A whirlwind account of 9 days in Japan, and 5 in Thailand before the European adventure begins..
4/6/2010 10:30am Departure day.. I finally get all packed up and out of my unit. I'm sad, but it feels great to have it done, and be moving onto my next big thing! I Can't believe I've been there for more than 2 years. Lots of fun was had there! Of course, while I am running around like a nut, Beth (my best friend and travel buddy for the next two weeks) is getting a pedicure!! "We're going to Japanland, we're going to Japanland!!"
4/6/2010 10:00pm Bangkok Airport, Thailand.. It's 31ºC. It's 10pm. 31ºC!! Our glasses fog as we get off the plane and dart across the tarmac to the shuttle bus. We had an OK flight, but this long distance travel thing really isn't that much fun at all! Whoever said it's all about the journey must be mad!! I sat opposite a cute girl the whole way though, so it wasn't all bad! Time for Japanese lessons from Bethy.. I think I learnt surprisingly well considering the flight, and that the time we were running to was 2am Sydney time...
5/6/2010 6:30am Kansai Airport, Osaka, Japan.. Touchdown! It's a gorgeous day, and had a great sleep on the plane. Straight on the train to Kyoto now for three days of head down, ass up temple hopping. So many beautiful temples and shrines to see (more than 1,600 in fact!) in Japan's former imperial capital city. My absolute favourite was the Fushimi-Inari shrine. Thousands of the Torii (gates) line the walkways for kilometres up and around and back down the side of a mountain. Such a beautiful peaceful place.
If ever you get a chance to visit, hire pushbikes whenever you can.. that way you'll be able to find the "real Kyoto"... you may however end up with a tainted taint.. ;o)
8/6/2010 6:00am Hiroshima bound.. We left Kyoto with heavy eye lids after an early start, but a bounce in our step bound for a day and night in Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped. The trip there on the Shinkansen (270km/h bullet train) was fantastic, and with our JR passes (these things are priceless) we strolled on through every gate like VIP's! Hiroshima is an amazing place. After being completely wiped out by the bombing, the place has truly grown back to life. Experts said it would be unlikely that anything would ever grow here again, but the greenest of green trees and grass prove them completely wrong. There is an obvious sense of defiance in the air as you wander through the peace park, just next to what's left of the last remaining building after the blast. A deeply emotional place that took me a little by surprise. It's worth spending a few un-rushed hours there and at the museum to absorb it all.
We also visited a pretty little island called Miyajima which is covered in dear, but is quite beautiful. Again, our JR passes did the trick - $18 ferry trip for free!
We stayed the night in a great little hostel called J-Hoppers. Absolutely recommended. The atmosphere and facilities here were fantastic!
9/6/2010 12:00pm Tokyo.. Ouch! Annoying and difficult from the moment we arrived! Whilst the JR passes are great, they only work on JR owned lines and most trains in Tokyo aren't JR! Got ourselves sorted, but what a punish! We spent the afternoon in Asakusa, then made our way to our friends Vinnie and Jo's place which was like an oasis! So nice to stay in western accommodation! Then of course, what else do you do in Tokyo of a night time? Karaoke!! Til 4am apparently..
The next morning was a slow start, but we spent a cruisy day making our way through the rest of Tokyo city, to Shinjuku, Shibuya etc. For me, I think Tokyo needs a lot more time to allow yourself to really enjoy it. On the surface it's a bit full on, a bit touristy, and not much depth.. but I suspect if you could spend a few weeks there, and better yet, with a Japanese local in the know, it would be even better! I will have to come back methinks!
11/6/2010 1:00pm Takayama.. What a gorgeous little town this is! Easily my favourite location of the whole trip. Located high in the mountains, this sleepy little village was just what we needed after a hectic couple of days and nights in Tokyo. So pretty and easy going. We hired bikes for the afternoon, night, and next morning thanks to the lovely bike shop owner who let us keep them overnight.
We ate like kings at the local Yaki Niku (translated means 'cooked meat') restaurant where we were served beautiful beef and the freshest vegies to cook ourselves on the hot plate. SO delicious. Then off for a few Asahi's with KMR.. a good night was had by all ;o)
A hungover and slow start to the next day as you might expect.. the perfect way to spend a morning in sleepy Takayama! Souvenir shopping and relaxing is the order of the day today. Back to Kyoto in the afternoon for one last night there, an afternoon in Osaka with Beth's friends (including Bruce Lee!), then off to Thailand tomorrow night!