Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things I Don't Find Amusing

  1. Math.
  2. The Economist.
  3. Stereotypical characters on television. I want to see real people thank you very much.
  4. Academy Fantasia.
  5. Lin Ping. (Does anyone, seriously?)
  6. Macarons, though I have a lot of respect for people who make them.
  7. LMFAO (the acronym and the obnoxious "music" duo).
  8. Club dancing.
  9. 9GAG.
  10. "YOLO". Well, maybe you only live once, but I'm gonna keep coming back to life.
    This is the only form of YOLO that I will allow for (they don't even say YOLO in the song) :

If you feel the same, please reach out to me and know that you aren't alone.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kansai, Ojamashimasu [Part 3]

3 Locations In 3 Days
Day 3: Kyoto
          You can't fully understand how culturally significant Kyoto is to Japan until you have seen it for yourself. The city is full of the old temples, classic artisan shops, and historic natural sites that we envision when we daydream about traditional Japan. But I always suspected that the real thing would not be as majestic as it appeared in my imagination. Well, guess what? I have been proven wrong. 
          Out of the city's 2000-something religious sites, there are two particularly outstanding ones that you must make sure to journey to and through: Fushimi Inari-taisha and Kiyomizu-dera.  
           I'm almost certain you recognize the photo above from Hollywood and travel ads. (The photo however is mine.) This iconic gateway that leads up to a Shinto temple is actually composed of many individual gate frames, each bearing the name of the business which donated it. I found this enchanting on so many levels. Besides raw aesthetics, this monument makes such a vivid statement about the belief in earning fortune and well-being. After that, I had to get over how systematic and cooperative the centuries-old custom of donating a uniform gate frame is. It says a lot about Japanese culture. And then there's the reality that this gateway has been growing longer over the years, and that walking through it is basically like walking through time... Just an absolutely stunning experience.

. . . . . . . . . . 

           Kiyomizu-dera - to the best of my translating abilities - means temple of pure water. It's a Buddhist temple known for how and where it is built... Kiyomizu-dera stands on the edge of Otowa Mountain, on some pretty complex stilts. There are no nails in the entire structure; rather, genius Japanese architects of the 8th century crafted large wooden beams to fit into each other perfectly. Sorta like legos.
           Among Japanese people, there is a common expression: "leaping off the edge of Kiyomizu" 
(kiyomizu no butai kara tobi oriru), which I believe is equivalent to "taking the plunge" or "taking the great leap of faith". I challenge you to use the expression. ;]
[photo by my friend, Oye Jarusilawong]
        Kiyomizu not only attracts foreigners, but Japanese people as well. Confirmed by my mother, it is custom for Japanese school students to take a class trip to Kiyomizu to receive blessings for their education. One of the ways you get your blessing is by drinking sacred water. I sat on some cool moss-covered rock and watched junior-high students line up and take their turns at catching the sacred water in long wooden ladles. In my opinion, you can appreciate the beauty of the ritual no matter what your religion is. 
Bought this orange umbrella on a whim that sunny day.

        The fun part about visiting Kiyomizu-dera is that the uphill path up to the legendary temple is flanked by two seemingly endless rows of homey novelty shops. TIP: do your best to ignore the shops while going up to the temple; enjoy every bit of them on your way down. And look for a totoro. It'll lead you to an inner cove of Ghibli.

Stopped by Kyoto Station for lunch before heading to the final stop in our adventure... 

