I loved Japan! This country is definitely one I will be returning to. The moment I stepped off the airport bus to the streets of Tokyo, I was mesmerized. Words that come to mind when I think of Japan: instant gratification, anime, cartoon toys, kawaii, hard-working culture, video games, claw machines, vending machines, slot machines, prostitutes, shopping, eating, drinking, hedonistic, cleanliness, perfectionism, face masks, black clothes, pops of color, organized, well mannered, soft spoken, people, and more people.
When visiting Japan, I highly recommend the J-rail pass! For a couple hundred dollars, you can take the bullet train for 7 days. During my week, I went from Tokyo to Nagano to Kyoto. It was efficient and FAST! The train stations were a little confusing in Tokyo, but other than that, it was a breeze to get around. While in Tokyo, we made our rounds to all the quirky cafes: Robot Cafe, Kawaii Monster Cafe, Hello Kitty Cafe, and the Owl Cafe. We stayed in Shibuya in the middle of everything and air bnb'ed our accommodations.
Japan has a magic and romance to it. Even in the crowded urban areas, the air feels dreamy. We spent all day walking around the Fushimi Inari Torii gates. These red shrines are a network of 10,000 red arches that extend through the forrest behind the main buildings. Although fairly touristy, the higher you go, the less crowded it is. We then explored Higashiyama District, which is a really well preserved historic part of the city. There are tons of small shops, cafes and restaurants. We spent the evening meandering through the quaint little alleyways and stopping for Hello Kitty pancakes ^__^
No trip to Japan is complete without going north to the snow monkey park! I spent all day there and then at night, stayed in historic Shibu Onsen. I dressed up in the complimentary kimono at the ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) and made my rounds to the 9 onsens (bath houses) along the main road. The onsesn are nude and separated by men's and women's. If you are going there for a romantic get away, it's best to book a hotel with your own private onsen as opposed to the public ones that I did. The hotel included a traditional Japanese breakfast and dinner. You can't go wrong with this experience. I got a lot of my information from this site when deciding where to book: http://www.yudanaka-shibuonsen.com/
Going to Phang Nga Bay was the most typical touristy thing we did on the trip, but I was happy to do so. It gave us a chance to get out of the city's pollution and into clean air and nature. The entire boat ride were non stop views. We made a few stops at some of the islands including the famous "James Bond Island." Other stops included swimming, going into a cave and kayaking through the eroded cliffs.
We spend just a couple days in Bangkok in a hostel on Khao San Road. The whole area is very vibrant and lively with many restaurants, bars and foot massage places. We took advantage of the $5.00 massages everywhere we went in SE Asia! We spent a few hours at the temples of Wat Phra Kaew. Remember there is a dress code at most temples, so wear long pants and sleeves. In Cambodia, I bought some $3.00 pants and shirt that was airy. These types of clothes also help with mosquitoes. During our time in Thailand, we saw many mourners for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. There were hundreds of people dressed black holding framed photographs of him sitting in the temples mourning. Every government building had white and black memorial decorations. There were giant portraits and memorials at every traffic circle in the cities. The airports had kiosks where you could pay your condolances. It was incredible to see this level of mourning.