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Terminating in Tokyo

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Tokyo & Mount Fuji

all seasons in one day 18 °C
View Cherry Blossom Adventures on kmmk17's travel map.

Leaving our very excitable host in Kyoto, we made our way over to the station to catch the bullet train I had reserved the day before, bound for Tokyo. The Japanese capital would in fact be the last of our bases on this trip, staying here for the final four nights of this East Asian adventure.

Sitting in the reserved part of the train, we had a bit more room around us for bags which made the trip more comfortable, even if it was only for a few hours. The one thing I didn't get to do last time I was in Tokyo, was see Mount Fuji. Unfortunately, the humid summer air meant seeing it from the city was too difficult. This time we had more opportunities, and our first would be on our way to Tokyo - through the city of Fuji.

Seeing the mountain is always difficult, as the weather conditions need to be just right. Having researched when we would be able to gain a view, as we headed through the last hill before the city, we got up and headed towards the window at the door (all of the seats on this side were already booked when I requested our seats the night before). However our luck was not in, and the unseasonably warm humid air blocked the view, with us just managing to catch a glimpse of the snow peak through the haze. Never mind, there would be more opportunities!

Fuji through the haze

Fuji through the haze

Not long after, we arrived in the heart of Tokyo city. With our Japanese rail passes still valid for a few more days, and a good network of local rail in the city, it wasn't even necessary for us to use the metro initially. We got on a local train and headed to our hotel - the same one I had stayed in 4.5 years earlier. After dropping off our bags, we headed back into the city, deciding to visit the central sights, beginning with the Pokemon shop inside the station.

Pokemon Store

Pokemon Store

After taking a look inside the shop, we headed outside the station and made our way around the corner to the Imperial Gardens. It was yet another beautiful hot and sunny day in Japan, and we enjoyed a walk around this idyll in the middle of metropolis.

Imperial East Gardens

Imperial East Gardens

After a lot of travelling already, and ample time in the city, we headed to get some food before making our way back to our hotel for a break. Once it got dark we then headed back out and made our way to the Senso-ji Shrine in Asakusa. By day this a bustling shopping street and active shrine, but by night it's a more peaceful and lit up attraction.

Senso-ji by night

Senso-ji by night

After enjoying views of the beautiful complex, we headed back for our first night's sleep in the city.

Lanterns at Senso-ji

Lanterns at Senso-ji

The following morning the weather had changed completely - after a week and a half of warm summer weather, it was now down 10˚C, feeling much more like early April.

Having not been able to see Mount Fuji very well on the train to Tokyo, we planned to visit the Fuji Five Lakes area for a better view. With our Japan Rail passes ending the following day - giving us free travel on most of the trains to this area, we were trying to make the most of it, as well as using the weather forecasts in order get the best views of the mountain. Annoyingly as the weather had changed, clouds were coming in making the opportunity to view Mt Fuji even more limited.

It now looked very iffy we would get to see the mountain at all, but tomorrow looked more promising and so we gambled and spent today in the city. After having a lie in, we headed out to view some of the sights outside the centre centre - starting with the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese war dead (including war criminals from WWII) are commemorated.

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine


Takeshita Street

Takeshita Street

We then headed over to the Harajuku area, heading straight out of the station and down Takeshita Street, a popular shopping street full of novelty and small gifts. After buying a few keyrings and doing a loop of the area, we then headed into Yoyogi park and towards the Imperial Meiji Jingu Shrine.

Rice Barrels in Yoyogi Park

Rice Barrels in Yoyogi Park

Heading back out of the park we then walked south towards Shibuya, and the bustling crossing in the heart of the area. We stopped at the Starbucks that looks over the crossing and sat watching the huge amount of people crossing in all directions every minute.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing


Tokyo Tower overlooking Zojo-ji Shrine

Tokyo Tower overlooking Zojo-ji Shrine

Our last sight for the day was the Tokyo Tower, from the Zojo-ii Shrine, where upon arrival we found a service was being carried out.

Service inside Zojo-ji

Service inside Zojo-ji

After watching part of the service, we then headed to Tokyo Bay, for views over the port area.

Tokyo Bay

Tokyo Bay

We then headed back to our hotel for a rest before we headed out for dinner. Originally we had planned to go for Ramen, and with us wanting to head to Shinjuku we found a few places to visit. However as suspected, even early there were long long queues, and with it being quite chilly, we decided to scrap that and eat at Burger King. We can always have Ramen at home!

Kabukicho

Kabukicho

After eating, we took a tour around the Kabukicho area, which is famous for it's LED lights and billboards, before heading back to the hotel for some well earned sleep.

