Super Aesthetic Adventures in Osaka (Day 1)

For the duration of the 4 day consecutive summer holiday known as “Marine Day” in Japan, my boyfriend and I decided to take our very first trip together to bustling city of Osaka!  We chose this destination because it’s much more laid-back than Tokyo and there is a myriad of things to do and see here.  You can walk by the river and sip on a Strong Zero while being right in the heart of the city where there’s never a dull moment.  I’ve traveled to Osaka about 10 times (mainly for music events), but I still haven’t seen it all.  This time I was most excited to see the Kaiyukan Aquarium and go to the old school arcades with my boyfriend who is a fighting game fanatic.  Along the way we discovered so many delicious restaurants and made heartfelt memories that I’ll never forget.

We departed from Nagoya via the Willer Express Bus at 8:30am.  This was a good move because it was cheaper than the shinkansen and we could peacefully sleep on it.  We arrived to the Umeda Sky Building (in central Osaka) around 11:30 where we walked to La Tartine for coffee and some sweets.  I found this cafe through my Instragram algorithms and wanted to try the dog macaroon because it reminded me of Pasocom Ongaku Club’s mascot.  I also tried a cookie with a beach design that tasted amazing.  All of the desserts were intricately made here.  Incidentally, we also got a free coffee jelly as a gift for discovering this cafe through Instagram.  How nice♫~

Next we made our way towards our hotel in Shinsaibashi and decided to get some okonomiyaki for lunch at Hanahana since it was nearby.  Not only was this place absolutely delicious, but it was dirt cheap too.  I ordered shrimp okonomiyaki and my boyfriend got a mix of pork and seafood in his.  It was such a satisfying meal:

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Okonomiyaki: The staple Osaka meal.

Since our hotel wasn’t quite ready to check in to, we dropped off our stuff and headed straight to Kaiyukan Aquarium which I had never been to before!  This is one of the most famous aquariums in Japan so I figured it would be the perfect date spot.  Unfortunately since it was a holiday,  a lot of other people had the same idea so we had to wait an hour to enter.  Luckily it was worth the wait.  I had been to Japan’s largest aquarium in Okinawa years ago, but I hadn’t been to another one in ages so this was refreshing.  In addition to colorful schools of fish, smiling stingrays, and the “Silence Brand” crab, they also had capybara which is my favorite animal there too!  My boyfriend most enjoyed the waddle of penguins (yes, a group of penguins is actually called a “waddle”):

We were very impressed with the large variety of sea creatures here!  I also loved seeing the “Keep distance” penguin sign, though it was an impossible challenge for the over-excited Japanese children here.  I also liked the message that said “all things are connected” at the end.  It really had me thinking for a while.  By the time we finished seeing all of the exhibits here, we were exhausted.  This aquarium is quite huge compared to other underwater exhibits in Japan.

Admission Fee: 2,550 yen (worth in in my opinion)

Not wanting to miss out on every food opportunity that life presented us, we stopped for ramen and ice cream.  The two main food groups.  I bought a capybara souvenir at the aquarium so I could forever remember this moment.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  My boyfriend chose to eat ramen at Zundoya which has a branch in Osaka.  He said it was some of the best that he’s had in a while.  I tried the Pokemon ice cream flavors at Bakin Robbins, but unfortunately they didn’t live up to the hype.  I give them a 6/10 because they taste like sugary melted soda.  They would be much more satisfying if they contained vodka.  Fortunately that’s what we had next…

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Drinking the galaxy at Mixology Bar Factory & Gear.

Yet another bar that ended up in my Instagram algorithms was called Mixology Bar Factory & Gear.  And boy, it did not disappoint.  It was here that we met a fire bender and drank magical cocktails from the galaxy.  My boyfriend also ordered a Tuxedo Mask-esque drink and another drink that was wrapped in plastic like Laura Palmer.  I ordered the “Little Planet” (pictured above) and a mysterious pineapple drink with a bubble that you can pop.  Watching the video is easier than explaining it.  This is peak aesthetic:

The taste of all of these drinks can be described as “works of art” but this Tweet sums our experience up the best:

If you have time, please check this bar out!  The average cost of drinks is 1300 yen but I promise that you won’t be disappointed.  There’s also some “Viagra Liqueur” (the opposite of whiskey dick) for those who are feeling adventurous.  We will remember this bar for the rest of our lives.

