Tag Archives: Food

The Quarters Experience

A modern communal dining experience, having the best of both worlds, a mix of traditional cuisine with a modern cross fusion of cooking style from other cultures. This communal dining experience had 10 different types of dishes, starting from the appetiser, followed by 7 main courses, there are so delicious and mind blowing beyond my imagination, rounding up this unique modern communal dinner with 2 desserts. This is the Quarters Experience.

The Quarters Experience was created by Deming, whom I knew a few years back when he was just doing just one food, his trademark Durian Crème Brulee at a pop up event at Haw Par Villa in 2014. In the blink of an eye, he established two food brands, The Quarters and Kush. Watching how Deming established, transformed and innovate his food cuisine over this period time from 2014, I had great respect and admiration for this innovative food entrepreneur friend of mine.

When I was invited down by Deming to experience The Quarters Experience, I was grateful and thankful to be part of this amazing modern communal dining experience. I arrived earlier than the scheduled start time, photographing the setup process on what creates the special experiences behind The Quarters Experience. This was also a time to catch up with my friend Deming before he got very busy during The Quarters experience, hosting and sharing with the guests on each and every dish that was served during The Quarters Experience.

Personally, this was one of the best dining experiences that I ever had, not because I am invited and treated to this Quarters Experience, not because Deming is a friend of mine. Why the Quarters Experience was one of the best dining experiences that I had was because of the love and passion for food, translated into the excellent cooking skills that can be experienced, felt and tasted inside all of the 10 dishes of the Quarters Experience. All the 10 dishes (except for durian crème brulee because I don’t eat durian) touched not just my taste buds, they also touched my heart, mind and soul.

Let me bring you into the world of The Quarters Experience, sharing my thoughts and views of every dish, and interviewing Deming, his stories behind each dish.

Achar

An innovative and unique method to showcase the Achar, it’s a breakaway from the traditional style Achar. The Quarters Experience Achar is like a small pastry/canape type of dish. I liked how the Achar taste, a good mix of the East meets West cuisine.

JH, “Deming, the Achar looks unique and very different from traditional achar, what is the inspiration behind this unique and innovative design?”

DM, “Traditionally made, it serves as an amazing Amuse Busche to whet the appetite of the diners. The combination of the crisp puff and flavour of Achar is amazing.

Shiok Bak

First and foremost, I am a big fan of roast pork and when I saw the description of the Shiok Bak from the menu, I was eagerly looking forward to it! When I saw the dish arriving, I knew I was in for something more special than I ever thought. There were buns complementing the Shiok Bak, that are usually ate with braised pork, along with fresh lettuce. The skin of the Shiok Bak was extra crispy, crunchy and dry. As the name suggests, it’s really shiok to eat this Shiok Bak! Oh yes, there is a sauce to go along with the Shiok Bak too, the spicy rempah!

JH, ”Deming, I love this dish! This Shiok Bak is really shiok and it looks like it has a mix of a few different Asia cuisines cooking style infused into this dish. Let me make a guess, Teochew (the bun for the braised pork a.k.a. lor bak) + Korean (lettuce to be wrapped with pork) + Filipino roast pork? Did I guess correctly?”

DM, “Yes. There is a myraid of influences involved here. Its combining the best of Filipino style crackling with our chinese roast pork technique. The Teochew influence comes from the braising of the pork belly and Peranakan from the Rempah inspired by the Hiam Te Bak. All in all, it is delicious!

Har Lok

A perfectly charcoal grilled prawn, fresh, juicy and declicious. The menu stated that it was Cantonese style and I got curious. What exactly is a Cantonese style cuisine prawn dish?

JH, “Cantonese style, would you mind sharing more about this style of cooking?”

DM, “ This is my contribution in preserving a dying dish in the Zhi Char world. This dish has been overshadowed by Salted Egg Prawns and Cereal Prawn. The essence from this dish is Canontese inspired with its simle yet amazing sauce. The smokiness from the charcoal grill elevates this dish which is a worthy rendition of this Hok Hei laden dish.

Ooh La La

The Venus clams, cooked in flambed style with Singapore style chilli sauce and croutons added into them. The final product is like a chilli style soup with Venus clams and croutons.

JH, “The Oooh La La dish, was it meant to be a spicy soup dish since you added croutons into it?

DM, “This is our take of Singapore’s most favourite Chilli Crab sauce. More than just a cute play on words, this clams in this dish elevates the umami experience of the dish.

Bibik’s Chicken

Another perfectly charcoal grilled dish, the Bibik’s Chicken with a rich Buah Keluak Sauce. When I ate the Bibik’s Chicken, the chicken meat was tender and not overcooked, this demonstrated the skill and experience level of the chefs charcoal grill cooking.

JH, “This Bibik’s Chicken is so delicious, so awesome! I have a few questions, is this a Peranakan cuisine? Was there any special seasoning on the chicken?”

DM, “ This dish is a tribute to the traditional Ayam Bua Keluak. Normally done as a stew, this rendition adds a few more layers into the gastronomic experience. Unlike the usual Buah Keluak Ayam, this dish brings together many more textures. The Chicken is firstly charcoal grilled to achieve a really crispy skin with the meat left tender and succulent. Infused with local herbs and spices, it is a flavour bomb when eaten together with the buah keluak paste.

Mum’s Cabbage

A plate of mixed vegetables, consisting of stewed cabbage, carrots and minced pork. This dish may not look the most glamorous compared to the other counterparts in the 10 course The Quarters Experience. Yet, when I took a bite, the feeling was like “This is Home, truly”. The type of dishes, the emotions and feelings that warms your heart, mind and soul when you are back home eating your favourite food cooked by your parents or grandparents. The menu described it as “Family favourite …” I totally agree.

JH, “Bro, this dish, a simple dish yet I felt so good, the feeling of home cooked food! They just warmed my heart! How did you do it?” 

DM, “ Inspired by what my Mum cooks at home, its about the simplicity and perfect balance of flavours which is appealing. Food done well, with love. Yum!

Quarters Fried Rice

An egg coated fried rice with two types of salted fish. The rice was so soft, fragrant and not oily at all. The Quarter’s Fried Rice was addictive because it was simply too good, too delicious.

JH, “Bro, would you mind teaching me the secret behind the secret to your Quarter’s Fried Rice?” 

DM, “ It’s yet another dish which is a hit with our diners. We go through an arduous process to make sure that the rice is of the right consistency as well as using the right combination of dried fish and cooking technique to accomplish a very satisfying dish.

“Nai You” Lobster

This lobster dish stood out among the 10 dishes, it was charcoal kissed and butter poached. The chefs of The Quarters were really skillful in their charocal cooking techniques, it was just nicely cooked, sweet and tender.

JH, “I saw it on the menu, charcoal kissed and butter poached, would you mind elaborating more on this cooking technique?”

DM, “Inspired by our favourite “Nai You” Crabs and prawns. This is our take on elevating simple ingredients with an amazing lobster. Simply put, we butter poach the lobster and finish the lobster on the grill for that bit of char and smokiness. It’s all about the right timing.

Duriancanboleh

This is Deming’s trademark dish, the original dish that got me to first know Deming for the first time (3 years ago) before he launched his food concept The Quarters. Today, I am back again to taste another revolution and innovation in his traditional and modern cuisine. I gave away my Duriancanboleh because I don’t eat durian (don’t judge me, please!)

JH, “Bro, you know that I don’t eat durian hor, not that I don’t like your Duriancanboleh hor!”

DM, “ You would have enjoyed the other renditions of crème brulee which have done over the years. Lemongrass and Vanilla. The magic and texture of the crème brulee would still be the same. It’s an in house secret which we are proud of.

Profiterole

It’s called the Kaya bomb in the menu, not exactly the profiterole that you have in your mind.

JH, “Bro, this looks more like a The Quarters mini Kaya bun leh, why did u call it a profiterole?” 

DM, “ It’s a Kaya profiterole. An amazing kaya which explodes out of a crispt choux pastry. What can be more delicious and local than this?

At the end of the 10 course The Quarters Experience, I had a very wonderful and very enjoyable food dining experience, a modern communal social dinning experience with an excellent selection of dishes, a mix of traditional and modern cuisine fusion and also East meets West fusion. The chefs excellent, highly experienced and professional cooking skills can be found in their 10 course dishes, without a doubt.

