Naoshima did not disappoint. We heard about “Art Island” from a friend in Tokyo, and man am I happy we did. Today, Kev and I wandered around the island relishing in the fall colors, soaking wet from the sweet-smelling rain and breathing in the beauty of the contemporary exhibits scattered around the island. Coming just yesterday from a month in the exhilarating, albeit frenetically paced Tokyo, Naoshima was truly a breath of fresh air and rejuvenated me in a way that I didn’t even know I needed. Maybe it was the fresh sea air, maybe it was the cleansing rain or maybe it was the beautiful exhibits, but whatever the case, it was everything we could have hoped for.
Hello friends, family, and everybody else.
I just wanted to take a quick second to update this blog and mention some of the things that have been going on.
First of all, as of today, we’re still in Tokyo, Japan. Specifically Koto-ku, which means, I think, the Koto ward of Tokyo.
Anyway, we’ve done quite a bit recently:
- We’ve gone to a bunch of different incredibly beautiful parks
- We had Ramen at 5 or so different ramen places
- We’ve gone to a bunch of different grocery stores and tried a bunch of different foods
- We’ve met new friends (various meetup groups, including a group from reddit of all places!)
- We went to an amazingly beautiful sake brewery
- We’ve tried a bunch of different sakes
- We’ve walked down a ton of small side streets that are amazingly cool because there is just tons of stuff everywhere
- We’ve gone to a bunch of museums, including most recently the Studio Ghibli museum, but also the Edo museum
- We’ve gone to a sashiko meetup group (Lindsay) and a meetup to learn about crochet
- I gave a small talk at a design meetup about my morse code project
- More stuff
Anyway, we’ve been both busy and not busy. We’ve been in Tokyo now for just about a month, staying in the same place the entire time. It’s strange, it’s starting to feel less like traveling and more like living. We “go home” at night. We know how to walk to various places of import. We have a grocery store we go to, and we recognize/are recognized by the people that work there. We honestly don’t do that many exciting thngs, we just walk a lot, exploring new side streets, trying different buns with different types of fillings, always on the lookout for sushi at grocery stores that we think is half off. We are getting pretty good at recognizing “half off” as apposed to “20% off” – not as easy as you might think!
Tomorrow we are going to Maker Faire Tokyo, which I’m pretty excited about. I’m hoping to get some sweet stickers, and perhaps see some cool things that you can’t see at the Bay Area Maker Faire. Maker’s Faire. Whatev. This has been something I’ve been excited about for a while, so, awesome!
Anyway, the title of the blog post. Lindsay and I are planning out the next bits of our trip here and there is just so much stuff that we don’t know! It’s crazy! It’s easy enough to be jobless, traveling around to various awesome places, but when you are on a budget and trying to save money every step of the way, trying to optimize your spending, there is a lot to consider!
Currently, our plan is as follows:
- Go to Istanbul, Turkey for 2-3 weeks
- Go to Greece for a few days or a week or so (?)
- Go to Hungary (?) for a week or so (?)
- Go to France or Germany…
- Go to other places
The thing is, when you are trying to save money on everything, little things matter. Like, which city should we fly into France? How should we get from X city to Y city? Do we need to buy Z in advanced to make sure we are eligible for the X pass? Does the temperature in Y city during X dates mean we’ll be unable to do Z, and so perhaps we should instead fly into W?
Anyway, it’s a lot to consider. At the end of the day, we’re basically just sort of going with the flow and honestly not putting all that much thought into things, but that drives me crazy sometimes because I feel so unprepared! Oh well.
Anyway, happy weekend all!
Hello everybody! Kevin here! How are you!!!?
Anyway, look, let’s get down to brass tacks. As a friend/colleague used to say, here’s the deal:
Lindsay and I had the opportunity to go to Tokyo 5 years ago, when a friend awesomely gave us the opportunity to have an extended layover in Japan on our way from SE Asia to Chicago. But, we were homesick after having traveled for 6 (ish – Nick, we’re using the ceiling function) months on the road. On that almost-layover, we were planning on going to the Tsukiji fish market, for many reasons, but because mainly, I had always wanted to see that. But we didn’t, and went home instead. Since then, it has been an itch I couldn’t scratch, because my hands couldn’t reach, if you see what I mean (it’s like, figurative language or something?).
Switching gears 100%, my favorite movie is Lost in Translation. I don’t say this lightly. It really is. If you asked me to name a single piece of media that is most important to me, it’s probably that movie. And it’s been a part of the reason I’ve wanted to come to Japan, sort of like a pilgrimage. Anyway, a lot of that movie takes place in a hotel called the Park Hyatt.
