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2017 Summer in Hokkaido   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Hokkaido”

Starring: Lari and Anna Sumida

July 12-26, 2017

      This trip was unexpected because I got an email from Odetta Fujimori who asked if I was interested in taking her son, Keala Fujimori’s Holoholo Hokkaido tour, because there was a cancellation. So I asked Anna, who is teaching, and she said yes, since this tour was during her summer break. So we both signed up and Keala met us for dinner to give us details about the tour. Keala is our tour guide and driver and there are only 6 of us on this Lavender Tour: Ed and Odetta Fujimori, Joyce and Harold Asato and Anna and I. This custom tour costs $4000 not including air, but all meals and drinks are included. So Anna and I decided to fly to Tokyo for 3 days then we flew to Chitose to meet the tour group and came home from Chitose after the tour.

I found an AirBnB apartment in Shinagawa, and it was close to the train station and very compact-just right for 2 of us and much cheaper –about 1/3 the cost of a hotel! We adventured on our own. On the first day, we went to Tokyo Edo Museum in Ryogoku. Next door is a small Sumo Museum. We had chankonabe for lunch nearby-it was nice because we got to try a lunch special with small-sized serving instead of the huge bowl that the sumotori eat. Then we took the metro to Asakusa and Kaminarimon Thunder Gate and Sensoji Temple and then by train to Yotsuya, to meet my college friend, Sharon Banno, who has a very successful Amway business in Japan. She took us to her brand new luxury apartment and we met her husband for dinner at a local izakaya.

The second day in Tokyo, we met Yumi Ibaramoto at Yanaka and strolled through Yanaka Ginza then we went to Ueno and strolled through Ameyoko shopping street. We took a train to Ginza and Anna shopped at Tokyu Hands before meeting Yumi’s family at Umenohana, for fancy Yuba kaiseki dinner. Yuba is liquid tofu and you skim the “skin” off the top, dip it in sauce and eat it.

The next day, we decided to take a train to Tokyo Tower and returned to our apartment for our luggage before checking out and riding the train non-stop to Haneda for our flight to Chitose. When we arrived in Chitose airport, we were amazed at all the shops, food samples and everything in that airport. We had fun before we met Keala and our tour group.

Keala, our tour guide and driver extraordinaire, gave us such a wonderful experience, like no other tour-because it was personalized for the 6 of us. He took us to all the best places to eat, to wonderful and amazing experiences, to meet his friends and his wife, and so much more than any other tour could offer. We went to a kombu farm, where we could buy kombu directly from the farmer, to an udon factory, to glass blowing where we could make our own glass bowl or cup, to a dairy farm, to an asparagus farm, a melon farm, sunflower farm, lavender farm, blue pond, and so much more.

Our accommodations were superb, from regular hotels to little hideaway ryokans, to large fancy ryokans, and to a ski resort chalet. But the food! Unmatchable! He took us to the best ramen shop, the best tonkatsu, the best sushi, the best buta-don (pork on rice), the best izakaya, the best seafood in a fish market, the best seafood at a “secret” ryokan, -nothing but the best! I thought I didn’t like uni (sea uchin) until I tasted the sweet, fresh uni at the fish market. We shopped to our hearts content, because all we had to do was leave all our shopping in the van until the end, when we had to pack up all our omiyage into boxes. Hokkaido has the best ice cream-so creamy and good. They also have the best, sweetest melons, sweet cherries, mushrooms, oysters, hairy crab, and delicious asparagus. Depending on when you go to Hokkaido, you will encounter the best of each season in fruits, vegetables, seafood, and more. We went to 2 sake breweries and to Nikka Whiskey. I drank a lot of Sapporo Classic beer which is not exported, so only available in Japan. Sapporo was having a Beer Festival in Odori Park, with each block having a different brand of beer in tents all through the park. After shopping all day, it was great to sit and have a cold beer at the festival.

Of course, I really enjoyed all the different onsens at hotels and ryokans. The biggest and best was at Yoroushi Daiichi Onsen, where we had a beautiful suite and us ladies got to choose our own yukata. The onsen there had so many pools and a hot stone detox room-even a outdoor co-ed pool, which I ventured out to-no shame-just go for it. Another hotel had a rooftop onsen with a huge TV to watch while soaking. Anna and I enjoyed every minute of this trip! We are so grateful to Keala for providing us with nothing but the best and to Odetta for inviting us.

Anna’s Top Ten:

-10. People watching at Summer Beer Festival in Sapporo, Odori Park w/ Lari, Shorty, & Keala

-9. Keala cooked us delicious shabu shabu dinner in Niseko at Orchards Chalet w/ Niseko cream puffs, Niseko cherries, Furano melons, & Yamanashi peaches for dessert

-8. Sharon Banno’s million dollar condo in Yotsuya

-7. Umenohana restaurant yuba dinner (tofu based kaiseki dishes) in Ginza w/ Yumi’s family

-6. Kushiro Marsh: reminded me of my Father’s favorite Japanese crane calendar pictures he loved

-5. Seeing Olympic skier jump from top then from bottom – AMAZING!

-4. Biei to see Aoi Ike Blue pond

-3. Hokuryu Sunflower Park (and I bought seeds to plant!!!) and all the other farms: lavender, kombu, dairy, asparagus, melon,

-2.Shopping and Glass blowing in Otaru

-1. Owl Onsen Yoroushi

 

Lari’s Top Ten:

-10. All the beer and sake we could drink included with our meals

-9. The wonderful yuba dinner with Ibaramoto family at Umenohana in Ginza

-8. Meeting Sharon in Yotsuya

-7. Making my own bowl by glass blowing in Okura

-6. Watching the ski jumper at Okurayama Ski Jump

-5. The onsen ryokan in Yoroushi

-4. The kombu farm

-3. Aoi Ike blue pond

-2. The Onsens: I love soaking in the hot pools.

-1. The FOOD! Everything was super amazing & delicious!

 

We arrived at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

Tokyo Edo Museum has wonderful miniature displays of old Edo.

We visited with Sharon Banno in Yotsuya, where she lives and works within walking distance.

Yumi went with us to walk through Yanaka Ginza and Ameyoko Ueno.

Asako (Yumi’s sister), Koji (Yumi’s hubby), Anna, Kenzo (Yumi’s son), Lari and Yumi having kaiseki yuba dinner at Umenohana-very fancy place!

On our last morning, we took a quick trip by train to Tokyo Tower.

In Kushiro City at Washo Ichiba Fish Market, we could eat any and as much seafood as we wanted! This is where I found that uni could be so good!

I love chiso with my sashimi… yummm!

Every day, Keala prepares our day’s itinerary on a white board back of the front passenger seat.

We visited the Kikuchi family kombu farm in Cape Nemuro, far eastern part of Hokkaido.

This was my favorite ryokan. Luxurious room, delicious food for dinner and breakfast, and fancy onsen pools, indoor and outdoors.

This is the yukata room where the ladies can choose any yukata for use in the ryokan.

Notice that the men have the standard yukata, but us ladies have different ones.

Yamauchi-san is Keala’s good friend. He owns an asparagus farm and a PV farm that he sells electricity to the grid.

 

These asparagus can be eaten from top to bottom-no need break off the bottom stem, because it is tender all the way down the stem.

Sunflower farm, so bright and cheerful!

 

Sunflowers!

Anna drove our golf cart around Shikisai Hills flower farm.

Lavender farm.

Lavender farm

Keala and his wife, Tomoko.

Yummy dessert! Cream puffs, peaches, melon, & cherries after shabu shabu dinner.

