Tuesday, December 13, 2016

stressful trip prep

Funny. But I realize our family hasn’t ever taken a plane out of the country to visit another on our OWN (not counting Sydney). We’ve always been in the comforting embrace of my family members – either Choon in Darwin, or the rest of my family on big family trips - where there’s always someone else to navigate or think of where to go etc.

If we are on our own, we only drive to Malaysia. Which is comforting familiar territory.

I only realize this because we’re going to Japan, and upon reflecting on why I was worrying so much more than usual, suddenly discover that we have never travelled far solo.

Why Japan?

We wanted to go somewhere nice after Day’s PSLE. Somewhere with skiing which they loved back in Melbourne. Japan is the only country in the world which KK says he will fly for (no he's never been there but he’s always on Waku Waku Japan).

I’ve been to Japan, and stayed with four different families when I was on an orchestra exchange. It remains one of the best trips I’ve had in my life.

Anyway, everyone has to go to Japan at least once, right? (and it seems like the whole world has gone to or is going to Japan this time. The money changer looked at me and said – Japanese yen? – before I said anything. He says, everyone is going to Japan so you must be too)

The organization was – because it’s me – last-minute and awful. Starting from October (very late) I tried very hard to DIY. I couldn’t even find a way to get to Hokkaido where the skiing is apparently awesome. I gave up and considered Sydney.

Contacted one travel agency, which ignored me, contacted another agent who is the school friend of a client of mine and she, one of those outgoing blustery types I love dealing with , delivered Japan.

We paid up the $13,000 (oh the pain but once in a lifetime, OK…) she passed us plane tickets (Delta Airlines?!), train tickets, bus tickets, hotel bookings, etc etc.

We’ll be on our own. Five of us, in a strange land where English is largely unused. Free-and-easy by all accounts for 11 days except for these milestone bookings. No car.

We meet up with the tour agent. She goes through the itinerary. She shows us the railway lines. Tells us everything is in Japanese. Warns us to be careful not to emerge from the wrong exit at each train station. Looks at me pointedly several times (because the rest of the family have tuned out) and says: “You know, right? Can or not? You must ask for the train tickets from the hotel when you arrive. Then you must book the bus tickets to the airport at this other hotel. Aiyoh I think I better write out for you.”

Gulp. It is potentially my worst nightmare and the reason I’ve never pushed for our family to travel far solo. When four of them (yes four not three) turn to look at me, the poor beleaguered solo organizer, and say – Why like dat? I’m so TIRED. It’s all your fault. Can you fix this?

Then I try to pack. The mountain looms. Temperatures at the ski resort (at night anyway) are minus 6. Because we don’t travel cold very often (Melbourne clothes were all borrowed), I beg borrow and steal once more. In this situation, my trait, where I never go shopping for fun and have nothing (unlike some other well-organised women who always have extras and un-used stuff in their wardrobes) is very disadvantageous.

The strange final hurdle comes down to footwear. Each kid has one pair of slippers, and one pair of school shoes. Some other shoes which came into their lives have been outgrown, and I as usual never replaced them because you don't have to replace what you don't need.

KK says, they can go to Japan in their school shoes. Lu’s has holes in the soles. In below-freezing temperature? No. I will not have a child, blue with cold, miserable on a $13,000 tour.

I hunt high and low, for the sort of winter boots which they wore in Melbourne. I checked out Decathlon for cheap buys. No luck. I checked out Winter Time. No size.

Today, 12 hours before we leave, I hit Winter Time again and this time they have sizes. The girls procure boots, while I manage to dig out a pair of KK’s old shoes for Day (he wears the same size shoes as KK now).

* Lulu, Jo and Day

Me, Winter Time has no size for me, so I’m sticking to the same thin blue track shoes which got me into such trouble in Nepal.

I’m hoping what someone told me – feet don’t get cold – is true.


Lysithea said...

Speaking from experience ... you should really get some waterproof winter shoes, else your feet will get wet in all that snow and they will become frozen. Thick socks don't help. Otherwise, have a fun trip!

I'm also planning one next year after my boy's PSLE.

ylim said...

Please, please buy yourself a pair of proper shoes. Walking in wet slippery shoes with frozen toes is no joke. I got mine off gmarket cheap but you don't have enough time so maybe check out world of sports? Find something waterproof with thick rubber soles. Have fun! Hokkaido in winter is really beautiful.

Anonymous said...

If you are really going Hokkaido, please please get yourself waterproof winter boots! It's really cold and there was a heavy snow storm over the past weekend, so you really don't want the chill in your feet, and you don't want your feet to get wet from the melted snow. Go to JR Sapporo station, there is a mall above the station where you can get decent shoes. Look for ABC Mart. Have fun in Hokkaido!

Jo said...

You could have borrowed from me my dear! I have a few :) FEET DO GET COLD!! Get some in Sapporo for cheap. or else Niseko should stock them for tourists. Thick socks are essential, as are winter caps/beanies, and gloves! Have fun.

francesca said...

Go world of sports. Columbia has waterproof ones. I saw they have for ladies - looks like for winter.

xia0haizi said...

Hello, I got Merrell goretex hiking shoes from Royal Sporting House for my winter trip to Iceland last year, it's good for walking in snow and ice too. I think it was around $130. Go consider! Wear thick socks too, my feet did get cold :)

crabbycrab said...

Oh dear, I wished I read this a bit earlier, came back from Sapporo on Tues night and I could also lend you some clothes for the kids! It's snowing, and ridiculously cold, to the point of being painful at times. The roads are v slippery, esp hardened ice. Anyway, tell us all about the trip when you return!

xia0haizi said...

Oh how's Sapporo? I'll be going in Feb and still thinking if I should drive there!