So, here is what we did:
- We went to the Tsukiji Fish Market
- We went to the Park Hyatt, up to the 52nd floor where much of LiT takes place
Can you believe it? We did both things!
The Tsukiji market was pretty awesome. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the largest wholesale fish market in the world. It’s huge. One of the big parts of the market is a tuna auction that happens most mornings. The auction is one of the things we really wanted to see, but it starts at 5am. Only 120 people per day are allowed to watch this auction, and to get a spot you need to arrive as early as possible to get a place. We heard that 4:30AM was a good time, but being the paranoid person I am, we decided to get there at 4AM. This was bad enough, but to make matters worse we are a fair distance (3ish mile) from the market, and no public transportation would take us there at 4AM. So we were left with either 1. pay to sleep somewhere near the fish auction (expensive), or 2. pay a taxi ($40+) to get us there, or 3. walk there. We opted for option 3 on account of our budget, which meant we had to be out of the door at 3AM. So it was an early morning.
It turns out that we were almost LATE at 4AM, as there were only a few spots left. After all 120 spots are taken, the entry door shuts and nobody else can get in. So, at 4AM we got there, then sat on the floor of this room for an hour and 45 minutes.
But, it was awesome!
After the auction, we walked around the market and found ourselves a great place to get a 6AM sushi breakfast! It was a bit pricey (~$25 for both of us), but probably some of the freshest fish you can get, short of eating the fish raw on the boat.
The wholesale fish market itself was amazing. It was far and above better then any fish market I’ve ever seen. Sadly, we don’t have many digital photos of the place (I took a whole roll of film though!), but here are a few random photos:
Overall, one of my favorite things we’ve done in Tokyo.
And then, there was Park Hyatt. We felt quite underdressed and generally like garbage walking into the hotel, which was incredibly fancy and awesome. Walking into the hotel made you sort of wish you were rich, and living a different sort of life. It was pretty amazing.
Anyway, we walked in like we owned the place, despite our feelings, and went straight to the elevator which took us up to the 42nd floor. Here, you step out in a huge huge room, complete with plants and dark atmospheric lighting and fancy people drinking expensive things. But we weren’t at our destination yet. We had to make it to the 52nd floor, which required finding a different lift. We ended up having to ask a hotel person how to get to the top floor, and I slipped in a tacky (feeling) question about when they started charging cover. We walked through the library, found the second lift, and ended up at the New York Bar on the 52nd floor of Park Hyatt.
It was smaller then I expected based on the movie, but I sort of liked that. It made it more believable that the two characters would be able to communicate with each other sitting at different tables without it being super weird/ackward.
Anyway, photos don’t really do the place justice, but here are a few bad ones anyway:
I had a Suntory beer, although a wiskey would have been more appropriate, they didn’t have a Suntory whiskey that I could find, and also it would have cost too much anyway :).
If anybody is curious, the drinks were 1100 Yen for the beer, 1900 Yen for the mixed drink, plus 13% tax (?) and 13% service charge, so the total was around 3600 Yen or 36 dollars for the two drinks. They gave us freeze dried peas and sesame crackers and peanuts in a dish. The service was awesome, if you are into that sort of thing. If we had stayed after 8pm (7pm on Sunday) we would have each been charged 2200 Yen for cover. If you ever visit Tokyo, and enjoy the movie or super fancy/classy/beautiful bars or awesome/amazing views, I’d say this was a great experience.
A great few experiences.
So, wow. We’re in Tokyo. How lucky can we be?
We knew as soon as we got our airplane food, we knew we were going to be in love. I mean, look at this cute little bento!
Kevin holding his first Japanese yen
Too bad for him, bills are NOT common here, so he needed to get himself the world’s cutest change purse to keep himself organized 🙂On a budget, we’ve been frequenting the grocery store regularly…these were SAMPLES…I mean, right?! TOKYO.
We did the whole Halloween thing! Turns out, Halloween hasn’t really been celebrated except during the last 10 years or so…This is our (soon to be!) new Japanese teacher 🙂
P.S. Lamest costume ever award goes to BOTH of us – 2 hours before the party I purchased saran wrap and balloons to be (as seen below) the world’s most awkward Jelly Belly, and Kevin literally put on my pants and called that his costume. Yup. My husband fits in my pants. No I’m not happy about it.
