Tokyo is a city of coordinated chaos. It’s a sprawling, massive city full of people. Shinjuku is loud and full of flashing lights, much like Times Square, yet you can turn a corner and be on a quiet tree-lined street. It’s utterly confusing and so easy to get lost in. You can wander within one giant metro station for an hour just trying to find the right exit (we did!).
While there are many reasons tourist flock to Tokyo, my husband and I came for one primary reason: to eat! Tokyo is world renowned for incredible restaurants and top notch sushi. However, many of the places you read about in newspapers and magazines will set you back a pretty penny. High end sushi restaurants are generally $200 + a person, a price we were not willing to pay.
If you’re on a budget, I wouldn’t suggest Tokyo as a destination, but it is possible to eat well without spending your savings.
Below are a few tips on how to taste Tokyo’s culinary delights without breaking the bank.
While I loved exploring Bangkok, my favorite part of any overseas trip is always venturing beyond the city limits. Thailand was no different. We spent one day of our recent trip to Thailand out in Kanchanaburi Province, with a few stops along the way. Our ultimate destination was an elephant sanctuary on the River Kwai, where we bareback rode elephants through the forest and into the river where we bathed and played with them. It was an experience I’ll never forget!
Bangkok is a city of contrasts. Modern restaurants beside street food carts; cars at complete halts while motorbikes and people whiz by on sidewalks; English on all of the signs and menus but little spoken; expensive high-rise apartments rising over poverty-filled slums. It was one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever visited.
Many people only see Bangkok through the windows of the airport on the way to Chiang Mai or Phuket, but it’s worth stopping for a couple days to explore this sprawling capital city.
So what’s the best way to experience Bangkok?
As our Hanoi transfer van pulled up to the port, I was already awestruck by the view of Halong Bay in the distance. It’s a place so beautiful that it truly leaves you speechless. You have to see it in person to fully appreciate its beauty. Shortly after boarding our boat, lunch was served, and though we could see the magical landscape from our table’s window, it took every ounce of my patience not to leave lunch to go take pictures. I convinced myself that it would only get prettier, and it did. Halong Bay was on my bucket list ever since I saw a picture of it a few years back, and after seeing the photos in this post, I know it will be on yours too.
The first five minutes of our cab ride from the airport were a brief introduction into the chaos that defines Hanoi. Cars and motorbikes weaved back and forth, leaving inches of space between them, while our cab driver drove down the breakdown lane of the highway, inches from the concrete center barrier, as if it were meant for traffic. I knew immediately that Hanoi would live up to its reputation for being in a near constant state of pandemonium.
As we drove into the historic Old Quarter, the streets were engulfed with vast numbers of people walking in every which direction with seemingly little regard to the motorized traffic. Every few feet there were fires of what we thought was trash burning in the streets (we later found out the fires were offering to the gods). Stepping out of the cab we felt the thick, hot air and realized that even at 9 PM there was no break in the heat. Hot and tired, I went to bed that night glad we only had one full day in Hanoi, as I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the city.
Luckily, our full day in Hanoi changed my opinion of the city for the better.
While there is plenty to see in Tokyo, the largest city in the world can be overwhelming at times. An escape is essential. Luckily for visitors, thanks to Japan’s extensive rail network, day trips from Tokyo are easy and most are affordable. When my husband and I visited Tokyo this summer, I knew I wanted to spend at least one day outside of the bustling city in order to get a more authentic feel for Japan. I considered going to Kamakura, a seaside town so full of temples that some call it a mini-Kyoto, or Hakone for a close-up view of Mt. Fuji and day in the mountains and onsens. But, ultimately, my love for visiting wine regions all over the world won out and I chose to visit Katsunuma.
The Katsunuma wine region is only a 90-minute train ride from Tokyo but feels worlds away. About halfway into the train ride the buildings suddenly disappear as you enter the gorgeous countryside full of lush green hills and mountains. When you arrive at the train station, you’ll immediately see vineyards ahead and will be in awe of the landscape.
My husband and I checking off three bucket list destinations this summer: Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. We will spend two glorious weeks in Asia paying only $95 per person for all flights and hotel stays. Granted, once we get there we will still have to pay for food and activities, but our final bill will be drastically lower than the out of pocket dollar cost we would have paid without points. I know that the points game can be confusing, especially when you factor in credit card bonuses, so I wanted to share a few tips on how we made this trip happen so that you can do the same!