The HR department thought I was crazy.
“You want to fly from Manila to Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo to Los Angeles to Washington, DC?”
“Do you realize how long that is going to take?”
“Yes, I do, thanks. This is the route I want.”
And it was great! We flew to KL just to change planes, spent 12 hours in Tokyo, 5 days in LA and then headed back to DC. It was perfect!
We arrived in Tokyo around 8 o’clock in the morning. After changing some money we grabbed some food from Starbucks and headed to the train. The plan was to take the train to Asakusa and then to Ueno if we had time leftover before heading back to Narita. We went down to the basement in the airport and got the tickets for Asakusa and made our way to the platform. I even asked some men standing near me if the trains on that platform head towards Asakusa and they said yes. Problem was there were trains heading to other places. You see where this is going… The train was very nice and modern and we settled comfortably into our seats. I was sipping the most delicious latté I had ever had and enjoying looking out the window at the lush countryside when I decided to confirm with the woman sitting behind me that we were actually headed to Asakusa. In my non-existent Japanese and her minimal English she kindly told me that this was not the direct train to Asakusa but we could get out in Ueno. Problem was I had only purchased a ticket to cover the fair to Asakusa. Oops. I was hopeful it would work like it does in the States: just pay the difference when the conductor comes through and that proved to be the case. Phew!
We got out at Ueno and learned there was a big market going on in the area that morning and a large lake with ducks. Score! We could both be happy. We made our way to the market after stopping to buy an umbrella. It was pouring rain! We wandered around the market and it was fascinating but unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures because of the rain. There were crates of fishes and stores filled with sweaters and shoes. I did stop and get myself some polka dotted Wellies to keep my feet dry (couldn’t find any in Coco’s size plus she has a pair of boots in the shipment) and then I wandered into a shop with belts. The man who worked there cracked me up! He had on jeans and a thick leather belt studded with silver and cowboy boots and was playing country music. In Japan! I thought that was interesting! I looooved the belts! I have been looking for a thick brown leather belt for years– seriously, like for the past 5 years and have been unsuccessful. All the belts I ever see are thin or cheap or have a flimsy buckle but these were amazing. I tried on several and settled on one that I absolutely loved and it was only $12! I was so thrilled. The man even gave me a discount bringing it down to $11 (or was it $10? — can’t recall because to me $12 was an excellent deal). I left the store so happy until a few hours later when I realized I had made a classic mistake. I converted wrong! My cheap $12 belt was really an expensive $120 belt! I am not kidding. Oh well, I love it so (I guess) that’s all that matters. 🙂
We tried to find the ducks but it was pouring and I was anxious to get to Asakusa where we were told it was quaint and had pagodas and other uniquely Japanese things. Coco was really sad but we did give it a try. We heard the ducks quacking loudly but we couldn’t see any! I promised her I would take her to the zoo in the States to make it up to her and she reluctantly went back to the train station with me. We arrived 45 minutes earlier than the train departure time so we passed the time looking at some jewelry in the station and then got on the train to Asakusa.
Asakusa was such a cute city but it was still pouring so we looked around for somewhere to go to get some lunch. We stumbled upon an amazing sushi restaurant with the freshest, most delicious sushi I have ever tasted! I ordered a bunch. They had 5 kinds of tuna so I ordered some of each and Coco had some clam soup.
When I paid the bill they handed her a lollipop. Look at it. How cute is that? Can you see what it is?
Yup! Sushi! How cute is that? After lunch we walked around and checked out the shops. It was still pouring!
I bought a few souvenirs (I always buy a magnet whenever I am on vacation) and I told Coco she could buy one thing. I think it’s so hard when you travel with kids and they are constantly asking for things. Coco does this when we travel and I realized the best way to handle this is to tell her she can have one thing (within a certain price range). When she’s older she can get a set sum to spend as she wishes but right now she has no concept of money so I settled on telling her she could buy one thing. She had her heart set on this paper horn thing which I knew was a bad choice because it was pouring rain. I knew it would fall apart but since I had already set the rule (You can buy one thing but let’s look around and see what there is before you buy this) there was no turning back. I tried in vain to get her to show some interest in a snow globe or a Vietnamese doll or something that would last but no, she wanted that horn so we went back and got it. She was so over the moon about that horn. And, yes, it fell apart the next day. Eh, what can you do?
We were heading back to the train station when I realized I needed money from the ATM in order to purchase the tickets (they use machines). It was a challenge to communicate my needs to the folks there, many of whom don’t speak English but I was able to find some banking machines. Problem was they only took Cirrus cards and my ATM isn’t part of the Cirrus network. Tried another ATM and another. Things weren’t looking good and I started to get nervous. I had already been dragging Coco through the rain for twenty minutes and I was getting nervous. What would we do if I didn’t have enough money to get back to the airport? If we didn’t get back in time we would miss our flight home and then what? My mind starting creating all kinds of scenarios. Luckily, the fourth ATM machine I found worked like a charm and I was able to withdraw money and run through the rain to get to the train in time. Talk about stress!
I enjoyed getting to see a tiny slice of Japan. We spent the next couple of hours in Malaysia Airlines business class lounge and then boarded our flight to Los Angeles. All in all I think I saw a decent amount of Asia while living overseas. Here’s the final tally: the Philippines (Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Puerta Galera, Anilau, Boracay); Phuket, Thailand; Singapore, Singapore; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Tokyo, Japan; Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An and Saigon). Is that it? I think so. Not bad for two years. It’s been a good experience. Now home!