The Matsushima Oyster Festival and a visit to Entsuin Temple


Matsushima, a small city near Sendai in the Miyagi prefecture (in Tohoku, Japan), is worth visiting any time of the year. The Japanese consider the views of Matsushima Bay, teeming with more than 260 small islands, to be one of the most beautiful views in the country. As you may or may not know, the Japanese love making lists. Especially lists that rank things. They are also a people obsessed with natural beauty, man-made beauty and festivals. So, for centuries, they have designated and celebrated things like the country’s top three gardens, Kyoto’s top five Zen temples, Japan’s top three festivals featuring floats, Kamakura’s top ten wells, etc. Most famous among the many designations might be Japan’s three most scenic places. Selected several hundred years ago, they are Matsushima, Miyajima and Amanohashidate.  Continue Reading →

Tohoku, Japan’s onsen (hot spring) paradise


There are few things as relaxing and pleasurable than taking a bath–Japanese style–in natural hot spring water. For those of you who have yet to experience the joys of the onsen (the Japanese term for hot springs and baths using their waters), you have no idea what you are missing. I, myself, didn’t until a few years ago. For most of my life, I’ve been a shower person. I truly didn’t see the point of and never appreciated baths. But then, for a consultancy gig I had undertaken for a hotel collections company, I spent two and half weeks visiting some of Japan’s most beautiful and unique boutique hotels and inns, several of which boasted onsens among their main selling points.  Continue Reading →

Higashiya: translating Japanese culture for contemporary palates


Before I had even experienced modern wagashiya (Japanese confectionary shop), Higashiya for myself, I was already enamoured of the discreet yet clearly orchestrated style of the brand; by the time I had my first Higashiya encounter, I was well and truly hooked. Continue Reading →

Best Cookbooks of 2012


I am a cookbook junkie. I have an entire bookcase of cookbooks and food related non-fiction titles. And I have been trying to wean myself from this addiction. Unfortunately, in 2012 there were so many exciting new cookbooks introduced that I couldn’t resist. After reading about so many in my “go-to” food magazines, websites and blogs, I narrowed it down to the top six cookbooks of 2012. These were the most recommended, most blogged about, most inspiring cookbooks of 2012 – and I acquired them all. I simply couldn’t resist and I am glad I didn’t because now I am experimenting with all sorts of cuisines I love but had previously rarely made at home.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Christmas is coming up fast. And while some of you may have already completed all your holiday shopping, I’m sure there are many more who are still seeking out the perfect gifts for your loved ones. The below list are some of my favourite things–gifts that I’ve purchased for family and friends, or gifts that I’ve been fantasizing about receiving myself. In the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, I’ve kept to 12 gifts, one for each day. I hope some of the below inspire you. Happy Holidays!  Continue Reading →

Holiday Treats and a Crazy Christmas

Tis almost the season and in preparation of the holiday period, I’ve been planning what to serve family and friends who come-a-visiting. My own two favourite holiday treats are eggnog and Mexican wedding cookies (pictured above). Another great holiday tradition is Dream Academy‘s Crazy Christmas show.   Continue Reading →

Cloud 9 Living experience: Bubbly in Long Island NY

Cloud 9 Living is a provider of experience gifts – instead of providing the traditional physical gift, they organise experiences so that that wonderful memories can be made. They pride themselves on providing premium class customer service and I personally found that to be true. Founded in 2005, they have 1,700 experiences in 43 regions in the United States. When I was contacted by Aun about experiencing firsthand one of Cloud 9 Living’s experiences, I was ecstatic! There are several categories for me to choose from: food and wine, driving, fighter pilot for a day, golf, learn to fly, action and adventure and more! The experiences look amazing and are appropriate for birthdays, anniversaries, corporate gifts and more. I picked the private winery tour and picnic as I wanted to take the opportunity to go out to the Long Island wineries in a more intimate setting, enjoy the good weather while it lasted and spend some quality time with my sister. Continue Reading →

Capitol Hotel Tokyu, a fabulous city hotel

Choosing a hotel in a big city is always a tricky thing. Do you choose style over substance or substance over style. Do you choose convenience over cost? Do you choose a hotel with great F&B outlets or just something with a comfortable room, preferring to eat and drink elsewhere? If the city has multiple great neighbourhoods, how do you decide which one you want to stay in? All hard questions and for each traveler, what qualifies as the best hotel is entirely subjective. For me, right now, my favourite place to stay in Tokyo has to be the Capitol Hotel TokyuContinue Reading →

A quick chat with Hossan Leong

I’ve known Hossan Leong for quite a while now. I really admire his determination and his passion, both on and off stage/screen. When it was announced that he’d be directing a Dream Academy production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company, I was really thrilled. I’m a big musical theatre fan and Stephen Sondheim is my all-time favourite composer-lyricist. Company is opening here in Singapore on 1 November 2012 and will run until 11 November (please, please, please support Hossan and Dream Academy and buy tickets for this show). Hossan was kind enough to chat with me a bit about Company, Sondheim and French food.   Continue Reading →

One day itinerary for Arashiyama, Kyoto

During our most recent trip to Kyoto, my wife S and I had the pleasure of staying in a gorgeous resort in the Arashiyama region. But whether or not you stay overnight in this area, Arashiyama is well worth visiting. Its history as a popular destination stretches back to the Heian Period (794-1185). Today, its combination of stunning natural landscapes, Tenryuji Temple, postcard-worthy bamboo groves, and a treasure trove of small restaurants and shops make this far Western part of Kyoto (among domestic travellers) the second most visited tourist area in Kyoto.  Continue Reading →