10.31.2016

532. Day 18 | Osaka back to Hong Kong

Osaka Castle

Today we returned back to Hong Kong from Osaka! We had a late afternoon/evening flight so we had the morning free. We visited Osaka Castle then went to a "Premium Outlets" for shopping before our flight. I actually don't like outlets back in North America but the one at Osaka was pretty good..I ended up buying a few things I really love! I mostly got winter/fall clothes here which should be good for when we return back to Toronto (not looking forward to it)..as I heard it's quite cold there now. By the way, here in Hong Kong now it's still in the high 20s/30 degrees.

The past few posts I made on here were quite lengthy so this will be a short post because I have to go to sleep now..almost 2:30am here. Just finished watching The Conjuring (for maybe my fifth time?!) with my sister and uncle..now I'm the only one still left awake so I'm kind of scared lol.

Rihga Royal Hotel Halloween
Rihga Royal Hotel breakfast
Osaka trees
Pomeranian

All the dogs in Japan are sooo beautiful and cute! Especially this one we saw today!! She just sat and stared at her owner the whole time while he was eating. Makes me miss mine!

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10.30.2016

531. Day 17 | Nara and Kobe

Nara Park heron

Tonight is our last night in Japan! :( We have a half day here tomorrow then we are back in Hong Kong tomorrow night. This morning the sun finally came out. We went to Nara Park. I was quite excited to see this beautiful heron. I had always wanted to see a heron in the wild. We watched this one catch and eat a few fish.

However I was mostly looking forward to seeing the deer here! There are apparently over 1000 of them that roam the park. I've never had an encounter like that with a deer before..in Canada, all the wild deer are rare to spot and run away immediately as soon as they see you. So seeing them in the wild is always a special moment. & today we even got to go up and pet them all.

We were able to feed them "deer crackers" ..I actually tasted a piece myself lol. It tasted like nothing. I think it's kind of like a dog treat (I've tasted a dog treat before as well..tasted the same/like nothing - as they shouldn't eat sugars or flavours).

Nara Park deer

They were so adorable! This was an enclosed area with a few younger deer. The others are allowed to roam all around.

sushi making class

Then we attended a sushi-making class which then ended up being our lunch.

Anpanman bread

Then we went to a city called Kobe, world famous for its kobe beef! We had a few hours here to explore and shop on our own. This bakery we went to was called Uncle Jam's Bakery. They sell all these different kinds of Anpanman breads. I got a chocolate and custard one. Each is a different flavour and it took us so long to choose..I wanted them all lol. They were delicious!!

Kobe Japan harbour

*Now this is going to be quite a long story, of the most expensive drink I've ever purchased (in a way), which I managed to do even after the store was closed*

So even with a few hours of shopping today, I didn't manage to buy anything. I had actually been really good so far on this trip. We've been around Shanghai, Hong Kong and now Kyoto/Osaka for over 2 weeks already and I had purchased really little. I always thought the main thing I wanted to get on this trip was a new camera.

That is until we got back to the hotel tonight. Our hotel here is huge and has a LOT of clothing boutiques but unfortunately, we are always out during the hours they're open so we never got a chance to shop around here. We arrived back at our hotel tonight around 8:30pm. All the clothing shops in the hotel close at that time as well or even earlier. Except for a 7-11 convenience store. Last night we went there I got a "16 Tea" - tea made from 16 different vegetables. It was really nice to drink, especially before bed, so I wanted one again tonight. So..that ended up being the most expensive tea I have ever purchased lol. Because I ended up buying a pair of shoes along with it!

Yesterday I mentioned trying on sandals with fur at the department store. I had been wanting fur shoes for a long time already; ever since I discovered the Pierre Hardy fur sneakers. Unfortunately those ones weren't able to be shipped to Canada because of the fur I assume, and over the past few weeks I've seen some fur ones here in Asia but none were even close to what I wanted. I actually have kind of a different taste in fashion than most people..the fur shoes are kind of crazy and I don't know if many people like them, but I really love them. This is what they look like. I should also mention that I don't like many things but when I find something I do like...I try to get it no matter what.

