not yet done or something, part 3

London Travel Blog

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okay.. so where was I?  Australia.. well, knowing that you would suspect that I knew the powders origin, I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

But Australia, well, that's getting ahead of myself.  After Ireland, I took a short trip down to Slovenia and honestly didn't get to see as much of Ljubljana as  I would have liked.  The castle at Bled is unspeakably beautiful, even if it it is a little touristy.  I would have loved to have made it to the little bit of coast line that they have, but I suppose that is for another trip (as with Croatia, which is very much on my shortlist of places to go).

Turkey was amazing, although I think I would have appreciated it far more if it weren't August (46 degrees centigrade in Ephesus) and I hadn't already spent 3 weeks in Greece.  I went with Imaginative Traveller whom I have to say is .. so-so.  I met some amazing people on this trip, although sometimes tour groups don't always jell.  Essentially the actions of one determined member who can't stop complaining can be quite a kill joy.   I think turkey is a fine place to go, they do have their share of troubles, no doubt (their ideas on what is or isn't genocide aside) but if you like ancient history, beautiful beaches and some of the world's most unique geography then its definitely worth the risk.

Syria on the other hand, isn't worth it.  Not unless you're a biblical scholar or someone who just has to visit the ancient christian sites.  This is not to say that I found it all that .. frightening.  Okay, I didn't care for the support for hezbollah.  Found their treatment of women, lacking.  Their devotion to their leader, surprising... etc etc.  And basically decided that it was best that I end my tour of the middle east.  I honestly don't think that attacking them would be either wise or warranted, frankly, much of the problems there I think could be solved by public schooling (as non-biased as possible and secular) and some development aid (definitely not by bombs).  But that's just my uninformed two cents.

I stayed in London, watched some .. well, unfortunate events unfold.  In any long trip, there is always the possibility that things may happen, good or ill.  I've had both.  I could talk about it again, but well, I'm not.

After that, a short break back in the states to do some mundane things like my driver's license and I headed to Japan.  Japan isn't typically a place you see a lot of backpackers go and with good reason, it is quite a spendy place.  One of those few places on earth where prices on average are around that of NYC or London, although unlike NYC or London, you don't have garbage on the streets and people are genuinely friendly to you.  Not that I don't know nice Londoners or new yawkers, just that Japan really did leave a good impression on me.  Although if I a lucky enough to go back, it will be in April with the cherry blossoms. (at the rate of my job hunting this may be a possibility)

Originally Japan wasn't on my list of places to go but one of my aunts (Aunt Anne if she's reading this) was kind enough to give me a book "1001 places to go before you die" and I started to leaf through it.  Its a decent enough book and they do have a wide range of things that are definitely worth seeing, even if I do think they have a number of things just flat out wrong.  Like, how can you have a book like that and not have Niagara Falls in it?  How can you justify its exclusion but put into it a $3000 a room day spa/hotel in southern California with questionable historical significance... but I quibble.  In the book, I was lead to the "Walk Japan" tour company (www.walkjapan.com).  Fantastic.  Absolutely the best tour I had on my trip bar none.  The only tour  that came with a book (seriously, a book) with the itinerary, history, .. hell, the only thing it didn't have in there was recipes for the food we ate and an audio guide (which might not be a bad idea, maybe I should forward it to them, do a pod cast for different days or something). 

So I did the Nakasendo way tour.. which was fantastic.  I had a day before and after the tour to wander around Kyoto and honestly it wasn't nearly enough time.  Had I time and infinite resources, I would have loved to have made it to Tokyo and Osaka, visited the sites .. well, just about everywhere.   And while Japan is definitely more expensive than say Thailand or Laos, etc, it was actually not as expensive as I had thought it would be.  Its just that the more inexpensive bits, the "lower tier" hotels, don't know how to handle, in general, English clients so most people look at the hotel chains and .. well, that's a shocker.  Maybe not if you do visit NYC a lot, where $200 a night will get you a broom closet with a dodgy shower, but its definitely sticker shock to those on a budget.

Anyway, two thumbs up on walkjapan.  Seriously, if you're thinking about doing Japan.. its a good idea.  Plus you get a ton of exercise and get to see (at least on the Nakasendo hike) a part of japan that people who come to visit don't normally get to see.  And who else can say that they've eaten crickets, snails, horse.. etc.  I know I can.


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photo by: ulysses