12 September, 2023

4 Reasons Why Vintage Rugs Make a Great Choice

Plain carpets, hardwood, marble, and other popular flooring styles are great and all, but they can feel a little bare without a well-placed rug. Although there are thousands of mass-produced rugs in mainstream UK stores like Home Sense and Asda Living, they simply don’t have a long shelf-life unless you’re willing to spend a fortune. However, you can reduce the cost and have a long-lasting rug by getting your hands on a vintage rug, which you’ll be able to pass down for generations to come.

Plenty of Versatility

Vintage rugs have unique patterns that merge excellently with so many different styles of interior design. In general, the best types of vintage rugs have a neutral tone with well-placed bursts of colour - like the Heriz geometric design. If you start your design process by choosing a rug, you’ve got a ready-made colour palette that you can use for the rest of the room. Take the pops of colour and repeat them with throw blankets, accessories, artwork, and pillows.

They Can Last a Lifetime

Modern rugs aren’t made to the same standard as they used to be, which likely has something to do with the shift in manufacturing. Instead of being manufactured by machines, hand knotted vintage rugs like those from That Rebel House are made with care and take time. Because of the unique techniques used to make vintage rugs, they will last forever if cared for properly. Although they will fade and show a few signs of use, they only add to the appeal of the rug. Even though some wear and tear is good, we recommend rotating the rug regularly to make sure markings are spread evenly.

The Patterns Look Fresh

Some people have a misconception that a “vintage” or “antique” label means something must look terribly outdated, but this simply isn’t true. There are so many different styles of vintage rugs they speak to modern furniture and fixtures perfectly. If you need a little inspiration, take a look at the following popular vintage rug styles:

● Kilim rugs: Woven rugs that are easily identified by bold colours and designs.
● Bakhtiari rugs: Traditionally woven for Persian tribes, these rugs use assortments of bold colours to create stunning patterns.
● Heriz rugs: From the Heriz region of Iran, these rugs take from a different colour palette and are favoured because of their durability.
● Kashan rugs: Using medallion-and-corner patterns, these rugs are instantly recognisable.

They Require Little Maintenance

A good vintage living room rug will easily cope with heavy traffic because the intricate patterns let dirt blend in. Additionally, as though many vintage rugs are made with wool, they’re super easy to get clean. However, if you tend to use chemical products for cleaning, keep them away from your rug to avoid causing irreversible damage.

A vintage rug will last for a long time and has the power to bring any room together, and it makes a fantastic scaffold for allocating colour through the rest of the room.

02 September, 2023

[TRAVEL] 3D2N in Atami, Japan - Annual Largest Atami Fireworks Festival!

Good morning from 熱海 Atami! 

Being a beach and ocean lover, I am more than excited to add Atami into my summer itinerary in exploring the Greater Area of Tokyo. Located in the Shizuoka prefecture, away from the hustle and bustle of the Tokyo city, Atami is the home to Onsen (hot spring baths - since 1200 years ago) and beach resorts lined with rows of palm trees along the Pacific Ocean coast.

Its close proximity to Tokyo (only 45 minutes train ride (via Shinkansen) or 1.5 hour drive) makes Atami an increasingly popular tourist destination. While it is an ideal location for one-day trip from Tokyo, I'd strongly recommend you to stay at least one night here to experience the beautiful sunrise by the beach amidst the laidback atmosphere.

Plus, you can make a detour / day trip to the neighbouring areas such as Mount Fuji, Hakone, Gotemba, Yokohama and many more.

Atami Fireworks Festival (熱海海上花火大会)
Date: Seasonal
Time: 20:20 - 20:45
Access: 15 minutes walk from Atami Station

The main reason of me travelling to Atami was for the largest Atami Marine Fireworks Festival which is held not only in summer but more than 10 times throughout the year, making it one of Atami's most significant events all-year round.

This historic fireworks festival is a tradition held since 1952, around the Atami Bay area - one of Japan's best fireworks display venue. During my visit in summer, there were 20,000 dazzling fireworks lighting up the sky for a good 20 minutes.

