Long Weekend in Hakone & Tokyo

On a long weekend in October, my mom and I decided to get away to Hakone, where we spend a relaxing days before heading to Tokyo to meet my dad and brother. 

Hakone is a prefecture just a thirty minute train ride outside of Tokyo. After arriving at the train station, we drove through winding roads until we reached a point much deeper and higher in the mountains.

Hakone is known for its hot springs or "onsen" in Japanese. They are mineral-rich volcanic waters that do wonders for the mind and body. My mom and I enjoyed an incredibly restful few days there, drinking green tea between onsen, visiting Lake Ashi, and eating delicious food (soba is the Hakone specialty). I felt incredibly at peace, and for once, time seemed to move at a manageable pace. 

We then made our way back down the mountain, hopped on a train and found ourselves in the ever intriguing Tokyo. 

This was my second visit, and proved my theory that you always have to visit somewhere at least twice. The first time I visited, there was just too much to do and to much to eat, but this time, I allowed myself more flexibility and kept my feet on the ground. 

I absolutely lost my mind visiting the Pokemon Mega Center at Sunshine City. I enjoyed the best sushi in the world at a location I'm going to keep secret, and the most amazing fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza at a Pizza Bar, courtesy of a half-Japanese, half-Italian chef (sorry to break it to you, but it definitely beats Dominoes). 

I really enjoyed my visit and highly recommend the Hakone-Tokyo pairing if you get the chance to visit. 

Hong Kong

Just a 4-hr flight from Seoul, I visited Hong Kong for a short but incredibly fun weekend.

If I were to live in Hong Kong or anywhere close enough that I could visit, I wouldn't have to leave Asia. It's the perfect mix of East and West, nature and city, international and local, all in one place. 

All the food was so good. I had everything from Cantonese to Thai to Indian to ice cream in a fruit-loop marshmallow-coated cone to a dim sum brunch.

Although it's a bustling city, Hong Kong is also teeming with nature and hikes with some incredible views (I did Dragon's Back). 

In terms of nightlife, I went out in Lan Kwai Fong, known as LKF to locals, where all the bars and clubs are conveniently all in area for seamless shenanigans. Both nights ended with pizza, so I would consider that pretty seamless and successful.

I sometimes forget that life exists outside of my own experiences, but the world is so big, full of people I have yet to meet and adventures I have yet to go on. I met some incredibly kind, welcoming, and global people this past weekend, and I think this is just the beginning of some new, wonderful adventures together with friends, old and new.

Tokyo

A benefit of living in Seoul, or Asia for that matter, is that we get a few days off for Chinese New Year. My family and I took full advantage of this and flew just two hours east to Tokyo.

I had avoided going for a while because my anxious self was afraid that there would be lingering radiation from the Fukushima leak, but people continue to live and breathe normally there, so I figured, YOLO. 

Perfection is the standard in Japan, from the architecture to the hospitality to, most importantly, the food. It felt like every bite I took was a masterpiece in itself, as if the chefs had prepared every flavor and temperature and texture to hit me in the most magical way. 

We went to a casual izakaya (Japanese version of a gastropub), a 220 year-old soba restaurant, a non-traditional Italian restaurant, and a restaurant specializing in tempura, an art that I had not been aware of until that meal. 

After returning home from four glorious days of inundating myself with some of the best food in the world, I found myself at our dining table with my parents, staring at my pathetic bellpeppers (I was attempting to be healthy and make up for my Tokyo food blackout). They told me that I had barely seen – or eaten – anything yet.

I can't help but hope that I find myself back in Tokyo, walking along the unfathomably clean streets with the fresh air and the salty water around us, eating breakfast at the fish market and wandering around this strange but wonderful city again soon. 

Busan

While Seoul may appear to be the heart and soul (see what I did there?) of South Korea, wander to the southern tip and you'll find yourself in the second largest city Busan. 

Only a 2 1/2 hour train ride from Seoul, it's known for its matjip 맛집 (literal translation: tasty house) aka delicious food, strong dialect, fresh air, and ocean.

It's not so much tropical as it is a refreshing getaway. It was the perfect weekend trip for me and my mom. We stayed at the Westin Chosun, a very nice, no-nonsense hotel with ocean views. My mom and I spent our time walking along the beach, the cliffs, and the streets of Busan, filling in the gaps with some wonderful meals and much needed rest.