Mari Mari Cultural Village

As part of our holiday to Borneo (Malaysia), we joined a tour to Mari Mari Cultural Park. The park is in Kionsom, which was about a 40 minute drive from our hotel.

Upon arrival, we were assigned an English speaking guide who guided us through the park. There were 5 houses, each from a different tribe. We were able to walk into each of the houses and we were also given a brief demonstration of something from each village.

Mari Mari cultural village map

The Dusun people lived in a simple hut made up of two generations. They were predominately rice farmers.  We were shown where they stored their rice and how they thrashed their rice.

Mari Mari Cultural Village
The rice thrasher
Here we were shown how the rice wine was brewed and we got to sample it too. It tasted remarkably sweet- Apple cider vinegar would be a good description. The distilled rice wine that we taste afterwards was more like Sake. Much better! We also got to sample a style of cooking where the Dusun people would mix chopped chicken, onion, chilli, salt and bay leaves and stuff it into a bamboo stem. This was then loaded onto the fire and burnt for 15 minutes. It was rather tasty.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

The second house was a long rectangular house. Here the entire village of Rungus lived in one house, with each family member living in one room. They really enjoyed their honey, and cultivated their own in bamboo. They would attract some bees into the bamboo and wait for a few months for them to generate the honey.  They would cut the bamboo in half and squeeze the honey out of the comb. The left over comb was used as glue and used to join various things together, like their musical instruments. The honey had a lovely flavour to it. It was a lot runnier than the honey that I’m used to and had a different taste. While still sweet, I would liken it more to golden syrup in texture and flavour than honey.

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The third house, belonged to Lundayeh people who were head hunters that believed the crocodile was sacred. They would build a mound in the shape of  crocodile and on this crocodile, they would place spikes and on the spikes they would place the heads of their enemies upon their return from war.  Here we learnt how they made the clothes out of bamboo. It was fascinating to learn how the indigenous people made good use of their natural resources. Bamboo was used for so much. From building the houses, making walls and clothes, creating hives for their bees, cooking in them and using them as cups. Definitely good use of a very renewable resource.

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The fourth house belonged to the Bajau tribe. The were a rich tribe, specializing in trade. Their wealth was obvious from their possessions and the bright colours in them. Here we learnt how they made their rice flour and their rice treats. They were delicious and K went back for seconds!

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The last house, required a ceremony first. Upon arrival at the gate a warrior kept out at us and wanted to know what we wanted. Our ‘leader’ (K volunteered for this role) had to greet the leader and say that we had come in peace. Once we were in we learnt about how the blowpipes were made and we got to try shooting them.  I was surprised at how easy it was. I managed to hit the coconut and found that I didn’t need to blow very hard to get the dart to hit the target.  The highlight for J was the ‘trampoline’ in the house. This community lived in one building, and in their communal area was an area with a submerged floor. This floor was set in flexible wood and when a team set about jumping on it, they could spring a person quite high into the air. This was a traditional form of entertainment amongst the warriors. J loved being sprung into the air, not that he went very high!

Afterwards we were shown a traditional dance and enjoyed a lovely lunch before heading back to our hotel. This for me is one of the highlights of our trip to Borneo. It was very interesting, informative and amazingly hands on. The children were all involved and truly enjoyed themselves.

While clearly ‘artificial’, it was a great outing and helped to provide information about how the indigenous people lived in a very informative and hands on way. It is a trip that was well worth doing and, for outings with kids, it gets a big thumbs up!

Exploring, exploring…

I have made a new friend at swimming. She and I meet every week while our children have their lesson and as the year has progressed we are becoming more than just two mums-who-meet-at-the-pool-every-week.

She only arrived in the summer, and after one of our chats about places to visit, I realised what a wealth of knowledge I have gained over the last 3 1/2 years as I’ve gone about ‘making the most of my time here’.

