Last year, I took a family vacation to Europe: we traveled to Italy and Spain. This year, we decided to visit Asia: Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong. I was excited, because it would be my first time visiting each city. Here are some highlights from the trip.
Our first meal in Tokyo was udon noodles in the basement of a train station at 7am :-). For lunch, we had ramen. Tokyo’s ramen parlors have quite an efficient supply chain: you select all of your items at a vending machine (e.g. ramen, appetizers, drinks), then deposit money. Instead of the food coming down the chute, you receive tickets.
You give these tickets to one of the wait staff, then go grab a table. The wait staff brings the food over when it’s ready.
On our second day in town, we had sushi. We ventured over to the Tsukiji Fish Market, a wholesale fish market famous for its early morning auctions. While we didn’t arrive in time to witness an auction, we did frequent one of the in-market restaurants for a sushi breakfast.
I had salmon, tuna and uni over rice, along with miso soup. It was a breakfast of champions :-)
To learn about the history of Tokyo (which used to be called Edo), I visited the Edo-Tokyo Museum. After purchasing my ticket, I found a group of museum tour guides, who were offering free tours.
Since I was the only person requesting an English language tour at the time, I received a private, one-hour tour! My guide was very knowledgeable. He taught me a lot about Tokyo’s rich history, going all the way back to the days of the Shogun.
One section of the museum included a life-size replica of a Kabuki theater, complete with actors (mannequins) on stage.
My tour guide told me that Kabuki once included female actors, but switched to only male actors. So men play the role of women characters.
Christmas in Seoul
We arrived in Seoul right before Christmas. We visited the Cheonggyecheon, an elevated highway that was converted into a walkable stream, smack dab in the middle of the city. It was completely decked out with Christmas cheer, which made us feel at home.
The city held a Christmas Festival on Christmas Day, with a sound stage and food trucks. Assorted performers came on stage to sing Christmas carols in Korean and English. I loved the Korean rendition of Amy Grant’s “Grown Up Christmas List.”
The greatest thrill of my trip was visiting the DMZ and having a chance to peer into North Korea. The tour included a visit to the “Third Tunnel,” one of four tunnels dug by the North Koreans to attack the South (each of the tunnels was discovered by the South before an attack could unfold).
The Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong
The largest sitting Buddha in the world, the Tian Tan Buddha is 112 feet tall and requires 268 steps to reach the statue from its base. We took the Ngong Ping 360, a 25-minute cable car ride (i.e. very similar to a gondola at ski resorts) to the base of the Buddha.
Hong Kong History
The fabulous Hong Kong Museum of History documents the city’s history from its earliest beginnings, to the opium wars (and British rule), to the occupation by Japan during World War II, to the 1997 return to China.
We had dim sum at a place called One Dim Sum in the Kowloon section of Hong Kong. We have dim sum quite often back home, but at One Dim Sum, everything tasted quite a bit better. I wish I could have eaten dim sum more than once on this visit. Next time!