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. 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.)
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!
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!
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!