A Gaijin Friendly Guide to Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the most spectacular cities in the world. It’s the city of bullet trains, skyscrapers, fashion, street food and fun, where the traditional meets the contemporary and the bizarre meets the brilliant.

 

It’s also notoriously difficult to navigate for tourists.

While in many ways it’s a city at the bleeding edge of business, technology and couture there’s an almost impenetrable sense of etiquette and complex tradition that can bamboozle most gaijin (foreigners). In this kind of culture it’s important to know the right way to behave and the most tourist-friendly places to visit to help you get the most out of your visit without falling afoul of the difficulties some tourists tend to encounter.

 

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Cheap flights to Tokyo are getting easier to come by, so a Japanese holiday may well be more affordable and accessible than you’d previously thought. Before you start packing, though, here are some useful tips for a gaijin in Tokyo.

  • A little Japanese goes a long way. Most Japanese people haven’t spoken English since their schooldays. Showing some willingness to attempt their language will be very ingratiating.
  • Remember that ‘gaijin’ is not an insult, it’s a far more nuanced version of the English ‘foreigner’. If someone refers to you this way, smile and be polite. Chances are they’re not trying to offend you.
  • Learn the local etiquette. There’s WAY too much to learn here but always removing your shoes before going indoors, purifying yourself on the way to a shrine, never blowing your nose in public, never pointing with chopsticks and never ever tipping your waiter (it’s considered an insult) are a good place to start.

 

A note for vegetarians and vegans

It’s surprisingly hard to subsist on a plant-based diet in Tokyo. While you’ll find plenty of items on your menu that seem perfectly safe but beware of dashi, a fish stock that finds its way into most soups and sauces. Vegetarianism and veganism are unusual concepts to many asian cultures so be sure to explicitly mention that you don’t eat meat of fish including dashi.

 

Essential locations

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There’s so much to see and do in Tokyo it’s difficult to know where to begin. Shinjuku is no doubt at the top of your list and the thriving skyscraper lined district really is spectacular to behold with its ultra-chic department stores and legendary nightlife but this district really is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

You should also make these essential stops on your itinerary. All of them encounter tourists on a regular basis so will likely be friendly and welcoming (so long as you observe the customs and etiquette).

  • The Imperial Palace– A must for anyone with an interest in Japanese history. The walled palace is surrounded by walls and moats and is lined with beautiful 17th century parks.
  • Senso-ji Temple– The city’s most famous temple is thronged by shops selling traditional handmade carvings, masks and kimonos. Built in 645 AD its appearance has remained unchanged despite it having been rebuilt numerous times. While the pagoda itself is currently closed for renovations it reopens to tourists in September 2017.
  • Ueno Park– The quintessential Japanese park, Ueno is a gorgeous oasis in the bustling centre of Tokyo. The cherry blossom lined gravel paths lead to a huge range of attractions including the reed fringed Shinobazu pond with its Bentendo temple, 17th century Toshogu Shrine and the Tokyo National Museum.

 

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It’s A Wild Ride Going Up And Down The Colorado Mountains

Colorado is state of total natural beauty. The countryside differs so much from its southerly neighbors; you’d think you were in Canada. But perish the thought, because if you’re from Colorado that might seen as blasphemous. However, there’s no denying it, the mountainous passes, the fast-flowing and still lakes and rivers, are prime spots for sports fishing. Colorado’s landscape is perfect for going hiking, camping, kayaking, rock climbing and just about any natural activity you can think of. There’s only so much you can do on holiday before the time runs out. So here are some of the most popular things to do, if you want an unforgettable adventure, in the state that’s song, is ‘Rocky Mountain High.’

 

Snowbound

Vail Mountain Resort is great for a family trip or individuals looking to for an adrenaline fix; The mountain is distinctive in the fact that, rather than other skiing trips, the further south you go, the higher the peaks are. The town up north from the snowy peaks is like a miniature city, with every single thing relating to skiing and snowboarding being catered for. The great thing about so many small businesses offering you the best in safety and sporting equipment is that you don’t need to bring anything with you. VistaBahn Ski Rentals have greatly streamlined skis for the advanced, and wide, short skis for beginners. If you book in advance, you get a 20% discount and better still if you bring along your own boots, you’ll save a further $7. There’s are adult, kids, performance, sports and demo packages to choose from, and the minimum amount of time required before your discount is valid is a 24-hour booking in advance.

