Monthly Archives: May 2013

Ephesus, Selçuk and Sirinçe: Hooray for old stuff!

After being bored in Bursa we took our bus ride to Selcuk to explore the ancient ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus had been on my list for ages and I was pumped to see some old crap. I had not been pumped to see some old crap since we were in Bagan maybe, so old crap was great. BRING IT ON.

We were on the bus for about 7 hours en route to Selçuk (Cell-Chook) . OH RIGHT – – and the bus broke down on the side of the highway about 45 minutes from our end destination. We boarded a 12:30pm bus. We arrived in Selçuk at 8:30pm. UNFAIR.

We had a quick, delightful dinner at a local family-run place. . We booked our day tour for the next day, and we fell asleep.

We spent the next day exploring one of the wonders of the ancient world, as well as the home where both the Vatican and the Muslim faith think Mary (mother of Jesus) spent her final years.

I couldn't take pix inside

I couldn’t take pix inside

Mary stuff! yeah!

Mary stuff! yeah!

I was like "I have not seen any of your kind in a long while". Nuns rock.

I was like “I have not seen any of your kind in a long while”. Nuns rock.

We stopped there first and I was immediately sad that my parents weren’t with me. Ok, well I wish my mom was there because it would have been really cool for her. Dad would have been rad to have in Japan to look at the awesome gardens. We all have our things with our parents.  Aside from Mary’s house, you can also leave your wishes for the future which we also saw in Japan which was a really sweet and fun sentiment.

Malaysia?

Malaysia?

Then, we were of to the ancient city of Ephesus. Our tour group was hilarious: a couple from Singapore, a family of four from India, a family of five which were Hungarian/Australian, and us. The Hungarian/Australian couple with three kids were our favorites: they were three years older than us with a nine-year-old. That took a while to sink in. LIFE CHOICES, I SUPPOSE. Anyway, they were awesome parents. Here is a sample exchange at the old Roman brothel (i.e. a House of Love in Ancient Roman times):

Mom: Guys you remember what sex is from when we talked about that right?

Kids: (groaning) UHHH HUHHH

Mom: So here, in the old days, you could pay a lady to have sex with her. This isn’t a good idea now though. Just be a good guy and buy her flowers sometimes and you’ll be able to persuade her to do the same things. Paying a woman for sex does not lead to good relationships.

Dave and Kat: DYING. SLOWLY. AAIIIIIIIII. Parenting!?!?!? LOLLOLLOLLOLLOLLOLLOL

We had a great time on this tour.

SAM_1582 SAM_1568 SAM_1562 SAM_1540 SAM_1536 Ephesus

Then we went to see the ancient Temple of Artemis (this one pillar is all that’s left and it’s a reconstruction).

this is all that's left.

this is all that’s left.

We also had a great time at dinner that night.

FUN!!!!

FUN!!!!

Our guide recommended a friend’s restaurant (which was delicious) but more importantly — a server thought Dave looked like a Turkish movie star and told him so– then showed us a youtube video to prove to me how well I had chosen.

I’ll let you be the judge but you might know how I lean:

Dave Klein

Dave Klein

Cemal Hunal (my new favorite Turkish beefcake… RIGHT? SO CUTE!)

Turkish beefcake

After a day of hardcore touristing, this diner and the DaveKlein lookalike story was everything we needed.

The next day we slept in and explored the local market and the nearby village of Sirinçe (Sir-in-Jay). The name means “ugly” to belie the village’s charm.

SAM_1617 Sirince

They are famous for their fruit wines which we bought as gifts for friends and gifts for ourselves. YEAH.

Also, I got a flower crown.

I FEEL PRETTY

I FEEL PRETTY

ANY woman of any age is instantly pleased by a flower crown. Probably a wide-variety of people I know are pleased by a flower crown which is how I know I have chosen the right tribe. It was 1 Lira (so like, sixty US cents)  and that is all you need to spend to make a woman happy (give or take the exchange rate). I WAS SOOOOO HAPPYYYYY!!!

for dudes

for some, less of a good time.

Then we took naps and went back to the delicious restaurant where the said Dave looked like the movie star. How could we not? They treated him like a local celebrity (otherwise known as Turkish hospitality).

Embarassing ourselves at a Sheraton: A Bursa Story

The morning we left Istanbul, we were chatting with our Air BnB host’s girlfriend. We had a hilarious conversation with her about our onward travel plans to Bursa.