I was so mesmerised by the beauty of glittering fireworks in an array of synchronised designs and colors dancing in the sky, while being reflected on the surface of the water. For the finale, the beauty of the "Niagara in the Sky" was just impressive - definitely something in Atami that you should experience at least once in a lifetime! 
❤ ❤ 

Apart from the seasonal event, here are the 6 places of attractions / F&B
that I have tried throughout my 3D2N here in Atami:

1. Shopping streets in front of Atami Station
Shopping streets in front of Atami Station:
❤ Atami Heiwa-dori Shopping Street (熱海駅前平和通り商店街)
❤ Atami Nakamise Shopping Street (熱海仲見世通り商店街)
❤ Atami Ginza Shopping Street (熱海銀座商店街)

Operating hours: 10:00 - 19:00 (some shops close earlier)
Access: Walking distance from Atami Station 

Right in front of Atami Station, you will be greeted by two long stretch of old-fashioned shopping streets. Like many other quintessential Japanese shopping arcade, it houses tiny stalls selling dried seafood (since Atami is a seaside town), popular sweets, snacks, sushi restaurants and souvenir shops. 

Mini Onsen Manju

The most popular snack that you must try here is the "Onsen Manju" aka "hot bath bun" - simply because it resembles this onsen town. The tiny steamed bun (100 yen) was filled with red bean paste, which was good to pop into the mouth while waiting for my queue at the sushi restaurant.

2. Isomaru Atami Nakamise
Isomaru Atami Nakamise (磯丸 仲見世通り店)
Operating hours: 11:00 - 16:00; 17:00 - 20:30
Access: 5 minutes walk from Atami Station 

Isomaru is one of the most popular and affordable sushi restaurant in town. When I arrived at 11.30am, the queue was already very long (no reservation allowed), and I waited for a good 20 minutes before I was being seated at the wooden table seating that mimicked a traditional sushi bar. 

Mine was Izu Sushi Set (1,630 yen) - a 12-piece sushi set which was a lot more affordable than those sushi counters in Tokyo. I enjoyed the thick cut of otoro and other shellfishes here. Do not expect these to be of top-notch quality, but it is considerably a good try for cheap eats.

3. Atami Sun Beach / Moon Terrace
Atami Sun Beach (熱海サンビーチ)
Access: 15 minutes walk from Atami Station 

Here comes my favourite part of Atami - the Sun Beach along with Moon Terrace! This seaside promenade not only serves as a great viewing platform for the fireworks but also the perfect spot to watch sunrise. 

In fact, there were plenty of beachside accommodations here that allow for sunrise viewing at the private roof garden terrace. Same went for the guesthouse I rented. But a fuller experience, I'd still prefer sitting at the Moon Terrace and enjoy some quiet moments amidst the warm rising sun shining upon me.

4. ACAO Forest
Acao Forest (アカオ フォレスト)
Operating hours: 09:00 - 17:00
Entrance ticket: 4,000 yen 
Instagram: @acaoforest
Access: 15 minutes by Tokai Bus from Atami Station 

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Atami is the hills of Acao Forest that houses 13 unique themed gardens on a hill for panoramic view of the Sagami Bay and Atami Castle (熱海城). If you are a fan of flowers and unobstructed sea view, then probably it is worth paying a whopping 4,000 yen for the entrance fee. 

Honestly, there is nothing much inside, other than the beautiful themed set-ups for photo opportunities and a garden cafe overlooking the ocean, called Coeda House Cafe. Good to spend 1-2 hours here if you have time to spare in Atami. 

5. BonBonBERRY Atami House
Ichigo Bon Bon Berry Atami House (いちごBonBonBERRY熱海ハウス)
Operating hours: 10:00 - 18:00
Instagram: @atamibonbonberry
Access: 5 minutes walk from Atami Station

Perfect Instagram-worthy dessert spot for anything strawberry - Strawberry Daifuku, strawberry shaved ice, strawberry jam, strawberry dango skewer and more! The Bonbon Soft Serve (500 yen) I had was pretty good but what I liked most is the interior design that resembles a strawberry house where the strawberry seedlings were planted in a secret laboratory with test tubes and beakers displayed in a house-like space. 

