So, laziness, or insanely smart, I’m going to try and ‘recycle’ some of my emails to blog posts. It has been noted that my email style is a little ‘punchier’ than my blog content… so I suppose we’ll see if it’s loved or hated!!
At Sydney Airport
So… other than bruising my hand on one of the lesbian’s hand luggage falling over (matches her wife’s), seeing my boss and his wife, I’m all good.Had my maccas hot cakes, seen an awesome red/ruby coloured longchamp – checked, it’s made in China, but my blue one I’m carrying is thankfully French made.
Tour might KILL (or teach me) patience… We’ll see.
New Osaka Hotel
I have wifi. I’m tired and it’s past bedtime and I’ve missed one meal. Room is tiny but private so this (semi) nudist is happy.
Plane was old but from Tokyo to Osaka was shiny and new and as big with first class! Who needs first class for a 45 min journey!?
Sat next I 21 year old on way here, annoyed me. Rookie traveller he is!!
Food! I need food! No money in yen though.
Day 2 about to begin, we head to the sister city Suita and stay with home stays for two nights! The lesbians are staying together cause otherwise they refused to home stay.
Little J is the inexperienced 21 yo got left behind in the busy streets of Osaka after seeing the dragon boats . He’s a pretty entitled mummy’s boy so more or less blamed us for losing him not himself for his inability to follow the green fish wind sock that Hiro our guide whips out (definitely gay me thinks!)
G the leader is a bit dottery, so the lesbians and I whipped him into shape so we eat prior to midnight. You should see the gifts he’s got for our homestay families – yikes!!
There’s an older couple, four kids and grand kids called L&G. Apart from the lesbians they seem the most relatable for me. They’ve travelled heaps. She’s a bit disagreeable with big issues, or just contrary (after I mentioned the diversity of fashions the Japanese wear). Greg is far more fun and appreciates my engineer mind!
There’s a whinge-a-belle who’s a vego cause she can’t chew. She takes 10 minutes of fretting to buy a vending machine drink, worried she won’t like it, and of course in the end didn’t. She should have got water but she doesn’t like mineral water, chose green tea. Anyone would think the $2 decision was mission critical! The lesbians and I split to ensure we wouldn’t enjoy her company at dinner after seeing her lengthy discussion at lunch!
There’s sisters her, in strata check business, constantly laughing. E’s 27 and definitely the more unhinged one but K keeps her sorted. Thy have locked themselves out If their room more than once already!
Then they Z, a Russian born in Iran who got refugee status in Australia after ww2. She’s a red wine drinker and whilst a little spacey, switched on generally! J is 32 never travelled but it doesn’t show. He has mannerisms and intonation like Teo but far more generous. The twins and I had cash flow problems the first night and Jordan readily volunteered to cover us. That being said despite reports to the contrary, international credit cards works but cash is king!
The tv is all in Japanese but in watching it nonetheless. Puts me in the mood for the day ahead. Sorta sad I couldn’t find a music station at least 🙁
Yesterday we went to a castle/fort in the rain, then to Osaka history museum which was ok but very little English.
Lastly we went to the aquarium which I want enthusiastic about but ended up loving! For a girl scared of swimming with fish, a 30cm Perspex barrier between us is ideal! There were penguins and dolphins but the killer whale was sick and AWOL. There were SO many toddlers there but also young dating couples. Despite this business I saw heaps! There was also the worlds biggest gift store!! (If you care for fish, I have about 10 posts worth of photos!
This country is incredibly kid friendly. Most toliet stalls have a wall mounted baby holder to sit there while mum pees. Then most ladies bathrooms have a small low mounted urinal for little boys! Even sinks are at lower levels. Staks of men’s rooms also show they have baby change facilities too. They are also uber blind aware – Braille on stair hand rails in addition to tactiles everywhere. Even pay phones mounted lower. Every public toliet also has old person rails in the stalls and around at least one sink. I think I recall reading about the aging population: they’ve certainly embraced the changes needed!
Ok time to zip up and head to the foyer. Smallest bag in the group for the trip – most will leave the bulk of their stuff here during our homestay but I can take most of mine 😀
If I pack three pairs of ‘pants’ (one skirt, two pairs of shorts) – then I need the same proportion of tonal knickers (cause I’m like that!). I didn’t have enough light toned knickers, but Uni Qlo to the rescue…
Synthetic pockets in my white shorts – need replacing stat!
