Fuji & Kyoto

After Tokyo I went to Fuji via bullet train. As my luggage is tiny, I straight away bought a bus ticket up the mountain to go around the lakes. Well, it well and truly pissed it down for at least twelve hours; with a laptop and kindle in my bag there was no way I was going to risk getting them wet. And once at the last bus stop, I found out that there was no bus downhill for four hours. Marvellous.

The next day I went to Kyoto. One thing that I have to say about the transport system, in particular the Metro, it is so confusing with private railways. I was confused enough on my first day in Tokyo but Kyoto has been on a whole new level and is actually better to get around via bus.

 

I ended up going to a temple that I can’t remember the name of then went off to the Fushimi-Inari shrine. Since arriving in Australia, I have picked up a fair bit of the Australian-English: I find it difficult to say ‘yoghurt’ like you would in England even after having a good think about how to say it; I swear a fair bit more if anyone thought that’d be possible and I say ‘heaps’ despite spending my whole first year taking the piss out of it. The only way to describe the amount of people there would to say there were heaps, and I think the amount of people ruins it a bit.

Yesterday, I went to Nijo Castle – not too sure about the history of it but it was pretty cool. I spent an hour or so there and in the gardens before going to the Kinkakuji Temple, or if like me you can’t remember the name – the Gold Leaf Temple. It is one of the things that you have to see for yourself – definitely one of my favourite travel pictures, but like Fushimi-Inari, there are too many bloody people. I then intended to get the bus back to the station, but it stopped at a train station that connected with the JR Line to the Bamboo Grove, which was nice to talk through.

For dinner I went to Gion as it’s meant to have some bloody good food. I was knackered and just wanted a bowl of ramen for £2, but the restaurants were charging around £20 for a meal. Instead, I stopped at this restaurant that had a big line outside and an open kitchen with one thing on the menu. It was a tempura pancake filled with food that I either don’t like (egg, shrimp) and food that I have no idea what it was. It was actually pretty tasty.

This morning I went to Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. It was alright but I’m pretty over temples, having to take my shoes off and dealing with big crowds, but this one provided a nice view over Kyoto, despite being way too crowded. It was quite a trek to get there – a 30 minute walk, a fair bit of it being uphill, in 30 degrees.

Expectations vs reality

After getting to Kyoto station, I somehow navigated the trains to get to Nara – famous for having a deer park and a few more temples, and it’s quite a nice place to walk around.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Tokyo for one night and then I’m back to Melbourne. It’s been quite a nice trip, I think it’s what I needed after the shit time I’ve had over the past couple of months, and I’m going back home where it can only go uphill from where I left off.

A lot of people speak of Tokyo as though it’s the place you go to, then you compare it to everywhere else you go. For me, that doesn’t work out as I feel as though Tokyo is just a crazy version of London which is more or less what I’m used to. From now, every place I go I’m sure that I will compare it to Budapest. Kyoto has been nice, there’s a lot to see and do, but I feel as though a lot of it has had a negative impact due to tourism. A lot of places here are UNESCO World Heritage sites, yet it seems as though a lot of people go to these sites without having the respect for what they are seeing. For sure, I’m glad that I came here but feel as though it’s somewhere to go with someone else.

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Tokyo: Days Five and Six

Had a pretty chilled couple of days. Yesterday, I went to Mirakan and got inside this time – I saw the famous little robot in action which is pretty cool to see, another which is borderline creepy and got to step onto a spacecraft. As a whole, the museum is pretty interesting but gets a bit boring when it comes to the physics exhibit.

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After, I popped to Akihabara again and looked around the shops – floors and floors of anime and various character toys. Also went to a massive electrics shop, straight to the toy section – most of my time was spent in the Marvel and Pokemon sections. After, I went to one of the arcades with six or so floors and played heaps of games – probably threw £10 at least away, but it was fun.

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There’s a few travel blogs that I follow, and every time I visit somewhere new I always check them out before as someone has already been there. One of the recommendations was to go to the basement in Asakusa main station and try some sushi – it’s such a popular station, but I did not see another white person eating. I ended up in a small restaurant, being served sushi by someone who spoke no English which was pretty neat. In the past, I’ve never really had fish sushi unless it’s salmon as I’m pretty sure that I can’t stomach it too well and I was right – I can handle glass after glass of wine (or I like to think so) but I can’t handle mouthful after mouthful of fish. Truth be told, that’s the way I’d prefer to keep it.

