Monday, October 21, 2013

Toilets and Family Picnics

It was a busy week for the Marks family, so what better way to relax and unwind than a night out with your hubby and some friends?  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I just had to try More than Toilet, the restaurant themed around the toilet.  It did not disappoint, as you first enter the restaurant you walk past a tub with a pair of leg and smoke coming out of it, complete with a poo filled sink.  Then, in keeping with the theme you walk past a row of gold urinals hanging from the wall just like any other artwork you'd display.  We were shown to a table with four toilets with two sinks between them.  Each sink had a little pile of "poo" in it, which was covered with glass, thus making up our table.  The seats are all sealed and they do not flush.  Cold drinks came in little urinals and hot ones in small toilets.  Food came served in a variety of dishes, including a tub, sink, and a toilet.  It was mostly Western fare and nothing spectacular, you are obviously not there for the food.  A unique experience for sure!
Sunday we took the kids to the Green City Annual Family Day Picnic.  The kids got to play in a bouncy house, slide down a shark, ride a bull, and play a clue game.  These events are always sponsored by local companies that all have booths set up and in an effort to get more traffic they made a game out of it, giving you a clue card that would send you to a vendor that would then give you an informational pamphlet and another clue.  All in all we visited maybe 20 vendors and came away with several pens and a few other little goodies.  The kids also each got a Halloween hat and a popcorn and soda.  However; I would personally like to thank who ever came up with the clue game.  If it had not been for that game, I would not have visited the Philippines booth and entered their raffle.  I am a planner and I can tell you exactly what trips we will be taking right up to our move back home in June 2015.  The Philippines did not make the cut, there were other places that were just higher on our must see list.  But, I did go to the booth and I did fill out the raffle ticket, and I did WIN the grand prize of a trip to the Philippines!  Holy Crap, right!? Guess I'll be revising that plan!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


We spent six days in Tokyo, and it was not even close to enough!  Our first day we saw the Imperial Palace gardens, where lucky visitors could come across the Emperor feeding the koi, or like us, you can just enjoy the absolute beauty of the gardens.     From the palace gardens we headed to the Hama-rikyu garden where we stopped at a tea house and had probably the worst cup of tea I've ever had.  We then caught a ride on a boat to the Drum Museum in the Asakusa district.  Here the kids were allowed to bang and hit all kinds of drums, it was a loud 30 minutes!  From there it was a short walk to the Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo's largest and oldest temple, and 
very different from any other temple we've seen.  The street leading up to the temple is lined with stalls selling all kinds of stuff, mostly touristy junk.  We didn't stop much along the way because it was absolutely mobbed!  With Charlie no longer using a stroller much I worried about him getting bumped into so I kept an iron grip on him as we walked, hoping the temple was less crowded.  It wasn't, but at least there was room to move instead of being trapped on a narrow road between shops.  The temple was loud and chaotic, and pictures were allowed.  All other temples we've been to have been quiet and there is absolutely NO photography!  We ended the day with a walk down kitchenware street.  Unfortunately most of the shops were closed, but there were a few open.  Here locals can buy anything they need for the kitchen.  We also got to check out an entire shop dedicated to plastic food.  The truly amazing thing is that it wasn't the only such shop!  It was a long day, but we had a lot of fun exploring Tokyo.

Our second day in Tokyo was much more relaxed, we didn't have anything planned until after lunch, so we had a leisurely breakfast and spent some time at the hotel pool.  That afternoon we joined a small tour group to the Ghibli Museum.  For those like me who didn't have a clue, Ghibli is a famous Japanese anime studio.  The only film name I even recognized was Spirited Away, but Lucas knows many of their films.  The whole museum is very Dr. Seuss and was designed by Hayao Miyazaki, an anime artist and director who has won an oscar for his work.  Kind of Japan's Walt Disney.  The kids loved it, especially the short film they showed, and Lucas seemed to be in his element.  This robot friend is on the roof of the museum and can be seen from a distance.  Even though the museum was very kid friendly, the Japanese adults seemed to way out number the kids.  We grabbed an ice cream at the cafe before heading back to the hotel via bus and taxi.  I should mention that they drive on the left on Japan, but after visiting Vietnam and Hong Kong it doesn't freak me out too much anymore to see the driver on the wrong side of the car or to turn into the wrong lane of traffic.  
Tired of the ridiculously expensive hotel restaurant we asked at the concierge for a family friendly place to eat.  He gave us two places to look that each had multiple places to choose from.  The first was the top three floors of a high rise, but they were all VERY expensive.  Apparently the guy at concierge dose not have kids!  We headed on to spot number two where we found a German place.  We were handed menus in Japanese.  I can not read Chinese characters, never mind Japanese.  We asked for and received an English menu, but Lucas and I were both shocked by the lack of English menus.  Everywhere we've been, even the smallest towns in SE Asia had English on their menus.  Apparently Tokyo is not as international as we thought.  

