Australia and Oceania, Asia · 48 Days · 24 Moments · November 2017

9 January 2018

Continued - We also very much liked some of the cool technologies we encountered - most prominently the awesome toilets, which produced noise, had attached bidets and warmed seats! Our primary hotel in Tokyo had a cute robot in the lobby which offered suggestions on where to go in Tokyo. However, one of my favourite things was simply the 7 - 11, which sold anything you could want for very cheap prices, and the vending machines which sold hot beverages - perfect for Winter! We visited MANY shops, including in the geeky district of Akihabara, where figurines and manga abound and the fashionable Harajuku, where we had many crepes! We also took some time to visit the cultural sites, our favourite being the Buddhist Sensoji Temple, which was full of the smell of incense and the sound of chanting monks!

6 January 2018

We’ve done so much in Tokyo - a massive city that seems to never sleep! We visited a number of themed cafes - a dog cafe (visitor dogs needed to wear nappies), an anime cafe and a maid cafe, where I was called Raechel Princess, and Alex was called Alex Master and waitresses dressed as maids drew cutesy pictures on our beverages! We also tried delicious shabu shabu, amazing sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market and we queued up for 1.5 hours to visit one of the only two ramen restaurants in the world with a Michelin star. We also visited Kawasaki Warehouse, an arcade styled like the old Kowloon Walled City, at night while it was raining, making it look very Bladerunner-esque. We truly appreciated the massive size of Tokyo from atop the Metropolitan Government Building. We hoped to see Mt Fuji again in the distance but unfortunately it was a little too cloudy. Some slightly scary moments occurred when we received an earthquake warning on our phones, and later felt the hotel building move!

30 December 2017

We left the ski resort to clear skies and made our way to the town of Yamanochi, home to the snow monkeys, famed for their onsen bathing habits. We stayed in a charming ryokan with a full traditional breakfast and onsen included. For dinner, we found a local sushi joint and had the best salmon sushi we had ever had. The next day, we trekked a few kilometres to the monkeys and had fun watching their charming hijinks while taking many photos! We then left the town (where it was also snowing) for Tokyo. We visited the kind of underwhelming Shibuya Crossing and the adorable Hachiko statue - a very famous dog that displayed great loyalty waiting for his beloved owner for 9 years after his death. We also found what we think is the stuffed body of Hachiko in the museum of science and nature!

29 December 2017

We arrived in Nozawa Onsen to heavy snow that did not abate until the day we departed, much to our initial delight and eventual annoyance. On our first day, we both took skiing lessons - Alex in the level 4 class and me in level 1, as it was my first time downhill skiing! After the lesson, we rode a gondola up to an area a little below the mountain peak, where a blizzard was happening, and skied some green slopes with fairly low visibility and snow flying hard into our faces! The view from the peak was unfortunately very much obscured, which was a shame, but it did make the skiing a little more of an adventure! When we weren’t skiing, we visited outdoor onsens in the snow, ate surprisingly great pizza, and tried many amazing apple related foods! We also discovered that Australians love skiing in Japan since practically all of the western tourists had very familiar accents!

25 December 2017

We had a very subdued Christmas this year that was unfortunately not a white one. However, we still had a white Christmas period with us seeing snow on Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day! We spent our Christmas in Nagano, at a nice hotel with a breakfast buffet that featured the prefecture’s locally grown apples very prominently - apple jam, ice cream and apple juice were in abundance! They were Incredibly sweet and delicious apples that I wish I could eat back in Australia! For Xmas dinner, we chose to do as the locals do and buy KFC. We ate the delicious chicken in our room, overlooking the town square and next to our mini Christmas tree while listening to Christmas carols. I was a little disappointed that the KFC bucket didn’t come with mashed potato, but the Christmas mud cake and festive dinner plate almost made up for it!

23 December 2017

After a long and beautiful bus ride, we arrived in Shirakawa Go, relieved to see the thick blanket of snow covering everything in sight. We dragged our luggage through the night, preparing to trudge for over a kilometre to our stop. However, we were soon picked up by a very nice elderly Japanese man in his van who spoke very little English. We were a little apprehensive at first when he waved us over, but he had Alex’s name on a sheet of paper and turned out to be the manager of our accomodation that evening, alongside his lovely wife. We were very grateful for the ride! Shortly after sunrise the next morning, the manager drove us and some other guests to a vantage point to take pictures of the gorgeous village. We then explored the town by foot, excitedly jumping and falling through thick, powdery snow. We stopped at a local restaurant for a traditional lunch, starring Hide beef - delicious! I also tried a fruit drink that somehow tasted and smelt like feta - not delicious!
We left for Naoshima - an island famous for the numerous art museums dotted through out, and outdoor sculptures - including the famous Yayoi Kusama dotted pumpkin 🎃. We had to queue to take photos for this one! We visited a couple of the art museums - our favourite being the Chichu art museum, which in itself was a work of art! We were also treated to an absolutely stunning sunset on the horizon. We wish we could have stayed for the night to see the sun rise. However, we had to leave to reach our next destination - Himeji. In the morning, we rushed to see it’s most famous tourist attraction - Himeji Castle, otherwise known as the White Egret castle, due to its gorgeous white exterior, and its resemblance to a bird taking flight. Luckily, we were there in time to explore the inside without too much of a crowd. Before lunch, we rushed off to catch the Shinkansen to our next destination - Shirakawa Go!

