A Day Out With Lola (Grandma)

Lola came to visit us in Singapore. While we are shuffling around the days that we are free from school and work, we managed to stroll all the way down to Gardens By The Bay and see the pretty flowers.

Tulipmania is the main attraction at the Flower Dome and this runs from the 12th of April through the 20th of May 2019. We did not get to see it last year, so we brought Lola along to see the Flower Dome play host to the Netherlands. The Flower Dome itself had been home to different varieties of flora from the start. With Tulipmania, it was obvious which flora was at center stage. This year’s Tulipmania brings us to the Dutch countryside with rows upon rows of tulips. We were told that there were about 35 varieties of tulips across the display including the new “Singapura”, a red and white variant to commemorate Singapore’s founding some 200 years ago. The look was definitely ideal with Dutch cottages, a watermill, a windmill and dozens of wooden clogs scattered across the tulip zone. The tulips, of course, are amazing to look at spread far and wide like they were. Having the different varieties under one roof makes you appreciate it’s beauty even more. And if you get hungry, there’s a European Fair happening in the Flower Dome as well. This is where you get stuffed with sausages and pastries from a variety of local European food stalls. It would also be just in time for you to rest your feet by the time you get to the hall so it’s all well and good that the food is good.

After having a snack in the Flower Dome, we decided to use all our available time wisely and headed for the Cloud Dome next. Luckily, we were with a senior citizen and managed to get priority at the lift taking us up to the top of the Cloud Dome. As usual, we went about enjoying the colorful greenery. It also helped that the mist had just started and the Cloud Dome has transformed into this foggy, misty, wonderland. We took our time getting from place to place and reached the foot of the dome just as night time is taking over. It had been a fun and slightly wet day at the Gardens, but we’re glad that Lola enjoyed it. Because we did too.

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Let’s Go to Fukuoka

The kids are still sick and we want to go somewhere. Thankfully, we got a JR Pass so our options were quite good. Since we get unlimited travel on nearly all JR trains, we booked a ride to Fukuoka. I’m loving the shinkansen every time I ride one. Travelling to Fukuoka from Hiroshima took only about an hour via shinkansen. Reserving a seat is fairly easy through any JR counter (most major hubs have more counters than others, and some even have counters dedicated to foreign travelers), and you would want to reserve a seat if you are travelling during peak hours. There were times that the three of us had to get separate seats due to the reservations being full. It’s best to always check the train schedule and your estimated arrival time at your intended destination to avoid crowds, congestion and stress.

Fun times at Uminonakamichi.
Fun times at Uminonakamichi.

We arrived in Hakata at lunch time. And as with any other meal time between me and the wife, it was time to eat. We were actually torn between eating at Canal City or just at the train station but a coin toss made that decision to go to Canal City. Now, Canal City is one of the places that we were going to visit while in Fukuoka, but we still needed to go to Uminonakamichi before going to the mall. The good thing about the initial trip to Canal City though was having a buffet pizza lunch at Shakey’s Pizza. Again, that’s pizza. And buffet. In one sentence. Another surprise that caught our attention at Shakey’s was the serving of dessert pizzas. Again, that’s pizza. And dessert. In one sentence. Who would have thought you could have cinnamon and banana on a pizza and that it actually tasted good?

Pizza as a dessert? Yes, please!
Pizza as a dessert? Yes, please!

Family time at Uminonakamichi.
Family time at Uminonakamichi.

After lunch, we made our way by local train to Uminonakamichi Seaside Park. It is a sprawling complex nearly 4 km from end to end and is located on a narrow peninsula off Hakata bay. There seemed to be only one train that services that route and the intervals are quite long. So knowing the train schedule will help you from waiting too long at the station. There is an admission fee and a bike rental fee. And as luck would have it, my wife was already full and had the common sense to rent bikes. It was a tremendous help and I was immediately thankful that we did rent them when I realized how big the park is. We cycled through most of the park and enjoyed the cool breeze of the surrounding area. The rose garden was only one of the places that still had a good amount of flowers blooming. It was nice walking among the roses, roses of different colors by the way. I didn’t realise that there were more variations of roses than I thought. We cycled through the rest of the park stopping every now and then to rest and enjoy the greenery. According to the park information, there are different flowers in bloom all year round. We probably had the misfortune of coming to the park on one of the days that the flowers are still in transition. We missed the meadow being filled with blooms, but it was still a good stretch of the legs nonetheless. If we were to come back to Fukuoka another time, Uminonakamichi would be one of the reasons why.

Having ramen and yakitori at a Yatai.
Having ramen and yakitori at a Yatai.

We headed back to Canal City after our visit to Uminonakamichi. The feature that differentiates this mall from other malls is their canal as the name suggests. They basically have a small river running through the stretch of the mall. At one end of this is a water feature with fountains dancing on a music and light ensemble. It’s not really new, but if you haven’t watched one before, Canal City is a good place to start. After strolling around the mall, we made our way out to the nearby Yatai stalls. Yatai are basically open air food stalls seating about seven or eight persons at a time. They serve an assortment of dishes like ramen and yakitori and are open in the evening just in time for dinner or an after-office snack. And yes, they also serve beer and other beverages. In other words, it’s street food. Our experience wasn’t that enlightening, but it wasn’t bad at all. Not really sure if we were just expecting more out of it, but for us anyway, it didn’t live up to the hype. Or maybe we just ate at the wrong stall, who knows. The day went by nice and slow and we hopped on a train back to our room in Kyoto. Another day in Japan done.