Air BnB GF: Where are you going?

Dave and Kat:Bursa

Air BnB GF: (thinking for a minute)…. AAHHHHHH! Joo mean BOOOOURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRsa

Thus begins our comedy of errors in pronunciation, geography and expectation. We took the ferry to Bursa.  It was 2 hours and felt like you were on an airplane on the water. I slept for nearly the entire thing because it was flying without the emotional stress of takeoff and landing. Flying makes my palms sweat. Taking the ferry lulled me to sleep.

We then hopped on a bus to the metro and promptly got VERY lost. Not just lost, ask-for-directions lost. Like 14 kilometers in the wrong direction needed a taxi, lost. In summary: Google maps lied. BIG TIME. Also, I might add, we did a VERY good job at not being furious with each other. We spent the 15 turkish lira and had a chuckle. #Travelwinning

We stayed at a brand new Sheraton on points. By brand new, I mean we were probably the first American guests there since it had been open for six weeks. We were greeted like royalty as SPG Gold members by a man in a morning coat who looked twice at our backpacks. We were upgraded to a corner suite.

Dave bristles with glee every time we walk into a Starwood property looking rough, with a small amount of luggage, and then promptly decline housekeeping to earn more points and wash our undies in the bathtub.  Because we wash our unmentionables in an upgraded suite with a note from the manager which is so hilarious.

The hotel was so empty we had a whole floor to ourselves. We enjoyed the hotel immensely because Bursa was … boring? But there was an awesome shower. A comfy bed. Fast, free wifi. Nearby supermarket for hotel room picnic dinners. We spent half a day doing nothing and it was awesome.

#classy
#classy — I used to be so tan…

Bursa is Turkey’s third largest city. We were expecting it to be a THING. WITH STUFF.

uh, the main center square
uh, the main center square

It was not a thing. There were few things to do.

We walked around and saw some mosques.

where some jerk tried to get us to come to his pottery shop. #NO
Green Mosque — unique for having a pool in the center.

We ate an Iskander kebab where it was rumored to be created. This is a fancy kebab you can sample all over turkey and is glorious, rich and not-your-average-kebab. This is a plate of cubed bread with thinly sliced, roasted kebab meat over spicy peppers, tomatoes and yogurt. THEN, they drizzle brown butter over it. It was glorious.

mmmm brown butter
mmmm brown butter

We did a lot of walking. We walked through a nice park? We took a nice tram?

But mostly, we embarrassed the crap out of ourselves by asking for a variety of things of the hotel:

1.) Club access so we could eat free breakfast because we were BROKE! TEE HEE! Turks take breakfast VERY seriously and they apologized for the continental-type breakfast available in the club lounge. It was MORE than enough and awesome. We were the only people in the club each day. Bonus tip: make 3 cappuccinos in a drip coffee mug.

2.) Help buying bus tickets. Because of various hilarious technical difficulties / websites being broken / not speaking Turkish / hearing that the Bursa bus station was a total nightmare we insisted on booking tickets in advance. This took an hour or so and they were SO CONFUSED. Not a private car.they looked into that for us but it was 500 euros. OOPS!

3.) Where the subway was. It was a 10 minute walk from our hotel. They insisted it was too far and we should take a taxi into town.  Once we realized how close it was we just had to laugh.

4.) How to get to the bus station. They by this point figured out we didn’t want a taxi. A kind, kind woman who worked at the hotel figured us out and told us to take the bus. Yet again Dave and I found ourselves standing on the side of a highway, flagging down buses to ask if it stopped by the station. Here is where Turks are awesome. We realized it was certain buses who do. An old man tried to trace numbers on his hand through a window. A woman called out “the yellow ones” to us from a green bus. Later did we realize any yellow bus that started with 9.

By the way, this was the nightmare of a bus station we had read horror stories about.

a "nightmare"

a “nightmare”

Yeah– it’s empty. And we could have bought bus tickets before walking on the bus. Oh well!

Also — we could visit a city in Turkey named “Batman”. TRUTH!

!!!!

!!!!

All in all, Bursa was not quite worth a trip but shout outs to the Sheraton staff for treating us with dignity when we didn’t really deserve it.

