Saturday, September 25, 2010

What an adventure!

This is it.  My last post about this trip.  We arrived back in vancouver about 7pm on Sat Sept 25th.  Waiting for us was Peter, who drove Martin, Kay and Maya home while I took the Canada Line.  Traveling is great fun but it is also always nice to be home.

A huge thanks to Martin and Kay for inviting me along on this trip.  It all came together so fast.  There were only 6 weeks between them asking me to join them until we actually left Vancouver.  I of course have so many new experiences and some great memories of the last 3 weeks.  Without Martin and Kay's kindness and generosity I would not have had this experience so again, Thanks Martin and Kay!!!!

Geared up for a bike ride :)

Today is our last day in Beijing and of our trip but we won't leave  beijing until 11:30 pm so we have pretty much a whole day to fill.  The hotel has a few bikes that guests can use so Martin and I decided to give them a try.  Not the best bikes to be sure but they were good enough.  You might remember me writing just how crazy the drivers are here so I was a bit hesitant to risk my life on a bike but I figured I would give it a try.  A few minutes after leaving the hotel we were stopped by a family that wanted their picture taken with us.  Either they wanted to document our last remaining minutes of life as certain death was around the corner .......... or they found it strange to see two foreigners on bikes, or both.  A few poses later and we headed in the direction of the Forbidden City.  On the main streets there are wide bike paths which is great as long as cars stay out of them.  The side roads are a completely different story of course.  You have to contend with all sorts of obstacles including moving cars, parked car, pedestrians, and of course many other bikes and scooters.  It was a bit of a challenge at first but eventually we got into a groove and we had a good time.  Ultimately we made it around the Forbidden City (which is massive) and back to the hotel for one last swim and to pack.  

A great end to a great trip!


I'm sure most people are aware of the smog problem in Beijing.  We stopped in Beijing on our way to Japan and at that time I was shocked just how bad the smog was.  Much like you would experience near a forest fire.

 Well, when we arrived back in Beijing from our stay in Jing Jin it was after 3 days of rain and the smog had virtually disappeared.  There was blue sky everywhere.  That was 3 days ago and the smog is back to the same levels as we initially experienced.  You could clearly see each day just how much smog was accumulating.  I think these pictures tell the story.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Forbidden City and more

Yesterday was an epic day.  We started out at the Forbidden City.  The crowds were crazy once again.  It took us 45 minuets to walk from the street entrance to the point where you pick up your ticket to actually enter the Forbidden City...partly because of the hordes of people but also because it is so massive.  It was of course an amazing place. It reeks of history like so much of Beijing and China in general.

3 hours later we found ourselves exiting at the other end of the Forbidden City and wandering towards an area called "Shicha Hai"  There is a seemingly infinite number of restaurants, bars and shops to check out.  It is a definite must see if you find yourself in Beijing.  Once here we decided to stop for a bite to eat.  The menu was tempting us with offerings of snake, beef entrails, marinated baby turtle and braised moss (which is something we in canada might have overlooked given that you can walk into the forrest and gather bucket loads in no time) but noodles, dumplings rice and pork seemed a bite more our style.

After lunch I decided to leave Martin, Kay and Maya and head out on my own.  I ended up meeting two locals who became my tour guides for the rest of the day.  Linda and Nan.  So, after checking out the rest of the shops in Shicha Hai, we went to Beihai Park.  It cost 10 yuan (1.50 CAD) to see the shrines, temples, and lake within.  We managed to catch the sunset from atop a temple within the park which was amazing!

Dinner time was calling so Linda, Nan and I hopped on a bus and headed to a popular shopping / restaurant area called Xidan Commercial Street.  It reminded me of a smaller version of New York.  The department stores and shops stretch on for ever and are lit up by the endless strings of neon lights and electronic billboards.  Pretty cool!  We ate at a restaurant buried inside one of these department stores.  A good feed.  After dinner we parted ways and I made my way back to the hotel.  I decided to walk as on the map it looked like a few blocks and a reasonable distance but it turned out to be much further than I thought.  It made me realize just how big Beijing really is.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can I interest you in boiled guts perhaps?

