Friday, September 30, 2011

Orange County: 1

I was in the OC this past weekend for a wedding. It will probably be my last chance to wear anything summery.

Jacket: thrifted
Shirt: thrifted
Pants: H&M
Shoes: thrifted
Pin: from the Louisiana Museum in Denmark (hair clip worn as lapel pin)
Tote: fromt he Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo, Norway

Of course, the first thing I have to do in OC, is smoke a cigar while having Coffee Bean.

Location: Fountain Valley, CA

The best hot dogs in Iceland

Normally, when I travel abroad I don't like to preselect restaurants. I think that is the best way to miss out on randomly finding a awesome hole-in-the-wall joint, and swapping that fateful experience for an unmemorable travel-guide-inspired one.
That being said, there is no way I can pretend that I randomly stumbled upon B├Žjarins Beztu Pylsur. I read about it in numerous travel guides and blogs.
Fortunately Reykjavik is a small enough city that finding a tiny red hot dog stand was no problem at all.

This particular day, my boyfriend was home sick while I was out at Kolaporti├░ flea market and I decided on a whim to bring back two hotdogs for us to share. Despite being the last of about thirty tourists in line, I was served in under five minutes.

It was pouring rain, so I held the umbrella between my neck and shoulder, grabbed the hot dogs with one hand, and with another took pictures.

This picture really doesn't so a justice. There are about six more ingredients in between the hot dog and bun: mustard, some kind of cheese-wiz, fried onions, a ketchup-like substance...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Part 3: Bathroom bilss

If you're confused, you ought to go back to Part 1. Then check out Part 2.
March 6, 2005

So here's what jet lag does to you: it makes you have a NORMAL sleep schedule.
Last night Jon and I went to the hot tub. Let me just say that the hot tub is too good for a two platonic friends to enjoy....

So we went to bed around 9:00 that night and woke at 5:30 am. One hour before our alarm was supposed to go off. We then watched some Japanese TV and I saw a chindren’s show about a turnip that played the tambourine. We also tried to set the alarm on the TV, but it was in was the remote. 
Then I got ready. See, in our ryokan we have shared bathrooms. You might think that sucks, but it is actually quite cool because you get to talk to all the people in the morning as they get ready. So here I am doing my hair while I talk to this couple from Hong Kong and a really awesome Swedish chick. She was talking about the club last night and apparently she had just gotten home. Jonathan really enjoyed the shared bathrooms because for once, he gets to hang out with the girls in the bathroom. We are going clubbing on Thursday night with the Swedish girl and her friend. This is going to be one hell of a trip. I am headed out to my Buddhist meeting in Shinjuku and then for Goth Day at Harajuku!

Next: Part 4!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Coast with the most

Made a trip to the Oregon coast this past weekend in preparation for a long coast-less winter...

Men's vest: thrifted from Phoenix, Arizona
Top: H&M
Pants: H&M
Shoes: Target

Monday, September 26, 2011

Part 2: After the lights go out

A continuation of Part 1. 

March 5, 2005

So I just got back from Macudonarudosu (McDonald's) with Jonathan. My teriyaki burger was delicious. I even ordered correctly in Japanese...sort of. Did you know that in Japan French fries are called "potatoes." That’s just weird to me.

Well, the street is very beautiful at night and it is very cold but I am so excited that my adrenaline keeps me warm. While at Macudonarudosu we discovered that it is illegal to smoke on the street but smoking in the restaurant is okay. So there we are in McDonald's and Jonathan pulls out a cigarette. I took a picture. Where else can you smoke in a McDonalds?

In America, Jonathan was not even old enough to buy cigarettes. 
We also met a cool German guy who explained to us that they don't give free refills on drinks in Japan, or in Germany for that matter. I feel like a greedy American.

Along our way we discovered a Pachinko Parlor. Pachinko is a Japanese version of gambling. It is just like that sloth machines in Las Vegas only slightly different. You must be 20 years old to play Pachinko but Jonathan and I just walked in and nobody cared. Jonathan says it is because he has a beard that they think he is older. We brought back a teriyaki burger for Yuki. She is so great. In fact our whole ryokan is like a giant family. Because it is so small there is very much contact between guests and the hostess. There are many British people in our ryokan. We are all going to have breakfast tomorrow morning.

Yes, I'm doing the shocker. When I was 17, that was the cool and funny thing to do, especially in Japan, where nobody knew what it meant.

As for now, I have to get ready to go to the ryokan Jacuzzi. Jonathan and I reserved it for 8:00. Take that!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The most un-Icelandic dress

I bought this vintage floral summer dress in Iceland, which is ironic because it never gets above 50 degrees in Iceland. And don't get me started on the color.