Istanbul – Persistence of Memory

Kat and I first visited Istanbul 2 years ago, almost by accident. We were thinking about going on a cheap vacation an weren’t quite sure where to go. Then we saw a flight sale that we couldn’t turn down so we just thought “why not?” We’d never even thought of going to Turkey before and quickly discovered that Istanbul is, seriously you guys, THE TOPS. We had such a blast there that we decided on our current trip we’d have to return. Going back to a place you love after a long absence can be a tricky thing. Have things changed? Have I changed? Will I be able to recapture that beautiful experience or was it just a fleeting moment in time that cannot be recreated?

Kat was excited to celebrate her 31st birthday in one of our favorite cities!

Kat was excited to celebrate her 31st birthday in one of our favorite cities! Next to her is a bag of crabapples that, apparently, some Turkish people like to eat. Those Turkish people are dumdums because they taste exactly as disgusting as you’d think crabapples taste.

There have been several places on this trip where we’re going somewhere for the second time (Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon), but none of them had the grip on us that Istanbul does. The people are wonderfully friendly, the food is fantastic, traveling around the country is remarkably easy an Istanbul is one of the most chic, liveliest cities in the world. Istanbul is also, to me, the most interesting place we’ve been socioeconomically. The way Turkey and Istanbul struggle with their identity, particularly the role of Islam and religion in daily life and government, is fascinating to me. Drinking an Efes beer at a trendy bar with Istanbul hipsters while the call to prayer echoes across the city from hundreds of minarets may be old hat to Turks, but to me it’s always an amazing experience that causes me to pause and think “This place is SO DAMN INTERESTING.”

"Kat, listen to the call to prayer? Isn't it beautiful?" "Yeah, it's great. HEY, DID YOU KNOW I TURN 31 TODAY?!"

“Kat, listen to the call to prayer? Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yeah, it’s great. HEY, DID YOU KNOW I TURN 31 TODAY?!”

I was amazed to return to Istanbul after 2 years and find that NOTHING had changed. Countless times, I found myself thinking “Oh, RIGHT. I REMEMBER that restaurant/shop/thing there!” I was able to get all of my favorite foods that I’d been craving:

Cay. Turkey is fueled by these little tulip glasses of tea. I usually had about 4 per day. Turkish coffee, surprisingly, isn't consumed as much -- usually only after dinner with a sweet thing.

Cay. Turkey is fueled by these little tulip glasses of tea. I usually had about 4 per day. Turkish coffee, surprisingly, isn’t consumed as much — usually only after dinner with a sweet thing.

Balik Ekmek -- literally "fish bread." Just a grilled fish sandwich. Touristy to eat at the restaurants right under the Galata Bridge but super fun.

Balik Ekmek — literally “fish bread.” Just a grilled fish sandwich. Touristy to eat at the restaurants right under the Galata Bridge but super fun.

Meze plate. So much awesomeness on this, I can't even begin. The winner here is the green goop in the center which is a pistachio and whipped cheese concoction that I'm pretty sure Kat would leave me for were it a sentient being.

Meze plate. So much awesomeness on this, I can’t even begin. The winner here is the green goop in the center which is a pistachio and whipped cheese concoction that I’m pretty sure Kat would leave me for were it a sentient being.

Turkish breakfast. Turks do brekkie right. That stuff in the middle there is kaymak with honey -- sort of like clotted cream. It goes straight to your arteries, but what a way to die.

Turkish breakfast. Turks do brekkie right. That stuff in the middle there is kaymak with honey — sort of like clotted cream. It goes straight to your arteries, but what a way to die.

Midye. Mussels stuffed with rice and spices. They sell these things EVERYWHERE on the street and, normally, I'd be a bit concerned eating shellfish of unknown provenance made by a unshaven Turk but they're delicious and I haven't gotten sick yet.

Midye. Mussels stuffed with rice and spices. They sell these things EVERYWHERE on the street and, normally, I’d be a bit concerned eating shellfish of unknown provenance made by a unshaven Turk but they’re delicious and I haven’t gotten sick yet.

No Turkish meal is complete with raki, an anise-based liquor similar to ouzo. It's clear in the bottle but becomes milky white when diluted with water. Science! This is not a flavor Kat or I typically enjoy, but somehow with mezes it just goes really well.

No Turkish meal is complete with raki, an anise-based liquor similar to ouzo. It’s clear in the bottle but becomes milky white when diluted with water. Science! This is not a flavor Kat or I typically enjoy, but somehow with mezes it just goes really well.

