MP3 track of the Day: Silent Night -Sinead O'Connor
Weather: Overcast however the temperature was perfect with a light breeze. I'd say it was trousers and t-shirt weather however, looking at the natives, anyone would have thought it'd snowed. Big over-coats, boots and one woman was wearing a bobble hat … which certainly wasn't necessary.
I had slept for seven hours and felt content. My hostel consisted of two dorms; the male dorm and the female dorm. Being unable to see the female dorm I cannot tell you what it was like however, the male dorm consisted of one huge room with 'home made' bunk beds on each side. I had a bottom bunk bed (which, at the time, the 'home made' aspect didn't really affect me however, now I think about it) which came with a pillow – of sorts – and a thin blanket. The bed also had a light and a power point. The bed itself was hard however I still managed to sleep quite well.
I woke up at around 6am and got ready quickly. I surfed the internet for a short time and after putting the final touches to my blog, I went and bought breakfast. Today, I actually fancied a decent breakfast however, not knowing the town and lacking in time, this had to be put on hold for yet more quick rubbish from a convenience store. I ate said 'food' within my hostel and by the time I'd finished, it was about 8:30am and I was itching to leave; the problem was that there was no one at reception and I had to check-out before 9am or else I'd face charges. On the other hand, if I didn't leave now I wouldn't have enough time to see my 'days attraction' before I had to return to catch my flight. I quickly decided that, the hostel having no receptionist, wasn't my problem and so I put my luggage within the luggage area and stripped my bed. Surely they would be happy with that.
Today's attraction was the Shuri-jo; a castle perched high on a hill over-looking the city of Naha where the Ryukyu Kings (before Japan invaded Okinawa, and made it a prefecture of Japan, the Okinawan islands were their own kingdom called Ryukyu) lived and paid tribute to it's more powerful neighbours (China, South Korea and Japan) from the early 15th Century until 1879. The kingdom of Ryukyu was beautifully placed to become a massive beneficial of trade between the large Asian countries however, the population of Ryukyu was tiny and their none-existent army; which made them easy pray for the Kyushu clans.
I thought the 800 Yen entrance fee was a little steep (especially as it had cost me 290 Yen to get here), considering that this place had been reconstructed recently, due to being flattened during the U.S. assault of the island during WW2 however, I paid the amount and went in to, what looked like, a miniature version of Beijing's Forbidden City. A small square was surrounded with red buildings which looked like Chinese buildings. This was no surprise because China's influence was constantly being pressed upon the kingdom however, through information presented, I soon discovered that the architecture was Chinese / Japanese with a little bit of their own mixed in. The buildings were bright red and looked a little like temples. As I gazed at my map I found which building I had to enter first however, before going in, I took a few photos of the court area.
I was worried about time but I'd need not have been. Once inside I found the information sparse and little of it translated. Add to this that a lot of the site was being reconstructed I flew though the buildings of the king of the Ryukyu kingdom stopping only to gaze at the room where important 'folk' were met by the king. The room was made of wood and had many pillars; the whole room was painted red. Once again, Japanese and Chinese architecture seemed to dominate the design however, behind where the king sat, was a set of steps which only the king used to come down and greet his guests (I think this was Ryukyu style; which was kind of cool).
The rest of the rooms housed artifacts (some replica, some not) and boards of information. There was also the standard tourist shop which I breezed though to head outside to take photos of the buildings external features. I'd say that the 800 Yen asking price wasn't really worth it however, this being Naha's only real tourist attraction, it's difficult to miss. I spent a little longer walking around the grounds thankful that, as the 'Japanese battle buses of people with their flag bearers leading from the front' headed for the entrance, that I'd got up early and seen the castle as soon as it opened.
I found myself back on the monorail at around 10:30am. Once back at the hostel I explained my mornings actions to the receptionist (who was now there) and he didn't seem bothered in the slightest. In fact he then proceeded to help me located a post office and an electronic store (I've broken my ear phones). Once I had the information I phoned my hostel on Taketomi-jima about breakfast and tea while I'm staying with them. The upshot is that both meals would cost almost £50.00 which was way too expensive. As I had to visit a 'kind of large town' before taking the ferry to Taketomi-jima, I would stop off at a convenience store and purchase some 'instant noodles' to keep me going for the day. With the pointless phone call done, I headed out to the post office and electronic shop to complete my tasks before stopping for an early lunch. Once this was done I went back to the hostel, picked up my luggage, said goodbye and caught the monorail train to the airport … again.
