A Travellerspoint blog

Day 89- Candyfloss Sugar High

Imperial palace, Harajuku, Meji Shrine, "Piss Alley" & traditional Okonomiyaki!


View Bears on Tour on Bears on Tour's travel map.

large_FC1434A4-0595-4CF9-9249-B9E1AAD6BEF5.jpeg

1 March
First stop of the day, Imperial Palace. Getting to the entrance we were unsure if we had to pay and how much so we stood bumbling around, trying to google how much it would set us back to see if we actually valued the experience that highly. Embarrassingly reaching the ticket booth, knowing the guard had watched us clearly trying to decide if we wanted to pay or not, we were given our free entry token and we headed in. The first thing we came across was a bunch of cherry blossom trees in the very early stages of blooming. I imagine In the height of spring this collection of about 20 trees would be stunning in full bloom. I also imagine it would be heaving with tourists and you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near them.

large_4D71B528-3907-4A1D-83B2-E05B0AAEA139.jpeg7202581A-876E-49C6-A85B-9801592DD20E.jpeg1507D0ED-7494-495A-8161-55FAC4184F60.jpeglarge_749E648D-166B-40EE-8C0B-6999B42998FC.jpeglarge_3702408A-AD72-427F-AE52-C2D42345B50F.jpeg

There was an guide book app we downloaded and selected the things of interest to go and explore. We both expected there to be at least some evidence of a palace, whether that be in the form of ruins or still standing with various rooms accessible. We quickly realised there was nothing here since the palace was now a variation of different types of gardens. We wandered a while, listened to a few anecdotes about the previous residents of the palace and seeing some largely bare and fruitless gardens before deciding we’d seen enough.

large_8961E7F7-D037-4129-9A0E-BADE72A7EA98.jpeg35BFA07A-32F5-4A89-AFC0-FA1CC900E275.jpegFBCF17E1-280A-4462-903F-814C4DBC7E41.jpeglarge_02FE2D6C-09AA-4BBE-9DE2-6463EE9C86C3.jpeg48A30B72-E4B1-471F-9CF2-F8909E9CD962.jpeg8B24F74A-DA5C-4481-804F-B1377C424F13.jpeglarge_F1360FC3-7B46-476D-ABDE-B490B548F9E0.jpeg1F3BC064-7524-4AFC-83D9-4A246632C72D.jpeg4A3FB142-85F7-4E5C-ACFB-605CAB8776A4.jpeglarge_B03F3B0B-E1F7-4186-9C99-859B4789C410.jpeg2B8259F3-66DF-40E9-AB09-A23638232601.jpeg8EF1068C-C3DE-4D4D-B6B6-49F62524A82D.jpeg

The last few days had been bitterly cold and today we were taking layers off by the minute. There was a cafe we’d seen called ‘Monster Cafe’ that did novelty drinks and food with different themed areas of the cafe, it looked pretty cool and unique so went to check it out. There was a fee of 500 yen per person just to be seated at the table and then terms that each customer had to order a drink and food. We’d been thinking we’d order a weird milkshake and share, just for the experience. We weren’t going to spend £50 for a meal we didn’t want. So we abandoned that plan and went over there road to a crepe shop. They had over 100 different fillings!!! After ten minutes deliberating which flavor to have, we agreed on Oreo cheesecake, cookie crumble and strawberry’s and cream! It was so delicious!!

0B3463FC-7786-469D-8187-F15531D70365.jpeg

We wandered around Harajuku, full of weird and wonderful shops, including; some with literally doggies in the window and even a real life Polly Pocket in a ball! This was before coming across a shop selling candy floss bigger than our heads!! We agreed we didn’t need that much pure sugar so decided three flavors was enough! Strawberry, melon and grape! Grape tasted like the smelly gel pens (remember them!) but the other two flavors were delicious. After about ten minutes of scoffing our faces we still had about half left, it’s not exactly something you can put in your bag to save for later. Toward the end we were purely eating faster just for it to be over. Five minutes later the sugar rush really hit! It was a strange feeling, kind of tipsy!

large_B8D7EA49-DB61-47F4-83EB-C59AE08C30DD.jpeglarge_D388F49C-6890-4B53-B7BB-78DB02E52A4B.jpeg8275449A-6F92-4C7E-8ECD-E2B128B812AD.jpeg5DFA2A3D-C3A8-4FCF-9033-30577918DA27.jpeg570C290B-9420-4017-8F9F-CCA233902D9D.jpeg

large_FC1434A4-0595-4CF9-9249-B9E1AAD6BEF5.jpegFBC65392-68F2-4A07-B861-2735EBBE89E1.jpeg1BCA97C4-E2EF-4015-ADD8-E1B498AD4240.jpeglarge_DF50C7A2-B791-4EF0-987D-BFEB14D08CE3.jpeg

The Meji Shrine is in a forest in the middle of the city. We decided this was a good place to walk off some of the sugar. Having the crystallised sugar stuck in our teeth we went in search for a drink first. Luckily there was a stall right by the entrance to the park, one of us (not mentioning names) is extremely indecisive so stood there for about ten minutes before we realised they had a fridge of hot drinks! (I realise that means it’s not a fridge but I don’t know what a hot fridge would be called) It had cooled down a bit so decided it would be a good warm up, tea from a plastic bottle was a strange concept!

