A Weekend In Tokyo (東京)

Last weekend I decided to take a weekend trip to the city of Tokyo (東京) in Japan (日本). You see, I hadn’t been to Tokyo (東京) in a while and I felt like a trip was needed, especially since my plans for Golden Week, a week off from work due to a bunch of holidays, fell through earlier this month.

I arrived in Tokyo (東京) Saturday, May 18th around lunch time. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I visit this city, arriving at it’s main train station, I always wind up feeling lost. I suppose it’s my fault for not learning enough Japanese. Anyways, as I moved my way through Tokyo Station (東京都) things started to feel familiar, a lost familiarity if you will. I’m not sure that made sense so let me try a different approach. While walking through the station, though I felt lost, the feeling was a familiar one which meant (for me) that I was in the right place and things would be just fine. Lo and behold, I was right. I ended up at the eastern side of the station which borders the city’s busy business district, Marunouchi (丸の内). Like I mentioned before, I hadn’t been to Tokyo (東京)in a while, so colour me surprised to see the massive face-lift that was given to the area around the station.

I stood around taking in the view as I watched residents and visitors alike, snap photos, share in laughter and glare at their phones, probably playing some type of game or browsing an app. Whatever it was, their eyes were locked to the screens. Then it hit me, I was once again in this beautiful city, alone with no one to take my pictures for me. LOL. Didn’t expect that, did you? If you’re honest with yourself, you would agree. One of the worst things on a trip is not having someone there to capture the moments in full. I mean it works both ways, so I would capture their moments too. Then it hit me again, I left my digital camera at home along with the tripod stand and the selfie stick. My trip was going south, it seemed. I sat on my suitcase with my backpack to the side, while I pondered how I’d ask someone to take my picture. The things we fuss about. Haha! As the minutes turned to hours, I envisioned myself in a campaign for WanderlustAmerican Tourister or my fav brand at the moment, Bershka. In my head I looked hella fly (do people still say that? LOL) and I could hear Patrick Demarchelier giving me direction on what it is he wanted. I watched too much America’s Next Top Model, don’t judge me. I looked down at my phone and realised it was almost 3pm and I still didn’t have a picture that wasn’t a selfie.

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I don’t really like to bother people so I had to build up the courage and the shamelessness of it all. LOL. Japanese guy was standing right next to me, taking his shots of the station, so I pulled out the few Japanese words I knew to put together from a desolate part of my brain and said すみません写真を撮ってください?In other words, “sumimasen, shashin o totte kudasai?” This basically means “excuse me, could you take my picture, please?” The kind sir obliged and took not one, but two photos. Having this new found courage, I then asked another Japanese man the same question, to see if he could give me more choices to choose from. He was with his son and I welcomed him to crash my picture. The little guy was a trooper and unlike many Japanese kids who cry or shy away from foreigners, he was more than happy to pose with me. Teamwork! Unfortunately, I can’t upload any pictures of kids on the internet without their parents’ consent.

It was now time to move on from Tokyo Station (東京都) and head to the ever buzzing district of Shibuya (渋谷). I was worried about whether I’d be able to find a locker for my luggage at this station because there are only so many, and they are almost always in use. I bolted to the JR Yamanote Line, one of the main train lines in Tokyo Station (東京都), just in time to catch the 27 minute train ride from Tokyo (東京) to Shibuya (渋谷). While on the train, I thought to myself, let me check the photos once more. Bad idea! Though I was appreciative of the pictures taken by the two kind sirs (why do I keep saying that? LOL), I didn’t particularly like the fact that they didn’t come out as I expected them to. I mean, they were no Patrick Demarchelier and by no means, am I Tyson Beckford. LOL. Not even in my dreams. Dusk would be soon, which meant that the natural light from the sun would be no more. How would I get a picture of my outfit? I thought. You’d think I was some major celebrity with a huge following. I just wanted to capture a moment, a look, I probably won’t create again.

27 minutes passed and I arrived in Shibuya (渋谷). In true Shibuya (渋谷) fashion, a bevy of tourists greeted me as I exited the station. I quickly searched for an available locker and I was lucky enough to find one within minutes. Yay me! It was time to either take a video or picture of the famous Shibuya Crossing. Pedestrians gathered at the crossing as the light was about to change and in 5…4…3…2…1 the streets were filled with people, making this fun cross. If people weren’t crossing the street, they’d be trying to catch a photo of themselves in all the chaos. We had only about 25 seconds before the light changed from green to red. It’s always funny seeing people run into the street to get that perfect shot. It reminded me of a video where some performers danced to the Let It Go song where every time the light changed, they’d flock to the streets to perform their number. Not to be outdone, I didn’t let the fact that I had no equipment to help capture the perfect chaos, I pulled my phone out and did what I had to do. I had the Go-Pro experience but with an XSMax. Haha! 

I headed for Starbucks because your boy was hungry. I know what you’re probably thinking. Who goes to Starbucks if they’re starved? Anyways, I got myself a grilled sandwich and the pudding a la mode frappuccino. I didn’t stay very long in Starbucks because my phone needed charging and they didn’t have any outlets. The audacity! I found the closest, if not the only Apple Store, in Shibuya (渋谷) and sat there for like an hour, maybe an hour and a half till my phone was juiced up. I knew I wanted to do some shopping while there but it would be the last thing I did before I left Shibuya (渋谷) evening. I then made my way to Harajuku (原宿) to see if there was anything exciting happening, so that I could return the next day. Harajuku (原宿) was as I expected, filled with the usual tourists and not enough of the unique fashion the area had been known for. Really upset that the thing that made Harajuku (原宿unique is slowly eroding. I went down Takeshita Street to see if there was anything I wanted to try but before I knew, night fell and I had to leave. I hurried back to Shibuya (渋谷) and store hopped until I found a great deal on chino pants and shirts for work.