P.P.S. Turns out Kevin isn’t in any of the photos before my camera died – but I can assure you, he was there, drinking and eating as much of the “all you can eat/drink party” part as humanely possible and having a merry time talking with his Japanese brethren…
We managed to get tickets to the Studio Ghibly museum (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and loads of other Miyazaki films) using an all Japanese prompted touch screen to print tickets. After 15+ minutes, here is Kevin: VICTORIOUS.
At night, many neighborhood restaurants are illuminated like this…On a cool night, the warm glow and ramen scents swirling the air, it feels just like a movie. I feel pretty confident life doesn’t get much better.
There have been awesome (and very, very funny) street performers all over the place – below you’ll see a group of about 15 Rock n’ Rollers in their fancy leather jackets (complete with slicked back hair and combs in their back pockets) who frequent the park and dance literally ALL DAY to old school Rock and Roll. Pretty entertaining to say the least.
And there are VERY weird shops all over the place – like this “make your own doll” shop (see those eyes?!) where grown men in business suits and cute lovey couples alike shop “Build a Bear” style, but for dolls…
Last week, I met up with these fine folks to go run around the Palace. After our run, we went to an onsen/sento (public bath house, complete with saunas, hot tubs and the works) and then went out to dinner. A perfect night.
And yesterday, we went mushroom hunting (although we only found poisonous mushrooms). It was beyond great to get out of the city, but we couldn’t help but wish we were back in Portland with Alicia and Justin having our (what has come to be) annual fall mushroom hunting experience.
I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, but that’s a pretty solid take on the last week. One down, 3 more to go, Tokyo – we’re ready for you!
South Korea (surprisingly) rocked our worlds.
What started out as a 2 week trip to visit our pal, Phill, turned in to a serious desire to stay a month! Or 2! Or 3! I’m not sure if it was the clean, COOL air minutes after landing, or the orderliness of the subway, or the fact that I could run (or actually go anywhere and feel totally safe) or the fact that we were with our friend, or had a mini pig in our hostel, or what – but either way, Korea turned out to be everything we could have hoped or more. Without question we will be going back to explore the rest of the country sooner rather than later.
The pics below will be totally out of order, but will at least show you a small glimpse of what life was like…
1) We went to a Jjimjilbang (Korea spa)… 7 glorious floors stocked full of varying degreed water tubs, sweating rooms/sauna, open-air ginseng baths, a seawater bath, a salt room, an ice room, a huge outdoor swimming pool…all for $11. It was my first experience having to “drop trou” and get totally naked with a bunch of strangers, but truthfully, I found it pretty liberating and overall pretty damn natural (For the record, there was a man side and a lady side – apparently after talking to my dad, this wasn’t totally clear :)) We stayed for quite a few hours – and it was glorious. Before you enter the baths, you need to scrub until you’re raw, and I opted for a “full body scrub” which literally left me laying in a pile of brown/grey balls of skin after a 20 minute scrub down. It was unbelievably disgusting, but damn if I didn’t feel smooth as a baby’s butt when I was finished. Again, glorious.
There were also common areas (where clothing WAS mandatory) No photos allowed inside the gendered baths (again, naked people) but here as you can see, is pretty great. There were also other cool common areas like the Ice room, the charcoal room the jade room and a bunch of others that you could sit and hangout with your family or whomever else in…you can trust me when I say, worth every penny.
2) Kevin went to the LOL (League of Legends) Championship tourney which was hosted in the World Cup stadium and left him surrounded by hot chicks and nerdy nerds. I can’t speak much of it besides to say it honestly did look awesome (even though we’re supposed to be a DOTA-only family – blasphemous to even suggest otherwise! :))
The winning team (I love this picture).
3) We ate some pretty bomb street food. One of our favorites “egg bread” (Gyeran Bread) was right outside our hostel and was perfect for late night snacks…
Not street food – but a strange one just the same: Pig Trodders (feet) and Blood Sausage (and of course, Soju :))4) We hiked Mount Bukhan (a bit of it anyway). We were even given these fancy-dancy badges for our hike! (Due to security reasons, we had to check in with our passports and could not take photos towards North Korea (which was on our left side the whole way up). About 6,000 steps later, we made it.
5) We saw some super cool graffiti
6) There were exercise machines everywhere to help you walk off your dinner
7) We discovered Makgeolli (fermented rice wine); how to mix soju and beer AND that we could do all of the above right outside of 7-11 (or any other convenience store). For travelers on a budget, this was a pretty rad way of people watching and partaking in a delicious beverage!
