26 hours of transit later, i found myself on a nighttime shinkansen to kyoto, watching the city lights dance around the darkness.
i slept soundly in a little attic room of the home of a older woman named keiko, who, because of my jet lag, spent a lot of time with me in the early morning sharing breakfast and watching japanese television. a lot of it consisted of celebrities commenting on visuals of most delicious food in tokyo. something was strangely familiar and comforting about the slow morning. we watched the sunrise and laid our eyes on a snow-laden kyoto -- the first snowfall of the year.
at 7am, i bundled up in five layers of clothing and made my way to the station to catch a train to fushimi inari, the shrine of 10,000 red gates. the cold chill of the air clashed with the warmth of my breath.
it was so quiet. all you could hear was the sound of your own footsteps, nearby cats softly whining at each other, and the aching of snow melting in the morning sun.
i left at around 10am, when the entirety of inari mountain began to awaken with people coming to hike, take pictures, and pray. because the day was still young, i decided to fulfill a year-long curiosity and revel in my love for train rides. with some plum-filled onigiri from 7/11 packed in my backpack, i made my way to nara - a 1.5 hour train ride away.
the stay in nara was short, and the stay in the deer park was even shorter. watching the deer bite at my coat and push me around for food with their shaved antlers was heartbreaking. after walking quite a distance, i found a little deer resting by a tree alone; i sat by her and pet her for a while before making my way back to the station to go straight to arashiyama's bamboo grove.
i took photographs for large groups of families and happy couples and felt a pang of loneliness amongst the endless crowds. i kept my eyes up where the leaves began to blend with the clouds and saw the bamboo sway a slightly.
in the depths of the jungle, the air thickly coated our skin until the release of rain.
i spent two days in a little beach village about two hours from saigon. it was quiet, marked by dreamy morning landscapes, hair whipping around my face on long scooter rides, bustling markets, and meals inspired by the sea.
on my second day in la gi, i rose from the floor mattress after three hours of sleep and rode a scooter eastward towards the sunrise. on the roads at 4am were entire families, friends, siblings, individuals, all riding scooters, all heading towards the beach. people came to soak in the sea, exercise on the cool sand, and play ball games that i didn't understand. the sky was a blue gray haze and the air was damp from the night. the sun was still hiding behind a curtain of clouds.
as soon as the first yellow rays began to reflect in the water, the entire beach emptied and the village streets began to yawn.