Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hitching a ride south...

Currently the Japanese are enjoying a four day weekend because of three conveniently located national holidays, the most important being on Saturday. All these free time lends itself to some island exploration and I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along with Bridgit and her adult conversation course. We drove all over the southern island in search of hidden gems and unusual experiences, although as with everything in Okinawa, the most bizarre bits involve just observing the Japanese themselves.

We finally got some beautiful weather and six of us piled into a minivan to begin the trek south. When Bridgit and I tried to get some drinks at the conbini and were stopped and told that we were not paying for *anything,* I knew that it was going to be an interesting day. Her class first took us to Okinawa World primarily to see the famous caves, that according to one of the women, is the largest in Asia. It was about a kilometer long and there were some interesting parts of the limestone formations. Thankfully neither epilepsy, anemia, or clausterphobia prevented us from properly enjoying the journey.

After our trek, we definitely needed some nourishment and thankfully there was a hut of fruit to welcome us. There were some interesting tropical fruits, including the smelly durian that I watched Michael Palin bravely test on one my travel shows. If I showed interest in any type of fruit, it was immediately, "We'll buy it!" I refused all the offers but eventually gave into sampling some sugar cane and a fruit plate, including the dreaded durian (which actually was not that bad...maybe it was a different variety). I had to laugh at how expensive the pineapple was compared to my pineapple subsistence diet in Thailand.

Once we had our needed calorie intake and pleased our guides with plenty of "YUMMY!!"s, we walked through the Old Ryukyuu Village, which had plenty of arts and crafts to sample and was actually very festive and fun. There were also a couple of tourists who were posing like absolute freaks and I made sure to mimic them at every turn. Hence, this photo.

We taste-tested sugar, watched some glass blowing, avoided beer sampling, and were soon on our way to lunch, which was supposed to be this amazing Thai restaurant on top of a hill. I had been there before and had gotten Bridgit all excited about it... Of course, our hopes for a Thai meal were dashed with the two hour wait. We grabbed some photo ops and headed to a Denny's-type restaurant instead. Sort of sad.

After this, we headed to a pink lily garden that was really just someone's personal yard. There are so many beautiful pink flowers, though, that they opened it up to the public. There was a tour bus of the elderly who had made a pit stop to see the lily extravaganza and Bridgit and I were filmed by some dude with a video camera and accosted by a lady with a cane who wanted to know all about us and try out her English skills as she was being shepherded back to the company of the other feeble Okinawans. (Knowing Okinawa, she was probably 115 years old.)

You'd think our day would be done by about now... but, nope, there was plenty more in store. We then headed to the "most sacred site" in Okinawa, which consisted of a walk through a pretty woods with loads of tourists, and some photos of more limestone formations with altars built into them. It was a nice walk, but by this point, Bridgit and I were tiring quickly. We thought we were going to be home soon, but then found ourselves driving along the coast and onto an island. After zooming around the island without stopping we continued in a direction that didn't seem to be the way back to the center of the island.

Once we stopped for directions. Bridgit finally asked where in the world we were actually trying to go. Well, lo and behold, we were on our way to an old Okinawan house for a coffee break. Luckily it was close by and the house was very Zen (and from 1891 and somehow survived the Battle of Okinawa intact). We enjoyed a treat before hitting the road for our final destination --- home.

It was a typical Japanese touring experience. Hit everything you can in one day. And the whole day cost me $0. I'm not complaining.

1 comment:

Carly said...

YAY! That sounded like fun! My exciting plans for this weekend... going to the zoo and the farmer's market festival (pony ride anyone?). And we might go to $1 Monday at The Cove (local baseball).