Sunday, April 09, 2017
I've been missing for a while. Or at least my words, the largest part of me, have. I can hear them, they even come all the way into my mouth. And then in conversation I stop. Instead I start to write and they wander past my wrist at speed but then they sit, fat with emotion in the palm of my hand, too stubborn to move. I'm hoping the summer will bring a thaw and live in the anticipation that an impending and full monsoon is on its way.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
I'm always catching up. With the blog, with other blog, with podcast, with Tv shows, with movies and with the news. This morning I was listening to an old (2016)podcast 'This American Life' podcast titled 'One Last thing before I go'. The first act of it is the story of this old phone box that a man in Japan put in his garden. And how so many people come and talk to their loved ones - lost and dead in the Tsunami. The next story is of brothers, 80 and 85 years old, creating some semblance of a relationship after more than 20 years of not speaking over disagreements and imagined slights. It was a sobering episode to say the least.
As this year has begun I have been thinking a lot about death, life and everything in between. From images of small children dying of malnutrition and people escaping across treacherous seas from unimaginable dangers to my own family and those of my friends. The world is in sure meltdown and the only way to wake up and not want to curl right back under my duvet is to see V and Kid smile and get on with the business of living, of chatting with my parents and siblings and loading up on the teaming mass of friends and family on various social media.
There was new life last year with friends having babies and getting pregnant against medical odds. So the Circle of human life continues. With older people giving up gracefully and often fighting the good fight. But equally in the last month of the year it showed us about the blatant unfairness of it all. The absolute waste for we have lost a very young soul, the daughter of very dear friends of my parents. A woman just a few years younger than me; mum to two littlies, wife and beloved daughter to her wonderful parents. It's the situation that no parent ever wants to be in. The stuff of my nightmares is losing my child. It's unimaginable and I am heartbroken for them. In time they will learn to cope with the pain and she will live on in her children and the hearts and minds of everyone around her. But it is not on, nor fair and not right.
Considering it's the most hopeful month of the year, January, when everything is meant to show promise, it is not that at all. It's hard for me at the moment to find solace in the phrase 'live in the moment' and 'que sera sera' even though I know that's good advice. Off to recharge my batteries with the love only my parents and brother can give me.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Seeing as I haven't written for months I'm guessing some kind of explanation is due. Also as we are well into the new year I should be wishing everyone a Happy New Year. But there are no explanations and those words ring false to me at the moment. The reality is that I am struggling to balance the hope for good things that the new year brings with the loss of my last Grandparent just 6 days into the year.
As I wrote last year, my wonderful Nani had Alzheimer's. In August she was hospitalised and I came to Calcutta to see her. She had no clear memory of me but with a lot of prompting from my mum and mama she remembered both my name and our connection. Even at her fuzziest she always began our meetings with the words 'Hello, darling' while she established who I was and how we were related. Having used those words in greeting for me as far back as I can remember I felt as loved by her this August as through my entire life.
Loss is not easy. 2016 was tough - both being a world citizen looked less attractive and watching a few friends lose parents was hard. It was a year when my Nani's memories turned further back into her own youth, leaving behind much of the present and past 60 years. Looping language and confusion over time of day and what was going on left this once vibrant person a shell of themselves. And all the illnesses of old age left their marks on her body.
And last Friday, the 6th of January, she slipped away after a rough time in the weeks before. I joined my parents, brother, mama (uncle), maiji (aunt) and cousin for her cremation and immersion on Saturday morning. We worked through our sadness in different ways, some stoically, some with tearful outbursts, all with pain. My lovely in laws gave me their home and attention and joined us to commiserate and console.
Back in the real world now with school and office and life moving on at breakneck speed, entirely oblivious to our loss. Mingled with the knowledge that she is free of her confusion and pain is our very real pain at the loss of her physical presence of her soft cheeks and kind eyes. So yes, we know this is better and no, that doesn't make it easier.
My way of coping is thinking of it as a better place - taking her spot on that lovely heavenly sofa, once again beside the love of her life, my nana. Joining in conversations with my other grandparents and all the people that loved her so. I can't yet fully talk about her and all the wonderful ways she enriched my life. My Nani - loved immensely and missed intensely.