Where to Stay

Normally I stay at Asahi Capsule Hotel when I’m alone since it’s one of the cheapest places in Osaka, but since I came here with someone special I wanted to stay somewhere a bit nicer.

This time I chose Felice Hotel because it was only 5000 yen per night for 2 people.  This was within walking distance of Dotonbori and all of the bars we wanted to go to so it was the perfect choice.  Our bed was huge and extremely comfy.  There is also a public onsen bath and a rooftop bar that you can visit.  I would honestly love to stay here again!

A Magical Journey to King’s Cross: The Harry Potter Cafe in Seoul

Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  And dreams are forever.

I never thought that I’d be spending the first night of my third trip to Seoul dressing up in Slytherin robes at a Harry Potter cafe, but recently life has been taking me to some interesting places.  943 King’s Cross Cafe is located in the Hongdae district and features magical concoctions, beautiful Hogwarts-inspired interior decor, and costumes you can borrow and dress up in.  Immediately I was seduced by the Dragon’s Blood and eyeball cocktail upon entering (fortunately no advanced reservations were required).  After my long flight, sipping on some vodka and relaxing at this 5 floor cafe seemed like the perfect way to relax.

I have been to the Harry Potter cafes in both Tokyo and Singapore before, but Seoul’s by far was the most extravagant.  I appreciated the long boarding school-like tables they had on one floor, but they also had couches and tables for small groups on other floors.  Each floor had a unique theme and the top floor even had a Christmas tree since I came here during the winter.  Many paintings were hung on the walls mimicking the Hogwarts portraits.  Although they couldn’t talk, under the fluorescent lighting they almost looked like they could!  A dementor was hidden in one of the stairwells and gave me a great surprise.  Luckily I didn’t stare it in the eyes, or else my trip would have ended there.

The menu had a lot of desserts that you could order individually, but unfortunately the food menu was designed for large groups (like many restaurants are in Seoul).  Fortunately I wasn’t bothered by this because cocktails and desserts were all I wanted anyway!  The main draw of this cafe is the free robes that you can borrow on the 5th floor.  I had so much fun taking pictures and all of the people around me were genuinely thrilled to be here.  There’s also a gift shop with some very cute Slytherin earrings that I almost bought (but I decided to look at the night market instead).

Experiencing childhood memories in a foreign country is truly something special.  I would recommend coming here if you are a fan of the series because it is truly something magical.

Address

Sageun-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea

My Favorite Bars in Singapore: Nineteen80, Platform 1904, and Don’t Tell Mama

Singapore is not only home to the courageous Merlion, but is also a reputably safe country to go drinking in.  Like many big cities in Asia, Singapore has no shortage of unique night life places to explore until the early hours of the morning.  The plus is that almost everyone in this country speaks English among other languages and are generally helpful and willing to talk to you.  Most bars and clubs usually stay open until 1am-4am depending on the day.  Essentially whatever you’re in the mood for you’ll probably find here!

A lot of people enjoy drinking in the upscale Clarke Quay district near the heart of the city, but I did my best to venture off the beaten path and into the bars with unique themes and original cocktails.  Here are my top picks:

Nineteen80

When I was researching bars online, the name and theme of this one caught my attention right away.  Who doesn’t love a Nintendo-themed bar?!  Not only that, but they also have a number of Midway Arcade machines available to play, a worthy collection of cartridges displayed on the wall, and an original hand-drawn menu (my favorite was the shooters page).  There are also DJs that frequently play a handful of genres depending on the event.  I came during oldies night which wasn’t really my taste, but I still enjoyed the atmosphere of the bar.  Seeing “It’s on like Donkey Kong” written in the Sega font IRL in a foreign country was surreal.