Melons are super sweet!

Nikka Whiskey is very, very good!

Nagashi somen-grab it as it comes down the bamboo chute!

Glass blowing at Kim Glass Design in Otaru.

Odetta blowing her glass at Kim Glass Design in Otaru.

Futon bed on tatami floor is very comfy!

Odori Park in Sapporo

Keala, Anna and I shared this large beer

Okurayama ski jump in Sapporo

Happy birthday, Harold!

At Chitose airport unloading from the van.

Sue sent me this photo of Houdini so sad, missing me while I travel.

 

Posted August 20, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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Spring 2017 in Tokyo   9 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Japan”

Starring: Lari, Ryan, Kara, Jensen, Madisen, Allysen

Co-starring: Gordon, Claudine, Chloe, Tyler, Audrey, Azlyn

March 16 to 28, 2017

I decided to treat Ryan’s family to their first trip to Japan, and invited Claudine and her family to join us. Audrey and Azlyn also tagged along. We stayed the first two nights in a businessman’s hotel near Shinagawa Station, one night at a ryokan in Enoshima (Kamakura), then one week in two rental apartments. The apartment was in a quiet residential area in Nakano, close to the train station, mall and supermarket only one trainstop away from Shinjuku Station. We walked to and from the train station and used our Pasmo cards to enter the station turnstiles. Pasmo is a handy card that you pre-load with yen and it makes it so fast and easy to enter the train station, without having to purchase train tickets each time. And you may use your pasmo card to buy things in a convenience store as well as at some vending machines.

We went to the Ohi Race Course flea market (like our swap meet) where people are selling their old antiques, clothing, toys, games and much more. Then we walked to the Shinagawa Aquarium where everyone enjoyed the different ocean creatures and walk-through aquariums. We all took a bath at the onsen in the hotel that evening after dinner. The next day we took the train to Kamakura to see the huge Buddha statue-very impressive. Along the way from the Daibutsu back to the train station, we stopped at a rabbit café, where the kids go in to pet some rabbits and also a hedgehog. We took the local train to Enoshima nearby, and it was super crowded! We got to experience rush-hour madness on the little local train. We got off in Enoshima, walked to Kinokuniya Ryokan, which was very small and traditional. I got 2 tatami rooms that could sleep 6 each. Since they were not ready for us to check in, we left our bags and walked around the area towards Enoshima Island to explore the neighborhood. Back at the ryokan, we settled in, and got ready for dinner. We had a huge spread-typical kaiseki-style dinner with many interesting and mysterious edibles. After dinner, we went back to our rooms and all our futon beds were lined up on the tatami floor. After taking their onsen bath, the kids decided to walk to Lawson’s convenience store to buy ice cream, so we told them to go by themselves. After the kids went to sleep, us adults stayed up to drink sake and talk stories until midnight.

The next day, after our walking tour of Enoshima Island, we took the train back to Tokyo and settled in at our Nakano apartment, which was our home for a week. On Tuesday we went to Yokohama-to Anpan Man and Ramen Museum and then the next day to Disney Sea-super crowded with long lines for everything. On Thursday, we took the train to Asakusa, where we walked down Nakamise Dori-shopping street to Sensoji Temple. After lunch we took a boat ride down the Sumida River to Odaiba. We really enjoyed the Sony Explora Museum in Aqua City-mostly because there were not many people in there, so we could do/play with all the fun interactive displays there. Then we walked to Palette Town, another mall, and we enjoyed Toyota MegaWeb there.

On Friday we took a 45-min. train ride to Mount Takao. There we rode a cable car up the mountain, and took a short hike. Back down on the chair lift then to lunch. We spent the afternoon at the Trick Art Museum, which was so much fun for both adults and kids! At the train station, they have an onsen, which we really relaxed us after a busy day. We took the train back to Tokyo and went to Shibuya to the Disney Store to shop and had Okonomiyaki dinner.

Saturday, we went to Tsukiji Market to see the huge seafood marketplace and all the shops adjoining. We had sashimi don for lunch. We went to Akihabara to check out the electronic city and then to Harajuku, where it was super crowded on Takeshita Dori. We ate crepes and shopped at Daiso (100-yen shop).

Sunday we went to Takashimaya Department Store in Shinjuku. We had lunch there and shopped at another Disney Store and at Tokyu Hands. The Yoshiki family left us to the airport to go home. So we went back to Harajuku but it was raining, and crowded with hundreds of umbrellas.

On our last 2 days without Yoshiki family, we returned to Yokohama to go to Cup Noodle Museum, where we could make our own cup noodle. And we returned to Toyota MegaWeb to reserve rides. The girls got to ride the cars, and the segway called Winglet. It happened to be kids day there, so they had many fun activities for the kids. We spent the whole day there before taking the train to the airport.

We were lucky to have Koji take care of our luggage in the beginning and end of our trip, so we could go and do things without having to take our large luggage. The food in Japan is so delicious. We had all different kinds of food experiences like Monja dinner where you cook your own on the teppan table, similar to Okonomiyaki. We had kushi yaki, ramen, Okinawan, and much more!

Walking to Ohi Racecourse Flea Market

Shinagawa Aquarium

Jason Hagiwara joined us for the day.

The Daibutsu or great Buddha in Kamakura

The rabbit cafe where the kids got to play with rabbits and a hedgehog.

Our fancy dinner at Kinokuniya Ryokan in Enoshima

Kimono cousins going to onsen bath

The Kinokuniya Ryokan in Enoshima provides yukata for everyone.

They gave us candles to tour the Iwaya Cave on Enoshima Island

Kara and Ryan at the Iwaya Cave on Enoshima Island

Anpan Man Children’s Museum and Mall in Yokohama.

Disney Sea

In Asakusa this entrance to Nakamise Dori and Sensoji Temple is very famous!

The Sumida River boat ride from Asakusa to Odaiba was very pleasant and not too long.

Mt Takao has a monkey exhibit

It was late, so we did not see too many fish/seafood.

You can hardly walk on Takeshita Dori on a weekend.

In Harajuku the girls went into a photo booth and fun taking these photos.

We made our own Cup Noodle.

Madi is learning how to control the Winglet segway at Toyota Megaweb.

After checking out of our apartment and spending our last day at Toyota MegaWeb, Koji met us at the airport with all our luggage he held for us on the last day.

Yumi and Koji Ibaramoto helped us so much on this trip, taking us to dinners and taking care of our luggage.

Top Ten Lists:

Madisen(age 13):

  1. Disney Sea; I enjoyed riding all the fun rides and exploring that side of the park. Then, me, Jensen, Tyler, and Dad (Ryan) got to stay late and ride Toy Story Mania until the park closed.
  2. Late Night Grocery Shopping; Every night in Nakano, me, Azyln, and Chloe went to the LIFE store near our apartment to buy breakfast for the next morning.
  3. Toyota Mega Web; I GOT TO EXPERIENCE MY DREAM OF GOING ON A HOVER BOARD (but in this case it was called the Winglet). There was also all types of drive simulators to test out.
  4. Onsens; All though it took a little while to get used to, I enjoyed being in those hot baths. I especially liked the Mt. Takao cause it have multiple types of baths.
  5. Trick Museum; I liked looking at all the art in a weird perspective and taking trippy pictures.
  6. The FOOD; The food I enjoyed is Coolish, and the yakitori at the airport.
  7. Cup Noodle Museum; My favorite part there was making my own cup of noodles. I got to customize my cup, flavors, and toppings to my liking.
  8. Harajuku:  4 story Daiso & Crepes
  9. Enoshima:  Going to Family Mart with family to get Coolish.
  10. The different types of “rail transportation”…especially the Romance Train.

