Luxury Travel: Malaysia Airlines

My job entails a lot of travelling, sometimes as local as Wollongong and if I am lucky, other times as exotic as Asia or as far as Europe. Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to head to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…but what I was more excited about was travelling in business class. I would not have had an opportunity to fly in business class so soon if it were not for work, so I thought you might be interested to peek into what lies beyond that curtain separating us plebs from the hoity toity business class travellers.

First up is Malaysian Airlines.

Malaysia Airlines Business Class

Our flight was actually delayed by a few hours which meant we had more time to relax in the plush armchairs of the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge at Sydney International Airport with complimentary wifi, snack cheeses, cakes, chocolates and an abundance of drinks. Although we were flying Business, they kindly let us have access to the First Class lounge as the air conditioning was absolutely freezing in the Business Class lounge – the only difference we found were the drinks on offer at the bar counter so instead of Smirnoff they had Grey Goose, instead of Gordon’s they had Tanqueray etc. We also took advantage of the “Bistro” which offered made to order meals like nasi goreng, chicken laksa and chicken curry.

Chicken Laksa

Chicken Laksa from Golden Lounge Bistro

Stay cool, stay cool is all my colleague and I were thinking as we made the unfamiliar left turn as we boarded the plane and were greeted by the stewards, by name. Almost immediately we were offered magazines to read and pre-flight drinks, deciding to have the signature guava juice.

While my colleague was more interested in getting some shut eye, I was more interested in the food served! Malaysia Airlines “satay service” won Skytrax Best Signature Dish 2013. OMG the signature satay sticks for appetizers were lip smacking good, they offer a mixture of beef or chicken but I asked for all chicken and mopped all the spicy satay sauce up. The rest of the meal was also pretty good a prawn and avocado salad, silver cod served with potatoes and a capsicum sauce.

There was plenty of leg space for a myself at 152cm, and plenty of storage for our hand luggage which could be placed either in the overhead compartment or the compartment between the seat and the window, which I prefer to placing small bags under the seat in front of you. I was really impressed with the amenities Tumi pouch with a mini Colgate plax mouthwash and toothpaste, hairbrush, Infectiguard hand sanitizer, Clarins lip balm, Clarins hand and nail cream and Clarins hydra quench cream. Also loved the noise cancelling headphone which I could pop over my ear pain plugs while I watched Taken 2. The only disappointment was that the seat did not lie flat 180 degrees, the back reclined however the leg rest was at an angle which made it uncomfortable as I risked slipping off the seat to the floor. If I were paying for business class, I’d definitely want to be able to lie flat. The service was efficient, friendly and it was easy to communicate to the flight attendants. I could not wait for the return flight home so I could have some more of the satay sticks XP

Satay Service

Chicken Satay sticks

Prawn and avocado salsa

Silver cod served with potatoes and a capsicum sauce

TUMI amenities kit

Hey mummy, I’m being good with a guava juice!

Anmitsu Mihashi, Tokyo Japan

Let me share one of my favourite places for Japanese mochi and sweets in Japan. Mihashi is a kanmidokoro, a cafe selling all my favourite traditional sweets which opened in Ueno during the Edo period (it now has multiple stores in Japan).

We came here for their signature anmitsu dessert but I also wanted to havve some mochi. A light second lunch before dessert if you will.
We traditionally eat ozoni at the start of a New Year when we make our own mochi (using a machine, we don't pound it with a wooden hammer here XP) from scratch and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it runs out. Ozoni is a light bonito dashi broth with mochi, chicken, shiitake, prawn and a fluffy egg. I loved how there was a garnish of mitsuba (I'm yet to find this herb locally) which made a subtle difference to the broth. Mum also ordered the isobeyaki which is grilled mochi brushed with soy sauce and wrapped in seaweed.

Anmitsu is a traditional Japanese dessert with small cubes of agar jelly, a mitsu (brown sugar syrup) is poured over the jelly and eaten with red bean paste, fruits and sweet gyuhi mochi. I chose the Shiratama Cream Anmitsu just in case I hadn't had enough mochi…an anmitsu served with vanilla soft cream, shiratama (rice flour dumplings) and mandarins.

