Eating in Hyogo: More Than Beef

I’m not above booking a vacation focused on food, since that would take care of two items on my bucket list in one blow. There’s nothing like going somewhere new and tasting the local specialties. That’s why you have to partake in the local claim to fame, Kobe beef, when you visit Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture. Kobe isn’t just about the beef, though.

Hotel Restaurants in Kobe

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I’ve discovered that hotels have some of the best dining options in a new city, at least in Europe and Asia. In Kobe, staying at a noted hotel like the ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe is ideal for overwhelmed culinary travelers. Located across the footbridge from Shin-Kobe Rail Station, the hotel sits amidst colorful foliage and the hiking trails of the Rokko Mountains. The hotel houses seven restaurants, giving you the opportunity to sample a variety of cuisines all in one place.

American Cuisine in Kobe

Most modern cities who welcome foreigners have at least one American dining option. For new travelers, it might seem crazy to eat food you can get at home and waste an opportunity to partake in the local culture. Seasoned travelers understand that a little slice of home can go a long way, though. At Nailey’s Grill in Kobe, crowds line up for the exceptional burgers and nachos. This spot is also known for its salads.

Chinese Cuisine in Kobe

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Unsurprisingly, you’ll find a lot of Chinese influence in Japan. Located in the center of the city, Kobe’s Chinatown is one of three named Chinatown districts in Japan. Centuries ago, Chinese merchants settled near the busy port of Kobe, and Nankinmachi was born. Over the years, Kobe’s Chinese cuisine has evolved, but you can find steamed buns, dim sum, dumplings, and specialties from most regions of China here.

French Cuisine in Kobe

French culture is popular throughout Japan, and top French chefs like Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire have restaurants in Japan. As a result, some Japanese chefs have taken classic French cuisine and given it their own unique twist. In Kobe, Tatsuya Kishimoto opened Au Bec Fan. Here you can find beef bourguignon, crème brûlée, and other classic French dishes, but with a Japanese spin.

Kobe Beef in Kobe

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I’ve had Kobe beef in China, and it’s unbelievable. I imagine that trying this famous dish in the spot where it was first created will be quite a different experience, though. The manufacturing standards for this type of beef are strictly enforced, and not every type of beef can be Kobe beef. Most local establishments have a Kobe beef option on the menu, but some restaurants serve nothing but this delicate meat. Ask your hotel to recommend the best place to enjoy Kobe beef on your budget.

Kobe is a beautiful city with great food. Take the three-hour bullet train from Tokyo or the 15-minute train ride from Osaka, and experience the city’s cuisine in all it forms. Try it all, including the beef.


What to Do in Southeast Asia in October

I imagine I will make it back to Asia, some day. I miss my old stomping grounds. To prepare for my return trip, I conducted some research to find new activities in some of my favorite spots in Southeast Asia.


I mostly spent my time in Macau at the casinos. Macau is known as the “Las Vegas of Asia,” and I would take this little island with the Portuguese influences over the Las Vegas Strip any day. One place I failed to visit was the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is just the front façade of the Church of Mater Dei constructed in 1602-1640. The architecture demonstrates the diverse history of the island: Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese influences. Macau is a tropical climate. The weather in October makes for perfect time to stroll through the grounds.


Photo by Christopher Wong via

Manila, Philippines

For being so close to the equator, the climate in Manila, Philippines is great, humid, but not too hot. One of the most interesting and culturally significant sites in Manila is Fort Santiago. Constructed in the 1500s, it was a prison during the Spanish Colonial War. Walking the fort grounds, give you the opportunity to explore the 22-foot walls up close. The preserved ruins give you the feel of what life was like on those harrowing grounds centuries ago.

Ko Phangan, Thailand

Ko Phangan, Thailand is beach life at it’s best and in October, the weather is perfect from morning until night. You can enjoy the amazing sunrises and party the night away at a Full Moon Party held every month to correspond with the amazing full moons visible in this part of the world. The parties are held all over, but the original spot, Paradise Bungalows, has the best. They feature food vendors, bands and international DJs. The party started in 1985 and has gained in exposure and levels of debauchery ever since.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam is known for its temples and pagodas. One area of the city where you can wander and see nine of the most beautiful and iconic examples of Vietnam history is in Old Quarter. Located in the center of Hanoi City, Old Quarter takes you back to old world Vietnam. The area boasts a market where locals sell their crops and crafts. You will certainly put your bargaining skills to the test. The narrow crowded streets offer a nostalgic setting in this modern city. I can’t wait to try the sticky rice or the Bun cha, a barbecue pork dish in fish broth with noodles.