Ally (age 7):

  1. Takao Trick Museum:  I liked the funny pictures.  I had to figure it out,
  2. Disney Sea:  I liked ALL the rides & buying all the cool stuff they don’t have in the US (sunglasses/blankets)
  3. Toyota Mega Web:  Kids Day (I got to create art work that was projected on a screen & driving the car on a ride “simulator”)
  4. Yokohama Big “Ferris Wheel”: It was fun to ride with my family high up in the sky.
  5. Harajuku:  I found a squishy I wanted.
  6. Okonomiyaki:  It was cool to see when we cooked it at the restaurant.
  7. Cup Noodle:  I got to make my own noodle cup to take home.
  8. AnPan Man-Play area for kids and “anpan” from the bakery they had there.
  9. Mount Takao: Getting to see all the “red butt” monkeys
  10. Enoshima:  Caves and Ferry Boat

Kara:

1.  Shopping:  Daiso/Seria, Disney Store, Lawsons, Family Mart, 7-11 & all the other places I spent $.

2.  Disney Sea:  As a Disney “addict”…I was super happy to have the opportunity to go to Disney Sea,  I loved everything about it.  So different from the U.S.

3.  Shochu Ume:  I think I found my new drink!

4;  Food:  Everything is so light, fresh and pretty! AMAZING food, everything I ate was SUPER yummy!

5.  Family:  Spending each day with my immediate family.  What was an added bonus was to spend time with extended family!  I loved having time to talk to Lari, Claudine/Gordon, Audj and all the kiddies… PRICELESS! ❤

6.  Ryokan-Enoshima:  I loved the experience and food!  Amazing!

7.  Nakano:  I LOVED our little apartment!  It was so convenient & well equipt!  Safe neighborhood!

8.  Grocery Store:  Claudine!!!  Love the discounted food we would shop for!

9.  Odaiba:  The beautiful boat ride to Odaiba.

10. Romance Train:  Love how the seats turn and face one another and having a reserved seat!

Azlyn (age 13):

10. APA  Buffet Breakfast -I had a fun breakfast with family

9. Animal Cafe -we got to play with lot’s of animals

8. Aquarium -I had fun watching the dolphin show

7. Tokyu Hands -I shopped with cousins and grandma bought me pens

6. Monja and crepes -we learned how to make monja and crepes

5. Going to Lawson’s (just the kids) -was fun because we don’t usually walk around alone

4. Daiso -O had fim shopping for cheap with my cousins

3. Harajuku photo booth -I had fun taking pictures with my cousins

2. Winglet Segway -I learned how to ride a segway with Madi and Grandma

1. Staying at the Nakano Apartment -It was really fun braiding and watching Youtube together

 

Gordon’s top 10

10. APA Shinagawa Hotel: Onsen, Breakfast, Tiny room

9. Asakusa: Shops, Enormous shrine

8. Trick art museum

7. Mt. Takao: Chair lift, Steep tram

6. Enoshima Island: Eno=pass, So many shrines, Sea candle, So many stairs, Shops on the cliffs, Boat ride back

5. Nakano Broadway: Unique shops and restaurants

4. Tokyo Sumida River Cruise

3. Disney Sea

2. The Great Buddha of Kamakura, Daibutsu: To think how old it is. Built in 1215 and rebuild over the years because of damage its amazing.

1. Enoshima cave: imagine the dedicatioin and hard work to make those carvings years ago

 

Tyler’s top 10 list (age 9)

10. vending machines

9. onsen, ramen/food

7. disney

6. bunnys

5. monkeys

4. mizuno

3. flea market

2. trick art

1. sony

 

Chloe’s Top Ten List (age 12)

10. Vending machines/ grocery/ convenience store – Fun to use/ shop

9. Aquarium – Dolphins, penguins, different animals

8. Onsens: APA Shinagawa, Takao Station, Different experience

7. Trick Art Museum – Cool , Fun

6. Sony Museum – Interesting and fun exhibits

5. Daiso – Everything 1 yen! Cool items for sale

4. Disney Sea – Rides

3. Bunny and Hedgehog Café: Madison and Twitch/ Thumper, Pooping hedgehog, SO CUTE

2. Food – Yummy and sometimes different

1. Cousins – Fun to spend time together

 

Claudine’s top 10:

10. Ryokan – neat to see what a traditional hotel or house was like many years ago.  It was fun for 1 night, but glad we don’t have to sleep on hard futon like that every night.  The dinner was very fancy, with some unusual dishes (black snails!), and delicious (although I didn’t try the snail)

9. Enoshima island – caves were interesting and a little spooky, hike was fun, shops were fun

8. Mochi covered fresh strawberry shortcake at Lawson’s – the best mochi!

7. Odaiba boat ride – the boat seemed like a spaceship, it was neat seeing all the different architectural styles of the bridge we passed

6. Sushi at the conveyor belt restaurant at Nakano Broadway shopping mall – so ono for “fast food” sushi, some neat and different types of sushi, wish we could’ve eaten here again

5. Mount Takao – especially the onsen and chair lift ride – the hike was refreshing, the shrines had different types of temples, the monkey habitat was fun for the kids, the chair lift ride was scary and exciting, the pasta lunch was really yummy, the small shops had lots of ono snacks, the onsen was relaxing, so much fun with all the different soaking pools

4. Sony sound and light museum.  Neat interactive exhibits, wish I wasn’t so sleepy and tired that day

3. Trick art museum.  So much fun seeing all the amazing tricks of the eye

2. Shopping at the Daiso!!!  Wish I had another suitcase to bring home more stuff!

1.  Spending time with all of the family, seeing the cousins deepen their friendships, finding out new things about our family members (Ryan is grumpy, just like Gordon, just like uncle Roger) (I think aunty might be getting a little hard of hearing, she’s always yelling!)

 

Ryan’s Top Ten:

10. My favorite meal was coveyor belt Sushi (twice), but all the food was excellent

9.  Pallete Town – MEGAWEB Toyota City Showcase, Tokyo Leisure Land arcade and giant ferris wheel

8.  Enoshima Island tour

7.  Disney Sea

6.  Cup Noodle Museum

5.  Takao Trick Museum

4.  Shinagawa Aquarium

3.  Sony Explora Museum (bonus was the best toilet)

2.  Daiso and Seria 100 yen stores

1.  My favorite thing about family vacation is spending 24 hrs a day with the family!

Ryan’s Honorable Mention (Also Enjoyed):

Mizuno Store

Takeshita Street – Harajuku

Landmark Tower – Yokohama

Daibutsu

Staying at Ryokan

Public Transportation

 

Jensen’s Top Ten (age 16)

10 Mount Takao-the cold weather and riding the ski lift down

9  Tokyo flea market – I found old Nintendo stuff and antiques

8   Nakano Broadway – enjoyed walking through and finding a store that sold Kikaida stuff

7   Okonomiyaki restaurant -loved the food and the way they made it

6   Sony Explora in Odaiba -all the cool and different types of technology was very interesting

5   Going to onsets

4   Disney Sea -my favorite ride was Tower of Terror. I now have gone on three different Tower of Terror rides. Japan’s storyline is different from Disneyland and Disneyworld

3   Looking at all the vending machines and trying out the different types of coffees that each machine has

2   Going to convenience stores -Lawsons or Family Mart to buy Coolish and ume musubi

1   Spending time with family

Philippines in January 2017   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Philippines”

starring: Lari & Freda

Jan. 20 to Feb. 4, 2017

 

When Freda asked if I wanted to go to Philippines with her, I checked my calendar and it was open so I said yes! I already knew 3 groups of people there, who had invited me to visit, so I was excited to go there! Freda has been there many times before and has a favorite hotel-Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati (nice area of Manila) and she has a favorite driver/bodyguard, Manolo. She also invited her birth mother, Petra from California, her dad, Nelson who lives in Kapolei, and her Aunty Nimfa, who lives next door to Freda and Pat in Mililani. So there were 4 of us ladies sharing a suite in the hotel, and Nelson, who stays near the World Resort casino, so he can gamble to his heart’s content.

