Our very best of 2017

2017 has been another incredible year on the road. In 2015 when we left the Netherlands to see the world we didn’t think we would still be traveling more than 2 years later. Yet 2017 brought some of the most incredible sights in our journey. We want to share them with you in this pretty compact list. Hopefully it will bring you inspiration for travels in the years ahead.

  1. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

We travel to discover something foreign, a culture, a sight, a cuisine which we don’t have at home. Gardens by the Bay is something truly unique, that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. For me it felt like a vision of a future city, green, modern and a perfect symbiosis of nature and people. I could go back there a thousand times, over and over again and to all of you I recommend it as my unbeatable number 1. Don’t miss the light show by the main Super Trees site. More about the Gardens here.

  1. The Kaluts desert, Iran

That’s Jandirk’s  number 1 and the first place we saw in 2017. The silence, the rock formations and the feeling of landing on the Moon made it one of our very favorite sites. Not to mention the beauty of solitude out there. More about the journey here.

  1. Fuji mountain, Japan

Japan as a country has stolen our hearts. Jandirk has been fascinated by their manga, food and culture for a long time but for me it’s a very new love. Japan as a whole is an incredible journey full of surprises on every corner. But if we had to choose a specific place we would say Fuji Mountain. It can be seen from so many different places and it’s so perfectly symmetrical and majestic. We were lucky enough to see a lot of it from many different angles and we somehow can not imagine a trip to Japan without it.

  1. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

In 2017 we saw many incredible mosques in Oman and Iran but there was one winner and surprisingly it was in Abu Dhabi. It was completed in 2007 so I didn’t expect more than tons of gold and kitsch. I was wrong, the mosque is breathtaking! Every bit is magnificent, stylish, very thoughtfully made. In the evening it looks like a fairytale palace from Aladdin or 1001 Nights. It’s lit according to the phases of the moon so the color and intensity of the light changes every day. That should give you an idea about the amount of work and thought that went into this masterpiece.

  1. Pingxi mountains, Taiwan

I love mountainous views. Especially at sunrise there is something magical with the morning mist and clouds disappearing in between rays of light. I have to admit that I am not the type of person who likes hiking just for the joy of it. I have to have something spectacular at the top of the peak. Well Pingxi mountains gave us just that, super short, strenuous hike and absolutely magnificent views worth every bit of sweat and fear. About how to get there and exactly what to see go here.

  1. View on Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

I’m not going to lie to you. We were not enchanted by Sri Lanka. We were stunned by the amount of garbage, scary transportation and not overly kind people. But one view stayed with us and it was the one on the Sigiriya Rock. It looked so blissful, so green, so Avatar-like, something we won’t ever forget. Tempted by this sight we actually visited the fortress on the top of that rock. We recommend you guys not to make that same mistake. It’s not worth the overpriced entrance and the slow, tiring walk up in a column of tourists.

  1. Japan in bloom

People tend to think that bloom in Japan means only cherry blossom and cherry blossom is only seen in Kyoto and Tokyo. The truth is cherry blossom is everywhere but just varies in period very much. This spectacle of nature, although very brief, brings Japan to life, pushes locals to celebrate and cherish what's fugacious in life. There are picnics and festivals everywhere and the trees look just breathtaking. After few days when the petals start falling it almost looks like snow. More about where to see cherry blossom here.

Except for cherry blossom we were lucky enough to see plum blossom which is almost as beautiful. It comes before the cherries and it’s more peaceful, less touristic.

  1. Kyoto, Japan

Every bit, every kilometer of it. It’s the city that charmed me the most this year. Kyoto is just pure essence of Japan for me. There is so much history there, so much soul but also plenty of modern, pleasantly weird Japan. I seriously can’t wait to go back there. For more info about our favorite places in Kyoto go to the post.

  1. Montserrat, Spain

No mountains are like those surrounding Montserrat Monastery. They look like sleeping giants overgrown with plants. I still can’t believe that all these times I came to visit Barcelona I didn’t think about coming here. Short trip away to huge joy.

  1. Tea plantations, Malaysia

We are massive tea drinkers and disappointed by tea plantations on Sri Lanka we decided to give it another tea try in Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Although the villages in the tea region were hideous, the plantations made up for it pretty fast. Hills of green, filled with bushes of tea. Unforgettable experience.

  1. Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

Already the name says it all. It’s a spectacular location that has a lot to offer when it comes to nature, culture and even modern architecture. Perfect escape from somehow chaotic cities of Taiwan. Every Dutch person will be delighted to hear that the best way to explore the area is by bike. More here.

