The SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium – A Great Place to Beat the Summer Heat

Melbourne Aquarium 2015 Melbourne Aquarium 2015 Melbourne Aquarium 2015

If you ever find yourself in need of a place to escape the horrid summer heat of Melbourne, pop into SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium for a few hours and only venture back outside when you think the sun’s gone down. Oops, nope, my mistake — in summer, darkness doesn’t come till 9pm. That’s long after the aquarium closes for the day (6pm). No matter, it’s still worth a visit if you’re anywhere near the city. Their star attraction seems to be the penguin enclosure, found right at the end of your journey – they save the best for last. Oh, and they also have critters that you would not think to find at an aquarium, including tarantulas, lizards and snakes. Continue reading “The SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium – A Great Place to Beat the Summer Heat”

Kyoto Aquarium @ Umekoji Park, Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto Aquarium Kyoto Aquarium

Well, it was bound to happen! We’ve done Sumida Aquarium and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyūkan. Now, we can cross Kyoto Aquarium (京都水族館, Kyōto Suizokukan) off our Japanese Aquariums list! Located in the northern part of Umekoji Park, the modern complex of Kyoto Aquarium is a relaxing 10 to 15 minute walk from Kyoto Station. Continue reading “Kyoto Aquarium @ Umekoji Park, Kyoto, Japan”

Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyūkan) @ Tempozan Harbour Village, Osaka Bay Area

Osaka Aquarium Neon Tetra Osaka Aquarium Osaka Aquarium Jellyfish

“Jeez, is it school holidays or something? This place is packed!” 

Somehow, I’d convinced James to let me drag him to the Osaka Aquarium (海遊館). It’d be like a romantic date, I assured him. Secretly, I just wanted to take cool pictures of aquatic creatures and fantasise about the possibility of keeping rare species in my own home. James’ role was relegated to being the “photographer’s assistant” – a role that he assured me he didn’t mind (he probably did). Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for James I suppose, the aquarium had become a temporary can of sardines that day (there’s probably a pun in there somewhere) and taking photos was almost impossible with the number of kids (and adults!) jostling their way to the front. I believe I gave up being a photographer at some point and the aquarium visit did end up becoming a date after all. Continue reading “Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyūkan) @ Tempozan Harbour Village, Osaka Bay Area”

Exploring Tokyo II {Meiji Jingu, ARTNIA Café, Rikugien, Asakusa, Sumida}

Tokyo, Japan

Our second day in Tokyo was unbelievably sunny. We had a very, very full day to make up for the day before. We woke up early and made a quick trip back to Harajuku to revisit Meiji Jingu and Yoyogi Park to take better photographs. The beautiful weather made everything so much brighter and the atmosphere infinitely cheerier. Following that, we had breakfast at the Square Enix ARTNIA Café in Shinjuku, took a train to Komagome Station and wandered around Rikugien Garden, spent some time in Asakusa exploring Nakamise Street and viewing Sensō-ji Temple, and finally walked all the way to the Tokyo Skytree to visit the Sumida Aquarium and the observation deck on the 350th floor.

1. Yoyogi Park & Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit of Emperor Meiji. Unlike many of the shrines and temples in Tokyo, Meiji Jingu exudes a tranquil, almost austere air, making it the perfect place for leisurely stroll on a cool afternoon. The shrine itself is located in the 200 acre Yoyogi Park, with a towering 40 foot high Torii gate marking the entrance. A relaxing 10 minute walk through the park will get you to the shrine, where you can stop to purify your hands and mouth at the chōzuya (purification fountain), before making an offering at the offering hall or writing your wish on an ema for the kami to receive. Meiji Jingu is best accessed from Harajuku Station on the JR East Yamanote Line. Whilst the shrine itself is free, some of the surrounding gardens and the treasure house have an admission fee.

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2. Sweet Box Crêpes, Harajuku

A trip to Harajuku isn’t complete without trying a dessert crêpe, so despite it being a rather unhealthy snack, we couldn’t stop ourselves from getting a crêpe at one of the many iconic stands dotted along Takeshita Street. After spending far too long trying to decide what we wanted out of the sinful array of fillings (including everything from gelato to a whole slice of cheesecake), we settled on a simple double chocolate banana and cream crêpe (¥490) from Sweet Box. The crêpe itself was beautifully soft and chewy with slightly crispy edges, and the bananas were perfectly ripe and sweet.