Once at the airport I breezed through check-in and security; I then sat down, looking out onto the runway, to read about Miyako-jima and to write part of this blog. I hadn't got far through my guidebook when I discovered that 'only taxi's' serve the airport. Having already spent a fortune today (the taxi fare was £10 one-way) I checked the distance between the airport and the hotel and decided that 3km was easily walkable. I then got on with my blog and watched the airport staff unload my plane's cargo from a previous flight (the cargo never ended; I wondered where on earth it was stored) until it was time to board my flight.
The flight finished almost as soon as it began; fifty minutes was the flight time and, due to departing 10 minutes later than scheduled, we arrived in Miyako-jima at around 4:25pm. Once off the plane I collected my stuff and prepared myself for the long hike. Before setting off I asked at the information desk if there was indeed a bus; and there was. The downside was that I had to wait forty minutes for the final service of the day however, that mattered not; I walked to the bus stop, put my bags down, and listened to some banging tunes. As I waited I noticed that the clouds were awfully grey and sinister looking; it had started to rain and the wind was picking up too. Tomorrow my plan is to hire a car and take a load of photos however, the signs don't look good.
The bus pulled up, on time, and I showed the driver the piece of paper the airport's information woman had given me (it had a stop name on it). He gave me a satisfying nod and so I boarded with one other passenger. As the bus pulled out of the airport, and headed towards town, a few things came to mind. First, the drive was much longer than 3km. Second, sugar cane is extremely popular here and third, it all looks a little run down. Granted I was only seeing the outskirts however, I expected it to be quite a beautiful place and suddenly, Miyako-Iwate was looking amazing compared to Miyako-jima. Still I decided to hold my conclusions until tomorrow; it was getting dark and I hadn't seen hardly any of the island at all.
Eventually the driver stopped and gave me another reassuring nod to disembark. I thanked him, then looked around me to try and work out which way to go. Without any landmarks of any kind I forgot trying to 'go it alone' and instead, I asked a local shop owner who pointed straight down a street. “Five minutes walk” he said.
Five minutes later I turned up to my hotel which seemed nice, but a little run down. I was soon checked-in and given the 'all important' hotels 'internet code'. As an added bonus they helped me sort out my hire car for tomorrow (the instructions said for me to go to the hire car's offices, but I had no idea where these offices were; so they called the hire car office for me). It seems as though the hire company will pick me up from my hotel at 9am tomorrow. With that done I threw my stuff within my room and went in-search of food.
I didn't travel far; once out of the lift I saw that the hotel had its own restaurant. Looking at the menu it was both cheap and it had 'Okinawan food'. Not wasting the opportunity I raced in only to skid to a stop; I was the only one there. I approached a smiling waiter and asked him when the restaurant opened. He laughed and said it was open.
I took a seat (a little apprehensive as to why no one else was there) and opened the menu. The waiter came over to try to explain the menu to me; unfortunately his English wasn't that good, however the owners daughter and husband (plus three lovely children) were staying here for the holiday and she could speak English perfectly. She explained all of the Okinawan dishes and then I ordered a vegetable dish with noodles. As I waited for my meal I spoke to the owners daughter and found out that her family is very multicultural. She, herself, was half Japanese / half Italian however, she was educated in France. She's married and American and their children have characteristics of all three nationalities. We chatted for a short time before she disappeared and my meal arrived. Being quite hungry I ate said meal very quickly; it was nice, though a little bland however, after the last few days junk food, the vegetables were a welcome relief.
Just before finishing my meal the whole family came into the restaurant and said hello (it was during this time that I may have blagged a free return journey to the airport). The daughters owner, plus husband (and their three children), all live in Tokyo and the children can speak English perfectly.
After I finished my meal I wished the family a good meal as I headed towards the closest convenience store for some expensive chocolate. I'm now in my room and the Christmas festivities are about to start. A family tradition of ours is to watch 'A Muppet Christmas Carol' on Christmas Eve and I made damn sure that I had a copy on my memory stick (plus I made damn sure it worked). I shall now go for a long shower, get all nice and clean, and then get into bed and watch 'A Muppet's Christmas Carol' whilst eating chocolate … bliss.
Tomorrow I have to be up a decent time as I will be picking up my hire car around 9am. Due to the 'damaged it and you have to pay millions' I shall keep it for as shorter period as possible (maybe until 2pm / 3pm; after I've driven around the whole island taking photos). I shall then wonder around the town.
Christmas on a tropical island … fantastic