Wednesday, February 15, 2012


You may have noticed that I was absent for two weeks. I have a very good reason for this. I was on the other side of the world from my normal posting location. Not that this necessarily affected my ability to post, however, I was preoccupied with enjoying my precious time there, so that when I returned, I would have stories and pictures galore to go back and reminisce about.

Without further ado; the reminiscing.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we? A very good place to start (please, someone guess what song is going through my head).

Sometime back in October/November 2011, this trip began to take shape. A little bit of family, a little bit of friends and a lot of fun and surprises. All the skyping and online chatting and scheming finally came down to this: I was going to take a two week break from work to spend Chinese New Year with my family and since I was going to be over there on that side of the planet, why not throw in a side trip to India (no big)? I was meeting up with my family in Singapore (they live in China) and this ended up being perfect because they were going any way, and I didn't have to spend money on a visa (US citizens don't need a visa for entry to Singapore; with a 90 day limit, but they do for China-- don't get me started on how I have to have a visa to go home).

Our last tryst, circa 2007, Manila, Philippines

My mom's family lives in Singapore, so I asked my family not to tell anyone that I was coming (insert diabolical glee- have I mentioned I love surprises?). Since my family only had one week vacation for Chinese New Year, I decided to mosey on over to Delhi to visit my girl, Anusree (I wrote about her here). Since my other darling, Nikka, lives and works in the Philippines, we cooked up a reunion.

I know I sound calm and collected, but truly, words cannot convey our excitment. Anu and I have seen each other since we graduated from high school, but Nikka, we haven't seen since graduation. If nothing else, this trip was destined for greatness simply because of the 5 year wait! Two of my greatest friends in the world (literally) automatically gold starred this trip. Oh and INDIA. Need I say more?

Fast forward to Jan 21- day of departure.

If things had gone peachy as I would have loved them to, this post would be quite brief and mostly boring, filled with details of airplane seats and how the pillow I carried made fitting in my seat more challenging than normal (it was firmer and fluffier than I anticipated, making my Economy seat that much cozier) and how the airplane food wasn't atrocious.

Preparing our little plane to fly on down to Singapore.

However, there were no peaches to be had on this already long voyage. NONE. Ok one. I set foot in Japan. After years and years of flying through Japan on our way from China to the US and back again, I have never left the airport. And this time, I did not plan on a stopover in Tokyo. But, nevermind about my plans, because for this little bit, they went to pieces.

My little footsies waiting.
My first two flights were uneventful. Got some sleep. Watched some movies. Stretched and did calf raises in the back of plane (yes, really- it's a long flight). Then we touched down at Narita. Got off the plane. Went to the gate that would board all of us pleasant sojourners on the exact same plane that I had just left and waited. And waited. A 20 minute delay turned into 40. Then an hour.

And then we got on the plane! Happy Day! It was pretty empty and I was looking forward to a nappity nap nap time. Sat down, buckled in, passed out. Awoke. Plane had not moved. It had been at least an hour and a half. I napped for over an hour on a stationary plane. Just as I was figuring this out, a flight attendant got on the intercom and told us she was very sorry but our flight was being canceled. WHAT.

To say I was bummed is an understatement. At this point I hadn't had more than 4 continuous hours of sleep in over 36 hours. And definitely not in a laying-down posture. And I don't function very well without sleep (not kidding. picture slightly crabby and super bad balance.).

So, I stood in line after deplaning to get my compensation certificate and directions to our hotel. Hotel Niko. I tried to absorb as much as I could of Japan after leaving customs and the airport (silver lining, right?). Unfortunately, the airport bus stand didn't give me much. And the drive to the hotel was uneventful since at this point it was dark.

At the hotel, I got in another line to get my key. Along with a room key, I got a dinner and breakfast certificate. Oh good. No need to figure out how I was going to pay for anything with my Yen-less currencies (actually, I had Singapore dollars, Euros and Chinese RMB and a US quarter--none of which would be particularly helpful in this situation).