 

Image credit – Wesley Fryer

 

Flowing down the mountain

Departing from Durango, you will be guided north of the town where you’ll be standing at the lower part of Animas River. You’ll go through the safety precautions along with a first aid kit and how to use the items in it should something go wrong, and your guide will teach you how to paddle and how to sense which way the raft is heading. You’ll flow down class II and III+ style of rock formation, swerves, dips and slow and rapid flowing sections. You only need to be four years of age, and above to participate, so it’s great fun for the family or a group of friends. Halfway through the 4-hour course, you’ll stop off for a rest and a light picnic in the serene nature that surrounds you. Then it’s quickly back on the horse, and you’ll flow down towards the beautiful reservation lands of Southern Ute and returning to Durango.

 

Photo source – RobertKane123

 

Zip-line if you dare

Many zip-line tours in the world have a beginning and an end line fixed to a man-made platform. However, this particular zip-line is fixed to a 6500 feet high cliff, that peers over the vast dark green woodland. Somewhere in those trees, is the finish where you’ll whip past the leaves and branches and end up on a massive tree stump as your landing zone. Obviously, this isn’t for the faint of heart, but the local guides are there for support and will help to calm your nerves long enough to get fixed into the harness. It’s initially quite bizarre when you think of traveling over the landscape at almost 30mph after a 1.5-hour tour, but in the end, it’s an incredibly rewarding.

 

The Importance of Checking Your GPS Setting

Posted in driving tips, road trip, travel tips, travel woes
on June 22, 2017

Hubby and I, along with my best buddy, went on a road trip from Virginia to New York City. What was supposed to be just 4-5 hours drive (with very few and short pit stops in between) turned into more than 7 hours drive through Pennsylvania! And yes, we had our GPS. It was working perfectly. Hubby charged it before leaving Virginia. Hubby even made sure the address of our destination is entered correctly. You might ask, how did it take around 7 hours to reach New York City? The answer is this, we did not double check the “filters” in the setting.

 

So, the GPS pointed us away from major interstates and tollgates as per the filter that we missed before leaving Tysons Corner in Virginia. We were supposed to take the public bus but decided to just drop the rental car top New York near Battery Park.

We were really puzzled to see the time to destination to read as 23:00 and that is 11 pm! So, we went to a small gasoline station and I asked the attendant inside how far we were to New York City. Well, let’s just say that the “deer-on-headlights” look assured us we were too far.

(I remember passing through these towns in Pennsylvania. We really took a circuitous route!)

 

We passed by back alleys, beautiful, undulating roads lined with trees. We even saw Amish people in their carriage! And that was a first for all of us. So, the 4-5 hours drive to NYC took us longer than usual. Good thing, I asked because we knew we were really getting lost. It was already 10:30 a.m and we were still inside Pennsylvania. I can’t remember the names of the towns anymore but I do remember passing through Hershey.

 

Finally, after traversing many back roads and finding out way back to the hi-way by 11:00 a.m., we were already heading to New Jersey on our way to New York City.

 

We reached the Holland Tunnel in New Jersey past past 1:00 p.m.  We were on the road for almost 8 hours! If we had taken the fastest route (and if we had checked the settings before leaving Tysons Corner), we could have been in NYC hours earlier.

(This is just an illustration. The ideal route that we should have set should look like this.)

Remember, if you are taking a road trip in the US or anywhere in the world, please always do the following to ensure you arrive on time.

  1. Put the correct address of your destination
  2. Ensure your GPS is well charged and plugged properly
  3. Ensure the GPS system is updated
  4. Check the preference before going on the road like click on the fastest route even if that means you had to pass through several toll gates

 

A Walk On The Wild Side

Posted in travel, travel ideas, travel info, travel tips
on June 22, 2017

For serious travelers, going away is less about sun and more about culture. Such people wander around and speak to locals. They eat the food, speak the language, and always choose to head to local points of interest over sitting by the pool. But, there’s one cultural factor even the most avid explorers often forget; the animals.

Seeing animals indigenous to your destination can take travel to a whole new level. Of course, how much you gain from that experience depends on the way in which you choose to see them. Wherever you are, you’ll have the option of visiting a zoo. But, as this article on https://www.thedodo.com shows, these are far from your best options. Besides which, there’s no guarantee the animals you see there come from the country you’re visiting. Instead, you might want to look a little further afield. That’s why we’ve put together a list to help you get to grips with the nature of a place.


