilet/bathroom installed in a hotel room. However, it appears to be the norm at least in all the hotels I stayed while in Japan. You will notice that the bathrooms look out of place and often not flushed against the floor of the room being slightly elevated. While not a major point, it still marks something unique. 

Speaking of uniqueness, for those travelling to Japan expect to be amazed by their butt washing technology. Most of their modern toilets are equipped with special toilet seats that come with washlets. Washlets have heated toilet seats and also water spray technology that helps wash sensitive parts. I assure you that water results in a much cleaner surface than plain old toilet paper. The heated seats felt great especially in the morning. No more cold shocks!



Other than the usual green tea bags, the hotel doesn’t offer any other beverages. There are, however, vending machines out along the corridor and also at the ground floor where the gaming machines are located. Yes, there are slot machines in the hotel. For a sure-win machine, be sure to try out the drinks and ice cream vending machine. These “slots” offer a 100% win rate!    

Before I forget, the rooms have each a stack of yukatas of varying sizes. There is a sheet explaining how to wear and also the corresponding sizes for different height ranges. Girlfriend insisted we wear that for dinner ><. The instructions are self-explanatory. However, the only things left unsaid was what do you wear beneath your yukata and also how to tie the belt. For me, I went with a pair of shorts (for some sense of decency) and I decided to recall from memory the knot I used to tie for my judo gis. I thought the knot would be appropriate (well… they are all Japanese belts and knots right?).





Dinner Service / Half Board at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

We were down at the Grand Hall at 5.30pm sharp and there was a queue already. I soon found out why.

Dinner service is actually a buffet service. So it made sense to go early to maximise your allocated 1.5 hours. The spread is wide so take your time to go scout for the good stuff. Once you are done, join the queue and collect your plates, chopsticks and utensils before eating your money’s worth. Some of the better items would be the sushi, the crabs, tempura (did you know tempura is a portuguese dish?), the roast beef section and also the desserts. I shall let my photos do the talking:












Cheese melting station – Where chef melts a whole block of cheese and drizzle some of that goodness on roasted potatoes










All in all, the food was pretty good. Don’t expect anything outstanding though.

While there are service stands pouring out beers on tap, do not be tricked into believing it is part of the dinner. Alcoholic beverages are additional items. Poor me was “forced” to buy two drinks as I felt too embarrassed to cancel my orders for fear of appearing to be a cheapo.The drinks, in any event, per affordable.

Japanese Baths at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

This was one of the more authentic baths I have experienced so far. Authentic here refers to the type of baths on offer. If you read my post on my half day Bangkok Itinerary, you will have read about me soaking in a “Japanese” onsen while in Bangkok. I had also tried out Korean baths while in Seoul and Busan last year.

The actual bath experience is about the same. You can’t really bathe differently can you?

But what sets these baths apart is the type of baths offered. The baths in Bangkok and Korea either used ordinary water or water artificially enhanced with minerals. The onsen at Noboribetsu taps into the natural sulphur rich waters in the region and is evident from the cloudy greyish brown colour of the water. The onsen also offers the more typical salt baths and also iron baths (pools filled with water rich in iron). Each type of bath has own benefits but since we are in Noboribetsu, I decided to soak longer in the sulphur baths.

One awesome feature at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel’s onsen is its outdoor baths. The hotel offers both indoor baths and outdoor baths. I encourage everyone to try the outdoor baths. Brave the cold, run out nude before dipping into that soul comforting hot pool. The experience is truly enjoyable and beyond words. Just imagine the temperature being close to 0 and you just laze about in the warm pool with snow falling all about you. Perfect.

I will explain in another post how such baths work for those interested. It is really an eye opening experience especially for visitors not used to nude bathing!

Breakfast at Noboribetsu Grand Hotel

Breakfast was again at the Grand Hall. However, unlike dinner service, there are no specified time slots for breakfast (i.e. No split service). Instead, breakfast is from 7-9am. The spread is wide with the usual (bread, yogurt, sausages for a more Western oriented breakfast and porridge, miso, rice for a more Oriental breakfast). Okay, that was an understatement. The spread is quite varied as is evident from the photos below. Nothing too spectacular but do keep an eye out for the Natto beans.