One of our first adventures was to fly to the island of Palawan to stay at the beautiful Puerto Princessa Garden Hotel, so that we could take a tour of the famous Underground River near Sabang beach 2 hours drive from Puerto Princessa. Many tourists go to the Underground River, so we were fed lunch and had to wait our turn to board a double outrigger boat with motors that took us to the landing beach for the Underground River, which is really a cave with a river running through it. There are bats that live in the cave and we had to be very quiet so as not to disturb them. We wore headsets to listen to the narration for the cave and the boatman shined his light onto various sites inside the dark cave. After that tour, our driver took us to Ugong Rock where Freda and I climbed up inside a mountain to the top and ziplined down! It was so much fun!

Freda and her family are sponsors of Passion City Church in Tanza, Cavite Province, an hour’s drive south of Manila. There was a big all-day celebration at the church, where they honored Freda’s family who built the church and support it with monetary, clothing and toy donations. They had music, dance, games and food. It was a blessed and fun experience.

My friends who live in the Philippines are people I met on previous trips. The Rubin family in Manila and the Aquino family from Baguio were on my tour to Dubai in November, 2014 and they invited me to visit them. David and Robert have 2 homes in Hawaii and presently live in Manila and I met them on our Indonesian tour in the summer of 2014. So on my first day in Manila, the Rubins took me to Sunday brunch and touring around the city to Rizal square and other historical sites. We rode in a Calesa, pulled by a horse around the square. I was excited to see many famous and colorful jeepneys everywhere. They are the main public transportation for locals all over the Philippine islands.

One day, Manolo drove us 2 hours southeast to Pagsanjan Falls. This was another fun adventure! Just Freda and I went with my friend, David and our driver, Manolo. Each narrow canoe had 2 passengers and 2 boatmen who paddled us upriver and they had to literally pull us over the rapids! The river wound through a narrow gorge with high cliffs covered with vegetation and many waterfalls on both sides of us. When we reached the big waterfall, David, Freda and I went onto a raft that took us under the falls, where we were pounded by icy cold water! What fun!

Another day, I left Freda in Manila and took an overnight bus for 6 hours to Baguio City, to visit the Aquino family. I stayed there for 4 days. The first 2 days we visited many interesting sites in Baguio City, which is a hilly and mountainous town and so the inhabitants there have very strong legs from walking up and downhill and up and down many steep steps to get from one place to another. The next 2 days we drove all day to Banaue to see the famous rice terraces and drove all day back to Baguio after staying overnight in a Nipa Hut hotel in Banaue. The rice terraces are 2000 years old and are considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. The drive was very long with curvy mountain roads, where it was difficult to overtake the stinky diesel Jeepneys and the slow tricycles.

In Manila, I loved the shopping, and the spa treatments! I got several really good Filipino Hilot massages at various places. I also got a facial, pedicure, and other spa treatments for very reasonable prices. The Filipino peso is 50 to 1 dollar, so your money goes a long way there. All the food was very delicious! Pizza and fried chicken are very popular. But I like the traditional Filipino dishes like adobo, pancit, lumpia, lapulapu and more. I tried green mango with bagoong-Filipino fish sauce. Nelson taught me how to eat balut-a fertilized egg with a baby chick inside. I could not eat the baby bird with feathers and bones, but the Filipinos love that delicacy! Traffic in Manila is crazy, crowded and slow. All in all, this was a wonderful, memorable and fun trip.

Lari’s Top Ten:

10 Visiting the Passion City Church

9 The food was great!

8 Getting spa treatments, especially Hilot Massages!

7 Seeing my friends who live in Philippines: Aquinos, Rubins, Robert/David 

6 Staying in a Nipa Hut in Banaue 

5 All the sites in Baguio that Aquinos took me to

4 Banaue Rice Terraces

3 Underground River

2 Ugong Rock w/ zip lining

1 Going under the Pagsanjan Falls

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Elvie and Alcee took me to brunch at the fancy Shangrila Hotel in Makati.

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We rode the Calela, pulled by our horse, Bullet, who took us around Rizal Park and Luneta.

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Freda took us in front of our hotel, Dusit Thani in Makati. Petra is Freda’s mother and Nimfa is Freda’s aunty.

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Myself, Nimfa, Freda and Petra in lobby of Dusit Thani Hotel where we all 4 shared a suite.

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At Dampa, we picked out lobster, crab, fish, calamari, and tiger prawns for dinner, cooked to order.

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Petra and I are enjoying fresh coconut water!

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Freda with her Dad, Nelson and her mom, Petra when we arrived at Puerto Princesa airport.

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The Princesa Garden Hotel.

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We booked a tour to the famous Underground River.

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These are the many motorized double outrigger boats used to take tourists to the Underground River entrance.

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We rode on a motorized boat from Sabang beach to the Underground River entrance.

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After we got off the double catamaran, we landed at this beach with beautiful cliffs.

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Here we are in our canoe ready to enter the underground river cave.

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Our canoe quietly enters the cave, where it is dark, and our boatman shined his light on different formations that are described by narrator on our headsets.

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Now we are approaching the cave entrance as we finish our tour.

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I got to pose on the back of this carabao.

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Here is Freda on the carabao.

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Freda and I went on this adventure: first climb up inside the Ugong Mountain.

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Here we are climbing up inside Ugong mountain.

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Here we are at the top of Ugong mountain!

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Yippee! I am flying!

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At our Princesa Garden hotel, we walked far, far out on this boardwalk to the sand bar.

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When we reached the end of the boardwalk, we discovered that we had to walk through waist deep water to reach the sandbar!

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Here is the view of our hotel from the sandbar.

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On our last day at Puerto Princesa in Palawan island, we visited this place where the natives let us hold a snake.

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We had a wonderful lunch here at Ka Lui in Puerto Princesa.

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This is Lui Oliva, owner of Ka Lui . He collects all kinds of art and displays them in his restaurant.

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We spent one day at Passion City Church in Tanza, Cavite Province. This day celebrates all the sponsors of the church and here Freda is speaking to the congregation.

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All the people in this church got lucky numbers and prizes.

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The church served the sponsors a wonderful and delicious homemade lunch! The lumpia was to die for-crispy and tasty!

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One day, Manolo drove us to the famous Pagsanjan Falls with my friend David.

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Each canoe with 2 passengers and 2 boatmen, who took us up-river over rapids through a beautiful gorge.

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David and I were in one canoe and Manolo and Freda in the other.

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When we reached the falls, we sat on a raft that took us right under the thundering falls where we were pounded by ice cold water! What a thrill!

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I took a 6-hour overnight bus ride to Baguio where Nora and “Boy” Aquino met me and took me to their house.

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Baguio is a hilly city with houses crawling up and down the hills. Lots of steps and steep streets to walk up and down on.

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We enjoyed the Ben Cab art museum. Here is Boy, Tita, Nora, me and Naty.