The food experience is really interesting.  First off, the food is cheap.  19 Yuan (about 3 bucks canadian) will get you a huge portion of stir-fry.  I had noodles, chicken and vegetables and it was excellent but I came nowhere near finishing it.  I did manage to stuff in ice cream thought.  I saw some interesting choices but what really caught my eye was the boiling pot of intestine.  I smelled it first and can't for the life of me figure out why I thought I would go check it out as it smelled like death.  Other than that thought, the food looked and smelled great and there was lots to choose from.  Conclusion, Beijing has good cheap food.


An early start to the day brought us from Jing Jin to Beijing.  Again, we are staying at the Grand Hyatt which is excellent.  It is about 15 minutes walk from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  After checking in we decided to make the walk.  We quickly learned that this was not going to be anything like Jing Jin.  I think I saw every person in Beijing today.  At least it felt that way.  It turns out that it is a public holiday today called "Family Day".  So, most people had the day off and from what I figure wanted to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City as well.  So, we decided to go to Tiananmen and leave the Forbidden City until the next day.  Good choice I think.  We crossed the street to get to the square and we got a quick lesson on street survival.  The cars do not stop and if you are lucky they might slow down a bit to give you time to dive out of the way.  No Joke!  It was mad!  We thought that people were going to be killed for sure but the pedestrians would all stop to give the car just enough room to get through and then continue on.  Wow!!  Anyways, once we played frogger with the traffic we safely walked onto Tiananmen Square which by the way is huge.  It took us an hour (at Maya;s pace mind you) to walk around the square.  It is surrounded by the National Museum and another museum dedicated to Chairman Mao.  We then decided to grab a bite to eat and then shop.  There are lots of shops selling all the name brands that you would see in Vancouver and more.  I expected to see cheaper prices but nope, just as expensive.  One night we are going to go to the street markets and I think that will be a great experience.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Great Wall

Today was an amazing day. We rented a car and driver for the day who drove us the hour and a half to the closest section of The Great Wall from Jing Jin. I wish I could tell you exactly where we were but I am still a bit unsure. We were told that it would be best to see the wall from here instead of from Beijing as it is a lot more busy in Beijing. I would say that this is true as we were the only 4 people on the wall for the hour that we were there. It was fantastic to have it all to ourselves.

  No strangers in the pictures!! Ok ......... so the weather wasn't perfect as it rained most of the day but that is ok with me. I like my space! The wall itself was amazing especially
where we were because it was in the mountains so it was rising and falling, twisting and turning. Beautiful!! The mountains themselves were magic! Not much else to say other than it was a great experience that I can check off the bucket list.


 Enjoy the pictures.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I was hustled!!!

Today was a lazy day.  Started out with a swedish massage.  Definitely a good way to start the day (well, it was actually the afternoon as I slept in a bit :)  Martin, Kay and I all went to the spa at noon.  They left Maya with the child care staff which she really liked and it gave us several hours to relax.  Lunch followed and then back to the room to relax some more before going to play ping pong.  It was a tough decision between ping pong and bowling but when in China everyone should play ping pong.  All I have to say is that if Martin challenges you to a game of ping pong with the loser buying the winner an ice cream cone ................. don't do it.  He is a true hustler!!  After getting my a** handed to me on a plate by martin it was back for another massage.  I know what you are thinking, "Rich, this is getting a bit ridiculous.  Why didn't you tell me you won the lotto!"  I assure you, I have not won the lotto or stumbled upon the holy grail.  There is a reason why we are able to enjoy all of this but I will have to leave this to personal conversation.  I can't give away all my secrets.  To recap the day ...... Massage, Lunch, Relax, Ping Pong, Massage.  Now I am going to have a drink and, well, relax :)  Looking forward to tomorrow, off to The Great Wall.

