It is hard to believe a year has passed since we were celebrating Eid al-Adha with our new Muslim friends in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia. Eid al-Adha… Read more “Eid Mubarak in the Perhentian Islands”
Myanmar, finally, I was in Myanmar. It is not a common destination yet it has always intrigued me. Few Americans travel here. Squeezed in between Thailand and India, Myanmar has, until recently, been one of the most isolated and repressed countries on Earth. With trade sanctions lifted and a new democratically elected government in power, Myanmar is preparing for an onslaught of tourists. I wanted to visit Myanmar before the locals became jaded by tourism and money.
I had booked a soft sleeper for us. A traveling compartment with four berths. I had hoped for lower berths but the train was full and we were stuck with two upper berths. We were sharing our compartment with a young couple traveling with their eighteen-month old baby. This young mother was also nine-months pregnant! As the train began its trek to Danang, picking up speed, we began to wonder if her pregnancy would withstand the shaking, rattling, bumping, lurching motions for a few moments, much less the sixteen hours ahead of us.
After the our visit to the Tuntex Sky Tower we head off to visit one of Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s famous night markets. As we began to fight the crowd to enter the market we came across this man selling some very unique nuts.
Tony picked us up at the Tainan High Speed Rail Station and we immediately set off on a drive for the hills. He handed us each a rice ball filled with some pickled vegetables, a local favorite breakfast, and a bottle of water. Driving towards the hills we had time to get acquainted. High in the hills the sky was a beautiful blue looking down on the grey smoggy haze covering Tainan. Tony explained that one of his favorite things to do is to drive up high above the smog and drink a cup of his local favorite coffee. Conveniently, that is one of my favorite things to do as well!
It was getting late so I was relieved that we were in time to tour the Dragon Tiger Tower. Dragon Tiger Tower is a temple consisting of a pair of colorful and modern pagodas looming over Lotus Pond. The dragon’s throat is the entrance and the lion’s mouth is the exit. Entering a dragon’s throat and coming out a lion’s mouth symbolizes turning bad luck to good fortune. Inside, paintings depict China’s 24 most obedient sons as well as scenes of heaven and hell to inspire people to do good deeds during their lifetime, and to provide threatening examples of retribution for wrongdoing.
Six hours after arrival in Kaohsiung we discover our lodging is on the seventh floor of a slum apartment building where you really don’t want to walk barefoot! Laurie, in her most loving way possible, told me we were going back to the airport, period! We managed to get the phone fixed at the airport, reserved a new place to stay, and raced to the metro to catch the very last train of the night! We arrived at Drum Fang at 1AM. Twenty hours into our journey.
While in Kawasaki we had the opportunity to go to our first onsen. An onsen is a traditional Japanese bath fed from a hot spring. The onsen we went to is called Shirakunoyu. There is a proper way to utilize an onsen. The naked part is easy for me, its the unspoken rules and etiquette that can be a little intimidating. We managed just fine. We both felt so much better after soaking for over an hour.
You see Tokyo is not necessarily world renowned for its tacos! Yes, there are Taco Bells, but local grocery stores do not stock taco shells, refried beans, seasonings, salsa, sour cream and other needed ingredients. I decided that I would need to locate an international market. Online I located Seiko Ishii market next to Shibuya station. Seemed simple enough. Wrong!!! After Laurie and I finished our time at the Meiji Jingo Festival (see last post) I convinced Laurie that we should hop on the train to run an errand that was only three stations away. She had wanted to check out a store called Uniqlo for a light night gown. Unfortunately every where we look all the stores carry is winter fashions as Tokyo gets quite cold in the winter and Uniqlo was no exception. This is where I should have called it a day. We were already wiped from a long day but we were so close to the Seijo Ishii market. Just hop on the train and go one station.