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India conquered! Need help planning the next big adventure...

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So we're back from our marathon 3-week journey into India. I'm putting together (rather than a trip report) a list of things we learned on the trip in the hopes it can help future Fodorites in their planning. We certainly learned a lot on this trip. I can't say that India was all I had dreamed it would be. It was certainly more 'travel' than 'vacation'...but it was eye-opening and there were moments that I'll truly carry with me for the rest of my life.

In grand tradition, it wouldn't be me if I wasn't planning the next trip whilst still in the paralyzing haze of jetlag from the previous trip. Hey, if nothing else, I'm consistent.

David and I spoke a lot about our plans for the next trip (in December, again) -- and narrowing this list down has been a challenge, as always. We went through the gamut when brainstorming: Bhutan & Nepal, central and southern Vietnam and the Philippines beaches, Borneo, Sri Lanka, any many other candidates.

But because we need a trip that's less work than usual (either we're getting old or work is getting more stressful), I think we've netted out on what I'm now calling our Hot & Cold trip. At first I thought this idea was nuts (packing for 2 climates) but our good friend lcuy helped alleviate my fears.

As some of you know, we absolutely fell in love with Japan last year when we went (in the same way we fell in love with Thailand the first time we went there--and all our subsequent visits there). So it's only fitting that we want to return to our two most favorite places. We're currently planning on a 14-17 day trip over Christmas/New Years again. We'll head to Japan first for about 10 days and then finish the trip in Thailand. When we head to Thailand we'll want to try to do something we haven't before: thinking of maybe the FS Tented Camp or Anantara. We thought a beach initially, but my DH isn't as wild on beaches as I, so Chiang Rai seemed a nice alternative -- we both have not been before.

Now to the main purpose of my post: Japan. How to do this in the winter? And where to go we haven't before (Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka)?

Thanks again must go to lcuy for her advance planning advice (off the forums) and because of her help I've narrowed down slightly our options in Japan. It seems to me that Hokkaido--where we wanted to go--will just be too snowy in December for practical travel. We are skiiers but I don't think I want a skiing vacation (that doesn't seem particularly unique in Japan anyway) but we do want to experience the magic of winter in Japan in a way that's practical for travel.

Here's a short list of things and places we're interested in on this trip (not that they all have to make sense for this winter trip, just places we've talked about wanting to go):
*Snow monkeys
*Experiencing onsen outside in the snow
*Naoshima
*Kanazawa
*Fukuoka
*southern Japan (Okinawa, etc.)

So in 10 days, what's a good itinerary? Should we fly into Osaka and use that as a base as opposed to Tokyo? I'm fine doing either, but I guess it depends on what mileage tickets we end up getting.

We can't afford to (or would want to) only do ryokans, so where is best to do hotels vs. ryokans?

Thanks for the patience if you've made it this far in the thread. I appreciate any help in advance narrowing down our choices for what hopefully will be another massively memorable experience thanks to our dear Fodorite friends.

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