        The last stop: Arashiyama ("Storm Mountain"), a peaceful, scenic district in Kyoto that contains the Sagano bamboo forest (among other notable natural sites). Strolling through the bamboo forest is a suspended moment too beautiful for words to accurately portray. You are surrounded by tall shoots that seem to penetrate the blinding sky and have no end. The only sounds you hear are subtle chirpings of crickets and birds and the silent awes from you and fellow travelers.  Your eyes can't escape the purest greenery that you thought had gone extinct by this century. It was another dimension that I wished I could have lingered in a little while longer.
You can opt for this too.
"Arigatou gozaimasu" (Thank you.)
Forest nymph.
Man in the forest who makes postcards.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Perks of Having Blue/Green Hair

  1. When you see someone with red hair, you're like, "I win".
  2. You automatically earn yourself a cool nickname like Girl With Green Hair or Boy With Blue Hair.
  3. Camouflage (in nature) = better chance of survival in the Hunger Games.
  4. People assume you're some punk kid or cosplay fanatic. While that may be true of you, you are given the opportunity to SMASH their stereotyping by showing them your valedictory medal, your college degree, your prestigious/reputable profession, awards, and the fact that you can pull off normal unremarkable outfits and look even better in them because of your cool hair. 
  5. Confidence. Making the decision to dye your hair blue or green is already a confirmation of having confidence. Then once you've got the hair, makes no sense to become a recluse or to go out and be ashamed of it.
(6. And if you've got long wavy hair, you can feel like a mermaid.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kansai, Ojamashimasu [Part 2]

3 Locations In 3 Days
Day 2: Osaka
          Finally, we've arrived at Osaka - blogwise. I took at least 500 pictures here. There is so much to do in Osaka, a very versatile city/prefecture. And if you can't decide what to do firs - FOOD! I'm serious. If you don't know where to start, go to Dotonbori street and get some takoyaki and modern yaki (a.k.a. Osaka soul food). If I had the time, I would have "yaki-hopped" down the street. TIP: yaki-hop down Dotonbori. But if you find yourself in similar time constraints, this is the restaurant to settle at:

          Another perk of starting your Osaka adventure in Dotonbori is that you're guaranteed to pop out at Shinsaibashi, the largest shopping district in Osaka. If you're anything like me (i.e. female, between the ages of 15 and 25, loves photographing people, appreciates fashion on an eccentric level, and sees the therapeutic value of shopping), this stop will be the highlight of your trip and you are destined to spend at least 2 full days here. Shinsaibashi is any shoppaholic and fashionista's destination.  You can find anything from brand name goods to secondhand vintage at nice bargains to traditional Japanese wear to things you never pondered the existence of. And if you're not in the spending mood or need a break from walking but aren't ready to retire yet, TIP: find a dessert place or cafe where you can sit for a while and people-watch. I invite you to be mesmerized by Shinsaibashi fashion. Maybe even pick up a few tricks to try back home. =]

"WOMB" was my favorite clothing store.

My "stalk spot" was at Partyland, a DYI fro-yo place:

Other cool things I saw in Shinsaibashi:

Large Yamaha store in Shinsaibashi. A must for musicians. P.S. the store is mostly underground. I mean literally.

          When you've had enough of modernism is a perfect time visit the Osaka Castle [Osakajo]. The castle is situated at the heart of a large public park, and by the time you reach the stronghold you will have seen/smelled/breathed-in nature at its finest. It's amazing to me how such unadulterated environment can still exist.  Even the castle and its constituents seem like how they would have been 400 years ago, when they were constructed.  The only noticeable difference is that the castle is now a museum - accessible to those of us who aren't shogun or Oda Nobunaga. #legendaryhero

I recommend buying tickets to see the inside of the castle, even if you aren't a history buff,  because this was so worth it:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Because There Are More Important Things Than Travel Stories

          I've been experiencing a severe case of writer's block since my last post, and for this past week I haven't been able to press the "publish" button on any of my drafts. My educated guess for why I can't write lately is because there is so much to write about every single day but everyday is also a new story to live out.  And perhaps some stories are so amazing (or so amazingly horrible) that I feel unable to do them justice in html. But I am desperate now to get myself out of this funk, so I'm just going to pick the strongest topic I have and forget about the rest. Here it is: 
I've got amazing friends.  