I had the least luggage, but could have wedged in a few more light/thin t shirts of similar – not that I owned something I ‘should’ have packed
I’m incredibly well travelled, and actively seeking to learn and work things out. I did NOT like my discovery being short cut by a friendly helper I’m travelling with, but I love to teach when people are interested (like teaching Japanese characters to the girls)
I love to write – I wrote daily emails, AND a handwritten journal, which I bought some great scrap booking stickers for in Kyoto – mighty proud!
I’m not the most obsessed about wifi or internet! At least in this group of 12!
Handbags really are the best way for me to day trip – easy to get tickets out repeatedly, small and therefore light, and had a light bag in there for ‘shopping’. Someone pointed out it was getting rain in it, but seriously, it didn’t, and no zip didn’t worry me in Japan!
Runners are way more supportive than $4 canvas slip on runners.
The smell of cigarette smoke is pervasive, and smoking is still quite acceptable in Japan (with smoking rooms quite common). Three nights in a formerly smoking room was a little unpleasant :s
You are automatically charged for plastic bags at grocery stores, but at convenience and all other stores, it’s the default way to show you paid for something. If you mime you don’t want a bag, plastic branded tape is placed over all items’ barcodes!
As soon as I hit publish, I’ll think of more things! But that’s ok, blogs are living, I can update it 😉
I’ve often travelled alone. I’ve often not taken any photos of myself. With the BF back home, and this echo of friends in the past, I implemented a policy of ‘a selfie a day’. In reality, some days there are a few selfies, and other days there are none. But you get the picture:
There’ll be many a post on my two weeks in Japan, but I thought I would start with the big difference I noticed and didn’t expect (like, obviously the language and alphabet is different!)
They are SO tidy – even though there aren’t many bins, you just don’t see rubbish lying around. I saw someone *clean* the pavers of an ice cream drop or two
There’s no paper hand towel in bathrooms, almost across the board. My eco conscious REALLY like this! Instead, men and women carry handkerchiefs or what we’d call ‘face washers’ (terry toweling) and use it to dry their hands, or wipe their brow…
Japan is HOT! Wow, there was 95% humidity some days
They are such obedient people – they line up either sides of the train carriages in pairs. Just such restraint.
Everywhere seems very visually cluttered – some many words in your face! Negative space in print isn’t something that’s used as much as it could be
They certainly love a cute uniform with a hat!
Just a short post for now, but I thought I should break my two week posting drought!
It won’t come as a shock to those who know me, or regular readers, that I love France.
I don’t love the kitsch French decor items – the Eiffel towers (she says, with two photographs of them displayed in her home) the shabby chic, the ‘sayings’ in French on stretched canvases. But I do love the French language, way of thinking, lifestyle, and just generally being IN France.
To be poetic, I feel my soul is refilled in France. Much the way a hug can restore your heart after a tough and emotional time. I feel I absorb so much from BEING in France. Not from seeing anything in particular, or traipsing through museums or art galleries. Just from being. Walking the streets. Speaking the language. Embracing the food (and my curves :o)
But why? Firstly, my parents have always been enchanted with France. When I was 9, my parents both cashed in their long service leave, and we moved to the South of France for 15 weeks. Yep, three children (one just shy of two years of age) packed up their 4 bedroom Queenslander for rent, and moved to a tiny stone place in tiny village in the south of France (Treilles). Did I love it then? Nope! The first night – a long jetlagged sleepless night with Fete de la Musique blarring in the windows of our one star hotel in Paris was not the start of a dream, but a nightmare!! And my parents insisted on sending me and my brother to school every day whilst they went to the beach with the youngest. The indignity! I didn’t even use the bathroom at school (and I’ve since found out my brother also held out all day), they were that gross!
So, if not for the love of French salle de bains et toliettes, then what was it that captured me? I didn’t even love French classes at school in Australia (and much less the strict French teacher). I didn’t study it in the serious senior years of high school. Though I always kept the thought of French as part of my university studies. In actual fact, both my parents learnt French in the years of free tertiary education when I was a baby. Still, it’s not clear why I would hate my French classes at school and still aim to study it at university, right?