Mihashi
 
Ozoni
   
Isobeyaki
 
Shiratama Cream Anmitsu

Mihashi is the best place for anmitsu and their menu consists of variations of anmitsu with seasonal fruits, strawberries, shiratama, green tea, soft serve etc. The most popular dish here is probably the Matcha Anmitsu, anmitsu with bitter sweet green tea ice cream which is handmade.

Mihashi
Tokyo Station
Ichiban Gai

Merry Christmas Deco-Roll cake

Hellooo it has been a while hasn't it…

Finally it started to look like summer on Christmas Day and just like all the other mad people with their ovens turned on, I did the same and made another deco-roll cake which turned out perfectly! Yay me!


Christmas Wreath deco-roll cake

Anyhoo apologies for the lack of posts as of late…blahh so I'm back from my holiday in Hong Kong – Shanghai – Japan, celebrated our 9 year anniversary, turned twenty four, survived Christmas and ate a whole lot of chocolates! Annnnd enough with the excuses I'll leave you with a few photos from the last month and a half from Instagram.





Now to bring on the New Year…I'll try and bake a New Year themed deco-roll cake too in a few days and possibly start the New Year with a few posts from my travels. Stay tuned ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kuidaore in Dotombori a food mecca

Through the Shinsaibashi shopping arcade and under the flashes of neon lights, gigantic billboards and mechanical mascots lies the food mecca of Osaka, Dotombori located in the minami area of Osaka. Compared to the Kita Osaka, Minami Osaka is where you'll find the hustle and bustle with restaurants, bars, karaoke, clubs, pachinko parlours lining and squeezed in every nook and cranny of Dotombori.

Dotombori has a food culture and of course there is an abundance of food everywhere to satisfy any of your food cravings. There is saying in Osaka "kuidaore" which means to 'enjoy and eat food past your hearts content' until you ruin yourself and wallet – sort of like the food version of 'shop til you drop' ๐Ÿ˜› So we did just that…gorging on Osaka's street food.

We enjoyed walked along Dotomborigawa (river) which is said to have inspired Bladerunner and watched the dazzling lights of the billboards (though not all of them were lit up to conserve energy and respect Northern Japan), listened to the buskers on Ebisubashi bridge and people watched the young fashionistas. I loved the liveliness and the fun atmosphere of Dotombori and it's vibrance where here the flashiest seems to mean the best.


Shinsaibashi the start of the 600m roofed shopping arcade

Lotteria Ebi (prawn) Burger
Lotteria is a burger chain in Japan where I had an Ebi Burger (290Y) better than KFC Shanghai and Bill had a Cheeseburger set with melon soda and a juicy fried chicked for around 870Y and fought over a crispy sausage roll…in hindsight t was only 190Y so we probably should have gotten two… Overall Lotteria burgers are good but I still prefer the burgers at Freshness Burger which is another burger chain in Japan.

Glico Man of Glico candy

Tsubora-ya famous for you guessed it fugu!

Otakoya
No they don't really sell takoyaki in Coke cups but in boat cups for only 300Y (not $8AUD like in Chinatown). Instead of takoyaki again we shared an ika-yaki which is a deliciously baked squid encased in a cracked egg.

Ika-yaki

Glico Confectionary
Glico produces many of my childhoold favourites including Pocky, Caramel and Bisco which are bite size wheat germ crackers with a milky cream filling.

Coco-Rico crepes

Banana Strawbery Chocolate Crepe


Giant Takoyaki Pretz and Green Tea Pretz

You'll come to realise Japan loves limited editions and seasonal items so there are Pretz flavours you're only able to buy in certain areas like the takoyaki flavour and okonomiyaki flavours are only sold in the Kansai region.

