Fuji & Kyoto

After Tokyo I went to Fuji via bullet train. As my luggage is tiny, I straight away bought a bus ticket up the mountain to go around the lakes. Well, it well and truly pissed it down for at least twelve hours; with a laptop and kindle in my bag there was no way I was going to risk getting them wet. And once at the last bus stop, I found out that there was no bus downhill for four hours. Marvellous.

The next day I went to Kyoto. One thing that I have to say about the transport system, in particular the Metro, it is so confusing with private railways. I was confused enough on my first day in Tokyo but Kyoto has been on a whole new level and is actually better to get around via bus.

Green tea and tofu ice cream…

I ended up going to a temple that I can’t remember the name of then went off to the Fushimi-Inari shrine. Since arriving in Australia, I have picked up a fair bit of the Australian-English: I find it difficult to say ‘yoghurt’ like you would in England even after having a good think about how to say it; I swear a fair bit more if anyone thought that’d be possible and I say ‘heaps’ despite spending my whole first year taking the piss out of it. The only way to describe the amount of people there would to say there were heaps, and I think the amount of people ruins it a bit.

Yesterday, I went to Nijo Castle – not too sure about the history of it but it was pretty cool. I spent an hour or so there and in the gardens before going to the Kinkakuji Temple, or if like me you can’t remember the name – the Gold Leaf Temple. It is one of the things that you have to see for yourself – definitely one of my favourite travel pictures, but like Fushimi-Inari, there are too many bloody people. I then intended to get the bus back to the station, but it stopped at a train station that connected with the JR Line to the Bamboo Grove, which was nice to talk through.

For dinner I went to Gion as it’s meant to have some bloody good food. I was knackered and just wanted a bowl of ramen for £2, but the restaurants were charging around £20 for a meal. Instead, I stopped at this restaurant that had a big line outside and an open kitchen with one thing on the menu. It was a tempura pancake filled with food that I either don’t like (egg, shrimp) and food that I have no idea what it was. It was actually pretty tasty.

This morning I went to Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. It was alright but I’m pretty over temples, having to take my shoes off and dealing with big crowds, but this one provided a nice view over Kyoto, despite being way too crowded. It was quite a trek to get there – a 30 minute walk, a fair bit of it being uphill, in 30 degrees.

Expectations vs reality

After getting to Kyoto station, I somehow navigated the trains to get to Nara – famous for having a deer park and a few more temples, and it’s quite a nice place to walk around.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Tokyo for one night and then I’m back to Melbourne. It’s been quite a nice trip, I think it’s what I needed after the shit time I’ve had over the past couple of months, and I’m going back home where it can only go uphill from where I left off.

A lot of people speak of Tokyo as though it’s the place you go to, then you compare it to everywhere else you go. For me, that doesn’t work out as I feel as though Tokyo is just a crazy version of London which is more or less what I’m used to. From now, every place I go I’m sure that I will compare it to Budapest. Kyoto has been nice, there’s a lot to see and do, but I feel as though a lot of it has had a negative impact due to tourism. A lot of places here are UNESCO World Heritage sites, yet it seems as though a lot of people go to these sites without having the respect for what they are seeing. For sure, I’m glad that I came here but feel as though it’s somewhere to go with someone else.

Tokyo: Days Five and Six

Had a pretty chilled couple of days. Yesterday, I went to Mirakan and got inside this time – I saw the famous little robot in action which is pretty cool to see, another which is borderline creepy and got to step onto a spacecraft. As a whole, the museum is pretty interesting but gets a bit boring when it comes to the physics exhibit.

After, I popped to Akihabara again and looked around the shops – floors and floors of anime and various character toys. Also went to a massive electrics shop, straight to the toy section – most of my time was spent in the Marvel and Pokemon sections. After, I went to one of the arcades with six or so floors and played heaps of games – probably threw £10 at least away, but it was fun.

