Japan: To Yokosuka and Beyond

While I’ve traveled many places this past year, there’s one place I now call home – Yokosuka, Japan! Whether you are stationed here for the military, living abroad here (or nearby in Yokohama or Tokyo), or just traveling temporarily, I’m sure you will be looking for things to do!

I have been to a few places now in the local area, all at a relatively cheap price. One of the places we traveled to recently was Arasaki Park.

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Arasaki park is about an hour via public transportation from Yokosuka, even quicker by car, according to Google maps. It’s great for families and a great place to spend your whole day if you desire. When we arrived, there were tons of families with tents and picnic blankets camped out for the day, just enjoying the weather.

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You can either sit on the beach, at a picnic bench, in the grass, or go explore the beautiful cliffs!

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The trails weren’t difficult, except maybe one where there were chains provided. However, you don’t need to conquer these difficult paths to see the beauty!

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Another thing we recently did, available on the Yokosuka naval base, was rent paddleboards for a few hours. On base it was super cheap, my husband was even free. You just have to go to the Green Bay Marina to check it out.

Not in the military? Paddleboarding and kayaking are available at many harbors – google your town to see what’s available near you!

Another trip we took, just a short 45 minutes from Shioiri station in Yokosuka (possibly quicker from Yokosuka-Chuo as long as you’re on the limited express), was to Kawasaki. We have headed here twice now and plan to return again. Similar to Yokohama, Kawasaki is just a little smaller, but very modern and filled with tons of restaurants and shops.

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In the summer, the More’s Beer Garden is open. For 3800 yen each, we enjoyed a BBQ and all-you-can-drink! We easily got our money’s worth, not to mention it’s on the rooftop of More’s so it was a nice view. It wasn’t crowded at all around 4PM when we arrived, but once we started leaving around 6PM, people started to gather.

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Another place we ate at was J.S. Pancake Cafe in LAZONA. These pancakes were beautiful and delicious – seriously the maple butter ones might have been the best pancakes I’ve ever had.

Finally, a place we explore often… Yokohama! Yokohama is a 30-40 minute train ride from Yokosuka and has TONS of things to do. One thing you can do in the fall is go to Oktoberfest.

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Like many other Oktoberfest celebrations, there are tons of beer options, both local and from Germany, and lots of vendor food. It was a nice day to kick back and relax and enjoy some good beer (in some really big glasses…or not, whatever you decide).

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Another place we checked out in Yokohama is the Kirin Brewery. You can take a free tour of the brewery, taste hops and malt, and then you get 3 FREE samples at the end. And I mean legitimate samples — like FULL glasses. The catch is, you only have 20 minutes to drink them. Challenge accepted? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Just want to go for a walk in Yokosuka? Be sure to check out Verny Park, the park that runs right next to the JR Yokosuka station, very close to Shioiri station and AEON mall. It’s a beautiful little park along the water with tons of benches, plants, and space to do whatever you want! Yoga included ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Looking for other things to do in Japan? I previously wrote two different blogs on places I have been in Japan, one on some general areas and another on our adventure up Mt. Fuji.

Be sure to check those out as well- and check out my blog on Simple Ways To Save Money (because we all know traveling isn’t cheap) to help you budget for your upcoming trip!

Until next time,

Jen

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Frostbite on the way up, Sunburn on the way down: Mt. Fuji Night Hike

Hiking Mt. Fuji is one of the main reasons younger tourists come to Japan nowadays. As my husband and I began our research, we found there were a decent number of blogs, youtube videos, and lots of Instagram posts describing each person’s experience.

While my husband had hiked it once before, I had not. And to be honest, he didn’t even remember much of it as he did it with a tour group. We looked up and researched as much as we could. We noticed the average time is 6-7 hours to hike up the Yoshida Trail, with about 3 hours down. We are fairly active people; however, just before our hike, we had a 2 week vacation in the states where we did almost nothing other than eat and drink a lot of horrible things. And by horrible, I mean, horrible for your body. Taking all of this into consideration, we assumed it would probably take us around 7 hours to get up the trail, especially with the altitude difference. Plus, we didn’t really see anybody writing about how “easy” it was to hike.

We decided to hike through the night so that we could see the sunrise when we got to the top. After reading and seeing a few Instagram posts, we noticed that it was dropping to the 30-40s at the top, so we made sure to pack adequately (hat, gloves, scarf, jackets, and I even packed sweatpants to go over my thicker leggings). We bought headlamps off Amazon for about $10 each to wear as we hiked, since it would be dark the entire time.

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Our journey to the mountain started off a bit rocky. We left from Yokosuka around 2 PM with an assumption to get to the mountain around 6-7, according to Google Map and the directions we had screenshotted from my phone. We decided to head to Shinjuku to catch the bus that takes you straight to the 5th station. Of course, after arriving to the station, we realized the bus was completely booked for the rest of the evening. Poor planning on our part for sure. From here, we had to re-screenshot directions and we ended up missing one train and waiting 30 minutes for another, which was the wrong train. Luckily, a super nice Japanese lady wrote everything down for us and told us when to get off so that we could get to the right train station (Otsuki). We ended up waiting another 20-30 minutes for another train, and after hopping on there, then getting off at Otsuki, we hopped on yet another train and made it to Kawaguchiko just before the last bus left for the 5th station. Basically, it was a whirlwind of a day. I, of course, was freaking out but luckily Scott kept it cool the whole time.

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From Kawaguchiko station, the bus ride to the mountain is about 45-50 minutes. We were exhausted, not only from traveling the whole day, but also from jet lag from the day before) and finally were able to catch a short 20-30 minute power nap. The bus left the station at 8:10 PM and arrived around 9 PM, which was definitely later than we were hoping. We were a little nervous we wouldn’t make it to the top for the sunrise (around 5 AM), but we were just happy to at least FINALLY make it to the mountain.

At the 5th station, they are able to lend you a lot of things and you can even buy oxygen for when you reach the higher altitudes. We didn’t end up buying or renting anything, so we can’t really speak to it, but it’s available!

