^^ A very merry, happy, jolly 2017, from our little family to yours.
Well friends, 2016 is over and I have to say … I don’t miss it one bit. Of course Lotte being born was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but other than that, 2016 was kind of awful in a lot of ways. So we’re moving on over here, embracing 2017 with open arms and hoping that it’s a much kinder year.
We’ve had family in town since before the holiday so I’m way far behind on my WW postings, but for now, here’s a short look back at what we got up to in 2016 …
So two Saturdays ago was our last full day in Kyoto before heading back to the states. Chris’ parents had gone back to Tokyo the night before to catch their super early flight on Saturday morning, and we had the whole day stretched ahead of us to finish up some final things we really wanted to see and do.
Then … that all got sidetracked for a couple of hours while we spent some time on the phone with American Airlines trying to figure out what to do about the fact that Chris had left his green card back in Denver. This is such an important topic for those of you with green cards, that Chris has said he’ll write his own little post on it and share here, which means I won’t go into a ton of detail on this post, other than to say … don’t do it!
Anyway, after (sort of) sorting that out, we headed out into beautiful Kyoto for our first stop — the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I had been dying to do this ever since I started researching Kyoto about a month before our trip, and I’m so, so glad we made it there, because the experience really is incredible. Luckily for us we happened upon a bike shop on our way from the subway to the grove, though, because without the bike rental, I think it would have been pretty difficult for my preggers legs to do all the walking we would have done that day. So — that’s just something to keep in mind for anyone who maybe isn’t so into walking miles and miles. Even if you don’t mind the walking, though, renting a bike is a great (and super fun) way to take in the grove! It does get pretty busy, though, so there were times when maneuvering a bike through the crowds was tough. Still, overall, I’d say we were super happy to have had the bikes. Plus, riding bikes or taking bike tours on our trips (or even where we live) has become something of a traditional with us. We’ve done it in New York and Denver, Munich, Iceland, Berlin, New Orleans, London and now in Japan. It’s high on our list of recommendations for things to do when traveling.
Anyway, here’s a bit of what you’ll see at the Bamboo Groves. We spent a good two or three hours here, with a trip into the beautiful garden and temple area that’s right around the grove and a quick stop for a picnic lunch (meaning pastries!) that we had brought, as well.
After the bamboo, we got back on the subway and headed back to the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) that we had missed the day before with Chris’ parents. This place is gorgeous and serene, with its manicured rock gardens, temples, streams and foliage. There’s also a tiny hill you can walk up and get a pretty nice view of the city skyline.
It doesn’t take very long to see the whole park (if you don’t want it to, or you could spend an hour or so meandering around, it’s perfect like that), and afterwards there is a gorgeous little 1.7 mile walk called the Philosopher’s Walk nearby that I would suggest doing as well. The end of the walk will bring you pretty much right out to a bus stop that can bring you right back to the center of town.
^^^ The Silver Pavilion inside Ginkaku-ji
^^^ An artist making the most of Philosopher’s Walk
And that was pretty much our Saturday, friends. Dinner was out at a noodle restaurant, and then it was back to the hotel to attempt to pack up for our bullet train back to Tokyo to catch our flight back to the U.S. the next day.
Japan, you were everything I imagined you would be, and also so much more. Thanks for showing us such an amazing time. We hope to make it back here again to do even more!
So a couple Fridays ago, it was our last day in Kyoto with Chris’s parents before they flew back that night to Sydney, and we definitely wanted to make the most of it. Attending a traditional tea service in Japan was high on my mom-in-law’s list of things to do, but after breakfast we started our day out with a visit to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, a sprawling Shinto shrine with thousands of vermillion torri (gates) lining paths that crisscross into a mountain. It was unbelievably gorgeous, and definitely a must-see if you’re in Kyoto …
^^^ These torri … so mesmerizing!
^^^ The whole gang’s here!
After spending an hour or so at the shrine, we hopped back on the subway and headed to the Kiyomizudera Temple area of Kyoto, which was this adorable, historical section of town, where we attended a traditional tea service — and learned how to make traditional Japanese tea! — at Camellia’s Japanese Tea Ceremony. Camellia (that was the woman’s actual name, my MIL asked!) was lovely and she explained to us the whole tradition behind the tea service in Japan and demonstrated herself first how to make the tea, before passing off the ingredients to us to make our own.
