Tag Archive | travel

Tsugaru Channel swim: the EPIC video

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. I shall just say that 2018 has been an EPIC year for me. And hopefully I’ll get around to writing about some various highlight at some point before the year end.

But for the past 8 months of the year, I was swimming. A lot. I achieved a bucketlist item of swimming Tsugaru Channel (that body of water between Honshu and Hokkaido) and one of the Oceans Seven swims. I swam it as part of an international 3-person relay with two friends (also expats in Tokyo). And for the record, I’ve been trying to do this swim for the past 2-3 years and was never chosen for a slot. But at the end of 2017, I was finally notified of a last-minute slot for 2018 (I think due to someone else cancelling).

It was quite the journey in terms of training and build-up and the actual swim itself. Will eventually write an epic swim report, but for now, I will leave you with the EPIC video documenting our channel swim which we did on 19-20 July 2018. The film was shot and edited by my amazingly talented friend (and crew support on the swim) Matt.

For your viewing pleasure: (and yes, we really did this!)

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Hong Kong high tea at Mandarin Oriental

So many high teas which I have yet to blog about. This one dates back to May 2015. I was on a business trip to Hong Kong and managed to catch up with a friend over there and squeeze in a high tea.

There’s no shortage of high teas in Hong Kong, but I finally settled on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel as it was in a convenient location.

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There’s nothing like a relaxing afternoon of tea and food.

Sadly, the afternoon tea wasn’t particularly amazing, but it sufficed.

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Dolphin swimming in Japan

Another opportunity to swim with wild dolphins, this time I got to go on as crew.

It’s pretty amazing to be able to swim with wild dolphins. It didn’t get off to a great start but in the end, we saw a lot. I got in one particular awesome jump.

At one point, we got so close to them, it was pretty incredible.

Coming straight for me:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

A cool shot as they swam underneath me:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

These dolphins were particularly playful and stuck around for a while.

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

There were about 5-7 dolphins in this shot:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

And on a separate jump, we saw a mother and a baby dolphin, but they didn’t stick around to play.

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

Seeing dolphins from the boat:

From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016
From Dolphins June 2016

Ishigaki 5km OWS swim race

First open water swim race for the summer and the year was a 5k-er. The destination – idyllic. Water temp – too hot.

I had wanted to do an open water swim race in Okinawa for a while now – Japan’s answer to paradise. Ishigakijima did not disappoint. A really beautiful island for water lovers. Even managed to round a few friends to join not only the trip, but also the swim.

Headed down on the first flight on Thursday and spent Thursday and Friday sightseeing. Saturday May 30 was race day. It was a scorcher. In the mid-30 degrees, but felt closer to 40. And the water was like a bath. Ugh. Much too hot and uncomfortable for my liking.

The race was held at a beach off the ANA resort hotel.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

This waterpark was probably going to be a lot more fun than a 5km swim:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The water was so clean and clear, but oh so warm.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The course was 1.5km and required three laps and a bit to make up the 5km.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Three of us had signed up for the 5km swim.

Aquaholics Anonymous:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The boys were gonna be fast. Was also going to test out my brand new Garmin in my first open water swim race for the year. My goal time was to do it comfortably under 2 hours, anything around 1hour 45 I would be happy with. The last 5km swim race I did back in November without training, took me just over 2 hours to do. But since then I’ve gotten back into the training.

Ready and genki:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

And we’re off:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

The view from the water:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Scored some action pictures from the race organiser:

Me at the top in the pink cap:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Me again – check out the high kick:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

This is cool action shot:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Much of the swim was pretty shallow over reefs.

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Coming into the finish:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Yay. Finished!

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS
From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Pleased to say I swam a time of 1 hour 40min which was on par with my expectations. Not overly fast but not bad for the first race of the season. Got to leave more fuel in the tank this year, as I have decided to do a 10km marathon open water swim.

I got first place in my age group for females, so not bad. Snared me a gold medal. It’s always nice to not go home empty handed. The boys also kicked arse. They took 2nd and 3rd place in the male age group with way faster times than me, both beating me by over 20 minutes.

Well done all round:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

As for the swim race itself – water was way too warm. Wetsuits definitely not required. It was also quite a shallow swim, as we swum over reefs. Got to see a few fish. Also a bit of a current, but all in all a decent swim. Course was a little tricky though with many overswimming the course. It was a 2.5km course, requiring 2 laps.
And much to my disappointment, something happened to my Garmin. Must have hit a button as a swum. Timing was pretty spot on, but it didn’t register the whole distance.

It was a fun swim to kick off the season:

From Ishigaki – 5km OWS

Niijima Open water swim (ows) again

Another belated swim race report from last year.
Race date: July 2015
Venue: Niijima island

You might recall that I did this race back in 2011. Back then it was the longest distance open water swim race I had done before. Since then I’ve done a few 5km, an 8km and a 10km race. I’ve pretty much gotten to a point where I usually don’t like to enter in swim races less than 4km. Am trying to do more endurance swims, but I’m still pretty slow.

Last year, we got a small posse to come to Niijima island for the swim race again. In addition, a small group of Aussies from the Brighton Icebergs also came to Japan to do this swim and I got to meet up with some them.

The Niijima swim once again involved getting an early jetboat ride from Tokyo to the island. Perhaps too early for some.
Here is everyone passed out or perhaps they are just conserving their energy.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

Here we are wide awake!