Perhaps it was (at least) the 3 visits prior to my adolescence. (In actual fact, I’ve lost track of my ‘visits’ to France, I must dredge up my childhood passports to check!). My parents, bless their hearts, forfeited other luxuries for the eye opening joys of travel. And there’s no going back from what the wunderlust it’s struck in their three children.
I think at the heart of it, I wanted to be part of a secret club. That club is those that are bilingual. In Brisbane, where I grew up, that’s not particularly common. In Sydney, it’s laughably common! But in my childhood and adolescence, I dreamt of the ability to speak another language. To learn a ‘code’ that others didn’t know. To infiltrate another culture and not be known as a foreigner.
And that might be why I love France. I finally have got the stage where I feel like I’m a foreigner who’s in on the private joke. I (mostly) understand what’s going on, what’s being said. Having spent a year studying in France, I feel I understand the French psyche. I feel I empathise with their desire for a short working week, good food and a socialist health and education system. The biggest marker of my fluency was when I could bicker or ‘fight’ with public servants! There’s nothing more French (imo!)
Aside from the language comprehension, I do love all the cliches. I like the ‘proper’ winter that we don’t have in Australia – the need for woolen coats, scarves and gloves. I love the chic style that is so effortless (and I like to believe I’ve got it too ;)). I love the perfection in pasteries – the glossy mirror finish, the delectable flavours. There’s not just ‘it looks nice’ – it’ll taste nice too, certainly better than some things I ‘enjoy; in Australia! I love the intensity of flavour – of coffees, hot chocolates, everything really! I love the history, the huge windows, the ornate stone work. I love that they scrapped a stack of streets to create orderly boulevards. I love that they have a public transport system that started as Australia got a constitution (1901). I love the rigours of their education system, that’s tentacles reach as far as former colonies as unique as Vanuatu! At the heart of it, I could say I love the unequivocal confidence of the French.
I’ve never thought to hate France. I have struggled with the language, certainly as an eight year old in a foreign schooling system. We were actually ‘asked to leave’ the village school as teaching us was too hard in the mixed age group class. Thankfully the neighbouring village teacher was far warmer to us, and to this day, she’s a friend of the family’s.
I’m not sure if I’ve adequately even began to describe the pull that France has on me. It is somewhere that has me entirely in love, and at ease. Even a week doing nothing in France is still better than most things I can think of! One day, I dream of living there. When, I’m not entirely sure, but my life is long.
Does one destination or location enchant you entirely?
Well, in five days, we saw as much as we could – and we paid the price :p Quite literally – travelling in Australia is most certainly not cheap. However, Cairns clearly lives on the tourist dollar as it’s main export crop, sugar, has seen prices dip of late.
Our Vietnam holiday was incredibly leisurely, involving lots of lying around and ‘now what?’. We didn’t go on one tour, and apart from the relaxing parts, we walked around places and ate. This is largely how my family travels, absorbing the country and the culture, rather than learning through day long tours and trips to even known monument and museum.
With Cairns, I decided we’d try the alternate side of the travel spectrum – try to do everything that appealed! Being near the Great Barrier Reef, a cruise with snorkeling was a given. Then there are amazing rainforests in all directions, so decided I wanted to walk amongst the rainforest canopy – until I saw I could zip line through it! I also thought it would be nice to swim in the pristine waterways, which converted into tubing down the river (instead of the more expensive white water rafting) and a tour that included swimming holes. The result of this list was many number of calls to tour companies, and our wallets a WHOLE heap lighter!
Our first full day in Cairns I marked as ‘planning’ day – where we booked in all our tours, starting from ‘hardest to get into’ (the reef boats) to the easier ones, or at least so we thought. As a result, we ended up with a half day tubing on day 2, a day in on a bus tour to the south on Day 3, a reef tour on Day 4, and THEN… a frantic scramble ‘up north’ in a hire car to Cape Tribulation to stay overnight, before leaving in the afternoon of Day 5.
Sadly, some activities, I managed to get no photos of. Our tubing adventure saw us hike up river, and then proceed down three sets of rapids. If only I had my waterproof phone still in action – or even a waterproof camera. I heard they were (only?) $150! Likewise, the best parts of the Great Barrier Reef trip were again underwater.
