Japan – Summer 2013

Originally, my friends and I had plans to head to Tokyo and check out the Ghibli Museum. However, they were flying standby and didn’t catch their flights. Instead of criss-crossing back and forth between Kyoto and Tokyo, I went straight to Kyoto. I spent the next two days going from shrine to temple to shrine. My favorite memories:

  • Kyoto has an awesome bus system that got me everywhere I needed to go. There are a couple of tourist lines for major attractions and then city buses to take you through the heart of the city.
  • Shimogamo Shrine is one of the quieter ones, away from the tourist buzz.  It has great grounds for meandering.
  • Ginkaku-ji is cool, but not my favorite.
  • Kiyomizu-dera. The whole area is cool. You can actually walk from the shrine through a shopping district filled with shops to Kiyomiza-dera. I wandered onto it by mistake and kept following things to see.  Shrines and temples everywhere.
  • Gion walking tour. I saw a Geiko (Geisha) and Maiko (apprentice Geisha) walking about. I tried to go to the Nishiki Market for dinner afterwards, but it was closed.
  • I started early the next day at Fushimi Inari. It was one of my favorites. Garlands of thousand-paper-cranes as well as stacks of torii (Japanese gates) made for a visually striking shrine.  I walked up to the summit and passed through thousands of torii on my way.
  • On my way up to the summit, I met a couple from Perth that I walked with a while. They mentioned a monthly flea market at a shrine, and it sounded interesting enough. I headed to the Kitana Tenman-gu Shrine and took a look around. It’s mostly stuff (souvenirs and housewares), but I also picked up some food. I’ve eaten a lot of street food on this trip.
  • The bullet train to Tokyo was fast, clean, and spacious. They had plugs for charging my devices and the mobile broadband works!

On the third day, I headed to my hotel in Tokyo. Shibuya. The weather was cold and rainy, so I didn’t venture outside. However, I did spend plenty of time in Tokyo Hands before dropping by the office.

Taiwan – Summer 2013

As soon as I got off the airport bus, the heat and humidity hit me like a wall. It took the will out of me. I didn’t want to do anything or leave the cooling AC. I had plans to see sights (or at least the National Palace with all the historic Chinese treasures), but I didn’t want to walk outside.

I stayed with my friend Rick and his roommates. They have a 4 bedroom apartment with a Japanese room (commonly used to play mahjong) as a guest room. Since I didn’t see many sights, I spent my time eating and hanging out with folks I haven’t seen in a while (Regan and his bride Sharon, the out of town folks, etc). We went to Din Tai Fung which still blew me away after all these years.  We also had a 10 course omakase lunch at a Japanese restaurant. This cemented my opinion that Taiwan is a great foodie destination.

The wedding was at a restaurant on the 86th floor of Taipei 101. Breathtaking views, and a beautiful wedding.

Even though we stayed out late at the wedding after party, I still woke up early due to jet lag. Rick’s roommate was up and preparing for a 10K with her friend. So, I hydrated and did part of the Nike women’s run. I had a hard time in the heat, so we cut off back to Rick’s place after 4 miles or so. Good way to say goodbye to Taiwan.