Asia 2019, Japan, Kyoto

Kyoto Day Four – Gardens, Beef & Sake

It’s funny how sometimes the unplanned days end up being the best ones. Ok, not sometimes…often! We had originally planned on a day trip out of the city, but the weather forecast was for rain all day. We decided to skip the rainy travel and just explore more of Kyoto since there is so much to see. It was a very good decision. I believe this is the day when we really discovered the attraction, peace, and tranquility that you can find in Japanese gardens. I’m a huge fan now.

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Asia 2019, Japan, Kyoto

Kyoto Day 3 – Tea Ceremony

Today was laundry day. One of the perks of the hotel was free self serve laundry. That was great! The bad part is the dryers took forever. I’m talking hours. I got the feeling that most people air dried their laundry. Eventually we had to just hang stuff up in our room to finish drying because we needed to get back to Gion for our tea ceremony. We took the bus there and then found a cute little restaurant for lunch.

We sat at the counter again and the staff couldn’t have been nicer. When we paid I said, “Oishi!”, which means delicious. People would love when we would say that and took it as the highest compliment. It literally was one of the few words I knew, other than some numbers and greetings. It really came in handy because so many of our meals were oishi!

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Asia 2019, Japan, Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto

Kyoto Day 2 – Katsura Imperial Villa

We didn’t get up until 6:00, which meant we were finally over the jet lag. It took a week! We were both quite sore. We decided to take the morning off. We eventually went to the pharmacy and bought Sal an ankle support bandage and me more ice packs. It seemed to help a little bit.

Our plan for the day was to go to Katsura Imperial Villa. We had made a reservation weeks beforehand. We took the bus again, but this time it was much easier. We stopped at a random restaurant on the way, where everyone in the kitchen greeted people when they entered. It was sorta funny — like the Japanese version of Cheers. Sal had ramen again.


We walked from there to the Villa, but with Google giving us wrong directions resulting in extra walking. Scroogled again! We were early so we waited a bit. Then we began the tour. You can click the link above to read more about the villa. Our guide was extremely nice and the gardens were beautiful. In Japan most gardens don’t have flowers. Rather they have perfectly manicured bushes and trees and at least one water feature. This place had ponds, bridges, old tea houses, etc. There were actually a decent number of stone steps. I was happy it wasn’t raining, because it would have been slippery and with my luck I probably would have fallen into the pond. They don’t want you to walk on the moss there, as it is sacred, so it’s important to watch where you step. I wish they would have had a place to have tea because it was incredibly peaceful. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.


We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and highly recommend it. Afterward we were trying to decide where to go. We decided since we weren’t so far away we’d try to go to the Bamboo Forrest. The problem was that we had a walk to get to a bus stop and we were already sore just from walking up and down in the villa gardens. We decided to have them call a taxi for us, but got lucky and someone was dropped off as we were getting ready to walk back and request it. The driver didn’t speak English and it took a little while, but he eventually figured out where we wanted to go. The taxi drivers in Japan dress very nicely, often in suits, and sometimes even wear gloves and/or a chauffeur’s hat. It was extremely crowded where he dropped us off, and the international travel police (again, that’s me!) noticed he didn’t give us the small change from the bills we gave him. I thought Japanese considered tipping insulting! Not that guy, apparently.

It was a Saturday afternoon and it was extremely crowded, but I’m still glad we went.

It’s sad when I crack myself up so much.

Picture taken shortly after monkey comment in video… OK, not really. A stick had poked him in the eye.


Crowds. Note the woman in the kimono? This happened all over Kyoto. Usually Chinese tourists wore them.

It wasn’t exactly peaceful there. When we got to the part where you turn around and walk back, we took a little detour to the side instead. There weren’t as many trees, but there also weren’t as many people.

The black one is a baby bamboo.

It was pleasant walking around there. We could actually hear the hollow sound of the trees hitting each other in the wind. It was very relaxing.

We wandered for a bit, trying to avoid some school kids, and made our way to the water. The next day they were having some sort of boat parade and they were preparing some of the boats. We decided to walk back up to where the shops were and we had our first matcha ice cream.

It was the best from the trip, IMO.

After our treat we shopped a little and then walked to the train station to take the train back to Kyoto station. By this time we were sore again and needed liquid medicine. We discovered a cocktail bar at a hotel and I taught the mixologist how to make a Final Ward (my favorite) and he taught me how to make a Rolls Royce (his favorite). Another fun interaction. He really liked the Final Ward and made sure to write down the ingredients and proportions. Now I’ve taught people in both Japan and Australia; it’s my little way of giving back. Some people donate to charities.

