On a Thursday night in the meeting hall, instead of “going through the usuals” (love feast, sing, and read the Word), after love feast and singing time, we had a table tennis tournament among serving ones, college students, and young people. The hall was filled with intensity as all eyes were focused on the players who were on fire with the ping-pong ball.
One conclusion came from this tournament: our young people and college students are FULL OF ENERGY!! They not only won the matches against young working serving ones, they did not even look tired after the tournament ended!
On a slow Friday evening, our conversation in the bedroom went like this. . .
Sandy: *yawn* What are we doing this weekend?
Shane: Do you want to go to Kelowna?
Sandy: *thought for a while about how far it is* OK.
An hour later, I stepped out of the shower and Shane had booked the hotel! We were going to Kelowna…it was unbelievable how fast the decision was made.
Below are the highlights of our spontaneous weekend getaway!
1. Natural scenery.
The road trip to and from Kelowna: Since it was a 4-hour drive, we took the time enjoy the natural scenery along the way. The varied mountain views made the drive exhilarating (at least for the passenger…hehe). We saw beautiful snow-capped mountains, which was quite a sight at this time of the year. A while later, the scene would drastically change and the mountains would be filled with lovely green spruce!
Kasugai Japanese Garden in downtown Kelowna was very calming, even though it was a bit chilly that afternoon. In contrast to the Nitobe Japanese Garden at UBC, this garden is free to the public (of course, it’s smaller than Nitobe).
We stopped at Boyce-Gyro Beach on our way back. We thought that it would be a wonderful beach for families in the summer (and likely very packed). This beach features a small playground for children, which included slides and a mini zipline, a public washroom, picnic tables, and 4 beach volleyball courts. The location of Boyce-Gyro Beach is perfect for viewing the Okanagan Lake. I can just imagine the sunset view in the summer…
At Kelowna, we still (haha, yes, still) tried to get our hands on comfort food. Other than the super delicious Mexican lunch we had, we also had Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean food.
Teo’s -At this Mexican restaurant, they gave us really generous portions…to the extent that we couldn’t finish our chicken and beef quesadillas and wished that we had only ordered one plate. The taco soup was incredibly rich with red beans and corn. Combined with the pure white sour cream at the top, it was delicious!
Bluetail Sushi Bistro – We got lucky that our hotel happened to be right across from this sushi bistro. The line-up around 7:30PM took about 15 minutes. In a romantic mood, we both chose the “Love Boat”. The journey began with the original and spicy miso soup (didn’t know the spicy version existed!), and continued with two medium sized bowls of sunomono. That took out 30% of our stomach before we arrived at the fried food platter. The sushi platter followed. The reason I use the word “fried food platter” is that other than the tempura items, they also gave us chicken karage, which is our staple whenever we go to a Japanese restaurant. We also liked the way the nigiri sushi were made; the portion of rice was much smaller than the fish, unlike those restaurants that gave more rice than fish. The dimmed lights and design of the mini booth gave a private and special feeling and ambience. If we weren’t planning to go to another cafe to pursue the life-study, we would have lingered. Finally, in terms of customer service, our waiter was courteous and timely in dropping by see if we needed anything. He was a recent graduate from UBC Okanagan (random fact)!
Formosa Tea Cafe – This was an absolutely lucky find. When Shane booked the hotel, he did not know that this lovely little cafe was literally a 5-minute drive from our hotel. Since we were both full from dinner, we wanted to sit down at a quiet cafe to enjoy some tea while reading message 16 of the Life-Study of Ezekiel (yes, we are doing another reading challenge for the Summer Training of 2017!). We ordered rose tea, which came in a glass teapot heated by a small candle, two small glass teacups, and one spoonful of honey, all on a wooden tray. As you can see in the photos of the cafe below, they really took the time and care to decorate the place with paintings and the tea jars, which were simply too adorable and irresistible!
