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November 2nd - November 26th 2015


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March 3rd - March 26th 2015

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HongJapWan
March 6th - March 28th 2014

Sichuan
March 23rd - April 10th 2013

Tokyo weekend
October 25th - October 30th 2012

China again
August 27th - September 13th 2012

Japan and Taiwan
March 1st - March 22nd 2012

China
November 1st - November 18th 2011

Korea, mainly...
September 3rd - September 17th 2011

Taiwan / Hong Kong / Singapore / ?
March 25th - April 11th 2011

London, for the third time
June 25th - July 17th 2010

Japan and Hong Kong
May 2nd - May 18th 2010

London again and Hong Kong
February 26th - March 25th 2010

London
September 5th - 22nd 2009

South East Asia
December 3rd - 18th 2005

Hong Kong - Japan - Taiwan - March 2014 - Page 2

Day 4 - Sunday, 9 March 2014

A lot less fog

Another morning, another hike, this time up the devils peak in eastern Kowloon. The hiking hong kong blog spot dot something dot hk site rated this only 3/10, I think this is harsh because the views are great, theres a cemetry and a large fort used to shoot Japanese people in both world wars.
I had not been to this part of Hong Kong before, when I got off at the station there were all sorts of banners proclaiming the 50th anniversary of the original public housing project.
Despite that, you step off into an area with 3 nice modern shopping malls, complete with a Food Republic and roof gardens and whatever, so its really not like Daveron Park or Noble Park or Blacktown or whatever shitty part of your city in Australia or wherever. At least not on the surface.
It is however definitely cemetry town, with a massive amount of double decker busses lined up to ferry people over the hill to the massive compound, complete with multiple cremation chimney stacks whos smoke I got covered in whilst hiking nearby above them. An interesting thought, I am now covered in Chinese ghosts.

On the way back I stopped for a second coffee and used a Citibank ATM for the first time since getting here. Top travel tip, the Citibank visa debit card works as advertised, no fees, no currency conversion scam, it even tells you the rate you are getting before you accept the withdrawl. I got 7.03:1, google told me the current rate was 7.04:1. So within one 700th of the forex rate. By comparison, travelex were offering 5.6:1 at Sydney airport!

Time for another story, when walking back to the station past a taxi stand, I saw two old ladies who would have been over 80 years old run out into the street in a race to get the taxi, just like in tv shows set in NYC. When lady 1 got it, lady 2 smacked the roof of the taxi repeatedly with her umbrella. This was particulary weird because there was already another taxi coming which she was on board no more than 20 seconds later. Perhaps Hong Kong amazing race for elderly citizens is a real thing?

Even the view from the MTR station is rewarding. Looking straight back up the bay, Hong Kong island to the left, Kowloon to the right.

The top of this is where I am going.

Decided to take this photo whilst half way up, just in case another fogpocalypse rolled in.

I wasnt expecting to cross over the ridge and see this view. Very clear day looking out at the various pirate islands of the south china sea.

Heres the cemetry. Very busy on a Sunday.

I found an unmarked path going straight up, by unmarked, someone had tied a yellow ribbon. I have learnt from various hikes that there must be groups of people that use either yellow or pink ribbons.
This wasnt a particularly long hike, but it was good to get off the paved path and head up some slippery hand cut steps to the top.

Which brings you to this pillbox. If I was an invading Japanese soldier I would be in trouble right about now.

Surprising you can climb all over it.

One last shot of ruined military position.

Its me, again at risk of stepping backwards off a cliff.

The view from up here is rewarding. But also exhausting. Because I can see a lot more mountains to climb, and I can see a lot of tracks going up all of them.

From this vantage point many of those mountains look enormous, with cool observatory / weather station / bond villain hideouts on the top.

Back in the mall for lunch, and I am reassured that I wont get bird flu from cold chicken by the nice people of the State General Administration of the Peoples Republic of China. Good to know.

Bonus photo - panorama. WARNING: this is 8192 pixels wide, between 4 and 8 screen widths. Click at your own risk.