China - Jing Jin

We are in China now for the last part of our trip.  5 Sleeps until we fly back to Vancouver.  It has taken me a little while to figure out how to post from China as Blogger along with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and many other sites are blocked.  I did manage to find a way which I hope continues to work.  We will find out soon I'm sure :)

So, yesterday, Sept 19th we woke up early to catch a taxi to Kansai airport in Osaka.  We hand an uneventful flight from Osaka to Beijing and then an unexpectedly quick drive to Jing Jin which is about 150 km's away.  During our 6 nights in China we are staying the first 3 nights at the Hyatt in Jing Jin and then we head back for 3 nights at the Hyatt in Beijing.  If you read my post about the XIV resorts in Japan you might remember me saying that they were the best hotels I had ever stayed at but the Hyatt in Jing Jin totally blows them out of the water!!  This is a spa hotel so you can get a massages along with many other spa treatments, swim in the beautiful pools or soak in the hot spring baths.  It is wicked!!  We are here for 3 nights and then we go to the Hyatt in Beijing for 3 nights and then home.  We plan on chillaxin here in Jing Jin except for a 1/2 day trip to The Great Wall which we will probably do on the 21st.  The rest of the time it will be all about swimming, soaking, eating and relaxing.  Actually, after going to the pool I decided to stop by the spa and have a scalp massage which was killer!  The interesting part of our stay here is that the hotel has not yet had it's grand opening although it has been open for many months.  This means that the hotel is far less than full.  I think that there are around 800 room but I have seen no more than 50 guests in total.  The staff are just itching to serve anyone who comes near which is great for us.  This is shaping up to be a great few days! 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Last night in Japan

So today was our last day in Japan and we have to get up in a few hours to catch the taxi to Osaka for our flight to Beijing.   During the day Martin and I went into Kyoto and did some gift shopping and exploring the market.  The market is amazing simply because so much of what you see is totally different than what would be at a canadian market.  If you were hungry enough you could buy a baby octopus with a quail egg stuffed in it's head!  Not for me but really cool!

Our Day also included a sop at one of the local restaurants for a drink.  Sake of course!!

A lot has happened in the last 2 weeks while here in Japan.  It has been an amazing time and I will definitely be back again.  I am lucky enough to have been invited back by Kay's parents and it is very tempting to take them up on their offer.  Kay's parents along with her sister and brother-in-law have been unbelievably kind to me while I have been here.  They have done everything in their power to make this a comfortable, and memorable trip for me and I am very grateful!!


p.s. My next post will be from Jing Jin, China!  I can't wait to see what that experience is going to be like!

"Perfectly Clean Truck"

One of the things that I noticed a day or two after arriving in Japan is that all of the service / delivery / semi trucks are sparkling clean.  Maybe a few have had a bit of rust or a dent or something but all the rest sparkle.  I am still amazed when I look at them.  It makes me wonder if any work is actually getting done!!  If I ever move to Japan I think I will become a truck driver just so I can drive one of these trucks.  The cars are perfect as well.  I asked "Chef" about this (see post "something smells fishy") and he said that it is a pride thing.  He explained how It is important for the Japanese to present themselves in the best possible manner and this extends to your vehicle.  Chef said that if there is a dent it must be fixed immediately.  I guess that explains it then. I don't know why I liked these these trucks, I just seemed to notice them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A beer for your walk home?

Hey all,

Another thing that you will notice pretty soon after arriving in Japan is that there are vending machines everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  Even in the most unexpected places.  They are generally grouped in 2 or more and have all sorts of drinks.  Green tea, iced coffee, hot coffee, water, pop, and most interestingly ...... beer.  These machines are located in busy areas but also in residential and out of the way places as well.  They have proven to be very handy and convenient for sure!  The cold green tea is my favorite as martin and I have relied in it to keep us hydrated in this heat.  It was over 30 again today but at night the temperature is more bearable.  I have been told that in other cities of Japan you can get many other things from wine to underwear but I have not seen this myself.  You never know when you will need a new pair of skivvies :)

Beer anyone?

