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A Weekend in Kamakura

After three glorious weeks in the Cambodian sun, I had to pack up my suitcase and prepare for a completely different climate all together.

Kamakura Hachimangu ShrineI wasn’t really that prepared, to be honest. After a few weeks of the heat I’d completely forgotten that, you know, I’d probably need my coat, prompting a mad dash back to Phnom Penh half a day earlier than I was supposed to from Kep. Oops.

I also would not recommend flying with Vietnam Airlines – almost every single flight I took with them was delayed (by five hours), and the service was not great. I did get a few rather hilarious stories out of the experience, though, so if you’re at all interested I’ll add that to the end of the post!*.

I finally arrived in Haneda Airport in just about one piece about 30 hours after I had left Phnom Penh. My family in Tokyo live in Shinagawa, which is really convenient to get to from Haneda – only half an hour away by train. The first thing I’d do before coming to Japan is getting the JR Pass – it’s a little pricey, but such good value, and you will save so much money once you are there by getting one. You can only get one outside of Japan, so it’s worth doing before you go. A 7-day pass set me back £154, and it was well worth every penny – I got mine here.

I arrived on the 31st of December, and spent about half an hour in Tokyo picking up my boyfriend (who had landed that morning) before I was on another train – this time, to Kamakura.

Kamakura is one of my favourite places in the entire world. It was the de-facto capital of Japan, years and years ago, and is absolutely beautiful. My grandparents would spend their weeks in Tokyo, where my grandfather would work, and almost every weekend they’d come back to Kamakura, which is around an hour away from Tokyo by train.

As far as cities go, it’s a pretty small one, but is full of some of the most amazing architecture in Japan, in my opinion, as well as being surrounded by natural beauty. It’s close to the sea, but there are several forests – and I can even get a great view of Mt. Fuji from my grandparent’s house in the Highlands.

Mt. Fuji, Kamakura, JapanNew Year’s is a massive deal in Japan – it’s kind of like how Christmas is in the UK – very family-orientated, and everything is shut. I was only in Kamakura for three days this trip, unfortunately, and spent it less on getting out there to look for things to blog, but more on spending time with family (sorry). I do think it’s a stunning place to visit, though, and I know it really well, so I just thought I would share some of my favourite places to go, see, and eat!

What to Do

Kamakura is filled with stunning temples – the biggest and most famous being Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, which is a five minute walk from Kamakura Station. I’m slightly biased towards this temple,  as this is the one I always go to to get my blessings (and my grandfather was a temple elder there when he was alive). Built in 1063, it is absolutely breathtaking. At New Year, around 30,000 people will gather to pay their respects, and it was absolutely rammed when I went. Being Japan, of course, it was the most civilised crowd ever, but if you are claustrophobic I strongly suggest not going there on January 1st!

New Year's Day, Kamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanNew Year Plaques, Kamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanKamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanHachimangu is filled with interesting street food vendors, too – so it’s worth checking them out if you’re a fan of street food – Japanese street food is awesome.

Kamakura, Hachimangu ShrineChoco Bananas, Kamakura, JapanChoco Bananas, Kamakura, JapanAnother place I’d strongly recommend is Hokokuji, a beautiful old temple surrounded by a bamboo forest. It was unfortunately closed at new year, so I didn’t make it this time round, but it is one of the most serene places I’ve ever been.

Going to Kotoku-in to see the Daibutsu (giant Buddha) is definitely one to tick off of your bucket list – there are regular buses going straight there from Kamakura station, and is really worth seeing. It’s hard to believe that the buddha was built in 1252 (and you can go inside it, too).

Daibutsu, Kamakura, JapanGiant Buddha, Daibutsu, Kamakura, JapanKamakuraA few honorable mentions, that I didn’t have time for this trip: The beach (in the summer months, of course); Zenarai Benzaiten shrine, where you go to wash your money so you can get rich; taking the Enoden electric railway along the coast for a great view of the sea; the Shakado pass; and the yagura tombs.