6. Atami Sei You Sha
Atami Sei You Sha (熱海青葉舎)
Operating hours: 10:00 - 17:00
Instagram: @atamiseiyousya
Access: 10 minutes walk from Atami Station

Tucked at the corner shop located approximately 2 minutes walk from Atami Ginza Shopping Street, Atami Seiyousya is something I found on Instagram and the super cute Mt Fuji Matcha Lava Cake (750 yen) caught my attention at the first instance. It was a matcha pudding (so bouncy and firm!) drizzled with thick coconut cream that looked like lava flowing down the mountain. Just too cute to be eaten!

7. Atami Milchee's
Atami Milchee's (熱海ミルチーズ)
Operating hours: 10:00 - 18:00
Instagram: @atami.milchees
Access: 5 minutes walk from Atami Station

Here was another cute spot which caught my eyes and I couldn't resist the cuteness of this "Atami Onsen" themed café, hence I went in for its creative cheesecake offerings. 

The Bottled Cheesecake (430 yen) was something worth trying as it was made of 3 layers of thick and smooth basque cheesecake, sour cream cheesecake with a refreshing sour taste of lemon, and a rare cheesecake made with Hokkaido pure fresh cream. Whereas the Brulee Basque Cheesecake (380 yen) was below average - so just skip that.  

8. Detour to Hakone!
Hakone Shrine | Heiwa no Tori (平和の鳥居)

I have always been wanting to go to Hakone Shrine at least once in a lifetime for the Hakone sacred trees, and since Hakone is only 40 minutes train ride from Atami, it is worth spending a day or so exploring Hakone especially the famous torii gate which is located down near the water edge and it looks so beautiful against the glistening water surface. 

So happy that I finally managed to make it here! 

Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise - You can even see Mt Fuji during good days!

Hakone Open Air Museum (熱海ミルチーズ)
Operating hours: 09:00 - 17:00
Entrance ticket: 1,600 yen
Access: 20 minutes bus ride from Hakone Yumoto / Odawara Station (via H, J or Z bus)

Located in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone Open Air Museum is a huge outdoor exhibition space for thousands of sculpture amidst the beautiful landscape - hills, streams, and ponds - with views of the mountains and sea from afar. A piece of art tells its own story, and I love how this museum brings the sculpture to life.

❤ ❤ 
To recap, my most memorable moments in Atami were the dazzling fireworks festival and awe-inspiring sunrise. If I were given an opportunity to explore the other parts of Shizuoka prefecture, I would probably want to stay close to the sea and visit interesting landmarks such as: 

❤ MOA Museum of Art (MOA美術館)
❤ Kinomiya Shrine (來宮神社), one of Atami’s most spiritual destinations 
 Hatsushima Island for an exotic "Ocean Hot Spring" experience
❤ Jukkkoku Pass for the breathtaking view of Mt Fuji, Suruga Bay with its pine groves of Miho,
and 360 degree views of Sagami Bay

31 August, 2023

Dear Diary | August 2023 Edition

Dear August,

August started with a refreshed mind and soul after a long summer trip to Japan and back home. But unfortunately I spent the first week recuperating and recovering from fever and diarrhoea due to extreme heat in Japan. Glad that I have fully recovered now, although the process took longer than I thought. 

My routine in August has been pretty mundane, to be honest. The least I could do is to constantly remind myself to live a life here. I have been trying to segregate my personal time from work time, to minimise the feeling of burnout, and to do little things that bring me joy and satisfaction such as doing workouts, product shoots, cafe hopping, etc. 

05.08.2023 | Wedding bells. ❤ The first weekend of August was spent in KL to attend my primary schoolmate's wedding dinner. We used to spend our afternoon cycling and playing Pokemon together after school when we were 8. Time flies, and I am happy to see her being in good hands now :) 

09.08.2023 | Happy National Day, Singapore! ❤ Witnessing Singapore's National Day celebration live for the first time this year along the Jubilee Bridge. To be honest, the event lineup in Padang was more exciting than here, but anyway it is good to experience this at least once :) 

Back to my favourite Lola's Café | Strawberry Cheesecake Waffles

12.08.2023 | Being able to spend a quiet weekend doing my favourite things is something I should count my blessing for. Sometimes, it is only when we distance ourselves from the voices of the world then we can hear our own. Just so that such alone time feeds the soul and gives a lot of serenity to the mind. 