Anyways back to the tea purchase. After I got the tea, my mom wanted to walk through one hallway as there was an art store with some nice paintings/dolls in the window that she wanted to look at. Right beside that boutique was another where I spotted some pink fur sneakers in the window. They caught my eye immediately as the style was exactly what I wanted (& now I realize I like them even more than the Pierre Hardy ones). The shop had already been closed for maybe 20 minutes, but the 2 sales associates were still inside possibly eating their dinner. They saw us peeking in..then told us they were closed but let us in anyway as I said all I wanted to do was take a look at the shoes. I didn't even think to buy them because they were bright pink. Then she comes up behind me with the pair in another colour...the perfect shade of navy blue!! My favourite colour. They were so beautiful I knew I wanted them immediately. I tried them on and immediately loved them. Slowly got past the sticker shock and decided to buy them. I know if it was anything else, this would have been a really impulsive purchase (since I was kind of forced to make a decision to buy them or not right away..as the store was already closed and I felt bad for asking to go in after hours). But the sales associates were so nice and patient, as they all are in Japan. I knew if I didn't get them I would regret it, and I had been wanting shoes like that since forever. & finally found the perfect ones :D

I ended up purchasing them and they walked us out the store. There was a looong hallway to walk up the stairs to the lobby, but the sales associates stood there waving to us and bowing the entire time, until we were out of sight. We know this because we looked back a few times to check if they were really still there lol. It was probably a 20-30 second walk.

I will post pics of them a later time but they are on my Snapchat (username - leftbanked) if you want to take a look! ;)


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10.29.2016

530. Day 16 | Shinsaibashi, Osaka

fishing village

This morning when we left the hotel, it was still pouring rain but luckily it stopped before lunchtime. First we visited a fishing village where we went on a short boat tour around the lake and had the opportunity to feed seagulls and some large hawks (or eagles?). We were able to buy shrimp crackers to feed them while on the boat, but I didn't as back in Canada we're not allowed to feed wild animals as it's not good for them. But a lot of other people on the boat did so I watched and took a lot of pics. There were so many of them and they all swooped down so close to us..I was afraid they'd fly into us lol.

seagulls
jumbo shrimp

Then we went to a place called Amanohashidate for a beautiful view. Afterwards we had a kaiseki style lunch at a restaurant. Having lots of seafood these days here! We ordered these two shrimps..the largest I've ever seen in my life!! For a sense of scale, you can see the size of a regular shrimp in the cup near the top of the pic. Also the man at the table beside us was holding one and pretending it was a telephone handset as it was that large lol.

Shinsaibashi Osaka
Osaka Japan

In the afternoon we went to Shinsaibashi for a few hours and stayed for dinner. This is the main shopping area of Osaka. I loved it here!! There was a lot of Halloween stuff going on and some people dressed in costumes. Most people weren't dressed up though which was nice because I love observing Japanese fashion. It's not as crazy in Osaka as it is in Tokyo though. I really love Japanese style (male and female)..now I really want to visit Tokyo again sometime in the near future.

We had a few hours free to shop around in the area and was supposed to have dinner at 7pm in the restaurant. My mom and I were in a department store during the last 20 minutes or so. I wanted to get a pair of shoes (very cool sandals with fur)..so I was trying them on while my mom went to the floor right above me to look at clothes. She told me to just wait for her at the shoe department and she would come back down to meet me after. Unfortunately the shoes I wanted were out of my size (the very nice sales person was extremely apologetic) so I then stood around waiting for my mom.

She took a long time and then it was 7pm..so I started panicking as we would be late for dinner. I hate being late especially when we're on these tours. Several years ago when we went on a tour to Europe we were always the late ones due to shopping..again lol. So I didn't want it to happen again. We would still have to walk about 10min to the restaurant and I wanted to go at a slow pace so I could take photos along the way. I thought of going up to look for her but then I was afraid she'd be coming down at the same time (on the opposite escalator)..then not see me there and start walking around again..etc. I also didn't know if I would even find her upstairs as it was a huge store so maybe I should've just stood there to wait. By the way, my mom isn't able to use her cell phone here so I couldn't call or text her either.

