Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Japan Food and Street

No, I am not quite done with stories from Japan. He he 

I am sure that some of you would have realised that I never talked about the food in Japan. I am saving the best for last. 

As a family we are all a fan of Japanese food therefore we thought we should not have any problem with food during our trip. Nevertheless we still brought we us plenty of sustenance from home. You know. The usual stuff; instant noodles and ready to eat rice, etc. But of course we must try the local shashimi and ramen. The real thing I would say. 

My daughter Hanna who planned the trip was told that one of the best shashimi one can get is at the fish market. So off we went in search of the freshest salmon shashimi and and grilled octopus, another family favourite. And we were not disappointed.

We went to Tsukiji Fish market. And even stop over at the wet market. 

We also had the chance to try out the full set meal in a couple of local halal restaurant. And they were goooood! 

Other than food, I thoroghly enjoyed watching the street. Quaint shops as well as typically Japanese houses with aesthetic doorways. 

A week is never enough to explore more but then it gives plenty of excuses to come back. At least I can now checked Japan in my list. 


Travel date : 9 - 16 April 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

Japan Family Trip - Kyoto and Osaka

Everyone I know who have been to Kyoto told me that it's a great place and I felt blessed to be able to experience it my self. The great thing about it is that the interesting tourist attractions are within a few train station away.

One of the most popular site is the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine. And it's the first place that we went to upon our arrival in Kyoto. The spot where it is located is only 5 mins walk from the station but be prepared for long uphill walk because the shrine gates are spread across an entire mountain! I was told that it will take about 2-3 hours to go all the way up the highest shrine and back. Well, of course I didn't make it that far. I was not even half way up.  

Another most photographed sight in the city is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. There is just one main path through the grove and hence the throngs of visitors made it difficult to capture a good photo. There is also a pretty garden nearby with a scenic backdrop of the Arashiyama mountain and a lake. 

I love the colours of the trees on the mountain and I was thinking to myself that they must be amazing in autumn colours too. 

The next day we had the pleasure of seeing more beautiful cherry blossom panoramas. One of them was Tetsugaku-no-michi or also known as the Path of Philosophy.

And the other was Keage-incline. What's  interesting about this place is that there is an old train track that is no longer in use and its lined with sakura trees. 

On the following day we visited yet another popular tourist spot. The Heian-jingu Shrine. What made this popular is the garden that is located in the vicity. 

The garden has a lake surrounded by trees with beautiful colourful leaves or flowers. A walk around the lake or garden would give   a peaceful and calming feel that would melt any stress or trouble away. At least that how I feel. I am pretty sure that in the peak of the cherry blossom season the garden would be even more beautiful and amazing. 

Much that we had wonderful time in Kyoto, we had to leave and depart to Osaka, our final overnight stay. Since we only had a whole day and evening we made full use of the time. Off we went to the Osaka Castle. It s a pretty popular spot for tourists and locals alike for there were several event and activities around the area. There were rock bands playing in one corner and a full orchestra in another. There were jugglers and ninjas and even an old samurai. Believe you me!

Finally the day came that we had to say goodbye to Japan. It had been a marvelous family bonding time. The time that we spent together in such a wonderful surrounding and the shared memories and experience will certainly be a treasure to us all. And I hope that we get to go for a family vacation every once in a while.  Insya-Allah. 

Thank you Allah. I have been blessed. In deed. 

Travel date : 13-17 April 2017

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Japan Family Trip - Tokyo

Its the first family trip after a long while and Japan was everyones' choice as the land of the rising sun has a lot to offer as a tourist destination. And of course spring would be the best time to visit for the  obvious reason. Yes! The cherry blsssoms. 

Hence it's no surprise that it's the first place that we head out to on the first day of our outing when we were in Tokyo. Yoyogi Park. One of the favourite place that the locals go for 'hanami' party. While trying to blend with the locals having picnics under the sakura trees we were so obviously not one when we were busy taking photos after photos the moment we got there.   

We couldn't get enough of them. Even after taking multiple shots after multiple shots. As my daughter was saying "My eyes have been blessed". Indeed they were a sight for sore eyes. 

The park itself is quite a large area and everywhere you go there were families or friends having a fun day outdoor. And I enjoyed watching them enjoying themselves. 

There are other parks in many parts of Tokyo but we didn't have the luxury of time to visit them all. 
We need to go to another popular site. Yup. You guess it right. Mount Fuji! 😍

There are several spots where tourists can view Mount Fuji and we chose to view it from Kawaguchiko Lake. Just a note though, for those making your own way, do book your bus or train ticket in advance. We almost didin't make it that day. 