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Afterwards, I headed to Shinjuku and went to the park there, via a 7-11. There’s this thing, and I’m not too sure if it’s just a backpacker thing or just everyone in general, but in Asia you should go and pick up something strange from there and try it out. You can get whipped cream and berry sandwiches here, but I opted for this green tea dessert and it was so gross it was fascinating. It was a green tea jelly stuffed with whipped cream and dusted with green tea powder, and had the consistency where you had to slurp it to eat it.

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This evening, I had a ticket for the Robot Restaurant – pretty pricey, but well worth it. Just sat there wondering what on Earth was going on for an hour or so; it just gets to the point where you wonder if it can get any weirder and then it well and truly does. For dinner, I didn’t actually eat at the restaurant because I’ve heard that it’s not worth it so instead I opted to go to Golden Gai, had some Karaage chicken which was pretty good as well as a few other snacks, before heading back to the hostel.

Tomorrow, I should be off to Fuji for a day before heading to Kyoto for the rest of the trip, before nipping back to Tokyo to get the flight back. I’ve heard a lot about Tokyo being out there and just crazy which is the opinion of people who haven’t lived in a big city. For me, it has been a lot like London – nothing that I can’t handle, just a bit more crazy, though with that said I have enjoyed it.

In hindsight, I probably should have rested a few days from work before coming here, or just not have had such a crazy night when I left work as I have found myself very tired over the past few days. This trip so far has been the reminder that there is more to life than work and my priority should be just having a good time and not worrying about text messages or phonecalls about bloody microherbs on my days off.

Tokyo: Days Three and Four

Over the past couple of months when I’ve had two days off work in a row, I’ve slept for at least 30 hours over two days and can really feel my body just wanting to do that. I’ve tried to power through, but the past couple of days I have really felt it so haven’t really done a lot.

Yesterday, I started the day at Tsukiji Fish Market. I really had my hopes up for it being great, but had seen better markets whilst travelling through Europe – La Boqueria in Barcelona, for example. It was alright, but nothing spectacular, so I moved onto try and find some sushi in Ginza but couldn’t find anything that I was up for. Instead, I found a conveyor belt restaurant but have had better in Sushi Hub on Swanston Street in Melbourne CBD.

I then went to Akihabara, walked past the worlds biggest sex shop and popped in for fifteen minutes or so – couldn’t really help myself, then went through the electric city. When you’ve seen one shop, it’s kind of all the same, so feeling underwhelmed, I went back to the hostel for a nap.

During the evening I went to Tokyo Tower. I was under the impression that it would be surrounded by places to eat, like you would find in Europe, but apparently not. I found a place round the corner that did food in a Japanese tapas kind of style which was great. I also wanted to have a look around Shibuya during the night but as it was raining I just picked up a bowl of ramen.

Today,  I went to Miraikan, supposedly an insane science museum. I say supposedly because it was shut, so I’m going back there tomorrow. I went to the Imperial Palace after which was nice to look at but didn’t really fancy going on a guided tour of the grounds as I was wearing all black and it was bloody hot.

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When I returned back to my bed/drawer and had a google as to what I could do this evening, though I had already decided that I would mainly chill out. On google, I found a restaurant that specialises in Onigiri (rice balls, or rather, triangles) which is Tokyo’s oldest Onigiri restaurant. To be honest, as someone who has been known to be late to work because I can’t find a matching pair of shoes, and someone who struggles to find the combination of phone/purse/keys, it is one of the great mysteries of the world as to how I found it. It seemed as though they don’t regularly have people from western culture in, and the sushi I had there was bloody good.

Tomorrow, I’m planning to go to Miraikan and actually get inside this time, then not too sure what I’m doing afterwards. On Thursday, I’m going to end my trip with a visit to the Robot Restaurant and have my mind blown in a ‘did I really just witness that’ way.

Tokyo: Days One and Two

A few things that I’ve missed about England: proper bacon, not having to work on a farm to be there and of course, Nando’s. I found out that the international terminal at the airport has a Nando’s; I’ve walked past a few in Melbourne CBD but not really bothered as I’ve heard that it’s not the same. If I flew into Australia and that was the first thing I’d eat, I’d consider not leaving the airport and getting a flight out of the country, it was that bad.

The flight to Tokyo was just under ten hours long. I was pretty knackered as I hadn’t really slept well for two weeks prior to coming here; some of it self-inflicted, some of it from working two six-day weeks back to back. Despite having a baby sat in front of me, I managed to watch a movie and slept for the rest of the flight.

First impression of the country was spectacular. As my back is buggered I only brought my work bag and am just going to do my laundry two or three times whilst I’m here, all I really need is clothes and toiletries which fit pretty easy into the bag. The customers officer let the five or so people in front of me go pretty easily, but when it was my turn started asking about my luggage and how long I’m here for, then took out a folder with pictures of drugs and bars of gold, asking if I was carrying any of that on me. Of course, I wasn’t, but I wasn’t too sure whether or not to be offended or amused.