After the service — which lasts about an hour, depending on how many questions you ask (we asked a lot!) — we finished walking around the Kiyomizudera area and grabbed a quick bite to eat (because preggers is always starved!).
^^^ Chris’s fried octopus hushpuppies, which he says were delicious. I’ll just take his word for it.
Then we tried to catch a train to Ginkakuji (aka the Silver Pavilion), but unfortunately it closed at 5 and we were just a couple minutes too late to see it. Chris and I would actually head back there the next day — our last day in Kyoto — but alas my in-laws had run out of time. So it was back to the hotel we went for them to pack up and head out.
Thanks so much for spending the most amazing couple days with us in Tokyo and Kyoto, Connors! It’s been a real treat traipsing around the world as spectators together to watch Chris complete these World Marathons. Let’s hope something new and equally as amazing ushers itself into our lives so that we can continue to go on these adventures 😉
After the Connors left Chris and I were starving, so we headed over to a sushi train restaurant in Kyoto Station, which turned out to be Chris’s favorite meal of the whole trip. I was pretty happy with it, too, since there was tons for me to eat and everything was clearly labeled. (Avocado, cucumber and cooked shrimp sushi … yum!)
^^^ Pure bliss! (And yes, that stack of plates next to Chris was all ours … and we weren’t even close to being done yet … )
^^^ The restaurant, should you feel so inclined to try to find it 😉
And I will leave you with one final thought for this post, my friends, which is the below pic of me rubbing the head of a Buddha statue for good luck and prosperity.
Is there anything more calming than that?
I’ll be back soon with our final day in Kyoto, friends. Until then, bis bald!
^^^ Here we are, all ready to hop our Japanese Bullet Train from Tokyo to Kyoto — yehaw!!
Last Wednesday we were making the trek from Tokyo to Kyoto for the rest of our trip, but we were making it in style by riding the bullet train 😉 We had booked our JR Pass before we even left the states, and we decided to go ahead and upgrade to first class which, as I mentioned previously, turned out to be quite nice. I only caught a glimpse briefly of what the regular seats would have been like as the train whizzed into the station, and while I’m sure they would have been perfectly fine, for someone who had just run a marathon and another someone who was pregnant, we certainly weren’t going to complain about the extra legroom, foot rest and spacious seats.
One word of advice here — even when you book first class tickets ahead of time, you still need to go into a Rail Pass station and book in tickets for your exact seat and train time. I’m not sure what would happen if you showed up to a train where you hadn’t booked ahead of time, but luckily for us my father-in-law figured out before that happened that we needed to book, so we did so for our trip to Kyoto from Tokyo, to Hiroshima from Kyoto and then back from Kyoto to Tokyo to catch our flight on Sunday.
The ride was pretty glorious, friends. Lots of beautiful countryside to take in, and small towns along the way to peruse. I know I’ve shared this photo on Instagram already, but it’s just too good not to post here, too:
^^^ See? Ooooohhhhhh … pretty 😉
Anyway, the 452 kilometer ride (aka 5 1/2 hr car ride) from Tokyo to Kyoto only took about 140 minutes on the bullet train, and it was far more comfy then any car ride would have been. In Kyoto the train arrives into Kyoto Station, which is such an amazing place I’d recommend checking it out even if you’re not catching a train. There are tons of restaurants (good restaurants!), bakeries and shops — there’s a lot to do there. The hotel we stayed at was the New Miyako Hotel, which was literally right outside the train station and super convenient for exhausted, weary travelers who just want to drop their bags off in their room and take a quick rest before heading back out. (Not to mention how great it is to only travel a short distance when you need to hop the train to get back to Tokyo!)
Anyway, after resting up for a bit, it was pretty late, but we decided to hop on a city bus (again, thank you Chris Connor for showing us how to get around!), and went to check out the Gion District, which is Kyoto’s famous geisha district and is filled with shops and restaurants (and while we were unfortunately a tad early, I can tell you this area would be gorgeous with cherry blossoms probably right about now, too!). The Yasaka Shrine is also right next door to the Gion District, so you can easily knock both things off your list in one trip.
^^^ Entrance to the Yasaka Shrine. We thought the shrine closed to visitors at 5, and most of the stalls and things were closed, but you can still walk into the actual shrine area past 5, so seeing it at night (and then again later during the day) was special.