I never said I was a good singer

I'm sure that most people understand just how much Japanese people love Karaoke.  It is absolutely true!  There are Karaoke places all over Kyoto.  One of the things that I really wanted to do while here was to give it a try so yesterday I had my chance as Kay, Martin, Maya, Satochan, Tachan, Toa and myself went to Yamashina and sang our hearts out :)  Here is how it works.   It costs 80 yen (about a dollar) per half hour per person and this includes your drinks, either alcoholic or non alcoholic. Very cheap!  We were given a private room as is everyone else.  Before we knew it 2 hours and many drinks had come and gone.  It was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again some day.  And just in case you were wondering, I was not offered a recoding contract ............... this time!  I still have my hopes up thought.

Watch out Canadian Idol!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


One thing that the Japanese are is punctual.  There is no early or late just "on time".  The transit is ridiculously reliable.  For instance, remember that Shinkansen train that I was blogging about?  Well, it is reported that the average arrival time is within 6 seconds of scheduled arrival.  When the train says that it departs at 1:48 it departs at exactly 1:48.   I love it!   I am definitely and "early" person so having such a punctual culture works for me.

Random picture :

Shinkansen rules! (Bullet Train)

Today was a cool day!!

I'll tell you about the Shinkansen in a bit but first I have to tell you how I ended up on it in the first place.  So, Yesterday the group moved from our first XIV resort to the second one that we stayed at.  This one looks out onto Mt.Fuji.  Again it is an amazing place known for it's Onsen (hot spring).   Unfortunately there was a Typhoon (the same typhoon in my post "Typhoon on it's way") which damaged all of the hot springs and the pools that the hot springs feed.  When we arrived at the resort we were told that as of that day the Onsen were closed for repairs.  This is the main reason to go to a place like this and unluckily for us it was not to be.  So what to do??  Well, we spent the night there an then today everyone split up doing their own thing.  Martin, Kay and Maya went to the Anpanman (kids cartoon character) museum.  Satochan, Tachan and Toa went to a different kids museum and Kay's parents had friends visiting from Tokyo, who were very kind people by the way.  So,  I thought it was a good opportunity for me to ride the Shinkansen.

So, thanks to Kay and all of her help figuring out how I can get the train back to Kyoto, at noon I boarded a shuttle bus at the time share and caught the Shinkanshen from Mishima station.  It is really cool!!  You know when you are sitting on the sky train or any other train and you wish that it could go faster .........  well, this is exactly that!!  It travels at 300 km's an hour.  The ride is totally smooth and whisper quiet.  Door to door from the time share at Mt.Fuji near Tokyo to Kay's parents place in Kyoto took 4 hours and 45 mins and only 5 stops along the way.  Amazing!!  Totally worth the experience. The drive would be twice that time.   I'd recommend it to anyone who visits japan.

Also,  I went out to dinner with a friend, Maiko, and tried some different foods again.  Tonight I had beef tongue, pork fat, a small bite of raw beef with raw egg (not my favorite) and a few other things that I am not really sure what they were.  We ate at a Yakiniku restaurant which translates to "grilled meat".   You grill your dinner at the table.  My food experience in Japan has been fantastic!  I've had Horse, Stingray, raw beef liver, tongue, salmon eggs, sushi of course, and a few other things that I can't recall at the moment.  How lucky am I!!  Thanks Maiko!  After dinner we went to a really cool little bar.  It had space for 14 and an incredible atmosphere!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Signs of Japan

Toilet signs :


Just an FYI, I am not writing this on my mac but from the internet cafe at the XIV resort so no pictures just for the next few posts until I get back to kyoto on sept 15th. I am really struggling to find the time to write and internet. Sorry! I am posting all of this as fast as I can because I have limited time so pardon the mistakes and I will fix them later. :)

(Never mind the above comment, I managed to hijack some internet and quickly posted some pictures. I hope that I will be able to again before we return to Kyoto :) Shhhhhh!!!! Don't tell anyone :)

Last night was our first night at the XIV time share resort in a town called Chino, Near Nagano. It is an opulent place that is expensive. I have never stayed in a place like this before. XIV is an exclusive membership time share resort company that own and operate resorts all over Japan specifically located near Japanese hot springs called Onsen. Even though it is a membership resort it is a very high end resort with people with deep pockets. Martin, Kay and I need to be careful with our budget around here. It turns out that it is the Japanese way to pay for everything that you might need so very little is included in your room costs. This is true for many hotels in Japan. There is internet, a pool table, karaoke, hot springs and a swimming pool but all of these things are extra costs which are adding up fast.