Where to Eat

I didn’t go to too many restaurants this time, as I was busy getting osechi ryori (traditional Japanese new year fare) at home. A lot of places were also closed around New Year, so we had to make do with stockpiling amazing fatty tuna sashimi, and doing a lot of cooking for ourselves, too!

Osechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, JapanOsechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, Japan4Osechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, JapanSashimi, Kamakura, JapanKamakura does have some amazing places – and things – to eat. I highly recommend the shops and little izakayas (Japanese pubs) down Komachi-dori, which is just off of your left as you leave Kamakura Station.

They are all pretty great, but that’s where I got this donburi bowl of maguro tuna, natto (fermented soybeans) and raw egg. The way eggs and chickens are reared in Japan is of such a high standard that you can safely eat eggs and chickens raw, unlike the UK. Raw eggs in particular are a big part of Japanese cuisine, and something I miss the most when I’m back in the UK. Natto is an acquired taste. I absolutely love the stuff, and have loads in my freezer, but I’ve yet to meet a non-Japanese person who likes it. If you do, let me know!

Natto, Maguro and Raw Egg Topped Rice, Kamakura, JapanThe absolute best omelette rice IN THE ENTIRE WORLD can be found at Cafe Vivement Dimanche – it’s a must.

If you’re walking along Komachi-dori, it is absolutely imperative that you get ice cream, because I’m under the impression that you can’t get better ice cream anywhere else. Sweet potato ice cream might sound totally crazy, but it is my absolute favourite, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else. You can’t miss it – it’s purple, like sweet potatoes are in Japan – and has the most beautiful, subtle flavour.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanIf the thought of it freaks you out too much, you can always get matcha ice cream from the same place, or go a few doors down and try a black sesame one, too. It’s pretty great.

Black Sesame Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanWhere to Shop

Basically, Komachi-dori is where it’s at in terms of shopping – the Ghibli store is a must (one of the first on your right), and the whole street is full of places selling traditional souvenirs. If you’re looking to take back confectionery, the Hatosabure Kamakura Dove Cookies are really iconic, and worth taking back.

It was so wonderful to go for a visit, and I’d totally recommend Kamakura as a place to check out when you’re in Japan. It’s authentic, without being spoiled by tourism – a stunning place that everyone should go to at least once!

Have you ever been to Japan? What were some of your favourite places? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

*The first story was the rather hilarious, but perhaps only to me. On our first 5 hour delayed flight, I asked the much older gentleman who was also delayed coming in to Phnom Penh whether he wanted to email his son, who was meant to be picking him up from the airport. He didn’t have an email address, so I offered to send his son an email from my own address. I had to take a picture of the old man and attach it to the email, to prove I wasn’t an extremely unimaginative prankster, and I felt like someone that has kidnapped someone for ransom. This same old man, by the way, managed to sneak a ONE LITER BOTTLE of shower gel – not only through HEATHROW SECURITY, but also through Hanoi airport, too. It was only when we were going through security in Ho Chi Minh that anyone called him out on the “no liquids over 100mls” thing. Doesn’t fill me with confidence, really.

The second story was just so bizarre I felt as though I was hallucinating throughout. I was upgraded to premium economy on my flight from Hanoi to Tokyo, and was sat next to an old Vietnamese man. I had been reading a book on my iPad, watching movies with my Bose headphones, and using my own neck pillow. Every time I would get up to use the loo (it was a long flight, so this happened quite a few times) the old man would have taken one of the three from my seat, and would be using it. I guess he thought they came with the plane and I was just hogging it all, but it was so funny and really awkward having to get all my belongings back from him every time!

Kep & Kampot Revisited

It’s been a little over a year since I last wrote about Kep and Kampot, but I went back again over Christmas and I just had to share how beautiful it was all over again.