The main attraction doesn’t lie in the fusion of traditional and modern cuisine, or excellent cooking skills. For me, it’s in the heart, mind and soul, the passion and love for cuisine, traditional or modern. That to me, are what makes Deming and his The Quarters stand out, that later gave birth to The Quarters Experience.

I would like to thank Deming of The Quarters for the invitation to experience The Quarters Experience. This was beyond an awesome communal dining experience, it’s a fusion of traditional and modern cuisine. The love and passion for cooking, traditional cuisine, I totally felt it in my heart

If you would like to experience The Quarters Experience for yourself, you can visit their website and register to taste it.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Precious Artistic, Beautiful and Cultural Eggs Exhibition

Eggs, when you hear this word, what comes to your mind? Food? What are the various ways that I can cook the eggs? What type of eggs? My mother gave me the best answer, “Salted egg yolk” when she saw my collection of photographs that I took recently of this new, unique and very interesting arts exhibition at the Singapore Philatelic Museum, titled “Precious Eggs: of Arts, Beauty and Culture

Like most human beings, the first thought and reaction upon hearing the word “eggs” is about food. I have to confess that I was thinking about eggs in the form of food initially! Upon visiting the Singapore Philatelic Museum, I was brought into an amazing world that I never dreamed of and something that is even possible, it’s an exhibition about eggs!

With a total of 148 unique artistic egg inspired works from the Liechtenstein National Museum, this is the first time that they are displayed outside of Europe and they are now at the Singapore Philatelic Museum in Singapore! When I started viewing and observing the eggs, I was totally blown away, how did the artists managed to produce such fine and delicate artworks on the eggs?

Every egg has a story behind it, from arts, beauty, culture, history, faiths and traditions. There were also different types of eggs used, from quail, chicken, duck, goose, swan and ostrich, as well as eggs crafted from precious and enamelled metals, glass, porcelain, wax, crystal, marble, stone, wood, reindeer horn, cardboard and papier-mache.

The selection of unique artistic egg-inspired works on display at SPM are drawn from the renowned Adulf Peter Goop Collection belonging to the Liechtenstein National Museum. Born in Liechtenstein, Mr Adulf Peter Goop (1921-2011) started to collect Easter eggs in 1985. He was inspired by his experiences as a boy giving painted eggs on Easter morning to Russian soldiers seeking asylum at the end of World War II, who were touched by the gesture of friendship. Numbering about 4,000 eggs, his impressive collection hails from all over the world – some from the Russian Imperial Family. In 2010, Mr Goop donated his comprehensive art collection to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Ms Tresnawati Prihadi, General Manager of SPM says, “We are delighted to partner the Liechtenstein National Museum to bring this precious collection of egg art pieces to Singapore. We hope this exhibition will challenge Singaporeans to rethink what makes art, and how ordinary, everyday items, such as the humble egg and stamps, can tell such beautiful stories of love, history and faiths, and serve as windows to cultures of the world.” 

Prof Dr Rainer Vollkommer, Director of the Liechtenstein National Museum said, “Eggs are a symbol of peace, love, friendship and fertility. We would like to share this with everybody with this exhibition.”

 Source: Singapore Philatelic Museum press release


The Singapore Philatelic Museum has incorporated multi-media experiences for visitors to this exhibition that they can experience together when they are viewing the eggs exhibition. Visitors can have direct and personalised interaction with some of the eggs. When visitors tap into the “Precious Eggs” network via a QR code, they can have a 360 degrees view of the egg on their mobile device.

At the media preview, we were also introduced to Ukraine’s history, heritage, culture and folktales of Ukraine, via their beautifully decorated Ukrainian eggs and friendly folks from the Ukraine community in Singapore.

This was the Pysanka Eggs demonstration and we had the opportunity to make our own too! You can try it out too, when you visit Singapore Philatelic Museum on Easter Sunday on 17th April 2017, more details in the Annex 1 below!

Key information and details of the exhibition – Precious Eggs: of Arts, Beauty and Culture

Venue: Singapore Philatelic Museum

23-B Coleman Street, Singapore 179807

Date: 12 April – 8 October 2017

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday

10.00am – 7.00pm

Admission charges: Free admission for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents

Admission charges for foreigners:

Adult $8

Child (3 – 12 years) $6

Tel: 63373888

Website: www.spm.org.sg

Tell your family, relatives and friends about this special and unique exhibition about eggs, come on down and explore all 148 unique eggs! Pass It On and spread the word! When you visit Singapore Philatelic Museum, do remember to check out the other interesting exhibitions inside there too!

I haven’t manage to capture all 148 eggs on display at the exhibition yet and I hope to capture each and every one of the 148 eggs on display! Meanwhile, visit my photos collection and take a look at some of the eggs that I photographed!

I would like to thank Singapore Philatelic Museum for the invitation to the media preview of the Precious Eggs: of Arts, Beauty and Culture exhibition.

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Annex 1

Easter Sunday at Singapore Philatelic Museum

Date: Sunday, 16 April 2017

Time: 10.00am – 7.00pm

Usual museum admission applies

Free admission for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents

Admission charges for foreigners: Adult $8; Child (3 – 12 years) $6

Activities:

Easter Craft

10.00am – 5.00pm

Make your own fun pop-up chicky craft!

Donations apply.

Fun Quiz

10.00am – 5.00pm

Visit the museum galleries and take part in the fun quiz to win exciting prizes. Learn stories behind these beautiful stamps as you go on an adventure around the museum.

Pysanka Egg Demonstration

1.00pm – 4.00pm

Come see beautiful Ukrainian decorated eggs and get the opportunity to make your own! These traditional designs on eggs tell stories of culture, folktales and heritage of Ukraine.

Donations apply.

Green Eggs & Ham

2.30pm – 3.00pm

Join us as Centre Stage School of the Arts breathes new life into Dr Seuss’s fabulous story “Green Eggs & Ham”. Suitable for all ages.


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Armenian Street Party 2017 by Peranakan Museum

A short stretch of the road and space in front of the Peranakan Museum closed to the traffic for two nights, transforming into a fun party venue for visitors to bring their family, children and friends down, visit the museums and soak in the party atmosphere. This was the Armenian Street Party 2017 organised by Peranakan Museum that took place on 10th and 11th March. The Armenian Street Party made her maiden debut in 2016, I was there too at the first Armenian Street Party!

For this year 2017 Armenian Street Party, I dropped by on Friday evening and managed to catch some of the performances at the street party. The theme for Armenian Street Party 2017 was back to school, going back to the good old school nostalgia days (when we were young), some of you might remember going to detention class, disliking certain subjects such as literature, tuckshop food during recess time, English and grammar class, PE class, music class etc etc.

The Armenian Street Party was also a perfect time to visit the Peranakan Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum with their family, children and friends. This street party is perfect for the two museums to have more publicity and awareness from the public, they are two great museums with really great and wonderful artworks, contents and exhibitions, that the public may not know as much, compared to her bigger fellow sister museums such as the National Museum of Singapore.

At the Armenian Street Party 2017, on the Friday that I visited, I saw the mass P.E. class by Upside Motion, it’s not a bad idea to conduct P.E. class on the road without the vehicles! The iconic Peranakan Museum favourite band of singers, the Peranakan Sayang, were in action on Friday, with the theme “Balek Sekolah!”, translated to “Back to school!”. This group of singers are really good and they never fail to light up the crowds!

The Armenian Street Party is not just about the two museums, Peranakan Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum, it’s a community event, the kampung spirit, with fellow neighbours along Armenian Street coming in, participating and be a part of this festive party. Timbre Group, Substation, Upside Motion, True Blue Cuisine and SMU were neighbours, part of the Armenian Street kampung. They all played a part in this year’s street party.

There were also delicious food by True Blue Cuisine, selling all time favourite tuckshop treats, I didn’t manage to go down and eat all the food on Friday. I only manage to eat the laksa during the media preview (I was rushing for time on that day) prior to the street party weekend.