SS Korean Restaurant – Initially, we were planning to go to a Vietnamese noodle place, but when we got there, it was closed! As a result, we went back on Bernard Street (the street that food lovers must go to when visiting Downtown Kelowna) and found this Korean restaurant. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, as I didn’t read the reviews beforehand. The furnishing of the place made it look like it was going for high-end, however, when we got the menu, we were delighted by the prices that we saw. Then, when the food came, we were even more delighted by the portions that were served. My pork bone soup was topped with a mountain of bean sprouts and onions. As I bit into the meat, it was incredibly hot and tender. Later, I learned from the waiter that it took them 3-4 hours to cook the pork! Shane’s seafood tofu soup was also incredibly tasty. When we ate the kimchi, I told Shane and this tastes like how my Korean friend’s mom makes it! Great authentic Korean restaurant. 5 stars!
3. Kangaroo Creek Farm
I told Shane that I would wake up at 8AM on a Saturday just to see the kangaroos in Kelowna, so he drove 4 hours non-stop to the farm. Half way through the road trip, he asked if I needed to go to the washroom, and I told him that “We only have 1 hour left to see the kangaroos! Don’t worry! Just keep driving!” That’s how attractive the kangaroos are in Canada. I mean, it’s kangaroos!
The ticket to enter the farm was $10 per adult. At the farm, we met a man who told us that he and his wife made the bird houses around the creek farm. He couldn’t tell us how many hours they took to finish one house, because gathering the materials was very time-consuming. Well, their time and effort are worth it! If we had a house, we would definitely buy one and hang it up somewhere.
Our first stop was to visit the baby kangaroos. We heard that visitors get to hold them, so we went straight for the line-up. Afterwards, we went to the side where they put the adult kangaroos. After my heart calmed down from a shock by an excited, huge ostrich at the entrance, it was incredibly comforting and healing to see so many fluffy, adorable creatures lying around. Their relaxed posture reminded me that’s how we all ought to enjoy our weekend (what I’d like to call “two vacation days”) after a long week of work.
4. Okanagan Wine and Orchard Museum
We wanted to get a taste of the history of Kelowna, and so we dropped by this public museum. We spent a good hour there. A few interesting points:
1. We learned that the first ice wine was made in Germany! And I thought the Canadians invented ice wine..
2. Take a look at the ingredients of the jam in the photos below. They are not the normal blueberry or strawberry flavours you are expecting 😉
3. Can you guess how many litres of wine that the barrel at the bottom of the collage can hold? Scroll to the bottom of this blog post to find out.
Hint: Sandy guessed 1,000 litres. Shane guessed 2,000 litres. They were both wrong.
These are basically what Kelowna is famous for. Mission Hill Winery really feels like an art museum.
Since we did not plan much before coming here, we felt really relaxed throughout the trip. There was no pressure or need to get through a well-researched itinerary, and we actually used some of our meal times to research our next destination. We are thankful of people from all over the world who write travel blogs and provide rating and comments for the places they visit. We hope to do the same and contribute to the online community of people who love to travel to eat, meet new people, blend, go sightseeing, and enjoy the Word! 🙂
We arrived at Narita International Airport in the afternoon with a lot of luggage. “A lot” is far from exaggeration – we had 4 checked-in luggage, 2 carry-on luggage, and a 20-inch wedding frame, all of which must be transported to and from our hotel, and eventually back to Vancouver. Finding luggage space and traveling light became important goals for this trip. Clearly, we avoided buying big items, but we realized we also had to be careful with purchasing small items…they can really take up the luggage space!
Thankfully, Shane was quite strategic in booking a cheaper hotel that could easily access the transit to the airport so that we can use our carry-on bags to explore further-out places like Hakone, where you can find absolutely amazing onsen hotels.
Before we get too excited sharing about our experience of onsen in Japan, here are the other highlights of our trip to Tokyo, Japan!
1. The food.
Eating in Tokyo was a really interesting experience.
We learned from our trip that the cheapest way to dine out is to eat ramen. Food items such as yakitori (skewers) and sushi should be eaten only for taste if you want to save money. In the places we went to in Tokyo, these items turned out to be quite expensive in terms of the price you pay and the actual size of the portion you get.