I’m staying in a capsule at the moment which is pretty cool, although technically is a dorm bed/glorified drawer. It took ages to get to as the metro here is hard to get to grips with, but after arriving and freshening up I headed towards the Sensoji Temple, first getting some food and having a look at some of the shops. The temple itself is alright, it just seems that the meaning of it has been lost and caters mainly for tourists. I did, however, take a fortune telling where you pay 100 yen to shake a box of sticks and one comes out a small hole, assigning you a drawer to pull a fortune out of. Naturally, a combination of figures assigned me to the drawer that I was supposed to open so I’m hoping that I’m not dyslexic in Japanese.

After, I looked through the market then headed to Shibuya, around half hour away on the metro. By this point I was absolutely knackered, so had a quick look around and decided that it was time for a nap. After, I headed for some food – a ramen shop next door which was bloody good. I don’t know who made the rules here – it’s illegal to smoke walking down the street, but the woman in the restaurant can have a crafty smoke whilst doing her job. After I walked back to the temple then returned to bed.

Today, I went to find some food, and ended up having a taiyaki – a stuffed pastry. I had the choice to have one shaped like a fish, or shaped like a pokemon – I ended up with the fish as it made me feel more like a grown up. On the way to the station to head to Harajuku someone came up to me and started speaking to me in German. Which isn’t the first, second, or even third time that it has happened since I arrived in Australia.

On the way to Harajuku, I stopped at the Meiji Shrine, it’s nice but just like the Sensoji temple, just seems to have lost its meaning a bit.

After, I went to Harajuku which is like Camden Market on steroids. I didn’t take pictures whilst I was there as it’s pretty much a lot of shops. However, there is this one thing called purikura, where you go into a themed photobooth of your choice with your mates (or not in my case) and you just pose for a picture as some models do on the screen. The Japanese girls were looking at me like wtf – it probably is something that I wouldn’t have done a year ago but I just thought it’d be funny so I did it.

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I went back to Shibuya after to experience it, this time not trying to stay awake. First, I had some ramen at a restaurant where you place your order on a machine, then gave the ticket to a staff member who brought the meal to me. Pretty tasty.

There seems to be this thing with arcade games and there’s heaps of arcades here; it is a bit uncomfortable being in the room with so many people being so into losing their money but I guess whatever makes them happy. I went into one with claw machines and so narrowly didn’t win a prize – it was hanging onto another toy by just its tag.

I went to Ueono, then off to Shinjuku afterwards to see what the fuss is about, and it’s just like any other place in a big city with heaps of lights. I ate in a few restaurants, had some gyoza, fried chicken, and the name of the meat on sticks I can’t remember. I managed to end up in a restaurant in an alleyway that had room for just the bar and some seats with a tiny BBQ.  Here’s some obligatory food pics:

Tomorrow, I’m off early to the fish market and will probably end up having a sushi breakfast, then off to Akihabara, and from there will decide what to do for the rest of the day.

First Week Back in Melbourne – Time to be a Grown Up

This week has probably been the week that’s put everything that’s going to happen until January into place. The job hunt has been successful, I’ve settled into the house and drank a fair bit of wine.

I was looking to work with the agency again but as it’s winter they’re not busy so they’ve said to look elsewhere and to keep in touch just in case. To cut a long story short, I got a job which I’m so impressed with – it’s a really respectable position in a great restaurant, the team seem to be great and I know I will be able to save a decent amount for travelling next year. It’s a lot more professional than my previous jobs – more responsibility than what I’ve been exposed to before. It seems now that the places that I’ve worked previously are starting to get me noticed and the placements and work experience that I did when I was younger are starting to pay off. My hand is still buggered from a drunken injury from a few weeks ago – will probably take a fair few days to finish healing so the next few days will be interesting.

Today, I worked a shift that I saw advertised on Facebook. It was a short shift in a cafe, not difficult at all and really laid back. I’ve mentioned before that my job pays well out in Australia, especially in comparison to the UK. I would’ve been happy with $20/hour and was expecting around $22. It ended up being $50/hour; I seriously thought they were bullshitting me at the end of my shift. This time in Melbourne I’m going to be a bit more grown up with my money; todays shift is enough to pay for a flight to Bali and still have money leftover.