So I thought..I'd quickly run up, have a quick look around then go right back down. Well I started running up the escalator and tripped and fell almost immediately lol. I thought to myself "I'm sure these extremely nice and polite Japanese people will help me up and ask if I'm ok!" Turns out they are only extremely nice when they have to be..like at the store or restaurant lol. I had suspected maybe it was all a show, as some are really exaggerated with their gestures. Maybe I encountered the exception because some of them are probably actually nice all the time..but the girl I fell right beside just looked down at me then back to her phone. Same with the people a few steps above who saw. It was soo embarrassing hahah. Very painful too. I don't really care about how they reacted but I just noticed it is a huge difference from how they are in other situations. Reminds me of when bartenders or servers are extremely nice to you in the restaurant then pretend they don't know you on the street.

I got a few painful scratches (see my Snapchat/"leftbanked" for a pic). I seem to always injure my legs when I'm on vacation (last year I got 80+ mosquito bites on my legs while in Hong Kong). Anyway I ended up picking myself back up, finding my mom upstairs then we rushed to the restaurant and was maybe 15min late.

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10.28.2016

529. Day 15 | Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto

Kiyomizu Temple Kyoto
So far, Kyoto is not really off to a good start. I am not complaining because I am still enjoying it...but there's a few things I'm kind of annoyed with. First of all we have had horrible luck with the weather on this trip. Half the time we were here has been rain (the first half of Shanghai was fine as well as the days in Hong Kong). But today it was pouring rain here in Kyoto for most of the day. Also I guess this is something I already knew before..but joining tours to travel are not worth it. This one in Kyoto has been the most rushed so far. We (or just I) can't fully enjoy the places we visit since we barely get any time..I always feel like we're rushing through trying to see as much as we can in the 1 hour window we get at each place, when I could have easily spent at least 3 hours. When I travel I actually prefer to go on my own and plan everything out, but when I go with family we always join a tour. Also Asian countries like China and Japan are difficult to go on your own because of the language barrier. I think next time I come I would like to get a private guide or something so we can have a more personalized itinerary and go at a more leisurely pace.

Today we went to Kiyomizu-dera Temple first. We were literally rushing through this place and didn't see everything around there unfortunately. Then we had a buffet lunch at a restaurant in Kyoto Tower (but it wasn't good at all...), then 2 hours to shop around (which I did enjoy because I love the clothes in Japan, but I would have preferred to do sightseeing instead), then a kimono fashion show (which I would have preferred to skip), then finally we went to Arashiyama. This was the place I wanted to visit the most because I wanted to see the bamboo grove..but we ended up not even going there!! We didn't even walk across the bridge to get to the actual area. By the time we arrived, it was pouring rain and all we did was walk around in a store there and eat some of the street food. We only had 1 hour at the whole place so by the time we were done at the food place, we had to leave. It was really pointless and to be honest I had a better time at the highway service stop last night lol (which was the same type of store). I don't know why we bother going to these places when we just spend the entire time in a store..& I don't consider us having even visited Arashiyama, since the closest we got was look at the bridge over from across the street. They wrote this as one of the stops in our itinerary too so it's kind of a rip off.

Anyways, I don't want to sound too negative as this is kind of expected from these tours, but I actually enjoy the ones to China despite the guides always being unorganized, the bad toilet situation, horrible WIFI, and lower quality of hygiene..but it's a LOT more worth it because of the places we visit. The negatives cancel out the positives there. For travelling, I enjoy China more because I feel the nature and attractions are a lot better..for example from my past few trips there I really loved visiting the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Huangshan, rice terraces, lakes etc.... But in Japan nothing really stands out except the shopping, stores..and I like their culture as well. The people are also really nice. Japan is obviously a lot more relaxing and "luxurious" than China too. I like both countries in different ways. I want to come back to Japan on my own someday (meaning not with a tour)...though it'll be really tough to get around with the language barrier, but I'll figure something out.

I know this was only our first day here. I had wanted to wait until the end to express how I felt but I couldn't resist lol. Hopefully the next few days will be better.

