My Time Capsule: 2018

10.2.18

Japan: Shirakawa-go Under A Blanket Of Snow

Japan, December 2017




I've always been fascinated by Shirakawa-go since the day I laid my eyes on a picture of a traditional Japanese village covered in snow. Samurai village! That's what I thought when I saw it on Instagram feed a couple years back. I started nagging to my old friend, Google to dig as much information possible about this village. Where it is and how to get there, kind of stuff. But it was not until my 5th visit to Japan that I finally made it here.

Roughly it's about 320 km or more less 5 hours bus ride (including 2 toilet breaks) from Osaka to Shirakawa-go. First thing first, a late lunch at Soba Wakimoto located near the entrance of the village on the west side. The restaurant is also a traditional house so I got to experience the rustic ambiance. After removing my shoes before stepping onto the tatami platform, I was then led into a zashiki area. It's a traditional Japanese restaurant seating arrangement featuring a low table set on tatami flooring. We have similar arrangement here in Indonesia, called lesehan. Soba Wakimoto is actually a soba shop but also serves Hida beef bowl and other traditional dishes.


but first....Hida Beef!

Hida-gyu or Hida beef is the name given to beef from a black haired Japanese cattle breed that has been raised in Gifu Prefecture. To be honest, these past years I rarely eat beef and lamb because most of the time I get headache after eating red meat. I did ask my doctor about this and turned out it's a common thing. But while in Gifu area, I feel the urge to at least taste this famous meat which is ranked one of the highest quality in Japan.

Beside a beef rice bowl, we also ordered a portion of Hida beef steak. The meat is brown on the outside, while still remaining its redness in the centre. As expected the cube-cut meat was tender and cooked into medium perfection, with some juice oozing out when I bite it. Sauce tasted light too so it didn't overpower the meat. Just a hint of salt with umami aftertaste. Delectable indeed! However to me it was slightly gamy and after a few chunks of meat, I needed to clean my palate with some pickle and put down my chopsticks. In my opinion comparing to Kobe beef, Hida beef is fattier hence it left a buttery taste on my palate.



gassho-zukuri

Shirakawa-go was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, famous for its historical farmhouses called gassho-zukuri. The thatched roof looks like a gesture of hands pressed together, that resembles a prayer or a sign of greeting, gratitude or apology. Apart from Ogimachi, the largest village that I visited, there are also two other villages in Gokayama region named Suganuma and Ainokura. They have existed since 11th Century and most of the houses are more than 250 years old.


crossing the bridge



From the parking lot, we needed to cross the suspension bridge to reach Ogimachi village. My sister and I decided to visit Shiroyama viewpoint before exploring the village. Because during winter the last shuttle bus to Shiroyama viewpoint leave at 15:40. You can actually walk up  for 15-20 minutes to the viewpoint via the walking trail. Unfortunately the snow was pretty thick and I didn't wear proper winter shoes, so we settled with the bus instead. The shuttle ride costs ¥200 per person, takes only less than 10 minutes each way. I got a bit lost when trying to locate the bus stop. Everything hidden under the thick snow, including the bus stop sign! Turned out it's located near the Wada-ke house, one of the wealthiest and village leaders of Ogimachi. It's the largest gassho-zukuri and now open to public as a museum.

*Scroll down to watch the video 😁


view from Shiroyama observatory deck

konichiwa!

Shiroyama viewpoint offers stunning view of the farmhouses in Ogimachi village, with mountains as a backdrop. From up here, I got the 360 degree view of the fairy tale like village that I've seen a lot on internet and on most postcard in souvenir shops. The snow was really thick that the wooden fence got buried under. I was lucky there were only a few people around so I didn't have to queue to get a good spot for photo taking. There was a professional photographer and I was amused when he kept saying Indonesian words to me, "Mari...mari! Tidak bayar" (come take picture, free of charge). I'm pretty sure he meets a bunch of Indonesian visitors everyday. I handed him my camera before my sister and I gave him our best fierce pose. He took some shots using my camera and also his camera that turned out to be muuuuuch better. Thought we looked pretty amazing so I ask him to print it on the spot and paid ¥1500 for the picture. We are so typical tourist, right? πŸ˜‚



who lets the dog out!


Back to the village, I ventured to smaller path behind the main street. There was nobody around so I could explore the area freely while admiring the historic houses with its stunning environment. I was amazed by the fact that the wooden houses were built without a single nail or brackets. Complex joinery, ropes and strips of hazel wood hold the beams together. The roofs were steeply angled to prevent the snow from piling up. I was told that during summer the straws keeps the houses cool.