We began our hike around 9:15 PM with hopes to make it by 5 AM, just a little less than 8 hours. The beginning of the trail is all pretty flat and even a little downhill. You actually start above the clouds already – I felt my ears pop on the way up on the bus! We arrived at the 6th station fairly quickly and took a very quick rest/bathroom break along with plenty of other hikers. Determined, we didn’t rest long and kept on our way. Between the 6th and 7th station (if I remember correctly) is basically just a lot of zig-zagging and walking up ash at a steady, slow incline. In our opinion, this was the worst part. I’m not sure if it’s because we like climbing more or if it was just the beginning, but we ended up stopping every 2-3 full zig-zags to catch our breath. We ended up making it to the 7th station by 11 PM…Only 2 hours!

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When we got to the 7th station, we realized we had been passing just about everyone and recognized nobody else around us. We heard others saying that it takes about 2.5 hours to get to the top from the 7th station. At our pace, that was probably accurate.. AKA we needed to slow down, especially as we climbed the altitude. It was starting to get colder at this time, so I put on my sweatpants and another jacket. We ended up taking a 50 minute power-nap/rest, again, with other hikers nearby, at this station. We decided it was only going to get colder at the top and we might as well just relax for a little because we were pretty confident in our ability at this time.

Once we woke up – around 11:50, we decided to begin ascending the trail again. We got to the next little mountain hut and saw they had cup of noodles and hot tea. We didn’t really want to stop again – but hey – what the heck! So we each got some hot, lemon tea. I swear it was the best tea I’ve ever had. That’s probably because I was so cold, but it was so worth it. We sat for about 10-15 minutes finishing our tea and warming up a little before we really began again.

Between the 7th-8th station is where we really “took off.” It’s basically rock climbing/really big rock steps that you have to climb up. We were passing people right and left. It was the booty workout anybody could dream of.. so much hip extension (nerd alert). But seriously, this part was fun. We got a little tired and would take breaks, but it was way better than the first part, in our opinions. We got to the 8th station pretty quickly, but I can’t remember the exact time.

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We took a solid 10 minute rest at the 8th station. Once you get past the 8th station, it’s almost like a combination of part 1 and part 2.. Long zig-zags with slow inclines but smaller rocks that aren’t really climb-able, if you know what I mean. It’s definitely tougher/more annoying, plus you start to hit 9-10,000 feet and your breathing starts to become more shallow. We took a 5+ minute break at each mountain hut, and as we got higher up, we took a break just about every 1-2 minutes.

While we didn’t necessarily feel nauseous, super dizzy, or pass out.. I can definitely say I had a headache when I first started; however, I tend to get headaches when the weather is colder, even in the 50s. Once I put my headband/ear-warmer on, I was fine the rest of the way. Our hearts started pounding with just a few steps when we got to the top, but again, we tended to move faster than others. We really started taking a lot of rest breaks because we knew we still had plenty of time.

We made it to the top just before 3 AM, so it took us a little less than 6 hours to get to the top. Don’t forget our 45-50 minute nap in the middle also! Overall, it was definitely tough, but it’s obviously doable in 5 hours if you’re in shape, especially if you’re more conditioned to higher altitudes (we flew from the east coast of the USA to Yokosuka, which is just above sea level.. then hiked).

Once at the top, we rested for a little. There is a mountain hut; however, it wasn’t open. We thought it may not open until 5, but it actually opened around 3:30 AM for food/drinks. It was kind of confusing and didn’t help because everybody swarmed in. You kind of just sat in a few rows and they took your order for simple things. I got a coffee for me and a corn soup for Scott. In case you haven’t had the corn soup before, it does come in a can. Some people around me were kind of weirded out by this. They actually sell the corn soup at train stations, which is where we first tried it.

Scott and I ended up taking turns getting up and walking around, because since we were up there around 3, we had a front row seat for the sunrise! We obviously didn’t want to lose our spot, but it was so cold that we had to get up and move a little. Once 5 AM rolled around, there were tons of people surrounding us, and the sun began to rise!

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It ended up being a little cloudy, but it was still such a beautiful sight. We were still freezing, but also mesmerized by a sunrise above the clouds. We hung out for about 45 minutes watching it rise until we walked further over to check out the crater.

We probably stayed up on the mountain until about 6:30 AM, then began the trek back down. Our fingers and toes were numb and everything else was just cold. It was a beautiful sight on the way down, though. Especially since we were unable to see the scenery on the way up in the dark. We took breaks walking down also, not because of fatigue, but because it was definitely tough on our knees/ankles (are we that old?).

You’re literally sliding down ash and rock in a zig zag pattern, but lots of people were actually slipping too. I think I would have rather climbed back up, to be honest.

It took us about 3 hours, as predicted, to get back down. There definitely were people who passed us, but again, I guess we just have old and achy bones.. Back at the 5th station, we checked out a few shops and then got in line for the bus to take us back to Kagurachiko station.

We were exhausted, I was legitimately concerned for Scott because he had barely slept on our flight over and the jet lag was pretty crazy. We got back to the station, went to grab some food, and then came back to make sure we got bus tickets for the next day. We were able to get tickets from Kawaguchiko to Yokohama station, which is so much closer to where we live. And way more convenient.

Finally, we headed off to our hotel. Check-in wasn’t until 3PM, but we got there around 1PM. We waited in the lobby for about an hour and they brought us our room key an hour early! They probably felt sorry for us, but hey, we took it.

The hotel was super nice and I definitely wish we could have spent a little more time there. We ended up showering and then going right to sleep. We woke up once around midnight, but then slept in again through until around 6 AM. We slept at least 12 hours total, it was amazing.

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The breakfast at the hotel was included in our stay. Everyone was wearing their robes from their rooms, it was pretty cool. I definitely would have worn mine if I had known. The breakfast was a buffet-style, but still pretty fancy.

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As it was a spa, resort-style place, they also had private and public baths that could be used. We checked them out but ended up just heading back to the room to relax a little longer instead. The hotel does have a shuttle bus you can schedule, and it’s free! We just didn’t know that ahead of time.

Our trip home was, luckily, uneventful and much quicker. It was a great trip overall! Very rewarding, fulfilling, and then relaxing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hope this helps you plan your future Fujisan hike!! Or I just hope you enjoyed reading this ๐Ÿ™‚

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Until next time,

Jen

 

That Time I Observed a Japanese Day Rehab

During my recent travel to Japan, I had the amazing opportunity to shadow a Japanese day rehab. While I had emailed the World Confederation of Physical Therapy and the Japanese Physical Therapy Association months prior to my trip to Japan, I found it was difficult to get much of a response to set up a time for me to shadow and/or share my experiences with physical therapists in Japan. Luckily, through my work in Norfolk, VA, I had worked with an OT (stay with me here…) who had connections to a PT who initially became a PT in Japan, then met her husband and moved to the US. She then connected me with her old PT colleagues in Japan, who were then able to coordinate a time for me to observe (after a bit of a scheduling conflict). It was not exactly an easy task to coordinate, but for me, it was necessary!