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The Aquinos took me to all the sites in Baguio City. Here is the iconic giant Lion built on Kennon Road by the Lions’ Club.

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We rode a boat on the lake in Burnham Park.

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Here we are, Nora, Tita, Boy, Naty and I on the Burnham Lake boat ride.

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I dressed up in native costume for only 250 pesos.

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This is the entrance to Mines View Park.

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And the entrance to the Botanical Garden.

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This is Bell Church, a Chinese church.

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Right near the entrance to La Trinidad is Stobosa, with colorful houses.

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La Trinidad is famous for strawberries grown here at the strawberry farms. Since it was a rainy day, we did not pick any-I am just posing! We bought strawberries from the vendors there.

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On our all-day drive to Banaue, we stopped for fresh coconut water and spoon meat! Yummy! That is our driver, Cristo on the far left.

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Tricycles are the main means of transporting goods or livestock.

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Here is a basket maker taking his goods to market on his tricycle.

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I noticed that the jeepneys in the provinces are overloaded with passengers.

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Here is another jeepney overloaded with passengers.

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Our hotel in Banaue had 5 Nipa Huts for guests. Here is Boy at the entrance to his sleeping quarters.

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Here are Tita and Naty and I in our Nipa Hut. We had to climb up the ladder to our sleeping hut. The bathhouse was nearby with 2 toilets, 2 showers and a long sink for brushing teeth for all the guests to share.

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The famous Banaue Rice terraces are over 2000 years old and are considered the 8th Wonder of the World.

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Famous Banaue Rice Terraces. It took us all day to drive to Banaue from Baguio.

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Beautiful! Amazing!

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The view in the morning from our Nipa Hut Hotel.

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Back at Aquino’s house in Baguio, I got to taste green mango with bagoong.

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When Freda and Nimfa left a day before I did, I stayed with David and Robert in their lovely Makati apartment. Here we are having tapas dinner.

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The next morning, David and I walked to the market and got some good bargains and some iced fruit bars.

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I think I chose sour sop for my frozen fruit bar.

This is a video of Nelson teaching me how to eat balut.

Posted March 1, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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Okinawa Taikai October 2016   9 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Okinawa”

starring: Lari & Shari

October 19 to November 4, 2016

I had first heard about Uchinanchu Taikai 5 years ago, when some friends went to Okinawa for the 5th Worldwide Unchinanchu Festival in 2011. This time more friends were going to the 6th Worldwide Taikai and I was interested in participating, so I asked Shari Tamashiro if I could go with her. I am so thankful that she let me join her! She has been to Okinawa several times and I have never been there. After finding out how expensive the tours were, we decided to go on our own instead of on a tour and we ended up saving at least a couple of thousand dollars each. First we booked a hotel, then our air on Hawaiian Air to Tokyo and home from Osaka. Then we booked flights on ANA to Okinawa and to Osaka. I planned the activities in Tokyo and Shari planned the Okinawa part of our trip and her friend, Masao took care of us in Okayama after we arrived in Osaka.

We were in Tokyo for 4 days. We visited Ghibli Museum, Shari’s most favorite place, because she loves Totoro! The next day we were on a special tour of the Imperial Palace grounds with Yumi’s friend Jibiki. We were very honored to attend a Gagaku program. Gagaku, literally means “elegant music,” and is the oldest surviving music in Japan from 1,200 years ago and is performed at the Imperial Court. That afternoon, Yoshiaki Ando and his daughter Tomoko picked us up and took us to Umihotaru, in the middle of Tokyo Bay by tunnel from Tokyo and bridge from Chiba. They have shops and restaurants and a view of Tokyo from the bay. Then we went to Asakusa, where we enjoyed the Japanese shops on the walkway to Sensoji Temple. Then we had monja dinner nearby.

Early the next morning Kazu picked us up and drove us and the Ibaramoto family along with Asako (7 of us) to Nikko. It was serendipidous to meet Hiroki Sakamoto-Graphic Man, who flew a drone overhead and we met him again at Lake Chuzenji. You can find Hiroki’s amazing videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn-BNbfWO2g  We enjoyed the lovely fall colors around the lake and the Kegon Waterfall.

The next day was travel day. We took a train back to Tokyo from Nikko and took the subway to Haneda to catch our flight to Naha. Shari’s friend, Chizu picked us up and took us to her house for dinner that she made. Everything was delicious! We stayed at the Tsuboya Garden House, a small hotel in the pottery district of Tsuboya, owned by Naoko and Dingo, who have a cafe that serves vegan breakfasts.

The 6th World Uchinanchu Festival was amazing. Okinawan people from all over the world gather every 5 years for this special festival. We marched in a parade and the local people showed so much gratitude to Americans, especially those of us from Hawaii. They had a huge Opening Ceremony at the Cellular Stadium, and you could see contingencies from Peru and Brazil as well as Hawaii. There was much music and dance to entertain us. Each village/city/province also hosted the guests who came from those places. Shari and her family are members of the Itoman club in Hawaii and we went to Itoman for a wonderful party hosted there for us with lots of food, entertainment and gifts. There was a closing ceremony at Cellular Stadium with fabulous entertainment with, eisa drummers, dancers, singers and fireworks.

Shari has many friends in Okinawa, since she is the producer of the Eisa Festival in Hawaii and goes there often. Her friends drove us around and we caught the monorail to get around in Naha. She celebrated her birthday 3 times with different groups of friends! We also got to go fishing on a fishing boat, and I caught 7 fish, my first time fishing with a reel. One of our parties was at an izakaya that prepared the fish we caught from our fishing expedition. We also rode on a Sabani boat, the traditional small, wooden fishing boats of Okinawa with paddles and orange sails. Many Okinawan izakayas have unlimited food and drinks for one price. So you can imagine how much fun we had! My favorite drinks were Orion beer and Shikwaasa Sake! (Shikwaasa is a small lemon). I loved all the food! Everything was so delicious and I got to try many traditional Okinawan dishes. Shari took me to some museums where I learned a lot about the Battle of Okinawa during WWII.

We flew from Naha to Osaka and stayed at the wonderful Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa, Okayama. Shari’s friend Masao and his wife showed us around the area, and we enjoyed the onsen soaking at the ryokan… they had one downstairs from the lobby and one on the roof, which we loved-sitting in the hot spring tub in the cold autumn air, enjoying the fall colors on the trees nearby. There was a public onsen across the river, where both men and women bathed out in the open in the hot spring waters on the banks of the river. We tried that one too, but they gave us modesty cover-ups to bathe there. Masao drove us to Matsue Castle in Shimane Prefecture on the Japan seaside. We took a boat ride around the castle, had lunch and visited Lafcadio Hearn Museum. Masao also took us to a Salamander Museum.

We were very lucky that so many friends took us to amazing places to visit and experience on our entire trip in Tokyo, Okinawa and Okayama. This truly was a memorable trip, one that no tour could have done. Thank you, Shari!

Lari’s Top Twelve:

12 Matsue Horikawa Meguri-boat ride around Matsue castle

11 Delicious food and onsens at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa

10 Learning the history of the WWII Battle of Okinawa

9 The trip to Nikko and Lake Chuzenji w/Kazu and friends

8 Marching in the Taikai parade

7 Izakayas where we could eat and drink as much as we liked

6 Shikwaasa -a small lemon-like fruit

5 All the many parties, especially Shari’s 3 birthday parties

4 Eating all the delicious food, especially the vegan breakfasts

3 Meeting all of Shari’s Okinawan friends

2 Enjoying the Ceremonies at Cellular Stadium

1 My first time fishing on a real fishing boat and catching 7 fish

 

Shari LOVES Totoro at Ghibli Museum

Cat bus at Ghibli Museum

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This is the Gagaku stage after the performance.

