Who needs that broadband shit? I might be on the slowest Internet connection I've ever been on.
But first let me wrap up Tokyo.
Met up with Yu at the restaurant in Kill Bill where all the killing takes place. The one with that schoolgirl killer. You know the one I'm talking about. I got a little too tipsy to even take notes on the pearls of wisdom that Yu dropped so effortlessly.
Ghibli Museum. Miyazaki's studio has a museum. It is exactly what you'd expect. Cute kids looking at and playing on cute stuff. Youthlarge was definitely in her element. The place looked like it was straight from one of his films. It was amazing. The 40 dollar t-shirts didn't impress me though. We also got to see a 20 minute short about a waterspider and his crush that outclasses anything Disney has done in years. The movie admission ticket featured three frames of a movie. I got Spirited Away on mine.
Then it was off to Shibuya so Youthlarge could shop. Apparently, this is the hub of cosplay or used to be. But no dice on this day.
Then it was Chiba Lotte Marines time. Oh sweet Bobby Valentine.
Knowing that the craziness of my next few days was about to begin, I decided to take it easy for the first half of the day. While Youthlarge cavorted around shopping, I hung out in our amazing hotel room.
When I finally ventured out in the late afternoon, we headed to the area where Yu works. YL decided to sample the Sapporo museum and beer tasting while I decided to go to the Tokyo Photography Museum. It was easily the quietest museum experience I've ever had.
I met up with YL and she was already drunk. I didn't help matters by suggesting that we wait for Yu to get off of work while drinking at the German beer garden. Yu arrived, she brought us gifts! I never knew that I needed the cutest toothbrush holders in the world before this night but now I know that I can't live without them.
She took us to a great establishment with no seats but plenty of sake, beer, and great little dishes. I stood transfixed with some of the other men watching the Yomuiri Giants - Hanshin Tigers game. Then it was off to a bar called BYG which was decorated in American rock posters and played great stuff like Neil Young all night. It was pretty small and quiet but apparently other nights they have shows in the basement. YL commented that the initials of the place stood for Bring Your Gaijin. There were salarymen, hipsters, and senior citizens in this place.
Yu was on a roll. She couldn't stop telling me how amazing my life was. "You are living a dream life. So many countries, long vacation, sleeping in a hotel king size bed ... What else is there? You've been to Philadelphia. You've been to San Francisco. You've eaten at Katz's. You've sat in the trunk of a car. Have you ever been packed in a suitcase?" There was also a lot of talk about a certain special someone. We also made plans to have a Freaks and Geeks marathon ("Like paradise" - Yu) the next time she is in the States, perhaps arriving by suitcase.
It was so sad watching YL depart for the US. I won't see her until 8/23. I'm an awful husband.
A few other thoughts about Japan:
- I can't believe how efficient people are getting on and off the subways. They patiently line up in their designated spots to board. However, the stations are a bit too crowded for me even by NYC standards.
- I read that is one vending machine per 20 people in Tokyo which sounds awfully conservative to me.
- I was continually impressed with the stylish dark suits that many of the men were wearing. They were all tailored perfectly and all looked like they were in Kill Bill.
After killing an hour or so at Narita, I met up with Jason. He was just a wee bit bleary - eyed after enduring a 13 hour flight from NY with another six hour flight looming.
The flight was quite relaxing though. There was barely anyone on it so we were able to stretch out in our own rows. I was also quite a big fan of the view we had of the plane taking off. The plane monitors had the pilot's view of takeoff. It was amazing to see it from that perspective. I usually get quite nervous during takeoff but being able to see takeoff like this eased my mind. I was a little sad that we didn't get the same view upon landing.
The Saigon airport is a little different than I remembered. There are ads for American business and a couple of high end stores. But any dismay I felt that the country had perhaps softened was immediately forgotten. The immigration official immediately gave Jason some shit upon seeing his American passport. "Do you like Muslims?" When Jason replied in the affirmative, he was asked if he liked Muhammed Ali. Jason said, "Yes, he's a good boxer." The official said that he did not like Ali at all.
The airport was a mob scene just like 6 years ago. There were dozens of Vietnamese lined up in front to greet their loved ones. Then there were plenty of cab drivers ready to make a buck. It was close to midnight. The first guy we found wanted to charge us twenty dollars. The next guy, 18. We insisted that we weren't leaving unless the meter was turned on. There were 8 cabbies in front of our chosen cab talking quite animatedly about how to screw us. We got in and headed to the hotel that Jason had reserved.
I was immediately struck by a few things. There was a lot of building construction going on. A lot. Did I mention that it was midnight? There were a number of chains that weren't here last visit including a few KFC's. And there were a lot of men peeing against walls along the drive.
Our cab driver couldn't find the hotel at first and had to ask some people. Jason got out and asked a contruction worker and got directions. The block was extremely dark. Oh well. The cab cost about four bucks. We checked in but were hungry and wired so we went out for some food. Not the best idea. We were only a few blocks from the upscale hotels but couldn't quite find the area. The hotel manager warned us to be careful.
We couldn't walk more than a few feet without being asked for 10,000 dong (65 cents or so which we didn't have in that denomination) for gum by children, or being offered drugs, or most predominantly, prostitutes. The pimps were everywhere. Some of them wanted us to go somewhere else - "I'll get you pretty girl." Others had the girls with them. I guess two white guys walking around at 1 am set off alarms. There were bats swarming all over the place and a number of rats - noticably thinner than NYC rats. A couple of the guys put their hands on us which we didn't like. We finally found an open place to get some noodles and beer. We took a cab back. The hotel manager gave us a knowing wink when we came back. Dude, all we did was have some noodles!
The hotel lobby had a very Mystery Train feel to it with the older manager and the young clerk. When we got back at 3, the younger clerk was taking a nap on a couch in the lobby.
This morning I watched some sport on TV that I had never seen before. International hockey? It was like a cross between soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse with a very hard ball. Anyone else seen this sport?
More on Saigon later. Tomorrow, we head to the Mekong Delta and eventually into Cambodia.
2 days ago