Well it has to be admitted that I am not a dedicated blog writer.
Since lat writing I have managed to get up a selection of photos of our Japanese part of the trip. I will try to get up some more posts in the next few days to go along with the photos. Also I must get some more captions on the photos.
In any case go to the gallery page and you will find my selection of photos.
Alis, Francesca, and I have just returned from the holiday trip of a lifetime. After two months and many adventures we are finally home from the most extensive holiday that we have ever had.
We have been to a small part of Japan including Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and a wonderful onsen in the mountains north west of Nikko. We have been to Thailand and Chang Mai. We have been to Australia and visited Sydney and Wauchope then travelled south to Melbourne and Adelaide. We then traversed Australia from Adelaide to Darwin visiting many well known and not so well known places before flying to Brisbane. We then returned to Bangkok for two days and hence home to Mandello del Lario.
In Bangkok we stayed at the wonderful Old Bangkok Inn and our gracious hostess, Mrs Nantiya Tulyanond, handed us a sheet of useful tips that will help to save you from being ripped off in Bangkok. The main thing to keep in mind is that a fairly large number of people who can be incredibly believable are going to try to con you out of your tourist dollars (or in this case Baht).
Do not accept any unsolicited advice on; where to shop, whether a monument is open or not, where the entrance is, that you should take a tuk tuk etc.
To give an example: at the Royal Palace and temple complex we had someone direct us to another gate, saying we had to buy entry tickets, when we arrived an accomplice told us the Palace were closed to foreigners that morning for a Buddhist ceremony. He then suggested we take a tuk tuk to see another temple. Fortunately we realized what was going on and returned to the main entrance where, naturally, everything was open as normal and we located the ticket office inside. If we had taken the tuk tuk to the other temple we would have been accosted there by another accomplice who would have told us he had come to Bangkok from the country particularly to buy jewellery at a certain shop that had fantastic prices. I will leave it up to you to guess where the tuk tuk would have taken us next! This is not fantasy, it actually happens, and the frightening thing is that all these people present themselves in a way that is absolutely believable. If you fall into their net they pass information about you using their cell phones so that the next accomplice along the line is waiting for you to arrive.
Onsen is the Japanese word for hot spring but also refers to the baths themselves or the resort hotel or inn (ryokan) that has the facilities of spring fed hot baths. The most traditional type of onsen is associated with a Japanese inn, ryokan in Japanese, offers a selection of hot baths which may be in the open or under cover of a roof (rotenburo), they will offer mixed bathing (konyoku) but will also most likely have a women only bath and perhaps a men only bath too. A Japanese ryokan will offer at least an evening meal as well as breakfast. These will be elaborate presentations of traditional and seasonal dishes from the locality. Many privately run onsen would also offer people who are not guests the use of the facilities during the day for a reasonable fee.
While in Japan we wanted to try a traditional onsen and we chose to stay two nights at Hatcho no Yu, a traditional ryokan onsen in the mountains north west of Nikko. The word yu means hot water and therefore also refers to the hot springs. The ryokan offers accommodation with an evening meal and breakfast each day but, at request, can also provide lunch. Sleeping is in traditional tatami mat rooms and bedding futons are folded away in a closet during the day. The cost is not low but they do offer good value. Their web site is http://www.8tyo-no-yu.co.jp/ it is only in Japanese but Google translations will give you a reasonable and sometimes amusing translation. If you want to book with them it is best to have a Japanese speaking person do it for you. We did find that staff did have a small understanding of English and with good will, sign language and a few Japanese words you will be able to manage. When we were there there was also a lady who speaks Portuguese. A good idea is to take some small items from your home area to use as gifts. The Japanese have a tradition of giving gifts and some small item will be more appreciated than a monetary tip.