Kep, Crab Shack, CambodiaKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaWhere to Eat

As always, a trip to the crabshacks in Kep should be mandatory – fresh crab with kampot pepper is out of this world. I always go for the steamed crab, as it’s a lot juicier. We usually head to Kimly, but it tends to get busy as it was voted the best place to eat in Kep by the Lonely Planet a few years ago. If it’s too packed, So Kheang a few doors down is marginally cheaper (and they often have better crab, too).

KepKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaThere are a few places a little further down from the crab market that do amazing cocktails – the mojitos in particular are worth trying. Be sure to get down for sunset – it’s pretty spectacular.

Knai Bang Chatt, the Sailing Club, also do nice cocktails – I prefer the cheap and cheerful food from the crab market, but in terms of ambience it can’t be beaten.

Mojito, Crabshack, Kep, CambodiaKep, Crab Shack, CambodiaDSC08648Kep, Crab Shack, CambodiaKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaKampot is supposed to have amazing coffee, but both times I’ve been have been way too close to Christmas, when the coffee shops are shut. The ribs at The Rusty Keyhole in Kampot are a must – quite simply the most delicious ribs I have ever had – a statement still true one year on! Their portions are huge, so keep that in mind when ordering – and if you ever brave the dino ribs, please let me know!

Rusty Keyhole, Kampot, CambodiaRusty Keyhole, Kampot, CambodiaWhere to Stay

We’ve always stayed at the Villa Saat. It’s perfect for big groups, the pool is amazing, and the staff are very attentive and helpful. Not to mention the photogenic tiled floors – needless to say, Villa Saat was all over my Instagram feed.

Villa Saat, Kep, CambodiaVilla Saat, Kep, CambodiaVilla Saat, Kep, CambodiaDSC08565The best part about Villa Saat is the fact that you can get local masseurs to come by to give you a massage. But one top tip – Khmer massages are very firm. Personally, I prefer firm massages (not so keen on the idea of paying someone to stroke me) – but I know it’s not to everyone’s taste.

What To Do

The highlight of my trip was spending the day out on a boat with Captain Eric on a tour of local fishing villages, islands and secluded beaches.

Kep Boat Tour, CambodiaKep Boat Tour, CambodiaThe Facebook page is in French, but Eric speaks great English, and is very knowledgable about the area. Drinks and lunch can be provided, as are snorkels – a lot of great coral and marine life. The water was so clear – it was absolutely stunning.

Kep, CambodiaKep Boat Tour, CambodiaWatermelon, Pineapple and Banana, CambodiaKep Province is an absolute gem, and a must see when you’re in the region.

Knai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaHave you ever been to Kep? What are some of your favourite places? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

 

The Tiger’s Eye, Phnom Penh

A year or so ago I wrote about the amazing food over at The Common Tiger. Since then, The Common Tiger has sadly permanently closed its doors – but the same team are still creating the same stunning dishes at a new location, The Tiger’s Eye on Sotheros Boulevard.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom PenhTiger's Eye, Phnom PenhI say ‘same stunning dishes’ loosely, as the menu is still seasonal, but each dish is still as jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is delicious – just as it was back in BKK.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: BreadTiger's Eye, Phnom PenhTiger's Eye, Phnom PenhBooking in advance is strongly recommended (it’s very popular) – and you seriously don’t want to miss out on this tasting menu.

I opted against the paired wines, as I’m quite a slow drinker – and downing several glasses of wine in the heart of the Christmas season is just asking for trouble.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: White Onion Panacotta, Caramlised Cashew Nut Pesto, Herbs & Goats CheeseThe first course after the bread was a white onion pannacotta served with a caramelised cashew nut pesto and goats cheese. It was as mouthwateringly delicious as it sounds – I really enjoyed the texture of the savoury pannacotta.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: White Onion Panacotta, Caramlised Cashew Nut Pesto, Herbs & Goats CheeseTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: White Onion Panacotta, Caramlised Cashew Nut Pesto, Herbs & Goats CheeseNext up was a pork course – pork crackling and a terrine of braised head, served with Kep crab, leek and avocado.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pork, Terrine, Kep Crab, Leek, Avocado, Pork CracklingTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pork, Terrine, Kep Crab, Leek, Avocado, Pork CracklingTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pork, Terrine, Kep Crab, Leek, Avocado, Pork CracklingIt was all so beautifully presented, and the braised leek with the crab pate was sublime. The pork crackling was my favourite part of this course, reminding me of the one from Kurobuta – flavourful, crisp, and light as air.

