Lots had happened during our Golden Week trip to Kyushu: Good and Bad. I won’t write too much details of the trip here, because I have to first write about Kyoto. However, this post will be an summary of the ‘memorable’ bits and pieces, lessons learnt and etc.
Warning: This post won’t have any photos because as you may know already, I lost nearly half of my pictures (more about it later)!! And after some recovery efforts, photos of the first 2 days were still missing! As for the rest, I’ve got too many photos to sort through, so it’ll take a while. Read on if you don’t mind super wordy posts. XD
During our trip, we stayed at Hiroshima for 1 day and Kyushu for 5 days…
Day 0: Yokohama
It almost felt like bad luck was bestowed upon us (or just me? lol) right from the start. I lost my work pass when picking up my Mom. Mom’s flight was delayed till after 12am due to poor weather in HK, so we stayed the night at the airport, sleeping on chairs. We took the earliest train to reach Yokosuka. We quickly unpacked, cleaned my dorm room, ate something(instant noodles that Mom brought), caught several hours of sleep and headed to Yokohama with all our luggages at around 5pm the same day. This is because we had to catch the 6am Shinkansen to Hiroshima from Shin-Yokohama the next day… so we had to stay the night at Yokohama.
My ideal plan was to show my Mom around Yokohama, have dinner there and stay at a Manga Cafe (!!!!!! I know…)for the night near by the train station. Of course, things did not play out so nicely.
After we arrived at Yokohama, we locked our stuff in one of those coin lockers. Then I showed her Mirato-Mirai area- where the sightseeing spots were. We took many nice photos by the sea shore, where the Ferris Wheel, and other landmark buildings were. We took a walk to the famous Yamashita Koen and Yokohama’s very own China Town (It’s the biggest in Japan)! We got carried away with shopping(?) and did not even have time for dinner. We got to Shin-Osaka station before 10pm… and I was going to redeem the JR pass for my mom at the Ticket Counter of the train station. Lucky I asked about our train ticket reservation, I didn’t know the trains (especially special express) were that full! So we spent the next 1.5 hour trying to reserve seats for every train ride in the next 6 days. It took that long because of language barrier. Several trains that I initially planned to take were sold out, so I had to adjust our itinerary and make decisions on spot. Since my mom had the JR rail pass, all rides were ‘free’ (fee for railpass was 20000 yen roughly)… whereas I held a Working Visa, so I wasn’t allowed to buy a railpass :’-( The costs of my transit almost tripled my Mom’s!
Anyway, so it got pretty late after we bought all the annoying train tickets. Finally, time to head for the Manga Cafe…. Mom was very exhausted by that time- it showed on her face. Once we arrived… Oh god, I didn’t feel too good about this. And my intuition was right! The Manga cafe, every single of its 80 spots, were full! Tell me about Golden Week in Japan! Again, the receptionist could barely speak English… but this friendly Japanese girl came around and helped me translate (she’s there also because of the 6am train !!). She even looked for another Internet cafe for us when we were told no spots left! I thanked her from the bottom of my heart!!! So after half an hour… FINALLY, we made it to another Internet cafe 2 blocks away. The whole time we tolled our luggage and sped walk, worrying about having to sleep on streets if that cafe was also full.
But I guess we were lucky (?), that there were rooms left. But this place was annoying, they required all users to join membership! Argh, we spent another 10 mins getting that done, and then we were directed to our room. At first sight, my Mom was like “It’s pretty good, the room is spacious and even has a long padded bench to sleep on. Oh, there’s TV and computer too~” So she unloaded her stuff and told me to go to my own room. OK, that’s the problem… were we supposed to share a room or get our individual room? Because the door plate read “Family Room”, so I went out to ask. The guy told me it’s for both of us- even though I requested to pay more to get our own rooms. So, two people sharing a 1 meter long bench (tatami style)… So I decided to let my mom lay down( ‘L’ shape, since the bench is too short for both of us), while I occupied this small edge and sat right up for the night. There were some free drinks, but we were too tired to care about that at the moment… I quickly charged all my electronics and went back to
sleep sit. My neck hurt the entire time and at one point (maybe after an hour), I couldnt stand it anymore, and I started sleeping on the floor… (I was literally “smelling my mom’s butt”, but not that I cared/realized at that time XD)
That night felt like it was forever! Morning came, and we couldn’t wait to rush out of the place! Seriously, it’s worse than not sleeping at all! When we got on our Shinkansen, for time first time ever, we wished the train ride could be longer than 4 hours!