Saturday, October 08, 2016
11 years after V and I visited it for the first time we are back for a weekend in Macau. This time we have Kid (who likes nothing better than jumping on plush hotel beds) and V's folks who are visiting us in Hong Kong for a bit.
So far Macau is fun. We took the hour long turbojet ferry and checked into our hotel. Ate a lovely Chinese lunch, chilled out all afternoon in and around the hotel. V took his folks to the casino. Then went for a show - House of Dancing Waters - which was pretty spectacular. My palms hurt from clapping for the stunningly talented cast and crew. Also told off a lady in front of me for checking her whatsapp and downloading pictures during the show - the light kept distracting me and others around us. Beside which the tickets are expensive and really if she didn't want to watch then maybe she should have spent the evening (and her money) elsewhere. Then dinner and back at the hotel for the night.
It's all very showy and bright and glitzy. Fake Eiffel Tower, gondolas inside artificial Venetian canals, bright lights in every colour adorning the building. Loads of men in gold embellished shoes and serious sunglasses , wearing loads of chains around the necks of their velour track suits. With entourages. Hideous hotel lobby at The Venetian where we went for dinner. It all seems like a crazy plastic, money, neon and gold combo. Makes a change from suburban Hong Kong Island life.
Thursday, October 06, 2016
Monday, August 15, 2016
• We've had a 9 week long summer break and tomorrow it's back to the books and fun for Kid.
• It's been full of trips, this summer has: Singapore, Taipei, London, Delhi and Kolkata. 12 flights for me and 10 each for V and Kid.
• We've seen friends and family galore and although no amount of time would be enough we've reconnected with so many people this year. So many special people, to me, to my child.
• As much fun as it's all been I'm ready for the routine of staying school and home. And not going to the airport. And not packing or unpacking.
• The most (un)exciting bit was a lost suitcase at Heathrow. Mine, the only time I have ever packed without spreading our things around more than one suitcase. Luckily I had spares in my hand baggage. And thankfully it was found - it was the one with every present in it!
• We've watched movies galore this summer. Finding Nemo, Ice Age 1/2/3/4/ Mammoth Christmas and Jungle Book on DVD and Finding Dory, Secret Life of Pets and Ice Age 5 in the theatre.
• I've read a LOT - I had a huge pile of unread and re-read books to plough through. Despite my intentions to not burden my bookshelf further I bought back a pile of 6 books from London and 4 from India. So I'm set for the next few months.
• I turned 41 while in London. It was a pretty perfect day (with mild annoyances I'm trying to forget). Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidian, lunch at Wagamama, dinner at Busaba and the worlds best martini at Duke's to top the night off.
• My Nani (maternal grandmother) has been unwell. She has Alzheimer's and that means she often doesn't know to tell if she feeling unwell. This time she left it till she had an internal infection that showed itself by disorienting her even further. It took a weeks hospital stay and IV antibiotics to get her better. My mum and I travelled to visit her. Since I last saw her (less than a year ago) her Alzheimer's has become much worse. She is totally disoriented and recognises very few people - almost all male - he son, grandsons and son in law. She doesn't recognize my mother unless prompted and didn't recognise me when I visited. Horrid to see how Old Age robs people of their dignity. This slow degeneration makes a mockery of the fine lives they led, the colossi they once were and leaves us with the bitter taste of how frail and childlike they become.
• It's back to school tomorrow and today we visited the new classroom, met the teacher and the class pet, admired the view (how anyone works or studies with this I do not understand), bought the new school calendar and checked that all our uniforms are still fit for purpose. One Yoda bag later my child is ready for day 1 of Grade 2 tomorrow. It's going to be a good year, Kid.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Inspired by the Bride I've decided to complete and update my own Japanese trip draft/ report. This is all history now so forgive me for any errors:• Literally wolfed down our best ever meal at 511 in Akasaka, Tokyo before dashing to catch our Shinkasen to Osaka. That is a meal that will stay with me for a long while to come.
• The Bullet train, smoothest ride, was a quick and efficient way to get from Tokyo to Osaka.
• Great legroom, clean and neat and such an orderly line getting into our compartment. The view whizzed by but we saw enough of the Japanese countryside. We quite enjoyed the experience.