I wish this is what I see from my balcony on daily basis 

the main street



Besides several souvenir shops and eateries along the main street, there are also some farmhouses turned museums in Ogimachi village. Sadly most of them were already closed when I get back to the village. Actually I really wanted to stay overnight to experience the unique traditional Japanese farmhouse stay. But it's kinda tricky to find a minshuku or family run Japanese B&B that fit for my big family so this time I had to settle with a day trip only.

souvenir shop

suspension bridge over the Shokawa river





As I mentioned previously, here's a short video I took on the way from Shiroyama Observatory Deck back to Ogimachi village. I was grinning from ear to ear when passing through this narrow winding road surrounded by thick snow. This polar bear was super happy to be back to her habitat. I sang 'Let It Go' from the Frozen movie quietly. This was my expression along the way ⇾ 😍




Shirakawa-go is easily accessible from Takayama and Kanazawa via bus. I was travelling by a private bus from Osaka since it was easier for my family of 20 pax and stayed overnight in Takayama. That afternoon I certainly left Shirakawa-go with a heavy heart. But I knew it wouldn't be my last visit. I plan to come back and will stay longer maybe in spring or autumn season. I do think Shirakawa-go can be enjoyed all year long and look equally beautiful. Mata aimashou, Shirakawa-go!
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31.1.18

Bali: Prasana By Arjani Resorts





Suddenly Bali. I was unpacking my luggage post-Christmas holiday in Japan when Mumun from iwashere.id called me, "Hey, Debz! Would you like to join a retreat in Bali next week?". Of course I said yes because the best thing to cure post holiday blues is by going to another holiday, right? I was invited along with Trinity, Vabyo, Adit and Ramon; and Prasana by Arjani Resorts would be our home for the 3 days #IWHcreator retreat.


The Villas

lobby

super comfy bed

I stayed in a one bedroom villa with swimming pool, lounge area, kitchenette and outdoor day bed. This area is private with a total space around 145 sqm. It's pretty huge considering I was staying there alone. I could do my silly dance and jumping around the villa without annoying other people *big grin*.

I'm a light sleeper. Occasionally it's hard for me to get a quality night sleep because even the slightest sound of an ant walking would wake me up. Thanks to the top quality double mattress king bed and tranquil environment, I slept soundly I might even snored and recharged well. My room looked this neat all the time because Prasana has twice-a-day housekeeping service for all the villas. I was so spoilt I can never tidy up my own bed again at home, lol.

one bedroom villa with private pool

spacious bathroom

Part of the villa that I love the most is the spacious bathroom. It's so big that I can dance the Tango inside bathroom area. There's rain shower, toilet, wardrobe, 2 wash basin with huge mirror (no more fighting with roommate again!), a set of desk and office chair. Oh! From the shower room you can access to the outdoor bathtub area which is also connected to the bedroom. Fancy for a sexy bubble bath with candles, rose petals and champagne? *wink*

Psst! This villa is so private that you can even sneak a skinny dipping action under the starry night. As long as there's no CCTV catch you in the act, that is. 😁


amenities

Unless your skin is super sensitive like mine that need some particular skincare products, I don't think you would need to bring your basic amenities like shampoo, conditioner, body wash and etc. Prasana provides most essential stuff including salt bath, sunblock and after sun cooling gel. How thoughtful!


outdoor bathtub 

My most favourite service is definitely the all day breakfast. I usually skip breakfast during hotel stays because mostly serve breakfast only until 10 am. For me, sometimes holiday means all day snuggle mood thus a hotel which has an all day breakfast service is truly a God send. In-house guest in Prasana can choose to have their breakfast in their villa or restaurant. Breakfast in bed in late afternoon? Yes, please!


Fun Activities

beach hopping

secluded beach 

It was drizzling in the morning so I needed a stronger will to wake up and leave my super comfy bed. But beach hopping was on our agenda, so I jumped out my bed with excitement, had a quick shower and off to the beach. We were thrilled to see an empty secluded and clean beach. Some of us jumped into the water straight away.

Prasana team preparing our breakfast

picnic breakfast by the beach


granola with fruits and yogurt

We then headed to Balangan beach where Prasana team were already preparing a picnic breakfast for us. They served what it seems like never ending food. From assorted fresh fruit juice, fruit platter, granola yogurt bowl, pastries basket (croissant, pain au chocolate and danish), a plate of poached egg with salad and salmon, stacks of sandwiches and whole fresh coconuts. The food were aesthetically attractive, I really think it's the most beautiful picnic breakfast I've ever had! Well it's not everyday I have a picnic with all those shiny cutleries and fancy plates. After a hearty breakfast to kick start the day, I rushed back to the villa and ready for my spa session. Ohhh bliss!


