Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tokyo Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku Review, Great Location, Thoughtful & Great Value!

This trip to Tokyo, we were very lucky in terms of booking a good hotel. We thought we had everything settled on the same day that we bought our cheap 384SGD air tickets to Tokyo. Yet, 1 day before departure, I got a shock of my life realising that hotel we've booked was situated in Ikebukuro area instead of Shinjuku area like we wanted to.

Vibrant Shinjuku Night Life

You see, trains stop running in Tokyo at around 12+ midnight or so. And taking cabs is an unthinkable thing to me because it's expensive. Thus, Shinjuku is the best area in my opinion as there's a lot of shopping and good food around. 

I panicked and did a quick search on agoda.com, my favourite hotel booking site for now, and found the amazingly cheap hotel Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku.

It was going at a cheap rate of 116SGD per night for the economy double room and of course I grabbed the deal.

With only a night's cancellation charge on the other hotel booking through booking.com (the good thing about booking.com is that they don't charge to your credit card until you arrive at the hotel and there's free cancellation if it's done 48 hours before booking date) and the discount from points accumulation on agoda.com, we ended up paying the same amount for Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku. 

And this hotel is located much nearer to the JR station! It's less than 5 mins walk away from JR Shinjuku South exit.

We were pleasantly surprised with Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, it's new, clean, very well located with a big hotel lobby and the staff were friendly and helpful.

The hotel has ready copies of maps and sightseeing guide that will greatly aid your traveling plan if you're not with a tour group. Just approach the reception for any queries and they'll be more than happy to help.

Sightseeing Guide Provided by Hotel

There's also one exit to Tokyo Subway Station situated right next to Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku. Talk about convenience! This is especially welcoming when you need to take the train to Tsukiji market early in the morning and it's really fantastic to not have to walk much to enter the train station.

The Tokyo Subway entrance is highlighted with a red circle on the map above and the green box is the lovely Shinjuku Southern Terrace. Just cross it and you'll reach the super huge Takashimaya and a mega Tokyu Hands.

Long Escalator Deep Into Shinjuku Tokyo Subway Train Platform

Shinjuku Southern Terrace

The Southern Terrace provides an alternative walk back to the hotel from the JR Station South Exit. It is a more pleasant walk with less hurried people around. Also, it's rare to see so much space in the midst of Tokyo skyscrapers and it can be relaxing to chill in one of the cafes there.

JR Shinjuku Station Southern Exit

Other niceties about the hotel include:
  • Non-fogging mirror (center portion) in the toilet, a nice and thoughtful touch and the first hotel I ever came across with this!

  • Sandwich ironing board that saves space in the typical small Tokyo hotel room.
Bf Helping Me With My Top

  • Innovative and cute magnet signs instead of paper ones.

Every morning, we'll just throw one right outside the door and it'll fly straight and be stuck on tight. Cute!

Everyone In Tokyo Is Doing Their Bit To Save Electricity After The 11 Mar 2011 Earthquake

Free wi-fi and internet access is available in the guest lounge. More info about Hotel Sounroute Plaza Shinjuku, you can click here to find out more.

Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku
2-3-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku Shinjuku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: 03-3375-3211

And in case you don't know already, do remember to double check the hotel you booked before your trip. A lot of hotels in Japan belong to chains and they have the same names, just take a look at this.

Just don't end up fretting just before your trip like I did. ;)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Robata Yaki Grill in Tokyo Shimbashi, Great Food & Value

The last trip to Japan, my father already told me that I must give Robatayaki a try in Japan. Robatayaki is also known as Robata for short. 

Robatayaki is a Japanese style grill whereby the chef sits at a deck surrounded by fresh ingredients. To select the food you want to eat, just point them out to the chef who will serve them to you on a paddle once it's ready. It is really an interesting experience to sit around the open hearth and soak in the lively ambiance of old world Japan.

So began my search for a good Robata Grill restaurant in Japan... but as all would already know, food isn't all that cheap in Japan. And somehow, trying out Robata just didn't materialize when I was in Japan last year.

This year, I happened to come across these 2 online pages with good reviews about a quality and inexpensive Robata Grill in Toyko Shimbashi and decided that I MUST have my first Robatayaki experience in Japan. ;)

The restaurant is called Musashi and is located at Shimbashi Tokyo. I was told by my Japanese friend that Shimbashi is a very local business district and the people around there are very "localized". I'm not too sure I understood her but I think what she meant was that it's a place whereby a lot of local working Japanese go to.

Musashi Shopfront

Shimbashi 2-9-17, Minato-ku
Tel: 03 35803550

She also mentioned that when TV stations want to get a feel of the local economic situation or the working people's sentiments, they'll conduct their interviews on streets in Shimbashi. Anyway, I guess there's a lot of eateries and drinking holes due to this fact and it was nice to venture out there.

Musashi Robatayaki is relatively easy to locate and here's some pics to share:

Serving Food With Robata Paddle

Japanese Name of Restaurant Is 武蔵

It was really lucky of us to get exactly 3 seats right in front of the grill where all the cooking is done. We had the following and guess how much it cost us?

Recommended Online & By A Customer Sitting Next To Us
  • 3 scallops
  • 1 stick of bacon and leek
  • 3 sticks of shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tofu
  • 1 fish
  • 1 snail
  • 4 glasses of sake
  • 1 mug of beer
I wanted to eat more but didn't want to gorge myself silly after eating the whole day while shopping at other places. It is really tempting with all the seafood placed right in front of you. :|

Anyway, it cost only....5130JPY and the food tasted great!! That's about 26SGD per person. Really inexpensive for the kind of quality they serve! I don't even think I can have a Robata meal in Singapore for this kind of price. And I highly recommend this warm and charming Robata restuarant in Tokyo.

