WanderLOST in Japan ;)

WanderLOST in Japan ;)

I admit, my first two days in Japan included me getting lost a lot. Regardless, I was enjoying the experience because I usually stumbled across something interesting. My first impression of Japan is that the people are very formal and polite and that the city is very clean and well organized. I opted for a taxi because it was late and I didn’t have a working cellphone to use for navigation. It cost me though, that, or I just wasn’t used to paying so much after being in Thailand for 2 weeks.

I arrived at my hostel (in Asakusa) and the first thing I needed to do was get a SIM card and warmer clothes. I grabbed my warmest outfit and headed to a Family Mart where the reception said I could buy a SIM. I ended up finding it after a few wrong turns and bought one. I struggled to get it to work but I think I was just tired. I finally realized I needed WiFi to set it up… so I went back to my hostel and set it up. Success! Then, I went to a shopping mall I found nearby and bought a bright yellow sweatshirt. Which later turned out to be a poor choice because it came quite obvious I was wearing the same thing everyday.

I decided I should get a bite to eat too so I wandered around until I found a place that looked cute. It was super small, like San Fran small, and I was seated upstairs next to a table of 12 businessmen enjoying themselves and occasionally standing up to give a speech. My table had a stove on it (Hibachi) so they cooked my meal in front of me as I enjoyed a Sake and tried to figure out how to eat it off the stove with this little tool they gave me. I noticed that the neighborhood was starting to close down which sort of surprised me being that it was only 9:30pm on a Friday, but I was tired anyhow so went back.

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The next day I wanted to see the world’s largest crosswalk in Shibuya so I found a subway station and hopped on one. I was pleased at how easy it was to get there, a straight shot and took about 25 minutes only. In which those 25 minutes I enjoyed the most delicious strawberry flavored bread in the shape of a heart. I’m going back there tomorrow just to buy the one shaped like a sumo wrestler. The subways were super quiet too, but I guess people didn’t really talk on NYC subways either.

After watching people cross, I got a Sakura Pink Milk Latte at Starbucks did some shopping. The first store I went in I could have spent hours in. It was a mix of little snacks, makeup, paper good and they were all so stinking cute!!! I ended up getting the most random things like CosPlay contacts, Thank you cards written on candy, Disney Character lipstick, Peter Rabbit bath salts, and Pokemon surprise inside candy.

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Next, went into this clothing store that was full of teenage Japanese girls, exactly who I want to dress like. I needed warmer clothes anyways so I ended up treating myself to two pairs of pants, 2 new shirts, and new pair of kicks that will cover my ankles (so I don’t have to wear socks with my Toms anymore, it really wasn’t a good look despite my efforts). I worked up an appetite after all of the shopping, so found a spot that served great ramen and plum wine.

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I wanted to checkout Shinjuku and decided to walk there since it’s only 2 miles away. To my delight, the walk passed through a park and then a forest. I entered the Shinto shrine gate and then to the shrine shrine, Meiji Jingu. It was rebuilt after being destroyed in WW2 so it was in good condition. I ended up doing this thing where I could get my fortune. Fortunes are very popular here, but they are all written in Japanese. I’ve learned that Google Translate has a photo option take a picture of words and it translates it for you), so I was able to figure out what mine said!

 

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Shrine Gate
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Hand washing before entering the Shrine
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Sake Barrels

Once in Shinjuku I walked around a bit, but then decided to take the train back to Asakusa. It was not as straight forward as my train there but after stopping to ask for help twice from the information stands I was able to figure it out. Back at the hostel I saw a poster for a place that was nearby and had a DJ playing. The music didn’t start until 8pm but I was hungry so I went early thinking I would just hang out. The place was super cool. The bar tender was a Canadian with dreadlocks and she handed me the menus which were written on old cardboard boxes. I sat down on the couch next to a friendly dog and enjoyed an avocado taco and warm sake.

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After eating I suddenly felt very tired so rather than stay I decided to head to a public onsen bath (comes from hot springs) and then home. The bath was only 1 block from my hostel, and down an alley. I saw pictures of what the store front looked like so I was able to find it. I love the history of the public baths. People went to them not for a spa like experience, but literally to bathe because very few houses had baths in them back then.  I walk in, put some coins into a slot for a ticket and some soap and then head in. I hand a guy at a desk my tickets and he points me to the women’s bath.

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You put your things in a locker, I’m talking everything. Then you head buck naked with your soap in hand into the shower area. After a good washing under a shower that is waist high (I opted not to sit on the stool they provided and just squat which was awkward), I went into the first bath. The water was as hot as a hot tub would be, maybe 102 degrees fahrenheit? I used the jets to massage my back, then went into the electrical bath. If you’ve ever done STEM treatment for an injury that is exactly what it feels like. Your muscles tighten and contract and while some find it painful, I thought it was great. While in there, an older woman started asking me where I was from and then proceeded to read my palm and told me I would make lots of money. Great fortune, but the nakedness of it all made me want to keep moving. I went to one that was semi-outdoors and it was an ice bath! It reminded me of jumping in the lake and after a Sauna. I jumped into the hot one next to it to warm back up. I think I probably spent a total of 20 minutes in all of the baths. I felt refreshed and slept easily.

Chiang Mai: Wanderlust and Talking with Strangers.

Chiang Mai: Wanderlust and Talking with Strangers.

My first night and day in Chiang Mai I learned the definition of Wanderlust. I could wander these little streets within the main square (a wall from the old city partially still up) endlessly. In a way it kind of reminded me of a smaller New York City. In the sense that you stumble across little gems of restaurants and shops on every side street. Even at night, it’s bustling and during the day it was just as busy, yet not overcrowded. I mostly walked, although I really enjoyed the speed and breeze that came with a TukTuk.

I would keep going until I saw something worth stopping for (which was often, so I’m glad I didn’t have a scooter here). Some of the stops included a temple, a latte art winning cafe, a Thai massage spa, a hot food stand, an ice cream shop, a park with a book fair, a fruit market, a craft market, and so many more things! I ended up taking 29,000 steps in just one day, which is also why I ended with a reflexology foot massage. My favorite thing ever. Hands down better than any back massage. Although, a true Thai massage, is also better than any massage back home. It’s more effective in loosening your muscles and stretching you out, yet, it also relaxes you because they hit all of these pressure points.

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I brought my book everywhere I went so I could easily stop, relax and enjoy my latest novel. I forgot how much I love sitting down to a dinner with a book in hand. I don’t do that much at home because I will go out to eat with friends or read in the quiet of my bed. I wanted the first two days to be full of exploring the square, but I did book tours for Thursday and Friday. I had nothing planned for Wednesday so I ventured out Tuesday night.

I was ready for some company so I decided to head first to dinner and see who was around. At this point in my trip, I really have no fear in striking up a conversation with a stranger. I used a clever opening line to these Dutch guys next to me,“Is that beer any good?” haha but it worked and we ended up talking the rest of the dinner. Sadly, they had an early tour and wouldn’t be going out. Next, I went to a bar that was supposed to be popular.

I saw a girl sitting alone at the bar so decided she would be the easiest person to talk to. Turns out, she was hoping for a friend as well! She and I ended up hanging out together, and then had two guys come join us. Everyone was so much fun! We danced and drank cocktails called “lost in Chiang Mai” until closing time. Fortunately, the streets are easy to navigate and safe at night so I did not follow the destiny of my drink.

The only downside? I broke my favorite pair of leather rainbow sandals. I’ve had these sandals for EVER. They are supposed have a lifetime warranty but I wasn’t about to carry them with me until I could ship them back.

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