There’s a few travel blogs that I follow, and every time I visit somewhere new I always check them out before as someone has already been there. One of the recommendations was to go to the basement in Asakusa main station and try some sushi – it’s such a popular station, but I did not see another white person eating. I ended up in a small restaurant, being served sushi by someone who spoke no English which was pretty neat. In the past, I’ve never really had fish sushi unless it’s salmon as I’m pretty sure that I can’t stomach it too well and I was right – I can handle glass after glass of wine (or I like to think so) but I can’t handle mouthful after mouthful of fish. Truth be told, that’s the way I’d prefer to keep it.

Afterwards, I headed to Shinjuku and went to the park there, via a 7-11. There’s this thing, and I’m not too sure if it’s just a backpacker thing or just everyone in general, but in Asia you should go and pick up something strange from there and try it out. You can get whipped cream and berry sandwiches here, but I opted for this green tea dessert and it was so gross it was fascinating. It was a green tea jelly stuffed with whipped cream and dusted with green tea powder, and had the consistency where you had to slurp it to eat it.

This evening, I had a ticket for the Robot Restaurant – pretty pricey, but well worth it. Just sat there wondering what on Earth was going on for an hour or so; it just gets to the point where you wonder if it can get any weirder and then it well and truly does. For dinner, I didn’t actually eat at the restaurant because I’ve heard that it’s not worth it so instead I opted to go to Golden Gai, had some Karaage chicken which was pretty good as well as a few other snacks, before heading back to the hostel.

Tomorrow, I should be off to Fuji for a day before heading to Kyoto for the rest of the trip, before nipping back to Tokyo to get the flight back. I’ve heard a lot about Tokyo being out there and just crazy which is the opinion of people who haven’t lived in a big city. For me, it has been a lot like London – nothing that I can’t handle, just a bit more crazy, though with that said I have enjoyed it.

In hindsight, I probably should have rested a few days from work before coming here, or just not have had such a crazy night when I left work as I have found myself very tired over the past few days. This trip so far has been the reminder that there is more to life than work and my priority should be just having a good time and not worrying about text messages or phonecalls about bloody microherbs on my days off.

Tokyo: Days Three and Four

Over the past couple of months when I’ve had two days off work in a row, I’ve slept for at least 30 hours over two days and can really feel my body just wanting to do that. I’ve tried to power through, but the past couple of days I have really felt it so haven’t really done a lot.

Yesterday, I started the day at Tsukiji Fish Market. I really had my hopes up for it being great, but had seen better markets whilst travelling through Europe – La Boqueria in Barcelona, for example. It was alright, but nothing spectacular, so I moved onto try and find some sushi in Ginza but couldn’t find anything that I was up for. Instead, I found a conveyor belt restaurant but have had better in Sushi Hub on Swanston Street in Melbourne CBD.

I then went to Akihabara, walked past the worlds biggest sex shop and popped in for fifteen minutes or so – couldn’t really help myself, then went through the electric city. When you’ve seen one shop, it’s kind of all the same, so feeling underwhelmed, I went back to the hostel for a nap.

During the evening I went to Tokyo Tower. I was under the impression that it would be surrounded by places to eat, like you would find in Europe, but apparently not. I found a place round the corner that did food in a Japanese tapas kind of style which was great. I also wanted to have a look around Shibuya during the night but as it was raining I just picked up a bowl of ramen.

Today,  I went to Miraikan, supposedly an insane science museum. I say supposedly because it was shut, so I’m going back there tomorrow. I went to the Imperial Palace after which was nice to look at but didn’t really fancy going on a guided tour of the grounds as I was wearing all black and it was bloody hot.

When I returned back to my bed/drawer and had a google as to what I could do this evening, though I had already decided that I would mainly chill out. On google, I found a restaurant that specialises in Onigiri (rice balls, or rather, triangles) which is Tokyo’s oldest Onigiri restaurant. To be honest, as someone who has been known to be late to work because I can’t find a matching pair of shoes, and someone who struggles to find the combination of phone/purse/keys, it is one of the great mysteries of the world as to how I found it. It seemed as though they don’t regularly have people from western culture in, and the sushi I had there was bloody good.