I think this is one unique item on the buffet spread. Natto beans are fermented soybeans. The way you prepare Natto beans is to pour soy sauce (yes, let it soak in its own essence) over it and give it a good mix. It will become all slimy and sticky. Pop that goo over a hot bowl of rice and it’s ready to eat. Taste wise, it tastes better than it looks. Just make sure you have a napkin to wipe away that goo on your lips!



Onsen Eggs








Checking out and heading back to Noboribetsu Station

Checking out was easy. The staff had no difficulty in locating my bill from the previous night. I was in and out within 3 minutes. Heading over to the bus station took another 3 minutes.

And we were stuck.

We had forgotten to check the bus schedule and had to wait. So, please either check the timing the day before when you arrived or pop by to the station after your hike. Beats waiting at the station with your luggage.

For those headed to Sapporo, there is a bus service from Noboribetsu. 1.5 hours if I’m not wrong. You can consider this if you don’t already have a rail pass activated.

For us, it was back to the railway station and on the next Sapporo bound train.

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1 Day Hakodate-Onuma Park Itinerary (What to see, do and eat while in Hakodate, Hokkaido)

1 Day Hakodate-Onuma Park Itinerary (What to see, do and eat while in Hakodate, Hokkaido)

Onuma Park is one of the must sees on every itinerary for Hakodate. Other than a short statement that Onuma Park can be done as a day trip or as a short stopover, most guides are silent as to the actual logistics and also the actual time you will likely spend in Onuma Park. This makes any planning difficult other than to block off an entire day just for Onuma Park. I hope my itinerary guide will help in your itinerary planning and make Onuma Park more accessible for all.

This guide is in two parts.

The first half is my 1 day experience/itinerary visiting landmark attractions in both Hakodate and Onuma.

The second half covers some FAQ (what I think most tourists would ask when planning their trip to Onuma).

Breakfast – Hakodate

Hakodate was one of the first few ports in Japan that opened up to the West. Being a port city, it has its own fish markets selling fresh seafood. While there are a few markets scattered around Hakodate, the Morning Market is the most accessible being located right beside Hakodate Station.

This market is a perfect spot for a traveller to grab a seafood bowl (Kaisen don) in Hakodate. For the uninitiated, this is a bowl of rice served with loads of seafood on top. A few must tries include sea urchin and crab being the signature produce of Hokkaido.

Feel free to walk around the market but don’t be pressured into entering the shops/restaurants. One thing I noticed is that the shops along the main fish market area are devoid of locals. Hint: That must mean something.








We had two breakfasts there on two separate days. The first time round, we decided to pop into one of the shops along the main market area (i.e. One along the street).

The prices looked affordable at 1,000 yen for a bowl with two types of seafood and 1,500 for three types. We also ordered grilled shellfish: An oyster and also a surf clam (total 1,600 yen).







Somehow, the food was just so-so. Girlfriend was disappointed. Although the pricing was reasonable (if you ignore the 1,600 yen we spent on the shellfish), the overall portion/food display wasn’t the best and/or value for money.

Note to self and all readers: if traveling on a budget, be sure to check out the prices of different stalls. The prices tend to vary and also the serving portions (although the latter is harder to gauge until you are served the actual bowl)

During our visit the next morning, we went to a different area that is just slightly off the main market street. The place is located inside a mall/plaza that is directly opposite from Hakodate station.


Inside the mall/plaza there is a whole row of small shops selling what appears to us as being a variant of the same thing (different combinations of Kaisen dons). Being essentially the same, there is nothing much to distinguish the shops by other than the human traffic flow. We randomly (well sort of, having eliminated the stalls at both ends and just settled with the stalls in the middle) picked one stall that looked busy. Upon entering the stall, we were pleased with what we saw. Unlike our experience the previous morning, this stall was packed and you see locals having their breakfast there.





Although the food was slightly more expensive averaging 2500 yen plus per person, the overall quality and presentation was way better. We also threw in a plate of salmon sashimi. The sashimi is firmer than those we get back home in Singapore. Fresher?