In Japan, the public transportation system is top-notch. Luckily I had navigated this multiple times and kind of felt like a pro (kind of). I was able to take a train and then meet up with one of the PTs, then we got on a bus together to head to the clinic. Now I’ll be honest, I have never been to an Adult Day Rehab in the states, but I learned quite a few things at this Japanese Day Rehab that were pretty awesome!

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Of course I initially was introduced as the American PT coming to observe for the day. All of the patients waved and smiled (just about all of the Japanese people I have met and interacted with are the nicest people!). We arrived around 2 PM when they were all having a seated group warm-up. Generally speaking, these patients were in there 60s and up, all of different functional levels. The facility had 3 PTs, 2 techs, and I believe it was one RN (or equivalent) and 2 CNAs. It looked much like an outpatient facility, but also had more area for the patients to socialize and spread out. Immediately after their warm-up, the patients spread out into their respective areas. Some went to the bikes, some started their home exercise program, and then others went to sit on the couch to watch TV or the table to drink coffee. Everyone was busy! The patients, techs, CNAs…everyone! But despite being so busy, everyone took so much pride, had smiles on their faces, and treated everyone respectfully.

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In one corner, the PTs each had their own patient. From what I had heard, each patient had 20 minutes of one-on-one time with the PT. Then, each patient would have their own exercise program that they could perform on their own or with help from the techs/CNAs (I could never really tell which one). Timers would be beeping and techs were running to stop them, and then someone would need an hot/ice pack while sitting on the couch watching TV, and then someone would need help transferring from their wheelchair to the mat. These techs and CNAs were all over the place and on point!! It was amazing. Everyone was working together, and documenting in each patient’s book.

At one point, I looked up and saw a lady who was of a very low functional status in the corner with a CNA having her oral care done. Again, while she wasn’t with the PT, she could have other necessary things done! Not to mention take a rest after and watch some TV. I mean people were actually taking naps between sessions (whatever works, ya know!) They even had a metronome station where patients would sit and improve their coordination. The patients would record their scores on each piece of paper.

It was pretty amazing the independence the patients had, their willingness and motivation to get better. Not to mention the motivation all of the staff provided to them. The atmosphere of the rehab center was very relaxed, and again, allowed for many things to happen at once. The patients also genuinely looked like they were enjoying themselves. You could see some of the old ladies who were the “troublemakers” and always laughing, and then the others just enjoying talking to each other in front of the TV. It really seemed to make therapy an enjoyable experience (not that it isn’t, but you know what I mean..).

I observed the afternoon session, which was about 3 hours long. At the end of the session, everyone helped take vitals of all the patients and write them down in each patient’s book. The patients got to take them home with them! Not totally sure, but maybe it was their exercise program, how they progressed, what to do at home?! Then, every patient was brought to their respective car and the physical therapists/CNAs/techs drove them home! Yes, they took them in their cars and dropped them off at home. That’s one way to get people to come to therapy ๐Ÿ˜‰nepal_bracelet_533a9b66-7251-48fe-bee7-9076f306e1bb_2048x2048

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Now I am very aware of the differences with insurances and policies and the differences in the way we practice between the USA and Japan, but I think, regardless, it was great to see our profession at work in another country! I really appreciated this opportunity and all those who made it happen for me.

I encourage everyone to attempt to shadow/observe a PT clinic in another country! The only way we can all get on the same page globally is to share our knowledge and experiences with one another. We all have different cultures, different practice acts, different people that we treat, yet we are all working towards the same goal!

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Until next time,

-Jen

Simple Ways to Save Money

**Blog updated on 7/20/17**

Hello again!

As many of you know, I recently took a 2 month hiatus from work to do some traveling and just kind of “live” in Japan. With an overwhelming amount of student loans plus the regular amount of bills to pay (yay adulthood), my ability to save and budget money needed to be top-notch to be able to do this. Luckily, I have always been pretty good at saving money my whole life, but finding these few extra little things has definitely helped me save a few extra bucks here and there!

First off, GROCERIES! I love using coupons, but I find it hard sometimes to be able to readily access them whether it’s in the newspaper or I have to print it. I’m not exactly one to go out of my way just to get these, but if it’s convenient, I will definitely do it! What I have absolutely loved is two coupon apps that I have on my phone:

  • Ibotta: This one is my favorite and I think it works the best to be honest. You simply go through the app, find the store you are shopping at, and click each coupon you want to add. To me, the best part is that you can do this AFTER you are done shopping (at most places – I think Food Lion you have to do it before). But this way I’m not necessarily tempted to buy 3 things I won’t use. I can just get home, sit down, and scroll through what I bought! Sometimes you can save 25 cents, sometimes it’s 2 dollars! They even have challenges to win extra cash! You can do these with “teammates” and other people you know that have Ibotta. Finally, you can even earn percentages back on items you purchase through the app. You really can’t go wrong!! ANNNND if you click HERE to download it now, you will get an automatic 10 bucks added to your account for your first qualifying purchase!! You can literally buy bananas..and get 10 dollars.. crazy.
  • Checkout 51: This one doesn’t have quite as many options as Ibotta, but I still like to use it also! I definitely haven’t saved as much, but it’s cool because sometimes you get the same coupon for both apps, and it ends up basically being free! This one also has the option of entering into a sweepstakes every time you spend more than 60 dollars on your grocery bill! Which is pretty easy to do, unfortunately, haha.

The thing to remember about both of these is that you must reachย $20 before you can transfer it over to Paypal, Venmo, or the giftcards of your choice! Just as a heads up ๐Ÿ˜‰

The second big thing I use is Honey. It’s basically an app you can download to your browser that searches for coupon codes that have been used by other people. I’ve saved probably about 60 dollars so far using this with different coupon codes I had no idea even existed!! It literally does all of the work for you and it just pops up to let you know – heeyyy you can save money here, duhhhh! It’s pretty awesome! AND if no coupon codes work, you still have the option of getting some sort of % of cash back into your account, which you can later turn into an Amazon Gift Card ๐Ÿ™‚ You can’t beat it!! You can download it HERE!

