I feel like I say this every time I write one of these posts, but Month #5 just flew by! We were in Tokyo at the beginning of the month. We didn’t do a lot of “attractions” there. Mostly we just walked around, explored different neighborhoods, and ate food. We had planned on taking a day trip up to Nikko on our last full day in Tokyo (that’s the day our rail passes were activated). However, Matthew was sick with a cold, and we both felt exhausted. We made the decision to stay in Tokyo and just go to a coffee shop and get some work done. It was an excellent decision, and I think it was crucial to getting us through our the hectic schedule we had for the remainder of our time in Japan
After Tokyo, it was time for our rail journey around Japan. We bought 7-day JR Passes, and we used them to visit 6 cities in 6 days before landing in Kyoto for our final few days in the country. I’ll post more about our itinerary later. The gist is that we saw a lot, but we were tired. We actually dropped a few things from our plans because we realized we needed to build in some time to rest. We’re not sad though; we still feel like we got to see a lot of what Japan has to offer, including temples, castles, delicious food, huge cities, and so much more.
Next up, we had a brief (2.5 day) stopover in Kuala Lumpur. We didn’t do as much as we had originally hoped. I caught the cold that Matthew had Japan, which slowed me down a bit. In addition, we were up until after 2:00 a.m. one night dealing with frustrating “real life” stuff. (Long story short: We were rejected by the apartment we were hoping to live in when we return to Nashville because the background check they did listed a criminal conviction by someone else with my maiden name.) The sickness and late night slowed both of us down. Still, we managed to fit in strolling through the Lake Gardens, visiting the National Museum and National Mosque, eating some good food, and catching a fantastic view of the Petronas Towers.
After our brief stop in KL, we headed to Australia. I was so excited to be landing on our 6th continent of the year! Sydney was absolutely beautiful! We were lucky enough to have absolutely glorious spring weather during our 3.5 days there. We spent a lot of our time there outside: walking around parks and gardens, riding bikes, chilling on beaches, and shopping at craft and farmers markets. Halfway through our first day, I was telling Matthew that I would love to live there.
Our time in Sydney flew by, and then it was on to Melbourne where we had booked an Airbnb for two full weeks. (It’s where we still are right now.) The company Matthew used to work for moved its headquarters from Melbourne to Nashville back in 2013. A bunch of the employees moved from Melbourne to Nashville at that time and have since returned to Melbourne. So we’ve spent much of our time here catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in nearly two years. We’ve also been enjoying quite a lot of Melbourne’s famously-good coffee.
One friend was kind enough to lend us a car while he was out of town, so we took it on a road trip down the Great Ocean road for a couple of days. The weather was kind of crazy with rain showers starting and stopping at regular intervals for two days and wind so strong we struggled to walk straight. Still, we mostly had good luck. It seemed like every time we arrived at a viewpoint, the skies were blue long enough for us to take it in and snap a few photos. Then the rain would suddenly start, and we’d rush back to the car and drive on to the next spot. Nonetheless, it was gorgeous, and we had so much fun road tripping together!
- The cleanliness and efficiency of Japan. When it comes to efficiency and order, I’m not sure that anyone does it better than Japan. It makes the travel experience there so pleasant and non-stressful. It just really nice to know that the train station is going to have a nice clean bathroom and the trains are always going to be on time. On one particularly long travel day, we had to take a total of 6 trains, and every transfer was 15 minutes or less (with the shortest transfer time being 3 minutes). But there was nothing stressful about it at all. We knew that each train would get us to the station right on time and that the station would be full of signs directing us to the platform of our next train. We made it through each transfer with time to spare.
- Sydney! Our Melbourne friends might be mad at me for saying this, but my love for Sydney is strong. I can’t exactly explain why, but there’s something about that city that made me feel at home. I loved how picturesque it was. I loved the walkability. I loved all the public outdoor space (and how many people were taking advantage of them). And of course the good food and gorgeous weather didn’t hurt either. Matthew says that if he had to choose an Australian city to live in, he would choose Melbourne, but for me Sydney has the edge.
