A Travellerspoint blog



This is perhaps a cheat one as I went to Japan on a work trip, had a fleeting visit and did not get to see much, but I still feel it is worth writing about! Despite not being allowed to stay on by myself to do a two-day trip to Mount Fuji (I tried, I really did!) I still got a good feel for Japan and really liked the place.

One great thing was the hotel I stayed in was literally next door to the Tokyo Skytree . The Tokyo Skytree is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo. At 634m tall, it is the highest freestanding broadcasting building in the world. Despite not having enough time to go up the tower, standing at the bottom of it was still very impressive. It also gets lit up at night, which is a great sight! I was glad we were located so close to this as it meant that, despite being these on business, I was able to see at least one of Tokyo's great sights.

Unfortunately, due to the time of year I went, we had just missed the Cherry Blossom Tree season. During the Sakura (Japanese for Cherry Blossom) season, the pink flowers fall from the trees and blanket the floors, giving a beautiful site. Although the trees were bare when I got there and the blossom had already fallen, there were trees everywhere and you could still take in their beauty. They were lovely and I can only imagine how gorgeous and magical it is to be there during this event.

Due to being there for work, I had the BEST dining experience. After our meetings, our clients said they would like to take us out for tea and of course we were happy to accept. We had a 10/15 minute walk from their offices to a residential area. We arrived at what looked like a house with a garage type building on the door and a small sliding door at the front - this is somewhere you would never find without being told about it! There were only about 4 tables in there so the atmosphere was great. The tables also had a grill plate in the middle and everything was cooked right in front of you. My clients insisted on ordering for us and I was happy to leave them to it - they are going to know better than me what is good. It was a great opportunity to try food I would never have normally ordered, really traditional Japanese food and, wow, it was great! There were a lot of pickled vegetables, Unagi, meats, fish, Udon and all sorts of other types of food. My favorite was a classic Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki. Literally “grilled as you like,” okonomiyaki is Japanese comfort food at its best, and a clear violation of the typical refined image of Japanese food. It’s a savoury pancake filled with any number of things (but usually cabbage and pork) and topped with fish flakes, dried seaweed, mayonnaise and a Worcester-style sauce. It’s also a lot of fun: I got to do the grilling and flipping myself on the hot plate!

Of course, what trip to Japan would be complete without some karaoke. After our meal, my clients insisted on taking us to do some karaoke, claiming it was an absolute must when in Japan. I was expecting a bar-type place that had one karaoke system with everyone waiting their turn to get on the stage and go for it. I was very wrong. The karaoke place was a huge building with around ten floors. Each floor had about 4/5 different pods that you booked out. Our group went into one pod and in there you can sing your heart out to any number of Japanese or English/American songs, order food and enjoy your own personal bar service. Unfortunately, my voice is nowhere near good enough to sing but as I did not want to be rude I did end up doing 1 song on my own, and joining in a few group ones. Everyone seemed to really go for it, despite their singing capabilities - it was good fun!

Despite going to Japan on a business, work-related trip, I had a great time and feel I got to experience things more typically Japanese that I may not have been able to if I had gone on my own. Japan is a beautiful place and I will be sure to get back there one day for a trip of my own.

Posted by LaurenF3 13:15 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan sights travelling Comments (0)


Last Stop - Hong Kong


Our third and final stop on our trip took us to Hong Kong. This is somewhere that my sister and I have always wanted to visit so we were very excited to get here. Also, our Uncle Tony is from Hong Kong so it was extra special to visit here. We had it in our heads that this was going to be the best place on our trip, however, due to bad weather it was slightly ruined. From the moment we got there, it rained and there was thunder storms - it was never ending! Actually, it did get nice on the last day when we were leaving - typical!

The main thing we were wanting to do on our trip was Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is the highest point of Hong Kong and it involves getting a steep train up a hill (it was a bit like being on Oblivion at Alton Towers!) and then getting several escalators up to the top of a building. Once at the top, the views are fantastic. Despite the bad weather, we decided to go up anyway and see if we could see any of it. Unfortunately, once we got to the top we realised we had made a bit of a bad choice as we could not see a single thing. It was completely misty and the whole view was obscured by it. It was such a shame as we were really looking forward to it. We did still manage to get a decent picture as there was a man working there who took our photo and then use Photoshop to put the background in!