The third thing I use is Bing search engine which is connected to Microsoft Rewards. This has changed a little bit over the past year, but you still get to earn points by just searching the web! These points then add up to things you can buy on the Microsoft Rewards store such as movie rentals, subscriptions, or what I use it for — Skype credit (perfect for traveling)!! You can also redeem your points for donations to certain charities, it’s pretty awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

Besides the basic budgeting and not spending money on a ton of silly things, these are a few other ways I have been able to save a few bucks here and there!! I hope it helps some of you out whether you are budgeting for a house, a child, a wedding, travels, or just trying to pay off bills!

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**UPDATES as of July 2017**

DScout: Something that was brought to my attention after I wrote this article was Dscout. It’s a mobile app for market research. In the 3-4 months I have been using it, I have probably spent a little over an hour recording things and I have been picked up for 3 surveys, which I have made about $50 each in! Of course, you have to be selected, but hey, being picked for 3 in 3-4 months isn’t half bad!

InboxDollars: If you read previously, I had tried Swagbucks. Maybe I just wasn’t patient enough, I’m not sure. But it was taking awhile and I was having little success. I’m not saying InboxDollars is going to be much different, but hey, I’m going to try it out. They send emails and have surveys as well as earning little bits of change through polls and search engines. You can check it out HERE. It’s definitely not a way to make a ton of money quick, but it’s something!

Something very similar to InboxDollars is MintVine. They actually give you more money when you get denied surveys, so that’s pretty nice! And you only have to make $10 before cashing out!! Double win! (So far, I’m liking this one better than InboxDollars I think? But you can’t make money from watching TV on here…)

Booking.com: So since I have used booking.com multiple times, I am now able to “refer” you to receive $20 USD! Both you and I will receive this discount if you use my link to book. Then, after you book, you can invite others and receive more discounts!! See what I mean?! Click HERE if you’re planning on staying in a hotel anytime soon!! They have been a great service to Scott and I, we’ve actually booked through them a few times and they’ve been great!

Until next time,

Jen ๐Ÿ™‚

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Love, Pray, Eat… Or Something Like That: Bali

Ahh Bali, my final destination on this short journey! Well, except I did return to Japan after, but that’s another story. Bali was certainly the “pray” part of my trip.

My flight left Thailand around 10 PM, leaving me with a 5 hour layover in Singapore throughout the night. Upon arrival, I tried to find somewhere to charge my phone and ended up just closing my eyes and resting on a few chairs (like many others). Unfortunately, my phone wasn’t able to connect to their wifi in the airport, the kiosks couldn’t read my passport and I didn’t have any coverage to make a phone call like it said, I only had wifi capabilities. Luckily, they do have free internet computers located around the area, so I grabbed one of those to send out a few emails and messages to pass the time. As crazy as it was, I was on the computer and I turned around and saw a bunch of Singapore cops, guns and all, surrounding me! I was terrified, as you can imagine. They asked to see my passport, boarding pass, asked me a few questions and if I was traveling alone. I obviously cooperated and knew I didn’t do anything wrong (or at least I hoped not!) I’m not sure if it was just again, the timeframe that I was traveling (just after the inauguration 2017..) that put them on a higher alert. Or maybe because I was a blonde American female traveling alone? I’m not sure, but it was scary. Even the workers nearby said “That was scary” after they left. Ahh! But it’s okay, we all survived. I still enjoyed the airport, haha ๐Ÿ™‚

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I finally arrived in Bali bright and early. Immigration went much quicker than in Thailand, that’s for sure. I stopped at an ATM to grab some cash. Of course, in the moment and in a rush to find my airport transfer, I didn’t fully understand how much money I was taking out and ended up taking out only about $100 USD, which I later realized (duh). I figured that probably wasn’t going to last me my whole week, so I had to make another ATM trip once I got to my place of stay.

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So while I was in Bali, I stayed at Serenity Eco Guesthouse. My stay included unlimited yoga for the week as well as a single backpackers room (there were a bunch of options, but this is what I chose). Being that it was eco-friendly, there were a few rules/suggestions such as: no toilet paper in the toilet (had to put it in the trash can), lights out when you leave, no sunscreen on before you get in the pool to decrease chemicals, recommended use of organic products, all raw/vegan food served at the restaurant. If you like to recycle and save the planet, I would definitely recommend a place like this. Otherwise, you may want to find a “fancier” hotel or resort! I loved all of the gardens and the atmosphere of the resort..so Bali! The pool wasn’t too bad either ๐Ÿ˜‰

With my stay, I got free breakfast all week! The food was all so amazing and healthy, I loved it!! I drank straight from a coconut, had gluten free breads, nutella pancakes, vegan cheese spreads, rice porridge, fruit smoothies, I even snuck in a few pieces of chocolate here and there. Why not, ya know? This was all at the restaurant “Alkaline,” which was attached to the guesthouse I was at. They also bottled their own water that they had filtered and set at a certain pH level, it was pretty cool! The only food I didn’t like of the whole trip was here.. Gado Gado. You can find this many places, but for some reason I just couldn’t finish it. I think I just like stronger tasting foods. I would definitely still try it if I were you, we all have different taste buds!

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My first few days I mainly woke up and went right to the beach. I was staying in Canggu, which, upon booking, I didn’t realize that it was such a surfer’s beach! Pretty cool atmosphere though. There were a lot of people from all over the world who came to surf! The beach didn’t have that crystal blue water, but hey, I was at the beach in January..in Bali, who cares? I will have to say the one thing I didn’t enjoy about laying at the beach was constantly getting approached by the locals to buy bracelets, rings, massages, hair braids. I did buy a few bracelets, but that was only from one local, so the others wanted me to buy some too! I completely understand this is their way of life and how they make a living, and I respect that. It was a little difficult at times to completely relax on the beach, though. I tried to situate myself near others in hopes to not be approached. Let’s be honest, I’m not much of a jewelry girl anyways ๐Ÿ˜‰

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I generally hung around the beach for a few hours, wearing sunscreen of course, and still getting sunburnt. Then I would head back for lunch and yoga! Somedays I went to the restaurant downstairs, but I found a few other cute restaurants that I would recommend here:

The Recovery Room: Amazing! I ate here twice and got their avocado coffee, an egg frittata avocado benedict (or something like that), a beautiful smoothie, and even a gourmet grilled cheese. The staff was super friendly, there are couches everywhere and it’s such a chill vibe, I loved it!!