Tomorrow, I’m planning to go to Miraikan and actually get inside this time, then not too sure what I’m doing afterwards. On Thursday, I’m going to end my trip with a visit to the Robot Restaurant and have my mind blown in a ‘did I really just witness that’ way.

Tokyo: Days One and Two

A few things that I’ve missed about England: proper bacon, not having to work on a farm to be there and of course, Nando’s. I found out that the international terminal at the airport has a Nando’s; I’ve walked past a few in Melbourne CBD but not really bothered as I’ve heard that it’s not the same. If I flew into Australia and that was the first thing I’d eat, I’d consider not leaving the airport and getting a flight out of the country, it was that bad.

The flight to Tokyo was just under ten hours long. I was pretty knackered as I hadn’t really slept well for two weeks prior to coming here; some of it self-inflicted, some of it from working two six-day weeks back to back. Despite having a baby sat in front of me, I managed to watch a movie and slept for the rest of the flight.

First impression of the country was spectacular. As my back is buggered I only brought my work bag and am just going to do my laundry two or three times whilst I’m here, all I really need is clothes and toiletries which fit pretty easy into the bag. The customers officer let the five or so people in front of me go pretty easily, but when it was my turn started asking about my luggage and how long I’m here for, then took out a folder with pictures of drugs and bars of gold, asking if I was carrying any of that on me. Of course, I wasn’t, but I wasn’t too sure whether or not to be offended or amused.

I’m staying in a capsule at the moment which is pretty cool, although technically is a dorm bed/glorified drawer. It took ages to get to as the metro here is hard to get to grips with, but after arriving and freshening up I headed towards the Sensoji Temple, first getting some food and having a look at some of the shops. The temple itself is alright, it just seems that the meaning of it has been lost and caters mainly for tourists. I did, however, take a fortune telling where you pay 100 yen to shake a box of sticks and one comes out a small hole, assigning you a drawer to pull a fortune out of. Naturally, a combination of figures assigned me to the drawer that I was supposed to open so I’m hoping that I’m not dyslexic in Japanese.

After, I looked through the market then headed to Shibuya, around half hour away on the metro. By this point I was absolutely knackered, so had a quick look around and decided that it was time for a nap. After, I headed for some food – a ramen shop next door which was bloody good. I don’t know who made the rules here – it’s illegal to smoke walking down the street, but the woman in the restaurant can have a crafty smoke whilst doing her job. After I walked back to the temple then returned to bed.

On the way to Harajuku, I stopped at the Meiji Shrine, it’s nice but just like the Sensoji temple, just seems to have lost its meaning a bit.

After, I went to Harajuku which is like Camden Market on steroids. I didn’t take pictures whilst I was there as it’s pretty much a lot of shops. However, there is this one thing called purikura, where you go into a themed photobooth of your choice with your mates (or not in my case) and you just pose for a picture as some models do on the screen. The Japanese girls were looking at me like wtf – it probably is something that I wouldn’t have done a year ago but I just thought it’d be funny so I did it.

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I went back to Shibuya after to experience it, this time not trying to stay awake. First, I had some ramen at a restaurant where you place your order on a machine, then gave the ticket to a staff member who brought the meal to me. Pretty tasty.

There seems to be this thing with arcade games and there’s heaps of arcades here; it is a bit uncomfortable being in the room with so many people being so into losing their money but I guess whatever makes them happy. I went into one with claw machines and so narrowly didn’t win a prize – it was hanging onto another toy by just its tag.

