Escaping to Mountain Villages

The Hida train ride from Nagoya to Takayama was beautiful. The train boasts extra large windows so you can appreciate the view, which we did! The train wound along the river through the mountains where the trees were starting to change to yellow and orange. Also, trains in Japan have a cool feature where all of the seat backs can be moved from one side to the other of the seat so no one has to travel backwards. We think more trains should work this way.

View out the train window
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Castles and Cars in Nagoya

We arrived in Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city, under a rainy afternoon sky. We took the Kintetsu train two stops to the Kogane station and walked the short distance to our Airbnb. The apartment was located next to the train line and under the intersection of two highways in the southwest corner of Nagoya, and yet, at $71.50 per night, it was our most expensive accommodation to date. Budget accommodation had proven surprisingly hard to come by in Nagoya. The available hostel options all seemed crazy: we’re talking $30+ per dorm bed, and we think dorm beds only make sense if we are saving real money over other options. Despite its unusual location, the Airbnb gave us our own private space with a small cooking area, and it was perfect for exploring the city.

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Exploring the World’s Largest Metropolitan Area: Tokyo

Our flight to Tokyo from Seoul was very early in the morning, landing at 9:30am. After getting through customs and finding an ATM to take out some Japanese yen it was time to find our way into the city. Tokyo, and we would later discover, Japan in general, has a huge number of trains, all across various train systems. This means that most of the country is highly accessible by train (which is great!), but it can be a bit overwhelming at first to figure out which train you want, and extra hard to avoid very expensive trains by accident. We went to an information desk to get help rather than trying to figure it out ourselves, and we were quickly on our way.

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Three Days in a Jjimjilbang in Seoul

After we returned the bicycles, we ate dinner at a ramen restaurant around the corner and then set off to find Siloam Bulgama Sauna Spa, one of Seoul’s jjimjilbangs. Now that we were experienced jjimjilbang users with two nights under our belt, we planned to spend the rest of our nights in South Korea at Siloam. A lot of jjimjilbangs discourage people from staying multiple nights in a row, but we had read that Siloam allowed it and was one of the nicer jjimjilbangs in Seoul anyway. 

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Bicycle Touring on South Korea’s East Coast

When Ben talked us into going to South Korea instead of China, one of his selling points was South Korea’s amazing biking paths. Eric had told him about our bike trip from Maine to Minnesota, and Ben said we had to bike in South Korea. Some initial research suggested this could be a pretty expensive prospect with lots of people recommending bringing a bicycle from another country or buying a bicycle and trying to sell it later. This all sounded a bit complicated, but then Eric found a bike rental company, Bike Nara, that does one-week rentals, and we were in business.

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Hello, South Korea: Busan

Our flight to South Korea departed at 1 am and arrived at 7 am which felt like 5 am to us, so our first day in South Korea was a pretty sleepy one. Luckily, being in South Korea felt like a welcome return to our normal life. Despite the fact that everything was in Korean, it felt very familiar. We took the subway from the airport to our apartment (Airbnb) in Suyeong-Gu. There were pedestrian lights, and cars (mostly) stopped for red lights. Everything felt a little bit calmer, and we realized that for 29 days in Vietnam we had been carrying a little bit of extra tension. We checked into our Airbnb using a keypad and opened the door to a cute studio apartment with a bathroom and small kitchen. Our first kitchen since we left the US a month and a half ago!

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