Old Man’s: This is the “hip” spot at Canggu. There are tons of tourists here and it’s definitely a party atmosphere. I went one night for dinner because I was really craving a burger and a beer – something not organic, haha. It was delicious! They had an acoustic reggae band playing while I was there and there were not only younger folks but families as well. Plus I loved the lights that decorated the whole place, not to mention you’re right next to the ocean.

Eden Cafe: Okay so the day I tried this place, I had just walked to the post office from my place of stay which was about a 45 minute walk.. Except it turned into an hour+ because I had to stop in all of the cute shops! Needless to say, when I was heading back and found this place, it was the perfect place for me to cool off with a smoothie bowl..and let my sweat dry haha. It was so satisfying!! I also had some of their homemade lemonade, which was also good!

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Obviously while I was here, I did a bunch of different yoga classes. I actually had my first experience with Yin in Bali! And wow, let me tell you, it was amazing and crazy all at the same time. We were focusing on 4 different emotions throughout the class during each of the positions (that you hold for a few minutes, because that’s what you do in yin class). I am not kidding you, I cried! I couldn’t stop myself! We were told to think of different instances where we felt 1) safe 2) thankful 3) love and 4) happy. While I tried to think of other things, I could only think of my boyfriend (sappy, sorry). I won’t go on with the sap, but it was an amazing session, even if I was trying to hide my tears during it, haha.

On the other hand, I also did some aerial yoga and acro yoga!! Again, all of it was amazing and just being surrounded by others who loved yoga was so much fun! We were all definitely sweating after acro!

Besides the yoga and the beach, I felt that a trip to Bali would not be complete without a trip to Ubud, the “cultural center” of Bali. Those words could not have been more true. There was so much artwork and culture in Ubud, it was beautiful. I was able to see a Barong dance, see some beautiful wood carvings as well as watch jewelry being made. I booked a tour for the day which was basically my own personal taxi, costing around ~$50 total for the day, which included pick up around 9 AM and drop off around 6 PM. I ended up additionally having to pay for tickets and parking, so I might have gotten ripped off, but all in all, I still only paid about $70 for the day itself, plus my souvenirs. My tour guide was very kind and informative, even held out an umbrella for me when it was raining.

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One of our first stops of the day was the Barong Dance. The Barong dance is a tale of the triumph of good (Barong) over evil (Rangda). I learned from a woodcarver that the Barong is also symbolically said to be a “house protector.”

Our next stop was the holy water spring temple (Tirta Empul). This is a Hindu temple where people come from all over to cleanse themselves. It was packed with locals and people from all over. Just make sure to grab a sarong on the way in (I didn’t know!)

We stopped to eat lunch at a buffet where I could see Mt. Batur and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy and drizzling that day, so it wasn’t perfectly clear. It was beautiful nonetheless, very peaceful. The only thing I didn’t completely enjoy was the buffet style food. Because of the tour I chose, this was my option. It was definitely overpriced and I tried to get my money’s worth, but I doubt I did. This part of the trip I wouldn’t exactly recommend, but for the view, it may be worth it!

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After lunch, we stopped at a Luwak coffee plantation. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. The Luwak (a small mammal) eats the ripe coffee cherry and then, after it travels through the digestive system, the beans are cleaned, roasted, and ground up to make coffee!

After this, we journeyed over to the Tegallalang rice terraces where I ended up trekking through in just my sandals and a dress. I was slightly unprepared, but I didn’t fall so it’s okay! There were a lot of cute restaurants and cafes here. If I had more time, I definitely would have stopped. The view was amazing regardless!

Our final stop of the day was at the Ubud Monkey Forest! This was awesome, and although we could only stay for a little, I got to feed some of the monkeys and see some of the cutest little monkey families. There were literally monkeys everywhere!! I’m not sure I can say monkey one more time in this paragraph, haha.

My last day in Bali was spent mainly laying next to the pool, soaking up some rays before I headed back to Japan. It was peaceful and relaxing. I had the whole day to pack as my flight didn’t leave until midnight and was an overnight flight back to Tokyo. I took Garuda Indonesia, which may have been my favorite airline so far. You can read about my flights here!

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Now, just to advise some of you on a few things I didn’t really discuss but you should be aware of.. ย Many of the locals throughout my stay would come up to me and ask me to buy bracelets, massages, rings, etc. At times, I would need to use a stern voice to ask them to leave, just to have another person come up to me. Sometimes it was even children just asking for money. On the taxi ride to the airport, there was actually a young child that came up to my window in the middle of the highway and held out her hand saying “please.” It was sad, and I’d love to help, but at the same time it was a little frustrating. I completely get why they were all doing it, I really do. It was just hard at times to remember it after being approached and hassled so many times. I wasn’t personally prepared for it, and knowing myself, I probably was a good target for them because I’m much more of a soft-y. But, I think it’s something people should be aware of!

Anywho, I hope you enjoyed reading about my travels!! If you haven’t read my other blogs on Japan and Thailand, be sure to check them out ๐Ÿ™‚

-Jen

Love, Pray, Eat… Or Something Like That: Thailand

Okay, so I was kind of going to claim Japan as my “Eat” category, but if I’m going to be honest, I ate so much EVERYWHERE. No shame, I couldn’t help it! I am going to classify Thailand as the “Love” because I 1) loved it here and 2) felt so much love from all of the locals.

So the day that my true solo travels began, I took the first train at 5 AM towards Tokyo. I did awesome with this, I was super proud of myself. BUT, I still only got to the train station about 90 minutes prior to my flight, so I had to book it around. Luckily, everything at Narita International Airport went pretty smoothly. I desperately wanted coffee because I had not made any that morning, but I had gotten to the gate with only a few people in line left to board..phew! No big deal, though. I am very blessed with the ability to sleep on airplanes, and everywhere, actually. Give me a concrete floor and I will gladly nap. I took AirAsia, which I was initially nervous about since it was a new airline name to me, but they ended up being awesome. You can read my snippet about them on my other post.