From Niijima OWS 2015

We had rented a van for the six of us to make the most of weekend.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

Again we were blessed with another beautiful hot sunny day. And the water conditions were good.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

A beautiful day for a swim. And the water so clean and blue.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

I like this particular race. It’s always well organised and entry fee includes refreshments and a free towel for every finisher.
The bananas this year even had messages of motivation which was a really cute touch.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

Gaijin swimmers represent!

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

The race has a great atmosphere.

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

And yes, this is why we swim:

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

A cool close up of a grasshopper:

From Niijima OWS 2015
From Niijima OWS 2015

I did the 4.5km distance and my time was super slow. 1 hour, 49minutes. The last time I did this swim, I did it 1hr, 36min. I was 13 minutes slower.
Last year was not a great swimming year for me. In 2014, I ramped up my training to do some endurance swim races so last year I significantly cut back on swimming. This year, I am trying to ramp up again with my eyes on a couple of marathon races.

I’ve signed up for 4.5km swim race again this year on Niijima island and I’m hoping to improve on last year’s time. But I feel I’m getting slower as I get older.

Snowboarding weekend in Hakuba

I have a massive backlog of blog posts. I didn’t snowboard much this past winter. Only managed to get out a few weekend. But here is a post from Winter 2015 (March last year) of a snowboarding trip to Hakuba.

Just photos. No words.

From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba
From Hakuba

Break time:

From Hakuba
From Hakuba

Enjoying an apres drink:

From Hakuba

Elusive kamoshika spotting

Over the winter, whilst on a snowboarding trip to Nozawa Onsen, I spotted me an elusive kamoshika. A kamoshika is a Japanese goat-antelope animal usually found in the mountains. I was surprised to find this one near the streets of the village, right outside my favourite onsen at Nozawa, it was just amongst the bushes.

They are rather an unusual looking animal, and it was the first time I had ever seen one.

From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika
From Kamoshika

Palau: clam city

There’s a famous snorkeling spot in the Palau islands called clam city, where you’ll find the some of the biggest clam shells around. Most snorkeling day tours will stop here for about half hour to have a look at the giant clam shells. If they closed, you tap on them and they open up. Also some fish around too. Snorkeling is one of my favourite things to do. Could do it all day long. Basically, I love anything that involves water, really.

And the water in Palau is truly incredible. Seeing and being out on the water every day during my week there was the best thing ever.

Pics from clam city.

From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau

Giant clam shells

From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau
From Day 2 – Clam city Palau

High Tea in Yangon: The Strand Hotel

Will make more of a concerted effort to blog more this year, after a bit of a hiatus last year – not intentional – was just busy with work. A lot of it. Plus actually got around to doing a lot of stuff in Japan and travels as well. So expect a lot of travel photos and food reviews which I haven’t got around to posting up yet.

Over Christmas/New Year I went to Myanmar with a friend. She is based in Singapore for work, and so we decided to meet in Myanmar and spend two weeks there. It was pretty hectic as we covered a lot of ground in to two weeks with a lot of early starts (around 5am).

As is customary when I travel, I like to partake in high tea. This was no exception. And the afternoon was a lovely reprieve from the heat and travel stress.

The venue: The Strand, Yangon.
Date visited: 29 December 2015.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

It was a colonial style hotel with wicker furniture, wood panelling and high ceilings.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Afternoon tea was at the Strand Cafe located off to the lobby entrance. We turned up without a reservation. Can’t imagine there’d be crowds in Yangon to do afternoon tea.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

It was nice to be seated in air conditioning and just chill.

A choice of two afternoon tea menus – classic (traditional English) or a local Myanmar afternoon tea. Decisions, decisions. We had thought about going one of each to sample them both. But with lemon meringue pie and scones on offer – we both opted for the classic.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

And so cheap compared to Australia or Japan, where nowadays you’ll 50-50 dollars for afternoon tea. We also ordered a glass of wine each (pretty much for the first time during the trip. Wine was very hard to come by anywhere that we had been to at least).

I loved the little baskets which the teapots came in:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

A cup of English breakfast always soothes away any stress or worries. It’s amazing how calming a cup is.

Time to settle in. Lots of foodie goodness.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Feeling right at home:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Yummy sandwiches which tasted divine after living on rice and noodles.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

The desserts were worth it purely for the lemon meringue pie:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

The chocolate gateau cake was also really good.

And my only complaint about the scones was that there was only one each (and not two).

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

The vanilla cream that accompanied the scones was to die for. I could have just drunk that creamy vanillary goodness.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Can’t resist chocolate:

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

And my personal favourite: lemon meringue pie

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

Probably the best lemon meringue I’ve ever had. Perfect balance of tartness, good pastry crust and sweetness on top. They were so good, we asked to buy additional tarts for take-out. They happily obliged. Take-away tarts were sold by the threes, so we got six of them. The French pastry chef made them fresh for us to take out. We looked very classy as we got them put into styrofoam containers.

From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea
From The Strand Yangon afternoon tea

And that’s afternoon tea in Yangon done. A shame I only got to do one tea there, but not so many establishments offer it anyway.
The Strand Hotel offered excellent value and tasty food. Extremely satisfying.

Expect some more high tea reviews in 2016.

Underwater freediving in Palau

Some gratuitous photos of me underwater freediving in Palau. Met a photographer there whom I spent some time hanging out with. He took these cool pics of me. I am pretty sure I was a mermaid in another life.

From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau
From Underwater in Palau