OLIVIA ROUND BANGKOK

Known for: Excellent variety of food
Beautiful ancient temples
Shopping capital of Thailand
Famous party street Khao San Road
Home of the Monitor Lizard
Knock-off stores

Colour, action, beauty, trendy, passion and vibrancy are the words I would use to describe the city of Bangkok. Wander down the waterfront comforted by the blanket of warm air, smell the delicious fried noodles and marvel at the beauty of the temples juxtaposed with the modern high-rise buildings. 

WHAT TO DO

1. Take a walk along the waterfront. Everything is more beautiful at golden hour / dusk, it’s a known fact. Make your way down the narrow alleyways, watch the elderly men and women setting up their little stalls, skippers mooring their boats, cruises floating down the canal adorned with pretty fairy lights and a dull echo of laughter and celebration. 

2. Learn the art of traditional Thai Massage at The Sukosol Hotel. If travelling with a companion, take the lesson in a duo so while one person is the model (a great role if you ask me), the other will be instructed by the massage therapist, then you switch. I found it really valuable to learn because now D & I can give each other massages at home, you just have to keep it quiet that you know the skill or all your friends will be knocking at your door. 

3. Relax by the pool during the heat of the day. It may sound like a cop-out for an adventure travel blogger to say “chill” but it’s so important, otherwise you totally burn out. I make sure I pace myself, and I have realised the importance of taking a day off to enjoy the place you’re staying, especially in 30º heat.

4. Visit Wat Pho Buddhist Temple. Home to the famous ‘leaning buddha’, Wat Pho is situated along the waterfront, close to all the action of the city. The beautiful, gilted gold filigree designs are just stunning and give you a true sense of traditional Thai religious architecture. Entry is 100 baht which is roughly $10, and the temple is also the home to many stray kittens and even the odd monitor lizard!

The best time to visit is during the early evening before closing as it is generally a bit quieter and perfect for picturesque photos at golden hour.

Travel tip: Stop to admire the stunning architecture and detailing

5. Party the night away on Kao San Road. Okay I’ll admit, I’m not the typical bucket mixer drinker (I’d much rather a rum in a quirky old-school underground jazz bar) but I do love a good dance, and everything always seems more lively at night. Kao San is everything you’d imagine from Bangkok city – loud music, bright lights, hecklers, scorpions on sticks, knock-off Calvin Klein underwear and faux Gucci bags. Go there and embrace it. 

6. Walk down Soi Cowboy strip. Strip in this case has a double meaning as it is essentially the dressed up ‘red light district’ of Bangkok. Pak Pong is historically the classic, but Cowboy has the country element which makes it even more fascinating. If you’re afraid of seeing a bit of skin then this isn’t the place for you, but after travelling for years, my eyes have been exposed to a lot, and I actually find the grungier parts of town quite intriguing. I wouldn’t recommend taking too many photos out of respect for the performers.

7. Catch the flower night market. We were lucky enough to stumble upon it one evening after dinner (around 11pm), and the market was just being set up. Row upon row of streets, little shops sell bright yellow marigold bouquets, locals ride around on bicycles running deliveries and both young and old are busy weaving offering baskets.

8. Play with the local animals. If you’ve been following me for a while now, you’ll know that I make a conscious effort to seek out the cutest local animals and hang out with them for a while. Bangkok has plenty of little fury friends to hang out with, you just have to go out exploring.

Travel tip: Monitor Lizards like to hang out in Bangkok so keep your eyes peeled. We saw one by Wat Pho temple.

WHERE TO STAY

The Sukosol Hotel

Enter the lobby to the beaming smiles of hotel staff, gracious greetings and a relaxed atmosphere. The Sukosol staff give an outstanding Thai welcome which was genuine and continued throughout our stay. As I have said in the past, the staff can really make an experience special, and this was one of the kindest welcomes yet.

My birthday happened to fall on a day we were staying and after countless swims in the refreshing pool, hours of playing cards and reading under the trees, I returned to our room to find a delicious moist chocolate cake topped with strawberries and candles! I felt so chuffed that the staff would go out of their way to make my day even more special, it was truly magical. A special thank you to The Sukosol team and my lovely bf David.

The rooms and decor are really elegant and comfortable, and the pool area was so nice that we spent an entire day enjoying it. If you can say that about your hotel, you know it’s good!

