Category: Travel

Travel Diary: Japan

DAY ONE.

I guess I finally did it! The big solo trip I have been wanting to go on for forever and a day. Although the plan had always been to travel solo in Europe, I am glad I changed my mind.

I arrived into Kansai International Airport at about 8:20pm. After going through immigrations, finding my suitcase, and visiting information desks, it was time to hop on the JR and head to Osaka station. Getting on the train was easy enough… it was the one and a half hour train ride that I found a little rough! I was expecting forty minutes tops so I was a little surprised. I have decided to turn my phone to roaming while in Japan to ease the difficulty of finding my way around – relying on WiFi is just not good enough for me on my lonesome. I’ll get better and more confident one day… but hey! I’m in another country completely on my own so it’s not a bad start, right?

When I got to Osaka Station I went outside and grabbed a taxi. It was nearly 11:30pm so I was now well and truly 12 hours into transit. The hotel was actually much closer to the station than I had realised, so the taxi fare was very cheap! My hotel check-in was smooth and painless and the room is super cosy. The bathroom is my favourite part – a tiny little bath tub and a toilet seat that kindly warms my very cold tush.

After putting two extra scarves on I went outside in pursuit of some food. I wasn’t properly fed on the plane thanks to a stuff up by my old travel agent so I was pretty darn hungry. There was a curry place across the road from my hotel – yum, Japanese curry! – so I decided to order there. After grabbing some bottles of water from the 7/11 and collecting my meal – as well as declining two invitations to the nearby bar in the process – I made my way back to the warmth of the hotel. I managed to load an episode of Gilmore Girls to watch while I ate, and once I was done it was a nice warm shower and off to bed.

DAY TWO.

I woke up at a quarter to 8 this morning and called my mum before getting ready to go to Universal Studios. I left the hotel at 9am and started the walk to Osaka Station. It was 6 degrees and raining so I was VERY glad to be wearing two scarves again. I bought an umbrella and, after much confusion and agitation, found my way to the Universal City train. I missed the train transfer and had to spend an extra 15 minutes fixing that but I eventually made it to Universal City Station.

I was cold and wet so I went into Starbucks to warm up. I ordered a white mocha and I was pretty nervous about it thanks to the disgusting drinks at the Starbucks in Sydney… but Japan knows what they’re doing! I will miss these when I leave.

I entered the park with my ticket and wandered through before deciding to spend most of my day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I had lunch at Mel’s Drive-In Diner and I saw the Monsters Rock’n’Roll Show. After that I walked around the park a little longer before deciding to go back to the Wizarding World to buy myself a wand (and drink some more Butterbeer).

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On the way out of Universal I had a quick look through the Universal CityWalk. I bought myself a denim jacket from The GAP before catching the train to Osaka-Namba Station. I wanted to find an Aussie bar I’d heard of called Coolabah. It was meant to be very close to the famous Dotonbori strip so I figured I’d hit two birds with one stone. I found the bar  eventually but it was still early so I was the only person in it and I didn’t find the staff very friendly, so I ordered some food and sat minding my own business. I regret not finding a cool Japanese place to eat but you live and you learn!

After dinner I moved through the streets in search of Dotonbori. I was very excited to see the giant Glico Man sign which indicated that I had indeed found Dotonbori. After taking a bunch of photos I Facetimed Mum and Dad to show them the hustle and bustle. I spent some time shopping in H&M and bought some warmer clothes – I might only have one day left in Japan but I’ll definitely be trying to make the most of it. My feet were very sore today because they were so cold so I’m hoping I have a more pleasant day tomorrow!

By the time I left the Dotonbori district it was 2am, so I found a taxi and got myself back to the hotel. It might snow tomorrow – fingers are crossed!

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DAY THREE.

Today was quite an adventure!

I woke up around 8am and repacked my suitcase in preparation for leaving Japan tomorrow. I’m nervous to buy anything in case the weight goes over – which isn’t very good considering I just got here!

