The Train Station and The Ramen


It is a feast of steel and glass with a concave shape interior that opens to the sky, massive with a 60-mile long atrium and 171 steps of stairs.


With a hotel, a shopping mall, a movie theater, a department store, a food court and 2 tourist information centers in one roof, the Kyoto Train Station is a splendid example of modern architecture and somewhat controversial when it was built in the mid ‘90s.


It is, nevertheless, a chic way to enter or leave Kyoto.


It has an old fashion charm to it, but I am partial to traveling by train because not only is it easier on the budget, it is also less of a hassle and more flexible in terms of schedule.  However, purchasing train tickets and finding your way around stations can be confusing if English is not spoken fluently.  We believe that being there a day before to get the tickets and familiarize ourselves with the place makes it less stressful on the day itself.


And spending the morning at the incredible Kyoto Train Station was enjoyable.  With the essentials done and over with, we explored the building.



The Cube is a shopping mall that starts at the basement and goes all the way up to the 11th floor.  Kyoto Ramen Koji is on the 10th.  It is a “ramen alley” with seven different ramen shops and a coffee and dessert station.  Choosing a place was a daunting task – never thought ramen could be so complicated.  So we decided to choose the one with the longest line – the popular one, we thought.  The problem was we needed to order through a vending machine, which was all in Japanese.  The restaurant staffs do not speak English and therefore, could not explain the process.  We finally chose Hakata Ikkousha because:

a) girl at the door knew some English.


b) they had the 2nd longest line

waiting-in-lineIt was a long line… really!

c) it also has an English name and it promises to make people happy with their dish.


No way of comparing, we decided that the ramen we had was fantastic, though I could go without the rice with fish roe, which came as a set for  ¥1,000.


The pork literally melts in the mouth; the broth flavorful and the noodles are al dente.  It could be, by far, our cheapest meal in Kyoto.



On our way out of ramen alley, I could hear the desserts at the corner ever so softly but persistently calling my name.


Thank you Chasen, for calling out to me.  You did not disappoint.  The mochi was exceptional.

Useful Info

Kyoto Train Station
901, Higashi-Shiokojicho (JR west)
1-3, Higashi-Shikoji Takakura0cho (JR central)

Taroko: An Edgy Start

Our journey to the east coast of Taiwan began when we got off the cab at the Taipei Train Station with our backpacks in tow.

The station is a large building housing several rail services with an array of shops and restaurants on the 2nd floor.

Getting ourselves acquainted with the station the day before we thought would prepare us for a stress-free travel.   Not quite!

Taroko Gorge, one of the most fascinating areas of Taiwan, is accessible by plane or train.  Unless pressed for time, we like traveling by land, in this case by train.  While we are able to see more of the place, it is likewise a cheaper way to travel.  Sincheng (Hsin-Cheng) station is the closest station to the Taroko Gorge National Park and because our hotel is located within the park, we took Lonely Planet’s advice and bought our tickets to Sincheng,

which we soon realized, is a small station in a small town.  The more common route to Taroko is through the Hualien station (a different train passes that station).  That however is still an hour’s drive to the National Park.

To make matters worse, on the B2 level where we were to board, there are 2 lines going on opposite directions.  The ticket didn’t give much information — it was written in Chinese save for the word “Sincheng”.  It didn’t specify which train/line to take, at least not in English.  All we had were the platform number and the time of departure.  None of those we approached (young or old) could help us because they either did not speak much English or they didn’t know where the hell Sincheng is.  A and I looked at each other and without speaking burst out laughing reminiscing about our bus mishap years ago, very aware that what happened in Uganda might just repeat itself in Taiwan. It really wasn’t something to laugh about but…

We eventually found (and I assume was) a customer service booth.  And with the little mandarin I know and a lot of pointing, we boarded our train hoping for the best.

Three hours later we found a cab parked outside the Sincheng station and in 10 minutes, we were unloading our backpacks at the Leader Village Hotel, our home for the next 2 nights.

Winding through a zigzag road, the drive to the front of the lobby melted away the tensions of the day.