Clown vomit cliche

Tonight is my last night in Hong Kong. To celebrate I took the star ferry, and took the same photos every tourist takes. Mine also feature HDR and long exposures thanks to conveniently placed rubbish bins.
No real stories to tell, the ferry still costs about 60 cents, the sky was pollution free, and it was surprisingly quiet.
I briefly considered running back up to the peak to take a few photos from what appeared to be a clear summit, but then I felt a drop of rain and assumed a fog was about to set in.

Tomorrow I am going to Kyoto in Japan, the forecast temperature is 0 degrees. I will look even more stupid in my shorts!
My holiday is only 1/5 over, theres still 4/5 of this bullshit to go. I intend to get more ridiculous as the days go on.
Enjoy your lack of hiking photos tomorrow.

I had dinner as soon as I set out so I could eat some place nice. By nice it was a maxims restaurant, maxims was until now a bakery and cake shop.
This was apparently the house specialty, Hong Kong flavour. It seems more like Pad Siew from Thailand to me. It was however cheap and filling.
The tea it came with was very Hong Kong. I think its made from sweetened condensed milk. With each sip my blood slowed down a few metres per second.

Camera nerd time. This is taken from a moving boat hand held. Its a number of stacked frames taken under exposed to provide an exposure. Other people were busy firing their flash the 3 miles across the bay wondering why their screen was dark.
I probably should have straightened it, I did the next two.

A tall building.

Still hand held...now we move onto clown vomit.

3 x 25 second exposures one under, one normal, one over exposed, stacked to increase the dynamic range. Often makes stuff appear like a cartoon, or as many say, clown vomit.
Photographers hate this, I do it to enrage purists.

The funny part is photographers loved this when you had to do it yourself by carefully aligning images in photoshop and using transperancy layers or some such thing, but once software automatically did it they became indifferent, and now that when you just have to hold down the shutter button and the camera does it itself, they cant stand it. Snobs.

Last one, OK no more clown vomit.

As a comparison, heres a handheld normal shot. This completes the tourist photo camera nerd part of the journey. No tripods were harmed in the making of this, I used rubbish bins.

mummy on 2014-03-09 said:
night shots are great!

David on 2014-03-09 said:
I am fairly certain I put on weight every trip I take.
No amount of mountain climbing can compensate for eating cake and noodles and whatever else interesting I see.
I think 3 hours brisk walking allows you to eat 50 grams of chocolate extra. Many of those weight loss calculators tell lies, and dont factor in that your body burns 100 calories an hour whilst idle. You can get that up to around 200 calories an hour during exercise which means its 3 hours to eat a chocolate bar.
Thats probably enough crap about calorific offset.

mother on 2014-03-09 said:
keep up all the mountain climbing and there'll be nothing left of you.

Day 5 - Monday, 10 March 2014

Not so cold

Now I am in Japan. Not only am I in Japan but I am on a fast train travelling from a man made island in the sea that taunts tsunamis typing on my laptop connected to super fast internet that comes in something the size of two matchboxes (see photo).
The flight and airport and whatever experience was the same as always in Hong Kong, so I wont bore myself by typing about it, very efficient.
Arriving in Osaka was very weird, theres only 2 planes at the whole airport. Customs etc was fast, despite having to be swabbed, anal probed, photographed and interrogated.
A nice man in gloves went through my bag in detail, read the writing on my vitamin tablets, and when he saw my first class sticker he bowed and said welcome sir.
I dont actually fly first class, but my qantas status gets bag tag things.
Picking up the mifi internet thing from the post office was also easy, just show your passport, they know why round eyes are there.
Getting the round trip train ticket to Kyoto with ICOCA smart card deal was also easy, despite having to again show your passport and prove you arent actually Japanese who arent entitled to the discount.
You do however need cash, luckily theres a citibank ATM on the first floor of the airport, unlike 7 bank you can get out something other than a 10,000 yen note.
Going back in time now, the descent into Osaka was awesome, I looked out the left as we skirted the city along the coast, unfortunately I couldnt take any photos at that point.
Going back further in time, the flight was full but comfortable as I had 2 little Japanese girls next to me who were probably 40, who both watched the same movie and sobbed for the entire duration.
I didnt eat the meal but it actually looked pretty good, the plane was a 747 and compared to the a380, it was like being in a wind tunnel next to a semi trailer with its exhaust brake engaged. It was ridiculously noisy whilst we were still on the ground without the engines running.
And finally going back to this morning when I left for the airport too early out of airport excitement, I used the in town check in, which had a very bored first class lady who was thrilled to get a customer. I am guessing not a lot of first class passengers take the train to the airport which is where the in town check in service is.