The great thing about having already been to Istanbul before is that Kat and I had already done all the tourist “must-do” things, like all the sites in the Old City. Don’t get me wrong, those sites are amazing, but we were more interested in getting to know Istanbul more intimately and seeing places and neighborhoods we missed the first time around.

We stayed in Besiktas, which is a well-to-do neighborhood full of fun bars and restaurants. It’s a great place because not many tourists make it up there. Coming from Asia, we had a big culture shock in dealing with people. In Asia, you look different so you are instantly categorized as “foreign” and people know right away that you won’t speak the language. In Turkey — particularly in non-tourist areas — everyone thought, at first, that we were Turkish. So there was an initial awkwardness every time we’d walk into a store or restaurant and the person would expect us to speak Turkish. When we weren’t able to speak Turkish, they then assumed we were Spanish or, to a lesser extent, French. One guy at a restaurant began speaking to me in Spanish, I answered back in Spanish “I’m American!” He laughed and laughed and then continued to speak to me in Spanish. What can you do?

We had an AMAZING experience attending a Besiktas soccer match. The stadium is quite old but amazingly beautiful. There’s a big mosque right next to it and it’s right on the Bosphorus, making it the only stadium in the world where you can see another continent from the stands. I’m a huge soccer fan and love attending matches in foreign countries. Let me tell you, the Turks are AMAZING fans. I’ve been to matches in America, the Netherlands and England and they’ve got NOTHING on what I saw in Istanbul. These guys are serious.

It's no RFK Stadium, but their mascot IS an Eagle, so it's kind of like being back home at a DC United match.

It’s no RFK Stadium, but their mascot IS an Eagle, so it’s kind of like being back home at a DC United match.

Let’s not forget another reason that this city is awesome: Istanbul has not one, but TWO funiculars, and we rode them both. What’s great about these funiculars is that not only are they funiculars, but they’re actually USEFUL for getting you places.

Kat on the Tunel funicular. Different continent, same crazed look of excitement

Kat on the Tunel funicular. Different continent, same crazed look of excitement

I find myself frustrated writing this blog entry. I love Istanbul so much and I feel like no words I can write will do it justice or really give you an accurate idea of why this city is so amazing. Instead, I’ll just leave you with some shots of the city and hope that they give you an incentive to go see for yourself how Istanbul is truly one of the world’s great cities.

 

SAM_1442 SAM_1425 SAM_1301 SAM_1317

 

SAM_1374 SAM_1405

 

10 hours in Dubai

So after five months in Asia, Dave and I packed up our bags for our favorite city in the world. Just across the river from Asia. Where the rest of the country and half of the city are. Oops? We left Osaka on an 11:30pm flight bound for…Dubai!

Emirates Airlines does this thing where they space out their flights from Asia and to Europe and vice versa.  This is either awesome if you want to try and see some of Dubai while you fly nearly halfway around the world or terrible if you just want to get there already. You can either sit in the (very nice) Dubai airport waiting for your connection, or you can go into the city for a few hours. Emirates will sponsor your visa, give you a meal coupon, and a hotel coupon. Depending on your connection time, it’s a night’s sleep or a day out. We chose day out.

On the flight,  I had to pretend I wasn’t crying but had some sort of “contact lens issue” (note: I do not wear contacts) because yes, I was that girl who cried when watching Les Miserables and Jean ValJean died. Or maybe I cried because I had to hear Russell Crowe sing for that long. YEESH.   I also cried at the end of Silver Linings Playbook, mostly out of an urgent, desperate need to be in Philadelphia. Bradley Cooper knows how to make a gal homesick. Maybe it was just seeing a diner. Or rabid Eagles fans. Anyway, the stereotypes reduced me to tears and since I already cried once on an plane, whatever, right?

Once I wiped the crust from my shut-for-five-hours-after-weeping-on-an-airplane-eyes, we breezed through immigration at 5:30am after a 10.5 hour flight and found the hotel transit booth. When you check into your flight Emirates gives you all the vouchers you need but note: you DO need to apply for the visa and the vouchers online in advance of your flight so do your homework!

We checked into our airport hotel and each took a shower. We were careful to not so much as sit on the beds — the minute we might have done that it would have been over for us.

We then ate breakfast. What a difference 11 hours makes. Breakfast went from grilled fish and miso to olives, cheese, hummus and cucumbers in what seemed like a blink of an eye.

We watched 4 minutes of CAMEL RACING (!!!) in our room and then took off around 8am.

I have a feeling we aren't in Japan anymore, Toto.