WHERE TO EAT

Mango Vegetarian & Vegan RestaurantAfter exploring Khao San Road for a while, we were very hungry and happened upon this exquisite veggie place. After um-ing and ahh-ing over whether or not it would be tasty or another odd vegan place, we went in and sat on the floor and were instantly greeted by a super lovely young high school aged girl and two kittens. We spent a good 20 mins playing with the cats and chatting to Bam before even opening the menu. We ordered the crispy goyza curry with black rice and a veg burger. We also got a mango & passionfruit smoothie which was super slushy and delicious and on our last day we treated ourselves to the molten chocolate lava cake (vegan) with coconut ice-cream.

Inn A Day restaurant: Located right on the waterfront, we found X restaurant through Trip Advisor, and as anticipated, it lived up to the rave reviews. I would highly recommend the vegetarian spring rolls, in fact we decided that they were the best we had ever eaten, ever. The sweet & sour vegetables with rice was tasty too. Such a quaint and trendy little restaurant attached to a backpackers so go there for cool vibes, cold beer and the bomb food.

The Sukosol’s breakfast buffet: Look no further than the best hotel in town. From freshly made croissants, omelettes and waffles, the food is fresh and there is plenty to choose from.

There’s also a lovely bar to enjoy a cool drink in the evening.

WHAT TO WEAR

Visiting on the cusp of peak season, you’ll still experience highs of 30º, which means you’ll be in swimming togs most of the time if that’s your thing. Otherwise lightweight cotton dresses work a treat, and my favourite city sandal, the Birkenstock. Judge away, but when you can walk for hours on end sight seeing you’ll be thanking me for the expert tip.

This was the cool city view from our room in The Sukosol. Bangkok is such a fun city and whether you’re a city slicker or not, there is so much to see and do, I would recommend checking it out and then hopping on a sleeper train up to Chiang Mai.

Love,

Liv x

TWEET | FOLLOW | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK

Sankara Resort, Ubud

A hidden urban oasis in Ubud is not hard to find, but only those in the know will know that the pick of the bunch is Sankara Resort.

Sankara is an easy walk to the busy Ubud centre, but set back in a quiet neighbourhood to feel like you can totally unwind when you get home.

Top: Zaful • Shorts: Vintage

Step into the home of another Pramana Experience family, as staff shower you with warmth, relieve you of your bags, hydrate you with freshly squeezed juice and settle you into your room.

Dress: Ripcurl

One thing I always check is the comfort of the bed (second is the length of the bath, followed by the room service menu). Sankara, you well and truely ticked the box. But why am I not surprised. You have to experience it to see what I mean.

The hotel is great for travellers who love trying their hand at new activities and the staff share local knowledge and skills in a daily afternoon class. We gave woodcarving a go. While the instructor suggested David should come and work for them, I don’t think anyone was as impressed with my skills, but kindy showered me with encouragement as my cute little lizard looked like what my baby cousin would have made in primary school.

You can also learn the art of Balinese dance (now this is my turn to shine), cooking using special Balinese spices and how to make the traditional offering basket.

I also set my alarm for morning yoga which was similar to Power Vinyasa style, lots of breathing and some tough stretches, perfect to set you up for a day of running round after monkeys at the monkey forest.

Our room featured a gorgeous private pool on the balcony, which was shrouded with lush greenery to ensure privacy.

My boyfriend and I joked that we could dance around like kids and not disturb anyone, which is the great luxury of having your own pool!

For breakfast we enjoyed fresh watermelon juice and pancakes by the pool. This is the beauty of being on holiday in the tropics, fresh fruit is abundant and so delicious.

Top: Zaful • Shorts: Vintage

If you’ve had enough of chlorine, there is a gorgeous outdoor stone waterfall shower in the room, which I certainly made some good use out of.

Swimwear: Tigerlily

The dining area is lovely in the open air and the manager Leon will make sure you feel right at home. We really enjoyed chatting to him about his experience working on cruises and travelling to many different countries around the world. He also shared with us the history of Ubud and how he’s experienced a change over the years due to popularity among tourists.

Another super cute feature Sankara have is a book loan out system – similar to what you commonly find in hostels.

Every part of the hotel is aesthetically curated to perfection, from the walkways to the rice fields, the staff and the ornamentation. It truely feels like living in your own paradise.

