It’s all over…..for now . . .

It is with a heavy heart that I finally come to the LAST EVER POST ABOUT JAPAN!*

It has taken a whole year to document our amazing trip and it is fitting that it is almost exactly a year since we set off on our odyssey.

So lets’s take a last romp through Osaka’s colourful markets and indulge in my love of all things consumerable.

This fabulous fabric store has a wealth of wacky cartoon prints including little smiling sushi.

Let’s stop for a moment to appreciate this – possibly the epitome of all things Japanese.

It’s cute, quirky, colourful and quite frankly bonkers . . ¬†. .basically my assessment of the whole country ūüôā

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Here’s a variety of decorative Sake bottles. All beautifully labelled with delicate details.

Let’s rejoice one more time in the plethora of insanely colourful boxes and packaging.

Pandas to advertise meaty lumps? Why not! Then there’s the plastic sushi shining under artificial lights.

A final gallop through the Blade Runneresque Osaka streets. Complete with their eye popping manga advertisements.

A final look at the eye watering colour combos and indecipherable store fronts.

A final forced pose by the man next to unidentifiable meat products . .  .

And of course, it wouldn’t be my blog without a final “stick your head through that”!!

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Farewell Japan it has been beyond a blast! From school girls with ninja swords, lightening speed bullet trains, delicate Geisha and serene temples.

Everyday was an incredible assault on the senses, a delight to the eyes, ears and heart.

We’ve seen futuristic metropolis with neon towers reaching to the heavens, rang heavy bells in lonely rural temples, bowed to drivers while crossing the road, seen the horrors of war and the promise of the future.

We’d move there in a heartbeat and as soon as we’ve scraped together enough money we’ll be back with bells on! Till then,¬†sayounara Japan!!

* It is HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT THIS IS THE LAST EVER POST ABOUT JAPAN . . . .*

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China town

We’re off to experience a little taste of China in Japan now as we head to Kobe for a day trip.

Nankinmachi is a small but perfectly formed chinatown in central Kobe and is the centre of the Chinese community in the Kansai Region.

The area was built up by Chinese merchants who settled near Kobe Port after it was opened to foreign trade in 1868.

As the chinatown developed, it became known as Nankinmachi after Nanjing, the former Chinese capital.

The two main streets are full of shops, restaurants and food stands selling popular items such as steamed buns (manju), ramen, tapioca drinks and various other Chinese dishes

I love love love the little animal steamed buns that come in a wide variety of shapes from piglets to baby chicks! Super kawaii!!

The area is a delightful explosion of colour, smells and tastes.

The carp fish is a commonly seen good luck symbol as the Chinese character for carp (li ť≤§) is pronounced the same as both the character (li Śą©) for “profit” and the character (li Śäõ) for “strength” or “power”.

Another colourful little charm is the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.

When we visited Japan, it was 2016 which happened to be the year of the monkey.

Finally let’s give some love for this super cute vending machine complete with reclining panda bear! Nothing is too mundane to be made cuter in Japan.

 

Pet cafes and fishy markets

Continuing our tour of our final Japanese city Osaka. We spot a few of the more quirky features of Japanese socialising – pet cafes! In this case all things tiny, fluffy and spiky!

As well as photo perving on yet more perfectly replicated plastic meals and sushi.

This tiny shop is a manga lover’s paradise. Stacked from floor to ceiling with colourful books.

I love the vivid hues of the spines and the somewhat impenetrable plots!

Naturally there are an abundance of novelty items to make the man stick his head through or pose next to . . .

Then it’s onto Kuromon Ichiba which is one of the most well known central food markets in Osaka.

Its undercover stalls are crammed full of all manner of veg, pickles, fish and delicacies.

The market has a total length of close to 600 meters with 170 shops.

Although over half of total sales are for the business market, Kuromon Ichiba is also popular with the general public and definitely with tourists.

As well as fresh ingredients to make your own meals, you can easily pick up lots of ready meals to eat on the go. Made in front of your eyes or scooped out of tempting dishes.

My eye is drawn to these poor little baby octopi on sticks! Their heads look rather too round and that is because they are stuffed with a quails egg!

Considered to be a Japanese snack they are known as takoyaki or octopus balls and they are candied and skewered. Hmmmm . . .

Finally here are a few more fresh crabs and a vendor preparing some snacks.

We’re getting so very close to the end of our trip now . . . I almost can’t bear to finish it.

Although it will almost be a year since we visited it has taken all this time to document it all!!

Tsukiji fish market

Up early the next morning we’re hitting the road to visit the humongous Tsukiji wholesale fish and vegetable market.

It’s the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.

 

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The world famous fish auctions in the inner market opens at 3am. with the arrival of the products by ship, truck and plane from all over the world.

 

The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from cheap seaweed to expensive caviar, tiny sardines to huge tuna.

As I’m not an early riser, there’s no chance that we’d actually be in time to see the bidding frenzy (and as a veggy I can’t stand the smell of sigh TBH!)