Again, another thing that we wanted to do was the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Cars and Big Budha. This too was slightly dampened by the fact that it was raining and it was misty. The cable cars take you over to a little Island where the Budha is - we did get some views but it was still pretty much obscured by the mist. The Budha itself we were actually very lucky to see as when we went up we could see it (although it did not show in any photos it just looks like a photo of a cloud!) but once we got back down to the bottom the mist got very bad and you could no longer see it at all - so we picked the right time to go!

We had plans to go over to Macau for the day but because the weather was so bad we did not end up doing this. Instead, we went to the Ladies Market in Mong Kok which was great. It had everything you need or would want to buy and all at reasonable prices. Most stores have exactly the same things and we found that if you wait for what you want until right down the other end, you will get this a lot cheaper as people tend to buy it straight away and not wait so they offer it at lower prices to get the sales. It is well worth visiting any of the markets - just remember to barter!

We stayed in a boutique hotel called Butterfly on Waterfront right near the harbour. One thing that they did which was great was provide a smart phone which you can use during your trip. You can use this to book things or, as we did, use it for the maps. It has a function which allows you to enter where you want to go and it will tell you which line on the underground you need and where to change - it was extremely useful! The underground itself it brilliant and easy enough to use - you do not need to go any other way! As we were staying on the harbour we were hoping for some great views across to Kowloon, but we could not see anything again due to the weather.

All in all, Hong Kong was a slight disappointment but this was down to the weather. I fully believe that it would have been very good and a lot more fun if only the weather was better. The things we wanted to do and see all involved views and being outdoors, so the weather did put a damper on this - quite literally! I would not hesitate to go again and plan it for a time when the weather is due to be a lot better.

One last point - on the way home our flight was delayed by over 9 hours (absolute nightmare) and when we got back we put a claim in for it. Lufthansa tried to turn this down due to it being "out of their control" (the plane was faulty) but actually faults with airplanes now falls under the control so they had to pay out in the end. If this ever happens to you do push back as it is well worth it financially!

China was a great experience and I am so glad that I have finally visited. Time to plan next year's trip...

Posted by LaurenF3 12:44 Archived in China Tagged china travelling Comments (0)



Next stop on our trip was Shanghai. I must admit, out of the three places that we were going to visit, I was least looking forward to Shanghai. There was not as much that I wanted to see and do and we even planned less days there because of this. However, it turned out to be the best out of the three! The atmosphere and liveliness of the city was brilliant and infectious and I just had the best time there!

One of the best things about the city was The Bund, which is the cities famous skyline. We walked down to The Bund on our first night and it looked great all it up - the Pearl Tower looks so nice at night! We also walked along this a few times in the day and it was just as nice of a view then too. We also took a taxi over to the tower and went up this at night, which was really good apart from the queues! It took quite some time to get to the top so I can only imagine how busy it must get during the day. The views from the top were great and you could still see so much even at night.

Another best for me was Old Town Shanghai. We went here when we were just going for a walk but when we got there we knew we wanted to spend a lot of time there. This is where the atmosphere was at the highest point - it was great! It was also possibly the busiest place I have ever been in my life! There was people everywhere and you could barely move. The little shops and side streets that led to different parts are inciting and fun. Right in the middle of Old Town Shanghai is the Yu Yuan Gardens. These are a must if you are in Shanghai - they are just absolutely phenomenal. They are the most beautiful gardens in the middle of a bustling city. When we got there we had a little walk around and we thought we were done and that it was pretty small. Then, we found a little path and realised they went on..and on and on! There is so much to see and all of it lovely.

Whilst in Shanghai we did take one of the City Sightseeing Tour Buses. It was very reasonably priced and we got to see a lot of the city. If you only have a few days like we did this is definitely a good option.

We had plans whilst in Shanghai to go to a roof top bar and had researched one online that we planned to visit. However, as with Beijing, not many people in Shanghai speak English so trying to get there was so hard. We tried on two different nights but both times we ended up giving up as it was just not happening!

