Our baggage is being shipped once again, this time for Tokyo. With my laptop bag full of clothes, we headed to the train station at 6 in the morning. We rode it, switched trains, and within a few hours we had arrived in Hakone.
Hakone is a small mountain town, which is a big difference from larger cities like Kyoto and Hiroshima. We stopped for lunch before boarding the boat to cross Lake Ashi, the nearby lake. I wasn't hungry, so I waited in the meeting spot, enjoying the long awaited nice weather, especially after the mess that yesterday was. The lake was full of large and small boats alike, and we were going to take one of the largest ones they had -- one that looked very much like a pirate ship.
To get there, we had a bit of a walk ahead of us. After lunch we headed into the nearby woods and walked a very short, but very old road. This, our tour guide said, was the old highway connecting Kyoto and Tokyo. At a time, it was over 100 kilometers long and was used by Samurai either on pilgrimages or reporting for duty to the old shogun temples.
We arrived at the docks and boarded the ship. A quick 20 minute ride got us across the lake and to the bus station. On this side of the lake, the sky was overcast and what would be a gorgeous picture of Mt. Fuji was nothing but cloud. We were warned she was a shy mountain, and pictures weren't always guaranteed.
We took the bus 45 minutes to the tram station, and then headed up the mountain. When we arrived at the top, our guide walked us a bit on the path, stopped, and told us from there on we were on our own. Up the path, and upwind, was the sulfur mine and sulfur pools. The scent can be overwhelming and she's smelt it enough times that she didn't want to smell it again. Once you enter the path you can smell it, and it only gets stronger as you walk towards the pools. In case you have never smelt sulfur, it smells like rotting eggs. Now imagine being surrounded by pools and pools of it. Yuck is right!
While what we smelt was gross, what we saw was very interesting. All the pools of water had milky, smokey water in it instead of your normal clear water. Although the ground was highly acidic, unique plants were able to grow and flourish here. The view from the top was also breathtaking, with rolling lush hills in every direction. On our way to the pools we saw a carriage overhead carrying eggs, and we watched them get dipped into the pools and placed back into the carriage and returned back to where Siako was waiting for us.
When we arrived, she surprised us with black eggs! These were the same eggs we saw in the carriage earlier, and the eggs shell had turned black due to a chemical reaction with the sulfur. They were perfectly boiled, delicious and were supposed to add 7 years to our life.
We took the bus straight back to Hakone, and Siako asked us to go shopping while she checks up on our hotel. She never did this before so we should have known something was wrong. She arrived back in about an hour and, in her broken English, told us something was wrong with the hotel. There had been several complaints regarding it (we thought at first there were complaints again us!), and while the hotel was usable, it was under construction. We decided that was fine, and chose to stay there anyway.
"Under construction" was lost in translation. The hotel was severely damaged and needed repair. It probably should have been condemned. The carpets had dark, mysterious stains all over them, the plaster walls were cracking, and the rice walls of our rooms had holes and tears in them.
We sat down for a feast prepared by the hotel staff. It had several dished, all unique and interesting, including a raw fish speared from it's head and tail that we could cook over individual fires, if we so wanted. I got up then, and went to the end of the table to take a picture of all the food. At that same time, Steve and Alison were sneaking sips from a bottle of Saki at the end of table I had just arrived at. Once I sat down, Alison made a slight gasp and Steve whispered something to her. He then leaned over to me and whispered something to me: "Don't say anything, but a cockroach about an inch long just crawled under the table over there." and he tiled his head toward the far end of the table were several girls, wearing skirts, were sitting cross-legged on the ground. I nodded, went back to my seat, tucked my pants into my socks and waited. Sure enough, within a couple of minutes there was a scream, a bang and the girls scattered, terrifying the insect and sending it running towards more people, which of course set off a chain reaction.
The insect was removed by hotel staff, as was the second one we saw about 10 minutes later... and the third one. By this time nobody felt comfortable eating their supper and we retired for the night. Our tour guide was embarrassed, but did warn us that this place needed some T.L.C..
The rooms we much like the ones in Koyasan, only the washroom and shower room were different rooms. This hotel, not only needing repair and should probably not be open to the public, also had dizzying winding hallways and outdoor passageways which were disorienting in the night. This, with the carpet stains, the cracked walls, the bugs, and the lack of wi-fi finally made me feel like I was living in the rugged mountains on a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean -- instead of a Japanese Manhattan.
I'm off to bed now. Tomorrow we leave early for Tokyo, the last stop on our tour. After tomorrow, I'm on my own in Hong Kong.
Goodnight! Let's hope the bedbugs don't bite!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
Get Your Complete List of What to See & Do in Regina!
A few articles ago I listed Ogema as one of the top destinations to visit in Saskatchewan. Immediately after I wrote the article, I put my money where my mouth was and booked a weekend trip to Ogema for my girlfriend and me. I figured it wouldn't be fair to my readers to recommend a place for them to visit without actually visiting it myself, and after getting my new Galaxy S7 from TELUS I figured I needed a reason to test it out.
Earlier this year I took my Galaxy S6 to La Ronge, and had very little coverage. I wanted to use Facebook's new Live Video option, but I couldn't get enough service to even send a text message. I was pretty disappointed by the coverage with that provider, so I was interested to see how TELUS' network was in Ogema.
The result was pretty darn good! We streamed Spotify all the way there, were able to do a Live Video from the Deep South Pioneer Museum and took some really great pictures and videos of the trip. It also helped to have a reliable network when I got lost driving there (don't ask me how!). TELUS has invested over $29 billion into their network since 2000 and it has really paid off. It's a great feeling knowing that no matter where you travel, you can rely on TELUS to keep you connected.
The following is a guest article by Sally Elbassir, the owner and food taster of Passport and Plates, originally titled "The Tapas, Taverns and History of Madrid: A Food Tour". Be sure to drop by her blog for culinary treats from around the world!
I've always been a foodie. Long before the term "foodie" ever existed, I was that kid who was always eager to try something new.
Things haven't changed much in the last couple of decades. My palate has expanded, and I discovered that my dream job does exist; it just happens to be occupied by Anthony Bourdain. Now I satisfy my foodie obsession by writing on Yelp, and on my blog... there's plenty more where that came from.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.