When it was time to move on, one of the lovely staff members made me the most beautiful rose out of a paper napkin and told David to gift it to me. I kept it the entire trip because it meant so much to me that someone would go out of their way to make my day.  That is the kind of gesture that sets Sankara apart from other resorts.

Dress: Homemade vintage

If you have any questions about Sankara or any of the other Pramana Experience resorts, flick me a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks again to Mr Wayan Wardika for having us visit your lovely villas.

Photography by my lovely boyfriend David Evans & myself.

Love,

Liv x

TWEET | FOLLOW | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK

Dedari Kriyamaha Villas, Ubud

Tucked away in the forest and off the beaten track you’ll find the hidden gem that is Dedari Kriyamaha Villas managed by Pramana Experience.

Walk into the sanctuary and feel the warmth of the staff as they welcome you with all their heart regardless of whether you look like a supermodel or a drowned rat from a wet and wild motorbike ride… of course we were the latter.

In the traditional Pramana Experience way, you’ll be offered a delicious frozen drink made of mint, lime, ginger + honey while the staff explain the fun activities you can partake in during your stay. It’s not uncommon to want to order the “welcome drink” even after you’ve been welcomed.

We were escorted to our villa under an ornately adorned parasol as the heavy tropical shower hit the thick canvas brim. The friendly concierge led us down a quiet path to our secluded leafy green paradise.

Equiped with a state-of-the-art modern kitchen, you can either cook for yourself or order from the onsite restaurant. We enjoyed dining in the restaurant as it has a lively energy with golden lights and sometimes even a great live duo performing, however when some kids got a little raucous (as they do) the staff offered to deliver our meal to our room which was lovely.

The villa’s private pools are generous in length and perfect for an early morning refresh or evening cool off.

If you’re an early riser, there is a great rice field tour which runs from 8am – 9am. It’s nothing taxing on the body, so haul yourself out of the ridiculously comfortable bed and explore the rice plantation, learn about the harvest, befriend some cows, meet some locals and don’t forget to take some sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit muddy.

If that’s your exercise done for the day, treat yourself to a complimentary 10 minute massage in the spa and enjoy high tea in the restaurant.

The room service menu is extensive, and having the kitchen handy means you can reheat your toast and noodles later. A Pramana Experience breakfast always consists of a delicious fresh bread and pastry basket, tea or coffee, juice or fruit, muesli or cereal and a sweet or savoury breakfast option. The lunch and dinner menus feature both Western and Indonesian cuisine.

The two features I check first in a hotel is the bed and the bath. Dedari Kriyamaha Villa certainly receives a high score for having two of the best I’ve enjoyed, but you’ll have to try them out for yourself!

Throughout our stay, the staff were friendly, attentive and went the extra mile to make us feel welcomed and at home. I really appreciate this aspect of Pramana Experience as it definitely makes the stay more memorable. Thank you to Mr Wayan Wardika and his lovely team, we wish you all the best and hope to visit you again soon. Suksma!

Photography by my lovely boyfriend David Evans & myself.

Love,

Liv x

TWEET | FOLLOW | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK

OLIVIA ROUND SAPPORO

Known for: 4th largest city in Japan (population)
Snow sports
Natural Onsen Hotsprings
Mountain ridge walks
Historical villages
Nikka Whisky

Ski down a snow capped mountain in the morning, hike through the woods at lunch, warm up with an early evening onsen and dive into crisp, fluffy sheets at the Keio Plaza for a good night’s sleep.

sapporo-11

We arrived at midday in Sapporo itinerary-free but eager for adventure after seeing countless magical photographs in books and online.

With picturesque snowy mountains, wild animals and rugged wilderness, I couldn’t help feeling a touch of nostalgia for New Zealand. Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND SAPPORO”

OLIVIA ROUND NARA + WAKAYAMA

Known for: Famous deer park (Nara)
Beach towns (Wakayama)
Onsens (Wakayama)
Fishing Villages (Wakayama)

Spend the weekend befriending deer and bathing in seaside onsens.

wakayama-36

WHAT TO DO

NARA

1. The first “must see” in Nara is the famous Deer Park. Deer are seen as “sacred” and highly regarded by Japanese people. 

narapark1

They have the privilege of roaming the park with little to no disturbance of cars and other noisy machinery, and rule the roost when it comes to animal hierarchy.

deerchase

Travel tip: While most people would assume the deer will take to their beds at night, they tend to become more lively around twilight.