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My flight went straight from Tokyo to Bangkok, with a 3.5 hour layover until my flight to Phuket. I figured that would be great, I could get through customs, get some money out of the ATM, get some coffee, and relax.. Well, that was not exactly the case. I waited in line at immigration for 2.5 hours. I was so antsy the whole time, sweating and everything. Every other line seemed to be moving faster, but of course I didn’t want to jinx it and just stayed in my line. Finally I noticed I only had an hour and I politely asked these 3 men in front of me if I could go ahead of them (all while apologizing a million times). You see, I still didn’t have my boarding pass because of the way I booked my flight (the company does it that way so it’s cheaper, I believe). So once I got through, I literally ran from the international arrivals to the domestic terminal, up the stairs, asking questions frantically to 3 different people along the way. Everyone was so nice and helpful, I can’t thank them enough. I got my boarding pass with about 35 minutes until the flight left (they were already boarding). So I ran to get all my baggage checked again (only carry-ons, thank goodness!!) I once againย made it to my gate while the last few people were getting on. I noticed there was an ATM nearby and decided to try to get money out here. I ended up ending the transaction, my card popped out with no money, and I was left confused thinking they took my money. It didn’t, I was just being frantic. I’m totally sure people were laughing at me. I ended up doing it again and got some money out for real this time (duh). If I remember correctly, the money pops out before your card – so be careful not to leave your card at an ATM in Thailand!!

Once I arrived in Phuket, I felt super relieved. I finally made it, yay!! So I decided to stay at Puding Guest Long in Chalong. ย It had a little bit of a musky smell (I have a strang sense of smell), but otherwise, it was a cute little place and everyone was super friendly. There’s a coffee shop downstairs, also. I had no idea going into my Thailand trip where I wanted to stay or anything, but it seemed kind of central and it was only $15 USD a night. Chalong itself is about an hour taxi ride from the airport, which I paid around 800 baht to my hotel, 700 baht from my hotel to the airport when I left. Again, I didn’t do my research much, but Chalong is actually where all the Muay Thai trainers go! For me, I enjoyed this since I’m into fitness and all of that. It felt safe, there are bars and restaurants, but no clubs or anything quite as crazy as thoseย in Patong. Almost all of the restaurants have healthy food – raw, vegan, gluten-free, organic, etc. Again, for me, I loved this. I was able to both try Thai food as well as mix it up with healthier options.

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The night I arrived in Phuket, I went straight to find food. I honestly don’t remember the name of the restaurant, I just know it was on the main street in Chalong. I decided I wanted Thai food, because duh, I’m in Thailand! I’m not a huge spicy food person, but I figured, hey, why not! So I ordered green curry. Well, I did not get any pictures, I’m sorry to say. But I did spend the entire dinner wondering if my food was still hot temperature-wise, or if my mouth was just constantly on fire. It was weird though, it seemed that every time I brought the spoon closer to my mouth, even without touching my lips, I could feel the heat radiating. I’m such a spicy food amateur, I’ll tell ya. So the whole dinner I basically did my best to finish my food while trying to casually drink my water and banana smoothie. Ya know, without people noticing I secretly wanted to dunk my entire head in ice. And cry. Classic first meal in Thailand.

In the morning, my first day of adventures included an Elephant Sanctuary Visit. I was so pumped about this and it turned out to be everything I dreamed of! I had heard of many different sanctuaries throughout Thailand, but not as many in the Phuket region. I booked my tour through Viator (a tour website that I actually booked all my trips through when I was in Thailand). The company itself is Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket. You can read more of their story on Facebook by searching for @ejsinphuket on Facebook or checking out their website at http://www.elephantjunglesanctuary.com.

Okay, but before I went to this tour, I needed to get coffee. I wanted it so bad the day before!!! The wait was so worth it. I checked out this place called “Latte Caffe” and it was amaaaaazing!! I got me a nice coconut milk latte and an oatmeal pancake topped with nutella and banana (seen below).

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My driver picked me up right at my hotel during the time frame they had said. It was cool because I got to ride in the back of a truck, true Thailand style. We picked up another solo traveler from France on the way, then got a little lost due to the driver going to the wrong hotel, but finally picked up our last couple from England before heading to the actual sanctuary. Unfortunately, since I was the first one picked up and furthest out of the way, I’d say I spent about 2-2.5 hours in the truck. Obviously, this is also because we got a little lost. We ended up being the last ones to the sanctuary, but they didn’t start without us! There were a bunch of different people that had been picked up from different trucks at different places on the island. They had already mashed up some bananas to feed the elephants and were prepping more food when we arrived.

The tour began with a little information about what they do at the elephant sanctuary. They basically rescue elephants from tourism and elephant rides because they can be very mistreated in these situations. From terrible weather conditions, inadequate nutrition due to long days of work, and disciplinary actions that may cause bleeding or other harm to the elephant, the tourism industry is a sad way for people to make money off the elephants. The elephants at the sanctuary were rescued and are now treated as family, which you can completely see during the interaction between the humans and the elephants now!

During the tour, we were able to first feed the elephants, then bathe them in the muddy water, and then help them rinse off. It was so much fun to see the different personalities that each elephant had! There was even one that was a few months old. He acted just like a child. They kept calling him “bad boy” because he would run away, or flop over in the mud, or just do other childish things. But hey, what else would you expect from a toddler?? It was adorable!

After all of the fun with the elephants,ย we enjoyed a home-cooked meal from the hosts. I, of course, made sure to try everything! It was all amazing, and not too spicy unless you added spices and sauces yourself (I didn’t). We then started packing up and heading home. I did the afternoon tour, which meant we hit Patong at rush hour. So if you are looking to get back without traffic, I may recommend taking the morning half-day tour! I did get to see a pretty sunset view on the way home, though!

The next morning, I was supposed to go on a sunrise snorkeling tour to Phi Phi island. Unfortunately, due to weather, the trip was canceled (boo!). I thought about going on an adventure by myself, but I decided that I am always on the go and maybe I should take a day to myself! So I did! I ended up getting an hour long foot massage, pedicure, and manicure for roughly 30 USD total! The ladies were so nice and accommodating. I ended up going right in Chalong just a short walk away from where I was staying, but there are a ton of places! I also decided to eat at a Vegan restaurant, “Pure Vegan Heaven” this day. Like the rest of the food, it was also amazing.

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My last full day in Thailand, I took a trip to Phang Nga Bay! I was really looking forward to getting out and doing something again after relaxing all day the day before. Again, I booked my tour through Viator; however, I was lucky enough to find John Gray’s Sea Canoe tour on there. From what I had heard (and according to locals), this was the best! It really was an amazing day. Everything went smoothly from pick-up to drop-off. My van ended up being filled with me and 3 other Americans from all parts of the country, but when we arrived, there were actually 3 boats they were taking out on the water! I’d say each boat had about 30+ people on it.