Instead we’re looking forward to¬†pottering around and soaking up the atmosphere and sights in the outer market streets.

 

The outer market is a ragtag collection of retail shops and stalls that sell fresh seafood, street snacks, and kitchen supplies.

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Lots of sushi restaurants are to be found here and some have huge queues due to their popularity.

Every conceivable type of seafood can be found here, on sticks, bloodied in bowls, displayed on ice.

It’s not just fish based items however, it’s also a vegetable market. Above is fresh wasabi and colourful , edible flowers.

Nosey tourists are reminded not to “push” the scallops! Now all I want to do is squeeze them…

There’s lots of colourful characters around the market while the tiny snack bars heave with hungry locals and curious tourists.

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Amongst the traditional methods of food preservation you can see “Himono” – a traditional salting and air-drying process used to preserve fish for a long time. The process helps concentrate the ¬†flavor of the fish.

Tiny Sushi sweets, wasabi beans and vegetable chips are more colourful snacks.

Another ingredient that you’ll see everywhere is dried bonito flakes used to make “dashi” (clear fish stock) which an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine.

Bonito go through a rigorous process of boiling, smoking, fermenting, and drying.

There are calls to relocate the historic market. This was scheduled to take place in November 2016, in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, but the move was postponed.

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Lucky for us as we managed to see it in its original location before it is potentially destroyed forever.

We also manage to see our first Sumo wrestler! Out doing his shopping . . . and the man spots his doppelganger.

 

Final glimpses

It’s time to bid a final adieu to Sicily with a¬†final batch of photos from the trip.

We make a return visit to the Fountain of Shame in the sunlight for a better look at all the rudey nudeys!

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The details are all the more impressive under the glaring Sicilian sunshine. The weird aquatic fantasy animals seem even more freakish.

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The water is a superbly tempting turquoise but is patrolled by a brisk little security guard so no dipping allowed . .

However today the gates were open to allow you into the inner part of the fountain and up close and personal with the naked folk.

The effect of the sunlight on the white marble is somewhat blinding.

Close up of one of the sinister gargoyle aqua animals ..  a rather creepy elephant

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The man sneaks a covert glimpse at a pert derrière . . . .

I am pretty sure the middle one is a dog . . . not often spotted in the ocean!

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Then it’s onward to enjoy the gorgeous Palermo Cathedral for one last time.

Even more impressive under blue skies instead of the overcast views we had on our first time of viewing.

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Then a final ramble along the back streets to spot some quirky, uniquely Sicilian sights including a decorative cart wheel and a craftsman carving puppets.

Limoncello is a sickly sweet treat while a myriad of views are on sale in the postcard rack.

Mooching to the markets it’s bye bye to the delightful little marzipan Frutta di Martorana.

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Super cute sweets and very fruity pomegranates finish our Sicilian adventure¬†off in style. The island’s¬†an interesting, gritty, chaotic and rather less romantic side of Italian life, but no less worthy of exploring.

 

La Vucciria

Palermo’s oldest street market is La Vucciria, which translates to ‘voices’ or ‘hubbub’.

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It’s based in the¬†side streets around Piazza San Domenico and it is Palermo’s most established outdoor market.

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These days it is a somewhat faded and shrunken version of itself and we didn’t stay long. Just long enough to snap some of the street art.

The few stalls that still trade the somewhat shabby and dark alleyways set up early.

However we found other street markets in Palermo to be far more bustling, extensive and photogenic so if you’re pushed for time I’d say skip this market.

Try the far more busy Ballar√≤ and Capo markets to get a real feel for the traditional beating heart of Palermo’s street markets.

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First Sicilian market

Just incase “regular” (ho ho, as if I have any of those!) readers were starting to wonder where my staple holiday subject had got to, never fear – here’s the first batch of lots of market photos!!

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Markets in Sicily are a real treat. Due to proximity to North Africa, Sicily has more in common with the souks and raucous trading of Tunisia and Morocco than it does to mainland Italy.

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That makes for an sensory overload in terms of colours, sounds and smells. There are lots of places to discover¬†but if time is short then there’s three quite famous ones¬†to seek out –¬†Ballar√≤,¬†Capo and¬†Vucceria. However Vucceria is now a sad shadow of its former self and the first two are far better.

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The first market we hit is Ballaro. Famous for its fresh produce it is believed to be the oldest of Palermo’s Arabic markets.

It’s a rumbustious sprawl of stalls selling mountains of jewel bright fruits and vegetables but also continues into a flea market and antiques section too.

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You’ll be accosted on all sides by the “abbanniate” – ¬†the Sicilian word for the yelling of the sellers. It is their way of getting passers-by‚Äôs attention – and boy oh boy is it deafening!

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The derivation of the name of this particular market is unsure but may come from the name of the North African village where most of the Arabic traders working in the market originated: Balhara

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Above you can see some of the traditional staples of the market including the surprisingly large swordfish that is a staple ingredient of many dishes.