I ended up leaving the hotel and arriving at Osaka Station around 11am. I figured out which train I needed and set off for Nara. On the way I caught my first ever glimpse of snowfall out the window of the train. Even better was that it was still snowing when I got to Nara! I ended up getting to feed the roaming deer IN THE SNOW! Pretty magical for someone who had never experience snowfall. It was very light but better than nothing. I enjoyed the experience for a while before making my way back to Nara’s Kintetsu Station to move on to Kyoto.

On the way to Kyoto it was really snowing. It was incredibly beautiful but I was absolutely frozen. I was wearing an extra two layers in comparison to yesterday but I was much colder. When I got to Kyoto I found a little coffee shop where I ordered a hot chocolate and an avocado and tuna panini. It’s crazy – the food in Japan is SO good and I haven’t even really had anything typically Japanese! It was 3pm by the time I finished lunch and dealt with some flight issues… so I turned around and headed back to Osaka Station. I literally just popped over to Kyoto for lunch!

When I got back to Osaka Station I spent about half an hour trying to find my way out to the street – it is such a HUGE station! When I finally made it out I noticed a large Red Ferris wheel in the distance, so I made my way over to it. It was called HEP Five and it was part of the Hankyu Entertainment Building. I got to do the Ferris wheel for free and happened to be at the very top for sunset. It was beautiful. Afterwards I found a ramen place for dinner and wandered through the building until it was time to go to the hotel.

I enjoyed a plunge bath when I got to the hotel – what I am sure will be my last moment of luxury for the next two weeks! Bags are packed… let’s go to Thailand!

 

It’s Adventure Time!

Okay. After another few months of being totally rubbish at writing, I am back and here to stay!
(I say that every time, so let’s just see how we go… I really do love it here though, I swear!)

The reason for my sudden return?
Well, I thought it very important that I come back and shout to the world that I finally did it!

A couple of months ago, on the fifth anniversary of my last international departure (when I was lucky enough to travel to Italy with my high school Italian class), I finally booked my flights for my first ever solo international adventure! SOLO! In February – that’s next month! – me, myself, and I will be heading to ASIA for the trip of a lifetime. I will be setting off to explore Japan, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Over the moon is an understatement!

Originally I had planned to go to Europe for my first solo trip but when I came across the Asian Adventure Contiki tour I immediately fell in love. The idea of the cultural experience, the amazing Asian foods, the more affordable budget, and the much shorter plane trip had me singing Hallelujahs all the way to Flight Centre.

The Contiki actually only includes the three countries within South East Asia, but just before I booked I came across return flights to Osaka, Japan for only $250! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Japan so I tacked it on to either end of the trip.

I will fly into Osaka, where I’ll stay for two days, before heading to Thailand to start the Contiki tour. The Contiki will move through Thailand to Laos and then Cambodia, and once the tour finishes in Cambodia, I will fly back to Osaka for a ten hour stopover before flying home. Here’s to a year of amazing travel, starting with my very own Asian Adventure!

Katie

Day 9 | Rockhampton to Mackay

I didn’t end up having a very good sleep last night. I heard someone outside shooing something (or someone) away from their car and after that I was paranoid someone was breaking into my car, or I don’t know… under my bed! So I didn’t sleep well at all. I left the motel just after 10am and started driving to Mackay. I noticed signs for the Capricorn Caves, and I’d read amazing things about them on Trip Advisor, so I decided last minute to stop in and check it out.

I got there 20 minutes before their next guided tour and it was only $30 for an hour so I decided to go for it. I am SO glad that I did. That tour took over the Big Banana as my favourite thing I’ve done so far on this trip! The caves were stunning and the tour guide was so informative and fun. Their main attraction is their Cathedral Cave which has been decked out as a church with a choir stand and candles and a stage. They hold weddings in it, and it is seriously on my list now! (As a possible wedding destination for the future.) I fell in love with it. The tour guide said that there are also underground operas held in the Cathedral Cave, thanks to the near perfect acoustics. The man who assessed the acoustics in the Sydney Opera House also assessed the cave and he said that the Opera House is one side of perfect and the Cathedral Cave is the other – so right in between would be perfect acoustics. How amazing is that!?

