Auck Ward

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Auck Ward Digest: October 2014

Cat Cafe Kiwi cats

October 2014 has been nuts. We left our apartment in Washington, D.C., took a road trip through the southern U.S., said goodbye to friends in Nashville and family in Atlanta, took a plane Los Angeles, said goodbye to friends and family in Los Angeles, went to Japan, went to South Korea and went to Vietnam.

You might be exhausted by that sentence. It’s a lot. And we’re only half done with the trip.

Over the last few days, we’ve settled on a November and December itinerary. From Ho Chi Minh City (where we are currently touring for a few days), we plan on traveling to Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia before heading to New Zealand for Christmas.

If you’d like to review what we’ve done over the first half of the trip, here is an archive of our adventures. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog so far as it’s been a really fun experience. Any feedback or blog post ideas are much appreciated and I hope you will keep reading.

Ideas? Suggestions? Jokes? Just want to say hi? Let’s chat in the comments.


Vietnam flags on Halong Bay cruise ships at sunset.

How Will A Tall Husband Deal with the Overnight Sleeper Bus?

I Miss My Couch: Not Homesick, Creature-Comfort Sick

Cruising Ha Long Bay

Zen and the Art of Walking into Hanoi Motorbike Traffic

South Korea

Multiuse unit in a room at Small House Big Door

Seoul: Small House, Big Door, Cool Hotel


Osaka bento box with Asahi beer. Photo by Warwick Meade.

Hiroshima-Style Japanese Pancakes

Shinkansen and Ekiben: Eating all the JR Train Station Bento Boxes

How Will a Tall Husband React to Sleeping at a Ryokan?

Visiting a Cat Cafe in Tokyo

Surreal Experience Hearing Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be’ in Tokyo

United States

Flying Singapore Airlines’s A380 LAX-NRT

What I Carry On Board for Long Haul Flights

Why Do I Get Sick When I Slow Down?

Alleged Auckland ‘Poo’ Flight Path?

Photo 1 by our friend Cathy, photo 2 by Kiwi, photo 3 by Tina, photo 4 by Kiwi

Shinkansen and Ekiben: Eating all the JR Train Station Bento Boxes

Japanese high-speed train arriving. Photo by Warwick Meade.

Buying the Japan Rail Pass, a one-week to three-week pass for foreign tourists, gives you the ability to travel on local and high-speed rail (aka the shinkansen) across Japan very easily. It’s a little pricey, but very good in value: Imagine paying $300 a week in order to ride Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and all the local city trains in Washington, Philly, New York and Boston. It’s arguably something like that. (If you have a better comparison, please share it in the comments. I can totally see a better comparison, I just don’t have one myself.)

The JR pass also gives you the ability to buy as many cheap and filling bento box lunches (aka ekiben), filled with rice, seafood and vegetables, as you can. Each city tries to showcase its local specialities. I almost bought a bento in Kyoto, and another one 20 minutes later while connecting in Osaka, just to be able to eat the differences.

One thing to know about bentos, and it’s really only an issue if you don’t speak Japanese: Eating a bento will be troublesome if you are squirmy about unidentifiable food. As long as something didn’t taste truly horrible, just eat it. The food in question probably has some vitamins and minerals you or I are missing.

Check out the varieties of bentos (along with an itinerary of which high-speed trains we took):

Tokyo to Kyoto: Mostly rice and veggies, with a small piece of cured salmon. No pic of the other bento, too excited to eat it.

Tokyo bento box.

Kyoto to Shin-Osaka: No bentos. It was only a 20-minute ride. Also, the variety seemed low, many shop shelves were low on inventory. I’m not sure if it was because it was a holiday day (we left on Oct. 13, which was part of a three-day national holiday celebrating sports and health), or if it was because of the typhoon passing through and people came early to pass the time while waiting for a train. That said, no high-speed train coming in or out of Kyoto was delayed more than 10 minutes.

Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima: This bento had little whitebait-looking fishies on top of the rice. It took some getting used to, ultimately I decided it was rice confetti.

Osaka bento box

Kiwi’s had a lot more fish involved:

Osaka bento box with Asahi beer. Photo by Warwick Meade.

Hiroshima to Shimonoseki: Hiroshima is known for its oysters, so I bought Kiwi a bento with a half dozen of them.

Hiroshima bento box with oysters.

I bought myself a bento with octopus in it. Notice the little maple leaf-looking thing, to show it’s an autumn bento box:


Miss eating ekiben? Have a better comparison for the JR pass? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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