Its me, wearing pants. I felt compelled to take a mirror selfie to celebrate pants wearing.

My breakfast in the Wing first class lounge silver service whatever. To be honest it wasnt as good as the buffet fruit and pastries I had already consumed.
Theres also yet another new Cathay lounge in Hong Kong airport called the bridge, which means theres now 5, plus the two Qantas lounges.

Those mountains sure do look enticing. I stood at the window looking at them. The best airport in the world in front of accessible mountains.
I briefly considered exiting the airport and staying here.

My plane, the worlds noisiest, a Boeing 747. It made it so I cant complain.

My ipad and the tiny device bringing me the internet as I type this on the train.

Me on the train to Kyoto. Sorry for the abrupt text, its hard to type on a moving train in glorious blazing sunshine.

Snowstorm

Before today I never really experienced it snowing. A couple of years ago in Osaka I detected a few seconds of what might have been snow, but I wasnt sure.
Today I was sitting on the train to Kyoto enjoying the clear blue sky out the window, when all of a sudden I assumed cherry blossom season had commenced.
Turns out it was snow, apparently coming out of the clear blue sky, and then soon there was lots of it.
This even had the locals oohing and aahing, perhaps because it was unexpected, outside the station they were all doing as I was, standing like fools trying to take photos of snow.
I stood and wondered what do you do in what appears to me to be a snowstorm, the answer is just walk in it and appreciate it, thats what the locals were doing.
What I cant understand is Japanese schoolgirls. For lots of reasons. Todays reason was its 0 degrees, yet they still wear short skirts, no stockings, and ride bicycles in the snow. That must be a very cool breeze indeed.

The snow continued for a good 15 minutes, enough to turn the roof of a couple of temples slightly white, but not the road.

I walked to my hotel past two perfectly good subway stops to enjoy the snow, admittedly only abou a kilometre. Checking in was no problem, I got a strange choice from a selection of drip coffees to take to my room, and a room key thats credit card shaped but more like a sheet of thick paper, with a printed aluminium foil chip on it. To me this is amazing, I presume they are disposable.

My hotel is very well situated I think, right by the main street whos name now escapes me.
I have been to Kyoto before, for a day trip, and really only saw a couple of shrines, the commercial area seems pretty fantastic, so very amazingly clean. The pipled muzak everywhere is somewhat alarming.
One thing I am accutely aware of is left or right. In Australia you drive on the left, and walk to the left of people. You dont really notice this until you go some place where its different.
For the last few days in Hong Kong, they drive on the left, but pass on the right. Its very confusing! I finally got the hang of it after shirt fronting a few old Chinese women yesterday.
Now back to Japan which is the same as Australia, and I tripped a few people over, who were silly enough to apologise.
Next week Taiwan, who drive on the right and pass on the right, for me to be confused again.

Snowstorm, the video I took on my phone depicts it better.

I was so happy to see snow I took two photos. This must be amusing to people who live with it for half their lives. I feel I am now ready to try a Harbin winter.

As per my mothers request, this is my hotel room. Daiwa Roynet Shijo Karasuma. It is under $100 a night including taxes, no breakfast.

It is very new and clean, the lobby is luxurious, the internet is free and ridiculously fast, wired and unwired. You also get a decent sized bath.....read on.