21 December 2017

We arrived in Hiroshima, a city that we ended up deciding was one of our favourites in Japan - full of some of the nicest people and the most delicious food we’d had in Japan. We tried Hiroshima style okonomiyaki - grilled to perfection in front of us, and had tastier ramen than we’d thought possible. We of course visited the peace park memorial site, which was incredibly sobering and difficult to process, but certainly an important site to visit. On our second day there, we visited Miyajima, and island close to Hiroshima, reached only through a short boat ride. The island was populated with cute, yet very naughty deer that we saw pester heaps of tourists. One even starting chewing on Alex’s shirt as a consolation prize after being denied one of our oysters! The main draw of the island however is the famed orange torii gate that sits on the beach. At high tide it appears to float on the water, and at low tide you can walk out and touch it!

20 December 2017

Merry Christmas for today!!! 🎄 About a week ago, we headed off to Koya-san, which contains a Buddhist monastery home to over a thousand monks. We stayed the night in one of the temples, eating a delicious shojin ryori meal, trying out another onsen and playing a game of go! We were also given a night time tour of Okunoin cemetery - the largest cemetery in Japan with a history of over a thousand years - and took part in a guided meditation with another monk, which involved meditating on the Sanskrit letter A. In the morning, we woke up way too early and watched the monks’ morning prayer and fire ceremony before eating more delicious vegetarian monk food. I don’t know what those monks do, but the tofu was incredibly delicious! We then had a walk through the cemetery. In the most sacred area at the site, a building contains the body of Kobo Daishi, the founder of the monastery and Shingon Buddhism. It is said that he sits in eternal meditation, and so the monks bring him food every day!

17 December 2017

So much has happened the past few days! We started off in Osaka - the third largest city in Japan just a short train ride from Kyoto. This city felt much more alive than Kyoto, with its vibrant night life and delicious street food! We walked around Dotonburi at night, enjoying the sight of the famous Glico Man and the moving crab 🦀. The following day, we headed off to Universal Studios, which was filled with several interesting parks, the most exciting of course being the Harry Potter world, which included Hogwarts and Hogsmeade! We tried delicious Butterbeer, Pumpkin juice and treacle tart, and rode several Potter themed rides, all of which had wait times of over an hour! (Worth it though, especially with the hilarious Japanese dubbed over voices of the characters, particularly Dumbledore!) To top it off, we had good old fashioned pub grub at the Three Broomsticks 🍺🍻.

14 December 2017

The past few days have been full of great food and gorgeous gardens! I’ve had the best sushi in my life (for the cheapest price!). I also love the unlimited free green tea that I’ve had in all the sushi restaurants so far! We visited the Buddhist golden Kinkakuji temple and the grounds of Chion-In temple, which were so peaceful and beautiful. Today, we moved to our new accomodation at the Kurama Onsen Ryokan in the mountains, a traditional inn with hot spring baths. Our room is sparse and covered in tatami mats with a low wooden table in the middle, on which we were served an elaborate kaiseki feast of many tasty courses. At the end of our feast, the (very attentive and polite) staff moved the table to the corner of the room and laid down some bedding for the night. We took the opportunity then to soak in the baths - gender separated and where swimsuits are not allowed! Luckily no one was in the female bath and I enjoyed soaking outside under the stars. I’ve never felt so relaxed!

13 December 2017

The last few days have been very eventful! After doing a spot of shopping in Tokyo, we boarded the Shinkansen to Kyoto, eating delicious ekiben (special bento boxes) and catching a glimpse of a very special lady on the way! We explored the old capital a bit and climbed up Mt Inari, walking through thousands of red torii gates. Foxes featured very heavily through the shrines, as the mountain Inari is also the god of foxes (amongst other things). After walking through the shrines, we treated ourselves to delicious street food around the shrine - dumplings, okonomiyaki and karaage! Delicious!

