BarclAysia Day 2: Hashtag Disaster

(posted by Emily) 

20 December 2014
Beijing, China and Tokyo, Japan
Step Count: 18,468

We arrived in Beijing early Saturday morning, around 5 am. First up was Chinese customs and a security screening, then a stop in the Air China First Class lounge. 

We made it to China selfie
I wish this wasn't so blurry! A sign with special instructions for West African traveler--gotta be careful about that Ebola!
At security, officials went through our bags and ended up confiscating an extra rechargeable battery pack I had in a special wallet, which we use to charge our phones on trips like this. Never had any troubles with it in Europe or Mexico, but because it was not labeled with specific specs about the battery's capacity, it is not allowed in China. Just an FYI for anyone bringing extra batteries with them!

The airport in Beijing is huge and modern--lots of metal and glass. We headed up to the lounge and grabbed a quick breakfast, including some veggie dim sum. 


The lounge was spacious and beautiful

Our layover was only a few hours, and then it was on to the next flight--an ANA leg to Tokyo. ANA is one of the major Japanese carriers and we were seated in business class. Rick and I both thought the food on this flight was better, and the service was outstanding. I enjoyed some House of Cards with my lunch, and we had a quick glass of champagne to celebrate the trip.

Flying over and out of Beijing--it's hard to tell from this picture, but the city is HUGE. You can see the smog layer, too (just like LA!)

vegan airplane food--not too shabby, ANA!
Once we landed at Narita, we checked our backpacks into baggage storage, changed over some of our cash to yen, and then got on the express train to downtown Tokyo. 

Our first goal of our quick stop in Japan was to eat some ramen--one of the best vegan ramen spots is in Tokyo Station, where we came in from the airport, and although it took a few laps around the enormous complex and another ticket purchase, we managed to find it. 

T's TanTan

We each ordered a bowl of ramen and a small curry
Clearly a happy man, in his element
Slurping is totally acceptable

After ramen, we got on the subway to head to Shinjuku. It was drizzly and starting to get dark by this point, even though it was only 4 in the afternoon. We were on the train for a while, and it was fully dark by the time we got off the train.  

We wandered down Mosaic Street, which was lit up for the holidays, and the rain was starting to come down even harder. While we packed rain jackets, we hadn't brought a whole lot of inclement weather gear, since the vast majority of our trip will be in the tropics. Let's just say--TOMS were a bad choice. You would have thought I'd have learned that lesson already, in Paris last summer......

Flat Oliver came on this trip with us--checking out the lights on Mosaic Street
Everyone had an umbrella--except for us. And no point in buying one if we weren't going to bring it with us on the next legs of the trip!
Lots of small alleyways, filled with lights and signs
So. Much. Rain. Already soaked by this point, with water streaming down my face. 
Another one of our goals was to stop in an arcade--these are famous in Japan, and are regular store fronts, like a shop you might go into to buy clothes. It was packed with people, and Rick managed to find the taiko drumming game and give it a shot--just like Dance Dance Revolution, but with drumsticks :) 

Rolling along to "Let it Go"
We also tried out Mario Cart, and I managed to come in a very respectable 2nd place!

So, more rain. And no real plan of what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go, so we stopped for a cup of coffee in what we hoped would be a warm cafe. Which in reality was freezing. By this point, our feet were soaked through, and our rain jackets had lost their effectiveness. We couldn't find any free wifi, so it was tough to make a plan about what to do next. 

We headed back to the subway, and managed to come across some free metro wifi. Rick had stumbled across an all-night spa in Tokyo Dome City, so we decided to head over there. Anything that was warm sounded good to me!

LaQua is a combination mall, amusement park, and entertainment zone. They even have a roller coaster and log ride. The rolller coaster wasn't running, but we did see some people riding the log ride in the rain. I guess if you're already wet, it doesn't matter!

We got on the elevator to head up to the spa and had already locked our shoes up in a locker when we noticed this sign: 

........... no spa for us, apparently (Rick and I both have tattoos)! Needless to say, we were pretty bummed about that! So much for our plan to relax and warm up! We headed out of the mall and back to the subway,  to decide what to do next.

In researching vegan food in Tokyo, we came across an entirely vegan, Italian restaurant that was open later in the evening. We managed to get to the correct subway station and exit, but wandered around the neighborhood for about 20 minutes (yes, still in the rain) before retracing our steps and starting all over again. Finally, we found Buona Tubu Tubu

Worn out. Wet. Cold. Hungry.
We ordered a potato and pesto pizza, and pesto spaghetti (you all know how Rick loves his pesto!). Both dishes were great, but the pizza was our favorite. The staff at the restaurant was friendly and grateful, clearly very excited we had found them and decided to eat at their establishment.

Once we finished up with dinner, we decided to head back toward Tokyo Station. We were pretty worn out by this point, and frustrated by all of the things that went wrong during the day. Initially, we had planned to stay up over night in Tokyo or find a 24 hour cafe to hang out in, but we caved and, using the free metro wifi, booked a hotel room about a mile from the station. I told Rick, as long as it had a bathroom with a hot shower, I didn't really care what it was like!

We walked to the hotel only to realize, we were at the wrong Smile Hotel location. We ended up getting in a cab, but the driver had no idea where the second location was....just our luck, right? So, we worked together to find the right neighborhood and he called a few different people to ask for help until we finally ended up at the right place. 

The first Smile Hotel, not the one we ended up staying at!
The hotel rooms were small, and most were smoking rooms, but at this point, it was what it was. We managed to take hot showers, used the hair dryer to help dry out our shoes, and changed into the complimentary night shirts provided by the hotel. 

Tiny room
Tiny bathroom
Hi-tech shoe drying

What a day! Definitely not what we had hoped for, and as Rick put it, one of the worst days of travel we've had--everything just seemd to go wrong! But, we're staying positive, because it was still amazing to see Tokyo, even if we were soaked the whole time. 

One more travel day to Thailand!


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