There’s always tomorrow, I thought

CHATTERBOX KEIRN

 

 

 

Living My Life Like It’s Golden

Around the world, people were celebrating the beginning of Spring (春). There are no bun and cheese like they have in Jamaica (ジャマイカ), nor are there any Easter egg hunts like in the US (アメリカ). In Japan, we do things a little differently. We have a week of holidays, Golden Week, which usually begins on the 29th of April. This day is used to reflect on Emperor Shōwa (昭和天皇), Japan‘s (日本) past emperor. If you ask many Japanese (日本人) people about this day, they’ll tell you they have no idea what it’s for but they just know it’S a holiday. I wouldn’t blame them cuz they work like ants. Last year I went to Chiba (千葉) and stayed with my friend, Amanda because I wanted to paint Tokyo (東京) red and with her being so close to and as crazy as I am, we were bound to have a good time. I love Disney (ディズニー) so much that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay good ol’ pal, Mickey (ミッキー), a visit. My friend, Yoichiro, joined us at Tokyo Disney (東京ディズニー) and let me tell you, I wasn’t the only one geeked out about where we were. We go there at 9am and didn’t leave until about 21:00. Had to get my money’s worth. LOL. Amanda had this brilliant idea to do a scavenger hunt and around Tokyo (東京) which was hella fun. There, many more familiar faces popped up. It was like a gaijin convention. I had one of the best weeks I’ve had in Japan (東京) and was already planning for the next.



2017. Initially, I had planned on staying home in Nagoya (名古屋), even though I was waiting for this week to return for a year. I couldn’t get anywhere to stay and because I’m a budget traveller, I was not looking forward to booking a hotel. Luckily, another friend of mine (thank God for friends) offered up a bed and so, Osaka (大坂) was decided upon. It was indeed time for a new city, with new adventures.

Living My Life Like It’s Golden

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The only time I’ll ever go on a bike
April 30. I boarded a bus from Nagoya (名古屋) bound for Osaka (大坂). It didn’t dawn on me that it would take such a short time to get there, 3 hrs. I didn’t even get a chance to catch some proper sleep, partially due to Dear White People (shiiiiit, that series is so good. Fucking hell!) Awestruck! Osaka (大坂) was huge. I didn’t recall it being that big. 18:00. Sanjay finally showed up. I arrived in Osaka (大坂) at 16:00. <insert eye-roll emoji> We walked around Namba (難波), which is like downtown Osaka (大坂) before getting food. When I tell you that Namba (難波) is lit, it’s lit. Another gaijin convention, I thought. Only this time, there were more Asian foreigners (アジア人), specifically, Vietnamese (ベトナム語) and Chinese (中国語). I loved the vibe. It was so different from Nagoya (名古屋). I remember saying “I’m coming here every night before I leave” and I did.

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Namba, Osaka
May 1. Just like my other travels, I didn’t need any company to tour the place, so I went to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (大坂水族館快癒間) and left Sanjay behind. Besides, he had other plans. Getting there was quite easy. I purchased one of those all day passes that allowed me to enter the aquarium as well as ride the subway and buses. Winning! This place was superb. Being an island boi (boy) (always wanted to call myself that LOL LOL) I had a liking for sea creatures and water or maybe it’s because I’m an aquarian (水族館). I spent the whole day with them. I wanted to stay longer but it closed at 20:00.

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Inside Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
May 2. Osaka (大坂) doesn’t have a Disney (ディズニー), but they have the next best thing, motherfucking Universal Studios (USJ). Could this be anymore perfect?! Remember when I mentioned I was a budget traveller? So I went to USJ just in time for the ticket prices to decrease. I was not about to use my credit card to buy a $80 ticket. I’ve been to Universal Studios, Orlando so I was excited to see what this would be like. I wasn’t disappointed. The park was filled with so many people. I felt good. The only thing missing was my family. They’d love this. You can’t go to a park like this and not try to get pictures with the characters that roam about. Then it happened. Shrek reached for my throat and put me in an almost headlock. I was terrified. I wanted to die. Thankfully, Fiona was nearby and she rescued me from the smelly, green ogre. LOL. After almost scaring me to my demise, they were kind enough to take a picture with me. Yay! Mission accomplished.

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If this was how the rest of the day would turn out, I was ready for it. I took a tour of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was epic as fuck! Rode the flying dinosaur, went to Jurassic Park and got soaked (not cool), partied with the Minions, saved the day with Spiderman and bought myself a pair of Snoopy ears. USJ rocks!

 

May 3. Last day in Osaka (大坂). I needed my personal cameraman to document my every move today. I urged my friend to accompany me to the Floating Garden Observatory close to Osaka Station (大坂駅). This was the las thing I wanted to do. There, we took the elevator to the 35th floor, which is over 150 meters above ground. I saw a view of Osaka (大坂) that I never thought possible. It was simply breathtaking. 15:30, I bid my friend farewell till next time and went shopping. 19:20. I boarded a bus from Osaka Station (大坂駅), bound for Nagoya (名古屋). Golden Week 2017 was good. Don’t believe me, look at the video below.

reallyGOBBY: Keirn

TWENTY 7 IN BALI: B-DAY

I woke up feeling brand new. I guess that’s what you’re expected to say when your birthday comes right? If that was the case then whoever made that claim, if there was ever a claim like that, lied.

It was indeed my birthday but I didn’t feel brand new. Feeling anew is complete hogwash. I felt the same as I did when I went to bed. What I knew for sure was that this birthday would be one to remember for years to come. I will say, I was extremely happy that I was now twenty 7 and not 26 cuz I’m not really a fan of even numbers. LOL. Weird, I know. Who am I kidding here? My birthday was here and I couldn’t have been any happier. 

As most of my friends know, my birthday is sort of a BIG DEAL to ME. I always try to do something different each time. It’s like I have to compete with myself and outdo my last birthday event. So finally, I would be able to do that. If you just stumbled upon this blog, there are three more before this which will serve as the pretext to some examples. Check them out here; part 1, part 2, part 3As mentioned previously, I was on a very tight budget. 500 USD could do so much and no more. Heck, I’ve lost track of the figures but I’m sure I was down to my last 250 USD. This would be the culmination of an epic adventure and I was ready blow all my money on this day.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEIRN

The staff came knocking at my door with the utmost urgency. They mentioned the ‘manager’ wanted to speak to me before I headed out. I was taken aback for a nano second then it hit me, this was a ruse to get me out in the garden for my surprise. When I made the reservation for Rudy’s Airbnb I mentioned to him that this was my birthday gift to myself and that my actual birthday would be my final day in Bali. It also didn’t help that on the notice board they had written down “Get Keirn a cake for his birthday”. Haha! I played along like I was completely oblivious to what was about to happen and quickly got dressed.


