Friday, November 2, 2007

Tokyo Drift - Episode 4

DAY #5
24th Nov 06


Breakfast in the morning in old Hakone hotel. Weak sunlight lit the small restaurant. It was a Japanese buffet styled breakfast. As glutton as we always were, Su & I just took a little of everything and bring the food to our table. We made several rounds and finally filled our table with food we want. As I sat down, the Japanese guest placed down her tray next to us with all the food inside. Then I looked around and saw everyone eats with a tray. Gosh, we would have looked like some dumb and greedy people with no shame. Totally forgetting we were in Japan where everyone is so polite and perfectly organized.


As I ate, I looked around and could clearly see the hotel guests now. Mind you the hotel was so dimly lit at night you can’t really see around. It appeared tat we were the youngest of all the guests. 95% of them were elderly people. I guess 80% of them were made up of the locals. All of them looked tranquil as they slowly enjoyed their breakfast. I wonder what will happen if we were to play Jay-Z or My Chemical Romance here in full blast? Hehe…


Wrapped in my obnoxious thoughts, unmindfully, I opened up the Styrofoam box containing some sticky beans. They looked frozen and stuck together. I guess they must have tasted sweet as the gooey thing appears to look like thick syrup.


Now thinking about playing Justin’s Sexyback, I put the sticky beans into my mouth. Bang! I snapped out of whatever thought and spat them out as soon as it touches my tongue. Oh my, that was the most horrible thing I’ve ever tasted. Super bitter and so extremely yucky! I took a closer look at the beans disguised innocently as sweet baked beans. Hey, this is no ordinary beans and the gooey thing is definitely not syrup. I have to downed cups of water to get the taste off my mouth. I wondered who dared to eat such things. Someone should put this in the Fear Factor table!


We quickly finished our breakfast and strolled outside of the hotel. The hotel has a beautiful garden laced with colorful flowers. The trees turning into different shades of red made the place looked even lovelier. I even saw a maple tree!


Our bus was about to set off. We hopped into the bus. The Hakone hotel entourage were lining up beside the bus. As our bus took off, they waved and bowed until our bus turned around the corner. Wow! Such a warm and friendly gesture.


We took off to our first stop for today- Lake Ashi. Dubbed as the most placid lake and if you’re lucky, you can catch Mount Fuji in the horizon. We boarded a pirate-looking ship where the ship took us round Lake Ashi. The lake brought up cold breeze and feels like it is cutting up my face. Not sure but boat rides are normally pretty boring to me. After about 15 minutes, the ship stopped at the other end of the lake. Our bus has already reached the other end and waiting for us.


Next, we arrived at Owakudani Valley a.k.a the boiling valley. This is another interesting sight where from far, you can see the mountains smoking from different corners. They are actually active sulphur vents. Even in the bus, we could smell the sulphuric air creeping in. I wonder how those people work here day and night under the stinky air and not to mention hazardous if over-exposed to the sulphuric air.


I can’t stop marveling at the steady white smoke seeping out of the valley. The valley is also famous for Kuro-tamago — a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The eggs are believed to improve longevity. So if you eat 1, you will live 5 years longer. So I guess if you eat one egg from the valley each day, basically, you will be immortal! Hmmm….not sure about this, plus the additional sulphur that seeped into eggs while they were boiled. Wonder if it will be medicinal or hazardous?


I saw there was only 1 stall selling the eggs. However, the eggs are sold in half a dozen. Well, I won’t be coming here again and probably I don’t get a chance to grab hold of eggs boiled in pure hot spring. Su was not interested in the eggs. I went around asking my tour mates if they wanted to share the eggs with me. Sad to find out, none of them were interested. I mean what’s wrong with this people?


OK. I am not leaving without them. So I got a packet of the eggs. I peered inside and wow! They were all charcoal black with some sulphuric dust covering them! Cool.