Brew Me Tea

In the afternoon we visited Brew Me tea gallery in Blahbatu area. Learning some new things about tea production from A to Z in fun a way. The tea tasting session taught me how to tell different tastes among white tea, green tea, oolong tea and black tea. Brew Me tea premium quality tea are carefully hand picked from their own plantation and processed in their factory in Tabanan area.

Chef Toni and Chef Endang doing their magic 

Cooking class was so much fun too! Chef Toni showed us how to cook an easy yet healthy breakfast. He started off with smearing some butter on a charcoal bread and toast it on a non-stick pan. While chef Endang was poaching some eggs. They then prepared sabayon sauce by whisked some egg yolk with sugar and lemon juice over bain marie to get a thick consistency before adding a spoonful of beetroot puree. Last but not least, chef Toni started to plate all the items and voila! Charcoal toast, salmon slices, poached egg topped with tobiko or flying fish roe served with salad with honey lemon dressing and beetroot sabayon sauce.

easy healthy meal



Glorious Food


Medallion Chicken Salad

During the welcome dinner, we were accompanied by Ibu Mia, the General Manager and Bapak Andika, Owning Company Representative of Prasana. The first dish they served was Medallion Chicken Salad. Beautiful plate presentation with colourful Asian slaw as a garnish. Manadonese sambal rica was a perfect match for the well marinated and tender chicken. I also love the adding of lemon confit as it refreshed my palate.


Seafood Consome

Next came Seafood Consome served in a wide rim soup bowl. I studied European Culinary Arts before and one thing I remember is aside from taste, we eat food visually. And this bowl of seafood dumpling with vegetables was certainly presented to please the eyes. While bouillon or the rich clear seafood stock merged beautifully with coconut milk. A flavourful dish indeed.


Crusted Filled Fish

Main course consisted of 5 items: Glazed Miso Chicken, Beef Rendang, Veggie Stew on Mashed Potato, Coconut Rice and for me the star was this Crusted Fillet Fish. I'm not too sure if it was dory fish but the white flesh was firm and has this flaky texture. The skin was covered in flavourful spice tempe crumbs which added the extra oomph. Woku sauce and pineapple tomato salsa were on point too, with just the right amount of rich aroma, tanginess and spicy taste without overpowering the fish.


Kolak

This one is the interesting version of Indonesian sweet dessert named Kolak. It contained of Pandan panna cotta, caramelised banana, sago milk, palm sugar crumb and homemade vanilla ice cream drenched in rich coconut milk. I love how each of the elements complement each other and it's not too sweet like the Kolak I usually eat back home.


Choco Mousse Pie

I was already stuffed after 2 starters, 5 items of main course and the Kolak but when they serve this Choco Mousse Pie, I just couldn't refuse it. Just one bite, I kept saying that to myself. But as soon as the banana mousse and dark chocolate glaze melting in my mouth, I knew I would have a hard time to put my spoon down. The combination of smooth filling with crunchiness from the almond crust was so addictive. It's simply sinful yet unrefusable. Suddenly everyone on the table were quiet, only a delightful 'mmmm' could be heard from their mouth. The face said it all....they were having their own version of mind-blowing moment.




Blue Sapphire

Though I'm not really into alcoholic beverages, I was curious about this particular cocktail named Blue Sapphire. The 'wow' moment was when the waitress pouring the extract of Bunga Telang Ungu or Butterfly Pea flower into the vodka. The white and purple liquids gradually blending into a pretty layered drink, garnish with a Butterfly Pea flower on the glass rim. I can't really elaborate the taste since I only took a tiny sip of it. There's no distinct taste from the vodka but I tasted a hint of lemongrass which I think from the flower extract.



I couldn't ask for a better companions 

Thank you IWasHere for inviting me to join the creator retreat together with a bunch of the awesomest folks. Thanks so much to all Prasana by Arjani Resorts' team for the warmest and sincere hospitality.

I was invited to specifically review the cuisine, so I'd like to extend my appreciation to Prasana F&B team. I'm not a picky eater, I can eat almost everything. However my taste buds do judge food. While most of the time I enjoy of the food I eat, only a few could really make my taste buds dancing in joy. However I can safely say that the food I've tasted during my 3 days staying in Prasana villa were exceeding my taste buds' expectation. Kudos to Chef Toni and his squad! I would in a heartbeat travelling all the way back to Prasana just to enjoy the food in their beautiful restaurant. 

*   I was invited as a guest. But opinions, happy tummy and the dancing taste buds are all mine.

** IWasHere: Travel Beyond Destinations curates inspiring travel stories from fellow travellers. The app can be installed for free from Play Store πŸ’œ


Prasana by Arjani Resorts
arjaniresorts.com/prasana/
Jl. Harjani no 1, Ungasan - Bali - Indonesia
+62 361 4725488

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