At the entrance of the shrine there was a stone trough with paddles in to cleanse yourself before going inside, due to the virus they had drained the water and had temporary showers instead. The correct process was to wash your left hand, then your right hand, then cup both hands and wash your mouth (see me nailing it below despite the look from the guy next to me). We walked around marveling at the architecture mainly. We paid a small fee to right down a wish for 2020 for a project they were displaying.

large_510D4B80-D1F9-4BE9-9D49-F6F916820233.jpeg22D05E66-D018-41AC-857F-CC40293A9F83.jpegIMG_20200301_154635.jpglarge_7DE37EDF-CF9E-45B0-A3D6-7B404C24F8CB.jpeg896FD7E3-B3A3-4CD7-9D6D-E89A4B08988D.jpegDA9A9B0A-25D6-45C5-9FDB-040BD4EECA14.jpeg

We headed back in to the shopping district and made our way in to Don Quixote, a chain department store. Every store here has at least 8 or 9 floors of pure craziness. We explored all the floors of the Don Quixote from floors of cosmetics and household cleaning to phone accessories and sex toys (a weird combination on the 7th floor). After almost an hour I started to get rather claustrophobic, they squeeze as many isles and products in to each floor as possible without the sensible straight isle layout we would expect, they put isles at all sorts of directions and angles, disorientating us on each floor. We made it out as quick as possible, trying to find the stairs on each floor was a mission enough.

There’s an area of back alleys full of ting bars and food stalls, lovingly named ‘Piss Alley’. Starting out as an illegal drinking quarter in the late 1940s, this narrow side street quickly became a prime spot for cheap drinks and cabaret-style hostess bars. Due to the lack of restroom facilities, customers would wander off and relieve themselves on the nearby train tracks; it didn’t take long for Piss Alley to earn its name. We had to check it out. Originally walking straight past the entrance, we walked down the street amazed by the whole experience.

75087e00-6391-11ea-8fbf-29367ba7aae6.jpgA3F83035-9DDC-4704-B799-AD4DCC60B83A.jpeg

Deciding it was dinner time we jumped the train in the direction of home, both excited about the dinner of choice tonight. We entered the restaurant (while amusing to ourselves that the previous day we’d walked past and said it looked to fancy for us, it must be expensive), taking our shoes off and being shown to our table.

We had come to a traditional Japanese restaurant where you sat on the floor. Picking our choices from the menu we sat excitedly, a couple of minutes later the waiter bought our drinks over, we’d decided to share a Palm Wine, unsure what it was. We’ve since researched it’s a wine created from the sap of palm trees. It was delicious! Then two bowls were bought over and we were instructed to mix up the ingredients while the waiter heated up some oil on the hot plate on the table between us. We then poured the ingredients on to the plate, Okonomiyaki, a Japanese style omelette. We shared a minced meat one and a pumpkin, sweet potato and sweet corn one. You cook the batter on one side for roughly five minutes before flipping it over, painting some sweet sticky sauce over the top and letting the underside cook for another five minutes. It was a great experience, cooking the food ourselves. We loved it and they tasted delicious. Another meal we’ll probably try and make ourselves back home.

large_8119409D-0DDD-4E68-9319-B30EAB6DCD57.jpeg563B632E-2B4D-4F45-A87E-4D39EEF86AE3.jpeg12D78024-193C-4E63-915C-088D86DF0C2A.jpeglarge_A4C1CD77-5F06-4B50-9DAE-DA8E092B9A18.jpeg924B2990-8C82-4D76-A1C2-E37C59E355AC.jpeg2DD06EEC-D525-4549-B044-250BFD4CCB0F.jpeg8F8F8BBD-2BE0-49C0-AF61-BEF4DC5B700C.jpeg

Posted by Bears on Tour 05:14 Archived in Japan Tagged imperial_palace harajuku okonomiyaki meji_shrine piss_alley candyfloss Comments (0)

Day 88- The Craziest Show on Earth at The Robot Restaurant!

I don't even know how you describe what we saw... But read on to see me try!


View Bears on Tour on Bears on Tour's travel map.

29th February

large_6797B7F6-61B1-4A0E-B9B7-E0494A1D14C3.jpeg

Day 3 into our Tokyo experience and we are loving this place. Seriously we hope that the rest of Japan lives up. Iz had today's itinerary all sorted and it was off to Shibuya Crossing first; famous for being the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. It is a scramble crossing surrounded by huge TV screens flashing adverts as people are constantly pouring across the street in all directions. On tune with our recent traveling experiences this crossing was quieter than normal, most likely a result of the spreding virus, yet as you can see it was still a sight. We took up a pew at a Starbucks that overlooked the crossing for the full experience before taking it turn to star in a video of us crossing across the street.

large_2C9D365F-1974-4370-8E8C-7F1B0E4BFB44.jpegDC2F2ACA-BE97-4382-A43F-D62792DD1CB9.jpegBD533730-B327-4F56-97D1-61F2E113F906.jpeg

Spot where's Wally (tip best to mute the videos to avoid the annoying Starbucks background noise)

Once we had our fill of people watching we had a wander around the local area. With a number of shops and capsule machines visited it was time to head across town to Kabuki-cho for the infamous robot restaurant we had read so much about. Our expectations were high as it had featured on every "top things to do in Tokyo" list we had read and it cost a pretty penny for the privilege. But this show was exactly the kind of thing we were looking to experience in Japan. For context all we really knew was it was a high energy robot show with the option of food, however the food did not receive the same hype.

Intrigued and a little excited we took some photos with a robot outside as we awaited our invitation to enter. Once out the lift we entered a brightly coloured area where a guy dressed as a robot played guitar and the restaurant employees tried to convince you to buy food, drink and tacky souvenirs. The room was small and we both figured this couldn't be where the action went down. We were proved correct and had to walk down a number of flights of stairs each with a loud, colourful and crazy decor. However the actual room was much smaller than we expected with around 7 rows of chairs on either side of a small runway. I'll tell you now it is probably lucky that the lack of food and illness had made us lose some pounds as the squeeze to get into the seats would have been even tighter. This venue is not for the big boned!

large_10D308A2-86D2-41A0-BADA-BD38C2F23F4B.jpeglarge_ACBDCA9F-C917-425C-973E-916DD1676C32.jpeglarge_AEA7ADFE-560A-4254-95BA-D900DFF3320D.jpeglarge_C6598FB0-12E6-4254-B38B-1FB63D9354A9.jpeglarge_CF57C483-D994-4717-8131-F093265F8BCA.jpeg

Once the food carts had been rolled away we were asked by the voice over if we were ready for the crazy, wacky, mental show. Errmm... Hell yeah! We really had no idea what to expect. That's probably as I don't think you can really explain what it is we saw.... But for your benefit I'll try. The voiceover guy was correct in his description. It was split into 4 sections, which as far as I can had no underlying theme. Everything seemed random, loud, crazy, energetic and just full on. To give you an idea the first section involved a fight between two rival gangs all in dramatic costume each with a leader on some kind of huge robot. Then out of nowhere two sword fighting samurai's before a break to catch your breath.

