Page 2 of JandMOBrien Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Japan » Tokyo April 3rd 2018

Malcolm Gladwell supposedly said “We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.” I’ve been struggling with Tokyo - mostly because so many other travellers have rated it their fav city in the world and I feel like I took a u-turn somewhere else. But already (having revisited this draft blog multiple times over numerous days), my impressions are changing. It’s not just that I don’t know where to start, I don’t even know what to say. See if you can stay with me. Here’s the first of three distinct, definitely conflicting, impressions that hit me clear as day. Have you ever seen the movie Zootopia? Disney. Animated. The sloths are my favourite characters, though not related to this line of thinking. Our hero, ... read more
Earthquake shock absorber
Breakfast for this champ
Shibuya Station

Asia March 31st 2018

“Is there any city in the world today more intriguing than Tokyo? Other capitals may be more beautiful, more cultured, more sane—better, without question, at serving their function as preserves of art and history. But Tokyo is no museum. It is a laboratory.” That’s about right. And this too: “Independent travelers the latitude to explore - and take risks in - a completely alien universe, a luxury that few other exotic destinations in the world can offer.” Ha! These words begin to capture something I am having trouble making sense of from our experience in Tokyo. These next couple posts will no doubt hint at my flummoxment, and may leave you wondering what I’m trying to say. And that in itself may be the message. The book Gateway to Japan by June Kinoshita came highly recommended ... read more
Remains of Edo Castle
Sakura picnics
Local beauties

Asia » Japan March 30th 2018

Japan has been the highlight destination of this trip - the piece de resistance before heading home at the end of April. But yikes. Reading about it beforehand took the anticipation I was feeling, slapped it around and dosed it with an almost scaredy-cat tinge. Perhaps not the best country to wing it. Perhaps early in the year to arrive with tans, shorts and cotton short-sleeves. From Bali to Tokyo is a climatic shock.....from 35C to 15C kind of shock. Some heads up bits: . Stating the obvious, Japanese was based centuries ago on the characters in the Chinese language. As their independent culture developed, so did the Japanese written language. Some areas, like Tokyo, will have English on some signs, many others will have none. . Addresses are not precise, mostly because buildings are numbered ... read more

Asia March 29th 2018

Accidental tourism is when you turn a corner a find yourself at some momentous location or event. Cheater tourism, as we coin it, is doing a drive by and calling something “done.” Like if you have a stopover in Dubai and never leave the airport, have you been to Dubai? Taipei may be in a class of its own that we’ll need to label. Scattered tourism, maybe? When we sat overlooking Ho Chi Minh City over a month ago and decided we should plan the rest of our two months, we blocked out stops a week at a time. When we backtracked on the calendar from our Hong Kong departure home, a week was orphaned. Squeezing our fingers together on Google Maps to get a view of the region brought our eyes to Taipei. Are you ... read more
Outer door to our domicile
Our Subway angel
Google Translate This!

Asia » Indonesia » Bali March 25th 2018

Bali. Palms and beaches. Warm-skinned people. Polynesian-flavoured music perhaps. Batik sarongs. Somehow Bali surprised me. I must have been expecting a Waikiki or Miami kind of frenetic beachfront, peppered with high rises and more tourists than locals. Instead, we found a gentle-paced, low-rise, well thatched, kind of summer-camp-feel place. We stayed in the town of Sanur, with one main street that connects it to the towns before and after without break. The road is lined with clothing shops, restaurants of every kind , spas and massage parlours (the legit kind). Taxis toot as they pass hoping for a fare. No one uses their horns otherwise and everyone seems to make space for bicycles, scooters, cars and vans. The party towns are elsewhere; we chose Sanur as it was described as laid back, which I now read ... read more
Rice paddies - ridge walk
How civilized!   Afternoon tea
Cremation in progress

Asia » Malaysia » Wilayah Persekutuan » Kuala Lumpur March 21st 2018

Kuala Lumpur means monied estuary, and that’s why locals call it KL. When language is an effort, non sequitirs are accepted without a follow up question. Sort of like when we were on a tour through the mansion of a 19th century Chinese big wig and the guide said of the central room open to the sky, “This is an area that we refer to as an area.” I had to write it down. That aside... Our stay in Malaysia is low key as I continue antibiotic recovery and day trips we had planned are set aside for future visits. The big (as in both enormous and compelling) attractions are the Petronas Towers. For a few years, these were the tallest towers in the world, though are sliding on the downward spiral on that score, for ... read more
Window washers at the 86th floor
Street Hawker’s Dim Sum
A typical street scape

Asia » Malaysia » Penang March 15th 2018

The use of superlatives in travel diaries can be a hazard. Striking a balance between the glories along with the wrinkles of travel is not what optimistically-minded people want to do. Like those wide-smiled selfies, everyone should be having a great time all day, every day. Our Penang stay had a wrinkle. But first for Penang. Penang is an area of 1.2 million, most on the island of Penang but some also on a strip on the mainland. Penang is the childhood home of our good friends and fishing buddies, Soh and Catherine and they are a big reason why we planned a stop here. The ferry between Langkawi and Penang sounded ideal - on the ocean, a change in transport and chance to be outdoors. People in Langkawi set us straight - the ferry is ... read more
Street Hawker
Love the imperfect surfaces
Urlu cycled around town helping direct to hard-to-find installations

Asia » Malaysia » Langkawi March 12th 2018

Ahhhh. This one is different. In giving some thought to what to capture about Langkawi as we leave for Penang, I find myself thinking of the people interactions more than the tourist sites. So am going with it. Goy, one of our homestay hosts, invites us to pop around the corner to their black door neighbour to buy some coconuts. The modest money would make a difference to their family, we’re told. A diminutive grandfather greets us with a grunt and smile revealing some uncertain orthodontury. A wee girl in only superman underwear stands hold a flowing hose under her chin, like you’d do a buttercup. Shower day for her. Her bright eyes follow us as we pantomime some questions. The old fella takes a long bamboo pole with a metal hook on the end and ... read more
Typical lunch view
The Lovely Wati
Tanjung Rhu Beach - Me walking the sand dune

Asia » Malaysia » Langkawi March 7th 2018

Our best efforts to remember the little details of our last Asian trip had us turning to our travel diaries to answer some of the basic questions we had forgotten. And so little were these details, I didn’t record them. Getting cash, easiest modes of transport, foods we enjoyed, whether we need our own towels, and did we eat lettuce or take ice cubes at restaurants. It all blurs after a little time has passed. Our trip to Malaysia started with an overnight in Kuala Lumpur, and the airport itself made us stand up and take notice. Well, look at you! The whole thing has a modern, almost hip vibe. Every rise in the place is a wide ramp - no stairs. Why doesn’t every airport do this? Each departure gate is in separate glassed room, ... read more
Sky Bridge From Afar
And the Tourist Attraction Is...
Do you see a monkey in this picture?

Asia March 6th 2018

With last minute planning, we find ourselves a little longer in some places than we might have planned. So it is with Danang - a one day stopover turned into two, and with an upgrade in Le Huong Beach Hotel, we had a 15th floor view to the shoreline roadway and the beach beyond. A largely uninhabited beach, compared with An Bang in Hoi An. First night, John spied an unusual grouping of people milling about the shore. After watching through squinty eyes for a good while, things shape up to reveal two lines of people on the shore, each pulling slowly at the end of two ropes affixed to two ends of the same great net. Watching this routine several times from above, and later at beach level, we are taken with the cooperation of ... read more
The Net Shows Itself
And the Reward - Jellyfish
Heading Out to Tie On the Net

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