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3. Square Enix ARTNIA Café, Shinjuku

After Harajuku, we took the train straight to Shinjuku to have breakfast at the Square Enix ARTNIA Café (one of our definite must-see places on our itinerary, because we’re such adorable geeks). Dedicated fans of Square Enix mustn’t pass up a visit to ARTNIA, located in Higashi-Shinjuku Hillside. Whilst its sleek, egg-shaped exterior may look underwhelming, the interior boasts both a café and a shop full of Square Enix merchandise (mostly dominated by Dragon Quest, but Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts fans still have a reasonable selection). The café features Square Enix themed food and drinks, such as the Buster Sword Chocolate Parfait, Materia and High Potion beverages, and Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy themed pancakes.

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4. Rikugien Garden, Bunkyō-ku

Stomachs full of pancakes, we made our way to Rikugien Garden (near Komagome Station, located along the JR East Yamanote Line). At just ¥300 to get in, the park is definitely one of the best places to see fall colours. Featuring a large central pond surrounded by manmade hills and forested areas, it is a fairly extensive park that can take you over an hour to explore. Rikugien is often considered one of Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape gardens.

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5. Nakamise Street & Sensō-ji, Asakusa

For a taste of old Tokyo, Asakusa must not be missed. Once a prime location for prostitutes and gangsters during the Edo period, Asakusa offers a mellow contrast to Tokyo’s intense modernity. The main attraction in Asakusa is Sensō-ji, a colourful Buddhist temple enshrining a statue of the goddess of mercy Kannon, supposedly fished out of the Sumida River by two brothers. Sensō-ji starts with Kaminarimon, the thunder gate, with its famous giant lantern and statues of Raijin and Fujin (the gods of thunder and wind). Leading up to the main gate is Nakamise-dori, a 250 metre long shopping street lined with shops selling all sorts of local snacks, Buddhist paraphernalia and souvenirs.

6. Sumida Aquarium & Skytree Observation Deck

Not far away from Asakusa is Tokyo Skytree Town, a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at the base of the famous Tokyo Skytree. The Skytree, Japan’s tallest structure at a staggering 634 metres, offers spectacular views over Tokyo from its two observation decks (at 350 and 450 metres). For those afraid of heights, Sumida Aquarium, located at the base of the Skytree, is a great alternative. The highlight of the aquarium is the 350 thousand litre open tank housing dozens of penguins and sea lions. Aquarium enthusiasts will also appreciate the breathtaking displays by Takashi Amano.

Tokyo Skytree Town can be reached by a 20 minute walk across the Sumida river from Asakusa, or from the Tokyo Skytree Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line. Entry to the Tokyo Skytree costs ¥2060 for the lower deck, and an extra ¥1020 for the upper deck. Entry to the aquarium costs ¥2050.

Makeshift Macro: A Blurry Aquatic Story

Because I read somewhere that you can create your own makeshift macro lens by attaching a magnifying glass to the end of your camera lens, I decided to try it out for some fun. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I actually managed to get a few creative close-ups of the fish in my aquarium. Okay, so the shots weren’t perfect, but then again, the fish were darting all over the place and it was hard to get still shots of them! Oh well, imperfections and peculiarities are what make photographs infinitely unique and irreplaceable anyway!

Equipment: Nikon D3100 + NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5 lens + a magnifying glass.

Anyway, whimsical experimentation aside, I would like to let you readers know that James and I are leaving for Tokyo early tomorrow morning. Our flight is at 8:00, which means we’ve gotta be at the airport by about 6:00. Oh, I bet you it’ll be freezing at that time! Winter’s here and it gets unbearably cold in the early mornings. Ugh. But, but, but… JAPAN! We’ve waited forever for this trip, and now we finally get to go! I promise to take heaps of fancy pictures while I’m there so that when I return, I’ll have something to blog about! In the meantime, I won’t be updating for the next couple of weeks while I’m away. But watch this space for Japan posts when I get back! :)

Also, tomorrow marks our 16th month together as a sexy couple. Yeah, we’re cool! ;)

A Sneak Peek at Angie’s New Nikon D3100

Hello, readers! I have very exciting news to share with you! A couple of days ago, my daddy bought me a new DSLR camera to play with! Yes, I know, I’m a very spoilt little child. It’s a Nikon D3100 and it came with a twin lens kit for a very good price. An excellent price, in fact. Why? Because, upon getting home and checking the kit and the receipt, I discovered that they made a mistake in charging us for the camera and we ended up paying at least a hundred dollars less for the already-discounted product. Lucky me!

