Back from Japan

March 24th, 2009 by twistingwrists Categories: Travel 3 Responses
Back from Japan

Last week I had to make an emergency trip back to Japan – not for happy reasons, but nevertheless it was nice to spend some time in the land of martial arts, amazing food, and cherry blossoms.

I lived in Japan for 3 years (99-2001) and I go back to visit every year. It’s nice to see what changes and what stays the same. Japan is a very dynamic country and the people are always looking for something new. Old restaurants disappear and new ones take their place. Houses are knocked down and pachinko parlors sprout up.

Besides seeing family and friends, one of the best things about Japan is the food. A trip to an izakaya (pub/restaurant) is a great way to try a lot of different dishes. On the other hand a trip to a convenience store is also bound to deliver new varieties of snacks to enjoy. Here are a few foods and snacks that struck me last week:

No need to feel guilty about not eating crust in Japan

No need to feel guilty about not eating crust in Japan

"Happy Refresh!" with Calpis Soda

"Happy Refresh!" with Calpis Soda

Octopus with wasabi - delicious...

Octopus with wasabi - delicious...

Wasabi & Seaweed flavor chips - beats Doritos any day

Wasabi & Seaweed flavor chips - beats Doritos any day

BBQ bamboo shoots - this is so Japanese.

BBQ bamboo shoots - this is so Japanese.

'L's and 'R's still prove to be a challenge for the Japanese.

'L's and 'R's still prove to be a challenge for the Japanese.

Thailand (the importance of a vacation)

January 25th, 2009 by twistingwrists Categories: Travel 2 Responses
Thailand (the importance of a vacation)

I love to travel. Traveling exposes you to new cultures, takes away preconceived ideas of a people, a country, and a culture. There are so many reasons to take a vacation but at the same time there are so many excuses that come to stop vacation plans – no money, no time, etc.

Last year’s vacation was back to Thailand. This was my 3rd trip to the “Land of Smiles” and it was the best one yet. My wife and I flew into Koh Samui where we spent a week at a beautiful resort called “Zazen”. Koh Samui is a small island that is a tropical paradise. Beautiful ocean, nice people, great food – what else could you ask for?

Mummified monk from the 70's at a temple on Koh Samui

Mummified monk from the 70's at a temple on Koh Samui

From there we went on to Bangkok – the capital of Thailand. Traffic is a mess here and it’s not too clean, but I still really like this city. It’s very metropolitan and very easy to get around if you use the skytrain. I typically don’t enjoy shopping, but in Thailand even the shopping is fun. Cheap clothes, shoes, and just about anything else you might want.

Girly boy show that happened to be playing at our hotel

Girly boy show that happened to be playing at our hotel

If you don’t know the magic that is called Thai Massage, you are missing out. For a few bucks, you can get an amazing massage that some people call “assisted yoga”. Your body is pulled, stretched, and rubbed in a way that I think is the best in the world. After walking around all day, a Thai massage session was on our list about every other day.

Giant reclining Buddha at Wat Po (largest temple in Bangkok)

Giant reclining Buddha at Wat Po (largest temple in Bangkok)

Our last stop in Thailand was Ayuthaya – which is a town an hour or so North of Bangkok. This was the old capital of Thailand and there are lots of ruins here from temples that were destroyed in wars past. I found it fascinating that tourists can walk and climb all over the ruins. I saw others having picnics and even a wedding amongst the ruins. I like this interactive approach and the fact that everyone seemed respectful of the historical sites.

Temple ruins in Ayuthaya

Temple ruins in Ayuthaya

After a couple weeks in Thailand, I was completely refreshed, recharged, and ready to go back to work and life as normal back home in So Cal. Short weekend trips are great, but for me longer (and by that I mean at least a week) vacations are the best way to recharge. We all get used to our daily routine and for me it takes a few days for my body to get out of that routine. After a week of doing completely different things than the norm, my mind and body are invigorated and stimulated by all the “newness”. Then when I come back home from the trip, I have a whole new fresh perspective on things.

Yes vacations are expensive and they take time to plan, but they’re worth it. The memories of a good vacation are yours to own for the rest of your life. Don’t wait until some time in the future when you retire, hit the lotto, or some other far off date. If you can manage to, start planning that vacation now – your mind and body will thank you for it.