8) Highlight or not (depending on who you ask) there was MEAT. and LOTS of it. Seen below: Mountainous (Sandeomi) Bulgogi (when it arrived both of those giant stacks of meat were on top of each other – and it was ONLY for us) – not to mention the 12 banchans that went along with it…..
9) Scary picture of all of us – but! We went to the Norjangjin Fish Market
10) And visited a few themed cafes (Dog Cafe, Banana Cafe, Hello Kitty Cafe)11) Grilled lots of fun things with friends (Phill and Jinnie were honestly the best tour guides ever)
13) THERE WAS A MINI PIG NAMED HAMLET AT OUR GUESTHOUSE
14) The streets were alive….with the sounds of viiideeoogammmessss
15) Besides the impressive subway, Seoul was a ridiculously walkable city. Cheonggyecheon was a 7 mile long paved trail that followed the river out to the river. It was full of artists and friends and lovers.
16) Top highlight: Phill was there, being all cool and shit.
17) We went to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and had a chance to stand in North Korea for a few minutes. I didn’t realize what a big deal it really was until we where there – surrounded by guards who are literally “on alert” 24 hours a day guarding the border. You can see the guards looking across to N. Korea and a guard on the N. Korea side looking back with binoculars at the S. Korean side. Pretty crazy. After checking out the Korean War museum, we had an opportunity to see where high-level military discussions happened on both the N. Korea and S. Korea side.
We had about 1 minute to take a photo towards the N. Korea side before our cameras had to be put away- here’s us with our badges.Table where mmilitarytalks are held.
18) I could run along the beautifully paved Han River
19) Did I mention we had a PIG?!
20) One day, Kevin and I got up and walked probably 15-18 km around the city (we had no idea where we were going short of we needed to get over a main bridge to check out a bridge river light show – which never happened) but we DID get to see this – pretty magical (although the pics don’t do it justice!)
21) Eating our way through the Tongin Market (with these cool little tokens!)
22) * Going to the AMAZING Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace and walking around the grounds (and awesome museum) and having our first glimpse of the fall colors
Other highlights not pictured (because I forgot my camera on multiple occassions 🙁 ):
* Having a dinner fit for a King (and Queen!) with Phill’s Dad
* Checking out the Flea Markets with Jinnie and Phill
* Dancing in Gangnam
* Eating squid in a PC Bang while Kevin played DOTA with his keyboard accidentally set in Korean
* Visitng the Ewha Women’s University
* Listening to K-pop in the grocery stores
* The girls kickin’ butt in pool in the wee hours of the night at the Blue Monkey
* And the list goes on….
Needless to say (again!) Korea, see you SOON.
At this point, sadly, I cannot remember what was posted or not, or what photos were shown, but the photos below are from our last few days in Delhi (well, Agra and area surrounding Delhi, anywyay :))
Visiting the Temple where Buddha gave his first speech on the 8-fold Path
When we got home from the Taj, I have never felt so sick in my entire life. After throwing up on my hair, I had quite a (quite uncharacteristically, I hope!) dramatic moment and chopped off a hunk of my hair with Kev’s kid scissors he used to make Japanese Kanji flashcards. Here I am (feeling much better, 3 days later) with much shorter hair (and a see-through shirt , as it turns out!)
Not sure what else there is to report from our last few days in Delhi. That said, minutes before leaving for the airport, I watched a woman get hit by a car turning her thigh into glue on the pavement. While many watched her scream, no one came to help her. After quite a bit of effort, I was finally able to secure a Tuk Tuk driver to take the woman to the airport (after the first 4 refused to put her in their vehicles.) I felt pretty shaken by the entire experience, but it was a reminder once again of the difficult lives that many Indians face on a daily basis. I know it is not from an unkind spirit that so many stopped to watched or refused to help this woman – I know that to be completely opposite from my experience during the last 1.5 months…I do think, however, that individual lives are truly so difficult on a day to day basis, it must be extremely hard to imagine taking on someone else’s pain or difficulty, when so many are struggling just to get by themselves. It was something that I had felt on numerous occasions while in India, but was never made more clear until our last night there.
At this point, it’s hard to remember just how we were feeling when we left, but I do remember the genuine sense of relief I felt when we finally entered the airport. India had, without question, rocked me to my core, and made me feel stronger and weaker as a person that I can ever remember feeling (especially in such a short period of time!). From the highs to the lows, the beauty and the filth, I could not be happier that we chose to travel here – I know I am better for it – and will be looking forward to the day when we have an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the scratch we left there.