To highlight, in one of the small ramen restaurants in Akihabara (秋葉原), there was a cute vending machine that prints out your selection on the menu and collects your payment before you sit down to eat. This is a great way for the restaurants to be efficient at serving customers. Even though both of us couldn’t understand the menu in Japanese, we used a Google Translate app to scan the machine with the phone camera so that the words were translated into English. What a cool and useful app!
Our second noteworthy dining experience was the Japanese and International All-You-Can-Eat buffet at Okada hotel in Hakone (箱根). The dinner and breakfast buffet were complementary. We were amazed and pleased with the variety of foods that were offered in both meals. The most interesting experience of the dinner was the hotpot. In one of the pictures in the collage below, you can see one that has a handled lighter and a blue methanol solid fuel fire next to it. We picked up those items ourselves in addition to the pot, soup, ingredients, and sauce of our choice. We then assembled these items at our table and cooked the hotpot ourselves – isn’t that more fun than having the waiter or waitress do it for you! As we walked around, we saw many girls in colourful yukatas and men in their striped yukatas. The way people dressed for dinner definitely set the cultural tone and atmosphere of the room!
Our third fascinating dining experience was at a place called Artnia (Square Enix) in Shinjuku (新宿区). We sighed with relief when we finally found the place because we had gone to their other store which had permanently closed. In any case, when we first walked into the cafe with our tired legs, we were lured by the adorable and small interesting things in the gift shop. Going further into the cafe, we entered a dark room decorated by sparkly, dazzling glass pillars. There was a fountain display in the middle of the room, and the play of lights made the water seemed like it was flowing upwards as opposed to downwards and following the law of gravity. The figurines in the glass pillars were meticulously designed, just as they were in the video game. Unsurprisingly, many of the figurines were already sold out, and Shane had a difficult time finding a worthy souvenir to bring home (the items he wanted, of course, were all sold out). Later, we decided to sit down to rest our legs and eat the dessert, mainly because the cafe had special items on the menu that featured symbolic items from Final Fantasy VII. We chose a sundae that had Cloud’s Buster Sword on top and another that had Aerith’s bow (see if you can find them in the photo collage below!). After a long day of walking in Shinjuku, this sugar boost was absolutely essential for us to travel back to our hotel that evening.
Finally, to enjoy the delicious Japanese snacks (e.g. rice crackers, matcha-flavoured cookies, wasabi-flavoured goodies, instant noodles, cheese fries, dried seafood snacks…etc. See photos below!), we recommend visiting the small convenience stores at the train stations and the tax-free Akihabara gift store at the Narita Airport.
2. Architecture and landscape.
The photo collage below features the places that, as Taiwanese people would say “很有feel”. As you can see, the photos show the contrast of modernity versus tradition, daytime versus nighttime, and urban versus rural. The stunningly beautiful architecture reminded us of the settings in the anime that we watched in our childhood and teenage years. For example, the shrines reminded us of the setting of Spirited Away.
3. Okada Onsen Hotel
We read in a travel blog that foreign visitors often skipped the onsen when traveling to Hakone, and the blog emphasised that local Japanese people could not imagine skipping the onsen when visiting Hakone. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit one of the onsen hotels at Hakone to get a sense of why local people go there on the weekends. Both of us have never gone there before, so it sounded very exciting.
It was raining that day. We took 2 trains and 1 bus to get there, and when we were dropped off at the bus stop in the rain on the mountain, we felt quite tense. Google Map told us that we needed to walk for about 18 minutes to reach the onsen hotel. In reality, those 18-minutes were filled with tiptoeing on narrow mountain roads that had no pedestrian walk, being soaked by the merciless rain, avoiding oncoming cars while reading directions on the phone spattered with raindrops, and dragging the luggage up and down the hill.
