not all who wander are lost…

well, sometimes they are, but they can just jump in a cab, and then find out the hotel is only a few blocks away ;).

so, today was amazing.  great cycling tour around the city…..navigating the subway….losing myself on the way back to the hotel. and, learning, way more than i ever thought possible.

the day started with the complimentary hotel breakfast.  when i checked in, they gave me a coupon for each day.  outside the breakfast area was a little box – drop breakfast coupons here.  that was it…no one checking, or anything.  im finding that everyone is very trusting and overall, the city feels very safe.  breakfast was simple – croissant type things and corn flake type things over japanese mtv and nicki minaj…..we export the best stuff….

i had to take the train to get to the bike tour, which was a little daunting, despite the directions provided by the hotel.  the machines werent in english…i wasnt sure which one to use…luckily, i found someone to help me.  once i had the ticket, it was really no more daunting than NYC.  and really, the train was easy compared to actually walking around.  trying to find the cycling place after getting off the train – pretty much impossible, despite the help of two different convenience store employees.  despite a phone call to the place, it still took some time to figure out.  between that, and trying to get back to the hotel after getting all turned around, it makes me wonder.  how many people like myself have i passed by?  i cant remember any, but im sure that i have.

the bike tour was fantastic – i didnt know it was possible to see so much of a city in a day: parks, shrines, temples, the imperial palace, sumo wrestlers, university of tokyo, trying a japanese sweet treat and japanese beer….the list goes on and on.  and the impromptu ladies in traditional dress and mobile shrine.  there were only five us, including two guys from san francisco, and two guides, so the whole thing felt very personal.

it was also a day to learn – they keep to the left, not to the right…but from what i could tell, it was only a rule of thumb.  maybe because it was sunday, so things werent as crowded.  bikes are allowed on the sidewalk, but this doesnt change the pedestrian traffic flow.  they still walk where ever, whenever.  add to that, bikes flying at you in the other direction, and its quite the adventure.

tomorrow, i think a run is in order, then, half a day with the japan team.  fingers crossed i can find the office….

hello tokyo!

i made it!  truthfully, it wasnt nearly as difficult as i thought it might be.  second flight was turbulent, but uneventful.  i had a window seat next to a couple – he would smack his lips and she would punch him to get him to stop….luckily, i slept through most of it.

customs and immigration were like i remembered them, but each one was a separate step and separate form here.  i dont remember that from either time in london.  but, the officials were helpful, had never heard of my hotel, and laughed at my suitcase contents – you mean it’s not normal to bring a bag of individually wrapped things of peanut butter and a bag of peanut butter gu?

then came the taxi ride.  the people running the taxi stand were really helpful too, and somehow i lucked out with a driver that spoke english…or at least some english.  like the customs people, hed never heard of my hotel, but was able to plug the address into his gps.  the cabs were interesting, somewhat old fashioned compared to the other cars on the road.  and the one i was in had doily type things over the seats and headrests.  i couldnt resist a photo.  the driver sat on the opposite side as in the US, and wore white gloves.  i thought the gloves were cool until he used one as a tissue….they lost the coolness factor real quick after that.  overall, he was a nice guy, asked where i was from but then let me happily gaze out the window.

after he dropped me a block from the hotel, and the giant suitcase and i made it to the hotel, i find out that the hotel has overbooked, and as a result, theyve upgraded my room.  hello 21st floor….and really awesome view of the city.  and im pretty sure this studio is bigger than the studio i had when i lived in the sunset and has more closet space than i have at home.

showered, unpacked, and re-combobulated, i headed out in search of food.  and…i just wanted to walk around.  what little of the city i saw tonight was so cool….so many people, doing so many different things.  bikes on the sidewalk….red and green lights for pedestrians.  small, narrow streets with as many businesses as the main streets.  i just wanted to explore, but, food first.

so many restaurants…and so many of them looked like the japanese version of fast food….so many menus outside….i ended up just picking one that had at least some english on the menu.  at the start, i was the only one in the restaurant.  the waiter came over and starting chatting at me and i just nodded…then he held up one finger….i guess before he was asking if it was just me.  i ended up in a quiet corner with giant picture menus – at least i could see what i might be eating and guess what it was…since, well, the english was selective.  and i could point.  but then he brought me a smaller, english version of the menu.

i ended up with some strawberry cocktail, though im convinced there wasnt any alcohol in it.  then there were two sets of fried asparagus with some sort of sauce, two sets of chicken skewers, and fried pasta.  overall, a good experience for my first dining abroad adventure.  then, i couldnt figure out why no one was brining me a bill….finally someone came over and understood what i was asking for, so they brought it over.  i gave them what i thought would cover dinner and a tip, gathered my things, and made my way out.  on the way out, someone else handed me my change….i took it, but felt bad.  i didnt want to not leave a tip, but wondered if that might be customary.  as i was walking out the door, i wished i had done better research.  then i fell up the stairs….way to keep a low profile.

