Temple hopping in Kyoto: top 10 & travel tips

I am biking like a mad woman on the sidewalks, with my knees almost hitting my chin at every turn of the pedals on my ridiculously small bicycle, ringing the bell to warn pedestrians in the busy streets, who weirdly enough do not seem surprised by that tall Dutch woman showing off her bicycle skills on that tiny Japanese bike. Overtaking herds of tourists, I am temple hopping in Kyoto! Keep reading

Where to go skiing in Europe: the Austrian or French Alps?

My face hits the white cold substance when I fall down as my body gets out of control going down a small hill in the mountains of Austria. I have the hardest time getting up without falling again, as my feet are in the most uncomfortable shoes to which the rental skis are attached. I am surrounded by people who speak a language I cannot understand and during the lunch break I eat food I have never seen before: I was three when I started to learn how to ski… Keep reading

Pampered in Hokkaido: ryokan & Japanese hospitality

Black bird singing in the dead of night… I hear the lyrics in my head merging with the sounds of the guitar I am strumming in the warm and homey lounge of the Nutapukaushipe lodge. I am surrounded by wood carved furniture and musical instruments. After travelling through Japan for five weeks and not playing a single chord, I just couldn’t resist the temptation of grabbing one of them, kindly invited by the owner of the place. Keep traveling!

An exhilarating hike in the Japanese Alps

“Okay, don’t panic! There is a stone about 20 cm below your left foot, and a cavity for your left hand behind that rock. Yes, slightly lower. That’s it! You can put your weight on it.”

I don’t see anything but the mountain ridge on the horizon above that rock I need to descend from and a lethal ravine below my feet, while hanging on my arms trying to divide my weight at best. My legs start shaking when I feel the stone underneath my right hand moving! My 12+kg backpack drags me down and bruises my hips and shoulders, limiting my degrees of freedom. I really wish I had a parachute or a zip line… For a few seconds, I don’t see how I can help myself down safely and I fear for my life. Keep traveling!

Spectacular festivals of Japan: The Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Fukuoka

Festivals are very important in Japan, keeping ancient traditions alive and passing them on to younger generations. They occur all through the year, and more specifically in the summer. Some are extremely popular making it hard to travel and stay in the hosting cities during these days. As such, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival is said to be one of the most impressive ones of Japan. Keep traveling!