I could definitely have spent a few more days here and it was a lot better than I thought. But we only have 4 days and then it was on to Hong Kong we went! :)

Posted by LaurenF3 13:27 Archived in China Tagged china shanghai travelling Comments (0)


First stop - Beijing


Anyone that knows me knows that for me, it has been a dream for some time to get to China! I have always loved the thought of it, from the people to the food to that pretty big wall, it all enticed me. I found it baffling that other people did not share the same ideals about China and, because of this, it has taken me some time to get there. However, FINALLY, around July last year I was talking (yet again) about how much I want to go and my sister, Morgan, comes out with the best words she has ever said to me..."I'll come with ya" - it is safe to say the flights were booked within a month so there was no backing out. China here we come!

Our first out of three stops was in Beijing. I was going to write this in order of what happened, however, I cannot wait to talk about The Great Wall of China. I know that, when you think of China, it is probably the most likely thing that you are going to think about and I really wanted something different and maybe a bit unique to be my favourite thing, but there is just nothing like it. We had decided to do a trip and, seeing as we were not likely to ever do it again, we wanted to go all out. So, we booked a 2-day trip which involved camping on the wall overnight. I had never heard of this before or knew of anyone that had done it, so I was so happy when we found this trip. It is only during the trip that we found out that this is actually illegal and that is why it is not really advertised, so we were lucky to stumble across it! The morning of the trip we were picked up in a minibus with our group for the day and set off out of the city. We got to the base and set off on a 3/4 hour trek along the wall. The biggest shock for me was how steep the wall was! It was close to vertical! It was a lot tougher than I could have ever expected but, my word, the views were phenomenal. It was really amazing and to be able to look ahead and see the wall going on and on and never ending, then turn back and see the same thing - just wow. The walk brought us around to the other side where we got picked up by the mini bus and taken back to the base.

We had lunch at the base then set off in the other direction to another part of the wall - this time with heavy bags on our back with our tents and sleeping bags etc. This did make the walk even harder and I swear it god steeper! This walk was around another 2 hours then we stopped near one of the wall towers and set up camp. What was amazing was that not long after we had set up camp, the wall was deserted. There was 7 of us in the group and we were the only people on the wall. It was so quiet and peaceful. We found a handmade ladder which was a little unstable but thought why not! We climbed up to the top of the wall tower and were up there as the sun set, it was beautiful. Best sunset I have ever seen! If you are considering going to see the wall, you need to camp on it because you will never do anything better!

Whilst in Beijing we also went to see the Temple of Heaven, which was lovely. I thought it was going to be just a temple, however, the park it was set in was huge and there was so much going on. We saw lots of people dancing around and a hall where everyone was just joining in singing - all sorts!

We also went to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, which were both not really what I was expecting. I thought that the square was going to have a lot going on and be really busy, but when we were there that was really not the case. However, it is still great to see and to get around China's capital city.

There were a few things that stood out for me from Beijing. The first thing being the language barrier. I know it is probably very small minded of me to assume that people would speak English, but I did think that people would speak English - at least to some lever. However, I could not have been more wrong. Literally no one spoke a word of it. And, further more, they also did not read the Chinese words that we would attempt to say, only the Mandarin symbols! Once we got lost and it took ages for us to find our way back, despite asking people for help and even getting in a taxi to be told no he did not know where we meant. It was a lot harder than I expected, but in a way, this added to the idea of being so far away and travelling.

Another part of Beijing that stands out for me is the fact that I felt like a celebrity most of the time we were there! Because we were white and most of the tourists from inland China and had never seen white people before, we got asked for so many photos. At one point there was a group of around 12 young girls who wanted an individual photo with me and my sister - it took ages!

Also - if you do not like people spitting, brace yourselves!!

Beijing was great and, by far, the best part was seeing the Great Wall of China - get there!

Next stop...Shanghai!

Posted by LaurenF3 13:08 Archived in China Tagged china beijing travelling Comments (0)


A Beautiful City...

It felt like such a long time since the girls and I got away together so I was looking forward to our trip to Barcelona very much. It had been planned quite some time ago and then almost forgotten about - until, suddenly, the time was upon us to get packing and make the journey!