To get there, follow the directions on this map:

1) Alight at the JR Shimbashi Station on the JR Yamanote Line (it's the light green circle line)
2) Exit from the Hibiya exit

JR Shimbashi Station Hibiya Exit in Tokyo, Japan

3) Walk towards LABI Shimbashi building by crossing the road, you'll see LABI right in front of you when you come out from the Hibiya exit

LABI Shimbashi

4) Turn left and navigate on your own, hee...

Oh yah, and do get there early around 6pm or so to get a seat. If not, you may have to wait until 7pm+ and the highly sought after scallops may be sold out by then.

I was told that Robatayaki is more popular with the older generation and the younger ones generally do not enjoy it as much. But I do love the lively and laid back atmosphere it gives and what an experience! This is my  most enjoyable meal in Tokyo this trip and do give it a try if you get the chance to. You will love it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

8 Days Seoul Itinerary & Interesting Things To Do

Some of you have been have been asking me about my Seoul itinerary and I'll share it here with you with the interesting bits.

 A'REX Platform at Incheon Airport

Day 1
Day 2
My Best Meal in Seoul This Trip
Day 3

All Bright & Orangey
    • It's worth a visit as the architecture and scenery is beautiful
Day 4

    • There's restaurants serving breakfast there so you won't have to worry about food if you want to go early
    • Do note the performance schedule if you want to be in time for the shows
    • We celebrated my friend's birthday and mine too with a cake from Apres-midi; it has THE BEST macaron cake I've ever eaten. The texture was soft and moist and before we knew it, the whole cake was gone!
Apre-midi Strawberry Macaron Cake

Day 5
  • KTX to Gwangju, then a bus to Damyang
Day 6
Rustic Beauty
  • Check out of Hanok
Hanok's Common Dining Room
  • Head back to Seoul from Gwangju
  • Myeong-Dong shopping
    • If you need to exchange currency, Myeong-Dong is the place to go to. There's a lot of money changers to choose from.
  • Dak Hanmari dinner again at Dongdaemum; it shows how much we enjoyed it
  • Late night shopping at Doota and Miglore at Dongdaemum 
Day 7
    • We also tried the roadside tent supper food and it wasn't nice. We got misled by the K-dramas. 

Day 8
  • Last minute shopping at Myeong-Dong
  • Bye bye Seoul before heading to Incheon Airport
New Found Love Bought Available at DFS

    • The above kimchi brand is supposedly the best available at DFS. I personally think that it'll be wiser to buy your kimchi from Lotte Mart where you can sample and select the one more suited to your taste bud. Moreover, it'll cost less than the 10USD pack above.
Hope this helps! =)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hotel Chocolat: Chocolates Make Me Happy

Sis got these Hotel Chocolat chocolates back from London. Simply divine...

Look at the eager fingers grabbing a piece of little choclate chicks and bunnies.

Love it!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Seoul Night Life, Where To Go In Seoul At Night

This trip to Seoul, we went to many more places than we would have if not for my 2 lovely Korean friends. 

We checked out the night scene and had fun partying, if not drinking away. And a few places stood out in my mind:

1) Gangnam

If you haven't heard about Gangnam yet, this is the latest hip area in Seoul where many hang out and relax after work. Naturally, it would be a place with lots of great shopping, great food and great drinking holes.

In fact, the whole of the area on one side of the river is known as "Gangnam". We had our dinner at this charming restaurant in Gangnam  and to be exact, it is near situated near to Sinsa Station and we exited from Exit 8. It serves traditional Korean food and it was one of the best meal I had in Seoul this trip. 

Sumptuous Dinner With Wonderful Company 

We had so much fun that we stayed 'til the restaurant's closing time and here's a pic of the interior:

That night, we took a stroll down Gangnam to check out some of the fashion stores before heading to a Jazz Club round the corner. ::Once In A Blue Moon Jazz Club::

Although it was only a short distance away, the cab ride took about 15 mins or so. The traffic around Gangnam is pretty heavy during the night so you can probably make out that it is really THE place to see and be seen right now.

There's a live band here and it's a cool place to chill. Great for listening to music and just enjoy a quiet drink if you ain't up for a night of dancing.

Toast To Great Night Life in Seoul

Inside Once In A Blue Moon

2) Hongdae

The next place that I'll recommend is Hongdae

Although I heard that the night life there is even more vibrant and energetic than Gangnam, we didn't have a chance to experience it.

But we had yet another fantastic meal of Korean BBQ at Hondae. there's many korean BBQ restaurants that line the streets and all you have to do is take your pick!

It's one of life's greatest joys to have a good hot meal and drinks in cold weather. **Love it!!**

Korean Bulgogi is really yummilicious with the Kimchi Jigea (Kimchi soup) after you are done with 1 round of fluffy egg.

It was also the night when we discovered Makkholi also known Korean Rice Wine. If you want to give it a try, do note that the expiry date is very short so you might as well finish up the bottle at one go after opening. ;)

We also had our first taste of Korea Burnt Rice Porridge / Soup. This dish is made with rice from the bottom of the rice pot or cooker which give the porridge a slightly burnt rice taste. We were told that it's a good dish after alcohol as it'll calm the stomach.

And it's surprisingly tasty, especially if you add in Kimchi, heh.

3) JJ Mahoney's @ Grand Hyatt Seoul

We ended the night at JJ Mahoney's in Hyatt, which is located at Namsan. It's a pity I didn't snap more pics in there as my girl friends were all drooling at the many cute Korean men there.

I had a very pleasant surprise that night when I ordered a cocktail called "JJ's Childhood Toy" and it was served with a bunny soft toy!!

My friend commented that this is my happiest picture taken in Seoul and I don't think I can disagree.

Do check it out, it's a great place to dance the night away with babes and hunks all around.