Japan – getting there and around

Flights to Japan – booked in the beginning of December – check! The countdown was on – we had 70 days before the trip! You would say that’s plenty of time, but think Asia, think Japan, Tokyo, cherry blossom season…

Next step was to make at least an outline of a plan. What did we want to see? We were flying into Tokyo, so we decided to stay 5 nights in the city, see the main sights, adjust and finish planning the little details of the trip.

I usually use Hostelworld when looking for accommodation. When it comes to Japan, I’d recommend any of the Khaosan chain hostels. We stayed at the one in Asakusa – Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel. The location is quite convenient. There are a number of public transport connections that  you could use – 4 Metro Lines and Ueno Railway station.asakusa map

Another advantage of staying in Asakusa district is that you have one of Tokyo’s main tourist attractions at about 5-minute walking distance. With its 1400-year old history, Senso-ji Temple is the oldest and most visited in Tokyo. The streets around it form a vivid, colorful and genuinely fun area to be especially in the afternoon. You could choose from a bunch of traditional souvenirs and snacks such as the typical Japanese sweet bread. I tried one filled with ice-cream –

japanese sweet breadasakusagirls in the hood

A common believe is that if you haven’t seen Kyoto, you haven’t been to Japan at all. Therefore, we decided we would spend 6 days in the old capital. It would be the perfect base camp for our day trips to nearby destinations such as Nara, Inari, Arashiyama, Osaka and even Hiroshima. We wanted to stay in a Khaosan hostel in Kyoto as well. Unfortunately, by the time we were looking for accommodation, almost everything there was booked. We were lucky to find what turned out to be a pretty cozy hostel with the most helpful and friendly staff – in the heart of Gion, the Geisha district of Kyoto. Overall, I am a PRETTY LUCKY girl!

Our flight out of Tokyo was at half past midnight, so we needed to stay there that last night. After booking it, we had the second step of the trip planning covered!

The next challenge ahead would be to figure out how to get from place to place – within the cities and throughout the country.

Food for thought – the distance between Tokyo and Kyoto is 452 km, between Kyoto and Hiroshima – 361 km. How were we supposed to get there, drop bags, check-in and still have time to see anything at all???

To be continued…

Last summer I worked on a train in Alaska. Contrary to common belief, it wasn’t that cold at all. It wasn’t beach weather either. So, at the end of September a week in Hawaii had to make up for 4 months in the Last Frontier. The waiting was totally worth it and I had an awesome island experience, but I was left wanting more. I have a strong deficiency of vitamin ‘sea’Kaanapali (16)

My mom is from a city on the Black Sea Coast. I used to basically live there from May to October every year when I was little. Sadly, the last few years I cannot even get to the sea… Last summer it was Alaska. Summer of 2014 I spent at the office, previous one – working, studying, moving to Portugal and so on.

I came back home from the States in October. The weather was already chilly and cold. IMG_20088250268263I started daydreaming about sunny days, heart-shaped sunglasses, sandy beaches and flip flops… A friend of mine came up with a rescue idea – let’s plan a winter-getaway trip to an exotic island! Deal! I was all for it! We planned for February – we’d already be sick of winter, I’d have passed my exam and I’d still have the money… The timing was right.

Until one evening… just before a family dinner, I got a message from my friend. She was euphoric. One of the biggest airlines flying east had a huge discount – more than 40% off flights to Asia is A BIG DEAL, you know! My friend filled me in – her all-time dream destination has always been Japan and now she could actually make it come true. I was speechless for a moment. So…no beach for me, no sea, no sand, no bikini and flip flops, nor coconut cocktails and exotic fruit… at least it was still an island.

I kind of fell for the Japan idea though. Japan! It had never crossed my mind. What did I know about the country? Sushi, kimonos, ancient traditions, The Memoirs of a Geisha, not much. Yet I was thrilled. It sounded exciting, distant, unknown. Exactly what I needed! Therefore, I just said “yes”.

