Carmelita Kubota’s journey in 2015 took her to the Asia-Pacific nations of Japan, Thailand and Philippines. She says, “I love traveling, not for recreation or vacationing, but to actually see and interact with people from other lands. And of course, since I love the ‘kitchen world,’ actually tasting other countries’ cuisine gives me the know-how how I could incorporate the other countries’ food flavor into mine.”
Carmelita began her journey last year on May 26, arriving in Hamamatsu, Japan to meet with two key members of the Rotary Club of Navotas, Manila who were on an official visit to their former sister club, the Hamamatsu South Rotary. Carmelita previously had had an opportunity to work with members of these clubs and serve as a bridge of communication between them for seven years, so they welcomed her warmly.
Of that occasion, Carmelita says, “Their visit was a very brief one but I was able to take them to a very small but the most sought-after-by-many Tempura counter, which has been in existence for more than 40 years.”
On May 31, Carmelita was the guest speaker at the wedding reception of her niece, who was marrying a Japanese chemical engineer. The reception was held in a flashy resort and French restaurant. After the reception, the newlyweds took Carmelita and other family members to two luxurious hot spring resorts in Izu Peninsula and Hakone.
The first hot spring bath was comprised of a huge pool filled with natural, bubbling hot water and an open-air view of the ocean. The Japanese hospitality and cuisine that accompanied this experience was very memorable.
After visiting the second hot spring resort, on their way back to Shizuoka Prefecture, they got to see the majestic Mt. Fuji. “It luckily showed up, to our delight,” says Carmelita.
In June, she was kept busy with invitations for dinner and drinks from former hotel colleagues, longtime friends and students from her English Conversation classes. Before moving to Canyon Lake to live part-time, Carmelita had lived in Japan and worked full time as the guest relations manager for a five-star luxury hotel. She also wrote a column in English called “An Asian View” for a Japanese newspaper.
In July, she departed for Thailand to do an interior decor job for an expatriate who lived in a condominium in downtown Bangkok. “It was an easy job as I have also passion in coordinating things to make the place classier,” says Carmelita.
In the afternoons, she had free time to explore downtown Bangkok on foot and using the monorail transit to hunt for bargains at bigger department stores. “What amused me a lot was to walk down a long alley of street food around lunch time and savor the vendors’ dishes . . . which tasted so good at a very inexpensive price,” she says.
“In the evening time, I would walk in the same long alley to buy grilled fresh fish and deep-fried chicken wings . . . You can say I love to eat, yes I do! Whether it’s fine dining or just street cheap food, I would find the uniqueness in them that will give me tips to further enhance the taste of my food.”
Carmelita says she especially enjoys visiting the street vendors, since she grew up in the Philippines and earned money in just the same way. She would begin as early as 5 a.m. in the public market to sell rice porridge in a big pot mixed with minced chicken, garlic and ginger, along with a huge pan of stir-fry noodles. She was always sold out by 7 a.m.
While still in Bangkok, Carmelita enjoyed other types of shopping. On Saturdays, she took the monorail transit to Capitol Tokyu Department Store where tenant-operated stores sell knock-off purses, T-shirts, shoes, accessories, throw pillow covers, etc. “Name it, they have them all,” she says.
On two Sundays, she was excited to go to the floating market where vendors on boats sell food and where stores along the sides of the canals sell souvenirs to tourists riding by in wooden boats.
“On the last Sunday of my stay in Bangkok, a kind Thai man with the name of Suchat took me to the second floating market, the Amphawa Floating Market, which is the second most popular market in Thailand, located 90 kilometers southwest of Bangkok,” says Carmelita. “I prefer this floating market over the first one as it is more fun to walk around the narrow sidewalk with many little wooden houses neatly lined up along the canal, selling souvenirs and lot of snacks and sweets. And most of all, I had a satisfying seafood lunch on the river bank!”
Upon getting home that evening, she got a Thai foot massage for her aching feet and legs at a cost of 250 baht for one hour (less than $8).
The only really low point of Carmelita’s journey was the trip back to Japan. Her flight to Nagoya, Japan was supposed last six and a half hours. However, the pilot informed the passengers that, due to a typhoon passing near Nagoya, the plane would have to land in Narita and wait until the weather was safer to go on to Nagoya. They waited in Narita for an hour before the pilot announced they would have to de-plane.
Carmelita says, “It was already half past 9 p.m. After passing through immigration, it was 10 p.m., and when we picked up our baggage in the carousel, it was almost 10:30 – and there’s no bullet train anymore to take from Tokyo station to get me back to Hamamatsu.”
She decided to take the limousine bus to Tokyo station and stay overnight in a hotel; however, upon reaching the station and making calls, she found out all the hotels were booked. She had no choice but to take the last bus from Tokyo station to Nagoya – a seven-hour ride in the pouring rain.
“It was hot and humid inside the bus, and when I got off at Nagoya station, I was starting to cough. I hurriedly took the next bullet train going to Hamamatsu around past 9 a.m. of July 17.” Two days later, despite being sick, Carmelita fulfilled a commitment to prepare a gourmet meal and cake for her granddaughter’s 2nd birthday.
Of her overall trip, Carmelita says, “The Thailand trip was very enjoyable . . . Although I underwent an ordeal at the end, it made me learn how to cope with the unexpected turnout of events, which I’ve got no choice but to be flexible to the demands of unforeseen perplexing circumstances!”