Day 1: Hiroshima
We made it to Hiroshima at 10am. We left our baggages at the hotel, then headed for Miyajima! Miyajima is one of Japan’s top 3 sceneries日本三景. Note that Top 3 doesn’t mean the most mesmerizing sights, in fact, if you Wiki it, it’s a claim by a Japanese poet named Hayashi Gaho. Anyway, the symbol of Miyajima is the Torii at Itsukushima Shrine.
Long story short… I was looking for the red symbolic Torii while on the ferry. It’s hard to miss, right? But nope, I couldn’t see anything red… Until we got closer…. and realized- The famous Torii, the only reason why I came here for, was under restoration!! It was all wrapped up! What a disappointment already, and it’s only the the morning of our first day!
The rest of Hiroshima was not my cup of tea… I’m not the history kind of person, so I didn’t care too much about Nuclear Bomb remains… Will I visit again? Um, I’m not sure. Even if I come here again, it’d be for the Torii and hiking up Mount Misen. Oh, and stay there until sunset, so I can catch a glimpse of the gate standing tall in water, shining in the reflected sunlight… and perhaps walk to the Torii when tide is low. But, yes, I won’t visit again during my time left here.
Day 2: Kagoshima
What happened that day was hilarious more than unfortunate, I’d say. We had to catch a train to Ibusuki that day at 2pm. But we only arrived at Kagoshima at 11am… so in those 3 hours, it’s really hard to fit in any viewpoints that required public transit. We decided to just have lunch and walk around the downtown shopping district. During lunch, I was flipping through the tourist guide book that Mom bought from Hong Kong. And I read that the viewpoint from Shiroyama was only one station away! So we decided to pay a visit. At first we couldn’t find our way.. so we asked several strangers until we got to this tourist info center. This nice old lady told us to get up to Shiroyama (duh, it’s a mountain.. famous for overseeing the entire city, along with Sakurajima, where the volcano is), we needed to take a bus. She pointed the station to us- hey wait, the bus was about to leave! OK, so we missed it… and by that time it was almost 1pm. In an hour we have to catch our train to Ibusuki… Another nice old man overheard us, and he offered to drive us up to Shiroyama! OH WOW, nice! Right, I was too impulsive and didn’t think twice about it. Until my mom asked me: “are they gonna drive us back down?” At the time, I would assume so!
In 15 mins, we got up to the viewpoint… but at time same time, we also realized that the driver had no intention to drive us back down! Because they were actually here for some other duties. Apparently, the old man thought we had to leave by 2pm, not catch a train departing at 2pm!! There’s no way we could make it by bussing back, or walking! So Taxi please! The nice girl (who drove us), helped us call a Taxi. She misheard us and told the driver to come up in 5 mins! Yup, so here we were, running to the viewpoint, took several photos… and hurried back in 5 minutes to Taxi back to the train station. Very expensive photos indeed (4 for 800yen)… You can imagine how I felt when those pictures were gone!!! I recovered them though, thank god!
Day 3: Kagoshima> Kumamoto
This day wasn’t too unfortunate… But it scared me a bit when my Mom told me in the morning- that she started to feel sick. OH NO! You didn’t know how guilty/worried I feel. Despite her look (and weight XD), my mom isn’t that strong physically… and she faints easily. So, pressure’s on! But god blessed us, she didn’t complain throughout the day. A small thing though, when we arrived at Kumamoto, it began to rain real hard. And my mom left the umbrellas in the hotel room because she thought the forecast wasn’t believable. Ha.
