Tag Archives: grand asia tour

Chiang Mai – A Town of Markets

12th July 2015

banner I was so stupidly excited for Chiang Mai. Every person we spoke to told us it was their favourite place on earth. After hearing similar things before arriving in Hoi An in Vietnam and falling deeply in love with the place , my expectation were sky high.

My first impression of Chiang Mai was that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I imagined small streets with lanterns hung on every corner, peaceful streets and quiet surroundings. This isn’t what we found, but it wasn’t nessesarily a bad thing.

chiangmai3 chiangmai6 The best way I can explain Chiang Mai to someone that hasn’t been there is , it’s town built to hold markets. Every single corner we walked around had a new set of canopied stalls selling all the clothing and trinkets a backpacker could ever need.

My disappointment that this little town was a lot more active and modern than first expected quickly dissipated when we were walking through the Saturday market. Locals playing instruments on our right , woman selling beautiful ornate jewellery on our left, and the delicious smells of Thai food all around us made me happy to have come to this little town.

I think the most surprising part of Chiang Mai was how modern it all felt . 7-11’s everywhere, modern trendy burger bars and fantastic health food shops are very common here. I suppose the fact that most travelers end up living here for a while has brought with it all the amenities from home. But I was expecting a little more. I was longing for the ‘old town’ as it’s named to have hidden secrets around every corner but everything looked very shiny and new.

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It seems that spirits love red fanta

That isn’t to say it’s not beautiful because it is. So much detail can be found on every building and even on the guard posts along the street. The temples, as always in Thailand, are a little bit bigger here, a little bit brighter and a whole lot more spectacular. We were extremely lucky to wander into the ‘City Pillar’ festival being held at Wat Chedi Luang Temple. Wat Chedi Luang is an incredible  temple on any day of the week but during this festival people from all over North Thailand come and leave flowers and donations at the temple . The town believe that all the souls of the past residents is housed in a central pillar contained inside the temple. People come and pray for rain and to thank the past residents for watching over them. Every inch of the temple was covered in about 4 foot of flowers  and people sang and danced through the night. The streets surrounding the temple also held a special week long market to celebrate the event (yes, another market). We were very lucky to experience the event. We’ll definitely remember it for a long time.

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Some fancy purple robes to help us get in the temple.

chiangmai2 chiangmai11 chiangmai12 The main problem I had with the markets was that we arrived on a Saturday so went straight to the Saturday market , which in our opinion is by FAR the best market.Unfortunately with no point of reference we didn’t realise this until the market was gone. I stupidly expected the Sunday market to be the same so I put off buying a lot of things and could I find the things again? Hell no. I will now sadly have to live life without a deathly hallows tank top…it’s a sad day.

The Sunday market was more food and craft based. I got to try my first mango sticky rice . It was amazing! I’d would cover everything in that coconut sauce they put on the dessert…I want to bathe in it ! chiangmai9 chiangmai14

chiangmai Apart from the Saturday market and the temples the only other thing you MUST do if you are in Chiang Mai is visit the lady boy show. It was cheap, you got a free drink and it was filled with a good two hours of fantastic entertainment. Those woman on stage were stunning and they were pulling dance moves that I dream of achieving. I even got a bit misty eyed when one of the ladies un-did her beauty routine to the song ‘My Way’.

chiangmai15 Chiang Mai is also the place we got to visit the ‘Happy Elephant Home’, which was so fantastic that I need to dedicate a whole post to it. I wish I could dedicate every post to it because I loved it so much but Lee feels that may be slightly excessive

Chiang Mai was definitely our days of activities. I think we did more excursions and trips than any other place. We also managed to squeeze in a cooking lesson on a rainy day and Lee learnt how to cook his favourite food..PAD THAI! I am excited to get him cooking all of these meals he’s learnt along the road, but he has already been checking what Australian Mc Donalds sells so that may not be for some time.

chiangmai7 chiangmai10 Overall we did like Chiang Mai. Would I say it was my favourite place in the world? Probably not but I did love the experiences I had there and I’d recommend a visit to anyone but just make sure you hit the weekend on your visit since the market was my favourite thing in the city. In fact after re-reading what i’ve written I’ve realised there was so much I loved about this place so the town probably just suffered from our expectations being unattainable. So maybe I should tell you all it’s awful so that when you arrive you all fall in love. Chiang Mai is a place you some how love more after you leave. chiangmai5 signature

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The Longji Rice Terraces of Guilin – China.

