2014.04.20 - Ingerlise & Japan

Family visit and a hot trip to Japan!

The main theme of this entry is my cousin's visit, but I will start elsewhere. After the successful latin party, Paula got the idea to arrange a lunch for the same latinos at the King's Meal restaurant at the Youngnam Alps foothills. There was quite a turnout and 8 cars met at the Santevill apartments to drive in convoy to the restaurant a good hour's drive away. It's not an easy place to find, so most had opted for the convoy-option. The traffic was heavy but we made it through downtown OK. A couple of cars joined us there so we lost track of how many we were. In any case there was no chance of keeping track of them all. And true enough - two cars were missing when we got to the restaurant! In the end everybody made it, but for some it was a two-hour drive instead of 1 hour!

At the King's meal restaurant. Miriam on the phone trying to guide Romy and Pierre who lost the tail of the convoy

At the tea house after the meal - Andres, Jose, Valdemar, Paula and Suni

On April 7th Ingerlise, Matthias and Lisa arrived to Ulsan on Matthias' birthday. They did well and appeared to be without even just slight jet-lag. Lucky buggers ! I gave them a short tour of the mountains before dropping them off at home. Then I was off back to work. In the evening we stayed at home - waiting for the jet-lag which never came!

Next day Paula showed them the beaches, the playgrounds and the supermarkets. In the late afternoon we had invited a few of our neighbours over for a short celebration of Ingerlise's 50th birthday. And then off to Grappa for dinner. It may not have been the most spectacular 50th but bigger things were to come.....

Ingerlise and Lisa at Ulsan airport

Thursday morning we flew to Fukuoka, Japan. Transferred to the domestic airport where we picked up the wireless router for the rental car ... and the rental car of course. We got our own little Nissan Cube for the next 4 days. Matthias is a taxi driver back home and he was keen on some lefty driving. After a few initial adjustments he was a lefty natural! We headed towards Beppu and decided to stop for lunch at Hita. Not a bad call as we happened across the town river dressed in pink.

In Hita


After a bowl of Ramen and a stroll around town we continued to Yufuin for an ice cream stop under the looming Yufu mountain. Yufuin is a quaint little spa town - less bustle than Beppu which was going to be our overnight stop. Paula and I had been to Beppu before and although it wasn't our favorite place, a good hotel and public spa made it worth a return visit. After checking in to the hotel we left in search of the beach and a beer. We found the beach but were not so lucky with the beer. Just looking the wrong places. Around the hotel would have been better although I am not sure it would be fit for 6-year olds ! Red light district.... But we did find a fantastic sushi place. I mean ... really fantastic!

Yufuin and Mt Yufu in the background

Ahh ... sushi!

The hotel had three private spas that the guests can book. We got one each for what should have been an easy "warm-up" for our next destination, but it was no gentle initiation ! At 42 degrees the water was too warm for both Paula and Lisa, so they had to make do with a foot spa and a rinse!

Ahh .... hot spa !

Well fed and well bathed Paula and I went out to search for a sake bar. Thursday evening apparently wasn't one of the busy days but we did eventually find a good small bar where we got talking to the local drunks. It's great fun - in these small bars it is impossible not to meet the locals. With limited English on their part and even more limited Japanese on our, it always make for interesting conversations!

We got an early start next morning and headed for Harmonyland - to us known as Hello Kitty Land. Guess who was excited???!!!

Who's happy to be going to see Hello Kitty ??

And who is even happier??

Been waiting for this for a looong time

From the ferris wheel

Lisa got to dance in the parade.

On the boat trip

After spending a half a day with Hello Kitty and her friends, we headed towards the small mountain spa village of Kurokawa. Arriving at 5pm we just had time for a quick check-in and a dip before an amazing 12-course dinner. There were a lot of interesting things on the table (at least for Ingerlise and Matthias) but we got through it all with pleasure. Well, I had to eat most of the raw horse meat - not so popular with the rest. After dinner Paula and I went for a small photo session in the amazing hotel grounds. This is a really special place. The day was rounded off in our private stone spa .... what more can you ask for ??