When I arrived in the garden, the ‘manager’ (I think his name was Theo), Budi and the fully recovered Wayan exclaimed the authorities contacted them because of my semi display of public nudity on temple grounds. I knew this wasn’t true but it was so creative. If I was any other foreigner, I probably would have fell for it but I’m too quick. The told me to have a seat and that they’d explain to me what will happen. I for sure whipped out my phone and snapped the whole thing. Wayan and Budi sat with me to try and sell the lie even more but they couldn’t keep a straight face. Out of nowhere, well out of the main area, Theo appeared with a beautiful cake and started singing happy birthday to me. Two other guests were in the garden as well and joined in. In true KT (that’s me) fashion I smiled the whole time. I was so happy. My cake was beautiful but I couldn’t eat any of it because I would be going to the beach and I needed my ab-less belly to look as good as it can. Can you blame a guy for trying to look good on his birthday? LOL LOL LOL. I mean, I’m no Tyson Beckford.


SOUTH BALI HERE COMES KEIRN

I really did save the best bits for last on this trip. Although I had a great time with Budi as my driver the day before, I was happy to have Wayan back. We had built a stronger bond as driver and passenger the first two days, that it was right he drove me around on my birthday. This I think is a major factor in determining how a solo traveler will enjoy his/her rides in a foreign country. I had photo shoot in mind the very first time I saw graffiti on the walls close to the villa and Wayan would be the perfect photographer for this. Upon leaving the compound, my phone rang with the first cellphone birthday greeting of the day. That call meant a lot to me because it was from loved ones whom I missed dearly. Tears.

Wayan did his thing with the camera and captured some really amazing shots. He even tried directing me. I had to stop him in his tracks. No one directs my photo shoots. I had planned this over in my head a million times. My only issue was the fact that I still couldn’t do a jump shot without looking awkward. HAHA. I crack myself up.

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“I thought I was done with monkeys for the rest of my time in Bali but I was sadly mistaken.”

After the photo shoot we headed for another temple, Uluwatu. While on the way I started to change in the car because it was like 30°C and that black leather jacket and long black pants was a big no-no. The heat had us parched, so Wayan stopped at a convenience store so we could refresh ourselves. I think he was more elated than I was for this quick rest stop. I hadn’t gotten over the fact that the monkeys stole me Oreo cookies the day before so I bought another pack along with a bottle of water. Before we arrived at our destination, I made sure to thank Wayan for driving me around and for being my ‘friend’ for the past couple of days. I put friend in quotation because I had to trust him with driving me around, safely, and for listening and conversing with me. I’d have gone mad. Ha!

When we arrived, I realized I had to wear a sarong again so I had to change once more. I put my pants back on because it was long enough for me not to wear a sarong inside the temple’s compound. I had to, however, wear a sash of sorts around my waist. Wayan snickered. Curious, I asked why. He then informed me that this place had monkeys and that I should put my glasses inside my bag as well as my Oreos. I thought he was joking because after the episode I had with the monkeys in Sangeh, I didn’t think I’d encounter anymore, at least not this soon. Still in disbelief, I walked over to the ticket counter and there it was. A warning that visitors should be aware of the monkeys. I thought I was done with monkeys for the rest of my time in Bali but I was sadly mistaken. Why on earth did he bring me here? Why did I pay to go in? I did this once before so I should be able to this with ease.

Uluwatu was picturesque. It felt very Greece (well the touristy image of it) but instead of white buildings overlooking the sea, we were surrounded by trees with the temple at the top of what seemed to be a stairway to heaven, with the gorgeous ocean in the background. The sun was red. The heat was becoming unbearable. While walking and capturing pictures we came upon some monkeys. Oh lord! I began sweating profusely. Here we go again, I thought. Luckily, some other tourists were walking toward us and the monkeys dispersed. Moments later a monkey stole Wayan‘s hat and ran off with it. My Oreo was used as a ploy to get the monkey to drop the hat for Wayan to get it. I teased him the whole time cuz he gave me a warning he didn’t follow. Uluwatu was fun but I was ready to go.

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ONE STOP AT THE MULIA PLEASE

One of the main things I had set out to do while in Bali was to live like a BravolebrityThe Mulia offered just that. After seeing that epic storm off Tamra Judge did on their final night in Bali, I knew I had to see this beautiful place myself. The site was a sight to see. I couldn’t believe a place like this existed. I mean for an average minimum of 350 USD a night it had to be beautiful. The open space architecture gave The Mulia and ethereal feel. I felt like I was floating as I walked through the halls of this magnificent hotel. To be fair, it reminded me of Iberostar, JamaicaI, however, had one mission and that was to reenact Tamra’s storm off and troll her with it on Twitter. I did everything leading up to the storm off until I got stuck. I couldn’t find the right angle where the producers captured the incident. I was beyond frustrated. I didn’t expect it to be like that. Wayan was trying to be supportive by saying I should shoot it anyways, but I needed it to be perfect. If I was going to be running through the halls of this hotel, I needed to do it right. Since I couldn’t get it done, I was now left with one thing to do, hit the beach. After all, I still hadn’t eaten.

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DA DA BALI – GOODBYE BALI

After a long day, I needed to get back to the resort so I could pack because my flight back to Japan was just hours away. Before I knew it Wayan was taking me to the airport and shortly after, I was checking in. I had the best time of my life and I am so grateful to GOD for giving me another year of life and for the opportunities given to me. My trip was amazing and Rudy’s Airbnb made it very memorable. Da Da Bali.

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Some people want dive out of a plane, some want to swim with sharks. Me? I will return to shoot that video in The Mulia for my own benefit. LOL.