I have a feeling we aren’t in Japan anymore, Toto.

We were desperate for more caffeine but knew that we’d need to be back at the Dubai airport by 12:30 to make our 2:30 flight so we had four and a half hours to get the gist of Dubai.

So, we did what we’d normally do and hopped on the subway. Amid the commuters, we saw as much of the city as we could. Here’s what we managed:

1.) I was INSISTENT that we take the subway as close as possible to see the Burj Al Arab. I saw a show on the Discovery Channel once on it and have been captivated since. Unfortunately, you have to pay to drive up and pay to enter the lobby so since we were broke and had like 10 minutes to see everything we just took pictures form the closest metro station, shrugged our shoulders, threw up our hands, and went back into the air conditioning.

this hotel is on a man-made island. obvi

this hotel is on a man-made island. obvi

UAE flags!

UAE flags!

 

2.) Next, we hit up the Mall of the Emeriates. Bear in mind we showed up at like, 8:45am. I think two coffee shops were open but again — AIR CON!– so we had a coffee and relaxed for a few minutes. It was weird to have someone approach you in English to order something. A barista brightly asked us what we’d like. IN ENGLISH. Our heads spun. We were worried about learning Arabic — oops?! Two coffees please.

Then we went and gawked at where you can go skiing inside .

WHAT

WHAT

This is where I learned that the mall has PENGUINS. AND THAT WE WERE THERE THE DAY BEFORE WORLD PENGUIN DAY.

AAAIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, this is when we began to feel verrrrryyyyy tired. We had like, 5 hours sleep thanks to Ambien. In typical fashion, I started getting intense about all the things we wanted to see. IMMEDIATELY. WE ONLY HAVE SO MUCH TTTIIIMMMMEEE! ALL! THE! THINGS! AAAAHHHH!

Dave just started talking like Consuela the maid from Family Guy:

we looked around the mall a bit more,

the gap in arabic

the gap in arabic

before heading to (sigh, Dubai) ANOTHER MALL.

3.) The Dubai Mall. We walked through it to get to the main event: the Burj Khalifa.

It was, truthfully, the nicest mall I think I have ever seen.

Suck it, King of Prussia

Suck it, King of Prussia

And then we went and gawked at the tallest building in the world.

IT

whoa

whoa

IS

WHOA!

WHOA!

BIG

WHATTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!

WHATTTTTT!!!!!!!!!! (whoa unattractive angle!?)

It dwarfed the 50 story buildings next to it. Very impressive.

pffft other tall fancy buildings

pffft other tall fancy buildings

Whatever

Seriously! crazy!

Seriously! crazy!

We sat outside for a while reminiscing about the Petronas Towers we saw in Kuala Lumpur:

The Burj Khalifa is TWICE AS TALL.

Petronas Towers - KL

Petronas Towers – KL

Then, we had time for a quick sandwich before it was back to the airport. We wanted to walk around the old town of Dubai a bit but we didn’t have enough time.

And 10 hours after we disembarked, we were back in a tin can in the sky flying 4.5 hours to our favorite city in the whole world: Istanbul.

So, all in all, I thought Dubai was interesting. It was an interesting mix of people: we saw more Filipinos and Indians than we did actual Emeriate people.  The wealth in the UAE is astounding. I don’t think we ever felt so broke as we did there. The buildings are amazing. The types of cars we saw on the street, incredible. The clothing, from fancy hijab to flashy labels were impeccable. Everyone who was dressed like a schlub was either on a 10-hour layover or on vacation.  If you lived in the Middle East and needed to let loose somewhere, I can see how Dubai would be a real destination.

I can imagine that as an expat there it may be a bit dull. We have a friend who lived there for two years and she seemed to like it well enough but is not interested in going back after her stint was over. It seemed as an expat you can either migrate from hotel bar to hotel bar to mall to hotel bar, work a ton, or be a housewife. No wonder everyone is dressed to the nines — all there is to do is shop! Also, there are so many people here to take jobs Emirates don’t want. It was interesting being back in a diverse place again. Japan is like, 99% Japanese. Koreans live in Korea. We haven’t been somewhere that was a melting pot since we were in Malaysia. And then the UAE had to go and beat their record for the tallest buildings.

Dave reacted pretty violently to it — he hated it. He snarked on it so bad. He whined as we walked through another mall. He was looking for CULTURE. And INSIGHT. AND AN EXPERIENCE.