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With Shari and Tomoko at the giant gate/entrance to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

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One of many wonderful Japanese shops along the way to the Sensoji Temple.

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Yoshiaki cooked our monja dinner after driving us around the Tokyo area.

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Here is the monja that Yoshiaki is preparing for our dinner.

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Kazu, me, Shari, Asako, Yumi, Koji & Kenzo drove up into the mountains from Nikko to Lake Chuzenji. We stopped here for a view/rest and met Sakamoto-san with his drone

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Lovely fall colors on our drive up to Lake Chuzenji with Kazu and Ibaramoto family

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We met Hiroki Sakamoto with his drone. Look for his YouTube videos under “Graphic Man”

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We met up with Hiroki Sakamoto again at the lake. Here he is controlling his drone over the lake.

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Hiroki Sakamoto’s drone flying over Lake Chuzenji

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Beautiful Lake Chuzenji with Shari

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Here is our travel group at Kegon Falls entrance.

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Kazu and I at Kegon Falls.

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Yumi, Koji and Kenzo under a lovely Momiji-Japanese maple tree.

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3 monkeys at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

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We arrived at Naha airport in Okinawa.

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Shari’s friend, Chizu, met us at Naha airport with this sign and a Shari mask.

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Dingo, a professional wrestler, and Naoko own our hotel, Tsuboya Garden House, and they cook delicious vegan breakfasts.

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Shari and I took a Bingata class where we painted our own items and took it home with us. These ladies are painting a large wall hanging.

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Pigs feet on display at the Heiwa Dori market.

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Shaved ice snack while shopping in Heiwa Dori market.

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We marched in the World Uchinanchu Festival parade!

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In the parade I met my neighbors, Wayne, Kevin and Lisa Shibata.

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Also met Jan Uesato in the parade!

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Our hotel was in the Tsuboya pottery district, so we got to visit some lovely pottery shops, and watched a demonstration of items made on the pottery wheel.

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I sat with Ethel Miyasato, Jimmy and Geri Oshiro and their son Chad and his family, at the Opening Ceremony at Cellular Stadium

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Opening ceremony at Cellular Stadium had great entertainment!

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Shari and I met Governor David Ige and his wife, Dawn at Cellular Stadium after the opening ceremony. We are doing the Shisa (lion) pose

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We rode the efficient monorail around Naha.

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Shari and her family come from Itoman town in Okinawa, so we went to a welcome party in Itoman, with entertainment and dinner.

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Birthday princess!

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Shari’s friends threw her a birthday party-this was the first of 3 parties. Shari loves to have everyone do the shisa pose for photos.

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Fishing expedition with Alton Chung, and Arisa, who drove us to Kitanakagusuku.

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Capt. Yasunobu Tanaka on his boat Daiyasumaru took us fishing

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Here are all the fish we caught!

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And here we are eating the fish we caught, prepared by Izakaya where we had Shari’s 2nd birthday party.

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Okinawa Prefecture Peace Museum

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Folded paper cranes at the Himeyuri Noto hospital caves where teenage girls worked during WWII Battle of Okinawa.

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Shuri Castle in Naha

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The Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival closing ceremony had great entertainment and fireworks at the Cellular Stadium.

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Shari’s 3rd birthday party was hosted by these young handsome guys who are all Eisa drummers.

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We just arrived at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa, Okayama with so much luggage! Mostly omiyage given to Shari by Okinawan friends.

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Okami and Chef Masahara at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan where we enjoyed exquisite cuisine by the Chef.

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Our ryokan had 3 onsen, and this outdoor onsen on the roof was our favorite one!

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Across the river from our ryokan was an open, public onsen bath.

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Shari’s friend, Masao drove us to Matsue Horikawa Meguri-boat ride around Matsue castle

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Shari, Ikuyo and husband Masao had to lay flat when the roof of our boat was lowered to go under the low bridges.

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Saying goodbye to our lovely ryokan friends: Okami, Shari, Chef Masahara, Ikuyo and Masao in front.

Posted February 28, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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Machu Picchu Peru, September 2016   1 comment

Presenting Lari’s latest episode of
“Hawaiian in Peru”
Lari with Lois Kuge
September 1-19, 2016

Last year, Lois asked me if I’d like to go to Machu Picchu, and I said yes. So I found this smarTour for September 5-15, and we both signed up. Our tour group had only 23 of us, and everyone was congenial and fun to be with. The weather was perfect, sunny with blue skies and cool breezes. Most of us took meds to prevent altitude sickness. They provide coca tea for high altitude, but I did not want to take it since it is high in caffeine.
We had beautiful and convenient hotels in all locations and our guides were very knowledgeable. We stayed high up in the Sacred Valley in a small village called Yucay. The first day, we went to several villages in the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba and Pisac. We saw how the people lived in a kancha (condo) with dirt floors with guinea pigs running around inside. We shopped at the Wednesday market in Pisac, where we bargained for all kinds of crafts and gifts.
The next day, we took a train to Agua Caliente, the small village next to a river at the base of the mountain, then caught the shuttle bus by many switchbacks up to Machu Picchu. It was amazing! We spent hours walking through the ancient city, visiting the Sun Temple, the room of the 3 windows, the room with 2 mirrors that reflect the stars and universe, the 2-window temple and more. The construction made of granite rocks was precise and earthquake proof.
We took a train to Cusco, where we stayed for two days. Our hotel was near the main square and we had free time to walk around the old town to shop, eat and enjoy. Lois and I had guinea pig for lunch one day and we bought soft alpaca wool -Lois got a sweater and I got a scarf.
An all-day bus ride south took us to Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Our hotel was on the shores of the lake and the next day, we walked down to the pier where a boat was waiting to take us for the day’s adventure. The first stop was a floating island home of Uros Indians. Kantuta has 7 families on their little island with 7 houses. The head of this island is Nestor. Everything is made from Totora reeds which grow profusely in this area of the Lake. The island, their homes, their beds, their boats, are made from the reeds, which also can be eaten, used for medicine, and toilet paper and much more. We learned how they built and maintained their floating reed island and how they live. They took us on their reed boat to ride around to see other floating island villages in the area, and when we bid farewell, they sang us songs. It was the most fascinating and fun visit ever! Next, our boat took us to Taquile Island where we trekked up from the pier to the village and had lunch prepared by a native family. We had quinoa soup and trout with potatoes and rice. They also entertained us with song and dance.
The next day we flew to Lima where we had a half-day tour and free time to walk around and shop near our hotel. After a farewell dinner, it was time to go to the airport for our flights home.
I took the tour from New York so that I could visit Yvette and her family before and after the tour. I enjoyed being with the kids and even went to see The Color Purple on Broadway. We went to the Bronx Zoo, took the PATH across the Hudson River to Jersey City for Sunday brunch, and I gave Yvette and Erik a date night. We also had lovely picnics in the back yard with friends from Gateway complex where they live.

Lari’s Top Six:
6. The unique cuisine such as guinea pig and alpaca
5. People in our tour group
4. Villages in Sacred Valley
3. Cusco
2. Machu Picchu
1. Uros floating islands in Lake Titicaca

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Llama and their cousins Alpaca, who are smaller and provide soft wool for clothing.

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Our smarTour group at Machu Picchu.

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Guinea pigs are raised in their houses for food.