This was followed by pan-roasted seabass served with a northern Thai style curry, aubergine, and rice.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pan Roasted Sea Bass, Thai Curry, Aubergine, RiceAlthough pleasant, this course didn’t blow me over the way the first two did – saying that, it was still really tasty, and I enjoyed the vegetables with the rich sauce in particular.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Tenderloin, Peppercorn, Mushroom, PotatoTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Tenderloin, Peppercorn, Mushroom, Potato Penh:The final main was truly incredible, and really showcased what the team behind The Tiger’s Eye really excel at – the use of Cambodian flavours and ingredients in a modern and imaginative way.

The beef tenderloin and short rib were served with green Kampot peppercorns, mushrooms and potato.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Tenderloin, Peppercorn, Mushroom, PotatoThe steak was cooked to perfection, in my opinion, and the mushroom was flavourful and meaty in texture – just the way I like it.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pumpkin Creme Caramel, Meringue, Sticky Rice and Cashew NutThe final course was also inspired by local cuisine – a delicious pumpkin creme caramel, served with sticky rice and cashew nut.

You really can’t fault The Tiger’s Eye for their food or service. It is without a doubt one of my favourite restaurants, and the only drawback for me is the fact that it isn’t in London!

The Tiger’s Eye is located at 49 Sotheros Blvd, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

What about you? What are some of your favourite restaurants abroad that you wish were in the UK? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Farm to Table, Phnom Penh

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhIf you’re looking for fresh, delicious and organic food in Phnom Penh, then I highly recommend heading on down to Farm to Table.

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhThe same team running the popular clean eating shop Artillery are behind Farm to Table, a tranquil eatery in the heart of the trendy Boeung Keng Kang (BKK) neighbourhood.

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhAll of the food is reliably sourced, and deliciously fresh – the salads are safe to eat too, something I usually avoid when I’m traveling in the region.

The courtyard is charming, shaded by the trees – and the makeshift toy kitchen and tractor make it perfect for taking little ones along, too.

Kid's Meal Quesadilla, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe Cobb Salad, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe Cobb Salad, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe food is absolutely gorgeous. The Cobb Salad above is topped with a fried egg, and they have a great selection of fresh juice, including coconut water and sugar cane.

Full Breakfast, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFull Breakfast, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThey also do a mean breakfast, served with what is described as a salsa, but is actually more like a flavoured oil – the only thing I wasn’t a fan of in the whole place.

Duck Confit, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhDuck Confit, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhI went for the duck confit, served with a fried egg, blistered tomatoes, baby potatoes and a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Grilled White Tuna, Farm to Table, Phnom PenhThe grilled white tuna salad was served with crushed potato, fresh herbs and ratatouille, with fish sourced from Sihanoukville.

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhFarm to Table, Phnom PenhThe dishes are simple – but perfectly done, of really high quality, and are delicious. Farm to Table often do great lunch deals, too, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. You can be sure to tuck into a satisfying, tasty and filling lunch at Farm to Table (without any of the regret).

Farm to Table, Phnom PenhAnd who knows, you might even make a couple of friends when you’re there, too!

Farm to Table is at No 16, Street 260, BKK1, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Have you ever been to a Farm to Table restaurant before? What are some of your favourite organic eateries? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Where to Buy Souvenirs in Phnom Penh

I always like bringing back a little gift or two when I’ve been on holiday. I’ve found there’s a pretty fine line, though – there are only so many tacky keyrings you can stomach (especially from places you haven’t been before).