🇯🇵 Hanging out with the wild and boisterous deer in Nara 💓 #OliviaRoundNara

A post shared by Olivia Round (@oliviaroundtown) on

 

2. While you’re hanging out with Bambi, walk around the Nara Park lake and find a spot to paint a picture.naraart

Travel tip: If you want to buy snacks to feed the deer, you can. There are stalls throughout the park that sell little round biscuits or nuts.

3. Take an evening walk through the quiet streets of Nara and look at the beautiful wooden architecture.

WAKAYAMA

1. Rent a car from Nara and drive south around the coastal peninsula of Wakayama.

wakayama-13

Travel tip: Toyota Car Rentals is your cheapest bet for a 4 door sedan. It’s handy to opt for a GPS so you can avoid toll roads too.

2. Embark on a hike through part of the famous Nachi Taisha pilgrimage. It’s incredible to think how many generations have walked the path before you.

wakayama-12

Travel tip: Majority of the walk is in the woods so if you’re pushed for time and looking for a scenic route, don’t worry about trying to complete the entire track.

3. Find the old manual roller slide near the base of the hike for an adrenaline rush ride.

wakayama-10

4. Visit the world’s 3rd largest waterfall, Nachi Falls. The waterfall runs over primeval forest of luscious evergreen trees and has a sheer drop of 133 meters.

wakayama-4

5. Take a look at the The Nachi Taisha Shrine (Shinto) and the Seiganto-ji Temple (Buddhist) which despite religious differences, stand next to each other and has functioned as one religious centre since the 1500s.

nachitaisha1

6. Dip in the hot springs at popular beach town, Shriyahama. If you’re looking for a co-ed, bathing suit spring check out Shirahama Beach Onsen.

Travel tip: Try to spot wild monkeys during the drive.

WHERE TO STAY

Naramachi Hostel & Restaurant

Naramachi Hostel & Restaurant is a little gem conveniently located right next to the deer park. Formally a soy factory, the property contains fragments of history around it’s grounds and throughout the interior, with old instruments and tools displayed in a museum-like fashion.

naramachi4

We were surprised to hear they had a jacuzzi available for use which is great after a day out walking the streets – you can ease your tired feet in the privacy of the secluded back patio, complete with fairy lights.

There are two sleeping arrangements to choose from, typical bunk bed dormitory style, or private rooms. I would highly recommend the later option purely for the experience of sleeping up high on a spacious mezzanine wooden a-frame bed, it was possibly the coolest room I’ve seen travelling so far and felt like sleeping in a luxurious tree house!

WHERE TO EAT

The coastal roads are not Tokyo-style food metropolis’, so it will pay to stock up in Nara before you go.

Buy a yoghurt tub from supermarket or convenience store and fill it with muesli and chopped banana for a tasty breakfast. The great part about exploring by car, is you can enjoy your meals surrounded by some of the best views in the world.

If you have no facility to heat your dinner, mexican wraps or sushi are an excellent solution. Look for the international supermarkets and pick up some chilli beans, avocado and chopped carrot for a quick and protein packed meal.

Travel tip: Find hot water at any 7/11 or McDonald’s to go with your Nespresso instant coffee.

WHAT TO WEAR

wakayama-100

Both Nara and Wakayama are rather mild in Autumn, and quite sunny. Bare in mind evenings become brisk and temperatures drop significantly overnight, especially in coastal areas.

madewelloutfit_wakayama

madewell_wakayama2

Some days I wore jeans and a merino, while other times I was fine in a sundress. Keep a towel on you at all times in Wakayama as there are onsens everywhere!

 

Next up, Fukuoka.

Love,

Liv x

TWEET | FOLLOW | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK

OLIVIA ROUND KYOTO

Known for: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Nijo Castle
Fushimi-inari Shrine
Ryokans
Geisha

Take a walk back in time down the streets of Kyoto lined with burnt orange leaves and wooden architecture from a bygone era. There’s something about Kyoto that displays a true sense of tradition and authenticity, and it’s charming city keeps travellers returning year round.

One myth I can immediately quash for you is that you can’t see both west and eastern sides of Kyoto in one day. You totally can. Wake up early and cycle to Arashiyama bamboo forest on the far west, grab a bit to eat afterwards, then meander over to Fushimi-inari for sunset.