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Lois and I ate guinea pig for lunch in Cusco

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We are riding the train to Agua Caliente on the way to Machu Picchu.

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Here I am in Machu Picchu!

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Close-up of the genius construction that is earthquake proof.

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Cusco’s cathedral at the Plaza de Armes (main square) is composed of 3 churches

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The amazing floating islands of the Uros Indians are built from reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca.

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The island we visited had 7 families and 7 houses. This is the family I visited and I bought some of their crafts.

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They sang songs for us before we left their island.

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They took us on a boat that they made out of reeds and we saw other floating islands.

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We had a delicious lunch on Taquile Island. The family served us quinoa soup and trout for our lunch.

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Here is the family that served our lunch on Taquile Island. They also sang and danced to entertain us.

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This is the welcoming arch on Taquile Island.

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This is at the Sillustani Archeological Complex where they built funeary towers.

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I visited Yvette and her family in New York before and after Peru.

Posted October 1, 2016 by lariyasui in South America

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New Zealand in March 2016   1 comment

Presenting the latest episode of
“Hawaiians in New Zealand”
starring: Lari and Mary
February 22 to March 10, 2016

Mary Ann Kadooka and I are best friends since our freshman year in college at University of Hawaii.  She was my maid of honor and I was her matron of honor, but we had never travelled together before. When we decided to go to New Zealand together, we started planning our trip rather than take a tour. We discovered that we had similar interests and wanted to see virtually the same sites. So we each planned different parts of the trip, sharing the planning process, making reservations, etc.

We flew by Hawaiian Airlines to Auckland and spent one day just walking around town and going to the Sky Tower to see the views of the city by day and by night. We caught a ferry (at the suggestion of the girl at the visitor center) to Devonport Island. It was a delightful little island. We walked around and had lunch there.

The next day, we caught the bus to Waitomo Glow Worm cave for an adventure with Black Water Rafting. Instead of riding a boat into the cave, we wore wet suits and floated in the underground river on inner tubes. Part of the way we had to walk through the rocky stream and we also had to jump two small waterfalls with our tubes. It was so much fun! We caught a bus to Rotorua where we stayed for 3 nights in a motel close to the visitor center.

Rotorua is known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, as well as showcasing their fascinating Maori culture. The first day, we visited Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. We saw bubbling mud pools, pools of many different colors and Lady Knox geyser, which is “induced” by pouring soap into it’s mouth to make it bubble and shoot up. We also went to Hell’s Gate Spa, where we experienced hot mud bath spa treatments before going into the sulfur pool… very good for our health. We also enjoyed the Mitai Maori dinner show (similar to a Hawaiian luau) for tourists to be entertained.

We flew to South Island and stayed several days on the East coast of the South Island at Oamaru, where we took a bus outside of town to Moeraki Boulders, where huge spherical boulders are scattered along the beach; very strange and interesting! We saw the blue penguins come home to nest at night after feeding in the ocean all day long.

We took another bus to Dunedin, one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. The center of their town is called The Octagon, and we visited the wonderful and free Dunedin Public Art Gallery right on the Octagon. We also enjoyed the free Otago Botanic Garden, the Otago University campus, the Chinese Garden and the Otago Museum. We also did a full day tour which included a train ride through the Taieri Gorge in the morning and a van ride in the afternoon to the Otago Peninsula, with gorgeous views.

We rode the bus to our next destination, Te Anau, on the west side of South Island. We stayed at a lovely BnB, where we met Ed and Barbara from Philly at breakfast, and then we took the bus to Milford Sound. I was surprised that the bus ride had spectacular views with high mountains and many waterfalls. We arrived at Milford Sound and boarded the Milford Mariner with cabins for our overnight cruise. We were awed by more spectacular views on Milford Sound-so many waterfalls so very beautiful! We enjoyed the views in the evening and again in the morning.

After disembarking, we took a bus to Queenstown, the place for many different adventurous activities such as bungy jumping. We walked around the lovely Queenstown Garden, did some shopping, we rode up the Skyline gondola, the steepest gondola ride in the Southern Hemisphere up to Bob’s Peak overlooking Lake Wakatipu. We took TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Farm for a fabulous buffet dinner and to watch sheepdogs n sheep shearing. We loved the famous burgers at Fergburgers, where there is always a long line.

Ed and Barbara, from Philadelphia, who were staying in the motel next to us had a rental car, and they drove us on a day trip to Wanaka, and on the way, we stopped to watch bungy jumpers at AJ Hacket bungy, off the Kawarau Bridge. We had lunch and a lovely walk along Wanaka Lake. New Zealand is a beautiful, scenic place with no freeways and no huge crowds. We had a wonderful time in New Zealand, and loved the friendliness of the people and gorgeous scenery.

Lari’s Top Ten:
10 The beautiful gardens in each city
9 Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
8 Lovely scenery with cattle and sheep farms
7 Delicious food
6 The local beer
5 Moeraki Boulder beach
4 Taieri Gorge train ride and tour of Otago Peninsula
3  Mud bath spa at Hell’s Gate
2 Black Water Rafting in glowworm cave
1 Beautiful Milford Sound

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We spent a day in Auckland and went up on the Sky Tower and stood on the glass floor looking down 722 feet to the street level.

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We took a ferry to the island of Devonport.

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In Devonport, we strolled along the oceanside park path and went into the main part of town for lunch.

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We took a bus to Waitomo Glowworm Cave for our Black Water Rafting tour. We had to wear wetsuits and wetsuit socks and boots to keep us protected.

Each of us in the group posed at the beginning of the rafting tour, where we had to walk through the underground stream, float in our inner tubes and jump the waterfalls.

Here we are in the cave in a group photo.

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We stayed in Rotorua and enjoyed the night market.

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In Rotorua, we loved the mud spa treatments.

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At Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland the hot bubbling mud pool was so fascinating!

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At Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland the Lady Knox geyser has to be induced by adding soap into the opening before it starts to bubble and shoot up.

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At Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, this is the artist palette because it has many different minerals and colors.

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At Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, this bright yellow pool is called the Devil’s Bath.

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At the Mitai Maori Village, we had entertainment and a wonderful buffet dinner.

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We flew from Rotorua on the North Island to Christchurch on the South Island.

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We stayed in Oamaru on the east coast, where we watched the little blue penguins come out of the ocean to their nests at night.

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Just outside of Oamaru, we had to catch a bus to see the strange round Moeraki Boulders on the beach.

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Our next stop was to Dunedin, the lovely city settled by Scottish settlers. This is their beautiful train station.

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Our favorite in the Dunedin Botanic Garden was the rose garden.

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Baldwin Street in Dunedin is the steepest street in the world!

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On the Taieri Gorge Tour, we rode the train through beautiful scenery.

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On the Taieri Gorge Tour, we rode the train through beautiful scenery.

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We walked around through Dunedin to find street art like this one.

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After walking around town, we enjoyed cold Speight’s Beer.

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We loved the Chinese Garden in Dunedin.

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This bagpiper entertained in front of the train station.

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Milford and Doubtful Sounds are not really sounds, but fjords formed by glaciers in Fiordland National Park.

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We did not know that the bus ride to Milford Sound would be so scenic!

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Our bus to Milford Sound had roof windows to enjoy the views of mountains and waterfalls.

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We chose to do an overnight cruise on Milford Sound on the Milford Mariner.

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Milford Sound at different times of the day is just fabulous!

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Milford Sound at different times of the day is just fabulous!

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Milford Sound at different times of the day is just fabulous!

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Milford Sound at different times of the day is just fabulous! So many waterfalls to marvel at!

