Tokyo calling

“This is the last call for Mr Rishi Raja and Mrs Anjali Raja on Flight AX321 to Tokyo.. ”

Aaah, that’s us… Shit, ruuuun…

… Sorry we’re late, sorry, sorry.. Phew… Cannot believe that we nearly missed our flight to Tokyo because I was too busy looking for books to read! Hehe, jokes, at least we made it, but dammit didn’t even buy a book!

… We arrived in Tokyo at 10.30pm and I realised that if we don’t get to our hostel by 12, they lock the doors and count us as no shows.. Getting through customs and baggage claim took us till 11.25pm and the subway to the city centre takes an hour… This wasn’t looking good… Despite the help from the airport information desk, no-one was answering the hostel phones.. All we could do was turn up there and hope for the best… O wait the last train to our station has left,.. ‘Grr, guess we’ll have to take a cab’… as we made this suggestion to the staff at the train station, he looked at us in panic and told us to get on another train, get as close as possible to our hostel and then take a cab…. I understood why when we got our cab at 1am from Ueno station, 2kms from our hostel for which we paid £12!… You DO NOT take cabs in Japan… Literally as we arrived the hostel night staff was leaving… What an eventful welcome to Japan… Sign of things to come? … Naaah! Don’t be silly!

Someone had told us that arriving in Japan feels like you’ve landed on a different planet, and in some ways we certainly felt that… We’ve seen posters with Japanese writing and seen movies showing parts of Japan but being here and seeing every sign in the Japanese language really did make you feel like you’re somewhere very different.. The way the buildings are used is pretty nuts too.. You may pass what looks like an office block, but that 7 floor building may have restaurants on all seven floors so you have to check signs all the way up to find what you fancy! I had to restrain myself from taking photos of every little alley way we passed despite the signs and shop fronts making each turning look like a new work of art.

We spent our first 3 days in and around Tokyo and what a cool city it is too! Rishi and I both fell in love with it.. Lost in translation indeed!… Everything from the red light district in Shinjuku which has an equal number of boys for ‘company’ as women (hmm!) to Asakusa; the old school suburbia on the outskirts of the city.

We were totally sucked in by the fun vibe of the city and the evident love of fashion. It did mean we interspersed our sightseeing with quite a bit of shopping… Alright, alright, we interspersed our shopping with some sightseeing?! … Don’t judge, you’d do the same!!

I personally think we were shopping to compensate for the difficulty getting veggie food in Tokyo! We did manage to find an indian restaurant with a potato and bamboo shoot curry… No that was not a typo.. Was surprisingly good! And the rest of the time we ate pizza and pasta… Such a traumatic experience for me, all those who know me well, know I am very averse to such unhealthy foods! 😉

We did see some culture too! We watched the Hare Krishnas… Lol, yes I know in Tokyo!! They were on our way to xxx temple, a beautiful zen temple in the city.. Also we went on a worthwhile side trip to Kamakura, where you can see a different, more relaxed and beautiful part of Japan with many temples and the second largest Bhudda statue in Japan!

Tokyo is less about the sights though and much more about immersing yourself in the culture and lifestyle… You cannot beat a walk down Harajuku on a Sunday to catch the punks, knee high socks clad teenagers and tourists socialising, shopping and gobbling some delicious crepes! Or sitting in one of the little fast food style restaurants, ordering a ‘lunch set’… Or, you could just ride the Yamanote line (aka circle line) and just people watch. (Fyi, trains are on time here!)

Whatever you do, I dare you to try not to love this place and the amazingly friendly people.

There are so many places you go to and you know that if it wasn’t baking hot with the sun shining down, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much… But here in Tokyo, it has been COLD, I mean leggings under trousers cold, and yet it has been soo much fun… (Ok we were lucky that the sun has been out, but trust me it rocks)…

Definitely Japan is already leading the way as our most favourite place so far!!

Anyhow, next stop the mountain town of Takayama… We are taking a Shinkansen bullet train… Looks very cool!!

All templed out…

Phew! That was an amazing couple of days…

It all began with another early start. 4am, lizard in our bathroom, but nothing could deter us. This morning we were off to see the Angkor temples and had paid extra to go and see the sunrise over the main, most magnificent of the temples Angkor Wat.

