A Travellerspoint blog

June 2009

Home at last!

Our trip in numbers and other assorted bits...

After 61 days and 18 stops we finally reached San Francisco this Monday evening. We're still getting over jetlag, but I think have become much more immune over the past two months. Though our amazing trek is now over, I think we both feel that its good to be in one place for a while.

Our Trip in Numbers

Days Traveled: 61
Places Visited: 18
Air Miles Traveled: 79,224
Airlines Flown: 12
% to Budget: 99.1% (we saved 0.9%!)
Inflight Movies Watched: 29
Amount spent on Tips (outside of meals): $282
Cheapest non-fast-food dinner: $10 (Chen's Mapo Doufu in Chengdu)
Amount spend on animal-related attractions: $97
Number of visits to McDonalds: 7

Thanks for coming along with us!

-Jake & Nicole

Posted by jkirsch 17:49 Comments (1)

Winding down in Zanzibar

sunny 85 °F

Though we've now finally reached the end of the trip, we didn't want to leave off our last stop - 5 laid-back days in Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania.

After nearly 48 hours of door-to-door travel from Japan, Zanzibar turned out to be a wonderful end to the trip. We stayed at the 16-room Pongwe Beach Hotel on the east side of the island and didn't leave the place once during the time we were there. The resort may have been a bit basic (no a/c and only salt-water), but the staff were friendly, food excellent and setting amazing (so much so that we coined the new adjective "paradyllic" (a combination of paradise and idyllic) to describe it.

We really didn't do much save just enjoying the place, so there isn't too much to write about. Instead, as they say, pictures are worth 1000 words.




Finally, it was quite an experience just getting to the island. It's only a 20 minute flight from Dar es Salaam, and, for the most part, only small 16-seater planes ply the route. On the way out, Nicole and I were the last to board, so I ended up in the co-pilot's seat. I'd had the chance before, but still pretty cool this time around.


If you'd like to see more of Zanzibar or of any other part of our trip, all our photos are now up on MobileMe.

Posted by jkirsch 17:10 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Goodness gracious, great balls of octopus!

Osaka, Japan

semi-overcast 75 °F

View of Osaka Castle, which we visited on our last day in Osaka.

We're back on the beach (in Zanzibar), in the final days of our trip. Before this - and right after Bali - we spent three days exploring Japan's second-largest city, Osaka.

This wasn't our first time in Japan; we first visited Tokyo and Kyoto in the summer of 2004, and had left with mixed opinions. Tokyo seemed overwhelming, expensive and generally disappointing -- though in retrospect our negative opinion was likely due in part to the fact that it was our last stop on a month-long trip around Asia and we were ready to get back to the States. On the other hand, we really enjoyed Kyoto, and wanted to give Japan another shot on this trip.

We're glad we did, as we both found Osaka to be a perfect mix of "traditional" and "modern" Japan. Plus, the food was great! (Osaka is apparently the food capital of Japan, which is one of the main reasons we wanted to visit.)

We spent the bulk of our first day exploring the Dotonbori section of the city, which is known for having good shopping and great food stalls dishing out Osakan street food specialties like takoyaki, which are little balls of fried dough with octopus inside (hence the title of this post). The stalls were everywhere, although the one pictured below seemed particularly popular. And for good reason - the takoyaki were delicious, if a little overloaded with toppings (an odd combination of mayo, barbeque sauce, and fish flakes).


Dotonbori got especially vibrant as sunset approached. Crowds of young Japanese people dressed in all kinds of crazy get-ups were walking around and checking each other out, which was lots of fun to watch. My favorite were the guys sporting what I could only describe as a kind of cleaned-up Russell Brand look...tight black jeans; tight, unbuttoned shirts; longish, styled-to-look-messy hair; and lots of eye makeup. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to surreptitiously snap a photo.

The neon lights of Dotonbori at night

On the other end of the fashion spectrum, we also walked through the America Mura district of Osaka and got an interesting perspective on how the Japanese view urban, American styling. This mainly consisted of graphic tees with all kinds of odd English phrases, baggy jeans and lots of New York Yankees caps. It was weird and funny at the same time. The photo below almost captures it:


We spent the bulk of our second day visiting the Osaka aquarium, which housed the largest fish tank we've ever seen! (It had whale sharks in it!) We also made a brief stop in one of Osaka's numerous "food theme parks". We had read about another one in Dotonbori, but had been disappointed to find it closed the night before. After wandering around for a bit, we found a stall that specialized in okonomiyaki, another Osakan treat we had read about and wanted to try. Okonomiyaki is sometimes called a Japanese pizza - supposedly because it looks a little like a pizza. I didn't really see the resemblance...in appearance or in taste. It's more like a pancake made with cabbage, shrimp, fish, and other veggies, topped with barbeque sauce (the universal condiment here!), fish flakes, and green onions. We both liked it, but probably won't try to recreate it at home:


We finished the day with a visit to the Shin-Umeda Sky Building, located in the northern part of the city. The building was a sight in itself, and the views from the top were really something:




We ended our time in Osaka with a quick visit to Osaka Castle (pictured above), and then headed back to the airport to go to Tanzania, the last stop on our trip! More on that in the next post...

Posted by jkirsch 05:06 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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