Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Okinawa day 3

Well unfortunately Mike:s cold got worse so he was not very well and coughing and sneezing and this germaphobe was scared!

Anyway we trudged along and made it to the aquarium (1.5 hours drive from the hotel). It was really really hot! Much hotter than the 2 previous days. It was about 30 degrees and the sun was scorching like a hot summer:s day in Australia. Luckily, we were inside most of the time.

The Okinawa Churaumi aquarium is the second largest in the world and one of three to house whale sharks (the other two being the Georgia Atlanta aquarium and Osaka Kaiyukan).

It is located at the most north-westerly point of the island of Okinawa in a specatucular location. The aquarium is nicely set out so you follow a path and you get to see everything (unlike museums and such where you kinda wander around aimlessly and are bound to miss stuff!)

About 3/4 of the way throught we were at a mini theatre. By luck at that exact time we arrived at the theatre a movie was about to start in less than 5 minutes. So we took a seat, put on our English headsets (as it was in Japanese) and watched the documentary. It was really really interesting and showed the beautiful scenery and abundance of life that lives under the ocean. The film ended by the curtains being pushed aside, white screen lifted up and there was a huge window right there! Totally amazing. The window was the size of the cinema screen and we could see whale sharks and other creatures right before our very eyes. I was so awe-inspired I just stood there and watched until we were the last ones and had to be kicked out haha.

I needn:t have worried, the main viewing window was right around the corner. It is so huge, probably the size of an Imax screen? I am not sure but the tank we estimated would have been 10-15m deep. Also there was a scuba diver filming various fish and creatures and you could see that on the big screen next to the window - very cool! Several of the sea creatures seemed to be smiling at us.

I had a weird thought to myself - imagine what would happen if the glass was to crack? haha... I needn:t have worried. The glass is 603mm thick, apparently the thickest used in an aquarium and they had a square pole showing just how thick it was!

Towards the end we decided to take a quick tour of the 'backbone' of the aquarium where we could see the tanks from the top with the spotlights and water splashing down, and metal everywhere.. and well it wasn:t very pretty but fascinating nonetheless.

The dolphin show was on at exactly the same time so we missed it but after the behind the scenes tour we went outside to the dolphin pool and they were still doing tricks for us which was cool.. So we got to see them perform without the huge massive crowd around us.

After spending 3 hours there (and as well as having lunch there) we decided to call it a day.

We drove about 2 hours to Chatan, a cute little town where there is an area called America-town and all these cool shops and restaurants. Actually we werent sure we could find it. I knew the suburb name and that was about it! Amazingly we found it, only because there is a big ferris wheel and we just followed that.

We had dinner there but didn:t stay long. Mike was really tired and we drove to the big town of Naha to our hotel. The traffic in Naha is insane. Imagine going at 40km/hr everywhere you go. It is that bad. Once again I thank my lucky stars I had pre-printed maps of exactly where the hotel was located prior to coming here. As we don:t really know how to input our destination what we]:ve been doing on the GPS is just using our finger to point to the spot on the map. However once we are actually in the right vicinity we still have to find the exact street! Nevertheless we made it without too much drama and luckily there is also a garage we could use too. It is really high tech, you park your car on an exact spot on this metal plate and a robot thingy 'deposits' it in a bank so to speak.

This morning we haven]t done anything except get up and have the free buffet in our cute little hotel. Very budget but it has everything you need, super clean, but it is sooooo tiny, very claustrophobic almost. Oh well. It is still nice and in a great location.

Monday, 22 October 2007

I'm in Okinawa! Yay!

Loving it here. The weather is perfect. Approx 23-27 degrees all day and the water is even warmer. The sky is always blue and the water a gorgeous aqua colour (my favourite). It is so different to China. Geez - where do I start?

For one thing, hubby and I had forgotten all about wearing seatbelts! We never wear them in Shanghai and realised that people here wear them (like back home in Australia) - haha.

Secondly, the people are mega polite and helpful, cheerful and friendly. If they don't know something they:ll ask someone else and find out for you.

Everything is so clean, orderly, efficient, user-friendly, yadda yadda yadda.. need I go on?

Right now we are staying at the Renaissance Beach resort on the main island of Okinawa, about an hour:s drive from Naha, the capital and the airport.

Yesterday we drove up but it took longer than expected because

1) We had to stop for lunch (in KFC where we had chicken wraps with bits of seaweed in it)
2) We passed a 100 yen shop and spent ages there. Well I spent ages there, Mike had to practically drag me out. Here they sold so many cool things ALL for 100 yen. I don:t know how they do it. I am not talking crap either, but quality goods. Some things I had looked for in China and could not find easily, or found and they were bad quality. eg
a) toe nail clippers where the cutter bit is straight and not curved
b) tongs for when I cook pasta (could not find in any supermarket in Shanghai)
3) plastic shield to prevent scratches on LCD screens on mobile phones, cameras, etc (yes I know they are common in Shanghai but I don't trust the quality and they are not THAT cheap)
4) hair collector for the shower so it doesn:t plug the drain and I don:t get told off by the plumber
and more..

All these niggly little things that only I would be searching high and low for, and wanting to buy.. such a chore to find in Shanghai at a good price and know it is good quality - it was ALL there in the 100 yen shop! They sold ordinary stuff too like bowls and cutlery, cosmetics, underwear, stationery, DIY supplies (hardware and crafts) etc ... Amazing!

I didn:t just get ordinary tongs either, they actually sold "spaghetti" tongs, I couldn:t believe it!!

Then, Mike and I have never actually used GPS in a car before. Imagine our accelerated learning curve when we had to use one in Japanese!! Hahaha. We were like two crazy contestents in the Amazing Race show - scolding each other when one of us pressed the wrong button and didn:t know how to get back to the previous screen! However, eventually, we figured the thing out. We ended up accidently setting a new destination which was rather frustrating but thanks to my very forward planning and actually printing out a good map of Okinawa before we left with our hotel:s location marked on it, as well as trying to read a map in Japanese we figured out the location on the GPS and pressed that spot on the screen. I thank my lucky stars I can still read some Japanese from studying it in high school 12 years ago!!

So, 3.5 hours after landing at the airport we finally arrived at our hotel! What an achievement.

The only bummer here is that noone really speaks English so there is a lot of miming, smiling, nodding, etc, involved. I can understand some but not confident enough to make out full sentences. A sumimasen, arigato, ohayo, konnichwa, hai, iie is all about I can manage at the moment!

This morning (our second day) I went on a 'helmet dive' which is where you put on a big white heavy plastic helmet with glass window and walk on the ocean floor (3m deep). It is for people who can:t or don:t want to scuba dive or snorkel. I can:t manage scuba (asthmatic who can't swim 200m!) so thought it was perfect for me. In fact, one of the reasons we chose this hotel! It was so much fun. I can:t even begin to explain what it felt like. It was seriously like walking on the moon. The deep heavy breathing that you can hear inside the mask (where your face is completely dry), the bouncy, slow steps that you take.. all really surreal! And I saw two Nemo fishes!

This afternoon Mike and I watched dolphins. Our hotel is the location of a dolphin research centre and there around five of these beautiful creatures living here. They swim, and jump and do tricks in the air - totally awesome stuff.

Tomorrow we are going to Churaumi aquarium, the second largest aquarium in the world to see whale sharks!