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He happily asked me if I liked the Japanese food.SONY DSC

I had a flash back of the raw baby squid I’ve just had.

Of its wonderful taste of bloody gizzard and the bits and pieces of raw meat I could still feel between my teeth.

Oh, and the unique aftertaste of eggs and … vomit was that?

And I’ve answered to him in the most enthusiastic way:

“Oh, sure. I love it.”

 

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What made the third day in Hakone so special?

Some good trekking. A cup of tea. Japanese kindness. And a reminder of people who really matter.

I’ve got in Motohakone-Ko by the rope-way, saw Mount Fuji and really fancied a cup of tea.

shinto fountain

shinto fountain

There was suppose to be a tea house (the Amazake-chya tea house) somewhere near, crossing a bridge and few more meters straight on. At least that was my understanding of what the very forthcoming Japanese woman at the turist office told me.

Or perhaps that was what I wanted to understand from what the woman told me. Have you noticed that sometimes (me more often than I’d like to admit) we only hear what we need/want/are prepared to hear?

shinto temple entrance

shinto temple entrance

50 minutes, one buddhist temple in marble, another Shintoist temple in wood and some great trekking-through-the-wintery-woods later I started doubting that I’d be on the right track.

As in most stories about searching (and finding) which involve some doubt and some perseverance, some satisfaction with the followed path and some „where the f..uck do I think I’m going?“ I finally got to the tea-house.

It was smelling wood and sweets. And herbal tea of course. The room was rather darkish.

Amazake-chaya tea house

Amazake-chaya tea house

With big, traditional tea brewers here and there and tables made of cedar. I had to leave the shoes at the entrance and bow when I got my cup of tea.

The tea was for free. And I didn’t feel „pushed“ in any way to order anything else (cause one could buy there anything from Japanese handicraft, to soap, confectionery or some deliciousness to eat).

Moreover, on the way out, the tea house keeper asked us where am I coming from. I’ve answered that from Romania. Her face brighten up and she said:

„You’re my first customer from Romania. Nadia Comaneci. I am a big fan of hers.“

That already made my day.

I said goodby and left. Still, the tea house keeper came after me. She offered me a candies bag:

„Come again when you’re in the aria. Me and Nadia Comaneci, we are from the same generation. I am a big fan of hers“.

I was overwhelmed by the Japanese hospitality.

She also reminded me to be grateful to extraordinary people who probably make for a country much more than we could imagine.

So thank you, Nadia Comaneci ( got the candies and the nice warmth thanks to you).

 

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Three days in Hakone went by just like that.

SONY DSC

There are 8 hours time difference between home and Japan. So my first contact to Japan felt like when waking up in the middle of the night to go to a party which is supposed to be good.

And it was not too bad the first two days. It was (finally) all worth it the third day.

I spent the first two days mostly sleeping.

I would fall asleep in any reasonably warm place. My favorite were the busses on the „meandering“ montaneous Hakonian streets. My sleep was from time to time interrupted by the bus driver: „as we are approaching a meandering way, please pay attention to yourself and luggage“. But otherwise, it was all nice and cozy.

If you want to get the same wonderful experience on busses, get yourself the Hakone free pass.

hakone treeIt will allow you the sleeping ( and not only) experience on all the busses, local trains and the „rope-way“ in Hakone. I can only recommend it (the ticket, not the sleep- although this one can do you good too).

The highlight of the first two days were… some eggs… at Owakudani. Owakudani is japanese for „the hell valey“ and as you look down from the „rope-way“ (funicular) you can see the left overs of the volcano explosions happened some 2500 years ago.

If you’re really hungry and/or believe in whatever stories the shop-keepers around „the hell valley“ tell you, you’ll probably buy the black eggs. These are „normal“ eggs just that made in the volcanic lava, freshly smelling like… sulphate and with a appetising black colour.

Now, if you wonder who on earth would pay money and eat that.

Well… me.

And quite some few more. Cause the story goes that for each of the eaten black egg one gets 7 more years of life. I eat 2 and a half eggs and felt a bit sick after. But… I’ve just gained 17 more years to live.

That’s fine… you can envy me now.

Now, the third day….well the third day was special.

