Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

Apologies

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 28th, 2011

I would like to apologize for the lack of posts. We are in Australia, traveling from Sydney to Melbourne in a rented car, camping along the way. Naturally, we have very limited access to Internet.

We will catch up in New Zealand, where we are staying with friends who have lovely high-speed Internet. Look forward to stories of bowing deer, Geisha stalking, and Koala chasing in a few days…



Take a Bow

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 20th, 2011

Lying just outside Kyoto is the small town of Nara, an exquisite village with a unique quirk: Hundreds of deer roam the public parks surrounding the temples freely, being pampered by the locals and the tourists that travel there just for them.

According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country. (Extracted from the Nara Wikipedia article.)

Somewhere along the way, the deer learned a charming little trick in order to lure food out of the hands of locals and tourists…

Oh, yes. The deer bow. Am I gonna lie to you and tell you we didn’t travel to Nara, or even Kyoto, just to see these deer? No, I’m not. That is PRECISELY why we traveled eight hours west of Tokyo.

And was it worth it? Oh, yes. Even when this happened:



Memoirs of an A$$hole

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 18th, 2011

From Tokyo, we headed  to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan and the home to some of the more fabulous temples and gardens:

My favorite part of Kyoto, which I have to admit is kind of sick, was Geisha stalking in the Gion district of Kyoto. For those of you who don’t know what a Geisha is, it is kind of like one step up from being a hooker. You can read about them more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha

In the Gion district of Kyoto, the Geisha industry is still running, albeit just barely.
In the 1920s, there were an estimated 80,000 Geisha in Japan. In 2007, there were just 196 registered in the Gion district.

To view the few traditional Geisha left in Japan, the best time to visit Gion is between 6 and 7 PM, when they have to arrive to their first appointments. So, cluttering the quaint historic street at this time are hoards of tourists, waiting to catch a glimpse. As soon as the made-up women peer around a corner…

SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!

It is just like the paparazzi. I felt like such an a$$hole. The women held their heads down as to avoid the significant amount of flashes. But I’m not gonna lie, I loved every minute of it.

Maybe I should make a move to L.A….



KAR – A – OH – KAY

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 16th, 2011

Karaoke (pronounced kar – a – oh – kay in Japan) – Seriously, is there anything better? OK, maybe a few things (like puppies), but really, it is a short list.

And just so you know, it is true what they say: the Japanese really love karaoke, but not the kind we know and love in America. Basically they rent out small, private rooms with their friends and sing for hours at a time. Our Couch Surfing hosts, Brenna and Micah (awesome American couple living in Tokyo), took us with a bunch of their friends for a true Japanese karaoke experience in Shinjuku in Tokyo. And, as evidenced in the videos and pictures below, it was nothing short of amazing.

I think my rendition of “Be Our Guest” was probably my favorite of the night. What are some of your favorite karaoke songs? Seriously, I would like to know…



Dining on Delicious and Delightful Dim Sum for Din-Din

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 10th, 2011

(How bout that alliteration, eh? I seriously thought about this for three days.)

If you are at all into good food, and plan on visiting Hong Kong, and have only a few dollars to your name (or even a lot), then you should know that the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant is located there. And, my god, it is delicious.

The restaurant is called Tim Ho Wan, located on Kowloon. It would be in a totally inconspicuous space if it weren’t for the hoards of people amassed outside. We had to wait over an hour to eat, but what do you expect? It is the CHEAPEST MICHELIN-STARRED restaurant in the WORLD! Of COURSE it is in high demand.

The chef worked at a five-star establishment at the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong before venturing out on his own. Tim Ho Wan serves dim sum, and for those of you who don’t know what that is, dim sum is like tapas. For those who don’t know what tapas are, they are small dishes that are shared amongst a whole group at a sitting. Dim sum consists of dumplings, buns, etc.

Here is what we chose from the menu:

–          Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings

–          Steamed  Dumplings in Chiu Chow Style

–          Steamed Beef Ball with Bean Curd Skin

–          Steamed Dumpling Filled with Bamboopith and Vegetable

–          Baked Bun with BBQ Pork

–          Deep Fried Dumpling Filled with Meat

–          Steamed Poached Fresh Seasonal Vegetable

–          Vermicelli Roll Stuffed with BBQ Pork

–          Tonic Medlar and Petal Cake

What the hell is tonic medlar and petal cake? It is basically gelatin filled with flowers. Does that sound good? No. Is it? Yes.