So, we started again at about 10 am and drove to Suna which is an alpine area near Nagano. You will probably remember that the winter olympics were held here many years ago. The mountain range was tall and vast. We ended up taking a chair lift to the top of the Kurumayama Kogen Sky Park Resort and the views were spectacular. It was an amazing site to see. We drove around some more but to be honest I am not sure where we went. Tomorrow we are moving to another resort which I think is near Mount Fuji but I am not sure. I'll let you know.

Signed "Gaijin"


Today Kay's family and myself (9 of us in total) headed out for the XIV time share resort in Achi near Nagano.  I am not exactly sure but i would guess that the distance that we traveled was about 400 km but it took us 11 hours to do it.  We stopped a lot along the way at rest stops and one historical site called Nitetsugawa in Gifu.  I know, the names are hard to understand!!  The rest stops are amazing by the way.  There are restaurants, shops, and of course washrooms.  The facilities are excellent and there are many of theses rest stops along the highway.  I would say every 30 km's or so.  They should be though as it costs a small fortune to drive on the highways in Japan.  Our total cost to get to the resort was about 10000 yen which I figure to be about 120 dollars or so.  Coming from Canada that seems like a lot to me.  The family summer road trip is probably not an option as it would cost a fortune to do so.  Of course not everyone has that kind of money so the alternative is to use the side streets and alternate routes through little towns which will have narrow streets lined with telephone poles and various other obstacles.  These streets are barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass but somehow carry city busses, scooters and cars alike.  Having said that, the 120 bucks seems like a deal!!!

As for the Nitetsugawa, it is one of the 50 or so stops along the old road between Eno and Tokyo but it is one of the few that has been preserved in it's original state.  One interesting thing that happened to Martin and I was that a guy asked if he could take our picture and we presume it is because they do not see a lot of white people in the area.  That was a different experience for sure.  Ultimately, it ended up being a very long day.


Something smells fishy

Friday Sept 10th.........

Not long after getting home from the baseball game the night before Martin, Kay and I went with Chef (see the post called "It's all about the food") to the kyoto fish market where he buys his fresh fish for his restaurant.  There were all sorts of colorful sea creatures including the rather standard  salmon and tuna (the tuna was from atlantic Canada we were told) to some not so standard things like turtles and eels.  It is a busy place and we did not stay very long as chef had to return with his goods but definitely worth the trip.  

After the fish market we collected Maya from Kay's parents and the 4 of us headed off to the Bamboo forrest which is near the town of Nonomiya.  The town is really interesting.  It has a lot of history like most places that we have been.  The bamboo forrest was excellent as well.   

We also visited a budist temple called Nonomiya-Jinja Shrine and this place was totally amazing.  It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The grounds were spectacularly well kept.  Is my favorite place so far on this trip but I would never have guessed it.

Castles and Baseball

Thursday Sept 9th .........

This was a busy day for us meaning Martin and I.  No Maya today.  We started off going to the Nijo Castle in Kyoto.  This is the castle of one of the Shogun's of Kyoto.  I am writing this from memory as I am currently sitting at the XIV Resort near Mt.Fugi and I have forgotten my pamphlets back in Kyoto.  I will have to fix it later.  It is about 400 years old and really cool!  It looks like the set of a samurai movie. There are various rooms within the castle for various purposes.  Greeting other shoguns, eating, sleeping and the like.  The coolest part of the Castle thought is the "Nightingale" floors.  These floors are used throughout the castle, which by the way is practically made up of wood and paper, to alert of an intruder.  The wooden floors squeak like a nightingale bird with virtually every step that you take.  Strategically placed nails and brackets make this happen.  And, it does not matter how lightly you step the floors will always squeak.  So, imagine all those visitors walking around the castle at the same time,  it was a like being in a bird cage with a 50 birds squeaking.  It's not deafening by any means but it is very noticeable.  