My biggest concern was getting online to let my parents know what had happened. I knew my dad was tracking my flights (thanks Dad!) and would be wondering what was going on. Although there was no wi-fi in my surprisingly hot room, they had a wired connection (thank you Jesus). At which point I was able to get my rents on video and let them know what happened. I only had a minor tearful breakdown at this point. The combination of disappointment, sleep-depravity, general exhaustion and stress of doing all this by myself broke a couple flood gates.

After composing myself, I went down to get some food. I was hoping for sushi (is that cliche?), but they didn't have any (must have had something to do with the unexpected 100+ guests at midnight). Their potato salad was excellent, though.

Early bird view from my hotel room
So after eating a bit, I took my little self back to my room to get ready for bed. Enter culture awakening. I haven't been in Asia for a while, but I think even in China, things are not quite so drastic. When I got ready to brush my teeth, I realized how far away the sink was. By far away I mean low. Like an appropriately-lengthed-pair-of-shorts low. I know I'm tall by Asian standards but really?

After being thoroughly made to feel like a giantess, I decided to go the whole nine yards and take a shower. Oh it felt so good. For any of you traveling with transit locations, I recommend bringing a change of clothes. I highly recommend bringing a change of underwear. Easy to pack, it can make all the difference in helping you feel human again. The other necessities were provided by the hotel.

I was hoping a train would come bursting through the
tunnel, but alas: no such luck. Maybe the train was hanging
out with my decommissioned plane. That wasn't nice.
Sorry. Bitter comments, reigned in.
I slept about 4~5 hours (not bad, jetlag), and got up, picked up my new boarding passes from the front desk and tried to sleep some more. After figuring out how to turn off the sauna that was my room heating system, I got about 2 more hours of sleep, ate breakfast and headed down to hop on a shuttle to the airport.

Some things I noticed about Japan, from my uber brief, less-than-24-hour visit:
  • They drive on the left side of the road (guess I just never realized this)
  • They have a lot of toilet seats, even in the airport, that have a water jet option (an indescribable experience)
  • The hotel had a lot of mayonaise based salads (surprising, no?)
  • The view from my hotel room wasn't extensive, but what I could see showed me a picture of old and new and developing all coexisting quite charmingly-- and the mist rising from the ground among the trees in the wee morning hours wasn't shabby either
  • The roads were on the narrow end (from my American road perspective), but our bus navigated them with skill and ease
  • Hilly
  • Intricate infrastructure. I would love the chance to explore this country someday. With a local guide, of course. And time to take pictures.
  • Every where I went, all the customer service people were super friendly, smiling and doing whatever they could to help this (probably) forlorn and fraggled (yes, i just combined frazzled and bedraggled) white girl. They would say things like "thank you for waiting" and other things that made me feel like they cared. Lots of nodding and smiling. Very pleasant. I have to say, I feel like American customer service people aren't always so eager to help.
  • This observation doesn't apply solely to Japan, but really to Asia in general. I think women designed their public restrooms. Why? Because most all of them had a ledge behind the toilet where you could put your things. I didn't have to worry about what might or might not be on the floor where I set my back pack and I didn't have to balance my wallet under my arm as I held my passport in my mouth and pillow under my chin and went to the bathroom. Brilliant! I should email Congress or somebody about this.

Helloooooo family! Long time no see! Why yes, I am the
frumpy one sharing glass of wine with her mama.

I got checked in and waited for my flight. No mishaps, thankfully, and I was arriving in Singapore just in time to make New Year's Dinner. Not quite the large surprise factor I had been aiming at since there were considerably fewer family members, but it sufficed.

All in all, a pleasant, peachy glimpse of Japan. Though I still wish I had gotten some sushi and wasabi. Yum.

Well, I haven't gotten very far in my recounting of my adventures, but never fear, the story will unfold with time. I wouldn't want to shortchange you on all the little details, after all! I may have to dedicate a series of posts just to the food. Yum.

I know this post is wordier than usual, however, I wasn't expecting a sidetrip to Japan, so I didn't take many pictures. Have no fear, I will remedy this!

Until my next verbal and visual recounting, any unexpected travel stories to share?


  1. You are an amazing writer! Looking forward to the next installment...

    1. I have you to thank for that! Where would I have been without your guidance in APLang? :D