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Their Untold Stories – Taipei Cat Village

Their Untold Stories – Taipei Cat Village

He turned around to look at me one last time. “You really won’t come with me?” I stare back at him silently like I usually do. I can see ambition pulling him away from me, towards a brighter future. This future now shines before him, 

Tulips and Typhoons

Tulips and Typhoons

The sound of rain splattering into the ground was like that dreaded voice that won’t stop. A voice that reminds me of all the things I want to block out with these futile things called walls. The rain pounds on, the war cry of an 

All-You-Can-Travel: The lost essence of travel

All-You-Can-Travel: The lost essence of travel

My parents are travel agents, and from a young age, I have been lucky enough to travel the world. 

This is something I will be forever grateful for.

Yet looking back, I was only mindlessly following my parents on their tours. The scenery rolled past my eyes and I never really connected with my surroundings. Like a washed-out photo, my memories are more like a dream than reality.


This all changed after I started living abroad… when I first got to taste the exciting flavours of independent travelling. 

For the first time, my schedule isn’t decided by time stamps. For the first time, I can act according to my own mood. For the first time, I was in control of both my journey and destination.

For the first time, I finally understood what it meant to travel.


I realised that the reason I couldn’t immerse with my surroundings because of the ‘all-you-can-travel’ trend that currently dominates the tourism industry. Like buffets, tourism seems to have grown in this style where emphasis is placed on quantity at the cost of quality.


Travelling has become much easier than ever before, resulting in the commercialization of travel. Experiences have been replaced by a competition between peers to see who has been to the most countries. 


The first thing people do when they arrive somewhere is to take a photo or a selfie. The first thing people do when they arrive at their hotel is to ask for the WI-FI password. The first thing people do when they connect online is to share their photos on the latest trending social media.

Travel + Social Media = Social Recognition.


This natural drive for recognition serves as a great market for tourism companies that boast of going to the most tourist attractions in the shortest amount of time. 


This makes sense: after all, many tourists lack the fund and the time. The idea is to go to as many places as you can in a day; a sight-seeing marathon.

But then the essence of travel is lost.


We tend to believe that travelling is all about ‘seeing’, neglecting the fact that all the other senses are equally as important. 


We can see as much as we want, but only by fully immersing all five senses can we then imprint these experiences into our memory. To truly experience a place using all our senses, we need to connect with our surrounding. And to connect with our surrounding, what we need is time. 


We live in a world now where more is becoming less. By prioritizing the quantity of destinations, the memories of all these destinations eventually override one another. In the end, we can’t distinguish Vienna from Vienne, or Uruguay from Paraguay. All that remains of our memories are those selfies on Instagram flattered with likes.

But then what is the point? 


Why spend all that money to go abroad only to forget about it? 


Are those photos and likes really that important? 


I know that a lot of people don’t travel like this, but then I also know that most people do. Although it is their choice, I cannot help but feel a tug of sadness every time I see places flooded with tour buses that comes and goes like the tide.

Package tours cover everything from transport to food to accommodation, making life stress-free as you travel. 


Even I admit that it is extremely stressful to have to rely on public transport while surrounded by languages you’ve never even heard before. I also find it extremely tiring to have to carry a 15kg backpack while walking for 2 hours just to save a few dollars. I also feel nervous whenever heading towards a new place with no idea what to expect. 


But it is this nervousness, this exhaustion and this stress that makes the experience that much more memorable. Just like how life is fulfilling because of the ups and downs, experiencing the troubles while travelling makes the happy moments mean so much more.



The success of package tours lies in its sense of security. Yet for me, the essence of travelling lies in the sense of insecurity. It is the wonderful fear of the unknown that really heightens all five senses as you travel, embedding into our life an exquisite experience that will not be forgotten.

And that is something you will never be able to find in all-you-can-travel tours.

Edamame Hummus Salad

Edamame Hummus Salad

#Jump to recipe Rainy season has officially passed, and the heat is really taking its toll. I have to say though, I’m enjoying summers in Japan more and more. I have a great desire to swim right now, and am really missing the beaches and 

Sesame Miso Salad

Sesame Miso Salad

hese salad bowls are my favourite go-to lunch ideas during summer. I love it so much it is no exaggeration to say that I basically eat it every day. It’s cheap, fast to make, nutritious and delicious.

Nanzenji – An unexpected hike

Nanzenji – An unexpected hike

I wanted to explore the grounds of Nanzenji more before I headed home, so I walked up the Suirokaku without realising a surprise was waiting for me.


It was a barely visible path covered by the fallen autumn colours. The path then led up to a little mountain trail. My curiosity overwhelmed my uncertainty and I trudged up ahead. Modest stone steps welcomed me further into the depths of the mountain and all unrelated noise started to filter out. All I could hear was the trickling stream to my right, the rustling leaves that announced the passing breeze, and my own curious footsteps beneath me.


Not long after, I become aware of a rustling sound that was too rhythmical to be the sound of the passing wind. As I climbed closer towards the source of this mysterious yet familiar rustle, I realised it was the sound of someone sweeping leaves. The steps flattened out to a small resting area and my suspicions were confirmed. A grandma was passionately clearing the path. She was extremely lively and surprised when I greeted her, taking the opportunity to share about her passion for the trail up ahead that I didn’t know existed.