• Originally we wanted to stay in Kyoto for the 3 nights. Of course we only booked about 4 weeks before traveling and by that point everything was fully booked. From every hotel to fancy ryokan. The next best thing to do was stay in Osaka which is half an hour away and visit for a day.
• Osaka, industrial and very basic and beside the (again) re-created Osaka Palace I was really not impressed by its industrial looking architecture.
• Food on the other hand. OMG! My favorite Japanese meal is Okonomiyaki - and nothing I make at home is even a patch on this, the home of Okonomiyaki. Absolutely delicious. Osaka is certainly a food lovers destination and we had wonderful meals in very simple restaurants. Teppenyaki and Okonomiyaki and all manner of Tempura were the stars....
• Amidst the crowded Osaka streets we saw these beautiful temples and met a bunch of locals who totally encouraged us to participate, folding hands and burning incense.
• Beautiful pot hole covers totally held my fascination as wandered around and feasted on tempura. Also a slew of Hello Kitty merchandise and Disney shoes!
• Kyoto was...how do I even describe it....magic. It was a half hour train ride from Osaka (and our hotel was very close to the main station). And once in Kyoto there is so much to choose from.
•Temples and gardens and entire areas to wander around with ones jaw wiping the floor behind. Since we only had the one day we chose two: the Bamboo groves with Tenryuji temple and then the Botanical gardens with their beautiful shrine and lush Sakura trees.
• A quick walk through the Gion district before our long day ended.
• Kyoto, we didn't even scratch the surface. I wish we had planned it better and had a few more days.
• I discovered the joys of Instagram on this trip. The beauty and simplicity of their architecture and the Sakura made it a visual treat.
• I have another list of Japanese loves that will follow shortly.
Watching Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (about the 500th time this summer; don't ask) and this dialogue cracks me up every time:
Sid: Manny, who do you like better, me or Diego?
Manny: Diego. It's not even close.
Diego: [smug] Heh, told ya.
Ellie: Manny! You can't choose between your kids!
Manny: He's not my kid. He's not even my dog. If I had a dog, and my dog had a kid, and that dog's kid had a pet, that would be Sid.
Sid: Can I have a dog, Manny?
Sid: Ellie, can I have a dog?
Ellie: Of course you can, sweetie.
Manny: Ellie, we have to be consistent with them.
And herein lies the crux of our parenting battle: consistency. I seem to spend all week mixing up fun with discipline and routine and then V spends the weekend throwing all routine and most discipline out of the window in favour of fun. As many a friend will testify, before we had a kid we never fought. It was almost something weird about us, the happy harmony. And yet post child we have so many disagreements - and every single one of them is about child rearing. We won't reach a compromise on any of it, our personalities are both too strong for that (ironically the types of personalities we are is what has made us a strong couple for much more than half our lives). Sure our values are on the same page and we have the same overall aims for our child but the everyday nitty gritty, that is what I struggle to compromise on/ to let go off. With any luck our child will grow up oblivious to this tear in our relationship caused by such differing notions in child rearing. He seems happy and well adjusted for now but I think as he grows he might notice our differences in opinion, in the mood of the room rather than any overt words of conflict. I have been trying in small ways to work at being a better parent and partner but I wonder if the years of knowledge and strength in our relationship is enough to invisibly darn the rent. Parenting Dilemas abound.
Saturday, July 02, 2016
While yesterday was all about the Big Glossy building and a Big meal, today was about a little bit of history and culture.
We began at the LongShan or LungShan (depending on who is speaking) temple. Founded in 1738 and dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy this beautiful building is not the original. It was rebuilt between 1919 and 1924 and during this time a number of Taoist deities were included in its grounds. A beautiful gate leads to a courtyard and then the 3 halls of prayer which surround their own courtyard. The beautiful jasmine incense filled air and praying people mingled with tourists like us. Kid greatly admired the Koi pond and artificial waterfall.
We left the temple and headed to the Heritage and Cultural Education Centre. Located just a few blocks away from the temple this little gem is a block of its own; interconnected streets showcasing the original two storey buildings of the Bo-pi-Liao neighbourhood.
