After leaving Bangkok, I landed in Kuala Lumpur for a 4-hour layover. Just long enough to get bored to tears in an airport but not long enough to leave said airport.
I wandered around the duty-free shops for a bit and decided to get a bite to eat at the Malaysian noodle place called Nööödles. I got the “beef balls and herbs soup” and a Coke for what equated to around $7. After that, I stumbled onto the airport Starbucks which had a free open WiFi connection… Sweet! Only problem, though: No way to charge my devices.
Kuala Lumpur is the only stop on my trip that doesn’t use the standard US two-prong wall socket, and I didn’t bring my adaptor kit with me. Luckily enough, there was an electronics store right below where I could pick up one of those little adaptor switch boxes for around $10.
I did have a momentary nerd out moment in there, however. They had TONS of Japanese video games for sale and all sorts of bizarre bootleg devices. This was the kind of stuff that 10 year old me dreamed of. I got really, really excited at the idea of buying something to bring home and play before I remembered that this isn’t the days of old where you could get a cartridge adaptor for your NES and play Japanese games. The whole industry has switched to optical media that simply will not work without having a modified system. Unfortunately, thanks to the DMCA is illegal in the United States. And, as such, companies like Microsoft will block your system from connecting to its service. Sigh.
After I got over my disappointment, I went back to Starbucks, plugged in, and I was up and running! (Note: the iPad’s battery would have no doubt made it fine through my flight to Tokyo, but I knew I was going to use it heavily in the next day, so I wanted to start with a fresh full charge.)
I arrived at the Narita airport and wandered around a bit, taking a moment to use the bathroom, clean myself up, and change into jeans. It’s 84 degrees here, a huge break compared to the sweltering heat and humidity of Thailand; I’m excited to be wearing jeans again.
I took an hour-long bus ride to the downtown Tokyo train station, a place I figured would be a good starting point. From there, I set off wandering and began laughing when I realized I had managed to orient myself solely by the placement of the sun. The Boy Scouts would be proud. I found myself feeling extremely grateful for my iPhone as well, as none of Tokyo’s streets are clearly labeled. That said, there are many maps placed throughout the city that denote where you are, which is very helpful. Navigation in Tokyo is entirely based on neighborhoods and landmarks, which is surprisingly clear for someone who can’t read a word of Japanese.
First thing on my agenda: find the Apple store. I was able to accomplish this very quickly. I promise you, my dear reader, that there is a method to my madness: Apple is very selective in their stores’ placement. They are usually in upscale, popular/trendy areas, which can immediately give you an idea of a good place to check out; on top of that, they offer free WiFi, accessible power outlets, clean bathrooms, and friendly multi-lingual staff.
That decision paid off big time. I was able to find an employee who had moved here from Estonia, who was kind enough to give me a brief run-through of Tokyo basics. First thing he told me: Enjoy the free WiFi because I won’t find much of it elsewhere. Not even Starbucks offers it, apparently, and McDonald’s does but only to Nintendo DS users. Great. I also found out the post office here doesn’t sell stamps. Weird. I’ve yet to mail out my postcards, so that is priority #2.
My friend’s father was able to get me a great hotel rate for tonight, so I booked a room at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel. While this goes against my usual traveling rules, I could use a clean bed and shower using my normal methods, so I’ll take it. Unfortunately, check-in is not until 2, so I’ve got some time to kill.
I’ve heard a few suggestions/requests of things to do for tonight, which I’m excited to start tackling as soon as I put my bags down. I’m still open for more though, so hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. More later!