Till next time.

reallyGOBBY: Keirn

TWENTY 7 IN BALI: MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DON’T TOUCH ME

I could hear birds chirping in the distance. It was now morning which meant day 3 had arrived. The sun tried its best to pierce through the windowsill but to no avail. The windows were locked so tightly, the wolf from The Three Little Pigs wouldn’t be able to blow it open. Talk about strength. Like Day 1 and Day 2, I waltzed over to the garden. No other guest wanted to do a shared tour, so once again I would be paying 45 USD for transportation all day. This did not include entrance to my next destination. It was at that  juncture I said ‘f— this budget.’

DAY 3 – MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DON’T TOUCH ME

After riding the elephants on Day 2, and having only been to two locations, I NEEDED to visit the monkey forest. It didn’t matter what I did, the monkey forest just had to be part of the day’s activities. My driver for the day was Budi because Wayan felt poorly. Budi was so confident in himself and I was happy to have him along for the ride. He was definitely more knowledgeable about international music which was a huge plus. Since I had already researched all there is to do within budget, and by research I mean rewatched the Bali episodes from The Real Housewives of Orange County, the forest I wanted to visit, was in Ubud. Another quick search on the internet and the usual suggestions from Rudy’s staff, led me to a bigger monkey forest, Sangeh. I was bothered by this. “What geotag would show up on snapchat?” I thought. But when they said it was cheaper than Ubud, my eyes glistened and ears perked up.

The forest was beautiful. Another first for me. No monkeys were in sight which was a good thing. Let me tell you why. [About 4 years ago I visited my aunt and uncles in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. I love visiting my relatives. Anyways, My aunt and I went to the Swap Shop to purchase a very cheap duffle bag (I see where my frugality comes from). While there, we saw a man with a pet monkey parading around, doing tricks. I was intrigued cuz I’ve never seen a small primate before, only the big orangutans and other species at Zoo Miami (dang that place is hot). I wanted to take a picture with it but realized we had to pay. Like a good negotiator, my aunt got a discount from the 10 USD fee to 7 USD (a bargain is a bargain LOL). To make the story shorter, I panicked the whole time the monkey was on my shoulders. I wanted it off so badly. I decided then I was terrified of monkeys and wouldn’t put myself through that again. Let’s see how that worked out. 

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I paid the entrance fee of 2.65 USD and Budi parked the car. One of the many guides walked over to us and the tour began. I was the only tourist on the compound at the time, so if I did anything embarrassing (like run and scream like a petrified little kid) no one would see me. Except for my camera which Budi had to capture and film every moment. I cautiously strolled through the towering entrance and there I saw the little creatures running around. Like clockwork, my heart began to palpitate. Fear washed over me like the moment the walls of parted Red Sea crashed into each other drowning the Egyptians. I looked over at Budi and he was just as scared as I was. Home boy literally took a few steps back saying he’ll zoom in to get my shots. Before I could get myself together, not one, not two, not three but FOUR, four freaking monkeys attached me at once. Paralyzed. I knew how Vicki Gunvalson from The Real Housewives of Orange County felt when the monkeys jumped on her. (She may or may not have been putting on a front for the cameras but fake or not, those monkeys weren’t playing around.) I should note that they weren’t scratching me not was I in any danger. The little buggers were after my Oreo cookies which was in the side of my bag. I won’t do that again. 

After I calmed down, I took some beautiful shots of the forest and its residents. Group by group, more tourists trickled in. I think they caught a little bit of my mini meltdown. I didn’t mind as much because I could see the nerves on their faces and the shrieks from those further in the forest. I wasn’t being extra after all. Though I panicked for most of the tour, I ‘overcame’ my fear. Haha! I definitely recommend.

Enough monkeying around, let’s get going. (Always wanted to say this LOL.)

ONCE AROUND TAMAN AYUN

Bali, well Indonesia at large is very spiritual. Their main religion is Hinduism. So after Sangeh it was time to visit another temple. You’d think I would be bored of seeing temples by now, but every temple had its own unique quality. This was a rather old and undisturbed temple. Usually, Balinese people would be gathered to or have already given an offering on the temple grounds. But Taman Ayun had no sign of worship. The temple was surrounded by water both on the inside and outside of its grounds. The grass was so green and well manicured. Mother Nature tried it again but the higher power spoke and a light shun down on the temple so bright, I immediately felt blessed.

I realized soon after that light was from feeling fatigued due to hunger. It was time to have lunch. I’ve been pretty strict with my cheap meal plans, so Budi decided to stop at this restaurant after leaving the temple. When we got there the prices were so high but the food looked to good to pass up. I ended up staying, took in the view and ordered the cheapest of the most expensive meals for…10 USD. Haha! Yes I was in Bali, but I had to do the conversion to determine how much money I was spending. 

FROM SUNRISE TO TENAH LOT

The last stop for the day was one of the most talked about spots in Bali, Tenah Lot Temple. Everyone kept saying it’s so beautiful because it stretches out into the sea and looks amazing at sunset. When we arrived and paid 6 USD entrance fee (gotta put that in their), it was about 2 hours till sunset. Could we wait that long? Budi looked at me and I looked at him. Almost simultaneously we both said nah! The day was getting hotter and I could tell Budi was tired. I suggested he take a rest and have something to eat. I didn’t want him over extending himself all for me, especially when I was fully capable of taking care of myself. Tenah Lot’s beauty was unlike anything I’ve see. The view was like a painting from Gustave Courbet. People from all over flocked this temple. Two Chinese women asked me to take photos with them as well some school girls who seemed to be on a field trip. Did I mention it was hot? 

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Budi rejoined me and we walked over to the shore where we would have to take our shoes off, rolls our pants up and walked into the ocean to get to one of the temples. I was so psyched about the idea, then I realized we had to make another contribution before we could pass. I rolled my eyes all the way back. I wasn’t interested anymore. I did the next best thing and took my shirt off so my body could feel the cool air blowing from the sea, without the hindrance of a tank top. I didn’t even think if my actions would count as public nudity but hey, technically we were at the beach.  The sun took forever to set and like we had initially agreed, we wouldn’t stay much longer to see it because it would take us about 2 hours to get back to the resort.

On our way back, I felt the need for fast food so we went to Jaya Fried Chicken (JFC for short). Like, why would I go to KFC in Bali when I knew how it tasted. I was served two pieces of chicken, a rice ball and a drink for 3 USD. I wasn’t blown away but at least the need was satisfied. I would turn Twenty 7 the next day so I was eager to get to bed. Stay tuned for the epic conclusion of my birthday trip in part 4.