This is about 100 metres from the hotel, the start of Shijo Dori whatever chome lu street. The covered walkways came in handy as it started to snow again!

Running off Shijo whatever is fully enclosed walkways, 2 that run in parallel, each about a kilometre long, with lots more stuff in between and to each side and up and down and whatever.

My dinner. I wanted something warm of course. I resisted the obvious simple temptation of coco curry, of which I passed 3. This place appeared to be a hole in the wall, but the pictures looked good so I went in.
Turns out its a huge place once you go upstairs, with decor like a steakhouse, lots of families there enjoying themselves on a Monday night, they had to really struggle to find me a seat.
My meal is a combo of curry, house made hamburger special spicy (no it wasnt spicy) with a pineapple ring on top. Including the tea it was about $10. Pretty good for full table service.

After I sat down I was provided an English menu which wasnt needed as everything on the Japanese menu had pictures, it did however reveal the name of the place as Bikkuri Donkey.

If you like those rice snack things that are designed to sell bottle water to whoever dares eat them, heres your Mecca.

If however you enjoy fine baked goods, this would be a better choice. The attached cafe and restaurant was doing a roaring trade in Japanese boys with perms and man bags.

I preferred the portugese egg tart from the hole in the wall. Hong Kong tip now that I am in Japan, if you want a really good one go to the Macau passenger ferry terminal, theres a Portugese restaurant there that sells them from a little cart thing. Those ones are great!

Someone made a shop for me.

After enjoying the cold, I decided to buy a green tea kit kat, a bottle of Pepsi Nex, and consume both of them in my hotel room bath. I can send photos by email if anyone wants them, its a truly glutinous display of vulgarity.

David on 2014-03-23 said:
Drude - of course, everythings better between two pizzas

drude on 2014-03-22 said:
Mr Young Men - I have photos of that place, having spent some of my honeymoon in Kyoto. Do they still have plastic models outside of a meal that appears to consist of omlette sandwiched between two pizzas as if they were a burger?

adriana on 2014-03-10 said:
Mr Young Men okonomiyaki looks interesting.

mother on 2014-03-10 said:
name of hotel in Kyoto and review please. If you need hiking - though I cant guarantee it will involve much mountain climbing. Take one of two trains or the tram to Arashiyama. This is the bamboo forest and nice river area of Kyoto. Lots of walking areas. We only did about a quarter the time before last. Last time was too hot for any walking so we just went in the man pole boat on the river.

Day 6 - Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Dont pet the monkeys

Today in a shocking development, I followed my mothers suggestion and went to Arashiyama.
There are many things to do here if you are a tourist, both domestic and foreign tourists are everywhere. Getting here is easy as theres multiple different train lines and even a little tram thing which I took back.
After many days of not many photos today is a day of many photos, so many in fact that I have over used the word many in describing the many photos below.
On to the many.

Exiting my hotel and I was blinded by the brilliant blue sky. Then a moment of great sadness, I bound into the starbucks for my favourite Japanese food, Green Tea cinnabon, only to discover they now have signs saying how many calories they have. 620 calories in one bun! That was the end of that then, forever.

Once at Arashiyama you exit the station at a train museum with model railways. It was still shut at 9am. However heres a male Japanese person doing the peace sign pose. You dont see that every 4 seconds.

There are too many shrines to mention. You have to pay to go in, so I didnt.

This bridge is one of the main attractions according to signs. I am not entirely sure why, its not even 100 metres long, and even as I was crossing it they were re building sections of it with brand new timber. Also the base is fortified with concrete pylons and theres a dam to stop it from being washed away.

The view up stream is good, you can rent boats. Not one boat was rented.

Now for the monkeys.
A ticket is $5. Theres no mention that its a bit of a hike to get there up a mountain, I didnt mind but many others would be outraged.
I got some detailed warnings, dont pet the monkeys, dont stare at the monkeys, dont feed the monkeys, dont let go of your baby, dont show fear if attacked, enter at own risk.