So after grabbing a bite to eat we headed off to the Hanshin Tigers /  Chochien Dragons baseball game.  What an experience that was thanks to Kay's brother-in-law Tachan who worked to get us the tickets for the sold out game.  Thanks Tachan!!  Most of the crowd were supporting the Tigers but there was a single section of Dragons fans.  The Crowd really gets into the game.  There are strategically placed chants cheering on their team.  One interesting thing is that there was not any yelling at the other team only cheering on the team that you are rooting for.  Pretty classy I thought.  And, when your team is at bat then that is when you cheer / sing or whatever but when the opposing team is batting then you are quiet and let their fans cheer.  Pretty organized I thought.  I know this because beside us sat 3 girls who were tigers fans and they spent a lot of time answering our questions.  Ok, so the really cool part of all this is that in the 7th inning everyone in the stadium, and I mean everyone, blows up a balloon, some had 2 or 3,  and lets go at the same time shooting thousands of colourful screeching balloons into the air and onto the field.  It was awesome to see!!!  I got some great video of this that I will try to add to this post later.  As for the game itself it ended in a 2 -2 draw after 13 innings of play.  Martin and I had to leave at the end of the 12 inning as we were going to miss our train back to kyoto.  I forgot to mention that the gave was held in osaka about 50 km's from kyoto.  The home team tigers tied it up with their last batter at the bottom of the 9th.  The stadium went totally ballistic!!  We had tones of fun and I will not forget this any time soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010


This is a belated Happy Birthday to my sister Lori who turned 50 on Sept 9th.  I hope that you had a fantastic birthday and enjoy your trip to Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec.  Sorry that I am a day late writing this and that I have not updated my blog in a little while.  I have been so busy that I have not had the time.  Soon you will hear about Martin and I going to a Hanshin Tigers baseball game, going to the fish market, visiting the bamboo forest and the Nijo castle among other things.  It has been an action packed few days but it will slow down as tomorrow we leave for an Onsen (hot spring) near mount fuji and I will have some time to update this blog.

So, Happy Birthday Lori!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's all about the food

One of the most obvious differences about Japan is the food. There is a wide variety from the commonly known sushi to some very unique local delicacies. Unexpectedly today turned out to be a day of new foods.

This afternoon Martin, Kay and I went out for okonomiyaki which is described as a Japanese style pancake but it is not really a pancake as I know it. The pancake was made of cabbage, egg, noodles and dried fish flakes. It was excellent. But that is not all that we had. There were a few more dishes that Kay ordered for all of us. An egg dish, and a pork noodles and squid dish. They were all excellent! The cool part is that it is all prepared at your table.

In the evening the three of us met up with Kay's sister and brother-in-law at their friends restaurant. They were very kind and closed the restaurant so that we could have a meal together with family and friends. It was an evening to remember. We were given a lot of different types of food including fish eggs, tofu, soup and sushi but my favorite was the horse. Yes, that is right, I said horse and it was excellent!!!! It was prepared in broth with some carrots, potatoes, onions and a root vegetable that I was told was boboa (not sure about the spelling of that one). We had a very memorable night eating, drinking sake and laughing. Poor Kay though as she has to translate virtually everything between Martin and I and the rest of the group which would be totally exhausting especially since Martin is a story teller to be sure!  Great job Kay!!!!


p.s. The typhoon ended up heading north-east of Osaka instead of towards Kyoto to the south so by the afternoon the rain and wind had stopped. Excellent!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Typhoon on it's way

This morning we woke up to incredible rain and Kay told me that there is a typhoon that is going to hit Osaka which is only about 50 km away.  She said that here we will only experience the fringe of the storm but it is enough to shut down the airport already and most likely the transit system as the weather gets worse.  It apparently will not last long and tomorrow should be a sunny day again.  So, today will be a day of rest for us which is not a bad idea because we have been going non stop since we left Vancouver.