Frankly, Mount Fuji would look more awesome with a little less or no cloud on its peak. We spent like 3 hours  at the park hoping to get a better view while having our lunch but the cloud didn't seem to get any lesser. And just as we were about to catch the bus back the mountain decided to reveal its splendour! Even though ee were not in the right location to get the full view ofthe mountain, still we were grateful for that moment. Alhamdulillah. Our eyes have been blessed again.

The photos above really didn't do justice to the real thing. You really need to see it with your own eyes to appreciate the beauty and grandeur that it presents. 

After 4 nights in Tokyo we continued our journey to Kyoto. At this juncture let me continue the story of our adventure in my next posting. This has been pending for far too long. I have been to Turkey and back and have yet to complete this piece of article.

So for now, sayou nara!

Travel date 9-12 April 2017

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


The term Scandinavia always includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden as well as Finland and Iceland. During my trip to Iceland, we spent two nights in Oslo and two nights in Stockholm before and after going to Iceland. In both cities  we only had one full day of sight seeing with a tour guide. 

Oslo is a small city yet has some interesting building with unique archicture. We had a leisure walk to explore the city on the first day after lunch and prayer as well as the next at the end of our guided tour. 

As for the guided tour we visited Norsk Folkemuseum, a Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Its an open air museum with more than 150 historic buildings and artifacts mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries but some goes all the way back to the 13th century, gathered from around the country, rebuilt and organised accordingly.  

We then went to Holmenkollen where Holmenkollbakken, a large ski jumping hill is located. It has hosted the Holmenkollen Ski festival since 1892, the FIS Ski Jumping World Championship since 1980 and has also hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics. Truth be told, we were not really impressed  with the ski slope as none of us could ski but what thrilled us was the snow! And on top of that it was snowing lightly when we were up there. It was a beautiful sight for us who come from a country with no snow at all. We spent too much time taking photos and having fun that we took longer than scheduled much to the annoyance of our guide. Hee....

We then had enough time to explore the city again and shopped before calling it a night. A good night rest was the order of the day as the next was the much awaited trip to Iceland. 

After an adventurous trip to Iceland, we spent our last two nights in Stockholm the capital city of Sweden. The tour guide insisted though that its the capital city of Scandinavia! Stockholm is a bigger city compared to Oslo and with a larger population too. The guided tour took us first to the City Hall. It may not look much from the outside but the interior is rather impressive.

We then proceeded to visit Vasa Museum. Now this is something that I am impressed with. The museum displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged! The 64-gun warship Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. Just imagine, the technology and skill during the early 19th century were not as advanced as today which made salvaging work even more inspiring! 

After lunch and prayer we opted to go on a cruise. Its chilly and some parts of the water was even frozen but we still enjoyed the view and the experience. 

Finally, it's time to fly back home. We woke up to a city covered in fresh snow and it was still snowing by the time we were departing. To me it was like a beautiful  sent off to a wonderful holiday. 

Oh yes. I have also made new friends during the trip. That the beauty of a group tour and even more so when travelling solo. When travelling with friends or family more often than not we tend to cluster in our own small circle. I am guilty of that too.

But then again you may find me wandering on my own half of the time to find a good shot. Afterall, photography is still my hobby even with a compact camera. There were many instances that I miss my DSLR but then again my ageing body and aching bones just could not manage the weight of the camera any more. I am saving all my energy for more trips to come! 

Where will I be going next you may ask? Just wait and see in the next post!

Travel date: 28 Feb - 2 Mar 2017 (Oslo) and 5-7 Mar 2017 ( Stockholm)

Thursday, 16 March 2017


Iceland has been one of my dream destinations ever since I watched a show on TV about Iceland. The aurora is one thing to look forward to but then that can be expereinced in some other countries nearby too. Its the ice and glacier that I wanted to see with my own eyes. Since I am not braved enough to travel on my own, I booked a trip with a tour group. Hence I am able to enjoy the trip without having to worry about reservation and logistics. 

We flew to Oslo and stayed a couple of nights before flying to Iceland. And upon arrival we made our way straight to  the Blue Lagoon. A man made thermal bath which was supposed to be good for the skin and general health. Its not the bath that got me excited though, its the sight all the way from the airport to the destination. We were told that it snowed the night before and with the sun shining on that day the view from the bus was very much foreign yet fascinating to my eyes. 

The next couple of days were spent sight seeing. We went to see a couple of famous waterfall namely Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss as well as Reynisfjara Beach also known as the black sand beach. Yes, that's  right.  They are the famous locations used in a popular Bollywood movie. 