We both agreed that our favorite was the pork bun. They serve 750 of them a day. Yowza.

All in all, we spent $134 Hong Kong dollars, equivalent to about $17 U.S. dollars. Just so you know how amazing this is, I will make a comparison. A Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco is Acquerello. The cheapest meal we could order would be a three-course option at $64 a person. We would spend at least $128, not including drinks or tip.

So there you have it. If you are in Hong Kong, it is a must. If you were even to make a trip to Hong Kong just to visit Tim Ho Wan, I wouldn’t argue with you. It is that delish.



Happy Chinese New Year!

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 02 4th, 2011

Welcome to the year of the rabbit!

Christy bunny

We are so lucky our schedule had us in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year.  The city buzzes and is full of activities to celebrate this holiday. As soon as we got through immigration in the airport we were handed fliers with all of the activities in the city.

The first activity on out list was the flower market. The streets were packed with people buying flowers for good fortune and mandarin orange bushes for good luck.

Aaron at the flower market

The next activity on our list was the New Year’s Parade. We saw last year’s San Francisco Chinese New Year parade so we were excited to see an even bigger display of lion dancers, dragons, traditional costumes, and firecrackers. We got to see all of those things but not in an overwhelming way like we expected. The parade felt more like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City then the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco. There were floats sponsored by various corporations. There were almost as many international dance acts as local groups, including a thong clad Samba group from London, the Louisiana State University dance team, and scissor musicians from Peru. There were some lion dancers and some dragons, but only a couple of each.

Samba dancers from London

Dragons!

Aaron with a dragon

The parade was fun, but we were disappointed by the lack of traditional acts. I think the difference between reality and our expectations is Hong Kong’s goal is to put on a world class parade, while the San Francisco parade is a way for immigrants and descendants to stay connected and show pride in their heritage. Hong Kong’s parade is great, just not what we expected.

The last special New Year’s event we went to was the fireworks display. We have been told we have not seen fireworks until we have seen Chinese fireworks. This show did not disappoint! The setting is the beautiful Victoria harbor with the lights of the skyline reflecting in the water. The entire show is at least 6 fireworks wide filling our field of view. Sometime fireworks explode into the shape of rabbit faces. Other times “I ♥ HK” is written in the sky. We both agreed they were the best fireworks we have ever seen.

Christy with what expand into bunny fireworks

Aaron at the Chinese New Year fireworks

Happy Chinese New Year!



And the Award goes to… (Southeast Asia)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 1st, 2011

Usually I have an entire list of different categories for my “Top Three” posts. However, I don’t think we explored enough of the area to culminate enough info for such a list, so I am just going to narrow it down to my top three places that we visited:

3.) Vang Vieng, Laos

It may be the college girl in me, but I really enjoyed my time in this Spring Break dream destination. The smell of cocktails in the air, “Family Guy” around every corner, and the stumbling drunks wandering the streets really put a big smile on my face.

OK, I’m just being a little sarcastic here, but seriously, tubing down the river was SO MUCH FUN! Being surrounded by bars, other 20-somethings, and rope swings and slides – really, it’s a frat boy’s dream, and frankly, I enjoyed it. So sue me.

2.) Angkor, Cambodia

Just give me a fedora and call me Indiana! Exploring the temples of Angkor gave me the feeling that, well, we weren’t in Kansas anymore. A French explorer who came upon the ruins in the mid 19th century described them as being even more magnificent than those in Greece and Rome. I, personally, would have to agree with that statement. AND, unlike Rome and Greece, the restrictions on where you could wander were rather loosey goosey. I think I could have climbed to the roof of Angkor Wat and started chiseling and I doubt anyone would of said anything to me. (Did I mention that Southeastern Asians are the chillest people I have ever met? God, I love them.)

1.) Koh Phangan, Thailand

Sure, it rained two out of the three days we were there, but at least we could soak in one day of infamous Thailand island beauty that rivals the likes of Hawaii. (I’ve never been to Hawaii, but Aaron has, and he has gone on the record as claiming that Koh Phangan is more beautiful than the island of Maui.) The night life was also spectacular, with interactive games at every bar, not to mention the fire breathers and jugglers.

And, like the rest of Southeast Asia, and very much unlike Hawaii, it is CHEAP. Accommodation cost us about $7 per person at the resort we stayed at. Can’t beat that!