Archive for the 'out and about' Category

Open house Perth

Late last year I attended Open House Perth which is an event that allows access to areas and buildings that are usually out of bounds to the general public.  I went around with a friend and her husband but due to time constraints and distance to each location I had to call it quits a little earlier than I had wanted to.  The buildings I did manage to visit were the ABC building, the Gotham Studios, Mountford Architects, Foundation Housing, La Petite Galerie, Perth City Farm, Boan’s Warehouse Apartments and Kensington Apartments.  I didn’t take too many photos of the properties as it was a little too crowded and some I just simply forgot, however I did dwell at one location for a very long time and had a nice chat to the residents at Gotham Studios.

Gotham Studios is located in the Cultural Centre of Perth and houses several artists specialising in different fields.  Upon arriving I was a little unsure if you were allowed access to the artist studios or if you were to simply observe from a far.  After wrangling up the nerve to ask most of the artists were quite happy for you to come in and have a sticky beak ( ‘look around’ for those who aren’t from Australia ) and tell you a little about themselves and what they do.  Most artists kindly showed off their works and were happy to inform me about their creations as well as give a little insight to how their works were made and how they had come to occupy the art space.  During our conversations I took photos of their walls, books, objects, work spaces and visual diaries filled with references as I found their work process and explanations incredibly interesting.  Each studio like the artist differed greatly from one to the other and it was an interesting experience to step into another artists space besides my own.

Overall the event was very fun and informative and I’ll be definitely attending Perth Open House next year, but next time round I’ll have to plan out my schedule a little better and wake up much earlier.

SAM IN JAPAN: SHIRAKAWAGO

Shirakawago is a small town located in the CHUBU region and is famously known for its traditional thatched houses.  Shirakawago is not accessible via trains so you must catch a bus from Takayama in order to access the town.  I had planned to stay the night as I had wanted to experience a “farmhouse stay” for quite some time.  The town is small and from what I could find there was only one bus doing a circle route about the town.  Since the town is quite small  you can easily walk to where you need to go as long as you don’t mind a little foot work.  The local tourist centre is at the bus stop and the maps are in English making tourist spots and accommodation places easy to find.

I made my way to my accommodation after a brief 20 minute walk from the main bus stop and was greeted by the hosts who quickly escorted me to my room.  They explained a couple of the sites to see and things to do in the town as well as some of the rules and brief history about their establishment.  Most of the tourist spots focus on the history of the town, how the town was built, the architecture of the buildings as well as old antiques of what the people used decades ago.  You can stroll around and see several souvenir shops specialising in their local craft work, hats, footwear and other nick nacks and also many little shops which are literally just a window that offer snacks such as dango (a rice cake covered in a sweet salty sauce) and croquettes.

After covering most of the town and checking out the top view from a nearby look out peak (which was a bit of a hike for me) I made my way back to my accommodation and decided to rest up until dinner.  Around 6.30pm dinner was served and I got to meet the rest of the occupants staying at the accommodation.  After a little light dinner conversation we received our meals and tucked into the lovely home cooked meal provided around the wooden hearth.  Shortly after dinner I decided to visit the local bathing house to end the evening with a nice hot soak.  Since my accommodation was quite a distance from the bath house it took at least 15 mins to walk there.  It being a country town it was a little dark and quite quiet so on my way to the bath house it got a little scary so if you do decide to visit the bathhouse (which I highly recommend), try to find accommodation in the central part of the town or quite close to the bath house.  After the heavenly soak I made my way back to the house and tucked myself away for the night into the nice warm futon.

The next day I checked out after breakfast and did a few more laps around the town, taking photos and seeing the sites till it was time to catch the bus back to Takayama.  Overall my stay in Shirakawago was interesting.  It was good to see the village, learn about it’s history and experience a night’s stay in one of the “gasshou zukuri” houses.  I think the best time to go would be during the summer or winter seasons, I went whilst it was during the transition from winter to spring so everything was in a sludgy mess.  This place really shines during the winter period (according to photos I’ve seen) whilst still enjoyable I think if you decide to visit Shirakawago best to make it during the winter when the snow is falling.

I hope you enjoyed that post on Shirakawago.  Next week it’s Kyoto and Osaka until next time :)J

SAM IN JAPAN: YUDANAKA

Yudanaka is a small hotspring town located to the north from Tokyo and takes about 2 hours to get there by shinkasen.  For those that aren’t familiar with hot spring towns they are towns that specialise or are known for their hot spring baths.  What these baths provide is a public bath house for those that either want to relax and enjoy the natural hot springs (some baths use natural hot springs whilst some are man made)  or for those that want to simply clean themselves and head on home.  Now this concept maybe new to people so I’ll briefly explain how these hot spring public bathes work.

hotspringtut

So if you decide to use a public bath (rules are the same for both natural and man made baths) firstly you must wash yourself clean before entering the bath.  The bath is a large pool of hot water which more than one person can occupy at the same time so be aware you will be sharing a bath with several other naked people.  There should be shower heads or taps nearby with small buckets provided for you to wash yourself clean.  Once you have cleaned yourself thoroughly you may enter the bath but be warned the bathes are very hot so be sure to test the water first before submerging yourself completely.  As a precation for first time goers it is best you do not stay in the hot bath for too long as you may become dizzy from the heat.  Also it is important to keep hydrated with water straight after to avoid dehydration.   For those who are uncomfortable about being naked around others then maybe give it a miss, but if you don’t mind then I would highly recommend as it is a wonderful experience.