Next up another fight between some Godzilla looking aliens and zoo animals (a Panda, Tiger and crocodile), until they were defeated and a huge robotic Panda came out and just bounced and belly flopped into them all making them retreat. It was so weird, yet oddly enjoyable. The actors certainly were working hard and the size of the robots alone were impressive. Next up a giant toad, a flying turtle with rockets and a massive lobster. All falling victim to the aliens. What it needed was a massive gorilla to come in and kill one of the leaders. Before two dragons and some Daenerys wannabe finished them off. It was so random and a complete assault on the senses.

After the victory we were treated to a an visually entertaining dance from a number of people with colourful LED tubing attached to them and lasers. Again with random robots turning up to join in the fun. During another break we were handed our own light up sticks ready for the finale which composed of massive robot floats celebrating a number of countries around the world and diversity, which was a nice and less confusing message to end on. After a quick picture with one of robots (again this picture opportunity at the end seems to be an important aspect of any entertainment here) it was back to the real world. Well the slightly less crazy world of Tokyo. Would I go again?... No. Would I recommend you to go?... Yes purely just to experience the craziness for yourself just don't go with too high expectations and listen to the other reviews don't get the food; it should be called robot show not restaurant.

B6A61249-1D82-4080-9F05-CD897D67F10D.jpeg8617CB40-D672-4081-BF16-E29CAA3AF18B.jpeglarge_FB1AD0E9-89C3-4820-A06A-A258830C4077.jpeglarge_32354361-D4CC-4EFD-B36B-08DB895E45D2.jpeglarge_F12D6840-1D9D-401A-9AAB-F4C7AABD1884.jpeg4C633306-B6AD-40AC-A172-376430097105.jpegB171F9D7-8DFD-4CC7-BDCA-FFF5D994D93B.jpeg1F2C7A33-9084-46AF-9F61-5357673F8154.jpegF160B5A4-72CE-4D39-B9A8-B7A6C5531FEF.jpeglarge_DEBA8E0F-32E2-4317-81E1-8CCBD30E1484.jpeglarge_C8F49952-85EC-453F-A1DA-0DA234602B9B.jpeg3CF30866-E905-485D-9C3C-81E175418E6D.jpeg2F68269D-23E5-49B7-83BB-30FDA6F59F9C.jpeg9247E962-38F4-40BB-B5B2-50252A3E43AA.jpegD8ECD01F-01AA-42E0-9398-9BBB0E78A50F.jpeglarge_5AAD3D68-AC38-4E9D-90DE-3D759B562428.jpeglarge_F2A57CF7-F98F-49F5-A00E-A3900B3866B5.jpegIMG_20200229_161136.jpgIMG_20200229_161457.jpglarge_IMG_20200229_161625.jpglarge_IMG_20200229_162054.jpgIMG_20200229_163858.jpgIMG_20200229_165322.jpgIMG_20200229_164058.jpg

An example of the craziness:

We checked out the area and some of the many arcades here. They really love a grabber machine. There are arcades everywhere and they are always full. To be fair we have seen a number of people win (varying qualities of prizes); some of it is clearly skill but they do also seem to be fairer on the win ratio than the likes of Skegness! We even witnessed some people undertaking the live action Mario kart; whereby they let you drive go karts dressed as various characters that integrate with the usual Tokyo traffic! It must be so annoying if you are just on your way back from work. We really wanted to do this when we heard about it when looking at Japan sat back in our London flat, however neither of us had the necessary driving experience. Based on the scared and some bored looks on the faces of the go kart drivers maybe it was for the best, it must sound more fun than it is in reality... That or it was one dull birthday party!

Although we hadn't done too much we felt pretty exhausted. To be fair we had again done a lot of walking. You don't realise how much you do when traveling when just wandering around. So we decided a beer was needed and a craft one at that. We had researched one nearby with the plan being always to finish there with food... However unfortunately Google maps had not informed us that the place no longer existed. Feeling deflated but wanting to be beaten we headed to another location for a pint and some food. But again we were out of luck. Our back up choice of a British pub was also closed for some reason we couldn't read. Disappointed we couldn't have the bangers and mash we craved we dived into KFC needing some comfort food. This fed us and Iz liked her teriyaki burger but the portions (like the menu choice) were small. With nothing left on the hit list it was back to the hostel for sweets and a film in our little pod!

large_1C01B061-2499-4437-84D0-181029C55BD7.jpeg0BD1EA62-AB6D-4765-96E3-2EC1ABD0D69E.jpegBD215ED1-D3B8-468B-8533-584F48384480.jpeglarge_AD02B433-A45D-47B7-8A8B-C00010328A3D.jpeg

Side note the Japanese seem to love crazy flavours of popcorn (caramel and cheese anyone... Obviously we bought it and it was odd but not too bad actually!):

large_4E2E3CBC-D9B5-4D9E-B54C-2A6742614AFD.jpeg

Posted by Bears on Tour 05:32 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan shibuya_crossing robot_restaurant Comments (0)

Day 87- Disney Sea & Geek Out on Tokyo Day 2


View Bears on Tour on Bears on Tour's travel map.