While you roam the area, be sure to buy yourself a slice of the Hokkaido melon. Although we didn’t know it then, the prices in Hakodate are one of the cheapest (@200-300 yen per slice) when you compare with places like Sapporo and Otaru (@500 yen per slice).



Once you are done with breakfast, head over to Hakodate Station. If you don’t have a JR pass (click here to read more about my experience using the pass), buy yourself a ticket to Onumakoen Station. If you already have JR pass, you can head over to the same ticket counter and ask to reserve seats for the next train headed that way. As to train timings, you can either get a brochure/ask at the station or you can check online at hyperdia. As mentioned in my earlier post, I found hyperdia timings to be reliable. I covered the basics on using hyperdia here.

Hakodate to Onuma Park


Getting there

The ride takes approximately 30 mins.



Once you get out of the station, head over to the tourist center and get yourself a map of the area. Although not essential (the trails in the park are marked with direction markers at important intersections), having a map is helpful to get your bearings at the initial stage. Follow the road to a bus parking area. The path to the park is on the right side of the parking area.


Onuma Park walking trails (Part 1)

Once you reach the main plaza area, there are a few options available. You can take a boat ride around the lake, you can rent a bicycle and cycle around or you can attempt the walking trails.

My suggestion is you stick to the trails while in Onuma Park. Why? Bicycles are not allowed on the trails. You will be forced to go along the main roads. Unless you have trouble walking, the boats I feel may be restrictive. You can’t just stop and take in the view or try to get the perfect shot. If my memory serves me right, it will cost you a 1,000 yen for a 30 mins ride. Just stick with the trails!

There are essentially two main paths you can take. A small loop on the right that will bring you to the monument of a thousand winds and a big loop that will see you island hopping. Both loops are recommended as each offer different views of the park.

We did the small loop first (surprisingly by mistake having mistaken the bridge crossing as the one leading to the big loop). Be sure to look out for the spot by the shore that offers a great photo taking opportunity.




Once we were done, we headed to the correct bridge leading to the big loop. A pretty decent photo spot just before crossing the bridge and a random shot of a raven taking flight:



Upon crossing the bridge, you will be greeted with a sign at the intersection. You can either go left or right (this is a loop and either way will see you finish at this same spot). Go right. The views are better with the wide open surfaces overlooking the lake.




While it looks far on the map, the actual distance is quite walkable. It will take you around 50 mins with multiple stops to get to the default rest stop along the trail.

Lunch at Table de Rivage


The restaurant is located in the park itself and its location is ideal for visitors to stop for lunch. The restaurant offers set lunches varying from 1,600 plus yen to 2,000 plus yen.

The main difference other than the main course is the salad offered as part of the more expensive set. The sets also come with a small bowl of mushroom soup which was pretty good.



Speaking of the main courses on offer, Table de Rivage often appears on suggested itineraries because of one particular ingredient prepared and served in the restaurant: Onuma Beef. The restaurant does offer Onuma Beef on its lunch menus. If you ordered the cheaper set, you will be served roast beef. The more expensive set comes with beef stew or a hamburger steak.

We ordered the roast beef and also the beef stew to share.

You may ask which is better.

Personally, both dishes appear average  to me for specific reasons.

For the roast beef, don’t expect sirloin quality steaks. Its a roast beef! While the butcher/chef tried to salvage the meat by cutting against the grain (i.e. cutting across the meat fibres) and making the meat easier to chew, it was still slightly too tough for my liking. The sauce provided, however, complements the dish and adds more flavour while you chew.


For the stew, the serving we got had a good proportion of meat and fat. The fat is crucial for the dish as the meat is very lean. Don’t get me wrong, the meat breaks up just by pressing on it with a fork and is tender. It just doesn’t have the fat to make it work. So, my suggestion, is to ration out the fatty chunks to tide you across your whole plate. One subjective comment here is the gravy, my girlfriend didn’t like the gravy. I suspect this depends on the individual. I personally felt it was okay but not mind blowing.


We finished off the meal with a cup of coffee.


Onuma Park walking trails (Part 2)

Lunch completed and with bellies full, we headed back out to finish what we started. The walk back was completely different from the walk earlier. Instead of the views of the wide open lake, the paths now bring you through wooded area. This offers a big contrast to the views earlier.