Kiyomizu Temple
black sesame ice cream
Kyoto kimono
We are staying at another hot springs hotel tonight. We can wear these kimonos to walk around the hotel, and we're only allowed to wear these into the hot springs area. I wore mine to dinner then to check out the hot springs but I didn't go. Maybe I will try it if one of our next hotels has it. Here is our kaiseki dinner again for tonight. Last night's was better though...

kaiseki dinner

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10.27.2016

528. Day 14 | Hong Kong to Osaka

Hong Kong airport
Currently in Japan!! We landed in Osaka this evening and drove about an hour to Kyoto. Actually I have no idea where we are really..on the drive over it was completely dark out so I am not sure what the surroundings are like. We are with a tour group here, and when I go on vacations with tours I don't check the hotels and itinerary beforehand (which is sometimes nice so everything is a surprise for me as we go). The total opposite from when I plan my own trips as I plan out every detail. The main place I wanted to visit here in Kyoto is Arashiyama..I have no idea where else we are visiting. I heard the tour guide mention we would also attend a sushi making class one night.

I'm pretty sure we are just on the outskirts of Kyoto right now. We are staying at a hotel with a hot springs (but we didn't go). I think our hotels for a few nights have hot springs so I will try it one night if I have time.

I have visited Japan once before when I was 19 years old, to Tokyo. I don't really remember anything. I think I will enjoy it a lot more this time around and I also want to visit Tokyo again.

coast of Japan
Flying over the coast of Japan

Japanese washrooms

On the drive over to the hotel, we stopped at a service station for a washroom break and to get some snacks. This is the ladies' washroom..you can see which ones are occupied/vacant and choose which toilet type you want. It was sooo big and nice inside! Definitely the nicest service station washroom I've ever been to. All the sitting toilets were the high tech Japanese ones as well.

Afterwards, I went to the convenience shop there to get some snacks. The Japanese people are extremely polite, as you may know already. Especially the cashiers. The cashier I got was a tall old man. He was so cheerful and kept saying things in Japanese to me. I had no idea what he said but he was incredibly polite and happy. I paid 1000 yen for a 110 yen item so I had a lot of change. He handed me over a handful of coins and I dropped one on the floor by accident. I was preoccupied with putting the rest of the change in my wallet so I didn't bother picking it up right away. But immediately he started walking over. The cashiers counter was very long..there were a few of them lined up and he was on the end of the counter..so he had to walk all the way around, past the other cashiers, to the other side to reach me just to pick up a coin for me. It was so nice. Made me feel a bit awkward and bad that he had to do that though lol.


Kaiseki dinner Kyoto

We had dinner at our hotel in the ballroom. It was a really nice dinner, served in the "kaiseki" style which is popular in Kyoto. This type of cuisine consists of many small dishes and everyone gets a full set. I should have opened everything up before taking a photo but inside the bowls/covered bowl is rice, an egg thing and sashimi. We also got a miso soup and a bowl of udon noodles afterwards so the whole dinner was very filling and a fun experience. According to our tour guide, we will have a lot of kaiseki meals which I'm really looking forward to already!

Japanese snacks

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10.26.2016

527. Day 13 | Causeway Bay

Aberdeen Hong Kong
Today we didn't really do much. We just walked around SOGO and some boutiques around the area, but didn't manage to buy anything. We also visited the DJI boutique at Causeway Bay (the largest one!). We looked at the new Mavic drone and they demonstrated how to use the Phantom. I really want to get the Mavic..but I'll probably wait some time after I get better with photography & filming videos first.

Then we went for dinner and dessert with my sister and aunts. We had to have an early night as my mom and I have to catch an early morning flight tomorrow to our next destination!

I realized here in Hong Kong I am not taking as many photos as I do in Shanghai. I think it's because I've been to Hong Kong several times already now so not everything is as interesting to me anymore..that's probably why I almost never take photos in Toronto anymore lol. I always thought it was just because Toronto isn't as nice of a city as others. But I will have a new camera now to play with so I'll definitely be doing more of that when I get back!