          As commonplace as this will sound, they really helped me get through an impossible week. I've never been keen on relying on others, but last week I learned that tearing down your wall of pride to ask for help or to just admit that you aren't alright isn't an unattractive concession of weakness but a sincere human attempt to get back on your feet. (Good to know that I'm still learning.) And I wouldn't have realized this if it weren't for friends who made me feel normal and exceptional at the same time. I needed to feel normal because I didn't want to be "news" and to be reminded of my misery. But I needed to feel exceptional in order to recover quickly and accomplish greater things. How did they do this for me? They were patient - waiting indefinitely until I was ready to talk. They were understanding - picking up that I didn't need to be babied, I just needed to be heard. They were sincerely willing - to do whatever it was that I needed them to do. (Even if it was waking up early on a Saturday to go to an all-day audition with me. Or not minding that I needed to go to an audition on the day I promised to watch Spiderman together.)  And lastly, they were present - even when half of them are on the other side of the world, I felt like they were all literally holding me up. 

          For those who I'm writing to directly (you know who you are), I would consider it an utter failure on my part if you believe that what you did for me was nothing. Because it means the universe to me. So shut up, and accept this.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kansai, Ojamashimasu. [Part 1]

Note: "Ojamashimasu" is what Japanese people customarily say when entering someone's home. Try it.

        So a lot of people have responded enthusiastically to my photos of Kansai that I released on Facebook. This is the push I needed to come out with this post quickly  - before the trip becomes too distant of a memory. Thanks, guys.
To keep things in attractive chunks, this update is the first of a trilogy! Enjoy! 

3 Locations In 3 Days
Day 1: Kobe
          Kobe is a city known for its expensive beef and its historically significant ports. I didn't get to experience the beef part unfortunately, but I did get to embrace the portcity aspect. The first site I visited right after leaving Kansai International Airport was the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge . It is otherwise called the Pearl Bridge, but this makes no sense unless you visit at night when the 2000 bulbs light up like a string of tinted pearls.  TIP: I would recommend checking out the bridge twice on your Kansai vacation - during the day and during the night - because the daytime is good time to take pictures on the deck and to learn about the bridge. I'll spare you the information you can just read on Wikipedia and tell you the most interesting fact about the bridge off the top of my head: the bridge was literally stretched 1 meter by the Great Hanshin Earthquake of '95. Other than that, there were no damages. Now, imagine that. 

          The next stop was to Kobe Harborland. This place is like Bangkok's Asiatique or a smaller version of San Fran's Fisherman's Wharf. Again a great place to take nautical pictures. But this time, also a great place to dine and shop, adding even more photo opportunities. In my opinion, it is an ideal place for a date. There are purposely placed romantic landmarks you can take pictures with or just admire together. There's an array of vintage stores to explore. You can even opt for a ferry ride or view all of Kobe from the top of a ferris wheel. 
          TIP: If you have an analog camera, such as a polaroid, don't miss the opportunity to use it here! Vintage photography for a vintage backdrop.

Furniture or art?
Complimentary fortunes. These were very comprehensive btw. 
In case you don't know how.

          After 2 port attractions, it was time for a change of scenery. In the afternoon, a bus took us up to the highest peak in Kobe, Mt. Rokko. The best thing I can say about this experience, given the time of day and season, is that the wind was perfectly cool. Add a can of honey latte - purchasable via vending machine at the rest spot at the peak - and you get a fine moment to reflect on your day. TIP: come here during autumn.

The Honey Latte, there you go.
Not photoshopped. Even if you tried, you couldn't find a single withered leaf or petal.

          I actually spent the evening not in Kobe, but in Osaka, since I would be staying at a Universal Studios hotel (which would turn out to be the most convenient arrangement one could imagine). For me, the evening was more of a chance to map out Osaka for the next day than to fully explore it. So I'll save the meat of my adventures in Osaka for the next post. I will however leave you with one experience of Osaka I had that night: trying out a McDonalds. I have this hobby for checking out the McDonalds of every country I visit, just to compare tastes. I convinced my dad (my travel buddy on this trip) to join me for a McDonalds dinner that night, and here's what we ordered: 

Left: chicken. Right: shrimp. Very satisfying.