(Note: This blog post will be a bit more terse, since there is so much to cover)
January the first dawned cold and clear. We were in Hiroshima, and decided to visit the Atomic Bomb Museum, as it is unofficially known. The museum is very tasteful and respectful, while also being informative, and promoting the worthy idea of global nuclear disarmament. Outside the museum is the Peace Memorial Park, which also incorporates the iconic A-bomb dome, the building closest to the blast that remained standing (barely), largely due to the bomb actually exploding above it. A very sobering way to start 2013.
After staying in Osaka for a few days the original plan for our Japan trip was always to go travelling. Our Japan Rail Passes were burning in our pockets, ready to take us from city to city in Japan, unlimited train travel for seven days in Japan, no reservations necessary. Thus we had only a slight idea about the next days. We did though have a hotel in Hiroshima for New Year’s Eve, so on the 31st of December, we checked out of our capsule hotel and donned backpacks, ready for a day of travel.
From the Philippines, we flew to Osaka, arriving around midday at Kansai International Airport, built on an artificial island in the bay. Getting off the plane, it was immediately noticeable that the temperature was lower than in the Philippines. Despite wanting to escape winter by going to Singapore for a year, I had managed to find it anyway, by travelling north. Luckily I had a windbreaker and jumper ready, and later got myself a hat and scarf from a “Tiger of Copenhagen” we happened to pass by. Tiger in Japan seems to be slightly upmarket. Ironic twist on the original concept. (Tiger in Danish is a play on the pronunciation of tenner, i.e. 10 kroner, around two Singapore dollars.)
The Philippines is a big place, and it would be a waste of time staying in Manila for the entirety of our stay, so we took an overnight bus from Manila to Banaue on the evening of the 14th of December. The original plan was for Janelle and one of her friends to join, but unfortunately that did not work out. The bus was horribly cold, but otherwise uneventful, and upon arriving in Banaue, around 350 kilometres north of Manila, we were met by our guide for the next few days, by the name of Irene.