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!!

The Infamous crossing… Bangkok to Siem Reap

And the journey began…

Backpacks on at 6am, en route to MoChit sky train station.. Having been in Bangkok for a couple days, we knew how to get around on these.. A cab ride from the sky train station to the bus station, easy enough, right? Uh no! Who would’ve thought the cabbies didn’t even know where their closest, biggest bus station was!!.. After harassing a few of these guys who sat looking at us with confused faces in their bright pink cars we were helped by a random local lady who was doing lord knows what at the time in the morning in that location wearing her teeny shorts and white t-shirt.. She told the cabbie to take us to ‘the place with lots of buses’.. Hmm, why hadn’t we thought to say just that?!

Anyhow, we arrived safely and in good time at the bus terminal to get ourselves a first class ticket to Aran phayet.. Yes, that’s right, we were travelling first class.. That’s how we roll!! And it was worth every penny of the extra dollar we paid for it.. We got given a cup of water and a seat slap bang in the middle of the coach. Ok, so I couldn’t actually work out which ones were the second class seats, but hoping our extra money had gone towards getting a seat away from the stinky toilet for the ensuing 5 hour journey.

The bus ride was pretty cool, saw the scenery, had a few locals join and leave including some service men and also saw police come on board to do a random check which ended up with 3 kids being taken off the bus.. No idea why, but came to the assumption that they must have runaway or something!

The fun really began when we got to rumfdsj market.. A kind tuk tuk driver drove us the 2km from the bus station to what we thought was border control for 20 Baht. Except that it wasn’t border control but instead one of the special ‘visa purchasing centres’ that charge you extra to do the visa buying for you… Not ones to be scammed, Rishi and I insisted we would not be buying from them but would venture to the real legal place to buy the visa…

…We walked right out of there and marched on to the street…

… After a little wander round, we marched right back inside and got the lovely gentleman to get some visas for us! O well, the other backpackers were doing it, what’s the worst that could happen?

Going through thai and Cambodian immigration was pretty straightforward.. Apart from the long queues at the Cambodian immigration centre which was basically a small room with a tree growing out of it on one side.. Yes that’s right, a tree growing out of the building.

From there, you get a free government shuttle bus to ‘the International transport centre’ at Poipet or some other overly exaggerated name, where you can choose to take a bus for $9 or hire a taxi for $48.. We took the 3pm bus…

At 4pm, as we sat on the bus, still outside ‘the International transport centre’ we realised we would have to relax on timings and plans and all the other things which are MY way of keeping in control…

The bus journey to Siem Reap was cool though, beautiful scenery, little kids playing outside, and a couple of little road side cafs.. This is where we experienced the first of the little kids begin their sales pitches and I have to say they are bloody good sales people… They really know how to build up the value of their postcards, telling us we won’t find these exact high quality postcards anywhere else.. Not to mention giving everyone a free gift bracelet first, meaning you feel obliged to give something back… Rishi is very keen to have them back in London doing sales for Suncrest!

Anywho, back on the road and into Siem Reap… We were dropped outside a delightful guesthouse where our bus driver had moved our backpacks into the guesthouse already before we’d even taken the 2 minutes to get off the bus.. However as appealing as the guesthouse looked, we stuck to the one we had booked and were really thankful for it.. Gorgeous hotel with a massive Vishnu statue as you enter, friendly staff and our whole tasty, vegetarian dinner there cost only $7.50! Could get used to this…