So now with that little tutorial out of the way I can now give a little info about the Ryokan (Traditional Japanese Inn) I stayed in.  The place I stayed in is called Senshikan Matsuya, one of the many traditional inns located in Yudanaka.  If you stay at this Inn you are given a free pass to access all 9 public bathes (a popular attraction if you are visiting Yudanaka) anytime before 10.00pm.  It is said that each bath has a different use or cure, for example one for skin disease, cleansing the innards, and a variety of others which unfortunately I cannot remember.

The hosts of this establishment are very welcoming and offer a chauffeuring service to and from the train station upon your arrival.  They speak English quite well and are very informative and helpful especially with organising trips to the popular monkey park nearby.  Once you’ve settled in you can change into a yukata (like a light kimono) as well as a pair of wooden slippers.  You may wear these provided items of clothing about town as it is quite common since most visitors come to bathe in all 9 springs.  Wearing the yukata makes it a lot easier otherwise you’d have to keep constantly changing in and out of your regular clothes, which trust me gets cumbersome after a while.  The town is quiet and quaint with a lot of older folks selling their local wears and delicacies but besides the baths and the local fair there is not much else to do.  Ideally towns like this are ideal for vacationers who want to get away from it all and seek quiet solitude.

You can have the option of having meals provided which I highly recommend as the meal I had was wonderful.  An array of small dishes were served by a lovely sweet elderly lady who described each dish in great detail in perfect english.  During the dinner I had a kotatsu (a table with an in built heater covered with a thick blanket) which kept me nice and toasty while I dined on this delicious home made meal.  After an incredibly satisfying dinner I ventured out to explore the 9 hotsprings, unfortunately I didn’t get to cover all of them as it was getting late and I had to get up early the next day to go to the monkey park.

The next morning one of the hosts took a small group of us to the monkey park.  From the drop off point there is a bit of walk of about 25mins till you reach the destination, after that you’re free to roam about and take pictures of the monkeys or with the monkeys if you choose.  After the monkey park it was time to catch the train so soon after I caught a bus back into town and hoped on the train towards Takayama.

Overall the experience in Yudanaka was amazing.  A much needed relaxation period from the busy Tokyo scene with lovely locals and an experience you won’t soon forget.  For more pics of my time in Yudanaka you can see the full set here on my flickr site.  Next post will be Shirakawago, a UNESCO heritage town known for it’s traditional thatched houses called gassho-zukuri.

SAM IN JAPAN: TOKYO

Hello fellows, so as I promised last week I’ll be going over what I did in Tokyo in a little bit more detail.  I’ll be talking briefly about food, shopping, sites to see and a little bit on craft shops for those that maybe interested.

So Tokyo, where to start?  It’s a busy, bustling, fast paced roller coaster ride where if you stop you will most likely get bull dozed over.  I’m kidding it’s not that bad but sometimes it you just felt that way.  Tokyo is definitely a happening place.  Literally everywhere you go it is non stop and there is something happening everywhere you go.  Shopping is just insane, with several storey buildings of shops which consist of some of the nicest fashion you’ve ever seen to some of the weirdest fashion you’ve ever seen.  Tokyo is definitely a fashion hub for the very eager shopper, especially places such as Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza.  Shinjuku and Shibuya are more targeted to a younger crowd from I’d say early teens to the early twenties whilst Ginza is more your branded goods such as Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Loui Vuiton and many other luxury brand items.  Shibuya is close to Harajuku (Harajuku being the more alternative fashion than your more mainstream) and Omotesando (a few more luxury branded items) so if you do plan to do a lot of shopping, give yourself a day around this area, it will most likely not be enough but enough to satisfy your shopping needs.

Food is absolutely cheap here, and when I say cheap I mean cheap (according to Australian standards).  You can buy a cup of coffee in Tokyo for around $2.00 or less.  It might not be amazing coffee (it was really hard to find a café that made good coffee) but if you need a caffeine fix it will have to do.  I did prior research into where I could find some good cafes that specialised in coffee but unfortunately with the time schedule and everything being hidden away and written in Japanese (if you can read Japanese you will benefit a lot) it was much too difficult to find.  Although their coffee may not be great their desserts are a culinary delight for the eyes and mouth.  Most desserts, especially their cakes are immaculately presented and are cute to the absolute max!  Also it’s not only their dessert but also their food is extremely well presented, even their junk food looks nice as well!  If you’re looking at eating on the go when you’re in Japan, if you’re not picky and you just want to fill you stomach I recommend heading into a 7 eleven, Lawson, Family Mart (all of these are convenience stores) and just grab a rice ball or bento box to carry around with you if you plan to cover a lot of ground on the day.  If not then just duck into a restaurant, however with my previous experience a lot of the Japanese people did not speak English, so be prepared to do lots of pointing holding up numbers on fingers.  If you’re looking at eating out at restaurants and such the most you’ll pay is $18 for a meal (if the place is not too ritzy).  A lot of places especially near shopping districts offer many cheap eats, some starting at just $3.00 for a bento box.  if you plan to eat some where a bit more extravagent then I would recommend making a booking before hand and knowing roughly what you want before going.  If you’re staying in a hotel the concierge will usually help you make restaurant bookings if you request it.