28th February
Up and out... in to the blustery winter! First job for today- coats! Made our way to a huge Uniqlo. Being torn between needing a coat and not wanting to spend £50 on new coats that we wouldn't need past this month. Score! They had a sale. We found our respective coats but they didn’t have mine in the right size so we bought Andy’s and made our way to a different Uniqlo in hope of the same coat in the right size. The second Uniqlo of the day was tiny and definitely not the coats we needed. We seemed to turn the morning in to Uniqlo hopping. Our third one was more successful having the coat we were searching for (although still a size too small but better than nothing!).

Ironically, the second we stepped out of our final Uniqlo the sun belted down! We had a plan for the day so made our way to our first stop; Akihabara- the main pop culture area of Tokyo. Huge arcades 8 or 9 floors tall! Anime and Manga shops mixed in with grab machines and pocket ball machine. The whole area is crazy, bright flashing lights everywhere, the whole height of the buildings. We marveled at how quiet it was still. It’s a strange juxtaposition; the lights and shops so loud on the eyes but the area is almost silent on the ears.

large_665DB50B-FE3F-4525-A525-B8268C6A9BD5.jpeg8166C31D-58E4-4E2C-96B2-EB8FA23F3F8F.jpegD8F78027-AFA6-4AD5-AD79-7DA275DF12FC.jpeglarge_3D7D7757-F17B-4C98-8A01-39745DE2E015.jpeg13756861-CA48-4DBD-8B62-6CB8100B408F.jpeg65A2E3DF-7DE7-417E-B470-D4664B4BABB6.jpeglarge_1CFFC312-E3A8-4E44-A8FD-E6EA9109B392.jpeg

We’re assuming it’s quiet due to the Coronavirus, at a benefit to us. Having been expecting a fast pace, busy, bustling city- it was a nice surprise at the slower paced, quiet, peaceful city. This virus really is a being a double edged sword for us. As the benefits are heavily outweighed by the negatives we are trying to grasp any positives possible. We’d planned to see Hanazono Inari-jinja Shrine, located within a little city park but we spent so long meandering around Akihabara, gawking at all the shops and side streets we ran out of time. Instead we needed to head to our next stop of the day... DisneySea!! We were sufficiently prepared in our treat purchases from Manila that you can see in the first picture above.

We were both very excited about this! Tokyo Disney have a pass called ‘after 6 passport’, it does what it says on the tin. Access after 6pm for a cheaper price. Japan is the only place in the world with a DisneySea so we opted for that one over Disneyland. Having done some research we knew there was a Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast, very excited about both of these! We arrived about 40 minutes early, assuming they’d be a big queue to get tickets. We walked straight up to the ticket booth and again, assumed we must be so early we’d missed the crowds. It was interesting that we were the only foreigners, everyone else was Japanese- mainly 16 or 17 year old teenagers in school uniform. (How cool would it be to live in a place you can just go to Disney after school!). Was it tourist-less because of the virus?

Once in park, trying to contain our excitement, we went to watch the next show ‘Mickey and Friends visit New York’. Within a few seconds of the show beginning we came to the assumption they don’t get many tourists here, the show was entirely in Japanese. Too excited to care we could understand the gist of the story. Making our way to Toyville (Toy Story area), it felt christmassy being dark, cold and fairy lights everywhere. Since we missed a normal cold Christmas last year, we let ourselves indulge in the feeling for the night.

large_7678B83C-29F9-4077-BFFA-477E4B4803BE.jpeglarge_IMG_20200228_182234.jpglarge_D055AAFA-9500-4364-A2A7-959B9995197F.jpeg689E05A6-ED6E-4DCC-9E31-61A29C312863.jpegIMG_20200228_184737.jpg

Next up was Port Discovery and a ride similar to teacups but on water, we hadn’t planned to go on any rides- assuming queues would be an hour plus and only having 4 hours to discover the park. Since there was no queue at all we decided to hop on, what was interesting was there was two of the same ride. This seemed super efficient as it cuts the wait in half at busier times! We couldn’t come to this area and skip the Nemo stuff! Another queueless ride- StormRider, sounds adrenaline inducing... but it’s Nemo themed so couldn’t be too scary! We all shuffled in to a holding hall type thing where a woman explained the back story of the ride... we assume, again, it was in Japanese so we don’t actually know. In to the VR simulator underwater pod to follow the characters from the film on Some quest.. again, not really sure what’s going on as the characters are talking Japanese too.

The whole place is so quiet, compared to Disney in Paris where you can barely move around. Quick dash through the Lost River Deta, stopping off in the Coco area before making it to the Mermaid Lagoon. This area was incredible! The sets were unreal. It was actually like being in the film. The photos don’t do it justice. We took advantage of the lack of queues and jumped on a few more rides. Time to go and pretend to be Princess Jasmine. This area was even more impressive, it was like stepping in to an Arabian palace! One last ride, Aladdin carousel!

4A70051B-D102-44ED-B544-6B09B7D6C9FA.jpeg9B57EB84-E39F-4206-87EF-AF00D2D8AE46.jpeg9253D593-E091-470B-AADB-28AE5DED1E34.jpeg51A5254A-9E59-4B5C-83D0-E045BFDB9A7A.jpeglarge_A909C1C5-F2DD-45E8-8A11-574D1476E1F9.jpeg7ED6BE67-DF90-4061-8CE0-D98BC7306048.jpegD6E0AD57-79DD-4586-831B-656DFC6858E6.jpeglarge_61663EC0-D26E-4AA4-8615-EBABCFC33DB9.jpeglarge_E51DAE36-E264-45C8-90A5-9EAF30151717.jpeglarge_FD812150-38D3-4382-B77B-85B35C2B54B3.jpeg98D1D330-46B3-4D2F-ACC5-1DAA8F883A1C.jpeg48DA322F-F5C1-4846-8A47-9A9E62DC23C2.jpeglarge_7E9D28A4-BA73-4803-9BFC-734148861E78.jpeglarge_9CE289BE-02FE-4BEA-970C-C6D447835765.jpeglarge_31A65FF7-2776-4ADF-A14F-1F27D40B57F6.jpeglarge_3FBCA3AC-E543-421A-98EC-F0A73010BAAB.jpeglarge_74795D45-4E28-44AB-90A6-A4A3BD14EEB0.jpegDF763730-1086-4BFA-BCC8-E5E8A1DB7D82.jpegD888E801-EAD2-439C-B0FE-58633C6D8583.jpeglarge_E28D63EA-97A5-4465-BF2A-2E5244F12C80.jpeglarge_C6897EBA-65C1-4187-8150-1446DAE7F302.jpeg0B37B6C8-17A2-4ADB-B237-E5F49D88692E.jpegBF54FDE7-E757-4701-A6B4-9C8BA481D63A.jpeglarge_6AC56EB9-9DB2-42F3-B186-715AB0C277C2.jpeg