I think you will now get what I meant when I said to take the right side of the loop first. If you had gone left of the loop, I think it would be a downer to just see wooded areas since the main highlight of this walk is the lake and the views by the lake.

Onuma Park to Hakodate

We checked the train schedules and made our way back to the train station. Either refer to the pamphlet you took from Hakodate station or just check by Hyperdia for the next train coming into the station. Again, you can either make a reservation with the ticket counter (if you are travelling using the JR pass) or just risk it by going to the unreserved section of the train. For this trip, we just went with the unreserved seats.

Depending on the time of day you get back to Hakodate and also the month you travelling in, your itinerary can vary. Obviously, more daylight hours during summer offers a longer day to cover more things. For us, as we were travelling during the onset of winter, night comes in pretty fast.

One suggested itinerary can include visiting the Bay Area in Hakodate, Motomachi and then taking the ropeway up Mount Hakodate for the night view of Hakodate.

You may have to shuffle this around a bit depending on your objectives. For instance, if you intend to do some shopping at the Bay Area, it may not be as practical to carry your shopping bags up to the Mountain. So be sure to factor this into your itinerary planning and maybe include a short detour to your hotel/hostel.

Hakodate Bay Area

Getting to Hakodate Bay Area

The Bay Area is easily accessible either on foot from Hakodate Station or just a tram ride to Jiujigai.

If budgeting is not an issue (it shouldn’t be as the fare is around 210 yen), why not give their trams a try? A common question I think for most tourist unfamiliar with trams is how to actually make payment. The trams in Hakodate are simple to use. If you have taken a tram in Hong Kong before, the trams here operate in a similar way: you board at the back and pay at the front when alighting. Be sure to take a ticket when boarding as this will determine the fare payable. The machine is located at the entrance at the back.


The ticket will have a number printed on it corresponding to the stop you boarded at. There is a screen at the front of the tram. The screen will constantly refresh to show the price of your ticket (find the stop number printed on your ticket). If you are travelling by tram quite a bit (i.e. more than 3 rides in day), consider getting a day pass for better value.



Shopping at Hakodate Bay Area

The Bay Area is where the old brick warehouses are located in Hakodate. The area has now been converted into a shopping district offering tax free shopping if you purchase above 5,400 yen. Have a look around and see whether anything catches your fancy. We ended up buying gifts (food snacks to distribute) for our colleagues.











The area preserves the old nostalgic look. This metal door retains the rusted look. There is a glass panel behind to keep out the weather.



Where to eat at Hakodate Bay Area

If you are hungry, the Bay Area offers a number of eateries to choose from.

While there, we tried a secret place stashed away in a convenience store that offers cheap barbecue skewers.


The secret meat skewer place is hidden in the convenience store just beside the Lucky Pierrot shop




We also went to a sushi rotating belt restaurant where we decided to splurge with plates of Hakodate specialities (plates with 3 sushis of expensive cuts of seafood that average around 600 to 700 yen a plate).










We finished our dinner at Hakodate Beer. I couldn’t resist going in to give their beers a taste. I went with the Alt and the Ale. While I did not know what an Alt is, it tasted similar to their ales. Pretty good ales comparable to those I tried while in England.





Motomachi and Mount Hakodate

From the Bay area, both Motomachi and Mount Hakodate are within easy reach. We didn’t manage to do Mount Hakodate due to bad weather. It had rained the entire day while we were in Onuma Park and also continued to rain during the evening. Coupled with the low temperatures, Mount Hakodate was covered in a ring of fog. While I attempted to drag my girlfriend to the ropeway station from the Bay Area, I too gave up as we approached the ropeway station. The fog was so bad that I actually lost eye contact with the cable cars heading up the ropeway. The fog had completely engulfed the cable cars after a certain point. As visibility was bad, we had to call it off.

Note to self: If you have the chance to do such weather dependent attractions, maybe consider squeezing them in as early in your itinerary as possible and not leave it to your last night in Hakodate.