Once we were on the boat, the guides asked us if we had any allergies. This might not sound like something big to highlight, but I actually have a cashew allergy, so I had to be careful in Thailand. When they served our food later in the day, they actually made me a completely separate plate without cashews! It was amazing and so thoughtful! All of the food was so delicious! We had both lunch and dinner served to us, as well as coffee and a snack.

If I remember correctly, we ended up going out into the water 3 different times into 3 different areas. It’s all hard to explain, and the pictures don’t exactly do it justice, but it was all so beautiful. Seeing the stalactites and stalagmites (which I had to remember which was which at first), being able to drift through the caves in the dark, and just hearing the softness of the water rippling around you. It was like a dream. Since I was traveling alone, I ended up pairing up with one of the other Americans, who was also traveling alone. Our instructor “Nub” was great! He was so knowledgeable and was able to point out things that, honestly, I’m not even sure how he saw them, haha.

Once it got dark, we were able to release the Loy (or Loi) Krathong that we created with our guide into the water. There is a Loy Krathong festival that is held every year in Thailand and other surrounding countries. It consists of people releasing a Krathong (a floating lantern made out of the trunk of a banana tree) into the water to allow their misfortunes to float away in hopes of receiving good fortune in the upcoming year.

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The ride back on the boat was beautiful, the sky was mostly clear, and the moon was shining down as the warm air breezed past us. Of course, I would have loved to have spent this moment with my significant other, but alone with my thoughts and happiness is second best I guess ๐Ÿ˜‰ I believe we ended up returning to our lodges/places of stay around 10 pm!

So my flight out the next day wasn’t until 10, so I had all day to explore. I ended up booking another tour (through Viator, of course) to see a few spots on the island for half a day. It was only about $9 USD for transport and all of the stops, and it actually lasted from about 8:30-2 pm. We stopped at two different overlooks, a cashew factory (they had more than just cashews!), Wat Chalong Temple, and the largest jewelry store in the world – Gems Gallery: Phuket! Of course, in the morning, I had to start off with some more amazing food..this time from a little place called “Greze” right in Chalong. I tried my first bulletproof coffee here and had it with a greek yogurt bowl with personally picked toppings! I loved it all!

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My tour guide was amazing, and the others in the group were from England (a couple) and Pakistan (a solo traveler). It was great to have this smaller group so we could interact a little more and get to know each other. For example, the man from Pakistan was going to travel with his wife to Thailand but she was just now pregnant with their second child, how sweet! We ended up being buddies throughout the trip, sharing dried mangos and other random dried fruits out of a can, taking pictures for each other, etc. It’s amazing what you learn about someone when you talk to them! ๐Ÿ™‚ He was so happy to travel to Thailand, even got a tattoo in Bangkok. Such a nice guy.

After being dropped off back at my lodge, I packed up my things, grabbed a bite to eat (I can’t remember where to be honest), and then got a taxi. I was a little nervous because my guest lodge had organized my airport transfer before. I heard you could get ripped off potentially, so I was prepared. I went across the street to a restaurant called, “Tony’s,” which I had ate at one night (super cheap, huge selection, but not exactly the best quality). They organize tours here as well as taxis. My taxi driver who picked me up was the sweetest little old man I have ever seen!!! I was so happy. He spoke a little bit of English, so we talked a little bit of the way. At the end I made sure to tip him well, he smiled ear to ear and said, “See you later!” I had told him along the way how much I loved Thailand and wanted to come back! All in all, I definitely didn’t get ripped off and I felt safe the whole time.

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Thailand was such an adventure for me and I wholeheartedly mean it when I say I can’t wait to return. Next time I hope to stay in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and then head south for some island hopping! I also wanted to say I had no troubles at Phuket International Airport, which I had read elsewhere. It all went very smoothly! Until I left Thailand that is..but that can be for the next blog ๐Ÿ˜‰

Up next…Bali!

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Love, Pray, Eat… Or Something Like That: Japan

Hi everyone!

Recently I took my first solo travel trip abroad. I learned some amazing things and have some great stories from this trip that I thought I’d share with others! Of course, there are plenty of other stories, but I’ll just highlight some significant ones here, starting with Japan!

So for a start, I had an overall advantage in this trip. My boyfriend is in the U.S. Navy and is stationed in Japan. Luckily, because of this, 1) I had already been to Japan for a visit and kind of understood the train system a little 2) I already had a place to stay in Japan and 3) I had a personal tour guide who had been living in the country for years to help me out.

In late December I flew out to Japan, and thus my journey began. Obviously here, I was not alone, but I was able to travel a few amazing places with my other half. ๐Ÿ™‚

On New Year’s Eve, we took a last minute trip up to Yokohama. We were able to go ice skating at the red brick warehouse there. Now Scott used to play ice hockey, so you can imagine how much he blew me out of the water (or ice I should say), but it was still awesome!

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There’s also some pretty cool, chill bars in Yokohama that we have been to a few times. One is The Hub and the other is Craftsman. I particularly like Craftsman because they have blankets!! I’m always cold, so that just amazed me. We’ve actually been there a few times now, they have a great beer selection!

Some other things that we had done while in Yokohama the last time I had visited Japan included the Cup of Noodles museum (you get to make your own Cup of Noodles!) as well as taking a ride on the Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel which gives you a beautiful view.

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Another adventure we took was a little further south to Jogashima Island. Here, we experienced the BEST raw, fresh tuna I have ever had. And trust me, we have both eaten a a lot of sushi and sashimi. We also spent the day hiking around the island. We were able to see Mt. Fuji in the distance as well, which was my first time actually seeing it! This was our first time heading south on the trains instead of north towards Tokyo. It was also our first time taking a bus from the train station. They actually work very similarly and just as easily as the trains do, it just took us our first time to figure out that you need to swipe your Pasmo/Suica card at the station you get on at (duh) or remember which stop you got on at so you can pay in yen.