IMG_20190518_172314 (1)
He did a good job!

We then knew we needed food, so back to the train station we went. We decided to go to the same area as the night before as we saw a OKONOMIYAKI (Japanese layered pancake) restaurant we wanted to try. I always thought that you cook them yourself on the hot top of the table, but this place had it already cooked and the hot plate in the table just kept it warm.

Sal chose one with egg.
I chose one with seafood.
The sake came in an interesting bowl.

We were chatting away during dinner and I said I didn’t understand how there weren’t more chubby people in Japan with all this amazing food. Sal immediately pointed one out (not me). We still have a lot more chubby dubbies back home.

We enjoyed dinner then walked back to the hotel to listen to the live music again. There was a French little person staying at our hotel that we saw a few times. I only note it because I noticed in Kyoto there were three other dwarfs I saw while we were sightseeing. Was it just some weird coincidence? Why did I find it interesting? Hard telling.

I once again iced the knee and we both slept like rocks after our long day.

Asia 2019, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Japan, Kyoto

Kyoto Day 1 – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Note: I’ve been dreading writing about this day because I was an idiot and paid for it basically the rest of the whole trip. Learn from my mistakes, people.

I got almost 9 hours of sleep and it was glorious! I woke up at 5:00, but that was OK because we needed an early start. We went to 7-11, then took our food with us to the train station and caught the local train (crowded with school kids) to Fushimi Inari Shrine. This shrine is very popular because of all of the torii gates.

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Asia 2019, Hong Kong, Japan, Kyoto

Hong Kong -> Kyoto Travel Day

My jet lag wasn’t over yet – only five hours of sleep. Oh well, it could be worse. I was up at 3:00 a.m. though. We woke up very early, checked out quickly, and took a cab to the train station.  This was the only time this trip that we were given an estimate on how much the fare would be and it was actually lower. We left so early it was strange seeing empty streets during daylight hours in Hong Kong! We took the Airport Express back to Hong Kong Airport and it couldn’t have been easier. The apartment high rise portion of the city seemed like something out of a science fiction movie.

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Asia 2019, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day Three – Anybody Hungry?

All of my pics from this day are of food.
Warning: this post might make you hungry.


My most important note of this day? “10 hours of sleep.” Boy did it feel good. Sal was totally jealous. It was about time I slept better than him, though. Sorry, Sal.

We decided to go for Dim Sum at this place I saw on a few different videos on YouTube: Social Place. They are known for their cute and tasty food. As we left the hotel and headed outside the humidity hit me hard. It was almost hard to breathe; it was just next level. Luckily we didn’t have to walk far to reach our destination because I was starting to feel iffy. Sal said we might have to rethink retiring to a country with high humidity. Hey may have a point. The good news is the restaurant was in a mall, with sweet, sweet AC. Have I mentioned the huge number of malls there ? There are malls attached to subway stations, malls attached to business offices, malls attached to residential spaces, and malls that are their own buildings. Lots and lots of malls. If you’re a certain type of shopper, Hong Kong is for you.

We got to the restaurant before it opened and perused the menu. Soon they opened and sat us. Not a ton of English spoken here, but the menus had it and that’s all that matters. This restaurant had a time limit for tables as well. We’d basically made our choices while waiting, so it wasn’t a problem.


I almost felt guilty eating this little cutie. Almost. This little piggy was delicious.


Hey, wait. Is that a…
Yes, it is a pigeon head. He did not eat it, but he sure looks happy holding it, doesn’t he?
Dessert bun with a caramel filling–so gooooood.

The presentation of the food was fantastic. A few tables down from us they got the flaming pineapple with beef:

We thought we would walk off our big lunch at Kowloon Park, which was nearby. This was a bad idea because it was so freaking hot and the park was on a hill. Ah well. We walked around some, saw some birds, watched some men practicing some sort of fighting, and took some pics of interesting statues. Where are those pictures? Good question. They appear to be missing. We also noticed a couple of videos missing yesterday. I’m worried what else is missing as we get further into the trip and review the photos and videos. It’s very upsetting.

Deep breath. Deep breath. Sorry for the sidetrack. Back to the food!

After the park we decided to do a little shopping. We went to a lovely tea shop and got a gift for my friend who was watching the cats for us since she’s English and a tea addict. The women working at the shop were so friendly and helpful!

