In Niseko…

Near enough is good enough in Niseko

When my name gets put into katakana is looks like this - ウィンスラド  メリリン!
When it gets translated back from katakana to romanji it looks like this:



Naked bath time in Niseko

One thing about travelling in Japan I’m always a little apprehensive about is the shared bath situation otherwise known as the onsen.


Vegemite is in demand in Niseko!

Today I arrived in Niseko.  The town is teaming with Aussies and foreigners in general, just as I expected.  I went to book lessons at the English ski school only to discover they were almost booked out.  The queue at the local shop to pay for your vegemite was around the block.

But at my little, no-frills, Japanese style guesthouse – I am the only guest!  Private bathing guaranteed!


No-frills and no worries in Niseko

My accommodation takes basic to a new level.  The room is an empty tatami room.  I have two wafer thin futons that I have double stacked but I can still feel my hip bones grind on the floor every time I turn over.  They have supplied me with an abundance of pillows however, most of which I have fashioned into a chair so I can watch a movie on my computer in the evening.

On my first night, I discovered that I wasn’t supplied a towel in the room and I didn’t pack one either.  (I can feel my mother’s groan as she reads this!)  I contemplated the drip dry but it is way too cold here for that.  I had to beg a towel from the owner and he said that because I was staying so long he would let me have one!  Phew!


Nearly private lessons in Niseko


Great weather so far. Hoping for some powder on my last day!

Yesterday I had a half day lesson and it was great.  The instructor said I should try the level up the next day so when I went to my lesson today, I explained this to the instructor for level 6 but he didn’t seem too keen in taking me.  In the end I stayed with the level 5 group but I pushed for the instructor to take us off piste and to do a couple of blacks as well.  The two other students weren’t that keen with this and after lunch they decided not to come back.

That meant I had a private lesson that afternoon for no extra money and it was great.  The instructor took me to do more off piste and a big long black too.  It was so much fun!  Can’t wait to scare some people off my lesson tomorrow!  😛

Update – another private lesson in the afternoon today with more off piste tree runs.  Super cool!


No wine in Niseko

I’m still on my alcohol free kick that I’ve managed to sustain since September.  Originally, I had decided to stay on the wagon until Christmas when I would re-evaluate the situation.  I was explaining this to the bar tender last night over my glass of water (straight up, no ice) and some edamame.  He turned out to be a Perth boy and he was both shocked an appalled at my sobriety.  He said if I came back at Christmas he would buy me my wine!

Now I’m really torn because I had almost decided not to break my sobriety after all and push on through to January when I’ve booked the Robot Restaurant for Jazz and co.  But it is free wine we are talking about here!

Update – I’m hanging on until 23rd January!  🙂


Notable quotes in Niseko

After attempting to ski off a ridge amongst the trees and stacking it at the base, I struggled to my feet and my instructor began to laugh.  He said, “If you want to know how hard you fell, take a look at the size of the hole you made!”

I turned and looked at the ginormous, arse-shaped dent in the snow.  I laughed with him but I died a little inside!

No more Niseko

It is time to head back to Yokohama and start recovering ready for my next ski trip in a week’s time.  This time I will be skiing closer to home in Shigakogen with team ‘Over-the-Hilbournes’!  This is a Japanese resort so it will be goodbye to Perth bar tenders and flat whites in the the cafes and hello eating in the hotel because there are no other options, anywhere!  I may get a onesie to blend in better amongst the locals as well!  Goodbye Niseko!


These outfits are for all occasions – skiing by day and sleeping at night.


Image Credits

All images are by merilynw and shared on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A Week in Myanmar with Madrid

What a week!

October break is only a short holiday and normally I can’t be bothered organising anything for such a brief period of time.  Luckily, I know Madrid.  She’s a wonderful organiser and problem solver and was in top form in the lead up to this holiday.  She had a lot of great ideas of places to go and things to see and I was happy to agree to everything she planned as long as it meant I didn’t have to do anything in preparation for the trip.

We worked in perfect harmony together.  Or in actual fact, Madrid worked and I went along with it.

So here are my top ten moments, in no particular order, from Myanmar (with a bit of Bangkok thrown in).

#1  Brunch at the Sheraton in Bangkok


Post lunch tummies on display!

Delicious although I did have a funny tummy from some suspect guava juice I drank at the market earlier in the day.  The facilities at the Sheraton however, were a pleasure to use and abuse.  Three visits and four courses later, I was ready to spend the afternoon having a manicure and a massage.

#2  Finding out we were going to Bagan.

I thought we were going to InLe Lake.    This turned out to be incorrect.  This is also the point when I realised that if I ever got separated from Madrid, I was going to be in real trouble as I had no idea of our flights, hotels or basically any of the plans whatsoever.

#3  Fruit Loops for breakfast

My all time favourite breakie and Kim let me buy a box from the supermarket.  I hope Alex enjoyed the left overs!

