Leaving Bhutan is never easy. One gets into a rhythm in this place and it’s hard to get out or, better said, it’s hard to leave the land of happiness. Our last morning was filled with a kind of sad resignation reflecting on the interactions with people, the visit to Tshangkhap School and the moments spent hiking, hearing, and seeing this place and the people who live here.
We boarded the plane to Bangkok (delayed because of weather) and flew to one of the biggest airports in the world. Once there, we quickly went through immigration and headed to our hotel, The Great Residence in Lat Krabang. Our goal on this evening was to find some great street food in Bangkok and boy did we ever! WE walked about 1/4 mile to a series of carts stationed at the corner of Lat Krabang road. The food ranged from understandable to bizarre. I imagine one of those Bizarre Foods episodes sitting among these carts sampling the fare.
Our group sampled a wide variety of foods from the Crispy Duck Nick ate, to the multiple bowls of food consumed by Dylan and Logan. Judith introduced me to Green Papaya salad, a revelation, and Pandora and I went on the hunt for a Green Curry dish. Jade found a homemade coconut ice cream that included toppings such as bobas, sweet beans, sweet potato chunks, and bean sprouts…fascinating toppings for ice cream! We all tried it.
Our taste for Thailand sated we headed back to the Hotel. The place is clean and close to the airport which make the stay less stressful in the AM. We gathered for the van back to the airport at 7:00 and took off for Tokyo and Osaka by 9:30 AM.
We landed at Haneda Airport in downtown Tokyo; this spot is the site of Tokyo’s first international airport. We had about three hours to kill and we did making it through immigration, finding food, and rushing to a last minute gate change!
We arrived weary but ready for our ride to Kyoto. What made this moment so special was the growing fear that we would be stuck in Osaka for the night! Kansai transportation shuts down by about 10:50PM. We were supposed to land at 9:45PM…instead we were delayed by weather. We landed at 10:15….allowing us just about 35 minutes to get off the plane and to the taxi van I reserved for the trip. The company says, on their web site, that they promptly depart at 10:50…if you flight is delayed, too bad (in a much more amicable tone, of course). We practically ran off the plane to walk to the MK Shuttle desk…I can honestly say, having been in this situation a couple of times, I was concerned….however, we arrived, I checked us into the van and soon we were off to Kyoto!
The houses I rent in Kyoto are Machiya, traditional homes in the middle of a neighborhood in the city. These tiny houses (probably the original version of the tiny house) have tiny stairs with sleeping rooms filled with tatami mats and futons on the floor, Anyone over about 5’9″ in height risks getting their head whacked on beams that support the ceilings!
We arrived about midnight and went to sleep….much needed rest after the 12 hours of traveling.
Our first day in Japan we walked to Kyoto Station to orient our group to the city. I will be turning the beasts loose in a couple of days to explore on their own…this morning was my orientation session….how to get around in Kyoto; how to use the subway and train system; how to find your way home; how to make good choices, etc.
Once oriented and fed, we headed to the north Higashimaya region of the city and walked on the Path of Philosophy, an area filled with Buddhist temples, shines to former leaders of Kyoto, and the big prize, Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion. We made ti to Nanzen-ji before deciding that a few of us needed a break from the walking and heat. We headed back to the subway and on to the house were a few of us crashed for the late afternoon.
Feeling refreshed and ready for the night, we headed out at 7:30PM for a food excursion….truthfully, there are so many choices for food in Kyoto it is dizzying. On one particular street near Shijo-dori, we saw, literally, dozens of places to eat…mostly small places dedicated to ONE kind of meal….Shabbu Shabbu, fried or grilled chicken, sushi, pizza (!!) and the like. We settled on a place to did almost every kind of Japanese dish…Senzai, and waited about 30 minutes for a private room. We ordered a variety fo dishes from Shabbu Shabbu to Sukiyaki to Sashimi to fried chicken (Nick!) to Salmon belly (Logan!). We had a great time just being together in this space, smiling each other’s dishes and having a great time.
Our long couple of days came to a relaxing end on our walk through Gion. We sighted Geisha on our walk through the Geisha district in Gion and made our way, slowly, back to our houses.