I felt like we got a tiny glimpse into what it is like to live there. I can’t form a proper opinion in 10 hours but I can eat some olives for breakfast and take pictures next to a real tall building. Malls ARE part of the culture there. Dave wants to never return, claiming Las Vegas was hotter and more fun and served the same purpose with way more booze so why bother?

I was intrigued, but Dubai was not the most exciting place ever. Am I glad we slept horribly for 2 days to get a glimpse into life in one of the richest countries in the world? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I move there? Dubai-ous.

 

Sayonara, muchachos!

After we shivered in the world’s tiniest hotel room with mystery fevers, we traveled north from Hakata to Osaka where we would base ourselves for the remainder of our time in Japan.

Osaka itself –sadly– we didn’t see much aside from nightlife. Being sick was really hard on us. On one hand, we were thankful that this was the ONE time we were really sick on the trip (OK and then there was the great food poisoning epidemic of early 2013) but all things considered, we’ve been lucky. We have not had to explore how our travel insurance works. HOORAY.

So, Dave already gloated about not being attacked by chompy deer told you about one day trip to Nara, which was fun except when a pack of domesticated deer bit my hip and scared the crap out of me. NOT COOL, DEER! USE YOUR WORDS, DEER!

We are not amused

We are not amused… and when we are tired we still have #shinglesface

The next day we hopped on a slow local train to Kyoto. We were super excited about Kyoto. We wanted to see oldey timey Japan! Geishas! Palaces! Temples!

Here’s a little preconception about Japan that we were incorrect about. We totally figured Kyoto was a village.  We knew Japan was densely populated, but we were unprepared for places that were so huge. Kobe – a city and area famous for Kobe beef—you’ve heard of it—MILLIONS of people. Fukuoka, the city that is a blip on tourist radars but home of Hakata ramen – over a million people.

Kyoto is not a small place. With a population of over  1.5 million, it’s twice the population of DC proper and has skyscrapers. WHERE AM I GOING TO SPOT A GEISHA AMONG SKYSCRAPERS AND FUTURISTIC BUILDINGS?

We did a flurry of a day trip to Kyoto. We bought a 500 yen day bus pass which ended up being the best $5 we spent in Japan — we hopped on every bus we could and still managed to walk our feet off– but our cost per use was down which pleased Dave greatly.

So in Kyoto you look one way and it’s temples and palace and quaint Japanese life. If you look downhill, there are skycrapers and a subway system.

shiny Kyoto train station

shiny Kyoto train station

But that’s ok because I SAW A GEISHA. We got caught up in the old city in some sort of classic car race (?!) and a geisha in a cab was stuck behind them.  I couldn’t even snap a photo– all time stopped– I could barely breathe. She was sitting in the back of a cab, concerned about this extra traffic. She was so put together, so beautiful and so glamorous I feel like she was in front of me for three full minutes. I heard nothing. I didn’t breathe.

It was like, 30 seconds. Maybe.

I felt like at that point we could just go home. We saw what we needed to see.

The checklist looked like this:

Palaces

Palace!

Palace!

Temples

pagoda!

pagoda!

more temples

more temples

Ladies in kimonos

covert shot

covert shot

Beautiful gardens

don't go chasing waterfalls...

don’t go chasing waterfalls…

Quaint alleyways

cute!

cute!

Not just a beer vending machine (which had eluded us all of Japan previously)

Dave found a new BFF

Dave found a new BFF

BUT!

A sake vending machine!

Hello, lover....

Hello, lover….

So that was Kyoto. The express train through it. On one hand, I’m sad we didn’t spend more time there. On the other hand, how many freaking temples can a girl look at and still appreciate them like the first ten? SERIOUSLY? I feel ok about it.

Because we were staying in Osaka which was super fun with great food. I feel like Tokyo is the New York of Japan without any of the real character and Osaka is like the Chicago. Flies under the radar except for everyone who knows how fun it is. Rules were a bit more lax there (FOR JAPAN), the food was delicious, and the city easy to navigate. We had a good time in Dontonburi amid all the mascots:

crab juice? KRAVKALASH!

crab juice? KRAVKALASH!

SCARY CLOWN

SCARY CLOWN

 

FUGU FISH! (we did not partake)

FUGU FISH! (we did not partake)

might as well be Andy Rooney, #amirite?

might as well be Andy Rooney, #amirite?

Oh and the other beer vending machine we found.

weeeee!

weeeee!

