Naha, Okinawa Japan: Day ONE (Saturday, March 3, 2007)
沖縄へようこそ、皆さん！Welcome to Okinawa, everyone! On Saturday, I went for a three day tropical getaway with Meg, Zara, and Ana. The weekend was filled with everything from cute cafes, to fabulous food, beaches, road trips, and laughs. I'm going to separate this trip into three different entries and will do my best to get an Okinawa folder going that has all my pictures (200 something...oh boy, what a task!).
The four of us gathered at my apartment around 8:30 am Saturday morning and got to the airport around 9 am for our 10:10 flight. We were definitely doing this the Western way, in that the ticket says you should get to the airport no later than 15 minutes before your flight leaves. The security here is not what it is like at home and we easily had over an hour to wait before our plane took off. Better safe than sorry though! The four of us waiting for our plane:
And our plane!
After going through brochures and picking up information on things that looked like fun to do, we hopped into a taxi and went to our hotel room to drop of our luggage. Unfortunately, it was drizzling/raining that day, but luckily for us it was workable and only came in spurts. On the way to the hotel, we passed by this restaurant in a tree!
Once we got to the hotel, they offered us a larger washitsu (Japanese style) room in place of the two double rooms we had booked. We took them up on their offer immediately and we could not have been more excited! The room that they gave us was on the 10th floor, which could only be reached by stairs (after taking the elevator up to the 9th floor). There was only one other room on the floor, but we never saw anyone, so you could say we not only had a huge 20-tatami mat room, but we had the whole floor to ourselves! It was definitely our penthouse for two nights. How lucky was that? Not only that, but we got tickets for breakfast each morning (840 yen otherwise) AND a free monorail pass. The package Zara got was amazing and so much more than I expected! Here's a picture of our room:
After we put down all of our luggage, we went back out again -- and then it started to rain, DOH! There were three of us under one umbrella, but the weather was so warm that even getting wet didn't ruin our day. And lunch made everything better anyway. We had to get a specialty from the area, that being TACOS RICE!
Yes, that is a taco (with a fabulous shell!), taco insides on top of rice (thus, Tacos Rice), 7 french fries, one onion ring, and a dab of ketchup. Their fried stuff was amazing! Mmmmm I want it again!!
Then we had to walk around the famous Kokusai-dori -- a street full of stores, lights, and LIFE! This next picture is taken from later in the day, but I like it a lot. On the left are some guys from the base. In the middle are my friends, and then on the right is a man in traditional dress, along with a cool hat. I really liked this shopping area -- so much life and color to be seen!
Next we hopped onto the monorail (a nice way to travel and a good way to enjoy the architecture, verandas overflowing with plants and flowers, and all the trees everywhere) using our passes from the hotel and went to the other side of town to see the famous Shuri Castle.
After going through the castle, we were walking around and saw these ladies dressed in beautiful Okinawan kimono. They had a lot of the dresses that you could try on and get your picture taken with; but it was raining, so we passed on that one. We enjoyed some ice cream (I got sweet potato and vanilla swirl -- yay!, and the other girls got hibiscus soft cream) and continued our journey to the pottery street. I absolutely love the pottery here and wish I could buy it all to fill my cabinets with at home, but alas, it is too expensive. I did, however, buy some cool chopstick rests that hold flowers!
Ok, so if you are scared of snakes, please disregard the next picture. Okinawa apparently has a large number of snakes, so they had to think of something to do with them -- why not alcohol related? Hmmm...not what I would have thought of and not something I want to try, but it does make for a cool picture. Yes, this is a real snake in a jar of sake. ICK!
Something a lot more pleasing to the eye... beautiful ume (plum) blossoms!!! YAY SPRING and WARM WEATHER!!!!
To end the night, we first went to a cute little cafe in a basement and got some coffee. Okinawa is jam-packed with cute cafes, bars, and restaurants. Every time I turned my head there was another one that I wanted to go enjoy a beverage or snack in -- not enough time or room in my stomach for that, though! We walked around a little more and ended up at MonkeyPod for dinner. Another cute restaurant that we had all to ourselves throughout the whole meal! The food was really good and after ordering pasta that had meat inside(without the menu saying it had meat), the guy gave us another meatless pasta dish for free. I wish we could go back...
On the way back home, we passed by a lot of clubs and bars (as our hotel was located in this area...not really the red light district, but close enough). There were guys dressed in suits EVERYWHERE, some with walkie talkies. I would have been terrified anywhere else, but not in Japan. Nobody said anything to us or bothered us. It was neat to see this kind of night life and to feel safe at the same time. We slept well and got up early for day 2 of our journey (the best of the three days!!). Stay tuned for more soon!! =)