Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Tokyo, Japan---Melbourne, Australia--Days 52/53

Tokyo, Japan to Melbourne, Australia

The past two days I have traveled from Japan to Australia, spending the two days around my nighttime flight taking in two wonderful cities. I woke up this morning after sleeping for an ungodly amount of time after being completely exhausted after the departure of Sonja and Valerie. I got up and spent the entire morning after breakfast at the hotel organizing hippo photos and getting the pictures ready to send off back to the States. After finishing them and checking out of the hotel, I bought my ticket for the airport shuttle and left my bags at the hotel and had about four hours in between to do some more sightseeing and pick up some souvenirs. The only problem was that it was a total DOWNPOUR outside and so with umbrella and rain jacket in tow, I headed out to conquer the Tokyo subway system on my own.

After a bit of confusion and standing at the wrong platform, and buying a new ticket due to my mistake, I was on my way to Asakusa, where after making my way out of the subway I found the Senso-ji Temple. It is at the end of a long touristy stretch lined with gift and food shops so after perusing through the shops a bit (which meant opening and closing my umbrella a zillion times) I made it over to the Temple which was really interesting and took lots of pictures, of course.
There were hundreds of people there, both Western tourists and Japanese temple-goers and it was actually quite difficult to walk around without running into someone with your umbrella up. There are some small gardens and smaller temples around the larger temple, so I walked around those a bit and tried to take pictures while holding my umbrella, which also proved to be difficult.

After seeing the temple and shopping for a bit I went and got a great sushi and tempura lunch and then tried to track down a post office to send all of my things back home, which meant that I walked around for quite a while since my guidebook didn’t quite have the right location down for the post office. When I got the post office I got a number and sat down, then a man came up to me and tried talking to me, asking me all sorts of things about the post office that I really couldn’t follow. I kept telling him that I didn’t understand, but that didn’t stop him from trying.

Finally it was his number that was up so he went off so then I realized that I was sitting in the banking area of the post office, so maybe that was what he was trying to tell me? Anyways I got up and went to the post office side (who knew there were two sides!) and attempted to get a box for my things but then realized that I didn’t have enough cash on me to send it all back so I would have to find a bank first.

No luck, there were no banks around so at this point it was getting late and I needed to catch my bus to the airport so I had to take all of my stuff with me, which was sort of a hassle since it was still pouring outside and this meant that I would have to bring it all on the plane.
I got back to the hotel and wrote a few postcards before getting my shuttle to the airport which took about an hour. I checked in just fine and waited for my flight by checking email at a Yahoo Computer Station.

On the plane I was sitting in an isle seat next to a man, and the man in the row in front and to the right of me leaned back and practically insisted that I sit next to him. He had the whole row to himself and said that I could move there and have more room, so he said that I should give him a book or something so that he could save the seat for me so that I could move when we were up in the air.

Umm, ok, but I didn’t really want to move. It was sort of an awkward moment but I handed him my book anyways. I didn’t end up moving since I had a great seat anyways since I could see the television and get up whenever I wanted to so about halfway through he handed me back my book. Unfortunately I didn’t get any sleep on the plane and wasn’t all that comfortable so ended up watching the movies and listening to music since I couldn’t keep my eyes open to read.

We arrived in Melbourne and I was so excited. I can’t believe that I am back in Australia!! Its so exciting. I met my driver and he was really nice, and was about my age, and he dropped me off not too long afterwards. I checked in then had to take a nap since I was so out of it. A couple hours later I got up and decided that I should check out the Melbourne Zoo to see if there are hippos there (its not on the list but I thought I should check). The hotel had brochures on the zoo and there on the front was a picture of a hippo!

So I got a taxi to the zoo and paid my entrance fee only to find that there are pygmy hippos, not Nile hippos. Then why was there a picture of a Nile hippo on the brochure? Maybe I’m just losing it but I could have sworn it was a Nile hippo, but then again it was an underwater and up close shot so I could have been mistaken, but do pygmy hippos REALLY look like Nile? I don’t think so.

So basically I walked right out of the zoo again to the other side and waited for a tram to take me into town, or at least I hoped that is where it would go. There were other people around so I asked them and when the tram came I didn’t have enough change so I ended up getting a concession ticket, although I am not a student, and got off where this couple from New Zealand told me to.

I found myself in downtown Melbourne and walked around for a long time. I got some lunch at a cafĂ© which boasted the “best juice in the world” (I got it and it was really good) and then got my Australian guidebook. The rest of the afternoon was spent just walking around Melbourne which is an amazingly clean and green city. After a couple of hours I actually found the tram that I was supposed to take to get back to my hotel when one of the restored vintage trams pulled up, which is a free tourist tram that takes you all around the city. So I hopped on that and was taken down to the docklands and around which left me quite far from where I was supposed to be. Anyways this meant that I had to walk around some more to figure out where I was and by this time it was dark so I got some dinner at a great Greek restaurant and then got a taxi back to my hotel!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.