The following morning we got up early and headed to Shinjuku station for our trip outside the city, to the Fuji Five Lakes area. The weather still looked iffy, but there was a better chance of seeing the mountain earlier. Using our Japan Rail passes for the last day, we spent an hour or so on the train heading outside the city before changing at Otsuki to a private line, that would take us the final journey to Fujiyoshida. As we headed up the valley it became clear that we would see Mount Fuji, as the huge mountain dominated the backdrop.

Mount Fuji - finally

Mount Fuji - finally

We got off at a small local station, that was clearly a tourist draw, as signs led us all the way to the Chureito Pagoda. Making the most of the views, which could be scuppered at any moment by the ominous clouds, we headed up the steep hillside towards the top. Chris paused halfway whilst I continued, in what was one of the biggest struggles I've ever faced! Two weeks of exhaustion against the strong winds in a rush against time almost seemed impossible.

The amazing view

The amazing view

Nevertheless I made it, and the views were worth it. As Cherry Blossom had come early this year, it meant that although there was nothing left in Tokyo, this area was full! Approximately two weeks earlier than normal. It meant we got to see one of the most picture perfect views that are in many of the tourist guidebooks. Our luck clearly was in! And after taking some photos, Chris had also made it to the top and we took in some of the breathtaking views.

We then headed back down to the train station, and eventually back to the city. It was a lot of faffing about, spending about 6 hours getting there and back just for 10 minutes of views, but it was worth it.

Our last thing to do in the city, was head back to the Senso-ji shrine, this time during the day, and grab some souvenirs. After grabbing some dinner we then got some sleep before our last full day on this long trip.

Shopping at Senso-ji

Shopping at Senso-ji

Having overestimated how much time we needed, we had already seen everything in the city, with a day to spare. Therefore we decided to spend out last day at Tokyo Disneyland. It had been years since either of us had been to Disneyland, and so this was a nice experience. With the sun shining, we headed out early to the park early to try and beat some of the weekend rush.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland

Starting with Westernland, we headed onto Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise before the queues got so long. Whilst we waited in the queue for Thunder Mountain however, the sunshine was masked by clouds, not to be seen again. The wind was picking up, as were the length of the queues.

We continued around, heading inside the Haunted Mansion and the Snow White ride, before we headed over to Tomorrowland. Japan is generally quite warm, and so the park is not built to break the wind - despite this being on a reclaimed island in Tokyo Bay, and with long queues, it meant for a freezing experience, for which we certainly weren't dressed accordingly.

After waiting over an hour and a half for the Buzz Lightyear ride, we went inside the gift shops to warm up and wait for the parade. However just before it was due to start, there was an announcement that because of the wind this would not take place - hardly surprising, but a real shame. We headed back to the Star Tours ride, luckily most of the queue here being inside, before cutting out losses and heading back to our hotel.

After two busy weeks it had been an amazing adventure, we were thoroughly exhausted and now just had the ridiculously long journey back.

With this being the peak time to visit Japan, flights were not cheap. There were two flights each from Tokyo to Beijing and Beijing to London, but taking the combination with just 4 hours to transfer was twice as expensive as that with 7. We therefore took the cheaper option, even if this did mean we would be travelling for 24 hours.

Getting up at 3am in Japan, we headed on the first train to the airport, eventually leaving Japan at 7:20am. We flew west, heading right over Mount Fuji, getting great aerial views of the iconic mountain.

Views over Mount Fuji

Views over Mount Fuji

Eventually, after circling the city for ages, over three hours later we had arrived in Beijing. Originally it was possible that we may leave some things in the city for this return leg, and use the 5 hours to sit about, to explore the city. However having seen everything we wanted two weeks ago, as knowing how much time would be wasted to get down there, we instead decided to stay in the airport.

Airport Lounge

Airport Lounge

Transferring for over four hours meant we also got free access to an airport lounge, which although wasn't the best, did give us free food and drinks. Despite not being able to connect to most of the internet, time went by quite quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to board our final flight of the trip, the long 10 hours back to London.

Having exhausted not only the entertainment, but also ourselves - despite not being able to sleep for fear of worsening our jetlag, this was a tough journey. By the end of the flight eating was a struggle, and so was staying awake. I even napped for an hour with Chris unable to wake me back up.

Sunset over Siberia

Sunset over Siberia

Arriving back in London was a relief, but having been awake for over 24 hours, also a struggle. Waiting for ages to get our bag back evetually we made it out, to find my dad who picked us up and took us home. Eventually we made it to bed - but only after having been awake for 28 hours!

Nevertheless, even with all these struggles the trip was amazing, fascinating and totally worth it!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 13:06 Archived in Japan Tagged park temple mountain airport palace train city shrine themepark eastasia Comments (0)

Castles & Alpine Bavaria

Bavaria - Hohenschwangau

sunny 23 °C
View Bavaria on kmmk17's travel map.


As like yesterday, the plan for today was to take an excursion on the train, before filling what remained of the day with some sightseeing in Munich.

