It's Day 11 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, in which I'm focusing on overseas destinations I've visited. Just as the British like Bs, the Japanese like their Ks!.
K is for Multiple K cities in Japan, Koh Samet, Kuala Lumpur, and Kuta
Kyoto, Japan (1986-89)
Kyoto was one of my favorite Japanese cities. Now, looking back, I wish I'd spent more time there--we were only an hour away by train from Osaka. Each time visitors came to Japan, we would take them to Kyoto, which was once the imperial capital of Japan. Full of beautiful shrines, temples, gardens, and historic streets, I could never get enough of this place!
|Sanjo bridge over the Kamo river in present-day Japan|
|And in ancient Japan|
|Second trip to Kyoto in fall 1987, after one month in Japan|
Debbie, you look so cute!
Kyoto has a silver temple (Ginkakuji) and a golden temple (Kinkakuji). Ginkakuji is known for its moon-viewing traditions, which are believed to make the temple glow silver.
|From down below|
|Kiyomizudera perch (1988)|
|Kiyomizudera when my parents visited Japan, 1988|
|Up on Hiei-san|
Kaizuka, Japan (1986)
A few months after arriving in Japan, we went to Kaizuka for our first Japanese festival, which was unforgettable. Hundreds of people in hapi coats filled the streets, pulling large shrines through the streets of the city, yelling "Sore-ya!" The streets were festooned with strings of colorful paper lanterns, and street vendors sold festival food such as yaki-tori (grilled chicken), tako-yaki (octopus balls) and taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry with red bean filling). As gaijin (foreigners), we were quite an attraction, even more so than usual. The Japanese pulled us into the lines and encouraged us to help pull. I felt like a rock star. It was a wild party, helped along by plentiful sake. Unfortunately, I also experienced my first (and not last!) Japanese groping during the festival--a dirty old toothless man kept kissing my hand, and then he grabbed one of my breasts. Fortunately my two tall friends helped fend him off. With the exception of that incident, the festival was great fun.
|In the midst of the craziness!|
Kobe, 19 miles from Osaka, is the fifth-largest city in Japan. Even though city records go back to 201 AD, I think of it as more of a modern city than others in the Kansai region. Kobe was one of the first cities to open for trade with the West following the end of the policy of seclusion and has since been known as a cosmopolitan port city. In December 1987, I sailed out of the port of Kobe on a trip to visit my sister Nadine in China--the ferry went from Kobe to Shanghai in two days.
In 1995, the city was hard hit by the Great Hanshin Earthquake, when over 6,000 people died (mostly in Kobe). The school of one of Mike's private students (he was a child when we lived there), Katsutoshi, was destroyed in the earthquake (150,000 buildings were damaged), so his parents asked if they could send him to visit for awhile. He stayed with us for several days until we arranged for him to have a homestay with a couple who had lived in Japan and who taught at the Portland Lutheran School...that way he could actually go to school rather than hang out all day watching TV.
|Damage from the earthquake|
Kada, a fishing town, was farther away from Wakayama (where I lived during my first year in Japan) than Isonoura Beach, but it was a much more pleasant destination. Kada Beach was less crowded and cleaner, and it had a fascinating shrine (Awashima), which has become a sort of doll repository. It's believed that dolls have spirits and you can't just dump them in the garbage. The shrine is also a popular place to pray for relief from "women's issues," infertility, miscarriages, etc., and to remember and honor lost babies. To us, it was a picturesque spot!
|In addition to dolls, they also have a phallus collection--perhaps for the gynecological problems!|
(The ones with the hair and testicles are particularly troubling!!)
|Harbor of Kada|
Kada could be reached by motor scooter or train, but I made it there only a few times. Fun memories, especially this trip and beach picnic with Mike--thank God he didn't kill himself on the motor scooter! Now I chuckle, thinking back to the time we borrowed a friend's scooter one weekend...Mike revved the gas without getting on the motorbike first! He went careening into the bushes!
|My sexy boyfriend on the beach at Kada|
As I wrote about Bangkok, when Debbie and I visited Thailand we were closely chaperoned most of the time and rarely ventured outside of the city. One of the great exceptions was on a trip to Koh Samet, an at-the-time mostly unpopulated island about 140 miles southeast of Bangkok. It was one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been to, made more so by the lack of people. No one on the island seemed to speak much English. When we wanted to eat, we used hand signals to let them know we were hungry, and wait until we were served fresh seafood ala fresco, on the beach.
We stayed in a little hut on the beach, and we spent our days lounging around reading (Gift from the Sea was one of my reads), swimming in the sea, and exploring the island. At that time, everyone (including Mike when he visited Thailand around that same time) seemed to head for Koh Samui or Phuket. Now Koh Samet has 13 restaurants and 41 hotels listed on TripAdvisor. When we visited, it seemed like we were about the only people visiting the island. Koh Samet was our little piece of unspoiled paradise!
According to wikipedia, legend says that Koh Samet was once populated by pirates and treasure is buried somewhere on the island!
|Our hut in the background|
|We got to Koh Samet by train and then boat, and that was as far as the boat came to land--|
we had to get out and wade to shore!
|So gorgeous!! I want to go back!|
|On the veranda of our hut|
|Under beautiful foliage|
|Sitting at a table on the beach, where we read, wrote, and ate our delicious seafood meals|
--my Olivia Newton John era!
|Huts in the background|
|View from our beach dining|
|Debbie exploring the island|
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (December 1988)
Mike and I visited Kuala Lumpur as part of our Singapore-Malaysia winter holidays trip in 1988-89. We stayed in the Station Hotel, which was a historical old building in the train station. It was a nice hotel, but one night when I got up to go to the bathroom I found not one, but three, large cockroaches in the bathroom! Now when I google Kuala Lumpur, the photos show brand new shiny skyscrapers, but it wasn't like that back in 1988.
I didn't feel terribly comfortable being a woman in Muslim-dominant Malaysia. At one point, when we were walking down a crowded street, Mike got momentarily separated from me. During that one minute or two before we joined again, I was subjected to numerous catcalls. One of them shouted that he'd "like some of that." The men confined the attention to staring when I was with Mike.
National Museum (Muzium Negara), which was full of historical artifacts and cultural displays, and then to the Lake Gardens, a huge expanse of park with a lake.
|I seem to be sorely lacking photos of Kuala Lumpur!|
|Typical street food market--yum!!|
At the end of our time in Indonesia, we decided to splurge. We stayed in the gorgeous, garden-filled Poppies Cottages...another high point in our trip. Kuta is the popular beach town in Bali, and it's full of lots of obnoxious Australians who head for Bali to party wildly. Pub crawls are constant, and the beach is packed with touts who give massages, sell things, and promote more pub crawls. When my friend Jean was in Kuta during December 1988 (while we were visiting Malaysia), a guy approached her on the beach, trying to sell her something. She declined, and he said, "Okay...lie-ter!" She thought he was trying to sell her a lighter...but instead he was saying "later" in an Australian accent.
It was definitely not our scene. Instead we opted for romance!
|Pool at Poppies|
|My sexy boyfriend, again! (He was wearing a swimsuit, trust me!)|
|Outside of our private cottage|
Visit here to read my A-J posts. Tomorrow, it's back to the United Kingdom for L.