Next morning Paula and I tried out what we expected to be a mixed spa (most of the spas are gender specific) - I think we got it wrong but it didn't really matter as we were the only ones there. Then breakfast (I think Matthias was struggling even though he by now mastered the chopsticks) and another spa before departure. Had to get the most out of our time there!

Our private spa - in our room!

Sanga ryokan

Just such a pretty little place

Dressed for dinner

The mixed (mens) outdoor spa

The family spa - we were not supposed to wear swim suits but how did we know ?!

We had a little wander around the village. Just enough to get us really interested. This little gem is now on our radar and I would not be surprised if we return one day. After an hour on the road we reached the Aso Caldera (volcanic depression). Unfortunately it was overcast with poor visibility so we couldn't really see the volcanos in the middle of the depression. Aso is apparently the biggest caldera in the world, so no wonder. Instead we drove up to one of the craters to get a closer look. The crater is pretty big and although not spewing lava and rocks, this sure didn't look like a dormant volcano.


Aso caldera

Aso colcano - notice the falling-rock-shelters

Aso crater

Check out the yellow sulphur.

From Aso we pretty much went straight for Nagasaki - with an unplanned detour through Saga. We wanted a shortcut but got a lot of small streets and traffic. And a rather uninteresting town by the looks of it. Nagasaki on the other hand ... even though it was our second time there and it was raining, we still loved it. We somehow managed to come across one bar we had visited 5 years ago.Pure chance - all of a sudden Paula and I just looked at each other and said: we know this place! Made ourselves a few new friends, as one does on sake bars (or in this case - shochu bars).

Next morning Ingerlise and Matthias went to the A-bomb museum while Lisa joined Paula and I at the Peace Museum. Not really a museum at all, it took us about 5 minutes from we entered until we left again. In those 5 minutes the rain had really picked up and had us running like crazy for the tram. Got off at the covered walking street and walked straight to the 100 yen shop where we filled up on Hello Kitty :-)

Nagasaki by night

"Our" shochu bar

Soon it was time to return to Fukuoka and Ulsan. Much too soon, but at least we had a really good time (as always) in Japan.

Tuesday I took half a day off and drove up to GyeongJu with Ingerlise, Matthias and Lisa. First stop at the Tumuli park - a park with huge tombs close to the town centre. There were kids everywhere. Thousands. Next stop was not so crowded - Bomun lake. Great for Lisa so she had a bit more space to practise her driving!

The tumuli park in GyeongJu. Sooo many children

Lisa drives the same car as her dad!

Last stop was crowded again - the temple Bulguksa. Unfortunately there was a lot of renovation going on, so many of the temple buildings were covered in scaffolding. Didn't stop us from enjoying the great 29 degree spring weather though. The way home was made interesting by a mountain shortcut I took. Not sure Matthias enjoyed it - Lisa didn't notice it from behind her Ipad but Ingerlise appeared to be enjoying the very bumpy mountain road. It got us there in any case and it got us home in time for Mexican!


Wednesday the visitors left for Seoul and Friday for Denmark. It was really good to see them out here and I hope they enjoyed their vacation as much as we enjoyed having them here.

Yesterday we went back to the Kings meal with Mike, Pheobe and Bart. It is the only Korean restaurant that I can truly say I enjoy. Both the scenery and the food. Then back to Ulsan for coffee and ice cream at ice bene, as Mike says. We call it Icebean. A couple of bike rides, burger at Burger Mugger (Mike and Pheboe are following us, I think), Icebean again with Agnieszka, Michal, Robert and Dawn and tonight Captain America at the Arts center.

Back at the King's Meal restaurant with Phoebe, Mike and Bart.

Check out the full resolution pictures below (Flickr making it difficult for me to integrate good resolution pictures in the text):