If you’re looking for art supplies, yes it is a little off the mark but it’s what I enjoy, so for those that are interested you can check out Tokyu hands.  There are a lot more arts and crafts shops but honestly if you don’t have lots of time, Tokyu hands is your one stop destination.  I found this website that gives a great map and provides great info on a couple of craft shops in the Shinjuku area http://blackcabbit.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/craft-stores-shinjuku/

This is just skimming the surface of what you can see and do in Tokyo, there’s so many incredibly cute cafes, strange shops, out there fashion, galleries, exhibitions and more.  I wish I had spent more time in Tokyo but I guess this just gives me another excuse to go back again.  For more pics from Tokyo you can see the set here on my flickr site.  Next week look forward to Yudanaka, a hot spring town and the bathing monkeys.

SAM IN JAPAN

So after a month long vacation I’m finally back from my trip to Japan with a stop over in Singapore for a week.   I have so many updates for you guys, the biggest one being my recent (well not that recent) move back to Perth Australia my hometown.  The move was 2 weeks before the holiday so please excuse the lack of posts as life has just been a whirlwind of moving and shaking.

For the next few weeks I’ll be posting about my trip to Japan focusing on the places which I have visited which I will give a more indepth description of what I did at each place.  For this place it’ll be a little overall info about where I went and some of the highlights from each place, just so I don’t leave you guys hanging.

So my journey started in Tokyo for a week then I went onto Yudanaka, then onto to Nagoya, Shirakawago and then onto Kyoto followed by Osaka, Koyasan, Yakushima (The forest island that inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke forest), Kagoshima and lastly finishing up in Tokyo once more.  After that it was Singapore for a week and back home to Perth.  I must say I mostly enjoyed the quieter areas of Japan better than the more popular touristy areas such as Tokyo and Osaka.  I used to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the busy crowds but I think as I’ve gotten older the constant pushing and shoving tends to rile the nerves a little bit.  Don’t get me wrong it’s still a great place to visit but for those that enjoy a little more of a slower paced holiday I suggest you start in Kyoto before you make a move to Tokyo.

That’s all for today’s post, stay in touch for more updates about the Japan trip (again sorry for all the delays).  Next post will focusing on Tokyo, my first travel spot.

Dukes Coffee Review

Wow it’s been a while since I did a cafe review in a while.  To be honest I’ve got a bit of a back log so I’ll try my best to catch up on some more reviews in the next few weeks.

Dukes Coffee is situated in one of my favourite areas to visit, located in Windsor it is a bustling cafe with a lovely warehouse like interior decked out with metal grids, natural woods and rich red brick with helpful waiters and bathed in natural light.  This place was BUSY when I arrived which was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon and like most popular cafes I had to wait a while until I was able to get a seat.  One thing about going to places by yourself (I usually like to eat alone if I’m reviewing a place) is that they can always squeeze you in somewhere with out waiting too long.  However if you go in a group of maybe 3 or more people it looks like you will be waiting for a good 20-40mins.  I was seated quickly and handed a menu to peruse while I waited for someone to come and take my order.  I waited quite a while but it looked like I wasn’t going to be served anytime soon so I had to flag down a waitress and made my order.  The waitress was extremely helpful to answering some of my questions about the coffee’s they were offering, as I’m still quite a noob when it comes to coffee (so I believe).  She recommended a geisha blend and gave me a good description of it’s flavours as well as helped me in making a decision about whether to get the fish tacos or the goats cheese omelette (i got the fish tacos) and after taking my order promptly headed to the kitchen.  Shortly after I received my aero press geisha coffee, a slightly asian flavoured sweet fruity blended coffee which reminded me alot of the cold drip coffees (except hot) and my fish tacos which looked rather measly but after consumption was quite filling and rather tasty.  The coffee and food was very satisfying, and at a moderate price of $19 AUD you can’t complain.  Downside of things is that it was rather loud, so if you like to eat in silence or a quiet ambience then I would recommend somewhere else.  Dukes Coffee also does their own coffee beans, unfortunately since it was so busy and their website is does not provide any information from what I could gather they do their own roasting.  Overall I would come back again if I was in the area.

Australian Academy of Design 2012 Grad show Part 2

So last week I posted the first part of the the Australian Academy of Design Grad show which you can see here.  Just updating this post with some of the other stand out (in my opinion) designers on the night as well as some shots on the day.  Unfortunately I could not remember all the designers name but have categorised it so that all the collections by the respective designer are together.  Short and sweet post as I’ll be updating again soon with my most recent photo shoot 🙂


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