Japan (3)

In about 10 minutes I sat at the dinner table.

“I bought a plane ticket to Japan.”

“Oh good for you, darling, would like some salad?”

They never take me seriously…

 

Anyway, step number 1 – CHECK! We booked flights with Qatar Airways. We would fly out of Sofia, have a layover in Doha, Qatar and arrive at one of Tokyo’s international airports – Haneda. The dates were random; however, we hoped for warmer weather and did plan to catch at least a glimpse of the cherry blossom season. Every travel guide would tell you the best time to visit Japan is spring – March and April. Once more, perfect timing. So… the planning and waiting could begin!

So good to be back

I’ve always loved creative writing. I got inspired two years ago during my Erasmus adventure and thought that I’d start my own blog. It would be about traveling, living abroad, new experience, adventure and so on, I thought. It was really popular at the time and I did have a lot to share and say.

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Spring is my season and I adore everything about it! It brings the world back to life!

But you know, times change and I lost my inspiration. The past couple of years so much has happened to me I feel like a completely new person. I spend one year working at an international outsourcing company. At the age of 22. Then, I decided I need a new adventure. So, I packed my bags and headed half way across the world to work on a train in Alaska, USA for the summer. Meanwhile I got to travel all around the state, flew to Hawaii, drove up the California coast and spent couple of days in the city that never sleeps, NY! It was only a seasonal job and once the summer was over, I had to go back home and get back on track with my life.

It was my graduation year and I had to study hard for my final exam. I was looking for a part-time job as well. Tried a couple of things, but nothing worthy. I didn’t want to stop traveling, so I limit myself to European countries near by – a weekend in Romania, visiting friends in Serbia, New Years in Poland. A promising start of 2016!

Anyway, that wasn’t enough for my wanderlust soul. I needed something big. A new adventure, new emotions, new sights, SOMETHING BIG!

That’s how I ended up one night randomly booking a flight to Japan. Out of the blue! Japan – a destination I never considered at the top of my bucket list and yet so unknown and different than anywhere I had been. I knew a few things about the culture and the traditions, but not enough. And of course, I’m a foodie, so I love the food! Sushi <3!

If you’d have asked me couple of weeks ago “Why Japan?” I would’ve said for the food!

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This map doesn’t even capture my whole journey. However, it’s 9,184 km (5,706 miles) one-way! P.S. not the farthest I’ve been away from home…

Ask me now! I spent two weeks cross-country exploring Japan and I can reassure you there’s so much more to see and do! I will try to fill you in on the most memorable parts of my trip. You want to know the best one?

Definitely the people! The Japanese are the most open, friendly, helpful, yet polite and kind to foreigners! They’ve made my trip amazing! I had a blast! Before I arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun, I believed the Japanese to be very disciplined, strict traditionalist. I thought they would be distant and I’d be lost in translation. That’s the main reason behind my solid and thorough research before the journey began.

Surprisingly, I didn’t experience any culture shock. Sure there were little specifics about life in Japan like walking on the left side or standing in line for almost everything. I got used to them fast enough to enjoy everyday of my trip and not feel uneasy or uncomfortable. I was warned that not everybody in Japan speaks English. Especially if you get off the beaten track and out of the big cities. Although they’re English is not the best or is nonexistent, they’re trying so hard to help and understand you… they go out of they’re way so much, they leave you jaw-droppingly astounded.

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First photo in Japan. Getting around Tokyo’s Subway

I will share with you all the amazing stories I have collected throughout the trip, but first I would like to celebrate the recovery of my appetite for life, travel and adventures with this come-back post!

As you may have noticed, the pictures and the design of the page are still
the same as two years ago. I’d eventually change them but I’d like you to make a comparison between then and now. Especially the new people in my life – you could take advantage and take a glimpse of what my life and I used to look like… It’s time for a fresh restart! Stay tuned!