A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok

A totally new experience

all seasons in one day 35 °C
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We were thrown right into the deep end of Bangkok: arriving on the Khao San road with no Lonely Planet (our bible) to help us find our hostel. First impressions of Thailand? Loud, busy and a little bit smelly.

Our first night was spent in a hostel just off Khao San, which compared to the wonders of the Japanese hostels was extremely scary (cockroaches and rats included). Despite all this, we had a great first night sampling various street foods and local beers.

We hastily checked out the next morning, and quickly checked in to the Grand President Apartments (kindly booked by Sue and Mick, we love you) which was utter luxury in comparison. A pool, our own room, our own living room and bathroom, towels and toiletries and a washing machine! Heaven.

We loved relaxing and taking in the city at a slow pace, getting used to the heat and chilling out after the hectic 10 days of Japan. We loved the night bazaar, the wats (temples) and the Grand Palace, riding the uber-modern and air conditioned sky train and visiting the IMAX cinema in Siam.

We took a fun boat trip up the river to see the main historical and architectural sights. In particular the reclining Buddha and the emerald Buddha were great.

We spent a fantastic last night in Bangkok with Sue and Mick, eating tasty pizzas and lovely wine. We felt truly spoilt but weren't complaining at all!

Overall, Bangkok was a brilliant place, and once we had got over the initial shock of Khao San road it was a fun place to explore. It will be interesting to see what the rest of Thailand is like...we suspect that Bangkok is quite unique.

Posted by Tom and Jo 06:35 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Kyoto and beyond...

Temples, temples, temples

sunny
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The same day that we spent in the Tsukiji fish market, we literally whizzed down to Kyoto on the Shinkansen train (super fast, super cool bullet train). What an experience - it puts our trains at home to shame!

Arriving in Kyoto, we instantly got a good vibe from the city. In comparison to the bright lights and craziness of Tokyo, it was much more relaxed and down to earth (and much easier to navigate!) We arrived at our hostel K's House, and couldn't quite believe our luck. The place was spacious, cosy and very clean, and in a fantastic location only 10 minutes from the station.

As a city, Kyoto is a strange mix of ultra modern and historic architecture. A great day was spent exploring the temples and gardens on foot, of which our favourites were the hillside Kiyomizu-dera temple and the idyllic Heian-Jingu shrine and garden.

The Kiyomizu-dera temple gave fabulous views over Kyoto, and the buildings were stunning. We even went in a pitch black underground cavern, which we stumbled around blindly before realising that it was meant to represent the womb of some important holy goddess. The place was full of Japanese school kids, who seemed fasinated by us and throughout our stay in Japan would continually ask for photographs with us. Quite a peculiar experience!

The Heian-Jingu shrine was the highlight of historic Kyoto, in particular the gardens which were so peaceful and beautiful. A perfect example of the Japanese Zen garden. We spent a relaxed hour enjoying the walk through the greenery, lakes and ponds.

Whilst in Kyoto, we also explored the surrounding areas and beyond (with the use of our Japan Rail Passes). We zoomed around the Kansai region, to pretty Nara (more temples and hungry deer), Tokyo-esque Osaka, and further south down to Hiroshima (which was really moving).

Our first day trip was Nara, which was really fun. We took a long walk on the hillside where there were loads more temples and shrines to see. The main attractions here were the largest wooden building in the world, which also housed one of the largest bronze Buddhas...he was massive! Nara is also home to hundreds of wild deer, that roam the area and are eager to snatch away your food at any opportunity.

Hiroshima was reallly interesting and we learnt loads about the history of the city as well as the events surrounding and leading up to the famous atomic bombing. Although the museum was quite biased, the place was still moving, particularly all the memorials and wishes for worldwide peace.

Japan was an amazing first-stop on our journey. Not only did we see the bustling city life and technologically advanced aspects of the country, but we also enjoyed the historical and peaceful temples and gardens. It truly is a beautiful place, with grand architecture, bright lights and colours and the most friendly people we've ever met. Whilst we were sad to leave the place, we feel we experienced a huge amount and got a lot out of our visit.

Top marks Japan... next stop Bangkok!

Posted by Tom and Jo 05:47 Archived in Japan Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Tokyo

Bright, busy and brilliant

sunny
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Our first few days in Japan were so different to what we imagined. Tokyo is unlike any other place that either of us has ever been before. Not only is the language so different and indiscipherable, but the food, people and culture took some getting used to!

For the most part, the weather was beautiful and sunny (with only the occassional torrential downpour), so we were able to see so much of this amazing place in the three days we were there. Despite being terribly jet-lagged we spent our first night wandering around some of the busiest areas, using the brilliant subway system and generally getting lost in the crowd.

Our highlights had to be the sumo tournament, the (very) early morning Tsukiji fish market and the hip 'n' happenin' Shibuya.

We went to the Sumo tournament at 8am in order to pick up our tickets, so we saw through the day with the most die-hard of sumo fans. The rituals and bouts were fascinating to watch, although some only lasted a few seconds. The most exciting fights (towards the end of the day) saw some of the largest and most arrogant fighters going against one another. The crowd went wild!

Shibuya is a crazy place, full of bright lights, high rise buildings and the trendy kids of Japan. The area is home to one of the busiest and most famous road crossings in the world, which is slightly scary and has to be seen to be believed. It also has loads of funky shops and brightly lit streets which we had loads of fun exploring.

Our last day in Tokyo before heading down to Kyoto, we got up at 4.45am (!) in order to catch the first subway to the Tsukiji fish market. This place was amazing, and getting there early to see all the huge fresh tuna being hacked up into steaks was well worth it. We nearly got run over on several occassions by men driving these silly little vehicles, stacked high with frozen tuna, fresh tuna, and some live fish flapping around. We finished off the morning with a very fresh sashimi breakfast at 7am - sushi without the rice. It was surprisingly tasty, even at that time in the moring, despite all the blood and gore of the market that we had just seen! Not for the faint of heart (or stomach)!

Posted by Tom and Jo 05:19 Archived in Japan Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

London

The calm before the storm...


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So here is the first of many blogs that we will be writing over the next eighteen weeks! As departure date draws nearer we are feeling more excited and nervous by the minute.

Over the next week or so we shall be buying the last few essential items, packing bags and saying our fond farewells to friends and family. Then on 14th May we'll be flying out from London Heathrow and beginning our epic journey.

Stay tuned for updates from Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Rarotonga, California and New York.

Next stop...TOKYO!

Lots of love

Tom and Jo

xxx

Posted by Tom and Jo 15:44 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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