^^^ We were starving and decided to get sushi (no raw fish for me!) at a little place we happened upon in the Gion district. They had vegetarian noodles, so I started with those, and then gorged myself on veggie sushi, as well. Yum!
The next day we decided to hop back on the bullet train and head to Hiroshima and neighboring island Miyajima. I have to admit that I was hesitate to partake in the Hiroshima part of the trip. I knew it would be an emotional thing to see, and we only had a limited number of days in Kyoto and I just wasn’t sure how I felt about all of it, but after going, I’m so glad I did. Yes, the Hiroshima sites and museum are incredibly heartbreaking, but the area is so beautiful and there’s just so much history there, to go, you really feel like you’re a part of something, for better or for worse.
^^^ We caught the ferry from Hiroshima over to Miyajima Island first.
^^^ Chris & his dad about to chow down on some fried oyster donuts. Chris said this was one of his favorite things he ate the entire trip.
^^^ The wild deer are indigenous to this island, and while they’re cute and friendly, they will try to eat any paper you have hanging around, if you let them!
^^^ We also took the Miyajima cable car up into the mountains for the most incredible view of the area, including Hiroshima in the background. There’s also a beautiful walk that you can take back from the cable car area down into the village, which I would recommend. It’s a steep climb up, so we took the bus to the entrance of the cable car, but to walk down isn’t so bad, so that’s how I’d recommend doing it.
^^^ Back down on the island …
^^^ After Miyajima Island it was on to Hiroshima, where our first stop was this structure, now known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. As one of the only standing reminders of the atomic bomb, you can obviously guess why it would have been a controversial decision to keep it standing all these years later, but after much back and forth, the building was finally designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site and today is protected. There’s a really good explanation of this building and how it remained standing after the blast right here.
^^^ The city as it stands today. Incredible. While it’s obviously been a while since the attack, it’s still pretty amazing to see how the city has built itself up around the ashes.
Anyway friends, I didn’t take too many photos in and around Hiroshima, and I didn’t take any inside the museum, but I’d say if you are in the area (or in Kyoto), it’s worth a visit. Just brace yourself, because it’s as upsetting as you might imagine it would be.
After a pretty full day of touristing around, it’s safe to say we were pretty tired. So we headed back to the station, bought some food to eat on the ride home, and caught the bullet train back to Kyoto. The next day would be Chris’s parents last with us before they headed back to Australia, so you just know we had to jam pack that day full of goodies, too 😉 I’ll have more on that tomorrow, my dears. Until then, bis bald!
So last Monday after the marathon was really the first day that we had a chance to actually tour a bit around Tokyo, and we really made the most of it. Our time in Tokyo would be ending on Wednesday, when we took a bullet train to Kyoto for the rest of the trip, so we really wanted to pack as much in on Monday and Tuesday as possible.
We decided to start the day at the Senso-ji shrine, but even just getting to the shrine proved to be difficult for us, since we kept getting districted by everything else we were passing along the way. Tokyo is a riot of colors, excitement and impeccably dressed men and women (oh my gosh these women are so well dressed!), and we really just couldn’t get enough …
^^^ We took the subway to the Akihabara area and got off to walk around a bit. This vicinity is famous for its electronic shops (They sell toilet seats! Oh the toilet seats … how have I not talked about these yet!? They are INSANE. As in insanely amazing. They’re heated. They close and open on their own. They flush on their own or you wave your hand in front of a sensor and it flushes. Some have ocean sounds that come on when you sit … I mean?! It’s like visiting a spa every time you pee!), and in recent years has become well-known for its collection of anime and manga paraphernalia, as well. It’s so funky and fun, totally worth a walk through.
We also found ourselves meandering through the streets leading up to the Senso-ji temple, which was much more traditional Japan, as I had imagined it …
^^^ This guy … too funny!
^^^ This was our first view coming up on the temple. You can just tell right away that it’s going to be pretty amazing, and the surrounding area — referred to as Nakamise-dori — has streets filled with shopping for anything your little heart might desire, from food and trinkets to clothing and so much more.
^^^ Senso-ji, in all her splendor.
^^^ Senso-ji is known to be Tokyo’s oldest temple, and its referred by to locals as the temple of the Asakusa Kannon. Even though the temple receives 30 million visitors every year, it is still an important center of worship. There’s a great history of the temple and surrounding area here.