Dress: vintage, from Reykjavik
Top: Guess (from like, 10 years ago?!)
Bag: Self made, Fall 2010 Collection
Shoes: thrifted

Part 1: We Made It!

As I was organizing  some old files from my travels, I remembered that I kept a Livejournal while I was in Japan in 2005. At that time,  I was a senior in high school with almost three years of Japanese under my belt and no desire to go to Cancun for spring break. 
 I saved up money from my part-time job for almost a year so that I could buy the plane ticket to  Tokyo. This entire journal was written over a ten-day period, mostly from the public computer in the lobby of a traditional Japanese inn. Because of these circumstances, the entries were written in haste, with spelling and grammar complete forgone.

I left this text in its original format in order to preserve its authenticity. Although it is not particularly eloquent, nor does it necessarily represent my current thoughts or feelings, it is a honest account of a my first real experience abroad. When I read through it, I can vividly recall the earnest hopefulness I carried with me on my journey. 

Thus, this is a relic of my first self-supported solo traveling adventure. In other words, this is where it all began....

March 5th, 2005

I am typing this entry from the computer in my ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). It is amazingly lovely here. Just to see the signs in Japanese and ride on the opposite side on of the road brings me wonderful memories. My passions for this city have already been restored and I have only been here for three hours. Jonathan (my platonic best friend– UPDATE: who is now openly gay - that's worth noting later in the journal) is up in the room unpacking. I am so happy and relaxed but it was quite a journey to get here...

First of all, the airport line was insanely long. While Jonathan and I waited in the line we decided to review the list of items that American Airlines had instructed us NOT to bring.
Such items included:
  • A car battery
  • a red neck lighter
  • fire works
  • Bacardi
  • Guns
  • A leaf blower
  • spray paint
  • Clorax bleach
  • cooking oil
  • Drano
  • Lysol

Who even thinks of bringing such things on an airplane? However, Jonathan was pretty pissed that he could not bring his Axe spray, cause after a thirteen-hour flight, you must imaging he would be pretty musty...

The flight wasn't so bad after my Dramamine kicked in. I fell asleep for about four hours and spent the rest of the time watching the interesting people on the plane. There was a really cute little Asian baby sitting next to me, and since we were flying to Japan I figured she would be Japanese.
I started speaking to her mother in Japanese and she just looked at me and said in English, "We're Chinese."
"Ooops, ha, ha...uh…just kidding."

So then I  spent some time noticing a dapper gentleman on the plane. He was reading this queer looking book entitled "Whatsoever Things are Lovely," and one of the chapters in the book was called "Dayspring." If that isn't gay then I don't know what is.
That is all I remember from the flight. That and Jonathan yelled "Fuuuuuck!!!!!" in his sleep. And I had a strange dream that our plane landed in Calcutta instead of Tokyo. Well it's over anyway. I'm here and that's the point.

The arrival gate; our first view of Japan.

After getting off the plane we went to meet Amasawa-san and Iho Chan (family friends) but we could not find them. Jonathan hoped that they would be carrying a sign with our names on it but that didn't exactly happen. We looked for like, 30 minutes. Then we asked the airport ladies to page them. Then Jonathan came on to the airport ladies by asking, "So what are you fine ladies doing after work tonight?" This is going to be a long trip.

Mrs. Amasawa driving on the opposite side of the road.

Well, we found Amasawa-san and Iho-chan (After 45 minutes and no dates with the airport ladies) and they drove us to our ryokan. I was surprised to find it in a relatively quiet part of Tokyo. We are somewhat wedged in between several stores on a very tiny street of the Meiji Dori. Our ryokan is quite lovely though. As a traditional Japanese inn we have no beds, but we sleep on tatami mats. Our ryokan is a mixture of modern architecture juxtaposed with traditional antiques which makes for a visually pleasing appearance. Our room is small and dimly lit, but it has a true Japanese feel to it.

Our hotel room. It's hard not to make a mess in a 10ft by 5 ft space.

After preparing our room we had tea with the hostess of the ryokan, Yuki. She is very friendly and her English is almost perfect. In appearance and manner she reminds me of my old friend Kana, so I feel very comfortable speaking to her. That kind of service would never happen in an American hotel. I am about to go walking around Taito-ku (our location within the city) and find a Makudonarudosu (McDonalds.) Teriyaki burger here I come! And so begins my journey...

Continue Part 2 here. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hakarl: Put it in me

Oh Hakarl. I first heard of the legendary fermented  shark about three months before I left for Iceland.
"Hey, are you going to try hakarl in Iceland?"
"What? Who's Carl?"