The view from where the monkeys are fed is great, of all Kyoto. Everyone else cleared off so I had the place to myself.

Whats this I see in the distance? A snow capped peak! Further investigation required.

OK, one last photo of the monkeys.

All over Kyoto, girls get around in Kimonos. I am not sure why, my only theory is they are on their way to work some place that requires you pretend to dress up like its 200 years ago.
My other theory is you pay to rent and play dress ups for a day, in which case you do peace sign poses for everyone who isnt a long haired unshaved round eye in a black jacket looking angry.

If at any time your hands feel cold (its actually not too cold), then dont worry, a warm coffee in a can awaits at every vending machine.
I drink boss brand coffee exclusively, for the smooth flavour, boundless merriment, and instant boost to virility.

The bamboo sea is another of the attractions here. Its not huge. Its tiny compared to the one in Chengdu or wherever I went last trip. But I managed to get competing peace sign posers.
The foreign tourist looking back in the white jacket is priceless.
Also at this point, I saw 2 English tourists wheeling their rented bicycles up the hill having an awesomely loud argument about the stupid bikes and the bloody everything on a side of a bloody hill! Jesus wept, I will take you back to the airport now and throw you on the next plane to anywhere if you dont fooking shut your PIE HOLE YOU TART.
They were easily 50 years old too, which added to the humor for me.
Update: thats them in the photo!

If you divert from the bamboo sea you soon leave everyone behind and enjoy some silent paths to various observation points. The railway below apparently has a small steam train that runs along it.

Me in my awesome jacket. I have had it for over a decade now, I rarely get to wear it. Such occasions are always worthy of a photo.

There are many statues of fierce warrior poets here, dedicated to their poems.

Back at the ground level, and the bamboo sea has been replaced by bamboo shaped decorated plastic pole sea. I like it.

This tiny train goes back in the direction I want to go. Who can turn down the opportunity to take a ride on a ridiculously small train?

Inside the train, it ran up the middle of the streets. It was pretty fast though, stopping about 12 times before we got back somewhere near the centre of town.

My lunch, time for omurice. I have no idea what was in mine, it wasnt fishy tasting, and there was definitely cheese and various small mushrooms.
Something weird though, the girl serving me went hunting around for a spoon. There were 5 other people seated here and they all got a different style of spoon to me.
So my question is, do they give filthy foreigners segregated spoons or what? I noted no one sat either side of me at the counter too. This was all in the basement of a department store.

The basement of Daimaru has at least 50 stalls selling various dessert items. I bought this cause I thought it would survive in my pocket, which it did.
I had no idea what it was, turns out the filling is mainly red bean paste in between 2 small pancakes, with a mystery flavourless green thing (probably rice based) in the middle.
Note the trouble I have gone to in cutting this neatly in half and arranging for presentation before swallowing whole.

Kyoto is small

This evening I discovered that Kyoto is really quite small, something I suspected after seeing it from the top of a hill this morning.
I also found out that theres really not much to see South of the main station, something I also had read some place.
My hotel room has 0 English tv stations, this may be a first, not even NHK World is available. However there is a channel that shows infomercials for spray on hair thats pretty good, and another that shows a puny looking guy who takes some sort of magic pill to turn into an anorexic sickly looking skeleton in just 2 weeks.
This seems to make his parents happy.
The best channel however has a show where 2 babies are put in a room facing each other and a crowd watches through one way glass. Normally the babies just sit there or cry, which is HILARIOUS.

First I headed south to the main station, which has the rather small Kyoto tower on top of a rather enormous Yodabashi electronics store. Under and around the station is more shops than you can fathom.

This is apparently a festival wagon float that geishas are paraded in for sale once a year, according to the signs its being restored. According to me they built a new one out of plantation pine and Nylon rope. None the less, it has its own museum.

OK conspiracy theorists. This is a triangle with an eye in it on top of a building with some kind of crest on it. Ignore that it says Pachinko, thats just a front for a secret society of men who like to hang out nude and determine the outcome of future natural disasters.