- Visiting with friends. It’s been just the two of us for months now (since my sister left us in July). We honestly love spending time together, and don’t feel sick of each other at all. But it’s still nice to have friends to hang out with! The people we know here in Melbourne have been so great, taking us to a pub to watch Australian football (the Grand Finals, no less), showing us different parts of town, cooking us meals, letting us play with their adorable kiddos, and more. We’ve had so much fun, and we’ll be sad to leave on Wednesday.
- Apartment troubles. Ugh. This was so frustrating. As I mentioned above, we were rejected from the apartment we wanted because of faulty information. (Someone with my maiden name was convicted of a crime in Kentucky, and it came up when they did a background check on me.) There’s a process for disputing it, but of course it’s been a huge headache trying to communicate with people and get all the information I need from the other side of the world. Meanwhile, the specific apartment we wanted was rented out to someone else. Right now we’re still waiting on the company that did the background check to complete their investigation. (They get 30 days by law). So we’re returning to the United States with nowhere to live. Of course, we are extremely privileged to have resources and friends and family who are willing to help, so the whole apartment thing is just a headache, rather than being catastrophic. For that, we are really grateful.
- Car breakdown. Just as we arrived back in Melbourne from our road trip on the Great Ocean Road, the car we were driving broke down. At first we thought it had run out of gas (it kind of sputtered and lurched along before coming to a stop) even though the gas gauge wasn’t on empty. We pushed it to the side of the road, and Matthew stayed with the car while I ran to the nearest gas station (about 1 km away) to buy a jerry can of gas. We put the gas into the car, and it started again. We thought we’d solved the problem, so we drove to the gas station, filled up, and headed towards home. A few blocks from our place, the car started sputtering again. It died multiple times, and Matthew would wait a minute and then restart it. We got it almost all the way there when it finally seemed to give out, so we pushed it the final 15 feet or so into our garage (up a slight incline). It wasn’t the most fun, but we feel really lucky that the car waited until we got to Melbourne to break down, as we had spent most of the past 3 days driving in the middle of nowhere.
- Navigating Kuala Lumpur. We were shocked at how pedestrian-hostile the roads in KL were. And the huge amounts of construction everywhere blocking off roads and sidewalks didn’t help. Sometimes you’d be walking on a sidewalk along a busy road, and it would suddenly end. Once we were trying to get to a mall that should have involved crossing the street and walking about a block. However, in order to get there on foot we had to take about a 20-minute, super roundabout detour and eventually just jaywalk across a 4-lane road because we couldn’t find another path. This obviously isn’t a huge deal or anything, but as people who tend to want to walk everywhere, getting around KL was a bit of a frustrating experience.
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By the Numbers:
- Dates: September 10-October 9, 2016
- Continents: 2 – Asia, Oceania
- Countries: 3 – Japan, Malaysia, Australia
- Cities: 16 – Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka, Nara, Koyasan, Hiroshima, Himeji, and Kyoto, Japan; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Sydney, Melbourne, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway, Port Campbell, and Warrnambool, Australia
- Currencies: 3 – Japanese yen, Malaysian ringgit, Australian dollar
- Languages: 3 – Japanese, Malay, English
- Distance Traveled: 9033 miles
- # of Flights: 4 (totaling 7608 miles)
- # of Trains: 23 (975 miles)
- # of Cars: 1 (450 miles)
- # of Places We Slept: 11 (including 7 apartments, 1 ryokan, 1 temple, 1 hotel, and 1 motel)
- # of UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 5 (Himeji-jo, Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, and Sydney Opera House)
- # of Neighborhoods Visited in Tokyo: 6 (Shibuya, Harajuku, Ueno, Yanaka, Akihabara, and Ebisu)
- # of Temples/Shrines Visited: 5
- # of Museums Visited: 4
- # of Cemeteries Visited: 2
- # of Coffees Purchased in Melbourne: 41 (This doesn’t even include making coffee for ourselves at home!)