So I’ve decided to start another series. This series will be linked to My 5 and will give some information about where to explore in Japan (though for now it will mainly be in Tokyo.) At the start of each month, I will post about My 5 favourite places to visit based on a particular theme.

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Hopefully this will inspire you to head out and explore. I would also love to hear what you would recommend each month. If there is anything you would like to see on the list (Such as parks, playgrounds or such like), please do leave a comment below.

I will start next week with My 5 Favourite Aquariums.

Beginning of the School Year Blues

It’s that time of year again.

The children are back at school.


But I have been struggling a bit. Looking back at various posts, it’s not the first time I’m struggling with this, so I’ll try not to bore you too much.

What I have been struggling with since coming back from our summer in the UK is that age old question of what to do with my time, now that my children are all at school. Granted this is not a situation unique to being an expat, but being an expat has different aspects to that question.

Go back to work: as a teacher by trade, that could be easy, as finding an English speaking school here wouldn’t be too hard. But I’m here on a dependent spouse visa. Meaning, I am dependent-on-my-spouse. I am not allowed a job. Can’t open a bank account. Dependent. I can change my visa status and I believe it isn’t that hard, but how desperately do I want to go back to work…


Friends come and go: in my case, I’ve already seen a lot of my close friends leave and most of the others will be leaving at the end of this school year, due to the fact that most expat contracts are 2-4 years in length. Do I want to be working, or spending the time I have left with them enjoying their company?

We are entering our fourth year here, so we perhaps we will be leaving too. Perhaps she says….
We don’t know. Not quite Limbo Land, but the uncertainty is there.

So what to do with my time?

I could embrace the expat life:

    • Join a particular elite club, attend it’s gym and use its facilities.
    • Enjoy lengthy lunches
    • Have beautiful blow dried hair and nails sporting the latest art.

Hmmm… Maybe not.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been enjoying the lunches with my friends, and my waistline is proof of that, but there have been times when I’ve been enjoying lunches with my friends after an explore.

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to exercise and I’m going to enjoy lunches with my friends. We are going to make the most of what time we have left in this amazing country and see as much as we can. Using, wherever possible, our feet as the primary form of transport and enjoying a lunch before heading back to collect our brood.

I shall bring you along too. I plan to blog more regularly, sharing posts about matters of faith, life, travel, motherhood and just the fun and games Somedays bring and so inspire you to explore more….

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Tokyo with Kids- Yoyogi Park

One of the things that I found challenging when I first arrived was to find places to take the children to where they could have fun, learn new things and experience this amazing country. I have decided that I will write a review of the places that we visit so to encourage others to experience this country with kids in tow! 

For my Japanese readers, I seriously doubt that I need to write a post on Yoyogi park, but for my other readers I felt it vital and interesting. Vital, because if you have kids in Tokyo, then Yoyogi park is a crucial part of your “Let’s-get-the-kids-outdoors” arsenal, interesting because the visit is never the same experience twice!

Yoyogi park is to the north of Omotesando and Shibuya. At 134 acres it is one of Tokyo’s largest parks. It borders Meiji Shrine and is easily accessible from Harajuku or Yoyogi-koen stations. It has trees all round the edge, which make it wonderfully cool in the summer and a haven for photographers in autumn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And spring.

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The park provides a place where people can relax and unwind, practice their dance moves or musical instuments.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe open field in the center is a place where children of all ages can skip, fly kites, play football or whatever. IMG_5628

My girls and their friends had a wonderful time one spring day, when they joined in with a group of Japanese students who were playing skipping games. The students were only too happy to let the ‘gaijins’ join in!
(Gaijin- a Japanese word for foreigner/ alien.)