18th April 2015

banner If I had a bucket list of things to see on our trip in Asia then a trip to an incredible rice terrace would be high on the list. We looked at our options and the place that jumped to the top of the list every time was of course Vietnam, Sapa. We researched it a lot and since we were going to Vietnam it was do-able but it seemed to be becoming quite touristy and we would only be able to visit during a big national holiday that would see all of Vietnam and China descend on the hills so we did a little more digging and discovered a rice terrace just outside Guilin. The Longji Rice Terraces.

2 Longji translates as ‘The Dragon’s Back’ and it’s easy to see how it got it’s name. This ribbons of rice paddies were built back in the 13th century and spread out for as long as the eye can see.

The trip was, like all other excursions in Guilin, expensive. It came to 22 pound. We could have done it using public transport ourselves but it would have taken over 11 hours with buses and treking. This wouldn’t have been too bad but due to our break due to food poisoning we didn’t have the time to stay there so our one day excursion would have to do.

We were put on one of the only trips which was only Chinese tourists. This meant we only understood about 2 percent of what was happening but there were so many kind and lovely Chinese people on the tour that used their English skills to help us. It was great to meet so many funny and kind people in China.

The rice paddies were spectacular. The bus to get there was …ummm windy and bumpy. By the time we got to the top half the bus was being sick into bags but it really was worth it for this view.

8 10 We spent hours wandering to the top. Taking in the sights and listening to the locals setting off their ceremonial fire crackers for the national holiday that was happening the next day. The sound of the fire crackers echoed around the hills and filled the air with the smell of a British bonfire night. My friend from Hong Kong explained why they use the firecrackers. Apparently incense is ghost food. The ancestors eat the incense people burn but demons try to take it. To stop this they set off the fire crackers to scare away the demons.

9 We reached the top and had a traditional lunch in a tiny village among the Zhoung people. Rice steamed in bamboo and smoked ‘meat’ . I couldn’t get any more information than ‘meat’ but some of it was hairy so it’s probably best not to know.

7 We meandered back down the hill side chatting to the locals and taking a silly amount of pictures.

It was a long day but something i’m really glad we did. It felt like being back at home in Wales. Stood in a huge Welsh valley while at the same time it felt a million worlds away.

11 On the way back to Guilin the 4 hour bus trip was broken up with a stop off in a Zhoung village. We were introduced to the locals who only cut their hair once in their lives when they turn 16. They unwrapped their hair for us which trailed far behind them. Effortlessly they span it up onto their heads. They only wash it once every two weeks in special oils and it is said that they never go grey. We saw some pretty old ladies and I definitely want what they were having because that hair was silky smooth.

3 4 5 6 The traditional village did lose a lot of its splendor when after the traditional singing we were brought to the ‘traditional’ zip line. I can’t imagine it was a feature of the ancient Zhoung people but it was great fun.

Seeing the Longji rice fields was great and It was something off our Asia bucket list. A wonderful way to spend a day in China. I will now appreciate the rice on my plate a hell of a lot more. signature

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Two Days in Guangzhou

7th April 2015

banner China is somewhere that is so alluring. Surrounded in the myths and legends of the orient. It is the first country as a child that I thought of as a far away and unreachable place. I also love the food. These reasons are probably why Lee and I decided right away that we were going to add China to our itinerary. We had already been lucky enough to visit Beijing and Shanghai last year but we felt there was more exploring to do. We got our visas in advance before we left Korea (through this company) and started planning.

We knew we wanted to visit Hong Kong and we knew we wanted to visit Guilin, famous for it’s mountainous landscapes. Since we knew that we wanted to hit these two locations it made logical sense that we should start at the mid point between the two, Guangzhou.

I knew nothing about Guangzhou before I started researching it and unfortunately I still didn’t know much about the place after I researched it. It seems that Guangzhou isn’t the bloggers main destination. Instead of being disappointed by this , it peaked my interest.