Till next time. 

reallyGOBBY: Keirn

Twenty 7 in Bali: Bali Ups and Bali Downs

After the success of Day 1, I was sure Day 2 wouldn’t disappoint. Ben and Faye (my friends from the UK) wouldn’t be joining me as they had left for LombokSad. However, I was determined to live like a Bravo celebrity for the rest of my holiday, so the plan was to do as many activities as possible while capturing it all on film. Day 2 was about to begin.

DAY 2 – BALI UPS AND BALI DOWNS

I walked over to the garden to find out how I best I could reach my destinations for the day. Like good Airbnb hosts and workers, Rudy’s staff offered great suggestions but I already had a plan. I had to ride the elephants. We sat for a while deciding the best place to go. Being on a very tight budget (more like cheap) I scoured the internet for price I was comfortable with. Would you believe me if I said, I found a discounted price of 20 USD instead of the usual 100 USD? I was happier than a kid in a candy store. Theo, the guy who’s in charge when Rudy goes to his day job, chimed in by stating there was no way that price was real. I thought to myself, how the heck does he know anything? Expedia doesn’t lie! Wayan Sudar (driver) jumped in to defend his coworker and asked to see for himself. I gladly showed them my phone and their eyes almost popped out of their heads. Victory was mine. (I never like to lose an argument). It was then decided we’d ride the elephants…um, I’d ride an elephant, since I was riding solo, after which we’d go to Besakih Temple (Bali’s largest temple).

Sudar was actually the birth name of my driver and soon to be tour guide. But in Bali the first born is called Wayan. Every child has a title before their name. When it gets to the fifth child (I think) it starts again from Wayan.  

GO, KEIRN, GO!

As luck would have it, Mother Nature decided I needed some blessings and what did she do? She sprinkled all over my head. LOL LOL LOL. I wasn’t about to cancel my plans especially because we started off a little later than the day before.

Wayan had no clue where we were going, so it was up to me and the trusty GPS to guide us to True Bali Experience for an extraordinary elephant ride. The GPS took us for a heck of a ride. It felt like an episode of Go, Diego, Go! or should I say Go, Keirn, Go! We went uphill, then downhill, then uphill, then down…you get the picture. Talk about a never ending rollercoaster ride. Finally we arrived and it also stopped raining. I hoped.


Upon entering one of the men at the gate approached the vehicle. I was so unbothered cuz I suspected he was just going to give us directions. That’s when he said “85000 IDR (7 USD) to enter”. I was absolutely, shattered. I thought everything was included in the 20 USD entrance fee. Yes, 7 USD is not really a lot of money, but hey, with budget and the Balinese currency, that was like two very good meals. The universe favored me at that point because the guy further told us I’d get a discount of said 7 USD from the cost for the elephant ride. You know that moment when your heart flutters and you feel like you’re floating? Well that’S exactly how I felt. Grinning like a Cheshire Cat. 

Elephant ride is it? That’s 1 300 000 IDR (100 USD) please.” the lady at the receptionist uttered. They’ve obviously lost the plot I thought. The internet didn’t say that. Wayan was off to the side looking as if he was vindicated. Someone was lying and I felt duped. I showed the receptionist the price on the internet and I bet you couldn’t tell me what it said. The freaking day for the discount wasn’t until the next day. Might as well put me in the corner with the dunce cap on. How could I have made such a mistake? Now I was stuck at this place and had no other choice but to pay the 100 bucks, well 93 USD (yay discount!) No turning back now.

The elephant ride was calming yet bumpy. I’ve never experienced anything like it. There were moments when I felt like I was going to fall to the ground but I held it together. It wouldn’t be cool to fall off an elephant. I wouldn’t live it down, not with Wayan as my driver. Haha! Besides, it would have been doubly embarrassing to fall off an elephant cuz they never forget anything.

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Did I mention that the cost for riding the elephant also included a drink before the ride, chocolate tasting and a full course lunch? I suppose it wasn’t so bad. Once again, I cared not about taking pictures of my food because, like the day before, I was starving at that point.


RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

The elephant ride took about 30 ~ 45 minutes. Chocolate tasting and lunch went for another 20. It was 2’o clock and we had 1 more place to visit, Besakih Temple. It was an hour and a half away with no traffic and good weather. But Mother Nature’s had this sick sense of humour, so she unleashed her showers of ‘tour cancellation’ on us. Not today, I thought. That song from Barney & Friends popped in my head. Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day…” My driver wanted to catch the words but I could only do so much of Barney at my age. >.< Instead I opted to blast some music from my phone to pass the time and mess around with snapchat.

What felt like an eternity to get to Besakih, came to an end when we stopped by Wayan’s hometown. Dude lives 2 minutes from this awesome tourist location. Anywho, we stopped by so I could get a sarong. I wasn’t about to give a mandatory ‘donation’ to wear one in the temple when I still had to pay for entry (3 USD). Nope! Wasn’t having any of it. Like true BalineseWayan’s family had sarong’s by the dozen. I hurriedly put mine on and headed for the temple. I really was enjoying my day. I was seeing parts of Bali that some people probably would only drive through. 

BEAUTIFUL BESAKIH

This was by far the most spectacular display of architectural beauty I’ve ever seen. Besakih wore lush green grass,  and charcoal pagodas. Each pagoda meant something different and the highest (11th) represented the highest god in their religion. Mother Nature struck again but she was more thoughtful this time. Still cautious, I pulled out my umbrella cuz you just never know. Step by step we ascended until we got to the very top at the last temple. The view breathtaking. I felt at peace. Like all my troubles were minuscule. I whispered, thank you, to my creator. I was doing what I never thought possible for someone like me. Besakih was, Besakih is BEAUTIFUL.