Spring and sakura in Osaka, Japan

Hurrah spring has finally arrived! It was only a few months ago when I was experiencing spring in Japan where we were blesssed as the sakura were still blooming when we arrived. It was quite unimaginable to think how tumltuous the month leading into spring was in Japan but the cherry blossoms in all it's breathtaking beauty brought a calm and sense of hope to the nation.

Our first leg of our Japan trip was in Osaka having arrived at Kansai airport. Osaka is only three hours from Tokyo on the shinkansen and a mere 15mins from Kyoto. It is generally divided into Kita (north) where the business district is as well as the bigger department stores and Minami (south) is where Osaka through the hustle and bustle of the city comes to life.  

On our first full day in Japan we decided to view Osaka castle and the surrounding park located in Kita Osaka. Osaka-jo (castle) was once built to signify unity in Japan however after several civil wars saw it subsequently destroyed, it is now a recontruction of the original castle. It's a beautiful and regal tower gilded in gold rising above Osaka and surrounded by a deep moat. Unfortunately it's not really a "castle" and inside it actually houses a museum documenting the history of Osaka castle.
From Osaka station we hopped on a train to Tenmabashi (a 10min walk from Osaka castle). However from the window of our train we saw a wide river lined with cherry blossoms and spontaneously got off the train without knowing where we were which is very unlike me and a result of Bill's influences. It happened to be Sakuranomiya station and we followed the crowds to Sakuranomiya park which is know for it's 4700 cherry blossom trees. We took a casual stroll along Ogawa (literally big river) under the very impressive sakura trees and headed towards Osaka castle which we could see in the distance. It turned out to be a fairly long walk but we were mesmerised by the blue sky lined with pink clouds and from watching petals gently flutter to the ground in front of our paths. I think our walk took two hours to eventually reach the castle but we had so much fun people watching on our way as groups camped along the river with their grills and booze, and checked out small food stalls along the way (mostly selling takoyaki).


The view from the train


Osaka castle in the distance

After two hours…Osaka-jo
Our morning "stroll" over we headed back to Osaka station which just so happens to be really close to all the luxury stores and big department stores such as Daimaru, Yodobashi Camera, Hankyu department store and Hep Five where a huge ferris wheel sits atop it. Being the main transport hub in Osaka we did get a little lost but found an awesome "water" clock on the south side of the building which we watched in awe with a couple of younger kids.

Before intensely hitting the shopping strips we take a break at Starbucks and we were presented and overwhelmed by the "sakura" options they had on offer – I went a little crazy and we shared a sakura macaron, sakura latte, sakura frappuccino and sakura chiffon cake… they also had sakura scones and sakura cake pops. Unfortunately the sakura macaron was pretty but had no substance, but on the other hand the sakura chiffon cake was fluffy and surprisingly I even enjoyed the icing on top. We weren't sure what to expect from the sakura frappuccino but it was quite refreshing with a hint of sourness but the sakura latte was too milky to be able to anjoy the flavours.

With our sugar levels back up it was time to hit Shinsaibashi a 600m shopping arcade ๐Ÿ˜€


Osaka Station

Osaka South Side Building

more sakura!

pretty patterns

OSAKA WOW!

Yes, we're easily amused and that is another minute of our life gonee

Starbucks Sakura Latte, Sakura Macaron and Sakura Chiffon Cake

Takonotetsu Pizza Ball House, Osaka

We arrived in Osaka late at night and after checking into our hotel we were in desperate need of a feed and lucky for us there in the basement floor of our building was filled with restaurants. Since we are in the birth place of takoyaki no trip to Osaka is complete with having a takoyaki feast so we found ourselves walking into Takonotetsu Pizza Ball House. I'm not really sure why they're called "pizza ball house" when it's not really a pizza at all… Takoyaki literally means grilled octopus and is a perfect ball of pan-fried batter encasing small pieces of octopus with spring onions, tenkasu (tempura flakes), pickled ginger and topped off with Japanese mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce and katsuobushi (bonito flakes).