The rooms showcased the evolution of this areas history starting from 200 years ago (Qing Dynasty), passing the Japanese colonial rule and then later the Nationalist era. Using the old buildings as a base the many rooms and courtyards showcased various transport modes for trade (rickshaws, barges), architecture (2 stories, deep shaded corridors to keep rain and sun at bay), education (from Confucian moral and ethical views to Japanese New education to the Nine Year compulsory national schools), leisure pursuits (the old style wooden games were a hoot to play - I enjoyed them as much as Kid), commerce (shophouses and various stores/ services), missionaries and the introduction of various types of medicine (apothecary, herb alley to modern medicine). It was a fascinating if hot few hours and we were grateful for the few rooms which were air conditioned.
Sated, we headed back to the hotel while the clouds began to gather and thunder threatened.
Instead of the zoo and the MaoKong cable car it turned into indoor afternoon admiring the lightening and thunderstorm. We read, did puzzles, ate cake & ice cream, watched Wimbledon and had an epic pillow fight. Then we went for a swim and ended the day with dinner in the local arcade.
Thank you Taipei. It's been fun.
Friday, July 01, 2016
It's turning into a busy summer. We had a few quick days in Singapore as soon as school closed and before a fun summer camp back in Hong Kong. Tthen a quick look at the calendar revealed a public holiday in Hong Kong today and so with some quick decision making we booked last minute flights and headed here to Taipei, capital of Taiwan.
I always imagine we can achieve more in a day than we actually can and so research where to visit and what to eat rigorously in the march up to the holiday. Making notes, prioritising etc. I was short on time with this one but found plenty of bloggers who have done this trip (with or without kids) and wealth of other Internet resources to help compile a quick list.
There is however an entirely separate matter - managing my expectations. Initially I always think we can knock numerous things off the list to see, do and eat. This is usually without considering that places must interest us all and food must appeal to us all. Of course once finally here I must also accommodate my own slow pace with the speed of V and enthusiasm of Kid and find a happy medium for us all.
So today, Day 1 in Taipei, we ate a wonderful hotel breakfast and headed off to the tallest building in town, Taipei 101. The lines were short and post ticket purchase we were whisked up at great speed to the 89th level. The elevator once (2014-15) held the Guiness Book record for fastest elevator and while the record may have been beaten the ride was amazingly quick.
The Observation deck was similar to the one we had seen in the SkyTree in Tokyo. Big windows framing the city in every direction.
I took this to show the curlicue design on the outside of the building up close. Taipei is dense but orderly in its planning and there is plenty of greenery around, hills and parks abound.
We then went up to the 91st floor which has an outdoor observation deck. Boiling hot sun and 3 sides closed off meant there were almost no people on it beside us. Kid enjoyed his time at the binoculars while we sweated it out. I thought the framed windows a few floors lower provided a better unobstructed view in addition to providing blessed air conditioning.
Then it was time to walk down a few floors to the engineering marvel that is a damper. Forgive me, for I am the daughter of an engineer (who would have loved looking at this with us).
Sitting just 660 ft. from a major fault line, Taipei 101 is prone to earthquakes and fierce winds common in this area of the Asia-Pacific. To achieve stability and lessen the impact of violent motion, a gigantic tuned mass damper was designed. The damper consist of a steel sphere 18 feet across and weighing 728 ton, suspended from the 92nd to the 87th floor. Acting like a giant pendulum, the massive steel ball sways to counteract the building’s movement caused by strong gusts of wind. Kid and I both thought it looked like a giant beehive! We did marvel at its ingenuity and sheer size though.
Then we took the neat and clean MRT 4 stops to Dongmen and walked briskly to our lunch destination. It was always the plan to visit and pay homage to the original Din Tai Fung. A pilgrimage if you like. And so we waited patiently with the masses for 30 minutes before we were seated on the 3rd level of this very narrow dining epic.
Steaming baskets of delectable xiaolongbao (soup filled dumplings) and Sui Mai alongside their unique egg fried rice and signature hot and sour soup covered our table. Kid was in food heaven as were we! It all tastes better her than any of the others - and that's probably not true but hunger and excitement certainly made it feel so!
Then back to the hotel for a bit of down time. V went off to have a massage while Kid and I attempted a nap. We were foiled by all manner of sticking activities in a Lego Star Wars book.