SAFARI

There’s no way we could write this list without mentioning safari. If it’s wildlife you’re after, it doesn’t get much better than this. As well as seeing the animals of a country, you’ll get to see amazing natural landscapes. So, this has appeal, even if seeing animals isn’t your goal.

Bear in mind that safaris rarely come cheap. If you’re considering this option, it’s worth ensuring you get the most for your money. And, nowhere is better for that than Kenya. As the options on sites like http://www.kenyatraveltips.com/safari-in-kenya show, this is the ultimate safari destination. You could opt for a three-day safari, and use the rest of your time to explore other wonders Kenya has to offer, such as the Ngong Hills. Or, you could go all out with an eleven-day option. If you’ve never experienced safari before, this may be worth doing. You’ll be a seasoned pro in no time.

 

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VOLUNTEER

Nothing beats making a difference when you travel. And, when it comes to animals, there are some incredible volunteer opportunities which would allow you to do just that. This is an option with endless benefits. You’ll gain real satisfaction from the work you do, and you’ll get to know those animals in a way you would never have otherwise.

As we’re considering experiencing animals of certain cultures, some options are better than others. You could volunteer with pandas in China, or orangutans in Indonesia. It is important to note that your volunteer placement will form the basis of your holiday. Ensure that’s a commitment you’re willing to make before you sign up to anything!

 

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EXPLORE

If you’re not willing to give your whole holiday over to your wildlife seeking pursuits, keep things simple. Exploring a place is all it takes to see the nature around you. If you’re walking around anywhere, be sure to keep an eye out. While you may have to go off the beaten track to see the really amazing creatures, you should see plenty of natural life when walking down the street!

 

 

Five Ways To Splash Out On Luxury Travel This Summer

Posted in summer, summer trip, travel, travel ideas, travel tips
on June 21, 2017

There’s no better time to treat yourself than when you’re on vacation – let’s face it, when we’re travelling, most of us have the ‘Go big or go home’ philosophy. Of course, everyone’s definition of a ‘big’ trip is different – maybe you want to travel through India for two months, or perhaps you want to do the Inca Trail in Peru… or maybe you want to have the vacation of a lifetime by really spoiling yourself. If that last one sounds like you, read on for some vacation ideas.

 

Visit A Foodie’s Paradise

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One way to really treat yourself when you’re on vacation is with food. In our everyday lives, we often don’t have much time to cook in the evenings, and we definitely don’t have the time or available money to go to restaurants as much as we’d like. Whether you want to go to Michelin starred restaurants in Paris or try out curried goat and plantain in Jamaica or jambalaya in New Orleans, make incredible food a focus of your trip and you can’t go wrong.

 

Go For A Cruise

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Is there anything more luxurious than going on a cruise? If you really want to relax when you’re on vacation, a cruise is probably what you should go for. With everything provided for you, all you have to do is go where you’re pointed and decide which luxury restaurant you should have dinner at that evening. You can experience a lot of different cities with your daily excursions, and be able to make friends with a lot of different people from all over the world among your fellow cruisers.

 

Try Out Island Hopping

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One of the best ways to explore the world over the summer is to go island hopping. Whether you want to go between the Greek islands or islands like Koh Samui off the coast of Thailand, one thing’s a dead cert: you’ll be able to experience a multitude of white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, a range of amazing sea food dinners, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

 

Travel In Real Style

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If you really want to treat yourself, it could be time to trade in those air miles for a first class trip. If you’re flying to Australia, it can get cramped and unpleasant, and first class seats are best for people with long legs in particular. If you really want to make your trip special, you could consider hiring a private plane via Jettly – not only will you get incredible service, but it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity

 

Go For Somewhere A Little Different

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One of the best ways you can treat yourself is by going somewhere that isn’t already irretrievably marred by the footprints of millions of holidaymakers who have already been there – so why not go for something a little different? Try out the glorious natural sights of the Galapagos islands or Dominica, or the beach paradise of Kiribati – it takes a long time to get to, but it’ll be worth it in the end for a vacation that’s truly different from anything you’ve experienced before.

American Road Trip 101: Forget Route 66!


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‘What do you mean forget about Route 66? That’s the main reason to go to the US!’