The day was winding down and I had just one more thing to do, EAT. Being from Jamaica, I love a good boxed food/lunch/dinner and that’s exactly what I wanted. Mind you, I didn’t expect it to be the same but I knew what I wanted. Wayan took me to his hangout spot where he goes after work. This was in a local market, one of many across Bali, where I could get me some food for 1.50 USD. Wild! I have to admit, I was a bit scared because it felt all too familiar. Almost as if I was in the downtown Kingston, Jamaica. I hated going downtown. I mean, I was only a tourist in a foreign country’s market, at night, with a ton of cash on me. What could possibly go wrong? I quickly snapped myself out of this crazy thought and remembered where I came from and who I was with. Fear, was no more.

We sat down for dinner in the food court. To be honest with you, I don’t remember the name of what I ate but I know for a fact I enjoyed it. Looking back, I probably should have asked the name but I guess hindsight’s 20/20. However, I should make a guess, I’d say it was Betutu.

 

I had such a great day riding the elephant and touring Besakih, I didn’t want it to end. Day 3 was only 7 hours from the time I had dinner and got back to the resort. I was ready. Stay tuned for part 3.

Till next time.

reallyGOBBY: Keirn

 

Twenty 7 in Bali: Welcome to Bali

THE DECISION

After my 26th birthday and an epic trip to Seoul, South Korea last year, I knew I had to somehow make turning twenty 7 even better. I initially planned on going to Turkey but the political climate was too much for me to risk a visit. I was very staunch in finding the perfect place to mark another year of life. Per usual when I make plans, I extended an invitation to some friends but ‘adulting’ got the better of them and so they couldn’t make it. If you recall my last travel blog you’ll know that I have no qualms about traveling alone. Then it hit, I watched so many episodes of reality tv shows with the cast going on these extravagant trips, so why can’t I do the same? That goal was achieved when I booked my holiday for Bali, Indonesia. As an avid viewer of Bravo and a fan of The Real Housewives of Orange County, I recalled how much fun they had in Bali and I knew that would be the right fit. I mean, you don’t have to be affluent to travel, so Bali had better brace itself for the Keirn Up. (cc: my good friend @scheana)

SOARING TO PARADISE

On February 14 I boarded China Eastern Airlines flight MU744 for Bali. As I sat in the plane, all I could think about was how much fun this whole experience will be. I was more anxious than ever before for the plane to take off. As most of my friends know, I can fall asleep anywhere and at the oddest times, which is what happens every time I travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 30 minutes car ride or a 16 hour flight, Keirn will be knocked out. Like clockwork, I was out like a lamp and before I could change sleeping positions, the stewardess interrupted with “Excuse me sir. Would you like chicken and rice or beef and noodles?” I couldn’t be angry at her because if it’s one thing I love about flying, is the delicious and well prepared airplane food (you can disagree if you want haha). I had layover in Beijing, China and had to switch planes but it wasn’t long before I was back in the air. I was a bit shocked to see so many Chinese traveling to Bali. Yes, I boarded a plane in China but that meant nothing. LOL. Oh, in case you were wondering, I took the chicken.

After 3 hours and 20 minutes of flight from Nagoya, Japan (NGO) to Beijing (PEK) and 9 hours of flight from Beijing (PEK) to IGusti Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), I was finally in Bali.

“It was so hot, the heat hit me like a mack truck driving at 120 MPH on the freeway”

SALAMAT DATANG DI BALI (WELCOME TO BALI)

Unlike the housewives, I had no grand greeting party nor a luxury vehicle waiting for; or so I thought. When booking my trip, I opted this time to use Airbnb. (A man’s gotta save some coins for a rainy day :D). I didn’t want to be in the centre of the tourist area nor did I want to be too far out of the city and have to worry about transportation, so I reserved a quiet Joglo in Denpasar which was only 30 minutes or less from the airport. It was also very accessible to the beaches and close enough to the key attractions. Rudy, my host, had arranged my pick up from the airport. I walked around and saw my name on a sign being hoisted in the air. It felt surreal. I’ve never had my name written on a sign before, nor did I ever have a driver wait for my arrival. Coming off of the tourist high in Seoul, I felt more confident in this new role and fully embraced the character I’d assume for the next couple of days. While I didn’t have a greeting party, I did have a luxury vehicle and that was enough for me. Take that OC! 

It was so hot, the heat hit me like a mack truck driving at 120 MPH on the freeway. I began peeling off layers of clothing in the airport parking lot while Mandus, my driver, retrieved the car. For some reason, I forgot that my comfy winter attire wasn’t right for this Bali weather.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at our destination and instead of a house, cuz that’s what I pictured it to be, I shocked to see a fully functioning resort of some kind. I was tired, not because jet lag, but the heat had sucked every life out of me. I was given a key, shown my room and off to bed I went. No, I didn’t give my driver a tip. I have great excuse I’ll share later. (Hopefully it’ll hold up LOL)

 

DAY 1 – SHARED TOUR WITH NEW FRIENDS

I slept like a newborn after being suckled by his mum on fluffy white clouds for pillows. Never have I ever felt so rested. I heard birds chirping in the distance and reached for my phone to stop the alarm. To my amazement, it wasn’t my phone that emitted those sounds, but actual birds in the garden. I was indeed in paradise. Without hesitation, I took a warm shower and went to the garden to see what the plan  was for the day.

Last year, I stayed at a guesthouse which included breakfast but since this was an Airbnb I had to pay. Given my budget of 500USD (about 6.7 million rupiah ‘IDR’) I didn’t want to take the chance of purchasing breakfast so I gobbled down my bottle of water with the utmost urgency. Water never tasted so good. It sounds cheap but I had no idea if the cost for breakfast was more expensive when compared to restaurants on the island. Besides, I had plans for more my birthday that would require me to use most, if not all my cash.

I met the host, Rudy, and other members of staff. They were extremely warm and friendly (as they ought to be). I was informed of a shared day tour that they had planned and asked if I was interested. Um…did they think traveled all the way from Japan to sit in my comfortable room? Not that it was a bad idea haha! “Heck yea!” I chirped. (Chirped. Get it? LOL) This also meant that transportation (45USD) for the day would be split three ways. Not a bad way to start I might add.