How much does it cost to travel on Taiwan? Our budget and tips

Many say that if you can’t afford Japan, Taiwan is a good alternative. That made us think and expect this little island would be a lot like our beloved Japan. It’s definitely cleaner and more organized than other parts of Asia but that’s almost all the similarities it has with cherry- blossom- land. Still we completely fell in love with its nature, culture and beauty of its coast and mountains.

And I have to admit it’s more budget – friendly than Japan:)

Over 61 days we spend 3875 euro so around 63 euro per day for the two of us. A little above 30 euro each makes it a great alternative to Japan. But let’s break it down.


Where did we travel?

Taiwan is a pretty small island with a lot to offer. We visited their furthest southern part with its beachy national park (Kenting), we also emerged in their mountainous pearl of Taroko National Park. We couldn’t miss some of its most prominent cities like Taichung, Kaohsiung and obviously Taipei. When we got tired of the cities we relaxed by its magical Sun Moon Lake.

How did we travel?

Honestly I think renting a car on Taiwan is a great idea. We didn’t do that and regretted it afterwards. From what I read it’s not very expensive and some spots are difficult or even impossible to reach by public transport.

On transportation we  spent “just”398 euro. The prices of trains and buses were dirty cheap compared to Japan. A train from Taipei to Taichung was around 20 euros for both of us (750 TWD). Return bus from Zuoying to Kenting was 33 euro for both of us (1200 TWD). Actually we felt so sorry for ourselves that we didn’t try the high speed trains in Japan that we took one on Taiwan. It was “just” 2980 TWD (83 euros) so really cheap compared to the ones we saw in Japan.

The transport section includes some uber and taxi rides.

Curiosity! Buses in Taichung are FREE! Ok they can be pretty slow and a pain in the ass but who looks a gift horse in the mouth right?:)

Where did we stay?

Accommodation was the biggest part of our budget and it came up to 1876 euros. Out of this sum we spend 975 USD for a month of a private apartment in Taipei rented via airbnb (32.5 dollar a night). That one was a serious bargain considering that 99% of the studios I saw were for above 50 US dollars a night especially taking under consideration that we were in pure city center. The owner was going on vacation and wanted someone who could stay as long as possible so he offered 40% off for a stay above 28 nights.

For the rest we didn’t have that much luck anywhere else. The smaller and more beautiful the place was, the more pricey the hostel/ hotel was. At the Taroko National Park we had a private room at a local community home and that cost us 223 euros for 4 days.

We spent only 12 nights in dorms but those were not particularly cheap actually. For 7 nights in our hostel in Kenting we paid 234 euros for the two of us (around 20 euros per night). 

What did we eat?

Our food beginnings were difficult. Coming from lean, low fat, veggie Japan we had a hard time adjusting our bellies to more decadent, fatty Chinese cuisine. As usual we cooked ourselves most of the time but after some time we also enjoyed dinning at night markets, local restaurants and cafes. We didn’t deny ourselves many bubble teas either!

Food turned out to be 1369 euros out of which just 363 went on eating out on night markets, coffees and bubble teas. The rest was what we spent on ingredients to cook with. It might seem like quite a sum but we didn’t save, we treated ourselves buying fruit every single day and we tried out some weird ingredients. In this little fortune we also included quite a sum of tea, bought for gifts and for ourselves.

To give you an idea of eating out costs:

A very good bubble tea (good so not the cheapest) is around 70 TWD (around 2 euros)

Eating out at a night market we spent 200 - 400 TWD (5.5-11 euros) depending on what we bought. Barbecue was always the most expensive stand, together with fancy seafood. For cheaper meals we always turned to onion pancakes or dumplings.

How expensive are museums, tours etc?

On tourism we spend 139 euro. Many of the museums, temples and exhibitions were actually free. The most we spent on an entrance fee was when we went to see the Paul Smith exhibition in Taipei (560 TWD= around 16 euros for both of us). After all this free or dirt cheap cultural entertainment that one felt like a fortune. Although well spent.

In tourism we included mountain bikes rentals at the Sun Moon Lake (400 TWD = 11 euros) as well as renting an electric scooter in the Kenting National Park for two days (around 33 euros). A “huge” budget breaker was mountain bike rental with drop off in Taroko National Park. That was 1600 TWD (around 45 euros) well spent as it’s a super mountainous and dangerous area so we wanted to have the best equipment and calmly slide of a tremendous series of hills.

