This is our Asia diary – the day to day bits. The South America diary can be found here.
Yesterday we hiked to Tai Long Wan in rain so bad it destroyed the iPhone hidden in my zipped up pocket… a phenomenon apparently called “black rain”. Fun times. No photos because as mentioned, the phone in question was destroyed! BW
Had a fun time in Macau, whizzing around the major sights before ending up at Fernando’s beach restaurant for chicken and chips. The old town is quite pretty, reminiscent of Lisbon with nicely paved streets, old Christian ruins and colourful churches. Much of the city however is devoted to the Chinese gambling industry – huge casino hotels dominate the skyline and the tourism sector.
Wonder if it was more Portuguese before the handover to China in 1999? And what exactly is the Grand Lisboa meant to look like? BW
It’s a rainy day in Hong Kong, so we’re having a life admin day in a Sai Kung coffee shop. Not that the rain makes much difference, we’ve been wet the entire 5 days we’ve been here so far thanks to the extreme humidity!
We’re very grateful to be being put up my Uncle Mike and Aunt Diane for the first stint in HK, near the expat-friendly town of Sai Kung. So far, we’ve used the opportunity to visit the cinema (Detective Pikachu!), wander through Kowloon’s infamous markets, eat plenty of dim sum and try and get fit for the impending Ibiza wedding with plenty of walking. We’ve got plans to visit Stanley on HK island and take another hike to Tai Long Wan. Before that, we plan go to Macau tomorrow, mostly to sample some of the Portuguese/Asian fusion cuisine.
It’s good to be back. BW
Kyoto may be even more appealing than Tokyo. The old capital combines Japanese metropolis with old-world Gion and green outskirts. We’ve enjoyed the lot, but particularly Gion. This ancient district is the home of ryokans, temples and the Geisha, as well as backstreets full of dimly lit izikaya’s and gin bars (!!!), all concealed behind wooden facades straight out of The Last Samurai.
So we’ve been busy. We visited the huge bamboo forest to the west of the city. We’ve trekked up the famous Mt. Inari and through it’s alleged 32,000 vermillion gates. That was a bit otherworldly to be honest, and I have absolutely no idea how it was achieved.
We’ve walked down more backstreets than I can count to temples both tiny and grand, and spotted a couple of Geisha on their way to and from engagements.
Last night, after our first Katsu curry in Japan (how, only now!?) we treated ourselves to a gin bar visit. Japan excels in tiny, hidden bars with limited seating that somehow makes it feel more exclusive. A particular highlight was a cocktail featuring mushroom gin, soy sauce, sake and umami bitters. Genuinely tasty, though a little bit of a fungal aftertaste…
Today we’re off to Osaka for a night, taking us slowly closer to the airport from which we’ll fly to Hong Kong tomorrow. We’ve messed up a bit and the place we booked doesn’t allow check-in until 10pm, so we’re getting to sit in our Kyoto hotel lobby using their WiFi and toilets until they kick us out 🙂. BW
P.S. Before I forget, must also write about how when we went to the bamboo forest the other day, we bought some painted postcards from an old man who asked me where I was from and then started Irish dancing in front of his stall while professing how much he loved Enya! Then, later that night, when out for dinner, our server asked where we were from and told me he studied English at the Language Centre in Cork! Loving all the Japanese with Irish connections. LC
Two diary updates in one day. Spoiling our loyal readers… (hello, is anyone there?).
Mt. Fuji is closed to walkers until July. The snow and ice make it too treacherous to scale (even in June!?) but alas – today we did the next best thing and hiked neighbouring Shukiyashama. It only took a few hours to gain 700m of altitude, but the summit presented us with 360 degrees panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and of course, Fuji-san itself. I say of course – apparently we’ve been very lucky to get such clear views of a mountain considered elusive. Many people arrive and never see Fuji, as it’s covered in clouds the whole time!
Tomorrow we have another quintessentially Japanese experience – the Shinkansen bullet train is delivering us at speed to Kyoto. Sayonara for now. BW
P.s learned a Japanese proverb today, which goes something like “He who climbs Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs Fuji twice is an idiot”. Lovely stuff.
Arrived to the Mt Fuji area and it is beautiful! We got a bus from Tokyo yesterday and our host, Jun, picked us up. He runs a ryokan, a restaurant and a crystal shop/cafe in town that also has rental bikes. He lent us two for free and we headed off on a cycle around the lake to catch our first proper view of Mt Fuji.
Afterwards Jun brought us back to the ryokan, high up in the hills and told us a little bit more about himself. What a back story! Turns out he’s half-Irish, half-Japanese. His dad was a priest from Youghal in Cork, Ireland when he moved to Japan in order to administer the last rites to American soldiers fleeing Vietnam. He fell in love with a geisha and left the priesthood while his mum, left the world of geishas. He even has a slight Cork accent! LC
Happy birthday to me! And happy new diary. We’re in Tokyo, which I can happily say is one of the best cities we’ve visited so far. It’s clean, ultra-modern, interesting and the food is 👌🏻.
We’ve managed to fit in all of the major tourist activities in 2 days, which we regard as a major success. Mostly it’s been about sushi, gyoza and sake. But we’ve also visited a cat cafe, a temple, and the mad arcades of Akihabara. Tomorrow we head down towards Mt. Fuji and our traditional Ryokan accommodation! BW