Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Last day in Kobe

Our vacation in Japan is almost at an end! Our company has an office in Akashi - not too far from Kobe - and Ajey wanted to take the opportunity to go see the facility. That meant that the last day was a Girls Day Out! Of course, Ajey was fully convinced that Manasi and I would spend the entire day lolling in our hotel - and very honestly, I will admit that the idea did appeal to me - it had been quite the week so far! Fortunately, an unanticipated snag almost forced us out of the hotel - the air-conditioning anywhere in Japan isn't turned on until the government says so - save the environment and all that!! So our room with it's gorgeous view turned into a veritable furnace by 9am!! We had been leaving quite early on all previous days, so we hadn't noticed this teeny detail!!

Well, in any case, Manasi and I were out of the hotel - all ready to explore! Manasi got to pick where to go - she had behaved so well all week long, she deserved a day of fun - and it was Kobe's famous Oji zoo that she chose to go to! It wasn't too far from our hotel, and the weather was a mild - so we decided to walk! And this was kind of funny - after a week of me gushing over every possible cherry blossom that we saw, minutes from our hotel was the most beautiful sakura ever!!! No seriously, this was better than anything I had seen/admired/photographed so far!! So glad we decided to walk!!

The walk was actually a bit longer than anticipated - and I had just started wondering if we were headed in the right direction - but there it was, Oji Zoo!! I'm always a little conflicted when it comes to zoos - on one hand, there's the whole PETA and animal abuse thing, on the other, well, it's a zoo - a fun place to spend time with a child!! And Oji Zoo is surely one of the 'better' zoos - you can see the attempts to actually place the animals in natural seeming habitats! Anyway, Manasi and I spent the next couple of hours animal gazing - starting with the brightly colored and extremely loud macaws, past the majestically lazy big cats - and the whole wide animal kingdom in between!! A really, really good collection - my favorite was the koala - hadn't really seen one before - how cute is that little face!! Wish we had packed a lunch - could have enjoyed a picnic under the sakura like so many others!!!

We took the bus back to the hotel - neither of us really wanted to walk all that way again! Manasi had such a good time at the zoo, that she agreed to come to the Nunobiki Herb Garden with me! Bit of a story to that excursion - our hotel backed up to Kobe's famous Mt. Rokko, and for the past 4 days, every time we left the hotel, I would signs of a cable car to the Herb Gardens. To be honest, I could care less about the Herb Gardens, but cable cars are irresistible!! I had been trying to convince Ajey that we needed to go up the mountain - no luck!! So when Manasi agreed, I was really happy!! I had an idea of taking the cable car up, and then walking down the trail - didn't realize that it was a good 3-4 hour hike, even downhill! So cable car both ways!!

Going up, really wonderful views of the Nunobiki waterfall and what looked like a dam? - have to look that one up! At the top was a leisurely walk to 4 huge glass greenhouses - along the way were beautiful flowerbeds - I'm sure the variety would be of great interest to any avid gardener! The greenhouses were really artistically arranged too - a very pleasing, soothing effect. And of course, not to forget the viewing terrace with the whole of Kobe-shi sprawled at the base of the mountain - breathtaking!! It was so relaxing that we ended up staying longer than we had planned - and almost reluctantly we headed back! It had been such a while since I had spent an entire day with Manasi - and it was so much fun, listening to her chatter away, make silly faces at the camera!! She's growing up so fast - days like these are an absolute treasure!!

We met Ajey and AD for dinner - another long walk to get to the restaurant!! For our last dinner in Japan - again, an Indian place called Madras Kitchen - but the food was probably the best we had eaten all week!! The crisp dosas and fiery Chicken Chettinad brought back fond memories of Chennai. They even had an instruction pamphlet on 'How to eat your dosa' - priceless!! Would highly recommend this place to all visitors to Kobe! They even have a Facebook page - believe it or not!!

Last ride on the JR - getting to the Osaka airport - even after a week, still amazed at how easy this train system is!! This vacation had been a little longer than most - and we enjoyed every moment!! Of course, after all that walking, there's a foot massage with my name written all over it in Suzhou!! Japan - Land of the Rising Sun - thanks for the wonderful memories!!

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