Where did the rest of our money go?

93 euro in the equipment and miscellaneous parts of our budget went to postcards, souvenirs, splurge in a private bath, a hat, some flowers and not much more:)

Money- saving tips and tricks

  1. Travel smart! Lots of spots on Taiwan are famous as weekend getaways and prices for accommodation get double or even triple during weekends and vacations. Try to avoid that. The three most popular of those are Sun Moon Lake, Kenting National Park and Taroko National Park.
  2. Hop on public transport! Buses, trains and metro are really cheap on Taiwan. In Taichung buses are actually free of charge. Just make sure you get yourself an Easy Card. You can buy it in many spots for example on metro stations and you put money on there to travel. It’s very easy, convenient and it makes everything even more affordable. The great thing is it works in buses and metro of Taipei as well as other big cities.
  3. Consider Airbnb! We managed to get a really great deal for an apartment in Taipei. It was central, pretty and it felt so homie. During the hottest summer months many people go away on vacation and some rent out their spots pretty cheap especially for longer stays.
  4. Enjoy free cultural events and exhibitions! Many of the art museums and cultural events are just free and really interesting.

Exchange rate used: 1 Euro = 34.48 TWD

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12 Japanese delicacies we will miss

Flavors in Japan won’t punch you in your face like in Korea, won’t knock you off your feet like on Sri Lanka but they will slowly charm you with subtle flavors. That’s what happened to us and we are completely hooked.

Japan presented us with new ingredients but it also gave us a new concept of a meal. We discovered how great it is to eat a tiny bit of everything. Enjoying bite after bite, each flavor seems more intense and new… and you end up eating less!

  1. Green goodness from the sea- Nori

Or simply seaweed. Before Japan I always thought it was only used to roll sushi but little did I know that it was the best snack at any time. Not to mention what a great addition it is for any meal as well 🙂 Almost like chips but than healthier and so much more delicious!

  1. Bowl of umami- miso soup

No meal could be complete without a bit of miso soup. It’s such an easy soup based on miso paste which is made of soy. What goes in there is pure creativity of the chef, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, maybe some seaweed. Everything's allowed. The taste is not comparable to anything, pure umami goodness that brings warmth and joy to your body.

  1. Sour, sour and even more sour- pickles

After miso soup, pickles are the most important part of every meal. I have never seen such a variety of sour goodness. There are daikons, plums, cucumbers, eggplants and whatever else you could imagine. It’s something that has been around for ages as one of the easiest methods to preserve the food. I was shocked by how many different techniques there are, pickles can be made with miso paste, vinegar, roasted rice bran or humble salt. 

  1. Our guilty pleasure- candied ginger

Jandirk got especially addicted to it. It's definitely something only a few people can like as it’s this weird combination of sweet and very spicy.

  1. Decadent goodness- okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki are kind of pancakes made on a hot plate that hero cabbage and batter. We especially loved the ones that put you straight into a food coma, with bacon, egg, shrimp, lots of soy sauce and shavings of smoked bonito. People on a diet can downscale their choice a bit and go for a bit more basic option...

  1. Pancake balls- Takoyaki

Takoyaki are decadent ball pancakes stuffed with octopus and topped with a decadent sauce and smoked bonito shavings. They reminded us a lot of okonomiyaki but because of their small size they seem a bit less unhealthy. There is not a single food market or event in Japan without them so don’t worry, you won't have to search.

  1. Japan’s famous- sushi and sashimi

Japan is associated with raw food, sometimes I feel like half of the world thinks that it’s all there is. It’s not but it is a big part of the culture. What most people don’t realize, it requires a lot of technique and finesse to put a great sushi together and to slice the sashimi to perfection. With quality comes the price so we haven’t eaten much of the fancy sushi or sashimi. But I have to admit that what is sold in some belt restaurants or even some supermarkets is just to die for!

  1. Upgraded hot pot- Shabu shabu

It’s just a humble broth put on a little stove at the table. But that’s the whole beauty of it. It’s like pure Christmas. Everyone sits around the table and dips in whatever they want. It can be pork, Chinese cabbage or spinach. At first it seemed a bit weird to get raw ingredients and cook your own meal at the table. Especially that that's what you get in a restaurant as well. But it's just pure fun and such a beautiful experience to share. At the very end when the soup is almost finished, you throw beaten eggs in there with some rice and eat that. So don't forget to leave some place for those last bits. So simple and so delicious!

