7-13 March 2012 ~ Another season, another experience in Okinawa!
My friends describe me as a ‘bird without legs’ (hahahaa), I never seem to be able to settle down in one place for too long. I simply can’t see the reason to tie myself down and live for the purpose of living, rather I much prefer a life to do things that I enjoy and being around people I enjoy the company of. From my point of view, I ‘leave for the purpose of returning’ and seeing the world with my own eyes, meeting making friends with the local in person.
Erica, one of my very good friends from University and I have been talking about a trip together for a very long time but we never managed to go on holidays at the same time. Here comes our chance, to enjoy a week by ourselves in Okinawa – a place well known for the beautiful sun, clear waters and lovely weather (I would advise anyone who intends to pay Okinawa a visit to check the weather and make sure you don’t go during winter, it gets very windy – it’s an island – and almost 90% of the time its gloomy).
We didn’t think too much about the weather because we were planning on renting a car – Okinawa being an island so public transports is rather inconvenient, especially so for travelling to more rural areas. There was a tiny part of me that hoped for a dip in the clear water (which didn’t happen because it was soooooo cold!) but I was warned by a few friends that it’s either going to be cool or cold so I went prepared.
We drove to pretty much everywhere after picking up our car on the 2nd day, it was nice to drive again – and to know that I can still sit behind the wheels comfortably after 4 years of ‘public transports’ only. Driving in Japan is actually a very relaxing task, local drivers – even truck and taxi drivers – are very polite and nice as in they would let you cut in front of them if you signal and rarely hits the horn if you go too slow. The best thing is the speed limit, all the limit signs are really clear and obvious but funniest thing I’ve realised is no one really take them into account, especially in rural areas. For example, the speed limit in the city is 40km or 50km but no doubt people were driving at 60km or more. And on highways towards the mountains, legally we were to drive at 60 or 70 but ask yourself, who would drive 60km on a highway, so you can’t really blame them for doing 100km on a highway that doesn’t have any cars.
Unlike the trip to Kyushu, we set off a little later for several reasons. One because we don’t sleep until late, and we’d be driving the next day and also we don’t want to be stuck in traffic so we try to avoid peak hours (not that there are a lot of cars anyway). Then there’s also the flexibility of time when you don’t have to keep track of the train timetable.
We visited some historical sites, saw some nice scenaries, did some shopping, ate a lot of good food! Being an island, Okinawa has access to a various type of seafood, how can we say ‘no’. We had lobsters, sashimi, sea urchins and many others but there’s only one thing that can only be found (and served fresh) in Okinawa and the Philippines, Umi Budo - it a type of seaweed and the name literally translates itself into Sea Grapes which describes the appearance, they do look like tiny grapes on a vine. They are eaten fresh, with vinegar or in a salad, its crunchy texture makes it a really good snack too. Being rare to find and its exquisite taste, the prices are in general high but it’s more expensive to purchase overseas, so we managed to fit it in every meal
Bitter melon is another food that is popular in Okinawa, somehow it’s not as bitter as the ones we usually find and it’s very tasty when stir-fried with eggs and pork. Japanese being a very innovative group of people, they also invented bitter melon ice cream, snacks, juice and tea. All-in-all, bitter melon is very good for health too, it can regulate your blood pressure and cholesterol level, and has a magical effect on pimples.
Apart from just eating, we also went and made sea salt and a ceramic cup, we wanted badly to try making glasses too but we didn’t have enough time. Making sea salt was really easy if you can remember chemistry class from high school shaping and finishing a ceramic cup was trickier but it was nice to do something hands-on
Overall, it was a very relaxing 7 days. The weather sort of held – it was gloomy and sprinkled a little but there was no storm or heavy rain which I already consider as a blessing.
Hotel #1: Hotel Oranjour Okunawa - a very nice hotel at a very good location with a very small carpark (but there are other parkings nearby). Only 20mins walk from the International Street and markets with cheap seafood
Hotel #2: Chisun Resort Okinawa - it was a little old and has nothing nearby, but it was close to the aquarium and the beach!