WHAT TO DO

1. Start with Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. A beautiful green grove of sleek and tall bamboo stretches down a (surprisingly short) pathway like nothing you’ve ever seen.

kyotoedit-10

Dress warmly as it is not exposed to a lot of sun, but the air is so fresh and crisp you’ll want to enjoy it while you’re away from car fumes of the city.

 

2. While you’re there, keep walking to explore the gardens. Regardless of what season you visit in, they will be beautiful. While we were there we got to see this vivid red tree.

🇯🇵 Nature putting on an autumn show for us 🍁🍂 #OliviaRoundKyoto

A post shared by Olivia Round (@oliviaroundtown) on

 

3. Grab lunch, and cycle over to Fushimi-inari shrine and walk through the 1000 red gates. Each one is so well preserved, it’s hard to believe they were first built in 711.

kyotoedit-26

kyotoedit-30

Travel tip: Make sure to side quest off the path to see another stunning bamboo grove

 

4. Stay to watch the sunset

Travel tip: Don’t bother going right to the top as the best look out is just below (look for this view).

5. Bike back via the canal

kyotoedit-43

6. Spend the evening at Len bar and Restaurant. The hospitality went beyond expectations as they looked after our bags, let us use the internet and helped us find a hostel, and to repay them we bought about 6 of their delicious curries while we were there!

We built great friendships with the staff and I feel like our experience was a memorable one and it goes to show how far a little bit of kindness can go.

7. Seek out cool street art

kyotoedit-34

8. People watch

peoplewatchkyoto

9. Try to spot Geisha women in traditional dress

kyotoedit-36

Travel tip: Always get to tourist saturated places early. I can’t stress this enough!

kyotoedit-29

WHERE TO STAY

There are plenty of great hostels in the area.

We stayed at a hostel called Suzuki Guesthouse. It was quite far from the busy area of town, but super handy to our favourite restaurant so we were happy. Another cool thing about the hostel is when describing it’s location you can say, “Oh you know, that one next to the ancient old castle across town”. How many other places in the world can you say that?

WHERE TO EAT

Morpho Vegan Cafe: Carnivores need not be put off this plant-based wholesome haven. We loved the soy meat “fish” burger with tartare. Sounds strange, but it was so delicious we went back the next day and ordered the same thing for lunch.

 

WHAT TO WEAR

Once again, pretty mild weather. I wore a light jacket and yoga pants while I was there as we were doing a lot of riding. The bamboo forest is teeth-chattering freezing in the early morning, but by the end of the day you’ll be hot from biking, so best bet is layers, layers, layers.

_mg_9955

kyotoedit-31

kyotoedit-22

In all honesty I’d be back to Kyoto in a heartbeat. While it is one of the more popular areas of Japan, it doesn’t feel over-run with tourists or built up with Westernised monstrosities. The old fashioned charm with lure you in and you won’t want to leave.

Next up, Nara + Wakayama.

Love,

Liv x

TWEET | FOLLOW | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK

OLIVIA ROUND OSAKA

Known for: Osaka Castle
Great music + dance
Local authentic street food
Friendly locals
Modern architecture

osakacastleedit

Osaka is such an interesting city we visited it twice. The first time we stayed at a super cool backpackers called Casa Macondo which is owned by a lovely guy from Colombia called Oscar.

One thing I learnt in Osaka is that there is no real word for vegetarian. I found the best phrases to say are “no nikku!” (no meat), “no dashi!” (no fish extract) and “yasai only” (vegetables only).

WHAT TO DO

1. Stay at Casa Macondo and visit the junk shop run by the old man down the road. It looks like someone’s old garage from the outside, but we ended up finding some incredible old gems: film cameras, groovy hats, pottery, nic-nacs, art and more.

img_8300
David & I with the lovely owner, “uncle”.

2. Walk across the river via one of the many bridges at night.

osaka_edit-10

osaka_edit-11
Beautifully lit up canal

3. Check out Tsutenkaku tower at night. It’s a little bizarre and old, but great for people watching and you might even find yourself strolling through the fascinating red light district on the way home.

img_9820
Bright lights of Shinsekai

4. Watch the street performers dance in the Umeda Station. The train station is equipped with mirrors on each wall so performers can practice their routines.

