Monday, 29 July 2013

Remembered Postcards 2: getting crunked.

I woke up with Bruno Mars in my head. Today, I don't feel like doing anything. It's a sentiment I share. Travelling takes a lot more out of you than I expected: I need some time to just kick back and think.
This post will be rather more detail than my last, seeing as there are fewer days to cover.

Day 18. Hong Kong. Had I been travelling alone, I would have spent the whole day in museums, as entry is free on Wednesdays. As it was, the morning was spent sorting out my friend's lost camera, and we only managed an hour each in the History and Science museums. But, on our last evening in Hong Kong, we managed to eat Chinese food - and vegetarian Chinese food at that! I loved knowing I could eat anything on the menu: it made me want to visit a vegetarian restaurant back home.

As the sky got darker, we visited Temple Street market for our final Cantonese trinkets, before taking the famous Sky Ferry from Kowloon back to Hong Kong Island. I stayed up until 2am, talking to a lovely Spanish guy called Josu in the dorm and writing postcards. My alarm was set so I had time to pack in the morning before our flight; I was to be awake at 4am.

Day 19. Tokyo. If you asked me what happened on the flight to Tokyo, I wouldn't be able to tell you. The cabin crew could have stripped naked and sung the national anthem backwards for all I know. I fell asleep before the plane was even in the air and woke up as we came in to land.

We had been warned that the Tokyo metro and rail system is more tangled than demonic spaghetti, but we actually found it alright. I crashed out again at the hostel, then ventured out by myself to buy food. It was the first time I'd walked around a foreign country on my own, and I actually felt really safe. In the laundromat next to the hostel, I befriended some Americans from Utah, and also discovered that bento boxes are the work of benevolent gods. I also realised that smiling and saying "sumimasen" - excuse me - was standard procedure in busy pedestrian areas.

Day 20. Tokyo. Mary's grandmother is friends with a Japanese couple called the Ishikawas, who decided to meet us while we were in Tokyo. They were absolutely lovely. We ate in a tempura restaurant and saw the last two scenes of a kabuki show (traditional Japanese theatre), and had a look at the fantastic external architecture of Tokyo International Forum.

However, from that night, my time in Tokyo really came to life. The other guests at JGH Hostel were funny, fantastic people and I somehow got roped into being the only girl going to karaoke with 7 guys (2 English, 1 Scot, 2 Dutch, 1 American and 1 Aussie). Bizarrely, 3 of them were younger than me - I wasn't the youngest, as I had been in every previous hostel! Success!

Karaoke finished at midnight. The adventures didn't. Devin (the American) and the 2 English teenagers, Fagin and Connor, decided we should have an explore of our area, Nishi-Kawaguchi - a decision perhaps affected by the unlimited free bar at the karaoke. We left the hostel for a wander. 2 hours later, we realised we were really lost, and didn't return back to the hostel until 3am. I went to bed at 5, after falling asleep on Connor's shoulder.

Day 21. Tokyo. Today, my travel companion felt very unwell, and so I had a day of doing whatever the hell I wanted to by myself. I went to Ueno and watched abnormally huge crows in the park, and realised that the Museum of Western Art had a free exhibition of Rodin's statues outside it. I visited the National Museum of Tokyo, which was fascinating, and then a group of us headed out to the fireworks festival in the evening. It involved getting on the infamous Tokyo Subway system, which literally has people whose job it is to cram as many people in as possible.

The fireworks were marred by a thunderstorm. The rain was so hard, the streets turned to streams. For a while, it was impossible to tell if flashes of light were obscured fireworks or faraway lightning strikes. We lost most of the group on the way back to the station, but Fagin, Connor and I got coffee and waited for the crush to die down. Back in Nishi-Kawaguchi, Devin and another guest, Veda, made runs to the drug store for candy. Connor recommended we try Crunky, a chocolate bar filled with crunchy puffed rice. Apparently, the brand is well known enough to spawn its own verb: to eat Crunky is to get crunked. Fagin had the genius idea of putting it inside Oreos, and thus Crunkeos were born. We drank White Russians on the terrace outside our dorms, and Connor and I ended up sharing a tiny capsule bed because I couldn't be bothered to go up the ladder to my bunk.

Day 22. Tokyo. After three weeks sharing everything, the cracks in my relationship with my travelling friend were beginning to show. It was her birthday. We went to the Studio Ghibli Museum, which looked like it was built of pure whimsy but did nothing to soothe our injured spirits. Our passive-aggressiveness of the last few days, both inadvertent and deliberate, had come to a head. She snapped, and I did, and I suppose we were both at fault. We separated ways at Tokyo Central, and I went to Harajuku to see the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi-koen (the park). I watched hip-hop dancers and a multinational drum circle, and even caught sight of a Harajuku girl on my way back to the station. 

A group of us went out for dinner, and my "sakana tempura" turned out to be literally a whole fish fried in batter. Eyes and all. I needed more food after that, so I picked up an onigiri from the all-night bento store, and we laughed at how expensive all the other karaoke joints were. One of the guys and I decided to stay the night in an empty 2-person room we found, abandoning our assigned bunks in crowded rooms for some peace and quiet. 

Day 23. Kawaguchiko. Unfortunately, the hostel owners weren't aware of the fact we stayed in an empty room, and at 9am we found our screen door had been padlocked from the outside. While hilarious in retrospect, at the time it was a cause for major panic, and we had to send someone to reception to unlock our door, to much confusion and many quizzical looks. It was my last morning at the hostel, so we celebrated by buying Crunky and Oreos for the breakfast of champions... Crunkeos.

My friend and I took the train out to Kawaguchiko, which is a village near Mount Fuji. The scenery here is beautiful, and the air is much cleaner than the city, but we can't climb the mountain as we didn't leave enough time, and there are too many clouds to see it. On the plus side, we're on speaking terms again. I'm just glad I can have a day off from rushing around being cultured. Writing is therapy, and I feel so much better for today's session.

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