Monday, May 14, 2007

Taste of Tokyo and a Bite of Beijing!

Konichiwa, friends!

It's been a long time since I've written about my adventures, and, if it is possible, they have gotten even better! Just a few days ago, I returned from my week and a half stint in Beijing and Tokyo with my Uncle Dave. What a blast!!

So, Beijing... China's capital and the future home of the 2008 Olympics (and they're not afraid to remind you!). Aside from the pollution generated by construction of new buildings and the large pollen clusters that often looked like snow hanging in the air, Beijing was a fascinating city to see. What was most interesting to me is how from all of my travels in China, Beijing seemed to be the most tourist contrived. The main attractions included The Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and, of course, the Great Wall. Out of all of those destinations, the Great Wall was my favorite. This is thanks to my quick-thinking USC roommate, Jooree, who guided us by bus and sketchy mini-bus in a 4 hour journey to a remote section of the Wall - completely authentic and definitely non-touristy. Authenticity is the most important factor to me, I've realized, because it makes me feel connected to the culture on a deeper level of history. As you can see from the pics, the views were beautiful!On to Tokyo... my favorite city in Asia! I was absolutely blown away by the cleanliness, efficient public transport, high tech sensory overload, kindness of the locals, and of course the Disneylands. As many of you might know, I feel about Disneylands the way most people feel about God. So, seeing 4 out of the 5 Disneylands in the world was a spiritual experience for me. haha I know, I should start a cult... who's with me?? The most impressive theme park that I have officially ever been to in the ENTIRE world was DisneySea. The park, as you will see from my obnoxious amount of pictures, centers around a beautiful lake with a life-size erupting volcano in the background. As each ride is sponsored by individual Japanese companies, each ride is perfection in itself - a core part of the Japanese culture. Interestingly, rides such as Pirates and Haunted Mansion were SCARIER in Tokyo, reflecting an integral part of the culture (as evident by the movies produced there like the original Ring). I loved that every ride was narrated in Japanese! It made it feel so authentic... and we all know how much I love authenticity ;-) The culmination of my day that brought the whole experience full circle was eating Japanese curry and watching the Disneyland Parade. What a cultural experience! Oh, and the parade was, well... magical. sigh. I definitely plan to revisit the park in a detailed 2 day excursion next time!

More on Tokyo... If it is possible, the Tokyo locals are even more friendly and helpful than those in Hong Kong - and that's saying a lot because Hong Kong people are so sweet! People would literally see me glancing at my map and offer to help me buy my ticket and guide me to my destination themselves. Although, imagine my surprise to discover that within this friendly culture is a blossoming porn industry that surpasses the developments in North America. As you will see from my pics, you can buy little anime stripper dolls from machines and buy anime porn. Talk about creative! OH! And, you don't need to worry about gambling with me, Mom, because despite the presence of slot machines in ElectricTown (the up and coming tech district of Tokyo), I managed to burn US$20 on those claw machines where you can win stuffed animals. Oh yes, I was a natural. hehe Visiting Tokyo has inspired me to consider a fellowship there for 6 months, post grad. I can now understand how people become obsessed with the culture! I LOVED IT!! Color me obsessed ;-)

Well, kids, I've got to finish packing for my last excursion of 10 days touring Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. This will be the trip to test my comfort zone and travel abilities in every way, and I couldn't be more excited to start! Although it makes me (and my mother) a little nervous, I am confident that I can put that worrying energy to good use and find the fun in whatever experiences come my way! Until next time...