Tokyo and a return to SF
03/14/2012 - 03/22/2012 45 °F
We finished our visit to northern Thailand in Pai, after our detour up to Soppong. It was a bittersweet few days, knowing we had only to retrace our steps back to Bangkok and then head on to Tokyo before the trip came to a close. We visited nearby Pai Canyon on the recommendation of a Swedish hippie named Attila we had met the night before. He told us it was "just like the Grand Canyon". While it was quite spectacular, it was not nearly as wide or deep as its American counterpart. Annie got in some amazing jumping shots and I showed off my fearlessness of heights. Later that afternoon, we checked out Dave's Pai Piranha Fishing Park. We've spent a lot of time (not really that much ) developing our fishing skills on this trip and we thought this would be a perfect chance to use them. An Aussie guy named Dave runs it - its essentially a bar and two ponds stocked with catfish, carp, and (allegedly) piranhas. We had a great time but unfortunately didn't catch much. This may be either because we have a lot to learn about fishing, or because the fish in this touristy pond have learned a lot about avoiding being caught! Still, sitting by a pond in rural Thailand while sipping Singha is pretty nice.
The Family House @ Pai provided us with some of our most comfortable accommodations of the trip and also a sense of home that we hadn't found anywhere else (and were really starved for by this point in the trip!). We were there for a total of 5 nights and were the first guests to stay in at least 2 of their bungalows. The two lovely sisters shown in the last picture had only opened their hotel a few days before we showed up.
Though we've already posted about Boise and match night we thought we'd share a few more photos from that night. The first is the view from our first rooftop bar of the night (the 56th floor I believe), the second is Annie enjoying a beer street-side, and the last is us just after finding out where we'll be spending the next 3 years. A note about bars in Thailand: not only are there brick and mortar watering holes every few feet but in the evening, vendors open up coolers full of beer and liquor along the side of the street with tables and chairs for 20 or 30 people. Its truly a sight to see on a Saturday night. I'm pretty sure this beer was served to us by a lady-boy out of a cooler. Happy Match Night to us.
Because we had limited time in Japan, we decided to let the search for tasty food guide us around the city. The plan worked surprisingly well and over the course of our 3 days there we visited many of Tokyo's most interesting areas. We saw Shibuya, Harajuku, Roppongi, Ginza, Ebisu (the namesake of our favorite SF sushi restaurant) and many of Tokyo's exciting and beautiful sites - Yoyogi Park, the Meiji Shrine, Ueno Park, and the Imperial Palace. One important thing we missed though was the famous Sumo culture. I was very excited to wake up early one morning and travel out to Ryogoku to see the sumo stables and early morning training sessions. Unfortunately, one of the most important tournaments of the year was being held in Osaka and all the Sumo were away. Next time! The photos below document some of our more interesting meals. The first was at a nameless restaurant in Roppongi Metro Station that caught our eye on the way home from a sushi dinner. The second and third were taken at Ippudo, a tasty ramen spot known to many Americans because they have a somewhat famous branch in NYC, and Udon Yamacho, a highly rated Udon place in Ginza that did not disappoint. The last documents our trip to Sushi Daidokoya, an amazingly cheap Kaiten-Zushi place in Shibuya and also our last dinner of the trip.
The Tokyo subway schedule presents an interesting problem for the city's residents. It closes down at around 12:30 am and starts back up at 5:00 am. This means that if you stay out past the last train, it's either a really expensive taxi ride home, or you may be stuck sitting in a bar making small talk until 5:00 am. Or perhaps playing ping-pong at one of the all-night game complexes around town. We decided to do as the locals do and spend a night out on the town, ending the event by a trip to the early morning fish market. Since karaoke is a requisite Tokyo activity, we started the night with a whopping three hours of amazing vocals at the place where the karaoke scene in Lost in Translation was filmed. For the record, there is not one word of English understood or printed in the entire establishment. We wiled away the rest of the night eating various Japanese cuisines and sitting in late night bars waiting with the rest of the business-suited Japanese men for the subway to open. The morning dawned on the unfortunately closed-for-public-holiday fish market, but it was so cold outside I think no one was complaining that it was time to head home to bed!
Happo-En is an amazingly zen Japanese garden that we visited. On the way out, we wandered right into the middle of a gorgeous wedding party (actually we wandered between the photographers and the bride and groom as they walked from the dining room towards the garden). The couple was dressed and made up very traditionally. They posed for a few minutes, looking very serious indeed, while family and friends (and us) looked on and the wedding photographers snapped away.
Tokyo is particularly beautiful (in the urban sense of the word) at night, the shopping district in Ginza being a prime example. We stopped by the new Uniqlo store and were amazed at the layout. Each floor is only about 100 feet by 100 feet but there were 12 of them! In fact, the entire first floor is labelled on the store map as the "welcome gallery".