Waking up at the disgusting time of 6:30am, we headed down for breakfast, before making our way to catch the 8:40 train to Füssen, not far from the Austrian border.

The German Alps

The German Alps

The border area is full of mountain backdrops, which although most of the peaks are in Austria, there are also some German mountains, and thus after yesterday's mild disappointment, we were about to embark on an Alpine experience.

Neuschwanstein overlooking the village

Neuschwanstein overlooking the village

Getting off the train with tonnes of East Asians, we raced to make sure we could get a place on the bus to the next village. Luckily two bendy buses turned up, and so there was plenty of room! 10 minutes later we were in the village of Hohenschwangau, home to the Neuschwanstein Castle.

The Marienbrücke

The Marienbrücke

After a bit of confusion, we took the bus up to the Marienbrücke - a bridge over a gorge with fantastic views of the castle, before we crossed over and walked up a bit of the hill opposite, where views above the castle could be seen.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

The views were very good, but as it was quite steep we headed back towards the castle itself, past the bridge. Not long later we were at the castle itself.

Views over the castle

Views over the castle

We had decided not to go inside as the queues were very long and it didn't seem worth the wait, but we managed to get inside the courtyard itself anyway, and thus we still saw a fair bit.

Inside the Courtyard

Inside the Courtyard

Heading back down the hillside, we eventually ended back in the village, where we then headed towards the lake at the bottom of the road.

Alpensee

Alpensee

Surrounded by mountains with clear water, it was particularly beautiful, and after taking many pictures, we headed back into the pretty village and towards the bus stop to head back to the station.

Alpine Buildings

Alpine Buildings

Whilst Salzburg had felt very generic and city-like, this village on the other hand gave us that Alpine experience we were craving. After a two hour journey back through the countryside, we arrived back in Munich and headed back to the hotel.

Glockenspiel

Glockenspiel

Having a quick rest, we then headed back to the city centre, in time for the Glockenspiel performance at the clock tower, where at 5pm an old story about the city is told through figurines.

Munich buildings

Munich buildings

After grabbing dinner, we then headed for a walk around the city centre sights, heading towards the Englischer Garten - a large landscaped park along the riverside.

Englischer Garten

Englischer Garten


Chinese Tower

Chinese Tower

After walking as far as the Chinese Tower, we headed back towards the city past the university before our last stop, at the Theresienwiese, site of the Oktoberfest, where tents for this year's event were already being assembled.

Oktoberfest site

Oktoberfest site

After a long day of walking and exploring, we headed back to the hotel for a well earned rest, before our final day in the city.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:09 Archived in Germany Tagged hills park walking mountain city castle alps bavaria Comments (0)

Another Day In Paradise

In Search of the Penguins - Damoy Point & Paradise Harbour

sunny 5 °C
View In Search of the Penguins on kmmk17's travel map.


After yesterday's visit to the British Base of Port Lockroy, this morning we took the short trip around the corner to Damoy Point to have a look at the British and Argentinian evacuation huts.

Argentinian Hut

Argentinian Hut

Taking a look inside where one would hide out in the event of bad weather, I then took a stroll around the snow for beautiful scenic views as well as of the local wildlife.

Inside the hut

Inside the hut


On the Ice

On the Ice

Most of the penguins we had seen so far already had large chicks. However at Damoy Point there was one small chick and an unborn sibling. Cute, but unfortunately we knew that this meant the chicks would be too weak to survive the coming winter. Nature can be so cruel sometimes.

Penguin chick

Penguin chick


Neumayer Channel

Neumayer Channel

After reboarding the ship, we sailed through the picturesque Neumayer Channel where we were surrounded by beautiful mountains and icebergs.

Ice in the Neumayer Channel

Ice in the Neumayer Channel

After lunch we got back off the ship to visit Paradise Harbour. Beginning with a cruise around the area, we then landed at the Argentinian Base Brown, to walk up the steep snow covered hill for a beautiful view over the entire bay.

Base Brown

Base Brown

Having a chat about studying in Bremen with the German glacial tour expert, I took in the beautiful views, before sliding back down the hill and making the way back to the ship.

Over Paradise Harbour

Over Paradise Harbour

Once again nabbing the best table at dinner, we were interrupted by sightings of Orcas. This meant a lot of people in the restaurant left the room to head outside, leaving the waiters unsure of whether to pause dinner or keep serving.

Orcas

Orcas

I then finished off the evening by doing what I had attempted all week - finally managing to sneak in a visit to the sauna!

Another great day in paradise, with just one full day of Antarctic adventure left before heading back to reality.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Antarctica Tagged mountain ice penguins orcas penguinhunt antarcticcruise Comments (0)

Finally Meeting the Penguins

In Search of the Penguins

all seasons in one day 5 °C
View In Search of the Penguins on kmmk17's travel map.


