I'm having a Sally Field moment here. I feel so much better knowing that I'm not just talking to myself :)
So on Saturday, Lee and I went to Gyokusendo, Okinawa's very own theme park ("Okinawa World") with Missy and Bennet. Missy had directions to it so we figured we were all set. I mean usually, the signage here is very good when it comes to directing you to the touristy stuff, Lee and I have had minimal problems navigating here, which is amazing because although we lived in North Carolina for three years, we never could go to Raleigh without getting lost at least once. Note to self, I need to buy a Wal-Mart atlas when we get back to the States or we'll be even more lost...
Anyway, back to my story. We set out around 8:30 or so, figuring that we could get to the place kinda early before it got hot and crowded. I am completely useless when it comes to navigation, so I was in charge of the iPod :) We get on Okinawa's one and only expressway just fine, but then the trouble starts when we exited. We got exit 2 ok, but how the heck do you get to exit 2A from there? We ended up going in a huge loop and ended up over by the Naha Airport, which is on the west side of the island and Okinawa World is on the east side of the island. Thirty minutes later we've decided that every road on Okinawa leads to the Naha Airport. At long last we get to going in the right direction, we wave to Shuri Castle as we pass it, and then we finally started seeing signs that said "cave" so we knew for sure we were on the right track. I think it took us almost 2 1/2 hours to find the place, this was almost like trying to find the mall in Raleigh :p So here's the entrance area to Okinawa World:
So you go in through that building, and there's an entrance to the cave on the left. Oh yeah, half of Okinawa World is an extensive cave system that you can go through, hence the "cave" signs on the way here (which didn't appear until you were practically there, they were minimal help to us). Right after they tear your ticket stub, they have a place where they take your picture in front of a cave-alicious backdrop, which you can later purchase for 1000 yen, so we did:
They Japanese ladies are holding these awesome hats, I want a hat like that. So Bennet and Missy are on the left, and then Lee and I are on the right...really, I usually only carry that Maleficent purse when we're out walking a lot and stuff because I don't have to worry about it falling off my shoulder or anything, but that's how it ends up in all the pictures of me from our island adventures :) Maleficent is the coolest Disney villain ever, but that's a story for another time.
So we had our picture taken, and then we walked down a zillion steps towards the caves:
They have walkways and railings built all through the caves; you don't have a guide or anything, you just walk through on your own. In some areas of the caves they have speakers that play music, and the first area they played the overture from Star Wars over and over. It seemed oddly appropriate to the caves...in another section they played music from Pirates of the Caribbean. They also have lights (of course, you need lights down there or else no one would be able to see where they were going) but they do different colors on the ceiling sometimes:
Kinda cool-looking, huh? They also did red, green, and purple lights but this picture turned out the best. I think we should have taken a tripod with us, it was really hard to get good pictures due to the low lighting conditions. Lee thought this next bit was pretty cool, it's a small underground waterfall...
I was actually in charge of the camera for the day, so I took probably 90% of the pictures (which might have something to do with why I want to go back when my parents are here and try to get some better shots...) So here's a picture of Lee in the caves:
The stalactites drip water all over, so we all kept getting hit by cold water as we walked through. You could see where they've sawed off the ends of the stalactites so that they don't block off the walkway, and the stalactites are already starting to grow back a little bit.
So those were the best of the cave pictures. Once you exit the caves, you end up in the Ryukyu Village, where they have shops showcasing different Okinawa handicrafts, like binghata fabric, making sanshins, the Ryukyu glass, etc. And they had one cool little place were you could pay 500 yen each to dress up in kimonos and have your picture taken!
Pretty darn cool, huh? Don't you just love the guys' hats?! The two ladies that ran the shop didn't speak very much English at all but they were quite proficient with sign language so we got along just fine. I'm not sure why I ended up being the only one standing in this picture (and I couldn't really ask them either)...maybe it's because I'm tall. :p I told my mom that I've seen shirts that say "I'm huge in Japan!" and she thinks I need to get one. I'm an Amazon!! Ok, so Lee is taller than me...
Again, I just love those hats!! You could pick what color kimono you wanted to dress up in. The two ladies helped tie the sashes and everything, and they took one picture with their camera which you could buy for 1000 yen, but they also take pictures with your own cameras. We decided to just go with the ones that were taken on our camera, so for about $10 we got to play dress-up and get several pictures taken. Whee!!
Missy had the map so I'm not sure why there's a boat on Okinawa World, but here it is. We walked all through Okinawa World, had lunch, and then visited the habu museum (habus are poisonous snakes that live here on Okinawa) that's back up by the entrance to the caves, but by the time we got there we were pretty tired and I didn't take any pictures of the snakes and stuff. Besides, they give me the heebie-jeebies. They also had these ginormous beetles that you could buy and take home as pets--no thank you!!! They were scary-looking! We watched a short exhibition about snakes but didn't understand much as it was all in Japanese, but we were given the opportunity to have our picture taken with an enormous python. I elected to pass on that one, but Lee made me touch a golden python, he wouldn't take no for an answer.
We left around 3:00 and then got lost once again on the way home. By this time we were all a little punchy and laughing hysterically with every wrong turn, so it's all good :) I have a few more pictures to share in the next day or two, so stay tuned!
3 hours ago