Saturday, June 3, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II Retrospective - Part Two

Continuing on with the deep reflective dive into our trip.

Things we were surprised by:
  • Amount of English in Japan - Everything we read said we'd find little English. Instead we found most places, even out in Kyushu, a wide prevalence of understanding and use of basic traveler English and many more English menus than we would have expected
  • Credit Card Usage in Japan - Again all we read warned that Japan was mostly a cash economy. But no, we were able to use our credit cars at the majority of places we shopped and ate.
  • Room Sizes - Warnings and reviews about the small size of rooms especially in Japan before going, for the price we were paying (NOT super premium), we found the rooms as good as what we find in Europe.
  • Fitting in and Not Being Stared at - There wasn't anywhere on this trip where we felt people were looking at us because we were Westerners. A big difference from our experience in China the year before. 
  • Feeling at Home in Japan - Other than the language and alphabet, the whole vibe of building construction, urban layout, transportation systems, store layouts, etc. in Japan was totally not jarring. I was rather amazed by how at home I felt there.
  • Taipei - My favorite place we visited. It was friendly. There was way more English used and understood than in Japan. People were helpful, even solicitous. In six days there we did not do everything on our list. The closeness of wilderness and countryside to city. It is on my short list of places I really want to go back to.
  • Accepting Being Taken Care of In Bali - Wife and I are pretty self-reliant and at least up to now, not all the comfortable having people who are 'help' doing things for you. Maybe we perceive having 'help' as being snooty. However, finding ourselves in a villa with all kinds of help to do cleaning, cooking, washing, laundry, we found ourselves getting accepting it all with aplomb pretty darn fast.
Things not loved:
  • Eating in Japan - Many people expressed surprised when we commented on this during our trip. But even before going, I would have said that Japanese was on the bottom of my list of Asian cuisines liked. But particularly for Wife, the flavor emphases and the preponderance of highly fatty meat were highly negative. It was only by our last stay in Tokyo that we found means of dealing with the situation.
  • Airbnb in Asia - We only did it in Japan but the difficulty of finding where you were when dealing with a foreign alphabet and the tendency of these places to be crammed with bedding to accommodate the largest number of people made them less that relaxing for us.
  • Discount Airlines - We are really getting tired of dealing with the restrictions of discount airlines. Unfortunately they are frequently the best connections and the price differential can be significant. Not to mention a lot of the full fare carriers have similar restrictions.
  • Driving in Bali - Ugh, developing country driving. Hard on the body. So long to get anywhere.
  • Being Overwhelmed in Tokyo - The sheer mass of humanity that you encountered was really too much. The scope and scale of everything was a bit much for us. Wonder if we would have felt different if we had started here or done this when we were not tired and at the end of the journey
Things Loved!!
  • Rail Travel in Japan - Yes there are some quirks you have to figure out about making certain reservations and paying for the journey and the reservation separately but OMG it is so easy to get around, so dependable, and so convenient. When you add the fact that each major train station is like a little city with hotels and department stores around it, you can make the train the focus of your travel. And there is the whole sub-culture of the tourist trains going into the countryside too!
  • Japanese Gardens - Love em. When we go back to Japan it will be to focus on tourist trains and gardens
  • Japanese Department and Convenience Stores - Oh if only we had figured out earlier that the large department stores have restaurants on their top floors and grocery stores with prepared foods in the basement, I would have just found where the largest department stores were and made hotel reservations near them! And if you needed a quick meal, some inexpensive whiskey, an umbrella, a cash machine...there were the plethora of 7-11's, Family Marts and Lawsons.
  • IC Cards - Whether it was the Easy Card in Taipei or the Suica Card in Tokyo, these prepaid cards made transportation so incredibly easy and there were discounts on transportation associated with using them.
  • Taipei Metro - Not sure quite what made it different but it just seemed that his system of anyone we used was the easiest to navigate and the most comfortable. It was one of the many reasons I loved Taipei so much. 
  • Experiences in Bali - I will give a review of all of our experiences in the next post but truly some of the most extraordinary interactions we had were in Bali.
  • Architecture in Kula Lampur - All the written material plays down KL as a place to visit other than for eating and shopping. I was totally impressed with the architecture and loved the cityscape especially the Petronas Towers and our spectacular view of them from our hotel!
  • Eating in Langkawi Malaysia - A lot of this was because we were with the #2 clan and they love to eat but love of eating doesn't mean that you're always going to find good food. The variety and quality and value we found there was top notch. 

1 comment:

alexis said...

great overview! Maybe you need to go back to your first Asia trip now as well??