My first practice solo adventure came when I decided to visit a friend, a Japanese local, on my own. We met up in Tokyo and thankfully she was able to meet me to help me navigate the Tokyo metro system (I had yet to do that). Whenever I had traveled before, we had screenshotted the google maps version of where we needed to go and what trains, etc. That is definitely a helpful tip, it just may not always be right for when you get to the station (if you miss the one you screenshotted). So anyhow, we met up in Tokyo and checked out the Edo-Tokyo museum since it was a rainy day. Not everything was translated into English, but a lot of it actually was!

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After this, we decided to go to grab food at a restaurant offering food that was more of an “Okinawa style.” We tried a bunch of different foods and I even tried Habu sake! That’s snake liquor/wine! I really thought it was a joke at first, but it wasn’t. Apparently it is said to be good for your health. Personally, I tried with and without honey, and I liked it with honey to sweeten it up a little. Either way though, I can’t say I will be getting it again, haha.

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After leaving the restaurant, THIS is where I really started to get tested. My friend dropped me off at a station that made it super easy to get back home, or so I thought. The Japanese train system stops running close to midnight, with fewer trains as the night goes on. Mind you, I was at the train station at 9:00 pm and it was only about an hour to get home, so I had plenty of time. I stood at the station waiting for the train I knew I had to get on. After about 20 minutes, it came! I got on, sat there, was super pumped. We sat there for about 2 minutes when a worker came and told everyone to get off. They were running up and down ย the train and yelling. I couldn’t understand since it was all in Japanese, but basically, they ended up making the train “out of service.” Okay, no biggie, I decided I could just wait for the next one. Meanwhile, on the screen, I saw “Delayed” with some Japanese writing after it. I checked the timetable still and decided I would still be fine to wait, another one would be there soon. So I waited. 40 minutes past and I was kind of curious as to why another one of my trains (Limited Express) hadn’t come. Many others passed that were slower (Express and Local), but of course I could have easily taken them. Finally, I decided to just get on the Express train and re-direct myself a little, meaning I would have to get off at another station or two instead of having a direct route home. I think I ended up getting off at 3 or 4 different stations, switching from Express to Local to Express to Limited Express. It took me over 2 hours to get home and I literally JUST made it to the last train. CRAZY! I was so nervous the whole time, but I kept my cool. Luckily, I knew some of the stops and I knew I would have at least enough money to take a cab if needed, or if I really needed, I could get a hotel somewhere. This was my first experience having trains delayed (because they were delayed up to 10 minutes at some of the stops I was at). It was scary, but I did it, and I was super exhausted, and very thankful, once I got home.

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Our last weekend together before my solo journey, my boyfriend and I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere we hadn’t been before. We had a few places in mind, specifically Hakone to stay in a Ryokan, but because it was last minute, everything seemed to be full (the ones we wanted at least). We decided to check out Hachioji and the surrounding area.

On Saturday, we headed up to Hachioji. I had looked up this “Illumillion” event at Sagamiko Pleasure Forest. It was absolutely freezing and we definitely weren’t prepared for such a cold night, but, it was definitely worth it. It was beautiful to see all of the lights, and it only cost I believe 800 yen per person, meaning about $8 USD. We ended up not exactly timing the bus right at the end, so we stood in the cold for longer than expected, but there was an onsen here to warm up in as well as a restaurant in case you need to kill time before the bus arrives!

On Sunday we decided to go for a hike at Mt. Takao! This is the most hiked mountain in Japan, just outside of Tokyo. Granted, there is also a cable car lift that takes you about halfway up, past all of the difficult parts as we noticed. Many people seemed to choose this option, it definitely requires less sweat and allows you to get to the top faster! We chose to hike up route 1, which was definitely a hike, but it is well-paved. We would have preferred to come down this way at the end instead of hiking up it, though.

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Once we got to the top, there’s a cute little town area that you can check out a few things! Not to mention it was a beautiful view! We even got to see monks heading into their temple at the top (I think that was what was happening).

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On the way down, we took route 6 which took us through more of the nature aspect of the hike. It was beautiful, not paved, required stepping on some rocks over water and what not. Because it was January, though, it was a little icy in places! I slipped a few times, which wasn’t fun, but hey, it happens.

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After our hike down, I was really starting to get cold (always cold, I tell ya!) so we stopped inside at a place to get some soba noodles. Thankfully the waiter told us we were about to order the cold soups, I think he could tell we were freezing since we hadn’t taken our hats or gloves off yet, haha. We ended up just sharing one meal because we had plans for dinner after, but it was a nice way to warm up a little before heading back to our hotel.

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We stayed in the middle of Hachioji just a few minutes from the train station. The bar scene was not exactly “popping,” but we did find another Hub bar as well as a Sherlock Holmes bar that we tried out! All in all, we were excited we discovered Hachioji.

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After this weekend, I began my solo adventures to Thailand and Bali, Indonesia. You can find those blogs soon on my site! ๐Ÿ™‚

I am actually back in Japan as I type this article up. I haven’t really done much except relax since I have been back. It’s amazing how much you miss a country when you travel to others. When I returned in Japan, I had spent the previous 2 weeks traveling solo in a constant subconscious state of fear. That’s the truth. I returned to Japan with smiles from the employees and such a welcoming and helpful attitude. I felt so safe and happy again. I slept SO well that night, it was crazy! I’m not saying I was truly threatened in the other countries, I was just generally fearful of being a small, white, blonde American abroad (especially during the specific two weeks I decided to do it).

Since I have been back, I’ve tried some more amazing food and candies. I definitely recommend anyone to try out as much food as they can, just because some of the stuff is so different! I have had curry with melted cheese (yum!), chocolate green tea candies (different, but kind of good), an acai-chia-yogurt drink, a few different cheeses, and even some tofu nuggets. While I haven’t yet re-indulged since I have been back, I also highly recommend trying ramen and sushi (obviously) while in Japan. And if you’re brave, go to an authentic Japanese restaurant to try some really Japanese food, like fish cooked right in front of you that still looks like a fish but tastes kind of like chicken.

Anyways, I look forward to spending more time in Japan and exploring. It has overall been a great country. Not to mention it is so clean! And did you know people wear masks if they’re sick so they don’t get other people sick? It just makes sense, right?

And by the way – in case you haven’t heard of it yet – I have used Honey ย to help me save online, sometimes even when booking flights! You get a percentage back or money off on a ton of different online purchases, without searching for the coupon yourself. It’s super easy and I love saving money ๐Ÿ˜€

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my experiences! Thailand is up next..

Thanks!!

-Jen

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