Day 4: Kumamoto
Bad bad luck. Mount Aso was what I had looked forward to the most! But the weather was stormy that day, that the whole ride up the mountain was foggy … couldn’t see anything at all! And though we got up to the mountain, the cable car was not in operation due to the strong wind! 2 hours just to get there, but no Aso… Biggest disappointment of the trip!
So we went back down for the zoo, and then took a bus back to the train station to get to our resort. Man, the bus- was late(a rare case in Japan)! So when we arrived at the station, the train was about to depart!!! Fortunately, the ticket operator STOPPED the train for us. Yes, he did… he ran to the train’s front, and signalled to the driver haha.
Day 5: Yufuin> Hakata
Oh man, this day was the day where my wallet, and my heart bled. Hakata is a big city, and especially during Golden Week… one would expect hotel room charge to skyrocket. So, I thought I was ‘smart’ to book a Cabin Hotel (exclusively in Japan for cheap stays)… It was cheap at 6000 yen total. We arrived at Hakata by 7. Once we got to the hotel… the receptionist told us “Oh sorry, it’s Men Only. No Ladies!”
F$@K!!! I almost wanted to beg him to let us in- you know, pretend we were guys. But nope. So we carried our luggages, and embarked our journey looking hysterically for hotels. That guy was “nice” enough to leave us a remark about the IMPOSSIBILITY to find a room that night, and wished us luck. Jerk. I tried so hard to avoid eye contact with my Mom (with her razor sharp gaze, I would die)… first hotel, no luck… second, nope… Third’s the charm, right? YES! The third hotel we walked in got a room for us…. but wait, it cost 20,000 yen. HOLY $#!T! And no breakfast? WOW, but we’ve got no choice. Just like you have no choice when someone holds a knife against your neck. I seriously wanted to pause for a sec, and searched for other alternatives using my phone- but I was sure Mom would kill me… so I bite the bullet and paid for my sin.
OK, so the room was nice and big. They even had a proper bathroom, not those capsule ones! The bed was fine, but I couldn’t sleep well that night cuz it just burnt a hole in my wallet!
Day 6: Hakata > Home
Felt like we made a mistake coming to Hakata (biased due to what happened last night). I had no mood to shop, or to sightsee. Actually, I wanted to eat Fugu sashimi, and Motsu Nabe (Beef organ hotpot)… But couldn’t find them anywhere.. either the shop wasn’t ready or only served dinner!
At 5pm, we were back at the station again to ride the Shinkansen home. The trip would roughly take 6 hours… And there was one transfer, between two platforms… and we found out there’s only 5 minutes gap between the arrival of current train and departure of our next train!! The rest of the story just felt like the show Amazing Race.
Rather than blaming on our luck, I know it’s me. My fault. Don’t get me wrong, the trip was overall decent. Just unexpected things happened, but it was still bearable. If only I had planned better, perhaps some of those can be avoided. Following are several things I’ve learnt, and hopefully I can plan better trips in the future.
1. Be nice to self
- Travelling should be enjoyable (at times comfortable). Backpacking style is fun, travelling by trains is special- but not for moms.
- Don’t just keep walking. Rests are not wasting valuable time, in fact, they help us walk further.
2. Keep a Budget, but don’t be a cheapo
- Budgeting is important… Definitely have a roughly accurate (rough is not good enough) estimate before the trip. Jog down spendings while travelling as much as you can, so you don’t overspend on unnecessary things.
- Be generous. C’mon, travelling is fun, and should not be too restricting! Let yourself free, and eat/buy what you want. Enjoy to the max then return and munch on bread(or instant noodles) for weeks… but worry about that later. Enjoy the moment!
3. Check schedule
- Don’t fit everything to tightly like Tetris. Always leave buffers! Especially when travelling by public transit, check and print schedules! It would save so much waiting time. And countryside places like Kyushu- buses come once every hour, if you are lucky. Otherwise, they come only 2-3 times a day!
Being a positive person, I take the above events as highlights to this memorable trip.