Tag Archive | shopping

Shop Till You Drop!

One of the fascinating places we visited with Haruko on our walk through Jiyugaoka was this department store.


Unlike our department stores where the whole shop is owned by one company and there are many sections, in this building each little shop was independently owned.




Four floors of shops, from haberdasheries to groceries, bakeries to dress shops, tempted us time and again. The glamour of the ballroom dancing shop was enticing…


…but the bakery wasn’t so appealing, mainly because we weren’t sure what they were selling!


We resisted temptation for ourselves, but did find some lovely gifts for our friends and family – unique pieces from a special place far removed from the souvenir shops of Asakusa.


The Sign Says…Or Does It?

The picturesque little town of Tirau is known as the Corrugated Iron Capital of New Zealand. Visitors may think it’s an odd claim to fame until they take a closer look along the main street. The eye-catching artworks of Steve Clothier adorn each building and few words are needed to explain what’s inside. Each unique sign tells a story – can you guess what it is?

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A Certain Shade of Green

One of the best known icons of New Zealand is Pounamu, also known as nephrite jade or greenstone. It is found on the west coast of the South Island in the rivers and on the beaches, especially after wild weather. Māori people have used Pounamu for centuries in their tools, weapons and ornamentation and it is considered an honour to receive a worked piece as a gift.


The little town of Hokitika, which means “place of return”, is the centre of Pounamu carving and sales on the west coast. There are several shops and Pounamu carving factories in the main shopping area of Hokitika. The Te Waipounamu Maori Heritage Centre has an excellent range of carvings and beautiful jewelry. In the workroom visitors can watch as artisan carvers shape the stone into traditional and modern designs.


Further along the street the Bonz’n’Stonz Carving Studio is a hive of activity with students creating their own masterpieces under the watchful eye of their tutor.


In another carving studio Des shares not only his work but his love of the stone through his stories. He tells how the Māori would come to the west coast to find Pounamu, take it back to their homes and carve it with sandstone. He is making several Tiki, good luck symbols associated with fertility.




Away from the main street is the Traditional Jade Co, a family owned shop with a carving factory at the back and unique jewelry and other pieces for sale in the front. Almost all of their stone is local, unlike some of the other shops which stock more imported jade than New Zealand stone, and the jewelry is locally made and reasonably priced.


The young woman behind the counter explains how her grandfather and father go fossicking for Pounamu after storms and heavy rain. They bring back the best pieces to add to their collection.


One day these stones will be transformed into objects of wonder and beauty; prized possessions and honoured gifts.

Food Glorious Food!

There were many dining options as we travelled through Oman, from the traditional to modern international foods. On our first day in Muscat we had lunch at Fast Food and Juice on the Corniche just outside the Muttrah Souq. We’d heard about Shawarma – strips of meat grilled on a spit and then shaved, wrapped in a pita bread and served with tomato, cucumber and toppings like tahini or hummus. At Fast Food and Juice we could have had whole chillies in our wraps as well, but we declined! The menu is testament to the lunch choices available – and look at the range of milkshake flavours. We ate outdoors on the Corniche, and watched the passing traffic of cars and people with the sun sparkling on the waters of the bay.




One night we had dinner at The Turkish House. The food was simple and delicious and there was plenty of it. We chose our fresh fish from the fridge and it was baked whole and served with hot Turkish breads and salad platters, with lettuce, cucumber, Spanish onion and cheese. There was more than we could eat and at a cost of only seven Omani rial each, it was fabulous food at a bargain price!






Another night we visited the café that had been recently voted the best Shawarma house in Muscat. It was beside an Oman Oil service station, right on the freeway, with road works continuing into the night behind us, which made for a unique dining experience. But the voters were right – the Shawarma was delicious – hot, spicy and full of flavour.







At Bread Talk we saw not only bread in all shapes, sizes and flavours, but the most amazing cakes, lavishly decorated and named.












The Bateel Date shop sells gourmet dates, loose or in luxury gift boxes. They come plain, chocolate coated, or filled – it was difficult to choose because the range of fillings was so large. Finally we decided on ginger and apricot. Luscious!



We also had fresh dates from my brother’s tree. He had picked them a few weeks earlier when they were still green and then kept them in the freezer. When they defrosted they were ripe and ready for eating – don’t ask me how this works but they were sweet, plump and tender and we ate them all!

Shopping anyone?

It’s shopping time any time at the Mutrah Souq on the Corniche in Muscat and it’s an amazing sensory experience. Frankincense pervades the Souq with its strong, sweet scent and it can be bought in all sizes of packaging, along with beautiful incense burners. In all directions colour abounds – in fabric stalls, clothing and shoe shops, glassware and jewellery. Decorative wares fill the walkways and this fat bellied brass frog is just asking to be stroked.









The vendors keep up a constant stream of chat to potential customers: “Madam, come in. Madam, what size? Madam, what colour? You try?” The pashminas are so tempting, in all the colours of the rainbow, silky, soft and luxurious. There are woven carpets from Pakistan, cushions and beaded shoes from India, silver boxes, rose water sprinklers and Turkish coffee pots delicately engraved and embellished.











On the more quirky and slightly weird side are the embalmed, mounted and framed creatures including butterflies, scorpions, centipedes and frogs. They’re not exactly to my taste but fascinating all the same.


One alleyway is devoted to the jewellers’ shops, which are much more upmarket and way out of our league. The solid gold and silver jewellery is priced according to weight and the current value of gold per ounce. We’re told by one shopkeeper that the local ladies like to wear these necklaces when they go to parties to show off their husbands’ wealth.

It’s best to go to the Souq in the afternoon when the rush of tourists off the cruise ships has gone. Then it’s cool, the light is dim and you have the time to browse and enjoy with all your senses, and even make a purchase or two. Would anyone like a fat bellied frog?