  1. Noddles like no others- soba

Those buckwheat, thin noodles are Japanese natives. Low price, fast serving time and enormous variety makes them a perfect backpacking meal for every taste. It seems to be a bit of a Japanese fast food option.
The best soba we had was in Hakone. Perfectly thin, al dente, it was so good that many people ate just the noodles without the broth. It’s popular to dip them in some yam paste with raw egg. As weird as it sounds and as slimy as it is, it’s delicious. In a country with no cheese that’s as close as you will ever get to indulgent and creamy.

  1. God´s drink- Sake

Everything tastes better with sake. It’s a drink that could accompany every single meal. Dry, mild, cold one by the dinner, warm, sweet one by the dessert. Not to mention the one with rice particles could be the dessert on it’s own.

  1. Good for everything- Green tea

We have been tea lovers all our lives but Japan got us addicted to green tea. We started drinking liters of it, hot and cold. Not to mention the very bitter, intense matcha that we were seeing and tasting everywhere

  1. White and essential- tofu

Comes in a variety of forms and uses. It can be soft or hard and watch out… it can be even deep fried. The last one is sliced very thinly and deep fried twice. It looks like many sheets stacked together and its fluffy and airy. To be quite honest I didn’t know it was tofu when I tasted it and even less that it had anything to do with oil. I naively thought it was healthy…

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Hakone, Japan

How much does it cost to travel in Japan? Our budget and tips

Japan can be described with many words but cheap is not one of them. Transportation, accommodation, food…practically everything is pricey. No wonder it was our biggest budget fear. We prepared ourselves mentally to spend just under 100 euro a day for us both. Sounds like a lot but believe me, that’s low budget.

Surprisingly we ended up spending “just” over 7000 euro in 89 days. So that makes 40 euros per day per person.

So let’s break it down. Where did all the money go?


Where did we travel?

We visited many cities like Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagoya and even Fukuoka in the south. We also explored a lot of the countryside in the Gifu prefecture, Iya Valley and surroundings of the big cities. Unfortunately we didn’t get to go all the way north but hopefully that will still come.

How did we travel?

We didn’t want to spend much on transportation so we used local trains, buses and ferries. So no bullet train for us.

On transportation we spend a massive part of our budget (1597 euro). Short distance buses weren’t huge budget breakers. For example a trip from Kyoto to Sanzenin (1hr) cost 550 yen (so around 4 euro each). Buses on mountainous roads were a completely different story. The steeper the mountain, the more expensive it got. To get from Hakone village to the lake nearby we paid 820 yen each (almost 7 euro) for maybe around 40 min ride. In Iya Valley it got even more expensive.

For long distance travels we sticked to the buses especially to Willer Express, they offered a lot of direct connections for good prices. The journey with them from Kyoto to Fukuoka cost us 5900 yen (around 47 euro). It was a very comfy, overnight bus.

For short journeys between the cities or day trips we used local trains. For example to go from Nagoya to Nabana No Sato garden we paid 400 yen each (around 3 euro)

Where did we stay?

The most economic accommodation turned out to be aribnb so we stayed a lot in small studios with private kitchen, bathroom and all the Japanese crazy commodities of life. In Hiroshima we got a lovely studio with bikes, super-fast wifi and even pocket wifi that we could take with us. All that for only 33 dollars a night. Most of our Airbnb studios were really great value for money, pretty and in range of 30-40 dollars. It’s really hard to believe but they were way cheaper than dorms or guesthouses.

In more rural areas where there was no studio to rent we had to go for hostels. In Hakone we slept in a double capsula for 10400 yen per night (around 83 euro), by far our most expensive accommodation. In Iya valley we stayed in a charming, traditional double room with tatami floor and futon for almost 70 euro per night for us both.

We also spend 2 weeks volunteering in a guesthouse, south of Nagoya where we stayed for free. Except for that we visited a friend and stayed at her grandma’s house for a few days in Osaka. Those saved us a lot of yen… that probably went for food 🙂

In total we stayed 50 nights in Airbnb studios, 18 nights in a variety of shared accommodations, mostly capsula style and the rest in “free” accommodations volunteering or visiting. In total we paid 2558 euro on accommodation.

What did we eat?

We fell in love with Japanese food and its variety. We ate a lot of seaweed, sushi, sashimi and a variety of veg. Since most of the time we had a kitchen, we cooked a lot. But we also ate out to try authentic local cuisine. We went to mid-range restaurants as well as markets, bars and very local ramen micro-restaurants. During volunteering and visiting we enjoyed a lot of Japanese goodies cooked by our hosts.