Not far away, there was a trail towards the hot spring and the sulphuric vents. Constraint by the rigid time given by our tour group and also pretty tired to hike up the trail, we decided to just enjoy the view from the bottom. There was a sign board cautioning everyone not to stay here for too long. The SO2 and H2S will harm the respiratory system and excessive breathing of these gases can be FATAL. Hmmm…interesting.


I was engrossed with the word FATAL when Su asked me to look behind my back.
“Look! Mount Fuji!”


Sure enough Mount Fuji was just right behind me. What fascinates me is that unlike other mountains or hills I’ve seen, I can see the entire mountain. From top to bottom. Left to right. Erm…cut the long story short, I can see the entire mountain from here! Why would I have to desperately look out for Mount Fuji while in Lake Ashi? And while riding in the bus when I can get a full perfect shot from here? Mount Fuji, the picture risqué mountain that was widely covered in the geographic channels and in calendars. The snow never ceased to melt and its tip is covered with snow 24H x 365Days. Now here it is, right in front of my eyes. Believe me, the mountain looks even more gorgeous if you see it with your own eyes. Especially the snow on top of it. It looks like a giant "ice-kacang" serving that you would just love to savour the ice on top.
Gosh I could stand here and admire the snow covered Fuji until next year. But the ‘FATAL’ sign board next to me was warning me “You better get out of here now!”
Times up! Get on the bus!


It was about 3pm when we reached our next destination -Peace Park. I guess we arrived at the right season where the park will look the most colorful. There is no way I could describe the beauty of this park other than to see it for yourself. Go view the pictures I’ve uploaded! It was merely 4pm and the sky turned as if it’s already 7pm. We couldn’t see much of the park anymore as the sky is getting darker by the minute.


Phillip told us we still have time to spare so he decided to take us to Gotemba Premium Outlet. More shopping! However, Su & I are on a tight budget so window shopping will be sufficient for now. Gotemba Premium Outlet showcases all the branded labels. It is an outdoor shopping outlet where the stores are lined up in a terrace. Wealthy looking people are seen around this place. Here, you can see the Japanese craze for dogs as an accessory. People walked their dogs while shopping. The dogs are left tied outside when the owner saw something fancy and decided to go inside. Those who do not have dogs on the other hand have a different kind of accessory. And what it might be? –Babies!


Babies are hot accessories-or so it seems. Gosh Japanese babies are the luckiest. They are all dressed in the cutest clothes and not to mention wearing Nike shoes. This is where we also see pimp-up babies.


“Yo! My milk bottle is cooler than yours!”“Yo! Although my baby is not as cute as yours but she is wearing Guess from head to toe”“Yo! My baby has more Blings than yours. His Blings even glows in the dark!”

Now, now … time to go back to the bus again. Su and I were one of the earliest this time. Guess, this is not the place for us just yet. Too expensive, too classy and definitely too cold.


We embarked back to Tokyo city. The journey took us almost 2 hours. Worse still, we met the crazy Tokyo jam. We are almost dying in hunger. Phillip did a good job keeping us calm and getting our minds off the thought of food. He told us stories and joked around. Giving us update from time to time that we are reaching the restaurant. As we drove longer, the places gradually looked more familiar to us. Here we are back in Asakusa. Our hope grew as we saw familiar places coming up. We turned around the bend and turned around more bends again. How come we still have not reached our restaurant? My legs are getting numb. Are we driving in circles? Suddenly each bend we turned ends up looking like the street we have just went through earlier. There are lines of heavily lit shops, subway signs, people walking, traffic lights … Only then I realized, my fatigue has kicked in again. I saw Su happily dozing off. Ok. Maybe I should close my eyes and relax a bit. Finally the bus stopped. Yay! We finally arrived. I put on all my gears again and jumped off the bus.


This is our final meal with the tour group. It is the BBQ type meal where you can take what you like and eat what you want. I lost my appetite as I feel a fever creeping up and a bad sore throat. Although the food is great I just took all the fruits and dessert. I still don’t wanna be sick yet. Tomorrow is yet another day. We checked into the Grand Palace hotel and I could not remember anything until the next morning.

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