Here’s some observations of Cairns
tattoos are incredibly popular – and there’s always a parlor open no matter the public holiday!
children are incredibly well catered for. There are great parks for playing in, and almost every ‘tour’ offered a kids price, and were equipped to handle children
not all rainforests is the same – between what we saw north and south of Cairns there was incredible difference.
the best advertising is word of mouth (every tour we went on, we were told this at the end!!)
housing is incredibly affordable, whilst consumer goods such and things like clothes remain at the national prices
there is no lack of places to drink in Cairns, and it appears there never was! There are SO many old hotels. I suppose sugar cane also makes rum…
Sadly we didn’t see any butterflies like this, but we were able to see a cassowary in the wild. I did attempt to take photos, perhaps they are on the BF’s phone? We only slowed to see it because the car in front of us had stopped.
I’ve not seen a parking meter like this in Sydney, ever! So perhaps they are a Queensland thing only? In any case, I thought they were quaint.
How generous, there was a bottle of vinegar at every beach we passed. There’s a season when you can’t swim without a stinger suit. Thankfully, we avoided that, but I did see the (sexy) Lycra one pieces around! They do nothing for you – I’d even go as far as say a wetsuit makes you look good in comparision!
For Breaking Bad fans ‘Who washes a hire car’? Well, Skyler, we did, cause we didn’t want to be charged more for the mud splashes!! We found this when we were finished.
This was one of those things I was really hoping to do, it was great to see beyond the ‘ground’ level and walk among the trees, and then up and over them!
My apologies, devoted and committed readers (hahaha), it’s been more than a week since my last confession post. But to break the silence, I have some VERY exciting news (which I alluded to in comment on declutter)!
All the wonderful photographs are directly from Louise Hawson, and brilliantly talented photographer from Sydney who took her daughter Coco around the world last year, visiting two cities that I will. I was a diligently follower of her weekly posts, and have enjoyed her books thoroughly (52 Suburbs and 52 Suburbs Around the World). Seeing you probably don’t know her, please take the time to enjoy her site: 52 Suburb Around the World
An opportunity came up through the State Emergency Service (SES) which I volunteer for to join another area’s group heading to Japan for two weeks in July. The other unit has a sister city in Japan. Plus, there are some pretty interesting and unique challenges that Japan faces regarding emergency management. The tour will only touch on ’emergency’ stuff on three occasions, and the rest of the time, we will enjoy being tourists complete with a tour guide.
I know I’ve said previously and repeatedly, that I’m not a fan of tours. However, in livetolist format, here’s why I am joining a tour
My high school Japanese is limited to ‘hi, my name is Sarah, I eat cake’
I don’t have a burning list of things I *must* see and do in Japan
However, I’m generally intrigued by Japan and it’s unique culture
I have a passion for disaster recovery, and hope to move my career in that direction
Opportunities like this don’t come up every day (and when you’re without children/ill parents/huge debt)
So here’s a brief summary of locations and activities planned
5 nights in Osaka and/or host city
Kyoto Gion Festival
4 nights in Kyoto
Bullet train to Hiroshima
See a Sumo match
Stay in a Ryokan (the traditional Japanese matted room with a futon)
Meet a Geisha and chat after watching her dance
Visit tsunami region
Bullet train to Tokyo
3 nights in Tokyo
Visit Disaster Prevention Park
There’s naturally more than this, but these stand out as the ‘cool’ notable items!
I’m so pleased I continue to regularly save money, so that I can say ‘yes’ to things like this without great concern.
Do you want to visit Japan? Even if you don’t really want to, what’s one things you’d like to see or do whilst you’re there?
Before we went to Vietnam, I shared with you how I usually enjoy my holidays. The BF and I have recently been thinking about taking the time between Easter and ANZAC day (a public holiday commemorating our war heroes, the acronym stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) for a holiday.
Whilst the holiday time is booked (for him), the plans are no further progressed. So I’m putting it out my fantastic readers to help us/me!
Here are my questions:
How do you decide your holiday destinations?
Is there some event or occasion that sparks you booking a trip, or do you ‘always’ take that time off?
