Archive for June, 2009

30th Jun 2009

Japan: Day 1 – Introductions, Fish, Sake and Mystery Dinner

We finally stepped off the boat, after having our temperature taken for the third time in as many days, and onto Japanese soil. Well, the glassed in walkway from the boat into Japanese customs. On the way, we caught sight of the family piling out of a taxi. We made our way to immigration where we had a particularly “big brother” moment, where the immigration officer asked me for my brother’s address, which I of course didn’t have. He then asked me for Todd’s birthday, with which he was able to pull up a lovely mug shot of my dear brother and all the information he needed about the Welbes’ in Japan. After all this, we finally made it out and were warmly greeted with cheers of “Auntie!” from my adorable nieces. Of course, this may have actually been cheers of “Tony!” but I choose to hear what I like. They had clearly been well coached.

After all the introductions had been made, we left the ferry terminal and headed to the train. Kirsten told us that one of the best things to do in Osaka is the aquarium, which just happened to be one train stop away from where we were. Luckily, they also had storage lockers big enough to store our big backpacks. We made our way through the impressive aquarium. The girls were delighted. Upon leaving the aquarium, we had our first experience with okinomiyaki (roughly translated: stuff you like fried up all good and tasty). As we were in a food court, it wasn’t the best okinomiyaki of the trip, but still tasty, as the name suggests.

We collected our bags again and went off to brave the Osaka train lines led fearlessly by Todd and Kirsten. After making a brief pitstop at the apartment in Kobe, we headed off, in the rain, to a sake brewery in Kobe for a tasting and dinner. Needless to say, the sake tasting was lots of fun and educational as well. Dinner was an experience as well. We received our menus, which were only in Japanese and basically chose between multi-course meals of either 3000, 5000 or 7000 yen. After that, it was an exciting “what’s behind door number 1” style dinner. I think we all left satisfied. I was stuffed. Dan had eaten more tofu and Tony had more fish in one meal than I think either had ever seen in their lives. And of course, not surprisingly the sake was delicious.

That was Day 1. Tony and I were exhausted, but happy and cozy in the quiet and efficient country of Japan.

Posted in General, Travel | No Comments »

29th Jun 2009

Shipping out of Shanghai

Shanghai was good as usual. We ate more great meals, including the absolutely delicious Shanghai dumplings (mmm), organized our Japan Rail passes and found the ferry terminal, after spending way too much time walking around the Port of Shanghai. Our wandering was caused partially by my inability to listen to anyone when they give me directions (a habit that I really need to break) and the unusual Chinese method of giving buildings street numbers for streets on which they do not have an entrance. That confuses me. Therefore we missed the building we were looking for over and over again. Though, I do have to defend myself a bit and say that plenty of people gave us directions that sent us way past the building we were looking for. Tony may beg to differ.

We left Shanghai on Saturday morning and headed back to the ferry terminal, much more quickly this time. The boat far exceeded both our expectations. We shipped out at noon, after which Tony and I spent about an hour enjoying the views of the Shanghai harbor and congratulating ourselves on our great decision to take the boat. After we’d had enough of the views we headed below deck to take advantage of the well-stocked Kirin vending machines. That’s right folks, beer vending machines. We had been told by the ferry company that they would accept both Japanese and Chinese currency on the boat. We were quite shocked to discover that the vending machines were not so flexible. In fact, we could only use Chinese currency in the restaurant, which at that moment wasn’t set to be open for another five hours. Despite our initial panic, Tony was able to find a very friendly, Chinese businessman who was willing to buy some yuan for some yen. We were ready for our pan-China Sea adventure!

After “several” vending machine beers and some painfully strong Chinese alcohol from our new money-exchanging friend, we had a great first night on the boat. If not the most hydrated night’s sleep. Sunday, our second day on the ship proved to be a bit more low-key as Tony and I avoided the beer machines. This proved to be a very wise move once we discovered all that Kirsten had in store for us on our first day in Japan. We spent most of the day watching over the sides of the ship at the schools of flying fish, luminescent jellyfish and hammerhead sharks. I saw two, Tony saw three. They were very cool and helped to stem the temptation of jumping into the crystal clear water. Sunday afternoon we also made our way into the southern tip of Japan and spent the rest of the afternoon with impressive views of the Japanese coastline.

So, I went to sleep Sunday night like a kid on Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting what I would find when I woke up in Japan.

Posted in General, Travel | No Comments »

26th Jun 2009

And so it begins . . .

As Typhoon Linfa blew into Xiamen, Tony and I sped out by train. Well, sped out maybe an overstatement. After a lovely last evening in the Sofitel, thanks to the Typhoons Rugby Tournament raffle (go Typhoons!), we spent most of the day avoiding the rain. Since we didn’t have a hotel room or an apartment, that meant spending most of the day sitting in a coffee shop. All in all it was a quiet beginning to the trip, but all in all quite pleasant.

The train to Shanghai was uneventful enough, if not really really long. For the last eight hours or so, Tony and I had our soft sleeper to ourselves, I guess because no one takes the train all the way from Xiamen to Shanghai. Except us. But it was nice.

We arrived in Shanghai late on Monday evening and made our way to the Sleeping Dragon Hostel.

Posted in General | No Comments »