^^^ 100 yen (placed in an honour box) will get you an omikuji, or a fortune written on a small piece of paper. If your fortune is bad, tradition would have you tie the paper on a nearby string so the wind can disperse the bad luck. Above is the incense burner, which you’ll find in the temple forecourt. People come here to fan the smoke from the incense over themselves, believing it to have healing powers.
^^^ The area immediately surrounding the temple includes manicured gardens, Buddhist and other statues to pray at, and some other, smaller temple structures. The whole area is so alluring and you’ll feel like you never want to leave.
Of course leave you must, if you want to take in the rest of Tokyo! So after spending a couple hours at the temple and wandering around the surrounding streets, we decided to head off to check out the Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo, with its Tokyo City View, Mori Art Museum and Mohri Garden. Unfortunately by the time we got there the weather had turned rainy and cloudy, so the Tokyo City View didn’t seem like such a smart idea, and the Mohri Garden — which I had been pretty excited about based on information I’d read in my guide book — turned out to be pretty lame, as well. (Maybe it’s better in the spring when everything is blooming? Probably, I assume.) There are a ton of shops in this area, though, and it’s definitely one of the more affluent, contemporary sections of Tokyo, so it’s worth checking out. So we decided to grab a coffee (hot chocolate for me!) and rest our legs, and to come back the next day when the weather promised to be better to do the city view and the art museum.
In the evening we had plans to meet up with a friend of my sister’s who just recently moved to Japan with her husband who is in the Navy. Our original plan to see another temple didn’t seem like such a good one anymore because of the weather, so she recommended checking out Robot Restaurant, a restaurant in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo that she admitted she had never been to before, but that everyone had been recommending. Not quite sure what to expect (Vicky said “it’s mostly about the entertainment, it’s not really a restaurant!”), we were game for everything, so we hopped online, bought our tickets (they’re a bit pricey at about $50 per ticket — with a discount! — so I would definitely do your research before buying them to make sure this is the type of entertainment you’d be into) and were off!
So let me tell you about Robot Restaurant — it is quite a spectacle! There were little kids in our audience, so I would have been interested to gauge their reaction afterwards, but the basic gist of it is that this is not a restaurant (they serve popcorn, beer and some other goodies for an additional fee), and it’s really just a bright, loud, crazy, kitschy show of shorts, put on by both elaborately dressed actors and, ahem, robots. I think there was a plot line (good vs. evil, big scary robot wants to destroy pretty, blossoming world, people who live in pretty world fight back and win? Maybe?), but really, it’s not about the plot line, either. It’s all about the theatrics, the costumes … and the robots, of course! It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, but it’s probably not for everyone, so like I said, I’d do a little research before buying those tickets!
If you do buy the tickets, though, here’s a bit of what you can expect …
^^^ That about sums it up!
^^^ Of course you don’t have to try on one of the costume heads when the show is over … unless you’re my husband 😉
^^^ Thank you, Robot Restaurant, for showing us a crazy, wild side of Tokyo that we probably would never have otherwise seen!
After the show were all starving (because again, it’s not a restaurant!), so Chris hopped on, you guessed it!, Foursquare, and found an awesome little tempura place nearby that he wanted to try. Again, the name is in Japanese, which isn’t much help for you, but I did take a picture of the front of the restaurant, if that helps!
^^^ If you’re a tempura fan, this is a great place to try out. They have traditional seating, too (on the floor, legs crossed), if you want, and if you sit up at the bar area, like we did, you can watch the chefs cook your dinner right in front of you. So cool!
And that was our Monday, friends! It was jam packed, but as it turned out Tuesday would be even more full. We started our morning on Tuesday at 3 a.m. (!!!) in order to make it to a viewing of the famous tuna auction at the Tsukiji Market, so stay tuned for more on that tomorrow!
So last Thursday we left for Japan, knowing full well that we would have quite the journey ahead of us. With Chris running a marathon on Sunday that he was not prepared for (an injury caused him to cease training almost as soon as he began), and with me and my preggers self, the 13-hour flight alone could have been problematic.
Luckily for us, it turned out to be okay. With my trusty pair of compression socks and tons of snacks packed away in our bags, we were ready! That’s not to say that the flight time just flew by, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as my worst-case scenario mind was imagining it to be. I will take a hot sec to complain about one thing regarding the flight, though, which was American Airlines’ inability to get me a vegetarian meal. Chris had signed me up for that option when we first booked our flight, and heading out to Tokyo they didn’t have any set aside for me (luckily for the first meal there was an extra laying around, but for the second there wasn’t, which meant I went without dinner, and preggers me does not like going without meals!), and for the flight home we called to double check about that and were told we had to sign up for it within a 24-hour timeframe of the flight leaving? What kind of craziness is that? So I didn’t have the veggie meal heading home, either. Major bummer.