I went to Ueono, then off to Shinjuku afterwards to see what the fuss is about, and it’s just like any other place in a big city with heaps of lights. I ate in a few restaurants, had some gyoza, fried chicken, and the name of the meat on sticks I can’t remember. I managed to end up in a restaurant in an alleyway that had room for just the bar and some seats with a tiny BBQ.  Here’s some obligatory food pics:

Tomorrow, I’m off early to the fish market and will probably end up having a sushi breakfast, then off to Akihabara, and from there will decide what to do for the rest of the day.

Chinese New Year: Hong Kong

The flight to Hong Kong was almost ten hours long from the Gold Coast. It wasn’t too interesting, though I spent the best part of half hour wandering where in Asia Equator is on the flight map, only to realise it is the Equator. Once the plane had landed and after grabbing my backpack I cashed some money and ended up having quite a good laugh at the cash machine – the reference on the receipt was ‘P00000.’

There’s a couple of reasons why I came here: firstly, I’ll be going on another big trip (yes, big trip #3) when I leave Australia which will be to Asia, and I also wanted to experience Chinese New Year. The parade in Hong Kong has been compared to the likes of the parades in Rio, but I really did not feel as though it was great – it seemed like a big advertisement for a few companies. The fireworks were pretty good though.

One of the things that is important for me when I go away is food, and if my third year in college had prepared me for anything, it is having a bloody good go at a Chinese buffet. This trip started and ended with visits to Michelin Star restaurants – Tim Ho Wan at the start and One Dim Sum at the end. The only experience I have with Michelin Star food is working and not eating; I’ve worked a four week placement at an incredibly famous three star restaurant in England and I worked at another restaurant that I’m pretty sure was trying for one.

Dining out was awkward at first as I had to share a table with three Chinese people who I didn’t know and had people shouting Chinese around/at/to me, but as the days progressed I realised that it is just the norm. At Tim Ho Wan I ate BBQ pork buns, beef balls with bean curd and vermicelli rolls stuffed with beef which was all amazing, and at One I ate fried dumplings, pork dim sum, steamed chicken and rice and mango custard filled rolls. After eating at One to say that I felt as though I was expecting at least twins would be an understatement. I had also tried chicken feet and whilst there were far, far too many bones, they were surprisingly alright.

On the first day I went to Tai-O, a small fishing village which was definitely worth a visit – the only day with a blue sky too. Later on in the week I visited the Big Buddha and walked up to the top of the Peak, both of which were incredibly foggy. I also visited some temples: Temple of a Thousand Buddhas, Fung Yin Seen Koon,  Wong Tai Sin and Chi Lin Nunnery. Chi Lin was the one I preferred as it was nice and quiet.

My fortune was read a couple of times at Wong Tai Sin – the first one w88as read by a lady who had a thick accent so it was hard to understand though she told me that instead of going home from work and going to bed, I need to go out instead. I found it quite amusing that I was pretty much told to go out on the piss, which is advice that I am definitely taking. The second one I was told that I have problems with my heart because of a mark on my hand – it’s actually ink from when I put a lid on a pen without looking nine years ago and got the pen stuck in my hand.

There’s also quite a few night markets: Temple Street and Ladies Markets were alright but just filled with shit that no one needs. I did manage to haggle $50 (£5/AU$8) off a scarf to replace the one that went MIA in Sydney, and I also saw a man with a stack of stainless steel bowls on his head, adding to the stack by using his feet to flip them up. The goldfish market I felt was incredibly cruel – fish were in bags that had less space than your average studio flat in London, and there were heaps of just-hatched turtles crammed into washing up bowls for sale, in the street. I’m not claiming to be a marine life activist just because I’ve snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, but these animals should be out in the wild and worth more than just a price tag.

During the rest of the trip I saw the light show at Kowloon Harbour which wasn’t great and besides that, I didn’t do much else. I definitely spent a couple of days too many here, but with a lot of places shut it made up for it. It’s confirmed that I am comfortable by myself in an Asian city so I’m looking forward to planning next year’s trip: not going to go into too much detail, but I expect that I’ll be starting from Taipei or Seoul, into China and working my way down towards the south east.