5. Visit Osaka Castle

Travel tip: Walk 100m around the back and there will be no tourists in sight. Great place for a picnic.

img_9827

6. Go for early morning walks and you’ll see some cool sights! We found a petting zoo in a local school, the rush of betting hour at the local TAB and a group of women wearing crazy headdresses.

peoplewatchingosaka
1. Guy placing his horse-racing bet 2. Woman with Peanuts crown 3. Boy getting a fright from some animals in a pen 4. Elderly lady upsetting the animals!

7. Visit the wacky supermarkets. It’s hard to believe this neon fantasy is a chain store.

supermarketosaka
1. Ridiculously expensive melons (they price up to $70 US) 2. Fish, fish and more fish 3. Exploring the colourful supermarket

8. Hang out at Arcadio bar (which is also Casa Macondo hostel) and chat to the locals and other travellers.

casaartosaka

Travel tip: The best way to get to Osaka from Tokyo is via the Shinkansen bullet train. It’ll cost around $100, but is really worth it.

img_9822

WHERE TO STAY

Casa Macondo
Casa Macondo is run by the nicest and friendliest host you’ll meet, Oscar – along with his team of great staff. What is so appealing about the hostel is how passionate Oscar is about running it, he wants travellers and artists to come and feel at home and warmly welcomed.

 

The hostel is adorned with the most exquisite artwork. Oscar has commissioned local artists to paint the walls with lively, beautiful murals and the bar downstairs Arcadio has a groovy lit up table top and paintings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who is the inspiration and muse behind the decor). There are many references to his novel 100 Days Of Solitude, including an uplifting trail of butterflies leading guests up the stairway to upstairs rooms.

osaka_edit-20

The location is minutes walk from downtown Osaka and a block away from the coolest old junk store. Not only are there great things nearby, you can even enjoy a delicious enchilada and beer while locals and regulars trickle in, bringing with them stories and a genuine interest in you and your culture.

We made so many friends and had so much fun that it was hard to say goodbye.

WHERE TO EAT

 

Arcadio: You might as well eat where you stay, right? Located on the first floor of Casa Macondo, the chef cooks the most delicious mexican/south american fusion food which can all be made vegetarian on request. I was a happy girl when I was served a plate of burritos with avocado and fresh salad! Round the corner is also a cheap omlette place for breakfast with free coffee.

Possibly the ugliest food photo I've ever taken, but it's pizza so who cares when it tastes good.
Possibly the ugliest food photo I’ve ever taken, but it’s pizza so who cares when it tastes good.

Girasole Ricco: VPN Association Certified Neapolitan pizza! This place was a good recommendation by our friend Misa. We had the mushroom and olive pizza, a classic margherita and the pesto pasta with green beans. Highly recommend.

osaka_edit-50

Camp Curry: Possibly the best find of the trip. Camp is a chain which makes veggie curries (you can add meat if desired). Vegetables include a hearty serving of broccoli, capsicum, beans, onion, eggplant, root veggies, tomato and mushrooms. Comes with rice and you can choose your level of spice too. Cost: 900 yen (around $10NZD)

Sushi shop in Eski Marche: We found salmon + avo sushi! Finally a flavour we could both eat and it was from the food court in the Osaka train station. Delicious, fresh and cheap.

Travel tip: This brand of muesli is great to travel round with. All you need to do is buy a banana and yoghurt fresh.

img_9823

WHAT TO WEAR

My go-to outfit was a summer dress from my favourite American store, Madewell which I paired with a cheap thin merino sweater.

osaka_edit-6
Jersey: Farmers · Dress: Madewell · Shoes: Nike

Sneakers are a must as you will be doing a lot of walking up cobbled stairs and mountainous paths.

img_9825
Jersey: Farmers · Dress: Madewell · Shoes: Nike · Sunglasses: store in Auckland airport

I found this great pair of UV polaroid sunglasses in the Auckland airport for $30NZ, love love love them!

 

During travel I wore loose fitting pants with boots and a cashmere sweater.

 

This is also my new travel pack for those of you who are interested in what I take when I travel. It’s a 55L Kathmandu Kilimanjaro canvas pack which doubles as a carry bag. I love the fact that it doesn’t look too bulky, but can fit all the essentials I need.

casamacondofashion
Cashmere sweater: Hospice shop · Pants: Brandy Melville · Boots: Ziggurat, Wellington · Pack: Kathmandu

My advice would be to take the time to really explore Osaka. See the sights, but walk to them. Along the way you’ll find the hidden gems like we did. Prepare yourself for the touristy areas and embrace them. Marvel at the incredible way in which they organise the unruly tourists who spill out like krill at feeding time across the pavement… Also remember that while you’re laughing at the funny tourists, you are one. Respect the locals and give them the time of day. Drink sake with them, share a “kannpai” and smile lots. Then you’ll fall in love with the culture of Osaka.