Anyway, once we arrived (around 5 p.m. Tokyo time), we set off to find the apartment where we would staying with Chris’s parents, which was this cute little place in Shibuya, which really turned out to be a great location not only for the race (Chris said it was a short warm-up jog to the start line), but also for our general touristing later in the week, since it was close to two major subway lines.
About the subway. Chris had purchased our PASMO cards (for the subway) and our Japan Rail Pass tickets (for the bullet train to and from Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as between Kyoto and Hiroshima) ahead of time, so we had those in the mail to bring with us to Japan, and it was amazing having them. We even opted to upgrade to first class for the JRAIL Passes, and I’m so glad we did. The bullet trains travel at about 200 MPH, but we were still on the train from Tokyo to Kyoto for about 2 hours and 40 minutes and for 1 hour and 40 minutes from Kyoto to Hiroshima, so it was nice to have that extra leg room, a foot rest, and a nice quiet ride. Another note about transportation in and around Japan — subway is definitely the way to go. We took cabs a few times (and they are super fancy cabs, at that! The doors even open automatically for you!), but they are expensive, so it’s not really economically feasible to use them for all your transportation if you’re in town for a while, like we were.
Anyway, moving on! It was late when we arrived at our apartment on Friday, but we ventured out with the Connors for our first (of many!) noodle dinners in the cute little surrounding neighborhood. A town that loves noodles? I can get behind that 😉
Saturday and Sunday of our trip were marathon-themed, as we went to the Expo Saturday for Chris to register and get his race bib, and Sunday was the actual race.
^^^ Vending machines are everywhere in Japan, and they dispense mostly (if not all) drinks, even HOT coffee and hot chocolate! They’re pretty amazing.
^^^ At the expo, gettin’ geared up!
^^^ Signing his name into history on the Abbott World Marathon Majors sign. As we would come to find out later, Chris is one of only about 600 or so runners to have completed all six world marathons in the World Marathon Series so far. Ummmm … you’re pretty impressive, my dear.
^^^ Honestly, all credit for getting around during our trip goes to this guy. The Connors and I were all too happy to give up transportation control to Chris, and we were well taken care of in his hands.
^^^ Our little family of three was ready on race day!
^^^ Chris will tell you this wasn’t his best race (because it wasn’t a PR, and it was a struggle to finish since he wasn’t able to train at all), but he finished in 3 hours and 36 minutes, which for any normal person would still be an insanely fast time. He’s now a six-time World Marathon Series Marathon F.I.N.I.S.H.E.R! Way to go, Chris Connor!
^^^ Unfortunately a lot of the restaurants we ended up eating at had Japanese names (obviously), so I don’t envision that my posts will be a lot of help in the food department. However, I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with food in Japan, and we ended up using Foursquare a lot to find places to eat, which is fast becoming my food app of choice when traveling. It has yet to let us down! So for dinner after the marathon, we found this adorable hole-in-wall (thanks Foursquare!) noodle shop that sits about 15 people max and had the most insanely delicious noodles I probably ate the entire trip. We waited about 40 minutes to get seated, but they take your order while you wait, so pretty much as soon as you sit down the food was at the table. Pretty genius, if you ask me!
^^^ One of the things I loved most about restaurants in Japan was that at pretty much all of them the chefs making the food — and particularly the fresh noodles — were on display to watch. So. Much. Fun!
^^^ And … the delicious meal. Yum!
And that was our 2-day marathon experience in a nutshell, folks! It was perhaps the final time that the Connors and I will be marathon spectators for Chris (another reason the trip was emotional for me!) — although I would never say never with that one!
I’ll be back tomorrow to start chatting about Monday and beyond, when we got really down and dirty with the touristy part of our trip 😉
Well friends — we’re home. In the blink of an eye, our 10-day trip to Japan is over. This trip was so many things, and to be honest, it was sort of emotional. This was my first (and last) international trip while pregnant, and our last international trip as a couple before becoming parents.