Singapore Night Festival

19.08.2023 | Singapore Night Festival was here from 18 - 26 August! So I was in Bras Basah area to check out the #SGNightFest dynamic projection mappings, night lights installations, along with the F&B and music festival village, plus night museum visits. 

Themed "Singapore, the Great Port City" this year, my favourite part of the festival was the maritime tale projected at the façade of the National Museum of Singapore, turning the white colonial building so colorful and vibrant.

Another light projection in CHIJMES; 

Flipper's Singapore | Surrey Hills Grocer

20.08.2023 | Words probably couldn't describe my feelings but it was one of the most contented Sundays thus far, hence worth penning it down. Finally made my way to this famous Japanese fluffy pancake parlour that reminded me of Shibuya's Happy Pancake - so light, airy and not cloying at all. 

Happy times flew by quickly, as we enjoyed the dessert along with endless stream of conversations. Approaching evening, we adjourned to another favourite of mine - an Australian farm-to-table dinner with an Asian flair. I liked the signature Laksa Prawn Linguine here!

七夕花花 | 

23.08.2023 | Things are most beautiful when they come unexpectedly. And the best things in life are not perfect; they are special . Thanks for making me feel special albeit my imperfections! It was such a pleasant surprise that brightened up my day and beyond.

翠華 Tsui Wah @ The Heeren

26.08.2023 | It was another lovely weekend well-spent in town and away from workstuff. I usually catch up on work during my leisure time on weekends, but decided to give myself this weekend break to recharge and relax. Taking a pause is necessary to avoid burnouts in a long run.

The lunch venue was a little special, because I was there to revive the nostalgic feelings in a Hong Kong style cha chaan teng. It reminded me of my last trip to Hong Kong in 2018 to celebrate my birthday, and I have not stepped foot there since. It's probably time to plan a trip there soon :)

Favourite Jenny Bakery's Coffee Flower Cookies 

Not forgetting to mention, every trip to Hong Kong returns with my favourite cookies!

Thank you for the Sony WF-C700N Earbuds! 

The biggest surprise of the month is probably the brand new pair of powerful yet lightweight earbuds from Sony! It was such a sweet surprise to walk out from Sony store with this amazing gift from our first attempt on claw machine. Definitely something to remember for a long, long time :)

❤ ❤ 

After doing a quick recap of the month, it came to my realisation that August is actually a month full of surprises and happy little moments. Yet, at the same time, it comes with a mix of unpleasant emotions internally - self-doubt, hesitation and uncertainty - that I just can't get rid of in entirety. Such thoughts constantly linger at the back of my mind, serving as a constant reminder that one day I ought to wake up from the beautiful dream.

Oh well. Sometimes you are unsatisfied with your life, while many people in this world are dreaming of living your life. So, be appreciative of you have, because you would never know when would they be taken away from you.

Thank you August,

❤ ❤ 

FiSh @ 31.08.2023

20 August, 2023

[TRAVEL] 3D2N Summer in Ibaraki, Japan

Konnichiwa from Ibaraki! 

My 2023 Japan summer trip mainly focuses on the Greater Area of Tokyo, covering 5 prefectures altogether. Ibaraki prefecture (茨城) was my first stop upon landing at Narita Airport. Located northeast of Tokyo along the Pacific coast, it took me 2 hours by train (2,310 yen one-way) to arrive at Mito, the capital of Ibaraki.

Little did I know, Ibaraki is so huge and if you have only 1 to 3 days to spare, then staying around Mito, Oarai and Hitachi area would be good enough to explore the famous landmarks in the prefecture while immersing yourselves into the beauty of history, culture and nature here. 

As the location of each tourist spot in Ibaraki is rather remote (although well connected via public bus / train), it is highly recommended to rent a car here and save your time travelling from one place to another. 