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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Besides the plethora of mopeds and scooters that litter the streets, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is like Miami. It’s hot and humid, but modern and westernized. October is a great time of year to stroll the streets and get to know the city. Last time I visited, I ate and ate and ate. I would do a repeat of that culinary tour. Vietnamese food is not just Pho, although the Pho is amazing. The food has many other Asian influences such as Thai and Chinese. I would return to Temple Club every visit. Besides having the most eclectic décor, the food is amazing, with dishes from all the influences that make up the charm of Ho Chi Minh City.

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Current Move is Long Over Due

This not my new home, but pretty cool.

Before the age of 5, I moved 4 times.  Georgia, Chicago, Denver & Houston. Then, I moved to Dallas when I was 12 and. Dallas is my home town and my parents still live there.  But, since leaving for college, I have not had the same address for more then 3 years at a time.  Is that strange? My friend who is into astrology says that is a trait of my sign; sagitarius get bored easily.  I lived in New Orleans, back to Dallas, Tallahassee (Go Noles!), back to Dallas, Washington DC, Silver Spring, Maryland, back to Dallas, Jacksonville and China.

Living in Shenzhen China for over 5 years for me is a long time.  It is weird to live in the foreignnest (not a word, but I like the way it sounds) of foreign countries for longer then I have stayed anywhere in a long time. But, based on my history, the move to Shanghai is long over due.

Every move has its difficulties, but moving to Shanghai has been especially unique.  Dealing with movers who don’t speak english, highway restrictions and regulations (You can’t drive commercial trucks on city street except during a specific time), moving company employees quitting in route.  One of the guys that works for us who was supervising the move said he had not been as upset in the 6 years he had worked for us combined then he was on that single day of the move.

Moving from southern China to Shanghai is like a native to Alabama moving to New York City.  It is very different.  25 years ago, Shenzhen was rice fields.  Now it is one of the fastest growing urban areas in China.  But, it has a very young population.  For most of the people in Shenzhen, they have come to the city from farms and villagepuff the farm. They work all year long and take 10 – 20 hour train rides home once per year to visit their family and take money home.

Shanghai, on the other hand is one of the oldest cities in China, but it is the most westernized city in China,as well.  There are a lot of foreigners.  Just below my apartment there is a Starbucks, Subway and McDonald’s all in the same block.  And, it has a metro system that takes you all over the city. After being stuck on the outskirts of Shenzhen with no quick access to public transportation, this is going to me mean freedom for me.

I have been doing some research and they have an expat learning center with writing courses, a fitness center from Australia that offer boot camps all over the city.  There are movies theaters with recently released movies and stadium seating.  It has all the comforts of modern living and I am excited to take advantage of it all.  Plus it is China, so even more opportunities to explore this countries culture in history from a new perspective.

I am happy to be moving to Shanghai, it will be a welcome change of pace from the isolated place I have been in for the last 5 years.

My goal is to take advantage of all Shanghai has to over, until I move again.

Have you moved around like me or have you lived in the same place all your life?  How many different places have you moved?   


Journey to Tattoo #6

Why in the world do I do this to myself?  Why do I have this urge? Why can’t I be satisfied with just one or two or even three?  Why can’t I just say no more? Why can’t I stop?

Why, oh why must I get another tattoo? 

I have 5 already.

#1 When I got my first one, I had thought and obsessed over it for over 3 years before taking the plunge.  I think the only reason I graduated from college is so I could get a tattoo to commemorate the occasion. Back then, it had to be about something special.

#2 And the second one, well, again it was necessary. I just graduated from law school.  That was a huge accomplishment. It needed to be celebrated.   It was a story that had to be immortalized in ink, permanently on my skin.

#3 Number three was inevitable. You can’t pick up your whole life and move to Asia and not mark that milestone in your life with just photos and memories.  No way, I had to cement that type of life altering occasion by permanently altering my skin.  And, chinese inspired tattoos are so cool.

