Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Travel Blog- Bye Bye Oz... Hello Tokyo!

Time for the final installment of my Travel Blog diaries, this time re-capping the rest of the awesome Aussie East Coast and my few days in TOKYO!

After hippilicious Byron Bay (shared my love of there right HERE) came a pit-stop in Surfers Paradise, which I didn't think much of (jogging on the beach felt weird with so many high-rise hotels just metres from the sand) but we had a fun night out there before moving on to Brisbane to visit some friends I'd made on the Kiwi Experience bus in NZ. In Brissy we enjoyed BYOB meals, pre-St Paddy's day parties, riding on the speedy CityCat ferry and chilling out on the lush man-made lagoon (with a view of skyscrapers beyond the river when looking out at what would be the horizon- very strange).  I returned to Bris-vegas for a week after continuing with my friend further up the coast, and on my return I really got a feel for this under-rated city. I got my art geek on in two great galleries and expanded my mind in the museum, I tasted goods at the weekend city market, shopped on Queen Street and beyond, mooched Uni campuses pining for my lost studenthood, and of course sampled the city's nightlife :)

CityCat, CiityCat, my, how you go so fast...

Next stop Noosa- first time around it poured it down all day and night, so we sought solace in free sausage sarnies, goon and St Paddy's revelry at our Nomads hostel. The second time I stayed with a friend's family; home-cooked meals, sunshine breakfasts on the balcony and family sofa-times made Noosa seem very different this time around! I even spent a day with 'the oldies' (the grandparents' words not mine) at the Eumundi markets, drinking tea and eating ice cream before afternoon nap-time- retirement ain't so bad it seems!
Ah being fake-old, this is the life :)

From Noosa I visited Australia Zoo- Steve Irwin's loveable animal emporium where I finally got to cuddle a smelly but cute koala! The zoo itself is kind of a must-do in Australia, and I did really enjoy it, but it's by no means mind-blowing, just a nice day out!

In Hervey Bay we stayed at the wonderful Flashpackers Hostel ready for our Cool Dingos trip to Fraser Island- the largest sand island in the world. It's beautiful there and we has an amazing time on out 4x4 safari tour- bush walks, off-road driving, dingo-spotting, shipwreck exploring and swimming galore. I especially enjoyed floating down the beautiful Eli creek, using the jacuzzi and pool at the local resort and eating good food washed down with pitchers of cocktails with our new-found friends. Regular cookie and tea breaks didn't hurt matters either!
My friend Anna and I at Lake McKenzie

The other major gotta-do-it tour I did was a fabulous cruise to the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach, which I loved! Airlie Beach is an awesome place- basically you party all night, sunbathe by the lagoon all day and hang out with your friends. Not a bad life ey? My Whitsundays trip was incredible too- watching sunrise and sunset with new friends on our lovely sail boat, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, sunbathing on Whitehaven Beach's pristine white sillica, enjoying good food, bad wine (goon) and learning to sail- epic!

Sunrise in the Whitsunday Islands taken from our sailboat
Our 'Mandrake' posse on Whitehaven Beach!

My last destination was Cairns, which I was so sad to leave! I stayed at the infamous Gilligan's Hostel (it's intense but amazing!) and had the best time just doing what travellers tend to do at the end of their trip- topping up their tan, spending their last dollars on drinking, shopping and eating too much. I loved every second of my self-indulgent faux-decadence, and will miss Cairns (and Australia!) dearly, along with all the incredible people I met on the way.

Cairns Lagoon

The last destination of my trip was Tokyo- the bustling metropolitan capital of Japan, where I met my friend Becky who is over there on the JET program teaching Japanese kids English. Thank-god she could understand and speak pretty-good Japanese or I would have had some problems! We stayed in an Asakusa hostel and used the subway train system to get around the huge city fairly easily. Arriving on the Friday evening, the only thing to do was to buy multiple rice-based Japanese treats and canned alcoholic drinks from the 7-Eleven and get 'On It', sampling lovely plum wine and awful sake before embracing that much-loved Japanese favorite; karaoke. We had a booth just for our little group and it was great fun, even if i did lose my voice the next day!

In the morning we made it to the huge Tsukiji wholesale Fish Market and gawped at the weird and wonderful seafood to work up an appetite for some amazing fresh sushi (now I've tasted the finest, Tesco's pre-packaged just won't cut it!). We toured the city to see the Imperial Palace and gardens, a traditional cemetery and shrine, different city districts including Harajuku with it's interestingly-dressed girls, and many beautiful temples, before heading to the city's best onsen; Ooedo Onsen Monogatari.

An onsen is basically a natural hot springs, that you go in totally naked, with other members of the same sex. This particular onsen deserves a whole paragraph to itself, because it was AMAZING! It wasn't just about the bathing; the whole experience was magical, from donning my slippers at the door to choosing my kimono and embracing the Japanese way, I l-o-v-e-d it! Once I got over the initial embarrassment of being the only tan-lined, blonde Brit amid many seemingly opposite women, I was hooked. Sitting in a huge bucket spa outside with the rain refreshing my face and the steam opening my pores, chatting happily with my friend (Top Bonding Time) I realised what a healthy and valuable thing an onsen is, especially since the West lacks non-sexual forms of nude interaction and young people are increasingly subjected to non-realistic images of the human body. This onsen themepark also had places to eat, drink and shop, be entertained, have your fortune told and have a pamper. The sodium and chlorine ions must have had a magical effect on us because we left feeling wonderful, ready for our night out in Shinjuku!

Ready for my first (and far from last!) onsen
The next day we visited the largest temple in Tokyo, finding our fortunes and observing the traditions surrounding shrines and temples in Japan, particularly the vast and beautiful Meiji Shrine. We shopped at the market and on the streets of Shibuya, ate tasty Japanese curry, takoyaki (octopus dumplings), sushi and noodles, and I ended my stay in another seemingly-strange Japanese entity- the capsule hostel.

The female dorm in my capsule hotel
I loved my little box-in-the-wall bed with it's pull-down blind, tv and radio, though to some it would have been claustrophobic! I also had one last onsen dip just before bed in the hotel's much smaller but still wonderful version, which was like having a huge hot bath, naked, but with no-one else there. Bliss!

Now I'm back in England and I'm enjoying seeing my loved ones, but it won't be long until I leave the drizzle again to return to camp in New York! Oh, the traveller's life for me!


  1. Wooooo! Finally got round to writing in my diary about our trip :) That was by far the best onsen I've been to in Japan! I'm gonna have to pay it another visit before I leave!
    You are welcome back any time for some more onsen fun, mcdonalds sleepovers (which you forgot to mention!) and natto!!! Hahaha.
    Amazing trip! xxx

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  3. Outstanding , such a interesting blog , I also want to arrange this kind of trip how costly is it ?

    1. Thank-you very much! I'm going to be honest and say it is expensive to travel Australia- the trips and tours are expensive though if you buy them all together from one travel agent they can offer you a discount. Oz hostels are around £30 a night, but in NZ it's closer to $20, and there's always Couch Surfing for a cheaper, more sociable alternative! Many Tokyo attractions are free and food is cheap, but your main savings will be on big things like flights. I used STA travel for their under 26 and student discounts, and bought my Kiwi experience bus pass when it was half-price at the time. Keep an eye out for Group-On deals too and sign up to travel agent newsletter for notifications of flight sales, plus use a price comparison site like travel supermarket for insurance. The whole trip cost me close to $6000 but was worth every penny- Do It!