The downside was the crowd was mostly drunken expats, and the music was loud so it was difficult to hear anyone.  Nineteen80 is definitely a “get up and dance” bar when they have weekend parties, so be sure to come here when you have properly pre-gamed (fortunately I had).  The cover fee was around 18 SD, but that included one drink so it wasn’t bad.  If the music was more my type, I’m sure I would have stayed here a lot longer.

This bar is situated near Chinatown, and is also in the gay district so there are a lot of interesting bars nearby.  I would recommend getting here before your main destination on your barhopping journey.

Platform 1904

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The deer seats add an interesting aesthetic to this Harry Potter cafe.

As someone who’s been a Harry Potter fan for more than half of their life, I could not pass up the opportunity to go to this magically themed cafe.  They not only brew magical potions filled with booze, but also have a full food menu with delicately crafted desserts.  I had previously gone to the Wizarding Worlds Cafe in Tokyo and had a great experience, so I wanted to see how this place measured up.  Platform 1904 has a more extensive menu and less of a wait time since it’s a permanent establishment (as compared to the pop-up cafe that I went to).  I enjoyed ordering a golden snitch cake and the Flaming Brew Cocktail because the presentation was very elaborate:

In addition to the golden snitch cake, there are many other colorful pastries for sale that all beautifully capture the Harry Potter theme:

The only downside of this cafe was the price.  I could buy a lot more food for a cheaper price at most restaurants around this area, but I came here once again for the experience.  One dish and one dessert are pretty filling, plus I mastered the art of potions class and took some neat photos in the process!

This restaurant is located Serangoon Road where many of the hostels are, so I was able to walk here.

Don’t Tell Mama

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What mama don’t know won’t hurt her.

First of all, I love the name of this restaurant–it truly stands out for being a Korean bistro.  Second of all, I love the shochu cocktails here.  They are absolutely gigantic and craftily tipped into a glass of margarita mix to create a wonderful flavor.  Though I’ve been to Korea twice, I’ve never seen a cocktail like this before:

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What happens in Singapore stays in Singapore.

In addition to this crazy concoction, they also have a ton of westernized Korean food available.  The kimchi fries caught my eye, but the downside of this bar was that all of the portion sizes were too huge for one person to finish.  Though I very much enjoyed my shochu cocktail, I was only able to get through half of it.  I looked around and nobody else at the bar was able to finish it either!  Though in this case it was worth the money, I wish they sold their food and drinks in smaller portion sizes so it wouldn’t get wasted.

This bar is located near Chinatown not far from Nineteen80.  I recommend getting only one drink here, else you will easily get full.

Overall I was extremely happy with my bar choices, because I had the chance to try so many crazy things that I’ll always remember.  I hope that those traveling through Singapore find my experiences helpful!

A Somewhat Magical Time at the Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok

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A magical land where all dreams come true, serving up rainbow food and more!

Bangkok is a bustling city riddled with markets, temples, food stalls, clubs, red light districts, and many more curious things, so picking exactly where to start your trip here can be challenging.  After doing some thorough research, I finally decided on the perfect place–one that stood out like a gem from the other places in the city.  A magical land in a not-so-faraway place with rainbow food and dangling stuffed unicorns overhead in the pastel sky.  Yes, you guessed it, the very first restaurant I went to in Thailand was the Unicorn Cafe!

Though some of my friends may shun me for not trying something more authentic as my first meal here, my idea was to try the themed cafes first and then go for the authentic food for the best tasting experience.  Additionally, this cafe has mixed reviews that appear with a quick Google search; some stating it’s the most magical place on earth and others refuting it’s most certainly not.  The controversy surrounding this cafe made me even more curious about it, so I decided to come here and witness firsthand exactly how magical it was for myself.

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The great debate on the Unicorn Cafe: Is it the most magical place on earth or not?                        My answer: It’s somewhat magical.