When we arrived in Guangzhou it was 1am so we headed to the taxi rank. This should have been an easy task but the angry, shouting taxi drivers trying to convince us aggressively to ride in their illegal , un-metered taxi’s made it quite difficult. I steered Lee away from their zombie-like grasps and found the taxi rank. Illegal and rude taxi drivers are such a problem in Guangzhou that the government has set up an English helpline. If a driver refuses to take you somewhere, is rude to you or won’t use the meter you can phone this number ‘96900’ and report them by giving their license number. I thought this may just be an excessive precaution until we stepped off the taxi rank and were directed to a driver who started hurling abuse at us because he didn’t want to drive to foreigners. To say we were a little shocked was an understatement. Luckily we navigated our way to another taxi who took us to our hotel. It is good to know that taxi’s only take cash here (in case you are coming from Korea) and also that if you go through a toll you will get an additional receipt when you pay since it isn’t automatically added onto the the meter fee. Our toll only cost up 15p so don’t worry they aren’t extortionate or anything. It cost us 120 yuan to get to the city centre (about 12 pound).

We found our hotel which was a bit dodgy on the outside but had a large and comfy room. We rested our heads and dreamed of all the exciting things we would be getting up to the next day…that was until 6am when building work on the room next to ours started. A power drill a few inches from your head at 6am is not the welcome most guests hope for.

Guangzhou had not started on our good side.

We got dressed and headed out to the city. The first stop on almost all our visits to new countries is weirdly the seven-eleven. Lee and I always rush to see what exciting chocolate bars they have and what weird drink flavours we can find. This is an odd tradition but it is a great insight into the country.

The rest of the day was filled with us desperately trying to find the shrines and markets we had read about online. We weren’t very successful. All we seemed to find were run down shops and a million Mc Donald’s. At one point there were three separate Mc establishments in my field of view. It was a little excessive. Even for fast food lovers like ourselves.

We headed back to the hotel room disheartened and missing Japan with its efficient, clean roads and kind people …..BUT we were determined to not let Guangzhou beat us. The next day we hit the town with a renewed vigor.

We started the day by accidentally wandering to a local park that had old Chinese ladies practicing their fan dancing by the lake and the large centre point compass of Guangzhou at the heart of the gardens. After this we took in the Comic City shopping mall by Gongyuanqian (on lines 1 and 3) subway station full of kitschy teenager clothes and accessories. I had to be wrestled away from a few clothes bargains. Then we headed to Shangxiajiu street, a pedestrianized market area which had some nice small shops and delicious smelling markets.

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Lastly to finish off our day we went to the infamous Canton tower to take in the renowned rainbow lights. This was by far the best part of Guangzhou. The skyscrapers filled the air above us and Chinese traditional music filled the air. We walked along happily for hours until it turned dark and we were craving some deliciousness. This is when I forced Lee to experience something i’ve been trying to do for a while….we went to the Hello Kitty Cafe. I realise this is Japanese but we had one in Daegu , Korea that shut down the day I tried to visit. I vowed I’d enter it’s door somewhere. This pink powder puff of a place served lovely coffees and let Lee get in touch with his feminine side.

1 2 3 4 7 8 We headed back to the hotel happy and content, feeling we had made the most of our very short time in Guangzhou. It isn’t my favourite city by any means but it feels as though it’s ready to explode and become the second Shanghai. I’d be excited to return in 10 years and see what has been done with the place….but for now it’s not some where I’d be racing back to. 9 10

Bohol – Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers

28th March 2015

banner When Lee and I were planning our route through Asia all I had to do was mention ‘Chocolate Hills’ and Lee was on board. It was a few months later that I had to break the news to him that Bohol’s Chocolate Hills aren’t actually made of chocolate. But don’t worry too much because I cushioned the blow by telling him we could see these incredible creatures. 17

This Yoda looking creature is a Tarsier and it is native to the Philippines. Bohol has many places to view them but only one place is known as a sanctuary that looks after them the way they should be cared for so we knew exactly where to head.

We hopped on a boat in Boracay and after two planes with a mini stop in Manila in-between we were soon on Bohol and heading to the tiny island attached to it called Panglao. We hadn’t heard anything good about the beaches but since we had a few days in Bohol we thought we’d go and have a look anyway. We weren’t disappointed. The island was so interesting and animal’s definitely ruled the roost. Everywhere you looked there were cows, goats, roosters, piglets and so many puppies. We loved it. The houses were small and hand built. People were friendly with kids running up to us just to say hello. There were motorised tricycles stopping every few yards asking if we wanted lifts into town but nowhere near the amount we were harassed in Boracay.