10 December 2017

9 December 2017

Last night we had the most amazingly authentic chinese bbq. The staff there were really nice and helpful but didn’t speak any English, so I blustered my way through the ordering - to amazing results! Mum, if you could help translate the spices they used, that would be great (I want to recreate back in Aus!). Today, we had the opportunity to fly japan airlines, and I’m glad we did, since the lunch they gave us was the best economy airline meal I’ve ever had! Coming into Japan, we caught amazing views - and even caught a glimpse of Mt Fuji! Upon arriving, we checked into 9 Hours - a renowned capsule hotel - a type of accomodation I’ve never tried before. Girls and boys have separate bathroom areas and sleeping pod dorms. All of the showers were very clean and private, and all toilets were fancy and played music! The pod dorm looks very futuristic, and each pod is surprisingly comfy and spacious. Each pod also plays beach sounds, lets you charge electronics and has very soft lighting.

8 December 2017

Yesterday we went to the Great Wall (Mutianyu). It was more beautiful than I remembered, and the air was uncharacteristically clear - we could see so far into the distance! We decided to challenge ourselves and walked up to the Wall rather than take the cable car - in hindsight a great idea, but at the time felt like a horrible choice. Today we visited my old uni BLCU and ate chocolate waffles - the cafe was pretty much identical to what I remembered! Afterwards, we visited the Summer Palace and admired the views of the big lake - half of which was beautifully frozen. To finish off, we ate Peking Duck at Da Dong - a restaurant many consider to serve the best Peking Duck in Beijing (and therefore the world). The skin was extremely crispy, the flesh succulent and ridiculously tasty. It came with a large selection of condiments, duck soup and duck porridge using the leftover bones. We were also given free mandarins - gorgeously presented, so sweet and probably the best I’ve ever had!

4 December 2017

We took the train from Pingyao to Beijing, eating baked sesame bread and instant noodles - very similar food to the locals! On our first day in Beijing, we visited Wangfujing and Alex had his very first hot pot meal and had a very relaxed rest day. Today, we got up early, filled up at the breakfast buffet in the hotel and headed out to the Forbidden City! We took loads of photos and very unexpectedly came across a collection of incredibly beautiful clocks from overseas and China. We were very impressed with a massive and very ornate water clock. After the walk was over, we ate delicious jiaozi (dumplings) nearby and visited Tian An Men Square and the nearby National Museum of China. Unfortunately the museum closed halfway through our viewing of the Ancient China exhibit - perhaps we’ll come back in a few days. We also had our first obligatory China McDonald’s meal - delicious, as expected! :)

3 December 2017

Today we arrived in the historic city of Pingyao after a very early train ride from Xi’an! Our hotel room is very nice and has an authentic looking bed and a lovely heated floor (which is pretty handy since it’s subzero right now). After storing our luggage we visited the martial art museum and a bank museum - apparently Pingyao used to be a huge financial hub. We also took a walk around the perimeter of the town on the city wall. Going out to dinner was very relaxing amongst the red lanterns, and we ended up munching quite a feast! We were given a complimentary soup from the nice waitress as well :).

2 December 2017

We woke up early to visit the terracotta warriors and eat biang biang mian - the biang character in Chinese having over 40 strokes! (Shown in photos). Upon returning to Xi’an, we had a walk on the city wall - very wide and sturdy structure! For dinner, we returned to the Muslim Street and ate mutton paomo - which required us to tear up a piece of bread into tiny pieces to form the carby part of the dish! Also, as a note to mum and dad, I think whatsapp is blocked so I can’t really contact you guys on that!

1 December 2017

After an intense 10 hour journey from Shenzhen (photos of trays from the train attached - more tasty than it looks!), we arrived I Xi’an, and took a very scary taxi ride to the hotel - no seatbelt in the back for Alex and apparently indicators and road lines didn’t exist. The next day, we tackled the Muslim Street, which had amazing food - skewers, little potatoes and rou jia mo. We then took a walk to the bell tower, and the southern city gate, which was absolutely beautiful! The dinner we had was also super delicious, and I had the opportunity to eat a dessert that I haven’t had since I was last in Beijing 6 years ago!

29 November 2017

Arrived in Shenzhen today via the train from Hong Kong. After settling into the hotel (a significantly nicer Best Western than HK), we set out to visit a very large electronic market and explored a little bit of the city. It’s very hectic and reminds me so much of my time in Beijing 5 years ago!

28 November 2017

Went to the peak a few days ago for the first time in more than a decade. Really great views that make you appreciate how vibrant Hong Kong is! Also are at a great Forrest Gump themed restaurant that served amazing prawns!

27 November 2017

Walking through Mei Foo at night is so peaceful!

25 November 2017

We asked for a sewing kit...

23 November 2017