I took the opportunity to visit Singapore Philatelic Museum, a very short walk down the road from Peranakan Museum. I forgot when was the last time I visited this museum, they looked small in physical size yet they packed some pretty wonderful collections inside there. Touring the Singapore Philatelic Museum brought me back many memories, I used to collect stamps when I was a young kid in school and I am beginning to wonder where have I kept my stamps? Probably somewhere in my home!

After touring the Singapore Philatelic Museum, I stayed on and watched two performances –

Literature Class: Music & Prose of the Past

By Cappella Martialis

Literature Class: Will The Night Away!

By Centre Stage.

Two great performances held inside this small and cosy Singapore Philatelic Museum.

The performance “Will The Night Away!” was about a Shakespeare classic “Romeo and Juliet”, that most students would probably have studied if they took Literature during their secondary school days (I didn’t take Literature in my upper secondary school). This is Singapore style, a Singapore spin “Romeo and Ah Lian”. Their play was hilarious, interactive and engaging, with the Shakespeare exhibition theme behind them, this was a perfect setting for Romeo and Ah Lian!

Since I was only there on Friday, I couldn’t catch the rest of the performances and activities that were held during the Armenian Street Party 2017, although I did manage to catch a glimpse of some of them during the media preview.

Personally, I feel that the Armenian Street Party is a great community event that doesn’t need to go massively big, it may not (and need not) be the biggest street party event or museums event, they just leverage and combine together as the Armenian Street “kampung”, the Peranakan Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum, along with their neighbours along Armenian Street.

Looking forward to the next edition of the Armenian Street Party!


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Canon EOS 5DS R Review

The Canon EOS 5DS R was launched in February 2015, together with the Canon EOS 5DS. Both were pretty similar in technical specifications, with the EOS 5DS R having the optical low pass filter (LPF) cancellation feature inside them, a feature that makes it stand out from the rest of the other Canon EOS DSLR family.

I reviewed the Canon EOS 5DS camera previously in the month of November 2015. My overall experience was good, the EOS 5DS was an excellent camera with the capabilities of their 50.6 megapixels sensor along with their dual Digic 6 processors. Ever since I completed my EOS 5DS review, I wanted to review her sister camera that was launched together, the Canon EOS 5DS R. While there was a bit of time lag between these 2 reviews, I was thankful and grateful that I was able to obtain a review unit for my travel photography trip to Hokkaido in October 2016.

Before I proceed on further, let me recap on the techinical specifications of the Canon EOS 5DS R –

Dimensions: Approx. 152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm

Weight: Approx. 845g (body only)

Image sensor: 50.6 megapixel CMOS sensor

Imaging processor: Dual DIGIC 6

ISO speed: 100-6400 (expandable to 50 and 12 800)

Continuous shooting speed: 5 fps

Maximum video format: Full HD 30p

AF: 61-points Phase Difference AF with iTR AF

LCD: Wide 3.2-inch (1.04 million dots) 

Prior to this review, I did had a hands on experience with the Canon EOS 5DS R during a heritage outing with Canon Singapore and National Heritage Board in July 2015, visiting places of worship in Singapore. I requested to try out the EOS 5DS R for this outing and I got the chance! Check out the url links for the photographs that I took with the EOS 5DS R and my heritage tour article!

Therefore, in that short half day heritage tour, I had seen first hand for myself the capabilities of the EOS 5DS R. The photographs had great vivid colours, that would be ideal for landscape photography whereby this would stand out during spring and autumn seasons. In the later part of my article, I would be writing about my Hokkaido autumn travel photography and you would be able to view for yourself, not just the vivid colours, also the sharpness and details.

During my trip to Hokkaido in October 2016, I brought the Canon EOS 5DS R with two lenses, EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM and EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM. I have uploaded my Hokkaido autumn 2016 photographs into a collection on my Flickr account, do visit and take a look at the photographs that I took in Hokkaido!

Sharpness and details

When I was traveling in Hokkaido with the Canon EOS 5DS R, I was amazed by the quality of the photographs, the sharpness and details can be seen a lot more in the photographs that I shot with.

The big image sensor size and quality of the EOS 5DS R, requires high quality lenses to be paired with it, such as the Canon L family of lenses. During my trip to Hokkaido, I had the opportunity to test out one of the latest L lens, the EF 16-35mm f/4 L USM and an older EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM lens.

Using the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens, I was able to achieve consistent, sharp and detailed photographs for my landscapes and walkabout travel photography. While for the slightly older L lens, there were times whereby I was able to capture excellent, sharp and detailed photographs, there were also a number of times whereby the photographs were not sharp and detailed, especially in the longer focal length of the lens.

This is not to state that the EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM lens is not a good lens, I have been faithfully using this lens for years (and still using it), another of my workhorse lens and I love it for its lightweight, capabilities and optics.

After I came back from Hokkaido, I met with a few photographer friends and had a chat with them on my observation. Having such a big image sensor size does have its own challenges, not all the lenses can bring out the best of the quality and capabilities of the EOS 5DS R. The Canon EF L lenses have the capabilities and abilities to bring the best out of the EOS 5DS R, and in my personal humble opinion, I would recommend that the latest L lenses would be more suitable and capable to do so.

Flexibility of dual card slots – SD + CF

The dual card slots is really ideal for photographers, for example, landscape photographers can choose to shoot both in RAW and JPEG format, separately into each designated storage card.

This would allow the photographer to have both types of files to work on, depending on their workflow or requirements. Some photographers may choose to work on the JPEG files and store the RAW files aside for future usage, as and when it is required.

File size

The 50.6 megapixel EOS 5DS R produces a huge file size for JPEG and even much bigger file size for RAW files. The huge file sizes on both JPEG and RAW would take up a lot of resources on your computer as well as your storage space.

For future owners of the EOS 5DS R or the EOS 5DS, a more powerful computer would really be ideal (highly recommended) and you would also need more disk storage space (external, internal or cloud)

EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM review

Canon has an excellent line up of constant aperture wide angle zoom lens such as the EF 17-40mm f/4 L and EF 16-35 f/2.8 L lenses. I personally own the EF 17-40mm f/4 L lens and I am not just a huge fan of this lens, this was also my workhorse lens. I can’t bear to let go of the EF 17-40mm f/4 L for another Canon wide angle lens. However, if I ever going to upgrade, I would choose the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens, over the f/2.8 counterparts.

I reviewed the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens a number of times and I started to love this lens. This is an excellent lens, lightweight with image stabilisation (IS), you can also use it for recording videos. Optics is really excellent, coupled with a big image sensor such as the EOS 5DS R 50.6 megapixel CMOS sensor, you have an excellent camera and lens combination. This combination of EOS 5DS R and EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM is highly suitable for landscape photographers, event photographers and travel photographers.

Final thoughts on Canon EOS 5DS R

This would be an excellent camera for landscape photographers, who like/are comfortable with the 35mm format. Match it with Canon’s latest wide angle lenses or their latest L lenses and you have an ideal and powerful camera and lens combination. With the 50.6 megapixels sensor, photographers would be able to have high quality images with a lot more details and sharpness.

While I am still predominantly a sports/events photographer with my Canon EOS 1DX, I do have a portfolio on travel photography. Photographers do (always) face the dilemma of wanting a few camera bodies yet it takes up space and they can be a hefty investment cost. For my future travel photography assignments, whether it is commissioned or personal travel, I would look into renting the EOS 5DS R to fulfil the job.

The EOS 5DS R is not just confined to landscape/travel photographers, other photography fields can also consider them too, probably just as good for product shoot photography! Portraiture photography would be a lot more sharp and having more details, this might be very good or too sharp with too many details for your liking, depending on your job requirements!

This is a “monster” DSLR camera, it can be a very powerful camera and it is able to give medium format a run for its money (although it would not be a very fair comparison between 35mm and medium format). In order to bring out the best of the EOS 5DS R, pair it with the latest Canon L lenses such as the EF 11-24mm f/4 L USM, EF 16-35 f/2.8L III USM and EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

I would like to thank Canon Singapore and Ogilvy Public Relations for the Canon EOS 5DS R review opportunity.


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New hot Korean stars at McDonald’s

Korean fans alert! There are new Korean (food) stars at McDonald’s in March! Introducing the Seoul Spicy Chicken Burger and Seoul Spicy Beef Burger.

These two new burgers at McDonald’s are inspired by distinctive Korean cuisine, characterised by McDonald’s  unique spicy Korean sauce made with signature ingredients used in Korean delicacies.