This was Chris’s final trip to complete the six marathons in the World Marathon Majors series (have I mentioned how proud I am?!). It was the first and last time (probably) that I’ll have seen my in-laws while pregnant. This trip was amazing and eye-opening and exhausting and yes, at times, stressful (that can happen when you’re pregnant and vegetarian and traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language!), but all-in-all, I’d have to say it was every bit the life-changing experience I thought it would be.
It will probably take me a while to download and edit all the photos from my camera (as I try to fit that in with getting back into the swing of things with work … don’t you just hate that part of coming back from a trip?), but I’ve been trying to stay pretty up-to-date on my Instagram page, and in the meantime, here are a few additional photos from my iPhone to tide you over 😉
So for now, bis bald, friends! I hope March is treating you well …
Tokyo — Chris’s 6th and final World Marathon … COMPLETE!
Noodles in Japan are no joke.
The splendid gaudiness of Robot Restaurant (more on this later)!
Meeting up with one of my sister’s friends who lives in Japan was a highlight.
Super early morning Tuna Market viewing.
Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima Island
Not my oysters (don’t worry!), but yum!
Visiting Hiroshima was a sobering experience
When in Japan …
One of our favorite meals was our second-to-last night at the sushi train in the Kyoto Station. In case you’re wondering, yes, all those stacked plates are ours, and no, I didn’t eat any raw sushi 😉
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Biking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Groves in Kyoto, Japan
We were a bit too early to catch the cherry blossoms in full bloom, but no matter what time of year you visit Japan, there’s always something pretty to look at
The Wall Street Journal offers a glimpse into the incredible traveling tips of Alice Shin, the advertising copywriter from Miami who beat out 600 applicants to become the launch blogger for Pei Wei Blog Asia. For the job, Shin had to blog while on a three-week, all-expense-paid trip to eight cities in Asia.
Check out her helpful tips and steal some for your own.
Just wanted to say another quick hello before we head off to trek. We got to Nepal last night and it’s a pretty interesting city. We will be trekking for about 2-3 weeks in the Annapurna region, staying in little tea houses with no power along the way and roughing it.
The full moon party in Thailand was absolute madness. We stayed in these amazing bungalows on the Ko Phangan. The Red Bull is literally like crack and we were wired all night. The night was filled with fire jump roping, fire ring jumping, fire dancing and slides into water puddles. Everyone was all painted up and sweaty dancing messes—super fun night!
Next we went to Karbi and Ton Sai beach, which had amazing rock climbing, both with ropes and over the deep water. We took a ferry to a mini-bus to a bus (then the bus broke down and another one came 3 hours later) to a bus to a tuk tuk to a train to a taxi and we made it to the North (Chiang Mai) 48 hours later. Chiang Mai was really nice, but still a bit touristy, so we decided to go off the beaten path and head to Chiang Rai, which was 3 hours away. In Chiang Rai we went Hill Tribe treking, which was a crazy experience! We trekked for 3 days in 100 degree heat and stayed in bamboo huts and experienced local culture. Our guide was from the Hill Tribe we visited on the last day, so we were able to meet her family. She actually suffered from insomnia and had a ceremony scheduled to get her spirit back, so we got to see it. First they slaughtered a pig, chicken and dog. Then they prayed for 1.5 hours, then shook a bamboo stick and flipped some leaves, at which time the spirit doctor told us her spirit has returned…which was obviously great news. Then he prayed for 1.5 hours more, and we feasted on all the animals that were killed. Yup, I tried dog. Just a little piece though, and it wasn’t that bad with a lot of rice and chili paste. In Chaing Rai we also rented bicycles and biked to some temples. They pretty much don’t have any traffic laws in Thailand, so it was a pretty scary and cool experience. We also wore helmets, and all the locals were laughing at us because a) we were tourists biking everywhere and b) no one wears helmets. Also in Chiang Rai we ran into some Spanish boys we met in Chiang Mai (from the Canary Islands). We drank with them and went to a Thai disco where we were the only Westerners. The disco was a bunch of Lady Gaga type performers and Thai’s swaying their little booties……
Courtesy of my amazing traveling friend, take in the gorgeousness that is New Zealand and Thailand, seen through her eyes:
From New Zealand:
And on to Thailand: Locations include Baan Dada, Erawan Falls, Koh Phangan, Ton Sai
As an aside, my traveling friend and her traveling companion also happen to be volunteering at orphanages and clinics along the way which, as you can imagine, also allow for some amazingly adorable photos of kids. However, for the sake of the kiddies privacy, I have refrained from posting those particular photos. It was hard. They’re adorable.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a friend who is currently traveling around Asia volunteering, camping and just generally having the time of her life. Before she left, she mentioned that I could post some updates on her travels from time-to-time. So let this be the first in a series of email entries from her months-long adventure:
Just wanted to write a quick e-mail while waiting for the bus and update you girls on my travels. New Zealand was amazing! Totally beautiful (both landscapes and boys). We rented a camper van and cruised around the island in it, camping in random spots along the road. We spent a good chunk of time in the central part of the North island and went on some really nice hikes, bungee jumping, ATVing, Zorbing (where they put you in a plastic ball with water and roll you down a hill), went to some wineries and saw some Kiwi birds!