The only drawback were ridiculous prices of fruit which forced us to limit ourselves to bananas and kiwis…

Overall we spent 2227 euro out of which 473 euro went on eating out and the rest for grocery shopping or convenient store sushi.

How expensive are museums, tours etc?

On tourism we spend 296 euros and that includes entries to castles, museums, gardens and sake tastings.

Most castles cost around 500 yen (around 4 euro). The most expensive ticket (2300 yen so around 18 euro each) was Nabana No Sato, amazing gardens and a bit of a theme park in one.

Where did the rest of our money go?

273 euro in the equipment section of our budget went for clothes that we bought in Japan. We treated ourselves with some amazing socks, t-shirts and replacement for stuff that was worn down. I also bought some Japanese cloth that can be folded to a very nice purse and that according to Jandirk is an essential thing to have and therefore belongs to equipment.

In 98 euro from miscellaneous we included postcards, chopsticks and small souvenirs we bought for ourselves as well as luggage storage and small expenses that didn’t fit in any other category.

Our tips to save money in Japan

  1. Stay in Airbnbs ! ! ! Huge budget saver! I know Airbnb seems to be “the more pricey” option but in Japan it’s really the cheapest that there is. It requires a bit of planning in advance, the best places fly out of the window pretty fast. It’s also better for stays longer than 4 days, just because of the cleaning fee and Airbnb fee which then spreads nicely without hurting your sight and account. Many of the properties have pretty great discounts for stays above 7 nights. If your schedule is flexible, you want to stay longer in a place and you want great value for your money, Airbnb is the way to go!
  2. Consider volunteering! Japan is not a country that you can understand over a day or two. It’s a long, never-ending process and the best way to do it is to volunteer. You get closer to the people that live there, you can ask them questions and see their lifestyle. Not to mention that you can help them! For opportunities in guesthouses, farms and yoga centers go to Workaway.
  3. Go to the tourist information. Except for Tokyo we met nothing but kindness and a sea of help in the tourist information. Those people are magicians, they know everything and what they don’t know, they will find out for you. They can book you a ticket, find a bus, inform you about millions of discounts and save you a lot of money. Japan has a lot of special tickets and offers for foreign travelers but they are pretty complicated so you really need someone to clear all of them up for you and fish out what could work for you.
  4. Use million transportation discounts. They vary per region and per city. Tokyo has metro cards valid for 1 or multiple days and the price changes depending on your home station. In the Kansai region you have a special ticket to see the whole area of Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Some tickets include entrance to castles or public baths. With multiple day tickets sometimes they need to be used for consecutive days but sometimes you can choose the days and even use the ticket together with a few other people. We even came across tickets that you can only buy when you’re still in your own country and pick them up on the spot. It’s a pretty confusing and twisted system. Over time we realized the discounts were not meant for long term, slow travelers. They require a bit of a pace and tight schedule to get the value out.
  5. Take Willer Express! This bus company offers the cheapest buses and plenty of different connections. They also have a loyalty program, you save points every time you travel with them and then you can use them as discount on your next trip. Their webpage is in English and buying tickets online is super easy. You don’t even have to print them!
  6. Take a look at the Japan Guide. It’s an amazing guide book for culture and sights in Japan but they also give you all the transportation info. For each destination they show the cheapest, the fastest and the easiest route. Be prepared though, it’s almost never 3 in 1.

P.S. Exchange rate used for the overall budget 1 EURO = 119 YEN

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Nabana No Sato, Nagoya, Japan

Our secret garden- Nabana no Sato

As a child I was literally obsessed with the Secret Garden, both the book and the movie. I never got bored of reading or watching it and wanted to find my secret garden. Too bad this one can’t be mine. It joins pretty well my two passions: gardens and Christmas markets.

So what is Nabana no Sato?

It’s a garden taken straight from fairy tales. It’s huge and has something to offer every season of the year. When we went there, the plum and cherry blossom was just over but we saw fields of tulips that were just remarkable. They really reminded us of Holland.

The most unforgettable moment was when we walked into the Begonia Garden. We actually entered it through the exit and the first thing we saw was a stunning pond with flowers floating in a circle and chains of begonia hanging from the ceiling. I literally screamed from all the joy and enthusiasm. It was like a Secret Garden from my dreams filled with colors and hidden from greedy eyes. I guess because of its location Nabana no Sato is not particularly busy on a weekday… Which tourist heard of Nagoya? Very few and even fewer would go even further to get to the garden. But it’s worth all the energy.