Later in the day we had just enough time before nightfall to visit Jokulsalon Glacial Lagoon. This is the place that I have been so looking forward to. And Subhanallah, it was immensely spectacular. My heart felt like it was going to burst. It is even more amazingly fascinating when we learnt the scientific explanations on how nature runs its course and made such a beautiful place. One cannot help but feel close to nature and even closer to Allah, the Creator of heaven and earth. 

I wish that I could just stay there a little longer to absorb the sight and use the time to reflect but we had to rush to the beach to see the end of the journey of the melting glacier and ice. It's  an unbelievable sight. Blocks of ice of different shapes and sizes were scattered all over the beach and the sea. Its something that one has to see with ones own eyes to really appreciate how beautiful and awesome it is.  Everyone was simply awestruck with the experience. 

We had a 3 hour bus ride back the hotel and we were hoping that we would get lucky with an aurora sighting on the way. But alas it was to no avail. Upon checking in at the hotel we were informed that the reception would call our room if there is a high chance of the aurora appearing. And that he did! We were just about to get ready for bed when we got the call, and we quickly put our jumpers and coat on and rushed outside. It was very faint initially and our eyes were not trained to identify the light immediately. On top of that the surrounding area of the hotel were brightly lit which did not help to highlight the aurora in its  true form. Unfortunately I only managed to get a couple of shots before giving in to the freezing weather. The next morning when I checked my camera, I wished that I had stayed longer and take more shots.  What I should have done was put on more jumpers and got back out. Oh well, this would give me the excuse to check out the northern light in Finland some other time. 😉

The schedule for next day was a little more adventurous. It included a steep climb on a large truck with huge tyres all the way up one glacial mountain and we were also given the option to try the snow mobile. Which I declined politely. Hee.... Instead I spent the time absorbing the beautiful ambiance of the sun and snow. It another out-of-the-world experience for me. Its eerily quiet and you only see endless field of white snow right to the end of the horizon. It really can humble you to nothingness. If you know what I mean. Honestly, the photos below does not do justice to the real thing. So I suggest that you go there and see it for yourself! 😁

On our way down we stopped at Langjokull Geysir and Gullfoss Golden Waterfall. 

And after lunch we made our way to  Keflavik, a little town in southwest of Iceland near the airport. Before going to bed we wondered if we would get lucky a second time with the northen light but I guess it was not meant to be.

We left Iceland the next morning with a heavy heart but with plenty of fond memories and new experience. I even sat by the window on the plane for a change to catch the last sight of Iceland.

Thank you Allah for making another of my wish come true. 

Travel date: 2-5 March 2017


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Ireland - Dublin

I am about to embark in another journey and yet I have yet to complete my posting from last year. Indeed 2016 was my travel adventure year made possible with a travel buddy towards the second half the year. This year I have to fly solo again. 

Anyways, after 2 nights in Killaloe, we booked a place in Dublin. A comfy apartment above a restaurant. Strategically located albeit a little busy on a friday night with the weekend merry makers.

And immediately upon checking in we head out straight away to Trinity College to visit the famous library and the Book of Kells. We had just enough time before it closed.

By the time we were done it was already dark and we head back to the apartment ready for bed and recharge for our adventure in the following day. 

It was still dark when we walked to the pick up point but we were looking forward to it despite the freezing temperature at that early morning. Its a whole day tour to Belfast and North Ireland. 

The first stop was the Titatic Experience center. The place where the titatic ship was built. Somehow the film keep playing in my mind while walking about the center. I was half expecting Kate Winslet and whatshisname to jump out any moment.

Next we stopped by at Carrick-a-Read Rope Bridge near Ballintroy. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickaread. By now the grey sky has turned blue but the wind from the sea was still chilly but then the long walk kept us warm and we were blessed with an amazing view.

The final stop for the day was the Giant Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its located in the County Antrim on the northen coast of Northern Ireland. Basically its a large area of rock formation as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. 

I don't really know if there are any other place with such a site but I was just amazed by this natural wonder of God's creation. The interlocking basalt columns come in various shades and shape. The top of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. And of course the locals has an amusing folklore on how it happened. The driver with his strong Irish accent had us in stitches with his version of the story.

The walk back to the bus seemed longer as we had the hill to climb but the view we get to enjoy made every step worth the while. It was a tiring day but it was also a happy one for us. Nothing beats beauty and nature.

We had to catch the flight back to Birmingham the next day but we managed to make a quick visit to Dublin Castle before making our way to the airport. All in all we had a marvelous time for our first experience in Ireland. There are many other interesting site to visit so we promised ourselves that we will be back again, insya-Allah. 

Travel date : 19-21 November 2016