Archive for the ‘Itinerary’ Tag

Interlaken Overview



joyful: jumping from the complete overflow of joy.

joyful: jumping from the complete overflow of joy.

Random Observation/Comment #166: Just thinking about Interlaken makes my mouth dry and my heart flutter like a school-girl with a crush on a dreamy teacher (this, of course, includes the soft colors and blurred corners in the camera filter).  Interlaken and I have an awkward relationship filled with the essentials for a beautiful life of holding hands during long walks along the beach or finishing the daily crossword puzzles on the back porch overlooking a well-maintained backyard.  We have so much potential, yet we realize that it’s really a fantasy that only exists in bad Hollywood films.  The scenery, although quite breathtaking in itself, does not capture the full experience of Interlaken.  This new paradise has exceeded my expectations and set new maximums for my fun gauge.  I love nature and especially mountains, so you should understand that this is one of the reasons why cold weather is slowly tipping the scale as my favorite.  Don’t get me wrong, the beach still rocks my socks, but the things I saw across the distance left me exhausted with excitement, yet yearning for so much more.  Interlaken is a must-see.


Interlaken has captured my heart, left a single teardrop inside, and returned it to keep me alive.  The week was gauged perfectly to include the optimal balance of nature, relaxation, alcohol, and sporting.  I don’t even regret one second for not going skiing on those beautiful days because everything went so well (okay, maybe a few minutes while riding the gondola).  Although the clear skies went gray for the giant snowflakes of doom, the absence of blue was blissfully replaced by white.   The toxic slush, I’ve grown accustom to in Manhattan, were nonexistent in Interlaken.  Entire streets were left unplowed and blanketed with freshly fallen snow.  The crunching sounds from my slow pace in the inches were a symphony to my ears.  My camera, as well as my memory, ate up every moment and always asked for seconds, thirds, and fourths.  It was an all-you-can-eat-buffet extravaganza, and I was a national champion food competitor (metaphorically speaking).

As with my previous entries about London, I will give an initial overview of my itinerary and then dive into detail with subsequent entries for each topic.

Sat, Mar 7 – 11 hour train ride to Interlaken with unnecessarily long and poorly planned transfers, checked into Balmer’s hostel*, met Jordan and went to Interlaken’s Hooters, met his group of 40 friends taking a weekend vacation from study abroad

Sun, Mar 8 – walk around Ringweg*, walk from Neushaus down the nature reserve area along the Eastern lake, walk through a frozen farm with mountains on all sides, met Danny

Mon, Mar 9 – walk north to Goldswil and hiked up with Danny and Jordan, met Keegan, started snowing, chocolate shop, watched MTV weirdness, cooked dinner, played beer pong, met Jordan (#2) James and Andy

Tues, Mar 10 – went sledging with Keegan and Andy, drank a bottle of jager on the mountain*, snowed the entire time like a winter wonderland, met Olly

Wed, Mar 11 – went sledging again with Olly, Jordan, and James, weather cleared up and snow was packed beautifully, went camping at night on the side of the mountain

Thur, Mar 12 – rented bikes and rode along the East lake through a few cities with Olly, stopped to take pictures everywhere, cooked dinner, watched a movie

Fr, Mar 13 – went up to Schilthorn – a photographer’s paradise – with Olly, unbelievable 360 degree restaurant, nice hike around, met Sydney from South Africa, met Kim

Sat, Mar 14 – train ride back to Hamburg, met Diddy’s mom, random Chinese connection, had dinner and went karaoke-ing

That week has been my favorite since this entire trip, but I have high expectations from this beautiful continent, country, city, and c-c-cozy dorm (?).  I hope everyone gets a chance to see Switzerland.  I will definitely visit again to tackle the Swiss Alps with my skis.


~See Lemons Love Interlaken

soooooo cool

soooooo cool

Abnormal weather



View from the Waterloo Bridge looking South

View from the Waterloo Bridge looking South

Random Observation/Comment #156: In planning for my trip to London, I had many day trips that were labeled as “just in case it rained.”  This made up half of the days I planned (for good statistical reasons), but I never fathomed such clear skies for my stay.  The weather was a phenomenon and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk around and take pictures, instead of locking myself inside a few museum exhibitions.  This is just more evidence that planning, at the level I’ve brought it (which deems many to ask me, “why are you even going if you’ve already google-mapped everything and looked at all the corresponding pictures?”), is overrated. 


I fully took advantage of the weather by attending walking tours and wandering the city with an open mind.  I use the term “wander” often to mean just aimlessly walking, but in this case, I was in good company and had the underlying time-restraint of attending the Westminster Abbey free service at 5PM.  The path I took was new and fascinating, and I consider it a plausible date-trip for nice weather.

