Updated: Nov 3
David and I in front of the largest Buddha in Bangkok at 64 meters (210 feet!!!)
We have had a whirlwind of travel recently, hence the gap in Blog posts. We're still alive and finally getting to sleep in. I left off the blog posts in Thailand and we just arrived in Wellington, New Zealand. We just had some amazing adventures in Japan and Korea with my sister, Maja. She joined us for that leg of the trip which was wonderful. Fay was ecstatic to have her Auntie Maja along with us. Fay wanted to hang with someone other than her parents (boring!) and they had their own room so everyone was happy.
Since there are so many adventures in the last few weeks (and too many pictures to fit in one post!), you'll get snippets of the trip soon.
View of Bangkok from our hotel balcony
We left off at a beautiful serene island near Phuket and entered into one of the biggest capital cities in the world, Bangkok! There are over 14 million people in the metro area and all of them seem to be driving at the same time. The traffic is what we noticed first. It took us 2 hours from the airport to get to the hotel which was really only 40 minutes away. When we entered the city, it was full of lights, tall buildings, an elevated train line, and lots of energy. We stayed in a central area near some beautiful city parks.
Our first day we borrowed bikes from the hotel and rode around the first ever city park- Benchakitti park. We found some swan boats to ride in that were free! Fay and I hopped in but David passed since his 6'2" frame isn't meant for most things in Asia (bikes, swan boats, etc).
Tiny bikes but with a kid seat at the back.
Rode in a tiny swan paddle boat around a small lake. Then we saw this....
MONITOR LIZARD! These giants of the land and water are very peaceful and slow moving, unless you mess with them. They were all over the park and are sacred so no one is allowed to hurt them. We kept our distance.
At night we went to see a Muay Thai Kickboxing match at the oldest stadium in Thailand. I practiced Muay Thai for a few years in college so it was very cool to see a match in person and where it originated from. Fay declared she would never practice it, especially after one of the men was carried off on a stretcher.
Bangkok is called "The Venice of the East" because it was settled on it's major river, Chao Phraya and there are hundreds of canals where people still live. So of course we had to take a long boat tour on the rivers and canals. Fay wasn't a huge fan but I loved it!
Long boats are the traditional mode of transport in Bangkok and ours was captained by one of only 2 women long boat drivers, It was cool riding through this major bustling city then heading into to the calmer, rural canals.
Many people still live along the canals and fish and sell food from their boats. It's impressive that they've been surviving along the canals for centuries and enduring floods that happen frequently.
They also worship along the canals as we passed many temples and even that giant Buddha (pic above).
Once we made it back to land, we trooped to the nearby Chinatown which was a bustling neighborhood with some tasty street food. Then we took the Bangkok Subway back to our hotel. It was clean, fast, and cheap. We were impressed with their public transit infrastructure!
We had to get up super early for our 7 am flight to Tokyo so we went to bed early to get up in the middle of the night for our ride to the airport.
We made it to Tokyo, Japan after a 6 hour flight. We were exhausted but happy to be in our 4th country on our adventure and the biggest capital. Tokyo has a metro population of over 37 million people! This was also the start of our 2 week tour where we had guides meeting us and showing us around Japan and Korea with Maja joining us too!
We met my sister at the hotel (where the rooms are tiny!) and we were ecstatic to reunite! We were all hungry after our journeys- Maja arrived on a direct flight from Chicago (14 hours). We ventured out to find food but it was challenging to find a restaurant in our area that had space, where we didn't need reservations, that was non-smoking, and that took credit cards. Luckily one restaurant nearby beckoned us in. The waitresses wore kimonos and the inside looked very traditional.
We settled in to a delicious 7 course meal that was from a certain region of Japan that had lots of small dishes liked pickled veggies and fresh fish like Bonito. It was so tasty and not like the Japanese food we'd eaten in the US. After dinner, we checked out the nearby Vampire cafe. Maja and Fay were into the creepiness!
The menu was in the shape of a coffin.
And the ice cream in the shape of a tarantula! The servers were all dressed up like it was Halloween. It was a fun intro into a quirky side of Tokyo. The area we were staying in was surprisingly quiet- the cars were all electric so we often didn't hear any traffic. We headed home to get some rest for our big tour day of Tokyo starting early in the morning!
Our first guide, Mei, picked us up at the hotel and walked us to a nearby fish market that sold all kinds of prepared foods as well as fresh fish. It was busy even at 9am!
Then we headed to a Buddhist temple that was built after WWII bombing had destroyed most of Tokyo. The style was more of a Western influenced one than any of the other temples we visited.
Next stop was the Tokyo Skytree. Yep that's our tiny selves at the bottom. It is the world's tallest tower at a staggering 634 meters (2,080 feet!).
We had a 365 degree view of the whole city! It is massive!
We all enjoyed the cool views and I wasn't even scared of the height!
We jumped on the very clean and efficient Subway and headed to Shibuya- the huge street crossing that is famous to show how busy Tokyo really is!
We crossed over the busy street to the huge shopping district.
Fay was flipping over the cool shops, arcades with all claw machines, and we even saw the home of Nintendo!
Then we headed to the Akasaka area to visit a Buddhist temple, Shinto shrine, and to get some traditional lunch of okonomiyaki.
There were many cool shops along the way in traditional style buildings.
And lots of people dressed up in gorgeous kimonos!
Fay even helped us cook lunch!
We then walked through Yoyogi Koen park where the Tokyo Olympics had recently been held. There was a very fun Vietnamese fest going on and we got to see some of the foods we had just tried in Vietnam.
To end the evening, we went to the Team Labs exhibit which is experimental immersive art. It was all very cool and our favorite parts were walking into water up to our knees that had fish projected on top and the room of glowing lights. After the exhibit, they had Vegan Ramen outside for dinner so we snacked on that before heading home exhausted!
Our guide was so nice and even gave us presents! We learned this is a common practice and each guide gave us or just Fay presents. It was such a kind gesture!
The next day we got up picked up by our new guide, Sam, and taken to the old Imperial gardens called Shinjuku Gyoen. It was a gorgeous fall day with the leaves changing and the garden being used by local families. It was a nice way to end our quick time in Tokyo!
Next stops - Hakone and the the Ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel near Onsen-natural hot springs). Then onto Kyoto!