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Osaka, Japan

So, it is hot as a mother eff. Today was our first day in, after what seemed to be the longest 12 hours of my life. I spent most of the time on the plane trying to come up with a polite way to wake up my Japanese seat-neighbor in order to go to the bathroom. Sucks that she had to sit next to me- if it were anyone that knew me, I'd be sitting in the aisle seat since I seem to have pregnant lady bladder syndrome.

I successfully made it through Made of Honor and Kung Fu Panda, and most of some movie featuring Demi Moore stealing diamonds in London, but had lost interest during the fourth movie.. That football one with Jim Halpert and Renee Zellweger and George Clooney (I know).

For dinner on the plane I had curried chickpeas, lentils, and those little white beans with black spots. Black eyed peas? Anyways, served with jasmine rice which contained raisins and almond slices. Surprisingly delicious. Breakfast, on the other hand, was severely disappointing in that it was hot pineapples served with steamed barley. And then a cup of cold pineapple. And a dry bagel. Which was cold.

Anyways, we got off the plane after 12 hours and were herded onto a monorail which took us to the passport check. Since there were so many foreigners, they sent some, incl. me, to the Japanese citizen check in. I don't know why that was a good idea, considering they weren't trained to speak to english-speakers. So basically he prompted me in Japanese the whole time while he took pictures of my forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, neck, and shoulders as well as my fingerprints.


So, that was fine... my mom brought sausages illegally into Japan and had to check the corresponding box on the customs form that was in the same category as firearms and other weapons. I don't know either. It specifically said "sausage" though..so she checked yes, and the customs guy figured it was a mistake, laughed at her, and waved us through. Sausages secured.

Nicky then found us, we got on a bus to Kobe which was a little less than an hour..the bus had a bathroom on it and was really nice. We got off in Kobe at the train station and climbed aboard to ride another hour to Ono, which is where my brother lives. Mom had her first encounter with a squatting floor toilet, which is similar to peeing in a bowl on the floor.

We reached Ono and then had to walk about 10 minutes, 50 lb suitcases in tow, to Nicky's apartment. I saw the biggest beetle of my life. All of the bugs here are gigantic and I'm making an effort to collect photographic evidence, with emphasis on the word "graphic." I ate some subtly unpleasant fish crackers and then fell asleep immediately around midnight.

permalink written by  RoboRaptor on August 6, 2008 from Osaka, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan: Irashaimase!
tagged Osaka, Bugs and Hot

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Chillin' in Hawke's Bay

Napier, New Zealand

Chillin' in Hawke's Bay and sressin' on the coast highway...

Everyone needs to take a break, even when they're travelling, and find a sanctuary for some solitude and sense of space. It was a 'no brainer' to choose Victoria's sister city, Napier, renown for its Art Deco architecture, as the place to toss our backpacks into a corner and chill. It's located in the Hawke's Bay region with its Mediterranean climate, beautiful scenery in every direction and home to no less than 70 wineries. We hired a 'bach' (cottage) at Wishart Vineyards in Bay View, about 10 km north of Napier. A ten minute walk through the vineyard takes us to the beach where we can watch the waves break and crash after their long journey across the Pacific. We hired a car, too, so we can explore the local area in all directions.

Truth be known, I had already arranged to spend time shadowing Napier Boys' High School rugby coaches at practices and figured that Norma would enjoy the shops and vineyards in a warmer clime. I was right, too! We were in our shorts and t-shirts having morning tea on the veranda when we heard that Dunedin is covered in snow this morning (Tuesday June 16).

We arrived last Wednesday (June 10) and have had a mix of busy and quiet days. We explored the vineyard and beach Thursday while our laundry was on the go, then visited Esk Winery across the road for a tasting. I headed off to practice at NBHS that afternoon and afterwards found myself madly scribbling notes about drills and plays.

We walked the streets of Napier Friday to see the Art Deco buildings contructed to restore the city after an earthquake devastated it in 1931. It is literally a city that rose from the ashes; its architecture is fascinating and its story is inspiring. We'll walk the opposite sides of the streets before we leave so that we can see the buildings from a different perspective.