No one is saying that the quintessential American road trip isn’t a whole lot of fun. It is, and that is why hoards of people flock there on a yearly basis. However, it’s also worth noting that Route 66 isn’t the be all and end all of hitting the open road in America.

In my view, forgetting about the fabled Route altogether is one of the best tips any novice can hear. Don’t believe me? Okay then, just take a look at the following.

 

It Doesn’t Exist

Back in the day, the signs for this legendary trip used to be ubiquitous, but now they are conspicuous in their absence. If you aren’t up on your American geography, you may not know that this Route barely exists any longer. Thanks to a mixture of tourism and local authorities not wanting to make repairs, the roads are almost unusable. Most tourist guides will tell you to stay clear of the route wherever possible because it is stressful and dangerous. Plus, you’re more likely to spend time off the route than you are on it, so you may as well give it a wide berth.

 

Misses The Best Places

When you think of the USA, places like New York and L.A spring to mind. Anyone that has visited the country will tell you that these aren’t the best places. Okay, NYC is unbelievable, but Los Angeles is pretty run down. Quite simply, the places you want to see, like New Orleans, are literally miles away from Route 66. If you want to prepare for mardi gras in the Holiday Inn New Orleans West Bank Tower then you need a different plan. The same goes for Oregon and Florida, and a host of awesome sights and attractions.

 

Better Routes Are Available

Although Route 66 is world famous, not many people know about the Blue Ridge Pathway in the Appalachian mountain range. And, the Pacific Coast Highway is also another unknown quantity. However, if you ask people who have done all three, they will say Route 66 pales in comparison. The sights, sounds and overall beauty of the Pacific Coast are almost impossible to find anywhere else. And, taking in the culture of life in the mountains is a one-time thing. These are only two alternatives, yet there are more which give 66 a run for its money.

 

Too Long

Driving across the US is a nice thought, but it’s too much hassle in reality. The trip alone will take you up to a month if you do it properly, and the boredom soon sets in. Plus, there is the money factor because America is not a country where you get a lot of bang for your buck. In truth, it’s more exciting and cheaper to spend less time on shorter routes and fly to the destinations you miss.


Yes, it’s not as romantic. But, neither is staying Bates Motel style accommodation in the middle of nowhere!

 

 

How to Make the Most Out of Travelling

Travelling the world is a wonderful experience. Getting to see and be a part of new ways of living, different tastes, different smells and different rules is life changing. Whether you’re going on holiday to somewhere new every year or you’re constantly travelling from one place to the next, you’re sure to return home inspired. It’s important to make the most out of your travels, so here are some tips on how to travel like a pro!

 

Don’t Panic

No matter how perfectly you plan your travels, there will be times when things go wrong. You may miss your transport to your hotel or get sick and have to visit the local hospital. Being in a strange country and feeling like you’re out of your depth can be daunting, but panicking won’t change anything. You can almost guarantee that wherever you are in the world, there will be people willing to help you when you’ve lost your way.

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Wake-up Early

The early bird catches the worm, as they say. Don’t spend your time ‘travelling’ catching up on your sleep. Get out of bed (even if you have to do it yawning), grab a cup of coffee and go. You can see the world for what it really is at sunrise, and it’s a great time to get to main attractions without having to fight your way through a crowd of tourists. You can see things through new eyes as the sun rises.


Get Saving

Travelling can be expensive and money is king whichever country you visit. You’ll usually always find that you need more money than you first assume. You’ll need to feed yourself, clothe yourself when necessary, buy tickets for main attractions and of course, you’ll need a place to stay, like the Z Loft extended stay hotel. It’s wise to put a little extra money in a hotel safe or somewhere in your room out of sight. That way, if you lose your wallet while you’re out and about, you have a back-up in place.


Meet the Locals

Luckily, English is a global language, so there aren’t many places you can go where people won’t be able to understand you. There’s only so much you can learn from popular tourist routes and attractions. To get a real vibe for the country you’re in, you need to get chatting to the locals. They’ll be able to recommend authentic restaurants, sights that are off the beaten track and you may have a few laughs at attempting to speak their language.

 

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A Scarf is Your Best Friend

A simple scarf is one of the most versatile accessories you can carry with you. It can keep you warm in the cold, keep you cool in the heat and protect you from smog or emissions. You can also use a scarf to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re taking a nap outside and it comes in handy as a carrier when you need to carry multiple items. In fact, the list of uses for a scarf is endless.