Seoul Spicy Chicken Burger

The spicy Korean sauce packs a punch of flavour with ingredients such as fermented soy bean paste, sesame paste, soy sauce, chilli peppers, red paprika and garlic. The Seoul Spicy burgers come with a choice of a grilled 100% beef patty or a tender and juicy chicken patty, each glazed with this mouthwatering spicy Korean sauce.

Seoul Spicy Beef Burger

Laid atop a bed of romaine lettuce, each patty is then layered with crisp mixed vegetables with creamy slaw. The delicious combination is then served between a soft bun featuring black pepper and white sesame toppings.

Kimchi Shaker Fries

Peach McFIZZ

Melon McFlurry

The Seoul Spicy Special starts from $8.40, which includes your choice of Seoul Spicy Chicken or Beef burger , with a side of Kimchi Shaker Fries (L)  and a Peach McFizz™  to cool off the heat. You can also enjoy it ala carte from $5.95 . End off your meal on a sweet note with the Melon McFlurry® with Coconut Jelly from $2.90.

Do go and try them out, the new Korean (food) stars at McDonald’s!

* Pictures and information courtesy of McDonald’s Singapore and Golin *

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 7

27th October 2016 – Day 7 Lake Toya -> Usu -> Noboribetsu -> Shiraoi -> New Chitose Airport

Today is the last day of my Hokkaido travel photography adventure, my whole trip till date had been awesome, enjoying the autumn and winter seasons in this trip along with wet, cold and bright sunny autumn weather.

Lake Toya

Sunrise shoot (near to carpark beside The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa)

I wasn’t able to get a nice sunset (I did manage to get a nice sunrise at Biei) during this Hokkaido trip and on Day 6 evening, Kato san suggested to get a sunrise shoot on my last day of my trip. Why not? I set the alarm clock to wake up early and go for a sunrise shoot, keeping my fingers crossed for good weather and not too cloudy sky!

Even though it was autumn, I felt really cold on the 27th October 2016 morning, my autumn wear wasn’t warm and thick enough. Luckily, Kato san loaned me an outdoor overall suit with a pair of rubber boots. That kept me warm for this morning sunrise shoot.

Kato san drove to this hill top, where a luxury hotel is located, the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa. There was a carpark beside the hotel and it was the spot where we waited for the Hokkaido sunrise above Lake Toya. As the day started to break, we saw a thick cloud cover across Lake Toya. Initially, I was worried that there would be no sunrise with such thick cloud cover. Yet, Hokkaido again decided to bless me with a gorgeous sunset, rising above the mountain range, her rays punching through the clouds as she rose up to warm us up from a cold October autumn morning.

The next thing was to return back to our hotel, warm ourselves up in the onsen. This would be my last onsen and I wanted to enjoy it before returning back to Singapore. The onsen is the most suitable method to warm ourselves up from a cold autumn morning!

Scenic lake drive around Lake Toya

While the early morning sunrise was cloudy, the morning weather at Lake Toya was really good! I saw clear blue sky with thick fluffy white clouds. Kato san drove me around the other loop of Lake Toya. This was a very pretty scenic drive, I found a spot great for car photography shoot (driving on the road with Lake Toya and mountains in the background), we also spotted a pair of swans that swam to us on the shoreline, thinking that both Kato san and myself have some food to feed them!

Ice cream at Lake Hill Farm

When you visit Lake Toya, Hokkaido, this is one of the place that you MUST visit! I heard about this ice cream, it’s really famous, the ice cream is smooth, fresh and very delicious!! There were a lot of flavours and I couldn’t possibly try all of them, I wish I could though!

Lake Hill Farm has a very beautiful garden, with a bird’s eye view of the nearby mountain range! The green garden open space is ideal for the children to play and have fun while enjoying the ice cream!

Check out their website here – Lake Hill Farm!

Usu

Zenko-ji Temple (有珠善光寺)

Japan has many Shinto and Buddhist temples across the whole country. I always love to visit them whenever I get to visit Japan. When I visited Tokyo in 2004, I still remembered my visits to Meiji-Jingu shrine and Sensoji temple, I was in awe by their history, tradition and beauty of the holy places.

On Day 6 evening, when we on the way back from Muroran to Lake Toya, we drove past the coastal area and we spotted a Buddhist temple in the Usu area. Since it was already dark, we decided to drive there and take a look in the late morning.

Upon parking the car, we walked into the temple grounds. Nothing prepared me for this visit, I have entered into a very old Buddhist temple in Japan that is still relatively unknown to the world. This temple is listed on the local tourism body website and there are signages showing the location of the Zenko-ji Temple. However, beyond that, I am not too sure if this temple is even known to the rest of Japan and the world.

Kato san had a chat with the locals outside the Zenko-ji Temple, I couldn’t speak Japanese therefore Kato san did the translation for me, explaining the history behind this temple. We were also given permission to enter and visit the temple, along with permission to take photographs of the main prayer hall. Some temples can be strict on photography, therefore I am honoured and happy that permission was granted. They had a gorgeous Japanese garden inside the temple grounds, very rich history and heritage items inside the temple. This had been a real eye opener for me to photograph and share some of photographs of Zenko-ji Temple.

We went exploring behind the temple up onto the small hill, the walk was like entering into an enchanted forest full of mystery. The autumn foliage was in full bloom, making this temple ground even more magical with its bright autumn colours.

Through my photographs and few paragraphs of sharing, I hope this would give this Buddhist temple more publicity and awareness. If you are visiting Hokkaido, the regions of Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, do consider visiitng the Zenko-ji Temple in Usu.

Address from Google Maps: 124 Usuchō, Date-shi, Hokkaidō 059-0151, Japan

Website: http://www13.plala.or.jp/zenkouji/

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/datekanko

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/f.akatsuka

Noboribetsu

Lake Kuttara

Leaving Usu, Kato san started driving towards Noboribetsu region, a very popular tourist destination, very famous for its onsen and they have some nice locations for autumn colours foliage too. First stop was Lake Kuttara, along the route u to the next few destinations that I am sharing in the later paragraphs.

Hiyoriyama Observation Deck日和山展望台

Driving uphill from Lake Kuttara, a short drive away, we arrived at the top of the hill, Kato san parked his car and we walked towards the Hiyoriyama Observation Deck. The smell was strong and pungent with sulphur fumes in the air, it was unbearable at times for me since I am not used to sulphur smell in the air. I was also able to spot the hot steam vents from the observation deck. I enjoyed the sceneries around it; this was indeed a good place for autumn colours foliage photography. However, I was struggling with the pungent fumes, just not used to it!

At the foot of the hill lies, Oyunuma Pond, where we headed to next after a short time spent at this observation deck.

Oyunuma Pond

At the foot of the hill, we arrived at Oyunuma Pond, it’s surrounded by forest and trees. The strong pungent sulphur smell was very distinctive and powerful, visitors would be learn more about the physical geography of Noboribetsu, that makes this region very famous for their minerals and volcanic grounds.

I reckon this area makes a good spot for autumn colours foliage photography especially when it reaches the peak season.

Jigokudani (Hell Valley)

Just round the corner from Oyunuma Pond, we arrived at a very famous tourist destination in Hokkaido. Welcome to Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley, this is a very popular tourist destination with both local and international visitors. A short walking distance away is the town of Noboribetsu Onsen and the onsen in this region is very popular due to the proximity of the sulphur and minerals from the Hell Valley region. Kato san shared that the onsen in Noboribetsu Onsen town has different types of onsen baths for the visitors, I might try it one day in the future if I ever get the opportunity to visit Noboribetsu region again.

When I walked into the valley of hell, I wasn’t afraid of the place, Jigokudani is beautiful during the autumn foliage season! I am just not used to the strong pungent smell of sulphur fumes coming out from the grounds of Hell Valley!

Shiraoi

My Last (and very delicious) Lunch in Hokkaido

Kato san asked me what I would like for lunch before he drove me to New Chitose Airport for my evening flight home back to Singapore. I wasn’t sure of the food options and I listened attentively to his suggestion. He showed me some photos of this beefsteak at this nice little wooden hut restaurant, I saw the price and it was really reasonable for its excellent quality and standards (when I returned back to Singapore, eating a similar beef steak here would cost 3-4 times more)

Soon, we left Noboribetsu onsen town and head towards Shiraoi along the expressway. A short car ride of approximately 45 minutes, I entered into a farm, stopping in front of a nice little wooden hut restaurant. I am thankful and grateful to Kato san for helping me with the ordering and translation.