We’d had a great first full day in Tokyo, it’s so fun exploring together, one of the reasons we work so we’ll together, we’re balanced in all the right places. We know appropriate times for quiet reflection while wondering around shrines but on the flip side, we can be children at Disney. We’ve spent the evening laughing together, running around, squealing and generally enjoying each other’s company. Also we have since found out that the Disneyland has been closed due to the virus and we went on the last possible day before the temporary shut down! Phew! Someone is giving us a bit of luck!

Small side note: they have a Disney character here called Duffy the bear- he’s taken over all shop merchandise and him and his friends suck!

Posted by Bears on Tour 04:17 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan akihabara disney corona disney_sea Comments (0)

Day 86- Ohayōgozaimasu (good morning) Tokyo!

After the lack of excitement in the last entry I'm sure you are desperate for the fun loving stuff to kick start again. Oh don't worry Japan will not disappoint you...

large_C285DD9D-DB92-49FA-82AC-4037E1FCCC23.jpeg

27 February
Following the traditional backpacker penny pinching ways we had booked an overnight flight with Jetstar. Which was basically the equivalent to Ryanair except the fact we were in the air for like 4.5 hours instead of the 2 hours you often have to endure Ryanair for. Izzy was left wishing we were back on Cebu Pacific even with their terrible arrival song... Maybe one flight is all it takes and Cebu Pacific is all you need?

We landed at around 6am in our 4th country excited about the prospect of Japan, while trying to fight back the yawns. After our extensive research and due diligence in Manila (and thanks to a number of fellow traveler blogs) we had pre-ordered a number of items and knew the best places to get cash, as again surprisingly Japan is a country that still heavily relies on cash. The first of these pre-orders was not one we would have ever considered if not for the travel blogs; pocket WiFi. Again we had read that despite all Japan's technological advancements WiFi is still largely subjected to hostels, train stations and restaurants. Now don't get me wrong it couldn't be worse than the Philippines but having weighed up the options we considered this to be a smart purchase and would also save us needing to get data sims for our phones (as long as we stayed within 60metres of each other). We had pre-ordered this to collect from the airport and once we found the right desk all went smoothly. Even setting it up. So far it has proved very convenient, although Japan does have sufficient WiFi in most places.

Cash was also obtained easily and without a charge! Plus the cash point talked to you and you were in your own little booth. 2 out of 2 obtained. We were just waiting for something to go wrong. Next up was arguably the most important, well at the very least the most expensive; our Japanese Rail passes. We booked these ages ago when in Australia (that really does seem a long time ago now!) and were apprehensive of the website used and whether they would be there. We had a bit of a wait before the ticket office opened but luckily for us with it still only being 7.30am we had time to kill. Once opened we were informed we needed to collect our voucher first to exchange this for the tickets. But again we had no issues with either of these processes and decided to commence our 14 day rail pass for 4 March, the day we planned to leave Tokyo.

We also booked our subway tickets to take us to our hostel and by 8.30am we were on our way. We both envisaged having to ram ourselves onto crammed carriages with our massive bags; being hot, uncomfortable and pissing everyone off like you see on the YouTube videos. However this initial train was quieter than the tube and we got seats for us and our bags. So far so good and we were loving how seemlessly Japan appeared to be. Another thing we noticed and loved was how quiet the train was. Literally nobody speaks! It's silent. There are even signs up telling you to refrain from speaking on your phone and if it's busy refrain from using it altogether. From our experiences so far everybody fully obeys this. At first it was a little disconcerting but it still became oddly comforting.

As we couldn't check in until 3pm we just sat and read through some of the guides we had picked up on Tokyo and how to use our new rail passes. Our first impressions of Japan and Tokyo had, as you can tell, been very positive. This only continued to grow throughout our first few hours. Such things like their top notch customer service, respect and cleanliness were apparent very early from our initial 7/11 (supermarket) experience to having to take your shoes off at the door to the hostel and wearing provided slippers.

Everything was going so well we were just waiting for the bubble to pop. We thought it may come when checking into our hostel room as we knew we were in a room of 30!!! The biggest hostel room either of us had ever been in. However... We loved the room. It was spotlessly clean, everyone had their own little capsules that were much bigger than the usual bunk beds and completely private and again everyone was silent. Admittedly at no point during our stay was the room full, yet I don't think it would have made a difference. Plus the toilets here are something else! They look like bloody computer games with buttons for everything from music to heated seats and even a water fountain for your bum. It is such luxury especially coming from the Philippines whereby often you would have to squat over a bowl on the floor and had to bring your own toilet roll which you couldn't even flush down the loo! It was also nice knowing we would be in this hostel for 6 nights and actually have a proper base for a good period of time.