7 8 We stayed in a great hotel called Hope Homes. It was about a twenty minute walk from Alona beach and only took cash but the people were friendly, there were lots of puppies and the rooms were big and clean.

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Lee what is your favourite thing about the trip so far? “Puppies”

5 9 Once we were settled in we headed to the beach. We hadn’t expected anything but Alona beach was lovely. Not very deep until the end of the beach but beautiful. I’d also recommend Bohol peanut kisses ice cream. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

2 3 4 6 The rest of our time on the island was allocated to hills and tarsiers so we set about finding the best way to view them. At this point I need to send you to this incredibly smart and funny blog post over at Globetrotter Girls that details how to get around Bohol better than I ever could. We were completely set on following these instructions to the letter that was until poor Lee had food poisoning. We still aren’t 100% sure what caused it but we are almost sure it was from a Filipino beef dish Lee ate that evening. The poor man was stuck in bed for 12 hours. Luckily we had thought ahead and bought lots of Imodium and paracetamol on the trip. I don’t know what we would have done without them because we were miles from a hospital. It took about 12 hours to feel human again which left us one last day to see the wonders Bohol had to offer. We ended up taking the hotels car to both the Tarsiers and the hills for a total cost of 2000 pesos since I didn’t want Lee bumping around on Bohol roads.

The Tarsier sanctuary you need to go to if you want to see them treated well is the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. You pay 50 pesos for a ticket and then drive up to the sanctuary. The floors inside are muddy so if its rained recently it would be a good idea to wear shoes instead of flip flops. The guide took us around the area asking us to be as quiet as possible. She answered all our questions and more about these incredible creatures. She also warned us that we may not see many tarsiers today. I know this sounds weird but this made me so happy because it meant the sanctuary was caring for them, letting them wander free and not doing this just for tourists. As it was we were very very lucky and saw three. Their huge sleepy eyes and tiny hands melted our hearts. 16 17 18 20

Facts about Tarsiers:

.They can live up to 30 years in the wild but live an average of 6 months in captivity. The ones in the Corella sanctuary that we saw were 10 and 20. One was about to give birth which is also un-heard of if they aren’t happy in their environment.

.The girls are lighter in Colour.

.They only have one baby at a time.

.They jump from tree to tree and have a extremely long tail to help them fly

.They eat insects

.They are very territorial and need a ache of space each. The baby will only be with the mother 6 months after its born then it must find it’s own space.

.Each of their eyes is heavier than their brain. They have the largest eye size (compared to their body) of all mammals.

There are also so many more that you can read here

 

We were both on a high when we left. It was only a 20minute tour if that to stop the animals being too disturbed but it was thrilling. Our next stop was those mysteries Chocolate Hills. It took us about two hours to get to the hills and once we arrived we decided to get the full experience and have a tour guide show us around the hills. We rode on a ATV while following the guide on a bike. It was 900 pesos which is expensive on our budget but we did travel a long way just to see the hills so wanted a little more than just the viewing platform. We didn’t regret http://smallandtalltravel.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpthe decision. It was thrilling riding around the hills and local area, waving at kids that ran along the road to greet us and seeing chickens crossing the road in front of is (the irony of this never got old in Bohol, no matter how many times I saw it) 19 21 22 24

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Chocolate Hills or ‘Booby Hills’ as Lee liked to call them

After our ride we paid the 50 pesos and headed to the top. It is a steep staircase and some older people were struggling with the walk so if you aren’t use to walking up hills make sure you take your time and some water. Lee and I aren’t exactly fitness fans and we still did ok. It isn’t a long walk and only takes a few minutes of stairs to get to the top. 12 14 23

At the top you could see the majestic hills as far as the eyes could see. We poses for photos and were in awe at the damaged surrounding the hills caused by an earthquake two years earlier. It was terrifying to see the power of nature but humbling to also see the beauty it creates. There are lots of myths and legends surrounding the hills such as:

“a giant named Arogo who was extremely powerful and youthful lived in Bohol. Arogo fell in love with Aloya, who was a simple mortal. Aloya’s death caused Arogo much pain and misery, and in his sorrow he could not stop crying. When his tears dried, the Chocolate Hills were formed.”