A welcome party greeting guests at the driveway.  Fun sculptures are found around the hotel grounds.  

Spectacularly situated on the Buluowan plateau, the Leader Village Hotel, surrounded by green mountains, was a sight to behold.

Set in fabulous scenery, native aboriginal themed wooden cabins were built in clusters all over the hotel grounds.

Known too for their restaurant, meals were a combination of western and aboriginal dishes.

Aboriginal dishes came as a set meal (middle pic): an order of grilled tilapia with different vegetables including sweet potatoes.  It also came with sticky rice on a bamboo.  Steaks were tender, superb when sprinkled with a dry spice mixture.

The staffs are mostly Taroko aborigines and after dinner, we were treated to a cultural show performed by the children of the Truku tribe.

The cabins are spacious, clean and rustic complete with modern amenities such as rain showers and TV.  Although the beds set on the floor is quite charming, getting out of bed was an effort… a sign that age is creeping up on us!

The best part though is to wake up to this.  I could sit on our porch the whole day and I’ll be a happy camper.

Just in front our cabin.  The grounds so green, butterflies abound.

But laze around we didn’t do of course as the beautiful grounds invites to be explored.

Dramatically set above the gorge proper with fabulous scenery everywhere, Buluowan was where the Taroko aborigines once lived and held festivals and celebrations.  Divided into the upper and the lower terrace, the hotel is on the upper while several trails, a recreation area including an exhibition hall are found on the lower terrace.

After breakfast, we explored the upper terrace.  Behind the hotel is a short nature trail aptly called Bamboo Grove Trail.  It was a cool walk through a bamboo grove.

It wasn’t so bad after all.  All is well that ends well.

More of the lower terrace up next.

Feast to My Senses

Winding through stretches of wilderness, passing through primeval forests of Sitka spruce and aqua colored river and lakes surrounded by towering mountains in slow-mo with Ennio Morricone scoring in the background is a scene that still plays in my mind 8 months after.  Yes, the stunning and equally dramatic scenery deserves no less than an Ennio Morricone score.

Here’s one of my favorite Morricone score:  Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso

From the moment our journey started in Seward, it quickly began its climb through stunning forests, a string of massive glacier to lakes and river sceneries that only seem to escalate as the sun gets more golden on our approach to Anchorage.  Hands down, one of the finest voyages I’ve ever taken, a real feast to my senses.  The late Alaskan sunset (luckily) also meant good light for most of the trip, which resulted to this.

At some point, the tracks made a perfect U, which allowed for these shots:

Yeah, it rained at one point too.

And last but not the least!  Some shots taken as we approached Anchorage at 10pm!

If you ever find yourself in Seward, Alaska, don’t think twice… book yourself a ticket at Alaska Railroad Corporation for the best scenic ride of your life.

Click icon below for more scenes from around the globe.

Scenic Sunday

Vancouver VIA Rail

Vancouver-Via-RailCredits-  Template by Shabby Miss Jen’s Designs;  Paper by Jessica Sprague Blue Solid paper from Cr8 Mini Kit;  Elements:  Stapler Pair and Heart Sticker both by KPertiet;  Alpha by Jessica Sprague from Grand Intention Kit

Trains fascinate me because it evokes a feel of the olden days.  It is the only means of public transportation to Vancouver from Jasper unless one drives to Edmonton and fly out from there.  An opportunity I cannot pass up and so I booked us on the VIA Rail Canada and got ourselves to Vancouver via rail!

Not without some 7-hour delay.  While VIA Rail owns 223 kilometers of tracks, most of the infrastructure used by the passenger service is owned and managed by the freight railways operators.  In short, the train will be late and it is not their fault.  So looking at the glass half full, we took the opportunity to see more of Jasper.  How can one get tired of this quaint town anyway?  So off we went to Maligne Canyon… and got back way before the train arrived.   No complaints from us!

The 20-hour (thereabout) train ride offered beautiful sceneries.  The high-level coaches and lounge cars have big windows for better viewing pleasure.

Money well-spent…

VIA Rail Canada
Jasper Station
601Connaught Dr.,
Jasper, AB