#4  Myanmar fashion

I got a bit carried away with ‘longhi’ purchasing.  I bought four in the end and they are all beautiful.  I’ve worn them all to work already!

#5  Burmese food is not my favourite


I don’t know what this is. I just know it is greasy!

We tried a number of items at a number of places but I still have nothing nice to say about the local Myanmar cuisine.  Our best meal was at a Thai restaurant.  Our second best meal was a shared box of sesame and peanut brittle.

#6  Getting a bit too comfortable

On about day 3, I realised Madrid and I had swapped toothbrushes without noticing.  We didn’t speak of this again but continued to use each other’s brushes in total denial.  I threw ‘mine’ out the moment I got home.

#7  Getting Madrid on a scooter


Now that is concentration!

Turns out, she’s a natural!

#8  Massages and manicures

My disco toes were a hit and the shellac on my finger nails stayed on for a month!  The massages were mostly awkward for me but I liked the foot ones.

#9  Sightseeing in Yangon and Bagan

What a cool country.  I can’t wait to go back!

#10  Getting home and still having a whole day of hols left.


Pots on fire!


Sunset in Yangon


Temple in Yangon


Girl selling souvenirs


Home James!

Day twenty-nine – Yokohama

Today I learnt this little gem.  Don’t pack 3 kg of self-raising flour in your hand luggage when travelling through Heathrow Airport.  I was held up in security for almost an hour.

There are no photos for this post.  You can use your imagination instead …


Last Days in London

Day twenty-six – London

Today I travelled back to London and the hospitality of Karen and Kieren.  We attempted to watch Dumb and Dumber 2 but failed to see it through to the end because it was truly that bad.  The Thai takeaway food though was great and so was the company!

Day twenty-seven – Second last day in London

I love the Facebook.  Through the FB, my cousin that I hadn’t seen for years found out that I was in London, contacted me and today we had a really wonderful time catching up and looking at art at the Wallace Collection.


Lunch and chat at the Wallace Collection


Demonstrating the selfie-stick!







Day twenty-eight – Last full day in London

Today I did my final shop (toothpaste, underarm deodorant and self-raising flour plus a couple of impulse buys I couldn’t resist) and met Heather for lunch at the Bear and Staff in Leicester Square.  I then dragged her along to the National Gallery for a free tour.

There was a big crowd for the tour so I told Heather we may need to use our elbows because it was important to stay at the front of the group.  A crotchety old lady carrying her own chair, complained to the guide about me but he seemed to realise I was just joking.


Heather and I soaking up the culture!

After the tour, I sped down to New Eltham for my final go on Disney Infinity.  That is a really fun game and I like playing it with vastly younger than me people!  I had my final dinner and a movie with Kim and Vicky before getting back to London Bridge for my last night’s sleep in the UK.

Finally a big THANK YOU to all the people who kindly put me up over the last month.  You are welcome any time to Yokohama!  They were:

Kim, Vicky and Zac
Simone, Chris and Ella
Mako and Kiyo
Karen and Kieren

Onigiri on a Mountain

Day twenty-five – Still Swansea

Today I learnt how to make another Japanese dish!  I made onigiri, which is the world best food to take on a picnic, with Mako.  Who knew that there was such a culture of Japanese cuisine in Wales!


The finished onigiri – yum!


The onigiri sensei (arms only) and her student!

Later we took the picnic up a very large hill where we asked an older gentlemen to take a photo of us on my iPhone.  I showed him the button to press and he seemed to take it all in quite well.  Mako, Kiyo and I all posed around this stone on the top of the hill.  After a few seconds, I noticed a click-click-click sound being repeated.  Eighty-nine photos later, I realised he didn’t know to take his finger off the button.  Here are a sample of the shots we got.


Thanks again to Mako and Kiyo for a great weekend in Wales!

First Day in Swansea, Swansea

Day twenty-four – Swansea

Bit confused at first on my way to Swansea.  The train announced that we had arrived at Abertawe/Swansea.  I thought this must be a suburb of Swansea so I went up to the information man at the Abertawe/Swansea station and asked how to get to the main station.

I was already there.  Abertawe is just Welsh for Swansea and I felt a bit of a drip.

Back to a little bit of Japan in Wales and a fab afternoon and evening with Mako and Kiyo.  Mako and Kiyo were my neighbours in Yokohama for the first year I was there until they heartlessly abandoned me for a much bigger house and an endless supply of prawn cocktail flavoured crisps in Swansea.

Tonight Kiyo taught me how to make Gyoza.  (Mako had already taught Kiyo earlier!)  Fabulous!

Making Gyoza

The sensei and his student!

Making Gyoza

I’m so excited!