Forgot to mention that Hakone is a little village up in the mountains, where you can not only eat the black eggs and sleep on the busses but also enjoy some wonderful spa time in sulfurous hot springs (these are also supposed to do good to you. Probably once getting out from the super hot baths, one feels grateful that he’s alive anyway).

Mount Fuji on a half lucky day

Mount Fuji on a half lucky day

From Hakone you can also see the sacred mountain… FUJI. Well, you can see it if you’re lucky; I mean if you manage to be there when it’s not that foggy that you wonder if  the white thing you’re seeing is the mountain, a cloud or simply the fog (look in the picture, right… attentively).

Well, this post is becoming really long… So better to allocate a whole new entry to the third day in Hakone. Have a mentioned that it was the best day so far?

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 Took off to Tokyo.

It’s been a sort of spontaneous decision to travel to Japan. It was a vague idea until my partner found very cheap flight tickets… and bought them. Then I knew it: we’ll spend Christmas in a rather… buddhist/Shintoist country.

First stop on the way was however Moscow (transit only).SONY DSC

Now, it’s important that you know a little detail about me: I was brought up in one of the Eastern European countries which fully benefited of the miracles of the communism. For the record, about 100 million people were killed under various communist regimes around the world in ways such as genocide, executions or artificial famine.

However, when I was a kid, Russia ( Soviet Union, back then) was known as „Mother Russia“.

Could it be that that was because  in “Mother Russia” people behave(d) sort of “motherly”? I wondered.

Well, well. I flew Aeroflot- Russian airline. And at some point I asked one stewardess if I could get the headsets so that I can enjoy the deluxe entertaining programme on board.

 The little, blond Russian stewardess in the most maternally way kind of barked at me:

“You! Headsets? Not now!”

“No Sir. Yes Sir” I thought.

Now, as I’ve landed in Japan and I’m feeling slightly jet lagged I realised that I’ve never asked myself: “if Russia was the mother, who the father was”.

“But, do I really want  an answer to this question?”

“ Neeeeyyy”

So, don’t worry, tomorrow you might get some stories about Hakone- great hot springs place next to Tokyo.

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what can be more romantic than a trip to the castle, on a beautiful sunny week-end, through the woods.

And by bike…

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“Morning Sir, two train tickets to Rishikesh. For today, if possible, please.”

“Why do you want to go there, madam?”

“Well, you know, we came to India for it. Spiritual city, Himalayas, trekking, ashrams, nice people… everybody told us…”

“Hum, Rishikesh, difficult madam.”

“Ok, we will take the „golden triangle“ plus Varanasi then.”

This was pretty much the discussion we had in the tourist centre in Delhi this morning. And here we are late afternoon in Jaipur, Rajahstan. After 5 hours driving through smog, grey, much higher prices, and worst of it…. coooold.

What happened?

We were fine, jollying around in the spectacular Mahabalipuram (with stone carved temples of the 7thcentury, and circus-like beach during the day, beautifully

mahabalipuram beach

calm at night). We even survived a cyclone (ok, a little bit of wind and rain while blindly searching for a sea-view room when people were advised to evacuate the area; don’t worry, we didn’t manage to have get the wished sea view room; for a weird reason, all sea-view hotels were shut).

Just yesterday I thought I needed a new sun screen while wandering around with a dear friend in Chennai, after delicious south Indian meal and looking forward to a Bollywood movie:. „Don 2“- the name says is all.

Brr, what happened, where did the sun go?

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from Munnar to Thiruvannamalai – it’s been quite a trip. an indian bus trip. now, an indian bus trip is something of an experience.

with monkeys coming over into the bus if you were not vigilant enough

with over 12 hours of bumping road and….

le coup de coeur:

with sick people shorcuting the throwing up experience – directly though the window. more precisely through the window in front of me. so that I needed to develop a quick response strategy i.e. while not looking, still being able to close “my window” in order to avoid “spill-over effects”.

once in Thiruvannamalai, I thought I was the luckiest person on earth. the holy mountain, the temples, the ashrams and the people around do have something “inviting”. Plus, there was toilet paper in one of the hotels I stayed at…. so one gets to understand the blissfulness of the small things. here better than anywhere else.

next stop: mamallapuram. for the beach and welcoming the new year. A fascinating New Year to all of you, my dears!

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