Thursday, April 9, 2009 ;
4:06 PM
I haven't disappeared, just went off for Spring Break. Kids had the Spring Break hol, and Dh confirmed his leave at the last min, so we packed our bags and set off for Nagoya. Our main objectives of the trip?
- to meet with Y and the kids again, cos we miss each other so much!
- to catch the Sakura blooming season

So I frantically did last min surfing and research... planned the itinerary, asked for advice, booked the tickets, within a few days, just 1.5weeks before the trip.

That's not ideal, however, because it was almost impossible to find accomodation in Kyoto. I wasn't able to find any available rooms in the ryokans Y had recommended, and had to keep moving up the list (it was in descending order of luxury/ star rating/ cost).

In the end, we had to get a rather good ryokan for 2 nights, and even it wasn't available the 3rd night, and we had to ryokan-hop to another one 2 streets away, which is more luxurious and expensive than the first one.

Plane tickets also cost a lot. It cost much more for us to fly from Tianjin to Nagoya than from Tianjin to Singapore. Ouch!
For a short trip, I felt the heartache. The trip should be longer to make the ticket cost worth it! :-)

So the bulk of our expenditure went to the air tickets and accomodation. Other than that, it was very affordable, to our delight.

31 Mar

At the Tianjin airport, while we were checking in, the computer systems failed! So there was a long long line at the check in counter. To while the time away, I remember the stash of activity sheets I had in the carry on bag, and took some out for the kids to play with.

Japan Airlines is the only airline to fly between Tianjin and Nagoya. They do codeshare with Air China I think, but it's the same flight.

JAL is as pleasant as SIA. We enjoyed the flight very very much. Excellent service, great entertainment, extremely child-friendly.

At the boarding gate, our family and another one were the only ones with young kids, so we were singled out and ushered to board ahead of all the rest of the Economy class passengers. Nice.

Then the kids were given a basketful of gifts to choose from. Both of them separately chose the same thing - a box with the plastic parts and stickers of the JAL airplane, for them to fix together. The contruction and design was good. The kids were able to fix everything together themselves yet it was hardy enough to be abused and played as a whole airplane, without ever falling apart.

When we reached the airport at Nagoya, ds2 was totally exhausted, having navigated and explored the entire Inflight entertainment system himself throughout the flight, instead of having his usual afternoon nap.

The boys' ages now are so good for travelling. I could finally watch my own movie. I watched Sweet November on the way to Japan, and then Slumdog Millionaire on the way back to Tianjin. Lovely.

They used to ask for help with everything from the headphones to the buttons. "mom, which button to press?" "Mom, how to get to Playhouse Disney channel?" "mom, how to play this game?" Now, they are totally quiet and absorbed. Great. (Too bad the flight is only 2h 15min long.)

ds2 is now very attached to his airplane. Notice he has to hold on to it even in his sleep.

At the airport, we made our way to the shuttle bus area and bought tickets for the next bus to Tomei-Nisshin (about 72min journey). The bus was not due to leave yet, so we went to the convenience store there to browse and I bought some delicious fruit jellies -everyone in our family loves them. The kids drank their favourite Meiji milk too.

I used the change to call Y. It's cheap to make calls from public phones (10yen, abt US$0.10), compared to the costs of everything else. Like the bus or subway fares, they are much more expensive than in Spore.

Y was at the bus stop to pick us up. Her car is huge! It was only a 5min ride to her parents' 3 storey house with a garden - big for Japan's normal standards.

We were so delighted to see each other, hugs all around! The kids were so excited too.

Her mom had already prepared dinner, wow!

That's the adorable Val. She sat with us adults at the dining table. The rest of the kids ate by themselves at the small table.

Kids had sweet Japanese curry with rice.

Giu simply loves ds2. She hugs him so much and was forever so sweet to him. He doesn't know how lucky he is. haha.

Our adult spread. The miso soup is very special. Y's mom says miso soup contents and taste vary from region to region in Japan. We liked hers very much. No time to ask her how to make it!

Then we had spicier curry than the kids, and Japanese rice with all kinds of ingredients in it.
It tasted very good, and the host said the preparation is like sushi, just that you don't roll the rice up in seaweed but rather stir the ingredients into the rice.

I can't remember all the ingredients but they included big orange roe, seaweed flakes, green pepper, carrot, prawns, egg strips..

Then we had Japanese apple and strawberries and they were sooooooo sweet! The strawberries are the small and red type. Not like Utah's, which were very big and red. Both varieties are very sweet. We have tried the Tianjin ones, which are very big but not so sweet.

Y brought out a lot of Japanese snacks. Again, we marvelled at how beautifully Japanese must present and package every single product. Just simple snacks were wrapped so nicely, with patterned translucent paper. It makes you feel like not eating it, and keeping it somewhere forever.

After dinner, we couldn't talk too long because it was already 9pm and we had to wake up early the next morning for the Toyota tour. Toyota city is about an hour away from Y's house, and the tour registration starts at 10.30am.

So Y showed us to her room. Me and ds2 will sleep together with her and her 2 dd. They have only a bunk bed, and Giu sleeps on the upper bunk while Y and Val sleeps on the lower. The room is small, and there is just a corner for the futon to be laid out. So Dh and ds1 slept together on a foldable bed in the sitting room just outside the bedroom. Mic slept with his grandparents in their room upstairs.

We didn't mind it at all, we just felt bad that everyone had to squeeze so much. But Y had invited us to stay with her, and I had gladly accepted since we were going to tour Toyota together too.

The toilet gave me a surprise. Like in Tianjin, the nights are still cold. So when I sat down on the toilet seat (like us, they do not have a cloth toilet seat cover), I expected to get a cold shock on my butt. But wow, what a pleasant warmth. I looked down in surprise and oh! They had an electrically heated toilet seat. So comfy!

Then I noticed the shelf full of books to read, of all topics too. No wonder... The toilet is so comfy, i would want to take as much time as possible too, haha.

I think I like this system better than the toilet seat covers. I didn't buy any here in Tianjin nor in Utah because the boys still don't aim that well and I think the seat is much easier to clean thoroughly than the cloth cover. So I rather not have a cloth cover and constantly have to disinfect and wash it.

We cleaned up and settled the kids. But even though I was tired, surprisingly, sleep eluded me.
Maybe it was ds2, who was restless too and in an unfamiliar place. Despite having his usual purple teddy bear to sleep with, he kept moving about. He wouldn't sleep on his own futon, moving in with me in mine. And the futon is smaller than single size.

After he fell asleep at 1am, I thought I would be able to sleep then. But no, the blankets worked too well. They are so good at insulating that my body heat plus ds2's made me very hot and sweaty. There was so much heat under the covers that I thought maybe Y gave me an electric blanket. I woke up and checked, but it wasn't connected to any electrical socket, so it's not. I wonder why my blankets in Tianjin don't work so well. We freeze at night in Tianjin.

So I kicked off the blankets, but then I started to feel cold pretty soon. Sigh...

I lost track of time after a while of trying to adjust to a good temp. I think maybe I drifted off to sleep at 4am only to wake at 5am when the sun came out.

This looks like a sign of getting old!!!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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