Getting to the lookout point was fun in itself, racing through the city against all the other temple-goers, it was our speedy tuk tuk against the world! A quick look ahead and vroom vroom we were over taking at least 2 other tuk tuks… O yeeah… The tuk tuk dropped us off at the bridge which goes over the moat into the Angkor Wat area…obviously being before sunrise, we couldn’t see anything.. We stumbled through to the sunrise point, not that we knew the way, we just followed the silhouettes of the other travellers and grabbed a spot directly in front of the lake that reflects Angkor. We were glad we got there early, because the place was packed up very soon after and people were willing to put their tripods in some very uncomfortable places to make sure they had a good view!

Sunrise was beautiful over Angkor, definitely worth getting up early for.. Although our photos may not do it justice, I did notice the Iphones probably had better shots than the ones taken with slrs, so judge the experience on those photos! (this is a crappy photo, but having trouble uploading a good one!)

We then wandered round Angkor and several other temples through the day. The temples are huge stone structures which had been built as temples to Lord Vishnu, however later on as the Cambodian national religion became Bhuddism, the temples were taken over and had Bhudda statutes installed. Additional temples were built which were entirely Bhuddist too. In many of the temples you still see large Vishnu statues, stories from Hindu tradition carved into the walls and even Shiv ling jis still in great condition.

The temples that stood out the most had to be Angkor; for its grandeur and the beauty of the moat around the huge temple complex; Bayon for the spectacular Buddha heads which tower above the temple and Ta Prohm which had a jungle like atmosphere with humongous trees growing out of it…

I personally found that a couple of the smaller temples we visited, such as Thommanon had incredible atmospheres and a great sense of peace when sitting there. This could have been partially due to less tourists being there but nonetheless they provided a great spot to admire the architecture and grounds in a way closer to what I imagine people in the older times would have done.

We ended the day by walking up to the mountain temple Phnom Bakeng and grabbing a fantastic location off the edge of the temple to watch the sunset. To be fair the sunset was a bit of a let down as the sky had become quite hazy, but we got to meet a really cool Spanish couple who were now living in China and a dude from London who was travelling for 6 months so not so bad!

After the long day, we were definitely templed out, so despite having a 3 day pass we decided we’d take the next day to just chill out and check out Siem Reap…

.. Yes we went shopping.. And we visited the market not just once but went back a good 3 or 4 times during the day.. And actually discovered new parts each time (As Rishi said if we had walked the market systematically, line by line, we could have avoided the multiple visits)..there was a hairdressing alley, beauty alley and sewing people alley on top of all the normal stuff all within the market! It was pretty cool.

The shopping was interspersed with eating. Despite seeing the appealling spicy snails stand, we opted for an awesome Italian restaurant for lunch. The pizza and pasta were both soooo good, we were shocked at how amazing the food was. By far the best restaurant as yet..

Being a Sunday, (we didn’t know it was Sunday), there were many young kids around town trying to sell postcards, bangles, anything you wanted for ‘one dolla’. A phrase, I’m sure we won’t forget easily.. Could buy just about anything for one dolla.. Rishi and I have both been to India and other developing countries where you see the kids living a very ‘different’ lifestyle to what we’ve grown up to, but it still shocks you every time you see the little kids trying to earn a living from selling stuff to tourists or getting excited because you gave them a pretty much empty coke can…

You obviously consider how blessed we are and what grace has been bestowed on us that our childhood was exactly that, an innocent childhood. Even now, at the ripe old age of 27 and 28, our parents still ensure we have food, shelter and anything else we may ever need. They even packed us snacks for this trip! You inevitably compare this to the young children you see hanging around town on their own and appreciate what you have and have a sense of sorrow for what you imagine they are suffering…

But who are we to assume this? Who is to say that our childhood is the better way of growing up?… The freedom the kids have here, the beautiful surroundings and the community feel are all things that my parents certainly rave on about from their upbringing in Africa… Perhaps getting excited from one dolla and a few sips from a coke can puts you in stead for a happier and more content life and isn’t that what we keep searching for anyway?

As Milan always tells us in Chyk class, ‘If happiness was in that Gucci handbag or BMW, we would all have the same level of happiness from getting one, but we don’t.’


On a lighter note…today was special day for Rishi, which I can’t forget to mention, as he had his first Thai style massage and I think he has now been converted… Well I’m judging by the glazed look he had on his face when he came back from the massage which was either pensive relaxation or pure horror… Nothing like paying for a woman to beat you with her hands and feet… Although Rish obviously got into the pampering theme and had a fish pedicure… they chowed down on those feet like there was no tomorrow… NICE!

Anyhow, tomorrow we are taking a scenic boat ride to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia meaning another early start! Yay.