While there, consider making a reservation with 阿さ利本店 that apparently serves very good Sukiyaki. While I had planned for a super early dinner at 5.30pm, it was apparently not early enough as the place was fully booked.

FAQ – Onuma Park

Is it possible to do Onuma Park as a side trip while on route to Sappro/Noboribetsu/Hakodate?

Yes. It is possible to do Onuma Park as a side trip. Each station offers coin lockers where you can deposit your luggage for a fee. I don’t remember this exactly but Onuma Park station may have a separate manned luggage office as well.

Do you require a full day of sightseeing for Onuma Park?

For most, the answer is no. You can incorporate Onuma Park as part of a day’s itinerary. You don’t have to allocate a full day for this. First, the park is only 30 minutes from Hakodate and feels like just another attraction to visit. You don’t have to waste time travelling out. Second, the park is surprisingly small and you can cover the trails within 2 hours.

Of course, if you prefer to go for a sightseeing cruise or a bicycle ride, that will extend your stay in Onuma Park.

What are the ticket prices for Onuma Park?

Free. Absolutely Free.

Postscript: I hope you enjoyed this post. I apologise for the length but I thought it would be appreciated if I gave you a more detailed itinerary/account of my trip to Onuma Park and also Hakodate. Please like if you found this post meaningful in anyway and also remember to follow to help support this blog.

Review: Muching on Shark’s Cartilage @ Zai Shun, Jurong, Singapore

Review: Muching on Shark’s Cartilage @ Zai Shun, Jurong, Singapore

For the many who hesitate consuming sharks because of the industry’s horrible reputation of harvesting sharks just for their fins, take consolation that there are restaurants out there making an effort to branch out away from just using the fins to also use other parts of a shark. Not only are such steps significant in reducing waste, they encourage the average fisherman to bring back the entire shark back to port instead of simply dumping the finless sharks back into the ocean. Such innovations in cooking styles also bring different flavours and textures to the dining table.

Zai Shun Curry Fish Head

One such restaurant is called Zai Shun with their large variety of seafood dishes on offer to their diners. Incidentally, Zai Shun was awarded the Bib Gourmand by Michelin for 2017. The Bib Gourmand Award recognises “restaurants and street food establishments offering quality cuisine at a maximum price of S$45”. Zai Shun was the only restaurant in the Jurong East area that was recognised by Michelin.

Zai Shun

Zai Shun Curry Fish Head


Shark’s cartilage

While Zai Shun is known for their steamed fish and their large variety of fishes to choose from, Zai Shun is also known for its Shark’s cartilage served with a generous amount fermented bean sauce and pork lard:

Zai Shun - Shark's Cartilage

Shark’s cartilage with fermented bean sauce and pork lard

Zai Shun - Shark's Cartilage 1

Close up shot of a piece of shark’s cartilage


The dish is best eaten fresh and just out of the steamer. The cartilage itself is tasteless but has a very rich gelatinous texture that goes well with the fermented bean sauce which completes the dish. The cartilage makes a good a side dish with rice given the strong flavours of the fermented bean sauce. I am, however, skeptical regarding the addition of lard in the dish. While the lard may have helped with the taste, I don’t think it is essential to make it into a good dish as most of the flavours would have come from the fermented bean sauce anyway. While best eaten when it is still warm, the dish was still good after a while although the gelatinous texture might come through as being too much for some and may leave a sticky feel on your lips which can be easily dealt with using a piece of tissue paper.

Stewed Pig Trotters

Other than their steamed seafood, another dish that I found to be notable would be their pig trotters that have been stewed to the point that the skin and meat just fall off the bone. This makes it easy for a trotter to be shared as you can easily separate out the meat into smaller serving portions. Be sure to get yourself some of their garlic chilli vinegar sauce. The vinegar helps cut through the fats of the pork trotter and enhances the overall taste while the garlic and chilli both add onto the already flavourful stewed pork.

Zai Shun - Pork Trotters

It is advisable to go there early to not only beat the lunch crowd but also to have a greater variety of dishes to choose from. When we reached there around 1.30pm in the afternoon, most of the dishes were already sold out.