Right on dusk and I walked over the river to the east of the city. Not one person was on the large bridge with me. Not many people around at all actually....

I think I have ventured into the non tourist area of town. Nice pipes though. I am going to create a posting on tripadvisor for things to see in Kyoto and call it magical pipe world.

After about 3 hours of walking and 3 stops at convenience stores to use their bathroom followed by buying a pepsi nex to thank them for their bathroom facility (This is a feedback loop), I arrived back at civilization. This is Gion, which is the part of the main street east of the river.
Apparently Gion is the old part of town, could have fooled me. Its more boutique stores rather than department stores, but its still very modern.
It does however have the greatest name ever.

Japanese girls are superior at most things, including birthday party. On a Tuesday night even.

A couple of the larger department stores.

This is a side street off Shinjo Dori, they really love their covered walkways. Rain here wouldnt really be a problem.
I have no issue holding up traffic to take stupid photos.

If you want to molest a cat, heres where you go. I didnt, as its $15 for an hour. Thats about 55 minutes and $14 too much.

Super mario is holding a genuine Gibson Flying V. This is just a trading card shop, which has nothing to do with Nintendo or $2500 guitars.

For dinner, the predictable ramen. I decided to be weak and only have Chasu rather than the ultra thick and fattening Tonkotsu. No English but I looked at pictures and asked which was Chasu or tonkotsu and she pointed them out so I could order the low fat variety.

My snack this evening, not that I need one, is a bottle of hot milk tea, mildly warm by the time I got it home, and a bowl of sand.
I didnt know what to expect with the bowl of sand, turns out it was green tea mochi balls hidden in the sand, but the sand is not brown sugar or anything really. Maybe its actual sand! Somewhat flavourless.
It was the most expensive snack in the circle K, thats all I know.

David on 2014-03-12 said:
I dont recall hearing any.

jenny on 2014-03-11 said:
Were there any sirens this afternoon to commemorate the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster 3 years ago?

Page 3 has a ridiculous number of shrines and temples.

Contents

Latest Update

Day 1 - Thursday, 6 March 2014
  Qantas did not go on strike
  Double decker metal tube
Day 2 - Friday, 7 March 2014
  Monkeys in the fog
  The island side
Day 3 - Saturday, 8 March 2014
  Superfog
  The Kowloon side
Day 4 - Sunday, 9 March 2014
  A lot less fog
  Clown vomit cliche
Day 5 - Monday, 10 March 2014
  Not so cold
  Snowstorm
Day 6 - Tuesday, 11 March 2014
  Dont pet the monkeys
  Kyoto is small
Day 7 - Wednesday, 12 March 2014
  Deer overload
  Night temple
Day 8 - Thursday, 13 March 2014
  The unrelenting downpour
  No more rain
Day 9 - Friday, 14 March 2014
  The tiniest place on earth
  Freezing walk
Day 10 - Saturday, 15 March 2014
  Dont forget your torch
  Another 4 hours walking
Day 11 - Sunday, 16 March 2014
  More mountains, Kobe
  Shinsekai deep fried world
Day 12 - Monday, 17 March 2014
  6km becomes 20km
  Recovery night
Day 13 - Tuesday, 18 March 2014
  Multiple modes of transport
  Further orientation required
Day 14 - Wednesday, 19 March 2014
  Newer Taichung
  Tea
Day 15 - Thursday, 20 March 2014
  Still more mountains
  Rear of station
Day 16 - Friday, 21 March 2014
  I hate buses
  Superpowers
Day 17 - Saturday, 22 March 2014
  Trains are awesome
  Taipei is human friendly
Day 18 - Sunday, 23 March 2014
  Me vs the volcano
  Security
Day 19 - Monday, 24 March 2014
  Goose stepping
  Dog clothes
Day 20 - Tuesday, 25 March 2014
  By the seaside
  Protestations
Day 21 - Wednesday, 26 March 2014
  Its the final mountain
  The new new
Day 22 - Thursday, 27 March 2014
  Homeless person