B285164D-E0F6-4089-93CB-A9E87B55A4D6.jpeg5C0044AD-F44A-44F0-A4C3-69BB56A79A96.jpeglarge_1D410706-6217-4277-A46B-9EE1D0A64C57.jpeg

Tokyo appeared to be the polar opposite in so many ways to the Philippines. This example was perfectly demonstrated as we stepped out our hostel to explore that late afternoon. As we walked down the street you could hear... Nothing! Like the subway this place was silent! There were busy parts of the street but no one made a sound! Even the cars were the same as 90% are electric. We couldn't get over it and it was so different to the noise and chaos of Manila. Another contrast to the Philippines was you can tell convenience here is important. There are literally 7/11s everywhere, yet if 3 on every street wasn't enough Inbetween them are vending machines with everything from drinks, to snacks, to capsule toys (something we will come on to later). As you can tell we were in pretty upbeat moods!

The only slight dampener on our mood was the weather! We had left 28-30 degrees for about 5 degrees! Some change in temperature and we had not packed for such weather as you may have read from our New Zealand entries. But here we couldn't even hide in a campervan so we decided that we needed to go coat shopping. Kirsty and Elliott had installed their love for Uniqlo on us and after learning that Superdry is not a Japanese brand (I know... Who knew?), there was only one place to head. The shopping centre appeared to be in the train station and it was huge, all seem to follow the same suit of food courts on the ground floor with usual department stores on the floors above. The coats were a little more than we wanted and the Uniqlo was small, so we decided to sleep on it and try and go to a larger store tomorrow.

079772E7-C925-4FC1-A5A6-919E08D6A4D4.jpegC422E6B8-30B1-4C46-B262-B3AA8D93C58C.jpeg

Wandering around Asakusa just helped cement our early love for this city. Then came something I wasn't expecting as Iz was driving the directions. We came across a huge torii (Japanese gate) at the entrance to a market lit with fairy lights leading up to a stunningly impressive shrine called Senso-Ji. It dominates the skyline and is just beautiful.

F887DAE0-44F8-4E61-A9FE-C81DAC79D76E.jpegAEBF9E44-5F43-49B1-B36F-B28EA378ADBA.jpegB8B9B4DE-CEBB-48C4-B439-23810AAC2757.jpeg478D2F72-44A9-4ED0-8C07-0B396197344B.jpeg53913ACE-752E-4FCB-A21E-460A7BA5BCB4.jpeg8F3D7294-DF35-49CA-88A9-0D5C0B5D8D3B.jpeglarge_A755DF1E-4849-4396-8E9C-BE989C071B18.jpeg

After our visit we were walking down the steps when a young Japanese guy approached us taking about tickets to a geisha show. Being always the skeptical we already had a no on the tip of our tongues. However, we listened to his story about his friend being in the show and that some tickets hadn't sold (probably due to the virus) and it started in 20minutes around the corner. Although a traditional geisha pricked our interest we knew the price would be the kicker. But that's when he said he would give us one ticket free and other for 1,000 yen (which some quick mental maths told me it was about £7 for the both of us!). It still sounded a bit dodgy but we decided to be spontaneous and take up on his offer, silently agreeing that for £7 it was worth finding out. As I reached for my wallet he told me to pay on the door. This further convinced us that it must be legitimate as why would he randomly be handing out bits of paper. Plus if it was more than he said we wouldn't go in.

But all seemed to be valid, although at the entrance the woman who processed our £7 tickets seemed surprised at the price. This is probably as there was a big sign saying these should have been £21 each! Not only were we granted entry, these tickets came with a free beer! What more could you ask for. Even if the show was terrible the ticket price barely covered the beer. Drinks in hand we walked through an out of hours funfair to an empty hall and reflected on our spontaneouity and checked the program for what to expect. From what we could work out there were 6 short sketches with various Japanese dances.

Over the coming minutes the hall started to fill up with a mix of people who clearly had pre booked tickets and others like us who had been coaxed of the street. By the start time there were still a number of empty seats as a random videod played before the geisha's came out. Now we hadn't really prepared or knew what to expect from a geisha show... So my first reaction was to hold back a laugh. It was a strange experience as 8 women in full kimonos and make-up swayed around with fixed expressions and creepy music. The wanting to laugh was more out of shock and being out of my confort zone. This died down and although the strange atmosphere didn't I come to appreciate the tradition, the outfits and the uniqueness behind what we were witnessing.

The rest of the evening involved various traditional dancing and a ninja karate show. Each as shocking and surprising yet interesting. It was an evening like I've never experienced before and it was a great cultural induction into Japan and it's history. The performance was well worth the ticket and although I would personally not have paid £40 odd for the privilege it was the kind of experience we wanted while traveling and were pleased we took a chance. At the end you were introduced to the choreographer who had produced similar performances all over the world, so we had seen a high quality show. That was before being allowed to take a picture with the dancers. Iz suggested sneaking off but I thought it would be a good way to remember our evening so we joined the queue.

2B68004F-B1C8-449F-BE0A-8EE49C81C9DA.jpeg02703136-8584-497F-BD81-7329CA0E5A00.jpeg22A5A9DB-0CBB-47F9-B47E-F6E31036324B.jpeg0E0CC7BD-AAAF-44E2-A08B-428870ADA9F0.jpeglarge_C8F4F5FF-F3E2-42CD-8630-51D1796E8A2D.jpeg18034C5A-9D52-48A8-86D2-2630EDFA6DE9.jpegA5FDB2B5-2F1E-448A-A752-2B3780987613.jpeg6CD3666A-FC69-4E38-A397-0EFEA4179AFB.jpeglarge_0E72A9BB-7914-46EA-A551-2B9A4DD11B54.jpeglarge_C285DD9D-DB92-49FA-82AC-4037E1FCCC23.jpeg

Afterwards we laughed, talked and shared our views on the evening and early opinions of Japan. Well in between taking a few more photos and briskly walking back to the hostel regretting not being as spontaneous with the coat decision. We stopped to buy noodles at 7/11 and heated them up at our hostel. Iz had not chosen well but as it had been a long and very unexpected day was happy just to get snuggled in bed with Netflix ready for another full on travel day tomorrow.