Here are the top 6 places of attractions I have been to throughout my 3D2N here in Ibaraki:

1. Hitachi Seaside Park
Hitachi Seaside Park (ひたち海浜公園)

Operating hours: 09:30 - 18:00
Entrance ticket: 450 yen 
Access: 20 minutes by Ibaraki Kotsu Bus from Katsuta Station 

Hitachi Seaside Park is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Ibaraki. I have heard about how beautiful this 215 hectare park is when it turns into an ocean filled with over 5 million Nemophila Harmony ("Baby Blue Eyes") flowers that bloom during late spring (from late April to mid May), or vibrant scarlet red field of Kochia during autumn (mid to late October).

While summer may not be the best season to visit the park (due to the strong heat at the unsheltered area), I was glad to see many kinds of seasonal flowers here including the newly planted 32,000 baby kochia!

Baby Kochia (Summer Cypress) field at Miharashi Hill
with the giant ferris wheel as the backdrop.

Linaria and sunflower field near the South Entrance.

Zinnia field near the Former Aizawa Family's House.

Another spot I wanted to visit in Hitachi Seaside Park is the Glasshouse Café for a cup of coffee while enjoying the sea view, but unfortunately it only opens during weekends.

There is a theme park (with water park) located next to it, so it is ideal for family summer vacation too. Overall, it is definitely worth a trip to Hitachi Seaside Park regardless of the season of the year.

2. Oarai Isosaki Shrine
Ōarai Isosaki Shrine (大洗磯前神社)

Operating hours: 08:30 - 18:00
Entrance ticket: Free
Access: 30 minutes by Ibaraki Kotsu Bus from Mito Station / 
20 minutes walk from Oarai Station

Ōarai Isosaki Shrine is another highlight of my Ibaraki trip. Not every Japanese arch is the same - each comes in many styles and colors and can be placed at unusual locations like the one in Ibaraki. 

This is a white torii gate that stands out amongst the rocks and splashing waves of the ocean. I was here during sunset hours and the picturesque scenery was just amazing. The sound of nature on its own was a therapeutic melody for me, and I enjoyed the evening breezes that cooled down the bright summer day :) 

Alternatively, sunrise would also be a good time to view the gate. In fact, there are plenty of "floating tori gate" in Japan - so looking forward to visiting more soon! 
There is also a long fleet of staircase leading to the shrine, overlooking the sea. It was so breezy here although it was summer!

Oarai Sun Beach (大洗サンビーチ海水浴場) is located next to it, nearby Oarai Seaside Station, but the view for me was not as scenic. Anyway, feel free to drop by if you have some extra time to spare.

3. Horide Shrine and Hoshiimo Shrine
Hoshiimo Shrine (ほしいも神社)

Operating hours: 10:00 - 18:00
Entrance ticket: Free
Access: 2 minutes walk from Ajigaura Station
(last stop of Hitachinaka Seaside Railway)

Hoshiimo Shrine is another unique sightseeing spot at the seaside of Hitachi, famous for its gold-painted torii gate which resembles the golden yellow hoshiimo (sweet potato) snack in the region. Hoshiimo Shrine is named after "sweet potatoes" because the land of Hitachinaka City is blessed with the largest seet potatoes production in the whole of Japan. The people here not only feel grateful for the God's blessings, but are super friendly and warm too.  

I was the only visitor at this shrine in the morning, hence I bumped into the shrine operator at the entrance and he happily showed me around, shared the history of this place and even showcased the gold-painted superbike for me to take photos. I love how it was so peaceful and quiet here. 

100-year-old Hitachinaka Seaside Railway (Minato Line)

While it is more convenient to get here by car, hopping on the 100-year-old Hitachinaka Seaside Railway along the 14.3k Minato Line is definitely worth a trip for its scenic greenery view along the 30-minute ride to Ajigaura Station, where the Hoshiimo Shrine is located at. Thanks to the beautiful view, I totally didn't feel the travelling time at all! 

You will be greeted by a retired railcar at Ajigaura Station.

One-day pass for Hitachinaka Seaside Railway costs only 1,000 yen for unlimited ride!