Outside of work related things, I met up for breakfast with one of the girls who I met in Ayr and had a 50 day Snapchat streak with. It was really nice to see her and to be able to shit-talk about Ayr. When she’s in Melbourne for a while we have plans to get pissy on a wine tour of the Yarra Valley together which I’m excited for, we’ll probably do a fair bit together. Tonight I think I’m going to go out for a couple of beers, but as I start a new job today this literally means a couple of beers and nothing like the average night out in Ayr.

Back in Melbourne

It is so cold here.

So on Wednesday last week I flew back here. It’s a long story but a few of us figured out that our money-grabbing hostel owners owe us a fair bit of money which quite conveniently took far too long for them to sort out. So now I have to keep in contact with Ayr to see if I can get like $200 back. Cheeky shits.

I spent the first night here in the same hostel as before; apparently I’m dubbed as the “super guest” as I’ve spent a lot of time there. My first full day I looked at a flat I had arranged to see last week. It didn’t look too bad on the internet, however, the only way I can describe it is something that I really shouldn’t say on the internet. It was a two bed apartment, there was no living room because there were two beds in it – the size of the two bedrooms and living room was comparable to my studio flat in London that just housed me, and this flat had I think twelve to fifteen people living there. Absolutely no chance was I going to live there.

After returning from the CBD to St Kilda, I had a look on Facebook and had arranged a flat viewing for the same day, and I’m living in it now. I’m sharing a room with two other girls, I think there’s around twelve people living here which is alright. If I were living out here full time, I’d like at least my own room, but this is better than what I’ve been living in over the past five months.

When I was younger, a girl in my year 5 class moved to Australia, and I have her as a friend on Facebook. I messaged her in the airport the other day, she invited me to stay the night round hers and have a few (several) drinks with her partner and neighbour. It was great to see her, a bit strange to hear her accent, and to find someone that can swear more than I can. I enjoyed the night and we’ll be meeting up again.

Apart from that, I haven’t done much over the past few days apart from going to buy some winter clothes because it is so bloody cold. I’m talking cold as in I wouldn’t be surprised if a penguin walked through the front door and made itself at home. One of the things that I’m looking forward to seeing in the CBD is the Wallace & Gromit expo, though it is on for a further three months so it’ll probably have to be done on a Tuesday or something in the middle of August. There’s also a Van Gough expo at NGV, but I won’t pay $30 for it.

There seems to be no work available for me this week which is a pain in the arse, and if I don’t get a phonecall on Friday for work, I’ll have to start looking to get a job in a restaurant nearby as I can’t afford to sit on my arse and not get paid for it. It’d cock up my plans for going to Japan next month if I do that, but will have to wait and see what happens.

Leaving Ayr

The past five months has been quite the experience. It’s been fun and I’ve had some really, really good company as well as a high number of hangovers. I wouldn’t change much except maybe the alcohol bans, having less personal space than Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs and getting a pay rise, but doing it once is more than enough for me.

It started off pretty brutal – eight hour shifts in 35+ degree heat with no shelter with a crippling back ache. There’s one day I remember looking at someone, probably to make a comment about how hot it was, and her face was just layers of sweat at 8.30am. The first couple of weeks were horrendous, but after the first couple of weeks and getting over how shit it actually is, as long as you can have a laugh it’s ok.

I probably owe the hostel around $3000 in fines for rules that I’ve not been caught breaking and managed to get my $200 bond back. One Thursday night we went out and ended up having a pool party for an hour at 1am, breaking six or so rules in the process; how we didn’t get caught is beyond me. I’d write a bit about the hostel and how it’s run but I will completely go off on one and end up writing an essay about it.

A couple of things that I learnt: if it’s Monday and you think you’re coming down with something after a heavy weekend, it’s probably a two-day hangover. I think most importantly, it’s about seeing the bigger picture and powering through. Next year I want to travel through New Zealand and Asia, and my second year in Australia I intend to earn a lot of money to pay for it, so I’m better off staying here for the extra year than going back to England. I’ve never wanted to work on a farm and over the past five months I’ve had some of the worst shifts that I’ve ever worked. When I’m chilling out in Thailand or visiting some Lord of the Rings sets in New Zealand, I’ll look back on the crippling back aches, almost being sick in a field on a hangover, sunburn, early mornings and RSIs in my wrists and hands, and it’ll be worth it. Looking back, I know I moan about it a lot, but I’ve had a great time and met a lot of friends who I’m sure I’ll see again.

Some things that I’m really not going to miss: boxing melons, planting melons, getting moaned at for something to do with melons, being in pain from some sort of melon-related injury, having less personal space than Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, being threatened with my $200 bond, alcohol bans… the list could go on. I’m going to miss the times that I’ve spent the people who have grown to be close friends over the past five months.

