A Travellerspoint blog

Summer Travel: Kobe

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I decided not to go on any big trips this summer to save money, focus on work, karate and study Japanese, but I did manage to go on a couple of litte one-night trips this summer.

Me and my Aussie roomate Rebecca went to Kobe last month. Kobe is such a nice city - it's hard to believe it was almost completely destroyed about 10 years ago by an earthquake. It's quite cosmopolitain actually. We managed to find a Turkish restaurant and a great China Town. As a matter of fact, I loved Kobe's China Town more than I actually loved China!

One of my students suggested that we stay at a sauna hotel. Sounds strange, right? It is technically a hotel, but with two floors of onsens (hot springs) and various kinds of saunas and baths. Those were all fantastic. However, we didn't know it was a capsule hotel. It was strange because it looks like some scene out of the Matrix where humans are growing in capsules or something. And, it is does seem like your sleeping in a coffin. We were intrigued with the idea of it all, so we did it and it wasn't so bad. It was really cheap and in a great location. They even had a radio and mini TV inside!

Posted by jbennett 00:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Back to Mount Daisen, again

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Well, I haven't taken any huge trips this summer, but I've done a few interesting things around the area. I had a short vacation, so my friend Ikuko and I went to Mount Daisen to climb it again. I've been to Daisen a few times now, but it's just such a beautiful place I can't seem to get bored with it.

Posted by jbennett 00:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Earthquakes Typhoons and Floods!!

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Well, I've now officially lived through all three! Although the earthquake a couple of months ago was only level 3, it scared the wasabi outa me! Now, we have a pretty bad flood in Matsue. And, considering Matsue is known to be "The water city," well, you can imagine it's just not a good thing. Of course, not to worry at all, my apartment is on the 4th floor and I'm on higher ground although my building is right near the main river.

I'm sorry I haven't updated in so long, but really, this summer's been pretty normal after China and Mom and Dad's visit to Matsue - just working and trying to focus on karate and Japanese. I'll be taking a short trip with my Aussi roomate, Rebecca, next week to Kobe and Nagoya. Maybe I'll have some interesting pictures to put up then...

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Great Wall of China

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I just had some more photos I'd like to post up.

Posted by jbennett 00:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

China II

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After a pretty crappy three or four days, I was actually quite discouraged. One morning, I kind of just sat in my hotel room and didn't want to go out because it was so stressful with vendors constantly yelling at me everywhere I went: "HEY! HEY! YOU!! HEY! YOU, LADY! HEY LADY! YOU! SHOPPING!! NOW! HEY LADY! CHEAP, LADY, CHEAP! HEY! HEY LADY!!!" A couple of times, a vendor grabbed my wrist and tried to pull me into his shop. It was just a nightmare. I didn't want to deal with it. But, I had four more days and I hadn't really seen the Great Wall and I was just really upset. But, I realized I was just getting beat up and I had to stand up for myself. I was alone and freaked out, but I just had to get agressive and deal with it.

So, I went to the subway station and stared at the map until I got a handle on how to use it and bought a ticket. Then, after riding it a couple of times, I got a good handle on it and used it the rest of the trip. It's only .25 cents each ride, so it was definitely a much better option than fighting with taxi drivers, eh? And then while I was out, I found a tourist center and saw a brochure on a kung fu show!!! My dream!!! I also asked if there was another place to visit the Great Wall that wasn't swarming with tourists. The man said there weren't any buses there and if I'm desperate to go, I'll have to hire a private car, which would be about $100 for half a day. I didn't want to pay that, but, that's the whole reason why I came to China. So, I talked him down to finding someone to do it for $50. I had paid $40 for the other tour, so I thought this was a great deal. I could go there and stay as long as I wanted and there would hardly by any tourists.

That night, I went to the kung fu show. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY MINDBLOWING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had watched so many kung fu movies and used to watch over and over a DVD of a Shaolin Monk show, and of course, studied Shaolin for over two years,so it was a dream come true to ACTUALLY BE THERE, WATCHING IT, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME ON THE SECOND ROW!!!!! They did all the animal forms and some unbelievable katas with broadswords, bo's and other weapons and broke iron plates, laid on nails and swords.... I bawled. I honestly sat there and bawled so many times at the fact that I was sitting there watching this in real life before my eyes. I saw it again two nights later.

