Asia, Godivaworld Travels

The Tokyo Experience!

using the universeIsn’t it amazing the twists and turns of life?!

Tokyo was always on my “Travel Experience” list but never did I think the opportunity would fall into my lap in the fashion that it did.  It literally came outta nowhere or let’s say on my mobile by way of a friend who was planning a trip there from Singapore and wanted me to accompany them….flight, accommodations covered!  Now could I really say “no” to that?

So the journey began!

I made the 13 hour nonstop flight to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International airport.  Let me say this, upon arrival and getting through immigration this was probably the first time in my travels where I did NOT speak nor comprehend the language in any way lol!

In any case I had absolutely no plans for my voyage to Tokyo, just wander, explore and stumble upon things as much as possible.  Not only did I wander and stumble, I got off the beaten path and found myself lost-but-not-lost wandering aimlessly which took me on a totally unexpected adventure (don’t you love those moments?).

What happened is while shopping and walking around, I got separated from my friend but luckily I had my train pass so I attempted (successfully) to make my way back to the station closest to the Mandarin Oriental (an amazing hotel and my accommodations for the stay….ooh I was smaller in size then – 2011 I might add).

The train system in Tokyo is pretty user friendly so after stopping for a bite and stumbling upon a Lush store which I had to pry myself out of, I made my way back to the train station.  Tokyo’s most prominent train line is the JR Yamanote Line, a loop line which connects Tokyo’s multiple city centers. The city’s 13 subway lines are operated by two companies and run largely inside the Yamanote circle and the areas around Ginza and Shitamachi.

When I tell you it was one adventure after the other.  I purchased a little trinket for myself from a jewelry store (no not Mikimotos which I have a pictures of) and while wandering around again, I somehow misplaced the gift bag with said ring in it.  We had to trace our steps on a ring-in-bag-seeking mission not knowing where we stopped, turned or possibly plopped the bag down.  Lucky for me, after tracking a few invisible bread crumbs marking our steps we stopped off in this side store and voila’ the store worker had the bag at the register.  How in the world did I leave an entire piece of jewelry in a bag in the store??? (I can be absentminded at times.)

Besides that little hiccup and me getting separated and having to find my way back the trip itself was one for the books.  I ran into a Krispy Kreme – if anyone knows me they know my total addiction with the sweets.  I learned (i.e figured out how) to eat soup without any silverware.  I was able to spend an evening at one of the “Best 100 Bars in the world” – The Star Bar Ginza which proved itself to be a pretty cool spot.  We saw a few tricks (need to locate the footage) and got pretty ‘warmed up’ if I do say so myself.

All in all, I accomplished what I wanted as part of my invitation and purpose and the experience was and is forever ingrained in my memory bank of travels and adventures.   I’d always wanted to make my way to Tokyo and now that I have I can say that I would gladly do a return journey as well.

Minus me almost missing my flight while enroute to the airport – yeah so I’m on the train headed to the airport in plenty time for the 2 hr check-in and I get a call from Delta’s automated system stating the flight has changed.  Come again? So I’m on the train to Narita trying to reach Delta’s skymiles hotline meanwhile my phone is blowing up with messages about my flight BOARDING as I’m on the train near the airport.  When I finally got someone on the horn I was told that there was an error and my flight will be departing as scheduled.  As luck would have it, when I got to the gate, we were delayed.

As if that wasn’t enough once I finally arrived back in Atlanta, CNN was reporting the Earthquake Tsunami that hit Japan which led to all my friends and family calling me to see if I’d made it home.  It was truly one of those moments where I had to question my purpose because that was about as close a call as any I’ve ever had.

Enjoy the slide show of my special moments from my Tokyo experience!

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Doumo arigatou gozaimasu!

 

Asia, Worldly Treats & Eats

Kopi Luwak – The World’s Most Expensive Coffee

While traipsing around Bali last year during my “Bali Birthday” adventure one of our outings led us on a journey to a farm that produced the Kopi luwak.. This coffee gained notoriety after being featured in The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2003 and the myth of its all-natural origins was propagated in a Jack Nicholson–Morgan Freeman scene in the 2007 film The Bucket List.

Kopi luwak (“coffee” in Indonesian, “luwak” from the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, which are part of the Indonesian Archepelago’s 13,677 islands (only 6,000 of which are inhabited), or civet coffee, can sell for $75 per quarter pound. But it’s not strictly the exotic location that makes these beans worth their weight in silver. It’s how they’re “processed.”

Kopi luwak or civet coffee, refers to the seeds of coffee berries once they have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) in Sumatra.  Palm civets feed on berries and pulpy fruits such as figs and palms.  They also eat small vertebrates, insects, ripe fruits and seeds.  On farms, civets are either caged or allowed to roam within defined boundaries.

(I was a little scared to get too close to it hence the far away (terribly displaced) photo of it.)

