Jojo and I are currently hiding out in our hotel room and watching Season 7 of Modern Family. Our plan to find a cat cafe today went out the window when we stepped outside this morning for food. It is currently -9°C in Asahikawa but feels like -20°C with wind chill. Brrrrrrrr!
So it’s a good day to stay in, drink some peppermint tea and write a blog post on the travel lessons we have experienced since arriving in Asahikawa. Just to note that the travel lessons are completely personal to us and does not reflect the opinions of the general populace. Here goes…
#1. Never book a smoking room (even in Japan)
This one we really should’ve known better. At the time of booking, the hotel was cheap and we thought, “How bad can it be? This is Japan, the room should be fine.” Wrong! It could be that bad. The minute we stepped into the room, both of us had trouble breathing within 5 minutes. It is not worth saving some dollars to forego a good night’s sleep.
#2. Never go to a zoo
I have never been a fan of zoos. It’s very depressing for me to see animals trapped in a very small and dirty enclosure when they should have the freedom to roam around. Against our better judgement, we decided to go to the Asahikawa Zoo because it is consider to be one of the top zoos in Japan. Once again we thought, “How bad can it be? This is Japan, it will be different.” Wrong! Both of us became more and more depressed as we passed one tiny and smelly enclosure after another. By the time we got to the penguin parade, both of us had the same glazed defeated look in our eyes as the animals. I really wanted to rip open the cage doors and tell the animals that they are free, run away!
#3. Chinese tourists are the new “Ugly American”
According to Wikipedia, the term “Ugly American” refers to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant and ethnocentric behaviour of American travelers. It’s lead to stories of Americans pretending to be Canadians while abroad. It’s been my personal experience while traveling abroad that I feel the Chinese has taken over as the much detested but tolerated “Ugly Mainlander”. I say tolerated because there are signs and announcements in Chinese everywhere to welcome such travelers to spend their money but gently reminded not to litter, not to talk loudly, not to spit, not to stand on toilets, etc. The Chinese government had to publish manuals to instruct its travelers on how to behave abroad. I really wish there is an app to show the location of the largest concentration of Chinese in the area so that we could avoid them. And since I am technically made in China and there are no distinguishing features that set me apart from them, I feel the urge to pin my Canadian passport on my forehead and proclaim (not too) loudly that really, I am Canadian!
#4. Don’t order the pork dish you do not recognize
I have a pretty adventurous palate. With the exception of insects, I would be willing to try almost anything once. It’s a good thing because I recently had pork uterus…a whole plate of it since Jojo is not nearly as adventurous as I am…lesson to be learned here, Google the menu item before ordering it.
#5. Google Maps is often wrong
Relying on Google Maps, Jojo and I braved the icy and murderous sidewalks of Asahikawa in our attempts to find a restaurant we wanted to try out, only to arrive at our destination with nary a restaurant in sight. This has happened numerous times. It has taught us to appreciate the comforts of the Aeon Mall across the hotel. Who needs to try local Asahikawa cuisine (looking at you, pork uterus) when there is bacon and potato pizza at the mall.
#6. Bring the right shoes and jacket
I have been wearing the same pair of snow boots and puffy down jacket every day for the last 41 days. I am wearing the same outfit in all the photos of me taken outdoors. However, I am very grateful that I managed to pack the right clothes for the trip to Hokkaido. These two items have kept me super warm, especially in cold Asahikawa. My Kamik snow boots are waterproof and rated for -40°C and that has kept my feet dry and warm the entire trip. As for the rest of my wardrobe, I have been able to rotate through 3 outfits. Uniqlo heattech turtleneck shirts and leggings have been great to layer underneath the 2 sweater dresses that I have been wearing the most.