On a side note .... Baseball is a very popular sport in Japan as you might know.  Last night Kay's Sister and Brother-in-Law stopped by to drop off some tickets for Martin and I to see the Hanshin Tigers tomorrow night.  How cool is that!  Apparently it is going to be a good game because the the Tigers are the number one team in the standing and their opponent is number two.  Martin tells me that the crowd gets really involved in the game which will be good to see.

p.s. could someone please send a rain jacket :) Quick!

The best little travel companion ever

So Maya has been exploring Kyoto with us each day and she is a joy to have around.  The heat does not seem to bother her at all which is amazing!  She will nod of to sleep at about noon each day for an hour and a bit and wakes up happy to see that we are still there.  Most of the time she is the center of attention and the women LOVE her.  They will often stop to talk with Maya.  And when Maya is doing her "Maya Dancing" you will here a lot of people comment "Kawaii" which means "cute" or "adorable".  You here this phrase all the time.  So to make a long story short, she is a lot of fun to have along.

I Don't Sake! You Sake!!

Sake is probably the most popular or at least recognized Japanese drink so it was only a matter of time before Martin and I visited the Gekkeikan Sake Brewery.  This a quite a ways away from Kay's parents place and the fact that we we not sure where we were at any given time added to the travel but that is ok with me as it adds to the adventure.  It also forces you to ask others for help or directions and you never know who you will end up talking to.  Like these two japanese girls one of which spent time in Winnipeg.  Anyways,  two and a half hours after leaving Kay's parents and many mistakes along the way we arrived at the Brewery.  It's not a big place really but very cool!  They have a small museum on site to give visitors an idea about how Sake was made traditionally.  Of course at the end of the self tour you get a chance to try a few different types of Sake and plum wine.  All very good so that lead to buying a few different types. The surrounding area was really interesting as well.  It looked like it had been there for centuries with the old weathered wooden planks that the houses and other buildings were made of to the the many shrines and temples of varying sizes.  It took us over 4 hours return in travel for about 2 hours at the brewery and it's surrounds but it was well worth the trip.  The forecast was for rain tomorrow but I guess that It arrived a bit early because while we were walking back hame from the train station we ended up getting totally drenched.  I mean drenched to the bone!   Maya loved it and so did martin and I.  Oh ya, I think I forgot to mention that Maya joined us on this trip.  She is a lot of fun to have with us and she travels very well.  Her dancing keeps us amused :)

p.s. It's still hot :)


Monday, September 6, 2010

First full day in Kyoto : Sept 6th

Kay, Martin, Maya and I headed into downtown Kyoto today.  It's an amazing place.  My first real experience of japan outside of a japanese home.  We took the subway into town and it really puts the skytrain to shame.  You notice right away how clean it is.  It's immaculate!  Not a hint of garbage or dirt or filth in general.  Once downtown we walked to some arcade malls (not sure what the japanese name is) and found a place to sit and have a drink.  It is still stinking hot!  Kay decided to have her hair cut so Martin, Maya and I wandered.  It is a really interesting city.  You see new and old side-by-side.  For instance, there is a cellphone shop directly beside a centuries old graveyard and ridiculously old shrines interspersed between Starbucks and KFC.  Really strange to see.  I love it!!  Everywhere you look is something new to see.  Like the knife shops with all sorts of knives, blades and the like. The chopstick shop was really cool.  There are thousands to choose from.  I think I will head back there and pick some up.  So, we wandered for several hours and then went to a really cool Ramen (noodle) restaurant.  It is Martin's favorite restaurant in all of Kyoto so really there was no other choice.  This was a fantastic meal and we will be heading back there again soon no doubt.  A great day!

Did I mention it was HOT!

Holy C*** it is hot.  I would hazard a guess that overnight is was 30+ degrees.  No Joke!!  I have tried to sleep in that kind of heat before and the optimum word is "try".  Sleep did not happen.  But through nothing short of a miracle, Kay's parents decided to install Air Conditioning in the two rooms that we will be sleeping in a few weeks before we arrived.  I slept great in a constant 20 degrees or so.  I am so happy!!!!!!  

