It never fails to amaze me how the act of travel can so dramatically reshape the framework of your entire world, so quickly and so decisively.
We loved every second of our time in Taipei, invigorated by the urban environment and the bustle of busy people living their busy lives, but it also felt safe, like a place we once called home, and we could ultimately only take comfort in that state of being for so long before the unceasing call to adventure beckoned us out into the unknown once more.
“I could take you to Port Barton.”
Apo’s characteristic accent made it sound like Fort Parton, like a lisp that instead affects Ps, Fs, and Bs. For native Tagalog speakers these letters seem to be randomly interchangeable, in a way that makes it clear they can’t hear any difference.
When we were still in the planning phases of our Big Trip, one of the things I researched most avidly was other travelers’ budgets and spending patterns. Travel guides are of limited use in this arena as everyone knows that they are out of date as soon as they’re published, and this is especially true when you’re working with one that you borrowed from the library that was published back in 2008. Of course, even when you find recent budget posts during your planning phases, unless you’re just a month or two out from your departure date, you shouldn’t be surprised when you’re on the ground and find that things are a little pricier than you thought they would be.
It isn’t often that a place or an event has the power to change you. Most of the time change seems gradual, the sum of a set of experiences that just kind of creeps up on you, until one day you realize the person you were is just that: the person you were. But. Sometimes something is so singular that you can feel yourself changing, feel your understanding growing. Maybe this thing changes a lot of people, or maybe only a few. For us, the rice terraces of Dazhai was such a place.
After four days in Beijing, we were ready to get the hell out of the city and head for the hills. So on the morning of our fifth day in China, we did precisely that and set out to visit one of the new seven wonders of the world, the Great Wall.
Although our hostel offered daily tours to various parts of the Wall, we decided that we would do our best to make our own way to the section in Mutianyu, which is accessible via public transportation from Beijing, but being slightly farther than the Badaling section, reportedly experiences but a fraction of the visitors. Getting away from the crowds sounded like a good idea to us, and after consulting this post over at GQ Trippin’, we decided that if we could make our way to the Wall by bus, not only would we save a lot of money, but we would be fairly bad ass as well.
There are many legitimate reasons to visit Arashiyama located in Western Kyoto, but I won’t pretend we came for any reason but one: the Iwatayama Monkey Park. If you read our post on Nara and witnessed my glee at feeding deer, then you can only imagine my excitement at the prospect of getting to feed monkeys!
Really, little else would entice me to undertake ANOTHER hike.
If there is one thing that stands out clearest in my mind about our time in Japan, it is just how overwhelmingly kind and helpful the people we met there were. Obviously we had a taste of this when we were lucky enough to CouchSurf, but our positive interactions with the Japanese people certainly weren’t limited to those pre-arranged instances. We consider ourselves extremely lucky that while in Japan, we managed to convey a spirit of openness that seemed to attract good people to us like moths to a flame. Whether it was the guy in the train station who, with cheeks aflame, apologized for not knowing which train we should catch, disappearing only to return having gone out of his way to find out this information for us, or a meeting a man named Shijo, who stopped us on a street corner in Kyoto while we were traveling to our hostel just so he could practice his English and ask us questions about the United States over the course of an hour (!), it would appear that the Japanese people had our backs.