When it rains, it pours, right? 2018 was the year when it poured both literally and metaphorically for me in terms of travel. And I loved every second of all of it.
A rainy day in Kyoto: Visiting Fushimi Inari
The only trip I actually had planned for 2018 was to take my son to Japan for a couple of weeks. I lived and worked in Osaka for two year back in 2001 to 2003, and completely fell in love with Japan; having passed this passion on to my son, we were both excited to be going there together.
One of our most anticipated outings was to the Fushimi Inari shrine while we were staying in Kyoto. It’s a perfect shrine to take kids to because most of the fun is in following the trails of orange torii, or wooden arches, up the mountain. It’s much more an outdoor excursion than a proper temple visit, and I knew my son would love it.
Unfortunately, as we rode on the bus from our Airbnb towards the stop closest to Fushimi Inari, the rain started. The weather is a bit unpredictable in Japan in March, and I hadn’t brought an umbrella on the trip, thinking I’d rely on our rain jackets … but this rain was stronger than our raincoats.
But that’s okay. This is Japan! By the time we got off the bus near the shrine, it was pelting down, but of course, just next to the bus stop was a shop selling umbrellas – we realised this was a time we were going to have to bite the bullet and buy one!
But this was not just any shop. It was some kind of office, not a shop, that happened to put a rack of umbrellas at the front of it. When we walked inside, everyone stopped work to come to chat to us, and help us choose a larger umbrella to suit both of us. Clearly, this wasn’t their core business: but equally clearly (and so very Japanese), neither was it a money-making scheme – the tiny amount they charged for these good quality umbrellas can’t have given them much profit, if any. Really, it was just a kind deed for dumb tourists like me who were otherwise going to get saturated.
It was truly a pleasure to buy an umbrella from this lovely little business, and it helped us enjoy Fushimi Inari much more. Luckily, the rain didn’t last too long that day, but we used that umbrella for the rest of our trip, before sadly donating it to future occupants of our Osaka Airbnb because it was too hard to carry on the plane!
A sneaky Bangkok temple outing and two drowned rats
A few months later I found myself in Bangkok for the annual convention of the Australian Society of Travel Writers. This wasn’t a trip I’d had in the works for too long and I wasn’t particularly prepared for it – but the convention was amazing (I got to speak about blogging, obviously one of my favourite subjects!), I had a wonderful trip up to Phrae and Nan after it, and I also got to catch up with some fabulous Aussie blogging friends.
In particular, I got to spend a couple of days hanging out with one of my dearest blogging friends, Julie Jones of Have Wheelchair Will Travel. We first met a few years back at a Problogger conference, though I knew from our online interactions ahead of then that we’d be firm friends! It was wonderful to spend time with her in Bangkok, but no moment was more memorable than the spare hour we had between the AGM of the convention and an evening event, and we decided to take the boat across the river from our hotel just to see a bit more of Bangkok.
Well, we did see a bit more of Bangkok. We got off the boat and randomly wandered, found an amazing temple, took some photos, chatted away … and suddenly, the heavens opened. It was a tropical downpour of a fairly extreme kind – the properly heavy rain that lasts for quite some time! We sheltered at the temple entrance for some time – meeting a nice Portuguese couple and giving them our (not very expert) Bangkok tips! – and then eventually realised that if we were going to get the boat back in time to get ready for our evening event, we would need to go out in all that rain.
Oh, and in the rain we really truly went! It came down from above and it came up from below, where huge puddles had quickly formed, and we giggled and giggled our wet, wet way back to the boat. We ended up completely depicting that “drowned rat” image, but goodness did we have fun! (Also, I maintain that we both look years younger as drowned rats, and we should do it more often … or perhaps our sudden youth was more as a result of having so much fun together?!)
Wetter than being in a swimming pool in Saigon
Another unplanned but extremely welcome trip was our time in Cambodia and Vietnam with Hands On Journeys. Our second last stop was Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, in southern Vietnam, and it was fascinating to see this now much-modernised city after my first trip there back in 2002.
The hotel we were staying at, however, had some renovations happening on their swimming pool, so an arrangement was made that guests could use the swimming pool at one of their other hotels a short distance down the road. One afternoon after a busy day of sightseeing at the Cu Chi Tunnels and around Saigon itself, my son and I joined several of the other group members for a swim at this pool down the road.
We had a delightful afternoon, as we did throughout this trip with our wonderful companions, with Erin taking crazy Boomerang videos of my son, Aimee, Meagan and I jumping in (and out) of the pool, and all of us enjoying the views from the rooftop pool across Saigon. We were just having a drink and drying off when the rain started.
I thought the Bangkok downpour was heavy; this one was a full-on storm, with lightning and thunder to rival anything I’d seen and heard before. We had to get home for some dinner, and we avoided the elevator, deciding that fourteen floors of stairs would be safer in this kind of storm.
And then we got outside. I honestly don’t think I have ever got so wet in my life. This was nothing like swimming! The rain came from every direction and we were more than drenched. We somehow navigated the traffic and made it across and down the road back to our hotel, and dripped our way through the lobby – laughing, of course. Somehow there really is nothing funnier than getting wet with friends, it seems! We managed to make ourselves vaguely presentable and headed out for an amazing (and uncharacteristically non-local food) pizza dinner (at Pizza 4Ps – I highly recommend it!), reminiscing throughout the evening about our wet, wet run across the streets of Saigon.
I guess my lesson for the year is to embrace the rain: it always brings memorable moments!