Do you get inspired to see a certain destination (bucket list, seen on TV, a friend raved about the place) and look for a time that would suit going there?
Is there a certain hobby (ie golf or hiking) that makes you seek out certain destinations?
My answer is that I have a bucket list of destinations I’ve not seen, combined with some much loved locales that I’ll continually revisit (ie NYC, Paris, Melbourne, Brisbane) and some I’d like to see again, some day (Greece & Poland)
How do you eliminate destinations, other than on cost, of course?
Are places ruled out as they might not have enough activities to keep you entertained?
For me, weather is a HUGE consideration. If I need to buy Artic snow gear (ie this polar vortex, but anything in Scandinavia over winter) it’s off the list to visit, at least at that time of year. I must find a work around, as I do want to see the northern lights!
How do you set a budget for your holiday?
Do you set the budget, then find a destination that fits?
Do you set the destination and then save to able to visit it?
How much is too much on travel costs, accommodation or the cost of living? (ie holidays in Australia may be cheaper to travel to, but cost more in accommodation and day to day than Asia)
My answer? I have cashola saved up, doing nothing, so I really will spend ‘anything’ on a flight to a cool destination, but I tend to scrimp of accommodation costs (The Sheraton in Vietnam aside!) With that in mind, I feel like I could realistically go anywhere as I have the leave available, and the finances. However, the BF has limited leave (when the rest of the country does!), and I’m not sure his budget.
As to our thoughts so far, on destinations:
North QLD: I could do my ‘learn to surf course’
pros: nearby so a ‘quick flight’, warmer weather as we approach Easter, same language, currency etc etc, some cities (Cairns, Port Douglas, Noosa, Gold Coast) are well equipped for tourists
cons: the ‘surf’ stops at the reef, so it’s either Yeppoon (a tiny town as far north as a surf school is), or the Sunshine or Gold Coast which both seem a little dull and pedestrian, Yeppoon might lack much to do outside surf school
pros: a cheap airlines services it (Air Asia), somewhere ‘new’ to me, could get to a beach with limited effort (shortish drive), cheap day-to-day costs
cons: the cheap tickets are GONE for the time we have planned,
pros: a cheap airline services it (Scoot), different culturally and architecturally, warm weather, English language incredibly common, first world
cons: no cheap fares left, relatively pricey day to day costs
To be honest, I would also happily spend the time in Melbourne, or another capital of Australia.
What are your answers to all my questions? Where would you suggest we go?
As regular readers would know, I wrote a list of 12 goals I wanted to complete in two years in 2013. It’s sort of like a mini bucket list, so that you get into action achieving those things you’ve always wanted to do. And this blog is all about lists, and achieving my hopes, goals and dreams. One of those things listed was to try jet skiing.
Thankfully, by sharing them online, my wonderful BF knows just what to get a girl for Christmas! So whilst we spent a week in the Western most state of Australia (imaginatively called… Western Australia), he organised for me to go jet skiing!!! Here’s a map to get everyone orientated:
Whilst we were in Western Australia, we drove from Perth to to Busselton for a night away, thank to the BF’s parents generous Christmas gift to us both. We swam in the most Western of beaches (and it was beautifully deserted and untouched compared to Sydney beaches) near Dunsborough. Sadly my phone was low on battery, and there’s no delightful photos to share with you.
I’m not sure what came first, the chicken (the trip South) or the egg (Jet skiing), but I sure am pleased to have had the chance to jet ski around Mandurah. The company (Stag water sports) was fantastic, seeming like little more than a pop up tent on the shoreline, but they ran a great 1hr tour, escorting us around the estuary, in search of DOLPHINS! (Yes, the yelling is totally necessary!)
How’d I find it? Oh my gosh, if it wasn’t for the BF sharing my jet ski, I might never have exceeded 10km/h! He got right on and gunned it after our guide, whilst I screamed, and shouted, and hung on for dear life! Despite the warnings that sunglasses might get lost if we were to fall off, I couldn’t bare the glare without them. Sure enough, with a few strong turns left and right, the BF threw us both off, and all I was worried about was my $7.50 sunnies I’d only just bought! (remember the last pair ended up in my Waste Wednesday just before Christmas?). Thankfully, I rescued my glasses and we got back on.