Really they are made of limestone and sit on a hard clay base. Many fossils of coral and small marine animals have been discovered within them leading scientists to believe they were once under water. They are named the chocolate hills because in the summer the grass disappears to reveal the brown mud. Whatever the origin, they were great to see and worth the trip for us.

10 25 Overall we loved Bohol, despite the food poisoning, it was beautiful, humble, friendly and interesting. I can see it becoming more and more touristy though which is a shame. I hope it can hold onto its charm for as long as possible.

 

 

 

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Boracay – The Philippines – Day 1

19th March 2015

banner We are here! We finally made it to sunny Boracay*. It took us 6 trains, 3 planes, 3 buses,a boat and 38 hours but we are here. And wow was it worth it . The beaches here in Boracay are stunning, a turquoise blue shade that makes its way to navy on the horizon. With pure white beaches as an accompaniment. Boracay is a very ‘party’ island with a lot of people trying to sell you deals. I wish I’d printed a t-shirt that says ‘no I don’t want to buy an island hopping tour’, but its still lovely. The crazy party atmosphere is always welcome when you are expecting it. 5 12

Our first day was spent sleeping off the mental trip to get here and exploring. It’s quite a small island and we walked the length of the beach in an hour or two.We filled up on some self indulgent burgers, which to my happy surprised were covered in mountains of Cheddar cheese and wandered until happy hour began. 1 6 9 10 11 I am really excited because a friend from Korea is also here so I need to track her down and force her to dance the night away with me. I am amazed that we didn’t bump into each other yet because Boracay is so much smaller than I thought. But after a crazy few, cold months of organising and packing it’s great to be in a lively area where the only things to do are relax, drink and drink some more. 4 7 8

*If you read my previous post about our re-direct Jetstar flight then here’s a quick update, so we waited a long time but it was too late to fly to Manilla, which closes at night so Jetstar gave us an allowance for food and for a hotel. We have kept all our receipts and been promised they will pay so I will let you know if it all goes to plan. Fingers crossed!

 

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Nara – oh Deer oh Deer

17th March 2015

banner Oh Nara, you beautiful little place you. I’m not going to lie to you all, we went to Nara for one reason and one reason only….Deer. We love animals and any excuse to be close to them – when they are treated fairly – is a good with us. 19
Nara is a small city on the outskirts of both Kyoto and Osaka. Many hundreds of years ago it was the old capital of Japan. Deer are a sacred and lucky animal so this area of Japan has never hurt or hunted them, subsequently the deer roam free around this beautiful small place. 9 18
We hopped on a train and after only a few minutes we had our first deer sighting.
At first we thought it was a statue since it was so still but we soon realised that this creature just inches from us was real. Our eyes adjusted to see all the deer littering the path ahead. People were selling food at 150yen per 5 rice cakes and we bought quite a few. The deer were friendly but not above giving you a little ‘butt’ for attention. 1 2 3
The most impressive thing about the deer was their bowing skills. Yes, they bow! They have learnt that bobbin their head gets you to feed them. It’s stupidly impressive and we were suckers for it. 12 13 16 50
We didn’t just see deer in Nara. We also saw the largest sitting bronze Buddha in the world which was incredible . It was a little pricey to get in but well worth it (I think it was 600 yen) . The most bizarre part of the day (yes, more bizarre than frolicking with deer) was queuing up to crawl through a hole. In one of the pillars of the shrine is a small hole that can barely fit a human. It is said that crawling through this pillar will being you luck and love for life. Since I am the small one in this team I decided it was my job to have a go. I was sure I wouldn’t fit but I huffed and puffed my way and within seconds I was through. It was a weird way to spend an afternoon but a fun one. 5 6 8 15
We strolled the parks of Nara and the alleys full of shops and headed back to Osaka.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trip but I really enjoyed the place and would recommend this day trip to anyone. It was a quiet area so I’m not sure we could have found things to do for more than a day but if you want some peace and quiet this is the place to go. 14 11 signature

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Osaka – Running men and Rainy Days

16th March 2015

banner So today Lee and I flew out of japan…and then flew back an hour later. Our flight to Manilla was turned around after a faulty windscreen wiper of all things. It is better to be safe than sorry of course but a missed connection flight and a hotel we have to pay for that we won’t use is annoying on a tight budget like ours. Jetstar don’t have a great reputation for paying people compensation but we can only wait and hope they will help us, if we ever get to Manilla that is.
On the plus side,I get to type to you lovely people.
So what have we been up to for the last few days? Osaka and Nara is what we’ve been up to.
I was very excited to find Lee did to know much about Osaka so I got to show him the bright lights of Dotonbori that I’d heard so much about. Including of course the Osaka ‘running man’. Dotonbori is the restaurant, shopping and bar hub of Osaka. Streets and streets of the weird and the wonderful.