When it grew cooler we decided to head out again, this time to stretch our legs and give Kid a chance for a runaround. Daan park in the middle of the city is a beautiful manicured green space with something for everyone. Trees, grass and flowerbeds, walking paths, inline skating rink, sandpit, climbing frames and swings. Enjoyed the hubbub of Taiwanese kids and parents immensely!
And then, this:
Giant rain clouds, a couple of flashes of lightening and thunder and we found ourselves back in a taxi and headed to dinner.
Tomorrow I pick a few more (but not too many) places to see and eat at. Tomorrows gonna be a good good day. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
In our nearly 3 years in Singapore I got into the habit of going for a movie every Sunday evening. It was a good ritual to end the week and meant I kept on top of the goings on in Holly/ Bollywood. It started with the time V had long work hours and I was home with a small child all week, every week. Sunday evening was when I'd leave them to it and have a few hours of eacapism into the Screen.
Toward the end of our stay in Singapore the movie watching rate dropped and I was watching every 3 out of 4 Sunday's. I put this down to the pressure of the impending move and vowed to get back to it with gusto once here in HK.
HK is a whole different ballgame though. I live on the Southside and there is not a single movie theatre on the entire south of the Island. I'd have to go north via shuttle/ bus/ taxi to find a decent cinema hall. Even when I do this is I am at least half an hour away. In addition the few apps that show the movie schedules weren't great. Also the whole settling in to new city meant a lot of weekend activities to help settle and meet new people. So needless to say the first few months were movie light.
Subsequently though I found myself watching stuff on a plane journey and resolving to get back into it. I was missing too much!
During a conversation with someone about how hectic the weekends are she was telling me how she 'celebrates' Sunday on a Monday by vegetating in the house once everyone has left for work/ school. It sounded like an appealing idea and that very Monday I decided that I too would lounge around on a Monday morning, admiring the view, reading and nibbling on chips in front of the TV, instead of getting into errands and chores.
By the second Monday I figured out that this wasn't for me. I needed to do something to celebrate my 'Monday is the new Sunday' existence and so I decided to look up the movie schedule and hit a theatre. Et voila, Monday is my new Sunday. I now pick one of three equidistant cinemas and an early-ish show and watch a movie in peace every Monday.
The only grouse is the lack of any Hindi movies on HK island. Surprising considering how many Indians seem to be in this country! All the Hindi movie screenings seem to be at awkward times of night and in Kowloon. Got my quick fix by watching 2 in a row when in Singapore 2 weeks ago: Te3n and Dhanak. I like the make believe world of movies: where their problems are not my problems and I can be a mere spectator.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
I'm feeling like a pressure cooker today. And urgently needing to vent else I might explode. Luckily none of the people mentioned below know of or read this blog....
Things that are currently annoying me:
1. People with more than one child who hold both the holier-than-thou stance and the 'I have too much on my plate; it's much harder to coordinate with two/ three' stance. No shit. Not your business that I have 1. Frankly don't care if you have 6.
2. Misspoken words: I've been accused of this recently in regard to holiday plans and its led to an all out fight from which yours truly quickly has now clammed up and retreated. I know I am right but shouting it louder won't get me the result I want. Turns out I don't have to be an idiot just because everyone else is. I'm all zen.
3. Stupid swimming pool rules which say there must be 2 lifeguards by the pool at all times. This means no early morning or late evening swims - too costly apparently - and its too hot the rest of the time. This is my way of letting of steam - 50 lengths - and as I don't have it these days I have this blog to shout at. Not sure what the lifeguards will be saving me from anyway - they are too busy looking at their phones.
4. Predominantly white women's clubs - or rather the assumption that if we are of Indian descent we possibly couldn't be any fun socially. I swear, the amount of time I have invested in friendships and relationships is turning out to be so not worth it. Watching as people I thought were friends go out to lunches and the like in big groups but exclude me is painful. This has been a problem for a few months now. Luckily I moved past it and stuck to my small group of pals (which in itself needs a lot of effort) till this week I was invited to coffee by one lady who proceeded to tell me that normally she would have invited x y and z but since they have left for the summer she is lonely (and the unspoken assumption is that she invited me only because I am still here). I wish I could say I am imagining all this being slighted but no it's all too real.
