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One Week in Tokyo

Experiencing Tokyo, the world’s most populous city, a melting pot of old and new, tradition and business, temples and neon lights, was one of the primary reasons why we travelled to Japan. When we were looking at accommodation (two months in advance) we almost cut down our days in the city due to the high prices and lack of availability. But we stuck to our plan of spending a week there and booked a small, cute and modern private apartment conveniently located by the largest JR station. We used credit card reward points to offset the price and justified it due to the fact that our trip was nearing it’s end and we were running short on places to splurge. Continue reading

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Takayama: More Food & More Temples

En route from Kanazawa to Tokyo, we stopped in Takayama, a city in the mountainous Hida region of Japan. According to Japan-guide, Takayama “now ranks as one of the prime candidates among travelers wishing to add a rural element into their itineraries.” I had a desire to see as many cities as possible in Japan – something very different than the relatively slow-paced travel style we had become accustomed to. But here we were, a year and a half into travelling and breaking almost every rule we had. We had a jam-packed schedule in Japan with day trips and one-nighters; we booked things in advance (although not far enough); bought an unlimited two-week rail pass and even slept in dorm beds. One thing we should have done was research cities in advance because WiFi was (shockingly) incredibly limited in Japan. Continue reading

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A Day in Nara: Deer and Sake

Our second day-trip out of Osaka was to Nara, an ancient capital city known for its historical temples and a large, tranquil park. A day in Nara was a lot more relaxing than a day in Kyoto, and everything is within walking distance. As soon as we got off the train we headed east towards the park in search of the deer that Nara is famed for. Over 1,200 wild sika deer freely roam Nara Park (about five square kilometers in area). Killing one of these sacred deer was a capital offense punishable by death until 1637 and the deer are currently designated as national treasures. As we walked up towards Kofuku-ji, we spotted our first group of deer, followed by many, many more! Continue reading

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A Day of Temples and Shrines in Kyoto

Kyoto, one of Japan’s most famous tourist destinations, was at the top of our list for places to visit in Japan.  Everyone who has visited Kyoto will tell you that the city deserves more than a single day. And while that is true, when we looked at booking accommodation in Kyoto, we were out of luck. We looked about a month in advance (thinking we were getting ahead of the game) and booking.com was almost 100% sold out! We managed to find a few hotels and upscale guesthouse but nothing for under $100 CAD a night, which was way over our budget. I guess we should have expected inflated prices and full occupancy given we were travelling in the busiest time of year – cherry blossom season. When we found a private room in Osaka, a 30 minute train away, for only $40 CAD a night we really couldn’t justify the stay in Kyoto. And that’s how we ended up with one day to see and explore as much of Kyoto as possible. Continue reading

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Bulguksa Temple Stay

A temple stay was one of the things I was looking forward to most in Korea; which brings us back to the fact that disappointment is most prevalent when expectations are high. We had made our reservation through templestay, an organization in Korea that opens up several Korean temples to foreigners to “experience the life of Buddhist practitioners at traditional temples.”

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Angkor Wat in 3 Days: A Photo Guide

Angkor Wat is undeniably the main attraction in Cambodia – and a symbol of national pride, even appearing on their national flag. Originally a Hindu temple built by the Khmer Empire, Angkor was transformed into a Buddhist temple in the 12th century. It is the largest religious monument in the world and the temple complex is absolutely massive: you could spend weeks exploring the area. That said, if your time is limited it’s important to know what temples are a ‘must-see’. Passes are sold as one-day ($20 USD), three-day ($40 USD) or seven-day ($60 USD). The system is set up such that for the three-day pass you have a week to use your days and for the seven-day pass you have a month. Not having to go every day in a row is a huge plus as visiting temples all day can be exhausting – especially in 30+ degree weather. Continue reading