After leaving the caves I drove to Sarina, 30 minutes away from my motel in Mackay. I hadn’t eaten so I couldn’t wait any longer! I got myself a Subway and then finished the drive to my motel. This place looks and feels like a 5 star resort! I am so glad I decided to book a motel here instead of sleep on my cousin’s couch – even though I was super grateful for the offer I thought it’d be better for me to have a proper sleep.

After I checked in my cousin Felicity met me with her three oldest kids to have dinner in the motel’s fancy restaurant. It was so nice to catch up with her and get to see her kids after such a long time! I hadn’t even met either of the girls so that was really nice.

Day 8 | Hervey Bay to Rockhampton

I woke up today to the realisation that I was definitely the only person in my unit last night. I could’ve done whatever I wanted, but instead I stayed in my room (mainly because the tele had shocking signal and I couldn’t watch the Origin – Go Queensland! – and also because there was nowhere to plug in my laptop which I needed to do to make last night’s post!). I checked out at about 9:30am and Jessie and I headed straight for our first stop, Bundaberg.

I had no real plans for today so I looked up things to do in Bundy. There were raving reviews about the Bundaberg Rum Distillery but the tour included two beverages at the bar as well as taste testing all the way through the tour… Thanks to being on my P Plates this didn’t sound like much fun considering I wouldn’t have been able to have any of the alcohol, so I decided to save the tour until I can enjoy the full experience.

I stopped for lunch in Bundaberg, just at a Coffee Club. They’ve redone their menu since the last time I went to one so it was nice to try something totally different. I was only there for an hour while I sat and enjoyed lunch, and then I was ready to face my biggest chunk of driving – 3 hours and 25 minutes to Rockhampton.

The drive went very quickly. It was painless and I arrived at my motel before I knew it. The longest drive of my trip is now over, and it was truly a piece of cake. My motel is nice – I have a park right out the front of my door so I can see Jessie through my window. Again I have two beds, but this time I have a table and a little sitting area as well. I really like this place.

I am about to go pamper myself and have a nice, long, luxurious shower followed by a refreshing sleep.

Day 7 | Brisbane to Hervey Bay

I decided last night that today, instead of going to the typical Sunshine Coast, I would instead go to the Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo! I bought my ticket on Groupon, which saved me a bit of money, and I was in the car and on the road by 8am to make sure I got to the zoo right as it opened at 9am.

I quickly sussed out the show times and studied the map and started my walk through the different zones. I’m really fascinated by crocodiles so they were first on my mind. After having a look through the alligators and freshwater crocs, I moved on to the bigger and angrier salties at the back of the Crocoseum. Steve designed the Crocoseum so that each croc has it’s own individual territory but they are linked by gates and channels to the main arena, so they all get a chance to perform. He also designed it with crystal clear water so that the public are able to see how a croc behaves under water – something we aren’t often able to understand thanks to the typically murky waters. It’s very clever and it’s almost unbelievable that the design of the Crocoseum works.

I got up close and personal with a few animals, including a cuddle from a koala and a camel ride! (I did not, however, smile at a crocodile. That apparently takes years of training and complete mastery.)

There were some really beautiful sights, and it was such a stunning day!

After the Zoo it was time to drive to my hostel in Hervey Bay. I briefly stopped in Gympie for a snack, but I was only there for 30 minutes. I did a lot of night driving tonight which has confirmed with me that I don’t want to do anymore night driving! Very tiring. Although seeing this sunset was pretty amazing…

I arrived at my hostel just after 7pm and found my way into my room. It’s a big unit with three bedrooms, a living area, a bathroom and a kitchen. I’m not sure if anyone else is staying here tonight, but I’ll probably be going to bed soon anyway.

In regards to State of Origin game 2: Go QLD!