After a pretty rough crossing yesterday, today we finally made it to the 7th continent - Antarctica.

Waking, the difference in the water was already clear, a little bit of bobbing still, but nothing compared to the the previous day. After breakfast I went for a wander, visiting the bridge, which on this ship had an open door policy, before attending the mandatory briefing on rules in the continent.

Bridge

Bridge

After collecting boots and having items vacuumed for biosecurity, we began to see our first icebergs in the distance, as well as birds and whales. It wasn't long then before lunch and a talk on penguins followed.

Penguin Island

Penguin Island

Having raced out of Ushuaia to avoid the storm, we were ahead of schedule and therefore able to enjoy our first landing already! This would be at Penguin Island in the South Shetland Islands - an active volcano that although snow free had a wide range of wildlife.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

The process for getting out on land wasn't quick. Being called in groups we arrived in the mudroom already in thermals and our parka coats, put our boots and lifejackets on and then swiped out before walking down the steps to get on a Zodiac dinghy to sail to shore.

Boarding the Zodiacs

Boarding the Zodiacs


Seals

Seals

Once at the beach we got off and walked around past Seals and Chinstrap Penguins and up to the hill for a hike to the top. Although around 5˚C outside, in the thick clothes hiking up quickly became hot and sweaty. The brief snowfall was therefore a welcome relief to cool us down before it cleared up for views around the area.

Chinstraps

Chinstraps

Walking back down to spend a bit of time with the penguins before heading back to ship was a welcome treat and gave us a taste of what to expect in the next five days.

Back at the ship I left my dirty and wet items in the mudroom before heading back to the room to change out of my thermals where I found an envelope with my name on it. Opening it up I found a letter from Jim & Christine, with whom I had travelled with in Central Asia in the autumn. Coincidentally they were travelling on the tour immediately before mine and so had left me a little note for me on board - a really beautiful gesture!

As we had now reached Antarctica, we had a welcome drink in the lounge to celebrate with the captain before dinner. This was followed by an evening documentary as we sailed through the Bransfield Strait at sunset en route to the mainland of Antarctica itself tomorrow.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Antarctica Tagged boat mountain penguins seals penguinhunt antarcticcruise Comments (0)

The not-so-invincible Kevin

Central Asia - Ala Archa

overcast 6 °C
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After another night in Biskek we were coming towards the end of the trip. Tonight would be our last in Kyrgyzstan, and tomorrow we would be headed for Kazakhstan. In just two days I would be back at home!

Waking up, I had quite a dry mouth and with just dry wafers to eat I had a relatively light breakfast before joining half the group downstairs to grab the minibus for our excursion to the Ala Archa mountains.

The valley bottom

The valley bottom

Upon arrival Noel was shocked to discover we were going hiking - despite this being on all the literature and in the announcement the previous day, and so with him staying in the restaurant and enjoying the views the rest of us made our way up the mountains, past a sign informing us that it was "prohibited to disunity and mangal". That's me not mangaling here then!

Informative

Informative

With it being the autumn, as we had made our way north through the region it was becoming colder and colder, and so by now the north facing mountains were already starting to become covered in snow, although it was a fine temperature for hiking.

Making our way up the mountains quickly became a hard task, and with many of us exhausted from two weeks of non-stop travel it was unsurprising that the majority of the group had already turned back before the halfway mark.

Ala Archa

Ala Archa

As we proceeded towards a flatter part of the hike I could see where we were headed, and with a dip before another climb, the thought of an incline on the way back sealed my decision to start my descent - for I had already gained beautiful views of the Tian Shan mountains on foot.

Taking a leisurely walk back down I met the rest of the group in the restaurant and started to enjoy the warmth of the room as well as the sit down. Hoping the rest of the group would soon rejoin us, I started to feel physically drained, and before I knew it my eyes were shutting and my head was feeling heavy. And then....bash....

A short time later, I awoke to find myself lying on the tiled floor with my fellow travellers panicking around me as I had just fell off my chair and fainted. Now with a bruised head and a bruised ego I had to explain that I was in fact fine, just completely exhausted - the hike having finished me off.

By this point everyone was making their return and so getting onto the minibus we headed back to the hostel. Once we had arrived I was then able to get into bed and try and recover from the physical draining of the morning. With Richard having also had an accident the night before - tripping over a wire and cutting his face, our room might as well has a red cross placed upon it!

As I had already seen much of Bishkek, I spent the rest of the day in bed, popping out only for a short walk to the nearest fast food restaurant - "Big Mack" in order to replenish my calories. However as the exhaustion was so great it was still a struggle to eat the entire meal and not long after I headed back to bed for another rest and sleep before the final full day of the tour.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged nature mountain forest centralasia Comments (0)

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