Except for the flowers…

It’s one of very few places where Christmas lasts for half a year. From October to May there is an amazing Winter Illumination which leaves many Christmas markets in Europe far, far behind. There are two long tunnels of little lamps, light performances and even mulled wine to complete the whole experience. It wouldn’t be Japan if there wasn’t a selection of food to go with it. There are a few restaurants as well as food stands in the park.

The only drawback is…

As usual in Japan… the price. The entrance costs 2300 yen that's including a 1000 yen voucher that you can spend in one of the shops and restaurants. Unfortunately you can’t buy the entrance without the voucher… Begonia Garden, onsite onsen and Mount Fuji-like observation platform are charged extra… The last one spoils the view quite considerable, I’m still wondering how come stylish Japanese came up with a kitsch idea like that.

Still, I would say Nabana no Sato is worth the price. And that’s coming from a lady on a rather backpacking budget:)

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Takayama, Japan

24 hours in Takayama

Takayama is one of those magical places where time disappears and you can spend days just wandering around, hours sipping coffee and countless nights enjoying sake. Although it’s fairly touristic, going just around the corner from the main street, everyone can find a calm place for themselves. We had a few days to explore the place on a very slow pace but the main highlands are definitely doable in a day. So let’s explore Takayama in 24 hours 🙂

Escaping the crowds on the main street

The main street in Takayama tends to get busy at around 9 am with groups of tourists. We went there before to feed our eyes with wooden, traditional architecture. With all gift shops closed and no groups of Chinese tourists it was nicely calm and quiet. Not comparable to the crowds later on the day. Though we loved the other face of the streets as well, vibrant, busy with lots of arty gifts and sake tastings.

Strolling through the morning market

Splendid way to spend a morning is going to the Miyagawa morning market where people who can handle some savory treats in the morning can enjoy pickles and those who love art can enjoy some live, calligraphy artists and locally made chopsticks. Something for everyone that’s for sure.

Morning coffee with charming, old couple in their little art paradise

Walking past it we got tempted by good price for coffee and music hits from the past. As soon as we entered we got completely charmed by the old couple running this place. They were both overjoyed and enthusiastic about art & coffee. We did not only sit on the tatami floor surrounded by pottery and jewelry but we also got coffee that was just divine! Delicious and beautiful with a painted teddy bear on there. Some say that Japanese live long because they follow their ikigai, their passion and purpose in life. That just has to be true with these seniors and we couldn’t resist going back for more every day.

Hida beef for lunch

Takayama is famous for Hida beef- high quality, meat that just melts in your mouth. We enjoyed in an amazing stew from one of the food kiosks on the main street. Although the name is only available in mysterious Japanese alphabet, the location is clear on the map below.

Since it’s not a big portion and not a cheap treat, we recommend it for small eaters for lunch.

Sake tasting

Sake is an essential part of Japnese culture and Takayama reached perfection in its production. There are many sake breweries offering sake tasting for a small charge presenting quite a selection to try. Those who think sake is not for them should give it a try. There are so many dry and sweet variation that I can’t imagine someone wouldn’t find something suitable for his/hers taste buds. For porridge lovers there is even sake with rice particles still in it. For whisky lovers there are quite few smoky ones out there.

We recommend three breweries for sake tasting

Funasaka Sake Brewery

Although located in a touristic, busy street, it’s pretty calm because 99% of the people don’t realize that once you bought your sake you can chill out with it in a charming little bar behind the shop. We especially loved that they were the only ones that served their goodies in a wooden container overflowing on a little ceramic plate underneath it. It also changes the taste slightly making it more whisky-like because of the wood.

Kawashiri Sake Brewery

It’s a small, family business run throughout generations with love and devotion. They don’t speak any English but they give a very interesting leaflet explaining all the different sake they offer as well as the process.

Hirata Sake Brewery

Another small, family business with plenty of sake bottles open to viewing, touching and tasting.

Serious bowl of decadent ramen for dinner

Tiny restaurant with very few tables, chairs along the bar and small table on a tatami floor. That’s where the whole neighborhood comes together to sip their evening away with bottles of sake and delicious noodles. We absolutely loved the food and the vibe in there. And it's worth mentioning that Hida ramen is another specialty of the region.

A good night sleep in a capsula

K’s house is a charming hostel with comfy capsulas as well as private rooms and a great common area to chill out. People working there are enthusiastic, very helpful and always smiling. The hostel has an excellent kitchen with great pottery to make whatever you cook very presentable.

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