Eventually, I gave in to excessive reassurances and encouragement, and took the driving position. Oh my, I am one serious looking jet ski driver! I had all the concentration in the world, and the strongest grip that I could hardly turn! Plus, speed was scary. But it was just lovely to see more of WA and be on the water.
The best bit was on our route back to shore, we slowed down to a crawl, because our guide found a pod of dolphins. In real life, dolphins are a lot less like Sea World. There were no flips, and no riding on them. They weren’t even a perfect blue, more a darker grey tint. And there fins weren’t perfect either, these dolphins had grown up in the estuary of hard knocks, with evidence of them coming off second best to something!
I was SO excited to see dolphins, I started waving at them. I’m not entirely sure why. I suppose I’m not a squealer, but it was equivalent. It just *made* my trip, I tell you! Eventually they headed deeper and we could no longer see them, so we did a little tour of a man made set of canals, and the huge houses and boats, before returning to shore.
It was a GREAT Christmas gift/experience that I’m sure not to forget. Have you been jet skiing? Have you seen dolphins – in the wild or otherwise? Did you find them just magical
I’m (only) 28, but for my age, I’ve travelled quite a lot (see my completed bucket list for an idea)! As well as packing and flying internationally or domestically 4 times a year, home to my parents from boarding school. These are the things that work for me, and I’d recommend to others:
You gotta be able to carry it all: makes sense really, but don’t rely on trolleys or porters, cause somewhere along the line, you’ll be tripped up
Remember you ‘things’ count: three bags, or whatever (coats), then everytime you’re walking from taxi to check in to gate to plane etc, mentally recheck the count!
Paper shopping bags: work a treat for those 5 novels you want to take! Putting them in checked luggage could put you over, having them in a disposable bag means if you do accidentally leave it anywhere, it’s not the worst thing in the world, and you’re unlikely to be challenged for taking more than one piece of carry on this way
Wheelie suitcases: I swear by them. But then I hate having heavy things on my shoulder, so I also don’t usually use an over the shoulder handbag
Spare underwear: seriously, I think this enough in your hand luggage. I don’t like to lug too much around
Face washer: in a zip lock – great to wash and try ones face on a long trip. I sorely missed packing this for this trip, and it would have made a world of difference to feel ‘clean faced’ part way through.
Paper copies of tickets/reservations: I know phones are fancy now, but with long flights smart phones can lose charge, cost a fortune to download data, or plane not work. Especially in the developing world, take the time to print and carry documents you might need. If nothing else, it helps to show taxi drivers!
Umbrella: Place it in the front pocket of your checked suitcase. Some airlines/airports confiscate your umbrella (Marrakesh!) so checking it is best. Having it in the front pocket makes it easy to access in a sudden arrival downpour (Greece! I didn’t pack one, so I bought on for 3 Euro!)
Swiss Army Knife: I can’t praise mine highly enough, even if it was from an ex. I stash it in the front pocket of the checked suitcase. Even locked, I can wiggle it out, and use it to cut off other tags etc
Light scarf: no matter where you are going, these are great as a light stopping eye mask, a pillow case on the suspsicous pillow case, or to keep you warm
More underwear: the last thing you want to run out of is underwear. It’s small – pack more than you need. Yeah, I’m not a huge handwasher on holiday either :p I like to put the dirties in the inside suitcase pocket
Dirty clothes: I like to fold everything, but distinguish dirty stuff by pulling it inside out, and then folding it. Saves me wondering if I wore it (I will rewear stuff in cooler climates, I turn things inside out when it’s got no more wears!)
Toiletry bag: I don’t believe in one carry all – there’s never a big brick sized space left in your bag! Many smaller bags work better – I reuse pencil cases from school and zip locks bags.
Take reading material to leave behind: either thin your collection at home, or buy second hand books. I love library books, but not for international holidays!
Power boards: don’t buy countless adapters, buy one, and pack your local power board to charge all your ‘things’. As an aside, I really do take less and less electronics every time. They are just too much stress to leave in a room, or always carry. A phone with a good camera is usually enough for me.
Do have a pearl of wisdom when you are travelling and packing? Please add to the discussion, I’m sure there’s some tricks I could leanr.