This is a picture of one of the many shrines in Kyoto.  Not sure what the name is but it was really cool!!  I expect to see a lot more of this.

"ladies and gentlement, we are nearing Kansai airport where the outside temperature is currently 39 degrees"

       We made it to Kyoto after a 1.5 hour bus trip from Kansai airport.  The first thing that you notice is without a doubt the temperature which is, well, Dam Hot!  And sticky!  That is still a bit of a shock to the system but I am hoping that I will become at least a little bit more tolerant of the heat.  Anyways, after arriving at Kay's parents we had a good ol' family get together.  Kay's parents, sister, brother-in-law, Nephew, along with the 4 of us. We made Gyoza's, drank beer and had a good laugh.  At least part of that laughter was due to my terribly inadequate Japanese.  I know a little bit but unfortunately I am using the phrases that I know in the wrong situation to everyone else's amusement.  I'm trying though.  So, It was a great night getting to know Kay's family.  

"Sir, Can I see your boarding pass?"


So after a long journey we have made it to Kay's Parents house in Kyoto.  But not without a little bit of drama of course.  Let me explain.  Our itinerary had us flying from Vancouver to Beijing where we had a one night layover before flying from Beijing to Osaka.  We were checking in all the way from Vancouver to Osaka and were given all of our associated boarding passes. The airline put us up in the IBIS hotel in Beijing.  Not a luxury resort by any stretch but there were no roaches or blood stains to I was happy.  So. while checking into the hotel the agent asked me for my passport and boarding pass so she could confirm when to wake us up for our flight in the morning.   "Sure", I said.  "Just a second, it must be in my back pocket".  "I know it's here somewhere" I said now starting to get a bit concerned.  My concern is not because I don't have a boarding pass for the hotel agent (I knew our flight time the morning) but because I would need this boarding pass for the flight itself.  The boarding pass is gone!  The Absent minded wonder strikes again!!!!  So, after sorting out our rooms Martin and I decided to talk with the front desk about calling Air China regarding my boarding pass.  As it turns out they can not / could not / will not call air china and suggested we head back to the airport to sort it out.  We were about a 10 min cab ride to the airport and so we headed out of the hotel to the spot where the cabs were and that is when the fun began.  We walked the 5 mins to where the cabs were supposed to be and tried to hail a cab but were instead approached by a "service car" driver" (one of may waiting there) we later learned.  After 5 mins of charades trying to explain where we wanted to go the driver wanted a ridiculous amount of money to take us.  So, knowing that is was not a big deal and the boarding pass could be sorted out in the morning, we gave up on the idea of going back to the airport and instead thought it a good idea to put that money into drinking beer so we wandered back to the hotel for a cold beer.  The next morning after taking the shuttle bus back to the airport we sorted out the boarding pass problem (which was no problem at all) and hopped back on the plane to Osaka.   A good start to the trip!

Connected once again!

Ohio goziomas! (Good Morning)

So, After a few days of no internet we have been able to sort it out.  Excellent.  I have been writing just not posting but that will change now.  


Thursday, September 2, 2010

1 More Sleep!!


The hours are counting down very quickly now.  My bags are packed, and I'm staying at my sister's place tonight as I will meet with Martin, Kay and Maya at about 8 am tomorrow morning.  Our flight is at 1:50 pm.  I'm really excited now.  I bought a new camera yesterday expecting to see many new things in the next 3 weeks.  I'll have a lot more to write about in the near future :)



Baby (1) bike ride (1) China (8) Dog (1) Durham (8) England (17) Estonia (2) Ferry (4) Finland (13) Hampton Court (1) Helsinki (13) Hockey (2) Japan (23) London (11) Petersfield (4) Rudolph (1) Scandinavia (16) Stockholm (4) Stonehenge (1) Sweden (4) Tallin (1) Tower of London (1) York (1)