It is a wonderful place for children to burn off energy and be free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There is a cycle centre where you can rent bikes for all ages and cycle round the park, or on the circuit, if you’re little and still learning. Admittedly I’ve yet to use it, though it’s very tempting as my 4 year old still can’t ride a bike! Ours love the freedom that the park offers, from climbing the trees or the modern art statue, digging the ground with the toy diggers, putting leaves on the vent from the underground and watching them fly into the air or just stroking the animals.
Aaah the animals…

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So dogs dressed up in coats and other outfits, IMG_5632

(or their owners dressed as dogs)

riding in a pram or bike, isn’t overly uncommon, but it does bring new meaning to the word personification. Yoyogi park, does provide two dog runs (one for medium- large dogs and one for medium-small dogs.) where people can let their dogs off the lead and run free.
But I’ve seen a pet rabbit going for a walk, a tortoise and most recently a pet owl.

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Like I said, no visit is ever the same and it always an interest factor about it!

Yoyogi park is open from dawn to dusk, all year round (except this summer just gone where there were some reported cases of dengue fever resulting from a visit there. In true Japanese style, they closed the park for nearly 3 months, and I believe they sprayed it with insecticide as well.)

Access is easy too, as it has its own car park and Yoyogi-Koen station (on the Metro Chiyoda line) is right underneath the park. On overland trains, Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote line is a 5 minute walk, as is Yoyogi Hachiman station on the Odakyu line.

I love Yoyogi park and every little aspect of it, and I would love to hear about your experiences at it too.

Tokyo with Kids- Tokyo Toy Museum

One of the things that I found challenging when I first arrived was to find places to take the children to where they could have fun, learn new things and experience this amazing country. I have decided that I will write a review of the places that we visit so to encourage others to experience this country with kids in tow! 

 

 

 

It felt in mid-March that Spring was taking a while to show up, so Toddler Trips headed out to the Tokyo Toy Museum, where we could be indoors from the cold.

The name is a bit deceptive as it isn’t a museum, like we Westerners know museums. Yes, they have some toys on display, but the whole feel of the place was that of a place where children can play with beneficial (ie aiding development) toys.

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It is located in a former school, on a side street about 7 minutes walk from Exit 2 (the elevator exit) of Yotsuya Sanchome station. The rooms are former classrooms and are dedicated to various types of toys.
Our first stop was the Good Toy Gallery. This room houses toys that have been accredited as effective in assisting children’s development. There is a doughnut table in the middle with a selection of these toys and our little group had no qualms about trying them out. J and a friend thoroughly enjoyed a ball helter skelter toy.

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The Wood Toy Forest was our next stop. This was spectacular! Everything was made out of wood. Wooden ball pits to play in, a tree house, bead pit to rake (Zen Garden style- though ours rather enjoyed picking up and throwing them!)- all beautifully made.

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Toy Square Red was another room where we lost the children for a while as they disappeared a mini tatami room and played tea parties- Japanese Style. This room is primarily focused on traditional Japanese toys.

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Unfortunately time constraints meant we didn’t really explore all the rooms or try out the activities that are offered in the Toy Factory, but it was a great morning out.

The museum was a big hit with our group from the 13 month old to the nearly 4 year old. I think my girls (ages 7 & 9) would enjoy it- but not as much as my son did, or for as long. That said, I never visited the Games Salon and I’m sure they would happily have stayed in there playing table top football, Catch the Lion or one of the Chinese puzzles.

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A lovely morning, enjoyed by all and one I’d highly recommend.

Address: Yotsuya Hiroba, 4-20 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku,Tokyo 160-0004.
Hours: 10:00-16:00
Closed: Thursdays
Tickets: Adults:¥700
Child: ¥500

Tokyo with Kids- Shinagawa Aquarium

One of the things that I found challenging when I first arrived was to find places to take the children to where they could have fun, learn new things and experience this amazing country. I have decided that I will write a review of the places that we visit so to encourage others to experience this country with kids in tow! 

My son, J loves aquariums and zoos. He especially loves matching the fish to their image. We have been to a few aquariums, Tokyo Sea Life Park, Hakkeijima Sea Paradise and Epson Aqua Stadium and over the Winter Holidays, we had an opportunity to visit Shinagawa Aquarium.