So in Japan summary — if we had to play the crass middle school  game of Screw, Marry, Kill:

I think we’d

Screw Hakata

Marry Osaka

Kill Tokyo. And all the armbands. No actually we will inflict it no harm. We fear the armbands. Also our friends live there, so they’d be fine. We’d just make it more fun.  Change the rules. Armband for fun!

ARMBAND!

ARMBAND!

So it was one more round at the super fun taiko drum game

DK's turn

DK’s turn

me taking the game VERY seriously (NOTE: I WON)

me taking the game VERY seriously (NOTE: I WON)

And we were off to Dubai! We flew 10 hours to Dubai– had a 10 hour stopover which we’ll tell you about next– and then flew 5 hours to our favorite city in the world: Istanbul

Goodbye Asia… until a Turkish ferry takes us to the Asian side!

p.s. #2 London

p.p.s: #3 Seoul

 

 

 

 

Nara – And then the greatest thing ever happened

From Takayama we took the train 1000 km south to the southern city of Fukuoka. The intention was to use Fukuoka as a base and do a few day trips around Kyushu (the southern Japanese island) and to Hiroshima. Well, that didn’t happen. First Kat got sick (sick enough that we were researching hospitals, but fortunately she got better), then I got sick. So we spent 3 days holed up in a miserable businessman hotel in an 8×12 foot room. It wasn’t super awesome, but such is life on the road sometimes. We were happy to lave Fukuoka and hopped on the Shinkansen up to Osaka.

We’ll write more in a future post about Osaka and Kyoto, but I had to write a very quick post about a day trip we took from Osaka to a small town called Nara. Nara has some interesting temples and is home to Japan’s largest Buddha (which is housed, coincidentally, in the world’s largest wooden building). That stuff’s all great and all, but that’s not what makes Nara a place of interest. The reason that you should go to Nara is that in Nara you can do this:

We didn't talk about the time that I went deer hunting in West Virginia. Not that I'm hiding it, it just didn't come up in conversation is all...

We didn’t talk about the time that I went deer hunting in West Virginia. Not that I’m hiding it, it just didn’t come up in conversation is all…

This is not a petting zoo. In Nara, domesticated deer just walk around the whole town, wandering into traffic, terrorizing children and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Something I did not realize about deer: they SMELL. Pretty much like horses. All over the town are people selling special deer biscuits that you can buy and feed to the deer. This being Japan, the deer actually BOW TO YOU to get you to give them biscuits.

Respect

You want to get respect, you gotta give respect

So, we thought, oh this will be cute. We’ll buy some biscuits for the deer and feed them. So we paid our 150 yen (about $1.50) and Kat went to go feed the deer. And then this happened:

 

"ohhh, aren't you guys CUTE?! Ok, let me give you a biscuit!"

“ohhh, aren’t you guys CUTE?! Ok, let me give you a biscuit!”

"Heh heh, ok, guys. One at a time, now. Don't push."

“Heh heh, ok, guys. One at a time, now. Don’t push.”

"GUYS, SERIOUSLY, STOP. BEHAVE YOURSELVES OR NO ONE GETS BISCUITS!"

“GUYS, SERIOUSLY, STOP. Behave yourselves or no one gets biscuits!”

"RULES EXIST TO KEEP US SAFE! DID YOU JUST BITE ME, YOU LITTLE BASTARD?!"

“RULES EXIST TO KEEP US SAFE! OW! DID YOU JUST BITE ME, YOU LITTLE BASTARD?!”

"JESUS. FINE. HERE. TAKE YOUR BISCUITS. I'M DONE WITH YOU ASSHOLES."

“JESUS. FINE. HERE. TAKE YOUR BISCUITS. I’M DONE WITH YOU ASSHOLES.”

While the deer were assaulting Kat, I was off on the side gleefully snapping pictures. It was the greatest thing ever. I was laughing hysterically. Kat didn’t find it so funny. “They were BITING ME and you were LAUGHING,” she kept saying. I continued to think it was hilarious until this sumbitch tried to eat my green tea soft-serve:

Look here, Bambi, you try to steal my ice cream again and you'll end up with your mom, NAMASAYIN'?!

Look here, Bambi, you try to steal my ice cream again and you’ll end up with your mom, NAMASAYIN’?!

That’s when things got serious. Kat and I decided that we’d both had enough of this novelty and it was time to get on the train and escape back to the deer-free safety of Osaka.