0CB0F18B-4899-4216-9485-069BCF1B0BA8.jpegEEF38582-0B23-4274-B422-FAD5F3B491C2.jpeglarge_2D1C6318-AA73-4ADA-A4B8-2764E5AB0D9D.jpeglarge_FC55641C-3078-4196-8EF9-F6AFACE19B35.jpeg0900B0B1-FF29-42A8-A528-2DA48B9FC2B8.jpeg6F124F39-DB43-4C0D-982B-1A2D1BD257B4.jpeglarge_B73DA305-EC23-461A-8DC6-A8F63188B0CA.jpeg

Posted by Bears on Tour 04:14 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan quiet geisha ninja senso_ji seven_eleven Comments (0)

Day 79- 85: Being ill while traveling sucks!

Coron, back to Manila & Philippines Roundup- it's more fun in the Philippines!


View Bears on Tour on Bears on Tour's travel map.

20 February to 24 February- Coron; well the little we saw of it!
After our failed attempt yesterday we were determined to put on a brave face and get on the ferry today. I believed the ferry was 3.5 hours and I was worried about that, I get travel sick easily and I was already feeling sick. Boarding the ferry, my worry all over the place; trying to locate toilets or sick bags. Five and a half hours later, some very unnerving moments and half a boat full of people having puked we got to Coron. It really did feel like an ordeal for both of us and I am not quite sure how I was in the half of the boat that managed to keep their breakfast down.

Off the boat the usual harassment from every trike driver in Coron started. Feeling the way we did we couldn't even be bothered to haggle even though we knew the price was again ridiculous. Once checked in to our hostel our mission was complete and we both collapsed on to our beds to remain there for pretty much solidly for the next three days. Feeling like I would pass out if I stepped away from the fan; nauseous and migraine added to the mix. Late afternoon we tried a stroll but had to head back not too long after. Early evening we plucked up the courage again and decided to try and go out for dinner. Andy was feeling better and I was feeling guilty he had to stay in with me rather than exploring but he insisted. With us both tenderly sharing a pizza (the first thing we’d eaten in 48 hours), we hoped tomorrow would be a better day. Walking up on day three (day two in Coron) still feeling awful but craving an omelette we made it out for a little bit of breakfast.

Something still wasn't right though and I just couldn't deal with being vertical. So again it was back to the hostel. We must have looked like such bums to everyone else but my body wouldn't let me do what I wanted. Although Stew seemed better he kept having little moments himself, probably due to the lack of food and fluids. We used our sick days to catch up on blog, tv shows and plan our South Korea trip (annoyingly after booking our fights and hostels we saw they have the virus on the rise- need to keep an eye on it and hope it calms down before the end of March).

Due to being cooped up all day and feeling peckish Stew wanted some dinner so made it to a Thai place, I had a bottle of water while he ate, then all of a sudden felt drastically worse. Out of nowhere, whatever had been making me feel sick came up. Now, I’ve been sick in the street before, however, you don’t realize how undignified it is until it happens when you’re sober! Amazingly, I felt instantly better, although skeptical it could just be a short relieve.

0ACA0057-8CCC-4A5B-A186-535B3DCC8666.jpeg02CA3CD7-B68E-45CA-B618-D856F8EE14BF.jpeglarge_DAE99963-842C-4697-B5F0-3DB3BE20E264.jpeg

Thankfully, walking up on our third day in Coron I felt a lot better but we decided to try and take it easy, just a little walk around the town and see the area. Andy managed to pick up a bracelet he had been eyeing for a few days from back in El Nido and he was pretty happy with his purchase and the price. Later after finding the perfect restaurant to watch the sunset we ate dinner. Although, the waitress ruined our moment by coming back twice to say what Andy had ordered wasn’t available, at the exact moment the sun went down. It was such a beautiful view too.

Having eaten our mediocre meals we went in search of a new bar to meet Patrick and Lizzy. The bar we ended in was decorated pretty cool with tree branches all of the walls and ceiling with dream catchers and the likes hanging down, and a band setting up to play. It was great to catch up with them both and compare El Nido experiences and just learning more about their lives back home.

D8730920-CFEC-4F7F-9A79-3E10753837A3.jpeg33A40673-5A1C-49E5-B4E4-ED8252CE3B84.jpeglarge_B32F46AC-DB90-4D2D-A66E-AF2E26788922.jpeglarge_B82F3BD3-E790-4081-BAD9-21935D77FF5E.jpeg

Our last day before catching the ferry back to Manila was mainly spent trying to download films for the ferry journey and packing our bags. Our ticket said we had to be at the ferry port 4 hours before departure!! This seemed crazy, especially since the other ferry’s we’d been on only had an hour prior to departure. We obliged, getting through security to a hot waiting room... that was empty, no one else had come so early. Getting annoyed we half watched some weird Chinese film they were showing, half continuing to catch up with the blog (it’s amazing how long it takes when you get a few weeks behind).

Finally half an hour before we were due to leave they started boarding (annoying we’d sat here unnecessarily for 4 hours). The whole process was strange, they forced everyone in to two lanes, male and female. Then you had to put your bags down and set away from them. We stood there for about ten minutes before two dogs walked between all the bags for security check before getting on the ferry. Once on the ferry, which looked more like I imagine a cheap cruise ship would be like, our tickets were taken from us and we were told we’d be checked in (we had a four bedroom cabin on this boat), twenty minutes later the guy came back and showed us to our room- a simply room, similar to a travelodge with bunk beds.

After putting our bags down went for a look around and find where we get our prepaid dinner from. Lining up for the canteen we waited another ten minutes before being told we had food in the premium dining room- fancy! Annoyingly our two options for food didn’t look as good as the sweet and sour chicken they were serving in the canteen. The service was great, bringing us drinks, soup starter, fruit salad desert. The food, as with the rest of the Philippines, was ok. Settling in for the night we watched a film, testing out how noise cancelling our headphones are. Turns out, pretty good! There was a band playing right next to us (Andy could probably stick his arm out and touch the guitar player) and we couldn’t hear a thing over our film!