Norma was a content rugby widow Saturday. I hit the road before 7 am on the drive to Gisborne, 200+ km north, to watch the NBHS teams play their rival, Gisborne Boys' High School. These lads play hard exciting rugby! The 1st XV game would be a close equal to any of our local premier games for skill and speed. I arrived back at the bach shortly before 6:30 pm and then headed to the local pub to watch the All Blacks vs. France game because we don't have Sky Sports on our bach telly. The game was a disappointment (France won with help from the All Blacks) and it was rebroadcast on a regular telly channel half an hour after I got back to the bach!

The road to Gisborne is the mother of all Malahats. In fact, it makes the Malahat look like a prairie freeway! It's a challenge in daylight with its twists and turns. Speed limits change from 100 kph to 25 kph in the blink of an eye. Steep climbs through the hills apparently aren't challenging enough for Kiwis - they narrow the roadway so that loaded semis almost brush cars in the opposite lane and bar any escape with a sheer drop on one side and towering overhanging rock faces on the other! None of this seems to phase the Kiwis, though. The way that they drive leads me to believe that they have visions of being the next Formula One great! Throw darkness into the mix and the whole experience requires a few stiff drinks when you get back to the bach!

Sunday...we drove down to Haverlock North and up to the top of the peak of Te Mata. The sheer escarpments and the incredible clear-day views in all directions from the 399m summit gave Norma the 'woozies'! Stops at the Arataki Honey Visitor Centre and the Te Mata Cheese Company brought her back to life.

The sun was out in all its glory yesterday (Monday June 15) so we jumped into the car and headed north for a soak at Morere Hot Springs. 40o C hot pools under the canopy of a lush rainforest of towering nikau palms, ferns and other native trees. Bird song mingled with the steam of the pools as we simmered in the mineral waters. We drove out to the Mahia Peninsula, which was once an island before sands filled in the gap over eons to join it to the mainland. The beaches and coastline were spectacular, and we found a wonderful spot on the shore to relax with a beer and snack on Te Mata blue cheese. The waves continually crashed onto the sandstone formations that waves through the millennia have etched and carved into stunning sculptures. Before leaving the peninsula, I had to stop at the local rugby pitch and marvel at its setting on an escarpment high above the wide open Pacific. The view is unobstructed and only the ocean separates the pitch from South America.

We turned onto the highway for the trip home as the sun started to set and the skies ahead glowed with its fiery colors. The marvels of nature disappeared with darkness and the challenges of driving the coast highway took over. The experience gripped Norma and she too found comfort in a stiff drink once back in the comfort of the bach!

Yep, you have appreciate the ying and yang of chillin' in Hawke's Bay and stressin' on the coast highway...

permalink written by  Shane & Norma on June 15, 2009 from Napier, New Zealand
from the travel blog: "Not Just Another Rugby Tour" - New Zealand, Samoa and Australia
tagged Hot, Napier, TeMata, Morere, Springs, Mahia and Peninsula

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Moroccan's Spirit

Marrakech, Morocco

We decided to escape winter month in England to somewhere not too far; reasons are
1 you know kid on the plane only last 2 hours before they fed up and started to annoyed you.
2 coming close to Christmas now, end of the year, not much left to spend.
3 France, Spain, cold cold, where else, I have to use my travel knowledge to the limit.

Now i can't afford Dubai or any middle east countries as they are now footballer playgrounds, North Africa sounds hot to me as part of Sahara Desserts Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are the big 3.

We pined down to Morocco now and have to choose between Agadir and Marrakech. To be fair, we love beach holiday and never spend a holiday without beach unless i went back to Chiang Mai, Thailand, my home town to visit my family. For some reason, we gave it a go, Marrakesh for 1 week in December 2011 anywhere else would have been better than England. Why not?

Got there it was lovely

permalink written by  neverending on December 12, 2011 from Marrakech, Morocco
from the travel blog: North Africa
tagged Mountain, People, Holiday, Morocco, Family, Snow, Winter, Summer, Dessert, Hot, Marrakech, French, Friendly, December, PanoramicView, SnakeCharmer and MintTea

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