Where to Buy Souvenirs, Phnom PenhWith this in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of my favourite places to buy souvenirs in Phnom Penh. Hopefully this should have something for everyone – from tchotchke lovers (you know who you are), to foodies, the fashion conscious and the socially and environmentally conscious, too.

For Foodies

You can’t really go wrong with a edible gift – it won’t take up space, and it’s always pretty exciting to try new flavours. A gift of Kampot pepper is definitely the way to go – whether they use it in their pepper grinder, or make a delicious seafood sauce with a bit of lime juice. You can pick this up absolutely everywhere, but I got mine in this cute package below from one of the stores along Street 240.

Kampot PepperIf they’ve got more of a sweet tooth, I’d strongly recommend swinging by The Shop on Street 240 for Chocolate. They’ve got some really unusual chocolate flavours, like Mondulkiri Honey and Sesame, Kampot Pepper, and Keffir Lime, and package them beautifully, too.

For Arty Types

Trunkh, Phnom Penh, Where To Buy SouvenirsTrunkh, on Street 13, has some amazing things – I really have to reel myself in whenever I’m in there. They’ve got an eclectic mix of homewares and clothing inspired by Cambodia, but with a very contemporary feel. It’s a little pricier than some of the other places on this list, but you’re really paying for quality – and some of the items are really beautiful, like my tiger painting above!

Trunkh, Phnom Penh, Where To Buy SouvenirsTrunkh, Phnom Penh, Where To Buy SouvenirsTrunkh, Phnom Penh, Where To Buy SouvenirsTrunkh, Phnom Penh, Where To Buy Souvenirs If you’re looking for more traditional Cambodian print and art, then Le Lezard Bleu on street 240 have a great selection of vintage prints, as well as silver artworks, photographs, and paintings, too.

For Fashion and Beauty Lovers

I recently popped into one of the  A.N.D. stores, and was really impressed – they are a fair trade brand, and work with local artisans. I bought a black cotton crop top which I ended up wearing pretty much everyday this trip, I loved it so much – and it was made by a landmine victim, too. They have a great selection of handwoven clothes, bags and accessories, as well as wood carved accessories and notebooks, too.

ArtisansDesigners, A.N.D., Where to Buy Souvenirs, Phnom PenhArtisansDesigners, A.N.D., Where to Buy Souvenirs, Phnom PenhFor beauty lovers, it’s worth going to Senteurs D’Angkor on Street 13 to stock up on natural soaps, oils, candles, and lotions.

For the Socially or Environmentally Conscious

A lot of these boutiques tend to have a social good element to them, but none more so than Friends ‘N’ Stuff or Mekong Quilts.

Friends N Stuff, Phnom Penh, Where to Buy SouvenirsFriends N Stuff, Phnom Penh, Where to Buy SouvenirsThe Friends N Stuff shop is next to their restaurant, which is well worth going to – you can check out my previous review on it here. All of their products go to support great causes, and they have a nice selection of notebooks and accessories made with recycled materials with profits going back into the community. I picked up this cute pillow cover while I was there – I just really liked the contemporary and fun design.

Friends N Stuff, Phnom Penh, Where to Buy SouvenirsMekong Quilts is a non-profit organisation that supports women in Vietnam and Cambodia. They also have a lovely range of items, from bunting and Christmas decorations to magnets, keyrings, duvet covers and laptop bags!

Mekong Quilts, Where to Buy Souvenirs in Phnom PenhSmateria have some great items – brightly coloured bags and accessories made from upcycled and repurposed materials.

For the Tchotchke Lovers

Central Market, Where to Buy Souvenirs, Phnom PenhCentral Market, Where to Buy Souvenirs, Phnom PenhSome people just can’t get enough of hilariously awful souvenirs and tat – elephant earrings, magnets, ‘Same Same But Different’ T-Shirts, you know the sort. For you lot, you should just head to the Central Market, as you’ll find everything there. But remember, don’t take the first price they offer you!

Do you buy a lot of souvenirs? Where do you pick up your favourite items when you’re abroad? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!