Ben, Faye and I boarded our vehicle and headed for our first stop on the day’s tour. This time, we had a different driver than the one who picked me up from the airport. Rudy seemed to have thought about everything as our driver, Wayan Sudar, spoke English really well so he was able to provide valuable information when requested. Remember when I said I’d tell you why I didn’t tip the first driver? As it turned out, Ben and Faye had the same dilemma. We didn’t know the acceptable amount to tip someone in Bali. It was agreed that it was better to not tip than to offer money that can’t even buy gas. We arrived at a Batik place that made sarongs. I’ve heard about the work that normally goes into making these lovely pieces of art but seeing it up close made me so appreciative of this experience.

We then visited Taman Ayu Luwak Coffee where our palates were met with the most scrumptious teas and coffees, Luwak Coffee, you could ever find. What was even more astounding was how the beans are harvested. That I’ll spare you the details cuz you may never look at coffee the same way again.

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Batuan Temple was next, which would set the precedent for what to expect when visiting temples in Bali. It was here that we learnt one very important use of the sarongs. Upon entering every temple ground in Bali, one has to cover themselves if they aren’t covered properly from the waist down. As with every culture and religion, the Balinese have their traditions and practices so we had to abide by the rules. Else, risk being denied access and being seen as a rude, obnoxious tourist. I was fascinated by the amount of tourists that were at the temple. As one group left, another would enter. I was once again part of this tourist brand and it was a damn good feeling. Let me just say, if you’re ever planning on visiting this temple, though free, a contribution of about 75USD is expected. “Don’t moan about it, just do it.” I thought to myself, this is what being a tourist meant.

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If you thought Day 1 was even ready to be complete, you better think again. It was noon just noon and already we had a bellyful of knowledge about some Balinese culture. The sun and heat were brutal. We needed to seek refugee. Luckily, we had a well air conditioned car that would provide solace. Ben and Faye are from England, which meant lunchtime was just as important them as it was for me. Wayan drove us to Grand Puncak Sari Restaurant for lunch. When we arrive there, we noticed it was buffet style setting. My belly let out a growl so loud from hunger, you’d think it was Gerald Butler as Leonidas in the movie 300, yelling, this is SPARTAAAAA! At that moment, any consideration about my budget was out the window. I cared very little for taking a picture or snapping shots of the restaurant. The hunger was real and I wax extremely ravenous. Heck, I’m even getting hungry writing this. LOL! We sat down and in little time, devoured our first round. I felt like I had one an olympic gold medal for having lasted 3 hours without food (due in part to my own misery ways). Lunch was divine but after two rounds, it would have been gluttonous to pursue a third. We were done.

Beyond the restaurant was the Kintamani Volcano. I’ve never been that close to a volcano in my life and I was both intrigued and nervous. It last erupted 10 years ago, so do the math. Haha!!

Kintamani Volcano

HOT SPRING AND A KECAK DANCE

Exhaustion from viewing the beauty of Kintamani Volcano called for a relaxing time in one of Bali’s most famous hot springs, Toya Devasya. I had no plans of actually bathing in the spring but when I entered the premises, I was enchanted. The property was adorned with an purple elephants, accentuated by the black an white paint. This felt like the advertised Bali you’d find in a pamphlet. The cost was about 100USD and once again, my budget flew out the window. To top it all off, I didn’t pack any swim trunks so I had to purchase one for a measly 50USD. FML!

Day 1 was almost over. I didn’t think anything could make even better. I was wrong. You can’t go to Bali and not attend the Kecak Dance. The dance is usually accompanied by 100 men in chorus which tells the story of how Rama rescued his wife Sita from the devious Ravana. The dance was a sight to behold especially when one of the dancers danced over, on and the fire.

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The Kecak ended around 8pm and I was ready to head back to Rudy’s. When you’re having fun, time really flies. Since I was on a spending spree, I ordered dinner from the kitchen and was given a traditional Balienese meal, Nasi Ayum Betutu. I wish I had taken a picture of this well prepared meal but hunger got the best of me.

Day 1 was filled so many new and exciting experiences. I could only imagine what the rest of the holiday would be like. Check out Part 2 here.

Till next time.

reallyGOBBY: Keirn

A Singular View On An Impressive SEOUL

THE PLAN

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Ever so often I stumble upon articles and videos about what is recommended for 20 something year olds to try, whether it be related to travel, health, relationship, just to name a few. I normally ignore these headlines because in my view, the subjects and I shared no relation. However, I recently celebrated my 26th birthday (and by recently I mean February 18th) and I thought to myself, this year needs to be different. I didn’t travel this past Christmas and I needed to get out of Japan for a minute. Since I was already in Asia, it made perfect sense to visit somewhere close to homeSeoul, Korea has always been a place of interest and intrigue (and the fact that I didn’t need a visa was a plus), so I did what any working 26 year old would do and booked a week in Seoul. Though this was a month after my birthday and I would be traveling alone, I had no reservations. I waited as patiently as the Sanderson sisters did in Hocus Pocus for a virgin to light the candle, for March 27th to arrive. The day came and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It was see you later (じゃね) Japan, hello (annyeong haseyo) Seoul.

I MADE IT

The flight to Incheon International Airport was very quick. It’s as short as flying from MBJ to FLL, MBJ to MIA, LAX to SFO or from…well you get the picture. I was a bit surprised by the sea of Asians in the airport (which was foolish of me because I was in Asia after all)and was beginning to think that I was the only foreigner at that time going through the gates. Then, lo and behold, an army of foreigners of all shapes and sizes came queueing up to get through immigration. Being the Hardy Boy that I am, I began to uncover the mystery behind the view that all asians look alike. I mean I had to find something to do because the line was endless and I was stuck somewhere in the middle. Anyways, I did the whole I’m looking at you but I’m not really looking at you bit and made quite a few observations; everyone seemed to be doing the same thing as I was, there were more Asian tourists than any other people, the Chinese grandmas wore very curly afro looking hairstyles and I could tell the difference between the Asian nationalities being represented. I became quite the expert in those 15 minutes.

It was now 10pm and I finally made it to the airport’s subway and to Myeongdong I went. I was very impressed with the subway at each stop the train made. It was unlike anything I’d seen in Japan. When I arrived at Seoul Station I realized I was in for quite the journey at this transfer. The stairs went on forever and each subway line was basically on Mars. Finally I was in Myeongdong and by now my smile was bigger than the cheshire cat’s from Alice in Wonderland. In Jamaican terms, mi glad bag buss. I wasn’t tired but I needed to rest and the fact that I hadn’t slept on a mattress in a very long time, I was now one with my bed.