The restaurant walls are lined with retired takoyaki grill plates and had an izakaya atmosphere to it – rowdy, full and abuzz. They had so many different types of takoyaki so it was hard to choose, even harder as I had to explain each type to Bill but eventually we decided to order takoyaki (580yen) and curry takoyaki (680yen) and also a modern okonomiyaki (800yen). Our drink of choice for the night was lime chuhaichuhai is a cocktail with soda and lemon mixed with shochu a vodka-like distilled liquor. With our drinks in tow we start to tackle cooking our own takoyaki – our table even comes with instructions!
    1. Grease our takoyaki grill plates and our waitress places a couple of dices of octopus into each well.
    2. Pour in the takoyaki batter.
    3. Add whatever we want – some shallots, benishoga (pickled ginger) and lots and lots of tenkasu.
    4. Ready to turn our ingredients into perfect takoyaki balls.

The guys at Golo Tako at the Friday night markets make it look so easy but we were having trouble turning the batter into balls so Bill bravely asked the manager to help us. The manager was a colourful character and with his limited english taught us how to twirl the batter really fast and once he finished his demo he yelled out "CHALLENGE!" and so we went right ahead trying. Eventually we kind of mastered the art of shaping the batter into a perfect ball – the secret is it's all in the wrist ๐Ÿ˜‰
Once they resemble small golf balls drizzle okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise on top and sprinkle with some katsuobushi and aonori and we're done. Ours turned out quite good the exterior was crunchy and the batter was soft and was piping hot as it oozed out. I think it was more delicious because we made it ourselves!

We were keen to go to a few more of these DIY takoyaki houses to try again and master the art of twirling perfectly shaped takoyaki balls but sadly we didn't have enough time. Fully satisfied we retired to our small and cosy hotel room to watch some crazy Japanese game shows one of which involved a competition of whose dog can wag their tail the most within a minute….

 
Psycho killer octopus invites you in…

 
Instructions
 
Lime Chuhai
 
 
 
 
 
 
Takoyaki and Curry Takoyaki
 
Modern Okonomiyaki
 
Takonotestu Pizza Ball House

You, Me and The World (hopefully)

I love travelling…and Bill loves travelling for and with me XP We love spending quality time together, the freedom of walking and exploring new cities and having ten meals a day. However, as much as I'd like to say we're the same type of travellers – we're definitely not – in fact we're completely different I'm a meticulous planner and he likes to go with the flow, I like to start early in the day and he prefers to sleep in which leads us to bicker and quarrel but somehow we manage and are grateful and love the priceless experiences we've gained from travelling with each other. We've only just begun travelling together but hopefully we'll be able globetrot around the world and I don't believe you can really "do" a city during a short holiday so I forsee many more repeated trips to come. So I've decided to really start a travel log to share our experiences with you and our relatives overseas but mostly for us to reminisce on those travels. Bill recently asked if he had missed my Japan posts, but actually I hadn't even begun but that's all about to change…now!

Japan April 2011

Unfortunately the weeks leading up to our holiday to Japan was filled with grief and uncertainty for personal reasons and the apocalyptic situation in Northern Japan. To each their own and we had the hard decision of postponing or going ahead with our trip but after careful discussion with my family in Japan, my parents and friends living in various areas of Japan we decided to re-jig our itinerary and focus our time in Southern Japan and we did not regret it. I often joke to Bill that Japan is superior in every way which is totally biased but I digress…Japan is unique and a world apart from anywhere else. There was so much to absorb – the sights, the culture, the food oh-the-food! – everything just tastes so much better in Japan. I tried to get as much of a variety for Bill to experience but I don't think we even tried many specialities. However most of all, Bill was mostly affected and overwhelmed by the nature of Japanese people more than anything – the humility, respect and general social harmony which was evidence that Japan would come out stronger out of the crisis. People often ask me if I'd ever live in Japan and my answer would always be a no and I'd be pretty adamant about it as I've always felt that the lifestyle wouldn't suit me. However I think we both left our hearts in Japan last April as we'd both seriously consider it – so much that we couldn't wait to go back… so we're off again in November and I CAN.NOT.WAIT! Let's see how many posts I can share with you all before then.