Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sick once more

It serves me right to stay up past five two nights in a row. Damn.

Luckily today was a rainy one so I spent it inside sleeping and doing research on my upcoming travels. Okay all you travel afficionados, get ready to advise!

I'll be flying to Tokyo on the evening of Thursday, May 4th and staying with friend Scott (assuming he has his new apartment up and running). After some priliminary surfing today, on my list of things to do are:

Tsukiji Central Fish Market - I'm a sucker for fish markets.

Akihabara Electronic Market - I'm a sucker for electronic markets too, maybe.

A shrine or temple or two, perhaps Meiji, Jingu shrine or Akasuka temple.

Tokyo National Museum, maybe.

Some crazy, busy, colourful shopping districts. Shinjuku or Shibuya.

Besides these things I want to eat delicious Japanese food and have some Japanese nightlife fun.

Any recommendations, anyone?

I also did some preliminary research on traveling through Vietnam, which is the primary country that D'Arcy and I will be visiting this summer. We haven't made the move to sit down and really think about what we want to do but we've been tossing around ideas for a while. Right now we're thinking about flying to Phnom Phenh, Cambodia, checking out Siem Riep, and then heading to Ho Chi Minh City and taking our time traveling up the length of Vietnam to Hanoi. We had been considering going to Laos too and have heard from a lot of people that it's incredible, but that might be pushing it for time. We can see as we go along.

Anyway, I found some useful information about Vietnam transportation. You can buy a multi-city open bus ticket very cheaply that's good for three months and seems to have a good selection of stops. That sounds great! Alternately we can travel by train (which sounds more appealing to me, somehow) but would have to buy individual tickets and book them a few days in advance (or be flexible about quality of car). Too bad they don't have a multi-stop open train ticket from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. Apparently the country takes a total of 40 hours to travel by bus.

From Hanoi we would either go to Laos or fly back to Korea and then home.

Then we thought that maybe it would be worthwhile to stop for a couple of days in Hong Kong from Korea, then fly to Hanoi and head South, doing that whole trip in reverse. I guess we could also stop in Hong Kong on the way home. Which one, I wonder.

We'll have to either ship most of our luggage home from Korea or store it at the airport. Does anyone know if there's any left-luggage storage at Incheon airport?

This trip is finally coming along, and my anticipation is starting to brew. Bubble, bubble.

Again, suggestions are more than welcome.


At April 23, 2006 2:05 p.m. , Anonymous seadragon said...

Tokyo recommendations:

If you are awake early enough to go to the fish market, you should DEFINITELY go. But check when it's open, because there's one day a month (I think) that it's not open and it really sucks to be up that early and not have anything to see. (That's what happened to us.)

After you check out the fish (bring a camera and get there early to the see the tuna), eat at one of the restaurants there for some really fresh fish.

Nearby the fish market, there are some pretty gardens on the bay: Hama-rikyu Gardens. There's a pond and tea house in the middle if you want to try a typical Japanese tea ceremony (I didn't).

I personally wasn't blown away by the electronics markets, but maybe that's because I expected either more fun things to play with or more things that were gadget-y AND affordable (they really weren't). So it's worth walking through, but may not really be that exciting for hours on end. Plus, you've already seen electronics markets with thousands of cell phones in Korea.

As for shrines and temples, as you've probably already noticed, Japanese shrines are very different than Korean ones. They're less colorful, but they have a lot more decor around them. (Korean shrines often seem to be surrounded by lots of plain dirt and stuff, don't they?)

If you don't have a lot of time, Akasuka can fit a lot of bills because of its location. (But right now I'm drawing a blank on what the other temples look like, so look into them. I'm not necessarily recommending this one over the others. I'm really just basing this on its location.) First of all, it's near the giant golden "turd" of the Asahi Beer factory. Second of all, there's a covered market (Nakemise) leading up to the temple. It's touristy stuff, but would make decent gifts. (Better than a lot of other covered markets which are geared toward "real" shopping, but you aren't going to find anything you'd really want to buy.)

In the front of the market, there's a huge gate (called "Thunder Gate"), then there's the market, and at the end of it are two temples (a Buddhist temple called Senso-ji and a Shinto temple called Asakusa-jinja).

Then to the west (I think) there is a street called Kappabashi Dori which includes all the things they sell to restaurants (wholesale) and it sounds boring until you realize that this is where they sell all the wax food they display in the windows of restaurants. If you want a $45 bowl of noodles with chopsticks suspended in the air above them, this is where you'll find it. (There are cheaper smaller things too, like wax pieces of nigiri sushi.) They also have a lot of fabrics, like the hanging fabrics they use in doorways.

And finally, if you're in the area, there's a little entertainment district and amusement park nearby. It's not good, but it's interesting to see because it's run down. The entertainment district looks seedy, but it's seedy in Japanese terms (safe, just run down and looks like it's heydey was decades ago). Same for the amusment park. I don't think you should make a special trip to the entertainment district, but if you're there you should swing by because it's sort of weird and eerie.

For fun shopping and walking around, definitely go to Shibuya. Shibuya is a much younger area and has more shops to walk in and out of (record shops, clothing, etc.). Also, I *think* that the cheapest kaiten sushi place is there. I forget what it's called, but we asked the guards at the train station about it and they instantly knew what we were talking about. I think it was $1 or maybe $1.20 a plate when we went, which is the cheapest we found in Tokyo. It's busy though, so there's usually a line out the door. And finally, Shibuya has lots of steep hills and at the top of them there are all these themed love hotels that you can peak at. I know they have love hotels in Seoul, but these are much much more themed. (Actually, you probably saw some of these in Osaka too?)

Shinjuku is interesting too, but more "normal" Tokyo with tons of people (lots of business people) and restaurants but nothing particularly quirkly if I rememember correctly. If you have to pick one, I'd pick Shibuya.

Tokyo National Museum - Definitely good. If you're in the mood to walk through a museum and see historical and artsy stuff, this is really interesting. I thought I'd be bored, but I wasn't at all.

And finally, if you're really stuck with nothing to do, there are two small museums we went to that were interesting. My choice was the Takagi Bonsai Museum, which is small, but has beautiful bonsai. And my husband's choice was the nearby Parasite Museum, which is also small, and kinda creepy. But if you're bored of temples... I guess it works!

I think that's it! Sorry to make this comment so long, but I saw that you are thinking of seeing so much of the same stuff that we did that I just had to share!

Hope you have fun! And I'm sure your friend will be able to give you the real run down of the best places to go to.

At April 24, 2006 12:35 a.m. , Anonymous seadragon said...

"there are all these themed love hotels that you can peak at"

Oh my god, that's embarrassing. I meant PEEK at. Jeez.

At April 24, 2006 6:32 a.m. , Blogger Jessica said...

Seadragon, you are my number one advisor in most circumstances!! Thanks for the long and informative comment. I'm going to print it and take it with me. :)

And I don't even think I noticed the "peak". But I'm sure everyone else will and tell the whole blogging world on you!! ;)

Thanks again!

At April 24, 2006 10:57 p.m. , Blogger Kiran said...

i didn't like laos...


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