Next up, Kyoto!

Love,

Liv x

TWEET | FOLLOW | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK

OLIVIA ROUND TOKYO

Known for: Neon lights
Anime + Arcades
Shinjuku / Harajuku
American fashion + tech
Shibuya crossing
Old + new culture living harmoniously together

Tokyo. A city that never really sleeps. The place where it’s totally acceptable to eat ramen at 3am, sing karaoke for 24 hours or get lost in the fantasy world of an anime store. The only time it is okay to fall asleep, is on the train home, then you know you’ve done a good day’s work.

sydtok

When I heard this analogy about Japanese culture and working life, I was shocked. In New Zealand we work an 8 to 10 hour day and think we’ve had a long week. Japanese people work until they physically can’t work anymore and it’s visually obvious by the sheer number of subway catnappers.

The city runs at a competitive, fast pace, and has a population of 13.6 million in Tokyo alone (the most densely populated city in the world). To put this into perspective, the entire population of New Zealand (including a few sheep) cross the Shibuya crossing each day.

It’s like organised chaos.

 

WHAT TO DO

1. You’ve got to see Shibuya crossing. While Shibuya is most likely too touristy to hang out for a long period of time, it’s incredible to watch and join the masses who pass through the crossing on a daily basis.

tokyo_edit-49

tokyo_edit-50

2. Kitazawa was one of my favourite places for sight seeing and thrift shopping. I got a pair of Docs for $50NZD and we bought some rad Japanese patches for our tramping packs.

tokyo_edit-47

kidsedit5

kids2

kitazawa1

3. Enjoy a tea ceremony at Keio Plaza HotelA tea ceremony is a tradition which has been passed down through generations, taught and trained by mothers and grandmothers. The process follows very simple steps, but can be a tad convoluted for Westerners, that is why it was wonderful to be walked through a lesson from our lovely teacher (pictured).

 

The ceremony begins with a sweet treat made of bean paste and coloured a bright pink and yellow. This is to sweeten the palate before consuming the matcha tea. All attendees of the ceremony wish one another blessings, take a sip (after turning the cup a special way) and finish with an appreciative “ahh” noise.

If you’re going to tick off any “guide book activities” while in Japan, I would 100% pick a tea ceremony over a robot restaurant any day as you get to experience the unique and fascinating element of Japanese culture, and it is something I will always remember.

keiotea2

4. Wander through the back streets during the day. We spotted a gaggle of cute kids off to celebrate a school festival, so naturally I stopped to chat to them and tell them they were “so kawaii!” *cute.

cutekid

beautytokyo

 

5. Explore the city by bicycle. If you catch a subway everywhere, the cost racks up and you miss things. Walking is great, but sometimes you just want to get to your destination. Through biking, we’ve spontaneously changed our daily itineraries, met interesting people, found cool shops and food haunts and explored areas we wouldn’t normally think of going to.

 

bikeriding
With our great friend and Tokyo expert, Kazu

6. Visit Memory Lane. A traditional area of alleyways lined with warmly lit lanterns, a low rumble of after work chatter over sake, and steaming kitchens cooking up a feast.

img_8058

Travel tip: Don’t bother visiting Ahikabara for electronics, go for the cultural experience.

Me, bored of looking at electronics
Me, bored of looking at electronics

7. Seek out the buskers. Some of the musical talent in Japan is out of this world – however above ground (as in not in the expensive, underground music dens) you’ll hear a lot of dinky nursery rhyme tunes playing and feel disheartened as to where the real music is. Right next to Harajuku we found this guy playing bass with his friend on drums. They were insane!

busker
Incredible slap bass player

8. Hang out in Harajuku –  I think I love Harajuku just as much as Gwen Stefani does.

harajuku
Interesting characters in Harajuku
haraboys
Halloween dress ups

9. Visit “Kitchen Town” in Taito. Anything you want for your restaurant, they have it! Plastic food, coffee machines, chopsticks, uniforms…

artysuburb

10. Take a Shinkansen bullet train to Osaka. It’s so fast and you can see Mount Fuji (just don’t fall asleep on the train or you’ll miss it)

shinkansen

WHERE TO STAY

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon
The Gate Hotel is located in the central district of Asakusa, just across the road from the Asakusa shrine and walking distance to the Sky Tree.