Starting around 1PM, we walked from the Shakespeare Center to the Tate modern and crossed the Millennium Bridge towards St Paul’s Cathedral.  The pictures flowed instinctively, but since I attended the Old City of London Tour the day before, I became the tour guide and repeated many of the memorable stories about the area.  I was surprised that I had seen and learned more about London in 3 days than most of the local Londoners.  In fact, most tourists visiting New York probably know more about the history through the NYC free tours than I do. 

This tourists-local contrast in attitudes has become an overarching theme in my observations throughout my travels.  I’m always surprised at how much we change when we feel this obligation to absorb the new culture and life around us in a foreign land.  When our time in a new country is limited to a few days, we seem to open our eyes and live with much more of a passion.  The time in our lifetimes is limited: Why must we wait until the last minute before we realize that life is short?  I wish this flame burning behind my eyes continues and are not smothered by routine and repetition.  Shouldn’t everything be interesting?  Isn’t life wonderful?

Anyway, I digress.  My path detection algorithm heading towards the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey was mainly governed by pretty colors, photo opportunities, and the traffic signals.  I knew the general destination, but the specific streets just blend together when you’re having in-depth conversations.  The cool breeze and warm sun made this walk immensely enjoyable.  My list of tasks was empty and I felt my main purpose in the moment was to enjoy the beauties of life.  I wanted to reach my arms outward and just embrace the sunlight.  I grinned like an idiot for seemingly no reason, but I think I knew it was for a deeper love of life.  My mind raced with philosophical questions, but I tried my hardest to just be there.  It’s been a long time since my mind, body, and soul has stayed within the same encasing – it’s flimsy, but it will have to do.

The photos with the setting sun behind the Houses of Parliament and across from the London Eye were breath-taking.  I walked at a snail’s-pace with a cast on its… appendage.  If a snail wore shoes, I would be that snail with shackles around them.  Maybe a more appropriate analogy: I walked like the typical Californian – 3 steps forward and 2 steps back.  This was my favorite day in London.

~See Lemons Lucky


Dali melting clock with an artistic flair

Dali melting clock with an artistic flair



An Itinerary in Osaka for clear skies


Perfectly placed balloon 🙂

Random Observation/Comment #38: Your brain only visually focuses on a section not much larger than your two thumbs at arms distance – everything else is just jumbled together in peripherals. Scenery like the ones from the top of mountains and towers blow my mind. These eyes pay so much attention to detail that I can barely notice the pixels =P.

The weekend was supposed to be a JETs filled crazy time, but one major detail slipped my mind between the essence of JETs and tourists. JETs (think of them as Japanese English Teachers even though it’s really called the Japan Exchange & Teaching Program) are vampires and tourists are zombies. JETs party all night and morning, waking at the crack of noon for some breakfast and a solution to their hangover (which probably leads to an earlier drinking schedule – it’s a vicious cycle). The weekends are free time to drink with friends and coworkers, and celebrate the blessing of a few days with a little less responsibility.

Tourists also haven’t got a worry in their world, but tend to stay awake when the rest of the world is awake for the best lighting effects and regional attractions. They feel an obligation to put their most effort into having a relaxing vacation (I didn’t know relaxing required this much effort). I actually think the super hi-tech, expensive cameras have latched onto their minds and pulled them to capture their next scenery shot and perspective. Who’s controlling whom? You must feed the camera or it will eat you. It whispers to me in the middle of the night during the weekdays (because the bulk of my photography work occurs on Saturdays and Sundays). I was wondering why the battery needed a recharge when I didn’t even touch the camera until a week ago. And yet, it stays powered for a full day of picture-taking – as it continuously feasts on the shades of life around me. I am, in all the descriptions possible, a tourist.

I stayed within the main Umeda area, knowing that I would eventually meet up with the JETs whenever they woke up. It was already my 4th weekend in Umeda, so I had already visited Yodobashi Umeda, HEP5, the whole Namba area, Osakajo Koen, Osaka Castle, DEN DEN Town, and Ebisucho. However, today was special. The clear skies and cool breeze was an indication to climb upwards. All of my past experiences with Umeda hinted rain, so I had put off visiting the Floating Garden Observatory (even when it taunted me with every Hankyu train ride). I’m glad I patiently waited for a clear day, and I suggest those with the clear skies opportunity to definitely head upwards for a birds-eye view.