She told me a story about her friendship with a married couple because of this trail. The husband was from Australia, and his wife was from Japan. The Australian was in love with this mountain so he would always travel back to Kyoto just to climb it. Unfortunately, due to the recent typhoon, many trees fell and ended up blocking the trail. It was there that the man helped move aside these trees for the grandma to pass. Several days later, the grandma would walk through the trail again only to see more trees shifted away. To show her gratitude, she wrote a small ‘ありがとう‘ (thank you), on the trunk. Few more days passed and when she went on the trail again, she found a little surprise waiting for her. Next to her ‘ありがとう’ she saw a reply, ‘どういたしまして‘ (you’re welcome). Just like that, this trail became their little message exchange centre.

It was a lovely story, and I felt compelled to see this trail for myself. I thanked the grandma and headed out for a completely unplanned hike.

The hike turned out to be extremely… intense. I was out of breath and covered in sweat after 20 minutes. There were fallen trees you had to crawl under, slopes you to climb up with hands, and a lot of broken trails. I had a new-found respect for the grandma that climbed this ‘trail’ like a daily routine. She was 80.

There were small 'signs' throughout the trail when the road started to disappear. It was very reassuring, and I felt encouraged to keep going every time I found one red card.

I guess her passion was what urged me to continue despite my exhaustion. After one hour however, I realized I should probably tackle this mountain again when I was better prepared. I felt a bit ridiculous challenging this hike in casual wear, a large camera swinging off my neck, and worst of all, no water.

The grandma was still there when I climbed down the trail. I tried to hide my embarrassment due to my lack of stamina, but she applauded my efforts with a big smile and more stories. I later learnt from the grandma that the trail lead to Daimonji, and the trail finished at Ginkakuji. It was meant to be a two hour hike.

Although I was nowhere near the top, nor did I find the obaa-chan’s message exchange, this unexpected hike was by far the highlight of my day. As I left Nanzenji, I could feel the stream of tourists filing in, followed by the congestion of tour buses. It was as though I went through a time slip when I went up the mountain, where the quiet, empty morning Nanzenji suddenly transformed to a busy, crowded site.


I quietly slipped away from the crowd on my bike. I left without looking back because I knew I was going to be back very soon to tackle the hike once more.

Suirokaku – Into the depths of Nanzenji

Suirokaku – Into the depths of Nanzenji

The Suirokaku is an old aqueduct tucked away in the grounds of Nanzenji. There is something magical about this place that immediately entices you to stay

Edamame Hummus

Edamame Hummus

#Jump to recipe Who doesn’t like hummus? One of my many food nostalgia back in New Zealand is just having a tub of hummus always present for me to snack on. Funny thing was, although I ate so much hummus, I never thought about making 

Sesame Paste (Roasted Tahini)

Sesame Paste (Roasted Tahini)

Sesame paste is a delicious and simple condiment that makes any recipe taste so much better.

Sesame paste is especially important in Chinese cuisine, but common in Japanese cuisine as well. I have a bad habit of adding it to nearly everything because I love that extra nutty, creamy flavour.


Unfortunately, in Japan, sesame paste can only be found in import stores which makes it

a) Hard to come by

b) Expensive


Let’s not forget the fact that the processed food lined up on our supermarket shelves are all full of additives. Even if I had the money, seeing all the unfamiliar ‘ingredients’ listed is enough to put me off buying it.

Thankfully for us, sesame is really easy to get here in Japan. This is because sesame is common in Japanese cuisine, including goma-zoe, furikake, the sauce for suki-yaki , and more. Thankfully for us, sesame is really easy to get here in Japan. This is because sesame is common in Japanese cuisine, including goma-zoe, furikake, the sauce for suki-yaki , and more.

At a Japanese supermarket, you will most likely find two kinds of sesame seeds:


いりごま (irigoma): whole, roasted sesame seeds.

すりごま (surigoma): crushed, roasted sesame seeds.



In order to make our own home made sesame paste, look for white irigoma. I personally like to roast the seeds again before processing. This brings out that aroma and oil, which improves the flavour and helps the sesame blend better. If you use surigoma you won’t be able to roast it as it will burn. Also, irigoma tends to be slightly cheaper, so that’s killing to birds with one stone.


Now,making our own homemade sesame paste is actually very simple.

All you need is a fry pan, food processor, sesame and salt



3 cups sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt




1) Toast the seeds on low heat until golden

2) Blend the seeds in a food processor until coarse like sand

3) Add salt to liking

4) Continue blending until it becomes smooth like a paste. 


And you are done!


Here I used roughly 1 cup of sesame seeds to 1/4 teaspoon of salt, which gave me 1/3 cups of sesame paste.


There isn’t really anywhere you could go wrong, but here are some tips.






1) Toast the seeds on low heat as to no burn them. You will know when the seeds are done when they are slightly golden in colour and you can smell the fragrance of sesame seeds




2) Be paitent while blending the seeds! You will get there eventually. The time it takes depends on your food processor. Because I used a mini grinder instead of a processor, it took me roughly 20 minutes.

Easy isn’t it?


Price range:


Sesame ( ¥ 130) + salt = Roughly ¥ 130


It’s a very affordable and healthier alternative to store bought sesame paste!


Store your jar of sesame paste in the refrigerator. Since there are no preservatives added, the oil will go rancid if you leave it outside.


The sesame paste lasts from 1~2 weeks, but honestly, I use it in so many recipes like my Sesame Miso Salad Bowl, or Edamame Hummus. So you definitely don’t need to worry about it going off because it’ll be gone before you realise!

Spirited Away at Akita Kantō Festival

Spirited Away at Akita Kantō Festival

There was a scene from a Japanese animation that has been ingrained into my memory ever since my eyes engulfed it as a child. I do not remember the name nor plot of the movie, but I do remember this one scene as though I