SOGO Hong Kong crossing
DJI Causeway Bay
seafood market
Hong Kong desserts

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Caribbean Cruise Ideas for the Winter Holidays

Golden sands, crystal clear waters, lush greenery and coral reefs make the Caribbean one of the world's most incredible and exotic holiday destinations. With so many different cruises heading to the region each year, deciding which cruise to go on and which islands you want to explore can be tricky. Now is the perfect time to start planning your winter getaway. Here’s a guide to some of the most must-visit spots to help you make your mind up:

Caribbean Winter

The Western Caribbean

The western side of the Caribbean is ideal for those who love sun drenched beaches and want to go snorkelling in the sea. From the Jamaican rainforest to the popular Costa Mayo resort in Mexico, to places like Cozumel and Grand Caymen, there’s endless places to explore. The Caribbean islands have amazing water sport opportunities and some of the best snorkelling in the world, but it’s not all about beach days. Cozumel has an amazing history, with many stunning ancient relics and sites to see on your visit. Jamaica has a rich colonial history, with many Georgian buildings remaining and a thriving, lively and unique culture which needs to be experienced to be believed.

Jamaica

The Eastern Caribbean

Home to the US Virgin Islands, St Maarten, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the east of the Caribbean has much to offer. From some of the world’s best duty free shopping to take advantage of, to desolate beaches and incredible cocktails. The east of the Caribbean is often referred to as paradise and it's easy to see why. There are lots of touristy hot spots, especially when you first disembark but do a bit of exploring and you’ll be sure to find some of the most impressive secluded beaches.

St Thomas

The Southern Caribbean

A less touristy part of the Caribbean, the southern regions have plenty of attractions and a more off the beaten track feel. Popular destinations to visit include St Lucia, Dominica and Grenada wwhich all have some incredible scenery and are ideal for enjoying luxury breaks. Colourful, tranquil and unspoilt, the Southern Caribbean islands are just waiting for you to arrive and explore.


Head to the Caribbean today with Iglu Cruise for the adventure of a lifetime. With a number of different cruises to all these incredible locations, you’ll be able to find the perfect cruise for you and your family and escape to the Caribbean this winter for a sunshine filled break you’ll never forget!

*Post in collaboration with Iglu Cruises*


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10.25.2016

526. Day 12 | Big Buddha

Big Buddha Hong Kong
I've been to Hong Kong many times before and have never visited the Big Buddha on Lantau Island until today! I went with my mom and sister. It was extremely hot today and the sun was shining the whole day. I wish it could have been a bit cooler, but otherwise it was the perfect day to visit. Here I am walking up the hundreds of steps. Photo taken by my sister.

After that, we went to the Wisdom Path which consisted of half cut tree trunks, with words of wisdom written on them. The view was beautiful.

Wisdom Path Lantau Island
sunset Hong Kong
Times Square Hong Kong
Grass Jelly tofu dessert
One of my favourite things about visiting Hong Kong is the vast amounts of my favourite desserts. After dinner we went to a place for tofu dessert. I got it with grass jelly. So good!! I love grass jelly.

I think we are going to walk around and do some more shopping tomorrow. Then the next morning we are leaving Hong Kong (for a few days though!)..will reveal the destination when we are there. I can't wait!

Sorry for the quick update today. I'm sooo sleepy right now with no energy to do a more detailed post.


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10.24.2016

525. Day 11 | Hong Kong

Lippo Centre Hong Kong
Every time we visit Hong Kong, our schedule is always packed with family lunches and dinners (including extended family members..as they all live here in Hong Kong). Today we had dim sum for lunch with some of them, then went to Mongkok to walk around as our dinner reservations with more family members were in that area. We went to one of my favourite clothing stores, I.T, and I ended up with three things all in navy blue. I love shopping in Hong Kong. The clothes are more my style. They're all wintery clothes so I'll have to wear them when I go back to Toronto, as the weather here in Hong Kong has been ~30C every day. We spent so much time in the store that by the time we left it was already time to head to dinner lol. I wanted to get a new Bearbrick as well in Mongkok but didn't have time. Will try to go again another day.

For dinner we went to a Thai restaurant. It was really good. We especially loved the desserts!

Also I can't believe I'm already on Day 11 of daily posting. I'm pretty sure this is my longest streak. It has been challenging some nights but I hope I make it to the end of the trip with these posts! Hopefully they're not boring for you yet.

