Part of the trip will be solo exploration, but most of it will be surrounded by awesome individuals. I’ll be glad I wrote about how I imagined Asia before I left, so I can compare expectations versus reality. It’s a bit like when you read a book and your brain creates the characters and environment based on your imagination, and once you see the movie, impossible to remember how you imagined it in the first place.
Taipei: Milk Tea & Night Market
That’s basically how I imagine Taiwan’s capital. Or what I’ve been told. If you read back the articles from 2 years ago, you can see I spent some time in California, where Asian culture (mostly Chinese) is strong. I think Taiwan the right place to start the trip. Not too exotic, but different enough for me to feel “lost in translation” (If you haven’t seen that Sofia Coppola movie, do it).
I’ll have to privilege to spend a traditional Chinese New Year’s Eve, light up the flying lanterns, go to a stray cats village, explore the countryside, go to a traditional spa, get delicious food worth your money, and the list doesn’t stop there. Far from it.
Japan: nature beauty & city quirky
Let’s admit it, Japan looks sexier than Taiwan. In people’s minds, it’s more unique and fascinating, as it’s been in our cultural imagery since we were kids (well, most of us). I was watching animes on Saturday afternoon when I was 6 years old (back when TV was still good for kids). Sumo, Geisha, Tea ceremony, Koi fish, Japanese maple tree, rising Sun are a few words anyone can relate. Even though my trip has been a bit guided by people I could spend time with on the way, I’m really glad about the way it turned out.
In Osaka, I’ll be staying at my friend Jacqueline, whom I met back in 2015 through a common friend. Since then, we hung out a couple times in San Francisco bars and went on a road trip in Southern California last summer. Since she relocated for work in Japan, the timing was perfect.
For the rest, I booked traditional Airbnb’s in two carefully chosen neighborhoods of Tokyo: Asakusa and Shibuya. I created a Tokyo bucket list (which still needs to be completed by the way) and I’m eager to learn, do and eat whatever comes my way. (especially eat).
What am I expecting ?
I’m 100 times more excited by this than any weekend trip I could do in Europe. First reason: I’ve always been fascinated by Asia, its mysteries, how respectful people are, the landscapes, cuisine and rituals.
Second: my situation. I’ll truly be a traveller. Not a tourist. And I’ll enjoy my singularity so much more. Trust me, a 25 year old Belgian truly feels invincible where there is so much to discover and no one to judge you.