Today I entered the last phase of my Southeast Asia adventure! For the next week I’ll be staying with my brother Ben and his fiance Yuka at their home in Osaka and then travelling with him to Tokyo for three days before flying back home to Vancouver.
To say I’m excited to reach this part of my journey would be a huge understatement.
If you’ve followed my blog then you know I’m had some pretty good ups and downs over the last month and it’s nice to not be in travel mode anymore. It’s nice to just hang out with my brother for awhile and not think about where to go and what to do.
That’s not to say that I won’t be doing anything while I’m here in Japan. In fact, quite the opposite. Ben has alot of cool stuff planned for us to do.
I just don’t have to figure it all out which is a nice break from always having to plan the next day and the next city.
My trip to Japan started very early this morning.
And when I say very early – I mean very early!
In fact I didn’t even go to sleep last night.
I had arranged for a taxi to pick me up at 4:30 in the morning to take me to the metro station where I would catch the commuter rail to the airport.
So here I was at 6am, sun just rising, arriving at the airport.
Not the same airport I landed at a few days ago but the Low Cost Carrier airport as my flight to Osaka was through the discount airline Air Asia.
This airport, to say it politely, was a crap hole. I’ve been in close to 40 airports and this one was near the bottom of the list.
Amazing that in a city like Kuala Lumpur with all its’ metropolitan feel and modern buildings that one of their airports could be so, so bad.
There was no clear signage of where to go when I arrived and even though my flight was leaving in 2 hours, it still wasn’t even listed on the departures board so I had no idea where to go to checkin.
After getting in a random Air Asia lineup I was pointed to the right area across the airport.
I did finally get checked in, went through immigration and security and converted my ringgits to yen.
I was ready to go!
Flying out of Kuala Lumpur has a bit of a stigma attached to it now as they are still mourning the loss of flight MH370 last month. I also read last night that another flight out of Kuala Lumpur had to turn back to the airport yesterday as there was damage to the plane.
Yes, I was a little on edge.
I was put a little at ease by the scrutiny everyone was being given as they entered the departure gates for their flights.
I, along with all the others, were met by a security officer who asked a few questions about my trip and then proceeded to take a magnifying eyeglass to my passport to validate its’ authenticity.
Guess I’m not the only one on edge at the Kuala Lumpur airport…
I boarded the flight at 8am and at first I was a little distressed to see how narrow the seats were. After being on over 30 flights in the last year, this one probably had the most narrow seats.
And it was 6 hours long.
However, it turns out the flight wasn’t fully booked so the girl who was sitting next to me chose to sit on the other side of the plane next to her friend. This gave me the whole row of 3 seats to myself.
I divided my flight time by watching poker videos on my laptop and lying down over the 3 seats and trying to sleep.
I might have put 2 hours of sleep in but as has been my experience in the past, I just can’t really sleep while I travel whether it be by plane, train or bus.
We landed at 3pm local time (Japan is one hour ahead of Malaysia) and went straight to immigration.
The lineup was long but orderly. The thing that stood out for me was the two elderly immigration officers that were going through the line making sure everyone had filled out everything properly before reaching the officers at the counters.
They were friendly. Like, super friendly. As they checked each person they would give them a smile. It was such a nice site to see and I knew right then that the next week and a half were going to be great.
After picking up my bag, I went through the exit door and there was my brother waiting for me.
It was so nice to have someone waiting for me at the airport. So different from the countless other times I’ve landed in a strange city.
I didn’t have to worry about getting around or anything else. After catching up for awhile we caught the Airport Limousine Bus into town.
The bus took about 40 minutes and took us to Umeda central station.
Ben’s place was just a short subway ride away but first there was something I had to take care of…
It’s been a good three months since I’ve had any and, God knows, I miss it!
We went inside the mall at the station to a sushi restaurant with one of those revolving tracks taking different sushi plates past you.
You simply pick whatever plate you want from the track, chow down on it and then at the end all the plates you eat from are scanned to price how much you owe.
We ate alot…
Each plate had 2 pieces of sushi on it and varied in price from 120 yen ($1.20) to 280 yen ($2.80). The grand total for us was 3340 yen ($33).
Yes, it was alot more expensive than the $1 and $2 meals I was having in Thailand, but, damn, it was such good sushi.
I know being in Japan will be more expensive than what I’ve been used to the last few months but that’s okay – I’m ready for it.
Besides, my brother has generously let me stay with them at their place while I’m here so it kind of evens out.
Whatever… I’m at the tail end of my trip… what’s a couple hundred dollars?
After that amazing sushi-palooza Ben took me to a huge store next door that had a floor dedicated to just food with a heavy emphasis on sweets.
Like, seriously, I could spend a whole day in there!
I passed by a place and it had cream puffs with smiley faces.
Any dessert that has a smiley face has to be good, right?
So I bought one.
Marketing tip for anybody selling sweets and desserts – put a smiley face on it as I’ll most likely buy it from you…
We walked around a little more before catching the subway a few stops to Ben’s place.
He lives in a little but cozy place but, more importantly, it felt like home.
It was so nice to just sit on a couch in a normal apartment with a kitchen and a dining room. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this sight.
Once we arrived, Ben turned to his laptop to start Skype lessons with a couple of his students while I just sat back and settled in.
Around 9pm Yuka came home and brought me a welcoming gift of a cheesecake. A whole cheesecake.
Although I was pretty tired, I found the energy to head out again for dinner. We grabbed a taxi and went over to the Shinsaibashi area. The streets there go on forever and apparently there are more bars in just that area than there are in all of Canada.
Even with all the bars there we just went for food.
First we went to a Ramen place for some noodles and pork. It was good but we still needed some substance so we went down the street to get some yakitori which is basically different skewered meats.
We stopped at a little arcade too where we went into one of the many quirky photo booths to take some silly pics.
I also tried the UFO catcher which is basically the crane arcade machine we all know and love. I aimed for a teddy bear but came up empty handed.
A taxi ride back and we were in for the night at about 11:30pm.
It was an extremely long day but I’m so happy for it.
Can’t wait for tomorrow…