Two hot and sizzling pan soon arrived at our table, I was so excited! Once I took my first bite, I was like in food heaven! The beef tasted really delicious, soft, tender and juicy beef.

After finishing my super delicious beef steak, I was so happy with my last lunch! I reckon that they are one of the best beef producers around in Hokkaido (if not the best).

Website: http://wagyu-oukoku.com

New Chitose Airport

This was the final leg of my Hokkaido autumn travel photography adventure 2016, the road trip journey from Shiraoi to New Chitose Airport. I made the decision to go there early, have a rest and coffee with my friend, Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san.

Reflecting back on my Hokkaido autumn travel photography adventure 2016, I had so much fun traveling solo and with my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san. If you are a photographer and would love a customised travel photography plan, I highly recommend my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, drop him an email on his website or Facebook page!

Goodbye Hokkaido, I am sure I will be back again! Maybe I might lead a group of photographers next time, or maybe I might come back to continue exploring the other regions of Hokkaido that I haven’t visited yet!

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 7


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 6

26th October 2016 – Day 6 Lake Toya -> Sobetsu / Date -> Muroran

A beautiful and gorgeous morning greeted me at Lake Toya when I woke up. The weather was really good, clear blue sky accompanied by fluffy white clouds. A quick takeaway breakfast from the nearby convenience store did the job and I was off for my travel photography adventures in the Lake Toya region.

Lake Toya

Lake Toya View Point – Sobetsu Park

A short drive away from the hotel, Kato san drove up towards a hill top. This was the Lake Toya View Point – Sobetsu Park, the road up towards this location is pretty small and narrow, suitable for cars, not for big vehicles. The bird’s eye view from there is simply amazing, you can pretty see the entire Lake Toya region and surroundings. I am really thankful for the good weather that morning!

Kato san and myself chanced upon a local Japanese who lives nearby, he mentioned to Kato san that he conducts astrophotography tours at this spot and this is an ideal location to photograph the night skyline of Lake Toya.

Camping ground at Lake Toya

After spending approximately 30mins at Lake Toya View Point, Kato san drove down the hill, back to the coastal lake drive route. A short driving journey brought me to a camping ground in Lake Toya. From what I understood chatting with Kato san, Lake Toya is a very popular tourist destination, for both locals and international visitors.

The camping ground is close to the water body of Lake Toya, I went on to do some hopping along the banks and rocks of Lake Toya. A very nice and quiet place for your camping holiday, I can imagine this camping ground packed during the summer holidays! The autumn colours foliage were bright and colourful, red, orange, yellow and green! Lake Toya region autumn foliage season is a bit later in the month of October, the 3rd week is probably their peak period while the central and northern parts of Hokkaido autumn foliage peak earlier in end September and early October.

A location along the banks of Lake Toya

Whenever I travel to different countries overseas, I would love to explore places that are not too touristy and crowded, places that the locals know. That is why if it is possible, I would hire a local guide. Kato san, is a very experienced and knowledgable Hokkaido Photo Guide, I have absolute trust in him and his planning.

At this location along the banks of Lake Toya, a big thanks to my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, I was able to capture sa few very memorable photographs of Lake Toya, a mirror reflection of the small islands of Lake Toya and the white clouds on the surface of Lake Toya whereby the water was almost “standing still”.

From some of the amazing destinations that I shared over the past few articles, you can see why I chose and highly recommend Kato san, an excellent and very knowledgable Hokkaido Photo Guide.

Sobetsu / Date

Sobetsu Taki waterfall 壮瞥滝

Continuing on after the location along the banks of Lake Toya, it was another short drive nearby, into a residential area. We parked the car along the road outside and took a short walk into the forest inside. Along the forest path, there was a small stream of water flowing down pretty fast too. Trekking further inside, the sounds of the water splashing and flow got even louder.

This short trek was very quiet, peaceful and tranquil, accompanied by the colourful autumn foliage. There were signs of fallen and broken trees along the stream, they were damaged during an earlier typhoon that struck Hokkaido a few months earlier.

Upon reaching the end of the forest path, I was greeted with an amazing view of a small waterfall! As the clear water flowed down gracefully, the sounds of the waterfall can be very therapeutic and soothing at times. I stood there, enjoying the water droplets falling on me, taking photographs of the Sobetsu Taki waterfall before turning around and walking back to the car.

Otaki Niagara Falls 大滝ナイアガラ滝

The next destination that Kato san brought me to, from Sobetsu Taki waterfall, was approximately 20mins drive away, going inland, away from Lake Toya. Crossing a small bridge, the car was parked on an open grass patch outside the entrance of a hiking trail. I quickly took a few photographs of the river before trekking down the forest trail.

I spotted wooden signboards with diagrams and codes, I was curious and asked Kato san about them. Kato san explained that this hiking trail is popular in all seasons, during winter, the locals come to this area and do cross country skiing.

Along the hiking trail, it was really quiet, peaceful and tranquil. However, the sounds of the water flowing got even louder as we were approaching our destination. The view of a few waterfalls together on the river greeted me, I was awed by her presence. The locals named as Otaki Niagara Falls and the Niagara Falls name fitted these waterfalls perfectly!

We spent a bit of time here, trying to find different spots and angles to capture this magnificent waterfall. Getting closer to the waterfall, we need to climb down onto the river banks, it was a bit wet and slippery. The extra efforts and work put in were totally worth it, I got a few nice photography memories from the river banks facing the Otaki Niagara Falls.

Sangai-taki Falls 三階滝公園

Just a short drive away from Otaki Niagara Falls, we reached Sangai-taki Park, where another waterfall awaits me, the Sangai-taki Falls. There are 3 levels of waterfall, surrounded by trees and a hill beside it. This would make an excellent location during spring and autumn season. Some of the autumn foliage had fallen, the trees looked very bare, there were still some autumn foliage likely in their final stage before falling off the branches.

Showa-Shinzan (Mt Usu and Showa Shinzan)

Located at the foot of two mountains, one is very old (Mt Usu) and the other is quite young relative to her neighbour (Showa Shinzan), there is a busy small town that attracts many locals and international visitors. For visitors who want to go up to Mt Usu, this is the location where you board the ropeway to Mt Usu. This location is a nice place to sit down, relax and enjoy the sceneries. I decided not to go up to Mt Usu, therefore, we didn’t stay too long there before driving towards Date City for lunch.

Lunch (Ramen) at Date City

From the photographs of my Japanese food that I had over the past few days, you can spot a trend of Ramen. I am a big fan of Ramen and I would love to try as many different Ramen from different parts of Japan. I had a friend on social media commenting that I am on a Ramen mission in Hokkaido, I think so too!

I am not going to write a food review here, I just want to sayおいしい Oishī !!

Muroran

Road trip from Date to Muroran

For the afternoon segment, after a short discussion with Kato san during our Ramen lunch, we drove down along the coast line towards Muroran, not too far away from Date. The short drive was really scenic and I can imagine how the other parts of Hokkaido coastal route looks like!

I saw the railway tracks along the coast line, the local trains and limited express trains in action! Luck was on my side when I managed to capture a photo of the Limited Express Super Hokuto Model Series 261 at a railway crossing.

Recently, while I was doing some reading and research in my library, I found a book that showcased Japan Railway photographs, sceneries and locations on where to to photograph them. I remembered the scenes along the Hokkaido coast line where the JR trains traveled, the view of the JR train tracks from the mountain pass at Biei, a new adventure is brewing inside me, wanting and planning to return back again, photographing JR trains and their sceneries.

When we were about to reach Muroran, a suspension bridge across the bay, along with its harbour and shipyards, greeted us, this is the Hakucho Bridge. I didn’t manage to take any photographs of the Hakucho Bridge, it mades a pretty awesome view of the bridge, bay, harbour and shipyards.