I just went to duty free in the airport, was really, really looking forward to stocking up with whiskey again. It’s just over two litres of spirits that you can bring into Australia. With a huge bottle of Jameson, I walked towards the till and got stopped on my way there. Apparently, it’s illegal to bring alcohol into Australia from Hong Kong which in my opinion is bollocks. I’m just hoping that the three packs of Percy Pigs that I bought in M&s over here will be allowed.

This will probably be my last (interesting) post for a bit. After an eleven hour flight tonight I have a 24+ hour bus ride into Queensland, where I will be completing 88 days of work on a farm in order to obtain my second year visa in Australia. After that I will be going to Bali as I expect I’ll be needing a holiday, then moving back to Melbourne where at some point I’ll be squeezing a trip to Japan in.

2016: A Round-Up

Almost eleven months ago, I boarded a one way flight from England to Malaga. Without a doubt, those five months turned into the best experience I’ve ever had.

I started off with the best country: Spain. I ate some food that stands out as some of the  best that I have ever eaten, I loved most places that I visited and I learnt a fair bit of the language that I’ve probably forgotten by now. Las Fallas Festival was well worth seeing, though I could quite happily not deal with the chaos for a while! I can see myself, once I’m finished with long-term trips, staying in Spain for a bit and trying to learn the language.

Italy was also a good one for the most part; whilst Rome wasn’t to my liking and Pompeii was alright, Venice and Florence I liked, and I definitely can’t forget Milan. I pressed the wrong button and ended up with a flight there instead of Venice, though I can’t moan after eating the best pizza I think I’m ever going to eat.

A few other places are worth a mention – Budapest, my favourite city in the world (so far). Liked it so much I went twice, loved the thermal baths, food, hostel and general feel of the city. I stayed in a great hostel in Prague, enjoyed re-visiting Berlin and exploring Porto. I’m pretty sure I’m still burning off the calories of the Franceschina that I ate. Oh, and I also saw Beyoncé.

I could go on for days about my trip to Europe. Next came Singapore, which gave me my first feel for Asia, and has left me wanting to see more. I did perhaps the most dangerous tour of a city that I could ever do, ate so much good food that it warranted two lunches and/or two dinners some days as well as seeing a culture that wasn’t too familiar to me.

What I was looking forward to the most about this year was Australia, and it’s been alright; besides the friends that I made,  nothing has really stood out compared to my other trips. The East Coast is almost over, then after a week long trip, I’ll be back in Australia working on a farm for my second year visa. I have a good feeling that after this week, the trip will pick up a bit and I’ll be very, very busy.

What will I be up to in 2017?  Firstly, I’ll be at the Australian Open in Melbourne, before going to Hong Kong for Chinese New Year… I’ve only mentioned it a few times! I’ll then be doing my farm work, and when it’s over I will put my feet up for a couple of weeks. Then, I’ll be back at work for up to six months, saving  up my money again for some more trips. Japan is definitely on the cards, and I may go somewhere else. I honestly don’t see myself finishing the two years in Australia, though my visa will expire in July 2018, so I’m expecting to spend the whole of 2017 down under.

I have a couple of goals for the next year: firstly, I’d like to find my own place to live rather than a hostel, although there is more chance of me becoming the next pope than trying to balance work, life and living in and hostel ever again. I’d also like to learn something that isn’t work-related, take another cookery class abroad (Japan, I’m looking at you), and eat something that most English people wouldn’t consider eating.

If you click the read more button, you’ll see some of my favourite pictures. I tried to narrow it down to 10, but that quite obviously wasn’t going to work out.

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Singapore

I thought it’d be a waste to have a connecting flight to Australia and not to visit an Asian city, it was a choice between here and Hong Kong, so as the title suggests, Singapore won. I was intrigued by the cultures here as it is where Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Thai and of course, Singaporean people live, amongst more cultures,  with the city being seperated into districts.

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