As folklore has it, kopi luwak in Indonesian, was discovered by plantation workers in colonized Indonesia.  Forbidden from consuming coffee beans picked from the plants, they picked up, cleaned and then roasted the beans excreted by wild Asian palm civets that entered the plantations to eat the ripest coffee cherries. The civets’ digestive systems gave kopi luwak a uniquely rich aroma and smooth, rounded flavor — so much so that the Dutch plantation owners soon became die-hard fans.

(Awww look at us….it was quite humid out that day and I didn’t feel all that great – the day AFTER my birthday no less.)

What started as, presumably, a way for the natives to get coffee without climbing the trees has since evolved into the world’s priciest specialty coffee.

Honestly I can’t even take credit for this experience as it was the desire of my friend in the pic with me above who had this as a must-see during our Bali adventure!!!  I’m glad we did though.

~ Travel Well ~

Asia, Godivaworld Travels

A Bali Birthday!

It’s Sunday, January 5th and our journey to Bali began with the flight from LAX to the Asian hub in Taipei, Taiwan…a mere 10+ hour flight followed by the 6 hour flight to Bali from Taipei! This would be the first of about 7 flights for me during this journey for my 40th birthday.

 

The Arrival – Day 1 (January 7th)

As Bali is 16 hours ahead of LAX (our departure location), we left on Sunday and arrived on Tuesday, January 7th local time.  First, was the shock as we emerged from a long line in customs to what felt like 900 smoldering degrees outside.  There were a sea of drivers with cards of names in which I was trying my best to search through for my own name.  I was slightly overwhelmed to say the least but eventually found the driver with my name.  After telling the 2 drivers that it would just be us vs the 6+ that were anticipated, we piled into the air conditioned vehicle ready to start our adventure.

First thing we noticed were all the scooters, motorbikes on the road not to mention the driving being totally opposite of that in the Western world.  Our driver – Gusti took us to a little restaurant enroute to our villa which was our first intro to Bali.

received_m_mid_1389148870407_cbd096daf4c02a4c61_1The Villa

So when I first started planning and even before I chose Bali, I knew that I wanted to rent a villa just to add to this once in a lifetime experience and intro to 40.  Let me say, this villa did NOT disappoint!  It was just what I envisioned and then some.  It would have been the perfect accommodation for the larger group that originally planned to partake in this journey.  It was a 3000+ sq ft 3 bedroom, 4 bathroom, living room, kitchen, private pool villa in South Kuta, Bali (Indonesia).  The pictures really don’t do it justice as you would probably think it’s the entire property but really it’s an individual villa (#104 was our Villa #), spacious and uber private.

Before the trip I came across the spa packages, all of which were to DIE for which included a 6-day Body Purification that was the equivalent to the cost of 1 spa treatment here in the US.  Of course I had to snag that for us as my way of saying thanks….and it was pure HEAVEN each and every day.  By the 3rd day though it was just too much so we opted not to do our 2 sessions that day as we were (believe it or not) “massaged-out” lol!  Did I tell you the showers were outside?  It was the most liberating thing EVER….once I got past the idea of bugs and snakes trying to snack on my nekkedness lol!

In and around Bali

So I left the schedule kinda open to ensure I didn’t wear myself out which I tend to do alot when I travel, however I did have a few things in mind that I either wanted to do or see to include both a temple or 2 and riding the elephants – both of which we were able to accomplish.  The first couple days were more or less just exploring and figuring things out.  The only constant was probably our appetite and my cocktail intake which after all it was a Sssselebration lol!  We were ready to eat even before we finished the meal we were eating which made us crack up each and every time. Because the language was totally foreign to us, we also found comedy in randomly calling out food when someone spoke in their native tongue…..then again we were always talking bout, looking for, ordering, and partaking in food.  Indonesian food put you in mind of Thai cuisines, lots of rices and spices.  The local beer and alcohol was “Bintang” and “Arak” respectfully however I traveled with my own favorite – “Ciroc” peach and regular lol!

Transportation was interesting and thankfully the villa provided a driver which was really convenient for us not to mention he was soooo friendly and cool!  Given the 200+ million people in Indonesia and 4 + million in Bali alone, it’s no wonder that the major transportation method was scooters/motorbikes and they were EVERYWHERE!  I believe I died every time we went somewhere because these bikes were all over the road with babies, 2 and 3 people on one, helmets no helmets, dodging in between cars etc.  I just had to close my eyes a few times while saying “I’m bout to die” which of course didn’t happen lol!

My BIRTHDAY!!!!!! January 9th came in and brought with it a lil present by way of a lil cold but I was NOT going to allow a little bit of a cold to in any wreck my special day.  On this day, I went to the Bali Zoo and did an elephant adventure; we went to see Uluwatu Temple – Kecak Dance which was pretty spectacular; finally ending with my Jimbaran Bay Seafood Birthday dinner on the beach.  Lucky for me, with the 12 hour difference I was able to not only celebrate my milestone birthday in a major way but to recognize it TWICE – Bali time and 12 hours later U.S ET.

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All in all I’d say we did what we wanted, played tourist, relaxed, ate, turned up a little, and over all had a fantastic time.