LET THE FUN BEGIN

I woke up Monday morning feeling so rejuvenated and hurriedly went downstairs for breakfast.When planning this trip, I made sure to look for free breakfast and wifi as major selling points for booking accommodation and Guesthouse Myeongdong 2 offered such amenities. Not to mention its affordability and proximity to Namdaemun Market and Dongdaemun Market (great shopping districts). This would be the routine for the next couple of days coupled with the initial awkward good mornings/hellos to other guests until we became more comfortable with each other at breakfast.

My LG mobile wifi (rented at the airport), Google Maps and my trusty tour pamphlet became my best friends. I made a plan for each day I would be in Seoul and was sticking to it. When traveling alone, it’s better to have a proper plan for each day because the moment you have too much downtime, you’ll, for a split second, feel lonely. I went to the Trick Eye Museum in Hongdae and had a really great time there. I wanted to capture as many photos as possible but being there made me realize, I either needed to have my own photographer or a friend, if I want to get as many photos as possible. Or I could be a pest and ask other tourists to take my picture. They didn’t mind me asking because everyone needed their photo taken at some point. Interestingly enough, selfie sticks and monopods were in abundance, so if you’re obsessed with taking your own photos, it wouldn’t be odd if you whipped out your own stick or pod.

 


Then it hit me like a dominatrix, I was a tourist. I was doing tourist-like things. This may sound odd but being from Jamaica, I hardly ever get the chance to be a tourist (visiting family and friends in America doesn’t count).  As a Montegonian (from Montego Bay, Jamaica) , I grew up around tourism and I looked nothing like most of the tourists who visited the island as they would be clad in shorts, a sun hat, sneakers, a fanny pack (sometimes), sunglasses and a t-shirt that is tourist 1-0-1. Only, this was not Jamaica and I was in Korea on a mini vacation.

I attended the Cookin’ NANTA show in Myeongdong which is a comical live performance with no words where actors tell a story that involves making a full course meal. Unfortunately, taking photos or recording videos weren’t allowed but trust me when I say, I had a bellyful of laughs, a show worth seeing.

 


My nights saw me either going to a club in Hongdae, watching street performers in both Dongdaemun and Hongdae or to a favorite restaurant/bar of mine, TAPAS in Itaewon.

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[Video above is of d.o.b crew from Seoul, Korea]

I got lost in the deliciousness of the Korean cuisine. Everything I ate was filled with such spice and flavor, my heart cried tears of joy as my mouth was being rewarded with some the best food Korea had to offer. Some my favs were bulgogi and tteokbokk. I liked the bibimbap but I didn’t know how to eat it and it reminded me of mochi with how long it took for me to swallow.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the street/night life in Seoul as the people were so free and fun to be around. This is where not being accustomed to being a tourist reared its ugly head. If you’re normally going on vacation, you’ll know that you’re almost always called out of the crowd to participate in some random performance and you wind up embarrassing yourself. You get a few laughs as the observer at the expense of the participant. So there I was, enjoying the street show like everyone else and I was called out of the crowd and put in the middle of the performance. If I was much lighter you’d see my whole face turning red. I felt awkward and wanted to bolt out of there but I played along and wound up embarrassing myself. The thing was, I didn’t care. It felt good to not have to worry about how I would be perceived and to actually have meaningless fun. I tip my hat off to tourists, as they’re much braver than me in this regard. I think this was one of the best parts of traveling alone. I could make a complete buffoon of myself and it wouldn’t matter.

THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE (DMZ) – KOREA

 

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A friend from Sweden recommended this place as a must see. After doing my own research, there was no way I’d pass up the opportunity to visit. After making my reservation through my guesthouse, my trip was planned for March 31st. I was instructed I needed my passport at all times and I’d be picked up at 7:45am for the morning tour. Again, I felt all touristy because I was wearing a denim jacket, I had a backpack, sunglasses and to top it all off, I was part of a tour group with a real tour guide, badge and everything. Hearing the phrase, listen for Jay’s Group to know where your group is, was funny as if we were kids at a carnival. The bus arrived at a bridge and South Korean soldiers came onboard to check our passports and to get a count of passengers. It was a bit intense because I was just moments away from entering the 3rd tunnel that the South Korean Government found coming from North Korea. The further down the tunnel I went, the colder it became and then I came upon a section where I had to bend my back to walk to the end of. This was very low wet a water dripped from the roof. At the end of the tunnel a sign read “beyond this wall, about 1.7km is North Korea). My heart began racing as what if scenarios flashed through my mind. What if Kim Jong Un decides today is the day he’ll wage war against South Korea? What if the tunnel collapses? What is we get stuck in the DMZ and can’t leave? What if…? I may have been a little dramatic but that was how I felt. The experience was amazing and using the binoculars to look into North Korea was saddening. Here we had a nation divided, a nation that once was one, a nation with the same people and language, completely separated from one another. The crazy thing about it was seeing the railway that connects both north and south and how uncivilized the area was. Dry, brown, uninhabitable. Simple dead. To make up for that melancholy feeling, I bought souvenirs as nothing says I’m a tourist than souvenirs of the places you visited.

 

[Images above are from the DMZ and uninhabitable section of North and South Korea]     

HAN RIVER – ANNYEONG SEOUL

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My last day in Seoul, I went on the Han River Cruise. This is the same river meets a river coming from North Korea then head into the sea. However, I was nowhere close to this part. I took the evening cruise because I didn’t want to be out late and not have enough rest to get up for my early flight back to Japan. I boarded at Yeouido Park and at this time, I was in full on tourist mode because I now had my selfie stick. The cruise was wonderful and I got the chance to hang with seagulls the whole time. I did wish that I’d have done the night cruise but there’s alway next time. The park was huge and filled with so many people having picnics and just having a laugh. I sat and whispered a thank you to God for allowing me to experience this amazing place, how I wanted to do it.

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Till next time.

KT