Snorkeling and diving in Komodo National Park is supposed to be excellent and that’s pretty much what we came for so N and I signed up for a day trip with a dive operator, popped our motion sickness pills and headed off early one morning on a big wooden double-decker boat with eight adults, three kids and a baby. We were immediately off to a good start as the boat got snagged on the anchor rope of another boat, and one of the staff had to go diving underneath to untangle us. So we sat there inhaling the acrid fumes from the boat’s engine and about fifteen minutes later we were off for real.
We met Kirsty and Emily, a British lesbian couple, who were the first British travelers we’ve gotten to know during our travels over the past year and a half. We shared travel tales and we realized that these 20-something kids were much more hardcore than us. For example, instead of going to Bukit Lawang on the Banana Pancake Trail which most people follow, they went to some remote remote area in Sumatra to see orangutans. While we were being carried up and down the mountain like royalty in a touristy area practically Justin Bieber-style because we can’t handle anything, they went on a more authentic experience by taking a tour on some rickety boat whose engine died halfway through on their way back. They were only saved by a passing boat which saw their captain waving a pole with a life jacket attached to the end of it. While we (I) would’ve spent the rest of our travel money extracting myself from that situation — via helicopter, G7, speedboat, or inflatable raft — and flown back to Tokyo in a traumatized daze, they kept calm and carried on (I had to use that somewhere in this post cuz you know, they’re Brits).
Besides them there were two quiet German guys who were snorkeling too, and a young globe-trotting Swiss family with a billion children (well, four). They were a hot mess even with two of the dive school’s staff on the boat to watch over the chirrens, and I wondered how they managed to travel around the world with their brood in tow. The kids immediately started tearing into bags of crackers and cookies, which they proceeded to stuff their faces with, spewing cookie crumbs and partially-masticated crackers all over the blankets laid out on the deck where we all sat. Not like a few crumbs here and there, but like a thin layer of them coating the floor. The parents didn’t seem to care, scooting all over the crumbs to talk to us and the German boys. My OCD was going out of control.
We got to our first snorkel/dive spot and N and I donned our masks and fins and watched scuba divers struggling awkwardly into their suits and equipment. Scuba diving reminds me of skiing but worse. There’s so much prep work needed before you actually go out and enjoy yourself. At least with skiing, you don’t have all these potentially life-saving computers and gear hanging off of you.
Sadly, Nara lives in the large shadow of its big sister Kyoto. Few people know that Nara was briefly once the capital of Japan for about 75 years, before it was moved to Kyoto (for over 1000 years) and finally to Tokyo in the mid 1800s. During its brief stint as the capital, Nara’s imperial family pushed for the spread of Buddhism into Japanese culture.
The impressive Todaiji Temple with its daibutsu (big Buddha) and Kofukuji Temple with its famous Ashura statue (among others) is a testament to just how hard the artisans and builders worked to create something awe-inspiring to attract potential worshippers. Todaiji is one of the very few temples we’ve come across that allows photography of their religious statues so don’t forget your camera!
Storm King Art Center is a must see in the New York area. It’s about 1 hour north of NYC by car and a perfect day-trip for anyone who enjoys art and wants to get away from the city. They have bike rentals which is a great way to get around this massive art center and you can also bring your own food and have a nice picnic while admiring the awesome artwork. Storm King is only open from the beginning of April until the end of November because of the weather but it would be pretty cool to see it in the winter with a fresh coat of snow. We went in the summer and it was stinking hot but still worth it. They have trams that pick up lazy people like us.