Adventurers? Who’s Deciding?

We woke up yesterday to a sunny day, low humidity, and no plans for the day.  I probably have as many books about Japanese/Kyoto travel as any self respecting hotel concierge.  It took little time for my husband and me to settle on a destination that was doable for a day. We chose the ancient Enryakuji temple, at the summit of Mt. Hiei.

Our Japanese friends consider us adventurous, or so they tell us.  I think compared to the average tourist, we head out on our own, without a lot of drama. Last year, when we rented a car for a road trip, they all just thought we were nuts. Continue reading “Adventurers? Who’s Deciding?”

Ceramic Pleasures

If you’ve visited my home, you know I have a “thing” for ceramics.  Particularly Japanese ceramics. If I can add some fresh foliage or flowers to the vessel, my aesthetic needs are completely satisfied. 

This powerful attraction began on my first trip to Japan in the 1980’s.  I was in an art gallery that displayed ceramics.  It was one of those aha! moments.  I saw for the first time the power of the earth’s clay in a master’s hand.  I was hooked, astounded, excited.  This was new territory for me.

I returned home certain that I too was meant to be a ceramacist.  How else to explain my strong reaction? I took it as a sign.  Follow your bliss, if you remember that!  I quickly enrolled in a ceramics class at a neighboring community college.  I just as quickly learned that centering a blob of clay on a wheel in a class taught by a disinterested and overworked teacher was not something I had the patience for, at least under those circumstances.  End of promising but short lived ceramics career fantasy, but not the end of the love affair. Continue reading “Ceramic Pleasures”

Trying to Follow Bourdain’s Footsteps

Anthony Bourdain had a way of making everything he did look cool. Particularly his eating/drinking/lounging at night markets in the Far East. Without fail, it appeared to be a sublime eating experience, one that could be easily duplicated once you got yourself to a Night Market!  Probably not with the same level of self confidence he always displayed, but hey, no one would be filming!

Bourdain eating at night markets

The Hype:

The one thing that is a must on every visitor’s Taipei itinerary is a night market. Constantly buzzing with activities, tempting smells, and delicious flavors, it’s impossible to resist the charm of a quintessential Taiwanese night market.

Must-try street food in Lehua Night Market:

  • Stinky tofu
  • Spicy duck blood
  • Braised meat vermicelli
  • Yolk-filled taro balls

We just returned from Taipei Taiwan, a city overflowing with night markets.  All we had to do was pick one and we too could be easily transported to BlissLand, lingering and savoring dish after tasty dish, while drinking beer after beer. Continue reading “Trying to Follow Bourdain’s Footsteps”

Taipei’s Bittersweet Treasures

 

National Palace Museum of Taipei

They pass me in droves.  Tour groups of Mainland Chinese who have come to the National Palace Museum in Taipei to see the relics of their culture saved by Chiang Kai Shek.  The treasures were moved to Taipei Taiwan before Mao Tse Tung could destroy them as he took over power.  We mostly ignore each other, but sometimes our curiosity about each other makes staring unavoidable.  

The Mainlanders follow a tour leader waving a banner, some intent on listening to his spiel, others drifting off in their own worlds of appreciation or possibly boredom. Every once in a while I feel certain one of the group has glared at me with hostility.  Occasionally they push me out of their way to get their own closer look at objects.  I can hardly blame them.  What a lost legacy of former imperial splendor. Continue reading “Taipei’s Bittersweet Treasures”

The Gamble

Let’s face it.  Much of travel can be a gamble.  Days that start out promising can quickly get a sour taste.  Finding a famous tourist attraction does not guarantee anything  more than it’s sure to be crowded. Online recommendations and even World Heritage Sites may or may not ring your own bells.

And so it goes.  I’ve learned to accept the fact that not every place visited will hit a home run.

Today we said goodbye to our house guest and decided to take a short train ride to a neighboring town that was, for a ten year period, the capital of Japan before it was moved to Kyoto. The town was recommended in a popular Kyoto periodical.

Continue reading “The Gamble”