Farm Life – Almost Over

Not a lot has gone on over the past week, just melon packing as per usual. We’ve been working mainly five-hour shifts which is quite annoying as I’d like to earn some money. We had one day where we had four hours’ worth of break on a seven hour day but they paid us for five so a bit of money was earnt just sat doing nothing.

This weekend was my last one in Ayr, as well as five others; I was tempted to ask for Sunday off and claim that Jesus spoke to me and told me to go to church, but I’m pretty sure I know what the two-worded answer would be. Friday night was ok but the hangover at work on Saturday wasn’t great – a four hour shift felt like eight. Saturday night I acquired another roundabout themed binge-ury (I don’t learn, I know) on my hand which is now bandaged up, I got to work this morning and the first thing my boss asked was about going on a night out last night. Picking up melons for eight hours with an injured hand isn’t much fun.

I’m booked up to go back to Melbourne next Wednesday night, and I’m hoping to move into a flat on Thursday if nothing goes tits up. I’m determined to not live in a hostel for any longer than I need to; I’ve said before that I have less personal space than Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, that I share with cockroaches so I think even a tent is better than this.

88 Days a Slave, Completed

The 88 days of glorified slave labour have been done, though I have to wait until next weeks’ payslip to apply for my visa, so I have to stay here a week longer than expected. I’m a bit paranoid about applying for the second year visa as there is actually no clear information on the immigration website about what counts as a day, but I’ve been to work for 88 days so hopefully my payslips can prove that.

Over the past week we have pretty much just packed melons and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. This morning I walked outside and someone told me that I looked like shit, then I got to work and had to ask my supervisor how to put the melons in the box so was pretty clear to them that I had a good night out last night. My title of being the only backpacker to not throw up on a Sunday at work on the farm remains.

This weekend has been a two night bender – both Friday and last night we went out and got absolutely twatted. When we first got here there was this obsession with jumping into the hedge that goes all the way around the roundabout on the way to the pub and we decided to do it again. It turns out that there is a metal box on the other side of where I jumped and I am now sporting the worst bruise that I’ve ever had, on my arse, after landing on it – it has started to turn black so maybe I’ll get that seen to on my day off tomorrow. It’s quite lucky that I landed on my arse and not my back because I would be in a really bad way. Not even five minutes before that I also fell out of a shopping trolley (sorry Mum) but that was injury free.

Also I’m quite surprised that there is not another alcohol ban. We behaved ourselves in the hostel but someone managed to shit the bed in the only available bed in their house that someone was meant to check into yesterday. The mattress was taken outside to air – apparently the person being showed around had to walk past the disaster zone; I don’t know what I’d be thinking about the hostel if that was me checking in.

Tomorrow I am off which means that I need to download some TV series from Netflix onto my phone in the library and Tuesday is supposed to be busy again at work. I’m now leaving on the 30th – I was looking at going to Tokyo straight after but that’d mean spending five hours on a bus to get to Cairns, then staying the night, getting to the airport then arriving really tired and having to find my accommodation. Instead I think I’m just going to go when my job in Melbourne is finished so I have more money and something to really look forward to.

Two Days a Slave to Go

I’ve been working over the past nine days straight so not really a lot has gone on besides dealing with melons. If all goes to plan, I shall be out of the hostel next Thursday which I’m really, really excited for. Over the past week at work I have been banned from working next to the backpackers from the hostel, I think because I talk and laugh to keep myself from going insane. Earlier today we were talking about when we were going to finish with hand signals from the other side of the machine and got told off so trying to separate us hasn’t done much to help. After a few weeks of working at the farm we had a speech about how we were all slacking off and are all replaceable, but now I think we just get humoured. There’s one or two other things that I’m banned from doing at work as of the past couple of weeks but that’s a story for another time.

Wednesday we went to the cinema to see Wonder Woman which is one of the best films that I’ve seen in ages. It really wasn’t what I was expecting; it was a WWII film with the main character being a superhero. Once I have WiFi again I’ll definitely be playing catch up with Marvel films.

Last night we went out on a piss up, pretty much the same as every other Saturday that we go out – luckily we only worked for three hours today so we could get a solid afternoon of bed rest in to recover. I downloaded Netflix and have started watching the next series of Orange is the New Black; it’s a bit of a pain in the arse to download a whole series with our situation with the wifi, so today I had to sit on the floor outside the library whilst my laundry was on to download a few episodes.

If we work until Tuesday without a day off then I’ll be done with my days. It’s been a bit difficult the last couple of weeks mentally because, I’m not going to lie, I don’t give a shit and I never want to see a rock melon again.