sorry...had to do it

sorry…had to do it

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We accidentally stumbled upon Kurmon Ichiba market where we filled up on Tempura and Takoyaki (octopus balls) and we had a few drinks in Minami (very very near Dotonbori) in a bar called ‘Bar Moon Walk’ where after you pay the 400 yen cover charge all drinks are 210 yen ,which in Osaka is a great deal.My favourite was a Sake concoction called ‘Welcome to Japan’…very fitting.

1 We took in some culture on a rainy day and saw the legendary Osaka castle and wandered the museum inside. It was impressive and a little bit scary to imagine the battles that had taken place on that very ground. It was a horrible day but the castle did cheer it up a bit. On the bright side it also meant every shrine and temples were empty.
If Kyoto is the quiet , refined part of Japan then Osaka is the loud local who lives to run around and get things done. Compared to Tokyo Osaka feels lived in.
If I was to come to Japan again I think I may give Osaka a miss, not because it’s not beautiful but it is a functional city and we did a lot in 2 and a half days. We did also got to squeeze in a half day trip to Nara but the sheer loveliness of that place requires a whole post to itself.
As I write this we are still no clearer if we will ever leave Japan, but as much as I hate this airport right now (where are the cheap fast food places??? ) I loved Japan and we are already planning our return.

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Kyoto – Day 2 – Geishas, Monkeys & a Forest of Bamboo

4th March 2015

banner Today was a day we’ve been waiting for. Today we visited the Bamboo forest in Arasiyama and the Arasiyama Monkey Park (Iwatayama).
Lee, who has dubbed our holiday ‘The Great Monkey Marathon’ loves animals but monkeys and apes in fact all simians are his favourite.
We set off from Kyoto station to the Saga Arashiyama station via the JR line . Once we hopped off the train there were signs everywhere so even we didn’t get lost, and soon enough the towers of bamboo were in front of us.

11 12 kyoto2_7 The bamboo forest was fantastic. Towering stalks that filled the area with the smell of wood and greenery. When the wind blew we could hear the wood gently knocking all around us…that and Lee singing ‘The old bamboo’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which we realised we only knew one line too.  It was fantastic. The tourists around did detract from the peace and calm but we went quite early and avoided huge crowds. It was free to enter, which helped our puny budget. kyoto2_8 kyoto2_9 kyoto2_10
Then it was over the magnificent river to the monkey forest. On the walk to the forest we had to pause and  take in the sights. This place really is stunning. Many Japanese people seem to come to visit Kyoto to experience the traditions and a lot of them wear the traditional Kimonos. It’s great to see them dressed up everywhere. These three girls asked us if we wanted to take a pictures of them and we jumped at the chance. They also wanted pics of us with them but for the life of me I have no idea why. I’ve talked to people who live in Korea who worry about visiting Japan because it could be ever so slightly similar but I can’t explain how different these two countries are. If you are in two minds, ignore the doubt and come now! Especially to Kyoto. 15 17
All this excitement was had even before we scaled monkey mountain , which is a little steep to start with but not a very long walk at all. I think older people would be ok if they did it slowly and wore trainers… if Lee and I can do it, anyone can.
Our first glimpse of a monkey was when it was on the path up ahead. It was so close. We sat for far too long, just excited to be near them. When we actually made it to the top viewing area we were surrounded by these lovely cute creatures. In the feeding room we bought some apples and peanuts for 100 yen (about 50p) and expected the money’s to grab and attack for the food but they were patient and kind. Just touching their soft little hands to feed them was thrilling. After about an hour or more we forced ourselves down the mountain both agreeing it was one of the best things we’d ever done. Lee didn’t steal a monkey but I can see he was tempted.

