Last weekend, I turned 30 years old. Because it was the end of Ramadan, we had a four day weekend to observe the holiday of Eid, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. I did not have much planned for my 30th birthday, as it was nearing the end of the school year, and I mostly wanted to just relax. But my friend Nick had other plans, and convinced myself and another friend named Jonathan that we should do the world’s longest zip-line. Continue reading
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It has been just about a year since our last blog post. A lot has happened in that time, but we have struggled to find the motivation to keep up on our blog. We recently made a big transition by moving from Shanghai, China to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, with a couple month stopover in Iowa. Angela and I both wanted to get back into this, so be prepared for a recap of the past 12 months of our lives… Continue reading
Angela and I began our trip in Christchurch, New Zealand. We arrived late, but had booked a room at a place called Jucy Snooze, which is a 24-hour hotel. We had rented a camper van from Jucy as well, which is a road-tripper company that rents out campers, cars and even hotel rooms for a very reasonable price. They shuttled us from the Jucy Snooze in the morning so that we could pick up our accommodations for our trip around New Zealand.
Angela and I just spent the week bicycling around the South Korean island of Jeju. This was our first self-supported bike trip in which we carried all of our luggage on the back on the bike. Jeju was the perfect location to do this for the first time as it is really well set-up for biking, and navigation was mostly simple. There are some things we would definitely do differently, so make sure to read that part if you are considering this trip yourself. Overall though, it was a fantastic trip.
Day 1 – Jeju to Hallim
Distance: 30.3 km
Angela and I had a productive summer. We got married! Thanks to several excellent family members, we were able to get this spectacular event planned from China. We ended up with perfect weather and were surrounded by all of the people that we love.
As of today we have 8 days of school left. 8 days! Now before you continue reading, this post is written by me: Angela. I’m not as poetic as Jason and I tend to use a lot of exclamation points! Read at your own risk.
In April and May our wonderful friends threw us Bachelor and Bachelorette parties. We are so lucky to have amazing friends here in Shanghai! Jason’s party was at the end of April and was pretty low key. Our friend Ross designed awesome shirts for everyone to wear that included all the things Jason loved: Luther, Camp Shalom, Beer and Iowa. They turned out great!
One of the few challenges that we encounter living in the mega-convenient city of Shanghai is where to go for a nice bicycle ride. Over the past three years, my standards for great bike rides have dropped dramatically. I used to consider a great bike ride to involve open country and absolutely zero cars. Now, if I have a protected bike lane that I am sharing with a thousand scooters, next to a road with heavy traffic, I call it a good day. However, I can still appreciate a great ride when I find one, and I have found a few in the past couple of months.
After enjoying the historical and beautiful city of Kyoto, Japan, Angela and I were all set to travel into the mountains. We were traveling to the mountains west of Tokyo, often referred to as the ‘Japanese Alps‘. Up to this point, I had navigated our train travels throughout Japan with great success using an extremely convenient app called Hyperdia (a must-have for Japanese rail travelers). I became a little complacent with my skills, assuming that I was just awesome at this and little to no effort was required. We were traveling to Nozawa Onsen, and so I punched in the name of the town into Hyperdia, and was rewarded with the train station called Nozawa appearing as a valid location. I thought “must be close enough, same name!”. And so we happily boarded the JR Shinkansen and departed Kyoto for Nozawa. We found it odd that our train ride took us all of the way to the western coast, when Nozawa Onsen is in the mountains, but we chalked this up to being the only route available, but once we started going far to the north of where we should have been, Angela started to get worried. I was filled with faith in the system, and believed that we would soon turn south and somehow arrive conveniently at the door of our guest house. It wasn’t until I had the idea that maybe there was a Nozawa train station that was actually nowhere near Nozawa Onsen that I became worried enough to look it up on Googlemaps, and finally realized that there was indeed a Nozawa station far to the north of where we wanted to be. It was a terrible feeling as travel-panic washed over me, and I had no idea what to do. We decided that we had better jump off sooner than later, as the further north we went, the further away from our destination we would be. We ended up at a small, rural town that the train happened to stop at, and tried to ask the ticket man how we could book tickets to the right place. With some fancy internet skills, we found that we were not so far away, but had maybe overshot our destination by three hours or so. The extremely efficient and convenient system of booking tickets with my JR rail pass soon melted away as it was clear that the Japanese man in the ticket booth had never seen a JR pass before, and was frantically looking through his manual. He also spoke zero English, which was solely our problem because we did not speak any Japanese. Thanks to Angela’s researching skills, we jumped on a train without a ticket (totally possible with the JR pass) and after a stressful, but incident-free three hour train ride and a fifteen minute cab ride, we arrived in Nozawa Onsen. I was sweating a lot.
After a great couple of days in Osaka, Ang and I took another short (15 minute) train ride to get to Kyoto. Kyoto is awesome. There is a great mix of new and classically old in this ancient city. We rented an Air BnB in Kyoto, which is basically somebody’s apartment that you rent out through this website. It was a slightly less expensive option compared to many hotels and even hostels, and it felt a little more like being at home as it was a fully furnished (although absolutely tiny) apartment. I loved it, and the owners were extremely helpful in leaving us all of the information that we would need to enjoy Kyoto.
After getting checked into our apartment, and having a Krispy Kreme doughnut and coffee, we wandered around Kyoto a little bit. We walked to the shopping arcade near the Gion district. There was a never-ending row of shops with a roof protecting it from rain. The first thing we found while wandering around was the ‘Ninja Restaurant‘. A good friend had made several obscure references to the Ninja Restaurant, and so I decided immediately that I had to go as we had stumbled upon it by complete accident. I did not realize that I was in for one of the larger disappointments of our trip. To be fair, I think there is a dinner show that you can go to, and maybe that is where the ninjas are, but our experience was in an interesting and creepy looking basement where I was expecting to be assaulted by fake ninjas a number of times. The wait staff was dressed up like ninjas, but that was the extent of our ninja interactions. I kept waiting for one to jump out and do something ninja-like, but that must only be available if you go to the show, which we did not. Instead we paid $80 for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink hot pot meal. The meal was good, but not $80 good. For that price, I really expected to have been struck by at least one ninja star.
After spending a few days in the old capital of Nara, we took a 15 minute train ride into the mountains. Angela had booked us a temple stay at Senju-In, which was a really neat experience. We did have to take a cab to the temple after arriving on the train; cab rides in Japan are expensive and should be avoided at all costs. It was very cold when we arrived, and we discovered that we were the only guests. I guess winter is not a popular time for people to visit this temple.