Takkarisho and Cape Tikiu Lighthouse

Along this scenic coastal drive route of Muroran, there were great views of the Uchiura Bay, tall cliffs standing out facing the sea along with beautiful rock formations. At this location Takkarisho, I was able to see all these views and it would be really nice if the weather was nice and sunny. When I was there, rain was falling down on me, blessed by the cold autumn sea breeze blowing at me. Rain + cold autumn winds (or cold winter winds) are a very powerful combination, I didn’t manage to take many photographs, just took a few of the Takkarisho and Cape Tikiu Lighthouse, and I quickly rushed back to Kato san car to keep myself warm and dry from the rain + cold autumn sea breeze.

After the last 2 locations at Muroran, we drove back to our hotel at Lake Toya for an early rest (to get ready for a sunrise photo shoot at Lake Toya) and to keep ourselves warm at the onsen. This was also my last night in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 6


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 5

25th October 2016 – Day 5 Furano and Biei -> Lake Toya

On day 5, we decided to start a bit early and head towards Torinuma Park, hoping to catch the morning mist across the lake. The weather was really cold for the autumn season, we departed from the hotel at 6am and Kato san drove down towards Torinuma Park.

Nakafurano

Along the way at Nakafurano, we caught the sunrise shining through from the mountain range. Even though it was pretty cloudy, we can spot the gorgeous morning sun rays punching through the horizon and skyline. Kato san stopped his car at the side of the road, ensuring that his car was not obstructing any traffic. We quickly took our camera gears out and started shooting away!

We didn’t spend too much taking photographs of the sunrise on that particular morning, once the sunrise moved up further into the sky, it was immediately engulfed by the thick clouds over the horizon during that morning. Nevertheless, we did enjoy and managed to a few photographs of the sunrise, she was spectacular at certain time!

Furano

Torinuma Park

From the spot where we took the sunrise photographs at Nakafurano, it was about 10 – 15 mins drive to reach Torinuma Park. When we alighted from the car and walked towards the lake, there wasn’t any morning mist across the lake that we had hoped for. We were not disappointed because we knew that such scenes were never guaranteed, a bit of luck is needed too! Therefore we stayed back for a short time, taking photographs of Torinuma Park again.

We drove and returned back to our hotel at Nakafurano, went into the onsen to warm ourselves up from the cold early morning drive out, packed our bags and continued with Day 5 of my Hokkaido photography adventure.

Kamifurano

Miyama Toge (near to Woodylife)

After checking out from the hotel, Kato san drove up north towards Kamifurano and Biei. In just a short drive away, the autumn season turned into winter season. This is one of the amazing natural beauty of Hokkaido, getting autumn and winter seasons together in just a short distance away.

At this particular location in Kamifurano, it’s pretty well known as a lookout point since this is a toge, a mountain pass and overlooking the farms, the Furano railway tracks and the mountain range of Daisetsuzan National Park. The weather was covered with thick clouds close to the mountain range area, the farms were visible and not were not covered by the clouds or mist.

There was a golden moment when the sun light rays punched through the clouds onto the fields of Kamifurano and Biei. During my two trips to Hokkaido, I am always on the lookout for all these golden moment, when the sun light rays shined through the clouds. By describing the golden moment sun light rays shining scenes as awesome, breathe taking, unbelievable, I just simply ran out of adjectives to describe them. I would just snap as many photographs as possible before the sun light rays disappeared.

Biei

The next phase of my photography adventure is an early Christmas present from Hokkaido, experiencing winter season in the autumn season of Hokkaido! Biei was covered with beautiful white snow and the weather turned out perfect after a cloudy start in the morning.

The list of destinations that I would be sharing on my trip around the Biei region were some of the most popular landmarks and icons of Biei and also Hokkaido, they are very pooular with photographers and tourists visiting Biei. Having visited them, I was very excited and very happy, to photograph the various landmarks and icons in such a great weather.

A Gentle Reminder to ALL photographers, travelers and tourists

Before I start writing away on all those gorgeous landscapes, trees and landscape sceneries, I would like to give all photographers, travelers and tourists a very gentle reminder that we MUST/HAVE TO respect the local farmers in Biei, their farmland areas whereby their hard work are displayed on their farms, the different types of crops and vegetables. That farms surround all those locations that you see in my write up below, let’s protect the farmers hard work, we are also protecting all those beautiful landscapes that would allow other photographers, travelers and tourists to visit, enjoy and take many photographs for beautiful memories.

Please take your photographs from the viewing spot behind the rope/line! Do NOT cross the rope/line!

Christmas Tree

A lone tree, another of those one tree hill scenes added to my collection, this was also my Christmas gift from Hokkaido because this was the Christmas Tree of Biei, covered with snow!

Mild Seven Hill

Does the word Mild Seven strikes a bell in you? The name Mild Seven is tobacco brand and this beautiful hill that you see here was used in a famous advertisement for Mild Seven tobacco.

From my viewing point, I finally understand why this location was chosen for the advertisement. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and soaked in this pretty landscape scenery of snow powder on the farm land, the Japanese larch trees accompanied by the clear blue sky behind.

My Hokkaido 2016 autumn trip had been nothing short of phenomenal, spectacular and unique. Although the first few days were cold, wet and windy weather, there were a number of omens that made my trip very special and unique. While we were taking photographs of the Mild Seven Hill, Kato san and myself heard a distinct call from our backs, above in the sky. We quickly turned our backs and started observing, to our absolute delight, there was a flight of swans flying towards us and across the Mild Seven Hill! I finally managed to capture birds in flight while in Hokkaido!

This flight of swans was very unique, to put in a shameless plug for myself, the swans flew above Biei, welcoming me to Hokkaido! However, according to my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, it’s rare for swans to fly above Biei at this time and this was the first time he had seen them flying above Biei! Those pretty white swans gave me another priceless moment to remember from my Hokkaido 2016 autumn adventure!

Hill top observation point

This location is very special, it gives you the top of the world feeling, a bird’s eye view that show how vast, wide and far the Hokkaido landscape can be. There is no landmark to indicate this hill top observation point and during the winter season, it is not accessible by car.

This is a very amazing location, it’s an ideal location to experience and view how special it would be during the four different seasons. Kato san also mentioned that this spot is great for taking sunset scenes and I would love to come back again to this spot because I love taking sunset sceneries!

I am able to visit and take photographs from this hill top observation point because of my very experienced Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san. He knows the area, the locations, that we photographers would like to go and take photographs.

Parent and Child Trees

The parents will always love and look after their own children, just like the small oak tree that is standing in between two larger oak trees. From where I stood, watching them across the vast farmland filled with snow, this was filled with warmth, love and sunshine in a cold Hokkaido autumn season.

Farm House with row of trees

Continuing our journey in the area, Kato san stopped along the side of the road and showed me another scenic spot that photographers like to visit and take photographs, a farm house with a row of trees. While there wasn’t an official tourism marker build for this beautiful sight, visitors and photographers can observe it from the side of the road without stepping into the farmers land.

Blue Pond

The Blue Pond is probably one of the icons of Biei and Hokkaido, it’s a destination packed with tourists, travelers and photographers. I heard about this destination previously and wanted to visit this place since I am in the area. Therefore, I requested Kato san to plan in this location during my photography schedule for Biei.

A beautiful destination, no doubt about that, it’s just packed with tourist buses and cars though. Kato san highlighted that it gets even more packed and busy during the summer season! It might be a bit difficult to capture the photographs that you wanted when you are visiting the Blue Pond in Biei.

I enjoyed my short visit to the Blue Pond, captured down on my photographs before we left for our next destination. 

Shirahige Waterfall

Kato san drove into this area occupied by a few stylish hotels, some commanding a pretty awesome view, fitted with stylish furnishings and designs, with their own private onsen in some of the hotels. The room rate is therefore pretty expensive too! If I have the budget, I would love to stay in one of those stylish Shirogane Onsen Resorts near the Shirahige Waterfall.

My initial thoughts were, another waterfall, ok, let’s see what it’s going to be like! When I crossed the bridge and looked up and down the ravine, the Blue River, Shirahige Waterfall and the range of mountain peaks covered with snow, I just stood there, blown away and mesmerised by the natural beauty and surroundings.