Regardless of the outward environment, with determined hearts, we marched on. I learned from traveling with Shane that complaining should really be a banned behaviour on a trip. Complaining decreases motivation and it doesn’t help us to move on. In these situations, we need exercise to turn to our spirit, call on the Lord, and choose not to depend on our natural emotions and reactions to the outward environment. The way of the cross truly leads to freedom of the soul. The more we turn to the spirit, the more positive we become, and the less we complain, the more we can see light in the tunnel.
“Okada!” I suddenly said. He turned to me and didn’t say anything. I looked back at him and said “It’s right there! The sign! Do you see it? I’m not just saying it.” He looked to where I was pointing and smiled “Oh yeah!!” Seeing the huge hiragana characters on top of the building felt like seeing the road that Moses opened in the Red Sea. We found our way after all!
coffee brewer with delicious tea in tea bags and coffee
white teapot and 2 cups
4 delicious mochi snacks on the table
TV that features the services in the hotel, including renting yukata, massage therapies, transportation information…etc.
outdoor onsen available
complementary dinner and breakfast
outdoor view of the mountain and nature is AMAZING
We highly recommend doing the onsen when coming to Hakone!! We saw couples, families with children, college students, and older folks.
On a side note, we learned that the way Japanese people bow and say “arigadougozaimasu” is a good way of expressing gratitude and appreciation, which is a healthy behaviour for marriage-building. We started to do this to each other whenever we felt grateful about something the other had said/done, and the effect was quite something 😉
Our 8-day trip in Taiwan is filled with pleasant memories of visiting our families and friends, warm and friendly Taiwanese people, and eating lots of delicious food made by families and from dining out.
In this post, we will highlight the key scenes of our enjoyment of the trip!
1. Families and friends
One of the main purposes of our trip was to visit our families and friends after getting married. We were greeted by much love! We are so grateful for their blessings, help, food, and care. We also told them that we look forward to their future visits to Vancouver (please come in July and August – these are the best months in terms of weather!).
2. Taipei Tour
We went back to the places that were meaningful to Shane’s childhood memories, and we also visited a couple places in Taipei. Riding on the U-bike was an awesome experience!! It is incredibly convenient to use it get around the city. Best of all, you use the transit card to pay – no fumbling for credit card or cash at all!
Self-explanatory =) Taiwan is famous for her food. I got to “catch up” to the more well-known restaurants and food in Taipei that, as I was informed, in Taiwanese people’s childhood memories.
4. Church in Taipei
We got to visit the Church in Taipei in meeting hall #43 on Lord’s Day – what a blessing! Even though the morning didn’t start smoothly between us, the Lord showed His mercy and turned us. His grace is sufficient!
Due to jetlegging, we woke up at around 4AM in the morning and after a rejuvenating hot morning shower, we decided to head out in search for breakfast. Since we knew it will be a pictures-filled day in Seoul, we took extra care to look nice and geared up for photography.
Seoul looked different in the morning. The dazzling city lights gently faded and were replaced by the warm, radiant rays of the sun. Casually strolling down the street of Sinchon-ro towards the Ewha Woman’s University station was a relaxing experience. As we walked past the gigantic buildings that towered above us on the other side of the street, we stopped to take a few photos.
As expected, we enjoyed the convenience of the tap-in and tap-out system of Seoul’s subway. On the one hand, we quickly realized that it’s quite cheap to travel around the city and were thrilled to take the train whenever we could. On the other hand, the truth is it was not at all easy to find the right exits, as the stations were huge and complex, and we both had a steep learning curve in familiarising ourselves with the names of streets and buildings. Despite the challenges, we delightfully discovered a cute little bakery shop on our way called “The Bake”, and while I got distracted by a cosmetic shop nearby, Shane bought a mocha bun for 2000 won. The bread had an amazing smell. The brown crispy crust was sweet, and the inner side was hot and delicious. We finished it in a flash.
