Saikatei 菜花亭, Kyoto

After a long day’s journey we finally arrived in Kyoto and check into our hotel around 8pm. For our first night in the city, we did not make any prior dinner booking as we knew there were risks of not making it in time due to any unexpected traffic delays. Nonetheless we made our way to one of the shortlisted restaurants located in Gion area to try our luck on whether they accept walk-in customers. It turned out to be a wasted trip as the shop said its reservation-only and we returned back to the main rail station area in search of a place for supper (instead of dinner).

Found Saikatei housed in ground floor of the Kyoto Tower building and is an izakaya that serves creative Chinese-style dishes.

On a weekday night the place was filled with office workers, some in groups and some individuals came in for a quick bite. It was easy to observe that most of them ordered a bowl of ramen so we follow suit and add-on some grilled items. It was certainly comforting to enjoy a bowl of warm ramen as our first meal in Kyoto.

Paired our meal with ice cold beer along with some grilled items and a special off the menu Korean-style grilled beef lettuce wraps. This special turned out to be the highlight of our meal. The succulent and juicy grilled beef had hints of smokiness, paired with the spicy gochujang, well-fermented kimchi and crispy fried garlic.

We were pretty satisfied with this meal given that it was just a random place that we found. But since we are in Japan, seems like even an average place serve wonderful meal. With a full belly, we headed back to our hotel for a good rest as we planned to start our day early the next morning.

Photos taken earlier:

Started our journey in Singapore by taking a red-eye flight to Shanghai.  This stopover turned out to be well-worth the extra time as we were greeted with a totally unexpected surprise when we touched down. Read on to find out what it was.

Had a bowl of Prawn Noodles with Dim Sum at the SilverKris Lounge in Changi. It was always nice to enjoy some local delights before being deprived of it for the next few days. Unlike Japanese/Korean cuisine, Singapore/Malaysian food is rather uncommon overseas. The broth used for the prawn noodles was surprisingly savoury and rich. Although the quality of food in the lounge has always been pretty good, this dish exceeded my expectations.  In fact this was better than my in-flight book-the-cook meal later.

We were served our supper shortly after takeoff, starting with appetiser of Jellyfish, Marinated Scallop and Mesclun with seasame soya dressing. The scallops were chewy and jellyfish had a good texture. It was a nice start until I had my Prawn and Chicken Laksa. We used the “Book the Cook” option to pre-order our meal and I opted for the aromatic Singaporean cuisine. I felt the Laksa had too much tamarind taste which lingered on my palate and I could even smell it when I burped….

Perhaps if I knew they were serving Supper instead of Breakfast, I would have gone with the in-flight meal of Pork and prawn ball congee which was less harsh on the stomach before we were put to bed.

As we were scheduled to arrive in early morning in Shanghai, I was looking out of my window for the daybreak moment. Caught a pot of gold amidst the cloudy sky!

Oddly at Pudong International Airport guests who are transiting had to clear the customs and collect the luggages for a re-entry and check-in; unless you are travelling on a few selected airlines that would handle the transfer directly. We were naturally slightly disturbed with the inconvenience but lo and behold, while walking out the customs we saw some fans holding up Ferrari flag and Finland flag! Bewildered we turned our heads to see if there were any F1 drivers behind us. Apparently they were not on the same flight as us, but might be arriving soon. So given the luxury of 5 hours gap to our next flight, we decided to linger around the arrival hall and joined the local fans in the wait.

We probably waited for about 30 mins before we saw Kimi Räikkönen came out from the gate. The notable ice man walked briskly right past me and did not stop for any signature requests from the fans. Sebastian Vettel came out later with smiles, he stopped at an open area and politely asked the fans to queue up to get signatures and attend to photo requests. It was a rare opportunity to get this up close to the drivers. Having attended the Singapore Grand Prix for a few years, we never had this experience of seeing the drivers so casually. Even if one were to go to Changi Airport to welcome them, I’m sure the crowd would be much bigger. Hence I was really happy to see them sans the huge crowd!!!

We were pumped up after seeing the F1 stars even before starting our Hanami holiday in Japan. Keeping our fingers crossed that we could see the Sakura in full bloom where we would be spending our time in Kyoto and Osaka.

For our 2nd leg, we boarded an ANA flight. As the flight was delayed by about 45 mins, the stewardess served us hot green tea while waiting for take-off. I particularly liked that they offered the steam eye mask to guests. I found it very relaxing to use it onboard flights and it was so soothing that I fell asleep for a quick nap thereafter! The mask would make it into my carry-on bag for my future flights!

Unexpectedly the meal offered onboard ANA was not Japanese style but International cuisine. There was only 1 option – Stewed Beef Tongue. IMO their Jap cuisines are way better than their international option. So if you are onboard ANA flight, go for the Jap cuisine and you should be fine.

Upon arrival at Kansai International Airport in the late afternoon, we were greeted by the giant inflated Pikachu at the hall. Seems like the Pokemon fever has hit Kansai Airport as there was an ongoing promotion with Pokemon theme.

Rightfully we should have a leisure time making our way from the airport to Kyoto, but we were caught off-guard by the long queue at the JR-WEST Ticket Office… Look at the setting sun while we were stuck in the queue…

We had booked the ICOCA & HARUKA card so as to purchase discounted tickets for the HARUKA which offers direct access from Kansai-airport Station to Osaka/Kyoto Station. Despite having pre-booked the tickets, the queue for collection was terrible! We spent more than 1 hour in line to get our tickets…Guess its because everyone was heading to Kyoto/Osaka for hamami?! Here’s the hard-earned ICOCA Hello Kitty & Osaka Castle card that is only available at the Kansai-airport Station. This certainly makes a good souvenir.

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