Zai Shun Curry Fish Head, #01-205 First Cooked Food Point, 253 Jurong East Street 24, Singapore 600253, 7am to 3pm. Closed on Wednesdays.

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4 secret spots off the beaten track in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

4 secret spots off the beaten track in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

For many day trippers to Johor Bahru, Johor Bahru is confined to either City Square Mall or KSL City Mall. Johor Bahru is perfect for that quick cheap massage, heavily discounted movie tickets compared to watching the same movie in Singapore or just a place for a family to dine in and do some shopping. But Johor Bahru can offer more than that. Here we cover 4 secrets spots in Johor Bahru that you can add to your itinerary.

Jalan Tan Hiok Nee


Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and its surrounding area offers visitors a chance to explore the old streets of Johor Bahru. Let’s face it. Who wants to go all the way to Johor Bahru and spend all their time in the confines of a mall.

Situated near City Square Mall, it is accessible by foot (if nearby) or by Uber or Grab (if coming in from KSL City Mall). When combined with a visit to the surrounding area, this afternoon detour promises visitors visitors not only a chance to explore the back lanes of the city but also an awesome opportunity to laze around in some cafe

Suggested Route: Starting from Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, visit the nearby cafes and museums before making your way towards Jalan Wong Ah Fook:













Tepian Tebrau

Tepian Tebrau, during my last visit, appears to still be off the tourist radar. It is a place specialising in barbecued street food: Barbecued stingray, barbecued sotong (squid), barbecued fish and the classic Otah. So if you are looking to feast at a seafood restaurant with all the bells and whistles, you may want to give this a miss.

Tepian Tebrau is actually a food court with small stalls selling barbecued food. While there are other stalls selling staples like fried rice or noodles, a majority of the stalls there focus just on barbecue.

My grab driver recommended that I try Ah Yong and I was glad that I did. The portions are generous and also affordable. The amount of food I ordered could feed two persons comfortably and only cost me MYR56 (USD13):








Address: Jalan Mohd Amin

San Low Seafood Restaurant

San Low Restaurant is located in the suburbs of Johor Bahru amongst local private housing. It is a great location for day trippers who want to have seafood without having to travel out too far. More of a “Zi Char” Restaurant, it promises a no frills experience instead of a typical Chinese restaurant.

The price is affordable with a decent sized chilli crab, a vegetable stir fry, and a plate of their signature beehoon costing just around MYR100 or less.






As the place is still close to the city area, the place gets packed on weekends. So if you want to have a hassle free dining experience, try to get there just before the dinner time crowd (i.e. 6pm to 6.30pm).

Address: Jalan Merah 1, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Insider Tip: The restaurant offers a private car service that will get you to places nearby. Depending on the distance, the price may vary from MYR10-15. While slightly more expensive than a Grab or Uber, this is to help cover the empty ride back. So if you don’t want to feel ripped off, just call your own Grab or Uber.

Orang Asli Restaurant


This is one place that promises an “authentic” seafood dining experience in Malaysia. Located by the sea, this restaurant is largely a self service place. My advice is to go in earlier around 6pm to 6.30pm or else you will be one of the poor souls waiting for a table.

Once you get there, go find yourself a table. Take a mental note of your table number (which should have painted on the wooden planked floor) before heading to the fish tanks/buckets by the side of the wooden platform. Unlike San Low, you can actually pick your own seafood here. Just grab yourself a pail and a wooden tongs before picking your own crabs from the huge blue plastic tubs. There will be different types of crabs and depending on the season, there might be even crabs filled with eggs. Once you are done with your pick, just join the queue with your pail and place your orders with one of the waiters there.



Insider Tip: If you are aiming for crab roe, you should pick crabs with a “U” tip on the underside of the crab instead of a “V” tip. Those with a “U” are female and those with a “V” are male.

When you are done with your meal, you can try Grabbing or Ubering back but due to the isolated location, it may be difficult to get a ride back. If you have difficulties, try asking the waiters for help. They can help dial a cab for you. However, do expect the driver on insisting a fixed price instead of the meter on the dubious reason that he had to drive all the way in to get you.

Address: 1, Kg. Orang Asli, Telok Jawa, 81750 Masai, Johor, Malaysia

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