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In Queenstown, we rode the Skyline gondola for a fabulous view of the city!

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We rode the Skyline gondola for a fabulous view of Queenstown!

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The famous Fergburgers in Queenstown are a must! Yumm!

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At Queenstown Gardens we watched the ladies lawn bowling.

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We took the steamboat TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Farm for a fabulous buffet dinner and then watched sheep shearing.

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We watched bungy jumping at the Kawarau Bridge, but we did NOT jump!

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We enjoyed Queenstown a lot. This mall had many shops and restaurants to enjoy.

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In Cardrona, they had a fence full of bras for breast awareness.

Cuba and Miami in January 2016   2 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiian in Cuba”

starring: Lari

January 8 to 16, 2016

I decided that I wanted to go to Cuba before it changes with tourism opening there. So my friends, Marcus and Linda in Kansas City said they were going in December 2015, and I wanted to join their tour, but it was filled. I started looking for another tour and found Gate1 going from Miami in January, 2016, I asked a few traveling friends, who said no or had already been there, until Tom and Tyke from Fort Collins said they wanted to go with me. Yayy! Tom,Tyke, Marcus and Linda are part of “Roger’s Hiking Club” that met in Croatia 10 years ago. We named our group as such because they all knew that Roger hates to walk or hike, so it was all in fun.

So the tour started in Miami, and I booked two extra days there and contacted my friends Gary and Peggy from Orlando, to see if I could visit them, but they said it’s too far for me to drive, so they drove down to Miami, picked me up and I booked a nice AirBnB place for us three to stay in for 2 nights. It had two bedrooms, a bath, living room and a kitchen and was very convenient. We went to Fort Lauderdale to take a nice relaxing boat ride through all the fancy waterfront mansions, had lunch and that night we went to a wonderful Cuban restaurant for dinner. The adjacent bakery was a big hit with me and Peggy. The next day we drove down to Coral Gables and visited the Coral Castle built out of limestone/coral boulders by a very eccentric man from Latvia. They dropped me off at the airport hotel where the tour group was meeting.

We only had 3 days in Havana, but it was enough and the tour was less than $2000, including all meals, one night in Miami and the charter flight from Miami and back. There were 38 people on our tour and we met at the Crowne Plaza Miami Airport hotel for briefing. Being only 90 miles from the Florida coast, the flight to Havana was only 45 minutes long. The weather was not the best, with light rain on and off the entire trip. But the downpour was on the day we left, so we felt lucky. All of our meals were wonderful! They served mojitos before each lunch and dinner, with unlimited rum!

First day: the bus took us to Revolution Square, but everyone was fascinated when we saw the old cars parked next to the square. We took photos around the square, but mostly of the old cars. Then we drove along the Malecon, the highway along the ocean with a seawall where people hang out every night and the waves crash and splash over the wall. We had a fabulous lunch at El Literol right across the Malecon. We went to a cigar and rum shop to purchase our gifts to take home. We were allowed $100 in liquor and tobacco to take back to the states. So I bought $100 worth of cigars for my cigar-smoking friends here. Then we stopped to have margaritas at Floridita, where Hemingway used to hang out at the bar. After checking in to the hotel and a short rest, several members of the Old Style Car Club came to pick us up for dinner. We got to ride a red ’57 chevy convertible to dinner! After dinner, we went to San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, located in the municipality of East Havana, a UNESCO as World Heritage Site, where every night at 9 pm, a cannon goes off with a loud boom!

Second day: We spent the day in Old Havana, walking from St Francis Square to Army Square and to Cathedral Square. After lunch, we visited an art gallery barber shop owned by Pepito, who also started a barber school and a playground. For dinner we went to the Magic Flute on the 10th floor building next to the American Embassy. We had salsa lessons and a wonderful dinner there. Fun!

Third day: We drove outside of Havana to Santa Barbara Catholic Church, where they have a day care for toddlers and serve lunches to the elderly. We went to Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drinking spots, and also visited his home, where he lived for 21 years. After the tour, we enjoyed fresh squeezed cane juice and did a little shopping. After lunch, we went to “Fusterlandia,” the bizarre studio of artist José Rodriguez Fuster to see his amazing artwork all around with mosaics and even his neighbors’ homes were decorated in bright colors. His work is similar to Gaudi in Barcelona. After dinner, we went to Buena Vista Social Club night club show. It was very entertaining. The star was 80-year-old Tete Catura.

Last day: our flight back to Miami was delayed by 7 hours, so we spent 9 hours in the airport, which is very small and has hardly anything to eat… only ham and cheese sandwiches. People missed their connections in Miami, and had to stay overnight there and go home the next day. I had already reserved a motel near the airport, and so I checked to see if they had a room for Tom & Tyke, and the only room they had left was a suite for $150, so we reserved it. When we saw the room, we laughed so hard, because it was so raunchy with red lights, mirrors and a huge jacuzzi in the room. We all flew home the next day.

Lari’s Top Six:

6 Beautiful, old, and colorful architecture

5 Riding the red ’57 Chevy convertible

4 Salsa dancing lessons

3 Jose Fuster’s colorful home/gallery/studio

2 Pepito’s Art Gallery Barbershop and Barber School

1 Mojitos with every meal

*PHOTO CREDITS: Some of these photos are courtesy of Richard Brzeczek of Palm Beach, FL who has a fancy camera and graciously shared his photos with me.

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Gary & Peggy Gentry drove from Orlando to Miami and took me around the city to eat and play.

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Gary & Peggy took me to Fort Lauderdale on a relaxing boat ride along the waterways enjoying the lovely homes and huge yachts.

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We had Cuban dinner at Versailles, but wait! they also have a bakery! We could not resist…

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Coral Castle is a stone structure created by the Latvian American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin located in Leisure City, Florida.

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This bus took us all over Havana and more.

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The famous Malecón (officially Avenida de Maceo) is a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 8 km (5 miles) along the coast in Havana.

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Revolution Square was our first stop on the tour in Havana with Tom & Tyke from Fort Collins, CO.

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This was our first sight of the old cars at Revolution Square.

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Revolution Square

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Andrew, our tour director.

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They took us to a tobacco and liquor shop, where we all bought cigars and rum. We are allowed only $100 worth of both.

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I did not buy any rum, but just $100 worth of cigars for my friends back home.

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The Havana Old Style Car Club picked us up at our hotel to drive us to dinner at La Moraleja.

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Tom, Tyke and I chose a red ’57 Chevy convertible! It was so much fun to ride!

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana Plaza de Armas (army square) with book sellers.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana-Pepito’s barber shop art gallery.

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Old Havana -Pepito’s barber shop art gallery.

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Lari gives Liz a massage.

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Our local tour guide, is Iris in the middle enjoying sugar cane juice at Hemingway’s home.

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Hemingway house, where he lived and wrote books for 21 years

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Hemingway’s custom made boat was built in Brooklyn for $7,400 and sleeps 8.

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Salsa dance lessons were fun!

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Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas, at the northwestern edge of the Havana.

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Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas.

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Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas. He remade the neighborhood in his own image, so other houses on his street have his creations.

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While walking Old Havana, a cold coconut drink was in order! I was the first to get one, and I was finished when this photo was taken.

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Melia Cohiba Hotel Habana Club for Buena Vista Social Club fabulous show!

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Melia Cohiba Hotel Habana Club for Buena Vista Social Club fabulous show!

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Buena Vista Social Club: the star was 80-year-old Tete Catura.

 

Posted April 22, 2016 by lariyasui in South America

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