7786B487-FBCE-4FE9-B132-4662C8F630B3.jpegA8FB0A48-9F63-4A28-8931-FF00B20AB256.jpegB936FFE2-948A-4771-A19B-70090E08047A.jpegBFA7C1CA-8005-4FA3-A773-034F6710B9F5.jpeg

25-26 February- Manilla again
A decent nights sleep, although awoken in the night to someone sleeping in our room that shouldn’t have been (and they stole the duvet from my bed!), an announcement was made about 5.30am that we were getting ready to dock and to leave the cabins.

The process for getting off the ferry was just as strange as getting on, women had to go one way and men another, unsure where we were being led, they came out at stairs next to each other. The women had a human chain of about 10 men handing the women’s luggage down, the men on the opposite stairs had to carry their own. The sexist culture in this country is so strange to us, when we walk in shops they address Andy first, at a restaurant they will ask the money from Andy, at markets if I say no they will turn to Andy like he is the real decision maker.

large_EDEC11C9-8328-48C0-9DD8-06A61021E811.jpeg

Back to Manila again, back to the same hostel again. We didn’t have much planned for the next few days, get our laundry done and get a hair cut for Andy. The city seems much nicer this time round, there isn’t as much pollution in the air and it’s not as humid. Right now, as I write this we have finally caught up on blog and now waiting for our 1am flight to Japan!! We look forward to what wonders await in our 4th country!

D60B465C-2500-44F3-B4EF-15F13B7719DA.jpegF5AFCF3C-9458-403F-BCFB-446D6875D722.jpeg]

Philippines Roundup!

So after five weeks in Philippines (and with this entry being pretty dull) we thought we’d share our favorites and dislikes with you:

Food- our conclusion Filipinos don’t know good food. All the meat dishes are made from bad fatty cuts and most dishes lacked flavour. We liked the pork sisig and the Adobe, both dishes we will try and make back home but on the whole, food was a bit dull. Also, the inconvenience of not having knifes in the country is just annoying. How do you cut up a fatty pork steak with a spoon?!? Also, everything has sugar in, why is their bread sweet?!

After three months away from home; I’m massively craving a Sunday roast (one like this bad boy we made for Christmas 2018) with some honey roast carrots, some crispy roast potatoes and some big fluffy Yorkshire puddings, with a cup of tea and a big dairy milk bar (or mums apple crumble!). Andy wants a greasy fry up!

large_EC2C0B39-490D-4D46-AAD0-22BFC7C9D07E.jpeg

Islands- easy, Siquijor was both of our favorites, so much adventure and natural beauty and the best snorkel spots we’ve come across on the trip. Such colorful reef! On the whole, the island isn’t very touristy yet so it’s a nice way to learn about the locals life.

large_IMG_20200206_165604_805.jpg

Least favourite- again joint agreement that Boracay was the worst, with El Nido a close second. I think the expectation from social media vs reality is non comparable. Both areas are too busy, purposefully created for the tourists and generally nothing too special about either. Having said that, the big lagoon was incredible, just wish we had it too ourselves rather than sharing with hundreds of other tourists.

large_IMG_20200209_181611.jpg

Accommodations- we’ve stayed in some incredible guest houses and hostels and only one or two bad ones. When we first arrived we were unsettled by the lack of lockers for our stuff but came to realize lockers just aren’t a thing here, some of the places we’ve stayed you can’t even lock the door. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to things like this and by the end you just don’t expect it.

Stew is torn between favorites; Antwet in Dumaguete for the vibe, the hostel itself was almost beyond basic but the bar area and the other travelers definitely gave the place a great feel. With his other favourite being the most recent we’ve stayed in Manila, Zula hostel. It was so good we actually stayed here twice; when we first got to Manila and on our return. It was a great hostel! Mine would have to be Villa Milanese Garden Resort in Port Barton (what a mouthful), just rows of cute little huts and hammocks to waste your days away in. Unfortunately we only spent one night here and couldn’t make the most of the place.

large_IMG_20200129_185945.jpg

Miscellaneous;
•We found the extreme sexism quite strange (as stated in one of our most recent blogs),
•We quickly adapted to arriving somewhere and haggling over 50p for a trike to take you to your accommodation. Throwing our bags in the back and cramming in the front of the side cart and off you go. The majority of them so old and rickety there was times I had to form a contingency plan incase it fell apart so i wouldn’t end up under the motorbike.
•Likewise when in a market, learning to haggle over a couple of pounds, mainly because it’s expected. Most of the products are cheap to begin with but a skill we’ve both become better at over the last five weeks.
•They simply don’t have sweets, they have shelves and shelves of different types of marshmallow but no sweets!
•You can buy rum for £2 a bottle!
•Roads simply aren’t built, just rubble which makes everything so dusty and dirty but adapt so quickly it’s strange being in Japan where they have real roads.
•There’s no communication with service, you just do what they tell you and go where they tell you when they tell you, without having a clue what’s going on (see our bus journey from Puerto Princesa to Port Barton)
•Hiring scooters from some random little shop, handing your passport over and riding off with a helmet unsuitable for a push bike let alone a moped.

In conclusion, we spent the last five weeks in Paradise, passing days snorkeling or wondering through markets or whizzing around islands on motorbikes, what could be better. We’re now super excited to be in the weird and wonderful Japan, although not so excited about how cold it is when we packed for 9 months of summer.

Cheers Philippines you've been great!!

large_6D164A1D-EAD3-4215-B09F-FC52CB2F2849.jpeglarge_IMG_20200214_183321.jpg

Posted by Bears on Tour 04:35 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 45) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 7 8 9 »