#4 Then there was number four which doesn’t really count as a new tattoo because it was a re-do of number 2.  And, since he had the needles out anyway, he might as well add to it.  I had him add a flower or 4; a Lotus, a Cherry Blossoms, an Iris, and a Sunflower.

And, flowers are pretty and have meaning, not necessarily to me, but to someone.  No, wait, I have seen flowers in my life.  Let me think about this for a minute.  Ok. Um, well, I don’t know, but I will figure it out later.  And the stars, oh yeah, the stars?  When I told my tattoo artist to add stars, he said. “How many?”

“13.”  No hesitation, “13” Why 13?  I have no idea.  13 is a good number I guess. Well, not really, but regardless, I got 13 stars.

Ok, the flowers  represent places I have lived in my life.

Cherry blossoms remind me of the Cherry Blossoms that grew every April in DC where I lived for four years.

Never mind that I never once saw them or went to the Cherry Blossom Festival.  But, they also represents Tokyo, Japan, which is my absolute favorite place in the world.

But, I got that tattoo long before I even ever went to Tokyo, but hindsight still counts, right?

The iris represents my favorite artist Vincent Van Gogh and spending two summers in London.  I fell in love with Van Gogh in London.  I would stare at his paintings in the museums there all the time.  I read and studied about his life.  I saw a play about the time he spent in England and I went to the house where he lived in Brighton.

But the Irises in a Field painting which is my favorite, I didn’t actually see that painting in London.  I saw that painting in New York.  Well, that counts too, I spent a lot of time in New York and it was my favorite place on earth before I went to Tokyo, so that still works.

The lotus represents my time in China.  Oh, yeah, thats easy and that’s a g good one.

Ok, and finally the sunflower.  I had sunflowers on my wallpaper in my childhood bedroom.  Yeah, really big, pretty white sunflowers.

Or where those daisies? Well, anyway, the sunflowers were a painting by Van Gogh that I love as well, so it still fits the formula.

And the stars. What could the stars represent?  What have I done 13 times in my life?  Um, well I have kissed 13 boys (don’t really want to commemorate that); I have had sex with 13 . . . ish people.  Yeah, no, that won’t work.

Wait, I know.  How many countries have I been to?  Let’s see.

Mexico is one; London is two, Paris three, Norway, Sweden, Finland, four, five and six.  Russia seven.  Oh, that trip to Russia.  What a crazy trip that was.  That deserves a tattoo all on its own.  Wait. Stop. Focus.

Eight is Denmark.  That concludes that trip.  This might work out ok.  Let’s get to the Asian years.

China is nine, Vietnam is ten.  Singapore is eleven, Hong Kong twelve.

Great, this is going to work.  Just one more.  What is one more country I have been too?  Does the Amsterdam airport count?  No. Ok, there has got to be one more.

Oh wait, duh.  America.  I have been to America.  I am American so it stands to reason that I have been to America.  Whew!  Ok, great. Now 13 stars represent the countries I have been to in my lifetime.

*Can’t count Tokyo yet, because at that time I still hadn’t made it to Tokyo.  My favorite part of this rationalization.  I visit more countries; I can get more star tattoos.  Brilliant!

#5 & 5 1/2 Number 5 and 5 ½ began as an impulse buy that didn’t turn out so good, but was reworked into something new that I have learned to appreciate.

Stand to reason that the one time I do make a snap decision about getting a tattoo, it turns out bad.  What makes this even more of an issue is that it is the most visible of my tattoos.   It was the first tattoo that I got just for the sake of getting a tattoo.  An image struck. So, heck, why the hell not.  *Note to self and others, do not impulse buy a tattoo.  Lesson learned.

Number six. I am on my way to get number six right now.  I have the image and the meaning. I have researched the artist and I have a great reason to get it.

Because I love tattoos!

It is that simple I am a tattoo lover and I will always be getting tattoos.  I will get this on and while under the needle for this one I will be planning the next one. I will get them for this occasion or that occasion or no occasion at all.

For me, I have discovered that the best reason to get a tattoo is because I love the art of tattoos.  The creativity, skills, the knowledge, practice, dedication and hard work it takes for a tattoo artist to be good is something that I admire.   Tattoos are an art form created by real artist that express the desires of their clients in a collaborative artistic expression of permanence.

Wow, that’s beautiful, maybe I should get that tattooed on me.  Can you say number seven?

Why do you get tattoos?  I would love to hear your stories.