On our way to Myeongdong, we saw a myriad of brilliantly coloured food pictures on the streets that made our hearts beat faster. Then, we found the breakfast place Shane researched about called Isaac Toast in Myeongdong. Inspired by the long lineup, he quickly went to find the end of the line while I snapped photos of the shop and the menu. The pork bulgogi and beef sandwiches were so worth the wait. The bread was crispy, golden French toast and smelled like mouth-watering butter. The patty along with the mysterious and magical sauces created a beautiful harmony in the taste. At the center was a slightly spicy sauce that urged us onward to the last bite. This heavenly breakfast cost us 6000 won. This is a must-try!
Myeongdong was a sleepy place at 10AM on Saturday morning. Many shops were not open yet, and so we took off to visit the Changgyeonggung Palace. As we stepped into the courtyard, we gazed in awe at the architectural design and instinctively reached for the cameras. At 11:30AM, a Mandarin-speaking Korean tour guide announced that the tour was about to start, and our group gathered around her. Actually, our group was just Shane and I, which was nice because we could ask her more questions. Our tour guide was dressed in traditional hanbok and her demeanour was very professional, engaging, and elegant. Without her explanation of the history of the place, it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting. The tour lasted for about an hour. My feet were sore by then so I sat on the stone staircase taking selfies while Shane went around the palace with his camera, monopod, and different lenses.
Our tour guide told us that we could go to Bukchon Hanok Village through the Changdeokgung Palace, which was connected to the Changgyeonggung Palace. We took more photos at Changgyeonggung Palace, which had way more tourists and students. By the time we reached Bukchon Hanok village, we were starving (this is probably why we didn’t take many pictures at the village!). Finding the Bukchon Hanok village proved to be a more challenging mission than I anticipated. Due to the recent political events in Seoul, we encountered a lot of police on the streets, in the subway stations, and some roads were blocked by the police buses. In addition, our WiFi device was running out of battery and we almost changed our mind to go back to the hotel to charge it. In any case, we took several detours, got lost, found our way again, and then with a more determined heart and learnt mind, we reached our destination.
To be honest, by the time we reached the village, we were not in the mood for pictures or tour. The hills in the village were steep and we were tired from all the walking. The information guides at the village showed us where to find mandu and bibimbap on the map, and we arrived at one of the restaurants he recommended shortly after a 15-minute walk. It was a delicious meal that only cost us 12,000 won.
After a short walk to help with digestion, we saw a small shop selling fried mandu (on Buchon-ro 4-gil and Bukchon-ro), and we went in right away. The place was small and as we sat down, we felt the warmth that came from the people and the cooking. We had one order of the fried mandu, and it came in 3 pieces. The golden fried mandu were absolutely crispy, and it was filled with vermicelli and all sorts of goodies. We gratefully ate the mandu dipped in soy sauce and alternated our bites with pickled white radish. This wonderful treat cost us 3500 won.
It was probably around 3PM in the afternoon when we started to head for Dongdamen, the ultimate shopping district. After a morning filled with Korean history and delectable Korean food, we were ready for some serious shopping.
The shopping district was huge. I mean HUGE.
Did I say huge?
We went to Doota duty-free department store. It really should be named “women’s paradise”. Thankfully, I was sent on an important mission by my Canadian friends. We (I excitedly and my husband calmly) marched to the floors that sold cosmetics, claimed the victory, and came out with a pink bag in hand. The shimmery boxes sparkled against the sunlight in the plastic.
We had to drop by UNICLO for Shane. Even though he didn’t buy anything at the end, my feet were happy from resting on a leather chair in the store.
Next, we walked through the main shopping street in Dongdamen, bought more cosmetics, and an amazing cup of kiwi juice from Isaac Toast. We still have no clue what they put in there that made it taste so amazing. We had witnessed the lady putting in kiwi and ice cubes into the blender, but we suspected that there must be a secret ingredient. More detective work needs to be done there.
It was around 5PM in the afternoon when we decided that it was time to go back to the hotel, drop off our victory items, and go to Myeongdong for cheap eats.
We never made it to Myeongdong.
We woke up super early in the morning, realized that we missed dinnertime, and decided that since our flight was in a couple hours, we might as well just eat brunch and get ready to board the plane. See airport meal below 🙂