What sets the hotel apart from others in the area is the incredible views spanning 180 degrees of the city. The lobby is located on the top floor so the first experience guests see is the aesthetically pleasing skyline view of twinkling lights in the evening or the juxtaposition of modern high-rises and traditional architecture during daylight.

gatehoteledit
Enjoying freshly squeezed orange juice
tokyo_edit-59
Gorgeous view from our beautiful hotel suite

Beds are comfortable, rooms are warm and very earthquake safe! We experienced one while we were there and the building swayed rather than shaked. Very impressed!

gatehotel112
1. Cute alleyway near the hotel 2. Me in the lobby
tokyo_edit-54
Taking in the view

They also serve a buffet breakfast where you can select a hot cooked meal as well as your standard continental.

 

The staff will kindly point you in the right direction to a cheap and reliable bike rental too!

Travel tip: For best views, head to the top of a high-rise or hotel and you’ll get to see breathtaking panoramic views without a pricey admission fee.

View from the Keio Plaza Hotel
View from the Keio Plaza Hotel

WHERE TO EAT

I’ll let you in on a little secret… We found these ice creams on day one and have been trying to figure out how to import them to NZ ever since. Think of an eskimo pie wrapped in a wafer shell… oiishi! Best part? They’ll only set you back $1NZD. Pair it with an iced coffee from any 7 Eleven and you’re good to go.

img_8106
Best 7 Eleven finds

Buffet dinner at Keio Plaza: Fresh sushi, sashimi, katstu curry, miso, soba, salad – oh and not to mention dessert for days! For an all-you-can eat Japanese/Western fusion cuisine, check out Keio Plaza’s delicious buffet. Don’t leave with out a taste of their specialty sake and a pumpkin karaage ball!

keiofood
1. Chef preparing fish 2. Karaage pumpkin and curry 3. Waiter serving Sake
keiodinner1
Dining in the Keio Plaza restaurant
sunaho
Lovely Sunaho who invited us to dinner. Thank you for your kindness and hospitality, we loved meeting you!

While you’re there, check out the executive lounge on the rooftop. They serve light refreshments to enjoy overlooking the stunning city.

 

Sakata Shinjuku: While being vegetarian in Japan means omitting almost all ramen and soba soups, we found a vending machine restaurant which does a wicked vegetable tempura soba noodle dish, which we ordered with a side of the best tempura I’ve ever tasted. Highly recommend.

Chabuzen: Run by a lovely older man in Kitazawa, everything is vegan and cruelty free. I had to ask many times as a lot of the pictures looked like chicken, but he assured me in broken english that they were soy meat. We enjoyed a lovely bowl of vegan-ramen and Japanese vegetable curry. Each dish came with a petit entree snack and dessert.

chabuzen
1. Lovely chef 2. Chabuzen! 3. Vegan ramen noodles

WHAT TO WEAR

tokyofashion123
Dress: Camilla & Marc • Shoes: Dr Marten
fashiontokyo1
Jersey: Thrift store • Skirt: RUBY • Boots: Dr Marten • Sunglasses: 2nd Street Thrift store (chain)
shinkansenoutfit
Beanie: Grandma! • Jersey: Hospice shop • Jeans: Madewell • Shoes: Nike

Don’t feel the pressure to dress up. People in Tokyo look so incredibly swish 24/7, but remind yourself you are a traveller and supposed to look a little disheveled and windswept.

japan12

So I’ll leave you with those handy tips for now, but if you have any questions just flick me a message in the comments below and I would be happy to help. Up next is… Osaka!

Love,

Liv x

TWEET | FOLLOW | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK

OLIVIA ROUND TARANAKI

Known for:
Mountaineering
Surf championships
Spectacular alpine scenery
Interesting geology
Ruggard coast

Easter weekend sprung up fast. Once Thursday rolled around we realised we’d be saying ciao to the office for the next four days, and hello to more spontaneous adventures.

unnamed

David & I packed his trusty station wagon and hit the road midday on Friday – meandering down to Taranaki, 5 hours from Auckland. Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND TARANAKI”