Tokyo, Japan: Part 2

On our first evening in Japan, we took the train to Yokohama for the evening. It was beautiful and wealthy. M

We were going specifically to Yamashita park, to watch the sunset. This park hugs the waterline and is a popular picnic spot and concert venue. We could see why.

We admired the scenery, got some ice cream, and enjoyed being together.

A short walk from the park is a long wooden pier, unlike any other pier I had seen. It was designed for aesthetics as much as function.

The pier is pretty huge, with an outdoor amphitheater, a restaurant and a large lawn space above it. We arrived just in time for a girl band performance.

The above picture was taken directly above the stage. The “king,” “jack,” and “queen” are distinctive buildings from the Yokohama skyline that can all be seen from that spot. Can you find them?

Next stop, the train station. Which involved a walk further into the city.

Such a pretty evening! And Fred really piked the sign below. He took a ton of pictures of it!

These brick buildings are converted warehouses, currently housing restaurants and shops. We didn’t go in, but they looked really cool.

This ring shaped walkway was a surprise. As was the Cup Noodles Museum (where the tour ends with you creating your own cup of noodles), which was closed. But we could watch one of the displays through the window.

Last downtown surprise:

A theme park!

The train station was in the basement of a large mall. We found a ramen restaurant inside the mall and enjoyed our first bowls of real ramen, now a definite favorite! All in all, our first day in Japan was a great start! We were intrigued by the culture, smitten with the order and cleanliness, rebelling in the fellowship with our friends. And we were just beginning!

Tokyo, Japan: Part 1

After flying all night and traveling for weeks, we were exhausted when we landed at Haneda International Airport outside Tokyo. Exhausted and excited to be visiting a dear friend, meeting his wife, and spending some slower time in a wondrous new place.

First impressions were of a clean airport that functioned like a well made clock, of friendly and helpful airport staff, and of amazing bathrooms. Like, really nice bathrooms. Think very clean, with stalls for squat toilets or for normal toilets, with booster seats to strap your kid into while you pee, with the nicest bidets. Bidets that will rinse you with warm water, that warm the seat, that blow warm air to dry you, that release scent in the toilet to mask any unpleasant smells, craziness!

We were relieved and excited to be met by Devin, one of Fred’s college roommates. He took us by train to his house in the Tokyo suburbs. Letting us get a good view of a clean, orderly city in the morning.

Already a different experience. Devin spent the train ride eagerly explaining some basic cultural and transit facts and expectations, with the goal that we’d be able to explore on our own before we left Japan. Fred got excited when he learned that everyone lines up in marked areas and waits quietly where they are supposed to. And introvert’s dream! Or an exhausted traveller’s dream!

We had a short, pleasant walk from the train to Devin’s house.

We walked that route a lot in the next week and it was always pleasant, with minimal traffic or other pedestrians. And the people you did pass were polite. After dropping our things off and getting a house tour, we headed for lunch. Sushi!

Have you ever played Sushi Go? This place is like that game. You can ask for specific rolls, or can take a plate off the conveyor belt that is directly in front of you. When you finish the roll, you stack the plates. Different colored plates are different prices. When you’re don’t, a waiter comes by, tallies your plates, and hands you your bill. That spigot in front of us is hot water. There a jar of matcha (ground green tea) for you to scoop into your cup, then add hot water. Unlimited refills, because you do it yourself, without ever getting up. Such a good meal!

The restaurant was in a mall that we explored some, again with really nice bathrooms. Definitely a perk of being in Japan! Outside was a bike parking lot, it reminded me of Amsterdam.

And on the way home we passed lots of spring flowers.

At home we met Devin’s wife, Ai, and rested for awhile. Then off to Yokohama for the evening!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Part 4

Our last day in Vietnam started with individually packaged bananas, which seemed like overkill to us!

Breakfast and a goodbye, as Titus caught a Grab bike to the airport (one of his goals for Vietnam).

And we were on our own! Our Airbnb checkout was in the morning, our flight not until night, so we caught a Grab downtown. Passing more cool buildings and monuments.

We went to the Ben Than Market first, a large building filled with booths and tables seeking all kinds of things from souvenirs to food. We had some stressed exploration of the craziness before we found a slightly less crowded area. Surprisingly, we found some of the gift/souvenirs that we were hoping to find.

