Saturday, March 29, 2014

The first solo travel (Part 3): Nara - Kobe


I made it to Nara at midday and spent several hours walking around Nara Park and checking out some spots here. 

Like Kyoto, Nara used to be the capital city of Japan and is visited by many people. It is famous for Todai-ji Temple where is house of a giant Buddha – Daibutsu - as well as Minami Daimon Gate. In addition, one of “Nara’s specialties” (that can be called) is deers.  They are around the park, on the streets, in front of temples, everywhere. They are cute but somehow dangerous, especially if they see you eating, they will attack you right away. When I was eating my pineapples on the street, some of them came attack me. That’s the reason why there is a sign warning not to feed the deers. 

Deers in the park
Deers in front of temples
I visited Kofuki-ji Temple (but didn’t get in), Todai – ji and Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The entrance fee for those places is 500 yen but actually they look better from outside. There is nothing much inside the temples, except for some statues or bells. The staff at the information office at the station told me Kasuga Taisha Shrine was the most famous sight in Nara, but I was disappointed when I got there even though the path leading to the shrine was pretty with stone lanterns lining at both sides. 

Todai ji
Nishi Daimon Gate
Path to Kasuga Shrine
The stone lanterns

Kasuga Shrine
Inside Kasuga Shrine
Golden lanterns
I wanted to go and see more but it was rainy and cold so I finished my walk in Nara at a random restaurant near Nara Station. I ate dinner quite early with Nara style’s sushi and a big bowl of udon. They were so good (maybe because I didn’t have lunch) and cheap. After that, I got back to Kyoto and had a lovely night with my host and other surfers.

Nara style ' sushi
The inside

 Udon with egg, mushroom and tofu


Kobe was my last stop. Before starting my trip, I got a message from a Japanese guy on couchsurfing saying he could show me round the city as he saw my post on the forum, and I said yes right away. We met each other at the station and had the third who is a Middle East guy, Ỉmaran, who is working in Kobe at the moment, then we all were off to see Chinatown as our first place. Chinatown in Kobe is not the biggest one, but looks good and very Chinese with big gate, red lanterns, stone lions and many kinds of foods. Next, Yusuke, the Japanese guy’s name, took us to Kobe Port to see the Port Tower and the views around before having lunch at a Chinese restaurant. We had a big lunch with gyoza which is Chinese dumpling, Sichuan tofu, fried rice and one meal with kimchi. The meals were very good and not expensive at all. 

Yusuke, Imran and me at Kobe Port
Chinatown - Nankin Machi
Kobe Port Tower
After getting a full belly, we went to check out the foreign houses called Kitano Ijinkan which is one of touristic spots in Kobe. As Kobe is a port city, foreigners started setting their feet here from the 1900s and building some residences. But we didn’t get in those houses as we had to pay the entrance fee, so we decided to walk around then off for the sake brewery where we tried some sorts of Japanese sakes. 

Starbucks near Kitano Ijinkan

Ikuta Shrine - the most well - known one in Kobe

a street in Kobe
In the afternoon before having dinner, we went to a cozy Japanese bar to have some drink. It was when I could sit down and talk more to my friends. Yusuke really amazed me by stories about his life and his traveling and couchsurfing experience. While Japanese are shy, a bit distant and conservative, Yusuke is very extravert and easy to talk to. He wants to make friends with other people, especially foreigners. One year study in Germany as an exchange student has made him more and more open – minded and understanding. He also loves traveling and has been to many countries in Europe, which I always dream of. Yusuke is special. Not only has he brought me another image of Japanese who is fun, active and outgoing, but he also has helped me to get to know more about Kobe which is a very lovely city. My trip ended with a dinner with Kobe beef and rice cooked in Japanese style at a small but nice restaurant. 

The three eating Kobe beef
Kobe wasn’t in my travel list at the beginning but due to some suggestions of my teacher who comes from Kobe, I decided to give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. Kobe got hit terribly by a giant earthquake in 1995 but it quickly recovered, reconstructed and became a dynamic city. The scent of the sea, the friendliness of people and the harmony between Eastern and Western cultures make this city unique and authentic. For me, this city is more special because of the people I have met, who are beyond awesome! 

It’s always true to say “Traveling forms a young man”! You can broaden your mind with what you see and people you meet on the move. Before I did my trip, I had received many advices and warnings from my friends and family that it’s dangerous to travel alone. I really appreciated but I still did because it’s what I always wanted to do. Now when I look back, I realize this trip is the most awesome thing I have done so far even though one week's not long. Traveling on your own is risky but interesting in its way, and you will never know how awesome it is if you don’t do it. One week traveling on my own helped me know the overwhelming sense of absolute freedom, meet many amazing people and learn a lot from them, challenge myself with my humble Japanese as well as get to know more about the lands I have been to.  They are all great and I will never forget them!

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