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We only had the two sights we really wanted to see, which left us lots of time to wander and discover. We headed back into Kyoto city and stumbled upon a restaurant just outside the Kawaramachi station. It was called ‘Mr Young Men’ and their cook filled our bellies with ramen and Takoyaki (octopus ball covered in egg). Before coming to Japan Lee swore he hated Japanese food. I tried many times to convince him he just needed to try it. Luckily he dipped his toe into the Japanese food bonanza and now I think I’ll never get him back out of the pool of Takoyaki and Teriyaki. 14

Once we had rolled ourselves out of there we found ourselves on Pontocho alley. Famous for Geishas and its old history rooted in the nightlife. It was just after dusk and although in the back of my mind I was hoping to spot a Geisha on the backstreets I knew that the chances on a Wednesday were slim…but just up ahead we saw two beautiful ladies who stood out from all the lovely Japanese tourists wearing their kimonos. In front of us was two elegant Maiko or apprentice Geisha’s. I could have taken a photo but it was such a great moment that I just watched them with Lee. I have seen online how much they are hounded and I didn’t want to be one of those people. They seemed to see the camera around my neck and nodded in appreciation, but then again that could just have been in my tiny excited mind.

13 16 So that was our day. Filled with Monkeys, Bamboo and Geishas in Gion. I am not sure we could have had a more Japanese day if we tried. Tomorrow we are planning on a trip to the Fushimi Onari-taisha shrine (or the orange gates to anyone who is clueless like I was until I just looked up the name on Google)

I am shocked that I have managed to write two days in a row but this jacuzzi bath in the hotel makes it very easy to find reasons to relax and write. Let’s see how long I can keep this up…

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Kyoto – Day 1 – Jacuzzis and Squid

3rd March 2015

banner Well we did it. After a few crazy weeks that have melted into a blur of to-do lists and organisation we have finally left Korea. Once we worked our last days in our offices and received some lovely gifts we had to move out of our little flat and become homeless, jobless bums for a few days. Luckily we have a good group of people who put us up for a few days. Days  filled with house wine and slumber parties.
Then it was a serious of teary goodbyes, some of which took places at a train station platform which was heart wrenching while others took place at the airport while boarding our flight. I’ve never waved goodbye to someone as I walked onto a plane, as expected it was bitter sweet. I have been annoyed at myself for the last two years because while saying goodbyes to people I haven’t cried. I cry just thinking about the first few minutes of UP so it is especially weird when I didn’t cry watching my best friends walk away. I have had a stone in my stomach and felt horrible but tears refused to fall. That was until I sat down on the plane and two years of happy memories overwhelmed me. I listened to the songs we had all become use to and made my own special montages with my memories. Jeez, we have been lucky in Korea.
But now we are moving on to a crazy new adventure, and this adventure happens to start in Japan. We are currently sat in our bizarre hotel in Kyoto which can only be described as a weirdo’s sex den. We found a really cheap room through booking.com at the Grand Fine hotel that had a Jacuzzi bath and was well situated so we couldn’t say no. What we discovered when we arrived was that the hotel had written the line ‘not a family hotel’ on the booking form for a reason. A phone in the room to shout for call girls, a special refrigerator to buy lingerie and a ‘back massager’ were all part of the deal…oh also did I mention we have a full size slot machine, a wall projector and KARAOKE in the room?!? I am not complaining. There are certain things in the room I will not be touching but the price fitted and the fun of it all is surely what everyone expects when coming to Japan , and I mean that in the best way possible. kyotoday1_1 kyotoday1_2 kyotoday1_10
After a bumpy ride with Peach air we got the JR to Kyoto and explored the area. We had our first taste of Okonomiyaki, which is a fried batter, cabbage and squid. We also added some pork to be sneaky.  It’s sweet and delicious. A new favourite for us both. This was accompanied by the ever popular Yaki Soba noodles. Our bellies are happy. kyotoday1_3 kyotoday1_4 kyotoday1_5 kyotoday1_7
We didn’t venture out tonight since sleeping on friends floors has taken it’s toll but tomorrow it is a bright new day filled with temples, monkeys and bamboo forests….and hopefully more okonomiyaki. The rest of my night is Jacuzzi baths, fruit beers and keylime pie cheesecakes. Japan I’m never leaving! kyotoday1_8 kyotoday1_9
So its さようなら from us (or sayonara/goodbye if like us you don’t speak a lick of Japanese) . I would love to promise I will write on here every day but we all know thats not true but I will try my best to keep you updated (Hi Mum) and so that I don’t let those little memories run away from me. I have the memory of a gold fish with amnesia.

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