Of course, the flight being rather short it did not take long until we were touching down in Espana - one of my absolute favourite countries. It was easy enough from the airport to get on a city bus and it took less than an hour to reach the city centre.

We had booked a big apartment using a company called Oh! Barcelona - the same one we had used on our trip to Berlin (which was Oh! Berlin) and we were very impressed with. We had a little bit of a ball ache this time as we were advised that to get the keys for the apartment we had to go to the head office - which added a bit of a trek to the journey. However, when we got there we were told we could have just met them at the apartment, which of course was in the other direction. We also had a bit of trouble trying to get into the apartment (turns out we were at the wrong one!) but once in we were happy and had a lovely apartment. We were staying next door to an old person's home which was a little unusual - one of the gentlemen living there tended to wail throughout the night which kept Kerry awake and I got to practise my rusty Spanish with a little old lady who loved to try and talk to us - but generally it was fine.

By the time we got into the apartment and got ourselves ready it was pretty late so we went straight out for tea. One of the best things about Spain is being able to sit and eat outside, which we did. The street was busy with people walking around and music and a great atmosphere. I had a paella which was gorgeous! After the meal we went for a little wonder and came across a building which had lots of little bars inside. Words cannot do the place justice - it was just beautiful! There were lights everywhere and one wall was full of wine bottles. It had a huge staircase at the end of the room too - the whole effect was just brilliant. We spent the rest of the night there drinking cocktails!

The next day we decided we had to spend a morning on the beach, so to the beach we headed. The weather was lovely and the beach was very pretty. There were a lot of people on the beach trying to sell things (drinks, towels, blankets etc) which was a little annoying as they were constant, but apart from that it was a lovely morning.

On Saturday afternoon, we had booked to go on a boat trip and we spent quite some time trying to get to the correct place at the right harbour - a lot of walking was involved! And, unfortunately, once we did get there we were told that the trip had been double booked and we could not go on it until tomorrow. This threw all of our plans off but we went ahead with it. We spent the next few hours wandering the markets on the harbour and eating ice cream and then headed back to the hotel to get ready and get out.

In the evening, we went to see the Magical Fountain of Montjuic. This is a huge fountain that is moved to music and was gorgeous to watch! We went out for a meal and then headed to Las Ramblas - probably the most famous street in Barcelona. Everything is happening on this street and the atmosphere is fantastic, very energetic. We went into a square just off Las Ramblas which was full of bars and spent our evening there drinking far too much. We ended up in an RnB club which played the best music and stayed out until 5/6am!

The next morning - needless to say it was not an early start and there were a few bad heads - eventually we got going and went to do a bus tour of the city. As our time there was limited we thought this was the best way to see as much of Barcelona as possible. It was great to be able to see a huge amount of the city but I will admit we were all a little worse for wear and a bit tired and, because of this, we only actually got off the bus once (it was a hop on/hop off bus tour) which was a little bit of a waste, but we did still get to see a lot. The one stop we managed to make was at the Sagrada Famillia, a huge church designed by Gaudi. We knew the church was due to appear at any time and were on the look out when you can see the top through some buildings and then suddenly you turn the corner and there it is in all its glory. It was a breath-taking sight and one I will always remember. It is such a beautiful, different building and it is HUGE! The only downside to it was it had scaffolding all over it which was a little disappointing, however, the church is not yet finished. This is a sight I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

The final part of our trip saw us finally getting on the boat trip. I have been on a lot of boats in my life and all different types and never have I felt sea sick. However, on this boat something was different and about an hour in I had started to feel a little queasy. I had not said anything but Kerry mentioned that she did, as did Clare and before you knew it all three of us were hanging off the back being sick. I think this may have had more to do with the alcohol the night before but it did slightly ruin the trip! Once I personally had been sick, I was fine and even ended up driving/sailing (?) the boat back to the harbour which was great fun!

Overall, Barcelona was fantastic and a really good trip. Everything we did was great and my only regret is not having any longer there as I feel there is still so much more to do. Somewhere I definitely plan to visit again!

Posted by LaurenF3 00:08 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (0)

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