April 28, 2014

Mount Koyasan, Japan

We planned Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Takayama (but we nixed Takayama after a heavy night of too much hanami) and Nikko. All pretty touristy we thought. After a bit of searching we found Mount Koyasan, a magical little place in the mountains which is the center of Shingon Buddhism, and a bit off the tourist trail. This mountain town is covered with temples, some 50+ temples cover the area around Mount Koya! Spread out between the temples is one of the oldest cemeteries in Japan.

We had 2 days to kill before we met friends in Osaka and Koyasan was the perfect 1-2 day getaway. Koyasan is located in Wakayama Prefecture and is about 2.5 hours from Osaka Namba station. 

If you do find yourself in the Koyasan area, check out Kokuu Guesthouse for a great stay. It feels more like a boutique hostel. It's a wee bit pricier than any other hostel you'll stay in but the Japanese owners make a delicious breakfast and Indian food from scratch (they backpacked around India so it's the real deal!).

April 26, 2014

Hanami Parties in Kyoto

By far one of the best decisions we made during our 6 month backpacking trip was to visit Japan during cherry blossom season. During the few weeks in which 'sakura' paint Japan in colors of pink and white, the Japanese practice that art of 'hanami' which basically means enjoying the cherry blossoms. The Japanese get some food, some sake and find a nice spot under the many cherry blossom trees. There are tons of places around Japan with cherry blossoms--even from the train the countryside is covered in cherry blossom beautifulness.

We got our 'hanami' on in Kyoto...twice! And both times were more than a success. The first one we found by mistake (and was our favorite). Down the street from the Golden Pavilion, we found ourselves walking through a park completely covered with cherry blossom trees. There was sake, there was sushi, there was gyoza and potato salad, and there were lots and lots of laughs. The fact that our friends Ross and Cheryl flew from California to meet us in Japan for 2 weeks made the experience even better.

The hanami parties were some of our favorite memories in all of Asia. And then we ordered more sake ;).

*Head to the nearest grocery store and BYO food and wine
*It seems that the city sets out mats on the grass for anyone to use freely, find a spot and mingle ;)
*We arrived late in the afternoon and didn't leave until after dark. The cherry blossoms are beautiful during the day, at sunset and at night when the lanterns are lit up at night

April 23, 2014


Our two weeks in Japan were...expensive...but full of arcades, Sega, samurai swords, yummy food (but we only had sushi once! I had no idea what other delish Japanese food we were in for), karaoke, cherry blossoms and a couple hours spent in Japanese photo booths ;).

Here's Japan! More detailed posts to come soon ;).

{Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine}
{Kyoto's Golden Pavilion...beautiful but too many tourists for our liking}
{Sushi and Segaworld in Osaka}

April 21, 2014

Airbnb Bali, Indonesia: our very luxurious villa

We may have had our tiniest Airbnb ever a few weeks ago in Hong Kong, but during our 6-month backpacking trip we also had our most beautiful Airbnb to-date in Bali, Indonesia.

Way back in early December we decided to stray a bit from our backpacker budget and splurge on a 6 day honeymoon escape. We wanted a place we could lounge around all day, swim, layout, and repeat.

However, the hardest part of the entire experience was choosing our Balinese Airbnb. There were tons to choose from. And finally we found it: Villa Ruku Ruku.

Villa Ruku Ruku was beyond beautiful and the perfect honeymoon retreat. The villa had two master bedrooms and bathrooms, a private pool, open kitchen, a maid that visited the house each morning and a view over the rice fields.

Benjamin met us at the villa, mixed up some fresh watermelon juice and gave us the keys to our place. At the same time I was able to arrange a masseuse to visit the house later in the week for an onsite massage ;). And we arranged a private van driver to give us a 10-hour tour of Ubud in central Bali. The fact that it rained a couple days during our time in Bali was fine by us too...tropical rain meant it was still hot enough to swim. It also didn't hurt that everywhere in Seminyak delivers so we had dinner at the villa each night.

There are SO MANY beautiful Airbnb's in Bali and Villa Ruku Ruku did not disappoint...happy hunting :).

*In case you missed it: Airbnb in Hong Kong*
{Warm rain!}