Anyway, I haven’t had many opportunities to gallivant and take awesome pictures with my new toy yet because of university commitments, but I’ve been playing around with it and managed to sneak in a few test shots during my free time.

Majority of the pictures I’ve posted in the past have been taken using my iPhone 4. I’m happy that I’ve got a proper camera now so I can share clearer, higher quality images with you guys! Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll forget all about my handy iPhone camera and all the convenient filter applications I have! :)

14 Months, A New Aquarium, White Day

So, many things have happened since the last time I blogged. On Thursday, 1st of March, James and I celebrated our 14 months together. I stayed over at his place because his parents were away. As a surprise, I baked him some mocha cinnamon chocolate chip cookies in the shape of little hearts. In return, he surprised me with a batch of sugar cookies (a few of which were cut into dinosaur and heart shapes). They were absolutely lovely and the texture was perfect. They were soft but still retained a bit of crunchiness which I always enjoy in sugar cookies. I liked them so much that I asked for the recipe! James wasn’t too happy about them, however. He didn’t think they were good enough as a monthaversary present, so he actually made me another batch of goodies a few days later to make up for his ‘fail’ sugar cookies, although I didn’t think they were bad at all! His other batch of goodies? Wonderfully fluffy little melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate and pink icing, which honestly blew me away!

Daytime antics at James’ house. We eat and do funny dances. Most of the time. Well, probably all of the time, if we’re not busy baking/cooking in the kitchen.

On Friday afternoon, we had a wonderful little picnic under the shade of one of the billion large palm trees outside James’ house. We had a really nice view of the water. Halfway through the picnic, Pickles and Bonanza flew into the tree we were under to come squeak hello. Well, they were pretty much observing us with their cute little curious stares. One of them eventually hung upside down on one of the palm fronds and stayed in that position long time just looking at us being all cuddly and kissy. I’ve seen Pickles and Bonanza be very cuddly and kissy towards each other and I bet you they think it’s rather nice to see human couples act the same way too!

  

When we went back inside the house, we hung out downstairs (where no one really hangs out), and had a little short-lived competition at the pool table. I lost. Enough said.

 

On Saturday, 3rd March, mum and dad treated us to a yum cha lunch at Top One. It was an extremely filling and satisfying lunch. I don’t spend much time with my busy parents anymore so it was nice to be out with them. After that, James and I visited the huge pet store at Biggera Waters (Brontasurus) to look at cute little animals. From yellow ducklings to Persian kittens to Japanese quails to Mexican Axolotls, this store always has something to offer! I was quite interested in the fish section. I used to keep fish as a kid and my house back in Singapore had a large 90 gallon (~340 litre) aquarium that was full of amazing tropical fish.

Anyway, when we got home from the pet store, guess what my parents had waiting for me in my bedroom! A brand new aquarium! Alright, so it’s tiny (only about 5 or 6 gallons), but still! I now have a new little fish tank sitting in my bedroom! It’s been a week and a bit since I got the tank now, so it’s currently stocked with a bunch of living creatures, but it took a lot of work getting the tank to the state it’s in now! All the rocks and gravel and planting and water testing! Well, at least there’s fish in there now and they seem happy! :)

As well as the aquarium, my parents brought home a tasty mini Japanese cheesecake for James and I to share! ♥

The 6th of March was Ann’s birthday. There was a little family dinner at Naomi’s house. Naomi prepared an awesome bangers and mash dinner, plus bread and butter pudding for dessert. So full afterwards! For Ann’s birthday present, I got her a set of Crabtree and Evelyn products that came in the prettiest box ever, and also, a pashmina cashmere shawl. Ann is James’ mum, by the way!

 
Left: Ella with her daddy, playing with the mini trampoline!
Right: Mohawk’d Ella and her granddaddy!

13th March (Tuesday), James came over and handed me two adorably wrapped presents as early White Day gifts. He stuck little messages written in Japanese on them, which I thought was very clever and cute. Inside the presents were, of course, chocolate. Lindt chocolate. Yummy, yummy!

Well guys, that’s all I have to blog about. I just want to finish off this blog entry by adding that James and I have booked flights to Japan and we’ll be going in May. We’ll be staying in Yokohama and Tokyo. I am extremely excited! Can’t wait!