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After driving around for 30 minutes trying to work out where the car park was, we entered the aquarium. Like most animal attractions in Japan, it is a cheap place to visit.

The tanks had the usual assortment of various types of fish. The tunnel had a couple of turtles, rays and other fish. It had a few cameras dressed up as turtles and for 100Yen, the girls had a go at moving it up and down and round and watching the fish on the screen. They had great fun pretending they were Octanauts in an Octopod.

There was a dolphin and walrus show, which the children found fascinating. You could also watch the dolphin tank from below. I thought their tank was a bit small for them, and unfortunately I don’t believe that they have much more room behind the scenes.

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The highlight for me was the seal tunnel. The seals are in a tank with a U- shaped tunnel going through the pool so the seals can swim over, under and round you. I haven’t seen a tunnel in the seal pools in any aquarium before, and thoroughly enjoyed watching them whizz over, under and round me.

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The highlight for the girls was the touch pool. The loved being able to pick up starfish and feel them. They kept going back to the pool for more.

As I mentioned before, getting there was a bit of a challenge, though now that we know how to get there, it is easy by car.The train stations are all a bit of a walk- 8 Minutes from the Keihin Omorikaigan Station and 15 minutes from the Omori Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line.The aquarium does offer a free transit bus from Bus Stop No.6 outside the Oi Town Central Station,East Exit, which is on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line.

A lovely afternoon out and worth visiting.

Apologies that the photo quality is a bit erratic- we weren’t always allowed to use a flash.

Tokyo with Kids- Epson Aqua Stadium

One of the things that I found challenging when I first arrived was to find places to take the children to where they could have fun, learn new things and experience this amazing country. I have decided that I will write a review of the places that we visit so to encourage others to experience this country with kids in tow! 

After our last trip to an aquarium- Tokyo Sea Life Park, I’ve been quite keen to get to another as J had such fun there.

We got an opportunity recently as the girls were away in a school residential trip so I didn’t need to do a pick up, and the weather ensured that we needed to do an indoor outing.

I put forward to J a couple of the aquarium options that he could visit and he chose the Epson Aqua Stadium as he wanted to see the dolphins.

Epson Stadium 6

So off we went, Yamanote line to Shinagawa, out at the West Exit. We wandered through Wings shopping centre and discovered that the aquarium only opened at 12 during the week. It was 11am. J had been up since 4:30am, so he popped into the pram and had a nap. I grabbed an early lunch.

At 12:45 we went in. I experienced a Lost-in-Translation moment as I asked a young lady where I could get the tickets and she directed me to the lift. Upstairs I got sent back down, where I found the ticket machine.

Realistically I should have guessed as most places in Japan have machines that spit out the entry ticket.

¥1800 for me (about £13) and J was free as he is under 4. ¥400 for children over 4.

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The aquarium is small and an easy 1/2 day trip. Their feature tank is their tunnel with rays and some sharks. J loved watching the fish and matching the fish to their image. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Alfred Ray (the teacher ray in Finding Nemo) and admiring how the actual ray moved with the same grace and flow as the one in Nemo. This one didn’t sing however!

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Most of the other tanks were small, but still entertaining for the children. Some of the names were written in English, but there was no information about the fish given in English.

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The dolphin and sea lion shows were very entertaining and the highlight of our visit. Everything was in Japanese, but you got the jist and the atmosphere at the dolphin show was great. We had great fun and thoroughly enjoyed watching the people get wet. Most of the show was about the dolphins splashing the audience, so a warning if you do sit in the seats with the red stripe on the back of the chair- you WILL get drenched!
It is possible to buy ponchos for a nominal amount, which most people did.
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It is possible to re- enter, so you can head out to the shopping centre and have a meal, or eat downstairs, enjoy the rides of Pleasureland and then go back in, but after a few hours J was ready to head home.
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A lovely afternoon out and well worth a visit.

Apologies that the photo quality is a bit erratic- we weren’t allowed to use a flash.