“ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert
On our fourth day, the itinerary was to do a short hike to the next village. But because of the weather, and also we really liked this town and did not have enough time here the day before, we decided to not take that last leg. We enjoyed our morning here in Narai, even though it was a bit rainy.
There was an option to take a morning hike to this waterfall before heading to the next segment of the trail. Because I didn't take the planned hike the day before, I felt a need to do this. Though it was rainy the day before, this day was gorgeous and clear, so I decided to take this option. My companions chose not to, which was fine. They spent the day in the town, as we did the day before.
We had a nice breakfast (forgot to take a picture) and then we were off. We walked the forty or so minutes to get to the village of Tsumago but it was too early for any of the stores to be open, so we walked through and enjoyed the feel of this quaint town.
When I decided to not renew my lease on my apartment in Guam, I did not know when I would be back in this area again. Take that literally, I really just don't know, but it may be sooner than later. I wanted to do a trip in Asia though, before going back to Hawaii. A friend had been on these self-guided tours with the Oku Japan company and it sounded like something I wanted to do. The company makes all the arrangements for you in terms of train tickets and accommodations. There are self-guided hikes of various lengths and challenge levels that make up the day. I asked if any of my travel buddies wanted to come with me, and 2 of my friends joined me. Though the Oku company is very helpful, giving us comprehensive directions so that we would be successful in walking the trail, we ended up making it a DIY (Do it yourself) tour, for much of it. That's the great thing about the tour, though, it gives you options. In fact, we could choose to start in Tokyo or Kyoto, so we flew into Osaka, and took a bus to Kyoto. Stayed overnight at a hotel that agreed to store our luggage while we were away for the next 3 nights, Kyoto Tower Hotel Annex.
In my efforts to find an alternative to United, which has a monopoly on direct flights from Guam to Hawaii and to the mainland, I went through Korea. There are several budget airlines flying between Korea and Guam, I took T'way. I left Guam about 1:00 in the morning, arrived in Korea at 4:45. I booked a hotel near the airport, and though I couldn't check in, I was able to keep my luggage in storage. Then I went back to the airport to catch the metro to Seoul.
One of the questions that we get asked a lot, and was actually the most confusing part of planning for our trip to Vietnam, was the visa process. Yes, you do need a visa, and no, you do not have to send your passport away to get it. Here's how we did it:
Banh Mi, the Vietnamese submarine sandwich, is such a delicious meal for sandwich lovers who also love that Asian twist. It is a symbol of multi-culturalism and cultural appropriation. I love extrapolating narratives from tasty food. In this case, French were former colonizers of Vietnam, so the bread used is based on the French baguette. But the Vietnamese made it better - to be able to handle the pickled and fresh vegetables as well as the meats and pate', also from the French. (Not all banh mi include the pate', in case you are pate' resistant.) The quality of the banh mi, in my opinion, is judged by the bread, which varies from place to place.
We had heard mixed reviews about Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam's most famous natural attractions. The negative reviews were that it had become too "touristy," too busy, too competitive. The positive comments were about how beautiful it was, how unique, a "vision of ethereal beauty." (Lonely Planet.) We decided that if we were going to go to Hanoi, we had to go to Halong Bay. One of my travel companions, Polli, did a lot of research and it was thanks to her, I believe we had a good experience.
In our planning for our trip to Vietnam, Hoi An came up again and again, as one of the "favorite" places to travel to in Vietnam. We agreed this would be on the "definitely go" list. In the travel articles, there always seemed to be a qualifier, it's great, but touristy. Hello. We are tourists. But I get the point, when you go to a different country, you are supposed to want an "authentic" experience, i.e., not "touristy". I hope I can say this in the future, but in Hoi An, there is a blend of authentic encounters and an appreciation for us, the tourists. On the airplane, I had a conversation with a nice Vietnamese woman and she said even Vietnamese people like to travel to Hoi An.
Some of my classmates in my tango class in Guam decided to go to the first Manila Tango Marathon, and I took the "step" and made arrangements to go as well. I didn't know if I was ready, but they kept encouraging me. I'm very glad I went. Not only was it a fantastic event, but I also enjoyed being in Manila, the Makati area specifically.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.