on the way back to the hotel, i stopped in a small liquor store for a bottle of japanese red wine.  this is me we’re talking about – must have my red wine….haha.  it actually tastes like grape juice, and im also convinced that there isnt any alcohol in it.  but, i got it, and made it back to the hotel in time to enjoy a glass while watching the sunset.  i took a few pictures, but honestly, they dont do it justice.

and the tipping thing, totally not customary in japan.  and, apparently it is customary to pay the bill at the register vs. having them bring it to you.  thank you google, now i know.  and ps, google shows up in japanese here….

tomorrows adventure – a bike tour through the city, but first a train/subway ride to get there.  for now, it is 8:30, and i think its bed time.

skipping a day….

good morning hong kong!

it’s early here, i think…my body isnt sure what time it is.  my computer clock says 4pm…definitely doesnt feel like that, but not sure it feels like 7am either.  im also not sure what currency to pay for my breakfast in…..

flight over wasnt bad, despite having to change seats and ending up in a middle seat.  seats were comfy and to recline, the bottom of the seat moved instead of the top, so youre able to recline without the back of the seat ending up in the face of the person behind you.  too bad all planes dont have that technology.  the red-eye was definitely the way to go, and i give my old navy active wear an a+ for travel comfort.  though, i am excited to sleep in a bed tonight.

they also served both dinner and breakfast.  i was far too tired for dinner, but breakfast wasnt bad.  they claimed it was an omelette, id say it was eggs, hash browns, ham and a piece of sausage.  but, it all tastes the same, i suppose.  there was some juice, a muffin, fruit, and maybe something else – yogurt i think.  its been a long time since ive had food on a plane, but it was actually pretty good.

in regards to the currency, the answer is any one of many….just make sure to read the translation at the bottom of the sheet.  apparently the bill is in hong kong $.  if you try to pay that amount in yuan, it is too much.  luckily they told me….the first of many travel mishaps im sure…

i am impressed by the hong kong airport.  its very clean and quiet.  though, i did drink from a water fountain….totally forgot that it might not be the best idea – hopefully it doesnt come back to haunt me.  looking out the window it reminds me a lot of what hawaii looks like, mountains and mist with some buildings.  from the gate i can see ships in the sea and across to somewhere else….mainland china, perhaps.  i did see a sign for that.  i thought about taking a few pictures, but was concerned i would look too much like a tourist.  then i realized that a, i almost paid twice as much for my breakfast as i should have and b, everyone here is doing the same thing….

next up, navigating to the hotel in japan….



life begins at the edge of your comfort zone….

and here we go…my attempt to blog my way through three countries, five cities, and twenty four days.  and really, probably two countries, four cities, and twenty two days, cause the likelihood of me blogging in vegas is slim to none.  well, there is that whole time change thing.

anyway, im caught between the somewhat surreal feeling that this trip is actually here and happening, after all the drama surrounding it, and the OMG….what am i doing???  truthfully, im in a bit of a freakout, and the glass of cheap chianti isnt helping.  but, thats what this is all about, right?  an adventure, a breath of fresh air, life at the edge of my comfort zone.  what started out as small adventures on either side of a school trip has become my own happily married version of ‘eat, pray, love’, or something like that.  i havent read the book, but it is on my kindle.

overall, im so excited.  im excited to experience different cultures and different aspects of the gap business.  im also excited for an adventure…to explore, to write something that doesnt require citations and read something thats not a text book.  sure, its a little scary, but i did jump on a plane to the british isles at 13 (dannielle, if youre reading this, that was for you ;)).

thus far, its been a good experience.  what little of cathay pacific ive seen has been good.  they come and get you out of the check-in line and escort you to the check-in station.  a far cry from the ‘next’ im so accustomed to hearing at the airport.  they were patient while i dug out my travel documents and took the time to explain everything, even though i didnt need it.  hopefully the flight is as nice as check-in….though, i cant decide how i feel about 12+ hours of flying.  hopefully i can sleep….lord knows i have at least that much needed sleep stored up.  and when that runs out, theres that paper i need to finish…and those books i want to read…and that book i want to write.  plenty to keep me busy, i hope.

alright….the restaurant/bar ive been occupying is closing.  luckily, duty free is still open (kim, if you are reading this, that was for you ;)).  signing off for now…catch ya on the other side.