Making Gyoza

The finished product cooking nicely

Nothing to Report from Newport

Day twenty-two and twenty-three – Newport

Back in the United Kingdom and two nights in a B&B in Newport.  I have nothing to report for these two days.  Absolutely nothing of interest happened in a place that proved to hold no interest for me.

I dreamt of Seasalter instead!  😉

Wifi in the Wilds of Ireland

I’m a bit behind on my posts as I’ve had some wifi issues.  And now I’m going to write about them!  🙂

Day nineteen – Kinvara

After all the activity of Ruth’s wedding, I had a lovely two days planned at a quiet country B&B with free wifi so that I could seriously work on my assignment, the draft of which is due next Monday.  For my last assignment, the most I could manage for the draft was an introduction and a couple of section headings so this time I wanted to get the full assignment written so I could take advantage of the feedback and really make sure I don’t overshoot effort wise with another B.  This time, I want that C!

Unfortunately the B&B only just has wifi.  Basically, you get half a bar if you stand on one leg at the back of the stairs on the first floor. I’ve also been told that right next to the tv where the grumpy farmer is watching his team lose at gaelic football in the lounge is a good spot for another half a bar.  A full bar is absolutely out of the question.  I spent twenty minutes trying to send one email and gave up.  I decided instead to head into town to see how Kinvara rates compared to Whitstable as a place to study your masters.

As you know, I found Whitstable and Seasalter very conducive to studying.  Kinvara was not so well accommodating.  It was Sunday morning which may have had something to do with it, but most of the cafés were closed and the one pub I could find that was operating didn’t have wifi.  I asked if they could recommend a place with wifi and the only suggestion they had was a nearby café called ‘The Junction’.  I drove around for a while trying to find this place without any luck.  I went back and asked again and this time the girl took me outside and pointed out where to go to ‘The Junction’ and I realised there had been some language confusion.  She was pointing to a café called ‘The Gentian’!

This café was packed to the hilt with tourists who had flocked there to use the internet.  And it was very noisy but I persisted anyway.  The cakes were delicious!

Day twenty – Kinvara still


A wifi oasis!

I ran this morning in the rain and then hightailed it back to ‘The Gentian’ for a chat with a masters buddy.  Again, it was packed and noisy so our conversation was difficult at times to understand despite my headphones.  I’m now wondering how much more tea I can possibly fit in before I am forced to leave and free up a table for the hordes of locals and tourists who are desperate to use the only free and fast wifi in town.  I’m also too scared to go to the toilet in case they give my table away.  This is causing me to be quite uncomfortable and is adding to the not ideal conditions to be attempting to work under.

Five hours later…

I just went to pay for my two pots of tea, scone, muffin and soup that I’ve used to justify my possession of a table in the café for so long and the landlady from my B&B appeared and insisted on paying my bill for me!  How lovely is that!  Oh Ireland – you are too nice!

Ruth’s Wedding

Day seventeen – Galway


The Bishop of Mulberry – a dead ringer for the priest!

What a wedding!  What a night!

Finally I had an opportunity to get my jeans and hoodie washed as I needed to wear my dress for the wedding.  The sun came out in patches which lit the church during the service and meant that I wasn’t too cold in my summer dress.

The priest gave an excellent sermon.  He reminded me in looks of Bishop Mulberry from the Vicar of Dibley and he was very funny too.  He opened by giving everyone the usual reminders to switch off phones etc, so when someone’s phone rang loudly in the middle of the sermon, we were all looking around to see which member of the congregation had messed up.  It got a huge whoop of laughter when after several seconds of ringing, the priest finally confessed to it being his own phone that was sitting on the podium!

Ruth looked stunning and she and Séanín are perfect for each other and obviously very happy.  The reception was lots of fun with great food and an excellent band.  I really pushed the boat out and the sprinkler, lawn mower and shopping trolley all made an appearance.  I didn’t leave the party until…

Day Eighteen – Galway

…the early hours of the morning.  It was about 2am when a strange piece of music that I didn’t recognise and certainly couldn’t dance to started playing.  Everyone was quiet and still so I asked Kieren what it was.  He said it was the national anthem.  It finished and the crowd started chanting “one more tune, on more tune”.  This didn’t last long though because the lights came up and we suddenly noticed that the band had scarpered long ago!  The music had been taken over by a computer well before the final song and the playlist had been exhausted!

It was at this point I knew it was time to walk back to my B&B, recover and then return that evening for the bbq.  The final wedding event was an indoor affair due to appalling weather.  I got to watch my first gaelic football match which I very much enjoyed whilst drinking pints of diet coke at the bar.  All in all, a great wedding weekend!

Congratulations Ruth and Séanín!

Ruth's Wedding

The happy couple

Ruth's Wedding

The mother of the bride and the bride

Ruth's Wedding

The Ghana table with Ruthie

Ruth's Wedding

Chance for a quick chat!

Image credits

Wedding photos taken by MerilynW and shared on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)