Before I get into detailed posts about my trip to China and Japan, I must rave about the travel apps that revolutionized my traveling.
I turned off cellular data on my iPad and iPhone so as not to incur a bagillion dollar bill, but downloaded offline maps for Beijing, Shanghai and Kyoto. At the time, I had no idea how useful these maps would be. Unlike paper maps, these apps use GPS to mark my location and direction even when I’m offline. So, for example, if I get out of the subway and have no idea which direction to go in, I simply check the app. As I wandered around the western parks of Kyoto with no English signs, I pulled out my iPad and made my way to my next destination. Gone are the days of walking 15 minutes north only to realize that I meant to walk south!
Some people say getting lost is part of the fun of traveling, but not me. I hate getting lost. I like the puzzle of figuring out a new city and knowing exactly where I’m going. But wandering around with absolutely no sense of where I am frustrates me, and to be honest, scares the shit out of me.
Since Beijing and Shanghai are large cities, I had plenty of free apps to choose from, and ended up using Ulmon maps. There may be better versions out there, but these worked for me.
Kyoto was a bit harder. Many of the options were in Japanese which was, for obvious reasons, completely useless. After an extensive google search, I stumbled upon MapsWithMe, and downloaded their Japan app. So far (I am still in Kyoto), this map is working amazingly and could not recommend it enough.