The Floating Garden Observatory is an instant favorite from the very first sight of the beautiful reflective windows and large halo that connects the two adjacent buildings. The cross-beams and bridges (which are actually escalators between floors) add this exquisite flair. I was initially reluctant to face my terrible fear of heights, but my camera must have taken control of my body. I wasn’t exactly dragged kicking and screaming because my knees were mush and my legs were too weak to put up a fight. For some reason, I thought there was going to be glass floors like that tower in Seattle. Good thing there wasn’t because I would have shat a brick.

For those who can’t even climb a stool without getting scared of heights, I would not suggest going up here – actually I suggest you take care of that fear with some tough love. Any fear of heights less than that should be fine since everything looked like a very detailed painting to me. The windows don’t even angle outwards at the top so you could look directly down (my heart is beating faster just thinking about lying on one of these, 40-stories up). The top floor, right before the roof, is tiled white with cute little clear seats on every side of the circle (not the outside though). There are elevated chairs and strategically placed cafes around this floor. I’ve personally found this floor is better than the roof for photography purposes.

The very top has these ugly gray spikes all along the perimeter to prevent crazy tourists from jumping the fence or something. These annoyances force me to zoom-in, or at the very least aim for 65:35 sky:building ratio (which just isn’t my style). You’re actually not even close to the edge of anything (probably to prevent people from throwing stuff off the roof) so the fear of heights should be replaced by the awe of the 360 view. I spent most of my time trying to find some type of detail to focus my gaze. I always feel better to see moving cars in the distance when I’m in these picture perfect situations. It’s like the little pinch or nudge that makes sure I’m not dreaming (or looking at a large postcard poster wrapped around the building).

If you want to get in the scenery and not show up as a silhouette, your camera must be set with a flash (preferably SL to light up the background as well). The overcast doesn’t help, but since you can angle yourself towards the sun, I’m sure you’ll find a manageable angle and blend of squinty faces and shadows. Hmm, I bet this would look absolutely breath-taking at sunset, but I’ll have to adjust my schedule so I’m not exhausted by 5PM.

Anyway, the pictures in the air conditioned top floor were perfect as long as you chose a window that was not dirty (most were very clean) and there wasn’t a light source behind you to cause any glare. You’ll probably get great pictures of 3 out of the 4 winds. Out of the 60 or some odd pictures I took, I really love the view that follows the train tracks across the river and into the distant city – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there.

To highlight my day, I met a large group of high school Alabamians who were all sight-seeing and following a 10-day exchange program, similar to the one I attended 5 years ago (damn – I’m old). I spent about an hour following their friendly tour guide and spoke with the students and teachers. They picked my brain while we walked around and had lunch together. I’ll dedicate a completely separate entry to them because I don’t want to stray from my topic of “places to go in Umeda if the sky is clear.” I’ll leave the reflections of my past and suggestions for the future separate.

This entry is getting dreadfully long, so I’ll outline what I did this weekend and write in more detail throughout the week:


10AM – Flower Garden Observatory – this entry

12 PM – Lunch with Exchange Program Alabama Students – next entry

1PM – Tenjinbashi 6-chome – 3rd entry

1:30PM – Tsutenkaku Tower with Billiken

2:30PM – Tennoji Zoo

5:30PM – Spa World – 4th entry

8:30PM – Shabu shabu dinner

10:00PM – Namba and Dotonbori wandering

11:00PM – Met up with JETs for a quick talk and introduction

11:45PM – Head home because I was exhausted and didn’t want to spend what I approximated to be $15 Karaoke, $35 Pure, and $25 Capsule hotel

Sunday: – Kobe entry, maybe separate entry for shabu shabu reflections

10:00AM – Head towards Kobe – Rokko Mountain

12:00PM – Cable car & bus rides

12:45PM – Rokko Garden Terrace

2:30PM – Mt. Rokko Country Club

4:00PM – Cable car & bus ride – commute was terrible

5:30PM – Shopping for groceries to make my own Shabu Shabu dinner =)

7:30PM – Flight of the Conchords!

9:00PM – Ping pong!

Monday: Holiday stroll entry

9:00AM – No bus…

9:30AM – No train… Oh, a holiday!

10:00AM – Decide on Kobe

10:30AM – Forgot Camera, head back home

11:00AM – Back to the Hankyu Railway

11:30AM – Sannomiya

12:00PM – Shinkobe

1:00PM – Got lost on a trail

1:30PM – backtracked to find some waterfalls

2:00PM – Hike up the mountain

3:30PM – Walk through the garden

4:30PM – Cable car ride of 100 pictures

5:00PM – Back home

6:30PM – Shabu shabu again!

~See Lemons Love These Blue Skies