Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tomodachi Tourism

Tomorrow, M and I set off for our Winter Vacation Extravaganza. As I pack and clean and make lists and check my e-mail and prepare all the little things for leaving, I keep getting notes from people in different places.

Just got one from my friend in Malaysia saying he's looking forward to seeing me, even though we're only going to be able to stop in his town a little while.

M pointed out that although we are leaving on the 31st and returning the 10th, we're only spending like three nights in hotels (two by the beach in Penang, one in Singapore). The rest of the time, we are crashing with or imposing on various friends of mine (okay one night might be an overnight train to save us some time, but who is counting?).

Seriously. In Kyoto, in Tokyo, in Kluang and KL we have invitations or actual plans to stay the night with four different friends of mine.

Which would be impressive, except... I would probably not be traveling to these places if I didn't have friends there to begin with. I mean, Malaysia is awesome, and Kyoto and Tokyo too.. but why would you go, if not to see someone (or go with someone, which is essentially, to me, the same)? The awesome additional things you get to see and do (mobs of kimono-wearing shrinegoers on the 1st, Emperor in Tokyo, beaches in Malaysia, etc.) are nice additions, but for me, the backbone of a trip usually begins with my contacts. There are so many places to see in the world, I'll never see them all. So I'll settle for first seeing/exploring the ones inhabited by people I like.

It can grow bigger and more interesting from there, but that first kernel is almost always a person.

Welcome to tomodachi tourism.

I'll be out of pocket for a little while, though I might be able to grab an internet connection somewhere, I am certainly not lugging this laptop around with me. In SE Asia we will be packing "light and dirty." In the meantime, enjoy this itinerary I've cobbled together after hours of charting (literally) the options. The non-Malaysia parts all ended up being mostly accidental discoveries of awesomeness tacked on to this plan by my crack team of Guardian Agents who are determined that I should have a good time. Because I really couldn't have designed a better flowing plan if I tried.

31st - 9:30am bus to Kyoto, wandering and shopping, go stay the night with Nami.
1st - Traditional New Year Greeting visit to Nami's husband's parents, then to her parents, then to her home shrine. Depart for Tokyo, say 'what up' to Sumir, stay with Alejandro.
2nd - Stand in line for a while, see the Imperial Palace and maybe Emperor (palace is open twice a year, today and the 23rd of December), 11:30pm flight to Malaysia.
3rd - Arrive in Malaysia at the crack of dawn, hop a short flight to Penang, stumble into sweet splurge hotel (relatively speaking.. is $100 per person for two nights high end to you? It is when the other options are low as $16!) and go find a spot on the beach.
4th - Explore Georgetown, or maybe that sweet jungle park on the other side of the island. Or lie on the sand again.
5th - Morning flight to Singapore. Explore Singapore; they have a kickass zoo and also a night safari.
6th - More Singapore, get a bus to Johor Bahru or Kluang to meet my friend. Hang out in Kluang until the 1am night train, or stay with friend and take morning train.
7th - If we took the night train, we're in KL at 7:30am, if not, we're there around 2:30pm, either way we'll tool around the city, checking guidebook frequently until other friend is done with work.
8th - Do whatever we want in KL with friend and book as guides.
9th - KL morning, flight back to Tokyo at 2:30pm. Probably stay that night in Tokyo.
10th - Make our way back to our little (FROZEN) mountain town with our new tans freckles.

At some point this trip will include delicious stall food, walking tours, and hopefully cheap massages and reflexology, but I haven't nailed all that down yet. Some things are better picked up on the fly.

I'm already trying to figure out how to get back and I haven't even been yet.

That's the other perk of tomodachi tourism - you can [almost] always go back!

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