Friday, June 18, 2010

Did you bring fruits, vegetables, plants, food, and insects?

The answer to this Customs Declaration question is always "NO!" Since I didn't want to contaminate the US produce supply with fruit flies, I refrained from smuggling lychee and durian onto the plane (lets whip some of that stuff out in a confined space).

We just back from a 3-week trip to Asia - 4 days in Tokyo and 2 weeks in Vietnam! I will be posting travel recaps over the next few weeks... give me a break, I haven't even unpacked all our crap yet!

Although I didn't bring any delicious fruit back, I did make do with some other goodies!

-5 kg cashews
-4 kg ground viet coffee
-2 kg whole viet coffee
-1/4 kg viet cinnamon bark
-1 box of dried shrimp (used to make soups)

The cashews in Vietnam area AMAZING! Roasted, unsalted, and absolutely divine. One time, I think Micah ate 1 lb of cashews in a sitting! The coffee is also like no other: nutty but not overly bitter. If you're a foodie, you already know that Viet cinnamon is the best cinnamon out there. It's like crack! You buy it in bark form over there and you can literally break off a piece and chew it like a piece of Redhot Candy!

If you're lucky enough to know me personally, some of these items will be headed your way! Yipee!

I always find edible items are better souvenirs than something that will just sit around your house and get dusty.

Come back over the next few weeks to find out about all the delicious food and amazing things we experienced in Tokyo and Vietnam! Here are some teaser photos to keep you busy until then:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Konichiwa Bitches! Tokyo - Part 1

Because I am a smart girlfriend, I knew I had to lure Micah into my Vietnam adventure with some type of proposal that he couldn't refuse. Most flights from San Antonio to Vietnam have a layover at Narita Airport in Japan - BAM! There was my answer... we will include a side-trip to Tokyo before meeting my mom and sister in Vietnam. Micah said "yes" to the idea and off we went booking our tickets and waiting anxiously to stuff our faces with sushi!

Day 1: We got to Narita airport at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 28. After getting out some Yen from the ATM, we purchased our Narita Express tickets (+SUICA package) and hopped on the train to go to our hotel in Shinjuku. We had a slight delay to our hotel because we exited at the Shibuya station instead of the Shinjuku station. I had a 20-minute semi-conversation with the ticket operators explaining our mistake and how I shouldn't have to pay to get back onto the same train! Ai-ya! They finally figured it out and let us back on.

I found a good deal on a hotel right-smack-dab in the Shinjuku district: Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku

We knew going in that the rooms were going to be tiny AND they were! I'm thankful we had a mini-fridge in that place! Although the rooms are small, the hotel was perfect for us and in a great location.

Not only was the room small, so were the robes that they let you use:

Japan is BIG on vending machines and the hotel wasn't lacking in them either!

By the time we checked-in, etc. it was already 6 p.m. but we still wanted to walk around the area and take it the Tokyo air! We walked around the Shinjuku area looking for something to eat when we just decided on a place that looked fast and easy. We wasted a good 10 minutes trying to figure out how the "pay to order" automated machine worked - but we finally did and we got some fried noodles and a noodle soup dish. Not too shabby!

After getting some food into our gullet, we took a stroll through the Kabuki-Cho area (red light district), with open beer cans in hand!

One thing we weren't expecting were all the men partying at midnight with their business suits still on! I guess the Japanese know how to work hard and play hard!

Day 2: While a little jet-lagged, we did manage to wake up at the non-obscene time of 8 a.m. to kick-off our first full day in Tokyo! We got breakfast at a nearby coffee shop then headed to Akihabara (electronics district).

We actually didn't buy anything but we did check out several department stores. One dept. store had 7+ floors ranging from porn to model guns!

I wanted to visit the shrine, much to Micah's dismay! The walkway leading up to the shrine was packed with visitors and vendors trying to hawk their wares!

After getting in some praying, we wanted a snack, and sho nuff there were plenty of food stalls right next to the shrine. We got some grilled tentacles and some takoyaki (fried octopus balls). The tentacles were great and the balls were ooey gooey rich!

While we were walking around the Asakusa area, we also stopped by a grocery store and of course, Micah had to take tons of pics of the beer on the shelves!

For dinner, we wanted to try the kaiten sushi (conveyor belt)! There were a few around the hotel, we ended up at a place called Himawarizushi. Funny enough, our waitress was actually Vietnamese! Go figure! She helped us get our sushi on and I'm thankful she was there! The kaiten sushi is great for non-Japanese speakers; you can see everything going by and the menu is easy to read. "Real" sushi isn't about the rolls, but more about the nigri and sashimi. We had some great fatty tuna and other delicious fish! The miso soup was also devine! The whole meal was around 2000Yen (about $22USD). We found eating sushi was the only thing cheaper in Japan than the US!

Of course, our night wouldn't be complete unless we got some beer into our jet-lagged system. I did some research beforehand and found that Popeye's Beer Bar in Ryogoku has the biggest beer selection in Tokyo. We tried their Sampler of different microbrews from Japan and only a handful were good! Pretty disappointed actually! They did have a lot of US beers on their list though. It was also super-expensive!

After a full day in Tokyo, we needed a good night's rest!