Day three we headed to Tokyo Disneyland, by bus where we checked into our hotel and turned right around to head to the park.  We were thrilled to see all the Halloween decorations, it hadn't dawned on me that Tokyo would also celebrate Halloween.  They are also celebrating 30 years of magic at Tokyo so we picked up a few special souvenirs including our Halloween inspired Minnie ears.  We had a lot of fun at the park, most of the rides can be found at WDW, but it was fun to pick out the differences and similarities of our favorites.  We saw three parades including a Halloween one and the electrical parade, which WDW needs to take note of, it was awesome!  We had dinner at the Queen of Hearts Banquet, which is cafeteria style, pick your meal and sides, pay, and grab a table.  But, Disney doesn't do a boring normal cafeteria.  Aside from all the Queen of Heart decorations much of the food was shaped like a heart and you could of course pick up souvenir plates.  Yep, we've got two.   We stayed till park closing, ending the night on the Splash Mountain ride with some ups and downs.  Charlie peed his pants, having refused to go to the potty several times and Lucas was so crammed in his seat he was in pain.  On the up, Lily and I loved it!  But, I don't think the Japanese considered extra large men like Lucas when they designed some of these rides.  

Rain, lots and lots of rain.  That's what greeted us at Disney Sea.  Luckily we had already bought ponchos at Disneyland, but with it coming down so hard we ended up buying two umbrellas and a cover for our rented stroller.  Unlike Disneyland, this park had a lot of unique rides, including several that are Little Mermaid themed, which is Lily's current favorite.  No parades or character greetings with all the rain, and with no English at the park, no shows either.  We were able to finish the park early and get back to the hotel for some rest after two very busy days.  

We were on our own the next day, so after a ridiculously expensive taxi ride we checked back into our Tokyo hotel.  I had planned on seeing the Sky Tree, the Oriental Bazaar in Harajuku, and Ginza for dinner.  We only made it to the Sky Tree.  What I didn't realize was that it was a 60 min walk/subway trip and on the other side of everything else I wanted to see.  I am glad we got to see the Sky Tree, which is the world's tallest tower (for now).  The kids enjoyed seeing all of Tokyo from so high up and loved the souvenir Hello Kitty Sky Tree box and cookies they got.  The Japanese seem to have a serious love of food that comes in souvenir boxes.  Lucas and I brought home a very cool replica of the tower and I got my magnet.  By the time we finished the sky tree including a detour to McDonalds the day was pretty much over.  As we headed back by subway we looked up the bazaar and found out that it was closed every Thursday.  Yep, we are just that lucky.  At this point we decided it was best to go back to the hotel, grab an over priced dinner and go to bed early.  We knew that our trip to Mount Fuji and Hakone was going to be a long day and it started early, best to rest when we can!

We took a group tour to Mount Fuji and Hakone, it was a nice drive and our guide had a lot of information about Tokyo and Mount Fuji.  Once again the weather wasn't the best, but at least there was no rain this time.  The bus took us to the 5th Station, the highest you can go by car.  If you have good weather you can see the summit, if you have our luck, you see it for a few seconds before it disappears again.  After Mount Fuji we took a short boat ride across a lake to Hakone where we took a cable car ride.  We got off at the second stop and walked around, enjoying the views as best we could with the fog.  Done for the day we took the Bullet train back to Tokyo where we switched to a local train at the Shinjuku station.  The Shinjuku station is not only the world's largest subway station it's the busiest.  This station has over 3.6 million people pass through it everyday.  It is gigantic and very confusing, and we were trying to catch a train during rush hour!  Luckily our tour guide took us right to the platform we needed and we made it back to the hotel.  As crazy busy as it is, the Japanese would stand in lines on the platform waiting to board the train.  The doors would open, people would file out and then everyone would file in.  We were amazed.  All in all, Tokyo was an awesome city.  The weather and the kids nonstop arguing took a lot of the fun out of the trip, but I'm glad we went.  I'm working on a new plan of attack for our next trip.  There will be less arguing or there is the possibility that we will come home with fewer children than we left with...