Photographers will love this destination, imagine all the different types of sceneries, colours and landscapes during the four different seasons of Hokkaido, I would love to return again to this spot in my future trips to Hokkaido. Bring your lover/partner along when you visit Shirogane Waterfall, it’s a romantic destination and walk for both of you to enjoy the time, moment and gorgeous sceneries.

Mt Tokachi Observation Deck

I had a few key highlights from my Hokkaido autumn trip in October 2016 that I remembered deeply inside my heart and soul. The next location after Shirogane Waterfall was one of them and this might be the best of my best travel highlights during my Hokkaido autumn trip.

A drive up to the mountains, luckily for me, the road had not been closed yet. Kato san mentioned that this road up to the mountain would not be open during the winter season. From the drive up, I can totally understand why, Hokkaido winter is going to fill up this mountain road, making it very difficult to clear the snow filled road, moreover, driving in icy winter road conditions can be very dangerous too.

Upon reaching Mt. Tokachi Observation Deck, I stood there, outside Kato san’s car, did a 360 degrees observation of this destination. This was why I wanted to return back to Hokkaido after my first trip in November 2014.

It was a trip to the top of the world feeling, surrounded by a clear blue sky without too much clouds covering the mountain range peaks, powder snow fields and I was welcomed by a natural phenomena known as 22 degrees halo and possibly a rare 46 degrees halo too! The halo was like a gateway to a whole new world out there, it’s a Stargate!

You will know the feelings and emotions when you just have no words to describe and to even say it out. I stood there, completely blown away after taking a number of photographs of Mt Tokachi Observation Deck.

Before we made our descend to the observation hut and back to the car, I sincerely thank my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san, for bringing me to this destination. When I was at the Mt Tokachi Observation Deck, this was the magical moment whereby all my troubles, stress and pressure seem so far far away from me.

KamiFurano

Hinode Park

On the way down towards our lunch location suggested by Kato san, I had the opportunity to witness 2 seasons (winter and autumn) together, a beauty of Hokkaido that I enjoyed a lot from my 2 trips to Hokkaido (2014 and 2016). At Hinode Park, we made a short pit stop, the evergreen on the fields in the foreground, with the white snow covered mountain range in the background. An amazing and unforgettable view of 2 distinctive seasons coming together in 1 scene, a view that I will never forget.

Lunch – Kamifurano

When you have a very experienced local photo / travel guide like Kato san, he knows where are the best and most delicious local Japanese food. Kato san brought me to this charcoal grilled food house, a small family run food business. This would be one of my best authentic local Japanese food experiences that I had! There wasn’t any english menu and I really had to thank Kato san for selecting and ordering all the delicious food on my behalf!

Charcoal grilled pork, dipped with their own family secret sauce, it’s really unforgettable, very delicious. The charcoal fumes and cooked pork meat aroma would stay on your clothes, a smell that I would gladly accept!

Lookout point

After our delicious charcoal grilled lunch, we started a long road trip from Kamifurano towards Lake Toya. Kato san made a quick pit stop at one of the lookout points on the route down and I snapped a few photographs before the long road trip down.

Long car ride to Lake Toya

The distance between Kamifurano and Lake Toya was approximately 300km (based on the route that Kato san drove). It was quite a long drive and we reached Lake Toya at night, had a quick rest and onsen to relax from a whole exciting day of exploring, walking and driving.

End of my Day 5 travel photography adventure in Hokkaido, now to get ready for Day 6!

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 5


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 4

24th October 2016 – Day 4 Otaru -> Mikasa -> Ashibetsu -> Furano -> Biei

Day 4 marks the start of another new photography adventure in Hokkaido! I am on a photography tour planned for the next 4 days by my friend, Tsuyoshi Kato, who is also a Hokkaido Photo Guide. I first knew Kato san in November 2014 during my first visit to Hokkaido as part of the Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip. Kato san is very knowledgable and experienced in planning for photographers who want to visit locations around Hokkaido for an unforgettable photography experience. I decided to engage Kato-san’s professional photography tour services for the next four days as I would love to explore different locations around Hokkaido whereby photographers love to visit.

Departing from my hotel Dormy Premium Inn Otaru, Kato-san’s plan for today was to visit the Furano and Biei region and we started the drive from Otaru towards Furano and Biei, making stops along Mikasa and Ashibetsu for some pretty interesting sceneries and landscapes!

Mikasa

On the car journey from Otaru to Biei, we passed by Mikasa City, this used to be a thriving and prosperous area with the coal mining industry pushing the local economy. Today, the coal mining industry is no longer in operation and this area had been quiet since then.

The Old Pombetsu Coal Mine

Kato-san made a quick stop to show me the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine. The former coal mining buildings and structures are still standing there and it is now closed to the public. There is a informative signboard that had maps, old photos and a short write up of the history on the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine.

Lake Katsurazawa

We continued our journey towards Furano, driving through roads that showcased distinct weather and climate of Hokkaido. In some areas, that would be snow falling on the forest/trees and they really made a very beautiful scenery with the autumn leaves on the branches that had not fallen yet. Another 20-30 minutes drive down the road, the sceneries and landscape might change into autumn only, no snow at all. This is a beauty of Hokkaido that I will always remember, the season can change in just some distance away.

Kato-san stopped at Lake Katsurazawa, it’s a beautiful location surrounded by forests, quiet and tranquil. The colourful autumn leaves can be seen in full foliage around the lake, making it a good spot for photographing the autumn season in Hokkaido. However, the water is brownish and unlike some of the other beautiful clear blue lakes in Hokkaido. The water is not free flowing because it is a large artificial lake created by the Katsurazawa Dam. Even though the water may not look as beautiful like some of her other counterparts in other areas of Hokkaido, the beautiful forests surrounding it would make it a place to visit during the other seasons.

Ashibetsu

Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝(Google Map location: https://goo.gl/maps/CByHFsf3Jnz)

Leaving Mikasa, entered into Ashibetsu first before reaching Furano. That was a location in Ashibetsu that Kato-san brought me to. It’s a waterfall with 3 sections thus the name Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝.

A gorgeous location, while the weather was a bit overcast, we were able to spot the colourful trees surrounding both sides of the river, the 3 sections of the waterfall and the downstream after that. The path to the lookout point/hut that can get you close to the waterfall and the downward stream was a bit wet and slippery due to the wet weather.

When we finished photographing and about to leave, snow fell from the sky with a bit of gusty cold wind blowing. The weather in Hokkaido can change pretty quickly in the blink of an eye sometimes.

Furano

Continuing our journey, we drove into Furano. My first impression was a flat and wide valley ground, surrounded by 2 mountain ranges on the sides, Mt Yubari, Mt Ashibetsu and Mt Furano-Nishi on one side and Mt Furano, Mt Tokachi, Mt Tomuraushi, Mt Chubetsu, Mt Hiragatake (Daisetuzan National Park side).

Living at the bottom of a valley can get really really cold during winter, from my experiences when I went skiiing in New South Wales, Australia, many years ago. Mt Kosciuszko (Perisher Blue) wasn’t too cold at the top when I was skiing yet when I reached Canberra, I was kind of freezing (in the night).

Furano had many farms growing different kind of crops. This area is a very popular destination during spring and summer, I can understand why. The entire area in summer season would be packed with crops ready for harvesting. For those growing flowers, the colourful and beautiful flowers would brighten up the whole place. I would love to visit Furano during the summer season and hope to do it some day in the future!

Torinuma Park  

Our first destination in Furano is Torinuma Park. Upon arrival, I was greeted by good weather, I saw clear blue sky, sunshine with cloud cover! This good weather made me very excited, I had overcast sky, snow, rain and chilly winds for my first four days in Hokkaido. The beautiful sunlight cast the colourful autumn leaves on the leaves into something magical, green, yellow, red and orange colour leaves against the beautiful clear blue sky. I was ecstatic and blown away, this was the autumn that I had been seeking when I arrived in Hokkaido.

We explored the forest surrounding the lake at Torinuma Park. There were some great places to take photographs from different spots with different perspectives, when the strong winds blew across, the leaves dropped and fell onto the lake, providing the lake with a pretty layer of colourful leaves on its water.