4. JR Hitachi
JR Hitachi (日立駅) - "Glassbox Station"

JR Hitachi Station is probably the most Instagrammable station in Japan. It is only 30 minutes away from JR Mito Station (590 yen one-way via JR Joban Line), the city centre where I stayed in Ibaraki. Dubbed as a "glassbox station", JR Hitachi is an amazing vantage point of the deep blue sea with a seaside highway running next to it. 

I can totally imagine myself spending some peaceful hours sitting here,
appreciating the beauty of nature right in front of my eyes.
Best viewed during sunset hours!

Sea Birds Café (シーバーズカフェ) 

Operating hours: 07:00 - 22:00
Access: Hitachi Station East Exit

There is a cafe located in the station itself, featuring a great panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. I ordered a chiffon cake and drinks set (1,050 yen) during the afternoon tea time, and spent a relaxing hour here watching the vehicles along the seaside highway, with the shimmering blue sea and foamy white waves as the backdrop. 

Again, immersing myself into the slow-paced life was just so soul-comforting.
And it reminded me to appreciate every little moment in life.

5. Kairakuen Garden / Tokiwa Shrine
Kairakuen Garden (偕乐园) / Tokiwa Shrine

Operating hours: 06:00 - 19:00
Entrance ticket: 300 yen
Access: JR Kairakuen St. (only open during certain period) /
Ibaraki one-day bus (400 yen)

Kairakuen Garden in Mito (水戸) is one of the "Three Great Gardens of Japan" along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Korakuen in Okayama. It is famous for plum blossoms viewing during mid-February to end-March every year. And there is a Mousou bamboo forest at the northernmost Omotemon Gate (表門) which looks similar to Kyoto's Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. 

I have been to Korakuen in Okayama during autumn, and the autumn foliage was indeed a very beautiful sight. Unfortunately, this time around, there was nothing much in the garden during summer hence I only made a quick tour around the quiet shrine, Tokiwa Jinja next to it and left. 

6. Lake Senba
If you are up for nature strolls, biking or boating, then Lake Senba is a must-visit attraction where you can enjoy the tranquility in the large park surrounded by the lake. It is also the home for the graceful swans, a white glasshouse and the statue of Tokugawa Mitsukuni (Mito Kōmon), an iconic politician during the early Edo period.

Happy to see hydrangeas here which lasted from late spring till summer.

In Mito, there is a one-day pass (400 yen) where you can hop onto any of the 3 buses from the north exit of JR Mito Station:

❤ Ibaraki Kotsu bus (red line)
❤ Kanto Tetsudo bus (blue line)
❤ Kantetsu Green bus (green line) 

And visit the major sightseeing spots nearby including:

❤ Kairakuen Garden
❤ Lake Senba  
❤ Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History
❤ Art Tower Mito Contemporary Art Gallery
❤ Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki
❤ Kōdōkan Mito Han School

The best part? The ticket also includes a discount on some of the entrance fees, so it definitely offers good value for money.

3D2N accommodation at JR-East Hotel Mets Mito 

After having a very pleasant experience at Hotel Metropolitan Kamakura, owned by JR-East Hotel network during the last Spring trip, I chose JR-East Hotel again this round and indeed it exceeded my expectation as always. Perfectly located right next to JR Mito Station, the hotel was clean, spacious and comfortable. Overall, it was great for a short stay.

Personally, the beauty of nature and landscape in the peaceful town of Ibaraki is something that truly captivates my heart, especially when I get to stay near the ocean. All in all, Ibaraki is a hidden gem which I feel is worth exploring if you are considering to travel around the greater area of Tokyo. 

❤ ❤ 

Overall, I am happy to unlock another prefecture in Japan during this trip! And if I were given another opportunity to return to Ibaraki prefecture, I would probably want to travel here during spring / autumn and explore other parts of Ibaraki such as: 

❤ Hitachi Seaside Park (during different blooming season)
❤ Double-peaked Mount Tsukuba
❤ Tsuchiura fireworks festival
❤ Ushiku Great Buddha
❤ Ibaraki sake brewery
❤ Hananuki Valley
❤ Fukuroda Falls
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