The next day, I met my driver to go to Mutianyu to see the Great Wall. It took about two hours to get there and I got to see "real China." I could see houses and local shops from the car, and the mountains were such an interesting shape. They aren't like Japanese or Tennessee mountains. Their really sharp and it looks like God carved them with such detail to make the lines exactly how he wanted. Gorgeous.

Mutianyu was astounding. There was hardly anyone there, and I just walked all I liked around the rims of the tall mountains where the wall was built. I was content. I felt like all I had been through was worth coming to this place. At Badaling, most of the wall there had been rebuilt, so in reality, when you add the million tourists factor, it kind of looked, and definitely felt, like I was at a theme park. But at Mutianyu, only a part of the wall had been rebuilt and the rest was original. So, of course, I walked to the original part and felt like I was actually in history, walking around almost two thousand years ago. The mountain was so high that I could see miles and miles out into the other mountains, and in the distance, there were several buildings where the guards used to stand post guarding the wall. They looked like mini castles out into the distance. I sat at one spot for about an hour by one of the old army posts and let my mind wonder. The view brought me to tears, which were tears of relief that I had finally done here what I wanted to do and all the drama that let up to this, and tears of joy, that I was sitting right at that moment on the Great Wall of China and I never thought my life would have turned out for me to have a moment like this. Also, it was a moment where I realized, wow, I've lived in Asia for one year on my own. I can't believe I've done that. This is the ninth country I've been to, the fourth in one year, and a little over a year ago, I was a clueless countrygirl from East Tennessee, completely confused and down and out about my life. Truly spectacular. I spent about four or five hours walking around there and met some other tourists throughout the day from Sweden, Pennsylvania, Israel and Germany of course. It was a day I'll never forget the rest of my life. Yes. Definitely one to tell the grandkids.

On the way back to the parking lot, I cringed when I got to the bottom of the mountain and saw a narrow alley filled with vendor sharks. There weren't many tourists here this time of year, but it didn't stop them from setting up camp. They saw me coming and immediately, again, "LADY LADY HEY LADY HERE SHOPPING HEY LADY!!!" I walked quickly through them, but then I stopped when I saw something I just had to have. An official Chinese army hat, ya know, the big puffy brown fur ones with a red star in the middle. I just had to get it. So, I asked the old man how much it is and he said, "Special price for you, 350 yuan." I pretended to choke. Luckily, I had a little negotiating experience under my belt from Thailand and Cambodia, but the Chinese are much more brutal. 350 yuan is about $44. That's insane. So, after my choking spell I walked off, and of course he came running after me. He handed me a pencil and paper and said, "You, what price." I had really had enough of these annoying vendors, so I decided to aggrevate them back. I wrote down 10. He started dying laughing and walked over to a group of old men who had been watching and showed them the paper. They started laughing really hard too. I was just amusing myself and apparently them too. He asked me where I was from and I said, America. So, he handed me the paper again and said, "One more." So I wrote down 20. Again, histerical laughing. Then, he put the hat on my head and held up a small hand-held mirror. It looked ridiculous but he said, "Ohhh, so beautiful." Then, I started to walk away again, and he said, "Okay, special for you, 200." Again, that is crazy, so, I pulled out a 50 yuan bill and said, "only money, no more." When I started to walk away for the last time, he said, "Okay okay, 50 okay." I took the hat. gave him the bill and walked away very quickly, but as I was walking away I heard the old men laughing, and one of them yelled in English, "CRAZY!! CRAZY AMERICAN WOMAN!! HA HA HA HA!!"

The other vendors saw that I had bought something, so I was really getting harassed on the way to the parking lot. There was just no way to escape. So, I figured, hey, crazy is as crazy does. I ran down the alley, covering my ears and yelling, "la la la la la." Many of them were laughing and some of them just staring, kind of freaked out by this crazy American woman yelling and running away from them. But again, I had just had enough and I just didn't care what anyone thought at all anymore. I had to do what I had to do to get by and I learned a lot from all of this.

Although most of the trip was pretty bad and I went a little bazerk, of course I don't regret going there at all. The Wall was so amazing and I just have a whole new appreciation for being American and I am so glad to live in Japan. I was especially grateful when I got back to the airport in Osaka and the Japanese workers put my luggage nicely and delicately on the airport bus and all bowed as the bus rode away. I almost cried at that moment, with an all new appreciation for Japan.

Posted by jbennett 00:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

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