Walking back to the hotel a Hong Kong man walked by wearing a shirt that said, “Lift Heavy Shit”. Not gonna lie. I giggled wondering if he knew what it said or not. We often see people wearing shirts with English words, and a lot of times the English isn’t correct…which makes us think they don’t really know what they are wearing sometimes. Well, I thought it was funny. Probably had to be there.

We got back to the hotel and cool, cool air conditioning. We showered and changed for our fancy dinner at Man Wah Restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. We chose this place because of the awesome views, great food reviews, and the fact that we could get 1/2 a Peking Duck (most places you have to get the whole duck and that is way too much duck for two people).

My handsome dinner date.


This was their signature charcoal/gin cocktail. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was delicious.
Shrimp spring rolls.


Hello, handsome!
Our eyes rolled back into our heads. They were that good.
The rest of the duck was used in these lettuce cups. It was very filling!
The egg tarts – our first – were so yummy.
The little extras cookies at the end came in a bird cage. Cute presentation!






And that’s how we ended our time in Hong Kong. No egg waffle – way too stuffed – but what a fantastic meal!




Asia 2019, Big Buddha, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day Two

I repeated my 5 hours of sleep routine and was up at 3 again. Good grief. I was envious of Sal sleeping away. I just couldn’t fall back asleep, so I read while he snored contently.

Once again we had a cheap 7-11 breakfast. We also added money to our travel card. The woman at 7-11 didn’t speak English, really, but we learned pretty quickly that most people understand charades/pantomime. We had decided that we would go see the Big Buddha on Lantau Island that day, which meant an early start and a lot of travel to get there/back. We had a full day in store. We got to the Subway and I went through without issue, but Sal had a problem with his travel card and had to find someone and do the charade thing again. I waited for him on the other side of the turnstile since I had already paid. I had a pretty big epiphany while I waited, and that was that I would never want to go to a new-to-me large city (in a foreign country) by myself. I found it really intimidating and stressful. I was slightly worried Sal wouldn’t find me because of the crowds, but of course he did. I have new respect for the solo travelers beyond just having to deal with the loneliness that must be a part of that sort of travel. Thank goodness for Sal.

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Asia 2019, Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day One

I had been up about 30+ hours straight with no sleep. You would have thought I would have slept like a log when we finally went to bed. You would have been wrong. I slept for 5 hours, and that wasn’t even straight. Oh jet lag. You’re cruel.

Something that I forgot to mention about the first night is when we went to get the egg waffles we got lost in the mall and couldn’t figure out how to exit and get outside. It will surprise absolutely nobody that knows me that I got lost, but hey Sal did, too! It was a comedy of errors. It should have been obvious. We followed exit signs, but they didn’t look like ‘real’ exits, but more like emergency exits and we were afraid of setting off some kind of alarm. We even asked a nice lady who was cleaning the floors, but she didn’t speak English. She pointed to one of the fake looking exit signs, so who knows? We eventually figured it out, but let’s just say it was a humbling experience because we got lost a few times in that mall.

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Flights, Hong Kong, Vacations

A Very Long Day

The Back Story…

The plan in 2018 was to visit Japan for a couple reasons:

  1. Everyone we knew who had ever been there had only great things to say about it.
  2. We already had the Japanese encephalitis shot, so why not go before we had to get it again? Especially since I got sick from it the last time.
  3. We love sushi.
  4. We love temples.

Then Sal found out about a conference he could speak at in Sydney, and he had a work meeting a few weeks later also in Sydney, so we switched our plans and went to Australia instead because:

  1. Work would pay for the Sydney portion and Sal’s flight.
  2. See #1. That was the only reason. It’s really expensive flying Business Class that far and there was no way I was going in Coach!

That took care of the big trip of 2018, but since Japan was still #1 on our list of places we wanted to go we made it top priority for 2019. Someone suggested combining Hong Kong with Japan, so that’s what we did because we could get a direct flight there, too, and we’d arrive at night, which is better than having to stay awake all day.

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Disclaimer: Skipping Ahead…

I know, I know. I never finished blogging about Australia. I’ve been procrastinating like crazy and other things have gotten in the way. Sorry! But I will get it done at some point – I’m just not going to say when!

So because I just got back from a trip and had two people the same day ask when the trip report was going to come up, and I think I might literally only have three people who read this blog (AND MY MOM WASN’T ONE OF THE TWO WHO ASKED!), we will fast forward to….