Thailand is really cool and really, really hot! The minute you start moving (or not moving), sweat is pouring down your back. We went to see some really cool waterfalls where the fish nibble at your dead skin on your feet, so I got a cheap pedi. Also went up to see a friend who is working at an orphanage on the Burmese border and spent a few days up there hanging with the kids. They were all little monkeys, climbing on everything, including us. Hanging out in a small town outside of Bangkok now, which is nice and not extremely touristy. Leaving in about an hour to head down south for the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, so should have some interesting stories after that.
Miss ya girls, and would love for you to join us at any point!
Muchisimo Besos xoxox
I’ve emailed said friend back, imploring her for photos and as much more info as her little fingers can type (because, you know, I’d like to live vicariously through her!) Although she can’t call or text with her international phone, she can receive texts, so I’ll be sure to remind her of my need for constant updates.
Finally, Chris’s account of his Japanese adventures from a few weeks before. Buckle up, and beware of the snowboarding stories:
14 hours later and touch down, g’day Tokyo, niced to meet ya!
Here I am, land of the rising sun, snowboard bag on my shoulder, ready to take down Japan.
Just a couple of Tokyo subway rides, a short walk and I arrive at hotel heaven… K’s House Hostel in Tokyo is exactly what you want a hostel to be—super clean, super cheap, super friendly and super location (I really stretched my vocab in that description). Seriously awesome diggs —if you’re ever in need of some great accommodation in Tokyo, I couldn’t recommend it higher!
I have this one friend (the one who I went to visit in Hawaii), whose life I covet. I mean, I love my life, but she’s really got it down when it comes to traveling. She studied abroad in Europe in college, moved to Hawaii when she graduated and did tons of traveling around there, went to South America last year and now, she’s quit her Hawaiian job and is taking 6 months to travel around Asia, which will culminate in a month-long volunteer job in Vietnam where she will be working at a hospital teaching the PTs there (she’s a physical therapist) about the methods and techniques she’s learned in her years working at the hospital in Hawaii.
Not too shabby!
At our recent meet-up during her week home before she returns to Hawaii before she and her travel buddy jet-set off to Asia, she gave me her (relative) itinerary so that I could pick and chose a place and time to meet up with her, should I feel so inclined (the answer is yes, friends, I do feel so inclined). Here’s what it looks like:
Japan for 1 week
Vietnam for a few days
Cambodia for 1 month
Nepal for a little over a month
India for 1 month
Thailand for 2 weeks
Vietnam again (where she will be volunteering) for her final month
I asked her how her family felt about all her traveling around, especially after having lived in Hawaii for the past little-more-than-2-years. She sort-of laughed. “They’re wondering when I’ll be done,” she said.
I don’t know if one ever feels totally “done” when it comes to traveling, but maybe things just tend to die down in scale? I know recently I’ve felt a travel itch to up and move from Manhattan, take to the road or air or sea, see wherever I land and start new.
I probably won’t do it, though. My friend will. That’s the difference.
So I envy her, but for now, the least I can do is watch and live vicariously through her (and beg her to send me updates of her travels every few days so I can post them here).
Oh, and the other thing I can do is visit. With London and Rome in May and Oktoberfest in September, I’m not so sure how feasible it will be, but my friend promises me that they are traveling on the cheap, and that once I’m there, even if I stay for a week, I can expect to spend not much more than $100.
That I could do. I’m thinking Thailand might be the perfect place and time for me to visit her. Plus, there’s no Visa requirement. I’ll have to look into it.
Although she did also leave me with a note of all the shots I’ll need to travel there— Hep A,B and C, tetanus, Malaria and Typhoid. Oh my.