5. Demanding quality: I've seen this happen recently. A product and service being paid for and a crap job being done with it and no one saying anything because it's a pal that did it. People not taking responsibility and blaming me/ us for things not working. Ruining friendships is what going into business with or relying on a friend has done. And in both cases my reaction has been disproportionate to the situation. Like V says I have to think of these things as monetary transactions and not get emotionally bound within them.
Maybe it's me. It probably is. But frankly I don't give a damn. Also now that I'm a curmudgeonly 40 I don't think there is much scope for change.
Sunday, June 05, 2016
For the mums who think I spend too much time with my kid and do too many crafty things with him, sorry. I suggest you walk away now as this post will only aggravate you and make you dislike me more. Yes I like both those things but that's just me. Weird.
Birthday is a month away but this past weekend we celebrated Kids birthday as school is about to close and all his friends will disappear for the summer. We celebrated on Saturday morning, sharing it with his classmate who is just a week older than him, so also has a summer holiday birthday.
Since this past December vacation, when he watched his first Star Wars movie, Kid has been obsessed. And so Star Wars birthday party it was. And here is what I and he made and did over the past month to get out of my funk:
Activity corner - White cards, cut up foam pieces (and crayons/ pencils not in the picture)
R2D2 lantern and tie fighter banners
I was going to use this for a 4 corners dancing game (think gentler, no shove version of musical chairs) but we ran out of time so it ended up being wall art. I gave 2 to the kid we shared the party with as a reminder of the day and friendship he and and my son shared. He is leaving permanently for another continent this summer.
Yes I know the spelling is incorrect. I was following my child's bidding (he is at an age where he 'knows EVERYTHING'). Took nothing away from the tasty-ness of eating the 'very evil Stormtroopers'.
Quick glance at the table - White table cloth and silver star confetti, empty boxes wrapped in silver wrapping paper and on them homemade fake Lego lands created from fake terrarium materials.
Monday, May 16, 2016
I was talking to my brother yesterday and he asked why I haven't blogged in an age. Where is the follow up Japan post? What's up? And my stock answer was I'm too bored; who cares etc.
But I got to thinking about it a bit later and realized that actually I'm in a 'mood'. A bad and fairly unhealthy mood. I'm too young (ok middle aged) to be in this mood. And I should be changing things that annoy me instead of indulging in 'what ifs'. I should be kicking away these crazy thoughts. Ones where everyone annoys me no matter what they say or do. Some more than others and with valid reason. Others just by their being Right. Here or Right. There.
I have often thought I'm quite a happy person. I have literally nothing I can complain about with any real validity or without immediately thinking, 'Well that is just a not real problem compared to x, y or poverty and war'. I've often backed myself into the corner with one of my mini pity parties and given myself a mental dressing down till my sunny side has re-appeared. But I've also always been a person that can forgive but not forget. Lately though the dressing downs work for ever shorter periods and the pity parties have gone but I've wanted more than anything to air out all the 'not forgottens''. Hence the silence. If I don't watch it will probably say things I shouldn't and which really aren't problems but annoy me just the same. As my mother says, if you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all. I need to break out of this funk. After all, summer is here and really, I HAVE NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.
Sunday, April 03, 2016
Fair warning: long and not very together post about our trip. Ramblings for me to look at in old age and reminisce about.
• Just back from a week in Japan, Land of the Rising Sun, Sakura blossoms, Sushi & Sashimi, kimonos and so so much more
• As a child I had a two story 'world cultures' book - one story each about a Japanese family and an Eskimo family. I've harboured an irrational desire to visit Japan ever since.
• Some good advanced planning and actually booking meant that our school term break would coincide exactly with the due date of the cherry blossom blooming.
• For a change, with very little prompting, V booked his leave, our flights and hotels, all within days of our initial discussion on what to do for the break.
• Then it was my half of the bargain - figuring out what to see and do and whether to Japan Rail pass it or not.
• Armed with knowledge from a friendly neighbour that just moved here from Tokyo and various internet sites (including marvelous FB) I got to work.
• This is what we knew thanks to our tickets: fly in to Narita, Tokyo and fly out of Kansai, Osaka. Hotels were 4 nights in Tokyo and 3 in Osaka.
• All my research confirmed that unless we were doing a bunch of day trips out of either city and willing to travel between the cities on the slightly slower than bullet train then a Japan Rail pass made no sense.