I soon learned that this Icelandic delicacy has been voted countless times  as the worst food in the world. Hakarl is basically a poisonous Greenland shark that is gutted and buried in gravel for 3-6 months before being consumed. I read numerous accounts of Hakarl sampling before my trip:

Needless to say, the hype was high and I was super excited to be inexplicably grossed out. However, from what I gathered I had little chance of being offended by this odious dish. First, I love fermented things (i.e. kimchi, fish sauce, natto), so why not fermented shark? Second, I love seafood in general. I've eaten all kinds of weird sea creatures in Asia, (not to mention endangered whale in Japan - sorry, it was delicious!) Third, I tend not to mind anything as long as it isn't alive when I put it in my mouth (oysters an exception).  So I pretty much entered into this whole experience thinking that the planet is just of a bunch of wussies and that I am more than capable of handling hakarl.

The next matter of affairs involved location. Where does one find hakarl? Is something so foul really served in major restaurants? After reading Meemalee's blog on Hakarl, I thought there was not better place to sample the dish than the quaint, grandma's attic-style cafe, known as Cafe Loki.

Below is Cafe Loki's Icelandic Braveheart plate. On the top is a dried fish jerky with butter, to the right is hakarl, accompanied by two different kinds of Icelandic bread with butter. In the center is a tall shot of Brennevin, a strong alcohol that is served with hakarl to wash down the unpleasant taste.

A closeup of hakarl. Looks harmless enough...maybe even a little...cute?

Brennevin aka "black death." Even the shot glasses in Iceland wear Icelandic sweaters.

As the final moment approached I remembered my father's words before I left.
"I don't trust that shark. Let the man try the hakarl know...just in case."

Hakarl vs J: Game on!

When asked off camera why he was not so repulsed by hakarl, he simply said, "Eh, I'm Chinese."

Hakarl vs. Calliope: roooound two!

So what does hakarl taste like? Well, there are many elaborate and poetic descriptions online, but I thought I give a more palpable account. 
At first, hakarl doesn't taste like anything. Imagine sashimi (that's the fish on top of sushi). It has the exact same texture as raw fish, with practically no taste at all. At this point, you may find yourself disappointed, because you thought hakarl would be awful from the second it hits your tongue. Not so. Ah, but then you start chewing it, and man is it chewy. Then you swallow it. Everything seems find, until you're hit with an overpowering waif of ammonia. It's like you left sashimi in a bath of cleaning fluid, then forgot you did that, and put it in your mouth, only to realize what you've done once it's too late. 
THAT is what hakarl tastes like.

All in all, it was not an unpleasant experience.
If we can do Harkarl, so can you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hearts and bows

Dress: H&M
Bag: Self-made, Fall 2010 Collection
Shoes: thrifted

Icelandic sweaters

Ok, on the airplane to Reykjavik, I'm watching this 20 minute documentary narrated by a cute Icelandic woman. The video covers all the major sightseeing spots in Iceland's capital, as well as several quirky facts about the country I'm about to enter. As our narrator merrily skips about the magical city, she's donning a traditional Icelandic sweater.

Icelandic sweater? I didn't even know such a thing existed. Of course, our narrator did not fail to mention the novelty of her Iceland sweater, and where you can purchase it in Reykjavik (as if they're hard to find). She talked about how popular the sweater is, and how everyone in Iceland wears one.

Really. Everyone?

I was certain that this was a pawn to get tourists to purchase the sweater...until I arrived in Iceland.

EVERYONE was wearing that damn sweater. No seriously, it must have been 2 out of every 5 people. I was shocked. I decided that maybe the sweater really did have cultural significance.

They even make sweaters for babies!

Icelandic sweaters are a tad on the pricey side. One sweater could easily cost between $200 and $400. I ended up not buying one mostly due to the price, but also because it doesn't really get that cold where I live. Also, they are quite scratchy, and are definitely made to be worn over comfortable clothing A close up shot of the wool gives an indication to the feeling:

Now, when I said I saw everyone wearing the sweater, I mean everyone. Here's a sweater in action!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fast Food in Sweden

Although it's not McDonald's, Max Burger in Stockholm far exceeded my expectations for local fast food.On their website Max Burger is dubbed as "Sweden's oldest and most popular hamburger chain."

This sign advertises lunch for only 15 kr, about $2.25. A real deal in Sweden, let me tell ya. 

A view from the inside:

Sweden is nothing if not efficient. At Max you will find these Express Ordering kiosks, that allow the customer to order their food and pay electronically, without waiting in line.

I ordered the Triple Cheese Burger.

Oh my god...


Another awesome item from the menu are the "Cajun Fries". I'm putting quotations around that because I'm not exactly sure what's "Cajun" about them. They're basically french fries with nacho cheese, spicy mayonnaise, jalapenos, and onions. They were so delicious I found them offensive.

New coat and red socks

 First time wearing this new Muji coat that I altered. Very excited I got to get in on the red sock trend before it disappears.  Coat: Muji ...