Monday, February 16, 2015

Chelsea (going to) Kyoto

Today was such a long day! This morning I woke up at 6am and couldn't get back to sleep. We were leaving for Kyoto today, and I started thinking about everything I hadn't yet thought about - and that was a stressful line of thinking! I realized that I didn't even know what kind of outlets Japan used! (Turns out, they use two-prong ones like the US but with 100V instead...) I laid in bed and did research until Jessica woke up around 8am.

Once she woke up, I again started to get stressed. I don't know why traveling stresses me out; I'm always afraid there's something super important that I didn't know, or didn't think about, or will forget... anyway, it was great to be with Jessica because she is completely the opposite. She is so laid back and easy going. Traveling with her balances me out. So we got up and got ready and packed our stuff.

I decided to use my backpacking-backpack for Japan so I won't have to roll a suitcase around; However, combine a backpack with a down jacket, scarf, and purse, and I was laden down. We left her apartment at about 11am in search of lunch before heading to the airport. Unfortunately, as it was Sunday, nothing was open. We gave up and went to the Krispy Kreme Donuts by the subway station. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't delicious, but I knew I would regret it in 2 hours when my blood sugar plummeted and I was hungry and grumpy.

After "breakfast", we wanted to stop by a pharmacy to get Jessica some pain medication for some pain she has been having in her side recently. Again, nothing was open. Trudging around the neighborhood with our luggage was not particularly enjoyable, and I was happy when we got to the bus stop around noon.

We got to Incheon pretty quickly - only about 50 minutes - and went in search of our airline. Incheon has been rated the best airport in the world, and it really is great. But its HUGE and there are SO MANY people! We stood in line to check in for our flight for about 10 or 15 minutes, then had to wait in the security line for about 30 more minutes. Unfortunately they caught my conditioner bottle which, while being nearly empty, was over the 3oz container size and they tossed it. I was glad I hadn't risked it with something more A)Expensive and B)New/Full.

We made our way through the maze that is Incheon, and Jessica spied a pharmacy to get her meds, thankfully. At the gate (which we made it to only about an hour and a half after getting to the airport), we waited for the flight to board.

We ended up sitting near the mid-to-back of the plane, and I was quickly reminded how tight the budget airliners are. I was thankful to be as short as I am, or my legs would not have fit in the seat. The flight left late, but we landed around the same time as predicted - 5pm.

We landed at Kansai Airport, outside Osaka. The airport is so small you don't even have jetways, and have to walk across the tarmac outside the plane. Once we were actually IN Kansai Airport, we had to wait in more lines for immigration and customs. Story of the day: waiting in lines.
After being shuffled through there, we came into the terminal and I exchanged the KRW that I had in my possession (I having stupidly forgotten my debit card in America) for yen. We asked at the Tourist Information Desk where to catch the bus to Kyoto Station (I knew it existed from my research), and she explained to us where to go out of the Terminal, catch the shuttle bus to the other terminal, go up the stairs, over the road, through the terminal, back down the escalator, to the bus stop #8, and there we can get the bus. Trying to keep it straight in my mind, we walked out of the terminal and into, you guessed it, another line for the shuttle bus. Thankfully, despite this one being long, it moved quickly thanks to the plethora of shuttle buses running at that time.

Once we got to the other terminal, we attempted to follow the directions we were given, and eventually found the ticket machine for the bus. It was 2550Y - around $22 - for the 1.5hr bus ride to Kyoto Station. We lucked out and the bus (which runs every hour or so), pulled up right as we got into the line. We found two seats next to each other and agreed to try and nap on the way over, since we were both quite tired from the day's ordeal.

For some unknown reason, for the entire length of the bus ride, the driver did NOT turn off the overhead lights. So, even with my eyes closed, I couldn't get any sleep at all. Since it was dark outside by this time - it was a little after 6pm when we left the airport - with the lights on I couldn't see a damn thing out the window. So annoying...

When we got to Kyoto Station, I had planned on us walking to the hotel. It was about 1 mile away, and the map made it look like a straight shot north on the main road. However, arriving tired, FAMISHED (remember, only a donut at 11am...) and into a brand new place where we don't even know a single word (beyond Namaste and Konichiwa), I suggested we just get a taxi. It was, after all, only a mile.

We flagged down a taxi easily and I showed the driver where we were going. After a moment of studying the map, he nodded yes and we put our stuff in the trunk and set off for the hotel. I'm sure he knew where he was going but I like to try and follow along on the map to be sure we weren't being taken for a ride. I felt pretty good about the route until the end, when I said to Jessica "Okay, now I'm starting to get nervous, I think he went too far..." and boom, 5 seconds later we pulled up in front of the hotel. Yay! The ride was 790Y - around $7 - and money well-spent in my opinion!

When we went to check-in, Jessica commented how nice the hotel looked. I quite agreed, and was glad that I had done my research on hotels! I think I got us the very best hotel for our money. We could have gone cheaper, but I think that this place is quite nice and worth what we paid (which was around $100/night). At the check-in desk there were two white guys asking something, and I heard their British accents. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that their faces when they turned and saw us. (Jessica and I would later have a laugh at their obvious delight!).

We got our key as well as an envelope which contained our Japanese SIM card! I had ordered it online and had it sent to the hotel. It is just a week's rental, but for around $12 each, we can have access to the internet out and about. When we got up to our room (#602), we were so pleased with our room! Especially for Asian-standards, it was quite large, and SO CLEAN. We were excited to see a bathtub (they don't exist in Korea, basically).

Finally, we put our luggage down and went in search of food. I was THRILLED to see that Yelp works in Japan (it doesn't in Korea), and we went to a highly rated ramen shop about a third of a mile away. We found it easily with Google Maps and ordered while waiting for a spot inside. Thankfully it wasn't crazy cold outside - probably mid-40s. We got inside within about 10 minutes and our food arrived very quickly. The ramen was really good, but I think that it was probably due in part to how hungry we were. We shared some dumplings and then got to work on our noodles.

After dinner, we were exhausted and decided to go back to the room and rest up for our first day of sightseeing in Kyoto tomorrow. On the elevator ride up to our room, we ran into one of the English guys again, and it was so cute how he tried to chat us up! He was having an ice cream and started talking about how crazy English like their ice cream depsite the winter! And when we told him we were from Texas, I swear his face looked like he won the jackpot. When he got off the elevator, we couldn't help but laugh so hard! It was flattering and yet, hilarious!!

It was a long and travel-heavy day, but worth it to be in Japan for the first time. Looking forward to beautiful sites and delicious food tomorrow.


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