Friday, August 31, 2012

Tracing my steps

This is the full list of places I visited on this 6,5 month trip with links to all the blog posts!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dancing away in London - last stop on my big trip!

It was the middle of June and I was reaching the end of my big trip! Actually I was also getting back to square one, to London, where this adventure started over six months earlier. I was dying to be done with the trip, I was missing my friends and family, my own bed.. my clothes :D So this was the next best thing, just one final step away from returning home! Even on the Tokyo airport (from where I flew back to London) they had a flight leaving to my home town, almost the same time as my flight to London, it was killing me!! But it wasn't all that bad - I was going to see & stay with friends in London too and dance dance dance zouk like no tomorrow!

I had to get up early in Tokyo to get to my flight and I wasn't too thrilled. Somehow I managed to fit all my stuff in my two bags and got the airport early - ready to "enjoy" another 12 hour flight. I thought I'd get some sleep but I guess I was too excited to relax enough so I just kicked back and watched a bunch of movies instead. I closed my eyes towards the end of the flight and suddenly I was in London! London, baby!

It was a Friday afternoon and I waddled with my stuff to my friend's place, changed gear and was off - determined to stay awake through the evening and kill any jetlag that was heading my way. So I went to see a zouk class at the famous Pineapple Studios. I had just flown across nine time zones and been up & traveling for about 20 hours so I didn't really feel like taking part in the class. But went to watch just out of curiosity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The imperial and impressive Kyoto

Kyoto (京都市or Kyōto) is located in the central part of the Honshu island, south of Tokyo. This former imperial capital of Japan is a part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area and a very popular tourist destination, especially know for its traditional districts and temples.

I was staying in Osaka, just less than an hour away from Kyoto, and took one day to go for a visit. I got very helpful tips from my new friend Mio from Osaka who mapped me a great route through Kyoto! So around noon I arrived from Osaka to Kyoto's Kawaramachi train station, ready to explore the city!

Hills surround this beautiful city and on the hills there are big impressive temple areas. My plan was to go discover the eastern hill and first up was the Yasaka Shrine. It's easy to find the shrine as it's just at the end of the main road - you can't miss the big, red temple gate! I passed through the colourful temple where people were ringing the big bells and continued to a beautiful park called Maruyama Koen. I can just imagine how during spring it's covered with cherry trees blossoming. I heard that the park was also used in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.

At the Yasaka Shrine

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Once upon a time in Osaka...

After a week of being totally amazed by Tokyo I was exited to go see another Japanese city, Osaka! Ōsaka, or 大阪, is a part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area of close to 20 million people. I'm starting to wonder how many of the world's biggest cities are located in Japan....!?!

It was easy to decide how to get from Tokyo to Osaka: with the Shinkansen train (the bullet train), yay! I had popped by the Tokyo train station before my departure day to check out the place so I would know how to get to 1) the right station and 2) the right platform. There are soooo many stations, terminals, platforms, entrances, escalators and underground passages that it's quite easy to get lost! But I made it! Just a little problem with my tickets at the automatic gates but no worries since there's always lots of helpful staff around! 

The noses of the trains look so funny, some had even longer noses than this one, over 10m!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Zouk in Japan - the surprising latin & Brazilian dance hub!

Believe it or not, you can do lots of latin dancing in Japan, even zouk! And not just in Tokyo but in various locations in the country. I was excited to visit some other cities beyond Tokyo in my quest to find out how is Japanese zouk and extended my time in Japan a couple days just for that :) Tokyo dance scene information follows right below, scroll down for Osaka and Kyoto!

Burning the floor in Tokyo

I didn't know anything about the Japanese zouk scene but am lucky to have friends around the world who used their contacts to find some places and parties for me! There are in fact a few monthly zouk events where the local dancers gather up. I was in town for the “first Saturday of the month” party, also know as Utage zouk, ar the G-Box dance studio in Ebisu. I arrived there on time, at 8.30pm when the party started. There wasn't a whole lot of people then but soon enough the place filled up and was packed with 30 or more dancers from about 9.30pm onwards!

The trendy Tokyo - the most amazing city in the world?

Tokyo - actually Tōkyō or in Japanese 東京 - was, surprise to me, the biggest city of my RTW trip and is by most measures the largest city and metropolitan area in the world! (By the way, the second biggest city on this particular 6,5 month trip was São Paulo and third either Osaka or Buenos Aires.)

It was the beginning of June (...yes, I'm this late on my blog posts...) and I was reaching the end of my big trip. I wanted to have a bit more time in Japan so I had moved my flight from Cairns to Tokyo a couple days earlier. This was one of the rare occasions I used the opportunity to freely adjust the flight plan that I had made end of last year (well the plan basically only included the intercontinental flights so most of my travel plan was created as I went on..).

The flight from Cairns to Tokyo was comfortable, yet quite boring 7,5 hours. I arrived to Narita airport in the evening, pretty tired and not feeling ready to tackle the Tokyo public transport system. I don't know any Japanese, at all. It was the first country on this trip where I was complete lost with the language. But no need to worry, I walked straight to the information desk at the airport and they gave perfectly clear instructions on how to get to my accommodation, in fluent English. It was a 1,5 hour journey to the city and through the city (bear in mind the airport itself is also 60km from downtown Tokyo) but I had no troubles getting around.

I started my sightseeing the next morning. Well actually I had no idea where to start but I had a map and Google and some recommendations. First up I went to Shinjuku to see the urban Tokyo with all the tall buildings. I quickly realized how massive the city is and how easy it is to get lost, especially in the mazes of the subway and train stations.