The woman’s words ran through my mind. All be damned who dare enter Yanga Homestead!
On second thought, she may have said, “That’s a lovely place to visit. Lots of history there,” but I can’t remember. It was a long dirt road that led me out of Balranald towards the house. The road winded through brush and rusted metal gates. This was supposed to be a glimpse into historical outback living, but all I could think of was how it would make the perfect setting for the next installment of “The Hills Have Eyes.” (more…)
It was rainy the day I arrived in Sydney, and I had just spent the night in the Auckland airport, so I wasn’t in the best of moods. I wasn’t blown away when I first arrived. After I was well rested and the clouds cleared, I saw a different side of Sydney. It is a beautiful city with lots to do, and it is certainly worthy of its reputation. Here’s a short tour of the main attractions.
Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay
The Sydney Opera House is an international icon, and it is the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they think of Sydney. I didn’t take a tour of the interior, but I had a good time walking around and snapping some photos of the interesting “sail” architecture outside. Since the Opera House was built in 1973, it’s got a little bit of that 70s look going on, and it was kind of dingy up close, but it is still spectacular. Adjacent to the Opera House is the Circular Quay, a main port area where ferries and other ships come and go, taking people all around Sydney and to other parts of the harbor. Restaurants and cafes line the Circular Quay, so you can grab a drink or some food and take in the harbor and city views.
When I left Japan, it was below freezing. When I arrived in Sydney, it was a comfortable 80 degrees. I appreciated the temperature change and being able to feel my extremities again. I wasn’t in the best of moods when I arrived at the Sydney airport after 14 hours of travel time, but once I was in the sunshine, things got better. Here are some of my initial observations about Sydney: (more…)
I had a great time in Japan. It is a country full of interesting history, incredible natural beauty, wonderful people and tasty food. I saw almost everything I planned to see with only a few exceptions. I also learned some lessons along the way: (more…)
As I was walking through the Ginza neighborhood, I came across Kabuki-za, the main Kabuki theater in Tokyo. Kabuki is a traditional Japanese theater style with elaborate costumes and makeup. The theater was offering single act tickets, so I bought one and was able to watch a short performance. In the story I saw, a spider demon pretended to be a sword-smith’s daughter and tricked a master and his men. Eventually the demon was revealed and they had an epic battle. The costumes were very elaborate, and the acting was over the top and exaggerated. I wasn’t able to take pictures during the performance, but you can see what the theater looks like on the inside (I was in the nosebleed section). There were lots of older Japanese women there dressed in kimonos, which added to the experience.
Here is the second half of my tour of Tokyo. To read Part 1, click here.
Shinjuku is one of the primary wards in Tokyo, and it is the location of many of the government and commercial buildings. Most of the skyscrapers in Tokyo’s skyline can be found here. The nearby Golden Gai area of Shinjuku is one of the centers for nightlife within the city, with numerous small bars and restaurants lining the winding streets. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time as I wanted to here since my back gave out after a long day of touring the city, but this is one of the top places I’d like to revisit on my next trip.
As much as I loved Tokyo, I had one giant disappointment while visiting the city. There is a bridge that connects Tokyo with an island, Odaiba. This bridge is called Rainbow Bridge, and the main parts of the bridge are illuminated in bright multi-colored lights at night. At least that is what I was led to believe from online searches. One night I walked across the bridge in hopes of getting some great shots of the colors against the Tokyo skyline. I made it to the other side tired and freezing cold from the high winds blowing across the bridge. The view of the skyline was great. The bridge was illuminated brightly. There was just one small issue.
A not-so-Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo.
Where’s the color? I waited for a while hoping that the bridge would cycle through to a color, but it never did. Afterwards, I found out that the colored lights are only used in December and the first part of January. I was there January 8th, so I assume that the colored lights must have stopped a few days earlier. So much for my planning! I’m pretty sure this is what the bridge looks like when its illuminated in colors.
Artistic representation of Rainbow Bridge.
Or you can see for yourself with a quick Google search.
I’m not a food blogger, and I’m far from a foodie, but I did have some excellent meals while I was in Japan. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was eating half of the time, but it was all really good! The best meal by far was the sushi I ate in a small shop outside of the Tsukiji Fish Market. Now, if only I could get my pictures to look as good as the food tasted…
Tuna sushi from Tsukiji Fish market.
Garlic chicken. Yum!
Potatoes and avocado with a spicy cheese.
Grilled rice ball with miso. Picked this goodness up from a street vendor in Nagano.
Pork and noodle dish with rice and a miso soup.
The title says it all. The monkeys can be found in Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park which is located in the mountains near Nagano. These little guys come out of the mountains to sit in the natural onsen (hot spring) in the winter. It’s a bit of a hike to get to the onsen, but it was a gorgeous walk through a quiet snow-covered forest. Along the way, I met a nice couple from Mexico City who were on their honeymoon, and we helped each other navigate to the park. The onsen area does get a little overrun with people since everyone wants to get some pictures, but it did not detract from the experience. It’s amazing how close the monkeys will get to you as they play with each other and run around searching for food.
The path to the snow monkey park.
I treated my first trip to Tokyo as sort of a sampler, traveling around to different parts of the city and getting a feel for the some of the most popular wards and tourist attractions. There is way too much to cover in one trip, and I’d love to see more of the city and to dive deeper into some of the places I visited, but I’ll have to save that for another time.
Shibuya is a trendy area with lots of shopping, nightlife and karaoke (of course). This is Tokyo’s Times Square. At the heart of Shibuya, near the train station, is the Shibuya crossing, which is described as the busiest intersection in the world. Traffic is stopped in all directions at one time, and the intersection becomes one giant crosswalk for about a minute of organized chaos. It is truly a spectacle to see, and it was featured in the movie ‘Lost in Translation.’ This was where I stayed in Tokyo, and it was also where I took my first steps in the city. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but its easy to fall in with the rest of the crowd.