Tag Archives: Kyoto

Ishiyama, Japan to Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia

5/22 – Our stay in Japan was too short. Today we took the train back to Osaka, where we met Jim’s friend Carl for breakfast. Then it was on to the Kansai Osaka Airport where we arrived at noon. What to do until our flight at midnight? We went back to the posh airport hotel. They have a huge lobby with couches, easy chairs, strong wifi, and a piano that plays by itself 24/7. We settled in for a long afternoon and evening. I got a whole book read!

Midnight flight back to Bangkok, Thailand, then a layover from 4am until our Siem Riep flight at 10am. We got to see the sun rise from the Bangkok observation deck.image

It was nice to fly during daylight. Pretty clouds and blue sky.image

Getting off the plane in Siem Reap, the heat and humidity smacked us right in the face. Couldn’t wait to get back into shorts and sandals. The airport is very Asian.image

We got our visas at the airport, where the $30.00 payment was requested in U.S. dollars. As we only had Thai baht, we paid the equivalent of $35.00 each. Bring dollars if you travel here – the Cambodians use their own money as change only. 1000 riel is worth 25 cents. All prices are given in dollars, and the ATMs dispense dollars too. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Andrew Jackson on a $20!

We got a tuk-tuk ride into town, and passed several luxurious resort hotels, which look out of place next to the little shops and shacks on the dusty street. Due to its proximity to the Angkor Wat temples, Siem Reap hosts over two million tourists a year, and accommodates all comfort levels.image

Now we are settled in at the Banyan Leaf Hotel, with its lovely pool and sumptuous breakfast buffet, all for $20.00 a night. We had a lovely supper for $1.50, and a beer for 50 cents. You could live here forever!image

Kyoto, Japan to Tanabe, Japan – the Kumano Kodo

5/13 – Got an early start this morning to catch the 8:36 train to Kii-Tanabe. The Kyoto train station was busy on a weekday morning. image

When our train was called, everyone lined up in two rows, just like it said on the sign. The Japanese are an orderly people. I felt badly for the businessmen, dressed in their identical black suits and white shirts. With the glum looks on their faces, it was easy to imagine they were all on their way to an undertakers convention!

We passed some beautiful beaches on the way, with swimmers and surfers.image



Two and a half hours later, we arrived at Kii-Tanabe, had a yummy pork and noodle soup lunch, and waited for a bus to Takijiri, where our Kumano Kodo hike began.imageimage

Here’s what you do while waiting for the bus.

It was already mid-afternoon by the time we arrived, so it was nice that the day’s hike was planned for only 3.7km/ 2.3mi. Here is the entrance to the trail. We will walk to visit three major Shinto shrines this week.image

Pilgrims ritually wash themselves at the beginning of the walk.image

The first part of the hike was totally uphill – climbing, climbing, then climbing some more! image



We saw several small shrines in the forest,which is what the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is all about.  Several were Jizo, or Buddhist bodhisattva, which help travelers to attain enlightenment.  The mixture of Buddhist and Shinto symbols is common in Japan.

We arrived at the Takahara Lodge at 4:30pm and were welcomed by the delightful owner. I had my very first Japanese communal bath – men and women bathe separately here. After sitting down on a little stool to shampoo and wash, we climbed into a deep pool, lined with stones, for a hot soak. It was lovely!image

We went down to supper freshly washed and wearing our kimonos. The meal was amazing, with little bites of different vegetables, sashimi, grilled fish and Kobe beef cooked at the table, so tender it just melted in your mouth. Fruit sorbet for dessert. So delicious!image

We met two couples from Australia who will be walking our route tomorrow. We retired to our room with the beautiful view of the mountainside. Tomorrow is a hiking day! 




Bangkok, Thailand to Osaka, Japan to Kyoto, Japan

5/9 – Time to boogie out of Bangkok. Bangkok is an airport hub, with less-expensive flights than can be had out of northern Thailand, which is why we traveled here. Today we fly to Osaka, Japan, for our long-awaited Kumano Kodo pilgrimage hike. We had originally planned this hike for earlier in the spring, but delayed it as we waited for my broken arm to heal. Happy to say, after two weeks of daily swim therapy in Pai, my shoulder is almost good as new, and I’m ready to hike. Japan had a cold, wet spring, so it is just as well that we waited to travel.

After our wonderful experience with Bangkok Air, I had an expectation that we would be given a meal on our 5 hour Air Asia flight – no such luck. We had to purchase our entree (the size of a cell phone) and water, accepting what was left when the meals we wanted were sold out. No movie, no nothing. image Chicken with one carrot and one potato.

We arrived at Osaka at 10:30pm, and queued to have our fingerprints and photos taken, then again for baggage inspection. The two guys in front of us had their baggage opened and spread out for all to see, but they let us walk on through (guess we don’t fit the drug smuggler profile). There were lots of nervous, agitated people in line, as the last bus and metro train leave at 11:30pm, and then all mass transportation shuts down until morning. We cleared the last queue just at 11:30, and congratulated ourselves for booking a room at the airport hotel, although the cost for one night is what we usually spend for a week’s lodging…

All the airport restaurants were closed, but we found a 24 hour Burger King, so we chowed down on our first Whoppers in over a year. It was served at table, with complimentary water and much bowing. After we finished every bite, we weren’t hungry anymore.

Our room was tiny, but the bed was soft, and we slept like the dead. We didn’t wake up until after 9am – very unusual for us. The shower was strong and hot. What do I love about Japan? You can drink the tap water, and plug your chargers right into the wall without an adapter! I usually have to rotate charging my iPad, phone and camera batteries, but here I can charge them all at the same time!

We found a restaurant full of folks eating breakfast, so figured this would be a good place to eat. The woman behind the counter motioned us over to a machine in the corner, where we could select what we wanted to eat by pressing a button, pay, then receive a ticket to present for our food. We couldn’t figure out how the machine worked, but a man came in, and we watched him navigate it, then followed suit.  (Put in money first, and available selections will light up.)image

Not sure what I ordered, but I ate it all – after using spoon and fork in Thailand, we are back to using chopsticks here.

After checking out at noon, we walked to the train station for our ride to Kyoto. Once again, there was a machine with only Japanese characters that had to be navigated to give us our tickets. Luckily, the nice man in front of us helped us, and showed us which track was ours. 90 minutes later, we were in Kyoto!image

We settled in at a nice apartment with a kitchen and a washing machine, so we are getting all our clothes clean while we are here. Know what else I love about Japan? Not only does the toilet seat heat up for your comfort, and make the sound of a babbling brook for those with shy bladders, and a refreshing warm rinse available when your business is complete (separate buttons aimed for ladies #1, or #2), along with a discreet fan feature, but after flushing, the clean water filling the tank is presented so you do not waste water turning on the sink to wash your hands! I’m definitely getting one of these babies when I get home!image

We met Jim’s friend and fellow college professor Carl for supper, for lovely food and to catch up on old times. A long and wonderful day!image