Leaving the market was a relief, as the streets were quieter and we were hungry. Two blocks away we found a little shop that specialized in free trade products, where we found some special gifts. And two blocks further we didn’t find the cafe we were looking for. But, thanks to a Google maps search for nearby restaurants, we did stumble upon a little cafe tucked away down an alley up two flights of stairs, that had really good food and coffee. Refueled and refreshed, we struck out again, this time getting a ride to the Central Post Office.

It was busier today, and we had our luggage, so Fred waited outside with it while I went in to mail our postcards.

There was a stray kitten hanging out nearby, but it didn’t want to be friends. There was still a lot of day left, so we headed to the mall. It seemed like a good place to find dinner and a hangout spot.

It was. The roof had a great view and some porch swing type seats where we rested and watched the sunset.

I got some shots of Gus.

And orchids.

And . . . Then I dropped my phone. Slipped right out of my hand, flat on the stone roof. Cracked the screen, but everything seemed like it was still working, so we were okay until we could hit up an Apple store back in the states. An exciting end to Southeast Asia, with both our phones now needing repair! We flew overnight, arriving in Tokyo the next morning. Which is matter for the next post.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Part 3

Another morning, another museum! As always, the drive revealed wonders.

And ended in the park complex that holds the zoo and botanical garden, and the History Museum.

It was well worth the time. This museum doesn’t focus on a specific period, it cover all of Vietnamese history with valuable cultural artifacts and historical treasures.

Our brief walk through gave us a much greater understanding of the culture and country we were enjoying.

This mural shows Vietnamese troops defeating Mongol forces at the battle of Bach Dang in 1288. I enjoyed seeing the representation of a battle that I read about last year.

The museum does a water puppet show, which we enjoyed greatly.

There was a group of little kids watching who were more entertaining than the puppets, giggling and gasping at the various plot twists.

We left the museum and headed for a nearby restaurant for lunch and smoothies. And marveled at the cable system we saw throughout the city!

A Grab from the restaurant took us to a small tourism office, where we formed part of a small group of tourists going to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Our bus ride was a couple of hours outside the city.

As you can see, the scenery changed significantly from the cityscape of Ho Chi Minh. We took a snack stop at a lacquer shop that employs individuals with birth defects from Agent Orange. It is affecting a third and fourth generation in Vietnam, but in this spot they were given a livelihood.

On the last part of the drive, we watched a 15 minute movie, advertised as “a propaganda film,” required viewing by the government for all tour groups going to the tunnels. It was educational, fascinating, and inspired a lot of thought about propaganda on both sides of that war. On what propaganda I may have bought into.

Our guide was very good, friendly and informative. He explained the massive tunnel system, hundreds of miles of tunnels on various levels, where people lived for years.

There are examples of the man traps used by the VietCong. I never understood the base cruelty of those traps, maiming horribly, but usually not fatal. Our guide explained that if a soldier was killed, his buddies would keep advancing. But if a soldier was injured, two or three other soldiers would have to take him back to safety. Aiming for injury multiplied the traps effectiveness. Harsh, but not sadistic as I used to think.

War is harsh.

Further on, he showed us one of the ways that VietCong soldiers disappeared.

This hole large enough for one man to hide.

And here is an entrance to one branch of the tunnel system. They were often hidden in termite mounds or tree stumps, natural structures.

As were the air holes.

Here is an example of rice paper construction.

And of some daily life in the tunnels during the war.

We saw the current state of bomb craters.

And we crawled along the tunnels for a stretch. Or at least, along a section of tunnels that had been expanded so that they could be traversed more comfortably.

A sobering day, a fascinating day, and a day of wondering again at the beauty of this country.

At the friendliness with which we were treated, despite the continued effects of the war that may extend for centuries.

Finally, a view of Saigon traffic as we reentered the city.

Ends of Life

Gray hairs — founts of wisdom,
decades running after Christ.
Lives of study, proving faithful,
knowing soon they’ll see the prize.

Younger faces, hearts of passion,
zealous for the truth they know.
Ganing balance, learning patience,
in faith growing, grace to show.

Both ends of life, valued family,
needed in the church today.
Let us listen, seek its building,
bound together as we pray.

Copyright Jonelle Liddell, 2019.