Coming here directly from the Bangkok airport with my luggage in tow, I took a short taxi ride and reached the so-called magical unicorn haven an hour before they closed.  This was actually a really good time, because it wasn’t as crowded as during the rush hour and I could admire all of the unicorns overhead in peace.  It nostalgically reminded me of the old room I had in America growing up in the 90s, except with 10x the unicorns!

Featuring rainbow spaghetti, waffle cones, cupcakes, burgers, and more, the menu is quite dazzling with a lot of different options!  The downside is the price is a bit expensive–you could get a larger quantity of food at the markets just a few streets down from here and at most restaurants in Bangkok.  However, I came here for the novelty of eating rainbow food, and I wasn’t about to back down after coming this far.  After some more debate, I decided on the rainbow unicorn cupcake:

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A unicorn in cupcake form.

My stance on this magical debate is that if you are looking for something different, you will definitely find it here.  This place has a bright and welcoming interior with an English-friendly menu, extremely unique desserts, and unicorns as far as the eye can see.  However, some may be disappointed by the price and lack of healthier options here, not to mention the cafe is normally overly touristy.  Some reviews have questioned the quality of food here, but it’s pretty much the same for all themed restaurants I’ve been to.  I enjoyed my time here, but I agree there are even more magical places to be discovered despite my love for unicorns!

I will be detailing a lot of unique destinations in Bangkok and Phuket in my next series of blogs, so please stay tuned for more.

 

A Magical Time at the Wizarding World: Harry Potter x Fantastic Beasts Café in Tokyo

When I first started teaching in Japan 3 years ago, I was very surprised at how popular Harry Potter was here! Thanks to the Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Japan, the world of Hogwarts has captured the hearts of many people. I’ve loved the series since I was young, but I never imagined that I’d be going to a themed café in Shinjuku collaborating with HP and the new Fantastic Beasts movie that just came out!

Though the cafe space was actually quite small because it was located on the 5th floor of the Shinjuku MYLORD department store, it definitely had a magical atmosphere you wouldn’t find elsewhere in Tokyo!

My friend and I waited 2 hours in line to enter on a Sunday afternoon in early December because there was no online reservation system (unlike many other temporary theme cafés here), but we thought it was well worth the wait. Perhaps if you are just here on vacation you might think it’s a waste of time, but we’ve both lived in Tokyo for a while and are used to the long waits.

The cafe included a display case with autographs of Dumbledore’s Army, and also had Dan Folger (who plays Jacob from Fantastic Beasts) on the wall with the text WHO WILL CHANGE THE FUTURE?

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A very charming message indeed! My friend and I decided to try some of the desserts out. Me, being the flashy one, decided to order the Dumbledore Profiteroles with a chibi character print, a syringe filled with chocolate, and a pot of water to pour on the ice to produce a spell-like effect:

 

Maybe it wasn’t as cool as the Sorting Hat, but the creampuffs and fruits were delicious and I definitely felt like I was at the Hogwarts dining table!

Next, we ordered the Newt’s Pancakes that we’re topped with cotton candy and delicious maple syrup!

I have tried a number of fluffy pancakes in Japan before, but this was my first time trying them topped with cotton candy!

As for drinks, I ordered the Slytherin green tea one with whipped cream (even though I’m Gryffindor, I enjoy this flavor more) and my friend ordered the Chupacabra Calpico Milk. These drinks were better than average because they were blended and some of them even contained fruit!

You can see the fill food and drink menu listed below. Since my friend and I both don’t eat meat, we skipped the main dishes but I was very satisfied with both desserts we tried (that cost around 1200 yen).

The themed drinks were all 800 yen, but I think they were worth it! I would have ordered more if I wasn’t induced by a sugar overload!

This Café is available from November 9th 2018 – January 31st 2019. What makes me curious is the food item silhouettes on the first menu that say “Coming Soon”… Perhaps I will have to venture into this Wizarding World once again to see what they are!! This experience is highly recommended.