And here’s another set, this time all from around Beijing. We have the summer palace, and more obligatory shopping stops, though I must say the night market boasted some pretty interesting looking food!
So we’ve finally got through the pics from our family holiday to China…
This was a tour package through Dynasty so while on the one hand you have to follow a set itinerary and the days are generally packed to the max, the good thing is that you don’t have to worry about meals, or planning a route. And, when the entire group is your own family, well, there’s just a lot more leeway for discussion. 😉
Gonna split this up into three posts, just because of the sheer number of pics.
(Unfortunately I wasn’t quite as diligent with my journal entries so you’ll have to excuse the lack of location information.. haha)
Ok, I’m gonna be a little lazy and throw you links to check out here. Simply because I covered two of the next places in my other blog and I don’t see the sense in repeating myself here. First, check out my tea ceremony experience in kyoto here. One of the most interesting experiences that definitely left an impression. I’d set a couple of days in Kyoto, and so took up a room in a local ryokan. This is not one of those luxury ryokans that pamper you to the nines and cost and arm and a leg, but rather a traditional room in a Japanese style home. Nicely upkept, and run by a sprightly old lady. (whose name I regrettably forget.) You get a Yukata to wear while in the ryokan, and of course, there is a traditional Japanese bath, and Japanese breakfast provided. Very good food! One thing to check out in Kyoto though, is the Manga museum.here. That was my one day trip out from Kyoto, and I definitely think it was well worth it. Cheap used records, and a cool cafe!
Nearly forgot to mention another Kyoto side-trip – Kibune. Supposedly famous for the restaurants suspended over the cool river. It’s quite a lovely place in terms of the scenery and surrounds, and you can see why it would make a great day out with the mountain springs and all, but not all the restaurants are open to solo diners, and well, they’re a little on the pricey side. I did end up eating at one of the restaurants there (and so got my floating platform dining experience), but it was honestly too crowded for comfort so I’d recommend going early if you intend to check it out.
Ok.. more catching up here. Seems like finding the time and energy to catch up on old posts is not something I’m doing very well!
Anyways, back to our Japan trip. I did a stop over in Tokyo for the sole purpose of seeing Mount Fuji. There was sunrise climbing tour on the japanican website, and it seemed to check all the right boxes. Meals, guide, get there by sunrise. Only thing was, finding accommodations in Tokyo for the 2D 1N period where I’d be climbing Mt Fuji itself. Most hotels were a bit pricey, so I decided to give a capsule hotel a shot – why not right?
It actually wasn’t too bad. I mean, facilities are all shared, so you really only pay for a bed – not a big problem as a guy and since I’d already become accustomed to bathing onsen style. (It’s actually really refreshing to soak in hot mineral water after a long day of exploring. Highly recommend it!) . The other nice thing is that they store all your luggage in their coat room. So everything is safely behind lock and key. You do get a locker to yourself, but they provide you with a set of pyjamas to sleep in, so you generally would check in, take a bath, then change into their clothes and leave your clothes in the locker for the night. (They’re cleaned by the hotel in their own laundry so it’s pretty safe as you’re getting a new set everyday) The one to note though, is that (at least in my capsule hotel), they make you check out every morning, and check back in in the afternoon – regardless of the length of your booking.
This means you’ll probably be sleeping in a different capsule each time, but also means they actually clean the place everyday I guess. The good thing is that if you have an extended booking, you can leave your luggage in their coat room and just take what you need for the day. In my case they had more than enough capsules to handle the crowd so it never was an issue getting a bed for the night, so I just went about my exploring as usual and came back at the end of the day to get a bed.
Something for solo travellers to consider perhaps?
Anyway, on to the main purpose of doing Tokyo – my Mount Fuji climb! Honestly, the trek up wasn’t as bad as the walk down. Mount Fuji is only open for climbing during summer, and you can fully see why when you’re coming down because the rocks and loose sand can be quite treacherous when dry; much less when wet or frozen! We left for Mount Fuji by coach in the morning, and arrived there about.. 1030am or so I would say.
The coaches take you up about midway and then you get about an hour to have lunch, pick-up last minute supplies etc before you start heading up. Oh, you’ll need a head-mounted lamp for the night bit, and warm clothing as it gets up to around sub-zero temperatures near the summit (especially because it’s the wee hours of the morning by then – sunrise, remember?), and a walking stick generally helps. I used my monopod, which seemed to work well in Gryon, and certainly served me well here, just that I needed to readjust the length every now and then.
Would I do the climb again? Well, probably not unless I had good company with me. I mean, it’s a once in a lifetime type of thing that I don’t think you need to do twice. Was it worth it? Definitely. Despite the fact that I was freezing my ass off at the summit, and I pretty much trashed my shoes with all the mountain sand and rock that got in on the way back. I think it was seriously memorable. And the stars you get at night there? Unreal. =)
Land of crazy shopping malls! (which are pretty much all linked by underpasses which are in themselves malls too) And also perhaps the biggest fireworks display I’ve ever seen, but overall if you’re an otaku, gamer or just a manga/anime fan, this is the place to be. Plenty of camera stores, and plenty of food. The Floating Garden Observatory at the Umeda Sky Building is worth a look t00. Especially if it’s a clear evening. You’ll get a great view and a fabulous sunset. Was a little foggy when I went up, but I couldn’t complain I guess.
I also happened to be in Osaka in time for the big fireworks festival for Obon, and it certainly was a sight to behold. Think close to 45 minutes of fireworks? Maybe longer? And these were some complex fireworks, with each burst lasting longer than the last! I think they shut the streets for the crowd maybe, but given the amount of people there, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising.
All in, worth the squeeze, but I’d pack a picnic basket with lots of drinks and snacks if I ever went again.
From the north west of Wakayama, I went down to the mountains in the south east. Specifically, Kudoyama 九度山 mountain.
Nice cool weather in the heat of summer! Also my first ryokan experience, though this was a local ryokan, not the luxury all-meals thrown in type. And, by sheer luck, I was the only guest there for most of my stay, so I think I actually got a larger room (they combined two) – i.e. one for sleeping, and a sitting room where I had a TV and table for meals. Plus, a very nice old housekeeper lady who made fantastic breakfasts!
But anyway, the main purpose for this part was to do more hiking through the mountains, and to enjoy the cool(er) weather.
And of course, I had to visit Mt Koya (高野山) , home of the world heritage site (Jisonin Temple), and plenty of other small temples. Nice and restful if you ask me. Reminds me of Gryon in the Swiss alps, just the cool weather thanks to the altitude, and the friendly people.
Of course, there was another stretch of the Philosopher’s path here, so I had to do that as well. But this time I kinda had company – a shinto nun was making the same trek it seems, and we would pass each other when we took breaks. With my limited Japanese I could just say I was a tourist on a hike, but unfortunately couldn’t quite make out if she was doing a pilgrimage or not. *shrugs*
And I have to mention the very interesting Soba place where I had my last dinner.
It specialises in Soba, so even the appetiser is Soba! Think I went there just before the dinner crowd came in, so I had pretty much the place to myself. Needless to say, the food was fantastic! They did ask if I would like more of anything else after I was done, but I honestly was too full to try for seconds. =)