082016Jul

Makishi Public Market

Similar to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market, heading to the Makishi Public Market means you’re looking for fresh local seafood. They do sell other things, but if it’s sashimi you want, good sashimi you’ll get. What you want to do here is to order food on the first floor and have the restaurants on the second floor prepare it. It does cost extra to have them prepare anything. Quite frankly if you’re only getting sashimi, you’re basically paying for a seat.

For us, we wanted a few cooked dishes. The place we picked  charged us ¥500 and had a recommendation on which fish vendor to visit. This is common and I don’t think one place does this better than another. Or at least, that’s what I like to think given the food preparation is simple. We choose a place given the atmosphere, fun and lively, but not too crowded. We talked over how it all worked then went downstairs. There were about ten different shops to visit and surprisingly they had Mandarin speaking workers. They must get a fair share of Chinese tourists. Once we went through everything we wanted to try, we let them know which restaurant we would be at. After paying we went upstairs and waited. The food came out within ten minutes. First was the sashimi which was no surprise. The workers behind the counter were focused on preparing sashimi. And no, this isn’t the type of place you want handcrafted nigiri. This was local eating.

The restaurant staff was attentive for the lunch crowd. There was only one but she was effective catering about seven large parties. All we needed extra to the meal were the beers, Orion beer that is. I was a happy camper after this meal.

Makishi Public Market (第一牧志公設市場)

2 Chome-10-1 Matsuo
Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0014, Japan

Verdict: If you check it out, be a little patient and check out prices at all the shops.

192015Jun

Twin Heart Stones and Sea Urchin

The southern most island in Penghu rests the Qimei township. A place where you can find the Twin Heart Stone Weir. We took a tour which included the boat and bus ride tour of the island, including some other points of interests around the area. Unless you have your own transportation this would be the only means of getting here. It’s not too bad though. I only saw about two other tour groups along our route. Nothing alarming even if you don’t like crowds. It made the almost deserted town feel a bit lively.

After a couple of stop we got to Twin Heart Stones. From the top you can clearly see the heart. But what I really like was the shop there. It was filled with food stalls toting fresh seafood. One of which was sea urchin. Oh yeah, a little roadside uni made this trip a whole lot better. However, it’s not for the feint of heart. It’s fresh, like super fresh, to the point they’re still alive and moving after the vendor cracked open the shell. As they washed them I couldn’t help but wonder if this was cruel. I’ll have to do some research. In any case, we only shared three among us.

There’s not much more to explore. I only checked out the other vendors who had everything from abalone to ice cream. We weren’t too hungry though.

Of all the stops on this tour, this was pretty good even though it was a bit of a tourist trap. Glad it didn’t cost too much.

Verdict: If you’re in Penghu, add this tour to your itinerary.

182015Jun

Squid Fishing

Out in Penghu, a small island chain west of Taiwan, there’s a local tourist activity of squid fishing. That’s right. Just when you thought shrimp fishing was challenging enough, here comes squid. I guess these things do get caught somehow. Now we, and a boat full of others, will find out how. I take that back, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t how it’s done.

We signed up for the trip at our hotel and went down to the dock close to sunset. It was an easy scooter ride there. It’s a short wait for everyone to get there and for them to start. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Everyone gets a life vest. You pick up your size and put it on before boarding.
  • Find yourself a seat on board, either inside or out. We picked outside to ensure we had a seat together in our group.
  • The boat ride out was about 30 minutes.
  • Once there, they turn on the lights in the water. That’s about when you start fishing.
  • Drop your line to about a few feet off the sea floor. Don’t worry, it won’t snag on anything.
  • Then wait. Patience.
  • We didn’t catch anything. So I don’t know what happens after that.

Some notes:

  • There was food toward the tail end of the trip.
  • Bring a light jacket. It can get a little chilly at night.
  • The whole trip takes about 2-3 hours.

Even though we didn’t have a grand story to tell of the giant kraken that got away, I’d have to say the experience was unique. I mean come on, how many times do you think you’d go fishing or even squid fishing. Not often huh? But unique enough for me to spend about 3 hours on a fishing boat with tourists? No. There’s this wonderful island to explore and I’d rather be in town eating and exploring. And that’s what we did after getting off the boat. Luckily there were still places open.

Verdict: Don’t do it!

 

142015Jun

Fushimi Inari Shrine

We chose to visit Shinto Shrine, famous for its rows and rows of Japanese Gates, on a Sunday. Not the best idea for someone who don’t like crowds. And boy do I not like crowds. But the weather was nice and we had little time in Japan. So off we went to this busy tourist attraction. A place I’ve always wanted to see in person.

Arriving there you get an idea of the crowds at the station stop. You’ll see people of all ages taking their Sunday to visit the shrine. At the base of the shrine felt like a night market with all the street vendors selling foods you can’t help but to raise an eyebrow at. Fried mochi on a stick? I think I’ll pass, kinda felt like county fair foods, Kyoto style. Once we made our way pass the foods to the entrance, we took a breather. Still so many people. Once you get started through the gates I had an uneasy feeling this was how the whole trek would be, elbow to elbow with tourists. But eventually we found the cause of the jam. Groups of tourists were taking pictures at the gates, especially at the split. Once we squeezed by, it was easy sailing. I wish I could have went back in time to tell people, there’s so many beautiful gates up ahead. Please disperse! Anyways, I don’t have super powers.

After finishing our tour of the shrine, I have some notes that may help you:

  • Go mid-week to lessen the crowds.
  • Along the same note, get to mid-mountain and the crowds will thin out.
  • Bring a water bottle if you plan to trek through the whole shrine.
  • Build up your appetite for some amazing unagi, eel, in town

Getting there by railway is pretty easy. Just take either the JR Nara or the Keihan line to Inari. From there it’s a quick walk to the base of the shrine. There’s no entrance fee so take your time and enjoy the scenery!

Verdict: Worth the visit.

132015Jun

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

After our boat ride we went up into the bamboo forrest. We passed by a few restaurants and ryokans overlooking the river and turned up the street. A few rickshaw drivers were running their patrons up the block. It was a little amusing given the short distance they covered. I figured they were raising money for their schools given how young and athletic they were. Great idea and so much better then a car wash.

Once we got inside the grove the tall trees provided us with some shade form the sun. We strolled along the paths stopping for photos and small shrines. The amount of people were bearable. You really wish there were less people to take in the beautiful scenes. But it’s a public place, one can’t be too selfish.

Overall the place is rather small and quaint. Plan for about an hour or two within the groves. The walk probably covers only a mile when you add it all up.

When we were done we made our way to town streets that were filled with shops. Lots of places to eat and shops for you to check out. Shops specialized in everything from souvenirs to plum vinegar to Kaiseki, multi-course Japanese cuisine. We stopped by for some unagi, eel, which I’ll cover later, and some dessert. If I had more room in my suit case I’d probably do more shopping. There were so many stores. But warning, the shops do close early. By 7pm places were closing down. I didn’t get to buy a cookie tin I had seen earlier. Mental note, don’t hesitate on small purchases.

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