Monday, 26 July 2010

Last travels - Day 1

Last weekend was a three-day weekend, Monday being a national holiday. Not knowing what else to do, Emily and I planned a trip to Okayama and Hiroshima. And we didn't plan it very well. We booked accomodation at about 8am, an hour before we got on our bus. (*addendum by Emily; more like we didn't plan at all, and just did everything perfectly the first time round)

We got lunch at a place in the Okayama station building, during which I noticed not one, not two, not three but FOUR pin badge machines. It was a very exciting moment for me. Each machine was different, so right off the bat I got four new pin badges (obviously I could have gotten more, but I have rules). Only one of the pins was actually an Okayama pin, so my hopes were high about finding more on our travels.

Our first stop was Okayama castle, much like any other castle in Japan except for being black instead of white. Here's how we got there:
I love trams. I think they're tram-endous.

Anyway, here's the castle:

The castle's interior was along the lines of Osaka castle, in that it was basically a museum with little of the original (or at least restored) interior. I prefer my old buildings to be properly old inside and out. But you can't expect much in Japan. A lot of old buildings were bombed to bits during the second world war and rebuilt after, and others were knocked down because there wasn't the money to maintain them. However, the trip to the castle was fruitful in other ways. Or one other way, I should say. I got another pin badge from a machine at the top. It was a different kind of machine to the others, so I didn't break any rules.

We got a combination ticket to the castle and nearby Korakuen gardens, which turned out to be a very beautiful place. See attached beauty:

It was extremely hot, however, so we had to keep stopping for drinks and shaved ice treats. We also found an area where you could cool your feet in a shallow pool. Eventually, having seen them from atop the castle, we became determined to venture out onto the moat in that most dangerous of vessels, the swan boat. Upon crossing a very sketchy bridge over to the docking area, we had the mad old man warn us of the dangers of the river's current, and he drew us a map telling us where not to go. Unfortunately, the map was basically two lines and didn't include any landmarks, so we pretty much had to play the thing by ear.
The steering was about as responsive as Mario Kart Double Dash, and to get anywhere at all you had to paddle at extreme speeds, which, with the blistering heat, meant extensive sweatification. After endangering our lives in this manner for a while, we returned to the dock where the deranged old man overcharged us and sent us on our way.

In the evening, after watching some Japanese TV featuring a guy with a pet monkey, Emily insisted we eat at a place advertised in the Lonely Planet. So we did.

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