• People kept saying 'why haven't you got your JR pass', 'it was so useful to have the pass/ you are fools for not getting it etc'....
Thankfully I didn't listen to them.
• We bought Narita Express tickets from the airport. We purchased Suica cards (much like Oyster/ Octopus cards) which allowed us to use subways, buses and JR lines. We bought Nozomi (bullet) tickets to Osaka. We purchased an open day return to Kyoto and we saved nearly 1/3rd on the cost of the JP pass.
Enough about travel.
• Tokyo: Narita airport was functional but shabby and a bit run down to look at but even then you could see the innovation, technology, design and discipline. Example: luggage carts that go down and up escalators into the train station.
• Narita express was fast and efficient and the red bricked (recently renovated on the outside) Tokyo station was a manageable maze. Saw my First Lady in Kimono in the line for the taxi!!!
• An evening wandering around Roppongi, crowded and neon lit, but industrial and residential in equal measure was a good introduction to Tokyo.
• Spent half a day exploring the Imperial Palace. Beautifully laid out gardens amidst large stone walls and moats. Pine trees, old guardhouses, enormous gates, bamboo groves, orange trees and of course flowering Sakura trees.
• Joined at lunchtime by a Japanese friend that moved back from Singapore to Japan over a year and a half ago. So nice to catch up and see her adorable little boy. Missed seeing R who had to be at Girl Scouts...
• Spent half a day wandering around Ginza. Went to the largest Uniqlo in the world and bought Lego Tshirts amongst other not needed but much cheaper than HK/ Singapore stuff. V and Kid went to the Hakuhinkan Toy Park with floors of toys and again the Lego was so much cheaper that indulgent father bought 5 boxes of it much to Kids delight.
• I spent my afternoon gazing at the beautiful shop windows and wandering through the amazing multi stories paper shops: beautiful handmade paper products, desk accessories, chiyogami paper, origami earrings and other stuff a stationery junkies dreams are made off. People watching from a coffee shop while trying to delicately eat my way through the beautiful confectionary section.
• A morning at the Meiji shrine where despite the tourist hoardes there was enough peace to enjoy a morning ritual and the calm of the 100,000 Japanese trees. A walk along the fairly glossy Otomesando area with a stop for lunch and ice cream.
• Then an explore of Maranouchi before heading back to Roppongi for sushi dinner at Pintakona.
• Hot chocolate and croissants in the sunshine while exploring Otemachi, before heading the way of the Sky Tree Tower. Endless line almost put us off but we found a shorter line for International travelers and within 10 minutes found ourselves on the first deck 345 ft up. What a sprawling and densely packed city Tokyo is! We then went to the next Gallery up and the views were even better. Lots of oohing and aahing over places we could identify and gazing longingly in the direction of Mt. Fuji which remained obscured by fog despite the sunny day. A real treat to get a real sense of this awesome megapolis with a birds eye view.
• Spent all afternoon watching Kid play in the bouncy castle and inside the plastic ball on the water - both part of a mini games carnival at the base of the Sky Tree. Yes we could have convinced him of a more historic or tourist worthy site but he had been a wonderful trooper chalking up in excess of 10,000 steps per day and truly deserved the break to do what made him laugh. Sensoji is left to next time.
• Detour on the way back to the hotel to see the crazy road crossing at Shibuya. Pretty amazing that over 1000 people cross using the 6 paths with no one bumping into anyone.
• Last morning in Tokyo: short walk in local park followed by exploring Akasaka. Lunch at 511: recommended for Kobe Beef. This was the only meal we had booked. Absolutely without a doubt the best most succulent steak I have had in my entire life! Not a memory I will forget in a hurry.
• Dizzying journey to hotel and then on to Tokyo station for our reserved seats on the neat and efficient Nozomi Bullet train to Osaka. 2.5 hours of high speed train - more than the speed it was the sheer smoothness of the train that amazed me. No dhuk- dhuk motion of a usual train, just a near silent whooooosh as the train glides at great speed along the track.
I'll follow this post with another few. Observations, pictures and of course Osaka/ Kyoto.
I'll leave this post with just one picture: of the first Sakura tree I saw up close. Of all the brilliant trees and bursts of color and varieties on offer this white entirely blossoming spring Sakura will always be my first.