Lunch – Shinasoba ramen by Shinatora

One of my favourite Japanese food is Ramen and during that afternoon, I was brought to this local ramen shop in Furano, the name of the ramen shop is Shinatora, their shop speciality is a soup base mix of pork and fish! When I had my first taste of the Shinasoba ramen, I was in heaven!! This special and unique ramen is really oishii!! Ramen is an absolute delight during the cold autumn/winter seasons, hot and heartwarming.

Rokugo Viewing Platform / Kyohsai Farm (Furano Jam Garden)

With such a delicious and hot ramen lunch inside us, Kato-san brought me to the area near the foot of the Mt Tokachi / Mt Furano mountain range where the famous Kyohsai Farm / Furano Jam Garden was located, they had some many different types of jam for sale, along with a nice café to have coffee while resting at the same time. Although I didn’t buy any jam, I would love to come back during summer and visit this place again! Kato-san said this place is very popular during summer season!

Behind Furano Jam Garden, there was a small dirt road leading up towards a small hill, suitable for cars to drive up the small dirt road. On the road upwards, there was a famous lone tree that stood out from the row of forests beside the road. From the ground up perspective, the lone tree looked like it’s “floating”!

On top of the hill, there were farm lands, we visitors must be careful and considerate, not to trespass and trample onto the farm lands because we might destroy the crops and hurt the farmers livelihood and hard work.

There was an open area with a nice hut on the top of the hill, known as Rokugo Viewing Platform. The view up there was breathtaking, a great panoramic view of Furano. The cold autumn winds were blowing hard at us and I was freezing again when the cold winds hitted me! However, I was greeted by another iconic scene of Hokkaido, the light rays shining through the clouds onto the land.

There was another monologue tree nearby the Rokugo Viewing Platform, used by television company for some of their drama productions! It’s a very famous and iconic tree!

Mizusawa, Biei

The sky was turning dark as Kato-san drove up towards in the direction of Biei. A tale of two seasons in Hokkaido, separated by maybe 30km, from autumn into winter season. It was close to sunset timing when we arrived at this spot in Biei, snow was falling and it was cold around -1° (it’s not the coldest yet for Biei, Hokkaido).

There was a small farm house up on the hill, standing alone in the midst of the snow covered fields. While the small house stands alone in the open, it’s not alone at all, the role and significance cannot be underestimated. Somehow, I am always able to relate to lone/single objects e.g. lone tree, lone house etc etc … We might be monologue / single at times, however we are not alone because we attract the things around us to come to us.

Driving down a short distance from the small farm house, Kato san made a stop beside an open field between two forests. There were two trees that stood out in between the two forests. I stood there, enjoying the sceneries, peace, quiet and tranquility. It was really cold for me because I wasn’t really suited for winter season. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and enjoyed the moment while I am freezing myself out there (due to the chilly wind and rain).

The sun had set for the day, we also made our way to our hotel in Nakafurano, had our dinner, enjoyed the onsen and had a good night sleep.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 4 


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 3

23rd October 2016 – Day 3

It’s Sunday in Hokkaido, another cold and chilly autumn morning with the cold wind blowing. My plan for the morning was to make a pilgrimage to a whiskey that I really like a lot, Nikka whiskey. The birth place of Nikka whiskey is in this place called Yoichi, just three JR stations away from Otaru. I checked the local JR train timetable heading towards Yoichi the night before, planned the time to wake up, head towards onsen, buy my breakfast from the JR Otaru station convenience store before boarding the local JR train to Yoichi.

The local JR train ride was fun and I always love my traveling experiences there. Although it was only three stations away, the distance between them were quite far apart. I loved the views from my short JR train ride, I saw the colourful trees, the sea, coast line, hills and houses. My train ride was quite busy, not too packed, there were a number of people on the same train ride too. I spotted some elderly Japanese folks drinking beer in the morning while traveling on the train!

Nikka Distillery

Upon arriving at JR Yoichi station, there were a lot of people that were riding together on the train also alighted along with me. It dawned upon me pretty quickly that we were all heading towards a common destination, the Nikka distillery! A short walk away from JR Yoichi station, I arrived at the entrance to Nikka distillery, I am awed and excited because I made a pilgrimage to my favourite whiskey!

Visiting and walking inside Nikka distillery wasn’t too difficult, you can choose to join a guided tour (in Japanese though) or you can choose to walk around and explore on your own. I chose to walk around and explore myself. There were many information at various locations on the history, significance and things related to Nikka whiskey. The most interesting segments for me were the whiskey museum and Nikka Kaikan (guest hall, tasting room). My most eagerly anticipated segment of visiting Nikka distillery was the free whiskey tastings! There were 3 types of whiskey available for tasting inside the Nikka Kaikan, there were some rules to follow for visitors, no drinking for those visitors driving and each visitor is only allowed to taste 1 glass of whiskey from each type of whiskey available for tasting.

Whiskey is supposed to be enjoyed slowly, shaking and stirring the aroma up from the whiskey, slowly sipping, enjoying the after taste before continuing to slowly sip up the rest of the whiskey. In the midst of my excitement and over enthusiasm, I drank two of the three whiskey in kind of double quick time. Although I really loved the taste and feeling, my head started to spin because I drank too fast and furious! I had to quickly grab some ice water to drink and settle myself down!

There was a place known as Distillery Shop “Northland”, a gift shop to buy gifts and Nikka whiskey. Initially, I thought of buying Nikka whiskey back home to Singapore, however, they were not able to do the duty free procedure therefore I decided not to buy it back. Instead, I bought an ice ball maker and a box of Nikka Distillery chocolates.

I checked the return trip JR train time table when I first entered into the JR Yoichi station, therefore, I had a bit of time to walk around Yoichi and have a quick look before making my way to JR Yoichi station. Japanese trains were very efficient, reliable and punctual. The station masters opened up the doors for the passengers to walk out to the platform about 10 mins before the scheduled arrival time of the JR train. The visitors queued up in rows, waiting in line for the train to arrive. The JR train arrived exactly at the scheduled time as printed on the boards inside the train station.

Reaching JR Otaru station, there was a short time transition for passengers to switch and hop on to the another JR train heading towards Sapporo. This was how great, detailed and thoughtful the Japanese placed in service delivery standards.

When I reached Sapporo, I wanted to look for the Travelers notebook by the Traveler’s Company. However, I wasn’t able to find my way around the shopping centre and I didn’t manage to buy it during my trip to Hokkaido. I went back to the same lunch place yesterday, ordered a curry beef rice, enjoyed my lunch and took the next available train back to Otaru, for my late afternoon to night view of Otaru from Mt Tenguyama.

Mt Tenguyama, Otaru

Mt. Tenguyama, is a famous and well known tourism destination in Otaru, as well as in Hokkaido. On top of Mt Tenguyama, it has one of the best views of Hokkaido, highly rated and recommended by both locals and international visitors. I took a bus from Otaru bus terminal in front of JR Otaru station towards the foot of Mt Tenguyama where the ropeway station was located. I took the ropeway up and it was a great view of Otaru, the port and the sea!

Mt Tenguyama indeed had some gorgeous views up at the top, there were a few observation points that allowed visitors to take photographs of Otaru and her surroundings from different observation points. The weather was a bit overcast and pretty cloudy when I was up on top of Mt Tenguyama. I explored around the top of Mt Tenguyama, it’s really peaceful and beautiful. There were gusty chilly winds blowing on that evening, making it very challenging for me to stay long outside in the open to take photographs (I was kind of freezing up there on Mt Tenguyama).

Waiting for the sun to set and night to arrive, I finally caught a good glimpse of the night landscape scenery of Otaru. I didn’t bring my tripod up to Mt Tenguyama therefore I made the best out of everything in a very cold autumn night with gusty winds blowing at the top of Mt Tenguyama.

Taking the ropeway ride down, enjoying the nights sceneries of Otaru. I took the bus back to Otaru city centre, went to JR Otaru station and bought a half deep fried chicken for dinner back to my hotel room whereby I was able to keep myself warm from another cold chilly autumn night.

On my last night in Otaru at Dormy Inn Premium, I went down for my night singing noodles, the hot and heartwarming Yonaki Soba, my last time to enjoy this wonderful noodles, I am not too sure when I would have the chance again. Upon finishing the delicious Yonaki Soba, I went back to my room, packed my luggage while resting before coming down to relax and enjoy at the onsen before my sleep time.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 3


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.