Hong Kong yachts
Hong Kong streets
Grilled Calamari
Coconut Sago dessert

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10.23.2016

524. Day 10 | PVG to HKG

Ye Olde Station Shanghai

We've arrived in Hong Kong!! Our two-hour flight over from Shanghai ended up getting delayed by 2 hours, so our trip over took twice as long. My sister and a few of my aunts came to pick us up from the airport. We flew with Hong Kong Airlines for the first time, which seems to be quite a new airline. As we did the baggage drop, they told me to go into the baggage check room as there was an issue with my luggage. I had to open it for them and then they confiscated my nail polish and nail polish remover (which had very very little left...and was in my checked luggage anyway - not carry on!). A bit strange because that has never happened to me before with any other airline. Not sure why I wasn't allowed to bring that on as they even sold nail polish in the duty free shops which means it is allowed on the plane.

Also one thing I'm really happy about is having fast and reliable Internet again. & not having to go through the hassle of signing onto my VPN every time. It was really challenging in China..the Internet is extremely slow and always suddenly disconnects.

Today for our final meal in Shanghai, we went to a restaurant called Ye Olde Station for traditional Shanghai food. I loved the restaurant's atmosphere and the food was amazing as well. It is set in a historic building dating back to the 1800s. It was once a monastery then remodelled into a train station. The restaurant had a lot of antiques on display with a few old train carriages set out back (see photo above). It doesn't have a Michelin star just yet but it is one of their "recommended restaurants" in their guide. We had such amazing food in Shanghai...really going to miss it!!

Ye Olde Station Shanghai
Pudong Airport Shanghai
Shanghai Pudong Airport

Shanghai to Hong Kong

I'm starting to really dislike flying. I used to love being on long-haul flights (because it meant I was going on vacation) but now vacations are more common for me and I always look forward to the destination so much I just wish I could get there quicker. After the super long 14-hr trip over from Canada, this 2-hr flight over seemed like nothing. Even with the delay. Then I realized when we go back to Toronto it will be like 7 times the length of this flight lol :s Not looking forward to that..

Hong Kong harbour

Probably the worst quality photo I will ever post on here lol. It is the view of the sea flying into Hong Kong..look at the sea of boats/ships/yachts down there! There are sooo many of them. The view from the plane was so nice, but impossible to capture in a photo.

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10.22.2016

523. Day 9 | Final Day in Shanghai

chandelier

This was sadly our final day in Shanghai, and the day we ate the best. I really enjoyed it here and would like to return someday..because of our short time here and the horrible rainy weather, we didn't get to fully explore it. In the morning my cousin had to go swimming, so we walked around the clubhouse while we waited. It was so beautiful inside!! I really love this huge chandelier and ceiling. Apparently the area is one of the wealthiest of Shanghai, so the mansions are all huge and beautiful. It doesn't even look like typical Shanghai, with palm trees everywhere and so much open land. By the way, if you haven't already, you can follow me on Snapchat for more (Username: Leftbanked).

Mercedes G yellow

My favourite car!! Except not in yellow.

Din Tai Fung xiaolongbao

Then we went to an area a bit outside of Shanghai called Suzhou for lunch at Din Tai Fung. It's considered as the best restaurant for "xiaolongbao" and some of its locations even have Michelin stars. I'm not that into xiaolongbao but I loved everything else we ordered there. Will post more in a later post. The mall it was in was beautiful as well and had a Caffe Florian!! I was surprised to see they opened a location there. I love that place. I used to go to the one in Harrods every day when I visited London lol.

eslite bookstore Suzhou

Then we went to Eslite Bookstore, a famous bookstore originating from Taipei. It was really nice in there but unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time to spend there. It's not just a bookstore..I'd call it more of a department store for uniquely designed products. I wanted so many things but most were large and not possible to bring back home. I wish we had a store like that in Toronto..because it's really hard for me to find things I like, and this place was perfect as I liked almost everything!

Shanghai Michelin Restaurant

For dinner we went to Fu Hei He restaurant. Everything was vegetarian and served like a tasting menu (8 courses). It has won many awards before and is #19 of Asia's best restaurants! It also has a Michelin star. We had a private room for our table. It was such a fun experience and perfect way to end the Shanghai portion of our trip.

I will do a full post on this dinner later! I'm going to have blog content for months and months when I return...

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