You can also see the detailed marzipan fruits know as frutta di Martorana. Named after the nuns of the Martorana Convent who first made them they are detailed little delicacies, not only of fruit these days but of cannoli and other foods.

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Some of the produce is recognisable such as almonds and other nuts, whereas the giant vegetables below left us stumped. Are they giant runner beans or a type of courgette?

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However, after the bustling crowds and traders have left, the rubbish and detritus of the day shows the downside of this vibrant city. It can be dirty, depressing and lawless as well as exciting.

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Colourful Capri stalls

Still shifting through the past few years worth of photos in search of favourite market piccies. Here’s a myriad of colourful delights from the gorgeous little island of Capri.

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From the obvious Italian pastas to the island’s preocupation with lemons, there are so many lovely little knick knacks.

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There are also lots of incredible painted tiles decorating all the shop fronts. Below are some of the succulent local produce and my personal favourite trip souvenirs – fridge magnets!

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But far and away the most prevalent item to be found on the island is the lemon! from soap to liqueur, perfume to magnets.

It’s thought that citrus fruits arrived in Capri in the tenth century, and they have characterized the colors and perfume of the island ever since.

The lemon, originally used as an ornamental plant, was subsequently used for its superb juice and the essential oils extracted from its peel.

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Famous throughout the world, the lemon liqueur “Limoncello”, is best served chilled.The lemon of Capri, known as “femminiello”, has a long elliptical form and medium dimensions.

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Another lovely present to bring home are the painted tiles and the little espresso cups for supping the strong Italian coffee.

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If we had more room in our cases we could fit a few of these glorious paintings in there. The shop is barely noticeable beneath a wealth of local scenes.

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Alternatively you could indulge your tastes for all things ceramic!

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Olive oil bottles, utensil trays or even tiny celestial bodies. You can find virtually anything in pot form.

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Thai markets

Thailand is a veritable market heaven and I always get a little bit giddy and carried away with them!

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Apologies to any “regular” readers (!) as you’ve probably seen a fair few of my Thai holiday pics fairly recently . . ¬†. but here’s a bit of a recap of some of my fav market pics from our two Thailand adventures.

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Sweet treats in Chaing Mai, dried mushrooms and crispy duck are just some of items on sale in Bangkok’s China town district.

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Oooh piles of dried unidentifable food stuffs! My favourite!

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Gorgeous splashes of colour from hill tribe crafts in Chiang Mai, fresh greens in Chiang Rai and a patient market seller.

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Peacock finery and real feather dusters are on offer from this street trader on a dusty back street in Chiang Mai’s¬†Warorot Market.

It’s a favourite place for locals to trade and haggle and is very different to the usual tourist orientated night market and walking markets.

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Freshly prepared street food is on offer on every single street corner, under bridges and underpasses and by the side of every road. Even in the darkest, most inhospitable seeming spot you’ll find street hawkers.

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The markers couldn’t function without the tireless efforts of the sellers themselves however. Forever wheeling, carrying, baking, steaming, cooking and freezing their wares.

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Once again I feel the need to share one of my all time favourite snaps – traditional Thai icecreams in a multitude of flavours in these delightful little metal moulds.

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You really can buy anything, including these unfortunate little critters . . . ready marked up for sale.

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A few more seller snaps, from this epic super sized cart, a woman selling what appear to be little boobies and the amulet market close to Wat Po.

Here’s a few more captured creatures all wiggling, squirming and generally trying to make a bid for freedom.

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And a final trio of hard working market traders to conclude this particular romp through a few Thai markets.

Always worth a nice long browse while in the land of smiles.

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First ever Asian markets

My trip to South Vietnam in 2008 marked the start of my love affair with Asia and all its quirky delights. It’s also the first place I encountered some of the cavernous trade markets with their endless produce for sale that I grew to adore.

In Ho Chi Minh the Bin Thay market is a cavernous labyrinth of stalls. It’s not a tourist market, it’s mainly wholesale and all geared towards other traders.

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Ladybird cycle helmets are a cute safety must while dried mushroom and spices spill out in all directions.

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Can Tho riverside markets are a riotous romp of activity, food is so fresh it scuttles out of the baskets after you!

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Rows of conical hatted women chatter as they haggle with tough customers.

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Zingy citrus fruits make your mouth water while tiny mushrooms are weighed up for a punter.

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New and untested produce pique the interest but are not always as tasty as they first appear!

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Above these warty looking things could be Bitter Melon. Also known as Ampalaya or Balsom Pear. Alternatively they might be bitter gourds . .

Here are some tiny pink rambutan. The name comes from the Malay language word for rambut or “hair”, a reference to the numerous hairy protuberances of the fruit.

In Vietnam however it’s called ch√īm ch√īm (meaning “messy hair”) due to the spines covering the fruit’s skin

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From the vivid colours of the exotic looking (but rather bland tasting) dragon fruit to the bunches of lemon grass and other herbs it all makes our supermarkets look a little bit tame!!

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